Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Road Less Traveled

This last week was a busy one...I worked, was down sick one day, working the next, and leaving the very next for a friends wedding reception in Arizona. I'm sure we all go through the same thing when we leave; that check-list that needs to be completed by the time you leave your house and know it will be several days before you return here again! It's long, complicated and somewhat daunting, but we always seem to complete it just enough to be comfortable leaving. That is where I finally found myself Thursday night. We left in the wee hours of the morning on Friday and didn't return home until Monday night. That may not seem like that long, but I was trying to finish things up so that our house-sitter (our cousin!) could have a place to stay and babysit our cats and pups in a somewhat stress-free environment (in-other-words I didn't want to leave him with a disaster to work around ;-) So, we did the best we could and threw the rest up in the air and attributed it's slightly unwelcome presence to 'life.'

Our trip was easy; we had a few delays coming and returning but nothing that affected the rest of our travel days! We were blessed!!

Once in Phoenix, we drove to Scottsdale, where the wedding reception was being held. I was somewhat looking forward to some sun and warm weather - central Oregon was getting freezing rain, temperatures below 20 degrees, and icy winds - but what greeted us was only half of my vision. The weather was warm, yes...probably mid to high 60's. But the sun was not something we saw much of. It rained, and poured, for the majority of the trip. But I am in no way complaining! Even the warm rain was a welcome change to what we've been experiencing, and we made the most of it!! We explored several tourist spots in the pouring rain and had a chance to hike around a beautiful wildlife preserve!

This was trip to celebrate friends...but I also had an opportunity to experience and venture into a different part of the country, absorbing all of the natural beauty it so perfectly provided! I saw plants I've never seen before, landscapes that were so picturesque I thought they belonged in an art gallery or on a movie, and life that was unique to the desert landscape. Jack rabbits sprang from beneath the hedges and darted to the next brush section as we trudged through the landscape! It was amazing!

Having grown up in Oregon's valley, I'm so used to the green and lush landscape that constant rain and moderate temperatures provide. Having moved to the high desert five years ago, I have come to appreciate a drier and slightly browner landscape. However, I don't think it was until this last trip into the Arizonan desert that I can truly remark on its magnificent, perfect, and breathtaking landscape. The cacti, shrubs, trees, mountains, rain patterns, heat, wildlife, and more, have all adapted beautifully to their surroundings. I would literally stand in awe as I gazed upon the brilliantly colored spikey cacti that stood alone in the red-clay soil.

We had an opportunity to do a little geocaching on our free time! We were excited, to highlight another state on our map, yes, but to also take a moment to just get off the beaten path and see more of the "life" of Scottsdale. We hiked around the McDowell Sonoran Preserve which was absolutely pulchritudinous! It had just rained that morning, so the puddles and freshly dampened earth aroma were prolific. As the sun peaked it shining face from behind the thunder clouds, it illuminated the dark clouds that hovered low over the surrounding mountains. It was a picture out of Jurassic Park (which by the way, I LOVE!!!) and I literally had to take a moment and pause, for me. I wanted to be in this statuesque place...and for the next few minutes I was awestruck, fulfilled, and thankful to be a part of this world. I could see the work of God in everything I gazed upon!

On our return home, I have a greater appreciation for things outside of my perceived magnificent habitat. Compared to the desert of Arizona, my landscape is lush, I have a large and bountiful garden each spring/summer/fall, and my surroundings are so full of diverse vegetation! I also have a strong desire to start my garden as well! This trip has re-ignited my gardening fire! I have been consumed with the desire to get out into my garden since I stepped foot in Oregon.

So my solution: I have been thumbing through my new heirloom seed catalogue and began preparing to start my spring veggies. They will be the Brussels sprouts, cabbage, broccoli, Bok Choy, cauliflower, onions, and whatever else I stumble upon that needs a little head-start for my early spring bounty! I have them out and I hope to plant a few tomorrow. I'll keep you updated!

But our spring gardens are right around the corner and so is the summer. I will be starting my tomatoes soon (since our growing season is so short, I start my tomato plants in February along with my squash and lettuces) and I can't wait to get back out there and work in my garden!!

This trip has awakened in me something that goes dormant each winter, and a quest for ALL things beautiful, not just the normal. I long to get back outside and put my hands in the soil. I cant wait for the gardening season to resume; it'll be glorious!

These are just my thoughts and desires. What are yours for this time of year? What plans are you hoping to put into motion or goals for this year you are hoping to accomplish? I love hearing what you all are up to so please share with us!!


 A special moment with my family!

Friday, January 25, 2013

{This Moment} Friday

Today is the perfect time to recap my pictures! I am taking a moment, and a few of my pictures, and posting them; to look back and reflect on all that has happened this week, and more importantly, in a few evey-day moments of my life! I join Soulemamma ( and Olive and Owl ( in this tradition!

My collage encompasses our freezing fog and the ice it left in its path; my cat Clyde getting comfy on the bed but having to cover his face form the bright lights; my cat Bindy stalking the birds from the comfort of our warm house; and my lipstick plant that finished opening its magnificent blossoms on my birthday!!


And please share your {this moment} pictures with me!! I'd love to see them all!!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

29 Years in the Making

Yesterday was my 29th birthday. The weather had us encased in freezing fog for the entire day, so it was beautiful but created a very lonely feeling. But because I am truly blessed, my day did not remain so! For me, this day was more about friends and family than anything else, and that is precisely how it was filled!

As I read my daily devotional today I was once again reminded of these blessings, especially the relationships which make up my life! Here is that devotional:

Love One Another
Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.
~Romans 13:8~
God, I pray for renewal in my relationships with family and friends. My heartstrings are tied to so many people that I sometimes lose sight of the uniqueness and privilege of each individual relationship. Guide my thoughts and my prayers so that I would be discerning the needs of those You have brought into my life. May I see how each friend and family member is a part of the body of Christ.
When I need encouragement and laughter, draw me to those who offer such nourishment. I thank You for the people in my life who bring comfort, who pray for me, and who are examples of Your life. Some connections are fragile and tenuous, others are deeply rooted and mighty; I pray for wisdom to know how to nurture each one.

(This prayer was taken from One-Minute Prayers for Women)

Yesterday made me stop and think - reflect, as it were - about what my life is really made of. I will always have moments where I question my worth, my value, my place in this world. It's natural. But those moments will never be greater than the blessings of Christ. He has provided me with so much, some minuscule and others grand...both of which make up my life! As I reflect in amazement on this one day, I know that whatever God has in store for my life, not without some hardships guaranteed, He will always bless me more than I could ever ask for!

How does this verse impact you? What are your thoughts? I'd love to hear!


Monday, January 21, 2013

Paradise Found!

My culinary journey is only at its beginning. I love to experiment with different flavor combos, ingredients, and recipes. So for Christmas this year, Cam bought me a new spice: Grains of Paradise. We watched a show, several years ago, which used this spice and we were so intrigued by the recipe. But in the years since, we haven't been able to find where to buy it (other than the on-line spice stores which became fairly expensive very quickly). I guess you could say I had pretty much given-up on the idea of trying it for myself. So when Cam surprised me with this magnificent grain for Christmas, I was say the least!!

Of course, as with any new spice or food, we had to try it; alone, just one single modicum. As we bit into the small grain, we were met with spice (similar to pepper) toned down by a very Herby/natural taste. It was unlike anything I have ever tasted! It was so deliciously unique, we couldn't wait to find a recipe that highlighted this perfect morsel! Here is what we found!

Black Cod with Lemon and Grains of Paradise

5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 5-inch sprig rosemary
3 tablespoons sliced garlic chives, or 3 tablespoons chives and 1 clove minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon grains of paradise (available at Fairway and specialty food stores), lightly crushed
Grated zest of two lemons
Coarse sea salt
4 black cod fillets
Place 3 tablespoons oil in a small pan and heat over medium-high heat for 2 minutes. Add rosemary, garlic chives, grains of paradise, lemon zest and a pinch of salt. Remove from heat and reserve.
Season fish on both sides with salt. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, place the fillets in pan. Sear for 3 minutes, then turn and sear the other side until it is browned and cooked to taste.
To serve, transfer fillets to serving plates. Remove rosemary stem from reserved oil mixture, and spoon oil over fillets. Sprinkle with a little coarse salt, and serve.
(adapted from the New York Times recipe)

This recipe will hold a special place in my recipe arsenal. There was something about the herb fried oil that made it so delectable and memorable that I will definitely turn to it again when I want something on the more fancy/sophisticated side (it tasted that way, but was completely low cost, low ingredient, and low work!).I have even recommended it to, and given the recipe to, my mom and sister...definitely one I feel that is worth recreating!

*As a very brief side-note: any white fish would do. Halibut, talapia, mahi-mahi, shrimp, scallops...any light tasting seafood would be an excellent base for this recipe! I'm interested to even try chicken breast or pork tenderloin with this herbed oil...I'll let you know if/when I try that out!*

Cam and I have actually made an unwritten new years resolution...we want to try to experiment more with food and recipes. We have been looking at our cookbooks and have been trying to incorporate a new dish into every dinner. We have been successful thus far and I can't wait to share these recipes with you! This is just one of the several we've found this year and I hope you find this one, and them all, enjoyable...just as we have!

Do you have any new goals you are striving for this year? Any new food goals? How about gardening aspirations? As I continue to share with you, I'd love to hear what you are creating/experiencing/trying! Not only is it exciting for you to share, but I learn so much and also glean ideas from your new projects! So, please share with us all!!


Friday, January 18, 2013

{This Moment}

Today, I'm joining Amanda (soulemama) and Olive & Owl (a link to her site) with {this moment}.

A simple picture from the week. No words, no explanation, just a simple moment of time captured and shared.

(I'm bending the rules slightly...I couldn't narrow it down to just one photo so I several, but all focus on the same subject!)

Please share your moments from the week! I love to see them!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

His & Hers

Tonight, I'm trying something a little different. Devotionals are a constant in our household, and tonight I thought it would be fun to share what is pressing on each of our spirits; one for him and one for her. Although they may be separate, it's amazing how much they play into each other! I hope you - and perhaps your partner - enjoy this moment of reflection and a trice of calm.
(Excerpt taken from One-Minute Prayers for Men)
Remind Me
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.
~2 Corinthians 4:7-10~
Heavenly Father, remind me how much I live by Your power and not mine (although I admit that I don't really like the reminders - sometimes they overwhelm me). I know that when everything is going well, my pride can overtake me, and out comes my self-will.
Lord God, help me to remember that I don't have to do this all alone. Remind me to lean on Your power, to reach out for Jesus whenever I feel that I can no longer go the distance. Almighty God, help me to remember that Your power can lift me above any setback, and I have no need to fear.
(Excerpt taken from One-Minute Prayers for Women)
Show Me
I have chosen the way of truth; I have set my heart on your laws.
I am so thankful I discovered truth when I did. I was all over the place seeking answers to random questions. I didn't even know what to ask in my quest for understanding and identity. You raised me out of my ignorance and showed me the light of Your heart. Everything clicked at that moment.
I still have times of confusion. I still have obstacles to overcome, but never without a measure of truth to guide me. Now my many questions are replaced by one request: Show me the way, Lord.


It is so easy to get caught up in life; we run here and there, often doing what others expect and presume we will do...which often leads to disappointment and sometimes rejection.

In moments like these, in the ever-so-wise words of my husband, we need God: our energy drink! He will give us the strength and the ability to try, try again, and succeed in His will for our lives!

It may always be a struggle - we have seen that first-hand, just as I'm sure you have as well - but these struggles will always bring us closer to our Lord, when we trust in Him! He is our rock, our light in the darkest moments of life, and the loving arms that surround us during hardships. If we allow ourselves to completely trust in these truths, we can truly live out the life Christ intended us to!

How do these devotionals impact you? What comes into your heart when you read them? I'd love to hear how you are moved or impacted by these verses, just as I have been!


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

No Good Thing Is Ever Perfect!

When we first moved into our home, nearly four years ago, we were excited to tackle the ‘work’ it needed in order to get it into shape. We painted, refinished the hardwood floor, tiled the master bathroom, fixed some leaks, sealed drafts, built a pergola, and many more things. Most of them were cosmetic but it was work all the same.

But as time keeps moving forward, so too does the age of our sweet home. We are starting to see many things going wrong, and unfortunately, they are no longer just cosmetic. No. These issues need to be tackled before we waste too much more time and money.
Over the last summer, we finally broke down and replaced three of our very broken and aged windows. They no longer functioned, so we replaced the worst three and decided we could tackle a few more when we finished paying for these. Well, three days after we had them installed, another one of our windows broke! But, going with our original plan, we have closed it and don’t touch it so it will last a bit longer.
As I gazed out my new window two days ago, I noticed a very cold and very noticeable draft in my formal living room. It has been really cold lately – lows were reaching 3 degrees for a bit - so our heater has been working overtime to heat our home. But our last gas bill was through the roof!  Adding insult to injury, we weren’t even warm! This prompted me to investigate this problem (and draft I felt) and seek a solution.
I’ve done a lot in for this house and I feel like I know it through and through. So I tackled this task with the same gumption I did with any other: I will be the victor!
So I began feeling for the origin of the draft. I checked the usual suspects: electrical outlets, widow seals, windows, window and door casings, baseboards, door jambs, the works.  And in so doing, I came across several places that required some attention. I had a draft through several outlets on the exterior walls of my home, around the threshold of my front door, and most prominently around my brand new window! It was never insulated around the frame, not window, to protect us from the cold outside. Now that I had this information, I wanted to be pro-active and fix these before we wasted any more of our precious heat to the outdoors!
I first began with the simpler tasks: insulating the electrical outlets and insulating the front threshold.
Insulating outlets is extremely simple. I went to my nearest Lowe’s (but I’m confident most home-improvement stores would carry them) and purchased a pack of outlet insulators. They’re basically foam you place just under the cover plate to keep the drafts at bay.
The front door presented a bit more of a challenge. I had a gap between the hardwood and the threshold that was allowing cold air to seep in. My solution was to take a piece of oak and create a transition piece; covering the gap and protecting the integrity of the threshold.  I cut a piece of oak, ¼” by ¼”, the length of the opening and used a brad-nailer to secure it into place.
The last part of my heat saving quest was a bit more complicated. I first remove the casing from around my window. To my surprise – or really, lack-there-of, with this house – I discovered a space that went directly to the open air! When I looked this gap, I could see the light from outside…I was flabbergasted! No wonder my house wasn’t holding any heat in!
Having seen what the problem was exactly, I had a better idea as how to fix it. I got some standard insulation (we had some extra in our attic I took and put to use in this project) and began stuffing into the gaps around my window. I packed every gap fairly solidly until I had gone around the entire window frame. 
Just as a side note: I’m not a licensed carpenter nor am I a very experienced one, but I know a little bit about the basics. If you encounter a gap that is large or very deep, instead of the standard fiberglass insulation, you may want to consider the liquid insulation. It is designed to expand to at least three times its size and does a great job in larger spaces. In this case, my gap was too small to warrant using anything more than the fiberglass I had.
With just insulating these gaps, what a difference we have noticed! There is no longer a cold or unwelcoming feeling when you enter the room. It is slightly cooler, yes, but I will attribute that to the fact we have vaulted ceilings in that room. It is far more comfortable, temperature wise, to sit in and enjoy than before.
My next step is of course to try to put up our new window casings! I hadn’t intended to start it yet, but since necessity required my attention, my plans have changed. I have made my cuts for the front window and now I’m just waiting on my oak trim to be able to finish this window. Once I’m done with the front, I will easily be able to replace all the window casings! That excites me!
But for now, having sealed my major drafts and benefiting from the extra warmth I’m experiencing, I’m looking toward the next homestead fix I must embark upon! Along with the window casings, I also must take a close look at our electrical. I have an outlet that hasn’t worked since we moved in and another that was burned out prior to our ownership, which I need to replace and take a look at. But that will be another day. For now, I can rest comfortably knowing I have sealed a very large gap and will save us a bit on our next heating bill!
There are always tasks that seem somewhat daunting to tackle at your home, homestead, farm, or wherever you call your stomping grounds. But if we can tackle these projects head-on and steadfastly, the rewards will be beyond measure! Not only will you become more knowledgeable and well-versed in different aspects of life, and have the self-satisfaction of knowing you did it on your own, you will also be saving money and creating a better living environment for your family!   
My thoughts: get out there, tackle the hard stuff on your own, and learn something new! It will be so rewarding!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Naturally Preserved

The wonder of the garden never ceases to truly amaze me. We work diligently during the warm and sunny months to prepare a garden which will provide us with delicious vitals during this time. It’s no surprise to me that the garden can keep producing well into the cooler months; most hardy plants do well up to the first hard frost. What I am amazed by is how, when all signs of new life in the garden have passed, those wonderful root vegetables I planted mid-summer (some even early summer) are safely nested in the cold earth waiting to be harvested whenever I’m ready!
This has been the case for my carrots, beets, and turnips.  When we want to enjoy one of these tasty roots, we simply take our hand trowel out and dig them up! They are beautiful, crisp, and deliciously sweet! It think the nip of the frost sweetens them up!!
There are a few key factors I must point out in order for this to work. First, you must make sure that these hardy roots have had time to mature before the cold sets in. If you plant them too late, they won’t mature before the frost hits and kills the foliage.
Second, you must live in an area where the winter is cold and fairly dry. I live in the high desert which is why this practice works so well for me. Our winters are very cold, with some snow, and very little rain. If you live in an area where the soil stays wet for a good part of the fall and winter, your root vegetables may rot or be eaten by those lovely little white worms that love these scrumptious vegetables as much as we doJ If this is the case for you, you will want to pick them all mid to late fall. They keep very well in the refrigerator crisper!
Third, and probably last for me, is if you can let your soil do the preserving, and your ground freezes hard, wait until mid-day to try to dig them up. We have broken several in half because the ground was too hard to dig effectively. If you allow the heat of the day (even just a few degrees) to warm the soil, it will make it much easier to retrieve them! (I’m sure there are many places where it simply gets too cold to dig anything out of the ground.  You can always harvest them before the ground becomes completely solid or retrieve them when the temperatures begin to rise slightly!)
This discipline may not work for all, but I’m fortunate enough to be able to take full advantage of it…and I’m enjoying every bit of it! If you live in a climate that would be conducive for this practice, it may be something you want to try next year!
What miracles have you witnessed in your winter garden? I love hearing all of your stories!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

A Word of Comfort

Shine Forth
Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.
~Psalm 37:5-6~
Draw me to a life of commitment, Lord. Show me where I have sin that keeps me from embracing unconditional faith. I trust You with my eternity, so why is it difficult to turn over my here and now? Release me from fear and show me the life You have planned for me. I rise up and accept all that You are doing in my life.
Let my righteousness shine through even the darkest days. I will move forward as Your love warms me like the sun and prepares my heart of a great harvest.
(The following prayer was taken from One-Minute Prayers for Women)
As the week is about to begin anew, we are once again faced with, It is always different - ever changing - and presents us with new challenges. This prayer reminds me that no matter the challenges we face, we must proceed with courage and the knowledge that Christ will see us through! 
This is my prayer for you - us - this week! Christ is leading's up to us to follow! Step out and grasp his guidance; He will never let you down.
Enjoy and may this week fill you with hope and joy!

Friday, January 11, 2013

This Moment

Today I am joining SouleMama in "This Moment". Just a picture. No words or explanations; a beautiful moment of time (from our week) captured by camera. Here is my "This Moment":

Please leave your moments with us!! It's wonderful to see what others experience during their weeks!


Thursday, January 10, 2013

Fresh and Simple

One of my favorite easy indoor gardening projects would be growing sprouts. I've always enjoyed eating alfalfa spouts on sandwiches and salads; it was always a special treat when my mom would go grocery shopping and bring home a beautiful package of fresh alfalfa spouts, maybe once every couple of months. But as I got older, I would love to treat myself to these tender shoots more often, until I discovered how easy they were to grow at home.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

High Tea...Chambers Style!

I was so extremely blessed to have my family over to celebrate our Christmas (a little late but something we will ALWAYS find time for!) this weekend...and the birthday of my older sister! I saved the tree so we could exchange our 'home-made' presents with the lights of Christmas (we even had the snow to complete the weekend!!!) and have a beautiful time in which we could just enjoy each other!

The presents were good and was the food, but we also enjoyed BEING together! We talked, traveled on the snow-covered highway to be able to go thrift-storing, reminisced, talked more, and created such wonderful memories! A weekend I will not soon forget!!

One of my mom's (and to be completely honest, mine as well!) favorite things to do as girls growing up was having tea! And not just tea; oh no, it was a tea party...which made it all the more magical and memorable! We would make new sandwiches, cookies, pastries, and goodies which we found to be 'good-looking' and somewhat appropriate to the tea party theme. It was also a time for us to just sit back and talk; a pulchritudinous time for us all!

After several years of making this a Rains/Chambers family tradition, we girls have created a praxis- somewhat new - we will we be certain to enjoy for years to come! Scones. Pure and simple. And the best part...we have actually found the perfect recipe (after much trying!) and is our go-to for the most delicate and delectable scone.
(While we always use the same base recipe, we seem to change it up, slightly. Sometimes we add currants, huckleberries, raspberries, blueberries, raisins, or - most recently - dried gooseberries! On this particular occasion, we used the gooseberries I dried over the summer from my bush!)

My dried Gooseberries

Cream Scones

2 c. flour
1/3 c. sugar
1 Tbs. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
11/4-11/2 c. heavy cream
1/2 c. dried or frozen fruit (optional)

Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees.

Stir together dry ingredients (including the optional fruit, if using) and slowly add the cream. Mix thoroughly until the dough comes together and is slightly sticky but not overly wet.

If you want, turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and divide it into two equal balls. Shape them into a round and divide each into four scones. If you prefer, you can also just drop the dough onto cookies sheets by the tablespoon full.

Bake for 10-12 minutes or until they are golden brown and cooked throughout. Remove from the trays and serve immediately.

Best enjoyed with butter and homemade jam and devonshire cream...and of course, tea!

 We all need traditions, especially the fun and unique! This is one of my families favorites...I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!!


Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Beauty in Everything

(The following excerpt is taken from One-Minute Prayers for Men...a Christmas present to my hubby:-)
Seasons of Life
There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven.
~Ecclesiastes 3:1~

Tuesday, January 1, 2013


Happy New Year!
 To start out our year, Cam and I decided to get out of our usual rut and try something new. We decided to hike Smith Rock (a mere 30 minutes from our house), something we have never done this time of year.

In the fall and summer months, we visit here at least once. Smith Rock holds a special place in my heart: its where I experienced my first intense high-desert hike and where Cam proposed to me (at the highest point of Misery Ridge). So any time spent here is special to me! And today, amidst the bitter cold (12 degrees!), thick ice, and frosty breeze, my heart still warmed at the sight!

One of our New Years resolutions is to try to get out of our mundane rut. We both love to experience new things but we so easily talk ourselves out of pursuing them...because of finances, time, stress, etc. So, this morning, even with the bone-chilling weather, we sought out the beautiful landscape of Oregon's high desert.

Our trek took us 2 1/2 hours to complete but we had so much fun!! We hiked and talked - about dreams and our future - and before we knew it, we were at the half-way point. The sun blessed us with it's presence and warmed our bones (and spirit) as we hiked out; filling us with hope for the coming year.

Resolutions and goals are wonderful. But instead of a momentary fix, I want a lifestyle adjustment. I want to live my life for all that is good and to be filled with joy and happiness because of all of God's blessings. Now, we have the desire to live healthfully, spend more time together, and exercise, but we also want to be happy. We want to know we are working toward something more and better than ourselves; true fulfillment.

Today was our first step. We pray we can keep it up! We have also been discussing what it would take for us to be able to attain our goal of a true little 'homestead!' That excites me!!

 What are your goals and resolutions for 2013? We all have our own dreams, what are yours? I'd love to hear! And you never know how your goals may inspire others!!