Monday, July 22, 2013

In A Nut Shell

Since my last post, nearly two weeks ago, so much has been going on and I naively thought I could do everything and keep up.  What started with the best of intentions ended abruptly. I hit a wall. I realized that while I busied my hands and thoughts with the have-to's and need-to's, very important aspects of my life were beginning to fall through the cracks. I was not nurturing the things that mean the most to me, so in turn, I began neglecting myself. While at first, I didn't notice. the more time progressed, I began feeling the emptiness. It was at that point I decided that for my family and myself, I needed to take a break. So instead of working late into the evening and then writing, I chose to relax. I chose to give thanks for the many blessings in my life. I chose to grow, live, and love.

I spent some much needed time with Cam, working together and making time to play. We began and completed projects together. I spent time visiting my family and being with them. My life was being filled with more of the things that feed my spirit...but by no means did it cease to keep me on-my-toes! Here are just a few of the things that have been happening:

My 30-day challenge went on without a glitch. We completed it, cleaned up our freezer, enjoyed this years early garden bounty, and cut our grocery bill significantly! It also taught us to be creative. We have made some wonderful new recipes and even created some of our own. This challenge was so much fun in fact that we have decided to make it more of a way of life. We are trying to cook seasonally, buy wisely (with sales), and use up what we have. Food is a blessing and shouldn't be wasted.

We have also finished our bathroom remodel! It was quite the undertaking; a process that was very layered so it couldn't be rushed. I wanted to completely redo our pink bathroom, complete with grey sinks, bathtub, and toilet, grey and white subway tiles for the countertop and shower wall, and to finish it all off, the chrome and gold faucets with chunky golden oak cabinets. It was most definitely dated and driving me nuts. I wanted to go with something a bit more classic: venetian plaster, white sinks, brushed nickel hardware, solid countertop...and eventually a white toilet and tub. I knew it would take some elbow grease, but I knew it would be a fun process all the same. After much work (I hope to go into some detail in another post), and many lessons in patience and perseverance, its all done! I'm quite pleased with the outcome!

My garden is thriving! I've taken some time to spend nurturing it, paying attention to its needs. In turn, I've been blessed immeasurably by more than just the beauty and peace it provides. We've been rewarded with beets, kohlrabi, kale, lettuce, arugula, broccoli, cauliflower, peas, sugar snap peas, onions, raspberries, strawberries, and herbs 'a plenty!

I have also made a point, nay a priority, to take a moment everyday to sit in my garden doing nothing but experiencing just what it is that makes me love gardening. The smell of the warm breeze through the dry grass or over the freshly watered soil; the feel of the wind dancing around my face and me, entirely; the sounds of the birds chattering wildly in the trees that are rustling in the wind, the bees busily collecting nectar from one delicate flower to another, and just the sound of the wind whispering through the tall dry grasses and mighty willow trees. This centers me. It creates a thankful and grateful that I want to carry and share wherever I find myself.

These are just snapshots from my last few weeks, the memorable moments. I have learned a lot about what I value and what is truly important in my life. I love to write and share the things I have learned, about life, my garden, crafts, and projects. So while my posts may not be as frequent for a little while, I hope to be able to bring and express more of myself when I do write. :)

 Thanks for joining me on this journey. 

Friday, July 19, 2013

{this moment}

Today, I'm joining Amanda (soulemama) and many others with {this moment}.

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

Along with a picture, since I haven't shared anything in quite some time now, I want to share a verse I found very inspirational and poignant as I wrapped up this week...we'll call it {this moment}bible verse:

Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full - pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.
~Luke 6:38~

Please feel free to share your moments as well! It's so fun to see what other beauty is captured in a weeks time!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

A Day in the Garden

How blessed I feel this evening! My day was so full of fun, gardening, preserving, and home renovation! I'm actually amazed that I still have enough energy to write tonight.

When the sun rose above the horizon - ok, actually a few hours after, we didn't get up that early - we poured ourselves a cup of steaming hot coffee and sat out on the back patio. After taking the first few sips of that wonderful black brew, we began to amble through the garden, taking in the exquisite beauty of the morning. The dew on each blade of grass, the smell of the morning, the birds, bugs, and animals all out working and feeding in the cool hours of the day. I cherish the morning so a quick saunter through my little oasis is always a treat!

Our first "task" of the day was to pick the produce that was at its peak. We started at our raspberry patch, gathering every deep crimson berry hiding under the leaves of the delicate vines. Being our first picking, we didn't find a huge amount, but definitely enough to enjoy for breakfast and a snack later!

Hidden in the garden beds we also came across cauliflower and kohlrabi that were perfectly ripe and ready to be harvested. We pulled them form the cool moist soil, cleaned them up, and set them in the ice-box to keep fresh until we were ready to eat them!

We then made a quick breakfast and decided we wanted to go paddle boarding. We got all of our gear together and headed out to Pelton Dam. We paddled, lingered, relaxed, reflected, and enjoyed our time out on the lake. We weren't in a hurry; we simply took the time to enjoy where we were at and what we were doing.

Upon our arrival home, still somewhat early in the day, we decided we needed to make a little more progress on our bathroom renovation. We applied another layer of plaster to the walls so they will have ample time to dry before we can move on. (This bathroom transformation, when we finally get it completed, will be shared...hopefully I will learn some really useful, helpful, and inspiring information to pass along :)

And somehow, amidst all of this, I found time to make and can two batches of pasta sauce. I froze the last of our garden tomatoes in the fall with the idea that we would use them in casseroles, stews, and dishes over the winter and spring months. But, as some things go, we didn't use as many as I thought so I was left with several bags of tomatoes taking up space in our freezer. I drug them all out today, boiled them down, and completed two batches of sauce, with one more in the crockpot awaiting my return from work tomorrow.

It was a busy day but one I can greet at its close with satisfaction. I feel like we enjoyed it to its fullest. We worked, played, worked some more, and finally took time to enjoy it all. And that is the most important matter what you experience in a day, we must always remember to take a moment, step out into our gardens, and enjoy it, and the day, in its entirety.

What kinds of things do you find to be blessing your garden so far this year? What are you most thankful for? If you feel so inclined as to share, I love to hear how things are going for others...wherever they may be!


Friday, July 5, 2013

{this moment}

Today, I'm joining Amanda (soulemama) and many others with {this moment}.

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

Please feel free to share your moments as well! It's so fun to see what other beauty is captured in a weeks time!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Independence Day

I pledge allegiance to the Flag,
Of the United States of America.
And to the Republic for which it stands,
One Nation under God,
With justice and liberty to all.
Happy 4th of July!
Today we celebrate our independence; we celebrate our freedoms; we celebrate what it means to be an American.
We barbeque, visit family, relax, and watch fireworks. It's a fun day of remembrance.
But amidst the enjoyable entertainment and pleasant conversations, I want to step back and give thanks. Thanks to the creator who has given us the ability to enjoy the freedoms our founding fathers believed so strongly in. This prayer is perfect for today:
Because His Love Endures Forever
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever. Give thanks to the God of gods. His love endures forever. Give thanks to the Lord of lords. His love endures forever.
~Psalm 136:1-3~
Lord, thank You for the life You have given me. Upon rising in the morning, I worship the Lord of lords, the God of all gods, and the King of kings...and You call me by name. I think back to the day I met You and how You welcomed me with open arms. You received this prodigal son without hesitation.
For all these reasons and so many more, I give You thinks. I offer up my life to You and Your service. I can think of no greater way to live than to consider each day a holy, living sacrifice to You. May Your will be done through the course of my days.
(This prayer/devotional was taken from One-Minute Prayers for Men)
So as we celebrate this day, and what it stands for, may we also take a moment and be thankful. We are so extremely blessed and must remember to never to take it for granted. That is what I think it truly means to be an American.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Food Challenge Continues

It is amazing how quickly a month can come and go. Since I have been on our food challenge, not only am I more attentive to what my garden is doing, but I've also become cognizant of just how fast time goes. As I sit here recapping my meals for the past several days, weeks actually, I can't believe all that has taken place along with them. Work, camping, dance recital dress rehearsal, more work, bathroom renovation, dance recital, family's all going so quickly! That being said though, I've enjoyed most every moment of it all!

 One thing that has changed for me during this 30-day challenge is just how much more creative I've become with the ingredients I have on hand. I know I have to stick within certain parameters but I still want something different and exciting...and I think we've done a pretty good job of that so far. I will admit though, it can be awfully tempting to just go down to the store and pick something up for dinner or buy more food stuffs because they are a 'great deal!' But we are working with what we've got and so far, we've stuck to it! And its been fun!!

Here's what's been gracing my table for the last two weeks!

Day 6:

I had an appointment in Portland this somewhat dreary Tuesday, so I was gone the entire day, only returning home just in time for dinner. Cam took it upon himself, sticking to our rules of course, to prepare something new for dinner. He surprised me with lobster tails (which he had purchased when they went on deep discount several weeks back and diligently placed in the freezer). He grilled them and made a tomato, lemon, tarragon oil to put on top. It was quite a surprise and a delicious one too!

Day 7:
It was a long and exhausting day for the both of us so we were really unsure of what to do for dinner. We found some small mahi-mahi fillets in the freezer and decided that would be quick and easy. We made some rice, steamed some snap peas from the garden, and quickly seared the fish. As a topping, to bring it all together, we opened a small jar of tropical peach salsa we had and put it over the fish...and rice! It was simple yet oh so wonderful.

Day 8:
Tonight, Cam had to go out for a business dinner so I found myself presented with the task of making an enticing meal for one. This is quite often daunting for me...I am so used to making enough food for several people (sometimes literally, other times simply because Cam and I are healthy eaters) that when trying to scale down, I find it somewhat difficult. I went rummaging through the fridge and found a little bit of the Thai chicken I had made earlier in the week. I decided that that would be delicious if I made a little bit of a sauce - Asian to go along with the chicken - and put it all atop a bed of noodles. I cooked some ramen noodles (I stole them from a pack of Top Ramen, just omitted the seasoning pack) and made a quick little sauce of hoisin and rice vinegar. When the ramen was done, I combined the reheated chicken, my hoisin sauce, and noodles together. It was sweet and tangy...a perfect meal for one!

Day 9:
This was our first night camping! We arrived somewhat late in the evening to the lake so we quickly set up camp and then started on dinner. I was starving which meant the only thing I had on my mind was silencing my ever rumbling tummy. In my haste, I forgot to take a photo of it. We grilled delicious steaks over the campfire, threw potatoes in foil and into the coals, and had a quick little salad on the side. Not only did we get to enjoy everything in the pristine beauty of the Deschutes National Forest, but everything we had came from our garden and freezer! Simplicity never tasted so good!

Day 10:
It was a wonderfully lazy day at camp. They guys went fishing, I went for a hike, read, took a nap, took another little hike, paddle boarded and read some more. I was in heaven! So when it came to dinner, I was so thankful I had spent a little extra time prepping it Friday before we left. We made hobo stew. Basically it is a 'stew' all wrapped up in foil and cooked over the campfire.

I chopped up fresh carrots, celery, bok Choy, potatoes, onions, and pea pods, brought some ground venison, and for supper we all built our own meal. We made packets with aluminum foil and placed the raw meat on the bottom, layered the potatoes and veggies on top, added some water (or if you have it a little beer is really good as a broth), seasoned it up with anything you like, covered it with more foil and place it over the fire. In about 20 minutes our stew was done! With a few biscuits to sop up the delectable broth that was infused with all of the cooking juices from our vitals, dinner was complete! It is the perfect camping meal!

Day 11:
We were both extremely exhausted from camping when we returned home, so cooking was the last thing I had on my mind. But when hunger strikes, you must appease it. So we decided to go with something extremely simple. We grilled up some chicken breast with just a simple mesquite rub, baked potatoes, and a simple kale salad. It was nothing fancy but it did the job immaculately.

Day 12:
After a weekend of fun, we were once again thrown into the hectic work week. But I was still longing to get back into the cooking groove; creating a simple yet somewhat fancy meal sounded so appealing! So I decided to pull a salmon filet, some of last falls cherry tomatoes, and a seedy baguette out of the freezer and make something new. I roasted the frozen tomatoes with capers, olive oil, and garlic in the oven until the tomatoes began to burst. I then added the salmon filet that I covered with a parsley pesto I made and placed it back in the oven to  bake. When the salmon was done, we plated it up making sure we each got some of the tomatoes and delicious broth that was left at the bottom. I served it with the baguette so we could make sure and enjoy every bit of this meal....and we did!

Day 13:
 Continuing with the inspiration to create new and exciting dishes for supper, I decided tonight I wanted to go back to the Asian theme. I had some pineapple that needed to be finished off and two small chicken breasts thawed in the fridge. I decided to make a Thai chicken with basil and pineapple. It was fabulous!!
I cut up the chicken into small chunks and browned them in a skillet with some olive oil. When the chicken was browned, I removed it from the pan and made my sauce. I added fish sauce, a little agave, rice vinegar, lime juice, and red pepper flakes to the skillet and scraped up all of the brown bits from the bottom. I then added the pineapple, making sure to cook it ever so slightly and then added back the chicken pieces. I added a large handful of basil, chopped, and stirred to combine. We placed it over some simply cooked whole wheat couscous and made a little salad to go along side. This meal hit the spot. I'm not sure what it is about Thai cuisine lately, but we have really been enjoying it will probably be a common theme in our meals for a while :)

This only brings us to day 13 of my challenge and we are much farther along...but not wanting to bore you all in one sitting, I am breaking it up. Tomorrow, I will catch you up on just what we have found to do with all the ingredients we have.

What new and inventive, or simple and comforting meals have you come up with lately? Are you encompassing your garden produce yet? If you have decided to join us in this challenge, what are some of the things you have come up with? I'd love to inspires me as well!


Monday, July 1, 2013

Back in the Groove

Wow...what a weekend, week for that matter. We made it through recital and have marked one more thing off our list for the year! With mixed emotion, I close that chapter for the summer, but anticipate next fall when school and dance lessons begin again. 

I was fortunate enough to have my parents come this past weekend and not only attend the dance recital of those amazing dancers and teachers I work with, but also to spend a little time with us over this very busy weekend! And to top it all off, my sister and brother-in-law also made it to spend some time visiting. With the hectic-ness of recital consuming the majority of the weekend, we still managed to find time to relish in the company of each other!

I must say, when my family comes to visit - or vice versa - I always seem to feel renewed. Not only do I feel physically content, but my mind is at ease, my spirit encouraged, and my soul is inspired! I feel so blessed.

We got a little hiking in and then visited a few garage sales. That was fun. But I also had a chance to talk (to my mom and sister mostly) about gardening and garden plans, and sources of inspiration and ideas. We went through my idea notebook (my simple collage book...and yes, I'm still diligently taping things in it ;-), magazines, and resource books in my humble library, to discuss things that work, things that don't; our wants, dreams, aspirations, desires for our gardens and what we ultimately want to take away from them.

While most of our ideas were similar, we always came to the same conclusion: we want our gardens to attract people to gather, relax, enjoy, and be filled with the joy God has given us to share.

This past weekend captured this for me. I was able to sit and linger with my family; we enjoyed every space that has been changed and cared for to showcase God's glorious handy work. And enjoy it we did! It has been so long since I have been able to do this and it is truly amazing to see what God has placed on my heart to do, and to bring to others. What wonderful blessings He has given us!

This weekend also brought about quite a bit of inspiration for me as well. Amidst our conversations about gardens and garden plans, my sister reignited a fire in me that has become a mere ember these last several months. For the first time in a while, I wanted to get out and create.

The temperature peaked at 106 on my thermometer today but I still managed to work in my garden, albeit in my shade garden! I had so much fun, in fact, that I completely lost track of time and before I knew it, or was prepared to stop, it was 6:30 and I hadn't even thought about supper! What enveloped me as I worked today was joy. Pure and simple.

We are told in James 1:2 to "count it all joy...", and in 1 Thessalonians 5:16 to "rejoice always..."  That is what this weekend renewed in me. No matter how busy, or hectic, or stressful things may seem, we must learn to be joyful. When we are, it is amazing how much change we can bring about, not only in ourselves, but in those around us!

Spreading joy through your garden is a very beautiful and wonderful I encourage us all to try!