Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Thoughts on Seven, Thoughts on Heaven

The paths are many, the truths are one.

Big B turned seven today. I just have to go on record here and say that despite my lack of patience with several of his more testosterone-driven, spirited antics, the boy is an absolute joy to be around. He is funny, crazy smart, and curious in the sweetest way.

Tonight, on the way home from Papa's softball game, Big B asked me if there were other people that could do magic besides God. Is there is a more beautifully fantastic question? We talked about the magic of gravity, the magic of color, and, Big B added, the magic of being alive. We talked (again) about the fact that although there are many world religions with their various differences, there are underlying common threads among them that are the important things to remember: all we need is love, and be kind to each other. He liked this.

We had just finished this conversation, and were on to the scientific differences between sharks and dolphins, when we passed a church marquee that read, "The paths are many, the truths are one." I felt a peace in my heart and a smile on my face. It was a serendipitous affirmation of the honor and joy it has been to be a mother these last seven years. When I teach with my heart, I am rewarded with the truth. Every time.

I love you, Big B. The day you were born was the happiest day of my life.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Summer Solstice: Sun Tea

The Summer Solstice is one of our favorite days of the year. Just when it gets so hot outside we are tempted to complain about it, we are given an opportunity to celebrate the summer, the season, the sun. We are reminded how very lucky we are to live in a place where we can bask in its glory. This morning as the sun was just warming up, we went outside to welcome it, and brought with us a pitcher of clean fresh water and raspberry tea leaves. Big B and little b added fresh mint and lemon balm from the garden.
We stopped to notice the sun illuminating the jewels of our little patch of earth.
We went about our morning, knowing the tea would be steeping, waiting for us.
And steep it did! After a few hours, t
he tea was a strikingly beautiful color and smelled perfume-y, sweetened only by the sun. The boys laid out a picnic blanket and waited patiently for me to bring glasses, ice, and fresh lemon to squeeze.
We took turns giving thanks for the sun, its warmth, its light, its life force. A quick toast, then sweet, refreshing sun tea on the longest day of the year.
To the sun!
"Be like the flower, turn your face to the sun."
-Kahlil Gibran

Monday, June 20, 2011

A Swift, A Wool Winder, and A Merino Blend

Today I experienced a few minutes of unadulterated joy. I wound my first ball of yarn.

Papa gave me this beautiful swift and a wool winder for Christmas. (That, a blues harmonica, and a gift card for my favorite fabric store--I mean seriously, what a man.)
Other than marvel at its simple beauty, I hadn't used the swift before today--I am typically a winter knitter and a summer sewer. But a knee injury has been demanding I sit more, and when I do, my hands start yearning for needles. So after dropping the boys off at Grammy's this morning for their first summer Monday pool date (thank you!), I stopped at a new local yarn haven for a bit of soul comfort. I decided then and there to knit myself a pair of socks. It seems appropriate, as I'll be knitting while propping my feet up--two birds, one stone, taking care of my body and soul.

I splurged for two skeins of this absolutely gorgeous kettle dyed silk-merino blend. This afternoon, as the rainbow maker was in full force and the afternoon sun was sinking low into the sky, I wrapped a skein of it around the swift.
The boys were riveted, and for good reason--the simplicity and gratification of these two tools together are really beautiful. I threaded the winder and got to work. Big B took this next picture, mid-spin.
Little b was anxious to give it a try, cinnamon stick and all. He did a fabulous job.
After a few minutes of heaven, I had a perfectly wound ball of ready-to-knit yarn, and I held it like a newborn babe. So much care has been infused into this little bundle already, from the shearing to the spinning to the dyeing. Now it's my turn.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Kid-made Father's Day T-Shirts

Fabric crayons! Brilliant! I found some, unopened, at a Goodwill and we decided to try them out for a special Father's Day surprise. I helped Big B and little b by outlining a tree and two apples on plain white paper, and they got to work.
When their creations were complete, I placed them face down on our new plain white T's, covered them with paper (and placed paper between the layers of the shirt to avoid color transfer), and pressed each design for about three minutes. We were all so happy with the bright results! I like this method infinitely better than the old iron-on transfer paper.
So this morning, fresh coffee in hand, the boys put on their shirts and presented their hero with his gift, saying together: "The apples don't fall far from the tree!" Nope. They don't. And I'm so glad.
Happy Father's Day!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Pickled Green Beans

Among the bounty collected at The Farm was a bag full of gorgeous green beans. Inspired by this recipe (passed along by a garden muse with a great attitude and a serious pocketknife), the boys and I got to work to create our own summer treat.
The first jar was opened this morning on our beach blanket. Deliciously crisp and tart! Cheers!
Summer Pickled Green Beans

2 pounds fresh green beans, rinsed and trimmed
4 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced lengthwise
8 sprigs fresh dill
4 jalapenos, sliced lengthwise and de-seeded
4 teaspoons salt
2 1/2 cups white vinegar
2 1/2 cups water

Snip green beans and cut to fit inside pint-sized canning jars. (We like the wide-mouthed kind for this treat--better suited for little hands.) Place green beans in a steamer over 1 inch of boiling water, and cover. Cook until tender but still firm, for 2-3 minutes. Plunge beans into ice water. Drain well. Sterilize four jars. Place 1 clove garlic (sliced lengthwise), 2 sprigs of dill, and one jalapeno (sliced lengthwise and de-seeded), into each hot and sterile jar, against the glass. Pack the beans into the jars and add 1 teaspoon of salt to each. In a large saucepan over high heat, bring vinegar and water to a boil. Pour over beans. Fit the jars with lids and rings and process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath. Enjoy!

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Last Farm Day

We are so lucky in sunny Florida to have a growing season that just won't quit. Except when it does. Sadly, on Saturday, we said goodbye for the summer to our local organic farm. (We're not the only ones who love this place and mourn its seasonal hiatus.) The fields were still full of deliciousness, but their days are numbered with the rising heat. So Big B, little b and I loaded up our market bags and meandered the aisles one last time, stocking up on only the best our climate has to offer.
When we were laden with lacinto kale, arugula, green beans, sorrell, strawberries, blueberries, and two dozen farm fresh eggs, we looked out across the fields of Romaine and saw a familiar straw hat.
Little b's preschool classmate has a daddy who works this farm. He was kind enough to give the boys a tour, and explain how the plants are grown, harvested, and sold. He showed them how the heat brings more bugs to the plants, and showed them the cover crop (sorghum) that would soon replace the remaining jewels of the fields, destined for local vegetable co-ops. And he let them sample lettuce, chard, onions and basil, straight from the earth.
After only a few minutes in the fields, the boys were hot, thirsty, and ready to leave. This was a great lesson in gratitude for farmers everywhere, folks who work long, sweaty, buggy hours each day to bring us the divine nourishment we so often take for granted. A thank you note promptly ensued:
The bounty was too good not to share. We created a little sampler basket for Great Grandma Ruth, and drove southward to bring some summer sunshine her way.
"Shake the hand that feeds you."
--Michael Pollan, In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Summer Beach Quilt, Part One

I am so happy that summer is here I could kiss the sky. It seems my habitual Goodwill thrifting anticipated my giddiness. For many cooler months, each trip to my favorite Goodwill yielded at least one or two vintage pillowcases or sheets. I had been making aprons with them for a little while, but this stack seemed to be growing into something...more.
Enter: Beach Season. Wednesday was the first official Beach Day for our sweet village of friends. We've been coming to this oasis as a tribe now for six summers, sharing wisdom and picnics and watching our growing babes discover this sweet spot anew each June.
Just look at them--they are all so big now. The girls lead the rescue missions and collect their creatures in buckets...
...while the boys, a la Lord of the Flies, climb their mountain of twisting sea grape branches and beach boulders.
And the mamas watch, talk, feed, nourish, occasionally knit, support, learn, and breathe.
To pay homage to this season of our lives, I rather easily decided to transform that stack of vintage linens into a summer beach quilt. This satisfies so many of my summer goals: carving out more time for creativity as a release, making beauty for our family, having a productive home, and spending as much time outside as possible. Using this square as inspiration, I am well on my way.
These colors just sing summer, don't they?

Friday, June 3, 2011

Pouring from the Pitcher

Wednesday marked the New Moon in Gemini, and with it a solar eclipse. It was a time to say good-bye to what we no longer need, and welcome the positive change we have been resisting. I embraced this moon with open arms. As I continue on the difficult but hugely rewarding path toward Organized Simplicity, I am forced to acknowledge that I have adopted a lifestyle which is no longer serving me. Too many things, too many obligations, too many yeses that should have been nos fill my plate. Slowly, day by day, garbage bag by garbage bag, I am removing each of them. During this process I am reminded of the willow, and intend to stay firmly rooted while allowing the winds of change to bend my branches toward the sun.

As I am forced to acknowledge my overflowing plate, I am also placed face to face with another harsh reality: I am not the only one who is being shortchanged. It is my responsibility (and honor) to position my children for smooth, happy sailing in these tender years. How can their sailing be smooth when their ship is often chaotic, cluttered, rushed, and driven by a sleep-deprived captain?

In the amazing culture study The Continuum Concept, Margaret Mead tells the author of her pitcher-of-milk theory: if you want to teach a child to pour himself a glass of milk, get up, get a pitcher of milk, and pour yourself a glass. If I want my children to sail smoother seas, I must sail smoother seas myself. As I am clearing away the obstacles and moving toward a simpler life, I will remember to fill my own cup, so that it holds plenty for others. My intention for this moon is to pour from the pitcher and fill my own cup.

As a reminder, I am filling up my favorite pitcher with water each morning, infused with something sweet (lime, cucumber, mint, etc.) and placing a small glass next to it. Each time I walk by, I fill my cup. Here's hoping your cup stays full as well. (Not overflowing. Just full.)

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Welcoming Summer (Thank You, Tortoise)

Papa turned 37 last week, and his birthday wish remained the same as it has for years: a long weekend surrounded by beauty and family on his grandmother's South Georgia land. Each morning, we would wake, stretch, breathe, and explore. The morning glories marked our way through trees and trails, opening brilliantly toward the sun. It seems I'm not the only one that is thankful beyond belief that summer is here, and with it, God willing, a slower pace. The simple act of opening up and reaching toward the sun creates such beauty and stillness. We are truly given everything we need.
On our first morning ride, we found a nice big patch of wild blackberries, and breakfasted there for quite a while. We revisited the patch every day. We are truly given everything we need.
So much beauty and bounty, ripe for the picking. The same was true in Grandma's garden. Peaches from the tree, squash from the vine. We are truly given everything we need.
Big B, little b, and their Georgia cousins celebrated the summer sun by collecting objects of beauty and creating Solar Prints. They all marveled at the speed with which the sun created the shadows, the shapes of the leaves, and what happened when the paper met the water. We are truly given everything we need.
With summer comes water, and the boys (including Papa) drank their fill. Every day held fishing of some kind, whether by boat or on shore. And when the sun became a bit too overbearing, the water welcomed them in. We are truly given everything we need.
Over the last few years, I have become a believer--or rather a conscientious observer--of animal spirit guidance. When animals cross my path repeatedly, all I have to do is pay attention and listen, and their meanings bring me clarity. During this trip, we must have seen a dozen tortoises, mostly gopher, on our rides. Sure, the heat of summer brings them out, but we've been there every Memorial Day for the last few years, and I have never seen more than two or three. The tortoise's message was crystal clear to me, as we release the fast pace of school schedules and bedtime routines and open our arms to easy summer days: Slow down. Look upward to the sun. We are truly given everything we need.