The Art of Loving// How To Start

Isn’t this just so SPOT ON?

Loving God. Loving others. The two greatest commandments spoken by Jesus Himself. We all know this.

How does this play out in real life?

Sometimes I wonder how I can make a difference, with my small little life. I’m not in service or out on the mission field. I am so much more tied down than I used to be, with a house, husband, and child to take care of. I don’t have a job, so I’m not interacting with the community as much anymore. The circumstances I find myself in have changed, but this does not give me an excuse to not love. There is always someone around me to love and give to.

This is something I’ve thought about and pondered for years. The art of loving. Obviously this is going to look differently for different people. We have different gifts, talents, and abilities. We are all unique! In my own journey of discovering how to love others, I’d like to share a few ideas with you. A few small things that I have started doing or learned from others along the way. Maybe something will trigger an idea for you.

First, I think it’s important to let the Holy Spirit guide us. He ultimately knows the needs of others around us — far beyond what we can know in our finite minds. I have found that the people the Spirit brings to mind, are often the people who really needed love and care at that time. If you don’t know who to reach out to — ask God. He’ll show you.

Second, learn to observe and notice. Usually it’s not hard to pick up little clues from people. For example, if the neighbor lady comments that the applesauce I gave them tasted just like their mom’s from years ago, do a little extra when you’re canning and give them a few jars. Notice people’s needs around you.

Third, find ways to use your unique gifts to bless people. If you like to garden, give extra produce to neighbors or church friends. Like to play the piano? Play in a nursing home on Sunday afternoon. Love to cook? Bless an over-whelmed mom with a freezer meal. Enjoy hospitality? Invite a young couple over for supper. There are myriads of ways to use your talents to bless others.

And remember, it doesn’t need to be grand and glorious. Something small can mean just as much to someone!I don’t feel like I have had a lot of time this summer to devote to physically helping others around me. Summertime is fairly demanding when it comes to garden work and my mother-in-law’s surgery really filled up summer so fast! I get overwhelmed with my own work, and can’t very easily desert it right now. One small way I’ve been cultivating friendships has been through the mail. Everyone likes mail, right? I’ve started making my own cards and sending random friends a note + summery recipe. It’s a simple, small way to brighten someone’s day. :)

How about you? What small ways do you find to love others around you?

 :::Coming up next in the Art of Loving: How to Love Your Pregnant Friend:::

Farm to Table: Canning 101

I found this floor mat at Ross earlier this week, and just couldn’t resist. (I really did need a mat in front of my sink!) It combined so many things that represent our eating mission: organic, farm to table, and of course, chalkboard art is hard for me to pass up.

I’ve been rather surprised by my ardent love for canning, preserving, and harvesting.

Yesterday’s bushel of beans took me all day and certainly wasn’t terribly exciting, (think hours of picking, snipping, washing, chopping, filling, and canning) but those 17 quarts + 1 pint sitting on my counter this morning give me infinite pleasure. I consider them a bonus, as I was ready to call this year’s bean bounty “enough” at 45 pints. (I still have some left from last year)I do all the normal things like green beans, salsa, pizza sauce, corn, applesauce, and so on. I also like to change it up with a few out-of-the-ordinary things. Hot Pepper Rings (using banana peppers) was something new I tried last year, thanks to a friend giving us a pint to try and us loving them! Hot Pepper Jelly is a must now, too. (Notice a theme here? I have to plant lots of banana peppers to keep up) I also want to make some Blackberry Jam using berries from our little patch, possibly some Jalapeno Jelly, and a little more pesto to freeze. I’m hoping to get enough pumpkin/squash to can and freeze some for baby food.All these peppers were from one plant. 17 in one shot!

In order to get the best nutritious, chemical-free organic food, we grow everything we can. I don’t say that snobbishly, as sometimes people can take “only eating organic” that way. I see it as a small way I can contribute to the health of my family. It is a LOT of work, but well worth it.

And you can’t beat that cheap thrill of seeing those once-empty jars all lined up neatly on shelves — FULL!

How about you — do you enjoy preserving? What new things have you tried?

Friday Five

Just poppin’ in to say hi…

//Five Current Things//

Eating: Black Bean + Corn Salsa. Summer explosion in your mouth! And you know all that zucchini that seems to pile up this time of year? Go make these.  Moist chocolate-y zucchini bread? Yes please. I baked them in muffin tins and like them almost better that way!

Listening: No More Mommy Brain: Finding the Time for Learning

Reading: Baby books. I have always dreamed of reading out loud to my children, and suddenly it occurred to me that *lightbulb* I can start that NOW. (Still working on that mom-brain ;) ) So Avi and I read together almost every day. It amazes me how still she sits and how intently she looks at the pictures. This from an active wiggleworm such is her is nothing short of amazing!

Seeing: The Mount Everest of dirty dishes in my kitchen. But that just means that this morning’s jars of V8 juice are sealed and cooling on my counter. This week’s canning included banana pepper rings, salsa, V8 juice, and carrots. Purple carrots, at that! A new experiment this year. :) They are basically the same as regular carrots, only with a beautiful purple hue to the skin and they are a little extra nutritious.

Feeling: Happy that the weekend is almost here! I’m feeling much better, plus we have two evening supper invitations with great friends + a fun area Family Farm Days on the agenda this weekend.

Back to the dishes while baby’s sleeping. Have a good weekend, friends!

When Life Gets In The Way

Every time I think I’m going to be more faithful with blogging, life gets in the way. Right now it feels like I am running and running and just can’t catch up. Last week we were gone every evening and gone the entire day for four of those days. This week I am afflicted with a nasty cold —  being sick in the middle of summer is just. no. fun. Maybe God’s trying to slow me down? It’s kinda nice not to have to go anywhere, I must admit. :)

We’ve been doing things like:

  • Peas. Peas. More peas. Hours in the garden, picking. Then- beans, beans, and more beans. Peas AND beans together. Makes for some full freezers and canning shelves. And now it is tomato, banana pepper, and carrot season. :) I’m happy for the bounty of the garden. It’s an even happier sight when the produce is contained in jars, and not overflowing on my kitchen counters. :)
  • Having whole conversations in funeral home bathrooms with unknown little girls, who ask things like whether you’re sisters to a famous lady who has been dead for years and whether you have children. (After you have already answered her question that “yes! I am a mom!”) Oh, the amusement. :)
  • Getting calls at 3:00 in the morning about mulch piles being on fire.
  • Learning, while washing those piles of dishes and folding those piles of laundry. Favorite blog posts lately: A Growing Pile of Pennies, (Dorcas Smucker) A Few Thoughts on Mom Guilt, (Sarah Esh), and When Life is Hard Slogging (Dorcas Smucker). (Guess DS is winning today!) And the podcasts I’ve been enjoying lately? Savoring Motherhood and Making Time for Creativity by Shauna Nyquist, and The Art of Simple podcast.
  • Cutting flowers from my gardens. I have fallen in LOVE with zinnias! So cheery. :) The cala lilies are almost done blooming, but quite a few of my perennials are still going strong. The sunflowers + zinnias in our surprise garden are my favorites. :) Sadly, my flower pots on the front porch just didn’t survive the extreme heat + our absence the last while. :(
  • Three trips in two weeks time. Two business and one for Mom’s birthday party. It’s time to stay home for awhile. :) A few pics from last weekend: 1//Proud Grandpa  + sweaty baby 2//Party decor 3//The gorgeous cake, courtesy of Grace.
  • Iced coffee. ‘Nuff said.
  • Getting news about lots of little ones on the way. It makes me smile! :)

Happy July Wednesday to you!

Summertime Eating

Summertime eating is my favorite. I think it’s because there is all that fresh garden produce around and meals seem to fall together so easily.

Corn on the cob.
Tomato + zucchini sandwiches.
New potatoes.
Roasted broccoli.
Just picked peas.
Fresh salsa.

I like to try to find things to make that don’t take the oven, as that can really heat up the house. I need to find some more crockpot and stovetop recipes. Anyone have one to share?

A few tried + true favorites.

Texas Philly Cheese Wrap, topped with Southwest Spicy Mayo on homemade tortillas. Yummers! I don’t usually spend this much time on supper prep, but today is hay-baling day so we are eating supper much later than normal.

Of course, there is the old faithful Tomato Pie that I so adore. (If you’ve read my blog for any period of time, you knew it’d come up sooner or later ;) ) I make a version of this recipe — caramelizing the onions and adding a few more seasonings.

Crispy Corn Fritters always put a smile on the husband’s face. Whenever I ask him what he’s hungry for, this is his answer. :) They are especially good with fresh chives and parmesan cheese added to the batter.

Crispy Southwest Chicken Wraps is another favorite. I like that you can make the filling ahead of time and keep it in the fridge. When you’re ready to make your wraps, heat up your filling, stuff your wraps and voila — quick ‘n easy lunch!A few edibles I want to make this summer:

Southwest Quinoa Salad
Spicy Paprika Lime Chicken
Grilled Pizza
Bruschetta with Tomatoes + Basil
Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad

What are your favorite things to eat in the summer?

Sweet Summertime

I love summer, there’s no doubt about that. My only complaint is that it seems to fly by and last half as long as winter. Which is rather sad, as there as twice as many fun things to do in the summertime.

It’s crazy — it seems like my summers usually involve sickness or stressful things. For example: last summer there was stress related to church stuff, early round of lyme’s disease for the hubby + a run-in with bed bugs, then morning sickness hit in mid-July and I couldn’t stomach much of anything, especially the fresh herbs that I look forward to the rest of the year. The summer before, I had mono and had to watch that I didn’t overdo it. Other past summers have seemed to involve difficult relationships with people or work-related stress. So far the beginning of this summer has mainly been revolving around my mother-in-law’s heart surgery and trips into the hospital. Now this week things seem to be getting back to “normal” and I want to enjoy this summer before it slips away. :)

These are a few of my favorite things  about Summer Twenty Fifteen.

  • Watching the little one discover the big world around her. Her latest thing is “playing” with her jungle gym toys with her feet. Guess it’s easier than maneuvering her hands – ha! I never imagined I’d be excited about my baby learning how to play with toys. ;) She’s still too little to really “get” most things — but that doesn’t keep me from introducing her to new experiences. She’s already held a strawberry in her hand and felt the grass between her toes. :)
  • Running outside to the garden in bare feet to pick chives + fresh basil + cilantro + onions for the morning’s eggs.  The plants have just exploded with growth in the last few weeks, since we finally got some rain. I faithfully watered every day when we were so dry, but there is just nothing like some good ‘ol rain to foster growth.
  • Cutting flowers for bouquets from my very own garden. My perennials are still getting established, and I dream of the day when my peonies and hydrangeas are big enough that you won’t even be able to tell that I cut any. :) The cala lilies grew like crazy the last few weeks — I can hardly wait ’til they start blooming!
  • That fresh sweet strawberry scent. MMM! And of course lots of strawberry pie, jam, shortcake, salads, chocolate-covered, and parfaits. We have our first strawberry patch (ever!) this year. Super fun to have our own berries! We’re already dreaming of expanding to a second raised bed so we have even MORE next year.
  • Lush green grass, after a soaking rain. This was especially needful after several months of dry weather. Our front yard was starting to look like a brown straw field.
  • All kinds of fun people visiting us. The end of May we got to hang out with Deron + Rae for an evening and morning, then a few days later John + Sarah came. (A business acquaintance) Sarah so nicely babysat for me so I could be at the hospital while Jonathan’s mom was in surgery, as you could not have children in that particular waiting room. The next week we hosted my brother Jesse while he was in the area for a food show + my sister Rose came along to spend some time with me. So fun! And then a few days after that, Alyssa + Rachel came for a day– such fun times walking in the park, chatting in a little cafe, and just being together. :)
  • Sitting on the front porch after dark, watching it rain. Or sitting out in the quiet evening hours, chatting away with our iced coffee, ice cream with fresh strawberries, and the baby. :) We’ve been so occupied the last few weeks, that we haven’t been home most evenings. I think our porch missed us — or at least I know I missed it. :)
  •  You know those Mondays when  there are piles of dishes and way-too-high weeds in the garden and more piles of laundry? Well I had one of those Mondays this week, and then I got a phone call and a sweet friend came over and helped me for a couple hours. And — she brought this along for breakfast the next day:Pancake batter that fried up into delicious pancakes, topped with greek yogurt + strawberries + maple syrup, along with peaches and iced coffee concentrate. Thanks Cherie, for brightening my day and giving me such a boost to my week! :)

I could go on and on, but I think you get the point. Summer is sweet! And there are so many things I am hoping we can experience before fall comes our way: tennis (every summer we are like, we’re going to play lots of tennis this summer!! And every summer we don’t. :/ ), fireworks, camping, fresh produce, lots of jars sitting in my canning shelf (full, not empty like they are now), singing around the campfire, a neighborhood picnic…

Happy Summertime to you!

My Friday Exhaustion Plan

The little one is snoozing in her car seat, where she’s been ever since we got back from taking her daddy breakfast in the field. The humidity is building to it’s 91 degree climax today. (A little sticky in this un-airconditioned house) I woke up with a sore throat and cough, and two weeks worth of tiredness. Definitely ready to get back to a normal schedule of being at home and not commuting to the hospital every day.

This is my How To Deal With Friday Exhaustion plan. (At least for today)

1. Sit on the couch and drink coffee and pretend all the strawberries, laundry, dishes, lunch prep, weeding, watering, and supper packing up aren’t staring you in the face. (Okay, so ignoring the work isn’t going to make it go away, but giving yourself a breather is important.)

2. Make a list. Put even the smallest of tasks on the list, to give yourself the satisfaction of crossing off completed items. :) Include things such as blog and make that strawberry pie crust that has been pushed to the back burner for days. (In other words, work that is more pleasurable to the taste buds and creative).

3. Be very very thankful for the extremely long nap Avi is taking. And hope she’s happy for the rest of the day!

4. Listen to online podcasts to make boring tasks more enjoyable.

5. Promise myself a reward when work list is completed. Iced coffee and a good book? Yes please. :)

 How do you cope when exhaustion comes to visit and you need to motivate yourself?