Monday, July 11, 2011


There are days when I feel like nothing I have hoped for or planned will be coming to fruition anytime in the near future. Happily, those days are far outnumbered by days filled with reminders about how very much I have been blessed with - things that have nothing to do with me, and everything to do with grace. I spend lots of time planting seeds - whether in the form of ideas, or because I work with young adults, or offering up a sermon, or literally as I try to get my yard and garden to be productive, or in lots of other ways big and small. 

But then there are the volunteers . . .

Volunteers are both the folks I am so very lucky to have the chance to work with and for AND they are the happy surprises in the garden.  I am surrounded by people who willingly and graciously give of their time, their ideas, their energy, their hard earned money, and so much more to make possible the ministry I get to help make happen.  I love that the same word is used to describe the un-planned plants that have taken root in the yard - like the unexpected color that I found when this lily just decided to show up in the front! First of all, seriously? How amazing is it that I live in a place where a LILY will just pop up in your yard unannounced.  Now, the woman who lived in this house before me liked to plant things,  and it is more than likely that she put that bulb in the ground at some point. But this is my fifth spring/summer and this is the first time they have shown up.  

Another volunteer in the yard is rhubarb.  
Now I know my predecessor planted this, but by all rights it should be dead. The dog chose it as his favorite place to run (read: stomp), so it has been flattened multiple times. AND there was a windstorm that took out the fence, so not only did a fence fall on it, but the guys who built the new one trampled the few meager plants that had survived with their heavy work boots.  But the next year, it came back. And this year - it came back with a vengeance!!! I have now harvested three batches of rhubarb, and it looks like there will be more where that came from.  Consequently I've made rhubarb pies*, rhubarb chutney (two kinds), rhubarb sorbet and some is frozen for later.  

A volunteer that won't give up  - happily, the rhubarb isn't the only one in my life like that.  I'm grateful for all volunteers in my life - the human and plant varieties - but especially for those that stick with it - even when things get hard.  

*My favorite is still rhubarb red berry pie -recipe follows - mmm mmm good! 

Rhubarb Red Berry Pie
1 recipe of double-crust pie dough of your choice unbaked

3  - 3 1/2 cups (about 1 1/2 pounds, untrimmed) rhubarb, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
2 cups strawberries, hulled and halved if small/quartered if large
2 cups raspberries
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup quick-cooking tapioca
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small bits
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Roll half of pie dough into a circle and carefully transfer to a 9-inch pie plate. 
Stir together rhubarb, strawberries, sugars, lemon, salt and tapioca in a large bowl.Pour filling onto bottom pie crust and dot with  butter. Roll second half of pie dough and place it over top. Trim any excessive pie dough and crimp the edges. Cut slits into top crust for vents. 

Transfer pie to a baking sheet (so it can catch any drips).  Bake for 20 minutes then reduce temperature to 350 and bake for an additional 25 to 30 minutes, until the pie is golden and you can see the juices bubbling. 

This is the hard part - let it cool for at least 3 hours so that the juices can settle and the tapioca can work its magic and firm everything up. It is yummy served with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream. 

In theory the pie can keep for up to 3 days on the counter top . . .but it usually doesn't last that long! 

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Thank Heaven for Little Girls!

Taken almost a year ago when little sister was born
Currently I am a bit like a small child asking, "how much longer?!?" almost every day! You see my sweet nieces (and their mom and grandparents) are coming for a visit in one month's time - and I can hardly wait. I find myself gathering up fliers and searching the internet for information about story time at the library, special nights with fun for kids at the minor league baseball games, children's theater in the park, etc. etc. Plus, while they are here, little sister will be celebrating her 1st birthday - so a party is in order. I know we will have fun as I get to show off the Williamette Valley, the coast and our wacky little city. I'm grateful for family and can't wait to have them here in my home!!!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Let the Sunshine In!

Living in a very wet part of the country, I have learned that most of my life I took sunshine for granted.  I like the rain, and I like having more distinct seasons, but come May or June for heaven's sakes I'm ready for some warmer temperatures and I want the sun to peak through the clouds! Running the heater and/or building a fire inside is a little annoying, even if some folks try to make it sound all cute by calling the month "June-uary".  

So,  I was VERY grateful to have been invited to a destination wedding in Florida this June! Having almost a week where my main duties included:

1. Sit outside by the gulf, read, sip on icy drinks, apply sunscreen, nap, hop in when you get too hot, repeat . . .

2. Sit outside by the pool read, sip on icy drinks, apply sunscreen, nap, hop in when you get too hot, repeat . . .

3. Spend a day at the spa, sitting outside by a private pool, using the whirlpool, getting a foot massage, drinking fru fru tea that will detoxify you, etc. 

4. End every day in a lovely room with this view of the sunset . . .

All of that vitamin D and R&R mixed with time to spend with friends laughing and enjoying really fresh seafood . . .well, let's just say it does a body good! Plus, while I was away, the sun decided it might just be time for summer here, too! Hurrah!

Friday, June 3, 2011


I was always the kid who got teased about my hippie tendencies - I read Ranger Rick magazine and worried about how we could take care of the planet. In high school I was the wierdo that thought littering was a bad idea. In college I was a member of a club with The Lorax on our t-shirts, we started the campus recycling efforts. And I've been THAT person who has campaigned for equal rights, advocated eating less meat (radical for the granddaughter of a cattle rancher) and pushed for locavore eating, less waste and reducing our carbon footprint.  I even had one friend in college who called me "Janis" as in Janis Joplin, not because I have ANY of her skills, but because I was that particular young Republican's "hippie friend".

So living in the Pacific Northwest has been a bit of a shift for me. Instead of being a wierdo, hippie, leftie, crunchy-granola type . . .I'm kinda main stream. In fact, I'm pretty middle of the road and my square lifestyle might even be right of center here. You see center shifted when I moved to the left coast where marijuana and patient assisted suicide are legal in a town with multiple hookah lounges  and a community where I know one person who lives full-time in a tree and several whose utilities are completely off grid .  Don't get me wrong, it's a good thing. It has made me think more, stretch more in a new direction. I have had to define positions and consider stances that I sort of took for granted.  And that is a good thing.  Anytime we have a chance to consider what we believe and why, to engage with others in thoughtful discussion, to encounter those who are different from ourselves - I think that is a good thing. So today I'm grateful for the crunchy types.

Plus, I've gotten lots of hints on improving my granola recipe - here is the latest version, adapted from a version I got from Alton Brown:

Golden Granola (pictured above)

3 cups rolled oats 
1 cup whole raw almonds 
1 cup hulled, unsalted sunflower seeds
3/4 cup shaved, unsweetened, dried coconut 
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar 
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons maple syrup 
1/4 cup vegetable oil 
3/4 teaspoon salt 
1/2  cup golden raisins
 1/2  cup dried apricots, chopped

Preheat oven to 250 degrees F. 
In a large bowl, combine the oats, nuts, coconut, and brown sugar. Add maple syrup, oil, and salt. Combine well and pour onto 2 sheet pans. Cook for 1 hour and 15  minutes, stirring every 15 minutes to achieve an evencolor. 
Remove from oven and transfer into a large bowl. Add dreid fruits and mix until evenly distributed. 

Let cool & enjoy. Keeps well in airtight container. Yummy by itself, on yogurt, etc.  

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Getting My Hands Dirty in the Meantime

For everything there is a season, 
and a time for every matter under heaven:

 a time to be born, and a time to die;

a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; 
a time to kill, and a time to heal;a time to break down, and a time to build up; 
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;a time to mourn, and a time to dance; 
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; 
a time to seek, and a time to lose;a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; 
a time to love, and a time to hate;a time for war, and a time for peace.
~Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

Lots is happening to keep me busy these days - and there are many reasons to be completely stressed out. But the thing that is helping keep me "grounded", pardon the pun here - is playing in the dirt.  These are the new garden beds in the yard - specifically these are the guys filling them with dirt since I don't have a pick-up in which to haul that much soil, our local supplier helpfully sends folks around with truckfuls of the stuff and a handy hose to put the dirt right where you need it.  That happened earlier this year. Then I had to wait, and wait, . . . . . and wait some more for the weather to warm up just a bit.  This lesson of patience had applications in those other areas of my life, the stress inducing ones, as well as in the garden. But it was just the beginning of Patience 101.

Finally it was time to plant.
Asparagus Crowns

I planted lots of things - vegetables and herbs to keep the new fruit trees that are just a year old company- but the one veggie that I am most excited about is the asparagus. These wacky looking roots called crowns are planted a foot deep on mounds of compost and carefully tended. As each little shoot pokes through the couple of inches of soil layered on it, more dirt is added until the soil is again flush with the top of the bed. They have finally stretched up high enough that the soil is again level, and they've even begun to peek out through the top - and though I can't harvest any actual edible asparagus from them for at least a year, and probably two - I am excited.  They are a tangible sign of hope for a yummy spring meal, in a year or two. This plant for me is a reminder of things happening in their own time. 

There are SO many things in my life that I want to be happening sooner rather than later. There are projects that seem to be having trouble launching, and new friendships that seem to be taking forever to really feel like they are beyond the aquaintance stage, and personal goals that seem to be moving at a snail's pace.  I don't think I am any more impatient than the rest of us in our instant gratification society- but sometimes I just get a bit annoyed that not all things work on MY schedule.  In the meantime, the good news is at least I'll have salad greens soon . . .

Peeking up from the ground are rows of sugar snap peas, arugula, spinach, lettuce . . . and herbs in the wine barrels!

A garden, especially one with asparagus planted, is helping me remember that I can do my part to prepare the ground, plant some seeds, put down some roots.  I can tend things and feed them and try my best to make it all work. But in the end, it isn't all up to me. Part of it is up to powers beyond my control, and part of it is simply waiting for the right time, the appropriate season.  So I'm trying to wait, and for the time being as I wait for my garden to grow, I'm grateful for good friends, for things that are going well in the here and now . . . . and, of course, for the Farmer's Market.

Radishes & Leeks

Salad Greens

Local Mushrooms

Monday, January 31, 2011


Heceta Head Lighthouse, Oregon Coast - photo from the Internet

There are lots of people who bring light into my life.  I am blessed to have a loving family, great friends and I get to work with college students who are a neverending source of hope and grace.  One of the groups of people for whom I am most grateful right now is the board of directors for the campus ministry where I serve. I often hear of really disfunctional boards, people who at worst seem to derive pleasure from the personal tormenting of my colleagues and at best are well meaning but incompetent.  I had the great blessing of inheriting a highly functional, compassionate board who not only care deeply about both God & college students but, amazingly enough, also about the campus minister.  They are always willing to pitch in whether it is a fundraiser or mowing the lawn  - dealing with the forever on the fritz boiler or campaigning for support from the larger church.  AND on top of all that, they do so with laughter, love, joy and enthusiasm - even when they have lots of other things on their plates.  THEN on top of all that, they reach out to support me - just when I feel discouraged or tired, I'll get a kind message,  phone call, dinner invitation, etc.  from one of them.  They are always there with a kind word on top of all their personal time and service.

This weekend I had the opportunity to unwind at the Oregon coast.  One of my board members and her family own a cottage there - and they invited me to use it.  This isn't the first time they have shared this wonderful little spot. I've taken students here for retreats, it has been offered for use when friends and I were looking for an affordable get-away - and then they periodically just say, "hey, you wanna go to the coast?" Who would say no?! 

To top it off, the weekend was lovely - there was even gorgeous sunshine and blue skies. It was the kind of weather that inspires walks along the pounding waves into town, where you can wander through fun shops, stop for fish tacos (made by the same family business that owns the ship that went out to catch the fish that morning), and check out the amazing colors of all the creatures in the tidepools - seriously, starfish come in some pretty wacky shades.  I could listen to and watch those waves forever - with each "whoosh" you can feel the stress of life washing away bit by bit. . . you breathe a little deeper . . .all the little things that are driving you nuts get brought down to size, and you realize they really are just little things.   What a gift.

 I am truly grateful for each one of these people, and grateful for the time to stop and remember the things that matter in life - which of course aren't things at all.  Jesus said we are called to be the light of the world, I'm glad my board members aren't afraid to shine!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Sunshine on my shoulders . . .

Living in the Pacific Northwest has made me more aware of the relationship between weather and mood. It has also taught me the importance of Gortex and waterproof shoes! The darker and wetter days of fall, winter, and early spring bring on a kind of hibernation. People still get out and do things - if the sun behind a few clouds and wet weather were allowed to stop us, there would be little activity between October and June! However, folks are less social when the clouds blanket the sky. You get invited to fewer potlucks, there aren't as many neighborhood get-togethers. Instead you see smoke coming from everyone's chimney as we all go home to get warm and dry. It all makes me hungry for homemade soup, a good book, a blanket and the sofa!

But the flip side is how WONDERFUL it is when the sun comes out. Yesterday I noticed my Texas friends talking about how cold it was there - how everyone was hunkered down at home. For fun I compared the temps. It was, within 4 degrees, the same temperature here - but here it was a "NICE" day. Why? Not because it was any warmer, but because the sky was blue and the sun was shining brightly (something I know I took for granted in the Lone Star state). Folks still had on rain jackets, or carried a precautionary umbrella and the ever present warm cup of coffee . . .but they were out and about, making eye contact with one another rather than hurrying through the rain.

So, today, with the return of the gray wet weather - I want to stop and say that I for one am grateful for sunshine!

** BTW - the graphic at the top is from a fun blog called "Indexed" where many facets of life are boiled down to a vin diagram or graph. You can check it out here.