cottage life {raised bed gardening}

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This is not my garden. But I wish it was. Look past the poor quality of this photo, and get a load of the beauty within. A perfect raised bed, with neat rows of plants and lush greenery surrounding it all. If I showed you my current “garden”, you may not return to this blog. Really, it’s that bad. You’d be thinking, “I thought she called herself a designer who loves organizing, decorating and cleaning?? Look at that horrible, rotting mess she calls her garden!” Yes, my garden is truly an embarrassment. The raised bed is falling apart, and the whole thing looks like something straight from a decrepit, condemned home.

Anyways, this garden, the one you see above, or one very similar, is hopefully going to be gracing my yard someday soon. My parents are coming for a visit this weekend, and my mom and I intend to finalize the plans for my new raised beds and all the plants that will soon be happily living and growing and thriving in them. I’ve already got a list of the necessary staples that I grow each year, plus some fun extras I want to try. I’ll be using the square foot gardening method, so stay tuned for details. If you’re lucky (and I’m brave), I may show before and afters of my raised beds, plus my growing plan for this year!

Photo from here, along with plans on how to build this beauty of a raised bed garden.

pieces of life {pause, please}

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Besides daydreaming on the front steps, I actually had a jam-packed weekend. It was the very best kind of jam-packed, however. I managed to cram in almost two solid days of fun with two of my very best girlfriends, doing what girlfriends do. One of my dearest friends moved to Canada almost two years ago, and I hadn’t seen her since. She arrived on Saturday, and we proceeded to spend the next two days talking, laughing, shopping, sight-seeing, watching movies, staying up too late, and eating too much. My dear college roomie and best friend also joined us, and the three of us had a rollicking good time. I don’t have any sisters, but these two are as close as it gets. Joanna has been my friend since I was 10 years old, and despite the fact that it’s been almost two years since I’ve seen her, we are always able to pick right back up where we left off, as if it were only yesterday when we had seen each other last. Jackie and I lived together for all my college years. She is the one who knows me inside and out, and still manages to love me! She has been there through all the highs and lows, and is the one type of friend that wouldn’t blink if I called at any hour in need of a helping hand or listening ear. These two girls, they hold my heart.

Though exhausting, the weekend was really medicine to my soul. I am an introvert naturally, and tend to be energized by being alone, so its truly a stretch to be running around, chatting at a million miles an hour for two days straight. But, it was bliss to be with these two girls. There were many moments when I wanted to hit the pause button, and hold on. I seem to be feeling that way often these days. I’m not entirely sure why, but I am guessing it has to do with the fact that I truly am content right now. I am at peace, and happy with who I am, and where I’m at. I love my husband deeply, adore my friends, and am happy in my home. Life is far from perfect, and there are challenges, but when I get right down to it, I am content. I’m so thankful for it all… home, my family and friends, and also just being able to step back and appreciate these things. Like I alluded to in yesterdays post, I think it can be easy to focus on the small, negative things right in front of you and miss out on the bigger, greater, grander story of your life.

Before I get too philosophical on you, I suppose I should wrap this post up. Tonight I am home, and still recovering from the late nights of movie-watching and girl-talk. My house is a bit of a mess, and I have emails to catch up on, but it’s okay. In return I find myself with many great memories that will last a good, long while.

Oh, yes, you may be wondering about this picture. It was taken at the Marjorie McNeeley Conservatory. I went there with the girls on Sunday, and took in the intoxicating sight and scents of a million flowers in full bloom!

pieces of life {look up}

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This is a view I love. Like a perfect canopy over my home, these towering oaks stand guard on either side of the cottage. I see them from this perspective when I am stretched out on the front steps looking up, day dreaming and soaking in the sun–usually with Emmy by my side sniffing the wind. There is something comfortable and secure about this view. I love feeling small in comparison to the great height and strength of these old trees.

On Saturday afternoon, I grabbed a blanket and my camera, and I stretched out on the front steps. Zack wandered out of the house, sat down next to me, and we brainstormed ideas for landscaping and talked about projects we hoped to tackle around the cottage someday. The sun was warm, and a soft breeze was fluttering the tiny leaves on the trees. There we sat, together, casually painting our visions of the future, wondering about the plan God has for our lives, all while staring into a perfect spring sky. It was a moment that I wished I could bottle up and save forever. Instead, I grabbed my camera, and took this picture.

So often, we are so focused on daily life, and the steps we must take to reach wherever we are going, whether figuratively or literally, that we miss the stunning views above. We look around at our peers, and jobs and homes and challenges, but we don’t cast our gaze toward the heavens. I mean this both in the sense of pausing to soak in the beauty of nature, and in the deeper, more spiritual sense of intentionally putting our focus on our Heavenly Father. Maybe, if you have a chance, wander outside and find a spot of grass, or even a set of steps. Stretch out, lay back, and look up. You’ll be glad you did.

curious thoughts {use it up}

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A frequent mantra in my home is “There’s nothing to eat!”. I remember saying these very words to my mom when I was younger. She would give me that look and say that I had no idea what they really meant. She was, of course, completely correct. Years later when I went on a mission trip to some of the poorest parts of the world, I saw what hunger truly was. It was devastating and life changing.

As a small part of attempting to live by my new motto of use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without, I am making an effort to clean out the freezer and cabinets of food that is perfectly good, but doesn’t get used. I have meat in the freezer and canned goods and pasta and rice that is ready to be prepared, but needs to be done so with a little creativity. I tend to get in a rut with meal preparation, and it takes a conscious effort for me to use up items that are out of my normal routine.

To make it easy, I took stock of what is in the fridge and freezer, and what snack items we have in the cupboard. I listed “easy” meal options for the boys, since neither of them like to make anything too complicated for themselves for lunch or dinner when I’m not around.

Another one of my goals in the “use it up” exercise is to clean out the old so that I can intentially stock our fridge and shelves with healthy, natural foods. I am looking forward to shopping at our local farmers market this summer, and growing my own veggies in the garden. Which, by the way, I have been planning out over the course of the past few evenings. As soon as my plan is finalized, I will share it here with all of you.

Happy Friday everyone… here’s to a happy, healthy weekend filled with good things to eat, content hearts and satisfied souls!

cottage life {clean sink, calm mind}

A couple days ago, I had one of those days. You know the kind? It’s the type of day that has every intention of turning out bright, shining and happy. However, at some point, something is said to you that really shouldn’t matter and shouldn’t get to you, but eats at you until a sour feeling settles in your stomach and the rest of the day has a dull shadow cast over it. In general, I try to do my best to overcome any circumstance, and keep my eyes and heart focused on being joyful, no matter what is said or done to me. But I am human, and as humans often do, I occasionally get caught up in a web of conflicting emotions. At any rate, I came home from work on this particular ho-hum day with jangled nerves and a whirring mind. I know this sounds crazy, but my remedy was to put myself to task on a routine chore that I find to be particularly calming. That is, cleaning my kitchen sink.

Ok, yes, I am probably crazy. But it’s true. I love cleaning my sink. A bright, sparkling sink makes me feel like my house is in order. And to top it off, the process of srubbing away the dirt allows me to blow off steam. For this particular sink-cleaning episode, I ended up trying a new “recipe” that results in a perfectly polished stainless steel sink. Truth be told, I don’t recall where I found this, but I know it was somewhere in the blogosphere.

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Here are the “ingredients” you will need. Yes, these are harsh chemicals, because, no, I haven’t yet jumped on the all-natural bandwagon. I am considering it, but in the meantime, I find the smell of bleach to be quite clean and fresh.

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Step One is to fill your sink basins with hot water, and add one cup of bleach. I did a 1/2 cup in my small side basin, and a full cup in the large basin. Let the bleach water stand in the sink for 15 minutes.

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Step Two is to drain the basins and then sprinkle a powered cleaner liberally on all sink surfaces. You may use Ajax or Comet, or my personal favorite, Bar Keepers Friend. My mom introduced me to this stuff a few years ago, and I really think its a step above the norm. Not only does it cut grime and polish surfaces, it also removes rust! Next scrub your sink with a sponge, making sure to really get the drain area and around the faucets.

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Step Three is to spray the entire sink with glass cleaner (which does have ammonia, which can react with bleach, I know, I know). Give it a good wipe down for a gleaming finished product. Your sink will be disinfected, grime-free, and sparkling clean! Oh, and the best part? All that cleaning will allow the worries that cluttered your mind to slip away as you focus your energies on the simple, satisfying task at hand.

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