Perfect for us

Recently I was wandering World Market all on my own, enjoying the peace, when I became aware of a young family also shopping.  Three preschool boys energetically spun around the axis of their slowly walking parents.  My first thought was of how much easier my shopping venture was than this mother’s.  And then I heard the voice of one of her little sons.

Enthusiastically stroking the length of a dining table, he said to his mother, “This table would be perfect for us!”

My heart clutched up, just from that one simple word: us.  Back in the hazy-crazy days of young motherhood, that’s how it was with our family too.  A solid cohesive ‘us’ was the center of our children’s lives.  Their happy place.  The place where they felt most secure.

Things change when kids grow.  Our married kids have their own ‘us’ now, created anew with the people they love and chose, and with their own children.  Our not-married young adults have a different version of ‘us’ these days too, more commonly encompassing friends and coworkers and roommates.

The day our oldest daughter headed off as a newlywed

Since our youngest two are still at home, they still use the word ‘us’ in that sweet way, asking what we’ll eat for dinner or when we’ll next go to the beach.  But even with them, things are beginning to change.  Their lives are more outward focused.

Nostalgia has me longing some days for those years when all of my chicks were in easy range, where they wanted nothing more than to be orbiting around me.  When ‘us’ meant they were all tucked into bed at night under the same roof. It was a precious time, in all its crazy chaotic busyness.

It is good and normal and right for our children to move outward and onward. To broaden their support system and welcome others into their closest circle.

Yet still connection also exists with us, and for that I am grateful.  Sometime it’s a skype chat with a son far away.  A late night call from a young adult needing a bit of advice. A Mother’s Day cake made with love.  A sweet note tucked into my lunch box. Texts back and forth about things monumental or mundane.  A visit from the grandkids with their mommas in tow.  A coffee date. Dinner together. A quick drop-by visit that ends up lasting an hour.

Though the moments are more scattered now, they are perhaps even more precious.  Each one represents the choice of a busy young person.  They have so many things to do, so many ways to spend their time.  And yet at these moments they are still choosing and affirming the ‘us’ begun so long ago.

The ‘us’ of years ago was perfect when our kids were small. But you know what? The ‘us’ right now (aside from my occasional momma-heart-twinges) is good and right and timely– maybe even perfect for us — now, in this new stage. We are counting our blessings.

 

Latest Stitch Fix

I haven’t done Stitch Fix lately, but when I saw I had some credit AND they waived the styling fee for one fix, I decided it was time to see what they had for summer. Wow, am I glad! They sent me such fun things!

Since summer is coming, and I’m not feeling especially svelte right now, I requested cool loose summer styles and they did a great job finding things that I like and that feel like thinhttp://owlhaven.net/wp-admin/post.php?post=26916&action=editgs I would really wear.

Item # 1 is the Janet Bermuda Short by Liverpool.  It is a stretchy pair of denim shorts (shown in all three photos) that I could picture myself wearing tons this summer.The denim has Lycra, and the shorts have a soft wide waistband. Super, super comfy. And of course denim is as versatile and practical as you can get. I am strongly leaning toward keeping these. Actually, I’m wearing them right this second.

Item #2 is the Fun2Fun Clybourn Scoop Neck Top, on the left in the photo collage below.  Loose and comfy, I really liked this top.  The armholes are a little deep.  But Stitch Fix now has a deal where you can exchange clothing for different sizes (when available) and I am considering requesting a smaller size to see if it addresses the armhole problem.  I also wouldn’t mind if it were just a bit less big in the tummy area.

 

 

 

Item #3 is the LeLis Yeaton Cowl Neck Knit Top. It is one of my favorite colors and is I think reasonably flattering. It is also made is a very soft silky knit. The cowl makes the neckline just a little fiddly, and there is also a fairly large vee in the back that I am not super sure about. But I think this top would be nice for summer, and for fall and winter layered under a jacket or cardigan.  It is definitely classy looking enough that you could really dress it up if you wanted to.

Item #4 is the Jella C Lace Bib Top.  It is possibly my favorite top in the batch, as is is feminine and (again) a favorite color for me, and feels more dressed up than a tee while still being very comfy. It does again have some armhole issues, and is NOT available in any other size. But I think I could do 10 minutes of tweaking/tailoring on the sewing machine and make it absolutely perfect.

The fifth item was the Shiraleah Porter Tote, a soft leather bag in taupe. I don’t truly feel like I need another bag, so I am leaning toward returning it. But as usual, there’s a 25% discount if you buy all five items. So if I do decide to keep the other four things it makes zero money sense to return the bag.

What do you think I should keep?  If I kept only two things it would probably be #4 and #1 …but I honestly like #2 and #3 quite well also.

Stitch Fix is a personal shopping service that picks clothing for you based on a questionnaire that you fill out.  You can also share your Pinterest clothing board to give your stylist more ideas of what you like. You can order a fix as often or as infrequently as you like.  Each fix consists of five items for which you pay a styling fee of $20. That $20 styling fee applies toward any item you keep.  Keep what you want, and send whatever you don’t want back in the prepaid envelope that comes right along with your fix. Easy peasy. Click on my referral link to order a ‘fix’ of your own. For extra fun, when you sign up and refer someone else, you’ll get a credit that applies toward your NEXT fix.  What fun!

 

A Week of Easy Food for Entertaining

As you have probably noticed, I am obsessed with all things beach house lately.  Sorry–  I’m probably boring some of you!! But in preparing for our next beach trip where we will be entertaining our biggest crowd yet. I thought it might be interesting (and of more general interest) to share a typical menu plan for times when I’m feeding a bunch of people with various eating styles for several days in a row.

I’ve found that the best meals are the flexible ones– ones that people can fine tune for themselves as they serve up. And often these types of menus tend to be the easiest for me to pull together as well. So here, for anyone entertaining this summer, or the next holiday, or maybe on a camping trip, is a week of easy meals for easy entertaining.

 

BREAKFAST

We make most breakfasts DIY.  I make sure we have fixings for cereal, eggs and toast, yogurt, and instant oatmeal, and leave the type and timing of breakfast up to everyone else.  Usually every few days I will supply something sweet, like muffins or cinnamon rolls, to supplement the DIY morning offerings, and usually at least once on a trip John or I will serve pancakes and bacon.  But mostly breakfast is on your own.

LUNCH

Lunches are a mix.  Sometimes I will do soup, salad and bread.  Other times I will set sandwich fixings alongside whatever leftovers are around from other days of meals.  This will again give folks flexibility to choose what sounds good to them, and also is economical by offering extras from other days for folks to finish up.

DINNER

Dinners are where I tend to spend the most time, though many meals still have a DIY element so that people can customize their dinner for what they most enjoy.  Here’s a typical week of dinners for a crowd.

#1– Taco bar.  Cook up some hamburger with an onion, a generous mash of garlic and some taco seasoning.  (I usually do this before the trip to decrease vacation kitchen time.  Then I freeze it to add a cold item for the cooler on the drive over.)  When serving, add tortillas and taco chips and all sorts of other fillings  (homemade guacamole if I have avocados on hand) and let folks make their tacos as they like them.

#2- Clam chowder and fresh biscuits.  I like to have at least one meal at the beach feel like proper beach fare, and clam chowder is a great affordable thing to make for a crowd.  I don’t have my exact recipe written out  (and sometimes I even buy canned) but you can use this recipe and substitute canned or fresh clams instead of chicken. You can even do it in the crock pot ahead of time if you know you’ll be busy all afternoon.   And then biscuits–who doesn’t love biscuits?

#3– Chili and cornbread.  I plan this strategically AFTER taco night, so I can toss the leftover taco meat into the chili pot along with a bunch of cans of beans and tomatoes.  Here’s one recipe that I like, but I sometimes make it with fewer ingredients and it still turns out fine.  This is wonderful with cornbread (or perhaps leftover biscuits) served with honey or jam.  Yum.

#4- Baked potato bar.  This meal comes strategically after chili night, because lots of folks like chili with their baked potatoes.  Add in ham and cheese, butter, sour cream, and a nice salad, and you havve a whole meal for just a few minutes of prep.  And again, it’s a meal people can customize as they see fit.  Sure to be a crowd pleaser.

#5– Pizza night. I make homemade crust right after lunch and let it rise all afternoon.  At dinner time people gather in the kitchen with an assortment of pie pans or throw-away tins.  They spread crust onto pans and top pizzas as they wish.  Our favorites are pepperoni, sausage, cheese, peppers, mushrooms, and cream cheese (this last one spread in little dabs across the top.).  Again, because folks are choosing toppings for themselves, they get what they want, and most people really enjoy doing pizzas for themselves, especially once they see how easy it can be!

 

#6- Chicken enchiladas.  Here’s my favorite recipe.  I usually make a couple casseroles before a trip and pack it over frozen in the cooler.  I’ve listed this one out of order, but it is likely to be served one of the very first nights, since it will be half thawed by the time we arrive.  I usually serve these with salad, sour cream, chips and salsa on the side.

#7- Molly’s 10 Minute ChickenThis is a great easy chicken recipe that tends to please a crowd.  You can make it with just legs, or a mix of legs and thighs to suit different appetites.  I will serve it with bread and salad, or maybe even homemade mac and cheese if I’m feeling ambitious.

What about you?  What are some of your favorite meals to serve when you’re entertaining?  I would love to hear your best ideas!

 

 

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Easter Vacation

We had a lovely escape to the ocean this past week.  Usually we go expecting lots of rain, because that’s how the Oregon beaches are, especially in the springtime.  But this week we had tons of sun mixed in with just a little rain.  It was gorgeous.  We even had a lovely Easter morning rainbow– a perfect reminder of God’s promises of provision and protection and salvation.  The tomb is empty! (more on that here)

EasterRainbow

Our youngest two outside the house.
EmJul

Little Meg enjoying her great-grandma, John’s mom.
GreatGrandma

John’s happy place is definitely the ocean.
HappyPlace
The house where we stayed had wonderful, huge public gathering areas, as well as 7 bedrooms and a theater room that slept 4 more kids.  We had 18-22 people in the house each and every night and were well and truly spoiled.
House
The little ones had fun hunting for Easter eggs on Easter, and on the next day, and the next, and the next.  We may even have left a few eggs there for the next renters to find.
Hunting

My sweet grandbabies came shouting up to the stairs to greet me each time I came out of my room and down the stairs each morning. Talk about feeling like a VIP!
Kiddos

Lidya and Ben clowning around
LidyaBen

John enjoying sweet Meg
MissMeg

Ranger admiring the fish at the aquarium.
Ranger

Wilona showing off her treasure trove of eggs.
Wilona

My parents and John’s mom were able to be there for part of the time, along with a few other members of our extended family, and 9 out of our 10 kids and their families.  It was a great joy and a true highlight of the year.  For a few of the days we had 8 kids in the house ages 4 and under, with half of them being under the age of one.

Little Cousins

Little Cousins

(Yes, it was loud!)  But, oh, the cuteness!  And there were lots of babies to share around.

The first few years that we did a big gathering on the beach like this, I planned the food like crazy.  This year we just made sure there was easy breakfast food for breakfast, and lots of sandwich fixings for lunch, and really only fussed over dinner each evening.  It worked beautifully– I think we hit just the right mix of structure and relaxation.

One day we took the kiddos to the aquarium, and another day John and I went house hunting.  (We are still trying to decide whether to build on the lot we bought or possibly buy something already built.)  But most of the rest of the days were filled simply with walks on the beach, pinochle and Up The River and other games in the house, and just hanging out, eating snacks and being together.

It was very good.

This afternoon I’m off to the store to reprovision the food in the house here, then (ready or not) tomorrow it’s back to work.  I am also thinking about what I want to do next in the back yard.  I have a few pictures that I hope to show you soon!

 

More on the 36 hour sell

So. The house passed inspection and we’re on target to close by the beginning of March.  Crazy how fast this process is going. I’m holding my breath, aware that delays could still come.  But, wow it is looking good.  What a huge blessing.

After the inspect, we do have a second round of workers plowing through the house fixing things, but it’s minor stuff like broken window handles, and a wrong-sized breaker, and a singing toilet.  Hooray!  We feel really blessed.

Today we went to the house and grabbed a few of our last things out, including Em’s new bed that we’d used for staging– she was so excited to finally bring it home!  Next week our awesome staging company Graceful Designs is picking up the furnishings they added, and then it will be all up to the new owners.

I’m completely convinced that redoing the kitchen and then staging the house were a huge key to getting TWO full price offers within 36 hours of listing.  It just made it all that much more obvious that this house is a good place to live, a place to really be welcomed and comfortable.

We’re thankful also to our real estate agent brother in law Scott Dykstra, who helped us price it right– AND talked us into shelling out a couple thousand bucks to upgrade the sliding glass door and repair the foggy old windows in the house the day before listing.  We dragged our heels for a while– because $2200– yikes!!  But I’m sure that the sun shining in those lovely windows just sealed the deal for the folks whose (full price!) offer we accepted.

Speaking of the new owners, I hear that they are planning to raise goats and chickens, which makes me really happy. The place needed some new energy. We want it to be used and enjoyed and loved, and we’re thrilled to hear that they’re excited to get going with their life there.

As for this new house of ours, I could not be more in love.  It took mere days for it to feel comfortably ours.  It fits our furniture and it fits our people, and it’s just good. Right down to our dining room table– the one I was hot to replace while prepping to move.  Turns out it matches the new kitchen’s cabinets perfectly, and it was just perfectly made for the space.  I think we’ll be keeping it around for awhile yet.  I sigh in contentment each time I walk down the stairs in the morning.  It all just feels right.

There’s a bit of chaos going on in the garage right now, with John still working on getting his shop set up.  But glory hallelujah– it all fit in!!  And even the current mess feels completely doable.  John is planning on building a small additional storage shed in the back yard to handle the garage overflow, which I think will really help to make this last bit of moving in go smoothly.

And my kitchen.  I didn’t really realize how few cabinets I had at the old house.  This new kitchen has probably twice as many, along with having at least double the pantry space.  It is really nice to not have half my small appliances out in the garage– especially with John still working to get his tools stashed away neatly there.

So much to be thankful for.

I’ve been thinking about this past year, with getting adjusted to working again, and I am planning to write in a few days more about the ups and the downs involved in going back to work after 17 years at home.  But I think I’ll leave it at this for now– happy that another family is going to get a homestead adventure like we’ve enjoyed during the past couple decades, and grateful that we have exactly three tiny flowerbeds to weed this spring.

Life is good.

I’ll leave you with a photo of tulips from the old place, and a promise to keep you up to date on the adventures we have planned in this new place.  John has been teasing me because I already have a hummingbird feeder set up and ready to go at this new place, in hopes of luring the hummingbirds back unseasonably early.  But I, like the groundhog, am convinced we are in for an early end to winter this year.

Happy spring!

Tulips