kitchen-craft

Good morning and isn’t the sunshine and cool breeze lovely? I am back in New England, where I feel certain I belong. I love our Georgia place but it isn’t home (yet), maybe someday. But here in New England are all my people, and all my things, and the air and insects and seasons and familiarity that I do my best breathing, enjoying, and living.

The month and more of Georgia did wonders to my nervous system and I feel calm and peaceful. Rather than doing life at a break-neck speed out of endless adrenaline, I almost feel “too slow” and my brain feels forgetful. I’m used to it firing off information and “things to remember” nonstop, instead, it feels empty in spots. Not to worry, I’m sure this Shanda is just as entertaining as the other one. I feel a shift has occurred, a changing of life that happens to all of us, and it is good. The fundamental things are the same; love of family, a desire to know and love God, celebrating life in all its messy beauty, and a love for home (this one, and the one to come). Just a step down from those things are the primary loves of my life; words written and read, nature, photography, animals, gardening, and homemaking, walking, laughing, learning, growing……..

I’m currently reading a Fannie Flagg book titled Standing in the Rainbow and I came across this quote and wanted to share it here;

“‘ You know, so many of you have written in over the years and asked me what is the best thing to do for a blue mood…….and asked if I have ever been in a blue mood, and yes, you can be sure I have. I can only tell what helps me and that is baking. I can’t tell you how many cakes I have sifted, how many cake pans I have greased, all because there is something about baking a cake that gets me out of a mood, and so I’ll just pass that on for what it’s worth.'”

Standing in the Rainbow, page 268

When I read this I thought of my mom and aunts and grandma and cousins and siblings and myself…..and understood again so clearly how much kitchen-craft serves a purpose not just for the end result, but in the very process of the work, how satisfying it is to make dishes and meals, desserts of all kinds, and even the cleaning up part is satisfying. I want to take pride in my kitchen and making it sparkle. It will always be used and a place to create.

So when we got home on Friday it made perfect sense that on Saturday I made pancakes for Caleb. Granted, it didn’t make sense as to why the batter tasted so salty, but I kept on and was quite proud of the (very very) fluffy stack of pancakes I served up. Turns out the flour I used was self-rising and I didn’t know it. It was a new bag that I opened without looking first, and as I never buy self-rising I didn’t suspect a thing. In other words, these particular pancakes had twice as much baking powder and salt in them. They got eaten, so I guess they were edible enough…….butter and syrup do wonders.

I was very eager to dig around in the garden. This spring I had a bag of grocery-store potatoes that had all sprouted so energetically (so many sprouts, making the potato itself unrecognizable) that I decided to plant them. This was a first for me. My mom guided me through the basics of tending them (now I know why gardeners are always hoeing) and as soon as I could (saturday morning AFTER the pancakes were made) I went outside to see if it really worked; and it did! I’m a potato farmer on a very small scale! I dug up three hills and found about 10 potatoes, and I have three more hills to dig when I’m ready. I also pulled some carrots, a couple beets, and onion, and picked yellow squash and cucumber.

Meanwhile, my husband was busy taking out our old dishwashers and installing these two new kitchen aid dishwashers…….we were both working so hard in the kitchen, we kept bumping into each other as Alexa played our favorite songs. Quite romantic. Since he was working so hard and did such an excellent job, naturally I felt compelled to make ……… meatballs! This was next on the kitchen-craft list of things to make.

We ate our meatballs and sauce (all homemade with tender loving care) out on the porch that evening. (by the way, when making sauce, I only ever use San Marzano canned tomatoes, I have found that they are my favorite by far.)

Cucumber salad, with my own garden onion and cucumbers.

On Sunday, Jacob, Brittnee, Sierra, and Mitchell came over for an afternoon steak cook-out. Jacob grilled the steaks and I prepared the side dishes.

“What am I going to do with all that self-rising flour?” I asked myself, and then baked this very simple cake. It’s closely related to the peach coffee cake I make all the time on Jekyll so I went ahead and made the topping for that recipe (fruit, & brown sugar mixed w/butter). However, this cake fluffed up so much as it baked that it baked AROUND and OVER the topping. (Wow self-rising flour takes itself very seriously!) Therefore, when Sarah looked at it and begged, “Mom, can you please not put sugar on top of this one, pleeeeeeeeeese?” I could, in all honesty, say “no”. What she didn’t know was it was all on the bottom.

I take great joy in making baked beans from scratch. There is something magical about them, a humble package of hard, dried beans developing into a pot of melt-in-your-mouth flavor. I used a basic recipe and then went from there, soaking and simmering and baking, stirring, tasting, adding this and that, for hours and hours until they were perfection. And thank goodness everyone else liked them, too.

While roasting marshmallows outside last night a few hours after our big meal, I let out such a loud toot that Mitchell said in surprise to Jacob, “Was that your MOM? I had no idea Moms could even DO that, I’ve NEVER heard my mom do that!” and later on, when he left he said he felt like he was part of the family.

This is just some of what kitchens can do!

who, being loved, is poor?

What greater thing is there for two human souls, than to feel that they are joined for life — to strengthen each other in all labour, to rest on each other in all sorrow, to minister to each other in all pain, to be one with each other in silent unspeakable memories at the moment of the last parting? ~George Eliot (1819–1880)

What is it like to grow a daughter and then see her get married?

Sort of like planting a seed, tending it all through maturity, and then at just that time, transplanting the plant into another garden, miles away, to finish growing?

(Dear Brogan, I grew a flower, and gave it to you. Love, Mom)

Sort of like building a house, furnishing it prettily, and giving it away? (giving, the most beautiful expression of love).

Sort of like getting married again, yourself? Reawakened memories, dreams, and expectations.

It’s huge. At times I felt like I was going to go crazy if the wedding didn’t just come and go…….because the emotions were almost unbearable. Dealing with them left me exhausted.

At times I wanted to push stop and rewind to when she was little. Do it all again. And again.

At times I wanted to push pause and keep her a little longer. Please?

Most of the time I was simply thankful in the giving. She’s not just my daughter, after all, she’s herself. She’s Grace. She’s bigger and deeper and higher and louder than “Shanda’s daughter”. I am truly inspired by her in every way. Her unshakeable love for her husband, her friends, her family. She loves well; in looks and little love notes, and tea, and music and books and service. Her quiet wisdom. Her sense of humor. Her “beauty on the inside”, her heart. Her strength and sensibilities. The things she’s interested in, the things we share. She’s made me a better woman in raising her and having her as my forever-daughter. She’s truly unique and special, as all of the children are.

The most difficult aspect is giving away that Grace-part of myself, letting go of something that was not only mine but part of me, the girl who came from her father and mother’s love. And yet, that giving, again, is deep-down joyful. True gifts aways satisfy the giver.

The best part is knowing that she and I? “We still got it”, ready to pick up and enjoy any ol’ time we want to. Mom and daughter…… are forever.

So anyways, here we are, a few weeks after The Wedding Day, and yesterday we got the link to the website which contains the professional wedding photos and I thought I would share some. There are so many, it was hard to chose, but these tugged on my heart-strings the most.

The morning of the wedding we drove to Brogan’s Grandmother’s beautiful home (the wedding was in Pennsylvania, where Brogan grew up and Grace attended college). Gemma did Grace’s hair, and Sierra drove to Dunkin’ with Sarah to get us breakfast sandwiches. Then we all got dressed in our finery.

Grace’s dress was a gift; Gemma was a bridal salon owner a few years ago and some of her dresses were still available there from that time. Grace was thrilled by the meaningfulness of wearing one of “Gemma’s Dresses”.

My own dress was serendipitously discovered at anthropologie just a week or so before the wedding. I had already chosen a dress, but Grace ended up liking this one better and it really did go along with the theme of the day, pink and wildflowers, and love like valentines.

the princesses

The sisters were ready. Sarah was the Jr. Maid of Honor, a set of words which I can almost never get out of my mouth. I hope I wrote it correctly. Sierra and I both curled Sarah’s hair for her with a curling iron, she has a lot of hair but it holds curls very well.

Gemma got us “to the church on time” and Rich was waiting. The photographer did such a wonderful job of capturing the moment. Rich was very emotional throughout the day. His precious daughter’s wedding.

The ceremony was beautifully sacred.

I love the way Brogan treats Grace and people. He is respectful and courteous, and fun without being silly. He has a special maturity, despite his youth, that we admire and appreciate. I’ve mentioned before how these two can talk……and I also appreciate the depth and interest in their conversations, talking and visiting that way is such a day-brightener! I look forward to the times we will be together through the years. They are also comfortable in silence, and Brogan’s mom loves to tell the story of them reading together at her home for long periods of time, lost quietly in their books, yet together.

This is probably the most touching photo from the day, for me. Rich has a vulnerableness that not many people get to see. But I see it, I know who he is, he is my rock, steady and calm, and his love runs deep. During the most important family milestones, his calm exterior and demeanor reveals the honest emotion he has, in his love and gratitude, for his family. His wife and children mean everything to him.

***my heart is bursting***
all photos here, taken by tialeighphotography

My Dad and Mom, with all of us. No one was missing on this amazing day.

“What wondrous love is this, oh my soul”

Let’s be a comfortable couple and take care of each other… how glad we shall be that we have somebody we are fond of always to talk to and sit with! ~Charles Dickens

Who, being loved, is poor? ~Oscar Wilde

grandma’s Granada

Rich noticed the coil-ponytail holder on my wrist just now and said “it looks like my Grandma’s keychain.” It triggered a memory.

“My Grandma had a Ford Granada. G-R-A-N-A-D-A. I was like seven years old and it was a red car and said “Granada” in silver letters right across the right side of the dash. I always thought it said “Grandma”……it was her “grandma car”. How interesting that Grandma found a car named Grandma! And then one day I carefully looked at the letters and I realized that it didn’t say Grandma. See, the letters were all in cursive and I couldn’t read them very well.

So the car lost a little bit of its specialness after that.”

“It’s definitely a true story. I lived it. I know.” Rich

“It looks like Grandma’s keychain,” he said.

Seth and His Beer

oops, I meant “bear”.

Seth is 12. His stuffed bear, Mr. B, is growing old along with him and lives on his bed. Because of this, I tend to bring home decor for his bedroom, from Goodwill mostly, suitable for bear lovers.

He was at school on Friday while Grace and I spent some time at Goodwill together looking for stuff but we weren’t sure what-yet. Right away, in a magical moment, I made eye contact with a dear brown bear whose charm made me stop in my (mama bear) tracks, and……. add him to the cart.

When Seth was dropped off by the school bus later, I was home and ready to say “Seth, there’s a surprise for you, upstairs in your bedroom.” (By the way, this new bear is a ceramic cookie jar.)

As I am easily distracted, I then forgot to wait expectantly for him to reappear, but thankfully I was still in the dining room when Seth came down, gripping both hands on the same side of the railing so he could find me with his eyes, with the happiest smile on his face that I’ve seen in a while. Bright and joyous, with his cheeks smiled out so roundly, on either side of his face. (Seth, are you turning into a bear?)

“I wonder what I’ll put inside him,” he said.

mr and mrs!!!

On May 22, 2021, our oldest son Jacob married Brittnee, & a dear and wonderful couple they make.

Jacob and his lovely bride Brittnee

The wedding was BEAUTIFUL. I have so much stored up in my heart but not enough energy to get it out and expressed here on the blog. So there the story of the day remains (tucked away in my heart), for now.

our seven; Seth, David, Grace, Jacob, Ethan, Caleb, and Sarah

dear friends, I love you all.

if you would like the link to the wedding photos, please email at goodtobehome76@gmail.com and I would be happy to provide it, if I know who you are. 🙂

it started with us

quiet day

I am quiet today.

I color the gray roots of my dark hair this morning in the bathroom, wearing one of my husband’s t-shirts and a pair of denim shorts, I feel young and healthy. I put on make up and go out to get my nails painted princess pink. I am alone and I am quiet. The sun is hot and I am walking among strangers. I am calm but little nostalgic tears are waiting behind my green eyes. Expressive and pure emotions are close to the surface. Two sides of the same woman; empty but full, sad but happy, proud yet down in the dust humble, tired but expectant, lonely yet full of love, strong yet wanting to hide, busy yet letting everything but the important things go for now, remembering everything yet wanting to push memory aside, I am thinking about Jacob’s baby face looking up at me in our first house while knowing he’s about to be married and he sends me a photo of himself in his tux because he went to pick it up today.

I find myself studying that photo with every blink of these mother eyes showing me the man and the baby, both.

mother of the groom dress

our baby ducklings

Hello!!!

Oh what a beautiful spring day it has been. The tender leaves and early growing grass is glowing in the 5:30pm sunshine. The view from the window is dazzling, with only enough breeze to make the leaves flutter. Rich is out walking, and the children are all off doing their own things, while I sit in the bedroom typing away………

I’ve gotten a bit of sun lately as we are spending a lot of time outside watching our baby ducklings. We drive them out of the coop in the morning and guide them to the pond, and they are mesmerizing to watch. The six of them stay on the edge in the water and busily dip their heads down underneath to find tasty grasses and moss and roots to eat. After so many years of chickens it’s fun to smile at the ducks’ bills and webbed feet, the funny but ideal shape of their bodies (boats!) and tiny wings (not feathered out yet). We think we have one male and five females, which Sarah agrees is something to thank God about, as we did not want more than one Mr. Donald Duck Drake. Sarah and I made a teepee tent over there, too, so we could get out of the sunshine now and then. There is a pair of barn swallows building a nest in the coop. David broke one of the small panes of glass up near the roof and we didn’t replace it so the swallows use that small opening to get in and out of the coop. Their nest is a marvel of engineering, what a wonderful thing, to build a perfect nest with just a tiny bird beak. There is a lot of bird activity down there, as the flock of hens also slowing moving around, enjoying the springtime worms and bugs.

Grace in the tent, this morning.

I have planted half of my vegetable garden to radishes, beets, onions, carrots, potatoes, strawberries, and sweet peas. It sounds like a lot, but it’s really just one package of seeds each, and two strawberry plants from Tractor Supply. I also transplanted four wild strawberry plants that I dug up from the side of the road because they looked so healthy. I found a bag of potatoes in the pantry that had each sprung out shoots and Mom said I could just plant them and so I did. They already grew up through the soil and have dark green leaves. This is the first time I’ve grown potatoes and I’m already excited for the fall when I can unearth them. I have planted sunflowers, zinnias, and cosmos seeds in the flower beds. I’m not buying any seeds because the last couple of years I’ve bought them and never planted them. I am determined to plant them all this year…………My beaver down at the stream moved away, leaving hundreds of his old chewed off sticks behind, each with pointed ends, just perfect to use for garden markers, and so I find myself collecting an armful and my garden charmingly looks like it’s grown sticks (because I mark the ends of the rows and the middles, too)…..along with the real inhabitants of the soil, the growing vegetables. I have a healthy rhubarb patch and have made a cake with some of it and plan on baking a pie soon.

A week ago Sarah and I went for a magical walk at the end of the day, during golden hour. While we walked on the trails, in the woods, in the field, and as we picked apple blossoms that we found and admired new spring flowers, I told her that I had been thinking about a swing. I wanted one that was made with a board for a seat, and long ropes to tie up on a high branch in a tree. I wanted a wooden board for the seat and not a rubber one, because those hurt my hips with the squeezing. I wanted to swing from a tree on our property. So, she and I decided to do it. I didn’t stop to think that God was listening to us talk………..

A day or two later, I picked up Sarah from school. She had gone in for a test and she had an hour of free time until she had her next class (at home, on the computer) so we went to Tractor Supply and would you believe it? She “spied with her little eyes” a boxed swing kit there, ready for us to buy. All we had to do was convince her Dad to hang it up as soon as possible. And, he did! She and I have had the most wonderful times swinging in the tree by the pond, feeling the breeze as we go back and forth, taking turns on our swing. Now we want a swing in every tree.

Since the wedding is coming up on Saturday, Mom and I were texting today about what we were planning on wearing for the special day. She asked me to put my dress on and send her a picture, so I did. Sarah took the photos and I thought it would be fun to show them to you here on the old blog. Mother of the groom, can you even?

VERY young at heart, though!

The second to the last one is the photo I sent to Mom and she said, “You look good!” I had been resting in bed when she inspired me to dress up like this, and it was a fun afternoon pick-me-up!

Happy Tuesday my friends!
you are loved. so much.

let us


Trusting as the moments fly,
Trusting as the days go by;
Trusting Him whate’er befall,
Trusting Jesus, that is all.

When I keep my eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of my faith, the way home is less anxious and less painful. It’s not entirely pain free, but it’s different, more wholesome, even the pain is rich with meaning and purpose.

Being vulnerable and open is a good way to be, but it hurts with intensity sometimes. However, an open heart can receive so much love and beauty. I couldn’t live without being able to have the beauty come inside of me. Despite the pain.

I read a quote about how we are more apt to write our trials in marble and our blessings in sand. I can relate to this.

I want to write a book about the growing-up-into-wisdom-trial I am coming out of. But I also want to throw away every reminder of it.

I am being amazed on an almost daily basis by the ways God shows up for me. When I live with my eyes WIDE open (“I once was blind but now I see”) I see it all PLUS some, and my imagination soars as I contemplate the things I STILL can’t see (yet), but God is doing it. Sort of like the middle of deep woods in the winter, the enchanting beauty there in that secret place that no human will see because it’s too hard to get to it, and yet……..it is there. It is.

None of us are alone in our struggles and hardships. We have each other to get through them.

Although I have felt worthless at times, I do know who I am; a beautiful soul. A lover of people. A faithful wife and a good mama. A friend. I’ve worked hard at living well in these areas. Not to feel good about myself; but because of the joy it brings me to live my life like this. Enjoying.

Overthinking is a good way to become soul-weary.

Living childlike (yet wise) is precious, carefree, and sweet.

I am thankful for my husband, my children, and the children who are about to marry into our family.

I am thankful for the warmth of these spring days. The warmth of this day, and that my cold is almost gone and I have more energy.

I am thankful for the knowledge I can find online at the click of a few buttons. Knowledge is power.

I am thankful for my good health and the peace and contentment within me at this moment.

I am thankful to be blogging.

I love to write here and I have missed it. I haven’t been “myself” (I’ve been becoming more of myself) in several years now, (a stepping away from blogging as I work on other things) but I am starting to gain the energy and desire to do the things I love to do (again…..) so here I am. I love you all, my dear blog friends. So gentle and kind. Let us have fun. Let us enjoy life.

Grace graduated from college on May 1.
Mother’s Day 2021
Brittnee and Jacob had their wedding shower. The wedding is this Saturday, the 22nd.

“Blessed are we who shout: yes! do it! Turn things right side up again!”

you are loved.

barred owl today

I could always hear the hooting off in the distance usually across the road in the woods. Always it felt like a call and I wanted to go to it, I ached to do so. I had never seen an owl in the wild before.

I love this picture because it’s moody, dark and mysterious. Sarah came to get me. She had been over by the stream when it, like magic, swooped by to land and perch on a tree branch. We were delighted that it was still there. It looked at me as I clicked the shutter of my camera. The stream was flowing cool and steady past us and twilight had come. Sarah was smiling. She was glad I was able to get a good photo and she was the one who searched the bird book to identify it.

***************

“Those who believe in tomorrow can live better today,
and those who expect joy to come out of sadness can discover the beginnings of a new life in the center of the old,
and those who look forward to the returning Lord can discover Him already in their midst.”
~Henri J.M. Nouwen, Readings and Reflections

space to run

It’s been a week since we lost our dog Parker.

On Easter Sunday! We were all together, all but Grace, and we had a rich and full day of family togetherness. After our ham dinner, I went for a walk and when I came back, Rich was leaving the driveway with three boys and Jacob was right behind him in his car with Brittnee, too. Rich rolled down his window to tell me that something was wrong with Parker and they were taking him to the vet. Seth was crying upstairs in his room and Sarah was distraught in the living room. I needed to stay behind with them. A little while later he called us and said that Parker’s heart was failing and there was nothing that could be done……I had a feeling of “fight or flight” panic as I all of a sudden wanted to be there for this faithful dog who had spent so many years with us, but in the end I comforted myself with the thought that he had his boys with him. We adopted him as a puppy and we were the only family he ever had…..for fourteen of the busiest and craziest years of our parenting lives. Caleb was 2 when we got him, Seth and Sarah have never known life without him……the older kids grew up with him…..we have so many memories of every kind…..because our dog (like all loved dogs) was everything to us and our seven children; fun, playful, mischievous, a run-away, pizza lover, sleep mate, explorer, friend, thief, comfort, listening ear, patient, pain-in-the-butt, faithful, naughty, and kind. He inspired songs, dances, stories, and inventions. He was given a house, food, warmth, and love, and he gave it all in return, plus more.

There came a time when he couldn’t get on the couch anymore.

Rich laughed and rolled his eyes when I spent over 200 dollars on the best dog bed on chewy.com. The thing had a tempur-pedic mattress and was big enough for three dogs, or, one dog and several children at once. It came with a removable cover and was brown just like him. Parker came to love his bed and just a few days before he died I noticed he was wandering around acting lost and I realized his bed was blocked by furniture. After I pulled things back where they belonged, he walked over and gently licked his bed and then got in it to scratch and scratch and then turn around and around, and sleep.

Then one day he started peeing on the floor. He couldn’t make it through the night without needing to go.

He started stumbling down the stairs. He followed Ethan up into the garage a couple months ago and Ethan had to carry him back down……

He proudly sported gray fur on his legs and face. He stopped jumping up on people when they came to visit.

Then, he started breathing more laboriously at times. He needed more rest. He didn’t run around as much. But he still followed me for his “daily egg”, a moment which never failed to amuse me. After collecting them from the coop, he would be waiting for me to hand him one, which he would carry to the driveway and let drop. After he cracked it, he would lap it up, with me standing and watching the whole time. It was a good show.

He went outside with us on Easter Sunday and wandered through the family photo I took on self-timer, making us all laugh. I ended up insisting that we keep trying so he could be in the photo. The last picture I got of him alive was after I had “released” the children and they all ran up to the house, Parker with them. “Aren’t you guys glad that mom’s done taking pictures?”

Rich brought him home and the boys dug his grave. Caleb and Ethan had already decided on the location, and it was the same place I had thought of as well. He had a young tree that he would go to with things he liked most (bones, cat food cans stolen from the counter, and stuffed animals he chewed the eyes off), and that is where he is buried now. We are turning it into a place to sit and think about him, with a chair, and now a hanging basket and bird feeder. It’s by the house and the garden and the driveway, and we think about him everyday. When we find one of his personal possessions, we give it to him. His collar is there, and several bones. For two nights after he died, Seth went out to say goodnight before going to bed. Jacob came to visit yesterday and when he came inside the house I noticed he was crying “I was saying hello to Parker.” Oh these children of mine, their hearts are big and strong. A family that includes pets does so much for the growing-up years. Often the silent love of a friend dog or cat is just what a boy or girl needs……

“I grew up in a pretty house
and I had space to run
and I
had the best days with you.”