Sunday, December 8, 2013

Recent Highlights

Happy Advent! I have a couple highlights from the past week that I want to share with you with a couple pictures to illustrate.

For the second year in a row, my office had a Christmas decorating competition last week. We formed the office into three areas and the employees into three teams. My team decided on a "Christmas land" theme complete with a Christmas photo booth as you see in the photo below. And, we WON! It was exciting. :) My co-worker took a short video of the decorations that you can watch here. I think we won because the judges (from my old workplace, Partners!) loved posing at our photo booth so much.

I have to admit that I was partially dreading the competition (which is terrible because I'm the event planning head!), mostly because the task seemed daunting. Of course, I shouldn't have worried because my co-workers had great ideas and skill. It's been so fun to turn on all the Christmas lights in the mornings when I first get to work.

For the second year in a row, my church has had a women's retreat at Camp Spalding/Clearwater Lodge, which is the main Presbyterian camp and retreat center in the Spokane area. It's just about 40 minutes north of my house in the beautiful pine-wooded, lake-filled countryside. The photo below is looking across Davis Lake towards the distant mountains from the room where we had worship sessions. We experienced most of the outdoors through big windows because the temperatures have been in the teens for the last couple days. I took a walk on Saturday afternoon and it look my legs 30 minutes to thaw--no kidding! You can see in the picture below that the shore of the lake has iced over.

My friend Margy and I drove up to camp on Friday afternoon and joined about 45 other women. The whole weekend was lovely. There's something about being away from home in a retreat setting that gives women the freedom to share more freely and deeply. We had some great moments of laughter and of sharing our stories together. After dinner on Friday night, we split into six groups and had to create a Nativity scene with the materials we had available at our tables. The photo below is the Nativity scene my group created. Someone commented that the sheep looked like ghosts, which I have to agree with. The yellow rays from the star was just the plastic that held in a package of paintbrushes. How cool is that? We had some very creative women in my group. I appointed myself Chief Glue-Gun Operator since it requires very little creative energy. :)

I decided to drive up to Trader Joe's today to take advantage of the dry weather, since the only Trader Joe's in the area is about 30 minutes from my house and up a big hill. I went in with a list and left with only two items on that list. Oops! At one point, an employee asked me, "Are you finding everything on your list?" because I was staring at it perplexedly. I gave him a wry grin and said "Yes, thanks." On my mental list, that is. I found that the meal I had planned to make no longer sounded good, so I did some quick meal planning in my head and ended up with what you see below. The veggie broth, barley, pearl onions, and parsnips will become a Pearled Barley Broth from one of my favorite veggie-centered cookbooks. The Merlot will be cooked in a five-hour meat sauce to go on the pasta. The dried apricots (which are incredibly delicious!), cranberry-covered goat cheese, carrots and cucumber will become my lunch for the week. Tomorrow's lunch will be dried apricots and cranberries, a hard-boiled duck egg (from my cousin), crackers and the goat cheese, and the veggies. Yum! 

Time in general seems to fly by, but the Advent/Christmas season always zip by particularly quickly. I wonder why. I'm trying my best to savor Advent, the unique season in the Church Year of longing, anticipation, introspection, and joy. I'll leave you with a couple verses from one of my favorite Advent songs, Holy Is Your Name, a traditional Scottish hymn.
My soul is filled with joy as I sing to God my savior:
You have looked upon your servant, you have visited your people.
Refrain: And Holy is your name, through all generations!
Everlasting is your mercy to the people you have chosen, and Holy is your name.
In your love you now fulfill what you promised to your people.
I will praise you, Lord, my savior, everlasting is your mercy.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Extending Grace: The Ministry of Bearing

I can't remember when this idea first crept into my mind. We've been going through an excellent sermon series at church this fall about the facets of the Kingdom of God, things like fellowship, witness, simplicity, covenant, and persecution. It could have been in one of these sermons. Or the idea could have poked up its head in one of my conversations with a mentor or friend. I've also been leading a book study at church on Dietrich Bonhoeffer's pithy volume Life Together. I'm sure the idea partly came about through this book. Simply put, the big idea that's been on my mind and in my heart is the call that we have to extend grace to our fellow human beings.

Bonhoeffer gave me the words to express what this ministry is called in Scripture: the ministry of bearing. Paul writes: "Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindess, humility, meekness and patience, bearing with one another..." (Col. 3:12-13a). As I've thought more about it, my experiences in life recently have given body and shape to this idea of bearing with or extending grace to others. Or, more accurately, life has tested my limited ability to extend grace.

In church a couple weeks ago, my pastor introduced new members to the congregation. He said something like: "We have a divine call to welcome these new members into our congregation and to love them, to delight in their gifts, passions, idiosyncracies and oddities." The congregation laughed, but the truth is plain as day. We're all a bunch of idiosyncratic weirdos. Need any evidence? Spend 10 minutes with another person. Or, better yet, spend two minutes with yourself!

In my book study yesterday, we discussed the ministry of bearing with others as Bonhoeffer describes it. I was still trying to understand what this ministry was, so I asked three questions: 1) What is the ministry of bearing? 2) Have you ever thought of this as a ministry? 3) How do we practice the ministry of bearing? One person very thoughtfully said, "Well, it kinda sounds like putting up with others." We all laughed and agreed. I didn't expect to have my questions answered in one fell swoop, but there it was, clear as day. Bonhoeffer further describes the ministry of bearing:

"The freedom of the other person includes all that we mean by a person's nature, individuality, endowment. It also includes his weaknesses and oddities, which are such a trial to our patience, everything that produces frictions, conflicts, and collisions among us. To bear the burden of the other person means involvement with the created reality of the other, to accept and affirm it, and, in bearing with it, to break through to the point where we take joy in it."    
Notice he says that we "break through" to the point of joy. We don't usually get there right away. It takes struggle to bear this ministry faithfully. Perhaps this concept has been so striking to me recently because life has been so ordinary and this is a ministry of ordinariness. What could be more day-to-day than colliding with the created reality of our brothers and sisters? I could count out the examples from today alone in a few short minutes, but I do have two stories I want to share particularly.

The first story is from this summer when I took a day trip with my family to the Oregon Coast. For my family, family vacations are full of laughter and fun, but also memories of personalities colliding and expectations being thwarted. At the very beginning of the day, my dad insisted that he needed to deposit his check in the bank before we did anything else. Somehow, this started us off on a brilliant way of handling each other's "weaknesses and oddities." Whenever someone's oddities poked through and caused friction, we would gleefully shout: "Quirk! Quirk!" Instead of causing more tension, this simple statement released the tension, like the cap being opened on a soda. The tension fizzled away, and we would inevitably burst into laughter. But beyond just releasing the tension, acknowledging each other's quirks gave us insight into each other's needs and wants and gave us an avenue for communication. It opened up the possibility of extending grace to each other, and I learned a valuable lesson.

Bearing with each other isn't always so easy. It doesn't always have a good outcome. But this doesn't change our calling to bear with each other. In fact, I believe that God will, as he always does, extend grace to us as we extend grace to others.

Several weeks ago, my friend and I were cooking pancakes for breakfast. I had made a delightfully fluffy sour cream pancake batter, and my friend was in charge of flipping. As she poured on batter, flipped the pancakes, and slid the cooked hotcakes onto a platter, she told me about the tough time at work she'd had the day before. As she talked, I noticed that she was pressing all the air out of the pancakes with her spatula, thus ruining the airy fluffiness that had so excited me. The words were almost out of my mouth when a thought popped into my mind. She is upset, and she's taking her frustration out on these pancakes. It was a totally mindless act because she was focused on telling me her story. And what was I doing? Worrying about culinary perfection. Then came the three redemptive words: "Extend her grace." And I did. I shut my mouth and listened and ate flat pancakes with a new appreciation.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Month-Gone Highlights

Hello! Thought you'd never hear from me again? No luck! Here I am again, eating a freshly-baked molasses cookie. I don't usually do trial runs of recipes before serving them to guests, but I made an exception for molasses cookies.

Here are several highlights from the last month of my life:

1. Somehow I ended up with two full gallons of apple cider back in October. I went up two Sundays in a row to Green Bluff only to find that the Hansens were completely sold out of apple cider. Finally, I made a special trip up there on a Friday afternoon and got my coveted cider. The next Friday, I got two free half gallons from a friend. I spent a lot of time on food blogs, searching for recipes and ended up making apple cider quick bread, apple cider baked beans (which I ate for a full, long week!), several batches of steel-cut oats, freezing several yogurt containers full, and drinking many warm mugs in the evenings. Ah, fall!

2. On the last Saturday in October, my friend Gerry invited me to a harvest party and hay ride out in the country. The man who hosts the party each year farms a ton of land (like 1,000 acres!) and has a beautiful spot in the country north of Spokane. Right after we arrived, a bunch of us (there were probably a good 50 people there with tons of little kids) hopped into two trailers packed with hay bales for the first hay ride of the evening. I sat next to a lovely older couple, and we bounced along for about half an hour. Tim, the farmer, pulled us with his big, ol' tractor. At one point in the ride, the back trailer that I was on came unhitched from the front trailer when we jounced over a rocky spot. It was tremendously exciting. :)

It was so lovely to crest the hill of wheat-stubbled fields on our hay ride as the sun was setting and the mist was drifting in. We saw a herd of deer and one of my companions pointed out the fiery yellow larches--conifers that lose their needles in the fall--that were striking against the dark green of the Ponderosa pines. We had a delicious potluck dinner with hamburgers and hot dogs and a full table of desserts. Gerry's daughter, daughter's son, and his family were also at the party, and we all went out on a second hay ride in the dark. At first, I thought it would be scary and cold, but then we got distracted by the night sky. The heavens opened and stars burned through, bright and clear. The six-year-old who was with us stared up and said, "Wow! That looks like outer space!" We four adults got a good chuckle out of that. We spent the next half hour looking for constellations and watching for the ghostly lights of the barn that shone through the mist. As you can tell, the party was fodder for an active imagination.

3. Since September, the aforementioned Gerry and I have been cooking meals for a monthly family night at church. The day before Halloween, the youth group hosted a carnival and chili cook-off for the kids and their families. I purchased all the sides for the chili and was there early to arrange them and help the youth director with all the preparations. It was a madhouse when all the kids were there! I sat by myself with my chili when I finally sat down because I was a little stupefied. I rallied, though, and ran the craft table for the quieter kids. Being removed from childhood, it was fun to see the boundless enthusiasm of the kids in their costumes as they decorating cookies, cake walked, and had their faces painted.

4. For the third year in a row, my friend Heidi and I spent the first Saturday evening in November listening to the Whitworth jazz band play with a famous jazz musician, this year the saxophonist Chris Potter. The Whitworth jazz band is fabulous! Heidi and I listened with rapt attention and great big grins. There was one song I loved particularly because it featured a saxophone trio with Potter and two students. They seamlessly slipped the solo between the three of them and it was marvelous. It filled me with delight, and I had to stand up and clap when it was done while also regretting that it didn't go on for many minutes more.

5. Work has been an adventure the last two months. My department--customer support--has a steady work load. In an average week, we get about 400 e-mails from customers about every topic imaginable relating to the Olive Tree Bible Study app, our website, sales, etc. Due to financial tightness, we had to let a person from my department go at the beginning on October. Several weeks later, another co-worker resigned, leaving my department with two people. The first full week in November, my one remaining co-worker was on vacation for a whole week, leaving just me in my department. It was a busy, crazy week, and I learned a lot. About 10 of my co-workers from other departments helped out in the e-mail queue that week, so I got to lead them, answer questions, refine my own techniques and understanding, and work my tail off. It was a good week, but boy was the next week even better with my co-worker back to share the load of people waiting for help! There are still just two of us in support (though still with plenty of help from other departments), so it continues to be draining. I can't wait for a change of pace at Thanksgiving.

Well, those are the highlights! I do have a closing thought for you though. I'm part of a book club during Sunday School at church, and the leader asked me to co-lead this year. We've been reading Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Life Together, and I'm finding it to be full of challenging and rich passages. I have my dad's version from 1979, and it has so many underlinings and notes and scribbles. It's delightful! I spent a lot of time alone this weekend. Really alone because I hardly saw any of my housemates after Saturday afternoon. It was thus ironic that the chapter we discussed in Sunday School yesterday was "The Day Alone." Being alone always makes me take stock of my life. So much of life is so very ordinary. As I looked back in my planner, so much of what I do day to day is the same: eat lunch and make lunch, walk, journal, look at recipes online, read, talk with my parents, e-mail, ignore chores, fill up the laundry basket, do laundry, fold laundry, and on it goes. And yet, the ordinariness is infused with changing, shifting life. New lessons to learn, challenges to overcome, gratitude to be expressed, and daily life to be shared. Life isn't always easy, but there is always plenty to be thankful for, and today I'm thankful for life, the ordinary and extraordinary both.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

My Root Cellar

Apparently fall is a woeful time for me and blogging. I'm sorry for the lack of substance here recently. Writing is a way of processing life and, admittedly, it sometimes takes me a while to process. Kind of like winter cooking, which is suited to braises, stews, and roasting, all of which take time.
This morning, I walked to my garden and spent an hour cleaning it up. I pulled up everything except green onions, chives, parsley, and snapdragons (which were amazingly still blooming!), chopped it all into smaller pieces, bagged it, raked the dirt smooth, and stared at it. It's hard to believe that my garden had come full circle again and is now laid to rest for the winter.
I got an organizing bug in me after seeing my garden look so neat and tidy, so I came home and whipped my root cellar and freezer into shape. Except for my grandparents, I can't remember anyone having a basement when I was growing up in Portland. Thus living in a house with a basement for the last two years has been a revelation. I have stored winter vegetables in the basement the past two years, but I've decided to be more organized this year, mostly to avoid wasting food.
I unpacked my whole freezer and re-wrote my whiteboard list below. I am thankful that my freezer is in pretty good shape. I've realized that my freezer is a better place for storing ingredients that can become a meal rather than pre-made meals. I love to cook so much that I just don't eat pre-made meals. If I'm in need of a quick meal, I usually make an easy meal like peanut butter and jelly toast or scrambled eggs. It's one of my weird food quirks. I'm pretty proud of this list:
The last two years, I've bought squash at Green Bluff on a whim. Bad idea. I regret to say that much of it was wasted. This year, I bought just the squash you see below: delicata (delicious roasted with olive oil, salt, and pepper), sweet meat (which I'll bake, puree, and freeze in two-cup portions for baking), a Red Kuri (no idea how to cook it, so this is my splurge!), and four butternut squash (wonderfully versatile). I'm prone to impulse fruit/veggie purchases, so I can't guarantee that I won't end up with more squash. But if I don't, I'm content with what I have here:
My lovely canned goods! I've already shared a photo like this on my blog, but I'm really proud of them. Canning, freezing, and root cellar goods are three of the big ways I like to preserve the precious fruits and veggies of summer and autumn for the lean winter and early spring months. Drying is another big method, but I haven't done much with it yet. 
On an impulse, I did buy a 10-pound bag of local Yukon Gold potatoes at Green Bluff to add to my stash of red potatoes and fingerlings. It was only $5! I've separated the potatoes by variety into three newspaper-lined boxes. At Green Bluff, I recently purchased two 4-lb bags of red and yellow storage onions for only $1.50 each. A steal! I'm so excited! The last component I'll add to my root cellar is about 20 lbs of Stayman Winesap apples that I'll be picking at Green Bluff tomorrow. The farmer told me these apples are "good keepers." Excellent! That's what I'm looking for! 
I've been thinking of buying a Dutch oven, so my co-worker was kind enough to lend me his, which is the exact Dutch oven I wanted to buy. I've been testing it out with various recipes, including Butternut Squash Risotto (picture below). The risotto was easier to make than I expected and delicious in an earthy way. With squash, onions, white wine, and homemade chicken stock as some of the ingredients, I happily ate the leftovers for lunch (all week). 
Today, I simmered the bones of two roasted chickens for three hours, adding in chopped onion, carrots, two bay leaves, and fresh thyme after the second full hour. Happily, the chicken bones have enough meat on them to make Chicken Soup with Herb Dumplings. I'm thinking this Dutch oven will be my next big kitchen purchase.

It's been a good and productive day. I love the possibilities for delicious, healthy meals that are just waiting to spring forth from my cans, freezer, and stored veggies.

How are you preparing for the winter months? Do you can, freezer, dry, or store summer and fall vegetables or fruit?

Sunday, October 6, 2013

A Final Garden Update: Potatoes, Oh My!

I've had a blog idea brewing in my head for two weeks now, but I haven't quite got to a place where I'm able to put my thoughts into words. For now, I wanted to share with you the final update of the year from my garden. It was a wonderful year. Here's a tunnel view of part of my garden:

A lot of what you can see above were volunteer plants, like the parsley, nasturtium (yellow flower), and alyssum (white flower) in the foreground. Below, you can see the huge stalks of cosmos that grew WAY taller than I expected. You can also see my bean patch and the potato foliage in the center right of the photo.  

I spent about 30 minutes digging potatoes yesterday and harvested a wonderful amount of Red Norlands and Rose Finn Apple and Russian Banana fingerlings. It was so much fun to dig around in the garden in the nippy, sunshiney fall air and pull up hidden treasures from the dirt: rose-tinted and golden yellow fingerlings and bold red potatoes.

Here are the potatoes spread out on newspaper in my basement to "cure" for a couple days. Curing potatoes helps them keep better in a cool dark place in the winter. I thought this picture was funny because it looks so much like a science experient! I can't wait to expand my science experiment into the kitchen...yum, chemistry!

I tried to take the picture below to show how tall my cosmos are. You can sorta tell. :)

I thought the texture of the petals on this calendula were beautiful. The fringed edges almost remind me of a lion's mane.

I was in my garden to harvest today for perhaps the last time this season. Each night, the temperature dips down a little farther. The heat in my house has finally ticked on, and my bed has three layers of blankets. The trees are starting to tint crimson and gold. I picked all my green tomatoes today to try ripening them inside. I cut all the blossoms left on my zinnias and snapdragons and added to them nasturtium, cosmos, and black-eyed Susan blooms in two Mason jar bouquets. The simple beauty of consistent flower bouquets in my house for the past three months has been a particular joy. I love that my garden can be a place of combined beauty, utility, and wonder. I pray I can take the wonder and beauty of creation into the hunkered-down winter months until the winds of change bring us the new life and green stubble of spring.
Thanks for enjoying my garden with me this year!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Making Ricotta Cheese

I got it into my head that I wanted to make ricotta cheese this weekend. I think it was partly because my favorite cooking blog posted a tutorial about it recently and partly because I would be up on the South Hill where I could get milk from a local Spokane dairy:
I met the woman who owns this farm with her husband last March when I took a cheese-making class. The milk is pasturized only to 145 degrees, not homogenized, and has the cream on the top like in the good old days. I used a recipe from a blog called Annie's Eats. The ingredients are simple: white vinegar, milk, salt, and lemon juice. 
After mixing salt and milk, I heated the milk to 185 degrees, took the milk off the heat, and stirred in the lemon juice and vinegar. After leaving the mixture to curdle for about 10 minutes, I poured it into a curtain-lined colander over a bowl to catch the whey. I used the curtain in place of cheesecloth and it worked perfectly.
Here is the colander over the bowl of whey:

Here's me squeezing more whey out of the cheese. I have to admit that it was ridiculously fun to squeeze out the warm whey. My housemate was laughing at me.
It's amazing how much whey is left over after making the cheese! Good thing my co-worker sent me a link to a blog with 16 uses for whey. I'm thinking of freezing some of my whey in ice cube trays, using it to water my house plants, and cooking potatoes and oatmeal in it. I tasted it, and I can hardly describe the taste: fresh, slightly sour, rich.  

And here's the finished product!

It's amazing that eight cups of milk makes only two cups of ricotta. It made me realize how precious cheese is and why it's expensive. I have several ideas for how to use my cheese. I'm thinking of spreading it on sliced ciabatta bread with salami (from Trader Joe's!) and garden tomatoes. I'll let you know how it turns out. :)

Have you made something from scratch before? How did it turn out? Was it worth the effort?

Friday, September 6, 2013


In this season of late summer bounty, a post about gratitude seemed necessary. In fact, the words were chomping at the bit to get out on the "page" and the pictures practically leapt off my camera. Without further ado, here are the things I'm grateful for with hope that they will inspire your own gratitude.
1. Fresh summer flowers. I'm thankful to have planted zinnias and cosmos in my garden this year. I'm even more grateful that miniature black-eyed Susans, snapdragons, marigolds, and nasturtiums appeared in my garden as if by magic (also known as re-seeding to the practical among us). I've tried to keep a fresh bouquet on our dining room table at all times. 
2. Simple and creative summer meals. The top photo is caprese, which is simply stacks of sliced fresh mozzerella and tomatoes sprinkled with basil. The bottom picture was my dinner tonight: zucchini nachos with garden tomatoes, zucchini, and green onions and lots of cheese.

3. Provisions for winter. My mom willingly threw herself into two huge canning projects with me over Labor Day weekend. We canned 23 quarts of peaches and 20 quarts of applesauce. It gives me joy to see the bounty of summer stored up for the cold and dark days of winter. 

4. Garden bounty. Today, I picked all the veggies you see below in Dottie's and my garden. (I'm harvesting veggies in Dottie's garden while she's out of town.) Lots of green beans, four cucumbers, four zucchini/summer squash, and a bowlful of Sun Gold and Juliet tomatoes. That being said, does anyone have zucchini recipes they'd like to share with me? :)

5. A working kitchen sink! We were without a kitchen sink for exactly a week. As I made dinner on Wednesday night, I had several impulses to take my dishes to the bathroom to wash them. I was so happy when I looked over my shoulder and saw this shiny new faucet to dispel all thoughts of inconvenience. 
6. Visiting with old friends. I've gotten to see my friend and former housemate Heidi four times in the past week for which I'm very grateful as she's now started a busy semester of school and work. On Tuesday, I spent time with my friend Sam and her husband Andrew. Sam and I went to Whitworth and studied abroad in England together. Tomorrow morning, I'm having breakfast with my freshman year roommate and her husband. (I'm also grateful we're meeting at the Petit Chat bakery!) Old friends are comforting because they remind me of the good ol' times, but also of the new ways in which friendships are preserved over time and distance.
7. My first-ever baby shower for a friend. It's a new season of life I'm entering with marriages of friends and now the babies of friends. Tomorrow, I get to attend two baby showers, one for my college friend Angela and another for her sister-in-law Karinda. I had my first experience with gift registries at Target today and, despite being confused about baby stuff in general, I managed to buy some pretty cute duds. For the record, the baby bib says "Revved up for Snacktime." I thought that was perfect coming from me. :) 

8. My ice-cream maker. I have to say that my impulse kitchen purchase of the summer has turned out to be brilliant. In the past week, I made Thin Mint Peppermint Ice Cream and fresh peach pie ice cream with chunks of cinnamon sugar pie crust. My mom and I enjoyed both ice cream flavors over the weekend.
9. Inconveniences and struggles. On Sunday, my pastor talked about the story of the ten lepers in Luke 17:10-19 in a sermon titled "Eucharistic Repentence." He used "eucharistic" to reflect its root meaning of gratitude and "repentence" to mean an action needing a 180 degree turn. Gratitude, especially for the hard things, does take effort, a 180 degree turn to recognize that even inconvenience and suffering come from the hand of a good God. Sometimes, like in the case of the 10 lepers, "eucharistic repentence" means turning from a lesser good to a greater good. The nine lepers probably ran back to their families and were full of graitude for health and wholeness. That's good! But the tenth leper who returned to Jesus was the only one to direct his gratitude in the most proper place: to the only One through whom healing and wholeness was possible. The sermon gave me a lot to think about. In this season of late summer, I have many good gifts for which to be grateful. But there will be seasons of life that aren't as cheery and the call to be grateful will be no less.
10. The Giver of all good gifts. "Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change" (James 1:17, NRSV).
What are you thankful for in this season of your life?

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Canning Peaches Without a Kitchen Sink

It is possible to can peaches without a kitchen sink! And I have pictures to prove it. :)

Here's my game face:

Here are the instructions I followed from my grandma's Ball Canning Book: 

The peaches!

The work station:


Here's a view of the work station with the broken faucet in the foreground:


By the time the cans of peaches were simmering for the second time (I wasn't sure if they had sealed the first time), I was starving, so I ate the whole box of mac and cheese. :)


The outcome! The Tupperware on the left is peach sauce (like applesauce). I had a number of peaches left that were pretty bruised, so I cooked down the peaches, added sugar and cinnamon, and then mixed in cornstarch to thicken it. It tastes like the filling of a peach pie. Yum!


So while a broken kitchen sink is an inconvenience, it can't stop the process of preserving fresh fruits and veggies for the summer! What fresh produce are you enjoying?

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

You Never Know What a Day Will Bring

My mom has a saying. "You never know what a day will bring." I came home today and unloaded all my stuff as usual...lunchbox, Costco purchases, purse, keys. I was buzzing around the kitchen mentally preparing to start canning a small batch of peaches when I decided to check my phone. I had two texts and one phone call, all from my housemate. One text read: "The kitchen faucet is broken. Like out of commission broken." I gasped and looked up. Sure enough, the top of the faucet had broken off. I desperately tried to latch it back on to see if I could get some water out of the tap, but no luck. Well, there goes canning peaches, was my first thought. Momentary panic ensued considering I'm supposed to can many quarts of peaches and applesauce this weekend. I hurriedly sent a text to the landlord and called my parents. Of course this would have to happen in the middle of preserving season!

Fortunately, we have a deep sink in the downstairs laundry room right next to the washing machine. After dinner, the top of the washing machine looked like this:

Not ideal, but actually it wasn't too bad an arrangement for the short term. I was also consoled by a delicious dinner I made. I've been so busy with cooking projects and other things that I haven't had much energy to cook meals for myself. Tonight, though, I used zucchini and garden tomatoes and green onions to make a fresh garden quesadilla with pepper jack cheese. As I sat down to dinner, I reflected on my housemate's second text which admitted several points of conflict between the two of us that we needed to talk through. When I thought of her text, my heart's pace picked up and my appetite drained away. Conflict is hard for me to deal with, especially receiving criticism.

After dinner, I set off on a walk feeling distressed. A paraphrased quote came to mind that seemed to apply to the situation: "If God took things away one by one that we had failed to be thankful for, what would be left? Would we have hands or ears? Eyes or lungs?" As I crunched along on the gravel path, I thanked God for basement sinks, hands, eyes, and ears, but I was still distressed. I started up the big hill that leads to Whitworth and each step seemed to pound out my frustrations. I was mostly angry at myself. Angry that my plans had changed because of the sink and that my own selfishness and short sightedness had caused conflict with my roommate that is yet unresolved.

When I got to the top of the hill, I was gasping for breath and tears stung hard in the corners of my eyes. I didn't feel at peace, per se, but I had come to grips with the situation, conflict and broken faucet both. I knew, despite my bumblings and the circumstances that cause me to cry out my mom's saying, that God was still present and at work, even when I'm too short sighted to realize my own mistakes. Thankfully, walking gave me the thinking space to recognize my guilt and made me eager to talk with my housemate. And thankfully, it's not too late to reconcile with her.

There's still one problem though. How does one can peaches without a kitchen sink?

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Early August Garden Update

My garden (for the most part) is growing well this year. This post will show how far things have grown since my last garden post. My dad had the idea to juxtapose pictures of the garden in June with pictures of the garden now. I've done that with the first four photos. Here's the contrast with how the straw bales have grown:

We put black plastic in the center to keep the weeds down and it's worked well. We had some trouble with aphids on the tomatoes, so Dottie asked a man at a nursery what to do, and he said the straw bales need to be fertilized once a week. Dottie has been graciously adding fish emulsion (or, as she says, fish poop) on all the bales once a week, and I have also added granular fertilizer twice and will again this weekend.

Here's the main part of the garden in June. Everything looks so tiny!
Explosion! In this picture you can see hollyhocks (far left), bush beans, three varities of potatoes, cosmos, snapdragons, and you can faintly see basil in the middle of the photo. I also have four tomatoes, a bush cucumber, and some lovely volunteer nasturtiums behind the hollyhocks.
Here's the same patch as above, but from a slightly different angle. My cosmos bolted up, but the zinnias didn't do as well this year. I also planted carrots twice with nothing to show and my peas didn't do well. Dottie and I are wondering if something in the soil is bad, since it seems to be a certain patch. Any gardeners out there want to give their thoughts?
Here I have two lovely lemon cucumber plants. My family grew these when I was growing up, so my sister and I have always loved them. I've already picked one small cucumber, and I'm hoping to have a couple to take to my family when I visit next week.

These are Juliet tomatoes in the plot behind the hollyhocks. The Juliet is a thin Roma variety that Dottie loves to grow, so I thought I'd try them out this year. So far, so good! I'm also so excited because my heirloom tomato "Ananas Noire" that has big multicolored slicing tomatoes is looking so healthy! It has dark green foilage and the little green tomatoes are starting to appear. I'm praying the August heat will be enough for them to grow big and flavorful.
An baby English cucumber in one of the straw bales! Looking good!

A beautiful, delicate Seashell Cosmos. The cosmos have grown well this year, and I've already used several of the blooms for a flower bouquet. I love having fresh flowers in the house!

That's the garden tour for August! I'll have another report in early September. Oh, I can hardly wait! How's your garden coming along?

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

A Weekend With Ruth

Soon you will tire of these posts where I post pictures of fun things I've done with friends and family and you'll want something serious. I don't blame you. Unfortunately (for the serious reader), my life is filled with such visits. Fortunately (for the forbearing reader), they will come to an end when the summer is over. Summer is a great time to celebrate bounty. (I'll share pictures of my garden bounty with you soon.) And I'm realizing there are different kinds of bounty. This summer has been flush with friends and family bounty. My dear friend Ruth--a friend for 10 years now!--came for a visit last weekend, and I have some pictures to prove it. I hope you enjoy the photos and are reminded to thank God for the friends and family in your own life.

Ruth and I spent the afternoon and evening at Manito Park closer to downtown Spokane on Sunday. We enjoyed the beautiful flowers, warm evening, and had a picnic dinner in the garden you see behind us.
After the picnic dinner, we went to Riverfront Park downtown for the Royal Fireworks show in which a Baroque band performed music on a floating stage in the Spokane River with a fireworks show at the end. We sat with my housemate Pam, her two friends, and my friend Katie and her husband Ben. We had about an hour before the concert started, so we were experimenting with funny pictures. It was a delightful concert and the fireworks show was amazing!

Ruth brought me these wonderfully colored pot holders from Guatemala where she spent a month earlier this summer. I've put the pot holders on the wall in my dining room because I can't bear to have them not displayed. They're so great!
We did some other fun things, too, like hang out with people from my church, watch Wives and Daughters, make pesto lasagna, go to Green Bluff, and more, but the pictures above are a good representation. I'm so thankful for Ruth's visit!
I hope you're getting to spend some lovely time with family and friends this summer!