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! 
xoxo 
Karen

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! 
xoxo 
Karen

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? 

Cheers!
xoxo 
Karen

Friday, July 18, 2014

praying while doing the laundry

I saw this wonderful post yesterday and decided that I would like to join into this blog hop on a subject that is very dear to my heart.
P31 OBS Blog Hop

My three children are the joys of my life. Starting seventeen years ago, they have been charming gardeners who make my soul blossom.
 
(a peek in my scrapbook from 2005) 
But...being a mom is tough! For me, it has been physically challenging from the first bout of morning sickness to years of sleep deprivation from crying babies, which in a blink of an eye becomes lack of sleep due to teens out late with friends. It is emotionally challenging when worry and doubt creep up – will the little daredevils on their bikes/skateboards still be in one piece at the end of the day? Will they have wonderful supportive friends and helpful teachers? Will their dreams come true?

“Let us be grateful to people who make us happy: they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”
- Marcel Proust

Oh yes they do make me happy! But I remember one time when all three were quite little and all three were crying at the same time. What do you do? Sometimes I just want to go away!

Just two days ago my littlest son came home from school in a horrible mood, just full of negative energy, saying mean things and bad words, slamming his jacket and backpack to the kitchen floor. I sent him to his room until he cooled off. Unfortunately, his rude behavior continued to escalate and he got the worst punishment he can imagine, no computer. Later we had some heart to heart talk and he took a small nap which worked miracles. The next day I reminded him I expected a different behavior as I said goodbye in the morning. He came home from school and was wonderful. His backpack not thrown but neatly put away. He did his best to be a pleasant person considerate of the rest of the family. I was so proud of him.

And at that very moment, the OTHER son decided to have a tantrum.

Yes, being a mom is a never-ending challenge!
We all have our strong and weak points and one of my weaknesses is that I always want to be super nice. I love these dears so very much and I try to encourage a family atmosphere of gentleness, happiness and harmony. However, I know it's not right to run from conflict. That it's not right to let them win the board game when they are actually loosing, or to do something I don't approve of. I'm not the best at enforcing discipline. They know that too. Sometimes they comment, “So-and-so's mom is always screaming and nagging. I'm so glad you aren't like that.” I'm glad they appreciate my gentleness but before I get feeling smug, I remember each mom out there is trying her best, and I tell my kids that!  And, I do have my limits and they know them. There is a danger in being "too nice" because the pressure builds and can result in an explosion, which sadly, I admit has happened more than once! I recognize that being too lenient is a disservice to them. Now and then things start to spin out of control and then I force myself to not wait for the pressure to build up but to be stricter than I would like to be, because I know in the long run it will make all the difference in the world.

But it's not easy at all! 
This morning I flipped through my first big family scrapbook from the mid 2000's and reread some of the little notes I had written. From the very beginning, one thing has given me the most strength and guidance.

Prayer.

It has never let me down.

I love that prayer is something you can do, if you want.

You can unburden and give worries and doubts away.

You can ask God for guidance and blessings and for the presence of his angels in your home and wherever you go, protecting and guarding you.

You can ask that your weaknesses don't make the situation even worse.
In a small book about Mother Teresa I once found in our library, she wrote we should pray constantly and gave many ideas how to do this. I have put into practice her suggestion that we pray as we hang the laundry. (Perfect! I am constantly doing laundry!) I hang up a pretty blouse. I pray for my daughter. I hang up a striped sock. I pray for my son.

Sometimes, it's my own shirt, my husband's jeans. Oh yes, that reminds me every time, we parents need LOTS of prayers. too!

When that tantrum happens or all three are “crying” at the same time, I feel an inner strength and I know it's not coming from me but a higher source.

I feel reassured that all will be well, whatever happens.

I am grateful for that.
Thanks for visiting my blog today. Believe it or not, 
I have to go hang up some laundry now!
xoxo
Karen