To observe, enjoy and create in everyday life

Celebrating My Little Sister

Last weekend I went on an adventure with ten other girls to Venice Beach. We were all gathering together to celebrate my little sister's upcoming wedding. I must admit that I was a bit nervous about this weekend trip, well nervous may be an understatement. I honestly felt like an insecure 15 year old all over again. I didn't know which clothes to pack, I only knew a handful of the girls attending, and I didn't know if I would stand out as the older, married mom of the group. But I should have known better. My sister is an amazing person, so obviously her friends would all be amazing as well. The weekend ended up being a great time, and all of my worries were for nothing. Isn't that normally the way?

I am probably the only one on the trip whose pictures of the weekend included more plants than people! I was fascinated with all of the beautiful plants that I saw while walking around Venice. I often was lagging behind the group because I had stopped to take a photo of a flower. Or, I would make some of the other girls stop to look at a flower. They all humored me whenever I geeked out about a particular plant, like the Bird of Paradise above.

The weather was beautiful while we were there. It was warm and sunny, but not too hot. Many of the neighborhood streets where we stayed were lined with trees. There were trees loaded with lemons and oranges in people's gardens, which was a sight for the PNW girl to see. The local Jacaranda trees were in bloom with their purple blossoms...somehow I did not manage to get a picture of them! They were the first tree I noticed when we landed in Los Angeles as they were in bloom everywhere.

I loved how people could fit so many plants with such vibrant colors on their tiny lots. The variety of succulents, cacti, flowering vines and other plants were amazing. I loved seeing plants that I can only grow indoors as a houseplant (like Jade plants) being grown outside in people's gardens. The jasmine was in bloom while we were visiting as well, so it made our walks to the grocery store or out to dinner smell divine!

And even though my weekend was filled with gorgeous plants and amazing murals and delicious food, the most important part of the weekend was why we were all there. We were there because of my beautiful sister, Jessica. She is someone who gives so much to others and rarely asks for anything for herself. So it was fun to be able to spoil her for a change!
Jessica is one of the most fun-loving, thoughtful and generous people I know. She is creative and adventurous. She knows how to love others deeply and show it. She fights strongly for what she believes in and doesn't give up...sometimes it's good to have a stubborn friend on your side! It's not often that one finds a best friend in her sister, and I am lucky it has happened to me! I wish her and her future husband Dave the best in these years to come. I know that she will pour all of the love and adventure and generosity...and stubbornness into their relationship to make a beautiful and strong marriage.
I love you sis!

Teens in the Kitchen

For about a year now, our oldest son has been gathering friends in our kitchen every other Tuesday night to cook a meal together. It began last summer with his friend Loryn (that's her in the photo above) and their common interest in cooking. She had wrapped up her first year of a high school culinary program, and Jackson had found that he really enjoyed cooking meals. So for the summer months, they decided that they would plan a meal, ride their bikes to the store to shop and then prepare the meal together. Once they had a rhythm down, they began to invite a friend or two over to join them for the meal. They had such fun that they carried this tradition through the school year. 

It's been great fun to watch all of these teens learn how to cook new foods. Some weeks are quite involved, like the night they decided to make pasta from scratch, and other nights are simple meals like tacos or breakfast for dinner. Either way, they always have fun and make a tasty dinner!
There are a few squabbles between Jackson and Loryn, but they are good natured about it. Loryn has been learning to prepare food in a commercial kitchen at her school and has been taught how to properly cut foods or set up stations. Jackson is a "home cook" as he will tell her, therefore he doesn't "have to follow all of those fussy rules." The two of them go back and forth like a pair of siblings, and it is humorous to witness.

I hope this is something they continue through high school. They are learning not only the skills it takes to prepare a meal from start to finish but also how to practice hospitality. It has also been a great way for me to get to know Jackson's friends better. The teens like to visit while they pull together that night's salad dressing or share about their school day when we sit down at the table to eat. 
I can't wait to see what they cook up next week!

Crafts & Pie

This month I hosted my second Ladies Craft Night. Remember my goal to host one of these every couple of months? Well, I put a second one on the calendar and sent out a bunch of invitations. 
Since strawberries have just come into season here in the Pacific Northwest, I thought the craft night would be the perfect opportunity to make the Strawberry Pie that was posted over at Chicken Librarian. This pie did not disappoint! It was perfectly easy, super delicious, and absolutely one I will make again! I cheated on the shell and bought one pre-prepared, but I made my own whipped cream. So, I figured that balanced things out. I also picked up the strawberries from a local farmer. They were so ripe and juicy, I couldn't have asked for a better berry to put in this pie!

This month's craft was beaded bracelets. I thought it would be a simple enough project to work on while we chatted. It was nice to sit with everyone and string beads while we caught up on everything going on in our lives.

The table was filled with cups of coffee and tea and dishes upon dishes of different colored beads. I was amazed at how even though we all had the same colors of beads to choose from...we each ended up with very different patterns and styles. It was a great night! Unfortunately I did not get a picture of our completed projects. I will have to set that as a goal for our next craft night!
I definitely would encourage you to gather some friends and neighbors for a night of crafting. It really is an enjoyable way to spend an evening.

The Seventeenth Try

This sweater project is really shining a light on just how stubborn I can be. This is the same Weekender Sweater that I was working on last month, only now I am working it in a different yarn. Two skeins in, I gave up on the green yarn deciding that I ultimately would not like that particular shade of green on me. So I splurged with some birthday money I had and bought new yarn to remake the sweater. But, new yarn means knitting a new gauge swatch to make sure I would use the right needles. Which I did, and then I proceeded to follow the pattern directions and picked up the wrong needles to start the ribbed band. After tearing out the band and starting over, I accidentally knit a size too small. These two mistakes on top of a few other restarts, and I think I have quite literally started this sweater about seventeen times. I better love it when I am finished!

I have read a few books this month, all of which I have enjoyed. I am roughly 20 pages from finishing Two Steps Forward. This book follows a man and a woman who because of unexpected life situations find themselves walking from France to Spain following the Camino de Santiago. This path is a centuries old route pilgrims would travel for religious purposes. The chapters hop back and forth between  the two characters, so you get to see both perspectives. It is a light read, and it seems like a book that would make a perfect movie. It's part romance and part travel book...a good summer read to pick up from your library.
I finished Tish Harrison Warren's Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life this month as well. This book takes readers through a typical day and looks at how God is present in all of what we may consider mundane tasks. Simple tasks such as brushing your teeth, making a meal or answering emails are all looked at through the lens of spiritual practices we may typically associate with Sunday morning worship services, such as communion. It was an interesting read, and I will more than likely check it out from the library again to reread it. 
The last book I read was Francis O'Roark Dowell's Birds in the Air. This story follows a woman who has moved to a small town with her family and the adjustments that come with living in a small town. Discovering an antique quilt in the attic of her new home leads Emma to pick up the hobby of quilting. This newfound hobby brings about new friends and community connections. The book is described as "a warm, funny novel about fitting in, falling out and mending frayed relationships one stitch at a time" and that is exactly how I would describe it as well. 

How about you? What creative projects have you been working on lately? Do you have any good summer reads to recommend?