The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me. ~ Psalm 16:6 nasb

Saturday, May 30, 2015


Tonight in the sky.

I set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a sign of a covenant between Me and the earth. 
It shall come about, when I bring a cloud over the earth, 
that the bow will be seen in the cloud, 
and I will remember My covenant, 
which is between Me and you 
and every living creature of all flesh; 
and never again shall the water become a flood 
to destroy all flesh. 
When the bow is in the cloud, 
then I will look upon it, 
to remember the everlasting covenant 
between God and every living creature of all flesh 
that is on the earth.” 
And God said to Noah, 
“This is the sign of the covenant 
which I have established 
between Me and all flesh that is on the earth.”
Genesis 9:13-17 NASB

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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

End of May in my garden

Here is a macro tour of my back yard garden, from today's wanderings.

Above and below, my Medinette basil seems to be thriving.  I snipped off the about-to-flower tops so the plant can bush out and grow larger.  There doesn't seem to be an issue with basil downy mildew, which my regular variety basil plants had last year.  From what I read, the mildew can remain in the soil for several years, so I'm anxious to see how this variety fares in my garden.  Ohhh, I can't wait for fresh basil, for pesto, for...!

I found some bright orange mushrooms growing in the mulch.

I have two new sage plants; hopefully they'll last a few years!

The tomato plants have lots of blossoms, and I'm looking forward to trying a new heirloom variety--black brandywine.

Amazing amounts of strawberries beginning to grow!

And, I picked a few ripe ones, too!  My very first, very small, harvest.

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Monday, May 25, 2015

Spring Colors

Happy Memorial Day!

We spent the day with the H. family, because we love them, and because Jake is courting Allie.  :)

The only time I got out my camera was to take some pictures of Becki's flowers; she is an amazing gardener.  Here are my favorites from the day.

Lupine, not yet blooming.

Lupine in bloom.

Black irises.

I believe this is spotted dead nettle, a pretty little ground cover plant.


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Monday, May 18, 2015

Summer in My Special Place

My special place at the back of our back yard is, well, special.  Correction--it will be special, just as soon as I figure out how to "decorate" it.  For now, it's a pile of weeds, surrounded by a half-built brick wall.

Today, I went out there with a yard waste back, a shovel, and a pitchfork.  I wanted to clear out at least a little spot.  I'm tired of weeds, and I want flowers.

The above is where I ended, which was when my back couldn't take any more.  I'm hoping that later this summer--most likely autumn--my guys can mow down all the weeds, and we can lay down some landscape fabric to control the weeds and mulch to cover it up, and I'll be able to plant some flowers.  Here's hoping!

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Friday, May 15, 2015

Simplify -- Homeschool Stuff


Our Goal

A simple and beautiful house
that the Lord can use as a peaceful haven
for my family and others.

Click here to find out why/how I started!

This is what 21 years of homeschooling looks like:

The above is really a fraction of what I had accumulated throughout those years of homeschooling.  I've given away or sold a lot along the way, as soon as my youngest no longer needed it.  The above picture represents the high school years, plus any other stuff I hadn't bothered to get rid of. up to this point

I took this picture yesterday, then organized everything into categories--math, science, history, etc.  Danny spent a long time organizing the science supplies into kits that could be sold with the various high school science curricula I had to sell.  Then, I priced everything and boxed it up, and Danny carried all the boxes to the Suburban. 

Danny finished final exams this week, and had today free, so he went with me to the curriculum resale event I had signed up for a few weeks earlier.  I was determined to come home with nothing, or very little, at the end of today.

At the end of the day, I'm happy to report that I came home with just two boxes of stuff.  In the first 20 minutes of the sale, I made almost $150!  This was way better than any garage sale.  By noon, most of the buyers had come and gone, and by 1pm, Danny and I started packing stuff up (the sale officially ended at 2pm).  I also brought about a box worth of books over to the "free" table by the entrance.  Danny and I helped box up all the free stuff up for the church (whose building hosted the resale event), which would hold their own garage sale a week later.

After I came home, I ran down to the basement for some reason or other--I forget what--and discovered...four more boxes of homeschool stuff that never made it up for the sale.  Ugh.  Now that is sitting in my living room, awaiting its fate.  Most of it is extra books and supplemental stuff, and I was able to sell a few curriculum packs I had made up, but still--the rest of this will be gone this summer, I've determined!

We'll plan a graduation party for Thomas this summer, and since he is graduated, Heritage Academy has officially closed its doors.  With most of its supplies gone, it seems a bit more real now--this chapter of my life is over.  Pretty soon (but not right now) I'll feel like celebrating.

What I am celebrating is the cleaner basement, and less stuff in my home!

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Thursday, May 14, 2015

Strawberry Rhubarb Crunch

I confess.  I made this for breakfast.  It has to be healthier than any store-bought anything, so I figured why not.  Everyone ate it, no one got sick or died, and if we had a little too much sugar in our breakfast food that day, no one knows.  So there.

This is a Penzey's Spices recipe, from their magazine.  I can't find a link to the recipe on their website, so I'll simply credit them here.

One Note:  I have made this recipe two ways--with strawberries and rhubarb, and with just rhubarb.  Even though rhubarb is much tarter than strawberries, I adjusted nothing else in the recipe and it was still delicious.  That's just in case your strawberries haven't come in yet, or your strawberry plants are done producing for the season.

Strawberry Rhubarb Crunch
Yield:  10-12 servings

1 cup flour
1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
3/4 cup oatmeal, uncooked
1/2 cup butter, melted
2/3 cup sugar
1 to 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 cups diced rhubarb
2 cups strawberries, sliced
1 cup water
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350F.  In a roomy bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, oatmeal, butter, sugar and cinnamon and mix until crumbly.  Press half of the mixture into a greased 13x9 baking pan.  Cover with the rhubarb and strawberries.

In a small saucepan, heat the water, cornstarch and vanilla over medium-low heat until thick and clear, stirring often.  (It doesn't get totally clear, just somewhat translucent, so use thickness to determine when it's done.)  This step takes about five minutes.

Pour the water/cornstarch mixture over the rhubarb/strawberry layer.  It's more like spreading it, since it's pretty thick; I use a flat bowl scraper to do this.  Top with the remaining crumb mixture and bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes.

A dish of pure yum.

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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Simplify -- Say No to the Dress


Our Goal

A simple and beautiful house
that the Lord can use as a peaceful haven
for my family and others.

Click here to find out why/how I started!

The dress is the centerpiece, if you will, of a wedding.  Besides the vows and rings, it's probably the most important part, some would argue.  It's what people see first, what stands out--there's the bride, here comes the bride.  For us in the Christian community, the pure white of the dress symbolizes the bride offering a pure self to her groom, with her father giving her away to this new union.  It's a sacred and beautiful ceremony, and the dress plays a large role in that.

I regret only one thing about my wedding dress:  I never tried on a single dress.  As her wedding gift to me, a friend made my dress.  So the two of us went to the fabric store, looked at patterns, and I picked one that I thought was super pretty.  Then she took me shopping for all the extras--lace, edging, buttons, ribbon...

Although I loved my wedding dress, and felt so beautiful in it, I do wish I would have gone to some bridal gown shops to at least try a few on.  I had no sense of style (I still struggle with it!), so I just went with what I liked in the picture on the pattern envelope.  It would have been fun to go try a few on, but the regret is small, because I am practical, as I said, and I can't go back and change things.  I guess I can look forward to trying on mother-of-the-bride dresses!

So, you're wondering why this is in a Simplify post.  Well, I said "yes" to this dress when I was getting married.  That was 28 years ago (wow).  This dress is not quite old enough for the vintage category, but too old to be in the contemporary stylish category.  And since I've been decluttering our stuff, it was time to say "no" to my wedding dress:  I'm not keeping it any more.  The memories are in my heart.  Since I'm a photographer, I decided to plan a little photo shoot of this once-fashionable dress.

I tried to make it out to The Morton Arboretum during spring, when the trees were blooming and flowers were popping up.  But, the weather didn't cooperate, and our schedule didn't cooperate, and...  I never made it out.  One last spring-y day before it was supposed to rain then turn cold, I decided to go to my special place (for that is what it will be some day) in my back yard.  I have a bench back there, and somehow, the dandelions and weeds were fitting for this last trip down memory lane.

While I took pictures, I focused on the details--the ruffled hem, the beading in the veil.  I remembered that amazing day I walked down the aisle in this dress, feeling as if I were on the edge of a new life--which I was!  Feeling beautiful, and blessed, and set apart for my new life with Fernando.

I focused on the love with which Mary Beth stitched every stitch and paid attention to every detail.  I remembered how she made a flower girl dress with the leftover materials, and how my niece Suzie looked so adorable in her little dress.

These new images will help me remember those things and more, as the years slip by and details become fuzzy.  Even if these images never make it into a hard-copy photo book, I'll have them, and the memories they spark, for the future.

Once, I said "Yes!" to this dress, and joyfully wore it, and fondly kept it for the memories of an amazing day.  Now, I'm saying "No."  It's time to give it away.  But I remember that I'm giving away only the physical dress.  I get to keep every memory--the dress, the day, my family, my friends, my new husband--forever.  I'm so thankful for pictures to help me remember!

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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

New Every Morning, Part Nine

The Lord's lovingkindnesses indeed never cease,
For His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.

Lamentations 3:22-23 NASB

Read previous segments here:

The Beginning
The Injury
The Furnace
The Waiting
The House
The Phone Call
The Truck

The Car

Yeah, that's a BMW...!

My previous New Every Morning post involved a truck--a SAT truck.  It wasn't ours, but it was the vehicle (pardon the pun) by which Fernando earned a month's pay.  And speaking of vehicles, we had been juggling five people's schedules (Joe is blessed without one at this point) with two cars.  Jake had his schedule and his car, but since his schedule seemed to change frequently, we couldn't rely on having his car to get to wherever we needed to get.  The simple truth was that we needed another car.  And soon.

One of our friends told Fernando about Car Gurus, so he hopped on that website to see what he could find in our price range.  We had set aside X from our insurance settlement to pay for a vehicle.  We knew the money would stretch how long we could survive financially this year, but we also knew we really, really needed another car.  The car was the wiser choice at this point, so we started looking.

Fernando and Thomas researched several cars, and visited various dealerships, only to find brakes and rotors covered with rust, or some other visible problem.  Eventually, Fernando came to the conclusion that X wasn't going to get us a reliable car.  He added $1,000 to our X to see if that would bring more positive results, but he and Thomas remained frustrated with their search.

One afternoon, just for giggles, Fernando typed BMW 528i in the Car Guru search box.  This had been his "dream car" for forever, and he figured he'd never own one.  So, just for fun...  The search engine came back with a result:  one BMW 528i, $1,000 above our price range even with our extra thou tacked on.  Oh, but it was so close!

This 2000 model seemed perfect: although it was 15 years old, it had only 77,000 miles!  It seemed to be in beautiful condition.  But, it was just out of our price range.  Fernando and I chuckled about how funny it would be to buy a BMW when we were broke and just re-starting out in his career field.  Oh, well.

A couple of days later, Fernando was back on Car Guru.  He pulled up the BMW again, just to dream, just for fun...  The listed price had been reduced--by $1,000.  He hollered to me that we were going to buy a car; we dropped off Thomas at tech school, and drove over to the dealership.  But--it wasn't just any dealership; it was close to home:  Mercedes-Benz of Naperville.

So, this broke middle-aged couple just starting out with their own business drove to a Mercedes-Benz dealership to purchase a BMW.  One of the sales reps, Brian, went with us for a test drive--I got to drive a BMW for the very first time--then we were were ready to seal the deal.  Brian had to double-check the price, because his computer hadn't registered the $1,000 price drop.  It was legit, though, and he then asked how we would be paying.  By check, of course!

Within an hour, we had signed all the paperwork, written our check, and were driving away with our new-to-us car.  I received a dozen roses, and our car was detailed inside and out for us.  We felt like royalty!

Then again, we are royalty.  We are children of the Lord, which makes us princes and princesses.  We walked away (drove away!) from this experience knowing that the Lord lavishes His love on His children, and even though we had been through trial after trial the past few years, this extra-incredible blessing was a love note from Him straight to our hearts.

But, the love note didn't end there.  (Yes, there's more!!)

About a week after purchasing the car, Fernando (finally) got a phone call response from the Illinois Department of Employment Security.  The worker's comp settlement Fernando received included worker's comp salary for a period of time after the surgery; since Fernando also received unemployment during that time, we would most likely have to pay back the unemployment he received from IDES.

The case worker on the phone got the details from Fernando, then finally explained that since the unemployment and worker's comp covered a period of time at the end of 2013, and the actual payout of the worker's comp owed to Fernando happened at the beginning of 2015, the "books had been closed" and we would not be required to pay back the amount we thought we would owe.

Thomas uses the BMW to drive to school.

And the amount, you ask?  It was (about) the cost of our new car.  The Lord not only gave us a BMW, He orchestrated the funding for it.

He signed His love note with a huge P.S.  He really loves us!

The next segment of our story is now published; click here to continue the journey with us!

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Monday, May 11, 2015

A Time to Plant

May 8.

I'm a week early this year!  I don't think this has ever happened.  I usually procrastinate until planting time (mid-May), then sit down and in a burst of time plan everything out and go to the Growing Place to purchase plants.

Each year, if something catches my eye, I might purchase a perennial flower for my front yard, if there's room, or if something died from the previous year.  It's a little splurge that will hopefully pay off with beautiful gardens in my front yard.  This year a coneflower caught my eye, since the one I had had for several years died mysteriously.

It's called Pixie Meadowbrite Coneflower, and it's supposed to bloom a deep pink/purple, and be on the short side in height.  We'll see how it does in the garden.  For now, it seems to like the location I chose--not necessary visible from the street, but maybe it'll grow that tall (it's a bit hidden by one of the rocks).

Now on to the chore of the day.  I went solo for this huge task, since my guys were helping a young couple in our church move into their new home.  The guys had hoisted those 50-pound bags of compost out to the veggie garden for me.  Today, it was all up to me.

First, I spread the fireplace ash around in the beds where tomatoes would be growing.  The ash is supposed to help the tomatoes with blossom end rot, which I had a few years ago.  Either way, it doesn't hurt anything, so I spread it around.  No, I didn't lift the bags of compost; I sort of rolled them off the beds so I could spread the ash.  Honest.

Here's the overview so far, taken from our pool's deck (which may not be around, since the pool was destroyed in the winter of 2013).

I carefully rolled the bags of compost back into each bed where it was to be spread, then I got to work.

I did pause frequently to rest my back, which gets achier and achier as I work.  I had to snap a few pictures of my strawberry patch, where the plants are disobedient and sent out runners into the surrounding mulched pathways.  Ah, well, I'll pick those berries, too, I guess!

Okay, back to work on the compost.

As I spread the compost, I noted that there were a few clumps of garlic that I would have to transplant for this year's garden to work the way I had planned.  Garlic plants are hardy, so I had no qualms about digging them up and moving them elsewhere in the garden.

Above and below, the garlic was dug up and all the beds were ready to have plants put in!

Garlic plants (laid in the path temporarily) will go in that corner.

Tomato and other plants are ready for planting.

First, I set each plant where I want it to go, just to make sure I have room for everything and I didn't leave something out of my planning paper (which you can see in this blog post).

The overview, after I had laid everything out:

Tomatoes awaiting their holes.

I use organic material whenever possible, and I put some (according to the package directions) into each hole that I dig.

So, next, working one bed at a time, I dug the holes for each plant.

Next, I added the fertilizer to each hole.

Then I loosened the plant from its pot, broke the roots apart a bit, and planted each plant, leaving a ring around each one (like a moat to capture water) and built up a bit in a mound right around the plant.


At The Growing Place, I walked through a garden display called The Eclectic Garden while I was waiting for Fernando to get through the checkout line with the trolley of plants I had chosen.  I spotted a plant growing, bent down, and read Alpine Strawberry.  OhmygoshI'vealwayswantedthese!  I've read about them, and that they don't send out runners like the strawberry plants you saw above, plus they produce strawberries all growing season.  A sales associate directed me to their display case, where I could choose the traditional red strawberry, or white, or yellow!  I grabbed eight red ones and dashed to the checkout line, where Fernando had just reached the cashier.  Whew!

Alpine strawberries!

After planting the tomatoes, I stake them with these green metal fence posts.  I also use Velcro plant tape my neighbor gave me to anchor them to the stake, so they don't blow over or fall down in the wind.

Green Velcro plant tape.

I purchased two sage plants, since the one I had for several years died (again, mysteriously) last year.  I can't wait to make fried sage leaves!  Plus, since I dealt with basil downy mildew last year, I chose a different variety this year:  Medinette basil.

Below, the main garlic bed is stuffed, so I planted the extras at the end of the sideways bed (Bed E on my planting chart).

Finally, here is an overview when I finally finished, exhausted with an aching back, but completely satisfied with a hard day's work.

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