Welcome

Welcome

So I may or may not be washing my hands a million times a day in hopes of using up the last drops of my summer hand soap so I can replace it with a nice fall-smelling one (without the guilt of wasting precious soap)…

Because I’m ready to welcome fall.

My windows are thrown wide open and cool air fills the house. The scent of fresh corn husks fills the air as farmers harvest the field next to our house. And it is a beautiful scent.

Here and there I see the first signs of fall–the harvest beginning, pumpkins at the corner nursery, a single red leaf among the green.

One red leaf begins fall.

Welcome fall.

The mornings are brisk and Husband and I cuddle with the puppy beneath extra blankets for warmth before slipping our toes out from under the covers and facing the day.

Husband and Ginger cuddle.

Welcome fall.

I start my morning with teas that bear names like “Autumn Harvest” and “Trick or Treat”. I watch the sun rise out the kitchen windows. We take a few moments out of the morning rush to just sit on the porch enjoying the coolness as the morning light reflects the early dew.

Sunrise in fall.

Welcome fall.

I slip a sweater over my shoulders as I head to the barn for evening chores, and breathe in the fresh air flowing through the barn. I whistle and watch my girl run toward me from the pasture, an exuberance lost during the heat of summer. And as the sun sinks down below the treeline, Chappy and I enjoy a few brief moments together in the field, the feel of cool leather and soft horse hair beneath my hands.

Chappy

Sunset in fall.

Welcome fall. Welcome.

Open windows

Open windows

I supposed this weekend was just what it should be–a mix of hard work, good friends, rest and time with Husband.

Naughty puppy.

Do you see the toy’s stuffing strewn throughout the whole dining room?

Amid spectacular plans and last-minute changes to said plans, I was able to spend hours talking with R.–all the way to 1 am. I honestly don’t remember the last time I stayed up to 1 am…probably the last time R. spent the night =).

And there were little moments of time that were purely enjoyable as I made my way through my weekend repertoire a little more slowly than usual. The house was not only cleaned, but also enjoyed. And that, it seems, is an elusive little concept–those moments of actually enjoying the cleaned home.

It helped, of course, that I was finally able to open the windows to let the breeze bring fresh air into the home. And puppy and I snuggled close as chilly night air filled the bedroom. There’s something about open windows that makes everything better. It’s one of my favorite parts of fall.

Puppy in bed.

I also discovered something for the very first time, and now I wish I had realized this years ago. You see, I keep a lovely scented candle in the bathroom that I try to remember to light when we have company. It smells delicious and feels luxurious to have it. (It also feels very grown-up, I think because it’s something my mother used to do.) But we haven’t had much company of late, and I have a new fall candle. And I desperately wanted to light it.

You know what I did? I lit it.

Yep. Just for me–no company, no special out-of-town guests. Not even Husband around to enjoy it. Just me.

Lovely candle.

I lit it while I showered at night, and as I got ready for the day in the morning. And I loved it. And now I feel utterly spoiled and self-indulgent. But it was beautiful and lovely and I’m so glad I finally realized that life is a special enough occasion to merit lighting candles.

Happily driving around the country with Husband.And my weekend only got better as Husband finally came home from more than a week away. We spent all of Sunday together… and, oh we had some grand plans for how we would spend the day! But in the end, it turned out perfectly enough without all of those plans. We just were.

Together. Relaxed.

We rented a sweet movie, ate Thai food, drove through the country looking at houses we can only dream of someday owning. We played with the puppy and walked through the garden. And it was a perfectly small, enjoyable day.

**I apologize for not having more photos, but really, I was more focused on enjoying the weekend than documenting it…**

I pray the peace and slowness of the weekend follows me through the week. I think I need it.

Simplify: Kitchen Pantry

Simplify: Kitchen Pantry

I have been on a mission to simplify all year to aid in my desire to learn how to slow down.

This weekend, I tackled the pantry. Husband often asks me what we need or have while he’s perusing grocery store aisles…and most of the time I have no idea. Our pantry is so disorganized that we end up buying more than we need of something and not enough of something else just because we can’t keep track of it all.

This is ridiculous! There are only two of us living here (unless, of course, you count Ginger, but the pantry doesn’t pertain to her…she has her own closet that needs organizing).

A disorganized pantry

I started by clearing out the shelves, because this space under the stairs is short and cramped and I can’t stand being in here for long. Much easier to sort through everything on the counter or table.

The first order of business is to remove everything from the pantry that doesn’t need to be there. Chocolate fountain? Nope. Sangria serving set? Um, no.

Non-food items in pantry

I also pulled out anything that was past its expiration date (and a box of taco shells that had been mostly eaten by mice last winter…yes, a hazard of living in an old farm house is field mice that move in when it gets cold.) And I put everything near its expiration in another pile to be used ASAP, like a few boxes of jello and a little Bisquick.

Further, some items like hot tea or cocoa are stored in a basket above my baking shelf, so those things came out as well. Lastly, miscellaneous baking supplies came out.

Piles of food to be reorganized.

Personally, I like to keep my baking supplies in clear glass containers on this bookshelf in the kitchen–everything is readily available and it is obvious when we need more of something (as you can see below, we are completely out of whole grain flour). I do, however, keep backup supplies and some smaller items in plastic containers in the pantry (inside of containers because of, um, mice…).

Baking supplies on bookshelf

I restocked my baking supplies on the shelf, made note of what we need to purchase more of, and organized the little items back into their storage containers.

Extra baking supplies in mouse-proof containers

Next, I grouped items together: Cereals, snacks, jams, soups, etc. etc. Each group is designated a specific location in the pantry so when we look in there, we’ll know where to find it. These items were placed back on the shelves.

An organized pantry!

Voila! It took less than an hour to totally revamp my kitchen pantry, and I am sooo much happier with it. (There’s even an entire empty shelf!)

Delicious weekend

Delicious weekend

Delicious weekend

Can a weekend be delicious? If it can, I’d say this one was.

A few weeks ago I told you I needed more rain in my life. This weekend delivered.

It poured on Friday evening, cancelling my plans (bummed about that). My friend R. and I quickly rehashed a new plan and met up for dinner out. I never go out for dinner, at least not with friends. We stayed a good half hour past the restaurant’s closing time because we had no idea how much time had passed as we talked and laughed and ate.

Then we headed back to my place for hot tea and more conversation–real, soul-searching conversation–and, of course, more laughter. Oh, I miss R. when I don’t get to see her! The evening ended with an impromptu sleep-over because it was well past midnight by the time we were ready to turn in.

Saturday filled itself with a long to-do list and a series of errands. But it feels good to tick things off that to-do list–really, really good. It feels good to know that I am able to steward our blessings–our house and all the things that make it home. And in the midst of errands I was able to do a bit of feel-good shopping.

Thrift stores and sales are good for the soul.

It had been threatening to rain all day, and I could tell that there was little time before it began to downpour, so I headed for the barn for a quick ride.

Chappy

I honestly believe that the calm before the storm is the best time to ride. The wind had died down to a breeze, the air cooled off and the smell of a storm was in the air. I put Chappy through her paces as the clouds gathered and the sky darkened, enjoying being out-of-doors during such a beautiful time. We headed back to the barn just as the sky started spitting.

That evening Ginger and I watched Anne of Green Gables as I took the first steps in teaching myself how to knit. So, so much fun. And so, so relaxing.

Sunday morning dawned hazy and slow. We had the windows open overnight, which hasn’t happened since May. It felt good to snuggle deeper under the covers and smell the fresh air as morning woke me. Soon enough we were attending church on the beach, which is always a pleasure. Husband and I spent the afternoon doing a bit of shopping (check back later this week to hear about our favorite find!) and trading at the used bookstore.

We spent time at home, just being together–sitting on the couch with a few blankets, a movie and some snacks. And we even headed back to the beach for an evening walk with the puppy. We held hands and laughed and amused onlookers as we tried to get Ginger to play in the surf (she’s terrified of water).

At the beach with the puppy.

We got ice cream twice in the same day. That right there should tell you how delicious the weekend was.

But today is Monday, and it’s time to get back to work. Five more days until the next weekend, and I wonder, what will it bring?

At the beach.

Keeping up and slowing down

Keeping up and slowing down

I spent the past 7 days just trying to keep up.

Husband was away, house-sitting on the other side of the city. Which left me with the house, garden, and animals to care for on my own.

The fact is, Husband and I have created a wonderful life for ourselves, but it is a life meant to be lived and stewarded by two. It was hard to do it on my own. Some days felt like I was on a hamster wheel–one that never slows down and never stops.

The workdays all sort of ran together, and responsibilities outside of work were a jumbled mess–barn cleaning, picking tomatoes, picking up and delivering produce, making meals, feeding the animals, etc., etc., etc.

It seemed a lifetime as I slogged through the week, but eventually Friday evening rolled around and with it came time.

Time with Husband. Time with friends. Time to sit, relax, enjoy. We spent nearly five hours Friday night picking crabs, talking and laughing with dear friends. Some pretty heavy thunder storms raged around us, but since the house we were at is on stilts, we were dry and safe underneath. The night air was lit with a dozen citronella lamps, keeping the mosquitoes at bay and adding a special summer ambiance to the evening.

Citronella lamps set the ambiance. I would have more photos, but my camera battery promptly died after taking this one.

It was hours before anyone even thought to look at the time–which is exactly the kind of evening I needed.

It was past midnight by the time I got home, patted the puppy on the head and literally fell into bed.

Saturday morning dawned early, but I stayed where I was–curled up with the pup beside me. Oh how glorious it is to sleep in on Saturday!

It didn’t last forever though, there were things to do, more to keep up with. The house was an utter disaster after the week I’d had and it was time to face it.

But first, I made a cup of tea and a pot of coffee and snuck over to the blueberry farm where Husband was pruning blackberry bushes. Some might say that 15 minutes of small talk isn’t worth the half hour drive each direction. And some days, I’m one of them. But after a week of hardly seeing Husband at all, those 15 minutes were well worth it.

Blackberries.

As I drove home, I mentally ticked off the things I had to do. And it was a long list.

I got started at once, finishing one chore after another–methodically working my way through the house and down the list. By early afternoon, I was beginning to wane.

But once again, the rain saved me.

It started slowly, just a few drops here and there as I trimmed the front bushes. Then the thunder rolled in and the lightening started. Before long, it was all out storming again.

The puppy and I opened the front door and let the fresh air in the house as the rain cooled off the muggy heat. We watched with fascination as the storm pounded down outside our porch. Then we sat down and it wasn’t long before I was fast asleep.

I woke up refreshed, but the world around me was still soggy and thunder continued to shake the house. I lit a candle just for the fun of it and spent the next few hours organizing the study and cataloging my library (while that may seem dreadfully boring to some, to me it was delightful bliss).

That evening, Ginger and I watched a 1969 version of David Copperfield and enjoyed the sound of rain on the roof.

Ginger and I watched a movie by candlelight as it rained.

It seems the rain is my link to slowing down. When it comes, I’m forced to forget all those things that “need” to be done, and instead focus on resting, slowing, being, living.

Maybe I need more rain in my life…

What weekends are for…

What weekends are for…

I was reminded over the past few days what weekends are really for. And a part of me was surprised to discover, yet again, that they’re not for running errands or catching up on life or knocking out that to-do list.

They’re for being. Living. Thriving.

They’re for relationship. Conversation. Laughter.

First thing Saturday morning I headed out to the local blueberry farm where Husband works on weekends. When I arrived it was overcast and in the mid-70s–perfect berry picking weather (did you know there was such a thing?). When my bucket was about half full the sun burned through the clouds and blazed down on me as I worked. Another 20 minutes and my bucket was full of delicious, fresh blueberries.

Fresh picked blueberries.

I’d forgotten to sample some as I picked, so I popped a few in my mouth as I headed back to the front of the farm–perfection, seriously. Fresh blueberries are sweet and tasty, just the way summer should be.

The afternoon consisted of a mix–cleaning the house, folding clean fresh laundry, attending a bridal shower for my soon-to-be-sister-in-law, and running to the mall to use a coupon to get some free goodies for myself (and a new pair of jeans for $10–seriously, I love new jeans…a lot.).

The best part of the day came after the thunder and soaking rain had waned and just before the sun went down. My dear friend R. and I had our monthly “date”…we packed a bag with fresh fruit, cheese, crackers and water bottles along with a picnic blanket and headed for the beach. We walked along the mostly deserted coastline as we talked about the deepest part of ourselves–the pruning, the changing, the evolving.

Beaching it with a friend.

We settled in just before the sun went down for a little picnic dinner and the conversation continued. As dusk began to settle we packed up our things and trekked back up the beach, never a moment of silence as we entered each others’ lives for the briefest of moments on our monthly date. At times, it feels that once a month isn’t nearly often enough, but distance and busyness make getting together difficult.

The beach is lovely and deserted in the evening.

By bedtime, I was thoroughly exhausted, but wonderfully satisfied and content.

Sunday afternoon we invited friends over to make grilled pizza and do nothing more than talk. We enjoyed ice cream with blueberries as their little one played in the grass under the shade trees in the front yard. There’s just something about fellowship and community and makes a Sunday afternoon so sweet.

Homemade grilled pizza.

Husband and I got our hands on a canoe this weekend and took it out in the bay for a paddle just before dusk Sunday evening. The heat had subsided and even the humidity seemed a little less intense as we journeyed out among the old dilapidated docks in Back Bay.

Canoeing with Husband.

Dilapidated docks in Back Bay.

Someday we hope to own one of these lovely little boats…maybe even this one. And someday we dream of living near the bay so we can take in an evening paddle whenever the fancy strikes us.

Canoeing.

Sunset from the canoe.

Slowing. Being. Loving. Living. I think that’s what weekends are for.

Good Days | Bad Days

Good Days | Bad Days

Coffee Dates with God - Good Days | Bad Days

Do you ever have bad days? Just plain bad days? I don’t even know what it was that caused my bad day.

Maybe the dank, dreary weather. Maybe the extra-early rising from bed. Maybe the taxing wiring “issue” we had (think frayed wires and disintegrating insulation…AKA “could have ignited at any moment”). Maybe the fact that my best friend moved this weekend. Maybe the fact that I seem to mess up one endeavor after another these days. Maybe something else. I don’t know.

But yesterday was a bad day.

I was exhausted enough that I didn’t have the energy to really do anything. But too stressed out to actually rest.

And I began thinking about my word. Slowing.

And that brought an onslaught of guilt. I just about had a mental breakdown exactly because I am utterly failing at living my word for the year.

When he asked what was wrong, I told Husband I was juggling more than I could handle. I can’t seem to do it all well. And I am Ms. Perfectionist–must do all things with effortless ease and perfect results.

He suggested I get rid of something–anything–to slow my juggling act.

But what? I wanted to know.

Husband says that even blessings become burdens when we can’t handle them…and I think he’s right.

But what blessing would I choose to give up?

My horse? She is as much as a part of me as, well, anything. I’ve had her since she was a baby, and I sincerely can’t bear the thought of letting her go.

The opportunity to go to England? I’ve never ever been to Europe, and it’s the one thing really exciting and motivating in my life right now. I just need to find a few ways to make a little extra money to get me there…

Small group Bible study? Not a chance.

Church involvement? Nope.

Work? Not really an option…

So how do I go about slowing this year if I can’t seem to pare down my schedule?

My urge to purge and organize are a great place to start (a simplified home will definitely foster slowing), but it has to go beyond that. I need daily time to spend in Scripture. I need regular exercise. I need time for bubble baths and hot tea. But where can I find the time?

Perhaps scheduling my day would help…as in, official, written down, time allotted for various activities. Considering the fact that I am a known “rule follower” setting some rules could be a good step.

Here’s to hoping for a few new ideas to produce a few better days!

My word for the year

My word for the year

Coffee Dates with God

Instead of making New Year resolutions (I never really knew what to use as a resolution anyway), I have been “adopting” a word for my year. It takes some serious time and thought to come up with the right one, but it defines my entire year.

Last year, I chose the word “steward.” My goal was to focus on being the best steward of my time, energy, and resources. And it was a wonderful focus word! I’m still working on it (trust me), but now whenever I make a decision I am in the habit of considering how it fits with my goal of stewardship.

Now, I am poised to adopt another word, this time for 2012. Husband and I are still working on our stewardship, but the more recent word I feel the Lord is revealing to me is “slowing.” Everywhere I turn it seems like the Lord is prompting me to learn how to slow.

So this year, my goal is to consider slowing in my everyday life. Maybe that means hot tea and scones with friends, or maybe a walk in lovely weather of my lunch break. Or, perhaps, slowing means taking more time to read my Bible and ponder. Over all, I think if I can apply this word to daily life, I will find my quality of life increase exponentially. I want to simply enjoy the blessings that have been bestowed on me, the people that I am lucky enough to have in my life.

Although I have no idea where the word “slowing” will take me in 2012, I see it increasing my desire to purge “stuff” from my life (more to come on that later). I see it increasing my allotted time to relax. I see it increasing the number of easy smiles and decreasing the tension headaches. I see it included yoga, Bible study, reading, friendships, and so many of the really good things in my life.

So this year, I will slow.

What will your word for 2012 be?