America, Architecture, Culture, Family, Funny, Garden, Outdoors, Summer

Marstiller in the Making

I asked Chris if he wanted to try to recreate my parents look on their wedding day for our own wedding day, but he politely declined. I’m not sure if it’s because he doesn’t know where to find baby blue pants or if he doesn’t think he could grow a mustache that quickly, but I think we could come close to pulling it off!

Ray & Angela circa 1987

Chris & Brittney circa 2017

For those of you who haven’t heard yet, Chris and I bought a house! It’s in a local community, surrounded by golf courses and lakes, and by default, retired people. Actually, I think the retired people came first, then built the lakes and golf courses. Either way, it suits both of us perfectly.

I love the house, it was built in 1983, so it was celebrating it’s seventh birthday when Chris and I were born. It’s a little older and probably a little wiser than the both of us, and I imagine it’ll teach us some pretty good life lessons over the next few years. It’s got some retro finishes, so we are updating a bit. Chris decided he didn’t like the dining room light fixture too much, so I think that’ll definitely go, if anyone is looking for something along these lines.

As much as I like the house though, I really like the neighbors. We haven’t even moved in yet and I am already getting so much entertainment. The day Chris and I went to look at the house, we walked down the (very steep) driveway to take a look at the bushes that block our view of the road out front. As we were down there, our neighbor from across the street came out to introduce herself.

She approached us and immediately said that anyone wearing Birkenstocks (which I wear about 90% of the time, with and without socks) was good in her book. She had on the same pair. Confirming that either she is pretty hip or I am a grandma. She and her husband had lived there since the early 90s and she knew all about our house. She told us the best way to back out of our driveway. She told Chris that he needed to trim the grass (much to our amusement since we hadn’t even officially closed on the house yet). And, she invited me to a weekly ladies luncheon meeting that she and the other ladies in the neighborhood meet for on Wednesdays at noon.

I thought about telling her that I have a day job and am not retired and therefore will not be able to make it, but I may wanna drop by sometime, so I left the invitation on the table. Jean and I might become good friends by the time it’s all said and done.

Along with the tips from Jean, we got an aloe plant and a St. Bernard’s lily from another lady in the community. And, the previous owners even left us a nice surprise, in the top of the closet, that Chris found while he was scraping our very 80s popcorn ceilings.

A used pregnancy test, positive in case you were wondering.

Let’s just say that maybe I am more amused by all of these happenings than he is, but he’s signed up for it: nosy neighbors, popcorn plaster, and me!

America, Celebration, Family, Farm, Garden, Health, History, Summer, Uncategorized

Potatoes, Po-tah-toes

My mom wanted me to write another blog post, so here I am.

She was sitting behind me in church yesterday and leaned up and whispered in my ear that it had been too long since I’d written a blog post. Opportune time, mom.

She, apparently, doesn’t think I need some creative burst of inspiration to produce any sort of written materials. I just need her suggestion and that is enough.

I guess it is enough, because again, here I am. Maybe sometimes all we need is for someone to believe in us and tell us what to do. Maybe that’s the secret to life I’ve been missing.

Anyway, back to my mom. She obviously loves to see me practicing my hobbies, but there is one thing that comes around every Spring that she is not a huge fan of.

I love to grow sweet potatoes.

I love growing everything, but sweet potatoes were really my first love of gardening. I think it was just the fact that I’d never grown them before and I researched it and they were successful in the first year. This is really no thanks to me, as sweet potatoes are super easy to grow and do so without much coaxing.

But, in order to grow sweet potatoes, you have to have sweet potato plants. They don’t come up from seed or sprout in the ground like other potatoes do. They’re a different breed altogether.

Now, you can go to your local greenhouse or feed store and find the plants. But, you can also grow them really easily in your own kitchen and then transplant them outside into the garden once they are ready. And, the first year I grew them, I wanted to grow varieties that I couldn’t find pre-grown plants for, so I tried the kitchen method.

It looks like a bad effort at a science experiment at first. Which is what my mom dislikes about it.

You take half of a sweet potato, put toothpicks in it, pick out your favorite mason jars, fill them up with water, and set the potatoes in them.

And, you wait.

And, when you have guests over, you politely explain to them why you have mason jar, water potatoes adorning your windowsill.

It’s a weird process, I’ll admit. But, it’s effective.

About a month or so later, you’ll start seeing plants emerge from the potatoes, both underwater and above water. Eventually when they get a little better established, you cut them off the potato, keep the plant still in the water for a few days while they produce roots, then plant them in the ground outside and let them go all summer long.

I started my sweet potato project a little earlier this year and I’ve had two potatoes sitting in the windowsill for about two months now.

About a month ago, my mom said: I think this one isn’t going to do anything, you probably just want to scrap it. Which I knew was just her way of trying to clear out atleast one of the offenders from the windowsill. Nice try, mom.

What she didn’t know is that one of the sweet potatoes growing in the window is a white sweet potato. If you’ve never tried one, try them! They’re really moist and have a lighter flavor than the typical orange ones. The other potato growing in the window is a regular orange one. The white ones, I have observed, are much more prolific than the orange ones. This one was almost sprouting already when I put started it in the jar. The orange ones take more time.

If you compare only those two, side by side, it looks like the white one is much further ahead and that the orange one is a dud. But, if you study closely, with a sweet potato trained eye, you can see where the orange one is just barely barely barely getting ready to break through with a sprout. I also know this because I have some sweet potatoes growing in the window in my office (what can I say, I’m obsessed) and the white one there is further ahead than the orange one.

I’ve heard all my life that comparison is a killer of joy. If you spend your time looking side by side at other people’s lives, timelines, accomplishments, you’re going to be miserable and not be able to see the great place that you’re at yourself. These two potatoes are the same in almost all regards. But one is designed differently, it blooms faster. Not because it’s necessarily better, but just because it was time for it to bloom. In this age of social media, it is so easy to get wrapped up in the lives of others, to compare, to try to rush, to push to get ahead. But, maybe it’s not quite your time to shine yet. Maybe there are great things in store, just about ready to break ground. Maybe you shouldn’t scrap the plan, thinking it’ll never work. Maybe you should just sit where you’re at, keep growing and changing day by day and wait for your time.

Maybe we’re all just potatoes.

Update: today’s progress with the white vs orange

America, Culture, Farm, Food, Garden, Health, Summer, Travel

Leading the Whey

I’ve been a lot of places in the world, but I’ve yet to find a place that I like better than home. 
I don’t know if it’s the people or the place or a combination of both, but there’s just something special about the place I come from.

This time of year is especially beautiful because everything is green and growing. I left a few weeks ago, with freshly planted seeds in the ground (literally, I planted the watermelon, cantaloupe and squash the day before I left) and came back to a pretty little garden developing. Also, my sweet potato slips are in full growth mode, in case anyone was wondering. 

That first row is my baby sweet potato plants that will soon take over everything

The people make our little corner of Arkansas pretty unique too though. I’m not just talking about my family. They’re definitely unique, but when you come from a tiny farming community, you know most people like family. Farm people are a special breed. They’re raised on hard work and sweat and a little bit of gossip.

I love the barter system. They talked about it in history class like it was an ancient thing. The trading of goods or services for other goods or services. But, the barter system very much lives on. People around here trade work for work, milk for eggs, garden produce for fresh bread, the list goes on. Last night, we traded one of the neighbors some fresh raspberries for some work on my car. Not kidding, that’s really the way it works. And, we’ve learned to trade t-shirts for just about everything.

My brother and I come up with crazy ideas just about on the daily. If I haven’t thought of it, he definitely has. Generally, he’s the one with the idea and I’m the one he convinces to go along with it. I could list a million of these day dreams: buying a hot air balloon was one we thought about for a few days, starting a farmer friendly barber shop (that one is possibly still in the works).. Starting a screen printing business was one that he came up with about 10 years ago. And, we all see where that’s taken us. 

So, when he said he wanted to try cheese-making, I got on board fairly quickly. Any way to produce farm fresh food is pretty much a sure deal for me. The cheese making supplies arrived in the mail a few days later. 

We’ve been getting raw milk from our neighbors for awhile now. Everyone tells me: don’t drink that, it’ll make you sick! However, I’ve been drinking it daily and feel strong as ever. See, the pasteurization process destroys some of the raw milk’s antibodies in the heating process. So, it’s technically healthier. And, I think it’s pretty safe. It’s how our ancestors drank it and generations of humans have survived since then, so it can’t be that bad, am I right?

Anyway, raw milk. In reading about cheese making, it is the cream of the crop. Pun intended. It makes the most curds, which in turn yields the most cheese. So, since our neighbors milk 21 gallons a week, we have access to excess raw milk. 

Side note: let me tell you a little history about where this milk comes from. These neighbors got a blind dairy cow from another neighboring commercial dairy farm, so they were going to milk it by hand. But, the cow “got down” and wouldn’t get back up. So, these neighbors called us to use our “hot shot” (an electric prod) to get this cow back up. Which is how we ended up in the free raw milk exchange. 

When we decided to make cheese, we knew we’d need extra milk, past our regular weekly gallon. So, we called and they said to come over and get a couple extra gallons. 

Now, it’s country rules that if you ask something from your neighbor, you don’t go without giving something in return. Well, Jake had just baked a few loaves of fresh bread.[He currently has a sourdough starter, for those of you who know what that would be. So, it’s producing three loaves of bread weekly right now] I had some homemade mulberry jam in the pantry, so we decided to take that. But, I also had some raspberries from the garden and Dad caught some catfish, so we took fish and berries too.

When we arrived, the exchange was happily made. We got our raw milk, they got their farm fresh goods and we went on our way. But, not before I got to meet their pet squirrel. I can’t make this stuff up, ya’ll. 

I’m a little sad to say that no one knows how to make cheese any more. I asked both of my sets of grandparents if they’d ever made cheese or seen it made and none of them had. I thought they were supposed to be the ones teaching us how to do this type of thing?
I really thought it would be much more difficult than it turned out to be. You start with a gallon of (preferably raw) whole milk. The cheese process essentially takes all of the milk solids (read: fat) out of the liquid. You will typically yield about a pound of cheese from one gallon of milk. 

(Side story: In Laos, I asked my nutrition training participants what was the first thing they thought of when they heard the word “fat”. Their answer? Cheese. Looks like they were right.) 

You start with citric acid, vegetable rennet, and your milk. Mozzarella is the simplest cheese to make (because it doesn’t have to be aged), so that’s what we decided to start with. 

Note: the cheesecloth was not used in this process. I’m told it’s for “cheddaring”

I’ll condense the cheese making process for you. You dissolve a little citric acid powder into a little bit of water, pour the milk over it, heat to 90 degrees, and watch the milk curdle a little bit.

Then, you pour in a little bit of rennet and water. Wondering what rennet is? I was too, so I did some really official internet research. It’s actually an enzyme that is produced in the stomachs of mammals that consume milk that helps us digest it. Apparently, in ancient times, they somehow harvested the rennet from the mammals stomachs to use. However, these days we might consider some of their methods a little barbaric. So, they figured out how to engineer vegetable rennet, which is essentially molds that mimic the process of breaking down milk. Sounds tasty, right?

Anyway, rennet goes in. The milk gets stirred gently for 30 seconds, then left to set for 5 minutes. It gets to a custard consistency, then you break it up a bit, cook a little longer, and you officially have your curds and whey. 

And yes, I do feel like Little Miss Muffet. Really though, what was she doing eating curds and whey? After seeing this process, there would be no way that I would want to eat curds and whey. 

This is the point at which things become really interesting. You separate the curds and whey, using a slotted spoon and a strainer. And your goal is this: get as much of the whey “water” out of the cheese solid as you can. You can squeeze it, heat it slightly, squeeze it again, whatever method works. 

I thought it would be really delicate, but it isn’t. You pretty much knead it like bread, until it forms into a solid little disc. You yield just about a gallon of whey water out of the process. Which, I didn’t throw away, of course. This is a really protein rich liquid that has multiple uses. The Swiss actually bathe in this water because it makes your skin really soft. I won’t be bathing in it, however I will attest from handling the cheese, that it does make your skin incredibly soft.

We made the first disc of cheese and it was so easy that we decided to make a second one. The first one took a little bit longer, but by the second round, we had it down to a science. All you need is 30 minutes to go from milk to mozzarella. 

Maysville Mozzarella, coming to a store near you!

Asia, Cars, Culture, Food, Funny, Garden, Summer, Travel

Cabbage Cartel

My hair smells like cabbage.

Actually, everything about me smells like cabbage. 

I’ve gone from Kimchi Princess to Cabbage Patch Kid. 

So, I’ll go ahead and answer the question everyone has been asking. How exactly did I end up surrounded by cabbage on a van from Laos to Cambodia?

Well, the real answer starts back in 2013. I went on a trip to Cambodia then and saw the establishment of the first BMA church there. I became friends with the believers there and have kept up with them since. So, when I found out that we weren’t far from their border here in Laos, I asked if we could go visit.

I have crossed land borders before. We’ve driven to Canada, and that one is pretty easy. We drove from Jordan into Israel. That one was a little bit tougher because of the high security, but still okay. But, as I was told: Laos to Cambodia is a whole different story.

We were told our van would arrive at 8 am to pick us up. Joy had warned me that it would be an “interesting” experience. 8 am and we’re waiting. As I see vans pull up, I ask Joy: is that the one? To which she kept responding, that one looks pretty nice, that one is pretty new.. Which made me wonder what exactly I had gotten myself into. And what exactly our van was going to look like.

Finally, at 8:40 am, it arrived. Looking okay, not bad at all, a little dusty, but that’s to be expected around here. Then, they opened the door.

A Lao-Vietnamese family occupied the first row of seats. As the door opened, they all gave a sort of amused look like: you’re riding in here? The second row was to be occupied by Joy and I… And cabbage. 

So. Much. Cabbage.

The driver gets in the back to start re-arranging and makes just enough room for us. I look at the floor and look at Joy, trying to figure out where to step. And finally, as the driver is getting out, I realize that I’m just supposed to step on the cabbage. Because what else is there to do?

We settle in for the ride. It’s about two hours of pretty good roads to the border. Along the way, I notice, we stopped to hand off some money to a man in a uniform. I thought possibly it was some sort of toll system. So, I asked Joy why we randomly had stopped in the middle of the road. She informed me that these are passenger vans only and not allowed to haul any type of goods. But, our driver has a friend (the man in the uniform) who will look in, make sure we only have passengers (and not 700 pounds of cabbage), take some money, put it in his pocket, and let us pass on by. Seems okay to me. 

About an hour or so in, we stop for a bathroom break. Which looks like this.

We continue on our way, smelling more and more like the produce aisle as we go along. We arrive at the border, where I have to get a Cambodian visa. While I am waiting, I notice the van door has been opened and the driver is ripping into a bag of the cabbage., the one that was at Joy’s feet nearest the door. He hands off six heads of cabbage to a man on a motorbike, who stacks them all in front of him, balancing one on top of the other, and takes off. He starts passing out a few more to the men at the border, which they all happily accept. I finally get all my paperwork filled out, get stamped through, then, we hop back in the cabbage wagon and take off again. 

The roads get more treacherous to navigate as soon as we enter Cambodia. Causing a lot of bouncing around. There are no seat belts, of course, so its hard to anchor yourself to any one thing. We arrive in Stung Treng, which is our transit town where we switch vans. As we unload our stuff at the stop and say goodbye to the cabbage van, all I can think is: what will we be hauling next?

Family, Food, Funny, Garden


I sent my brother to the store for groceries and this is what he came back with. (And, no, they weren’t having an enchilada sauce sale.) 

Sometimes it’s easier to do something yourself rather than to ask for help. And I knew that. I especially knew that when I sent him inside to find the squash seeds I needed to plant. We plant a fall garden, which starts now. I planted three varieties of fall squash. I harvested the seeds from our earlier crop, so the seeds I sent him in to find were still in the dehydrator.   

Homegrown butternut squash & seeds

I knew he wouldn’t find them.

 I knew it. 

But I waited in the yard til he came out on the porch. I thought, by some miracle. he’d found them. So I yelled at him to grab my notebook, where I keep my garden diagram, and a Sharpie. (So I could mark where I was planting the new seeds at.) 


Summer garden diagram

Except for when I shouted across the yard at him to grab a Sharpie, he thought I said squash seed. To which he yelled back that he couldn’t find. Then I yelled, not squash seeds, a Sharpie! To which he yelled, car keys?! To which I yelled Sharpie, to which he yelled that he still couldn’t find the squash seeds… So I went in, got the squash seeds, my Sharpie, and not my car keys. And went out and planted my squash. 

Like I said, sometimes it’s easier to just do it yourself. 

Farm, Food, Funny, Garden, Health

Peas, Please!

Is it bad that going to the dentist this week feels like a spa treatment? You get to lay back in the chair and zone out for awhile, so that’s kinda like a spa, right? I think it may just be because this week has been so hectic that I just needed the 20 minutes it took for Sydni to clean my teeth (yes, my dental hygienist and I are on a first name basis) for me to re-evaluate my life. Now, my teeth are clean, my life is back in order and I can continue on about my business.
We got a few boxes in today.

We got a few boxes in today.

You know the smell of jalapeño that’s just been picked and brought in from out in the hot sun? That spicy, fresh, warm smell. Nostalgic. Probably because that’s the first thing I remember growing and probably what we’ve grown the longest. It would be a close race between jalapeños and tomatoes for what’s been grown the longest. It’s also a classic summer scent because I’m the salsa maker, so I am the one who usually cuts and cleans all the peppers.
I haven’t done very well at keeping up with everything that’s been growing lately, so I’ll give a quick update.
Sugar Snap Peas: the first thing that started producing, these are the sweetest little guys. And, I am obsessed. I eat them raw, steamed, every which way and they’re so good! And pretty too! Actually, I was on a delivery the other day and it was lunch time and I was crunched and couldn’t take time for a proper lunch, so I grabbed a bag of fresh peas to eat in the car. What I didn’t consider is that it is apparently a little strange to be eating snap peas while sitting in traffic. I finally did consider this as I was sitting in the car doing so and getting a few odd glances from the other drivers around me. Oh well, not the strangest thing I’ve done in public. Well, to be honest, my views of “public” places get a little bit skewed. This is being said by someone who found it absolutely necessary to brush her teeth at a semi-abandoned carwash one time. It really was absolutely necessary, it’s a long story, but trust me, it was. But, semi-abandoned means not public, right? So it’s okay? Who decides these rules of etiquette anyway? Is your car considered a public place when you are sitting in traffic?  Nevermind, look at these peas!
Sugar Snaps

Sugar Snaps

Cauliflower: I’ve never grown this before and we’ve ended up with nearly 10 heads of it. It’s one of my favorite vegetables so no complaints here. My favorite thing to do with it? Eat it with guacamole instead of chips. Did I mention that I’m the chief guacamole maker too? I wear many hats, I know. Really, though, I feel like instead of wearing salsa and guacamole making hats, I should just carry a dip making umbrella and forego the hats. Is everyone liking all my analogies today?
Pretty, right?

Pretty, right?

Broccoli: I’m quickly realizing that I’m just a veggie freak because I love this too. I’ve never successfully grown this before, so we’ll count this year as a minor success. A few of the plants flowered early, but we salvaged what we could. I have no interesting analogy, anecdote, or story of inappropriate “public” behavior for this one, the picture will have to suffice.
Screen Shot 2015-06-16 at 4.20.02 PM
Raspberries: I’m pretty sure everyone is so tired of hearing about raspberries from me. I planted 8 plants last year and they are producing so abundantly this year. Last year, they produced some, nothing outstanding. So, this year, I wisely decided to transplant from the roots and those are doing beautifully. All 31 plants. So, let’s do the math. I planted 8 last year and they are now producing faster than they can be picked. And, there are 31 new plants that are thriving out in the big garden. So, just shy of 4 times the amount that I started with. No big deal. I cannot even imagine the bounty that those will be producing next year. Who wants to come pick raspberries? Any takers?
Screen Shot 2015-06-16 at 4.22.08 PM
I finally got all of the sweet potatoes in the ground. 105 slips total. We did 25 slips last year. I think I planted nearly 40 slips from a purple sweet potato. Want to know what a purple sweet potato tastes like? Yeah, me too. I’ve never actually tasted one. I went to the store and thought it sounded good. I mean, anthocyanins, right? I knew that’s what you were thinking, too, when I said purple sweet potatoes. You can never go wrong with anthocyanins. I don’t know why, when I was at the store buying the potatoes for the slips, I didn’t get an extra one to bake and eat before I planted a zillion plants of it. Pre-planning has never been my strong suit. But, I’m assuming, if you know me at all, that’s pretty obvious by now. If it wasn’t, the teeth brushing at the carwash should pretty much seal that up for you. On a positive note, Sydni (remember her, my dental hygienist?) said my teeth looked very good at my check up and that I should keep doing what I’ve been doing. Looks like that carwash brushing wasn’t such a bad idea after all.
{Personal note: I am not homeless. I do not regularly brush my teeth in strange places. It was a one (maybe two) time thing that was absolutely necessary. It should just be a sign that I am dentally conscientious and dedicated. And, sorry again, Mom, for sharing too much in a public forum. Wait, is a blog post considered public?}
Celebration, Garden, Religion

The Boat Brigade

We’ve established that I’m accident prone, correct? So, I was baking a loaf of bread today and I was really worried about making sure that I didn’t burn it. I had it in a crock in the oven and you are supposed to bake it with a lid then without a lid, it’s got a lot of directions. Anyway, so I removed the lid, set it aside, closed the oven back up. Then, promptly grabbed the lid in all of it’s 450 degree glory and effectively singed the fingerprints off of three of my fingers on my right hand. Ironically, I didn’t burn the bread. I’m thinking I could probably adopt a new identity now, seeing as how I no longer have fingerprints. Although, I don’t know what good a new identity would do me. If you can’t tell, I’m being a drama queen, it’s really not that bad. I mean, it’s kinda bad, but not adopt a new identity bad.

So, as I mentioned previously, VBS was this week. Is VBS a globally known term? When was the concept of VBS even started? I think I need to look this up. Vacation Bible School. It’s kind of weird when you think about it. It’s a vacation school where you learn about the Bible? I feel like these words don’t all really fit together. On to my point though, this year for VBS, we planned a fishing theme. And when I say we, I mean I talked while my dad listened and nodded. And you want to know where this plan was made? Out on the lake. While we were fishing. Sometimes inspiration just hits, what can I say?

This was the day I got a scorching sunburn. You think I'd learn eventually...

This was the day I got a scorching sunburn. You think I’d learn eventually…

I decided on Fishers of Men, then told my friends about how I wanted a boat and fish and props and nets and minnow buckets. So, Jesse got to work on building us a boat. And, let me tell you, it. is. awesome. The kids loved it!

Jesse the Boat Builder

Jesse the Boat Builder

I talked my dad and a couple other guys into being our storytellers. They were men from Galilee who ran a bait shop during Jesus’ time and told us all firsthand stories about Jesus’ ministry on the water. One little girl saw my dad dressed up and with a very serious face, asked “are you God?”

Galilee Bait Company

Galilee Bait Company

Children’s ministry is so funny. Those little guys are honest and just say what they think. Sometimes I wish as an adult, I could do that. Sometimes, I’m thankful that I can’t. As Spring has passed and Summer has arrived, it has given me some time for a fresh perspective and I think raising kids and raising fruit trees has got to be a lot alike. I guess I should preface this by saying I’ve never raised a child and I’ve planted only a few fruit trees, so maybe I’m not an expert. And maybe they’re completely different.

What I do know about kids I’ve mostly learned from children’s church. Children’s church seems to bring out the best and worst in personalities. I know this from having been raised in the same children’s church program that I now help teach. I think I was in the program until I was around 10-12 and started teaching the little ones when I was 13-14, so I’ve been at it for awhile now. Let’s just say I’ve been around long enough to now be teaching the children of the children I grew up in children’s church with.

Fruit trees are a different story. I planted a single peach tree about 7 years ago. And it’s basically dead. I think I’m finally ready to admit defeat with that one. However, I planted 6 new trees in October 2012 and 5 have survived. So, maybe I’m learning.

The thing about fruit trees is that it takes a long time to see any progress with them. They bloomed beautifully last year, but produced no fruit. This year, ever faithful, they bloomed again. And, be still my heart, there are little peaches and pears appearing on the branches. Whether they’ll last through the summer and til harvest remains to be seen. But the sight of those tiny fruits make the effort of planting seem worth it already.

Baby Moonglow pears

Baby Moonglow pears

We have one mature fruit tree on our farm. It’s a mulberry tree that I harvested a lot from last year. And guess who planted it?

No one.

No one had any desire to harvest mulberries, no one toiled to dig a hole, no one watched the tree come up expectantly, waiting year after year for the bounty of berries it would produce. Instead, it was probably a leftover seed, dropped years ago by a bird flying overhead. And now I get to collect what nature so generously left behind.

Our children’s church and youth ministry have gone through phases of abundance and times of little to no activity. Recently, we saw the children’s ministry, which had been a thriving branch, drop off to nearly nothing. But, as Spring is like to do, we saw new growth. Kids are coming, ones who have never been in church before, who have not heard much , if any, about Jesus.

And who planted these seeds? Who prepared and watched patiently as these little trees were planted? I plan and I try to do the best I can. But, it is ultimately the Lord who sends the harvest. I get so focused and so tied up in programs and lessons and crafts and games and everything else that comes along with children’s ministry. And sometimes I forget, it’s not me who sends the rain, it’s not me that brings about growth, it’s not me who plans the harvest. It is the Lord.

VBS was good this week. We didn’t have astounding numbers, we didn’t have anything new or flashy. But, we did have some kids who were hungry. Not hungry physically (although we had those kind too) but hungry for something they don’t even realize yet. You can see it in their eyes. They’re searching. Their little hearts are wanting more. And if there is one child who comes, who is seeking the Truth, I want to be the one there to show it to them.

Because, you know what? Someone was there to show it to me. We talked with the kids this week about “the call”. That call from Jesus to come follow Him. And you know when I got that call? When I was their age, at VBS, sitting in the same pews they were sitting in this week, hearing the same Truth they heard. I was them. My heart was hungry for something this world could not give me. But, that week, I found what I needed.

The Lord is faithful for a harvest. So, now, we wait patiently and watch these little seeds grow.

Culture, Fashion, Garden


It’s another rainy day and my embroidery machine is humming quietly from it’s little corner. So, essentially, my life hasn’t changed at all. I think it has rained 20 out of the last 24 days. The rain is kinda bleary but on the bright side, everything is growing and getting all green and lush. I ride my bike in the evenings when it is a little drier and it smells exactly like you would imagine Shangri-La smells. To be honest, I don’t really know what Shangri-La is, but that’s what came to mind when I smelled all the green lusciousness.

The first of a very pretty harvest

The first of a very pretty harvest

So, technology hates me. Have I ever mentioned that before? I don’t know if technology is something that can be grouped into a whole category or something that can be assigned emotions, like hate. But, nevertheless, we don’t have a good relationship. Currently, I have two laptops that are open (one that is supposedly downloading an update for the fifth time and this one that I am typing on). Did I also mention that my brother decided I needed two monitors at my work desk? He read something about how much more productive two monitors can make you and my aunt in Mississippi had two. So, he asked her about it and they were discussing the pros and complete lack of cons (she’s thinking about getting a third screen, apparently). I overheard part of this conversation and lo and behold, the very next week, I show up to see two screens on my desk. They communicate with each other and everything, as in I can slide a screen from one to the other. I wanted to give the whole thing a cold shoulder, but I must admit, it really does help with invoicing. I’m still getting used to it.

My new workspace

My new workspace

I have this thing where I don’t like reading what I write. I’m not sure if that is normal or not. I am a major proofreader, so I read anything I write excessively right after I write it. But, once it is written and has my seal of approval grammatically, I typically write it and never really go back to it again. I have been writing a news column for a local paper for our church association since I was 12. {Side note: who nominates (yes, I was nominated for this position at church) a 12 year old to write the news column? I have no idea what they were thinking, but at the time, everyone apparently thought it was a good idea.} And, I have been writing it ever since. So, going on 12 years now… I don’t really feel old enough to have been doing anything consistently for 12 years. However, I do miss a deadline every now and again so “consistent” is a loose term in this case. But, my point was, I don’t go back and read the news columns I write when I actually receive the paper in the mail. I guess it’s just a quirk. My point I originally started to make before I ventured off into my writing history was that I don’t go back and read my old blog posts. My point I was making before that was that I went back to check something in one of them the other day and noticed that the links to some of the pictures were inactive and weren’t properly displaying the content. So, I emailed and had to go back in and fix all the pictures. Which takes me back to my very original point that technology hates me. See, I knew I was going somewhere with all of this. Wow, it took me awhile to get all that said. So, if you’ve looked at any of the older posts lately and the pictures weren’t showing, they should be now!

My most recent color chart

Do ya’ll see that massive color chart? Another recent addition to my workspace. The other day a guy called me and told me he was coming out to order some shirts. We almost never have anyone come to the shop to order, but I told him if he could find it, he could come. So, about thirty minutes later (thanks to Apple maps), he arrived and asked me what colors he could choose from. So, I whipped out my handy, dandy color chart and promptly displayed all 96 colors in the style he wanted. Talk about overwhelmed. I guess I’m just used to it since I deal with the intricacies of all the different shades of blues and greens everyday. My friends think it’s a fun parlor trick to have me identify the different colors and style numbers of the shirts they wear. I thought everyone could identify a Gildan 5000 Galapagos Blue tee from a mile away? Apparently not. Speaking of shirts, remember those 865 specialty dyed shirts I mentioned in a previous post? We finally got around to printing those and on big runs like that, my presence is required in the shop to fold and stack as they come off the dryer. It can get a little monotonous, so I decided to challenge myself to see how large of a wall I could build.

Screen Shot 2015-05-30 at 3.20.22 PM

Here’s me with my creation. And, yes, it was about to topple over on me. I think next time, I’m gonna try for a pyramid…  Only 8 hours and 26 minutes left on this latest download. Did I mention my views on technology?

Farm, Food, Garden

Sweet Potato Dreamin’

I graduated college exactly two year and two days ago. And, I had no idea where life would take me. Well, so far today I have: tracked down and ordered 865 specialty dyed t-shirts, planted 64 sweet potato slips (17 of which were grown in my kitchen window) and cooked 1 vat of smoked chicken stock. This is an improvement from yesterday, which was spent sewing 125 koozies together to send out to a band in Omaha. Although, yesterday did include baking a chocolate cake made with bananas and applesauce. Pretty sure this is not where I would’ve guessed life would’ve taken me in two years. But, what can I say? My life is weird.

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 6.51.34 AM

Did you know that you grow sweet potato slips in water? Last year was my first year to grow sweet potatoes and they were a huge success. Literally. These potatoes came out of the ground and some of them weighed 2 and 3 lbs per potato. They were giant. I purchased the slips from a local feed store. But, this year, I wanted to try growing the slips for myself. So, I read about it online and saw how to grow them, but to be honest, I was a little bit skeptical. I bought my potatoes (organic varieties from a food co-op) and put them in mason jars in the window sill and let nature do it’s thing.

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 6.51.50 AM

A month later and here we are. These things are crazy! The leaves sprout out of the potatoes and will grow under water. I am pretty fascinated by them. I did buy 50 sweet potato slips from the same feed store this year. I was reluctant, but my dad claimed that I needed them as “insurance”. I assured him that my window sill experiment would yield us as many slips as we needed. And, it has. So, in short, we should have an abundance of sweet potatoes come Fall.

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 6.57.30 AM

My great grandpa farmed sweet potatoes on the same land that I am now growing them on. He grew so many that he was known in the area for growing them and would have people stop by to buy them from him. I’m thinking I might follow in his footsteps if this harvest turns out. I always dreamed of being a sweet potato farmer. Sometimes dreams do come true.

Farm, Garden, Medicine

Pinky Promise?

How often do I even write anymore? Not often enough. I have the stories to tell, just not the time to get them written. Well, I guess I just haven’t been making the time. In between delivering t-shirts all over the tri-state area (we literally drove around 500 miles just in delivering last week), it’s hard to keep up with much. The garden is coming up nicely, though. I’ve managed to get almost all of the “small” garden planted, which are mostly root vegetables and tomatoes. I have a couple rows left to plant, then it’s time to move on to the big plot. That’ll be for potatoes (mostly sweets) and squash, melons, peppers, and any other random seeds I find in my collection. The last to be planted in the small garden were the carrots. I ordered an abundance of colors (carrots come in red, yellow, orange, purple, I even found a black variety) I like all the different colors because they all offer different phytonutrients. The motto for my major in college was: “Eat a Rainbow”, so all the different  colors are important, people! But, in my effort to get just the right blend of seeds, I missed the staple: a plain old orange carrot. So, who do you call when you need something? Mom.

Screen Shot 2015-04-24 at 3.46.09 PM

Everybody always tells me I look like my mom. Which I do. And sometimes I act a lot like her too. We both share a love for too many details, cantaloupe, and digging in the dirt. Here we are picking green beans together last summer. (By the way, the greens that are on my side of the picture that look like fronds are the tops of the carrots we grew last year, they were pretty huge)

Screen Shot 2015-04-24 at 3.50.47 PM

Anyway, back to the matter at hand (it’s a pun, you’ll see) I called her to see if she’d stop by a little store in town to get some carrot seeds. Harmless, right? Well, apparently, as she was walking out of said store, she was looking at some tomato plants and tripped, catching herself with both hands right before she face-planted into the concrete. I’ve talked about how graceful I am, so this is just a testament to where I get it from. She decided when she got home that her hand was just sore from the fall and it would be better in the morning. Wrong.

Post Fall: Day 1

Post Fall: Day 1

She woke up to it looking like a blown up surgical glove and after some coercing from me, we headed to the emergency room. Where we spent a beautiful Saturday getting seen by doctors and nurses and sitting in waiting rooms.

Peace, Love, & Pinkies

Peace, Love, & Pinkies

The verdict: she broke it. The bone on her pinky finger was smashed together in the fall, so she got a cast on her right arm. And, she got to sign her name with her left hand, which looked like the work of a first grader. (See previous blog post where I had to arrange first grade signatures on notecards for a comparison)

Screen Shot 2015-04-24 at 3.43.38 PM

The good thing about spending the day with your mom in waiting rooms is that it leaves a lot of time for photography. Actually, I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity for a well arranged selfie. The ER seemed like just the right place.

Screen Shot 2015-04-24 at 3.42.36 PM

Her original cast was white and after being seen by the orthopedic surgeon, she got a permanent blue cast (now decorated with flames due to the artistic talent of my cousin), which she will wear for four weeks. No surgery necessary. And no pinky promises. At least for awhile.