Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Garden update

I promised a garden update.

We have gotten quite few zucchini, but just in the last couple of days we have discovered borer beetles (f you have any advice on getting rid of those, I'd surely appreciate it). The kids are in their pajamas here because many times they are supposed to be getting ready for bed when Paul and I are working in the garden, but then they trickle outside to meet us after they brush their teeth. Don't they look tired? :)

A few of our beauties that are not quite ready.

This is one of our picks.

These are our tomato plants. We have close to 40 in the garden and in pots next to the house. They are bursting with tomatoes, and where there isn't fruit, there are blossoms. I'm hoping to have enough to meet my canning needs this year.

These guys are our watermelons reaching out the side of their space. There are a few fruits growing. I'm eager to see what happens, since watermelon is usually harvested much earlier than this.

This is a salad I made with totally homegrown veggies. There is something completely gratifying about it.

One of our sunflowers. We planted only a handful. Next year I will plant a bunch more.

I don't have pictures of them, but we have been harvesting lettuce and basil in giant piles. Where the broccoli didn't grow (for some reason?), I had a bare patch and decided to throw basil seeds there to make pesto and freeze for the winter. I harvestsed what I think was about half, and froze 6 4-oz. jars of it. (Since Paul can't have dairy, I use a cheese-free recipe with raw cashews and nutritional yeast that I borrowed from a friend).

I looked back last night at pictures of the garden from early in July, and I can't believe the difference! Our garden took a while to produce, but she's pretty much bursting at the seams now. I think what took it so long was the fact that it was pretty much virgin ground, and we had to fertilize and nourish the soil quite a bit. We are working on a compost pile and will let that do its thing this winter and hopefully it'll pay off next year.

We ordered seeds online for our fall garden--carrots, beets, broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, spinach, and cilantro. So excited to get started on that once our harvest season is over! What are your plans for gardening after summer is over? Any fall/winter gardens?

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Where I've been

I was doing so well with the blogging. And then this ridiculous hiatus. I have so much to tell you, though.
I have written about my sister, Stephanie, here. If you're not one of the 1,500 people following her story on Facebook or one of the many thousand others, then maybe you haven't heard--my sister got her organs!
It's such an unbelievable story, and it's past my bedtime, so I can't share all the details tonight. Maybe someday one of us will write a book. :)Paul and the kids and I visited her on July 4 (even watched the fireworks that night from a window outside her hospital room). The next day we had to head back home, and I honestly believed I was saying goodbye to my sister for good. We were told on July 5 that she was so sick that she had possibly a week to live. At that point she'd been intubated and was unconscious.
The next day we received the call that organs that were compatible had become available. When I heard that news, I simultaneously wept, laughed, and dropped to my knees in thanksgiving.
We waited the agonizing hours until the surgeon gave the go ahead, that the organs were viable. Then we waited the agonizing hours of her 14-hour surgery. Since Stephanie had been born with a heart defect and had undergone several heart surgeries in her lifetime, her situation was much more complicated than your typical transplant. Not to mention that she was receiving a heart and a liver in one day.
Did I mention that she received a kidney the next day?
Since then there have been many ups and downs with her recovery, but today was a great day. She has been out of bed, is producing urine (the kidney situation was a concern), has been breathing unassisted at times, is smiling, is communicating, is praising God and being a witness to His love.
While she recovers, the rest of the family is visiting her in the hospital when we can and taking care of her kids for her, until she will come home and run circles around all of us.
If you are praying for my sister, I so appreciate it. If you haven't heard of her until now, I would covet your prayers. While the surgery is behind us, she has a long road of recovery ahead of her, and there is a lot of pain, both emotionally and physically. I would also ask you to please pray for her loving and dedicated husband and also her precious children who miss her so much. They have so much to be thankful for, but sometimes all they know is that they miss their mommy.
Thanks so much for reading. I will hopefully be back soon with some updates and a post or two with photos of the garden. It just didn't seem right to post them here. Understandably. Good night, all.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


She said "Daddy" first. Third times a charm, I guess. Or maybe it's because we did things a little different with her and she spent less time sleeping in our bed and is now sleeping through the night (which took the other two about a year and a half) and therefore nursing quite a bit less and is not quite as attached to the one who provides her milk, but whatever the reason, Penny is more smitten with her dad than she is with me. Which is totally fine, honestly. I'm happy to see her jump out of my arms when she sees him. And to see him just light up. Those two have a bond and it's precious to me. Oh, how he adores his kids.

It's a few days late (per usual), but happy Father's Day. I so appreciate you.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

There's More Than One Way to Skin a Peach

Peach season in the South has never been so lovely! The kids and I were able to meet an aunt and some of our cousins last week at a local peach orchard and do some peach picking in the lovely, slightly warm, summer early morning. My three and I were the first to arrive, and as we stepped out of the car, I said to the woman manning the fruit stand, "It's so quiet out here!" to which she replied, "So far." For about a minute all I could hear were the birds, and then the kids' cousins showed up, and all the kids were so happy to pick peaches together that all that lovely peace and quiet was replaced by much lovelier giggles and excited gasps and shouts. And tree climbing. And filling ever heavier peck baskets.

While we picked I became overwhelmed with gratitude. There were SO MANY PEACHES! Here we are, just picking food off of trees for fun! There were so many peaches that we were able to pick and choose which ones looked good, even leaving spotted peaches on the ground, while people in other parts of the world have so, so little. God has been so very good to us, and while we teach our kids about where food comes from, I want more than anything for them to live with a spirit of gratitude.

We brought home a bushel of beautiful, not-quite-ripe gold peaches. They seemed to multiply over the next couple of days as we ate them fresh and turned them into:

Peach salsa (I followed this recipe but halved the sugar and added a jalepeno pepper)
and Peach Jam

Peach Iced Tea (Paul's very tasty creation)

Personal Peach Tarts with Puff Pastry (yum!)

This is just a shot of the pickling spices that my pickling-fiend friend Joy gave me. I thought they were so pretty, they deserved a closeup.

We also made a homemade peach and pecan chutney for our pork chops one night (so delicious!), and I canned 4 quarts of peach slices and froze 2 gallon freezer bags full. I tell you what, I am glad that I was able to use up these peaches, but I am pretty tired of peeling and cutting by now. But I would definitely not say that I'm tired of peaches! They're so versatile. We were able to do so many different things with them that I don't feel like all we've eaten is peaches.

I was talking to my sister yesterday about the canning I'm doing lately, and we laughed about how many jars of jam or other fun food it's so easy to end up with. As in, "Well, if there's an apocalypse, make sure you have your zesty homemade peach salsa! Party down the end of the world--fiesta-style!" Not that I'm expecting the end of the world, but, you know what I mean. I'd really like to try to can food that is going to last us through the year, which really is why Paul bought me the pressure canner for Mother's Day (best gift ever). So, we'll be canning tomatoes and sauces later on, and if I feel adventurous (always!), we may can some vegetables. And I really need to follow Joy's lead and pickle things besides cukes, I suppose. Eventually I'd really like to try canning stews, because it's so nice to have those things on hand when you'e in a pinch, and homemade is always better, isn't it? It would be nice if the pantry was full of things besides fruit jams.

Personal Peach Tarts with Puff Pastry (4 servings)
(my kids would get as close to you as they could and emphasize each and every "P" by exploding it in your face)

1 sheet of puff pastry
3 good size peaches
1/4 to 1/2 C sugar
A few shakes of cinnamon, ginger, cloves, whatever other spices you want to throw in there
1. Preheat your oven to 400. Butter bottom and sides of 4 cups of a jumbo muffin tin.
2. Lay out slightly thawed puff pastry. Cut it into 4 squares and press the squares into the muffin tin cups. The corners of the squares will sort of rest on top of the cups.
3. Peel (do you know the trick with soaking your peaches in boiling water for a minute and then dunking them in ice water to get the skins off? works like a charm) and dice your peaches and then sprinkle them with sugar and spices and mix that all up so that the peaches are evenly coated.
4. Pour your peaches into the pastry cups. You can sprinkle the top of the pastry cups with a little water and sprinkly some sugar on top to make a nice little touch.
5. Bake your cups at 400 for about 20 minutes until they are lightly browned and cripsy on the bottom. You want to let them sit for at least 10 minutes once they are done and then gently loosen them out of the tin and serve warm. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

And the Winner is . . .

Nicole of Frontier Dreams! Thanks to all of you for entering the giveaway. Nicole, I'll be sending you an email shortly. Thanks again!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Prayer for My Child

I saw this card on Facebook the other day. I suppose at first glance it might seem innocent enough. I mean, sure, we would all be happy if our kids never had a day without suffering, right? And I would be ecstatic if somehow they grew up and "achieve[d] all their dreams." And if they lived in a world that were free. Wait a minute, the world isn't actually free, though, is it?
I imagine that if you are listening to someone like Joel Osteen, you might see this prayer and "like" it. But let's take a closer look and line it up with Scripture. Romans 8:17 says, "Now if we are children, then we are heirs —heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory." Because Christ suffered on our behalf and because we are called to follow Him, we are called to a life of suffering. We are heirs to His glory in eternity, and as heirs, we must walk the walk in this life. Suffering makes us holy, and if we are true followers of Him, we cannot expect to live a life without it.
Now, because we are called to suffer, God is glorified by granting the grace needed to endure our trials. It is through these trials that we call on God, our needs are met, and thus we grow. We continue in this manner and are granted a closer relationship with Him. It isn't through the good times that we call on God, though, of course, we should always have our eyes on Him. Some believers (ahem, Joel Osteen) may hold to a "Wellness and Prosperity" Gospel. That is to say, that somehow our faith is translated into material blessings. But it simply cannot be backed up in Scripture.
God does promise us peace and joy. But He never promised us easy times. In fact, it seems that the easy Christian life exists mainly in free countries like the US. For some reason, Americans have this idea that life is easy all over the world, just as it is here in our free homeland. I have news for you, our Christian brothers and sisters all over the world are suffering right now. I don't mean at all to diminish your daily sufferings. You might be struggling with something huge, insurmountable. I know that I have done so at times, as have many of my loved ones. But the fact is that we, at least those of us in the US and most other parts of the Western World, have the freedom to worship as we choose. At least for now. But many of God's children in other countries are being quite harshly persecuted only because they are called His children. So to pray that our children always live in a world that is free, to hope that they live long and healthy lives, is essentially praying that they are not called to the life of Christ.
Furthermore, to pray that all their dreams come true, is to teach them that their desires are more worthy than to follow Christ. As Christians, we should pray as Jesus Himself did just as He was about to take on the burden of death, "Nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will." God's will is more important than ours, simply because He is all-seeing and knows what is best. Just as a parent knows what is best for his child.
My heart is heavy today for my sister and dear friend, Stephanie. She was born with a heart defect and has lived her entire life--some days healthier than others--with the heavy burden of less than perfect health. She has undergone a total of 5 heart surgeries, and today she waits in the hospital for a new heart and a new liver. The last few days have been a roller coaster with one crisis after another--a staph infection, frighteningly low blood pressure, poor kidney function, etc., etc. While my sister has some of the best doctors in the field, there is only so much they can do. And while the rest of us pray unceasingly, there is nothing else that we can do but watch.
And while my heart goes out to Stephanie and her husband and children, my heart breaks for my parents. I never understood until I had my own children how much my parents love me and my brother and sisters. And as much as I love my children, I know that a parent's love grows every day, and so my parents' love for all of us is immensely more than mine for my kids. Knowing this, I cannot fathom the pain that they have, while watching their first daughter suffer as she is at this moment. How helpless they must feel. Yet they rest in the comfort that God our Father "will swallow up death forever, and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces" (Isaiah 25:8).
So when I see these ridiculous sentiments being shuffled around on Facebook, I honestly have to ask, is this really the prayer that we should be praying for our kids? Is this what we want for them? Is this what God wants? And if they are suddenly diagnosed with a disease (or are born with one), does this mean that God didn't hold up His end of the bargain? Is God obligated to give us lives free from sorrow? From illness? No, I don't think so.
Let's pray, instead, that our children learn to "love the Lord [their] God with all [their] heart[s] and with all [their] soul[s]. Love Him with all [their] mind[s]. This is the first and most important commandment." (Matthew 22:37, 38). If God sees fit to shower them with long, healthy lives, then praise to Him. But if His will is for them to suffer, let's tell them "Don't be surprised by the painful suffering you are going through. Don't feel as if something strange were happening to you. Be joyful that you are taking part in Christ's sufferings. Then you will be filled with joy when Christ returns in glory." (I Peter 4:12)
If we can teach them to love God this way, if we can instruct them to follow in His path, the one that He chooses and not the one they choose themselves, then they will know without a doubt that they are "deeply loved" by their parents.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Joyful Giveaway!

How would your little one like one of these handmade Art Caddy/Pencil Totes? These Art Caddies are designed to hold 12 pencils or crayons on one side and a pad of paper on the other, as well as some stickers or whatever else your little artist might like to carry around. They're great for home, in the car, or in an airplane, and they have kept my little people very happy (and quiet!) through church for quite a while. They are also made with some of the cutest designer children's fabrics that I can find.

Or how about one of these handmade Children's Aprons? These beauties fit children ages 3 through about 5 or 6 and are also made with some of the cutest designer fabrics I can find. They are also fully lined, so they work great as craft aprons, protecting clothing underneath from ink and paint.

Well, Joyful Gifts is having a giveaway! Just leave a comment here on this post, and you will be entered. I'll close the comments at midnight on Wednesday, May 30. I'll randomly pick the winner and then announce it here, after which the winner may choose either an apron or an art caddy/pencil tote. Go take a look at my store and see what we have to offer!
As a second offer, I'm giving all Facebook fans 15% off of purchases. Just like us on Facebook and then mention it in the comments section when you make a purchase, and I'll refund 15%.
Thanks for your support, and may the best one win! :)