Category Archives: Gatherings

The Tale of a Table

My Table was a housewarming gift from my sis-in-law when my family moved a year ago. My Table was painted by all the boys in my life. My Table was intended for the front yard…but My Table filled with life in my backyard. This is a 1 year glance with My Table:

Prep and Painting took several days in short bursts,  but was done by both our families so that we would each have a Table. Turquoise was our color; modeled after the great Kristin Schell, who has a beautiful following with her #turquoisetable phenomena. We both love all that she is doing with community across our country. 

My heart knew that this Table needed to be in our backyard. We had moved based on the hunger my family had to have a backyard to play in, dream in, run and be still in. The previous 2 years we had hardly set foot in our yard because it was a large hill with mud slides. This new yard, this new table…it beckoned us to come outside.

One day I snuck outside and set up snacks on the Table while boys were playing. It wasn’t even 5 minutes before the table was covered in hungry boys and conversations.

I looked outside one morning and found my 9-year-old sitting at the Table whittling a stick. This was carried over from time spent with PawPaw.

We hosted our first pumpkin carving in the new house and set it all around the Table.

Even snowflakes enticed us out as the boys had fun “drawing” in them on the Table.

When Spring burst forth, we gathered all the chickadees and had egg hunts around the Table.

And with warm weather, came opportunities to invite friends and family over and do life outside. Coloring sessions, card games, checkers and eating took place regularly on the table. Kids lingered until dusk and generations linked in games at the Table.


On several occasions throughout the Summer there have been strategy meetings at the Table. Neighbor friends hashing out plans for attack in the latest battle in boys imaginations.

Our family raises turtles, and when we received a baby one from cousins, it happened to be at the Table.

My mom had a miraculous recovery from a horrendous incident this year, and this picture of her with my youngest son at the Table  is more beautiful to my eyes than I can express.

3 generations of men in our family sit at the Tables during a Fathers Day brunch. (We pulled both families tables together for one long sitting for all)

Many Bible Quilt sessions have seen the Tables with friends, family, neighbors and guests. The table gave way for opening up our hearts to others and sharing our sacred space.

As all the seasons come full circle, quiet retreats call my boys to the Table one-by-one. 

The last of Summer bubbles were danced through the yard while the Table held the treasured content.

This Table of mine is quite special. We celebrate a year with it, and our lives are richer for it. What a heartfelt gift given to me; what a priceless piece to store up memories on. I can hardly wait to take it for a spin this second year! I can see the Autumn leaves falling on it now!

Enjoy your spaces. Soak up your family. Invite your friends. Share it with guests. Rest and refresh at your Tables.

Strawberry Sensation: Whip up an Instant Family Favorite!

You know you have a winner recipe when you  jot down the date and your family’s reaction when you first try it, then add notes over the years as you tweak it here and there.

Ten years ago I tore a recipe out of a magazine and made it for my husband’s birthday. “Yummy!” was the general consensus…so I made it the following year and added another note to my recipe, “Still yummy!” (thus, a family favorite was born…)

strawberry sensation

Strawberry Sensation

4 cups fresh strawberries, divided (I use all 4 cups in step #2 and add another generous amount of fresh strawberries when I’m ready to serve)

1 can Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk (you could decrease amount slightly to reduce sweetness or use fat free version)

1/4 cup lemon juice

1 8 oz. container cool whip (or homemade – see below)

8 Oreos (double or triple the amount so you can add a middle layer)

1 Tbsp butter, melted (depending on how many Oreos you crumble, you may want a little more butter to hold topping mix together)

I love recipes that have a short list of ingredients, and I especially appreciate recipes that can be made in advance. This one is a WIN-WIN! You can keep  one  in your freezer & pull out for an instant crowd pleaser at any time.easy recipe

Step #1 – Prep pan: Line inside of 8 x4-inch loaf pan with foil, leaving a generous overlap to allow for a full coverage later.

Step #2 – Strawberry Mixture: Slice and mash 2-4 cups of strawberries in a large bowl. Stir in condensed milk & lemon juice. Fold in 2 cups of cool whip.

Step #3 – Pour about 1/2 of this yummy goodness into the foil-lined loaf pan.

Step #4- Crush Oreos in a ziploc bag. This is a perfect job for any young helper you may have lying in wait that you can “pay” with a couple Oreos! Add the melted butter into the ziploc and blend in the bag.

Step #5 – Sprinkle about 1/2 of the Oreo topping over the strawberry mixture.

Step #6 – Pour the remaining strawberry mixture into the pan.

Step #7 – Spoon the remaining Oreo topping onto the strawberry mixture, gentle pressing the cookie crumbles into a layer.

Step #8 – Prep for freezing: Fold the foil ends over until the pan is completely covered.

Step #9 – Freeze 6 hours or until firm. I’ve left one in the freezer a couple months & it was fine. I think I made 2 for Memorial Day weekend one year and only served one. It was a happy surprise to rediscover it again just in time for a 4th of July swim party! 

Step #10 – To Serve: Invert onto a serving plate, remove pan and foil. Spread the remaining cool whip onto the top and sides. Slice fresh strawberries, then layer them on the top and along sides of the dessert. Allow to sit at room temperature about 30 minutes until it has softened enough to slice.

blowing out candlesTheoretically this recipe makes 12 servings, but not for my crew! If it’s not all gobbled up during your first serving, then store the remainder in the freezer for a lucky few to have a second round later.

This is easy enough for any summer day, but yummy enough to grant as special birthday wish!

strawberries and creamBonus touch:  Instead of store bought cool whip, make your own! Beat heavy whipping cream in mixer until peaks form, adding a splash of vanilla and a little sugar to taste.

~ ~ ~ Hope you enjoy this sensational dessert to finish your summer strong! ~ ~ ~

***If blueberries are more your jam, check out For the Love of…Blueberries 

For the love…of blueberries!

Summer is all about curious explorations and fun family outings.blueberry farmRecently we had a joint family adventure to a local blueberry farm and dove into our first experience of picking fresh blueberries.

We each grabbed a bucket and headed down the rows of lush blueberry plants.Within a few minutes we had established a rhythm:

Reach in to a full branch, grab a few berries,  do a sample taste test, and drop the remainder into the bucket.

Repeat.

It wasn’t long before we were confident in our picking game. The boys quickly determined that the ripest berries would release easily, leaving the rest on the vine for later.The sun warmed our backs and a light breeze kept us going when our task began to feel a bit like “work.”

Occasionally we’d switch rows and swap stories, eyeing each other’s buckets to see how much progress we were making.blueberry pickingConversations bounced about as our buckets slowly filled.

Sweet tidbits of summer’s glory…

With boys ranging in age from 6 to 15, we could see the difference in their maturity levels in their conversation as well as their picking styles.

Some were methodical and steady. Others experimented with centrifugal force as they hurled their buckets in large circles, challenging each other to go faster and faster.

One needed to do his taste-testing at the sno-cone truck to “preview” flavors for the rest of us. (It’s a tough job, but somebody has to do it!)

The Lord must see this same maturation process in our spiritual lives. Our prayers and spiritual walks strengthen as our faith ripens over time, saturating into us as we press through life’s challenges.

We are all maturing at our own unique pace – – –

… some of us are “green” yet full of potential

… others are at the “sweet spot” of maturity & ready to share 

…others are past their “peak,” yet maintain a strong, distinctive flavor



Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity…” Hebrews 6:1



amily picking blueberriesAs we rallied the troops and weighed in our buckets, it didn’t matter how much each of us picked. Our efforts were gathered together in one beautiful heap.
One family outing reaped many bonuses:
  • the simple joy of having freshly plucked berries to add to our granola, yogurt, and salads

red, white, and BLUEberry~~~ the red, white, and BLUEberry fun during 4th of July celebrations ~~~

blueberry buckle– camaraderie shared in the deliciousness of blueberry buckle,  carrying on traditions of friends &  past 4th of July parties

blueberry muffinsHow much sweeter all these experiences were because we had gathered the blueberries ourselves and shared in our collective abundance, enjoying the fruits of our labor.  Sweet rewards for hot, summer days – – – infusing fond memories and new traditions – – – for the love of blueberries!

 

 

Summer Snippets

Summer has its own rhythm and we just sail along with it the best we can . . . enjoying family vacations, “dutifully” following packing checklists for kids’ various camps, having lazy dinners out on the patio…letting each day unfold in its unique way.

“Good Morning” template for Bible Quilt page

Our Quiet Times might slip into a different timeslot as we try to get outside chores down in the early morning hours before the heat of the day.

We might snatch some devotional time during the afternoon lull when everyone has soaked up enough sun or we may experiment with late  devotions when everyone is settled in for the night.

Dinner time may be a little different also. We eat later and “planning” is looser, typically more laidback. We might have more snack suppers or concoct some simple meals from what we find in the fridge. Breakfast dinners are always a win-win around here!

Occasionally, we’ll be motivated to do some batch cooking and stockpile some family favorites  (i.e. chicken packets) that we can pull out at the end of a long summer day.

I don’t know about you, but it takes me a little while to ease in to a summer rhythm, letting go of the patterns that have nudged us along during the school year. Each week has a different flavor, depending on who might be visiting us or which one of the kids might be away at a camp.  “Adaptability” is key. (at least that’s what I keep reminding myself when things are feeling a bit off-kilter)

So, we might be a little more sporadic sharing posts or offering workshops during this season. We’re allowing ourselves to “go with the flow” and give ourselves some margin for some spontaneous get-togethers along the way.

We plan on gathering at #theturquoisetable for some morning Bible Quilt journaling sessions before the heat becomes too oppressive. Check our Facebook group for some of these Simply Summer sessions!

Enjoy your own rhythm of summer, friends! 


“My Presence will go with you,

and I will give you rest.”   Exodus 33:14



I wonder

We’re all familiar with the preschool song about twinkling stars in the dark sky…how I wonder what you are…” 

As we’re careening to the end of school, the long stretch of summer prompts us all to wonder a bit more than usual.

WONDER – to think or speculate curiously

My youngest peppers me with questions when we’re out together, asking how things work or pointing out advertising anomalies that don’t make common sense on the surface.

I often stumble through my responses and together we generate a lot of hypotheses, sometimes mutually agreeing to consult Syri in hopes that her lofty British accent will produce a more educated guess.

I love my son’s quirky observations and perpetual curiosity.

WoNdER – to be filled with admiration, amazement, or awe; marvel

Summer road trips offer families a chance to veer off the beaten path and see some unusual things.

A few years ago on our way to South Dakota, we cruised through Carhenge and also stopped to see the world’s largest ball of twine.

We didn’t necessarily have to understand WHY someone would create such oddities, but we did enjoy wandering about in awe of seeing typical objects accumulated and displayed in some extreme ways.

wonDeR – to doubt

As Moms, we frequently second-guess our day-to-day interactions with our children. We wonder if we’re doing enough. We wonder if we’re doing too much

biking pathWhenever I’m unsettled about a particular interaction with one of my kiddos, I like to process  through it on a walk. I’ll even choose a different path to stimulate my thinking.

I typically can glean some perspective that I didn’t have in the moment. I may realize I need to readjust my expectations or expand the timeframe involved.

The symmetry of nature soothes me as I explore my personal reactions and the unique personality of the child involved. When I see a flower blooming that has just reached its peak, it’s a gentle reminder that my children are blossoming at their own rates as well. Each one is in a different developmental season and I have to nurture in patient, subtle ways, mindful of timing and spacing.yellow lily

WONder – a feeling of surprised or puzzled interest, tinged with admiration

"I know the Plans" Bible Quilt journal templateSometimes a milestone highlights a child’s growth that’s been occurring all along, but is poignantly brought to our present attention in a formal rite of passage.

Our breath catches as we see our child cross the stage at graduation. As he is swept up in a week-long chain of celebratory events and inundated by sweet cards  of validation from friends, family, and former teachers, something shifts between parent and child.

The child’s effort and determination emerges as the primary focus and our parenting role fades away, providing a backdrop for him to truly shine. 

wonder – a miraculous deed or event; remarkable phenomenon

Boys in a redwood tree

Each experience we’ve woven into our child’s life culminates in a unique blend of teenaged flair.

From the rainy kindergarten zoo field trips to numerous play sessions at the park, and all those family vacations, each contributes to a lifetime sense of curiosity.

It’s fun to see teens begin to seek out adventures on their own, perhaps participating in an overseas exchange program or a church mission trip.

Each new experience stirs up WONDER about other cultures and broadens their outlook a little wider.
“Trust in the Lord” Bible Quilt page

As we teeter on the edge of summer, we have the opportunity to ponder a little longer, to question a little deeper… and to marvel at this season of our family’s life a little more intentionally.



To my graduating son, I look at YOU in Wonder.

I will always treasure our shared history fondly, tuck you into my heart tightly, and hold your future loosely.

May your days be full of wonder.

 

 

 

Mama nature

hatchling turtle in boy's handWe’ve had a lot of motherhood going on around us recently.

Our turtles have had 3 hatchlings emerge in a 10-day period that we have adopted out to some VERY happy boys.

An exciting adventure is in store for them as they observe turtle behavior and learn how to take care of these little creatures.

Hatchling turtle on rock
Hatchling turtle on “gotcha” day

Our flighty friend, MamaDuck, has returned to lay her eggs at our house again in some tall feather grass. She picked a much better hiding spot than her previous location of a flowerpot out on the open patio in the midst of all the hustle & bustle of swim season.

I even had to do a little detective work to finally discover where she had nested this time…duck's nest of eggsLook at how precisely she’s got the eggs tucked in!

I was admiring the symmetry of  egg placement and carefully constructed nest when I heard the loud flap of wings as two male ducks arrived. I looked up just in time to see Katie revved up to greet them…ducks taking flight

Somehow I managed to capture this sequence of their reactions: MamaDuck taking flight, her peaceful swim disrupted; the male Mallards barely dipping into the water to shoot back up into the air for safety; and our dog, charging merrily at wildlife entering her fenced-in yard. (She had already had a full morning chasing the scent of a rabbit that had been meandering all over the garden, the back and front yard. ) Her eager retriever instinct was in full gear!

During this past weekend of Mother’s Day activities, my husband joked that perhaps I was providing “too nurturing” of a home environment that prompted this explosion of nature going on in our backyard.

Tree Sculpture

My hospitality dwindled when a mama squirrel built her nest IN our attic over the winter. The constant gnawing sounds that awakened us multiple nights in a 3-week period resulted in an unplanned home improvement project directed by a handy neighbor. The squirrel nuisance triggered a stream of workers traipsing through the house, cutting through a closet to get into the space to figure out where the squirrels got in and how to block their access.  I’m grateful to be past the phase of activating the “alert” status which brought our neighbor to the door with a head-lamp and a pellet gun. Although he was disappointed he never “got” them, he tapped in to some creative  squirrel-proofing that ended with some, um, rather unique Tree Art in our backyard!finding a hatchling turtle

Interesting times around here as mothers of all types are nesting, nurturing and launching their babies in different ways!

With graduation season in full swing, a lot of us mommas are in the same boat. Instincts of all kinds are kicking in and our emotions are tightly woven together like that MamaDuck’s nest. I’m not quite ready to unfold all of that yet though…

mother's day table & remote control car

I’m still soaking in the moments of Mother’s Day weekend, family gathered around the table and my guys making special efforts to cook & clean. Beyond those intentional actions, though, were some of my favorite moments…a son showing up beside me to help plant spring flowers, or offering to make a grocery run and bringing back a smoothie for me, or vacuuming out my messy car.

Spontaneous hugs. A kind gesture. A sneaky smile. These little pauses when I get to capture a one-on-one moment are the snippets I hold onto dearly, tucking them into my heart as I watch these boys mature in their own ways.

Mama Nature has some pretty cool stuff going on this spring.

I’m grateful for the close-up view that helps put things into perspective.

A Mother’s Heart page in Bible Quilt journal

Ordinary days  punctuated by extraordinary moments are special gifts to a mother’s heart.  I’m treasuring each one and hope you are, too!