Wednesday, July 30, 2014

i love lavender

The lavender at the steps of the front door is so bushy and filled with buzzing bumble bees and honey bees.
The bees are very busy searching for nectar and will ignore you if you don't bother them, but I started to feel a bit bad for visitors attempting to get to our doorbell. 
 The lavender is wildly romantic and so fragrant but slightly impractical.
I trimmed the edges for a bit more room in the pathway to the door. I brought large armfuls of cut lavender into the house and started tying it into little bundles to dry. I'm sure I'll make more sachets like I did last year for the Christmas market.
Cutting and drying lavender is such a feast for the senses.  So pretty to look at and relaxing to smell.
Every summer I enjoy working with it and love trying to capture it's beauty in photos. I wish I could share the fragrance with you here, too!
Thanks so much for visiting today!

Friday, July 25, 2014

chocolate zucchini bread

I love summer zucchini fresh from the garden or the farmer's market.
We have two little plants growing and blossoming. I planted them a bit late but I'm sure we'll start seeing the zucchinis next week or so.
I mentioned in my last post that my daughter baked a chocolate zucchini cake this week and I forgot to share the recipe. Here is the link to the recipe she used. Delicious!
Thanks for looking. Have a fabulous & chocolatey weekend! 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Favorite ways to relax and refill

I'm joining in on the P31 Blog hop again this week!
P31 OBS Blog Hop
The topic I've chosen is "relax and refill"  - it's just perfect for me because I need that more than ever right now! This week is overflowing with activities and appointments, sandwiched between two very busy weekends. The garden is going crazy with abundance that needs to be quickly processed, two of three children are going on class school trips, in the evenings we are filling our honey into jars, and in the meanwhile, paperwork and clutter is piling up on the desk.

What I'd really like is a few minutes on this glorious summer day to sit down among my flowers (and bees!) with a cup of tea to reflect, to read a verse, to just be still.
But that's not happening! Instead I find myself fretting and running in circles, because just when I think life can't get any busier, even more things pop up. Just a few examples from this week. When I went to make school sandwiches Monday morning the bread was moldy. (A direct result of the weekend being too busy for shopping) And then my kids (with no snack) got caught in a rain deluge, without umbrellas, the boys each carrying home a years' worth of school art (unprotected, of course). The brownies I baked Monday night for my son's school were all gooey and unbaked in the center. I had to squeeze in a quick run to the store before school to buy treats for him. Last night's fish sticks came out of the oven still frozen in the middle. (Oven is not working!!) Of course my cat thought this would be a good time to injure his paw and I spent much time coaxing him into the cat box carrier and taking him to the vet twice. Not my nice cat, but the other one, my beautiful but timid black and white cat who hisses and growls. And since yesterday the electricity keeps going out in a few rooms of our house and we haven't yet figured out the source.
This is just too much!

When you have no time at all, how can you squeeze that essential life spirit back into your busy days and relax and refill when you need it most?

For me, the answer is I simply have to force myself to make time, even if it's just a few minutes. I say to myself the garden will wait, the paper clutter will not run away, this child will help with this task, the other child can do that task, I've already crossed five things off my list, now I will do something even more important.

If I don't, things are just going to get worse. 

These are some of my favorite ways to do this even in the midst of stress and activity.

Reflection by writing. Putting thoughts on paper. Checking into my blog, writing in my journal, scribbling down a few notes for my scrapbook to use another day when there is more time. Or just writing down a to-do list!

Appreciating nature. Taking a stroll around the garden and capturing a few images with the camera. 
Small pleasures. Sipping hot coffee and milk or calming lavender or chamomile tea and mindfully reflecting on how delicious, how comforting it is. Especially in my favorite red polka dot cup! A bite of my daughter's chocolate cake isn't bad, either.
Favorite music. I spend so much time chauffeuring my kids and half of the time I'm alone in the car, I have found great pleasure in taking those brief moments alone to listen the music that no one else in the family likes - Bach piano concertos, Pachelbel, Vivaldi, or jazz, or pop, whatever it is that speaks to my soul at that moment. My cat and I listened to harp and flute music en route to the vet and back and I think it calmed us both.

Sleep. Sometimes that little nap works wonders! 

Delegating tasks to others. Monday afternoon I was so exhausted by last weekend that I told my daughter I would take a quick nap but be up in time to make dinner. She told me to go ahead and take a long nap, she'd gladly make dinner. (Such a doll!) She used what I had picked up at the store differently than I would have, but it was perfect. Instead of the veggie stir fry I had planned, she made a roasted vegetable soup and used the zucchinis (that she and her brother would have picked out of the stir-fry anyway) to bake a chocolate cake.
Envisioning a beautiful, peaceful place. Sometimes I envision myself sitting on the shady banks of a river, watching the water rush by, and imagine all my burdens (however slight or silly they may seem!) being lifted and carried away. It only takes a moment and is so freeing.
Motivational words. Reading a small devotion or Bible verse or singing the lyrics of an uplifting song.

Laughter. Humor is a great antidote to stress. If there is nothing to laugh about, then a few jokes will help lighten up the mood, and thank goodness for children because they know so much better than adults how to smile and laugh generously. We're lucky too because my husband is always making jokes or saying funny things.

Exercise. An hour workout would be great but on those stressful days you know that's not going to happen. But even if it means just a walk around the block or taking the bike instead of the car, it always makes a big difference in my mood.
Spreading love. There is always time for a hug or a kind word, no matter how stressful I feel! 

I've noticed when I quit rushing around to make time to be relax and refill, all the crazy chaos will start falling into place and life will run much smoother. Because I know it's all part of a bigger plan and in the end, all will work out. And before you know it, there will be time again for that hour of exercise, a soak in a bubble bath, or not just a snippet of music in the car but a half hour at the piano, a morning full of being creative, or an entire weekend to unwind.

Have a lovely, lovely day! 

Monday, July 21, 2014

summer smoothies

We have entered into the hottest sunniest part of summer. Instead of store-bought ice-cream, we've been cooling off with very easy to make, healthy, ice-cold smoothies. 
I had wanted a really good blender for years and am so happy that this spring I finally got a lovely yellow Kitchen Aid machine. The only regret about this purchase has been that I didn't get it sooner!
The children have been having fun helping me experiment with different fruits and juice combinations. Here are some of our concoctions from last week which are all very refreshing and packed with vitamins.
Banana Smoothie 
(Blend together: banana, milk, ice-cubes)
Some of the people in this family are crazy banana lovers. This is the perfect smoothie for them! Very creamy.
Tropical smoothie
(Blend together: fresh pineapple, mango, Greek yogurt, ice-cubes, water)
Tasty and smooth. My personal favorite!
Berry smoothie
(Blend together: fresh pineapple. blueberries, cranberry-cherrry juice, ice-cubes)
Super delicious. High in antioxidants.
You can find my growing pinboard of smoothie inspiration here

Do you like smoothies? What is your favorite combination?