Community and Reconciliation

Despite my website being "down" I've still be sharing stories.

The first was a deeply personal story that I wrote for Grace Table's series called The Hospitality of Reconciliation. Grace Table is a beautiful website I hope you will check out if you are unfamiliar with it.

My story was called The Bitter and the Sweet and offers the hope of healing in family relationships. It is a reminder that "perhaps it's never too late to bind up old wounds. To start the work of healing them. To not let past generations of bitterness become our own. There will be scars, but maybe that's okay too."

Image source: Grace Table

Image source: Grace Table

The second story was for For the Family and is about my attempt to create community in my own back yard. So many of us crave more connection with other people but don't know where to find it. The thing is, we will often find others desire the same thing we do, it just takes someone taking the initiative to do the inviting.

Creating Community Right Where You Are is about how I learned to take the initiative and not wait for perfect.

What ways do you find yourself creating community? I'd love to hear!

Image source: For the Family

Image source: For the Family

What I'm Into Right Now (October 2016)

I'm excited to share what I've been loving lately. I really have two months of goodness to share, since we skipped September. Hard to believe it was peach season when I last posted what was making me happy. Since then we've picked apples and made sauce, crisps, and cakes. Now that season too, is almost past and I'm celebrating pumpkins!

Listening:

I've been working my way through last year's conference sessions from Allume. I had wanted to attend a writer's conference this year but it did not work out, so I purchased the audio and have been gaining a lot of insight. So far I've enjoyed Brian Dixon's practical session about email list building, Jamie Ivey's podcast session, Kristin Kill's discussion of brand relationships, and Amber Haine's talk on Writing the Invisible.

Along with the rest of the world--or at least the U.S.--I've been swept away by the musical Hamilton. Just wow! It's awesome. I don't think a musical has moved me this much since Les Miserables. It takes a bit to get into the music, at least for me. I'm not hip hop listener in general so it took me a minute to find my bearings, so to speak. It was so unexpected. But I just love that Hamilton makes the Founding Fathers come to life! It so easy to forget how they fought and argued and even hated each other at times. When you read the history books and just get the highlight version of their life of just the positive side it's easy to forget the conflict of personalities and politics that went on. And even more amazing our country has survived when so many fledgling nations don't. 

Watching:

To continue the Hamilton theme Hamilton's America was fabulous! You can stream it live on your mobile devices or cast it onto your TV. Just watch it.

Reading:

I just finished reading Jane of Lantern Hill. I read it when I was a preteen and didn't really remember it at all so I bought it to add to my L. M. Montgomery collection. I literally had been craving Montgomery's writing. I needed some cozy comfort reading as we headed into autumn, and to me, Montgomery, although wonderful anytime, is particularly delightful in autumn. Anyone else feel that way?

We're reading North! Or Be Eaten together as a family and have also just started From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.

I've also started a unique "devotional" book of sorts called At the Still Point: A Literary Guide to Prayer in Ordinary Time. I am really liking it. It is unlike anything I've read before and it suits my personality perfectly. Besides scripture readings, each week there is an opening and closing prayer and then literary readings from poetry and prose. I adored the introduction alone and highlighted it up. Like this quote: "God is at work, not only in overtly spiritual things--devotionals and memoirs, liturgies and hymns--but also in the imaginative lives of God's people, in their subcreative worlds (as J. R. R. Tolkien put it), in their carefully crafted turns of phrase."

Eating:

I made these when we went camping last month. So tasty! And you could grill them or do them over a fire. This One Skillet Sausage and White Bean Gnoochi was a perfect fall meal and I made this Pumpkin Delight to take to a recent large gathering.

Now your turn. What are you into right now? What do you consider "comfort reading"?

What I'm Into Right Now (August 2016)

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It's still hot and humid here in these last days of August. But there's now the loud hum of cicadas and a steady falling of yellowish brown Poplar leaves each morning on the deck.

School is starting, and am I ever ready! This summer's fun was great, but it wore me out; the late nights and lack of routine. I'm dreaming of pumpkins, gingerbread, and apple crisp.

Listening:

After my July post about what I'm into, two friends recommended Malcolm Gladwell's Revisionist History podcast. I blasted through the whole season in a matter of days. Top-notch production and thought-provoking story telling makes it one of my favorite podcasts to date.

I also just finished Marilynne Robinson's third book set in Gilead, entitled Lila. I've read all of Robinson's novels but this was the first I've listened to on audio and it definitely helped me get through the places I might have stalled. I always struggle with her books. They are not your typical novels. Hardly novels at all, sometimes. The reader was excellent and I have to say I liked this story the best. It had more of a narrative arc than her others, if I can remember correctly. It was really beautiful writing (of course) and I enjoyed finally getting Lila's own thoughts and back story.

Watching:

We just started Stranger Things. Only finished episode 2, so please, no spoilers! With it's 80s nostalgia and X-File-ish feel I love it so far. (Oh, how I adore Mulder and Scully!). So funny because Si-fi is not usually my thing, but I do love me some paranormal activity every once in a while!

We also started Chef's Table Season 2which is a delight to the senses. Again, stellar production (music, cinematography, artistry--I appreciate all of those elements) and the chef's own stories and food presentations are just fascinating to me.

Reading:

I am still working on Bury Your Dead and finished up Lila so not much new on that front.

I did want to point you to a powerful post written by my friend Bethany. When she first told me this story I really couldn't believe what she was describing was something she personally experienced in the '90s. But it was. You got to read it here.

Eating:

Peaches are now in season and my mom just got me a big box of them. My favorite Peach Bread is just cooling now, right out of the oven. What's your favorite way to eat peaches?

Now your turn. What are you into right now?

What I'm Into Right Now (July 2016)

2016-08-02_001Wow, summer is whizzing by! I feel like I blinked and it disappeared! A few days ago I ordered our books for the school year and the leaves have already started to fall, despite the heat and humidity. They've already started to drift over the deck and layer the yard with shades of brown and yellow here and there. Of course summer isn't quite over yet. There are still a few more weeks left to go to the pool and stay up extra late reading or going on picnic dinners. Here's what I've enjoyed over the month of July

Listening:

I finally figured out how to use my library's Overdrive app on my phone. It's rather convoluted but I was awarded with being able to carry my audiobook selection around with me on my phone now wherever I go. My first pick was Erik Larson's Dead Wake. I'd gone back and forth about giving it my time because I'd heard from many who also enjoyed The Devil in the White City that it wasn't as good. Well, I was completely enthralled from beginning to end. I loved learning about all the passengers on the ship, Room 40, and all the details of early submarine warfare.

Watching:

We just started watching River and it is unique and intriguing thus far. Not your typical crime drama, for sure.

Reading:

I am just loving The Lifegiving Home: Creating a Place of Belonging and Becoming by Sally and Sarah Clarkson. I always feel inspired and nourished when I read Sally's books. I never feel like I need to "copy" their suggestions or that it is in any way prescriptive, but instead, makes me think how I want the lifegiving culture of my home to nourish my unique children. Someone asked me if I was going to implement any of the suggestions in the book and I can't say that I am. I just find it more inspiring at the big picture level, as opposed to practically seeking to put into practice any of the traditions their family did. (Although I have to say an annual Lark Rise to Candleford marathon sounds pretty great!)

I just started Before the Fall (awesome typography and cover art!) and Bury Your Dead but am too early in those books to say much about them.

Eating:

With the heat comes a lack of desire to cook, so salads are what I'm loving right now. This is a favorite. Also Coconut Milk Fudgesicles are amazing! And they're pretty healthy too, not that you can tell, they are so delicious!

Now your turn. What are you into right now?

My Favorite Blueberry Recipes

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2014-07-09_004

I love blueberries. Love them.

Last Friday I took the kids on our first blueberry picking excursion with some friends. We have our own bushes too, just three of them, and they are loaded with little greenish-blue berries. They're not quite ripe yet--but will be in just a few weeks.

I've put together a list of some of my favorite blueberry recipes. From the classic blueberry muffin to smoothies to my favorite Blueberry Lemon Pie, if you like blueberries, there is something here for you to try.

What do you like to make best with blueberries?

Blueberry Breakfast Oatmeal Bars

Wild Purple Smoothie

Blueberry Feta Salad

Blueberry Muffins (the best I've ever had!)

Blueberry Crumb Cake

Blueberry Lemon Pie

What I'm Into Right Now (June 2016)

It's official, summer is here! We've signed up for the summer reading program at our library and swimming lessons are in full swing. Time to share some of the things I'm into this month! Listening:

I've been really enjoying the What Should I Read Next podcast. It's a must for book lovers. If you are looking for your next summer read, listening to this podcast is definitely for you. Anne Bogel does some literary matchmaking on her podcast. She just doesn't pick her favorite books, but instead matches up titles to her guest's preferences and literary tastes. So fun!

Also, in the car we've been listening to N. D. Wilson's 100 Cupboards and we are enjoying it too. It just got spooky!

Watching:

I have a confession to make. I've fallen for a Hallmark series. Despite the fact that in the past I've made fun of Hallmark's sappy, predictable, and cheesy shows, I'm actually quite taken with When Calls the Heart. It reminds me of Christie meets Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman.

It's about a city girl who goes to coal mining country to teach at a local school. That part reminds me of Christie. But the interactions between the towns people definitely reminds me of Dr. Quinn. It's an old-fashioned feel-good type of show that I'm okay with my kids watching with me. Despite the sometimes cheesy lines and oh-so-not period hairstyles I really love this show!

I'm also excited Endeavor is back on Masterpiece Mystery! It's a classically good British murder mystery series.

Reading:

I finished the fifth Inspector Gamache book, The Brutal Telling. Wow. Louise Penny writes engaging crime with such depth. It probes my own thoughts and actions. Although the plot in this book seemed a bit overly intricate, it kept me in suspense right to the end. My favorite quote:

"But there was no hiding from Conscience.

Not in new homes and new cars. In travel. In meditation or frantic activity. In children,in good works.On tiptoes or bended knee. In a big career. Or a small cabin.

It would find you. The past always did.

Which is why, Gamache knew, it was vital to be aware of actions in the present. Because the present became the past, and the past grew. And got up, and followed you."

If you want come follow me on Goodreads. I now consistently post everything I'm reading on that site. Drop a link to your account in the comments too so I can follow you!

Eating:

It's blueberry season! I just made this delicious Blueberry Feta Salad and it was a nice twist to what I usually make. I'm also looking forward to trying out this Antipasto Tortellini Salad this weekend!

Now your turn. What are you into right now?

What I'm Into Right Now (April 2016)

2016-04-27_001 It's been a while since I've shared what I've been into! I've got some great recommendations I hope you all will enjoy!

Listening: It's been a long, long time since I actually bought an entire cd, as opposed to songs here and there from iTunes. However, after previewing Audrey Assad's latest work, InheritanceI new I wanted a hard copy so I could drag around it with me in the car (yes, we still play cds in our vehicles). Assad's voice soars and her interpretation of classic hymns is exquisite along with some original pieces like New Every Morning.

Also, as far as audio books go the kids and I simply adored Matilda read by Kate Winslet! Adored is not too strong a word. The story is fabulous and Winslet's reading of it was incredible.

Watching: In the last what I'm into post I shared that I was reading And Then There Were None. I was excited to see the new BBC adaption and Josh and I watched it last week. Josh loved it. He never read the book and didn't know what was coming and of course I had, so from both perspectives we enjoyed it. They made some small changes but it mostly reminded faithful to the book. It is one of Christie's most famous books and possibly the darkest, as there is no detective that solves the case or saves the day. The scenery was incredible and the build-up of suspense and paranoia was excellent. It was also well cast and fans of Poldark will enjoy seeing Aidan Turner in a different role.

Reading: I have jumped on the Me Before You bandwagon in anticipation to the movie coming out and so many of my friends enjoyed the novel. I also decided to read To Kill a Mockingbird again. This year I'd like to reread some classics that I enjoyed in the past but really don't remember at all. Like most, I read Mockingbird in high school but honestly can't remember it much at all.

We are going through a sermon series on grace at our church and our pastor had mentioned and quoted from Steve Brown's A Scandalous Freedom: The Radical Nature of the Gospel. I bought it and am highlighting it up. Brown is witty, funny, and thought-provoking. The little blurb on Amazon gives you a taste for the main point: "The Christians do not trust freedom. As author Steve Brown explains in this brave new book, they prefer the security of rules and self-imposed boundaries, which they tend to inflict on other Christians. Brown asserts that real freedom means the freedom to be wrong as well as right."

Eating: I've been on the search for the perfect Blueberry Muffin recipe and I finally found it at Jones Design Company. I love that the top is dusted with cinnamon and sugar. I love the combination of cinnamon and blueberry. Check out the recipe here (there is a pretty printable version available too!).

Drinking: I made the first batch of cold brew coffee. Drink up!

What I'm into Right Now (February 2016)

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2016-02-21_001

Wow, it's been a long time since I've done a "what I'm into" post. Since July, to be exact! Time to share some things I've been enjoying of late.

Listening: I've been enjoying Anne Bogel's new podcast, What Should I Read Next? It's a great podcast for booklovers. Not that I need to add more books to my to-read lists or anything, but hey!

Watching: We've been loving I'll Have What Phil's Havingon Netflix. It is the perfect blend of food, culture, and travel. My favorite episode has been Italy, because the art! The food! The vistas! The personalities! In the series we follow Phil Rosenthal, better known as the writer and creator of Everybody Loves Raymond, as he tours various cities and samples the food and culture.

Reading: I've been wanting to read Agatha Christie for years. I mean I'm a huge fan of the PBS versions of Miss Marple and Poirot, so it makes sense I should actually try reading her books. I finally had the opportunity to read And Then There Were None. I stayed up too late over the weekend to finish it, and let me tell you, I couldn't figure it out at all. I'm happy to have it read so I can now look forward to the new movie version coming out soon produced by the BBC (featuring Aidan Turner of Poldark too, score!). Check out the trailer.

Eating: I've done two rounds of the 21 Day Fix and my favorite recipe find has been this Chipotle Chicken recipe. The marinade is delish and the whole family loves it.

Drinking: I've been loving Good Earth's Sweet and Spicy tea. It doesn't even need any sugar. It's perfect as is.

What are you into right now?

What I'm Into Right Now

Listening: I recently discovered The Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey and I'm really loving it. I went back through the archives and am catching up on her various interviews with Shannan Martin, Tasha Morrison, Shauna Niequist, Trillia Newbell, Jessica Turner, Gloria Furman, Jen Wilkin, and Jen Hatmaker to just name a few.

Also, just finished listening to The Orphan Train on audiobook. It was okay but not amazing. I'm moving on to The Light Between Oceans as my audiobook pick. Should I get my tissues out now? I've heard it's a gut wrencher.

Watching: Broadchurch: Series I. If you like British mystery and crime, this is for you. Even if you don't, try it anyway. This is one of the best series I've ever seen. It's gut-wrenching, humorous at times, raw, riveting, and smart. The story, acting, and cinematography (ah, I geeked out the the cinematography) is superb. When it ended it felt as satisfying as a good novel. It follows a family, a town, and two detectives as they seek to discover the murderer of a 11-year-old boy. The premise is sad but it has wonderful redemption moments too. I won't say if we watched the last three episodes all in one night. Ahem.

Reading: I got Green Dolphin Country for Christmas. I'd wanted to read it for years, being an Elizabeth Goudge fan but it was out of print for a while, I believe. But the size put me off for a while (it's 767 pages). I decided summer was the perfect time to delve into it. As always, the writing is exquisite, that old-fashioned quality of character development and description I love so much.

Eating: We are loving Spaghetti alla Carbonara (so easy) and now that it's zucchini season, we are eating it in many forms like Zucchini Cakes and Sausage Stuffed Zucchini Boats.

Drinking: Lots of cold brew iced coffee. Like, everyday.

Exercising: I'm getting back into my exercise routine with the help of Tracy Anderson's Precision Toning. With 15 minute segments I can easily fit it into my day and get a real good workout too, either doing one segment or combining them for longer sessions.

What are you into right now?

Morning Muffins

2013-10-03_001 I have a thing for muffins. I just love them. They are the perfect for breakfast paired with yogurt or an afternoon snack. They're portable and freezable. Fast and easy to make. Since school has been out I've been making lots of different kinds to have on hand for snacking, breakfast, and picnics. Here's some of our favorites.

Limelight Blueberry Muffins

This is a long-time favorite that puts a slight twist on the standard blueberry muffin. Since we have three blueberry bushes, we had lots of blueberries to use up and these are delicious if you like a hint of lime.

Coffee Chocolate Chip Muffins (we usually omit the nuts)

Another favorite, who can resist the combination of chocolate and coffee flavors. Certainly not me!

One-Bowl Carrot Spice Muffins

This is a new family favorite I discovered in my new favorite cookbook, Brown Eggs and Jam JarsThe carrots and cranberries made these muffins super moist and pretty healthy too.

Morning Biscuits with Cheddar, Dill, and Pumpkin Seeds

Although this recipe is referred to as a biscuit there is no rolling and biscuit cutting. You make them in a muffin tin, so I'm including them in this muffin line-up. I love dill and since we have some growing in our herb garden, these are an easy treat to make and easily freezes too!

What is your favorite muffin?