Saturday, August 31, 2013

Four day weekend

Shane took the day off on Friday and we headed out with coolers and towels to Dutch Wonderland. Spent the whole day there. Ran into friends just minutes into the park. Got hugs. Had fun.

Erin rode a pony for the first time and I knew that was on her life list of must do.

We did the roller coasters. One was called Kingdom Coaster and is for the older kids. I went with Lanie. It was so fun, I wanted to jump in line again and again. We only rode it twice because there was enough else to do, and eat lunch.

I saw a grandma and her grandson riding in the log flume. I said to Shane, "I want to be like that when I'm a grandma." He ragged on me saying I was halfway there with my fanny pack. (In my defense, it was not a fanny pack.)

We did the tube raft rides in the water park. I made Erin do it with me and Lanie. She was scared, and I thought I'd have to drag her up the stairs. I laughed so hard the whole way through the tube when she started screaming in sheer delight. It was the best! She couldn't wait to do it again. (I knew she'd love it!)

It was one of those days that you just don't want to have end.
 



Erin telling me about all her favorite parts of the day
Lanie and I rode the Kingdom Coaster one last time, reaching arms up high as the cars tick-ticked up the first hill. The first drop down, I smiled wide and nearly cried, remembering the scene from My Life when Michael Keaton rode the roller coaster in his mind. Thinking to myself how good it is to be alive. Wanting moments like this to stretch long and far. When we got off the coaster, Lanie and I said to each other at the same time, "That was awesome!"

We had dinner out, and came home to the happiest, waggiest, danciest dog. Ever.

Today, we went to David's grandson's Bar Mitzvah. Fabulous service. Meaningful. Loving. So many familiar faces ... these gatherings over years ... this is how community is built. How many times did I reach for David's hand? I told him he's my best guy. He said to Shane, "Do you hear that?!"

Overheard Anita's sister talking to a guest and saying, "Anita has the biggest heart of anyone I know."

This is so true. I've learned how to live by watching her.

Good life.

Monday, August 26, 2013

One thousand gifts and still counting (4609-4634)

grasses cut
the ruckus of crows

prayer over the coming school year with friends and coffee
school bags organized
books to read
coffee to gift to a neighbor
Linda at dinner

organized linen closets
the nesting before the new school year
chocolate cookies with peanut butter chips
a full moon over the tree line
a verse during worship that made me cry

the hospitality team
a chat with Karen about homeschooling
a sunny day on the patio
how Erin skips when she runs
her frequent song

butterflies all around
"fast" days
gifted tomatoes from a neighbor
for cookies delivered these two years, without expectation, but to honor You
that she would think of me (and You), because of them

and come down my driveway
to reach out to me
that you redeem what is broken
the difference here makes

Monday, August 19, 2013

One thousand gifts and still counting (4585-4608)

a swim date with a dance mom and her kids
and how she was already thinking of us getting together at her place the next week
windows open
black-eyed Susans in a vase
friends over before they move away

pictures of Lanie and Natalie
how they hid away in a fort under the pines
Viviana, Katie and Erin
Luke's Lego masterpieces he wanted Shane to see
tacos at dinner on Friday, with Natalie at the table

20 minutes to get my thoughts together
a picnic under the walnut tree
the sale at Staples and some back-to-school supplies
Erin fence climbing
a dog that waits at the threshold for my return

country road drives and conversation with Lanie
a weekend of nothing planned
Legos across the living room floor, still
a sweet note in my message box from Julie
Bento boxes for lunches

maps on the wall
cupcakes on a Saturday
that sunset
and holding his hand

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Judy's five-minute cake

In the five years I dated her son, Judy was a culinary mentor. I joke that I learned to cook through humiliation ... and that's true. But Judy taught me through example about creating a welcoming environment, good music playing, good company and delicious food. I used to enjoy the leftovers of her labor.

Several of her recipes are staples in my house: balsamic vinaigrette, dijon mustard flank steak, and her five-minute cake. I doubt she knows the impact she's had upon me, but I am forever grateful for her influence in my life.

Judy's Five-Minute Cake


1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup flour
1 tsp (heaping) baking powder
1 tbsp vanilla
1 tbsp sour cream

top with your choice of blueberries, cherries, or apples ... dust with cinnamon sugar

Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time. Add baking powder and flour. Add vanilla and sour cream. Pour batter into 8x8 greased baking dish. Sprinkle with fruit and dust with cinnamon sugar. Bake 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees. 

(for fun, almond extract might be nice if you use cherries ... just a thought)

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Summer under the walnut tree

Summer is nearly over, and I'm having a hard time with it.

It went too fast.

Soon we'll switch from the hectic (fun) of daily play dates to the hectic (work) of deadlines and homework. I'm trying to have a good attitude about it.

We never picnicked or read books once under the walnut tree this summer. Until today.

under the walnut tree


she's almost eleven

suddenly this blanket seems too small; they grow so fast

camera shy

that girl

fence climbing

this sky

feels like fall

this is the life

Slowing down to savor every last breath of fun this summer ...

Monday, August 12, 2013

One thousand gifts and still counting (4562-4584)

drizzly days and being inside with the warmth of friendship
a sister to celebrate
and how time flies when I'm with her
Red Apple Wreath candle warming on the stove top

friends who take my girls
a 2-day conference that rocked me to the core
umbrellas
things to think about over and over
books on hold at the library

Linda on Fridays
a cookout with 66 Books bloggers on Saturday
sunshine for the weekend
Joel and Cindy at the house
an answered prayer for a runaway dog

the sunrise on Saturday
grocery shopping with Lanie
a recipe for a delicious potato salad
and how You'd have the cook sit down right next to me so I could get it
applewood smoked bacon bits

tomatoes fresh from a neighbor's garden
tears that still come easily
face time with writers
celebrating our fifth year


Sunday, August 11, 2013

Mashed potato salad

I had the most amazing potato salad the other day. Really. Nearly all thought left my mind except trying to figure out what was in it.

It tasted like it had sour cream. And sweet. And bacon. And on top of that, it was served on red onion. And it was mashed, the potatoes.

As God would have it, the woman who actually prepared this delight sat down right next to me. Of all the people in the room. Right next to me. I didn't know until I leaned over and said, "Do you know where they got this potato salad? This is the best potato salad I ever had!"

"I made it," she said. And I leaned in closer.

She shared the recipe with me, which is really just an almost-homemade one. She got the redskin potato salad from the grocery store. They make theirs kinda wet, so she added more of her own redskin potatoes. And then she added this: onion, dried dill, dried parsley, chives, celery, and applewood smoked bacon bits.

So I did too.

And I mashed it all up. Mine was still kinda chunky when I served it up at yesterday's 66 Books summer cookout. Next time I'll mash it more.

Delightful.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Red apple wreath

Two bags of garden vegetables, gifted on the counter from our neighbor down the lane. Windows cracked for cool air. Outside, a misty spray and gray and puddles. Inside, yellow light and music and Yankee Candle Red Apple Wreath melting on the stove warmer.

What you get with six kids, two moms and a birthday on the horizon is a full dishwasher, a full house, and a full heart.

"I wish it hadn't happened yet so it could happen all over again," Lanie said to me.

Barefoot running through the field. Doorbells ringing--ding/dong/ditch. Rainy day swinging. And running, running. I saw the grins ... the grins.

Mixed greens, red onion, egg and dill with a balsamic vinaigrette. More of the summer sandwich, and thankful for the basil in the garden--abundant. Grilled cheese. Cantaloupe. And chocolate mousse cake. Candles from other wishes, blown out in tandem by mother and daughter.

Sometimes I make wishes, too, on someone else's flame.

I didn't this time.

After a day that went too fast, dishes cleared and cleaned in minutes, and all throughout the house the remnant melting scent of red apple wreath.

I'm glad for train tracks, a broken Molly, Legos. Glad for giggly girls and rainy field runs in bare feet.

Shane said to Lanie, "You will remember these days all your life."

And so will I.

Monday, August 5, 2013

One thousand gifts and still counting (4481-4561)

Erin's front toothless smile
her dinner date at Kellie's house
celebrating Kellie's birthday with the biggest brownies
finishing a bible study
friends over for a swim date

walking the gardens with Sandy
two men on opposite ends of a spectrum
Denise and Lanie coloring at the piano bench
a seat next to David on his birthday
lunch at a friend's

and helping out another so she could enjoy a beach trip
weeds pulled
grass cut
house dusted, swept, vacuumed, mopped
a bench for the laundry room

black-eyed Susans in a vase
marigolds along the walkway
windows open
blue, blue skies
lovely clothes gifted

2 years here
an open door of hospitality
woodsmoke smells from the wood stoves that hint at fall
the pencil sharpener on the laundry room doorway
porcelain knobs

a room remodeled and inscribed
flowers everywhere
the brick walkway
the stone path
the red gate

an empty bottle of Vouvray on our counter top, gifted by our agent as a welcome home
a welcome greeting on our door
the pantry space
where I hang up aprons and, soon, pictures
a color palette I love

the clean of white walls
a view out of every window
soaring pines
friendly neighbors
woodland paths

bird song all day
bird houses in the trees
wood stacks
old slate floors
a pine cone wreath

on a "joy" hanger
the wooden duck in the school room
French doors
and a pool
where Lanie learned to swim

color swatches in the laundry room
achy hands
freckles across their noses
freedom
a long (to us) driveway

Joel and Cindy
David and Anita
Miss Linda at our table every Friday night
her hugs and love
an herb garden

the black snakes and the chipmunks and the groundhog "monkeys"
apple trees
a fence to climb
and trees to climb
black raspberries along the perimeter

chunky H O M E letters on the mantel
house smells that are our own
our fingerprint here
being so close to church
window treatments

working appliances
a cat
and a dog
and her favorite spot on the grass to chew a rawhide
yard tools left behind for us

and the milky white pedestal bowl to hold apples, when our bowl broke in transition
for birthdays and holidays celebrated here
friendships strengthened over coffee at Joel and Cindy's kitchen table
hobnail glass
Your faithfulness and guidance

for the verses in Deuteronomy and Joel and Psalms and all the others that spoke to this heart

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Family, home, and friends

When she got out of the car and stood in my driveway, I couldn't wait to give her a hug. And when I did, I didn't want to let go. Marshall's mom has been a dear and trusted friend to me for years.

This past week has given me a lot of opportunity to think on the treasure of good friends. Celebrating Kellie's birthday; a swim luncheon with Marshall, his sibs and mom;

Awesome blue-y shoes gifted for these feet.

hosting a sister friend's dog this week;

I said to Amy, "Guess which dog is the extrovert?"

Denise at my table for lunch and shopping;

tomato, basil, mozzarella sandwich--twice this week!

texting a sister for an opinion when it's hard to make a choice between this


 and this,


We were invited to David's to celebrate his birthday. I wouldn't have missed it for anything. And this time, I got my tears out before the party instead of during it.

 



When I looked around at the guests invited, I saw that most were family (his kids), and then his two best guy friends, and me. When we were getting dinner plates filled, Anita said to me, "Go to the table and sit by David." And there was a seat next to him for me.

Next to him.

For me.

Lunch at Nicole's (and the most delightful salad: mixed greens, pistachios, creamy goat cheese crumbles, halved red grapes, dried cranberries and a vinaigrette of olive oil-white wine vinegar-salt-pepper-garlic powder-onion powder-honey; I had three plates full and should just have eaten out of the salad bowl because I made a pig out of myself);

and dinner here (burgers, roasted veggies, broccoli w/ cheese) with Linda and my crew and a bottle of Boordy's Viva Sangria.


Denise and I were catching up since we saw each other at Thanksgiving, and she told me about a quiz she took at work--a question being do you have a best friend at work?

She said, "I haven't had a best friend at work since you."

When I think of family and home, the words welcome, loved, safe, included are the ones I would use to describe it. I hope it's what people feel when they are with us--and I know it's what I've been lucky to find in my friends. They welcome us. They love us for who we are. They are safe--I know they've got my back, and I've got theirs. And they include us in their lives.

It doesn't get much better than that. And I'm thankful.