My Daily Life

March 19, 2013

As Far as the Eye Can See

Colin and I went for a hike up Palm Canyon. It's a beauty to behold. Groves of palms and a stream, shockingly appear out of the desert.

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Then just as suddenly as they appear, they're gone again, giving way to magnificent rock formations that are a beauty all their own.

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As we make our way up and out of the canyon, the desert unfolds as far as the eye can see.

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A warm breeze blows through and we stop to catch our breath and take it all in. There's a happiness that comes with seeing new things with the one I love.

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We retrace our steps, several miles worth, until the canyon appears once again. The view that was at our backs as we climbed is now revealed as we descend.

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And back to the canyon are we.

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Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. ~Mark Twain

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February 20, 2013

The Mountains

We went away to the mountains. How lucky are the cousins who can putter around and be pals?

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Sunny days covered in snow. We soak in what mother nature sends our way.

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A walk in the woods, where winter is slowly giving way to spring.

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And then like magic, a winter playland appears. She seems to say, Come play on my ice! So we do.

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A hockey game...

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A twirl, a swirl.

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And then we're off to explore. Wild strawberries are found.

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A forest playground.

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January 25, 2013

This Week

We've been plugging along in freezy Spokane. Finals week ends today. Hooray!

This morning I told the boys, three times, that the walkway was icy. Next thing I knew, one of them was flat on his back. Sometimes I wonder if my words are heard like the adults in Charlie Brown. Just saying.

Cody set out on his his band's first tour. His smile makes me cheery.

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Last night my friends and I celebrated a dear friend's birthday. It was a sweet and happy night. Friends are like sunshine, aren't they?

And Colin's birthday is just a few days away. We're looking forward to a fun weekend celebrating, with the boys.

Next week, I'm getting ready for Valentine's Day. I think I'm going to sprinkle the house with hearts. We'll see...

January 17, 2013

Meeting Ken and Seeing the Light

I was on a flight heading out of New York City. Just before takeoff, a gentleman boarded and sat down in the middle seat next to me. He began making small talk with the man sitting in the aisle seat beside him. He was returning home to Wisconsin after a visit to the Middle East. The man who he was visiting with was a middle school teacher. You're a teacher? I'd like to send you some books for your students, he said. Instead of asking him about the books, the teacher changed the subject. He clearly wasn't interested. Friendly, but not interested.

As they chatted, I closed my eyes to take a nap, partly to rest and partly to avoid conversation. I drifted off to sleep having made the assumption that my seatmate was a minister who was interested in sharing his beliefs, and that the books he was offering must be related to his religion. And honestly, that thought made me uncomfortable. Who knew what his beliefs were?

At some point, I was awakened by sunlight beaming in through the window. My seatmate was sitting forward in his seat, staring straight ahead to avoid the blinding light. The teacher next to him was fast asleep. I pulled down the window shade and apologized that he'd been having to sit uncomfortably for all that time. He just smiled and said that it was no problem. We began to chat. He'd barely caught our flight, which was the connecting final leg for him on a long trip home from the Middle East. He'd been traveling for something like 24 hours at that point and was looking forward to seeing his wife.

He asked me if I worked outside the home and I tried to explain what I do. He asked if I had children and we talked about his own. And then he told me that he'd love to send me a book for my children. Oh dear, I thought to myself. Here it comes, he's going to preach to me. About something crazy. What is the name of the book? I ask.  A Gathering of Eagles, he replies. Oh no, oh no, oh no, I'm thinking. What's it about? I ask. He describes it as a book of stories and advice from 117 Medal of Honor recipients. I was taken aback and feeling bad that I had made an assumption about him and what he was trying to convey.

I learn that he's retired. What is your connection to the book? I ask. I'm a Medal of Honor recipient he replies. I'm Ken. Ken Stumpf.

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You know how you feel when you realize you've been judgemental, and even worse, wrongfully so? I of all people should know this and speak of it often. You never really know someone's story. 

Ken and I go on to have a lovely conversation, much of it with me wishing I could magically teleport my father-in-law Pete into my seat so that he and Ken can talk. They both served in Vietnam and I know they share a brotherhood that civilians like myself can't possibly understand.

After we land and stand to deplane, Ken and I say our goodbyes and I thank him for his service to our country. The teacher looks on quizzically and I feel sad that he slept through learning he was sitting next to an American hero, a man he could have talked about with his students on Monday. I could have missed it too, but fortunately, I saw the light.

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The After Story:

I'm happy to report that my boys now proudly own their own copy of A Gathering of Eagles, a gift sent personally from Ken. And my wish came true: Pete and Ken are now in touch with one another.

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There are 79 living recipients of the United States military's highest decoration, the Medal of Honor. The Medal of Honor is bestowed to any member of the United States armed forces who distinguishes himself conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States.

Ken Stumpf is a retired United States Army soldier and a recipient of the Medal of Honor for his actions in the Vietnam War.

Stumpf joined the Army from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and by April 25, 1967 was serving as a Specialist Four in Company C, 1st Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division. On that day, near Duc Pho in the Republic of Vietnam, Stumpf rescued three wounded comrades despite heavy fire and single-handedly disabled an enemy bunker. He was subsequently promoted to Staff Sergeant and awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions during the battle.

Stumpf reached the rank of Sergeant Major before retiring from the Army.

Staff Sergeant Stumpf's official Medal of Honor citation reads:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. SSG Stumpf distinguished himself while serving as a squad leader of the 3d Platoon, Company C, on a search and destroy mission. As SSG Stumpf's company approached a village, it encountered a North Vietnamese rifle company occupying a well fortified bunker complex. During the initial contact, 3 men from his squad fell wounded in front of a hostile machine gun emplacement. The enemy's heavy volume of fire prevented the unit from moving to the aid of the injured men, but SSG Stumpf left his secure position in a deep trench and ran through the barrage of incoming rounds to reach his wounded comrades. He picked up 1 of the men and carried him back to the safety of the trench. Twice more SSG Stumpf dashed forward while the enemy turned automatic weapons and machine guns upon him, yet he managed to rescue the remaining 2 wounded squad members. He then organized his squad and led an assault against several enemy bunkers from which continuously heavy fire was being received. He and his squad successfully eliminated 2 of the bunker positions, but one to the front of the advancing platoon remained a serious threat. Arming himself with extra hand grenades, SSG Stumpf ran over open ground, through a volley of fire directed at him by a determined enemy, toward the machine gun position. As he reached the bunker, he threw a hand grenade through the aperture. It was immediately returned by the occupants, forcing SSG Stumpf to take cover. Undaunted, he pulled the pins on 2 more grenades, held them for a few seconds after activation, then hurled them into the position, this time successfully destroying the emplacement. With the elimination of this key position, his unit was able to assault and overrun the enemy. SSG Stumpf's relentless spirit of aggressiveness, intrepidity, and ultimate concern for the lives of his men, are in the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself and the U.S. Army.

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Staff Sergeant Kenneth E. Stumpf receiving the Medal of Honor from President Lyndon Baines Johnson. Image: Scott Stumpf, via mishalove.

December 27, 2012

Autism and Hope

The last several years at this time in December I've thought about our year and what it brought. Each filled with challenges and triumphs and lessons of life that I've been very thankful for. In time.

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In October, one of our children was diagnosed with Autism. And actually, once we reached the diagnosis, it was an incredible sense of relief - a name, a focus, an answer, a beginning.

But getting there was a gut-wrenching journey that plummeted us all into a very depressing and heartbreaking place. What can a family do when your loved one is suffering and you don't know why?

Looking back, I've had to work through the regrets. I wished I had understood the signs. I wished that when I looked into autism that I had dug deeper, rather than being thrown off by what I'd initially read. I wished that we had known so we could have done things differently. So our child wouldn't have had to suffer so much. And each time we thought we knew what we were dealing with, we wouldn't have been set back even farther than before. Two steps forward, five steps back.

The greatest gift in all of this, of course, is the diagnosis. Knowing what we're dealing with and getting help. And there have been more lessons learned than I'd have chosen, if given a choice. But I wasn't, and that's the way it is.

Some things I've been reminded of and some wisdom I've gained along the way:

  • The importance of a good marriage really presents itself is when you're faced with hardship. I'm eternally grateful for Colin.
  • You never really know someone's story. Be kind. Be kind. Be kind. Even something as simple as a smile. There were days when I was so broken that simple kindness made me weep.
  • Trust your gut. You know your child better than anyone else.
  • Find doctors who are genuinely interested in helping your child. They really do exist.
  • Learn to let go of regrets. Regret is like poison.
  • Don't waste time on negativity. Move on.
  • Be open to true friendship. Friends are a gift.
  • Nothing is ever as good or as bad as it seems in the moment. ~John F. Kennedy Jr.
  • Be strong. It sounds simple, but taking on the role of Parent means you must be the rock, no matter how hard life can be. You owe it to your child, you owe it to the world.

As I look back on this year, it's best described as a year of healing and hope. No, it hasn't been easy, but whose life is, really? There are so many people facing challenges of their own and that's something that's easily lost sight of when you're suffering. For you, for me, for anyone who is suffering, I choose hope.

Hope

Hope is the thing with feathers 
That perches in the soul, 
And sings the tune--without the words, 
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard; 
And sore must be the storm 
That could abash the little bird 
That kept so many warm.

I've heard it in the chillest land, 
And on the strangest sea; 
Yet, never, in extremity, 
It asked a crumb of me.

~Emily Dickinson

December 04, 2012

Instagramming it Up!

IMG_1834Hi friend,

I've entered into the land of Instagram. You can follow along with me here (or search for me under thefarmchicks). I'm heading to NYC this week and will share the sweetness that I see.

Love,

me

December 03, 2012

Winter Carrots

The clouds were rolling through as I looked out onto the garden. Black and gray, and puffy white, as if on a migration. Winter is coming! Winter is coming! They seemed to shout.

In the garden, my carrot patch was calling to me. So I threw on a jacket and my trusty rubber boots for a little harvest.

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Have you ever had a winter carrot? The ones that sit and grow sweeter by the day. That have a snappy crisp like no other. Oh, I wish you could.

This year, we planted a variety and each shovelful was a surprise. Purple, yellow, orange. You never know what you'll get.

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And here's what I've learned with the carrot patch. Don't thin the plants in the patch I'm planning on for a winter harvest. They'll grow too big if they're thinned.

See what I mean? Thinned (left) vs. not (right):

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I trust your Garden was willing to die ... I do not think that mine was—it perished with beautiful reluctance, like an evening star. ~Emily Dickinson


October 24, 2012

Pumpkin Harvest

Pumpkin harvest is chugging along here. I love to watch the steady flow of farmhands buzzing about on our property and beyond.

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Pumpkins have the pleasure of bringing a smile to everyone they meet. Who doesn't love a pumpkin?

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As the autumn weather sets in and the air begins to frost, so does the foliage on the plants. It's actually quite nice when that occurs because it makes harvesting that much easier. No searching around through the leaves for each pumpkin. The farmhands come through with big clippers and clip the stem away from the plant. The stems can be quite prickly and tough.

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The pumpkins are gathered up and placed in big bins to be transported by tractor to Byron's farm across the way where they will be sold.

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Happy harvest, pumpkins. Happy harvest, you. And may every pumpkin bring a smile.

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P.S.

I'm blowing a kiss to Donna Bradley in Texas for the lovely letter. Bless your son for his service to our country.

I was recently on WBCL radio. You can listen by clicking here if you'd like. (My segment starts just after the 6 minute mark).

A friend of a friend is facing some challenges. The Spokane community is rallying and you can help too. Click here to learn more about the upcoming tag sale that is being held to raise money for her and her mom's care. If you're in the Spokane, WA area, you can donate any goods for the tag sale or make plans to shop at the sale coming up in November. Click here for more details.

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Image by Samantha Cabrera


September 26, 2012

Pears That Make You Go Mmmmmm

Bongo and I went to get some pears at the Cherry Shack Orchard just down the road.

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It's been such a warm fall here, but the skies are gray from the wildfires burning all around our state. I figured pears would be the perfect pick me up.

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Boy, was I right!

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Pears are juicy, pears are sweet, pears from the Cherry Shack can't be beat! hee hee

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Did you know that pears get picked before they ripen? Once they ripen, they actually fall of the tree. Going to the orchard is the best because they can direct you to the best picking and let you know how many days it will take before your pears will ripen up. They also have plenty on hand that are ready to be eaten now.

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I recently walked the Cherry Shack Orchard with it's owner, Brad (that's him holding the pear above), and learned lots about his crops. I'll introduce you to him and his family here on the blog soon.

Now I want to bake something delicious. We'll see what I come up with....

You can read more about the Cherry Shack Orchard here or visit them on GreenBluff.

P.S. The view from World Headquarters is dreamy. Pumpkins as far as the eye can see.

We gathered pumpkins last night for our front porch. Now it seems to be exclaiming, "Hello, friend!" when we pull into the driveway. I like that.

My friends Gladys and Celia are holding their Mad Hatter Flea Market this weekend. You can read about it here.

Big Boy has been traveling. Watch for more on his travels this week.

I've been to three weddings in the last few weeks. Love is in the air!

P.P.S. I've missed you. We'll be seeing more of each other soon.

September 05, 2012

The Best Day

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Colin and I started our day with what I will remember as one of the happiest runs of my life. Us, Morgan, Emily, Spencer, friends, and soon-to-be new in-laws.

Upstate New York.

Up up up we ran into Minnewaska, followed by the guys all plunging into the lake. I'll hold it with me forever.

That day that Morgan and Heidi were married.

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What a special day this wedding was for us. To be together, celebrating how much we love these two and the fact that we're all becoming one big family.

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These things run through my mind....

      ....what a gift it is to find the one you love

and to love their family too...

To feel the flutter in your heart when you think of forever..  . .      ....     .

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And that's a wonderful thing.

 

August 17, 2012

A Little Bit About Love

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Today is Colin and my wedding anniversary. I always feel so reflective on these days, thinking about life and what has happened along the way. And naturally, I've been thinking about love and how I really consider it to be one of the greatest gifts we have - the ability to give it with all our hearts.

I remember when I was in the thick of things with the boys, three of them in diapers at the time and one had become quite a turkey. It seemed he just couldn't be tamed and day after day, he was becoming more of a wild thing.

Climbing up onto the dining room table and dangling from the chandelier, sneaking lotion into his bed and proceeding to wipe it all over himself, the bed, and the wall. And so on. I was really at my wits end. And then one day, it occurred to me while talking to my sister-in-law, Allison. I told her I was going to just flood him with love, more than ever before. More holding, more hugging, more attention. More love.

And miraculously, it worked. Such a simple little thing.

He was transformed into the most gentle little soul.

Now today, if you were to talk about love and its special gifts, you'd probably get laughed out of the room. And I think that's sad.

If only we could all just show a little more love, love our children, love our world, and each other, we could change it.

Really we could.

Call your mom and tell her you love her.

Send a note to a friend telling them how much they mean to you.

Bake a pie and give it to your neighbor.

Give your son an extra hug today.

Take your daughter's hand and lead her on a little walk. Tell her what you love about her.

Donate to charity.

Thank your husband for the life you've created together.

Play a board game with your children.

Pay someone a compliment.

And love yourself.

............... and the world will feel your love ................

 

July 19, 2012

The Float House

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It was a beautiful night at Nancy's float house. The mountains turned pink and the water smooth as glass.

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Pretty as a picture.

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Shouldn't life always be this way? Simple. Happy. Fulfilled.

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I say yes.

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A homemade treat.

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Summer's fleet.

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Life's complete.

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July 10, 2012

Summer Fun

I'm the girl who wishes it were summer all year. Everything is just better when the sun is shining.

A few weeks ago, Heather and I got to spend some time together. It was laughy happy.

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And here's another thing about summer...

Colin turns into MORE of a kid. He's always going to keep me young.

The boys and I took a trip with my nieces, Chloe and Annie. It will always be one of my happiest memories.

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IMG_1549And other than that, I'm like a sun camel. I need to save it up for future months. Sigh.

In other news, Souvenir is here! Souvenir is here! What is Souvenir? It's the beautiful, wonderful grass-roots lifestyle magazine created by Heather. It's most definitely her most wonderful edition yet and it's available now. You can purchase it online here.

And just a little note about Souvenir... when you purchase this magazine, you're supporting other women out there like you and me who are just doing what they love. Living happy lives, making beautiful things, creating wonderful food, and making the world a better place to be. With no advertisements either. It takes a lot of hard work to put together such an amazing magazine.

Thank you for supporting Souvenir!

And happy summer to you.

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May 24, 2012

Intuition

I've always believed that a special gift women are born with is their intuition and it's something I've relied on all my life. I will say that I think it's something that drives Colin crazy from time to time. "How do you know that?", he may ask. And sometimes I'll respond that I just trust my intuition. For a very smart, level-headed man with an accounting degree, that just doesn't make sense. And honestly, I know it sounds crazy, but it's what I believe. And after the summer of our incident, Colin believed it too. At least for that one day anyway.

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It was the middle of summer and our home that sat nestled into the hillside on Golden Hills Lane was roasting hot. With no air conditioning and cement siding, it just soaked in the sun and radiated heat. When the sun went down, the best solution was to open all the windows and doors and let the cool evening breeze blow off the prairie and through the house. But in addition to being a self-proclaimed intuitive sensei, I'm also a bit of a worrier (another trait we women are born with, right?!) and it freaked me out to have unlocked doors and windows. And because Colin is the wonderful husband that he is, he'd suffer through the heat and locked doors most nights.

On this particular morning, when Colin awoke, the house was unbearably warm. So he went throughout the house opening all of the windows and doors. And then he left.

At 7:00am I lay fast asleep, having a nightmare about two bears in the garden. It was one of those dreams that seems so real that I was awoken with a start. I sat straight up in bed and a sick feeling in my stomach pushed me to go look out onto the garden. I jumped out of bed and could feel the cool breeze on my bare feet.

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I made my way through the kitchen and to the sliding doors that lead out onto the deck that overlooked the garden just below. As I peered through the screen, I could make out the figures of two blurry men.

My heart stopped. And then it raced.

My contact lenses weren't in and I couldn't see well. I could see however, that their backs were turned to me and I had to make a split-second, half-asleep decision. Shut and lock the sliders? Run across the room and shut and lock the other sliders? Then all of the open windows too? Were the downstairs sliders leading to the boys rooms open too? I decided that any movement would draw their attention and I knew that I couldn't possibly close everything up before they could get into the house.

So I tiptoe-raced back to the bedroom and into the bathroom to put my contacts in. Hands shaking, feeling as if I'm in slow motion, feeling as if I'm in a dream.

Contacts in and seeing clearly now, I race to grab the phone and quietly race back to the sliders in the kitchen. I can hear Colin's voice in my mind, assuring me that I'm worrying unnecessarily. Surely they won't be there. Maybe it was just a dream.

They're still there.

Two scruffy men in flannel shirts.

They still have their backs to me and they're looking up the hill towards my neighbor's house.

I start to dial 911 and then I hear Colin in my mind again. What if they were meeting our neighbors husband that morning (he was always helping people with their cars) and for some reason they were just accidentally by our garden? So, I decide to call my neighbor instead and see if she's expecting company.

My neighbor answers the phone and I can immediately hear that I've woken her up. "Leilani, is Jeff expecting company this morning!?", I ask, in a loud panicked whisper.

Half-asleep, she answers no.

By this time, the two men are making their way through our field and up the hill towards her house.

"There are two men walking through the field from our house to yours", I tell her.

She groggily tells me that she's going to call her husband and she hangs up.

Heart pounding, hands shaking, I watch and wait for Leilani to call me back. It feels like a hundred years.

As the men reach the edge of her lawn, they immediately drop down on the ground and begin crawling towards her back door.

I race to call her back.

"CALL 911!!! CALL 911!" She screams into the receiver.

I call 911 and begin to explain our situation. And just as the men reach her back door, I can see something has grabbed their attention and they jump up and begin running for the trees and then towards the prairie below.

Before I know it, the hills are swarming with police from every direction. And they catch the men.

Turns out, there was a third, in a car, on the road between our houses. He had a police scanner and when our calls came in and the call was dispatched out, he radioed the two men who had just reached Leilani's back door.

The two bears men were arrested and it turns out they had long rap sheets and many weapons on them that day. The third man got away. But most importantly, we were all okay.

And, even if only for one day, Colin believed in my intuition too.

May 15, 2012

Our Walk

The sun's been lingering late into the evening, sort of like an old guest we love from time gone by, but just getting to know again. These warm nights bring happiness and hope for the season that's to come.

Tonight we set out past Byron's strawberry fields,

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past the old tree needing support in its old life,

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past the old fruit stand,

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and around the bend where we see our shadows cast by the sun.

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And then, the sun sputters out as the trees loom large as we walk on. Past the babbling brook,

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past Robles Orchard drive,

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and around the pond with its water so rich and glassine.

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The trees are loaded with apple blossoms now. The wild roadside trees pull at my heartstrings - the underdogs - surviving, blossoming, and producing, year after year.

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The trees begin to thin as we make our way up the hill,

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and back into the sun.

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The air feels soft as a feather here, with wafts of fresh sprouting fields. This is the land of the free.

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And dreams are safe here.

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May 14, 2012

Mother's Day

Mother's Day on the Bluff was beautiful. I love those days when we're all home, just tinkering around.

I re-potted my gardenia plants. The smell of these beauties creates instant happiness.

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Colin cleaned the patio,

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helped me get the garden beds ready for planting,

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and labeled the plantings with his own special system. We're a team.

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One of the boys mowed the lawn and left mohawks everywhere. Sometimes teaching yard work takes special parental patience.

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We nibbled on roasted pistachios - it's been our official family snack this month.

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I set out the bouquets we picked up from the store earlier in the day. I love their colorful messiness.

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My Favorite Find from the weekend found a new home on the kitchen shelf. (You can read about it here).

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We feasted on enchiladas with fresh tomatoes and avocado

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and strawberry shortcakes for dessert.

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It was a beautiful, homey sort of day.

April 13, 2012

The Week In Review

I returned from Arizona full of sun. It was the perfect way to head into Monday.

Monday morning I had another surgery. As I lay in my room waiting, I couldn't help but overhear all of the sad stories of the patients in the rooms around me. It was a good reminder that I have so much to be thankful for. I decided that every day I want to tell a few people (other than my family) how much they mean to me.

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My bulbs are all coming up. The first spring in our new home means seeing all of my plantings coming to life. I'm so excited about that.

Colin planted a whole slew of Christmas trees on the back of our property. (If you've read my Christmas Book, you understand this is a big deal for my guy). I can't wait for our future Christmas parties where our friends and family can come and get a tree.

I started reading this book.

We watched Bill Cunningham New York. I was inspired. Creative, lovely people affect me in that way.

I made plans for a super fun event with my friend, Samantha Cabrera. We'll be telling you all about it and inviting you soon.

I'm feeling better each day. Today I'm looking forward to having lunch with Alisa at Mizuna. It's one of my favorite restaurants in Spokane. (You can see my list of favorites here).

I spied these events for this weekend on My Favorite Find:

Clover Market - Ardmore, PA

Junk Drunk Antiques & Craft Market - Colville, WA

Monticello Home & Garden Show - Portland, OR

Funky Junk Antique Show & Craft Market - Spokane, WA

2nd Saturdayz Flea Market - Seattle, WA

What did you do this week and most importantly, what made you happy?

TFC.052105.H.25.web

April 03, 2012

Once Upon A Burger

Once upon a time, there was a boy who woke up bright and early. He grabbed a leftover hamburger patty and made himself a burger deluxe. Then he took some lovely potatoes and sliced them up just so. And sizzle went those potatoes until they were fries.

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Then he set his amazing creation down and marveled at his work.

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And he proclaimed it the tastiest in all the land.

April 02, 2012

The Old Cabbage Farm

The old cabbage farm next door looks so quiet today.

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She's waiting for her lilacs to bloom and the bees to come and play. Bzzzzzz Bzzzzz, she can almost hear them. Don't worry, sweet girl it will all be here soon. Just like last year.

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And then we will sing our song of spring.

March 28, 2012

Pruning

I went outside to take in the sun and saw Bongo zipping towards me through our rain-bogged field.

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He'd been gathering pruned apple branches from across the way. Perfect for future summer bonfires.

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I love to see the pruning. It means spring is almost here.

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The strawberry fields that Bongo and Lukie helped to plant last spring will be coming to life soon too.

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Even the apple boxes are all stacked and ready to go.

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Come on spring, we're ready for you.

March 20, 2012

Crashing The Party

Yesterday, aside from consuming a piece a toast, I spent the day at my keyboard, hands shaking, as the launch of My Favorite Find began to unfold.

In 10th grade, I was a short, chubby teenager trying to make my way through high school. I'd recently begun taking carrot pills to try and become tan, to fit into the California look that was popular at the time. Unfortunately for me, the effect was that I turned ORANGE. In fact, I looked very much like an Oompa Loompa. And we all knew it, but no one said a thing. Because that would have just been mean. But one day, as I walked into Social Studies class late, my teacher, Mr. B, announces to the class, "Here's Serena De La Luz, the girl who's gained twenty pounds in a year!" And in that moment, I died inside. It was publicly humiliating. And let's be honest, who wants to be seen as a failure with everyone watching?

I started yesterday as nervous as can be - wanting for you to like My Favorite Find, to join in, and to bring this virtual world to life. And then, there you were. You came! It was a party, and I was so happy. But just as the party was getting in to full swing, there were so many of you that the servers crashed. And for half a second, I felt like I was back in Mr. B's room, and that I had failed.

But I've learned a few things since being an Oompa Loompa. You just deal with it and you move on. And that's what we did. The servers were upgraded, and you were patient. You continued to join the party. And I love you for that.

My Favorite Find is now back in full swing. We want you there at the party, to continue to build the community, share your finds, promote your events and shoppes, and make it the most amazing resource for all.

If you haven't yet joined in, all you need to do is visit the site, request an invitation (we've had to do this to filter out spam and inappropriate content), and then wait a few minutes for your email invitation. (You may need to check your spam folder for the email). Once you receive the invitation, simply click on the link in the email, and you'll be taken onto the website to create your profile.

If you received an invitation via email yesterday, please disregard. The email contained errors and the link doesn't work. You'll need to start over by clicking here.

Thank you for your patience as we work out the kinks and the site evolves. We couldn't do it without you.

P.S. I'm not the only one following my dreams. Here are two dreamers that are special to me:

Heather Bullard's beautiful magazine has arrived. You can see a free preview here. (I'm so happy to be one of the contributors to this amazing new magazine!)

Our boy is making music. You can follow his band here . Here they are playing recently at EMP. You can catch them next at the Bumbershoot Music Festival.

March 17, 2012

The Best .10 Cents I Ever Spent

It was shortly after the birth of our fourth son, the last of three born 15 months apart. Our home at the time was an old schoolhouse built in the thirties, nestled in the foothills of Mt. Spokane. We were adjusting to life with a home full of young boys and struggling to make ends meet.

I'd recently begun making a modest amount of money selling yard sale finds on ebay and although it wasn't anything to write home about, I enjoyed it immensely.

One afternoon, my friend Teri called to tell me she'd just been to an amazing yard sale in Deer Park, which was about a half an hour from my home. Dishes, fun vintage purses, neat old scarves and so on. I was so excited about her finds that I dropped my yard work, hopped in the car, and headed on over to her house to check it all out. When I arrived, I was surprised to see how much stuff that she, her sister, and two girls had scored. I asked if there was much left at the sale when they'd left. "Quite a bit!", they replied.

And so we headed back to see what I could find.

We pulled up and all I could really see were several tables piled high with clothing. Not what I was hoping. But when I neared, I could see that the clothing was at least all vintage and I was intrigued. Digging in, I came upon an interesting old Hawaiian shirt.

    At some point leading up to that day I'd read an article in Country Living Magazine about vintage Hawaiian shirts and remembered learning that certain ones could actually be quite valuable.

I added the shirt to my pile and went to pay. "All clothes are .10 cents each", the lady said with a smile. Well, I thought, I can't go wrong.

Later that week, I listed my shirt on ebay and crossed my fingers that it'd be worth something. Maybe $50? And then something began to happen. The bids started coming in and the price began to rise. $50 - - - - - $85 - - - - $125... WHAT?!

I called Colin, heart pounding, "MY SHIRT IS AT $125!" Then I'd call Teri. MY SHIRT IS AT $125!!!  No, Wait! It's at $135!

And so it went for seven days. Eventually, Colin's co-workers were watching the auction too. Who could believe this shirt was going this high?

When the final minutes on the auction ticked away, and we continued to click refresh! refresh! refresh! with the mouse, the price ticked on up to a final bid of $860!

$860 dollars!

It was my favorite find.

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Yep! That's the shirt, and the $860 check.

But the fun didn't stop there. Ebay loved the story so much that years later I shot a commercial for the company, re-telling my story. I don't think the commercial ever aired, but it was a fun experience none the less.

Do you have a favorite find? I have lots more as well and nothing is more fun for me than sharing the stories of what I've found with others who understand. I bet you love that too.

I hope you'll come join me on my new website, My Favorite Find, and share your finds there too. And while we're at it, let's discover some great places to find more of what we love. It's all there and I hope you will be too!

P.S. You can read more about the story behind My Favorite Find on these blogs:

OC Cottage

Drinking From My Saucer

Cathy Penton - Dare to Dream

Blissful Blooms

Vintage Grey

The Savvy Luna Bug

Homesteader's Heart

Alexa Lett

Rural Revolution

Ramblings from a Vintage Gal

Curious Details

The Grand Suprise

KXLY 4 News

Farm Fresh Therapy

Hampton Victory Garden

Mockingbird Hill Cottage

Finding Home 

Recraft Magazine

Tanya Smith

Sweet Peas and Happy Things

Homemade Renegade

SugarPie Farmhouse

Raffia Sisters

Sing and Don't Be Silent

Pots and Pins

February 15, 2012

February 14th

February 14, 2012 was a pretty good day. Colin just returned from a long back country ski trip. He came back looking like a mountain man - tan and scruffly.

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For a Valentine's day date, we grabbed Vietnamese tofu sandwiches for lunch.

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I wore a cute summer outfit because it was beautifully sunny when I left the house. But then the snow came pounding in like an unwelcome guest. Booooo!

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I had to stop at Costco because we really needed groceries. Do we see a theme here? Yes, I'm the girl who dresses for summer, secretly hoping that it will change the weather somehow.

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The checker told me she was coming to the show. I love it when people tell me that. Especially strangers. Then Heather called me and told me it was 81 degrees in California. I told her to zip it.

I tell you, the older I get, the harder winter's gray gets for me. I think that's another reason exercise is so important. It makes these gray days so much better.

Oh! Look what arrived! A cute little package from Katelyn. She sent me some of her images from the show last year. I love the spirit and joy that comes through in her images. And hey, how did she know that I'm going through a heart phase? I'm a sucker for a cute package!

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Katelyn is also a member of the My Favorite Find focus group!

On my way home, I decided to spring the boys from school a little early. That always earns me big mom points.

For dinner we had a big pot of spaghetti and cupcakes for dessert. More mom points! Yippee!

February 14th, 2012. It was a great day.

 

January 27, 2012

Looking Forward

Hello my friend. It seems like it's been ages. I'm usually talking to you several times a week. Truth is, I've been experiencing some complications from my surgery and have needed to take it easy for a while.

Last year was one of the hardest years of my life. But somehow, I had so much strength and we all made it through. Like a charm. Now 2012 is here and I'm ready to just look forward. I really love that. The future.

Today is Colin's birthday. For a surprise, I finally decorated his home office. We did the big reveal last night. It was so much fun because he had no idea. I think he loved it but just to be sure, I kept going in there and turning on the lights. That way, every time he walked by, he could notice it again. :)

Tonight we're going on a birthday date and then to watch Cody and his band performing. I love date night so much.

And then it's the weekend. I'm going to be baking and baking and baking. All with Valentines day in mind. I'll make sure to share with you soon.

Love,

me

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Colin - the coolest dad in the world.

P.S. I always wondered what it'd be like to have a daughter who I'd share clothes with someday. As fate would have it, I had four boys whom I adore. And now, they share skateboarding shoes with their dad. 

January 20, 2012

Snow Day

We woke up to a snow day today. No school.

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I think we'll take a little walk. I love the silence that snow provides. Nature's sound proofing.

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And then I want to come home and bake. Make soup. Do laundry. Because it feels like the cozy thing to do.

On our snow day.

January 12, 2012

Yesterday

It's been busy at World Headquarters. I've been working on some deadlines for My Favorite Find and getting ready for The Farm Chicks Show too.

Yesterday I had some mailings to get out.

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I wonder how many people get to work in pink fuzzy slippers?

World Headquarters is sort of cold. I keep the heat turned down there, since I'm only there for part of the day. When I got back to the house, my nose felt like the polar ice cap. So I used the blow dryer to warm it up. Does that cancel out my energy savings at WHQ?

Then Colin and Cody invited me for a date. Lunch at Gordy's! I made Cody pose with us, because that's what moms do.

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We talked about his school and made family plans. I feel choked up when I think about him being so grown up. I wish I could go back and re-live it all.

You know how sometimes when you run into an elderly woman in the grocery store who stops and tells you to enjoy your time with your children because you're going to blink and they'll be grown? And you know how at that moment you're feeling overwhelmed because one of them is trying to get out of the cart, one has grabbed five boxes of granola bars, the other has to go to the bathroom, and the other is complaining that you brought your own grocery bags? And you know how you think, yeah yeah, I'm just trying to make it through this shopping trip!

Well, now I understand her.

All that through my mind, and lunch hasn't even arrived yet.

                   .     .     .

                   .     .     .

                   .     .     .

After lunch, I stopped by the post office to mail all my packages. Frank tells me that he still talks about the day that I sent hundreds of packages from the Mead post office and that it was a record breaker. I tell him I took a picture of the receipt, for old time's sake.

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Then I tell him that soon, I'll have a bigger mailing. A record breaker. He asks me to call him first so that he can go on his lunch break.

hahaha, I laugh. And then I tell him that he should really just stop and enjoy this time, because it only happens once a year.

Strangely, I don't think he agrees.

December 29, 2011

Ten Pounds of Sugar

Getting back to myself after the surgery was much harder than I expected. My doctor told me I'd be exhausted but I didn't fully comprehend what she was talking about. I thought tired as in sleepy. And I was so sleepy, but even worse was the physical exhaustion. Just walking across the house left me breathless. And that was a terrible feeling.

Healing has been a long process, but I'm finally healthy enough to resume my exercise routine, which coincidentally, is how I discovered the tumor in my abdomen in the first place.

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The timing to begin again couldn't be better, what with the new year and all, and because I've begun to feel like ten pounds of sugar in a five pound sack.

I'm not going to pretend that I'm one of those super motivated exercise-wise kinds of girls. I'm not. But I value my health and life too much to not take care of myself. (Thank you, Colin, for inspiring me!) So, I'm back at it.

Want to join me?

I'll think of you, if you think of me, okay? :)

My thoughts on being healthy:

I like to get my workout in first thing in the morning, preferably before the boys wake up. And although I'm not a morning person, it sort of works like my caffeine and wakes me up.

I feel better about myself by getting it out of the way first thing.

I try to drink more water, and adding slices of cucumber or orange makes it more appealing to me.

I never drink pop. I think it's horrible, terrible. However, I love fizzy drinks. A great substitute is sparkling water with a splash of fruit juice or a squeeze of lemon, lime, or orange. I call it a "Spritzer".

I believe that by being healthy parents we can inspire our children to be healthy too, without saying a word.

Exercise is like sunshine for the brain. It's true.

-     -     -     -     -     -

..... and with a little exercise, she'll change the world.

October 25, 2011

Thoughts From The Sofa

Yesterday Lukie did his best to cheer me up. He made me laugh so hard it wasn't pretty. Laughing after surgery hurts. A lot. And then I couldn't stop. I told him my stomach felt like a bowl full of jelly. "LUCKY!" he replied. "YOU'RE LIKE SANTA!"

Then Colin brought home a beautiful homemade dinner from our friends, Burke and Muriel. It was wonderful.

I didn't have the energy to change my nail color to pretty.

When I was in the hospital I was struck by how much my room and the whole area felt like a prison. I don't think that's good. They called my area Tower 10. I think that's a terrible horrible name.

I got a call from a major network television show while I was in the Tower. They had no idea I was incarcerated hospitalized. I tried hard to sound super happy. My fingers are crossed that they'll invite me to appear on their show.

Retail therapy is great. I like the new CB2 catalog.

I can count 47 orphaned pumpkins in the field from my perch on the sofa. I used to teach the boys that no man gets left behind with their G.I. Joes. Now I feel like a hypocrite.

Now that I have an interest in boxers, I might stop buying them on clearance. Today's pattern is beer mugs and pretzels. Boooo.

2009 Couch
Painting by the amazing Holly Farrell.

October 24, 2011

Good News Bad News

Well, good news, bad news. Good news: I'm home, getting lots of rest and I'm going to be okay. Bad news: My wardrobe consists of boxers and Colin's t-shirts and I feel like a man woman.

I knew going in that I had a 95% chance of my surgery going one way - which would mean an easier recovery and me being back to normal quickly. Unfortunately, I was on the 5% side.

Anyway....

The day before surgery I went in for a manicure and pedicure because I wanted to at least have pretty nails. Unfortunately, I chose a bad fingernail color that looked like I was possibly from the morgue.

Was it black? Silver? Blue? Brown? I will tell you it looked better in the bottle.

So all night before surgery I wondered if it was a bad omen that I had dead looking nails. I kept brushing it out of my mind.

Laying on the gurney, I started feeling like I was going to cry. Would I wake up? Then one of the sweet nurses grabbed my hand and looking at my nails said, "oh! you're all ready for Halloween!" mmmm hmmm I replied. Or death! I thought to myself.

And so it went. My nails were the topic of conversation. It's the last thing I remember on the operating table and one of the first things I remember when I awoke.

Oh well.

Today I have one thing on my to-do list. Remove ugly polish. Replace with pretty.

And my next big goal? Lose the man wardrobe.

Can't wait.

Love,

me

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October 20, 2011

Good-bye... for a bit

Hi friend,

By the time you read this I'll be in the hospital asleep in a surgery that has been a long time coming. Something that has left me not myself for quite some time.

When I wake up, I'll imagine my room is at The Four Seasons. And it will be close enough because I won't have to make meals for a while.  :) But mostly, I'll be happy.

Happy because I'm so thankful for good healthcare. For being loved. For living.

And I'm so excited to heal and get my life back and my energy too.

I'm not sure how long I'll be away from here and out of touch with you. But I do promise to be back.

Serena 080-2

In the meantime, here are some things I've had on my mind:

All the leaves are turning here. They're so beautiful.

My recipes have been a bit hard to find, so I've categorized them to make it easier for you. (You can see the new categories on the right-hand sidebar of my blog). And I'll offer an easier way for you to print them in the future.

God bless the farmers of the world. Their struggles make my heart bleed.

I love documentaries. Lately I've been watching several all about food. Here are some recent favorites: Pressure CookerFood, Inc. , El Bulli .

A big happy hello to Donna Bradley in Texas who sent me the sweetest card for fall. *Thank you!*

Here are some events happening all over the world in the next few days: The Country Living Fair (Georgia), Rusted Gingham (Texas), International Antique & Collectors Fair (Berkshire, England) Ruffles & Rust (Washington), Mustard Moon (Minnesota).

My friend, Heather, is in Paris right now. *sigh* You can follow along on her amazing journey via her blog.

If you're looking for a delicious pumpkin dessert, this is so yummy.

My Favorite Find will be here soon!

Much Love,

me

September 08, 2011

M.I.A.

Hi friends. I've been M.I.A. (missing in action). Really, just missing from here, but seeing lots of action (of the homefront kind).

The boys are all back in school. Cody is a sophomore in college, Micah in 8th grade, Lucas in 7th, and Bongo in 6th. Let me tell you, boys are easy to get ready for school. No worries about clothes or hair or anything like that. I'm so glad.

And now that I've got more free time, I've been tending the garden, started a full house scrubdown, and am catching up on about a two foot tall ironing pile. (Seriously!)

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Whatever veggies we've been unable to eat up, I've been chopping and freezing for soup throughout the winter. Did you know that if you freeze your veggies just after picking that you save all the nutrients that can be lost from sitting around too long?

Today I'm making peach pie filling for the freezer, as I've got lots of fruit that need to be processed. The orchards here are bursting.

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And we managed to pick enough huckleberries to last throughout the winter. Our freezer smells like them, and every time I pour myself a glass of icewater, I can taste the berries in the ice. Now that's a treat!

I'll be back to a normal schedule on Monday, and hope you'll join me here, once again.

September 02, 2011

Field of Dreams

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Tonight the sky rivals my blushing beets, so I go for a walk through the fields. * p o o f *  p u f f f f , the soil swirls around my feet with every step I take.

The last light of the day casts a glow on the pumpkins, creating a sky-like field of celestial orange orbs, too magical to be real.

But it is.

Real.

And it feels like a dream. 

August 29, 2011

Harvest

I've been out in the garden every evening, watching the sun slowly cast a ruby glow over the pumpkin fields before softly slipping away for the night.

The air feels smooth and dreamlike.

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Tonight I gathered a bunch of blushing beets.

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My harvest inspires me. The textures. The colors. The bounty.

Summer's last stand.

 

Savoring

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This week we're savoring the last week of summer.

Where every moment is a snapshot in my mind.

It's here.

It's gone.

Just like that.

Peach Shortcake for breakfast.

Why not?

August 21, 2011

The Recurring Nightmare

Before I begin this story, let me tell you about my recurring nightmare, where I'm a chef, who is stuck in the kitchen, and no matter what I do, I can't get the food cooked and out to the guests. No matter what I do, no food can make it out.

Okay, now back to present day.

The boys had been planning an end of summer party at our house with lots of friends. Ten boys. They all called their friends and gave them the details, what to bring, when to arrive, etc.

Saturday at 5, friends begin arriving and I start chatting with one of the moms, as she drops off her boy. As we're visiting, I see another friend's mom arrive, carrying a bag. As she nears, I see it's a bag of wine. Well isn't that nice?, I think to myself. Such a kind gesture. And then, from around the corner, appears her mother-in-law, her husband, and her two older children. Fun! I think. I finally get to meet the mother-in-law I've heard so much about, who must be visiting from Mexico. How sweet of them to pay us a visit!

As the mom I was chatting with leaves, I head into the kitchen where I see my unexpected guests all gathered around the kitchen island, and Colin tearing open bags of chips and laying them on the counter. Nice! I think. They're going to stay and visit for a bit and we'll all nibble on some of the chips planned for the boys party.

Now please let me pause for a second to say I really really really don't like to serve chips out of a bag. It's just a little hang-up I have. I think they should be served in a bowl, because plopping chips down on a counter seems animal-like. Sort of like a feeding frenzy is going to ensue.

So, I glide into the pantry and grab some big bowls and casually transfer the chips. And everyone begins to feed. Sort of like they're really hungry.

hmmm, I think. I hope there's enough chips for adults and kids. Oh, it'll be fine, I tell myself.

Oh! I forgot to mention that at this exact moment in time, no other food exists in our house other than hot dogs, hot dog buns, chips, and soda. Because we're headed to the lake the next day. Just enough food for the boys at the party. I had planned on Colin and I just munching on some corn and other veggies from the garden that night.

So, as my unexpected guests munch in the kitchen, I go back to preparing a huge batch of cookies I had begun earlier. I prepare two panfuls and weaving through my guests, plant them in the oven, and set the timer for 8 minutes.

Bongo and his friends join us in the kitchen and announce that they're STARVING. So, I ask Colin to get the hot dogs going on the grill.

Unexpected guests continue to munch on chips.

Micah and friends sit down in the dining room and begin to munch on the other bowl of chips. They're really hungry now too. Then it dawns on me, why don't I make the boys some corn-on-the-cob to go with their hot dogs?

I head out to the garden and begin to pick corn. One of the guests joins me and helps me shuck corn. Her daughter comes out and tells me the oven timer has beeped, that Colin had taken the cookies out, but that he looked confused and wasn't sure if they were done. So, we head back to the kitchen to save the day.

The cookies look terrible. Flat and gooey. No problem, I think. I'll just add some flour. So, I mix in some more flour, make two more panfuls of cookies amid the chaos and put them in the oven. I forget to set the timer, and begin cooking the corn. I also notice Colin still hasn't started cooking the hot dogs and remind him that he really really needs to get them going.

Eventually, I remember the cookies, fly over to the oven to check, and they're still not done. Phew! So, I go to add 2 minutes on the oven timer. The timer runs for 2 seconds and beeps. I set the timer for 2 minutes again, it runs for 2 seconds and beeps again. The mom-in-law tries to come to my aid.

I need to pause here once again to tell you what's running through my mind at this time: I've heard for years about what an amazing cook this woman is. That they always yearn for the day that she arrives and cooks every meal while she's visiting. And when she's visiting, the sun shines brighter, stars twinkle more magnificently than any other time of the year- just over their house - etc. etc. etc. And above all that, she's an incredibly smart woman. An architect, a builder, and very self sufficient. A strong woman. And I'm wondering if she knows I'm a cookbook author and if she's wondering to herself what business I have being a cookbook author? I have starving kids, not much food, and my kitchen is chaotic - yes chaotic. Because. There. Are. 17. Humans. In. There. Right. Now.

And then, just as she's coming to my aid, and all of these thoughts are blaring through my mind like angry sirens, I'm awash with a horrible realization....

THEY ARE ALL HERE FOR DINNER.

We try to figure out the timer, and she instructs me to make it 2.0. I do, and it runs for 2 seconds again. So, she instructs me to make it 2.00. I do, and the timer appears to be cooperating. She asks me if I want her to help with the cookies. Sure, I say, still feeling sort of like I'm living in an episode of the Twilight Zone and knowing, yes KNOWING, that she thinks I'm inept.

I go back to tend to the corn on the stove. Then I hear her say the timer isn't working - that it'd actually been set for 2 hours.

Of course.

She says she'll just watch the cookies.

Still wanting to believe I don't suddenly have 17 mouths to feed, I casually take Micah out to the living room where I ask him if there's any way he possibly invited this family for dinner? Yes! he says. It's a family barbecue!

Oh heavens to Betsy, it's my recurring nightmare. But worse. I have no food to even TRY to get out of the kitchen.

I head out to the barbecue, where Colin - who is just as happy as a little clam because he loves a full house - is in his own little world, blissfully barbecuing. I lean forward and whisper: Oh my gosh! Micah invited everyone for dinner and we have no food! He continues to barbecue, and says nothing. I lean a little closer and whisper a little louder: OH MY GOSH! MICAH INVITED EVERYONE FOR DINNER AND WE HAVE NO FOOD! To which he replies: "I'm not going to say anything. They might hear me". And he continues on. No panic in the world for this guy. I make a mental note to kill him later.

We feed the boys and I know my guests are beginning to wonder when they might possibly be fed. I fling open the freezer to see what I can possibly make. I have one bag of baguette slices and one bag of flatbread.

The kitchen suddenly feels like it's 900 degrees fahrenheit. I ask if anyone else is hot. Nope. Just me.

I send Colin to the garden to pick some snap peas, cherry tomatoes, and anything else he can forage. I tell him to make sure he doesn't bring back peas. I need SNAP PEAS. He tells me he doesn't know the difference. And then guess what? The mom-in-law tells me she'll help him. And they head out to the garden.

I whip up a batch of an olive tapenade of sorts, from cans of food I scavenge from the pantry. I set that out with the baguette slices that have now thawed.

I grab a couple of cans of white beans from the pantry and decide to make a hummus-like bean dip that can be eaten with the flat bread and fresh veggies from the garden.

Colin and mom-in-law return with the fresh veggies, which turn out to be 8 snap peas and 5 cherry tomatoes.

Yep.

Just then, one of Micah's friends walks into the kitchen and asks if we have a vacuum. A child asking for a vacuum is never, I repeat - never - a good thing. Turns out they've broken a medicine ball and there is sand all over the basement carpet.

I leave the sand dilema to Colin and run out to the garden where I tear off a head of brocolli, some summer squash, and fresh parsley for the bean dip.

I return to the kitchen - which now looks like a bomb has gone off in it - and make the bean dip, with the help of my guests. Beans, olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, fresh parsley, and salt. Wizz wizz wizzzz in the Cuisinart and it's done.

Then another mom arrives and joins us. Now we number 18.

Colin returns and I remember we have carrots growing in the garden. Colin and mom-in-law head back out to the garden and I decide to tell my guests the truth. Because I have my pride. I really really don't want them thinking I've invited them for dinner and that all I'm going to serve them is olive tapenade and bean dip.

They all laugh - thank heavens - and I feel a sense of relief. Colin and mom-in-law return and I realize that OH NO! Mom-in-law doesn't know because she was in the garden when I confessed that they were unexpected guests and wasn't it so funny that Micah invited them and I didn't know....

So, all night long, I worry that she thinks I'm a horrible hostess.

I serve up what turns out to be a big platter of fresh veggies (sliced raw summer squash, carrot sticks, broccoli, cherry tomatoes, and snap peas) with the flatbread and bean dip, olive tapenade with baguette slices, and a few leftover hot dogs. Oh, and a huge plate of warm cookies.

And it all turns out okay. Really lovely, in fact. Because being in the company of friends is the best place to be. Ready or not.

And at the end of the evening, mom-in-law turns to me and tells me how nice it was that I didn't freak out and just made due with unexpected guests.

And I was just so relieved that someone had told her at some point in the evening, and that she didn't think I was an epic failure of a hostess.

And now I've conquered my recurring nightmare.

The end.

P.S. No names were changed to protect the guilty in the telling of this story. Truth be told, the re-telling of it has been sort of therapeutic for me, and since they're guilty ....Micah.... ....Colin..... it's only fitting that they be named, right?

P.P.S. Colin sort of sounds like a baffoon in this story, doesn't he? He's really not. Second truth to be told here is that we have a pretty traditional marriage, where he brings home the bacon and I fry it up in a pan. The kitchen and garden are what I'm familiar with, not him. And we love it that way. He's the smartest man I've ever met in my life and I love the fact that he enjoys a full house and that he'd be just as happy with water and crackers, if need be. His glass is always full and I love him for that.

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August 11, 2011

The Garden

It's a beautiful morning. Let's go for a little walk through my garden.

We recycled the fencing from another area on the property where we no longer needed it. It's six feet high to dissuade deer from jumping in. The deer here would be able to jump over the fencing if they chose to, but would have a difficult time getting out. The lower area of the fencing is much tighter mesh, in hopes of keeping other small critters out.

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The beds are all raised, and I've been experimenting with how tightly I can plant each one. I've read that plants can be grown more closely in raised beds, so I'm learning what works and what doesn't.

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I had originally planned on using hazelnut shells from my neighbor for the walkway mulch, but ended up scrapping that plan due to worry that my nieces and nephews who are highly allergic to nuts would be affected be the shells. Instead, I used a surplus of cedar bark fines from the flower beds around the house. It has worked out really nicely, as the bark is really thick and has held the weeds at bay.

There's a lot of room between each bed, which allows for lots of children in the garden, which I love. And it looks really pretty. Since we have plenty of space, it was a no-brainer for me.

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I'm growing Thai Basil, Basil, Cilantro, Italian Flat-Leaf Parsley and Dill. Today I'll be cutting all of them down, chopping them up in my food processor, adding a little olive oil, and freezing each batch into chunks for use through the winter. The frozen herbs are so much more delicious than dried.

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The Spaghetti Squash has been growing like gangbusters. I baked one up last night, tossed it with butter and a little salt, and it was delicious. I grew up eating it this way and it always reminds me of gardening as a little girl. My first garden was a mass of succulents in a miniature wheelbarrow. Anyway, when I served the boys their Spaghetti Squash, they looked at me with those eyes that say, "are you really going to make me eat this?" And of course, one of them almost threw it up. Our rule is that the boys always need to try everything that's served to them. They don't have to eat it all. We've found that by opening their palates to new tastes, they slowly learn to enjoy it. 

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Corn hair is so beautiful and it reminds me of Jenny Holiday. Jenny, I think I'm going to name my corn after you. :)

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Each of the beds are watered by a drip system. I can adjust each bed to water more or less, depending on the needs of the plants. I've had gardens that I've watered by hand, watered by overhead sprinklers, and by drip. I've found that plants really don't like being watered overhead and respond far better with the drip system. The result is a much more bountiful garden harvest.

I can easily detach the lines at the end of the season, when I go to clean out each bed.

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The cabbage is coming along nicely. I really need to thin it out.

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No garden is complete without a compost bin. I just kept one of my beds open for that purpose. And I can say that I am not a super serious scientific composter. We simple dump our compost and garden clippings in the bin, turn it once in a while, occasionally add a bit of water, and eventually, it produces beautiful soil. We're in no hurry.

Do you see the wire mesh in the box on the bottom left-hand corner? We lined each and every bed with that mesh, in hopes of keeping out any ground squirrels or moles. The ground squirrels were so invasive in my last garden that I was unable to grown any lettuce, cabbage, or broccoli, which they love. So far, we've had no issues.

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Well, that's all for now. I'm off to do a few new plantings and to thin the cabbage. 

August 08, 2011

Weekend at Pend Oreille

We spent the weekend at Thatch and Jill's cabin on the Pend Oreille River. Grandpa did the Long Bridge swim and we were there to cheer him on. He's an American hero. A Frogman. No wonder he's such a good swimmer, even after all these years.

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Grandpa Pete and Grandma MaryJane raised six children. And I was lucky enough to marry one of them. Turns out this hero is a great grandpa too. Badminton games? He's there to play.

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Fishing? Yes, he loves to teach the grandkids.

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We're all here thanks to grandma and grandpa. They raised children who love each other and want to be together and now the grandkids do too.

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We waterskied

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Even Annie learned how!

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I got to play beauty shop on my nieces.

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The cousins fished

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and played

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and all was good on Pend Oreille.

You know, there's really nothing more special than family.

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The Pend Oreille River, Lake Pond Oreille, and Sandpoint, Idaho are favorites of ours. You can read the story I did for Country Living Magazine about the area here.

Pend Oreille is pronounced Pond-o-ray.

July 26, 2011

Summer Morning

Good morning, sky. You're dark again this morning.

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Good morning, garden.

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Hello, tracks.

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Rise and shine, pumpkins!

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Why, hello there, sun! Could you please visit more often? We miss you..... it is summer after all.

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July 22, 2011

Cherry Pickers

Cherry season officially began for our family and friends yesterday with the Cherry Pickers Trot, an annual event here on Greenbluff.

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Families come from all around to participate in pit spitting contests, visit with friends, and to participate in the four mile run around half of the bluff. Back in the day, Emily won the race and brought home the outhouse trophy. As the years have passed and as we've all had children, it's fun for us to see them out running the course. A whole new generation of Thompsons.

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And I love that the cousins are growing up together here, together so often that they're almost like siblings. They're so lucky to have each other.

After the race, friends and families gathered at our house, a short walk from the festivities.

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It was the perfect kick-off for the season.

 

July 20, 2011

Farm Dinner Style

Ever wonder about farm dinner style? A little bit of country and a little rock and roll.

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What would you wear?

 

June 30, 2011

The Yard and Summer Movies

Our landscaping has begun. I thought I'd share a picture I snapped with my phone looking out from World Headquarters into the yard.

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We went with hydroseeding the lawn because it's MUCH less expensive than sod.

We're just looking forward to having a yard again.

And in other news, the boys and cousins have been making movies. And yes, they own a lot of toy guns. If you don't like toy guns, you might not want to watch Super Awesome Man. Just saying.

June 29, 2011

Proud

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Have I ever told you that If you were to drive by any old abandoned farm in the Pacific Northwest you'd be sure to see a rhubarb, lilac, or peony? And oftentimes, all three?

It's true.

And I do believe these to be my favorite plants of all.

Sometimes, when I drive by, I think to myself how glad I am that those plants are still standing tall and proud. And they should be.

Proud.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

I saw a farmhouse on a hill, surrounded by
     an empty sky,
And though I thought of other things, my heart refused
     to pass it by.
This house and barn that stood so proud, 
     reminded me of what I knew,
Of a land of hope and fortitude, whose strength
     lay in her multitudes.

Alone it stood in the midst of fields
     of tall green grasses whispering low,
A sturdy barn, a shuttered house, a dog or two
     resting by the stove,
My heart leapt up to see it there, this
     honored emblem, new and old,
Of a land, a hope, a legacy,
     and a promised dream yet to unfold.

~author unknown

June 26, 2011

World Headquarters

The original Farm Chicks office was located in the corner of my laundry room.

It was October of 2002 and Teri and I had just held our very first sale, in my friend's barn, just a short walk from my house.

I had a strong feeling that The Farm Chicks needed to have a website and set my mind to creating one. I had no idea what I was doing, but really wanted a way to grow the business and anticipated that the internet would be key in doing so.

So, I set up my family's terribly old computer and set out to create the website, using a dial-up connection in my little corner. I worked late at night after the family had all gone to bed, and during the day, whenever I could squeeze in a minute or two. And I'm going to tell you it wasn't the ideal way to hatch the business, but I was working with what I had at the time, which was something I was used to. Making do.

Eventually, Colin and I saved up enough money to buy a desk from Pottery Barn that fit perfectly into a little niche in the hall between the living room and bathroom. The size of a closet. So, I moved the computer out of the laundry room and into my new space. And I began to dream bigger than ever before.

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Whenever I'd have an important call or exciting development, Colin and I would laugh about who I was talking with, and the fact that it was all taking place from that little desk. And he began referring to it as World Headquarters. Because it all seemed so crazy, that all that was happening from that tiny little space.

Now that we've moved to our new home, and I have an actual office, I'm still in awe of my new space. The new World Headquarters. And that's what it will always be to us, because it reminds us of where this little business began. And makes me excited about what lies ahead.

And in this space, I feel more inspired than I've ever felt before. But it's still quite a mess. So, before I start moving ahead, I need to get moved in.

And I'm getting there. Box by box.

Right now, I'm getting my paper crafts cabinet organized. Drawer by drawer. And I'm taking my time.

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Because, you can't rush these things and I want it to be just right.

After all, it's taken me nine years to get here. World Headquarters is a happy place to be.

June 16, 2011

On Suffering, Kindness, and Perspective

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The year our fourth boy was born threw me for a loop.

The three youngest were all in diapers, one had colic, and I had mastitis. I remember the day I made it in to the Doctor's office for the baby's first checkup and being berated by the receptionist for being a few weeks late. And I distinctly remember the way that made me feel. A bad mom. Irresponsible. Overwhelmed.

I wanted to cry.

Instead, I choked this out: That she didn't know my story. That she had no idea why I couldn't make it in until that day. And requested that the next time she wanted to cast judgement on someone or speak unkind words, that she first remember that she didn't know that person's story and perhaps a few words of kindness could go much further.

And then something happened that shocked me.

She apologized.

Not a shallow apology, but one that I could really feel. I knew she meant it. 

Today I was thinking about the winter of my childhood where I'm pretty sure we nearly starved to death, surviving on not much more than potatoes and powdered milk. The winter where my sister and I invented potato cereal (no... it's not tasty), I was stricken with scabies, dug through dumpsters for food, and I learned to dig deep within myself to survive. To make it through to the next day. And the next.

I became the strongest person I knew.

And it's a good thing for me to remember. Because sometimes, I need perspective, just like that receptionist needed some too.

But don't we all sometimes?

I think everyone suffers at some point in their lives. What can we do to make a difference?

We can be kind, because it's really easy to do.

            Just a smile

   or a wave..

                        a compliment

...or two.

                                      just because.

 

                .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .

I've been gone from here for a bit, but I'm looking forward to returning soon.

Here are some things I'm loving and am thankful for lately...

                             hearts of palm

       fresh mushrooms

           the farmer who works our fields

               my freshly planted garden

                .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .

I'll be back soon.

Love,

me

June 09, 2011

Where I am

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If you walked around my house today, you'd see about 15 ladders. The exterior is getting painted and raingutters are going on. And the exterior doors are off, which makes for a noisy house.

But the fields are being planted, the sun is out, and I'm making my grocery list. I love making our menu and grocery shopping.

Friday is often pizza night in our house and I'll be doing them up summer style, on the grill.

Grilled pizza is the best. I'll share the how-to tomorrow.

May 30, 2011

The Lilacs Next Door

The lilac bushes at the old cabbage farm next door have been calling out to me. I'm pretty sure heaven smells like this.

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There's something tremendously special about lilacs on the farm, where they grow so big and tall you can hardly see the house.

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Where the bushes buzz with life that hints of the summer ahead.

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And encircle the front porch like a secret garden of my dreams.

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May 17, 2011

Good Morning, Sunshine!

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It's a beautiful day here at home! The cherry blossoms are bursting, the birds are chirping, and the sun is pouring through the windows. It made me think of a song my mom used to sing to us sometimes, first thing in the morning:

Good morning to you!

Good morning to you!

We're all in our places, with sunshining faces!

Good morning to you!

Good morning to you!

May 12, 2011

Spring

Spring has finally sprung and the sunshine has been dreamy. It's rained so much that our fields grew thick with weeds and couldn't be tilled until now because of the moisture in the soil.

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The sun was calling out to us like an old pal, so after dinner we went for a walk.

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I can't wait to see those apple crates brimming with freshly picked apples. Actually, I'm looking forward to seeing leaves on the trees again.

And when the lilacs begin to bloom at the farmhouse next door? It will be like heaven.

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In fact, all of Spokane will be heavenly. Our city is known as the Lilac City and you can see them everywhere.

We stayed out until the clouds began to gather and the sun was going down.

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The wind began to howl and the rain came to visit. Again. But I'm okay with evening rain. The pitter pat outside makes it feel cozy inside our house.

In the morning, the clouds will roll out and the sun will reappear, just like clockwork. Because the fruit here needs to grow.

Welcome spring! You're dreamy.

April 19, 2011

Firsts

My website has moved. You can visit me here.

April 08, 2011

The Homecoming Queen

My website has moved. You can visit me here.


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