Daybook: mid-October

Outside my window: our maple tree is gorgeous. The crabapple already turned crimson and shed its leaves, and the maple is molting. But its color is still fantastic. Unfortunately, the warm, dry weather has been working on the side of the wildfires. I’ll trade my fall color for wet cold if it will put out the fires.

In the kitchen: this is birthday week, so the kitchen is full of treats. I’m trying to decide if cake with Spring Fling cake counts only as dessert or also as breakfast since it has zucchini and strawberries.

Yep, that’s a lot of candles.

After traveling, my body is protesting a lack of fiber. Today I made oatmeal bread and Greek Lentil and Spinach Soup with Lemon. Even if the kids don’t like it, it will be just what my body needs.

In the garden: the roses have revived now that the heat has passed. Also, the Japanese beetles seem to have died in that shockingly early snow/light freeze, so nothing is currently eating the roses. They’re gorgeous. I still have green tomatoes and butternut squash I’ll have to bring in before the temperature drops to the 20’s this weekend. Also, my spinach isn’t going to plant itself.

In the school room: Next week we start The Merchant of Venice. (And yes, Moriah, they do stand around in the street and argue a lot.) There was confusion over some concepts in AP Calc, so I hired a tutor. How lucky I am to have a college student/math tutor living in our basement!

Art from Zoom school.

In my shoes: I’m dealing with some foot pain that I think is going to need an X-ray and some extended rest, so the running miles are paused. I am walking, though, including a beautiful walk this weekend at the Lincoln Marsh outside Chicago. It was breathtakingly gorgeous.

Grateful: for a masked, socially distant birthday gathering with Sam’s family this weekend.

Only two of us in this photo are 50.

I had the opportunity to join a book club this week as they discussed one of my books, Lost Things. It is such a joy to connect with readers.

Colorado has universal vote-by-mail, for which I am so grateful. We have an enormous ballot that encompasses everything from President to local initiatives (should we reintroduce gray wolves? anyone?) and I can’t imagine trying to manage all of the issues and people in a ballot box with a line of people waiting behind me.

On my mind: Our Bible study just finished discussing Ibram X. Kendi’s How to Be an Antiracist. I highly recommend this book for a group discussion. He presents the concepts of racism in its many, varied forms and triangulates them with academic vocabulary, historical context and Kendi’s own personal journey. It’s not an easy book by any means, but easy books on systemic racism aren’t going to get us where we need to go as a nation.

Praying for: Mandy. Judy. Heidi. Justine & Aaron. Lori. Families. People who are lonely. The sick and those in quarantine, waiting to know if they will get sick. Teachers and parents who don’t want to be teachers. Students. Firefighters and those whose homes have been lost or threatened. Essential workers. People without work. Health care providers and public health officials. Justice. The end of systemic racism. The election.

Garden update: April 2018


As I write this, a heavy spring storm is moving in over the mountains. Once again, I’m left worrying for my peach tree’s blossoms (will they all be frozen, and we’ll have no fruit come fall?) and all the tender young things coming alive.


I am lucky enough to have a small yard, and I’ve been enjoying the sight of all the perennials waking up in the front yard. I’m like Mary Lennox, crying in delight over everything showing how “wick” it is. Our tulips are going to bloom soon, and even last year’s Mother’s Day forsythia is throwing out a first few brave flowers.


This is the peony I added to the bare patch last fall. We’ll see if it survives. So far, so good.

One of our neighbors (I think it was a kid) made some delicious-looking sushi or spring rolls with the leaves from my tulips. So far everyone has denied being the mystery chef.

I’m conflicted: I love the creativity, but I think I’d rather keep the tulips in the garden.

I finally planted the spinach, broccoli, lettuce and peas in my garden. We have two square foot gardens in which I plant just my favorites.


We are so lucky to be members of a CSA farm, which provides the vast majority of our produce. A CSA is like your own private farmer’s market, which provides fresh, local produce to its members on a weekly basis. If you’re curious, I’ve written about CSAs here and here. Perhaps a CSA near you might have an opening in its membership for you to try out. Here are two links to help you find a CSA near you: Local Harvest and the USDA directory of CSAs. Joining a CSA truly transformed how we eat- both in terms of quality and variety- and I think has been a huge part of my journey toward health. Plus, buying food that is locally produced has a major impact on the environment.

Okay, back to my garden. These are 4’x4′ boxes filled originally with a 1:1:1 mixture of peat moss, vermiculite and compost as specified by the Square Foot Garden method by Mel Bartholomew. Then every spring I add an additional layer of compost. In our first SFGs, I made wood grids, but we have since changed to twine and string (it’s easier to cut the compostable strings than to disentangle large squash and cucumber vines from the wood).


It was so good to have my hands in the dirt. It smelled wonderful, and something in my own heart came alive again with a day spent planting in hope of sweet June shelling peas eaten raw and crisp salads of baby spinach. (Are you hungry yet?) I started basil, zinnias, and cherry and Roma tomatoes (for canning) inside. The farm gives us lots of big, juicy heirloom tomatoes, but there’s nothing like pulling a warm cherry tomato off the vine on an August afternoon and popping it in your mouth.

Have you started your garden yet? What’s your favorite thing to plant?

Seven Quick Takes: Smack down edition

One: In accordance with the cosmic law that Low Must Follow High (I know it’s not true, but it feels true), I am here to report on the smack down that followed my last message of hope and encouragement.

“That’s right.  It’s not true.  It just feels true.”

Two: It happened on Monday, when we had one of our worst homeschooling days in a long time. There were tears (not just mine, which the children have come to expect so that they [the tears, not the children] make less impact than they might), and by the end of the day- when the work was still not finished- I locked myself if my room saying, “I don’t care what you do now, but I’m going to do some yoga.” I don’t think I slammed the door.

Three: We spent Sunday pulling out the garden, since it was going to freeze anyway.  You may recall that I had planted mostly butternut squash and a tiny bit of carrots and broccoli, since everything else we get from our local CSA. I felt pretty boss when we brought all that squash inside. Also, we harvested a broccoli that was almost as tall as Phoebe.


Four: I made pot pie this week and thought I would be smart and put in some of the broccoli stem for extra bulk and nutrition. It seemed a little tough when I peeled it, but I figured it would soften up as it simmered.  Spoiler: it did not. It remained the consistency of wood chips, and we had to pick it piece-by-piece out of the pot pie.  And then it snowed.



Five: We spent the morning after the snow pulling out snow clothes so we could make a snowman and play outside, which was extremely fun for 17 minutes, and then the snow melted and I was left with snow pants or boots on every available surface. I will keep tripping over them until I put them away next May, when it will promptly snow again.

Six: I went for a run a few hours after the above photo was taken. I wore several shirts, my hat and mittens, and wool socks and dissolved a puddle of sweat after approximately eight minutes. But at least the view was stunning.


Seven: Now it’s Friday, and I cleaned all the old food out of the fridge. Look what I found! (I rock at this housekeeping thing.) I’m thinking that’s Aspergillus growing on what might have been cream cheese several years ago. I may have to feed my family actual wood chips later, but at least we’ll have a good science class first.


Check out Kelly for more Quick Takes!

Summer Eats: Week 1

Our summer CSA deliveries started a month ago, and we’re working to adjust. It’s a change every year, switching from the routine of winter recipes we love (chicken pot pie, shepherd’s pie, spaghetti…) to the new and different, based on what’s in season. I love the challenge, and it makes me enjoy cooking again after my winter rut. The kids often don’t love what I serve, but none of them is going to starve, and at least no one complains any more. (More on the why we joined a CSA here and here and here.)

So I thought I’d share here our weekly menu. My links aren’t working right, so no links today. Hopefully I’ll figure that out and link the recipes where I can. Anything with a * was sourced locally.

Oregano I’m drying

Monday: roasted kielbasa and vegetables (beets*, turnips*, zucchini*, and sweet potatoes with fresh oregano*), and kohlslaw (kohlrabi*, red onion, apples and dried cranberries in a little olive oil and cider vinegar.)


Tuesday: sour cherry nut bars (sour cherries* from our neighbor’s tree), frittatas (eggs* from our chickens) and sautéed chard* with bacon*.


Wednesday: spaghetti and meatballs (I didn’t say we were abandoning ship on our standbys). Don’t tell the kids, but I threw an aging zucchini* in the sauce before I put it through the food mill.

Thursday: maple-mustard spare ribs* with turnip* soup and a garnish of bacon* and croutons* and a green salad.


Smoky turnip soup

Friday: fried rice, sliced cucumbers* and a mango-melon-strawberry* salad.

Saturday: a pasta salad with all the leftover vegetables* and meats tossed in.


Sunday: the other pan of sour cherry bars or toast with strawberry* jam. Hamburgers*, oven fries and fresh cherries*.

Please post your local eats in comments (especially any special ways you’ve gotten your kids love all the stronger vegetables!)

Daybook: Sunday afternoon in April

Outside my window: the tulips are blooming!!  And the crab apple trees.
On Friday:


In the kitchen: pizza dough is rising, and Moriah is making banana-zucchini bread. It smells great in here.

What I’m hearing: Phoebe is having a tea party under the kitchen table and listening to Ramona and Her Father on her CD player.  In the living room, Owen & Moriah are playing quiz up together.  It’s a rare minute that the two of them are enjoying something together without someone acting as a buffer, but I am loving the moment.

Quiz up!

In the school room: (I say that, even though we no longer have a “school room.” You know what I mean, right?)  Anyway, we survived our Iowa tests last week, and I’m hoping for a more normal rhythm this week.  We are wrapping up biographies and starting new math books.  Fun all around.  Jonah is studying hard for his AP exams.


In my shoes: I took two great hikes last week, one with Phoebe and one with a friend who drove up to spend Saturday with us.  What a treat.  Spending time in the mountains was good for my soul.


What I’m reading: I started another Inspector Gamache, which has yet to grip me. But I just read a book I loved- more on that on Friday!  I’m also reading Sofia Cavalletti’s The Religious Potential of the Child, and I’m inspired.

I’m grateful for: Hiking, a date with Sam this weekend, sunshine, and tulips.

I’m praying for: Mandy, Judy, Heather,  Justine. Our friends serving in Fiji and the Philippines.  Energy to spend at home on the ordinary means of grace for our family: dinners together, attentive listening, bedtime routines, and laughter.

Daybook: Sept 8


Out my window: it smells like fall.  I LOVE that.

In the garden: last week Sam and I bought some new plants for our garden as an anniversary gift. (How lucky am I that my husband wants to GARDEN for our anniversary!)  We also put in two trellises so that the clematis and sweet peas that have been languishing in the mulch all summer can stand up.  It made a huge difference.


That’s the front garden.  The back has been decimated by the chickens.  Actually, my unpruned tomatoes are so dense that the chickens can’t really get in to destroy them, but the cucumbers and chives are completely gone.


In the kitchen: I need to do a little planning ahead so that while I’m gone next week, my parents aren’t scrambling for meals.  I think I’ll marinate some beef and chicken to grill (or throw in the crockpot) that they can serve with the vegetables from the farm.  But tonight, a friend is cooking for us.  Grateful!

In the schoolroom: I don’t have anything extraordinary planned this week.  We did read a lovely book on women’s suffrage in Wyoming for history: I Could Do That! by Linda Arms White. Like all the best history books, it managed to display the history in the greater context and in the microcosm of one individual’s life.  Loved it.


And as a part of our college prep curriculum, we are trying to have Frisbee class at least twice a week, because we all know that playing Frisbee is a very important part of college.

On the Needles: no photos since it’s a gift, but I managed to finish knitting the dreadful second sleeve on a baby sweater gift that’s a year late.  Now I can work on the dreadful second sleeve of my own sweater that’s been on the needles for a year and a half. Maybe longer.  If I didn’t love the yarn so much I’d just chuck it.  I’ve got my fingers crossed it will be worth it in the end (which of course may be part of why it’s been so hard to knit…)

On my mind: I leave Saturday (yeah,5 days from now) for another trip to Guatemala.  This time I’m traveling with friends and colleagues while Sam holds down the fort.  Continuing with the project I worked on last fall, I’ll be teaching group prenatal care, and I’m really excited about it. But there are a bunch of gaps in my planning (like what to pack and school planning for while I’m gone) that have to happen this week.  Really important stuff, like what I’m going to read on the plane.  (Two planes! A layover!  Imagine how much I could read.)  God worked out the harder part of this project when that looked impossible, so I’m trusting he’ll handle the rest of it, too.

Grateful: for the opportunity to travel with friends.  For the privilege of teaching my children at home. For Sam’s brother & family’s visit last week and brunch Saturday with friends (our kids all played, and we actually got to have a conversation! Imagine!!)  For my friend Mary’s success.  For God’s ability to make all things new.


Praying: for the Neals and Simons as they minister across cultures (and that I will be able to do the same next week). Mandy. Judy. Kathie. Clare. For all those risking their lives to treat ebola victims, and to minister to those who can’t be saved.

In case you wanted to catch my other posts about last fall’s trip to Guatemala with the kids, you can find them here: Sam’s work in Guatemala, the children’s perspective, my thoughts on traveling internationally with kids.

garden update


We have such a little garden now, but I think we’ve made the most of it. The front yard is all flowers: roses, sweet pea, poppies, a clematis I need to train. I’ve moved three plants that were housewarming gifts (my friends know me so well!) out: 2 African daisies and a hydrangea. I don’t have experience with either of those to know if they’ll make it through the winter. If not, new adventure will go in those spots next year.


Because it’s so arid here, our landscapers (hired by the builders) have always put fabric down, cut holes in it, and then planted discrete units of plants: a bush every 2 feet, for example. Sam likes the regularity of it. I long for the lush density of an English cottage garden. Of course, for that to happen, I would have to change completely my discrete watering-at-24-in-intervals system… or move to England.
This little patch on the side is my favorite spot, probably because the birds frequent it.

On to the back: remember my dying peach tree?  Well, a day or two after my post on its horrible aphid infestation, the hail hit. Hard.  Neither the plants not the aphids appreciated the hail, but the aphids fared worse.  Look at how the leaves have opened up on the peach tree!  It’s now a happy, healthy aphid-free tree.  (Of course, the hail knocked off the tiny fruit, too, but at least there’s hope for next year.)

Our pear tree has two tiny Bartlet pears on it, but I can’t seem to get a good picture of them.  The birds and I are both watching those pears carefully. Hungrily.

Here are my little vegetable and cutting gardens. The pots have zinnias and cosmos. The cosmos have just germinated- it may have been too late to add them, we’ll see. The closer of the two square beds has the end of my lettuce and the beginnings of my cucumbers. The second has tomatoes, basil, Thai basil and peppers. Everything else we’re planning to get from our CSA share.

Oh, and our chicks! I should count them in the garden, since (if all goes well) they’ll be our egg supply and our fertilizer. All eight are here. Our Rhode Island reds seem to have the most pooping trouble- is this normal?

What’s growing in your garden?

Garden Update: May

Oh, how I love the garden.  After the neighbors, our garden is what I miss most about our old house.

This weekend we went to the garden store (our favorite is Paulino’s Gardens in Denver) and bought a few roses and whatnot to replace the grasses and junipers our landscapers was weirdly obsessed with. [He couldn’t seriously expect me to be excited about juniper bushes, could he?]

So here’s what’s going on Chez Nous.

Here are the peas Sam planted almost 4 weeks ago. I don’t think we’re going to have many peas, do you?
This bed also has some lettuce that has just sprouted. Time to put in some more, I think.

Here’s the basil. Normally I like to start our own seedlings, but in March this year I could barely find my dishes, let alone sprout seeds.


Now on to the pretty stuff: the roses:


Sam picked these out. We had a gorgeous yellow tea rose like this one at the old house, but one winter it didn’t do well, and I had to trim is way back to get it to come back. When it started to grow again, it had reverted to its root stock, which was a red climbing rose. It was gorgeous but far from anything it could have possibly climbed, so it just rioted all over the garden. Anyway, Sam picked another yellow as well as this stunning orange one.


Its fragrance reminds me of my grandmother’s rose garden.

This is Moriah’s replacement baptism rose, which didn’t survive my attempt at removing it last summer. SweetP’s is doing well, though, and Moriah made a good choice, I think.


I know purple iris are old-fashioned. My mom is always passing on brown and russet and nearly-black ones, but give me purple and yellow any day.

We put in a few other things, too: peonies (oh, how I love peonies!) and a frilly magenta-flowered  plant reminiscent of a daisy, but I can’t remember what it’s called.  Any takers?

If you’ve made it this far in the post, you must actually like gardening. So I have a question for you: is my peach tree going to make it?


It’s covered in aphids, which I’ve been regularly hosing off the leaves, but they [the leaves] are still curled and sickly looking. Yesterday I added a gazillion ladybugs to the tree.  The ladybugs have made for good nature study.


I’m thinking I should ask the landscapers to replace the tree. What do you think?