Archive for the ‘nature’ Category

Jon and I roadtripped to visit my sis, bro-in-law, and sweet niece this past weekend, and I just have to share some highlights.

For one, the 7 hour drive is actually quite pretty, so we don’t usually mind the long trip…that is, until we’re making the long trip back and have to fight the NoVa traffic. Still, we were amazed by the beautiful wildflowers lining the highways and always enjoy this cool rock formation in the “Sideling Hill” of Maryland:

Pink, white, and purple flowers everywhere!

C, our 2.5 year old niece, humored us with endless quotable quotes, and some were just so sweet!:

(Jon gave me a bite of his pancakes)
C:  “Look!  Jon is feeding Regan like a tiny little baby!”

(C was having a pretend picnic on her bedroom floor)
Me:  “What are you eating at your picnic?”
C:  “Ummm salad.”
Me:  “What else?”
C:  “V8.”

(Rachel was trying to get C ready for bed)
R:  “Charlotte, lay down so I can zip up your PJs.”
C:   (with an encouraging, mother-like tone of voice) “Mommy, you can do it from here.”
<after she zipped it up>
C:  “Good job!  See, you got it!”  (how old is this girl anyway?)

(Tony returned to the dinner table from receiving his residency graduation plaque)
C:  “Daddy, I was so proud of you!”  awws” from surrounding tables> <2 more seconds and C is back in the hallway running around like a crazy person>

(Rachel was helping C sign Tony’s Father’s Day card, which can record a voice message)
R:  “How much do you love Daddy?”
C:  “To the moon and back!  I love you, Daddy!”

(as Jon and I were walking to the car to leave)
C:  “Bye!  Be careful!  Check your tires!”  (thank you, mom)

Memorable moments:

C kneeling down in anticipation to watch Jon juggle the silly putty – seriously, you would have thought she was at the circus!

C going down the water slide  67 times and jumping off the side of the pool another 47.  (Good arm workout for me.) This girl is not afraid of anything and will jump into the water before you can say “go!”

Carrying sleeping C in from the car after a very long day at the pool.  Such a sweet life moment!

All of us eating wayyy too much ice cream at Jeni’s – yummm!

And the winner:  Charlotte eating a leaf off a bush at the zoo because “it looked like basil.”

Oh to peer into the mind of a child!

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It is a strange juxtaposition to stand in the whirling rush-hour metro station 10 extra minutes to finish a book I’m reading on my tiny smart phone, especially when the book is about gardens, outdoors, growth, beauty, sunshine… I am standing in an industrial tunnel, swarming with people and smells of burnt rubber and metro exhaust, yet a book can still take me to a different place.

I just finished reading The Secret Garden.  Though I’d seen the movie many times as a child and had even sung a song from the musical, I had never read this charming story.  It is a beautiful story of the redemption that comes from getting outside yourself, opening your eyes to the things around you, and leaving behind the self-pity and cynicism.  Colin and his father both suffer from despair, hopelessness, shame, and dark thoughts that are completely self-centered and poison to the bones.  When their eyes are turned outward and away from themselves, only then can they start to find joy.  The wallowing and navel-gazing just lead them into a deeper pit, but a good shake and turn of perspective are just the medicine to begin a beautiful story of healing. 

The characters and dialogues reminded me so much of my “pen-friend” Marnie, who could write paragraphs about the intrigue of watching a praying mantis mounted on her rose-bush, the bird family with tiny babies in her back yard, and the green sprouts poking up through the dirt at the first of springtime.  The book also made me think of a favorite blogger I follow, who encourages her kiddos to run and play and get dirty (one great idea is this mud run obstacle course!).  Growth and redemption are found in the Secret Garden, through the treatments of sunshine, play, hard work, the company of friends, and laughter.

Simple ideas, but so true.


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It’s amazing what perfect weather will do to our dispositions.  We linger.  We don’t rush to get inside and on to the next thing.  Time slows down.  Days are longer, and experiences are savored.

All of those things happened this past weekend during our glorious summer days – not the typically sticky and suffocating hot summer days, but days with a warm breeze and sunshine that feels good on your skin.

Friends and I lingered over a patio lunch.  We lingered at the pool and didn’t even sweat that much.  We actually had to bundle up at Wolftrap (outdoor theatre) for the first time ever because the evening was so cool.  [Aside: I finally got to experience “There’s Nothing Like a Dame”, which people have sung to me multiple times since my marriage to Mr. Dame, and I never really knew what they were talking about.  I sure didn’t realize the song was so explicit (if you know what I mean), but they did a fabulous job.  See it here!]

On Sunday, Jon and I crossed off one of my summer list items and went strawberry picking!  To be honest, I’m not sure the strawberries are as sweet as I expected, but the experience was delightful and totally worth it (and we will have a LOT of strawberry smoothies this summer).

(tired of squatting!)

This team brought the entire family…and maybe only had one meltdown…

Jon and I found a quiet spot in the orchard and had a picnic.  How often are we really this far from cars and man-made things?!

This wasn’t even all of our epic outdoor weekend, but more on that later.

The challenge for now is – how can I soak in this slower pace of life, the lingering over discussion and time spent with others, even in the midst of our chaotic schedules?  And must it be sunny to slow down and enjoy things without just plowing through?

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Best of

I’m taking it easy this Friday as I jump into the holiday weekend, so I thought for any new readers I would share the most popular posts from TheHomelyHouse.


Treasure Hunt

A Deeper Country

DC: Could It Be Love?

Meet My Pen-Friend

My Pen-Friend: On Men and Marriage

Learning how to rock climb and how to be married

Here I raise my Ebenezer

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Jon and I went to Charlottesville last weekend for somewhat of a pre-anniversary getaway.  We had a nice weekend with a lot of tasty food, some secluded hiking (thank you, rain, for giving us a peaceful hike without a thousand tourists), some antique store browsing, some wine tasting, a visit with a dear friend, and of course nice time with Jon.  Overall a sweet weekend, even though it probably wasn’t Jon’s ideal getaway; he’d rather be a bit more active, see things we can’t typically see at home – understandable.  There are so many things in marriage we’re still figuring out after 2 years, like how to take a vacation that rejuvenates and is enjoyable to both of us.

Another thing we’re learning is how to learn from one another.

I have always been awkwardly afraid to walk down steep slopes and climb on rocks.  I love hiking and being out in nature, and I even like the adventure of little rock scrambles at the top of hikes, but then when I have to walk around up there, I’m usually awkwardly bending over to steady myself because I am sure that I will totally bite it if I don’t hold onto something.

(makes for a nice view for whoever is following me)

On our hike last weekend, Jon tried to help me out by explaining that I could practice walking on rocks on the side of the flat path and realize that I’d totally be fine. (but it’s not the same! why are you telling me what to do? why do you care? you think i’m so high maintenance! – and the insecurity mixed with pride rambled on.)  Maybe he had some mixed motives and a bit of frustration with my hyper paranoia at some little rocks (seriously, I have a video of another hike where it took 4 minutes of group therapy and many outstretched hands to convince me to leap step across a crevasse that was like 14 inches wide); either way, he was trying to help, but I was too prideful to hear it.

How often do we do this about every little thing?  A trusted friend offers a suggestion, and even though we’re clearly flailing around in our own attempts, we are too prideful to listen. We were created for many things, but especially in marriage we are meant to help, encourage, and refine one another, and as “iron sharpens iron”, it’s not a soft and comfortable process.  We are supposed to challenge one another to grow.

A mentor I greatly respect once said to me, “if you and Jon were exactly alike, I cannot think of any reason God would have had you marry one another.  Eck – what good would that be?  You’d never have any reason to challenge one another and grow!”

Walking on rocks is such a tiny example of learning to listen and learn from one another.  I remember many times where we have reminded each other of what’s important…recognizing when we’re being totally selfish…pointing out that one of us is making up excuses instead of just admitting we were wrong (or ate the rest of the brownies..)…exposing double standards…I could go on.

Usually after we let down our guard (and our pride), we are thankful for one another and the ways we can help each other grow.

(Jon’s always been good at climbing on things.  Nate, too!)

(and he’s just really cute, so I wanted to show you this pic)

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Tastes like summer

Despite the rain and chilly air the past several days, the past weeks have had more than a few glimpses of summer, and Jon and I have had a major hankerin’ for summery food.

My mom always made fresh strawberry pies in the summer, and with this easy recipe, I got some major “oohs” and “ahhs” from the boys who ate it. (Recipe below)

Jon surprised me last weekend with this delicious grilled meal of chicken and veggie kabobs.  Perfect weather, nice summery grill smell, good food, good company.

After 2 rounds of homemade vanilla ice cream with our fab garage sale find, we decided to branch out and try for mango ice cream.  You cannot go wrong with a can of mango pulp.  Ever.  My friend who loves to cook Indian food introduced me to mango lassis a few years ago (drink made basically of yogurt and mango pulp), and I thought – surely you can turn this into ice cream!  YES, YOU CAN.  AND IT IS AMAZING.  (Recipe below)

What are some of your favorite summer fares?

Fresh Strawberry Pie – recipe from my mom

Buy or make a deep dish pie crust.  Bake and cool.  (wayyy better homemade, even if it looks messy; here’s a good start)
1 cup sugar
2 1/2 T strawberry jello (1/2 small package)
3T cornstarch
1 quart fresh strawberries, hulled, washed & dried
1 cup water
whipping cream (as you can see above, I made almost equal parts pie and whipped cream – you can never have enough)

Mix sugar, water and cornstarch and boil until thick, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat and add strawberry jello.  Stir.
When almost cool, add strawberries.  Stir well and pour into baked and cooled pie shell.  Serve with homemade whipped cream.  (Refrigerate)

Mango Ice Cream – adapted from here 

2 cups sweetened mango pulp (very cheap at our favorite Asian market)
2 cups whipping cream
1/4 cup sugar (can be less – just taste and see what you like)
1 T lime juice

Whip the cream with a hand mixer in a chilled bowl.  Fold in mango pulp, sugar, and lime juice.  Put in ice cream maker and make per directions.  Eat, and try to contain your excitement.

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1.  Jogging/dinner/Parks and Recreation date nights with Jon.  These have pretty much become our Thursday nights.  Jon runs slowly with me (and then sprints up and down the sidewalk, while I huff and puff at my normal pace), and when I take walking breaks, we talk; when we run, he talks at me, and I give him thumbs up when I agree.  Back to Parks and Rec – Ron and Andy are our favorites.  Annnd I think sometimes I can identify a little too much with Leslie Knope.

2.  Pretending flowery weeds are are real flowers and laughing at the ridiculousness when I pull a whole plant out of the ground to take home.

3.  Under the Sycamore – now this is a blog worth reading.  This sweet mom of 4 (who is currently in the adoption process for a 5th – from China!) just asked for a small donation this week to help fund a baby incubator for the orphanage in China. Due to her great blogisphere following and compassion of the readers, upwards of $8,000 was donated in just a few days, which will cover the sponsorship of 9 children for an entire year and provided cleft palate surgery for 7 children in the past week!  What a treasure! (plus, she partnered with a blogger friend who gave away this cool print in honor of the adopted baby named “Song”!)

4.  Thursday Dessert Days at work (not the overrated candy bowl, but real, homemade desserts).  I have successfully started dessert days on 2 teams at my company.  The first team took it as healthy (describing the competition here, not the food) competition and made some outstanding treats.  The second team has had fits and starts with just a few contributors, oftentimes myself…so it’s extra special when someone else surprises the team and makes something tasty! (yesterday’s treat from E. – just double the saltines and cut the butter down by 1/2 a stick – delicious!)

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