Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
1 Corinthians 3:17

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

WHAT'S UP WEDNESDAY MAY 2015


 


Hello! I hadn't originally planned on doing this but I got reading through some of the others, and they were so fun I decided to join in. Visit Mel or Shay to play along. And now I'm running late...just yesterday I was psyched about getting all my To Do things crossed off my list by 11 am. Win some, lose some.

What we're eating this week...





If it has strawberries in/on/under/around it or is light, then we are eating it! I'll link up some of the recipes should anyone want to check them out.
(no recipe for Bruschetta, but it's easy to find online)

What I'm reminiscing about...

 Our time in Guatemala.
Just look at my babies. They forged a special bond right away. Which I often need to remind myself of in the midst of their incessant bickering lately. Sigh.

 Seven whole years ago next week we received word that we had gotten out of PGN- a Guatemalan adoption court- after nearly a year in limbo. We had decided as a family that we couldn't bear to be apart any longer and tried to move down there (that's where knowing Spanish sure came in handy!) in April, but without this last court "okay" it would have been terribly difficult. We left for Guatemala 12 days after learning that we were out of court. It's a pretty long story after that- you can read about it in my adoption links if you want.  ;)

What I'm loving...




My husband and I try really hard to carve out time for one-on-one time with each of our children. I hope they cherish these times as much as I do. And can I just say...how in the world am I a Mom to that gorgeous young man up there at the top! It hardly seems possible. They're growing up so, so fast, but I treasure our evolving relationship as they mature and get older.
What we've been up to...







Exploring & carnivals & beaches & doggie birthday parties!!

What I'm dreading...
We're going to two funerals on Saturday. Both are for wonderful, endearing family men who loved the Lord, one was in his 90s but the other wasn't even seventy. That makes it seem so much sadder, and I'm still grieving over the loss of my grandmother earlier this month. It's going to be a difficult day.

What I'm working on...



I am in the throes of planning our homeschool year...super excited and just a little bit nervous.  =) I'm also up to my eyeballs in making these cute things for babies and little girls for my shop, Rose & Ruffle, which I started to raise money for our adoptions. My deepest heartfelt thanks for the support from so many people. Thank you!


 Just finished a tutorial on my sewing blog for this cute halter dress for my cute little girl.

What I'm excited about...




Ah. Green things and flowers and songbirds and gardens. I love all of it!
I commented on instagram that I hope heaven smells like lilacs. My absolute favorite.

What I'm watching/reading...
 I just got a ginormous stack of cookbooks from the library- one of my favorite things ever to read. Would you believe that I encountered several cookbooks without any pictures in them? What! That's just all kinds of wrong. It's the beautiful photographs I want to see the most!


Finished this book last night. I enjoyed it immensely, great character development in general, and thoughtful subject matter. It would be a fabulous book to bring poolside or on a weekend getaway. William, if you're reading this, don't let that deter you from whisking me away for a weekend- I can easily get a new book for that.  ;)

What I'm listening to...
 Counting Crows & Casting Crowns ...that alliteration just made me smile


and Tangled, ha - LOVE that CD...and movie!!! (Yes, the boys get annoyed, and no, I don't turn it off.)

What I'm wearing...


 It got HOT here! I'm living in comfy maxi skirts with tank tops and easy dresses.

What I'm doing this weekend...



Our weekends are full and crazy and wonderful. I love spending time at the fields cheering on my favorite players. I'm also be working in our garden, meeting up with some Mama friends from church (who have lots more girls than me and who I begged are going to share their wisdom with me because man, oh man, girls can be rough!) And then we're taking a little road trip. Yay!

What I'm looking forward to next month...


 It just may be a certain someone's birthday, and I just may have a little something up my sleeve to celebrate...

What else is new... 

 In addition to moving forward with our next adoption, my heart has been burdened for a long time about orphans. I've got some new things in the works in terms of ministry and outreach, and I'm excited about it!

Well now I feel like the luckiest, most blessed girl in the world after spelling out all our happenings lately. If you're new here, you can read more about my family and me in this post, and find me on Pinterest, Facebook & instagram. Have a great day!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

MEMORIAL DAY MENU & THOUGHTS

Thank you to all our veterans, including my Dad and several other family members and friends, who have served and are currently serving our country- we are humbled by and grateful for your dedication and sacrifice. And thank you to your families, who have experienced sacrifice beyond what most of us can comprehend.

I have so many wonderful memories of family get-togethers, BBQ's, backyard parties and hours-long volleyball or badminton games with cousins...and fabulous food. We don't have big parties like that anymore, now that we've grown up and have our own families and in-laws, and I really miss them. I'll be honest here, there is some favoritism among grandchildren going on inside our family and it is the most excruciating thing I've had to deal with, and it's difficult to muster the desire to go party with the people who are hurting your babies (and us). I have one sibling, an older brother who has never much cared for me, and he ignores our parents for the most part as well, so that's that. Sorry. I feel like I should be apologizing- this was supposed to be a fun post on party food, that's all! I'm simply being brutally honest here. Life is such a beautiful gift but it is not without complications, that's for sure. Well, anyhoo. Whatever we do, we will think of those who have sacrificed, and there will be fun and laughter and sparklers and plenty of good eating.

We prepare traditional barbeque fare, steak tips to hot dogs and sausages and marinated chicken, and there's always potato salad or pasta salad. My mother always bring a huge dish of jello pretzel salad- yum!

Nothing says Bring on Summer! quite like a jello poke cake. Super easy and super yummy! Usually I make this for 4th of July, but I'm changing things up this year.

I'm also making these...but with red, white and blue sprinkles. Sorry, no photo yet, but I'm sure you can imagine.  =)

It's nice to have something light and green amid the heavier, richer foods. This salad is fabulous, and there's a recipe for homemade vinaigrette dressing, too.

These are so good, so easy, and look so festive served up on a simple plate.

It's tradition for us to have this Overnight French Toast sometime during the (any!) holiday weekend. Yay for tradition! This is my favorite! You can add sliced strawberries and top with whipped cream to make it look really festive as well.
Overnight French Toast Bake with Blueberries

These last photos just make me happy to look at and remember.
 

Ach. I feel like an emotional wreck I have gotten so off track lately. I have the same twenty-four hours everyone else does, but lately mine feel stagnant and burdened rather than joyful and hopeful. I think it's priorities. And being in tuned with God's Word, which I haven't been. And the real kicker? I just can't seem to make myself. Does that sound awful? It's as simple, really, as opening up a book- The Book- and I can't will myself to do it on a regular basis. My prayer life has taken somewhat of a downward spiral as well, if I'm being honest, and believe me, these are the days when I need guidance and direction and just plain connection/communion with God more than ever. Life is messy, relationships are challenging, parenthood...do I even need to?

Well now you know that I'm just a mess. I may be a little sad or even discouraged, but I'm extremely thankful. For all of it, this. I posted something on IG the other day about life being short and intending to make the most of the days I'm given- the choice is mine, it really is. Have a wonderful weekend.

PS: There's a sale going on at Rose & Ruffle. Details in the shop. Feel free to spread the word...thank you!




sharing with:
Sew Many Ways

Thursday, May 21, 2015

5 TIPS FOR EASY LANDSCAPING

Whether your yard is tiny or mammoth, the idea of landscaping can sometimes be completely overwhelming. Where do you start? What should you buy? Can we even do this? When we had our first two houses built, certain plants and shrubs were in the contract so I didn't really have much to think about. One day there was an empty patch of soil in the front of the house, and the next there were boxwoods, burning bushes, azaleas and rhododendrons. Pretty typical plants around New England. The builders even planted two huge Maple trees out front, as mandated by the city at the time for all new dwellings.

Well, this time around, there were no blank slates, so to speak. Honestly, it took much longer to un-do the landscaping here than to actually plant anything after we'd finished. But we've come a long way in just two years. All those previous years of getting my hands dirty, and making plenty of mistakes - that original "builder's" boring landscaping didn't stay for long!- have helped me streamline what I want my landscaping and yard to look like. Here are a few tips if you're just starting out, or if you're contemplating making some changes. I just love puttering around the garden and putting ideas into practice...hopefully these will be some helpful tips for you.

Tip #1: Make a plan (but be flexible)

Think about what you really want in terms of landscaping, and how much time you want to have to invest in keeping on top of everything. That last part of crucial. I had designed so many mulched garden beds in our last home and every spring I got a stomach ache just thinking about having to tackle those edges yet again.

Identify what areas are just for play- you don't really want to plant a garden bed or a tree right where the kids are going to play soccer and badminton; where you want some shade; a spot where you'd enjoy gazing outside at a beautiful plant, and letting its fragrance waft in through an open window. Do you envision a patio, or a fire pit to gather around? These are all important things to consider when designing your landscaping.

Once you jot some ideas down, head to the bookstore or library- or ask around your neighborhood!- to learn which plants thrive in your area. There are tons of resources to help you make your choices. Now add some good options to your list, or better yet, sketch out some of your ideas with plants in mind, keeping in mind their mature sizes and sun/shade needs. Next, pick up a few plants and shrubs and lay them out where you think you'll be planting them. Keep an eye on them for a few days, making sure they get enough sun or shade. Move them around to get a different perspective, too- much harder to move things after they're planted in the ground. I know! If you're creating a large garden bed, you may not be able to fill in every single spot, and that's okay. It takes time for things to grow, which leads me to the next tip.

Tip #2:  Plant groupings of one plant or shrub for the greatest impact

We've all seen that sad-looking sparse band of tulips around the base of a tree, or the hodgepodge garden where everything is out of sorts because there's just a little too much going on. Plant flowers and shrubs together in a group rather than a single "line" and row for a much greater impact. Groupings of three, five and other odd numbers work best- just one of the tricks of the trade, I guess, because they really do look so much better. I used to think that this would limit what I could plant, but it really doesn't. It actually allows the plant to pop because a group of them stands out far more than an isolated one does.

Now, if you're planning a foundation garden, by all means consider creating a solid hedge-like row to act as a gorgeous backdrop for smaller plants. Some people prefer to stagger the larger plants slightly to avoid such a uniform look- the choice is yours. I love hydrangea so I've planted several in a staggered row on one side of our house; but on the other side, I've kept things more cottage-like, with a bigger variety of specimen shrubs and flowers planted in groups.
  
Tip # 3: Don't overcrowd your plantings

More than likely, the plants you're putting in the ground are going to be much smaller versions of what they'll become. Give them room to grow. Maybe even more than you think. Yes, you'll have lots of "negative space" for a little while, but there's nothing worse than having to deal with a shrub that has outgrown its home in just a couple of years. Use colorful annuals to fill in bare spots, or choose a monochrome theme to add a certain elegance to your garden.


Tip #4: Work with the space you've got

You can't change the pattern of the sun any more than you can will the temperature to stay above freezing in the winter, here in New England anyway. I think it's great to try new things and be a little ambitious once in a while, but if you continually choose plants and flowers that just don't thrive in your area, I'm afraid you'll be constantly frustrated and disappointed.

When we moved in here, we had to deal with what we lovingly called "the pet cemetery" out front. Twenty years of neglect in what might have started out as a lovely little garden area with a few trees really left it unmanageable, unsightly and a pain in the rear to try to clean up. In the end, the best thing to do was simply clear the area and start over. Sometimes a fresh start is the best remedy to any situation. But there are other things that I simply cannot change, like the deep shade on the north side of the house or the severe slope in the backyard.

Try to determine what you need to accept and what you can try to change. Don't be afraid of making mistakes, or of having to change things up here and there. Experience is the best teacher in gardening. I've been designing and planting gardens for over twenty years now, and while I've got certain basics down, there is still so much to learn!

Tip # 5: Take time to enjoy the view (and photograph your hard work!)
 
This one is rather self-explanatory, but in all seriousness, get out there and enjoy those blooms! And don't forget to document your hard work. Some of my very favorite pictures are the ones of my children, smiling beside their "birth" trees, or standing in front of a sweeping mass of pink phlox- you will always have the perfect backdrop for any photos with good landscaping.

I hope this has given you some ideas, or at least a little inspiration. Now go grab a shovel and make something pretty.  ;)

Here are some photos of the landscaping in our current home:


You can see all the empty spaces- and this was before I added a dwarf Rose of Sharon tree toward the left there- but this year, these plants are coming back triple-sized and I'm so glad there's room to accommodate them all.

These Columbine, lovingly referred to as "rocket ship flowers" by our youngest son, are some of my favorites. They take center stage in the foundation garden out front.

These plants may be tiny when first planted (this was two summer ago), but they'll be taking up lots more room in just a couple of years.



After a fall spruce-up... more annuals- like these mums- fill in those gaps beautifully while the main plants and shrubs are still small and growing.

You can read some other posts about our garden transformations by clicking on the links below :
Phase One of the Front Yard Transformation

Front Steps Make-Over for Fifty Bucks

To read about how to create a rock garden and plant on a slope, click here.

The following photos were taken at our former home, where we lived for nearly eleven years. I'm planning on writing a post about creating living fences- prefect for those new construct yards the builders clear cut- and some tips for creating borders and hedges with tons of texture, interest and color. I miss our yard!





The right grouping of plants add an interesting mix of color and texture.



Another benefit to planting specimen trees is the joy in watching their blossoms burst forth each spring. This is my beloved Japanese cherry tree, planted in honor of our youngest son's birth.

 And a variety of trees gives plenty of nesting opportunities- what a joy to watch!


Yet my very favorite thing about landscaping is how you can create special places outside for your family. Not only do things look beautiful and interesting, but the spaces are useful and inviting. Every summer, we sought relief in the shade of a favorite tree in the backyard, and especially enjoyed dragging out beach blankets, books and lemonade for a fun, leisurely afternoon twenty or so minutes.  =)
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Happy Gardening!

sharing with:
Sew Many Ways 
DIY by Design