all these changes

A beautiful day. Just came back from a wander in the woods. And a first; I found myself reaching down to handle the moist cool earth, and underneath a log I found an empty snail shell. No sign of it’s inhabitant, so I brought it home in my pocket. There is dirt imbedded in my hands, and to my ears the birds sound beautifully quite full of new song. My steps crackled and crunched over leaves and twigs in the woods. When I came to a fallen tree I walked the length of it to try my balance. I heard spring peepers and saw a pair of mallard ducks, swimming gently down the stream (merrily merrily). I found an old nest! It was easy to get to. I carefully broke it away with its supporting branches and carried it home.

It’s a time of quiet and pensiveness for me—mother-me. The mother who is watching the birds and flowers bloom, gathering old nests and listening to songs, is the mother who is also preparing to very soon watch her son marry his darling, and another son chose a college and finish his senior year.

When the heart is full, it must overflow. Tears come as I think about the passing years. Wondering how I could have let them go without doing more, being more, loving more. I wanted to. And yet a mother is also a woman of her own, and during all those years I was also growing. Becoming more, (rather than DOING MORE) in other areas of life outside of motherhood. I can’t be disappointed about giving the children less than all of me, because then I wouldn’t be myself. They are secure in my love, and the love of their father and siblings. Together we grow in love and grace each day. and yet, I wish almost greedily, for more ordinary days of simply me, and them, together.

Caleb has not made the decision for school lightly, he gave it a great deal of thought and preparation. And now he is all set to attend Liberty University in the fall, a college about nine hours from home. Caleb, one of the “younger ones”. My sweet boy. I would rather not. And yet, the way it all worked out was “a shower of blessing” from above. Each thing that fell into place, each unexpected gift (such as a local life-long classmate of his as a roommate) (such as my best friends daughter also going) (such as him running into a camp friend), gave us such full hearts we couldn’t help but praise God and thank Him.

So it was, while Rich was with Caleb in Virginia, and I was at home with the others, that my mom texted with me with her own wise mother-words:

You will be a better Shanda as all these changes happen. I think I’m a better person now, more like Cindy should be. Not someone else’s person.

The truth of it all went straight to my heart and I knew she was right. And, like I’ve thought so many times before, if life is like a roller coaster I want to be the woman who throws up her hands and enjoys the thrill of the ride, (with some screaming now and then) rather than the one holding back in resistance.

Moss is the most vibrant green of New England in early April.
A shell from the forest, not the sea.
Found underneath a half-decomposed log in the middle of nowhere. I’m beginning to think that there IS no nowhere.
Mr & Mrs Mallard
The nest is now part of a house plant.


happy mother’s day

The last time I was visiting at my parent’s house I was able to look at some old family photos.

Mother’s day is on Sunday and I am thankful beyond words for my mom, and great grandmothers and grandmothers, all the women who contributed to who I am today.

thank you for loving me

Violets (february birth flower) and Lily of the Valley (May birth flower) in a sage teacup by my sink.

I had a manicure this morning and also saw six orioles at the neighbor’s feeders.

It’s cold and gloomy outside but I am looking forward to seeing Jacob and Ethan later and tomorrow we are going to PA to get Grace for the summer. I am very thankful to be able to see all seven of my children this weekend.

“He crowns me with love and tender mercies. He fills my life with good things. The Lord is compassionate and merciful, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. He will not constantly accuse us….He does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve. The Lord is like a father to His children, tender and compassionate to those who fear Him. He knows how weak we are.” Ps 103

Happy weekend, friends.
you are loved.

marvels of ordinary living


egg holder
strawberry bowl

Just two little treasures picked up recently at second-hand shops.

Good morning, friends, how in the world are you?


I downloaded photos from two sources this morning in preparation for blogging.  The photos on my SLR camera?  All birds and fish.  The photos on my phone?  All kinds.

I was sitting in just the spot I am sitting now when I looked out the window and saw an almost grown up male cardinal at the feeder, utterly charming, with his *not quite red* feathers grown in.  I took about 20 pictures of him.


And then a hummingbird, too.


And a sweet little tufted tit mouse with reptilian toes.  All from the same seat and out the same windows.  How very convenient!  You don’t even have to step foot outside to see nature.


Then, later on, I was down on the dock over the pond and a Solitary Sandpiper came for a visit.  He bobbed his tail up and down as he walked the perimeter of the pond looking for food.


Look how camouflaged he is.  Look at his back leg compared to the grasses growing right next to it, the same green color with dark pink.  His white breast matches the rocks and the gray of his feathers matches the ground.  A marvel.

Solitary Sandpipers are not frequent visitors so it thrilled my heart to have my camera ready for a photo or two. or 30.


Last but not least of the bird photos…..two more juvenile birds.  I think these are young Rose-breasted Grosbeaks.  Two of them came together to the edge of the pond for a bath.



I laughed.  It’s so fun to see what bird life has been hiding in nests around the property.


The small pond has lily pads growing in it now and as I was sitting on the dock I kept hearing sharp snapping sounds, almost like someone breaking in half a thin dry stick.  It made my head go back and forth as I tried to figure out what I was hearing in different locations of the pond.  Eventually I figured out that the sound was being made by FISH.


They were slowly swimming to the surface of the water underneath their lily pad of choice and either grabbing it, or biting it, or pulling it, (I don’t know) as fast as a fraction of a second.  Somehow what they were doing was making a popping sound.  Were they eating something?  Having fun?  I have no idea– but I would love to know.  It went on all day every 20-30 seconds.


This photo is so blurry but I still like it.  Sarah asked if we could walk in the woods and to our joy, Sammy the cat quickly caught up with us.


This tiny spider stopped me in my tracks.  Sarah kept saying, “Mom, let’s GO,” but for the life of me I couldn’t (and still can’t) figure out WHAT THIS SPIDER HAD CAUGHT.  It’s web wasn’t even complete and still looked perfect.  And it caught this thing, bigger and heavier than the spider himself.  As I looked, the spider became nervous and carried it’s prize as fast as it’s 8 legs could run to the edge of his web on a tree twig.  A white/gray blob with black triangular legs.  I hope it tastes good.


(On the dock over the pond.)

I just finished Pecos Bill, a 1935 silver Newbery Honor book.  It was fun and I read several of the chapters out loud to Rich in the car.

But really the photo is all about how adorable Sarah and Sherlock look as they peer into the water side by side.

I sat in a lawn chair on the dock all day on Saturday, running up to the house now and then for food or a bathroom break.  It made me smile to see who (besides the dog) would visit it me most often.  The winner?


Dave.  My Dave.


He even brought down his dinner to eat next to me.  He made it himself, a pasta dish with homemade alfredo sauce, celery, mushrooms, and garlic.  He also made garlic sour dough toast to go with it.  “You have to rub both sides of the bread with a garlic clove.”  I wasn’t hungry because I had just ate half a box of crackers as I read my book, but he so very gently hinted several times that he wanted me to try it that I eventually followed him up to the kitchen for some.  “And it was very good.”

David also made pizza and cookies this weekend.  He was creative with the cookies.  He made the dough for chocolate chip, but because we didn’t have any chips (I know, can you believe it?) he substituted a cup of PB protein powder.  It made the dough taste just like PB cookie dough and it baked up just fine, too!  I told him he should write to the protein powder company to tell them.

David works out daily and tries to create different drinks using protein powder.


David has also been charming my heart by doing calligraphy on his covered text books for school.  He told me yesterday as he worked on “US History” with a pen and a sharpie that a girl in his school asked him to do her books for 20 dollars but he said “No.”


(BTW, Jacob if you are reading this David said that Mr. S asked and begged if he could call Dave “Dives” but Dave said “No.”)  LOL


The other day I stopped to take a photo of my pretty pink morning glories and Walter the kitten jumped out at me, scared me, and then made a face.



Orange title, orange cup, orange cat-tail


Very tired kitten with Caleb


(Lea Ann, don’t read this part)  She’s jealous because I keep talking about THE PEACH TREE THAT WE GREW WITHOUT EVEN KNOWING IT!!!!!  My mom calls me the Accidental Gardener because I complain about my gardening skills and then still end up growing a peach tree.  We first noticed a strange tree growing by the porch last year, in fact, I specifically remember it was at Grace’s graduation party and Colleen was here and we were talking about this tree and trying to figure out what it was.

Well, fast forward to this spring when it BLOSSOMED.  Now I’m really intrigued and keep a close eye on it.  Eventually, to our amazed eyes, it grew PEACHES, so many peaches that the branches bent over with heavy fruit.

We don’t think its a coincidence that it grew right next to Parker the Dog’s favorite digging spot in my flower bed (SO annoying!).  We think that probably Rich ate a peach and threw the pit over the railing and then the dog, in digging in his spot, buried the pit.  And it grew and grew and bore a crop of peaches this summer.


I said, “Mom, they are still hard.” And she said, “It’s peach season I’m sure you need to pick them.  Put them in paper bags for a few days and they will soften.”

Now that I’m 40 I know that I should always promptly and without hesitation do whatever mom tells me to do, so I went right outside and put Sarah to work.


She could simply reach her arm over the railing and pick peaches!!!!



And to no one’s surprise Mom was right!  After a few days we started eating them out of the paper bag and they were as juicy and peachy as any old peach in the store……even better.

I have since realized I have a vine of white gourds growing in the same garden that I didn’t plant.  It’s another accidental gardening situation.  The moral of the story is don’t be afraid to throw pumpkins, pits, and old fall gourds over your porch railing.  You’ll grow things.


We have since picked every single peach and I bought a case of canning jars.  stay tuned!


Of course, it’s not ALL fun and games around here.


Unless you’re Walter the kitten.






pizza dough recipe


By what magic does my mother make her fabulous pizza?  I’ve tried for years but curiously enough, it is only recently that I feel as though there is hope for me, her eldest daughter, to follow in her footsteps.

I texted her last week to tell her I was going to make it but it wouldn’t be as good as hers and she replied, “Maybe I’ll make it too” and I said, “Then we’ll be the same.” and she said, “In spirit” and I said, “What do you set your oven to?” and she replied, “475”…..”on the lower shelf so it gets crispy on the bottom.”

Hours later, I sent her a photo of the results.


“That looks perfect,” she wrote.

The next day she sent me a photo of the bottom of her pizza crust and it looked exactly the same.54506716276__12E75B43-9D7E-4A62-A53D-E589479F86F1

This was the point of turning for me, from hesitant frustrated pizza maker, to confident and joyful.

I had given Seth, Sarah, and Michael each a lump of dough to make their own pizzas, too.  It was the first time Michael had made a pizza.  This was last week.  When he came over again yesterday I asked them all what they wanted for dinner and he requested pizza again.  In this way I knew it had been a good experience for him.  Unfortunately I had already made it the previous night.  Michael works at a boy’s home and is going to started cooking with the boys four times a month (on Saturdays).  He started writing up a meal plan and Pizza made with Actual Dough was on the list.


Sarah bragged that she “Ate seven pieces”.

Seth said “My stomach’s extended.”

Sarah said, “My taste buds are out.”

David and Caleb were so jolly after a tummy full of pizza that they ran around the house trying to pull each other’s, and Seth’s, pants down.

I’ve tried several recipes for pizza dough but this is the one that makes my heart sing.

Shanda’s Pizza Dough Recipe

1 pkg. active dry yeast
1 T. white sugar
2 1/2 cups warm water
2 T. olive oil
1 T. salt
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
5 1/2 cups bread flour

Dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water, let sit until creamy, about 10 minutes.  Stir in olive oil, whole wheat flour, salt, and 4 cups of bread flour into the yeast mixture.  Mix in the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring well after each addition.  When the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes.  (I use a kitchen aid mixer).  Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil.  (I leave the dough in the kitchen aid mixer bowl).  Cover with a damp cloth and put in warm place to rise until doubled in volume; about 1 hour.

Deflate dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface  Divide the dough into 3 equal pieces and form into rounds.  Cover the rounds and let them rest for about 10 minutes.  Preheat oven to 475.  Use a rolling pin (or hands) to roll dough into the desired shape, cover it with your favorite toppings.  Place on bottom rack in oven until nicely browned, about 20 minutes.
recipe source:


music and slideshow


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We took so many photos that I thought it would be fun to put them in a slide show along with music to listen to if you would like, while you look at the pictures.

We had the party at my parent’s house “up on the hill” where mom and her sisters grew up.  We all have deep roots in this land, farm land, quiet country, woods, blueberries, birds, so many memories….all of it.

We had chicken BBQ (thank you Dave and Maria for all your work to make this happen!)

Kids played together as a pack; croquet, football, chalk on the driveway, running wild.

Mom was overcome with emotions a few times, just so happy to have all the people she loves the most with her.

One of my favorite memories was when sister Amanda and I were off by ourselves lost in conversation and Mom appeared wanting us back with her.  “You’ll have to leave soon and I want you with me!”

Cousin Erika made the birthday cake, I sure wish I had a piece with me right now while I write this post.

All she wanted for her birthday was her family.  And that’s what happened!  What a great day for a great lady.

Happy Birthday to our beautiful Cindy, Mom, Sister, Grandma, & Aunt.  You wear many hats and we’re thankful for who you are in our lives.


(with a photo of her first birthday)

cleaning & shopping together


Well, part of the reason why I went to Mom and Dads was to help Mom out with some spring cleaning.  We ate eggs and the homemade pumpkin bread that we had made the night before for breakfast and made a list of what our Saturday would entail.  Could we do it all?

We cleaned for hours and hours and then when we decided we had done enough we headed out to visit some of our favorite places and one new place.  Dad had plans with Uncle Brian so it was ::girl time::.  (whenever Sarah and I end up alone we sing to each other “GIRL TIME” and give high fives.)






DSC_0478 1

(“vintage” grocery store, LOL) Just like when I was a little, it was so small!  Why are grocery stores so big these days is what I want to know.


Perry’s ice cream is the best because it’s what I grew up on.

Perfect way to end the day.


It was A-MAZE-ING how much we accomplished!


Things I bought, in their new home:


Over the master bed I’ve been collecting flower prints that I love.  The second one from the right is the one I purchased with mom for only 8 dollars.  It’s an old framed print of Irises.


wire egg holder shaped like a pig!  Perfect for me in many ways.  5 dollars

(filled with eggs from my flock)


Mom had told me once that her Grandma suggested brown glass bottles for rooting plants.  So I bought this old one with the paper label charmingly almost gone for 6 dollars.  She sent me home with a begonia stem to root.  It’s on my kitchen windowsill and I can’t wait to see the roots start to grow.


Striped fiesta round platter (bigger than a dinner plate)

Fiesta salt and pepper shakers, and a small souvenir plate from the factory.  I can’t remember the exact prices of the fiestaware but it was very good because it was half off.


Last but not least, all that cleaning inspired me to come home and clean my own house.  I’ve been itching to deep clean the pantry (one of my favorite little rooms) and I tackled it this morning.  I wiped down all the shelving with yummy smelling Method cleaner, pulled the freezer away from the wall and cleaned the filthy floor under it, washed the dusty windows, and rearranged the foods and other items on the shelves.


I wiped down the glass doors on the hutch and moved it away from the wall, too.


You know that feeling when you clean one room spotlessly and then realize how messy every other room in your house feels?  That’s the feeling I have now, but Jacob told me to get over it because it’s not a very nice one.  And the house is clean enough.  😉

flowers under cloudy skies


I hit the road Friday morning and drove to my parent’s house to spend a long weekend.  Although I felt a little sad leaving all the children home with Rich, I knew that it was important for me to get away for a *body mind and soul* rest away from the endless rewarding yet sometimes quite stressful jobs of parent and housekeeper.

A retreat to Mom and Dad’s house was just the place of peace and relaxation for me.


We had a chilly but invigorating walk on Saturday morning.  But before we went up the road, Mom and I put on our necessary rubber boots and meandered about the gardens to see what was coming up.

Mom has extensive flower beds; she absolutely LOVES gardening and has over 45 years of experience growing things.  She knows where everything is and where everything came from and delights in the many surprises gardening holds, too.  Volunteer plants show up all over the place.  She knows when she weeds she has to be careful, but not too terribly careful, because then in one of those fun surprises, the flowers will transplant down the bank where she throws the weeds.  And that’s a smile just waiting to happen.


pink and salmon hyacinths

DSC_0441 1

The only one we saw.

(I have a small patch of them in my garden, too; does anyone know the name?  I forgot.)



DSC_0448 1

Aunt Rita started planting them here years and years ago and Mom continues.  Daffodils are very obliging when it comes to multiplying each year.

“I hope to have them go all the way down the stone fence eventually!”

DSC_0451 2

darling mini daffies


DSC_0458 2

Mom planted Tasha Tudor foxgloves by the house but now they’re gone; they reappeared at the edge of the woods.

I gave her the seeds from Tasha Tudors website years ago when Tasha was still alive.  She also has a signed print from “The Secret Garden”.  We are fans.



There are things all over the place in the beds to make things interesting.  For example, this roundish rock has been in the garden in various locations since I was a kid.  Her brother Chris (they were less than one year apart in age) found it on the farm and asked her if she wanted it.  We call it the Fred Flintstone bowling ball and mom believes that perhaps the groves were made so that Indians could crack Hickory nuts in them (you can see the tool marks on the rock).

Besides the flower gardens, Mom and Dad work on a big rustically fenced vegetable garden and maintain trails through the wild blueberry patch and into the woods.  There is a crick, mature trees and forest, wildlife abundant, places for summertime campfires, benches, and healthy moist lawn perfect for barefeet.  In my opinion, all of their well-tended 16 acres could be featured in any issue of Country Living magazine.

DSC_0464 1

After the garden tour we headed up the road together to take ourselves and the dog for a walk.


Uncle Brian and his dogs were out; we stopped for a chat.  He had recently seen two big Tom turkeys both trying to impress a hen in all their feathered glory.  We told him he should have had a camera and he said he had enough to keep his hands full with the dogs.

He and Dad do a lot together throughout the week working in the woodlot.


The land on both sides of the road used to belong to Mom’s parents.  It’s old farmland.  Much of it is still in the family; the parts than aren’t still feel like “ours” deep down inside.  It’s quiet and peaceful here; hardly a car goes by and you can’t even hear the sounds of distant traffic, only nature and maybe some of the far away neighbors target practicing.

This day was cloudy and overcast but the sky made all the photos beautiful.


DSC_0469 1


DSC_0471 2


When we arrived back home we had some visitors.


“It is not so much for its beauty that the forest makes a claim upon men’s hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of air that emanation from old trees, that so wonderfully changes and renews a weary spirit.” –Robert Louis Stevenson

We never know the love of a parent till we become parents ourselves. ~Henry Ward Beecher

Who loves a garden still his Eden keeps;
Perennial pleasures plants, and wholesome harvest reaps.
~A. Bronson Alcott, “The Garden,” Tablets, 1868


DSC_0283 2

DSC_0279 1

Little joys.

Living in the moment.

DSC_0294 1

Because the moment is what you have.

Look out with eyes of love, eyes of wonder.  Live now.

DSC_0298 1


DSC_0309 1

Wrestling season is over and now it’s all about brothers and sisters, bare feet, early spring, and baseball.


thin ice and ripples on the pond


different mosses



DSC_0320 1

things growing in the flower bed


Marvellous happy it was to be
Alone, and yet not solitary.
O out of terror and dark, to come
In sight of home.
~Walter de la Mare.


When you’re a busy woman and you step outside at the end of the day to let the dog out and see glory.




The sky was high and clear with a brilliant moon.  But what made it special was a layer of clouds passing between it and earth.  All the light from the moon lit up the clouds.


DSC_0332 1

“my soul is elsewhere, I’m sure of that.
and I intend to end up there.”  RUMI


the stars were twinkling



God’s glory is on tour in the skies,
God-craft on exhibit across the horizon.
Madame Day holds classes every morning,
Professor Night lectures each evening.
Their words aren’t heard,
their voices aren’t recorded,
But their silence fills the earth:
unspoken truth is spoken everywhere.

Psalm 19


The further the clouds got from the moon the darker they became so that I couldn’t make them out very well anymore.



“The LORD will command his loving-kindness in the daytime, and in the night his song shall be with me” (Psalm 42:8).