Thursday, November 21, 2019


We did apple picking earlier than usual, in the middle of September, and I am finally getting around to writing about it now.  At certain points it got too warm, even though we had started out first thing in the morning, and we slowly shed all the layers we had on, but the apples were delicious and it wasn't freezing cold (like it was last year when we went), so it was exactly what I was hoping for.  When we go, we pick a whole bunch of apples and then eat them over a span of a couple of weeks, and that is what I look forward to most about the fall. 

We decided to make a whole weekend out of it and go visit Harrisonburg (where Ken and I went to school and met for the first time) with the girls. So we booked a cute Airbnb in Mt. Crawford and had ourselves a family retreat. Ken put together a little video (above) of our couple of days away, and we have loved watching it over and over again! 

And here are some photos, a mix of iPhone camera and the DSLR:

In light of driving to articulate my life mission statement I've also been thinking and discussing the idea of a family mission statement with Ken. We keep adjusting it, but currently, it sounds something like: Our family mission is to create and offer a safe space for rest, conversations, and growth (for others, as well as ourselves) so that we all can thrive and be able to love ourselves, each other, and God in the ways we are created to.

During this weekend away, we took time to talk together about some tangible goals that we thought our family should work towards together. Ultimately, we would want the girls to be able to contribute to our family mission statement, but while they are young, coming up with a list like this shows what is important to us in this stage of life. Here is the list we came up with:  

Family goals:
  • Go horseback riding together (Sloane)
  • Go to a farm (Logan)
  • Play in a volleyball quads tournament together (Ken)
  • Do BJJ together (Sloane)
  • Travel to Taiwan and Korea to visit where our families are from (Ken and Christine)
  • Ride a train (Sloane and Logan)
  • Sloane and Logan buy mom and dad a meal (Ken)
  • To get Rusty back (Sloane and Logan)
  • Do all do our homework and housework
  • When we see a need, try to help - even if it's little, do something!

We also talked through what we each thought are behaviors and attitudes that are important to us as a family. This seems like a good way to introduce the idea of family values that we can hopefully hone down and in on as the years go by: 

Family Behaviors and Attitudes: 
  • Sharing 
  • Using our words 
  • Being a good listener 
  • Asking good questions 
  • Being a leader (in action and in thought)
  • Always choosing to be kind 
  • Being honest
  • Gratitude
  • Not wasting food
It was really fun to talk through these things together as a family!


photo from Austin Kleon's blog, which I have found inspiring lately

As odd as this may sound, my busy these days feels a little different because it's not just the activities or to-do list that take up my time, it's the thinking. There is so much to think about! I have started making "to-think" lists, because I have found it critical to carve out time to think deeply.  

It comes from a place of wanting to go deeper in the ways that we live - in my relationships, my reading, my work, parenting, creativity, etc. I want to work through the what, how, when, where and especially why I am doing what I am doing. It's invigorating and challenging, and sometimes I get a case of brain strain. ("I'm sorry, I can't make it tonight. I need time to think.") 

Thinking time has become some of my most valuable time.  Thinking time these days looks like not filling in with noise, music, TV, or busy work but sitting in silence with the purpose of thinking through a problem or question. It's helpful to take notes, so does bouncing my thoughts off of friends and family.  Walking time is probably some of the best thinking times, but it's harder to fit in. 

One of the questions I'm chewing through lately comes from wanting to be more specific with my purpose and life mission statement.  This sort of exercise requires deep diving into my stories, knowing my strengths and passions, and envisioning the future, so it's quite the endeavor. It's especially pertinent because we (at work) are working through what it means to help our clients through this process, so I'm approaching this from several angles.  I'll share what I come with here on this blog as I go.

Friday, October 11, 2019


You know that question that you get asked sometimes about what you would do with your life if you didn't have to worry about money at all? 

I have varying and many responses to that question, but one that stays up there in the top five is that I would host dinner parties. Lots of dinner parties. With friends, neighbors, and strangers. The trickiest parts of a dinner party to me is the money and time, so if neither were an issue, I think I would enjoy even more of it. I like everything else about it: the planning, the strategy, the shopping, the prepping and arranging, the cooking, even the cleaning (it's a great excuse to clean), and then of course the conversations. 

Repeatedly over the years, as I have gotten several years into putting in the kinds of things that are important to me, I
 get to see the adage of "the more you do something..." come true.  I can see that it does indeed get, if not easier, more a part of who I am.  And that's the goal isn't it? That the thing you love, the activities you put the hours into, become things that a natural rhythm of life? Not easier, but better, and more cohesive with who you are.  In the case of hosting, my experience has been: the more you invite people into your home, the more normal it will feel, the more 'failures' you will experience and grow from, and the more you will want to do it. 

Some ideas and recipes from a recent summer dinner that I would do again (inspired by this post): 

Appetizer: Fig Caprese salad - Used burrata instead of mozzerella, and added walnuts. Basil leaves a must. Served it with salami and sliced baguette.)

Drinks: Bees Knees cocktail 
Salad: Cherry Tomato and White Bean salad - I love this salad!
Main course: Instead of the one-pot Zucchini Basil Pasta the post mentions, I went with this Basil Zucchini Parmesan Pasta and it was delicious, easy, and paired so well with the pasta.
Other drinks: A bottle of white, a bottle of red, and water 
Dessert: Sorbet in coupe glasses with Pellegrino splashed in

The other thing worth mentioning about this meal was that there was no meat, but we didn't miss it at all because everything was so flavorful! 

Thursday, October 10, 2019


In a recent post, I wrote about how I'm making a shift back this season to writing about things that are close.  At least starting there. It is a returning, because I used to write about the smallest of details: what I saw on my desk as I studied, the smell of the air when I walked outside, the closeness and vastness of the space between me and my babies.  

It is my own potion making, this sort of writing. 

I recently finished a book called, "How To Do Nothing" by Jenny Odell, and if you have seen me or spoken me lately, I have likely mentioned this book to you. Her introduction is titled, "Surviving Usefulness" and she makes the case that we need to get over this idea that everything needs to have utilitarian value. When this is the lens through which we see everything, we can't help judge things by what they can contribute, how much money they can make, or how many people it can attract.  Only when we can see things for what they really are, and put the emphasis on the seeing, not the object, will we be able to understand the true value of things and have deep gratitude for it all. 

It's exercises in attention rather than usefulness that I'm going for here, not just with my writing, but in any creative endeavor - photography, sketching, and music. 

Also, as of the most recent post, for the first time in my blogging career, I've changed the font I use here.  Inconsequential! but a pivot. 

Tuesday, October 8, 2019


I am behind on these posts, but it's not a terrible thing. It's been a couple of months now since I've read these and having to write brief summaries here is a good practice of how much of and whether or not these books have stuck with me. 

Meditation Made Easy by Lorin Roche 

Curious to learn more about meditation, I saw that this book had good reviews, and meditation made easy was exactly I needed for my ramp up into forming my own practice. I've tried meditating before, but always felt a pressure to erase my thoughts or force myself to feel a certain way, and I would end up feeling like I was "failing" at meditating. This book was very helpful to me because it clarified that meditation was more about paying attention to one's body and thoughts, rather than suppressing them. I mentioned this book in a podcast episode we did lately with Taylor Campbell on mindfulness.

Home Cooking by Laurie Colwin

This one was a book club read, which I had been excited about because I love these types of books that have memoir-style essays about life and food with good recipes included. Unfortunately, I didn't like this book as much as I had hoped. The writing was a little stilted, and the essays felt disjointed, without a believable thread or narrative to walk be through.  Part of it may have also been due to the fact that I was reading "Braiding Sweetgrass" at the same time, and that one was just stunning and gripping me with its writings and revelations. It wasn't a fair comparison.  This one did have lots of good nuggets and takeaways, so if you love this genre, it's worth a read, but it wasn't my favorite one of its kind.

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

This was a marvelous about a man who is one kind of way - grumpy, stingy, and lonely - who is made to melt and open up little by little by visits from his neighbors and small connections that are made.  The characters and dialogue are vivid (I could see each of the scenes play out in my head as if in a movie, which is apt, because they have made a movie from this book) and I fell in love with all the characters while going through this one, especially the main character. There were many funny moments throughout the book as well, making me laugh aloud, and by the end of the book I was moved to tears by the way it all resolved. 

Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmer 

This is my favorite non-fiction book from this past year, and I keep telling anyone I think might be remotely interested about this one. This too is a collection of essays of sorts- they could stand on their own - but they work and weave together as a memoir as well as passionate and gentle advocacy for noticing and respecting the nature around.  It is full of wisdom and beautiful writing, and I savored this one till the very end. I had read the library's copy, but immediately bought my own so I could reread it.  It is really wonderful. 

Friday, October 4, 2019


Always start close. 

That's going to be my mantra for this next writing season.  I've always posited that some people write to express and others to communicate, and mostly I've put myself in the "to communicate" camp. But more recently, I'm realizing that focusing too much on sending words out zaps some of the joy, wonder and mystery out of it for me.  

There needs to be both, if not in equal measure, and maybe sometimes it's one or the other.  I'm not doing this for anyone else except myself, and the doing of it is what matters to me.  I feel the must-ness of writing, for what purpose, that is unknowable to me and I'm at peace with that. 

Sometimes writing feels like how A.A. Milne describes it: "Ideas may drift into other minds, but they do not drift my way. I have to go and fetch them. I know no work manual or mental to equal the appaling heart-breaking anguish of fetching an idea from nowhere." 

So I start close. Not with grandiose ideas that I've been daydreaming and munching on, because those need to marinate for a long time. Not with to-do tips or life lessons because I don't feel this need to verbalize them just yet.  But with details. The details that surround me. 

I woke before the alarm today. A little confused and discomforted, was it too early or did I oversleep? Then the alarm went off and it felt good to be wide awake, not groggy.  I put coconut milk in my coffee today, remembering how good coconut cream was in hot coffee during camping last weekend.  Must put coconut cream on shopping list. Mom got up too, I made coffee while listening to Joshua and Mark, and then we read our books in silence. I gave Sloane a gazillion kisses to wake her up.  She cried when she discovered I threw out some of her school papers, she brushed her hair a gazillion times. To match my kisses?  Logan opened the porch door my dad saying, "Come on in man!" and we all laughed. I forgot to make my green smoothie, but I did havetwo cups of coffee with coconut milk.  

Sloane got stuck, mentally?  She couldn't stop brushing her hair. At first I said it gently, "that's enough honey." Then, exasperated at my 12th time, "PLEASE stop brushing your hair" so I could get her to focus on getting her backpack and water bottle to leave. "It's not smooth," she was fixated and tears sprung to her eyes. I gave her some spiel about how it doesn't matter how her hair looks, it's about how she feels and her attitude. But of course it matters. So I awkwardly did the dance of acknowledging yes it does matter, yes it matters to you so it matters to me, but it's not the most important thing, and still felt like I failed.  There was not enough time to cuddle and ask questions.  Her tears of course, was probably due to the rushing. Even when there is seemingly ample time, there isn't.  I held her face into me, and held her there for as long as I could, both of us pausing, to make up for my flailing words and the lack of time.  I miss her today especially because of this. I know she'll be over it in a few minutes, but I don't get to see her recover.  But at the end of the day, I will get to draw her into me again, and usually by then she is ready to talk about it.  Solutions and resolutions don't come immediately; we are all learning that.  

These are some photos form the end of August. That was a really good month. 

Thursday, October 3, 2019


To commemorate the end of summer, we threw a shrimp boil with friends. We were first introduced to the concept by Autumn and Garrett, who threw one a few years back, and we fell in love with the whole idea and everyone was on board to try to have one every year if possible. The year after that, we pulled off the genius move (I think it was Autumn's idea) to ask each person to contribute money to the dinner and for the hosts to do the shopping and cooking, instead of trying to facilitate a sign-up sheet of people bringing separate things. It solved so many logistic problems, it allowed everything to be more cohesive, and since this is an adult-only event, it served as a cheaper date night out with friends than if we had gone out to a restaurant. Everyone was willing to pay and did so quickly!  We volunteered to be the hosts this year, and I loved every moment of it.  It was a joint effort: with Ken doing the shopping and cooking of the giant shrimp boil for 20, and me doing the shopping, arranging and set up of everything else: the layout, decor, cocktails (whiskey sours and gin mojitos), wine, glasses, napkins, appetizers and sides (subrosa bread, butter and heirloom tomatoes) and dessert (fresh fruit and caramel chocolate pretzel bars).

A big shout out to my Ken who agreed to put up these string lights on our back driveway, without complaining even once, being a more evolved man than he was a few year ago, because of course it made the biggest difference in atmosphere. The night was perfect in weather, company, food and conversation.  Here are some photos and then a video below of the evening.