Friday, May 16, 2014

our garden tour

There is nothing better than a fresh flower, vegetable, fruit, or herb straight from the garden. We have been fortunate to be the recipients of many home-canned goods and freshly picked flowers thanks to our family and friends. Shortly after we were married, we talked about our future garden dreams-- with a spreadsheet design and everything! Last year was our first full summer as a married couple but since we moved to Illinois in June, we were a bit behind in the planting process. We attempted an herb garden in a raised box but between our frequent trips home and my forgetfulness in regards to watering, those efforts were not successful. Thank goodness for Farmers Markets!

A few months ago, we started discussing a garden for this year. We wanted to give it another shot and really try this time. Not only did we want to give herbs another go around, we added vegetables and flowers to the mix. After much debate and scaling down our dreams to realistic plans, we finally came to the conclusion of which plants we would attempt to grow. We picked up some ranunculus, zinnias, and dahlias packets at the store. Dustin surprised me one day when I got home from work with a little raised bed using leftover wood from the fence in our backyard. It is the perfect size for our first garden! We went back to the store soon after that to pick out our produce and herbs.

Here's what we went with based on our tastes and preferences:

Big Boy Tomatoes
Cherry Tomatoes
Swiss Chard
Red, Yellow, Green, and Purple Bell Peppers
Jalepeno Peppers

Day One: 3 weeks ago
We first thought we would grow squash and zucchini from seed but later went back for plants. 

A few days ago
One of the squash seeds actually grew despite our doubts! 

We planted the herbs in one of the raised boxes. The veggies went in the raised bed Dustin made. He also fixed up a little fence to protect the garden from our pups and the deer we often have in our yard. All of our plants have been prayed over, encouraged, and begged to grow! And so far they have! Oh how I love walking out to the garden to see the growth and progress that occurs. Our cherry tomatoes have a couple baby green ones growing! Mini Fried Green Tomatoes, anyone!? I am so excited to taste, see, and enjoy the fruits of our labor. My mouth waters just imagining the fresh tomato sandwiches, smothered squash, and colorful sautéed swiss chard! The week we have received quite a bit of rain. I am hoping they all survive! 

Did you put out a garden this year? 

What blooms and veggies are you most excited to see grow? 

Thursday, May 08, 2014

stamp out hunger

I love checking the mailbox and finding a handwritten note from a friend or the latest issue of Southern Living. When I checked the mail yesterday evening, it was mostly bills and one card that caught my eye right away:

In case you haven't received yours yet, I will give you the rundown...

On May 10th (this Saturday) the National Association of Letter Carriers is conducting its 22nd annual  Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive. Letter carriers around the country will be collecting food donations and delivering them to local food pantries and food banks. 

All you have to do is: 
1. Collect food and bag it.
2. Place your bag by your mailbox for it to be picked up and delivered. 

Providing food for those in need is very near and dear to my heart. According to Feeding America, 1 in 6 Americans struggle with hunger and food insecurity, including adults, elderly, and children. Not only do the people utilizing these resources need nourishment, they often have or are at risk for chronic health issues that require specialized diets. In fact, for people with specific diagnoses, the heavily processed, sodium/added sugar laden foods often provided at food pantries are actually detrimental to their health. I also can't help but think about those who rely on food pantries who have food sensitivities or allergies. For children, proper nourishment is needed for growth and development. Rather than nutrient poor options, those who suffer from food insecurity need nutrient rich options. I encourage you to consider this as you select donations for your local food banks and pantries. 

Here are some healthier donation ideas:

Canned Vegetables--No Added Salt/Sugar
Canned Fruits-- In 100% Juice (not syrups)
No Added Sugar Dried Fruit
No Added Sugar Applesauce
Low Sodium Vegetable/Chicken/Beef Broth
Low Sodium Canned Chicken or Cold Water Fish (Tuna, Salmon, Sardines)
Unsalted Nuts and Seeds
Low Sodium Nut Butters
Brown and White Rice
Whole Wheat or Brown Rice Pastas
Plain Steel Cut Oats
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Shelf Stable Powdered Milk or Almond Milk
Plain Bottled Water

These are just a few suggestions. Check with your local pantries to see if they accept fresh produce. I am aware of one pantry in our town that will accept fresh fruits and vegetables. The letter carriers are only picking up non-perishable items this Saturday, but for future donations it would be great if you could give produce as well. I ask that you consider the sodium and sugar content of the foods you provide. If the pantries you support provide lists of requested items, donate the lower sodium/no added sugar options. Also, consider the ingredient list of foods. If the list is a mile long, full of words you cannot identify or pronounce, I recommend you put it back on the shelf. By choosing lower sodium/sugar options with shorter ingredient lists, you are potentially contributing to better health for the individuals who receive them. Can I also encourage you to have this mindset when choices for your own pantry in your home?

Visit this link to use the interactive map and learn more about food insecurity and hunger in your area. 

Let's consider the health of those in need as we Stamp Out Hunger on May 10th and each time we donate to our local food banks and pantries.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

7 on the 7th: making a house a home

Have you ever been in a house where you just instantly feel at home? What do you remember about it that made you feel that way? When I think about the homes that evoke positive feelings, I can recall the layouts, decor, and aromas. More importantly--the people, the relationships, the memories. It is the combination of all of these things that help create a sense of belonging and hospitality. While I am by no means a decorator and our home is far from perfect, I do have seven favorite tips I've been given along the way and try to follow to make our house a home.

1. Find Inspiration
Do you have a family member, friend, or total stranger you follow on Instagram whose style you admire and share? Maybe you save magazine clippings from Southern Living or Better Homes & Gardens. Maybe you watch HGTV for new ideas. Chances are if you are reading this, you probably have a Pinterest board dedicated to your dream home. You may even have specific boards for particular rooms or projects! I support all of the above. Also, keep in mind those people who make you feel at home in their presence. What do they do and say that makes you feel that way? Be mindful of how you want people to feel in your home as your decorate and interact with them. 

2. Be Content
I think it is great to have plans and work to achieve them. When we bought our home, it was move in ready and we were so glad! Over the past couple of months, we started a list of the aspects of it we wanted to adjust over time to suit our tastes and personalities. It can be easy to fall into that mindset of we have to have the newest/biggest/brightest (fill in the blank with your choice of home related item) as soon as we want it. You may not have every room arranged and styled exactly how you like them. Maybe right now you can't afford all the changes you are wanting to make. That's okay. We have been eating around our coffee table for a year because we don't have a dining table yet. I should include that this has been an upgrade because before that, we just ate off our laps! Despite the less sophisticated dining arrangements, I love the memories we have with our people around that table. 

3. Do It Yourself
One of my husband's many talents is that he is very handy. I am pretty sure he can fix or make anything. I'm equally impressed by and thankful for his abilities. Our parents have been so helpful with design ideas, suggestions, and free labor! A couple of the updates we have made to our home have been to spruce up our master bathroom and add storage in our laundry room. Not only do I love the end results of both of these projects, I love that we spent time together completing them. Teaming up with family and friends to do your home renovations and design is so much fun and makes the process so much more special. Here are a couple before and afters just because I am so proud of him:

4. Mix and Match
So what if your furniture isn't all from the same designer/store/yard sale. We are fortunate to have been the recipients of many hand-me-downs, which means hardly any of our furniture "goes together." I am thankful that when we use various pieces in our home, we can remember who shared with us. Mixing and matching items definitely adds character to a room. I also like the feeling it gives that everything-- and everyone--has a place and belongs. 

5. Add Some Greenery
Fresh flowers and plants add life and color to a home. I am not exactly a green thumb, but I do appreciate horticulture. When we moved to Illinois last year, a sweet new friend invited me to go to the Farmer's Market with her. Each week there was a man who sold the most beautiful zinnias, sunflowers, and wildflowers. I love picking up a bunch of colorful blooms to place on the counter by the sink or on the coffee table. Grocery stores often have flowers on sale as well. This year I hope to pick my own zinnias, dahlias, and ranunculus from our garden! 

6. Infuse the Air
I love walking into homes that have distinct, lovely scents. Whether it's warm baked cookies, clean linens, or fresh picked roses, I so enjoy pleasing aromas. Diffusing Essential Oils is my favorite way to create a welcoming space. Stress Away, Joy, and Lemon are my favorite oils to diffuse in our home. If you haven't experienced the many benefits and uses of Essential Oils, I would love to introduce you to the endless possibilities they offer!

7. Fill It With Scripture
Far more important than any decoration, lovely scent, or pretty flower, having Christ as the foundation is the ultimate way to make a house a home. In the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy, Moses gave the Israelites commandments from the Lord before they entered the Promised Land. He told them:
"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates."
{Deuteronomy 6: 5-9}
I love to decorate our home with beautiful Scripture. The multiple daily reminders of God's Word are so needed and appreciated. My prayer is that we fill our homes with scripture through our words, thoughts, and actions. 

What are your favorite ways and tips to make a house a home?