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.

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Making the most of early summer: tastes, sounds, and discoveries

Here in Michigan winter and summer collide. We have a few sporadic spring days sprinkled between winter temperatures and then suddenly the days are long, humid, and green. This seemingly overnight season change is a shock and jolt to the system.

Eating seasonally towards the end of winter and beginning of spring is challenging and when the first summer harvest arrives, my tastebuds are ready for the freshness of greens and strawberries and rhubarb. In this post, I’m sharing some of the seasonal foods we’ve been loving, some things to listen to, and a few recent discoveries that have totally blessed the early days of summer. Scattered throughout are a few photos from a recent Saturday lunch of arugula pizza, mesclun salad, and the most luscious farmers market strawberries.

Tastes of early summer

Spring greens are such a refreshing taste and flavor after months of root vegetables, soups, and stews. Here are some of the things I’ve been doing with our early summer harvest of greens:

Arugula/rocket: this peppery, hardy leaf grows so well it can be overwhelming if you don’t have a few different ways to use it. A few that I love include:

Simple salad: arugula, juice from half a lemon, olive oil, salt and pepper

Pizza: bake your choice of dough/flatbread, cheese (I like mozzarella or goat), and maybe some proscuitto then throw a generous handful of arugula on top after it comes out of the oven

Pesto: whiz together arugula, walnuts, olive oil, lemon juice, parmesan cheese if you like, and salt and pepper until it’s the consistency you like and use as pasta or pizza sauce

Spinach: rich in nutrients, it’s hard to say no to the health benefits of garden fresh spinach. Ways I use it most often:

Frittata: basically a panfried then baked egg dish – I love the combination of spinach, baby potatoes, asparagus, and feta cheese

Scrambled eggs or omelette: sauté spinach with a little onion then added to some eggs with goat cheese served with some whole grain toast makes a delicious meal

Smoothie: throw a banana, frozen blueberries, a handful of spinach with some nut milk and nut butter in a blender for a refreshing snack

Rhubarb: this secret vegetable is one of my late spring, early summer favorites. It’s tangy, fresh flavor remind me of my grandma’s strawberry rhubarb pie. Some ways to use it:

Muffins: there are so many lovely recipes for rhubarb muffins floating around Pinterest. These ones made with applesauce are simple and tasty.

Crisp: throw some cut up rhubarb, sugar, cinnamon into a baking dish and top with your favorite oat crumble/crisp topping and bake

Jam: this rhubarb chia jam recipe is so simple and healthy

Strawberries: they don’t last longer than a day in our house eaten straight out of the bowl

Sounds of early summer

Rebekah Lyons: Being Free Part 1 and Part 2: few podcasts make me stop everything I’m doing to sit down and just listen. Rebekah’s powerful testimony and speaking ability communicates some of the most foundational truths about who we are in Christ with such grace and heart that I felt challenged and inspired afresh. Take a listen. You won’t be the same after.

Hillsong United’s new album Wonder: full of beautiful songs, this album is breathing life into summer right now. So Will I (100 Billion X) has been on repeat the past few days. It’s one of the best contemporary psalms/hymns I’ve heard in a long time.

The Simple Show: Tsh Oxenreider is so easy to listen to and the most recent episodes about summer travel and hospitality are practical and inspiring.

For some more serious listeningInvisibilia Season 3 recently began and it’s just as phenomenal as seasons 1 and 2. Sorta Awesome episode 99 is one of the best discussions I’ve heard regarding talking to kids of all ages about their bodies, reproduction, and sexuality. This list of books and resources from the podcast is amazing – I’ve checked out all the books for preschoolers from the library and they have been so good.

Early summer discoveries

The Organically Clean Home by Becky Rapinchuck: about a year ago, I began the slow process of using up pre-made cleaning products and then making my own. While I love Pinterest, it feels like a rabbit hole of information that is hard to climb out of. This book is clear, concise, and full of recipes and tips for literally everything. It’s free on Kindle, which is amazing if you have a kindle or even have the kindle app on your phone. I borrowed it from the library and will be adding a physical copy to my own personal library once I return it.

No-Drama Discipline: The Whole Brain Way to Calm the Chaos and Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind by Daniel J. Siegel: with summer break just around the corner and two preschool aged kids who don’t nap, I’m looking for all the resources about parenting these days. This book is practical and well researched. There is a cheat sheet at the end that is perfect for printing out and sticking on the fridge as a constant reminder of the solid principles found in this book.

With every new season, there is the opportunity to try new things and make a shift in life. Cheers to enjoying these long, warm days and all the lush sights, nature sounds, season fresh tastes, and all the summer sensations!

 

The Grass so little has to do –
A Sphere of simple Green –
With only Butterflies to brood
And Bees to entertain –
And stir all day to pretty Tunes
The Breezes fetch along –
And hold the Sunshine in its lap
And bow to everything –

(Emily Dickinson)

 

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)