Change

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Summer 2012

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Summer 2016

We hosted our first “summer family dinner” of the year this week and I couldn’t help but look around me and take note of the changes that have taken place over the last four years since we began these gatherings.  One very special person is no longer present, and four more are moving on to exciting new life adventures and will shortly leave our table as well.

When these thoughts of change began to surface, I started to feel that all-too-familiar sense of anxiety, sadness and dread seeping into my veins.  I wanted to push those feelings down deeper, think about them another day.  But then I thought to myself,  No.  I want to be fully present in this moment right now.  I want to feel the rawness of these feelings of loss and change, because it is out of these feelings that I am able to also experience real and true happiness.  For it is not until we fall down into the earth, that we are able to grapple and stand erect again, with our feet firmly rooted in the soil, stronger and more prepared for what lies ahead.

Can You Feel It?

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The chill in the air has finally dissipated, and the sun remains hanging in the sky a bit longer these days.  Can you feel it?  I do believe that summer may just be right around the corner.  After those strange May evenings dipping to freezing temperatures here in Illinois, and sadly losing some of my plants despite the fact that they were covered, I am so thrilled to see the mercury rise into the seventies and eighties.

Our garden seems to be loving these temperatures and this week’s sunshine just as much as we do, and we have wasted no time getting out there and digging in, in the most full and present way we can.  Yes.  Finally.

{A side note:  The pictures in this post are very special for two reasons…#1:  My camera broke last week.  Yes, broke.  I was beside myself.  Then my friend Jodi came to my rescue, and loaned me her fabulous camera.  She is amazing.  Thank you, thank you! #2:  I have been afraid of heights for as long as I can remember.  I am talking palm-sweating-heart-racing-paralyzing fear.  But this week, while my husband was away for work (he is normally my “aerial” photographer), I desperately wanted overhead shots of my garden.  So, I mustered up all the courage I had, climbed onto the top of my shed, and took these pictures.  I. Did. It.}

Our Undervalued Friends

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Oh, the dandelion.  She is so often picked, sprayed and just plain despised by so many.  What did this little lady ever do to deserve such harsh treatment?  For in fact, it is her ability to pop up everywhere and withstand the harshest of treatment that makes her so wonderful!

Our little dandelion friends act as a detoxifier for our liver; are high in calcium, iron, magnesium, vitamin A and vitamin C; help tone the kidneys; and restore a general vitality to our bodies.  It is for all of these reasons, that we try our best to harvest these beauties when we can and take advantage of all their undervalued greatness.

Last week the girls and I needed to clear our strawberry and asparagus bed of weeds, and there were lots of dandelions.  So we picked and picked, trying our best to keep that lovely taproot intact.  Then we rinsed those little gals a lot.  (I think we ended up doing about 10-12 rinses to get all of the dirt off.)  We then chopped up the roots, stems, crowns and some leaves and placed them in 1/2 gallon mason jars.  Next we boiled apple cider vinegar and poured the boiling vinegar over the dandelions inside the mason jars.  We placed the capped jars in a cabinet where they will stay for 3 weeks.  After that time, we will strain the vinegar through a fine mesh strainer and refrigerate the vinegar for use over the next several months.  This vinegar is great in salad dressings, but we also take shots of it when we feel a bit under the weather, or when we feel we need a pick-me-up.

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***Important note:  Because so many people spray dandelions with poisons chemicals, it is of the greatest importance that when picking dandelions to consume, you only do so in an area where you are assured they have not been spayed!  I don’t even pick the dandelions around the perimeter of our property just in case a neighbor has sprayed their yard and some of those nasty chemicals may have leeched over the property line.

Patience

Things have been tough lately, friends.  As you may have noticed from my lack of presence in this space, I have been finding it hard to articulate exactly what it is I have been feeling.  And because I try to keep this blog filled with positivity, it has been difficult to come into this space with the honesty I try to present here.  Over the course of the last few months, the void of life without my mom has been growing to depths I never thought possible.  I guess I never anticipated what it would be like to raise my children without my own mom by my side.  Even when we lived in Champaign, she was just a phone call away, and now, well, she is not.  It feels as if I am on an island, on which I am alone and unable to navigate.  I am just lost.

My mom always talked of seeing signs of her own deceased parents in her natural surroundings.  The turkeys crossing the road were signs from her dad, and the blue birds perched on her bird bath was her mom stopping by for a quick hello.  Well, I had been grappling for these same signs of her, but as I looked out my window all I seemed to see was the dreariness that is February and March in the Midwest.  I grew weary, for I could see no signs of life, nor signs of my mom.

But last week, something seemed to have shifted with the thawing ground and the warmth of the sunshine upon my skin.  I felt like I may be turning a corner.  I saw glimmers of my mom in the cardinal resting upon the chair outside my window while I drank my morning coffee.  I sensed her excitement as my girls assembled the fairy garden she gave them.  And I could feel her presence beside me Friday afternoon as I peered into the soil of my garden perimeter and spied her blackeyed susans pushing up through the surface of the blackness.  Perhaps I just need to have patience, and although I now know I will never feel completely whole again, maybe I will be able to heal just enough to see the color of life push its way through the darkness.

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Finding My People

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As I’ve grown older, I have come to learn that putting on airs and trying to be someone I am not to fit in, is just not worth my time.  While I have always thought of myself as an independent person, there was always that small part of me that really cared what others thought.  Trying to seamlessly slide in and out of varying versions of myself in order to better fit in was something I often tried, and it just became, well, exhausting.  And really, now that I am in my mid-thirties, I have neither the time nor energy to keep up that charade.  And I have got to say it has become quite liberating as I have slowly shed that desire to camouflage with everyone, and instead just be only me.

The interesting thing I have noticed about making this mental decision is that I have learned that no matter where I am, I can find my people.  Each person is unique of course, but isn’t it funny that there are people out there, in all parts of the world, who share similar thoughts, beliefs, even dreams?  And when we take a moment and stop trying to impersonate someone we are not, we can see more clearly those people around us with whom we naturally fit in.  Our people.

This past week I had the pleasure of spending time in Florida with my husband’s family and it was so fascinating to me that although we were over one thousand miles from home, I was able to find my people.  I found myself at a farmer’s market a couple of times while in Florida where I brushed arms with moms buying their week’s worth of produce and ethically raised meat from local farmers to bring home to their families.  I chatted with two women about the importance of nourishing our bodies with soul satisfying food and how that can really make all the difference in life.  I listened in on two twenty-somethings as they chatted about which hand-dyed, hand-spun yarn they were going to buy so they could fashion a cute scarf to help them brave this “cold” Floridian weather they have been having this winter.  And I spoke with a local artist about how she crafts beautiful vessels that are both functional and gorgeous.  These are my people, and although there were hundreds of people present in these situations, by dropping the veil I held in from of my face for so long, I was able to see not only these people clearly, but also be reminded of who I am and how I fit in to this great big world around me.

A Vessel

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Friends, I’m telling you, there are times when it is just awesome to have a dad who owns a hardware store.  For those times you want to paint a room, or unclog a drain, or make a basket.  Wait, what? Yup.  I think I did indeed just find a new obsession:  rope basket making.

For months now, I have been eying Amanda Blake Soule’s baskets made with clothesline on her blog.  I yearned to make one myself, but was not confident in my sewing ability.  Then Taproot’s “Folk” issue arrived on my doorstep, and within its pages were step-by-step instructions for these rope baskets.  So, this week I decided to give it a try.  I went to my dad’s hardware store, bought some clothesline, and got to work.

Now let me be clear…I am by no means a seamstress.  I can barely handle sewing pajama pants and nightgowns for my girls.  So believe me when I tell you, these baskets are a cinch to make, and so much fun!  And there is something so meditative about working in a circular pattern, which made this particular project that much more wonderful.  Once I got started, I couldn’t stop.  Have I said making this basket was a blast?  🙂

Dinner ended up being super late to the table and my family was starving, but I made a fabulous basket!  I think I will find myself in the rope aisle of my dad’s hardware store again very soon.  Man, this is fun!

(P.S.  If you are in my family, plan to get a basket for your birthday this year.  And Christmas.  And on a random Tuesday.)

Nooks and Crannies

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Isn’t it interesting that sometimes we spend so much time in our homes that we never actually see it?  I have been reflecting on this thought a lot lately.  Pondering what it is that I don’t actually see because I look at it each day.

With this thought in mind, I went through my house this week (with my camera) and tried to truly make a connection with what it was that my eyes (and the camera lens) saw along the way.  When I stopped to do this, I found so many things I never really noticed before:  a watercolor picture of a rooftop garden that somehow made it onto the cabinet without my noticing, legos strewn about next to our worm farm, and a canvas print of one of my favorite quotes that I don’t remember ever hanging up.  So many interesting objects that illustrate our family life at this moment in time.

Wishing each of you a weekend in which you can find a quick moment to really see those items in the nooks and crannies of your home that come to define you and your family at this moment in time.

Elderberry Gelatin Parfait

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With winter now fully upon us, my family and I have found ourselves battling some stuffy noses and sore throats.  We try to open up our mornings with a smoothie, and drink tea throughout the day, but I just began to feel that I needed to mix it up a bit and try something new in order to add an extra layer of immune support to our diet.  Enter elderberries.

Elderberries act as a wonderful boost to the immune system, while also imparting a unique currant-like flavor to a dish.  I have drunk tea infused with elderberries in the past, but again, I craved a change up of some sort.  I got just that while at co-op a few weeks ago when a dear friend shared a fabulous lunch idea she often prepared for her children:  elderberry gelatin.  I just loved her idea because not only would this snack offer the immune support of elderberries, but also the unique health benefits of quality gelatin.

Well, this week I took my friend’s idea, ran with it, and crafted an elderberry gelatin parfait.  I served it as “dessert” for dinner this week and my family gobbled it up.  (Even my eldest daughter, who has a strange fear of gelatin (“I just don’t trust something that moves around like that on your spoon,” is her famous saying. :), gave the dish a whirl.  I hope you and your family enjoy!

Elderberry Gelatin Parfait

Bring 2 cups of water to a boil.  Once the water reaches a boil, turn off the heat, add 1/4 cup dried elderberries to the water, cover the pot and allow to steep for 15-25 (depending on how strong you would like the elderberry flavor).

While the berries are steeping, mix 4 tablespoons gelatin in 1 cup of cold water.

After the berries have steeped, strain out the berries using a fine mesh strainer.  Then add 1/3 cup honey to the elderberry-infused water.

Slowly add the hot water-elderberry-honey mixture to the cold water-gelatin mixture, whisking continuously while doing so.  Pour into a shallow dish and place in the refrigerator until set.

When it is time to serve, pour 1 cup heavy whipping cream in a bowl and beat until soft peaks form.  Then cut the gelatin into small squares and alternate layers of gelatin and whipped cream in a small dish.  Enjoy!

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*A note about all my recipes: I use all organic ingredients, local when available. I use non-homogenized milk, and all of the dairy we use is from animals raised on pasture. I also use oils that are non-GMO verified. All our meat is raised locally on organic feed, and our beef is grass-fed, grass-finished. All our spices and cane sugar are fair-trade certified and purchased through a cooperative.

Our Solstice Celebration

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My mom always use to say that December 21st was her favorite day of the year because after it, each day gets a bit longer.  For years now, I have wanted to have a winter solstice celebration, but crazy schedules around the holidays always  seemed to get in the way.  However, this year it seemed as if  a solstice celebration was something of a necessity for me.  I yearned for it as a reminder to myself that no matter how dark and lonely this holiday season may seem because of my mom’s passing, each day will be filled with a bit more light.  And I pray that some day that light will help fill this cavernous void of today with new life and hope.

Wishing each of you much love and light this season.