24 October 2016

Butterfly Weekend

I had never seen this butterfly before.  If it were mine to name it, I would call it the Orange Cream Butterfly.

It's a good thing these little flowers were prolific.  Everyone wanted some of their nectar for lunch.

If you're especially gentle, you can even touch a butterfly tail.

This is really a terrible video, but if you catch even a small fraction of a glimpse of all the butterflies that were out this weekend, the delight will be worth your few seconds.  We may have been having ridiculously hot weather, but we do get our rewards in butterflies.  

21 October 2016

Pumpkins and Applesauce

I've been pretending it's fall.  My imagination stretched itself like crazy to keep pretending this week while we had four days in a row of 100-degree weather, but nonetheless I pressed ahead pretending.  In a climate like this, combined with an unseasonably hot October, you just don't sit around waiting for baking weather or canning weather or everything nice weather, because it might not ever come.

What you should do instead is sign up for your grocery store's email list, browse their digital coupon collection, and maybe even download their app.  You'll find the best sales on apples ahead of time, which means you'll make and preserve your own applesauce for the first time in a couple of years. 

 It might be miserable, canning over a hot stove on a 99-degree day, but as it always happens with canning, you'll forget all the misery by the next morning and take a high level of joyous satisfaction in your beautiful jars all lined up in the pantry.

Then when you wake up one day and get the email that says you can have a free pumpkin, you can walk straight over to the store after breakfast with your husband to pick out your free pumpkin.  When you see that the bin is priced at flat-rate rather than per-pound pricing, you'll be glad you brought your husband to carry home the 20-pound pumpkin of choice.

You might discover that while 20-pound pumpkins fit in the sink to be washed, they do not fit in the oven to be baked.  No matter.  You'll manage to get it cut in half for partial roasting.

I'm hoping we've had our last 100-degree day of the year. But even if we have more hot days to survive, I'm grateful for the chance to tuck a few jars of applesauce into the pantry, and a few bags of pumpkin chunks into the freezer to use later in soups and stews.  

17 August 2016


Before living in south Texas, I had not encountered salt this way.  I wouldn't have even known to put it on my bucket list (if I had one).

Strong enough to hold up under my steps, white enough to sparkle in the sunlight, concentrated enough to stay in formation under the smooth water's surface.

Sprinkled over the dirt this way, you'd almost think it was a dusting of snow.   Except it's about 100 degrees out, which is the furthest thing from winter you can imagine.

Amazingly, some plants thrive in this salt land.

And amazingly, the salt land helps me thrive, too.

15 August 2016

{Book Review} Ironing Made Easy

Ironing Made Easy:  The Far Easier Way to Iron

The other day I discovered how to find free Kindle books on Amazon, and while I was paging through my search results, I discovered this little gem that has already saved me at least ten minutes over the course of two already-short ironing sessions.  I discovered that my biggest ironing enemy was my set-up, and with a few simple changes, I am on my way to ironing efficiently.  

On the first week of school and piano lessons, I'm grateful for anything that saves me time on household tasks.  This ebook is free at the moment, so take a look, and let me know if it saves you time!

03 May 2016

First Garden Papaya

If you want to get technical, the 'possums got the first couple of papayas from our tree.  This time, though, we out-smarted them, picking the fruits a little bit green.  We've cut the first one open this morning, and the verdict is that papayas straight from your own tree are the best papayas.

30 April 2016

Books: Country Living

I was about eight years old when my parents moved out of a neighborhood and into the country.  Five fertile acres with a big garden plot surrounded by fields and pastures became the world of all kinds of childhood adventures for my brother and me.

If you get us started telling you about the sweetest beets, the tenderest carrots, the loads of potatoes, the plum tree, the rhubarb patch, the piles of basalt rocks that were ours to build fortresses, and the stack of small logs that became our log cabin, it might be a while before you get us to stop.  And I haven't even mentioned the gooseberry bush yet!

And then once you knew all about my childhood homes in the country, it wouldn't surprise you at all that one of my favorite little compilations in the Ellen White section of my bookshelf is called Country Living.

I wasn't sure I had ever read it cover to cover before, so I decided to sit down with it this spring and take it all in.  I pulled a couple copies of it off my shelf, only to discover a gem I hadn't noticed before.  What I first thought was a second copy of the same thing was actually a little book called, From City to Country Living:  A Guide to Those Making the Change.

Perfect!  I could read them both together!

For a little background, the compilation "Country Living" is a collection of Ellen White's statements written in the late 1800s and early 1900s, highlighting not only the physical but also the spiritual benefits of a simple country life.  

What I discovered when I picked up the Guide to Those Making the Change was that when the Country Living compilation was put together and published for the first time in 1946 (yes, right after the second world war, when people all over the world were still shaken by the war-time experiences), the reaction far surpassed anyone's expectations, and the little book got printed over and over again in a few short years.  

People were so inspired and had so many questions about country living that the Guide to Those Making the Change was published to give not only general advice about considering a move to the country, but also historical context to many of the statements found in Country Living itself.

While I of course just soaked up every little detail about the lessons to be learned from working the soil, and the peace and health to be enjoyed in a country environment, perhaps the statements in both booklets touching on how to make good solid decisions as a Christian became my favorite parts.  

In fact, if you needed to make any kind of decision in your life, and you were looking for the best ways to know how to make the best decision, whether it had to do with your home's location or not, I would refer you to these two booklets.

Here are some of my favorite gems.

"Better sacrifice any and every worldly consideration than to imperil the precious souls [in context, children and family] committed to your care."  Country Living, 5

"God will reveal from point to point what to do next."  Country Living, 7

"We are to stand free in God, looking constantly to Christ for instruction."  Country Living, 11

"Those who have felt at last to make a move, let it not be in a rush, in an excitement, or in a rash manner, or in a way that hereafter they will deeply regret that they did move out..."  Country Living, 25

"Let everyone take time to consider carefully; and not to be like the man in the parable who began to build, and was not able to finish.  Not a move should be made but that movement and all that it portends are carefully considered--everything weighed...To every man was given his work according to his several ability.  Then let him not move hesitatingly, but firmly, and yet humbly trusting in God."  Country Living, 26

"Spread every plan before God with fasting, [and] with the humbling of the soul before the Lord Jesus, and commit thy ways unto the Lord.  The sure promise is, He will direct thy paths.  He is infinite in resources.  The Holy One of Israel, who calls the host of heaven by name, and holds the stars of heaven in position, has you individually in His keeping..."  Country Living, 28

"If there was ever time for guarded, intelligent planning, now is such a time."  A Guide, 7

"Too much is involved to take one step in the dark...Get all the counsel you can, but make your own decision."  A Guide, 7, 8

"All rash and careless moves are to be avoided.  We must know where we are to go and what we are going to do for a livelihood when we get there.  On the other hand, we are not to sit idly waiting for an opportunity to present itself."  A Guide, 21

"How do we know what God may have in store for us if we do not begin to look around to see?"  A Guide, 22

And because I'm a homemaker at heart, I can't resist including this last passage, even though it's not directly related to making decisions.

"Make a home worthy of the name, not merely a shelter from heat and storm or from the atomic bomb.  Make it a place of peace and contentment, of progressive development of the intellectual and spiritual nature.  Make it a school for the children and parents, a medical center for the community where all will learn of the broader, fuller joy of right living."  A Guide, 36

Country Living is available free as an audio book or a PDF (actually several different formats) here.  You can also purchase a hard copy here.

From City to Country Living:  A Guide to Those Making the Change is available free as a PDF download here.  You can purchase a hard copy here.

20 April 2016

The Butterflies are Back

The dill patch looks beyond bad, all drying out and making seeds.  But there's just enough life in the patch to support our latest crop of butterflies, and I just don't have the heart to tear out the food source for these tiny friends of mine, merely for the looks of my yard.

I'll just have to wait until the tiniest ones grow big and fat and wander off to make their chyrsalises.

Meanwhile, if the need arises, I'll simply tell people the garden is a mess but there are treasures hidden inside it.

And I'll hope for the chance to see this little jewel all hatched out into a real live adult butterfly.

18 April 2016

Last Day of the Bean

These were all taken days and days ago, and I'm just now getting a moment to share them with you.  The first one was actually the day before the last day of the bean.

I'm excited for how much the beans are spreading over their new twines.  I'm hoping for many more beans to come!

The beans are delicious stir fried with a bit of onion.  We've had a couple of harvests big enough to make a side dish so far.  With beans from our garden and beets from a friend's garden, we've really been spoiled over the weekend!  Yum!

11 April 2016

Day 6 of the Bean

I just had time to grab one photo on a busy day, but here it is, our bean almost ready to pick!  I think it will be ready in one or two more days, and I'm loving how many blossoms and beans the plants have on them--in all stages of growth!  

I'm also really wanting to grow a bit more sesame this summer, but I'm having a hard time deciding where to put them.  They take up quite a bit of space, but I'd say we got at least 3/4 cups of sesame seeds from each plant last year, so they are definitely a good producer and worth the space they take...unless of course I decide to use it for something else that might be a more urgent need.  

Too many plants, too small of a garden!  I wonder how much land I would need before I would not feel that way!

10 April 2016

Day 5 of the Bean

Here's the star of the show again--four finger widths long already!  But here's the exciting part:

Upon closer inspection, I discovered a handful of other beans ready to pick!  I can't wait to try them!

Day 4 of the Bean

08 April 2016

Day 3 of the Bean

Remember those exquisite flowers from day 1?  Here's what they look like now!  I guess if we have to give up the flower, we may as well enjoy a brand new bean.

So it may be a little late in the game, but it was this morning, as I looked at a few larger beans around the plants, that a nagging thought became louder in my mind.  Even though I sure thought I had planted Thai purple long beans, it's pretty obvious by now that I didn't.  My vague memories of the Thai purple long beans are that they were purple right from the get go.  But these most certainly are not purple, even on the bigger pods that are harder to get pictures of because they are between the plants and the wood fence.

Which raised the question, What kind of beans DID I plant?!

At this point my closest guess is Ojo de Cabra, which is likely a Tarahumara Indians variety (from Mexico, which of course seemed like a good idea when I ordered them a year or so ago because we live so close to Mexico).  

I guess it's my day to laugh at myself, and to remind myself to write down what I plant in my garden notebook so that next time I don't forget.  But, purple beans or green beans, no matter, I still love watching them grow and I can't wait to get some of them into my mouth!  

What are your favorite ways to cook green beans from the garden?  I'd love to hear your ideas!

07 April 2016

Day 2 of the Bean

I wouldn't have known without comparing the photos that the bean really is longer today, spanning two whole finger widths.

You have to start somewhere, and it takes a lot of energy to be a baby bean.

Yesterday's glories fade, but they'll be tomorrow's baby beans.

06 April 2016

First Day of the Bean

My Thai Purple Long Bean patch gets several visits every day.  Are any of the tiny baby beans turning purple yet?  Are there any new shoots needing to be wound around their strings?

I think I remember that last time I grew these, there came a point when each bean pod grew about an inch every day.  This time around, I thought it would be fun to choose a bean and follow its whole life, taking a photo of it every day.  Clearly it's past the official "day 1", which I guess would be the day its flower bloomed, but this little guy hangs in exactly the right place to keep a close eye on him through the whole growing process, so I thought I had better start with today and go from here.

They may just be beans, but their blossoms are just stunning to me.  I hope you don't mind if I throw in a few blossom photos too.

My brother says I'll probably have more beans than I know what to do with.  And I say I SURE HOPE SO. 

This little guy doesn't know I'm his friend, so he's poised and ready to run, watching my every move.  I didn't even try to catch him, except with my camera.

05 April 2016

I will: be thou clean.

I've always loved the story of the leper who comes to Jesus, bowing down and begging to be healed.  It's a simple, brief story, with a quick and clear answer to his need.  Very efficient.

Jesus simply says, "I will:  be thou clean."  (Luke 5:13)  And just like that, it's done.  Leprosy is gone, and he's probably in better health than he has ever enjoyed.

Many times when I've read this story, I've been in less-than-optimal states of health, and always, I make the man's prayer my own.  "If You can do it for him, You can do it for me."

And I've never experienced an instant healing in answer to prayer like the man from the story did.  

Now, I know people who have had instant healing in answer to prayer, and sometimes I've been downright jealous of them.  By personality I'm not one to be angry with God, and I don't revel in wasting time with all the why questions, but when you want to feel better and have normal thyroid and energy levels, well, you just want it to happen now.  

Fortunately for me, years ago I read a chapter called "Prayer for the Sick" in the book Ministry of Healing, and that answered many of my questions and mostly gave me the assurance that it's no lack of faith if you don't experience instant healing.  (At least, not necessarily.)  I've long since accepted that I may not ever get sick and then have a miraculous instant healing, but that either way, God will do what is absolutely best for me.

A couple of days ago, I read this story of the leper yet again.  I liked it just as much as I always do.  Out of habit, I was about to pray that same prayer for physical health, just like the leper did and just like I've always done, when I realized I didn't need to anymore.  I'm already in good health and feeling great.  Although it took time, God had answered all the prayers I prayed every time I read that same story.

I will.  Be thou educated.

I looked back and reflected on all I have learned about health--in general, and specifically applied to my very own blood work--during the last ten or so years.  I have a lot left to learn, but I know a lot more than I used to!

I will.  Be thou disciplined.

Am I applying what I know?  Am I faithful to the daily decisions I know I need to make to support my health?

I will.  Be thou invested.

Sometimes good health feels like it costs more time, energy, and money than I have to offer.  Yet I've found that every time I feel a lack, if I tell Jesus that it sure seems like I need something for my health I can't afford (in time, energy, or money), He provides it in a way I don't expect it.  Maybe I learn to plan differently, or maybe I receive an unexpected blessing that covers the thing I need.  But every time, He provides.

I will.  Be thou clean.

Piece by piece, moment by moment, my body has rejuvenated as I've put in the time, energy, and money to be educated and disciplined.  Piece by piece, step by step, God guided my path, and has indeed made me clean.

25 March 2016

Why You're Never too Old for a Good Story

I'm always looking for ways to reduce stress.  Maybe it's just me, but it's by far easier for me to collect stress than it is for me to get rid of it once I have it.

Some time ago, never mind how long precisely, I realized one thing that really raised my stress level and rush factor was how much time I spend in the car.  We're a one-car family, and on a regular basis that means I get to do extra driving to get things done.  

Since I wasn't actually interested in going out and buying a second car to solve this issue, I thought I had better come up with some other solution.  It's just not worth being stressed on a regular basis by one of my own responsible adult life decisions.

So I got out some story tapes.  Which actually are CDs, but I grew up on story tapes and even records, so that is still what I call them, no matter what the format.

I started listening to stories about my church's history--that box set took me several months' worth of errands to get through, and even a short summer road trip.  Then I got out some sermons and some other stories.

Gradually, I noticed my stress level going down.  I didn't mind an extra wait at the stop light.  Those fifteen minutes between my husband's work and my house flew by, even with morning school traffic.  I found myself encouraged and inspired instead of frantic.

It all started with the Pathways of our Pioneers CD Collection (which you can also download here for no charge).  I resonated with Mrs. Bates every time Joseph Bates left on another sea voyage--my husband was away on a commercial fishing boat at the time.  By the time Ellen White died, and I heard her say, "I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I've committed unto Him against that day," I had to sit in the bank parking lot and wipe my eyes before I could go in to make my deposit.

I got through Great Stories volume 1 (although most are great, some of these do have sad endings...just to warn you!), and a few sermons.

By Christmas time, I had exhausted my story and sermon collection, and so as any self-respecting adult with no children in the house would do, I put more sets of stories on my Christmas list.  And maybe some Ellen White audio books.

I wasn't disappointed.  Christ's Object Lessons has been such a delight--I'm into my second listening already, and someday I may invest in another audio book or two from Remnant Publications.  Great Stories volume 2 awaits me, with all kinds of good stories about people like George Washington, Henry Ford, and more.

I don't dread errand days anymore.  I'm secretly glad I finally get a chance to pick up my stories and books where I left off.  

And really, that simple decision to listen to great stuff has taken away quite a bit of my unnecessary stress...so I guess you could say it has been life changing for me in a significant way.

14 March 2016

Happy Pi Day

I woke up this morning to a reminder from my brother-in-law that today is Pi Day.  There's nothing quite like waking up and realizing that instead of an ordinary day, you get a great holiday to celebrate instead.

During alumni weekend every year at Walla Walla University, the math department holds the Randy Yaw Pi Contest to see who can recite the most digits of Pi from memory.  First prize is $314.15, second prize is $31.41, third prize is $3.14, fourth prize is $.31, fifth prize is $.03, and sixth prize (perhaps the best of all) is approximately one sixth of a penny, specially designed and carved out by one of the math professors each year.

Then when the contest is over, everyone eats pie.

My freshman year of college, a friend of mine made it through 1212 digits before she faltered.  I'm not sure what the record is now, but I think she had the record then.

I didn't ever officially enter the contest, although I had memorized 50 or so digits for fun, and I had always wanted to work out a system to set Pi to music, even though I never seemed to get around to doing so.

Sometimes the best memories are made when you're not expecting them in the least, and that's precisely what happened once when I was walking across campus on the day of the Pi contest.

Seeing two friends, I greeted them and asked, "What are you guys up to?"

"We're practicing to go sing Pi at the Pi contest."

"Really?  I've always wanted to do that!"  I could hardly contain my excitement, and I'm pretty sure I barged in on their plans without so much as an invitation.  We practiced it in parts, two of us at the octave, and one in the middle at the fifth to imitate the style of perfect parallel organum.  Then we were off to make our debut, only minutes after deciding to stop our performance at a moment in Pi where an 8 followed a 5.  You know, for a good cadence.

We got a standing ovation, and we thoroughly enjoyed our pie.

Little did I know then that one of those Pi-singing  friends would become my brother-in-law, and that he would be sending Pi music videos to the whole family on Pi day.

12 March 2016

A Faithful High Priest

Not long ago my Bible study plan had me in Mark, studying the last scenes of Jesus' life, on the same day as I was studying Hebrews 4, and the significance of having a faithful high priest.

Honestly, it's something I have taken almost for granted.  Of course Jesus, as our high priest, would be faithful.

But what if you hadn't always taken faithfulness for granted?  What would that look like?  What if all you knew was the high priest in charge during Jesus' time on earth?

You know the one.  He and his other chief priests and scribes and elders would rather spend the Sabbath hours plotting to kill a man than see someone liberated from debilitating sickness.  

He would hire someone to deliver a man to death with money from the temple treasury.  Then, when the guilty betrayer brought the same money back?  He'd get creative, trying to find a new place to keep that money, because the temple treasury couldn't accept blood money, all the while neglecting his solemn duty to bring a sinner to the mercy seat.

{I don't know if Judas was past the point of no returns just then, but what if he wasn't?  What if the high priest could have labored for his soul instead of heartlessly turning him out in the cold, saying, "See thou to that!"}

The same high priest would try for hours and hours in the middle of the night to find a false witness to testify in court, even though he should have been the one to uphold the standard of justice at all costs.  He'd make a pretense of following the rules--needing two witnesses to agree, even if falsely--before giving a verdict.

I don't know of anyone who would want to be judged in that court.  

As I considered Jesus as a faithful high priest, particularly in contrast with the unfaithful high priest who judged Jesus and begged Pilate to crucify Him, I began to realize in a new way how beautiful it is that the Bible assures us over and over that

  • Our high priest is faithful.
  • Our high priest judges righteously.
  • Our high priest makes war righteously.
  • Our high priest came to seek and to save that which was lost.
  • Our high priest offers the fountain of the waters of life freely.
  • Our high priest was tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin.
  • Our high priest is touched with the feeling of our infirmities.
  • Our high priest would rather die than see us in court without a hope.
Many of the plants and trees where I live are covered with intimidating thorns.  Every time I see them and try to respectfully avoid their painful spikes, I have a fresh reminder of what Jesus suffered for my sake, what it took for Him to become my faithful high priest who could judge both righteously and mercifully.  And I love how all these things--His faithfulness and His willingness to suffer for my sake--culminate in the reminder to have confidence when I come to Him.

"Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need."  Hebrews 4:16

27 February 2016

What to do with Bad Thoughts

Sometimes my thoughts can be like clouds, when I'd rather them be like sunbeams.

I've encountered many helpful ideas to remind me what to do about the cloudy thoughts, but recently something new jumped out at me from Proverbs.

"Commit thy woks unto the LORD, and thy thoughts shall be established."  Proverbs 16:3.

I love how this is part promise and part test question.  On the one hand, it's a relief to know that God cares about and promises to establish my thoughts.  It's a battle I can't and don't have to fight alone.  

On the other hand, my job is to make sure I'm fully committed to Jesus.  Have I taken back the reigns of my heart?  Am I trying to do things my way, or make my plans without seeking Him first?  As soon as I can surrender all the things that trouble and cloud my mind, and commit everything I do to the Lord afresh, I can rest assured that He will bring sunbeam thoughts to my mind to dispel the cloudy ones.

26 February 2016

My Five Steps to a Clean Kitchen

I spend a lot of time in my kitchen, and maybe that's why I'm always thinking about what I can do to make the fun parts (trying a new recipe, anyone?) more fun and the bad parts (another sink full of dishes) take way less time.

In the interest of full disclosure, you should know that I am indeed writing this blog post instead of cleaning my kitchen, but it doesn't worry me, because the system I've been thinking about and working on for months will get me out of the mess I'm in pretty quickly.  Even if I take a few minutes to stop in at this all-too-dormant blog.  :)

So here's the logic behind the system:  I figure I might not have time to do the whole project at once, and I needed a way to prioritize the tasks.  Which things absolutely need to happen?  Which things will wait around for me to come back later without causing further trouble?

These five steps prove to be a consistent success for me, and even if I only have time for one or two steps, I still feel like I've made a dent.  The order is indeed important, and the foundation of the process.  I think through them every time I clean my kitchen, and they help me stay focused.

1.  Put away the food

I hate throwing away perfectly good food, and we all know food doesn't last as long if we don't get it back into the refrigerator.  Putting all the food--even non-perishables--back where it belongs not only preserves it, but also clears a lot of visual space in the kitchen.

2.  Get rid of trash and compost

I'm not always great at cleaning as I go (my mother-in-law is amazing at this), so I often have an empty can, tofu box, wrapper....you get the idea....left out after the meal is prepared.  Plus scraps for the compost bin.  Once the food is taken care of, getting the trash and compost out of the kitchen clears that space and removes the gross factor for later.

3.  Put away clean dishes

My mom tells me I should empty the dishwasher before I make the next meal, and she's absolutely right.  But I don't always do it.  I do find, though, that if I put away all the clean dishes before I start rinsing the dirty ones, I then have a place to put the dirty dishes when they're rinsed for the dishwasher or hand washed.

4.  Rinse and wash the dirty dishes

This goes pretty quickly once all the other clutter has been dealt with.  Even if I have to come back to it later, it's not as overwhelming when the dishwasher and drying areas are cleared out.

5.  Wipe all the counters and clean the sink

I used to clean my sink once per week.  As a single person, that kind of worked, but it really didn't work well when I got married.  Marriage meant that I was cooking a lot more often, and you know what that means for the sink.  Eventually I figured out that cleaning the sink--actually scrubbing it out--every day made a huge difference in how I felt about working in my kitchen.  Cleaning the counters after each meal puts that finishing touch on a the kitchen, so that the next time I come in I feel inspired to cook delicious food once again.

If I've kept up on it through the day, this routine takes me ten to fifteen minutes, which feels efficient to me.

Do you have any tips for keeping up on the kitchen work?  I'd love to hear!