Tuesday, July 31, 2012

my sweet addiction

I have a tiny little problem.

I'm pretty sure that I can stop whenever I want to.  But the thing is, I'm not sure that I want to.

Stop, that is.  I'm absolutely sure that I want to jam.

Is it proper to use "jam" as a verb?  I'm not sure.  Usually I care, but not in this case.  Right now, I've thrown caution to the wind.  Grammar rules be scorned.

I am hooked on jamming.  Or jam-making, if you prefer.

Strawberry jam.  Raspberry jam.  Marionberry jam.

Sweet and summery.

Soon there will be blackberries to jam, too.

Frankly, I cannot wait.  

Jam, jam, jam, jam, jam.  

All through the year, on cold rainy days...let us eat jam.

(If you're curious, the recipe I use for honey-sweetened freezer jam is HERE.)

Monday, July 30, 2012

a seasonal jackpot

summer squash, zucchini

I was hugely bummed to miss the first three weeks of the season for the CSA (Community  Supported Agriculture) baskets we purchase in summer.  As it turned out, the very first one was to be delivered on the day we drove out of town.  What timing!  My neighbor kindly offered to receive them and reimburse us for the produce - part of the arrangement of the CSA program is that the consumer commits to buying from the farmer for the growing season.  I hated the idea of paying for three weeks' worth of produce we'd never see, and I also hated the idea of asking for a refund for those three weeks.  This program is built to support the local farmer; that's one of the many reasons I love getting seasonal produce in this way.


Well, we got home on Saturday and I discovered that my neighbor had sweetly put the perishable vegetables away in my kitchen.  When I poked around to see what there was, I was amazed at the quantity!  Three weeks in, and we are rolling in produce.  Let me take you on a little tour of my refrigerator's crisper, if I may...


green onions
red chard
green chard
English peas
snap peas
yellow summer squash


Did I score, or what?!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

to Oz and back

‎"Home, the spot on earth supremely blest, 

A dear, sweeter spot than the rest." 

~Robert Montgomery

I have been to "Oz" and back.   It has been wonderful and taxing, fulfilling and stretching. It has been a blast.

I loved going back. Seeing how things have changed and what's stayed the same.  Hugging people dear to me and introducing my kids to them.  I  thoroughly enjoyed visiting the old haunts.  There is so much more I would have liked to see and do, but there just wasn't time for everything.  Even so, we packed a lot into those three weeks. For the most part I think we made good choices with our time.  We certainly did our best.

This trip was empowering.  After accomplishing (and enjoying!) this feat, nothing seems impossible to me now.  Outings which used to intimidate me, taking the kids out, seem like nothing now.  If we survived, even thrived, during three weeks of living like a nomad family, we can deal with much more than I thought.

I will always treasure this time with my husband and children: the memories made. What we did, where we went.  I am so glad that we did it.

And I am so glad to get home.  

Bringing this traveling series to a close, I leave you with this thought: 

Saturday, July 28, 2012

the heart & soul of this operation

We would never have done this thing apart from my husband. His enthusiasm, his excitement, and his faith that it could in fact be done...they have been the driving force behind our Big Trip from the very beginning.

When Jeff suggested this venture last summer, I told him it was crazy.  I put him off, saying "Let's wait and make sure that the baby is born healthy, and isn't too colicky..." Part of me thought he would forget about it. I mostly hoped he would.  The very idea made my stomach churn.

A family of seven? On the road for three weeks? With a baby in tow?


I joked that we would need to budget a massage or two into our financial planning. Probably a few sessions with a therapist. I told my friends that I expected to come home with a new twitch. Time after time, he told me,"Think positive! Focus on the exciting things about all this." And I tried, I really did.  But my heart quailed within me, and my knees were like Jell-O.

He was right. With a lot of prayer and the grace of God, it has been a phenomenal trip.

My husband excels at the practical things as well.  It was his idea to pack "hotel suitcases." Genius.  And when it comes to loading our vehicle, he has an amazing gift.  Spatial organization it not my strong suit; it is most definitely his.

He brings bags into our lodgings each night. He hauls the cooler full of lunch goods to our rest stop picnic table.  His servant heart blesses me each and every day.

He is the brains and the brawn; he is the heart and soul of this adventure. We never, ever could have done this without his self-sacrifice and vision.

I am blessed to call this man my husband!  Even with the cow-tipping t-shirt.

Friday, July 27, 2012

travel: how to drink filtered water on the road

Brita water bottle (left)

Remember when I mentioned filtering water bottles in this post?  We bought this green Brita bottle while we were in Texas. In fact, we bought two of them!  You can check them out here.  They have been so handy while traveling.  You just never know what you're getting with tap water around the country, and in some of the places we've stayed, it's tasted downright nasty.  I'm so very glad we made the investment.

Just so you know, I'm not affiliated with Brita in any way.  I am just really enjoying these bottles. We put water in them and then fill our regular water bottles through the filter.  Easy peasy!

Happy Trails!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Gabe's Journey

Today Gabriel, who is seven months old, shares his perspective on this journey of ours.  Here it is in his own words.


They say I won't remember any of this.

That may be true. But from where I sit, it has definitely been an experience.  I've seen, done, lived a lot.  And who knows? Maybe years down the road I'll somehow keep the memory of this time in the recesses of my mind. Maybe it will be stored deep in my bones, some knowledge and strength to be drawn in unknowable times to come.

I've seen things I never knew existed.  Rugged countryside, the wide, free plains, blue skies stretched tight from one  horizon to the other.  I've seen places I've only heard about in family legend. 

Places where almost all the guys wear purple.

I've been to little country churches, parks in brand new (to me) cities, neighborhood swimming pools, and more houses than I could count (if I could count). I've met people who had only seen me in photographs. Napped on the shoulders of people I didn't know.  I learned to sleep in a room with six other people - in a new and different place most every night.

My mama played a lot of white noise for me, at least until the other kids were asleep. 

I played in the sand by the Gulf of Mexico. My parents dipped me in the warm salt water there (so different from the Oregon coast!). I sat in an auditorium and listened to worship music.  I examined other kids' toys and spent a lot of time grinning at my uncle.  A lot of time.

I've explored hotel rooms, houses, grassy rest areas and faces as unique as the snowflakes flurrying on a mountaintop.

So yeah, I've seen and done a lot of new stuff.

But I have had a lot of familiarity too.  I've been between my brother and sister every day we were on the road, looking into their faces, erupting in giggles when they were being silly.  I've sat on my mama's or daddy's lap for meal after meal: smelling their scents, feeling the comfortable curve of their bodies, listening to their voices.   I've had a lot of extra snuggles lately.

I've slept in the portable crib I know from home, snuggled with my blanket and played with my monkey rattle all the way down to Houston, Texas.

I have been with my family. On a big adventure.  It has been exciting and challenging, enlightening and enriching.
So even though I may not end up remembering this journey...I wouldn't have it any other way.


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

the longest haul

Today we begin the most dreaded part of our trek.  It's the longest haul.  As we leave the loved ones we've visited behind, we set our eyes and hearts toward home.

The place we've created a nest for ourselves.  The land of berries and pleasant summers.  The location where we've put down roots over the last eleven years, and made memories.

Our destination.

The longest haul.  Five days of pushing, pushing, pushing.  Trying to balance rest with efficiency.  Meals on the go, a different bed every night.   And in the end...home.  Home.

We covet your prayers during this time.  This is likely the most difficult part of our journey.  We are tired, we have passed the climax of our trip, we're a little frayed and fairly homesick.  Please pray for happy hearts, safe travel, and a very patient baby.

Thanks for reading about our adventures.  Happy Trails!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Saturday, July 21, 2012

my brother & me

This one's for you, Mama.

Friday, July 20, 2012

travel: what worked & what I'd do differently

As I look back over this great undertaking, there are some things I have learned about traveling with our family.  There are things which worked really well as well as things I'll do differently next time (gulp...next time?!).  Curious? I suspected as much.  Don't worry, I've got you covered.

What Has Worked

Hotel Suitcases. My husband had the idea of packing "hotel suitcases" for the days we're on the move.  He is a genius.  Here's how it worked: when we planned to spend only one night in a particular location (such as a hotel), we had prepared a single suitcase (a carry-on, 21" size) with enough clothes and sleepwear for the entire family for one night. (We have actually managed to squeeze two days-worth of clothing for our seven-person family, assuming that pajamas would work two nights in a row.)   I do have a separate bag for toiletries, but as far as clothing went, that one suitcase was it.  It cut down drastically on the number of things we had to haul in each night.  Sleeping bags, pillows, portable crib, toiletries bag, and one suitcase.  Not too shabby for a crew this size.

Sleeping Bags.  With five kids?  It was a no-brainer.  We only brought two though, and have generally taken them in to both hotels as well as the homes we have stayed in.  Two of the younger children using sleeping bags, two older ones on beds or air mattresses.   It works.

Cold Breakfast & Lunch Foods. In spite of our foray into continental breakfasts, it's been lovely to have prepared breakfast and lunch foods along.  Hard-boiled eggs come in very handy for either meal, as does bread and nut butter.  We have found it very restful to find a rest area at lunchtime.  The kids can run, we can serve nourishing finger foods, refill our water bottles and use the restrooms.  Considerably nicer, a least in warm weather, than occupying squirmy kids at a restaurant. 

Bag O' Snacks.  I have a shopping bag where I keep an assortment of snacks, divided into bags with individual servings.  Although we have had to replenish supplies along the way, it's been a great resource.  Raisins, crackers, popcorn, cereal bars and more.  Handy!

Disposable Goods.  Although at home I try to reuse items as much as I reasonably can, I purchased a fair amount of disposable goods for the trip.  Sandwich bags for snacks, gallon bags for restaurant leftovers, paper napkins, paper towels, paper plates, cups, plastic knives and yes, disposable diapers.  For a trip, especially one of this magnitude, I much prefer disposable items.  They make things infinitely easier. 

Soap nuts.  At home I use soap nuts for laundry as well as general cleaning.  They're natural, easy and even compostable.  When considering washing clothes on the road, I decided to bring two small bags of soap nut berries.  Each set of soap nut berries will do at least 4-5 loads of laundry.  The bags and their contents can go through the dryer just fine, so I don't have to worry about wet items or powdered laundry detergent spilling in our suitcases.  It has been beautifully easy.

What I'll Do Differently

Filtering Water Bottle(s).  As a rule, my family uses stainless steel water bottles.  We have also purchased glass water bottles like these to use for kombucha.  But over the weeks, I have wished more and more for filtered drinking water.  I hate buying bottled water, however.  Instead I would like to get a couple of filtering water bottles just for the road.  They may be plastic (which we prefer to avoid), but bottled water is in plastic anyway, and if given a choice, I would rather drink filtered water in plastic than unfiltered water in stainless steel.  I'm not sure which option is truly healthier, but I do know that some tap water I've experienced has a truly horrible taste.  And when I consider what can be lurking in that tap water, it's an easy choice for me.

Purchased Deodorant.  I don't buy deodorant as a rule.  Most over-the-counter stuff contains aluminum, and my experiences with purchasing the "natural stuff" have generally not had great results.  I've been making my own homemade deodorant using this recipe for several years now, and I like it.  However.  It is largely made with coconut oil, which becomes very liquid when warm.  Traveling and liquid deodorant are not a good fit, to say the least.  Next time I will find an option in the store before I go.  Or maybe order some Funk Butter by Oyin Handmade, the one natural deodorant I liked.

Less Chocolate (in warm weather).  I included some chocolatey treats in our food stash.  Not the best idea in warm, even hot, weather.  Of course, we could always make a point to keep it in the cooler...  

No Backpack Carrier.  At least not unless we have a planned outing for which we might need it.  For example, the zoo or a hike.  But for a driving-around-and-visiting-people kind of trip, it's not really necessary.  And it takes up a fair amount of space.

Favorite Shoes in the Suitcase.  We have shoe bags along with extra shoes.  However, I kept finding myself without access to the shoes I'd want to wear the next day.  Next time, I'll put more shoes in my suitcase and leave the shoe bag for the things I rarely wear.

Travel Picnic Blanket.  No picnic tables?  No problem.  At home we have a special quilted blanket we like to use for picnicking purposes, but it's far too bulky for a trip such as this.  I think a picnic blanket like this could be incredibly handy for use on the road.  Waterproof, compact and easy to carry.  

More Vegetables.  I included a few sugar snap peas in our stash of real food, and they've been terrific.  Next time though, I'd like to bring along more carrot sticks and other hardy raw vegetables.  Ideally, I'll include some fermented vegetables as well.  Seeking out local farmers' markets around the country can be a great way to replenish supplies and try new things.  Hardy vegetables which can be eaten raw are sure winners.

More Organic Raisins.  We ran out of raisins way too fast.  Granted, you can always buy more.  But it's not always easy to find organic raisins.  And when it comes to raisins, buying organic is kind of important.  Besides, raisins are pretty compact, don't squish too badly, and keep extremely well.  Raisins make a great candidate for packing in larger amounts than, say, bananas.

There you have it: what worked well and what I'll do differently next time.   Happy Trails!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

not in kansas anymore

We're not in Kansas anymore.

I was surprised by how emotional we were about our return to the sunflower state.  Jeff and I were practically giddy as we approached the state line last week.  We took photos of the landscape, the  familiar signs, some of our favorite locations.  We drove by the spot where my husband proposed to me, took the children to the church where we were wed.    We went to the park where I played as a young girl; Jeff's elementary school.  I strolled down the sidewalk of my hometown, marveling at how much it still felt so familiar even though much had changed.

As my husband said, that's kind of been the theme of this trip.  So much (including the two of us) has changed, yet so much is the same.  

We marveled at the faces we know so well.  Friends dear to us for many years now.  We have driven by sunflowers and lifted our faces with them to wide blue skies.

There's no sky like a Kansas sky.

When we began the journey toward the southern boundary of our home state, I felt a great sadness sweep over me. In so many ways, this place feels like home.  It is so familiar, known. Here we feel the almost-palpable love of those we said goodbye to when we pulled up our roots nearly twelve years ago.   The plains just feel right to me in so many ways.  They suit me; they fit me.

But we're not in Kansas anymore.

We've moved on, crossed the border. We're headed to different places, to see new sights and have new experiences.  So I'm choosing to keep my eyes ahead.   After all... if I keep looking behind me, I might miss something amazing yet to come.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


"Ah, summer, what power you have to make us suffer and like it." ~Russel Baker

Monday, July 16, 2012

and back again

They say you can't go home again.

But really, I kind of did.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

dear little country church

The place where family history was made.