what’s on our table

kabobbruschetta

zucspizza

Art comes in many different forms. For me, making a pretty plate with local food is one of the ways I unwind. When I try something new, and it looks appetizing on the plate, it makes something in my heart feel alive. Here’s what’s been on the table at the Brankshire home this summer. Best part? Most of the vegetables came from a tiny little patch right outside of my door. Can’t beat the flavor of food that was picked 10 seconds before it hit your table.

What’s been cooking for you guys this summer?

blog while the baby sleeps

Before I became a mama, I heard all kinds of things about the glorious naptime moments when your hands would be free to do a little work, a little sleep, a little reading, or a little writing. It was the common knowledge among all motherhood that naptime was for getting things done.  I thought it’d be like that for me too.

Well, eleven plus months ago, I became a mama too. For the first three or four months, I was in survival mode.  Everything felt a little blurry behind recovery from surgery as well as labor, and adjustment to motherhood. My baby cried. A lot.  She had reflux. She had colic. I don’t know if one caused the other or if it was just bad luck. But she slept best…and often only…snuggled up in mama’s arms. I can’t say that I minded at all.  Baby days pass so quickly. I knew that all too well.

But,  the colic went away finally. The crying didn’t happen as much. There were smiles and giggles and sweet baby talk. It has been a wonderful 11 months.

Naptime and getting things done? Well…that’s been something else.

I can easily count the number of times my arms are free during naptime.  Baby girl still sleeps best snuggled up against mama. She still rarely sleeps more than 45 minutes at a time. No matter what I’ve tried, it is what it is. And honestly, I still can’t say that I mind too very much that her favorite place to fall asleep is tucked into my arms, or leaning against my chest. It won’t be long before she doesn’t nap anymore. I want to treasure these snuggles as long as I can.

But dishes, laundry, and blogging while the baby sleeps? Those happen once in a blue moon. Most often on work days,  I work with one hand while cradling her sleepy self with the other. With naptimes that short, it’s only just enough time for my leg and arm to fall asleep before she’s up and ready to play again anyway.

Then of course, there’s that one rare day when for some reason, the little miss decides it’s a good day to take a really long nap. Like one that  lasts for an entire hour or maybe a little more! On her own, snuggled in bed.

And even more rare, it lands on a day like today . The dishes are done. The floors are clean.  My hands are free.  So what do I do?

Go sneak back to the bedroom every 10 seconds to watch my baby sleep.

Getting Alaska

Even though I have lived down South for a whopping four years now, I still haven’t perfected my “southern” apparently.

I’m a Washington Born, Alaska Grown Transplant. I’m pretty sure everyone  here knows that by now.  But down here? I like to fancy that I look just about like a normal Southern girl.  And probably that’s all in my head.

The truth is, when you grow up in Alaska, you just have a different perspective on a lot of things like temperature, and distance, day light and what a mountain looks like, for example.  You aren’t necessarily stronger, but maybe you’ve had to be tougher. After all, there’s not necessarily a Publix or a Dollar Tree or Walmart five minutes away up North. And the mention of snow isn’t going to get you out of School. 

But that’s all beside the point. I really love my new Southern roots. I have fallen in love with the novelty of four seasons, seven foot tomato plants, humidity (I’m serious.) and fireflies.

And after four years, almost no one asks me about where I’m from anymore. Maybe I look like I’ve settled in.

But now and then, I get busted for the Northern girl I grew up. Usually this is  when I say things about  flags, bags or rags. And sometimes when I try to talk about berms.

And every once in a great while, I bump into someone who gets it. Someone who has been where I’ve been. Who knows “my” mountains. Who understands how cold and dark and long Alaskan winters are, and also how absolutely indescribably beautiful the Aurora Borealis is. Someone who knows why Fourth of July isn’t about fireworks up there. And can understand what it’s like to dodge a moose.

Because just like these new Southern friends who talk about childhood down south, unless you’ve lived there, it’s hard to really get it.

It’s crazy to realize how much cultural differences that there are in our own nation. And as much as I love my new home, sometimes it’s really good to bump into someone who can share survival stories from the days we roughed it up North.

And thank goodness for me, no one here has any reason to know or talk about berms because I’ve seen and shoveled through enough of those to last me for the rest of my life. I don’t miss my old home state as much as I thought I might. I think I may be a Southerner at heart in a lot of ways. But sometimes the memories are best shared with someone who understands it.

So to the new  people who I had fun talking with recently, thanks for getting Alaska with me. It was a blast.

this is how the garden grows

After a miserably wet (cold, moldy…) 2013 in which my garden washed away twice and drowned the rest of the year, 2014 is feeling good.

I may have had to plant an  entire month late due to a colder-than-normal spring. I may have planted another month late because our tiller broke down and we had been trying to hand dig a new plot in a less likely to flood area. But…I have a garden, and it is growing. It makes me happy every time I go  out and take care of it to see flowers and fruit forming.

Oh, it’s not perfect. I haven’t figured out how to keep all the blight away. But I’m still pretty happy about what I see.

Today, Charlotte and I picked a pile of Anaheim peppers.  It’s our first harvest, and we’re excited!

What’s growing in your neck of the world right now?

Rule # 1 of gardening: as soon as it’s picked, you gotta taste it.

10489841_10152591908090628_2185252312262865192_n

light bulb moments

I think I had a strange light bulb moment this month. 

I’ve been running on almost empty for a while now, and I didn’t really notice it until that warning light had been on for far too long. All of a sudden, you come to a sputtering halt and  you wonder what on earth just happened. Yeah, that was me this month.

I love working for my own business. I love working from home. But sometimes I don’t know how to just stop. If I open my computer, it’s like I think I absolutely must work. So I do.

And then I never write anymore. Or spend a lazy afternoon with pen and paper. Or read anything. Creativity gets to be drowned out in productivity.

And then I hit the low spot of being empty and tired. It’s a place that’s best avoided by balance.  I should know that by now.

So I told myself that this weekend was for everything except working. For writing blog posts, and letters, and cooking just for fun. For digging up more garden space and for pretending that I actually left all my work at the office and can’t get back to it until Tuesday.

I decided today was write a blog post about anything that comes to your mind day. No planning, and editing and pouring over it to get the words just right. Just write.

So that’s what I just did. You know, I almost felt like it was the good ol’ days of blog beginnings again. Winking smile 

Maybe I should do this more often? I’m thinking the answer is YES!

I can’t put her down

Sometimes, hands filled with a wiggling, bouncing not-quite-five month old, I find a corner of my mind running lists of  things I need to do, should do. There’s another list for the things I should have done and the deadlines that like to sneak up on me.

I smile and play pat-a-cake and don’t get me wrong: I love ever moment of it. I love the wiggles, and the giggles, and the little grabby hands that try to help me type while I’m working and send emails for me when I get up to grab a glass of water.

I don’t want these days to ever end. I just can’t seem to keep up with it all. So I think about nap time. Those sometimes 30 minutes (if I’m lucky!) of not having to worry if she’s about to roll herself into some disaster or to be distracted by baby talk and books when I “should” be working to keep ahead of a deadline.

But then she falls asleep. Snuggled against me, with a tiny hand holding onto mine. Fuzzy little head, nestled against my shoulder or chest. Perfect little nose.  Little sleeping eyes.

IMG_1697

I’m tired, maybe. I could type and work with two hands for a few minutes, yes.

But I just can’t do it. I can’t put her down.

My 2014 list

I love New Years. I love it because it is all about fresh, new starts. New chances, new opportunities, new experiences—and all the potential tucked into 365 days of another year.

At the beginning of the year, I like making a few resolutions. I am painfully aware of how easy it is to make resolutions and how un-easy it is to follow through for an entire year. I know how good intentions don’t necessarily equal a flawless performance of all the resolutions all the time.

But I think everyone needs a few goals to reach for every year. It gives a person something to aim for, something to motivate them to keep reaching high. 

So with the new year just a few days old, I came up with a list—my 2014 list of 14 things I’d like to do this year.  It’s a little random and maybe a little less lofty than some I’ve written.  Who knows what 12 months of living is going to do to the goals I think sound good now, but here’s to trying.

My 2014 List

  1. Listen to the Bible through at least twice.
  2. Read at least 12  books and review them.
  3. Read to Charlotte from the Bible every day.
  4. Make a Soufflé.
  5. Grow my business and reach my goal of xhrs/week
  6. Plant a spring garden.
  7. Eat more raw foods.
  8. Blog at least once a week.
  9. Start intentionally counting blessings again.
  10. Go camping again.
  11. Write one real letter a month.
  12. Sell our truck.
  13. Take a trip for our Fifth Anniversary.
  14. Try to find a perfect cinnamon roll recipe.

What’s on your list?

then it rained {why I’m thankful for Okra}

Freshly turned dirt always makes me excited.

From the time we pulled up last year’s tomato vines and turned under the late summer weeds, I’d been planning for the day we’d plant again. I had such great hopes for a veggie filled year. I just couldn’t wait to get started.

Spring had been slow in coming this year, though. It just seemed to rain from January straight through to mid April.

When it finally stopped raining long enough for a part of our garden patch to dry out, we were weeks behind—but in a place like Tennessee, that doesn’t matter quite so much.

Scott tilled the soil up, and I raked it into beds. We spent all afternoon and all evening preparing and planting our little patches of beans, okra, corn and tomatoes. We put in squash and cucumbers and melons. It was going to be beautiful and I couldn’t wait to taste the fruits of our labors.

The very next day after we had spend all those hours making beds and planting seeds, the sky opened up in a torrent of rain. It rained in sheets. A flash flood swept across our beautiful just-planted garden. It washed across my front lawn, and made a couple small rivers right in the middle of the garden. It rained for three solid days.

When the rain let up a little, I ran out to look at the damage. The trenches were deep. There were a mix of bean seeds and okra seeds and corn seeds washed around in puddles. The tomato plants had fallen over.

So I rebuilt the beds. I planted the seeds again. And within days, it washed it all away again.

But five months of pregnancy and flash floods couldn’t stop my determination. I was going to have a garden this year! I replanted what I could as soon as it was dry enough to work the dirt again.

And this time, they sprouted. My bean plants were beautiful. The corn was growing almost faster than I could watch it. Okra came up thick and strong. I had lots of flowers on my squash plants. I could almost taste the sweet rewards of fresh tomato and cucumber sandwiches.

Just as my beans put out a bumper crop of blossoms, it started raining again.

It rained and rained and rained. The ditches I dug filled and overflowed. The whole entire world was soggy. And it kept raining.

Two weeks later, the sun peeked out of the clouds for the first real time since the rain began. My garden was a mess. I tried to tie it up. I tried to keep the waterlogged plants alive. But the rain just kept coming.

Plants molded and died. Squash couldn’t get pollinated. Rusts and mildews attacked the tomatoes and it was too rainy to properly treat them.

My garden was a complete flop. There would be no corn on the cob, mounds of fresh from the garden beans or cucumber sandwiches. There wouldn’t even be summer squash.

But there would be one thing.

Somehow, in spite of the flooding, the mess and the deer that okra still grew. It grew taller and taller and when it started producing, there was more than I could have expected or hoped for.

We ate okra for almost every meal. We put it in sauces, we breaded it, we put it on pizza. We even ate it raw!

Many gardeners and farmers around us shared in the loss of produce. It was a hard year for those who rely on growing things to make a living.

So every time I picked yet another bag of okra, I counted it as a bag of blessings.

Every time I diced up yet another pan full for supper, I said a thank you. All that hard work, all those hours and all those days of hoping through the rainiest year in 40 + years had its reward after all. We still had our okra. It made replanting a little more worth it.

I’m looking forward to another year–hopefully a better year when it comes to gardens and produce. But that persistent okra? It stood up in the never ending rain and bloomed and reminded me of courage and hope.

It was a little-but-great way that God reminded me to never give up. It pays to keep trying.

This post is a part of GREATHINGS 2013: 21 Days of Thanks. Click here to read the rest of the series.

greathings.sm

The Job

We celebrated a milestone two months ago. It’s been one year since Scott started working at the University.

If I had to pick a handful of really Great Things that happened to us in the past few years, this would be one of them. 

After two years of unemployment uncertainties, and applying for every job possible–including quite a few at the University–with no success, we were low on hope. I felt like my courage was fast fading.  It seemed like the lucky few who actually got good jobs were those who knew someone who already worked there. And we were the new kids in town.

Well, a year ago, we were tired of trying and tired of hoping. It felt like we were trapped by our circumstances, and it was hard to keep hopeful. Getting decent jobs was completely out of our control. And trust was a daily, sometimes difficult choice we had to make as we struggled through our days.

I wanted to give up so many times. It was just so exhausting to constantly be looking for work. But I’ve always believed that either you find a way or you make a way. And that means you never stop trying.  And then I saw The Job.

It was perfect. The description fit Scott to a T. It was exactly what he excelled at, and we only had to compete with 1000 other applicants. After all the times we’d tried, it felt pointless to hope that we had a chance at it. But then, what could it hurt?

We filled an application. Just about the time we’d forgotten all about it, Scott got a call about an interview. I prepared myself for it to be yet another dead end. Two hours after the interview, he got the job.

I was speechless. Sometimes I still am.

We don’t know how long Scott will be able to work for the University. Times are uncertain and if the big layoff in 2009 taught us anything, it was that nothing is certain in this life.

But almost every day, we thank God for this job. We thank Him for how it provides for our needs. We thank Him for the unexpected extra things it enriches our lives with. Aside from our dream of our own bit of farmland someday, this is as close to a dream job as an 8-5 could get for Scott.

And we are so grateful for how God provides–even impossible-to-get jobs when we need them most.

This post is a part of GREATHINGS 2013: 21 Days of Thanks. Click here to read the rest of the series.greathings.sm

lately {an update}

I started working again two weeks after Charlotte was born. I work from home, and it’s good. But working and taking care of a very small baby is not for the weak, I’m discovering. Making sure we’re fed, clean and happy and I meet my deadlines comes first. Everything else has kind of suffered in the transitions. That includes vacuuming my floors and blogging. Okay, so the laundry doesn’t get folded or put away quite as often either. It might be less than perfect, but I won’t give up on any of these things all together. It just means that I spend a lot more time thinking about folding laundry, vacuuming and what I’d like to write about than actually doing it.

So here’s to lately.

Reading Challenge 2013

Scott and I recently moved our living room around. (Yes, those of you who know us,  we dib it again.) This is only relevant because in doing so, we had to move every single book in the house at least once. Moving books is the best time to remember all the books you loved, don’t you think?

Part of my resources for sharing the Healthy Living Bundle (there’s still time to grab yours and the special BOGO offer, if you are considering it!) was this reading list.

It reminded me of how much having a reading list use to motivate me when I was in school (and participated in reading programs that required quite a hefty list to be turned in.).  So I’m determined that next year, I’ll use goodreads a little more faithfully. It might also help with the following embarrassing thing I have to admit to you all.

I’ve read probably three books since Charlotte arrived. But I can’t remember what two of them are. The only one that I remember is the one I started long before she was born—the one that will appear in a later post this month.

I finally found proof that I really did read one on Simple Living, but the other eBook completely escapes me.

That said, I think I’ll still be pretty close to reaching my goal this year. Given the fact that I have a baby who rarely sleeps for more than 15-30 minutes at a time no matter what I do, I’d say this may be one of the epic accomplishments of the year.

Family Picture Time

See the new picture in my sidebar? We finally had our family picture taken last night! Now you can see how much Charlotte is growing and how pretty the leaves are this time of year.

I can’t wait to share which one we pick for our holiday card this year with you all!

The eBundle

If you haven’t grabbed one of these amazing Healthy Living eBundles, there’s still time. The sale ends on the 9th.

I’ve mentioned it several times this week, and it’s because I really do think it is a great package for a great price. And I want to make sure that if you are interested, you’ve had a chance to look over the list of what all is included and decide if it is something you want to grab or not.

I’m excited about the Coffee Table Conversations, and maybe I’ll “see” some of you there!

GreaThings 2013

So, today’s the first day! I’m so excited about sharing stories with you this year. I’m excited about it because it reminds me of how blogging use to be. And just like good old fashioned snail mail, I miss those days.

At the same time, story telling is always scary. You open up the windows of your heart and home and let the world peek in—not just the friends and family who know and understand and love you. Some times I don’t know how to find the balance between sharing all the stories that make up my every day life and not saying too much.

But for November, anyway, we’re sharing stories. And I hope you will tell some along with me! This post pretty much tells all about GreaThings if you haven’t visited before. And you are more than welcome to ask if you need something clarified! Most of all, don’t forget to drop me a link so I can come and follow along if you are blogging about your GreaThings!