Daily Diary (Sunday Wind)

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{Miles Davis goes well with these Ginger Snaps, just in case you ever wondered}

I crept out onto deck to escape the after lunch chatter, chili dishes being scraped to the last drop, sourdough bread sighed over. We stopped to pick it up from a grocery store bakery after church today. Everyone was in rapture over it. As I sat down on the bench, the gusty, lovely wind kissed my face, running its fingers though my hair. I closed my eyes and felt the glorious warmth blanket my face. The autumn colors are wooing us all, our drives to and fro becoming private Artist showings. I feel a prick of pain, heart and soul, as I know it will be all over much too soon. But never-mind that. I’m here now, aren’t I? And that prick was actually a wasp sting! Time to duck back into the house, supervising the meal clean up. Music playing, wind in the curtains, we get things generally put to rights. Annie and Noah head out with my father-in-law, Peter, and Amos in the rumbling, rusty farm truck, the “littles” staying home with me. I order them a dose of sunshine and then taking my own advice, grab coffee, with dash of half ‘n half, stack of books, a small quilt and head out myself. The wind hasn’t forgotten me, it’s welcoming as I sink back into the swing. What a perfect Sunday afternoon.

~

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Daily Diary {Autumn Breeze}

 

Just like that. The cooler weather is back. The countryside slides by, emerald green tinged with orange-hues, deep and rich, my windows down. The Amish are out splitting wood, mums and pumpkins appearing all over, this day gorgeous, breezy. It was clear with a few fluffy bits of white tickling the blue. Pink cosmos gaily dancing, smell of pears baking, this autumn feeling deserves a dessert. Tetleys in our cups, poured over sugar and cream, we read “The Children’s Hour”, such a lovely bit of poetry. We can imagine ourselves in the same exact situation with Mr. Longfellow, his sweet daughters clambering all over him. A bit of that lovely breeze tickles the red gingham curtains. I finally hemmed them up a year or so after buying the fabric. Something so simple, that brings so much joy. Since I’ve hung them we’ve admired the red glow, the breeze dancing with them, a kind of stop and think about it moment. Clothesline is flapping with towels, most the books are back in the basket for today, although Annie, Noah, Sam and I want to read Plutarch together. It may have been dubbed “Puketarch” a few times here, but the richness of language, characters have us returning. We always end up with bits of gold jumping out at us, surprise-like if we press through the difficulties. That’s life in a nutshell.

I’ve been missing my reading stack a bit, but I realized that I’m really enjoying all the books the children and I are reading together. I’ve been sneaking a peek of Dreams and Wishes: Essays on Writing for Children by Susan Cooper here and there. The title is a bit misleading as it is so much more. Essays on imagination, reading, fantasy, writing, and too many interrelated ideas to count. It’s fascinating and inspiring. Poetry also has been a constant fount to draw on, soaking deep into the cracks. Abigail Carroll, Wordsworth, Mary Oliver, and most recently, new to me, pieces by Anna Akmatova. I’ve been dipping my toe into one of my favorite rereads during my current season of life, Bequest of Wings: A Family’s Pleasure with Books by Annis Duff. Inbetween the pencil sharpening, listening, cooking, and coffee sipping, her lovely words about this feast we are partaking warms me. It sets me to the grabbing of the next beloved book off the shelf, striking the match to light another candle, and ignoring the spider webs in favor of just one last chapter. Last night, my heart welled up as we sat, cozy under blankets, I just listening from my spot on the faded green couch. It was like they were coming alive. On their laps, pages open, was Rosemary Sutcliff’s Black Ships Before Troy: The Story of THE ILIAD and this led to many thoughts and ideas being slung back and forth. They touched on history, geography, morality, religion, art, helping one another, companionably arguing, thinking and hashing things out. I sat there, silent, stunned, learning and taking in so much. My heart sang as I read Mrs. Duff this morning on this very life of relationships. This relational life of the tears, the dishes, the beauty of seeing and knowing TOGETHER, of having others to share with the richness of words, nature, music, art. All of it intertwined, shining, sounding out a loving Creator Who is reaching out His hand to us all. The gift of this life is stunning and I can’t ignore it.

The sun slowly descends, I think of my chicken and vegetables waiting for their bed of rice, the hungry bellies to fill, another day coming to a close. Pajama-clad little ones, perhaps a bit of the Ralph Moody Series or Mandy by Julie Andrews, before climbing in our cozy beds for the evening.

Welcome, Autumn loveliness.

~

Soup’s On

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The pungent odor, the juicy, crisp feel, onions sliced, dropped into the pot. The sizzling music plays as flavors meld together, spatula stirring and chopping ground turkey as it browns.

The pungent, slightly morbid poem “Adventures of Isabel” by Nash chuckled at over breakfast. Uncontrollable laughter over Carrie, the half talking cat in Lear’s Half Magic, dropped lightly into the mixture.

Plump, diced chunks of tomatoes. Thin, black beans, morsels of golden corn added with the onions and meat.

Dicey moments over proper way to make a basic dough. Guffaws breaking tension as full stick of butter falls on floor, face down, bits splattering. A quick clean up, stir of resolution and a pinch of lets-start-over thrown in.

Water running, water necessary for life, soup pot is filling. Spices to birth flavor, to compliment vegetables, meat, and bringing soul, depth to sustenance.

Stones and sand, water flowing over our mock little river bed, four boy eyes gazing at geology experiment. The flowing, flowing of life giving words from The Holy Bible, Charlotte Mason’s Ourselves, rushing, tumbling, swirling, compassion and interest about a boy in Malawi. Folk tales about Paul Bunyan and Babe, straighting out a road in Minnesota. Spice for the heart, soaking for the imagination.

The simmering. Hot heat on my hand as I gently stir. The patience and a light shake, bit o’ pepper and salt into it all.

Listening, answering, sowing, words, numbers, the scorching of being “on” all the time. Inner patience, cultivation of a restful heart silence even through the shaky hop, skip, and jump of relationships. Throwing in an extra measure of grace, knowing full well how truly much I’ve been given.

A smell so delicious sifts through the air. A simple table cloth, candles flickering, mismatched bowls catch the light. Hearty soup, bread, fresh stick of butter, the meal has been prepared. The mixing and simmering are in the background, the relationships are here all around.

Gather in closer, sip, lather your slice with creaminess, taste and see. A daily dance of living ingredients, slowness, humility, and astonished gratefulness.

~

Dear Diary, {Summertime Thankfulness}

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Our summer-soaked lives are humming along, not unlike the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird of yesterday, yesteryear. It hovered over the Day Lilies, right at eye level with my perch on my my porch swing. I sat silently drinking in the flash of green, flip of red, as this whirring wisp sipped the sweet nectar. We’ve had an usually mild summer, with the humidity staying south on it’s own vacation, perhaps. We’ve been swimming, mowing, ignoring weeds, and having bonfires with family. We’ve enjoyed reading aloud The Swiss Family Robinson together, hours of building with little plastic bits of the rainbow, baking, and riding bikes. Stories being acted out in the midst of chores, neighbors organic cows are here for a visit with a field of ours, so their own home can rest and grow a bit. Hours of dealing with fencing for that visit.  Roofs being fixed, Amish metal guy certainly must be delighted with us. Wood being fashioned into bows, arrows, and swords mixed with duct tape, paper bags, and moms expensive washi tape, whenever the regular tape gives out. Beef hot dogs and S’mores staples, crock-pot chicken BBQ, ice cream, and watermelon on an endless rotation. Summer days, sigh, sunlit and golden. The dirt and sweat are canceled out by the cerulean sky and marshmallow clouds. Rain and then cool sunshine-y days are a perfect recipe for lush green, trees, grass, and life everywhere.  We’ve seen family and friends, summer bringing parties, outings, camping, cabins, and reunions, so many it reminds me of the stars piercing the night sky. Speaking of the night, words cannot begin to capture what it is like here, deep into the country. I don’t have the camera equipment or where-with-all to begin to hope to ever capture it’s still, silent presence. Where the earth and sky meet is hard to discern, an endless expanse too immense for my stumbling words. Nature is an extension of our home and family, long walks along the wild-flower strewn roadways, my prayer room, the little streams and rivulets, my music. Drumbeats of rain, and melodies of the wind, this summer sits like a gracious gift in my mind. The stories I’ve personally read, longer expanses for reading given during these warm, sweet months, meld together with moments of relationship with my family and glorious Creation, a nod to my loving Creator. The words from Isaiah, The Holy Bible, poetry from Edward Thomas, a beautiful story of bravery, love, and children from Nevil Shute in the Pied Piper, all bring a richness and relief, a feeding of soul, to each day. Oh, and I haven’t even mentioned my love affair with my huge clothesline. The lines of beautiful clean linens and towels whipped in the wind are a sort of art to me.  Our black cat running between them, his tail curling, his playful batting at them. They represent something to me. That immense beauty can be found in the small dailies of life. This is just the beginning of gratitude for this summer for me. The glimpses of precious people in my life. My oldest daughter curled on her bed working through book series, flashes of my own self, reminiscent of summers spent the same special way. My  oldest son and middle daughter faithfully tending their garden and chickens, fights and friendly discussions inevitably growing out of these projects, pecking away at frustrations and learning to love. My littlest, a pure delight to us all, his humorous actions, love of his books, blanket with bears, and glasses of milk. His early morning wanderings into my husband and I’s bed, kicking us, snuggling, and stealing my pillow. All the requests to guzzle my coffee (really creamer with a dash of coffee) and, “Please mom, it’s been way too long since you’ve made tea” reminders. My gigantic baskets of Amish-grown flowers on the deck, faithfully watered, and tended, so many lovely conversations around these blooming gifts with each of my children, and that midnight swing with my husband, the pepper-y smell of the geraniums, a special favorite of mine. We, of course, have seen our share of disagreements, spills, messes, and frustrations. The washer is leaking, we run out of gas, we snap at each other, we scrape our knees, we get stung by bumblebees. That’s life. But by turning the eyes of our hearts up in gratitude to all of the fireflies sparkling, the cake-candles blown out, wisps of smoke lingering, and the hands clasped together around the dinner table, we can rest.

We can rest in the love of our glorious God, we can rest in this moment, right now, and be glad.  I’m still holding on to summer, it’s not over yet, and I’m truly grateful.

~

‘Late and Soon’ {Living Education Retreat 2017, Part 2}

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{Beautiful gift given to us by our LER friends – “Keep cutting back until there is peace in your home.” – Nancy Kelly.  Design by – Charlotte Mason Living}

Part 1

Breakfast is being made, cheesy scrambled eggs, and I’m still feeding on the Living Education Retreat*. I’m a simmering soup after the weekend of sharing Charlotte Mason’s philosophy and practices with my fellow learners. My husband is getting an earful and my children are like, “Yes, mom, we know. Charlotte Mason, blah, blah, blah.” All in good humor, of course.  A thread, a main phrase seems to be emerging in my mind. It is the line ‘late and soon’.  I’m trying to wrap my mind around how that and other ideas tie together in a beautiful whole, taking it deep into my heart. I remembered in our Charlotte Mason book study having read it in the volumes, discussing it with my dear friends, and then stumbling again on it in a Wordsworth poem. What’s with Wordsworth lately popping up? Anyhow, here is the poem,

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;—
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not. Great God! I’d rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.

 

I went searching for when Miss Mason uses this Wordsworth line in her writings and I found it in her School Education, p. 27.

“We ought to do so much for our children, and are able to do so much for them, that we begin to think everything rests with us and that we should never intermit for a moment our conscious action on the young minds and hearts about us. Our endeavours become fussy and restless. We are too much with our children, ‘late and soon.’ We try to dominate them too much, even when we fail to govern, and we are unable to perceive that wise and purposeful letting alone is the best part of education. But this form of error arises from a defect of our qualities. We may take heart. We have the qualities, and all that is wanted is adjustment; to this we must give our time and attention.” – Charlotte Mason (emphasis mine)

As I thought on the retreat’s theme of Simplicity, the beautiful times of sharing on math with Marcia, a poetry immersion with Karla, contemplating truths from Charlotte’s volume Ourselves with Joy, the beautiful why’s behind handicrafts with Amy, and all the main sessions with Nancy, Art, and Jeannette, ‘late and soon’ and “keep cutting back until there is peace” started to come alive to me.  What Wordsworth, Mason, and all my lovely friends at this retreat are saying to me is that I can be at rest, narrowing and aiming my focus, not getting too grand, too distracted. I often become inwardly “fussy and restless”, inwardly focused on my inadequacies, inwardly focused, instead of an upward focus on God, and an outward focus on others. I become too grand in my own eyes and of course, weary if I start to drift into thinking that everything rest with myself!  Nancy’s quote ringing all the more true here, “Inner reality that effects our outward lifestyle.” I often let the “cares of this world” to choke out the simplicity found in a Christ-centered focus, in life and in the education of my children.

The wonderful idea of “cutting back until there is peace” extends for me, not only out into the daily practicalities of my home and schedule, but an inner culling, a careful removal of all the dross of self doubt, condemnation, fretting over my children, and faithlessness. This isn’t really about me, it is about faith in Almighty God.

“Education, like faith, is the evidence of things not seen.” – A Philosophy of Education, Charlotte M. Mason, p. 29.

“This great recognition resolves that discord in our lives of which most of us are, more or less, aware. The things of sense we are willing to subordinate to the things of spirit; at any rate we are willing to endeavour ourselves in this direction.” Parents and Children, Charlotte M. Mason, p. 275. (emphasis mine)

Through the conversations, singing fireside with Bobby and Amy, the wonderful lunch discussions with Ami, Barbara, Shauna, and countless others, lingering after small groups, chatting, crying with one another, and the late night talks with Carla, the beauty of this mindset, this feast, shone forth even clearer. Spending time with my daughter and other young adults, enriched, and listening to their panel, looking back over their experiences in this life-giving educational path, all just swells in my heart and mind.

Pausing my typing, my three year old son approaches with Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? and says, “Book?” I wrestle my brain out of it’s lofty rumination 😉 , my heart melts, and we share this book together. The Supreme Educator, the Holy Spirit, the God of all Creation, of the “sea that bares her bosom to the moon” is for me and with me. He is my Source, He gently leads those who have young, in Him I live, move, and have my being.  The winds howl for hours, flowers gathered, we easily can get out of tune, but “…once the intimate relation, the relation of Teacher and taught in all things of the mind and spirit, be fully recognised, our feet are set in a large room; there is space for free development in all directions, and this free and joyous development, whether of intellect or heart, is recognised as a Godward movement.” Parents and Children, Charlotte M. Mason, p. 275.

 

 

*{Charlotte Mason was a British educator. We enjoy her philosophy and methods of  life-giving education in our home. The Living Education Retreat encourages parents on this journey.}

~

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Birthday, Gladys!

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Today marks Gladys Taber’s 118th (give or take a few years due to my Math skills) birthday. I originally was introduced to Mrs. Taber’s writings through the beautiful quotes in Susan Branch’s art and books. I am so glad I found her! I have been inspired and charmed ever since, appreciating her attitude of thankfulness for the simple moments in life. A life where beauty can be found anywhere, if (and this is a big if) we just S L O W down and notice it. Be still and know. The little hands of my baby boy squishing his hamburger with delight as he takes a bite, the stamp on a handwritten note, and the moon’s light casting a haunting glow over eventide. The way my husband’s hand rests on the back of my neck, our 12 year old, humming while he does the dishes, and the light hitting a stack of books just right. A gratefulness wells up in me, an astonishment over these gifts I have been given. It turns my heart towards my Savior, from whom all blessings flow. Thank you, Gladys for sharing your life with us. I think I will go make a cake in your honor.

 

~

At the Table

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What’s for dinner?

We are having Robin Hood, Raphael’s La Donna Velata, crunchy Math numbers, with a side of Favorite Poems Old and New.  We are drinking deeply from Antonin Drorak’s music and dessert is Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. Numerous other delectable dishes are being served up at this feast. I lean back and sigh with satisfaction at the wide array of dishes, something for everyone here. At this table, we all are filled with our favorites, the things that hit our taste buds just right at the right moment.

I was pondering last night how much I cherish home educating my children. I particularly am thankful for the wisdom of Charlotte Mason. My favorite thing about her learning philosophy and methods is that is personal. It’s about relationships. It’s about each person being unique, connecting to the Lord and His world in an intimate, personal way.

She liken this type of living as a feast, a description that really touches me. She told us that it isn’t about facts but how much we care. At this feast, we are all learners, partakers.  My 7yo pulled out The Secret Garden the other day, and we read this together:

“The bird put his tiny head on one side and looked up at him with his soft bright eye which was like a black dewdrop. He seemed quite familiar and not the least afraid. He hopped about and pecked the earth briskly, looking for seeds and insects. It actually gave Mary a queer feeling in her heart, because he was so pretty and cheerful and seemed so like a person. He had a tiny plump body and a delicate beak, and slender delicate legs.”

pg 40

The Secret Garden 

Frances Hodges Burnett

I actually had a little lump in my throat, thinking of orphan Mary. The quickening of the beauty of that bird in a love-starved heart. That is so alike this way of living, a bright spark. I then began considering the foster care system as I had been reading something earlier. Later that evening, all of us got talking about the differences between foster care and orphanages. We started talking about adoptions and friends that have opened their hearts to it.

The next day, some of the children started a fund to purchase necessities for underprivileged children. See? It’s all connected. Life is a huge beautiful interweaving of personal relationships and connections. Miss Mason’s heart was for all people to partake of a deep connection with their God, enter in the cares and concerns of others compassionately, and understand they are each a uniquely created person in God.

The candles are flickering low, the table cloth is a bit rumpled, crumbs litter the floor, the delicious feast feeding and nourishing us. It isn’t always easy creating this feast, it takes a bit of work, elbow grease, yet it is so very worth it. I murmur a last word of thanksgiving and blow out the candles.

Tomorrow, we will taste and see that the Lord is good all over again.

~

Seed Cake

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“Come along in, and have some tea!” he managed to say after taking a deep breath. 

“A little beer would suit me better, if it is all the same to you, my good sir,” said Balin with the white beard. “But I don’t mind some cake – seed-cake, if you have any.”

“Lots!” Bilbo found himself answering, to his own surprise; and he found himself scuttling off, too, to the cellar to fill a pint beer-mug, and then to a pantry to fetch two beautiful round seed-cakes which he had baked that afternoon for his after-supper morsel.”

pg 8 The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien

 

I’ve been so inspired lately by these lovely tales of courage, friendship, and love. Something I needed is found between the lovely pages of these classics. It’s the focusing on something outside of oneself and the example of bravery on the perilous journey of life. It’s caring for others and good more than ones own comfort and security. Ouch. These titles are definitely high on my list for cold winter months. I was so inspired that we made a seed cake today for tea time in honor of our Hobbit friends. Literary feasting is so lovely and I don’t want to forget these little moments with my children.

 

~

Eggs, Bacon, and Toast

Crack, sss, pop. Egg to oil. Toast in, toast out. Gliding smooth, buttery-knife, toasted bread warmth wafts up. Rough, brown-striped towel, wipe the oil of fingers, hearts and worries off. It’s breakfast for dinner. Black smoke billowing from oven-crisped bacon, doors and windows thrown open to drizzle-y cold rain with icy fingers licking the edges. Ring in and breathe in the new year air.

Eyes on frying pan and toaster, I slip open, slide out the bookmark,  and drink in these words,

My mother said, “I don’t want to watch this.” So I followed her into the kitchen and we sat there listening to the pandemonium and the wind and the rain. Then my mother said, “The wash!” which we had forgotten. She said, “Those sheets must be so heavy that they’re dragging in the mud, if they haven’t pulled the lines down altogether.” That was a days work lost for her, not to mention the setting hens and the fryers. She closed one eye and looked at me and said, “I know there is a blessing in this somewhere.” We did have a habit of sometimes imitating the old man’s way of speaking when he wasn’t in the room. Still, I was surprised that she would make an outright joke about my grandfather, though he’d been gone a long time by then. She always did like to make me laugh.” 

Gilead, Marilynne Robinson,  pg 35

Pfff. Up pops the toast. I put it down again. 1 1/2 times seems to work the best. I can’t read the worn numbers on the settings and don’t want too. 1 1/2 times down is perfect. Eggs up and over, eggs done. I stick them into the still-warm oven, next to the bacon, my crock-ware plate hot to the touch. Raspy, paper towel soaks up the excess oil. Crack, sss, pop. Three eggs in the pot.

The sounds of the house are, besides my cooking, low murmurs of voices, the wood pellet stove humming, a cackle or two from a movie. Smoke still lingers in the air, few evergreen bits on floor, Christmas tree was put to rest today. The twinkle lights still live on though, light being a source of sanity in the northern parts of this wintry world.

Flipping, buttering, oven door opening, my mind flits through this day. Late night makes for late mornings, holiday break lingering just a bit longer here, blocks, books, and a few random stray balloons, bits of joy for my children’s moments.

Laundry, hot and dry, piles for me. “I know there is a blessing in this somewhere.” rings true through the tears, conversations, and greasy moments of today, each day. Even though, I’m not sure the narrator of Gilead, John Ames, particularly cared for his grandfather’s militantly positive outlook, there is indeed a blessing to be found in ones laundry piles, ones head cold, ones icy roads, and cancelled dinner dates. Just what that is, we don’t always know, or maybe *gasp* never find out, or if we are really truly looking or stilling ourselves, we just might see the edge of some sort of blessing.

The frost-fringed, foggy, wonderland winterscape as we crawl along iciness back home, the warmth of a loved ones raiment, a bit of fresh and sunshine next to skin. The moments with nothing in them. Have you ever felt yourself bored or anxious when there is nothing next? I wonder why. Nothing next can be good. The moments of illness that have us closing our eyes, sipping and breathing the steaming tea, resting in the stillness of the Savior. Be still, and Know.

Blessings in the slightly greasy, yet beautiful moments of life. January days are here.

 

~

 

 

Story

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Stories are beautiful. The Bible is the ultimate Story of God’s Love and redemption for mankind. The glorious Psalms full of pain, realness, and praise. The thread of promise woven throughout the Old Testament. The joy, love, and light stirred underneath the persecution and suffering in the New Testament. Have you ever thought about how important story is to our lives? Jesus used story often when sharing truths with the disciples and the crowds that surrounded Him. Nature often tells a story if we quiet ourselves,.pay attention, and listen. The beauty and depth to poetry often astounds me.

I am so blessed and encouraged by the beautiful truths and goodness in countless books, essays, and in this modern day, some blogs, social media. I can’t imagine the days when many couldn’t even learn to read, much less touch a real book.

We’ve been busy here with the beginning of our big extended family holiday celebrations. My mind is overrun with ideas, thoughts, themes, and yes, stories. I yearn to put them down in my journal, or here, or anywhere, but alas sometimes we must set aside what we want to do for the urgency of the immediate. Seasons.

The truth is that relationships are what truly matter this side of heaven. I must continually remind myself of this…it is a weary, thankless job at times.  All the investing, patience, selflessness, and giving that relationships demand. Our relationship with God needs our purposeful attention, space to listen, learn, and converse. It is truly the most important thing we can do with our time. Next comes the people in our life. These relationships are so beautiful and so draining, but every hug, every meal, every listening ear, matters. It does. Don’t let culture or lies tell you it doesn’t. You are part of God’s amazing story and you are writing a beautiful line of it with your life.

Just think of it. Your life is a story. How will that story turn out, what will the next page contain? You hold the ink and quill in your hand. Choose wisely. May I choose wisely.

~

Fun way to make Story apart of everyday life:

We enjoy what I like to call “literary feasting”. One of our most favorite book series is The Chronicles of Narnia. The cookbook is so fun and after we checked it out from the local library, we started making a Narnia Meal.

Narnia Meal

425 degrees

Chopped veggies you have on hand. This is wonderful for using up bits & pieces you have in frig. Chop up summer sausage or kielbasa. Toss it all in your favorite oil, salt & pepper, and spices of your choice (I usually just use garlic salt). Place on large baking sheet and cover lightly with foil. Roast for 1 hour. Serve with fresh bread, rolls, or whatever side you wish! Sometimes we get cider to go with!  Light some candles and imagine yourself in Narnia with Aslan…

 

 

Tea, Cake, and Susan Branch

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Dear Susan Branch , I just turned the last page of your Martha’s Vineyard: Isle of Dreams. I was so inspired and enchanted. As a wife, mother and home cook, I found it just the perfect shot of encouragement.  I often loose sight of the little bits of joy in creating a home for my loved ones. I  found so much to be inspired by your tenacity in keeping at your dreams.  Your books, especially, Isle of Dreams, and then, A Fine Romance have brought so many smiles to my face, tears (I felt bad for you!), chuckles, and beautiful quotes to think on. Your thoughts on books, movies, cooking,  gardening, and gushes about little lovely bits of life make my feelings of kindred spirit well up. Isle of Dreams was my favorite, but  A Fine Romance was a very close second and I thought of you and just about swooned with delight as I had the chance to visit England this year.

One of the biggest things I loved about Isle of Dreams, was how much you praised and thought on all that you mother had done for you. It is so encouraging to know that little touches, the hot meals, and the traditions reached you and are remembered in a small way. I found that such a blessing to see a child of a big family praising the hard work her mother did for her family. Motherhood isn’t really a prized profession these days and the endless mundane dance we do each day while being told we have to be something MORE can really beat a woman down.

The little cocoa cups, the tea pots, your kitties, the ivy, and the endless magical little paintings you include teach me more than just love of beauty. I want to learn to pay attention deeply, and I pray my children will follow. Just to really listen to people, to savor  meals, to delight in lingering over tea, to mull over and discuss great books, and to never forget their faith. I desire to grow deeper relationships through hospitality and sharing life. You delight and excel in those gifts. Thank you, Susan, for your sweet books and a bit of brightness and warmth to wrap myself in, with a bit of tea and cake, of course.

With love,

Amy

Inspired by this writer, we enjoyed this lovely coffee cake with tea and some new MUSICA for a fall treat. Enjoy!

~

November Days

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The morning suns greets my eyes. I slip on my glasses and glory in the view. The old house creaks a bit and I walk pass the piles flooring we have yet to put in upstairs. I stumble down the ancient farmhouse stairs, dreaming of a steaming cup of coffee. Perhaps I should set up a coffee maker in my room? Maybe that is a bit extreme. 🙂 The chatter of voices greet me. “Hey, Mom. Guess what my dream was?” and “What’s for breakfast?” and “I’m cold, Mom! Where’s my sweatshirt?” all sing out as I grab my package of coffee from the freezer and start my Nectar of Life a brewing. My son begins making oatmeal for everyone, which usually ends up somewhere between water-y porridge or rock hard cement, but we all love it with brown sugar, walnuts, and a dash of milk. Some add a twist with a bit of peanut butter.

I am a huge fan of the author Gladys Taber. Have you read anything by her? She wrote extensively on her farm, Stillmeadow. As I pour my coffee, I take in the scene around me and begin to compose it, in my head, attempting to grasp the charm that Gladys always seems to find as she pens her normal days around the farm. Of course, Gladys lived a different life than me. She worked outside of the home for a time and also ends up having more dogs than children. Yet, I feel a kinship to her, leaning back against the cupboard, sipping, and taking in the beauty of the daily mundane doings and yes, chaos.

“Good news, Mom! Gandalf’s pink eye is clearing up!” is the glad shout I hear next from a precious child. Yes, go ahead and chuckle. Gandalf is our barn cat, so I guess creatures do have a part in my life, Gladys.

We move on through our day, alternating between discussions, chores, and books, with a few fights over stuffed animals and whose scissors the purple ones REALLY are. (They’re actually mine.) Ahh… glorious books. We have chosen to live life with our children here at home, learning together. Gerald Johnson takes us through early American history, we laugh at Ogden Nash’s poetry, and giggle as Louis the Trumpeter Swan learns how to play TAPS on his new trumpet. We write some, do a little math, make some caramel corn, and breathe the fresh, albeit tinged with burning leaves, country air. Someone is always asking me when’s the next meal. My crock pot definitely earns its keep.

I gaze at the steam rising from my coffee cup. Sigh. “Mom, the sewer guy is here.” My romantic ruminations are ruined. Reality stinks a bit, doesn’t it? 😉 I watch the fellow from my window, what a job, huh? He is stooped and haggard looking, I’m thankful for him, he makes my job a bit easier.

A few loads of laundry swirling around, blankets on the line. The scratching noise of pen on paper, drawings and journal entries being created. An old, petrified apple core peeks out from under the couch at me. Ahh. These November days. I get “questioned out” at about 4:00 pm, is there really still 4 or 5 hours till bedtime? Yet, I love this life I’ve been given. So, like Gladys and everyone before and those to come after, I rustle up some ingredients and go about thinking supper thoughts. I sneak in a few minutes of reading in my “garrett” as my daughter calls my bedroom, where I like to hide as frequently as possible. “You can’t just stay up here in your garrett all day, Mom, like Jo March!”

I cave in and put on the electronic babysitter. They have chosen the 1935 version of A Midsummer’s Night Dream with James Cagney and Mickey Rooney. It’s a bit creepy and weird, but I hear a laugh. A Puck-ish laugh, come to think of it.   Later the candles are lit, we began our supper with prayers and because it’s the season of thanksgiving, we purposefully go around sharing what we are thankful for today.

I’m thankful for all the November days days I’ve been given, for little blonde girls who shared their drawing with me, “Here’s what I drawed, Mom.”. I’m thankful for grins after a resolved fight over Nutella, and the piles of books to dig into soon. I’m thankful for the beauty of life. And maybe I DO need that coffee maker in my garrett.

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A favorite recipe for you!

Skillet Sausage and Mushroom Penne

*adapted from original recipe from December/January 2014 Cook’s Country magazine – I use things I have on hand and I’ve doubled the original recipe here for my crowd.

1 pkg sausage of your choice (I use breakfast sausage )

fresh mushrooms, chopped – (I use half to a whole package)

4 cups chicken broth

1 can diced tomatoes (sometimes 2, depending if I feel tomato-y or not)

about 1 1/2 packages penne, this is like 18 oz?? I think

1 1/2 cups heavy cream (I actually use half n half, because I rarely have cream on hand)

Parmesan cheese (being the gourmet that I am, I use the green can shake cheese, I know. The horror. You are welcome to use freshly grated.)

  1. Cook sausage, breaking it up, until no longer pink, add in mushrooms. Cook together till brown. Transfer mixture to bowl, set aside.
  2. Return skillet to heat, add broth, tomatoes and juice, pasta, and cream. Bring to boil. Reduce heat, simmer, stirring often, until pasta is al dente. (I actually use a pot, because of the doubling of the recipe!)
  3. Stir sausage-mushroom mixture and 1/2 cup Parmesan into pasta. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Top with other 1/2 cup of Parmesan, cover, and remove from heat until cheese is melted.

Enjoy! I serve it alone for quick lunch or add a salad as a side for a bigger dinner.

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