Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Tidbits Tuesday

What a wonderful week of celebrating Easter!  In between all of that, we did a few more things:
  • As I posted, we spent time rearranging the veggies growing in our backyard.  Our tomatoes are kind of sad right now, all mopey and wilty, not at all happy about the move.  But I've assured them it's for the better.
  • We helped our parents put in their vegetable garden.  We came on the tail-end of the project, but it was fun picking out plants and filling their beautiful planter, which is twice the size of ours.
  • Tomorrow is Kelly's birthday, so I get to visit her this week!  A couple of days in beautiful San Diego with the bestie?!  Exciting!!
  • Bread attempt #2 didn't turn out as well as attempt #1, but I think I know why: I tried to skimp on a step and also used bread flour because that's all I had.  However, I used the sourdough starter to make pizza dough, and it was fabulous!  Who wants pizza?  I need an excuse to make it again, so just let me know!
  • I made cake pops!  Well, I actually made cake balls because I didn't want to go through the trouble of using lollipop sticks.  But they tasted super yummy!  Almost like a truffle with the chocolate cake, chocolate frosting, and chocolate candy coating.  Wish I had taken the time to make them look cuter, but they were a last minute thing to use up a few leftover cupcakes and frosting from Easter.  Just bake a cake, let cool, crumble it into a bowl, add frosting so that you can form little balls, place in refrigerator to harden, add sticks if you want, melt chocolate melties, and dip!  Neat-o! 

  • We had a great last night of Bible study, complete with my tasty treats.  We are now officially on summer break (yes, it came early) or at least shifting our attention to a marriage study that will begin next Sunday.  We're going through Sacred Marriage.  Has anyone read it?  I plan on giving a little summary of Francis Chan's Forgotten God, so stay tuned for that.
And there you go, a glimpse into our week.  Happy Tuesday!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Easter 2011

This week was a wonderful week of reflection and celebration.  On Thursday and Friday, we reflected upon the cross and Christ's sacrifice, participating in a beautiful Last Supper service.  Then on Sunday, we celebrated the resurrection of our Lord, without which our faith is futile!  Praise God for raising Jesus from the dead!

Sunday's service also included my Kids Praise group singing two songs, Marvelous Light and Children of God.  They did amazing and were such a blessing to the church!  
I made sure Robby and I got a nice photo in front of our "wall of roses."
The Kids Praise group getting ready to sing their songs.  Gotta love the little one in front who's grabbing the mic! 
We spent Easter with the Feely's at the cabin in Three Rivers.  It was a beautiful day with good company and, as usual, great food.  Ham, potatoes, fresh bread, veggies, strawberry pie...yum!

Walls of White

Two years ago, Robby and I found two little rose vines on clearance for $1.00 a piece.  He created a neat hanging trellis and planted them there, and I have no doubt they are the happiest thing in our yard.  This yard, the whole trellis--which covers an entire wall--is bursting with white roses.  Gorgeous!

Another amazing vine that has settled in quite nicely is this jasmine.  It winds around one of the pergola beams and is completely covered in white-pink star flowers.  Of course, the best part about a jasmine is the scent.  Nothing like it!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Tomato Time

Today our yard work and gardening consisted of moving around my tomato and pepper plants so they have plenty of room to grow.  The tomatoes are now in the right planter and the bell pepper, Fresno chili, and jalapenos are in a giant pot that one of our trees came in.

I've been reading a lot about tomatoes.  It appears it is quite a science to grow them, and everyone seems to have her tricks and tips.  These are a few of things we're trying:

1.  We planted them toward the end of March, which was perhaps a bit early.  Tomatoes need warm soil, at least 60 degrees but more like 70 - 90 degrees to really work.  Using the raised planter will help, though, because soil in planters heats up faster.
2.  We took off the leaves toward the bottom and set them pretty deep in the soil, since the little "hairs" can turn into roots.  (Amazing, right?)
3.  We bought and set up tomato cages today to help them have a place to grow.
4.  All of the tomato plants we got this year are indeterminate.  There are two types - determinate and indeterminate.  The kind we got will keep growing and growing and continue to produce fruit, which is cool.  The downside is they can get a bit out of control and you may not see the fruit as early.
5.  Marigolds planted near tomato plants are supposed to keep away tomato-loving pests.  We did a few of these.

One of the websites I've really enjoyed reading lately is Farmer Fred.  He writes specifically for California and has lots of helpful information for the Central Valley.  Check out his site here and his tomato page here.

What about you?  What are you growing?

From left: Tomatillo, Sweet 100 cherry tomato, and Early Girl tomato with marigolds in between and a few onions, as well

Our first baby tomato!  Keep growing, little buddy!

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Business of Bread

I made my first successful loaf of bread, and my first ever sourdough!  I just can't get over this bread.  I ate it for a snack, for dinner, for breakfast, for lunch, passed it to anyone who would try it, and sadly, have none left.  I will be making it again, though, and will also be trying sourdough pizza dough very soon!

This endeavor began Monday night when my mom and I attended a breadmaking class at Whole Foods in Fresno.  (Check out the Whole Foods website to see their other classes.  Maybe you want to attend one yourself?)  The chef-instructor, Hillori Hansen, taught us all about sourdough and even offered us our very own sourdough starter!   I couldn't wait to try out the recipe.

Although the recipe is super simple, going from the first step to the final result was about a 20 hour process.  But the majority of that time was the dough sitting on my counter rising, so it sounds worse than what it was.  Here are a few photos, and the recipe follows.  If anyone is interested in making this and needs a starter, ask me!!  I'd love to share!

My first ball of dough.  Not much, but it'll grow!
After the first main rise...looking good!
After the second rise.  I split the dough into two loaves and left one round and put one in a loaf pan
All ready to bake!
(Don't stare at this photo too long.  It starts to look very...um...unpleasant.) 
The final result!  Beautiful golden sourdough bread!  Yum!

One proud little baker!
Basic Sourdough Bread

Ingredients to freshen starter:
sourdough starter (contact me if you need one!)
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/4 cups warm water

Take your 1/2 cup sourdough starter and add to it flour and water.  Let it sit overnight.  It should be active and bubbly.  Now your starter is "freshened" and ready to use for your recipe!  This recipe calls for 1/2 c starter, so put the rest back in the fridge to be used later.  Don't use all your starter, or you won't have any for next time!

Ingredients for bread:
1/2 cup starter
1 1/4 c water
1 1/2 c flour
2 t honey
1 1/2 t salt
2 c flour
1 t baking yeast

Combine starter, 1 1/4 c water, and 1 1/2 c flour.  Set in a warm place until bubbly (several hours).  Once it is good and bubbling, add the honey, salt, 2 c flour, and the baking yeast.  Mix well and knead, using flour to keep it from sticking to the board.  Continue to knead until it's smooth and elastic, about 8 - 10 minutes.  Put the dough in a medium bowl that has been lightly oiled.  Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm area until nearly double.

Once the dough rises to nearly double, scrape dough out and knead slightly to get rid of any bubbles.  Place into an oiled bread pan or on a baking stone.  Cover and allow to rise to nearly double, until it basically looks the shape you want it to be.

Once it rises, bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes, or until it's golden brown and "thumps" when done.  (I'm not really sure what "thumping when done" means, but 40 minutes was perfect.)

1.  "Freshen" the starter overnight.
2.  Add a little flour and water to 1/2 c starter and let rise.
3.  Add more flour and other ingredients, knead, and let rise.
4.  Put it in the loaf pan or on the stone and let rise again.  (I did both!  3/4 went into a small loaf pan, and a small mound of it was baked on the stone.)
5.  Bake!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Easter Flowers

I was hoping our white calla lily would produce a bloom in time for Easter, and I saw that one was ready this morning!  I went around and picked a few other lovely flowers -- baby white roses, pink sea thrift, deep purple snap dragons, and the pink peony Debbie gave me -- to create a little Easter bouquet in honor of our Savior.  

I share this poem every Easter.  It's called "Good Friday" by Christina Rossetti, one of my very favorite poets.  I know it's not Good Friday yet, but tonight we celebrate the Last Supper and remember the final moments of Christ before He was led to the cross.

Good Friday

Am I a stone, and not a sheep,
that I can stand, O Christ, beneath thy cross,
To number drop by drop Thy blood's slow loss,
and yet not weep?

Not so those women loved
Who with exceeding grief lamented Thee;
Not so fallen Peter weeping bitterly;
Not so the thief was moved;
Not so the Sun and Moon
Which hid their faces in a starless sky,
A horror of great darkness at brood noon--
I, only I.

Yet give not o'er,
But seek Thy sheep, true Shepherd of the flock;
Greater than Moses, turn and look once more
And smite a rock.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Thoughts on a Foot-washing

John 13 is one of my favorite chapters in the Bible.  I can't get over this scene, how it must have looked and felt for Jesus and his disciples to share in this Passover, how the disciples must have reflected upon this night over and over again throughout their lives.  Of course, there is a sharp contrast between what Jesus knew and felt and what the disciples knew and felt.  For them, this was just another Passover feast; for Jesus, this was his last meal with his disciples before His crucifixion.

Now before the Feast of the Passover, Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He would depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end...Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God and was going back to God, got up from supper, and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself. (Jn 13:1, 3)

I love that there is no hesitancy or insecurity or questioning with Jesus.  He knew why He was sent to this earth; He knew the time had come to depart; and He knew it was the moment to wash His disciples feet.

I've been thinking about this passage all day today.  Last night at Elevate, we remembered the last days of Jesus on this earth, and tomorrow night at church, we will reflect upon the Last Supper and Christ's crucifixion.  I can't get over the fact that the last thing Jesus chose to do with His disciples was wash their feet.  Knowing all the He knew -- that He was sent from God, that His time had come, that He had loved His own, that the Father had given all things to Him -- knowing all this, Jesus "got up from supper, and laid aside His garments" and washed their feet.  Why?  Why of all the things to do with them did Jesus do this?  Jesus says to Peter, "What I do you do not realize now, but you will understand hereafter."  What was Jesus wanting them to understand?

When Christ comes to wash Peter's feet, Peter rejects His attempt.  Understandably, right?  Peter knew that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God.  It makes sense that Peter's first reaction is to push Christ away and not allow Jesus to humble Himself in that manner and wash Peter's feet.  But Jesus doesn't let Him, and Jesus even seems harsh with what He says: "Unless I wash you, you have no part with me."

We often recognize that passage as Jesus teaching His disciples about love and the heart of a servant, and this is true.  Jesus Himself says, "If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet."  But I think that Jesus was also preparing the disciples for what was going to happen on the cross.  If the sight of their Messiah stooping down to wash their dirty, disgusting feet caused them to react as they did, what were they going to think when Jesus was lifted up and brutally murdered on the cross?  Would they accept Christ as He willingly gave His life on a cross to be their Savior?  Would they let Him "wash" them through His blood on the cross?  Would they recognize that unless Christ washed them, they would have no part with Him?  And would they believe Christ's promise, that He would return?

I think Jesus, in His mercy, was reminding His disciples that He came to serve, and whether that serving was through the washing of feet or the death on a cross, He would fulfill His purpose.  There was nothing glamorous about Jesus' ministry on earth, but Jesus didn't come to have a glamorous ministry on earth.  He came to serve, and He came to die, so that He could rise and conquer death forever.  The disciples had a choice: they could allow Christ to wash them clean, or not.

I want to live my life as one who recognizes Christ's saving power in me.  I want my life to be characterized by the fact that Christ washed me and I am a new creation in Him!  That is my prayer always, but especially during this Holy week.

Getaway with the Gimlin's

I mentioned in my tidbits post that Robby and I were able to have a fun little getaway with our friends Ben and Steph.  We spent two nights at the cabin in Three Rivers and enjoyed every second of it!

Much of our time was spent eating and playing games
Oh and much of our time was spent holding this little one!  Sadly, I don't have a single picture of her smiling.  You'll have to check Steph's blog for some cute ones.
We took a couple walks and attempted to capture the beautiful flowers and scenery

Enjoying ice cream at Reimer's
The necessary "Rob eating something" picture

A woodpecker!

I like this photo - it looks very "Twilightesque" to me
Ben holding the alligator jerky we all tried!  

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Tidbits Tuesday

I know I say it each week, but I'll say it again.  It's Tuesday already??  Where did this week go?  I suppose that's the beautiful of writing a weekly "Here's what we did" post.  I actually get a moment to pause and think about the goings-on in our life over the course of seven days.
Enjoying some ice cream at Reimer's while on our little getaway with the Gimlin's
  • I began my first lesson in quilting with Steph.  I plan on chronicling this little endeavor, so more of this will definitely come.  I'll just say it was a great first step and began with a simple yet life-changing lesson in cutting and fabric grain.  (I'm not being sarcastic.  It really was life-changing!)
  • We spent a lot of time with both of our families, which was nice.  Some weeks, I feel like I don't see our families at all even though they live in the same town, so it's always good to get time with them.  And phone time with my sister Chelsea counts in all this.
  • We had a fantastic getaway with the Gimlin's, and a post is in the works.  For now you can read about our fun time at Steph's blog, complete with some great pictures.  And yes, I ate the alligator, too.  
  • My mom and I attended a cooking class/demonstration on breadmaking last night at Whole Foods in Fresno.  It was so fun and informative!  I came home with a little prize...my very own sourdough starter!  I will be "freshening" the starter today, so I can get to work on my first loaf of sourdough bread this week.  
  • Again, we had a wonderful week of church and Bible studies.  We are in the middle of a series on sacrifices at church, which of course is the perfect preparation for Easter Sunday.  It has gotten all of us to think about our offerings we give to God and whether or not there is any sacrifice in our life.  The "Measureless Love" study by Beth Moore has also been appropriate as we've been reminded of how great a love the Father has given to us.  Our Monday night study of "Forgotten God" has probably been the most dynamic for the group, though.  There is a lot of change taking place, and it's awesome!
I hope you get to take time this week to reflect upon the sacrifice our Savior made for us.  If you're in the Visalia area and would like to join our church for a night of worship and reflection this Thursday, please do!  Visit our website for the details or contact me!  

Monday, April 18, 2011

String Garden How-to

A couple of weekends ago, Robby and I put together our little string garden, and I wanted to share more about that just in case you too want lovely plants hanging from strings!  

First of all, to really get the steps, you need to visit the post at Design*Sponge by clicking here.  I'll explain what we did as we did make a few changes, but D*S offers step by step instructions.

1.  Buy your materials.  We got all of these at our local Lowe's and a nursery.  You need sheet moss, sphagnum moss, and peat moss (all come in bags), little shade loving plants, string, cotton thread, scissors, gloves, and dirt.  The instructions call for bonsai soil instead of dirt, but our local places didn't carry it.  If you find it, use it!  

2.  Begin by cleaning the dirt off your plant.  (Do this outside!)  Shake off all the dirt and gently pull apart the roots.  Wrap the roots in the sphagnum moss and secure with thread.  

3.  Make an orange-sized (or slightly bigger) ball with a ratio of 7:3 peat moss: dirt/soil.  Add water until the ball will stick together.

4.  Open up the ball and place the moss-wrapped roots inside.  Close the ball, then cover with the sheet moss.  Take the cotton string and wrap it around, kind of like wrapping a present.  

5.  Tie it off at the top, leaving enough string to hang.

6.  Hang and enjoy!  Water daily with a spray bottle to keep the plant happy and the moss green.

Our supplies!  I bought that huge thing of string five years ago and seriously use it for everything. 
Robby holding his little friend 
We were so excited we had to hang them right away, even though it was late and dark.
Happy hanging plants!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Tidbits Tuesday

Last night at Bible study, we listened to Francis Chan (on video, of course) talk about how each of our relationships with God is different.  We all have the same Spirit inside of us and we all serve the same God, but God may relate to us differently, just like a parent relates to each of his children differently.  What a thought!  God may show his presence and love in my life in a unique way, all because He wants me to know that I am loved and known by Him.

I feel like I was going 100 miles a minute this week (that tends to be how I deal with difficult things in my life), but God -- because He is so good and wants me to know He loves me -- was right there alongside of me.  I may not have the best response to things in my life, as I'm sure God often is calling me to be still with Him, but God is still there.  

Here are the tids and bits of my week.  Thanks for reading!
  • Wednesday was the day of the disappointing news, so Robby took the morning off with me.  We had coffee together then ventured over to the garden section at Lowe's, where we often like to browse at plants.  We found two hydrangeas that were on clearance for $1 a piece, so they found a home in our sideyard.  I feel that even that is God showing his presence in my life.  He knows me so well!  
  • The women at our church began a four week Beth Moore study called "Measureless Love."  If you've ever done Beth Moore studies, you know they're usually quite a bit of work.  This one is homework free and mainly consists of watching the video.  Perfect, I say!
  • I completed some fun pillow covers for our red couch.  It was an easy project, and I'd be happy to share the steps if you'd like them.  Just let me know in the comments!  My favorite part about the pillows is they all close differently - some have buttons, some have ribbons, some have ties.  
  • I found that the orange-honey glaze that went on the chicken a couple of weeks ago made a perfect addition to fish!  One more Asian-esque dish to add to my list.  (I promise it tasted good even though this picture isn't the prettiest.)
  • On Friday, my parents called us at 4:30 to see if we would have dinner with them that night.  I returned the call, expecting to meet somewhere at, you know, dinner time.  Instead, my dad informed me they were already at the restaurant, wondering why I hadn't called them back.  Lucky for them, I don't mind eating dinner at 5:00.  We had a great meal at Rosa's, an Italian restaurant I haven't been to since high school.  Although the atmosphere isn't the coolest, the food was good.
  • We were able to spend a good amount of time with friends this weekend...as soon as I came out of my hide-out mode, that is.  Robby enjoyed a night with the guys playing poker, and then we had delicious meals on Sunday with the Allen's and the Gimlin's.  Seriously, the steak Ben cooked us is way up there with steak dinners for us!
  • Perhaps my favorite thing we did this week was to create this "string garden" under the pergola.  I'm going to post more about it with steps because I really think it's one that a lot of people would enjoy doing and having.  Here are just a couple of pictures for now.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Bleeding Heart

This morning, as I was doing a few dishes, I looked out my window and smiled at the new plant greeting me.  Isn't it beautiful?  This is called a Bleeding Heart, appropriately named, I suppose.  It is a lovely plant with delicate soft leaves and these amazing heart-shaped flowers that drop from the stems.  I've always admired these, so when we saw one for a nice price at the nursery yesterday and knew we actually had a shady planter where such a plant could live, we bought it.

I didn't think about it then, but I realize now that a more appropriate plant couldn't have been purchased. We have had a hard week, my husband and me, full of a lot of tears and--you guessed it--broken hearts.  Although I haven't shared this openly on this particular blog, we have been trying to have a baby for years, at least four at our best count, but probably longer.  Almost two years of this time has been spent seeing a fertility specialist and undergoing fertility treatments, the surgery in January being yet another one of those steps, all of which are costly, time-consuming, and just plain uncomfortable.  This week, we found out that our fifth IUI* wasn't successful.  It was a harder blow this week, though, because I had been on newer, more aggressive injections, and things looked so good.  I had never believed as much as I did this month that a baby could actually be in our near future.  So when the test was negative again, we were devastated.  On top of that, we had decided a couple weeks ago that we were not going to continue treatments for a number of reasons, at least not for awhile, perhaps a long while.

I decided to finally share this because this struggle has been the most defining thing in my character.  We all have our trials and thorns, and for us at this time, this is it.  I have blessings upon blessings in my life, the greatest of which is Christ, but I am still heart-broken over this empty place in our lives.  Yet I know that God has used this struggle to strengthen me and mold me to be more like Him, and He has done the same thing in Robby's life.  Perhaps it's not correct to say that our struggles define us, but they no doubt--more than our successes and joys--build our faith and our character.  Knowing that even the most difficult things in our life have purpose in God's plan is what keeps us going.

Another reason I wanted to share this is because those who have walked with us through our struggle--and it has been dark at times for us--have been lights of encouragement.  And somehow in God's grace, we have been able to encourage, as well, which is a mystery to me.  Perhaps more will join with this mutual encouragement taking place and will add us to their prayers.

So, my blog will continue to be what it is: a place where I talk about our little "nest" together, the recipes I love and the projects we tackle, the people (and animals!) who are dear to us and the events going on in our church and community, the books that need to be read by all and the deals that need to be gotten by all.  These are light and wonderful things that God intended to be part of life, and they are good and important.  But I also may find my heart wants to share a bit of the deeper things of my life, the areas where God's hand is working in a more visible way, shaping me, as well as my sweetie, to be the woman and man He wants us to be.

*IUI=Intrauterine insemination.  Read more about it here.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Tidbits Tuesday

Is it me, or are these weeks flying by?  I can't believe it's already Tuesday.  Another day of piano lessons, and another post about the little things going on in our life here at the Feely's Fresh Nest.
  • Since Chels was home on Saturday, she, my mom, and I had planned to go yard-saling.  They got off to a late start on Saturday though, so I hit a few by myself while I waited to meet them at Farmer's Market.  I was able to find a really great ceramic pot for Chelsea (I was looking for something to put a plant in, but she needed it for sugar, she said), an old tin can (it's cooler than it sounds), and three metal containers with lids which are filling their fine purpose of storing sugars for me.  All for the great price of $6.00.
Have a mentioned I am obsessed with my labeler?  So many uses!
  • It was time to put in bark on the sideyard before those annoying weeds come back.  If you've spent any time gardening or yarding, you know that bark and soil aren't cheap.  We were so excited to find that Tulare County has a compost and biomast site.  We were able to fill up Robby's entire truck bed for...are you ready for this?...$10.00!!!  In case you need a comparison, a small bag at Lowe's costs about $8.00.
  • I made progress on my UIU Make-up Challenge.  I threw away a bag of old and ugly make-up and nail polish and now have one useful make-up bag and a small clear container of extras to use along the way.  I was most excited about this great eye shadow I found in a taupe color, which my mom had given me two Christmases ago.
  • I completely forgot to mention that Robby did a fabulous job on Saturday as he married Bobby and Ali.  This is only his second wedding, but already he's doing it like a pro!  His words were full of truth and love, and I know they were special to Ali and Bobby, as well as all of us there.  
  • I washed our windows -- inside and out -- for the first time yesterday!  I even took off the screens, which has never ever happened before.  Our house feels so bright and sunny now since I had to open all the shades, so we could enjoy the water-spot-free view.  Sad to say, there are tons of streaks, though.  I didn't want to waste a whole roll of paper towels, so I used cloth towels instead, which just don't quite cut it.
  • We had another really encouraging Bible study last night, and I feel like I am growing so much in my understanding of the Holy Spirit's work in my life.  It's exciting!
And off I go!  Have a wonderful and happy Tuesday!