a favorite kitchen corner and my favorite granola recipe

I really do love this beautiful, quirky and customized, finally for real and not just on paper kitchen! I love how the room has opened up, how the cherry counters gleam and glow with just the right warmth, how the cupboards open and close without any loud magnets, and of course the beautiful craftsmanship of each detailed trim piece and mitered corner. As the days are beginning to cool, I’m eager to give this heart-of-the-home its first fall and winter experience: fill it with heavy pots of apple sauce and the scent of stews and floured counters and floors as we cut out cookies for the holidays… Food is an amazing thing, isn’t it? How physical and basic it is, but how deeply it nourishes souls and creates community and family identity? Amazing.

One of my favorite quirky-custom parts of the kitchen is this long, shallow drawer right next to the stove. I wanted a space for my spices, and I knew I didn’t want an open shelf because too much dusting, and I didn’t want them just in a cupboard because I was tired of digging and rearranging and knocking them over. And so I designated this space for them. I open the drawer, and ta-da! There they are. (I bought those jars on Amazon for my most-used spices.)

And below, my flours and oats and sugar have a pull-out drawer perfectly sized for the jars I keep them in. They used to sit on my counter top, and as much as I love the look of them, I just didn’t want to devote the space to them anymore. I also didn’t want my kids pulling huge jars out of cupboards, so this seemed like a good solution. So far, I love it.

Also, I love the hardware on this little corner of the kitchen! It matches the patina and style on the antique Swedish hutch across the room, and that little tie-in just makes me happy. It’s the little things, right?

And because I’m thinking about food and kitchens, a quick nod to summer eating:

Those tomatoes have seriously changed breakfast and spoiled me for all winter eating. I don’t know what I’m going to do when my CSA pick-up is devoid of them. Seriously: if you’re local, you need to try a Kent tomato. Their veg is simply some of the best I’ve had.

While William and Jameson have rather commandeered the kitchen as far as baking goes (cookies are their new passion!), I do manage to slip in every other week or so to make a big batch of granola. I have not delegated that task, as it’s primarily for me and I have particular ideas of how I like it. Probably you do, too, or maybe you’re still looking for the perfect granola recipe. I can’t promise you that your particular ideas will be satisfied by my particular recipe, but if you’d like to give it a whirl, here it is:

My Granola (at least, currently)

Mix in large bowl:
6 cups old fashioned oats
1/2 – 1 cup whole wheat flour (optional; helps bind)
1 – 2 cups unsweetened coconut
2 cups mixed chopped nuts (I do walnuts, almonds, pecans, cashews, and pepitas)
1/2 – 1 cup dried cherries
1/4 cup chopped candied ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cardamom
dash allspice
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

In small bowl, stir together:
1 cup melted coconut oil
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 T kosher salt
2 tsp vanilla

Add wet ing to dry ing and stir well. Spread in sheet pan. Bake at 300* for 90 minutes, stirring halfway through. (This makes a crunchy, fairly loose granola. Lower baking temp and shorten time for chewier results.)

twelve; seasons; pray for Jack

This past Saturday, that adorable little boy turned 12. Twelve! There’s such a strange tangle of emotions as he grows, because I could just weep buckets of tears with sadness of the precious days I’ll never have again with a sweet first baby and a sparkly-eyed toddler and a helpful 5yo and every other day of this always-by-my-side firstborn’s life. And I most certainly would weep those buckets if I wasn’t so busy being filled with delight over the young man he is today, and how much enjoyment there is as his life unfolds.

He spent the morning of his twelfth birthday completely engrossed in writing and presenting a play with his siblings. This isn’t an everyday occurrence; most of his ideas these days have less pretend and fewer sisters involved. To say, then, that the younger set was in heaven would be an understatement. He couldn’t have planned a more special morning for them if he’d tried. What a blessing of a big brother!

Then an afternoon of playing some video games with William and two friends (oh, the hard decision of two friends! Whose idea was it to limit the birthdays in such a way? Oh yes, mine…) Ryan brought them into town for a couple of hours, and then we girls joined, carrying bags of gifts and picnic baskets of food and dishes, and of course, a chocolate cake! We closed the coffee shop a bit early and took it over: “Closed for a Private Party” — yup, that was us! Bagels and soda for the kids, salad and water for the grown ups. Gifts — such kind and thoughtful gifts those two friends gave! Again, the joy of watching young boys grow into thoughtful young men! — and voiced appreciation. Cake and milk.

Twelve.

And while it’s still just a warm-up to those [regularly regarded as infamous but difficult doesn’t need to mean bad] teen years, in our church and social circles, twelve is a pretty big milestone. Two days later, he scrambled through his dinner clean up and put on clean clothes and got himself ready for a first in our family: youth group at church. Ryan and I were one big jumble of emotion — in disbelief that we’re already here and wanting to put him back in kindergarten just one more time, and full of so much expectation for how God will meet him in these coming days.

So he joined this tribe of young men and women, and launched into a new season of life.

And in so doing, launched me, too. Here I go. Laugh-crying all the way.

Appropriately, his first night at youth, many of them wore their “Jack’s Army” t-shirts, a visible representation of their spiritual support of my nephew, Jackson Paladin. This morning, as the sun rose, so did my prayers for the nephew I love so dearly. Today that port he had installed on Monday will carry the first doses of chemotherapy to his body. This is hard for me to think about. This whole procedure of a bone marrow transplant has made me feel as I do when I’m boarding an airplane and everything in me is screaming to turn around and run from that little tiny plane that will bring feelings of claustrophobia. But there is nothing for it but to press forward, buckle in, and know that the destination is worth the difficulty between. And so this morning dawns with that same sensation of me wanting to bundle us all up and just run the other way — but no. Forward, resolute, and knowing that God is in this place. He will deliver and is delivering, as He stands guard over Jackson’s body every moment and speaks His nearness to His heart with every breath.

Pray for Jack, if you will. There is a great destination of health and strength awaiting him on the other side of this journey.

first week of school!

A whole first week of school with my precious kiddos is already done. I meant to take a photo of them all on Monday, but you know. We got busy.

We had such a good week. Kids so excited and whole-hearted, diligent and focused, and eager to take on a new year of chores and routines and growth. Not every first week has been so free-from-drama, my own included, so I know to be thankful for this unique gift. Ha!

Day One: Ridiculously hot and humid. Our outside time was spent in the sprinkler. Another “unique” start to a North Country school year!

Multi-tasking: Jameson is so good with Enid, and I found them here. She’s getting a head start on Harriet Tubman’s life.

Mornings: Starting early outdoors, before temps reached into the 90s. And we even needed blankets! September is so strange.

Ordered chaos: What homeschooling looks like in real life. This is the silent version; now imagine a boy practicing piano in the other room, another boy listening to a math lecture, and all three of these little girls talking to me. I had to laugh.

Day Two: We brought our lunch to the park, did our history reading by the river, and spent our play hour on slides and swings. Enid and I opted for quiet shade and observation.

Breakfast Duty: Jameson has assumed full responsibility for the children’s breakfasts. He has a rotating menu he’s learned to bake or prepare, and by 8am he has it ready, table set, a classical musical selection playing, and is calling the family to the table. This is the routine I’ve been implementing for several years, but somehow putting him in charge means the kids suddenly LOVE the music. So besides the wonderful benefits of having him grow in this responsibility, I also have the makes-my-heart-sing benefit of hearing kids singing Beethoven piano sonata themes randomly throughout the day. And Fiona singing the theme from Rhapsody in Blue? MADE MY WEEK.

Circle Time: The boys take turns holding Enid during the first portion, so I can lead the family in some worship. She is well loved.

Change it up: Thursday we did a mid-morning grocery run, followed by lunch and history reading in another park. And I finally remembered to take a picture of the crew. Happy Fourth Day of School! (Is that a thing?)

Science meets Art: We’re trying to be diligent about nature journaling this semester. I’m feeling pretty good about a full week of staying on track, culminating in our Thursday afternoon painting session. Making Charlotte Mason proud.

Outdoors on Friday: Before our homeschool group begins their Friday group program in October, I like to spend that fifth day of the week exploring the outdoors. We live in such a beautiful area! Last week was spent near the St Lawrence River with friends; yesterday we followed a trail along the Raquette with one of my sisters. The temps broke and yesterday was a perfect low 70s. What a perfect day for a day of integrated learning: everything from trying to find “north” the way fugitive slaves did while in the woods and spotting the prettiest varieties of wild mushrooms to being patient with younger siblings and handling an auntie’s dog.

James and trials vs temptations

I’ve been getting a jump start on our fall study, slowly reading and re-reading chapter 1 of James on my own and with the kids.

It is reminding me of something I need a regular reminder of: trials and temptations are not one and the same.

That’s hard to feel when you’re in the middle of real life, though, because trials are rife with temptation. Whether it be a kid slogging through math and messing up your whole morning plan, or something far more serious, such as sickness and disease, trials bring with them a whole host of temptations that I am quick to fall headlong into.

I fall so quickly, in fact, that I end up confusing the issue at hand, and find myself saying, “The reason I’m exploding with anger every day is that my child is taking forever with their math work!” Or, “the reason I’m fearful and anxious is that this sickness is serious.”

Fortunately, those aren’t true statements. If they were, we wouldn’t be able to count trials as joy, would we? We’d be too busy losing our cool and cowering in fear to have anything like joy. No, the reason I am responding in a sinful way is that I’ve given into temptation. God wants to show me how to walk through the valleys of trials without tripping over every loose stone and falling into every chasm along the way. In the situation of slow math, He wants my sight clear enough that I can hear His wisdom for how to help and deal with my child in a constructive way. In the situation of sickness, He wants my heart free from suffocating fear and instead aware of His amazing power and the tender nearness of His presence.

The Holy Spirit wants to help sort out trial from temptation. We are not captive to our situation. When I say, “How can I have joy in this? I’m so afraid. I’m so angry. I’m so resentful. I’m so ____,” the Holy Spirit sheds light on my path and I discover that anger and fear and bitterness and whatever else were temptations I caved to — that I can also repent of, get free from, and then find my feet firmly on the path of righteousness once again.

This post, read a few years ago, articulated so well the things God had been showing me. Maybe you’ll enjoy it, too.

And totally unrelated: I love these people and am so thankful for spontaneous evenings out, enjoying sunsets.

a new start

The sun is rising. (Gloriously.) It’s Monday morning. The beginning of September.

All sorts of new happening here.

I don’t feel quite so new. I feel a bit more… old and tired and kind of wanting to go back to bed. But I’m watching this sunrise, this incredible thing that is still thrilling after thousands and thousands and thousands of times, and remember that each morning truly can be full of new because of the Spirit that lives in me.

Though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.

You can go ahead and put it on your calendar for this morning: “Be renewed by the Spirit of Christ.”

*****

Also new today: the official start of our school year. Fiona in kindergarten, joining the ranks of enrolled students. Jameson beginning 7th. I am definitely starting to feel less like I’m teaching one class with a bit of age variety and more like a one room schoolhouse.

We are doing some tried and true things that just seem to work for us. (An hour of Circle Time right after breakfast and morning chores. Going outside even if it’s -10. Reading out loud.) I am trying some new things. (More independence for the boys. A few points of structure in a more fluid day.) We’ll see how this all actually works once it gets off of my scribbled notes and fancier charts and into real life.

However all of those details go, what will work is being together, and learning, and growing in love for one another and for the Lord.

I was going to pray for our year last night and ask for His help, and suddenly felt so silly. Of course He’s going to help! So instead of requests, I just began to articulate thanksgiving in advance. There are some checks you can cash ahead of time. I can already know that He is going to do great things in our lives as we seek Him first this year.

So we will do:

Teaching Textbooks for the boys
BJU Math for the girls

BJU Spelling for Beatrice, William, and Jameson
BJU English for Beatrice, William, and Jameson
Explode the Code for Fiona
Cursive through Pictures for the boys
Getty-Dubay Italics for the girls
Typing for boys
Rotating the above throughout the week

Nature study for all, including reading, observing, and painting our findings.

A Literature-based study on the Underground Railroad for all. (And of course this is where I get most excited; who doesn’t love reading, writing, watching good films, and letting your heart be expanded as you grow in your understanding of people, good and bad?)

Piano, programming, letter-writing, tons of outdoor time, baking, personal and family devotions… We will have no trouble filling our days.

Those are the details and the tools I have at the ready. But the best part of this homeschool journey is being continually reminded by the Holy Spirit of the big picture, the overarching task of disciple-making. That vision is what my heart needs to be tied to, not these particular tools. So, while I’m very excited about the beautiful nature books in a basket and the crisp pages of the workbooks and how after Huck Finn is done I want to do a bunch of Shakespeare in our Circle Time, I’m not tied to those tools. (Remind me of this regularly.) Any one of them needs to be set aside happily should I find it is not helping to accomplish The Grand Plan.

Because ultimately, I am shaping hearts and investing truth and growing people, armed and equipped for their purpose here on earth.

*****

And so I am in over my head already, as anyone can see, on this fresh morning on Monday in September at the beginning of a school year. I don’t know what I’m doing, really, and the things I do know tell me that I am not equal to the task in and of myself.

But my eyes jump back a few verses and land on this:

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves. (2 Cor 4)

So happy Monday, happy School Year, happy New Morning. May you find yourself renewed and bursting with the treasure of His Spirit.

august 31: a bit of a ramble

August 31st.

Somehow we have plowed our way through an entire summer and, though I think we have absolutely stuffed ourselves silly with the sunny activities and evening romps and easy living, I still have room for a few last savory summer morsels. In fact, I think I could do this for a few more months, if we could just pause for a moment for me to catch my breath.

This summer I avoided the sun more successfully than I ever have before. My redhead complexion fares best, apparently, when there’s a brand new baby to keep in the shade. I also avoided my gardens almost completely, save for one good weeding a couple weeks ago. My faithful perennials did their best without me, but I’m a bit itchy to get back to it.

But all of that did make more time for me to park myself under the picnic table umbrella and simply watch as my kids splashed in a kiddie pool, threw baseballs, chased butterflies, and asked for freeze pops because HOT. Wow, was it ever hot this year.

Jameson grew inches. His pants are a joke and I’m sort of dreading the bottom line of this fall’s clothing needs. The others are not far behind. I guess, despite the new baby, they all were fed and cared for just fine.

Summer hasn’t always ended up being my favorite time of year, thanks to no routine and trying to keep up with inside chores on top of outside play and work. It has often seemed unmanageable and more chaotic. But somehow that wasn’t how this summer played out. This team has really come together in the last year or two, and a good locker room pep talk really does the trick when it comes to laying out a game plan and executing. These kids are turning into all-stars. No trades happening here!

This summer has had its share of upheaval and craziness, as my parents prepare to sell their house, my nephew prepares for a bone marrow transplant, my husband looks ahead to the next needs in our business, and my sons begin to stretch and grow towards teenage changes. Other things, too, and suddenly a new baby, toddlers feel a piece of cake. I know how to do this.

But only doing what we know could also be called walking by sight, and that’s not what we were made for. The mustard seed inside us grows to maturity each time we step forward into what sure seems to be an abyss of nothing, trusting that when our foot comes down, it will land on the Rock that never moves.

So I flip the calendar page. I sharpen pencils and fill school drawers with new books. Plans are penciled in. We are strengthened by His faithfulness and filled with hope because we know His lovingkindness.