Going Around and a Peasant’s Twig Wreath

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We went for a little shopping trip yesterday. All we needed was a basket and gloves, no money or a car. I knew I needed to go when I started perusing “natural decorations” online at Target. Only the girls were interested in my little trip. I told them to be on the look out for “pretty things.” We pulled out the snow gear and went for a walk around the yard.

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My mother and I started a twig wreath together a few weeks ago, but mine didn’t turn out quite right. Here is my first wreath, a pinterest fail, for sure.

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It was a good start, and I almost just lived with it. However, all was not lost. Turns out that adding some thin spindly, alternating branches to it really helped fixed things! And, I am SO happy with it now and for the price of free! Well, I guess you do need floral wire but I had some around the house and I hope you do, too!

What you need:

Wire clothes hanger

Lots of branch tips from birch or a bush with spindly alternating branches.

Floral wire

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First: Unravel a wire clothes hanger and twist at top to make a circle shape. You can see mine is not perfect and that’s okay.

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Second: Break branches.

These are the first wreath bundles and they made a good base to fill the inner circle. I unfastened my “fail” and reworked it. Break your branch ends to about 8 inch length and bundle them in groups of 8-10. You are going to need about 13 bundles and will add more, so don’t secure them just lay them out on a table.

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Third: Add in your spindly branches.

Mine were about 12-18 inches. If you would like it shorter or longer just adjust the length here.

Fourth: Secure the bundles with floral wire as you work in one direction. I wrapped them once about 2 inches up from the base with about 1 1/2 feet of wire. I only had silver colored wire and colored them in with black marker to cover the metal color. Yes, it showed. If you have black or brown wire it would be ideal.
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I like the way it looks simple for Thanksgiving, but may add a few berries and a bow for Christmas and then take it off for the rest of the year.

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Ballet pointe shoe bag in the making…

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Mary made a little wreath by stringing leaves on floral wire.

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Etsy shop is updated with seasonal soaps and gift options.

Happy Thanksgiving, Week!

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Creamy Wild Rice & Salmon Soup

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I do not pretend to be a fabulous cook, and definitely do not claim in any way to be a food photographer. BUT, this soup had all nine of my people singing their nums and yums all the way from baby to adult.

Some words:

“This soup is sooooo good!” Brutally-honest-adolescent

“Can you make this soup everyday?” Quite-serious-toddler

“Can I have more?” Not-a-big-fish-eater-person

“I LOVE this soup!” Fussy-eater-everything-makes-me-feel-sick-child

Disclaimer:  I, as in my husband, have been making the same repeats for dinner over the past few nights and that may or may not have something to do with those extremely receptive and happy palettes.
20161107_190159This recipe may challenge type A’s as I can give only general directions. So take it with a grain of salt. Generally speaking after I make a recipe a few times, I just go with vague recollections. My cooking is more an art form, perhaps of the caveman type, or whatever-is-in-the-cupboards approach. If you like to cook like this, or would like to give life on the edge a shot, this is the recipe for you!

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What to grow, gather, forage, fish, or just boring purchase.

Recipe will feed a starving family of nine for dinner with enough left overs for the next day’s lunch. Cut recipe in half for normal people portions, or just freeze or share half.

1 filet wild caught salmon (*smoked salmon that would be a wonderful alternative, too)

8 oz. wild rice

1 large yellow onion, chopped

2-3 cloves garlic, minced

4-5 carrots, chopped or shredded

8 oz. portobella mushrooms, sliced and diced

4 celery stalks, chopped

4-6 ounces of sharp cheddar cheese

1 cup heavy cream, or half-n-half.

4 tbsp butter

olive oil

*parmesan

**chicken stock

***add any vegetables you have or really like. Experiment! Peppers are really good, spinach, kale, etc…What do you have in your fridge?

I like to make this soup on our wood stove in a dutch oven, but it has been so warm here in November we are not making fires, yet.

Process:

Line a large sheet pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper. Smear 1 tbsp of olive oil on sheet. Place salmon skin side down on sheet. Drizzle a little olive oil over top. Season with sea salt and black pepper. If desired add other seasonings, like rosemary and thyme. Bake at 375 degrees until fully cooked about 20 minutes. Salmon should easily flake apart.

Meanwhile cook wild rice in a large stock pot. Wild rice cooks 3 parts water/stock to 1 part rice. I generally do not worry about this measurement when I am making soup because you are not trying to cook out the water. I just cover the rice about three times its size with water/stock, let it reach boil, cover, and cook until tender, about 45 minutes.

At this point my husband and I went on a quick 20 minute walk and I just hoped everything would be fine, and it was.

With about 20 minutes remaining for rice, melt 4 tbsp butter in a cast iron pan. Saute onions and garlic until translucent, add carrots and celery. Then add mushrooms or any other quicker cooking vegetables, like peppers if desired.

Add more stock, or water, to wild rice once cooked if you like your soup thinner. Add flaked off bite size pieces of cooked salmon. Add cooked vegetables.  Add cream and grated cheese. Stir until cheese has melted.

Top with freshly ground pepper and parmesan cheese.

Enjoy!

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In the Presence of Gratitude (also guest posted at Blessed is She)

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At times when the sun casts its light over our lawn, I feel like I am looking at a stage in a play. Especially when it’s the orangey-yellow-green light before a storm. It makes the whole yard look like it is lit up with an artificial glow and appears surreal. I am not particularly fond of artificial light.  I much prefer natural light, but it can feel so nice to be suddenly transported to another perspective. It can feel so good to be jostled out of your daily grind and stupor and be reminded that this world is something beautiful, surprising, and mysterious.  And perhaps more importantly, that you have a part to play in it.

In his book Orthodoxy, G. K. Chesterton, captures this thought much better than I could. He writes, “Fairy tales say that apples were golden only to refresh the forgotten moment when we found that they were green. They make rivers run with wine only to make us remember, for one wild moment, that they run with water.”

For a few hours yesterday, I felt cornered into darkness. A funk had cast a dark shadow over me as the sun went down, and with it a heavy cloud latched onto me like a cold, wet blanket. It didn’t make any sense. It was a perfect Friday evening. We were making a nice dinner and later in the night, my husband and I, would watch some Masterpiece Theatre. Perfect really, in my little world.

I am sure a glass of red wine and a shopping spree on Amazon would have solved things fast enough. Feeling resolute, I chose to talk about these feelings with my husband. The usual downers are the same. Money is tight.  Our appliances are broken. I don’t have enough time for everything I need to do. So many things are simply beyond my control.  I feel alone. I feel needy. I feel my brokenness.

Talking with my husband can be like a spoonful of medicine.  Sometimes it comes bitter.  Sometimes it comes sweet. These little conversations have been countless in our twenty years of marriage. I start naming off a litany of dismays. He catalogs them into things that can be fixed, things that can change, and things to accept. We pray about them, but there is one thing that always remains before us, and if we lose sight of her, everything is lost- the beautiful presence of gratitude,.

It’s a practice we keep, this gratefulness. A sort of game where we list all the things we are grateful for: our children, our marriage, our daily bread, our faith. We think of hard times and how things worked out. We think of how we have grown and how we can still grow. We think of other people in hard times. We recollect small blessings: a working fridge, a cow that got bred, a hot cup of soup. We try to step outside ourselves and see things from another perspective.

As I was swimming around in the darkness, I got jostled back unexpectedly into the light. Our twenty month old tripped onto her tummy while pushing a train car around. She was having so much fun chasing her older sister around with her “arr”, as she calls it.  And then, suddenly she was planted right onto the top of the plastic train with her tender, chubby tummy. It is always so heartbreaking when they go from so happy to so sad, so fast. What purpose I felt to be able to pick her up and love her. To just smother her back into safety.

In that baby hug, I was revived. My litany transformed. Me just hugging her makes it all worth it. Come broken water heater and heaps of laundry all the days of my life. Yes, this is why I am doing what I do. I am so thankful for her, for him, for them! My ingratitude melted away in that hug.

This morning as the light pours in through our east window I am again transported. The darkness has left me, finding me either unwilling or perhaps the chemicals are just back in sync. I am thankful that as the darkness clouded my vision yesterday, I managed to bask in it without thrashing about, only to hurt myself and others. Call it chemicals or hormones. Call it seasonal or spiritual. It’s probably all those things.

Whether we like it or not, whether the sun is shining or not, this is our call time to stage. We don’t get to manage the lighting offstage or write the scene for our part. We don’t get to decide we aren’t worthy of the part we are given and we can not play the role someone else has been given. We only have the choice over the sort of character we play, what we do, and the hope we can change for the better.

Am I the selfish, bitter woman I loathe? Am I the strong, gracious woman I admire?  Gratitude, God’s lovely maiden, should be my script, our script. She is our guardian of happiness. She is our fortress of peace. She is our gaze to heaven.

20161107_203514I got to watch my daughter Mary dance last week during one of her four weekly two and a half hours of brutal ballet. Hard work and grace really pay off. 

Thank you for reading I love to hear from you!