19 October 2012

Rooftop in Florence

 This is where you dry your clothes when staying in a medieval villa in Florence.

 And where instead of journaling, you do watercolors of the places you've been ...

 ... and the things you have seen. 

And this is the view of the Tuscan countryside from that very rooftop.

And you are happy.

 The Colosseum in Rome is still fresh in mind.

 And you smile.

And paint more of what you see.

 And again. You are happy.

19 September 2012

Proof of Accomplishment

And we're off. School is well underway, rhythms being reestablished and confidence renewing itself that "we can do this!" Life is such a team effort for families, isn't it? It's a good thing.

My mother brought over a bag of "we-have-way-too-many-of-these" plums and into jam they went. Plum jam has a surprising tartness amongst all the sweet. A very nice alternative to the still-delicious blackberry, raspberry, strawberry goodness that was also sugared into jars earlier this summer. (I was kind of jam-crazy there for awhile).

So even though the jam is ready to be put away in the cupboards, I have opted to leave them on the kitchen sill for a little while longer. They seem to be beauty and accomplishment in a jar. Like a little wink and thumbs-up every time I look at them while I'm racing to do the next oh-so-important task ... like making lunches or taking out the trash.

Sometimes I need to be reminded that proof of accomplishment comes in many ways. Sometimes that is a clean house, or a jar of jam. But frequently, for me, it's in remembering that proof isn't always tangible. And all the mothers smile and give a sigh of relief ...

11 September 2012

To Celebrate Jane, Because She's Seven

 Our Miss Jane had a birthday last Friday. Seven years old! My, my. How the sweet years fly.

We had some lovely gifting and peach-caking (more to come on that later), but the true fantasticness of the birthday celebrations was the giant outdoor movie theater we set up in our backyard.
 We borrowed a digital projector from a friend and Pops set up an massively-impressive movie screen made out of lumber, rebar, rope, a paint drop-cloth, and clothes-pins. It exceeded my expectations. As usual.

We watched The Love Bug, drank lemonade out of mason jars and feasted on skillet popcorn in paper bags.
We had twinkle-lights and tea lights, balloons aplenty ...

... and happy masses of family and children and babies galore.

It was so wonderful, I have visions of future summers and outdoor movie nights all season long. 

But until then, we are content with the evening we had and so thankful for the dear one who inspired it all.

We love you, Sweet Jane. Happy Birthday.

08 September 2012

Joyful Days

After a happy time of expectation ... Baby Silas is here! I've never seen my brother so proud and joyful. As he should be. His beautiful wife and beautiful son are worthy of his pride.

There is nothing like the arrival of a new baby, is there? So, so happy for them.

04 September 2012

Another First Day

 Ahh, my babies. Growing. Still.

Today was the first day of school, full-day ... all of them. Peter 6th (gulp!), Lucette 4th, and Little Jane 1st.
 I already miss our summer days together. But my heart is so happy for all that is before them.
Growing up is hard ... for all ... but it truly is a good thing.

 And mamas will always be mamas.

 And Pops will always be Pops.

We're a 'special' family. And I love it.

21 August 2012

Having a Moment

Have you heard the phrase, "Having a moment" ? ... I've been having plenty of those lately. Lots of transitions of late. Some difficult, some good, and some just normal life stuff. You know the deal. And with the stuff I have my occasional meltdown. Sometimes quiet and tidy and sometimes noisy and messy. It happens.

But amongst my "moments" there are the bowls of honeyed strawberries with mint and almonds. And those are the moments that remind me to get a grip and appreciate the bounty in front of me.

Having any moments yourselves, these days?

11 August 2012

Strength for Today and Bright Hope for Tomorrow

 My grandfather's service was this week. It was hard, as these things are, but so very good, as well. His was a life transformed by and devoted to Christ. What a legacy for us to inherit. What motivation to move us forward.

I spoke at his service. It was not planned ... by me, anyways. But the day before, I had a pressing from the Lord. With trepidation, I decided I was willing. Willing if the Lord did the work. If He gave me words and if it was with purpose. He did, and I believe it was.

I was very emotional, but emboldened. Never before have I spoke with such conviction and strength. I can say that, because it was the Lord at work. Truly. And it is my prayer that His truth stirs hearts towards Him. No better way to honor my grandfather.

"If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, “ Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; for “ Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Romans 10:9-13

04 August 2012

A Together Opportunity

I love summer entertaining. There is an ease and casualness that appeals to me. Plus, I love to eat outside. 

Recently, we had my brother and sister-in-law over for an evening of chatting, nerf blow-dart wars (more to come on that) and excited anticipation of their baby due later this month. We had a tasty dinner of salmon, watermelon and salad, but aren't the appetizers always the best? I almost always just yank odds & ends from the cupboards. 

Pull out the wooden cutting board that Uncle Kelly made and add a couple of sharp knives, a hunk of salami, a couple of cheeses, bread and crackers, and some jam. And if it's on hand, some vino or Pellegrino. I was also pleased to use two of my hammered brass bowls I picked up at a little flea-market in France. Perfect for pistachios ... one for the nuts and one for the discarded shells.

The spread? It feels fancy, but it's really just grown-up snacking.

This next week will be full of family moments as we anticipate my grandfather's service. Perhaps not as easy or as casual as the evening with Peter and Allie, but it will be good nonetheless. And isn't it interesting that after emotional events, we like provide a chance for dear ones to sit, eat, visit.

An opportunity to slow down and participate together. 

02 August 2012

Victory in Jesus and Muffins to Celebrate

Last night my grandfather went to be with the Lord. And this morning we celebrate the victory we have in Jesus.

It's an amazing thing, faith. In Christ we can experience both sorrow and joy all at once. I don't know that this happens outside of Him.

It's true, I have waves of aching sadness. But my grandfather's hope was in the Lord. He has waited some 60 years to meet his savior and as Jane commented, "Today he has hugged Great-Mother and is walking with God." Yes, my dear one, yes. And because of that I have joy.

This morning the children and I set-up breakfast on the outdoor picnic table. And because it's what we do, we made something tasty to eat. Oatmeal Apple Muffins. And because today is, ultimately, a celebration ... we added chocolate chips.

What a testimony it is to live a life given to the Lord. Not a perfect life. Not even a notable life. But a life of earnest love and service to our Savior. God is good.

Victory Oatmeal Apple Breakfast Muffins

Combine and let soak while getting other ingredients together:
2 c. oats
2 c. buttermilk

Add and mix well:
2 eggs
1 c. brown sugar
2 medium apples, grated
.25 c. oil or applesauce
2 c. flour (white whole-wheat works well)
2 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
1 t. salt
.5 t pumpkin pie spice (or just shake in some cinnamon and nutmeg)

To make them into "victory muffins" add:
.5 bag mini chocolate chips

Fill 2 trays of muffin pans three-quarters full. Bake for 400 degrees, 16-18 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes then eat with joy.

26 July 2012

The Days of Faith


It's been a hard past few days. My sweet Grandfather Stone is in his last days. And it hasn't been an easy road for him or any of us. Having watching the suffering of my grandmother just a few years ago, it feels confusing that both of them should face such end-of-life trial after a lifetime of humble service to Him.

Yet. God is still good. God is still faithful.

After receiving call from my mother that he had been given a 12-24 hour window by Hospice, I traveled down Monday evening. I am so very glad I went. The following is an email I sent to a friend:

I was not expecting my grandfather to recognize me and the 1st day and a half he didn't. But Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning he was unaccountably alert, completely recognized me and I could tell understood what I was saying to him. I told him I loved him, read scripture and when I asked if he wanted me to pray with him he nodded his head. Before I left yesterday, I heard him say to me, "love you" and then "bye, hon." It's what he always, always said to me.

Here's something equally amazing. The reason hospice gave a 12-24 hr. alert was because of some mottling of skin on his feet. This, apparently, is a definitive sign that the end is near. At almost 24 hours, exactly, he begins to become more alert and a few more hours later, the mottling is gone. Hospice, the nurse, and the caregivers have never heard of this happening. My Dad arrived home from a 20-hour car trip from Arizona that evening and my brother gets in today.

When I was talking to my husband on the phone he was telling me that at lunchtime, Jane, our six year-old, was praying for "Great-Father" (as the kids call him) and asked God that he would let him live just a little longer. The timeline of her prayer and my grandfather's inexplicable rally coincide. The prayers of a six-year old -- arrows straight to the Lord.

I said my goodbyes to my grandfather and I am at peace with that. It is the Lord's timing when he takes this sweet man home, but it is very soon. I am both joyful and heartbroken. You know how these things go.

Grandad has run his race, as Hebrews says, and run it well. Is there more for him to learn? More room for his faith to be refined? Is that why his time here continues? No. I don't think that's it. This trial God is allowing him to endure is teaching all of us and refining our faith. Grandad's faithfulness is allowing him to be used for the Lord's purposes up until the very last minute when the Lord calls him home. Just like Grandma. What a legacy.

And this is how God is good.

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith ..."
Hebrews 12:2

23 July 2012

Rome, The Day We Wandered

Sometimes "wandering" is a more pleasant term than "lost." But getting lost isn't altogether a bad thing, either. Moments for tired legs, and magnificence-over-saturation, yes. But also for pretty street signs, and hand-holding on cobblestones.

20 July 2012

The Ol' Girl Gets a Makeover

 My ironing board was a mess. I think I've had it since college, and in recent years it has been like ironing on metal with a thin, slick cover of canvas. Padding all but gone and the icky blue cover ... not like it was ever top quality in the first place.

So, armed with a surprising burst of industriousness, an old vintage sheet that I forgot I had and some quilting batting that materialized by magic (where did it come from?),  I spiffed up the sorry ol' girl.

Unroll the batting on the floor and flip the ironing board atop. Cut around the ironing board leaving a few extra inches so the batting can wrap around. Ditto for the fabric. Then, run a quick seam around the fabric to create a little pocket around the edge in which to run some string through (Tie the string to a big safety-pin, and run the safety-pin through ... much easier).

Now you can place/wrap the batting and fabric on the ironing board and cinch it all up tight with the string. Tie it off and shove the loose strings up under somewhere and tell yourself you'll trim them later, knowing that you'll forget and never will. Voila!

(ps-I took this photo while sitting. Uh-huh, that's right, I was ironing while sitting! Have you all been doing this for years and forgot to clue me in? It's like I never realized I could use it at any height other than tip-top. A definite "shazaam!" moment for me.)

17 July 2012

A Provençal Rose

Aigaliers, France

Outside in the breakfast courtyard, where even the sandy-blonde gravel is elegant, the roses bloom. Whenever I travel outside my little daily sphere, I am always amazed to find myself surrounded by beauty and sights that are all that I dreamed of. As though, surely, my imagination must have run ahead of itself and concocted such possibilities.

But then there are the roses and the pretty gravel and I pinch myself that it's all true.

06 July 2012

Somebody Who Loves Me Built Me Something ...

An eight-foot picnic table to gussy up and look at cookbooks with my girls. And can I mention that he built it in one day?? I had no idea such a thing was possible. One more reason for me to be amazed by Pops. He makes me happy.

23 June 2012

Switzerland: Village Architecture

Is it not the Switzerland of your dreams? I find it so heartening that while you may find train tracks and electric warning signs slice through ... the charm and history of centuries old remain.

20 June 2012

Switzerland: Springtime in the Alps

We are at home once more! After a week of groggy recovery, we are now back into the swing of home-life and happily reliving our trip through shared family memories. One of the truly great gifts of travel, I do believe. And so, the recollections continue to keep the trip alive ...

The day after we had our Swiss Family Adventure and right before Jane sat on a huge pile of stinging nettles (!!), we had a morning gallivant on the hillside of the Swiss village, Reckingen-Gluringen.

 The village you see in the distance is the village we stayed in. Tiny and lovely. The main road would shut down when the sheep or the cattle came through and we would hang out of our cottage windows and watch as though it were the most marvelous sight ever.

 After a glorious, but very busy tour of Italy, making grass whistles and doing a whole lot of nothing in the Swiss Alps was heaven.

Although apparently not yet having enough auto-adventure, right after our wildflower frolic Pops did take us on the most harrowing car-ride ever up the side of the mountain we were soon to encounter. Have you ever seen The Long-Long Trailer with Lucille Ball and Dezi Arnaz? There is a perilous scene where they skitter along a teeny mountain-edge road with sheer rock on one side and sheer cliff on the other. Take away the trailer, add three terrified children and swap Mt. Whitney for the Swiss Alps ... and it's basically the same scene. It took collective tears to convince Pops that this was not fun and me getting out of the car giving braking hand-signals to allow us to turn around without pitching off the cliff of doom.

I'm sweating just thinking about it.

But at the point we took these photos we were blissfully unaware of what was to come. And those are the moments in life to relish ... whether home or abroad.