Fresh and Inspired

Chamomile and crickets: a summer playlist & some quick pickle recipes

Summer is slowly unfolding and each day looks different depending on the weather. The only consistent activities include checking in on the garden and listening to soothing and fun music all day long in the background. If you want the summer playlist we’ve had on, click here for the playlist.

I’ve also begun harvesting chamomile flowers to dry for tea. Frederick and Edith love plucking the flowers with me and they’ve been happily drying out on cheese cloth for the past week. Besides drying chamomile for tea, quick pickling has become a weekly activity this summer.

Quick pickling is becoming one of the most rewarding summer activities. You need a few ingredients to quick pickle and there’s no need to boil jars or spend a lot of time preparing. It’s also easy to prepare a single jar with a handful of ingredients. Here are some of the main things to have in your pantry if you want to quick pickle:

  • Clean glass jars
  • White vinegar
  • Kosher salt
  • Sugar
  • Black peppercorns
  • Fresh garlic
  • Fresh dill (if usuing cucumbers)

The two quick pickle recipes below are simple and super delicious. Even if you’ve never pickled, they’re easy to make and you can enjoy the food the day after you make it.

There is a surplus of dill growing in our yard and they sell boxes of small cucumbers for a couple dollars at our local farmer’s market. This recipe for Refrigerator Dill Pickles is a winner and our family easily eats a jar a day of these crunchy, slightly tangy spears.

Our jalepeño plant is overproducing and, after a little research and some trial and error, discovered this Quick Pickle Jalepeño Recipe that makes amazing tasting pepper slices. We’re putting them on top of all the things – eggs, nachos, potatoes, burgers, sausages.

With August around the corner, I’ve been taking every opportunity to spend time outside. Last week after ditching the to-do list for the day, I threw all the beach supplies in the car and headed to the nearest state park. When it rains, pickle veggies. When it’s sunny, go outside. Summer is best spent making the most of the fresh produce and the warm sun. Wishing you a happy August soaking up all the fresh food, blue skies, and summer storms.

Fresh and Inspired · Uncategorized

Fourth pregnancy, two kids

“How many pregnancies? How many children?”

This question is a sharp reminder of loss and grace. It’s a matter-of-fact statement that happens in an instant without pause or acknowledgment. The first time I answered 4 pregnancies, 2 children it took my breath away. It became real again. The grace and gift of two. The loss and grief of one. And the hope and desire of another.

Happy photos of parents with babies usually have a story behind them.

My first two pregnancies were uneventful, healthy, and straightforward. Knowing the statistics on miscarriage I tried to keep myself from connecting too much and becoming too excited – it was a form of self-protection from potential heartbreak during the first twelve weeks.

The birth of Frederick was shocking and blurry. He had the cord wrapped around his neck twice and after an hour at the hospital trying to fix the intense dips in his heart rate with every contraction, he was delivered via an emergency c-section.

When I became pregnant with Edith, my doctor encouraged a natural delivery and it took faith and hope to believe that a new story could be written. The labor was “textbook” according to the doctor – no complications, no red flags, no concerns. But she didn’t breathe. And refused to take a breath until 6 minutes of intense intervention from a team of experts who rushed in seconds after she was born. Looking over at a huddle of doctors surrounding your 6 pound 14 ounce baby is terrifying. You can’t breathe. Your heart stops beating. You pray. She spent 6 days in the NICU and made a miraculous recovery with no signs of the initial trauma.

Friends began to ask if we planned on having more. For two and a half years I absolutely refused to entertain the question or idea. After almost losing both babies right as they entered this world, it was terrifying to think about risking it all over again. Rolling the dice and hoping for a different experience was unimaginable. It wasn’t until a friend sat in our sunroom and challenged me to believe for something different with tears rolling down my cheeks that my heart began to change. She planted a seed of hope that didn’t exist. A month later, glancing up as I emptied the dishwasher I noticed three arrows we have hanging on our living room wall. Two silver ones face east and a gold one faces west. In that moment, I felt God speak to me that our third baby would be different.

I became pregnant right away. Unlike the other two where I protected myself from connecting and feeling excitement, I thought to myself, “it will be different from the beginning – no fear or doubt.” We shared the news with a few close friends and asked for their prayers and support. The evening my miscarriage started I couldn’t stop crying. It felt like a thousand pounds of bricks fell on top of me and I couldn’t breathe or move.

The weight of disappointment is crushing. It causes you to curl up in a shell of comfort and retreat to a cave of safety. I read the entire Harry Potter series in 2 weeks. It took every ounce of strength to get up and be mom to my two living, breathing children, every other obligation faded in an effort to be present for them.

Friends who knew I was pregnant and then about our loss cared for me and it was a massive learning curve in vulnerability. Life was stolen before it even had a chance to breathe. A good friend messaged me saying that in an eternal perspective the baby will always be my child – just not here and now.

I wish I could say that when I got pregnant again hope filled my heart and faith was restored, but until I was twelve weeks it was a tightrope walk of restoration. Carefully balancing hope and realistic expectation is tricky business. Today, fourteen weeks along, it’s becoming less tightrope walk and more balance beam. Peace in the process is a practice that requires trust in the word that this third baby on earth will have a different birth story, one without trauma and drama. Perhaps the beginning days of conceived life have been tenuous and tearful but the beginning days of life in this world will be peaceful and beautiful.

I’m certainly not the first to speak about the grief of miscarriage and I won’t be the last. Some have done so far more eloquently, but there is something powerful and restorative in sharing and hearing stories of loss and restoration, disappointment and hope.

“Even in times of trouble we have a joyful confidence, knowing that our pressures will develop in us patient endurance. And patient endurance will refine our character, and proven character leads us back to hope. And this hope is not a disappointing fantasy, because we can now experience the endless love of God cascading into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who lives in us.” (Romans 5:3-5)

Fresh and Inspired

Five encouragements to stay curious and pursue your passion

Anything one does everyday is important and imposing and anywhere one lives is interesting and beautiful.” (Gertrude Stein)

By happenstance, I discovered The Country Diary of an Edwardian Woman by Edith Holden at the library last fall. Written in 1905-06 and discovered and published in 1977, the book itself as well as the story of its discovery are both incredibly beautiful and inspiring. Edith wrote and illustrated the whole document without showing it to anyone during her life. She illustrated and documented a whole year of plants and animals around her home. Each month includes beautiful drawings, quotes, and informative details specific to that month. It’s amazing to think about the time and energy she invested into a project for no one but herself. She saw the beauty of her environment and valued her own passions enough to call them important even if no one else did.

In a world of instant feedback, affirmation, and connection, this story provides a powerful counter-narrative to our contemporary culture. What does it look like to do something for the sole purpose of fulfilling your own internal desire without seeking fame or approval? How secure must we be to pursue something without any encouragement but our own?

I adore social media and the ability to share and connect. It’s powerful and beautiful when used well. Creative expression and important messages have instant audiences.

Perhaps the most important thing that has come out of my life is the discovery that if you prepare yourself at every point as well as you can, with whatever means you may have, however meager they may seem, you will be able to grasp opportunity for broader experience when it appears. Without preparation you cannot do it. The fatal thing is the rejection. Life was meant to be lived, and curiosity must be kept alive. One must never, for whatever reason, turn his back on life.” (Eleanor Roosevelt)

It’s easy to stifle our passions because they are daunting or seem unimportant compared to everything immediately in front of us needing our attention. Regardless of what other people see, we always have the opportunity to prepare ourselves by staying curious and pursuing the desires in our hearts. Like Edith Holden we can produce something for the pure purpose of fulfilling a deep desire within without having anyone else see. 

Whether you decide to share your pursuit with others or keep it to yourself, here are five encouragements to stay curious and pursue your passion:

  1. Choose something specific: it’s really helpful to go narrow and deep rather than broad and wide. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel, unless that’s something you’re really passionate about, but we can focus in on one niche aspect and specialize on it.
  2. Write it down: put that one thing or those ten things that you would do if you only had a year to live on paper and start putting a little time aside each week to work on it.
  3. Remove perfection from the equation: this is a tall order for most of us, but it’s so important to do something that’s “good enough” and be content with that.
  4. Make it a habit: it doesn’t have to happen daily, but adding this to the rhythm of life means it will get the attention it deserves. It also means something else may get less attention because if you say “yes” to this something else will get a “no.”
  5. Stay inspired: focus on and search out inspiration. Sometimes inspiration turns into competition because we see the amazing work done by others and feel defeated, but it’s vital to our soul to nourish it with those things that speak deeply to our hearts.

Happy passion pursuing, friends!

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