Friday, April 24, 2015

Notes From a Springtime Cottage

I just thought I would share a few shots showing how things are greening up around here. Most of these were actually taken this past weekend, so even more changes have occurred already! That is one of the amazing things about spring: how quickly things begin to transform before your eyes!

I wanted a few shots of the garden "before." I will be interested to see what develops as the season turns to summer. I planted the hydrangeas on the corner there at the very end of summer last year and I am pleased to say that there are buds emerging, so they have survived their first winter in the ground! We had a mild winter this year, so I am thinking that helped.

The garden box at the end, closest to those hydrangeas is full of strawberry plants. This is their third year in the box, so I am expecting and hopeful that we will have a good harvest of them this year.

Apparently, I still have a bit of leaf removal in my future:

I am greatly enjoying seeing all the new shoots coming out of the ground. The chives are always some of the first things to brave the chilly, spring air. We've already enjoyed some of them mixed into our mashed potatoes!

And I love that when I am cleaning up the beds, I discover new life emerging underneath.

It all looks pretty scrubby yet. But I am excited to see that my tulips and daffodils - my first in 11 years! -  survived not only the winter, but the squirrels!!  They will fill out the spring beds nicely until I select and plant the annuals to plant among the summer perennials.

Last year I transplanted a lot of perennials from family and friends' gardens. I don't expect they will reach their full potential for another year or two. But I do have a few that were planted the season prior. That means this is their third year in the beds. So I am hoping that the adage about perennials is true:

"First year they sleep, second year they creep, third year they leap!"

So, I am excited to think this might be a leap year for some of my plants! :)

We'll see. My gardens rarely reach the states of glory that I envision in my mind. But then again, when I look back at photos of older gardens I've had, I think, "Oh, that looked pretty nice!" Kind of like I do with present pictures of myself! We're always so hard on ourselves. Note to self: "Be kind to yourself... and your gardens... in the present!"

Here are a couple pictures I caught of my girl, eager for warmer days to come as we all are!

From those photos, you can see that the deck needs to be refinished too. The people selling the house before we bought it just slapped on some latex paint. Not exactly weather-resistant. But, we are always forced to pick and choose just which projects we will tackle each warm season. I'm afraid the deck is farther down the list of priorities.

I think our spring summer projects - apart from the regular gardening and maintenance-  will be these:

Indoors: Paint downstairs bathroom and family room
Outdoors: Power-wash house and get new patio set

Finally, I have been in bike heaven these past few weeks. This week has been cold and yucky for riding. I did ride to church yesterday morning for our women's group. It was 38 degrees F when I left! I know that doesn't compare with Minnesota's winter warrior riders, but that was chilly for me! Mostly my face and hands were cold, but the rest of me stayed toasty warm.

Anyway, I took this week to have my bike better fitted for what my riding needs are. So it went from this:

to this:

In this process I discovered with the help of the guys at the bike shop, that my bike is a petite frame. This is fine for me, since I have a petite frame too, but, as you can see, the rack does not fit well and thus the basket I bought for the rack hangs off the back. But after spending everything I did for the needed gear guard, the new fenders, and new seat, plus labor fees, I wasn't willing to spend the additional $50 they wanted for the better-fitting rack after I'd purchased that one online for $20.

It's okay though. I don't plan on putting anything heavy in the basket anyway. I have the old Burley trailer I used for the girls to carry groceries and larger cargo. The basket is just for library books, small bags, etc. If it causes me trouble, I'll switch it out in the end, but for now I think it will work out.

I am hoping to take a longer ride this weekend if the weather cooperates. I need to learn how to change a flat, though. That's the last thing I need to do before I feel like I can really ride as much as I want to.

By the way, when I am not on my bike, but in my car, I have been practicing choosing slow as I talked about in this post. When I make the conscious choice to travel more slowly, I feel so much better when I arrive at my destination! I feel peaceful. It is funny how we get into kind of a competitive mode on the road. I will write more about this in future posts, but I just wanted to mention that I am still practicing slowing down and I am experiencing positive results!

Well, that's it from around these parts this week. Hope you're enjoying the new sights and smells of the season as we are and have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Quiet Time Basket "Tour"

Our Sweet Charlotte

Hello friends. I have been absent from this space longer than I would have liked. But many things challenged us last week, culminating with the passing on Friday of our kitty, Charlotte, that I mentioned in my last post and I have just needed time to process and grieve. I don't want to dwell too much on this here, but I can say that I am thankful for the fact that the girls and I were here with her as she made her transition which was probably harder on us than on her. I am also thankful that the gray skies that were with us the majority of last week lifted on that day. The sunny, springtime weather has been a balm for our spirits in this difficult time.


But now I want to move on to talk about something that helps me every day through difficult times like this as well as times of celebration and that is the time I spend with God, my Bible, prayer, and journal in the mornings. Often referred to as "quiet time" in the Christian community, this habit is a touchstone for me and one I have had for at least 15 years if not more.

I am happy to talk here about why this is something I do if there is an expressed interest, but today I wanted to share something that is an integral part of my mornings and that is my basket. I don't remember exactly where I read about keeping a basket for my things for my quiet times, but it sounded so appealing to me and has made my time even more special that I thought I would share it here, especially if that would help to inspire you to begin or restart your own quiet time in the morning.

Before I begin my "tour" I do just want to comment on something about time and lack of it and that people often feel that they don't have enough of it to spend time with God, even if they want to. Especially when you have very little ones at home, it can be hard. Hard, but not impossible. I mention that this habit has been with me for 15 years or more. And I know that it has been at least that long because that is the age of my second daughter and I was practicing this before her birth. I can't recall at that time if it was a daily habit the way it is now (likely not, because I know that it took me 5 years for me to completely read the Bible through the first time), but I know that it was a priority. By the time my daughter was born, however, it was nearly a daily habit. And then I received wonderful advice from a dear friend and mentor of mine who was leading a small group of us young mothers at that time. She simply said, "Ask God to stretch your time and He will."

It is really that simple. If you want to make time to develop your relationship with God, I can guarantee that you will receive an automatic, "Yes," to that prayer request. I don't know that I can say that about anything else, but I do know that God desires a relationship with each of His people and if you sincerely ask Him to do that, He will.

Okay, moving on!

Here's my basket that sits on the floor next to my "spot" in the living room.

I don't use everything inside my basket every day. I think the key for me in keeping a consistent habit is that I don't have a regimented program for myself. I have many things to choose from to help direct my thoughts and conversation for the day. Inside, in no particular order, I have the following:

A well-loved copy of Oswald Chambers' excellent, My Utmost for His Highest

A wonderful prayer guide that my dear friend, Laura, gave to me Christmas 2013.

My cozy, WONDERFUL hot water bottle! I LOVE this on my lap with a blanket for our chilly/cold seasons. I suspect I will always have one.

My Bible

Just a picture of the pretty bookmark my mother-in-law brought me from Ephesus.

My $1.50 cute notebook from Target. I'm keeping Morning Pages (stream-of-consciousness writing) with this for brain dumps.

A devotional book of one sort or another. I am re-reading this that I read through for the first time in 2012. It's an excellent, easy read on spiritual disciplines. John Ortberg has a wonderful, conversational tone in all his books. Highly recommended.

My regular journal

Fun stickers for playing in my journal

Little prayer guides

A fun collection of many colors of gel pens and a pair so scissors for cutting things from magazines for my journal. All in a little cup I made on my friend Jen's potting wheel! My first ever "thrown" piece. :)

 My hand-knit Scripture Keeper. I have favorite verses in this. I wrote about it in THIS post.

A sampling of the cards in my keeper. I have some positive affirmations in here too.

 My small collection of washi tape for my journal

Somehow the print in my Bible seems to be getting smaller... :) I had to get these this winter. Still mostly use them when my eyes are tired, but that seems to be getting more and more every day. Heh.

Half of a manilla envelope that holds some of those magazine pictures I've cut out, random stickers, bookmarks, and a couple of letters from sweet pen friends.

Well that is all I have for you today! Thanks for stopping by and I plan to be back here again soon. :)

Thursday, April 9, 2015


I have been wanting to do a "Day in the Life" post for a little while now. I enjoy having peeks into how different people around the world live on a daily basis. But let me tell you, you don't want to see one of my days right now. Suffice it to say that we are treating one of our cats for Irritable Bowel Syndrome in hopes that her condition is that - is treatable - and is not something worse like intestinal lymphoma. Let's just say there is lots of diarrhea cleanup these days and that, my friends, is why I will be saving my DITL post for another day!

In the meantime, I thought I would talk with you about something that is on my mind a lot these days and that is the desire to be slow. I imagine that all of us involved in education, whether as students or teachers or parents of students (or all three, like me!), begin to feel this way at toward the end of the school year.

I don't know how you are, but I am generally a very efficient user of my time. I am not saying this to boast, but just to say that I feel like I am - if not always, then often - working. I don't just sit and wait for Eve to get out of her violin lessons on Monday. Instead I use that half hour to run a nearby errand or I study for my own classes. Likewise, on Tuesdays, I am studying at the library during her 90 minute culinary class. On Wednesdays, I often use the hour of her Latin class to run to Trader Joe's or Target. I am not idle with my time.

But I kind of want to be.

I mean, I think I want to be, but I struggle with sort of feeling agitated if I don't have a designation for my time. I am used to using my time wisely.

It's not that I can't relax, per se, but when I do relax, it's because it was on the schedule! lol! :)

Relaxing time is not actually on the schedule (though some busy years it's had to be!), but I relax only when all my work is done for the day. I have a hard time with spontaneous relaxation, because something will always be nagging me in the back of my mind if I have things I am supposed to get done.

So, I know I can't just wave a magic wand over my life and change everything. The fact is that my younger daughter is involved in our home school co-op which is an excellent resource for our family, but it is also a 20 minute drive away. There is not one nearby that is closer. So, I have resigned myself to the fact that after the end of this school year, I still have two more years of this twice or thrice weekly commute.

This summer, I am planning to have at least one car-free week. I can walk, bike, or take public transportation, but unless there is an emergency, I want to leave my van at home. Just thinking about this makes me feel happier.

I know that for those of you who take public transportation every day, it is not a novel affair. I rode the bus for a number of years before I got my first car and I did not love my wait for the bus on cold, winter days. But similar to the feeling of going somewhere without my purse or keys or other paraphernalia that I travel with on a daily basis, the idea of having someone else get me to where I am going sounds light and free.

In order to accomplish this "feat," the main thing I am going to need is a larger margin of time. I can't get somewhere as quickly on foot or bike or even bus or light rail as I can in my car. This will mean I will just need to plan fewer things in my days. Because, as I mentioned above, that is what happens. I add activities to my days in an effort to consolidate trips and be efficient. But while I will still be able to use my time wisely, I simply won't be able to accomplish as much in a 24-hour period, when my travel time will take me longer. And that, frankly, sounds delicious!

It's only the beginning of April right now, though, and June feels a great distance off. I want to do some things now to begin to put into practice what John Ortberg includes as one of his spiritual disciplines in his terrific book, The Life You've Always Wanted: Spiritual Disciplines for Ordinary People. 

I actually read this book a few years ago (it got a 5 star rating from me then and I still agree with myself!) and I picked it up again recently, since I am not currently involved in a formal Bible study. Chapter 5, "An Unhurried Life," is one I forgot about, but is obviously resonating strongly with me right now.

Here are some ideas Ortberg suggests, in addition to solitude, to combat what he calls "hurry sickness":

  • Over the next month deliberately drive in the slow lane on the expressway. It may be that not swerving from lane to lane will cause you to arrive five minutes or so later than you usually would. But you will find that you don't get nearly so angry at other drivers. Instead of trying to pass them, say a little prayer as they go by, asking God to bless them.
  • For a week, eat your food slowly. Force yourself to chew at least fifteen times before each swallow.
  • For the next month, when you are at the grocery store, look carefully to see which check-out line is the longest. Get in it. Let one person go ahead of you.

When I read these, I thought, "Yeah, I'm going to do those!" and then I got up to hurry to get ready for the day and stopped at the stove to eat the rest of the peas I had left from breakfast (I have a weird weakness for canned peas) right out of the pot. Wow. I could barely believe it when I realized what I was doing!!

In the number of books that I have read about the French, I have read more than once that you will not see Parisians walking around with to-go cups. If they want to drink a cup of coffee, they stop in a cafe and actually sit down to drink it and then leave the cup there and then get on with the rest of their day. This is such a tiny detail, but the idea of it is so foreign to us Americans!

I can think of many things, in addition to Ortberg's ideas above, that would help me to slow down:

Not eating on the go
Doing just one thing at a time - "monotasking"
Practicing listening well
Reviewing my attempts at slowing at the end of my day

I hope to incorporate these with more intention in these days leading up to my summer break when I will have my car-free week(s) and also undertake the task of decluttering, Konmarie-style.

Do you feel rushed in your days? Do you take steps to combat this feeling? If you have any more ideas of things that have helped you slow down, please share them in the comments below or on the Facebook page!

Images: 1, 2

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Blessed Resurrection Sunday ~ A Very Happy Easter to You



 Looking for the Living One in a Cemetery

24 1-3 At the crack of dawn on Sunday, the women came to the tomb carrying the burial spices they had prepared. They found the entrance stone rolled back from the tomb, so they walked in. But once inside, they couldn’t find the body of the Master Jesus.
4-8 They were puzzled, wondering what to make of this. Then, out of nowhere it seemed, two men, light cascading over them, stood there. The women were awestruck and bowed down in worship. The men said, “Why are you looking for the Living One in a cemetery? He is not here, but raised up. Remember how he told you when you were still back in Galilee that he had to be handed over to sinners, be killed on a cross, and in three days rise up?” Then they remembered Jesus’ words.

- The Message 

I hope this day finds you enJOYing all that there is to this day. How blessed we are and what hope we have to live on this side of His resurrection! Happy Easter!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Imagining April 2015 :: A Month Map

Ahh, April. The month when all will start to burst into glowy green and trees will begin to look like they are trimmed with bits of lace.

And there is no better month to say Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit!

Well, before I get to new ideas for April, let's see how I did last month. Specific plans hoped for the month of March were:

Continue to press hard with my Spanish studies
Plan our trip to Washington D.C./New York City
Write at least one letter
Attend my brother-in-law's 50th birthday party
Take advantage of a few new opportunities for connections at church
Date night

Things went pretty well all around last month. We have been looking around at churches nearer to our home, but that task has been hard, so that's still something we're working on.

And date night happened, but it was supposed to have been the new film, "While We're Young," starring Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts. It opened March 27, but it didn't manage to open here! :( The Film Society offered a showing of it to its members yesterday, but we are not members and so we still haven't seen it. It strikes me as odd that a movie with such noted actors would not open in theaters everywhere. Maybe that will happen later and it can be our date night for this month.

So, here are some ideas, God willing, for April:

Continue with Spanish studies
Continue seeking a church home
Easter Sunday church and brunch with my sister and her family
Practice going to bed earlier by setting my alarm via "Happier" with Gretchen Rubin
Date night
Continue cooking from my cookbooks
Write one letter
Make plans for week(s) without car (more on this in a future post!)
Two to three blog posts each week
Continue making connections with fellow bloggers
Keep running and yoga to at least 2x each every week

Share with me here in the comments or let me know on Facebook, what are your plans or ideas for April? Do you like to make goals for yourself each month or do you prefer to just take things as they come?
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