autumn days

Monday, November 24, 2014

Finding Jesus at the Library

Raised as a Christian and walking my own path alongside many religions, I love feeling the excitement people have for their spiritual passions.  We all have a choice in whom we choose to follow.  Buddha, Ghandi, Jesus, and others are all wonderful spiritual teachers.

My heart purrs when I hear my friend from Texas drawl "Thank you, Jesus!"  My mother is a great follower of Jesus, centering much of her faith on his life.  Jesus comforts her in times of need.  I've thought of Jesus as the guy belonging only to those who call themselves Christian.  However, my perspective and awareness of him have been evolving.

Last November a shamanic friend emailed me a distance healing she did for my husband.  Months later I finally found her healing notes and realized the time she'd done the healing corresponded to the end of my husband's talk of physical pain.  Jesus was the one who came through my friend to provide the healing along with specific directions.  Intriguing, yes, though I rejoiced at the physical healing and let it go at that.

Then I read and loved two books in which Jesus was a main focus.  The Essenes: Children of the Light and The Magdalen Manuscript.  As I read these books, I began to feel the light of Jesus near me. This light was present whenever I thought of him.  Now I am able to call him to me at any time and to feel as if I am within his beam of healing love and light.  This feeling is incredibly comforting.

The book I am now reading, Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, has blown my mind.  In this book, I love seeing a clear difference between the Jesus of Nazareth and Jesus Christ.  The author clarifies the clear line between the two.  I still call Jesus's light to me often, though my mind is wrapping around the differences between these two characters.  It is curious how a mortal morphs into a God within a couple centuries of his death.  And of how the true story changes dramatically to teach lessons and meet the needs of the new teachers.

After a year in a Christian co-op school, I chose not to sign the faith statement and was asked to no longer work with the children and to only participate if I wanted my children to believe exactly as they do.  Our difference lay on their belief that the True Jesus is the only way to salvation, while all other paths lead to burning in hell for eternity.  This experience provides for me another view of Christianity.  It clarifies the view of many faithful servants who willingly appease an angry exclusive God.  I understand this is a small view of Christianity, as the religion encompasses a great variety of views.  Several of my Christian friends are helping me to understand the wide variety within this umbrella of religion.

I love my mother's words that Jesus is what we need him to be.  I cherish having a personal relationship with Jesus the Christ in a way that feels safe and comforting for me.  Through these books and my personal experiences with Jesus, I love slowly unfolding the story of a man's life and how he became a healer, a holy man, the son of God.  And now he stands by my side with his beam of incredible healing light and delight, teaching me how to open my heart in new ways.  Thank you, Jesus!

Happy Challah-Day

Liam fell in love with a library book called Rise & Shine: A Challah-Day Tale.  For a week he followed me around while carrying a cube of butter in a pan as he encouraged me to help him make Challah bread.  "The recipe is in the back of the book and we have all the ingredients!"  So we made time for his recipe.  We used my usual combination of garbanzo flour and rice flour.  When the bread didn't rise the first time, we tried a different yeast.  Still it was a solid airless creation.  Nevertheless Liam was thrilled to finally use his recipe to create his own Challah-Day.  We will make his favorite recipe again with a fluffier flour.  He'll be thrilled for another go at it.

Waiting for rising dough

Working the Challah

Liam's Challah

Hannah's Challah

Uncle Bill's Girl

I have a father.  I am his daughter.  My own daughter has an incredibly loving father.  I am only now beginning to understand what this means to others, being Daddy's girl.  I watched a cheesy video last week that portrayed the blissful connection between a daddy and daughter as they go out on a date.  I watched in confusion, not understanding why people were so touched by the video.  Only when I could put the face of my beloved Uncle Bill in the daddy role, his daughters as his beloveds, did I burst into tears at feeling the love they share.  My heart hasn't known until now the love a father and daughter can share.  From my childhood I recall trying to avoid my father, trying to protect myself from his emotional and physical violence.  These defensive walls still protect me as an adult.  As I acknowledge and mourn the loss of a safe childhood relationship with my father, my daily quote speaks straight to my heart.

"Grief is a felt experience of love for something lost or that we are losing.  That is an incredibly powerful doorway." -Chris Jordan

This loss I feel may be turned into an incredible learning opportunity.  What do I choose to do with this new lesson?  I choose to see such beauty in the healthy love between daddies and daughters.  I choose to bring more of that into my life, my children's lives.  I choose to support my partner in loving his daughter.  I choose to nurture and nourish their relationship with one another, through date time, praying for divinity in their connection, getting out of the way of the joy they find in one another, and asking them to detail what they love about each other.  Following through on this intention helps me to see results; I see my daughter and her daddy growing closer and sharing more joyful adventures.  My partner doesn't do everything my way, which is a good thing.  He is such a patient, loving parent to our cherished children.

On my journey, I was born to one mother and father.  I love and appreciate them, connect with them in safe ways, and cherish my life they made possible.  Lucky for me, I also get to be mentored by many others.  Two months ago I finally met my dad's brother, Uncle Bill.  Uncle Bill looks at me in a way that melts my heart and makes my eyes water, with such incredible, abundant, unconditional love.  Just thinking of him brings me right back into our loving connection.  The love of a father for his daughter.  I love him right back.  Completely.  I am Uncle Bill's girl.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Annual Self-Portrait

At the beginning of each academic year, we three draw out our self-portraits.  I love watching the development in each year, saving them away in their art books.  This is a ritual we cherish.  Here are two years of our drawings for your viewing pleasure.

Liam age 2
Liam, age 3
Hannah, age 5
Hannah, age 6
my self-portrait last year
my self-portrait this year

Kitten Bliss

I find myself smiling at the antics of our two new sister kittens.  After the death of my beloved old cat, we've gone without any pets.  Now we are thrilled with our two newest family members.  Hannah and Liam named their kittens.  Beautiful Cutie and Gizmo Ulysses are feisty and affectionate and we adore them in all their blissfully quirky ways.

Kitten bliss

Togetherness of Plum Jam

I love my friends.  I love the connections and joys of friendship.  I love helping a friend out by putting their abundant fruits to use.  My friend Pamela was unsure of what to do with the extra thousand pounds of fruit on her trees, so I called in my other friends to clean them up and spread the abundance among other friends.  I love the simple beauty in synchronizing an exchange between those with too much fruit and those who would like more fruit.  Now we have simple, beautiful plum jam.  Pears are waiting to ripen a bit more.  Apples are whispering to me about jelly.

Over a decade ago, a good friend taught me how to make jam.  Each year I try at least one new recipe.  I have canned berry jams, salsa, pickled watermelon rind, tomato sauce and paste with seasonings, pitted plums, sliced pears, apple sauce, and others I don't recall.  My specialty has been berry jams.  I love tossing berries into the blender, boiling the sweet pectin berry concoction, and moving easily from start to finish.  Adding lemon or lavender creates a twist of flavor.  I love simple.  I love simple with a twist.

My personal recipe:
  • Follow the directions on various pectin recipes.
  • Make it once by the recipe, and then EXPERIMENT!
  • Substitute honey for sugar.
  • Reduce sweetener.
  • Add in other flavors found in your herb cabinet: chamomile, lavender, etc.
  • Use whole pureed fruit (whole food) in place of juice for jellies.
  • When in doubt, puree it.
I love this season of fruit-filled abundance.  I love my daughter joining me to prepare fruits and jars.  I love the possibilities that await with our remaining fruits.  I love helping friends unload their unused delights by sharing them with others.  And then turning what remains into gifts for others.  Everyone wins in every way.  Simple, beautiful, deliciousness.

What are some of your favorite preserving projects and shortcuts?

Vancouver, B.C.

Our family got to travel to Vancouver, British Columbia, this summer.  We had a whirlwind of adventures taking in the sights and sounds of the city.  Local people were friendly and helpful.  My favorite part of this vacation was renting bicycles and riding together around Stanley Park.  On this cycling day, we stopped to eat ice cream, played on the beach, got wet at a children's splash pad, listened to sea birds, and smelled the ocean air.  What a treasure.

Vancouver Convention Centre
Hours at Stanley Park Beach
Engaging the laughing statues in English Bay

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Holly's Dishwasher Detergent

Holly's Dishwasher Detergent recipe:

-3 cups borax
-3 cups washing soda
-1 ½ cup citric acid
-1 ½ cup kosher salt

Mix together.
Store in tightly-sealed container (not glass).  
Shake periodically because it likes to clump.

Blissening to the Moments

I've been noticing lately when and how my children and I find bliss in the moments.  This flow in the moment comes naturally to children and is an adventure they share with us.  Today we went outside to set bits of string free to fly on the wind.  After this break, we returned refreshed to our studies.  Four year old Liam then jumped in to helped make much of our dinner.  He felt empowered, independent, and appreciated.  His joyous contribution was a gift for the whole family.  Embracing the joy in the moment and showing love to our loved ones is quite the treasure.  Blissening (bliss in listening) to the moments is simply divine.

How do you bring your attention to embracing moments?

Chopping mushrooms
Flying yarn bits on a windy day

Holly's Simple Powdered Laundry Soap

Holly's Simple Powdered Laundry Soap recipe:

2 cups of finely grated Castile soap
1 cup Borax
1cup washing soda
1 cup baking soda

Takes 5 minutes to assemble.  Mix all ingredients in a food processor.  Makes 6 cups of detergent.  Use 1 to 2 Tablespoons depending on size and severity of soiled items in load.  Stir clumps and shake before use.  About 40 loads.  Stores easily.

Balancing Simple Science

We love experimenting with simple science.  Balance is a simple science concept.  Balance is also what I use to make time for science in our academic adventures.  Here's a photo of what we've been up to recently.  It took quite a while to get to this balanced point.  What simple science do you embrace?

A fine balance with a cork, a nail, a jar, and two forks

Simple Tie Dyeing

This week we tie dyed shirts with friends.  I was surprised by the simplicity of this process.  We already have everything at home to recreate the process.  Here are the steps.

Place small cups inside the shirt and rubber band around the edges to keep cups in place.
Color on the banded cup circles with permanent Sharpie pens.
Lightly cover coloring with rubbing alcohol.
Dry in the dryer, wash in cold water, and then they are ready to wear.

Fairy Creations

Last summer I got to go camping with friends.  In anticipation of hanging out around a fairy ring, my children and I created a shimmery RV to transport our home fairies to the forest gathering.  My dear Hannah had a blast creating the RV details with our beloved glitter and sequins.  Friends brought their fairies in baskets, jars, boxes, and by other means (see last two photos).  Upon return, we carried our enthusiasm over into creating more fairy rings in our yard.  Since then, we've discovered that fairies can also be seen as small angels.  I also found that my deceased grandmother loved flitting about with fairies.  My children and I are ready dreaming of the ways we will take our fairies camping next year.

How do you embrace fairies?

Swimming pool, barbecue, dining table complete with cutlery and food

A magical disc and lots of delicious fruits

Shimmery wings
The shoe box view

The convention fairy ring

Fairy ring details

Modes of fairy transportation

Brandy's GF Sourdough Starter Pizza

I've had some grand adventures with rice sourdough starter.  After Brandy gave me a bit of her starter, I fed and tended it daily.  It grew and grew and grew.  I found a fun tropical pancake recipe, finally purchased all the ingredients, and it turned out as a sour flop.  After trying several recipes, I asked Brandy for a way to love the sourdough starter.  She shared this recipe with me.

Brandy's GF Sourdough Starter Pizza

For a standard baking sheet:
- Line the baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Preheat the oven to 425.
- Take 3 cups of the starter. Mix in 1/4 cup ground flax seed. 2 tsp salt. 1/4 cup olive or coconut oil. 
- Spread the batter on the parchment paper
- Cook the dough into a crust for 12 minutes.
- Remove from oven and top with your favorite toppings.
- Return to oven for about 6 more minutes.
- EAT and enjoy.

I've modified it slightly and made it several times.  My recipes were always more sour than I liked.  Part of the sourdough care is often throwing away much of it so it doesn't get too sour.  I didn't wan to throw away perfectly good food, so I let my starter get too sour.  Finally, after sharing much with willing hosts around me, I cooked up the remainder of the starter in one last sourdough pizza.  That is where our starter story ends.

What have you learned through caring for sourdough starter?

Quilting Together

I've been working on Liam's quilt for two years now.  (Here's my bloggy blog post from last year.)  I'd intended to finish it for his third birthday, like I had for his older sister.  Now that he's a bit over four and we have a bit more time at home this winter, we are taking strides forward on this project.  I felt stalled for a very long until a friend offered to help.  Now I am working towards its completion and will hand it over to my generous friend when my interest wanes.  I am completely thrilled to complete this project in the next month.  Then we three will move on to smaller projects like sewing cloth napkins, herb dream pillows, hand warming bags, and cloth tissues for friends.

What projects do you strive to complete?

Happy to play on the two-sided quilt front

Joyously laying on his quilt front

Pinning on his quilt

Vinegogh Portland

For special occasions, my girlfriends and I go to Vinegogh to create our own gorgeous artwork.  We follow step-by-step directions for a little over two hours to create our masterpiece.  Working with acrylic paint and canvas here has given me confidence to tackle paint projects on my own at home.  I find great bliss in this creative outlet.

What are your bliss-filled creative outlets?

Garden Energy

Dearest Radiant Readers,

We are having our deck and house repainted.  For this project, our home was pressure washed.  We talked with the company before agreeing and were reassured that our edibles would be covered and all the liquid would wash onto the cement.  Last night, after this initial spray was complete, my spouse told me it is standard practice to pressure wash a house with diluted bleach.  This spray and paint chips covered my entire garden (a third of my backyard), full of the edibles my children and I eat straight from Mother Earth.  As he told me this last night, I panicked at the possibilities.  "What about the health of the leaves we eat, the composted soil that took years to carefully enrich, the creatures that live there?  Will anything be safe to eat this year or next?"  My gut reaction was my worst case scenario.  At the thought of it, I felt sick to my stomach.

Then as dawn broke this morning, I remembered my local prayer healing community.  I telepathically dialed in to them to ask for support in my garden.  I visualized the hundreds of people in my community holding my hands to encircle all the edibles, toning to send infinite love and light.  Angels joined us, or perhaps my friends were so bright they appeared as angels.  While encircling the garden, I remembered last night as I watered my garden, I myself had been toning.  (My community has been focusing our energies on healing our planet's waters.  In holding hands with angels, I saw the water simultaneously healing and healed.)  My vocal tones cleared the water as it cleared my garden.

As we encircled my garden, among many rememberings, I recalled chemical water is an energy that can be shifted.  Energy changes in vibrations to whatever we intend and focus.  We were intentionally shifting the energy in the garden.  As the sun rises, I still sense this circle around my sacred garden space.

Through my open window, I hear the painters arrive and talk about their plan for the day.  I tromp out to stand in the middle of three men while in my pajamas and ask them politely about the chemicals they used to spray our house.  Water, straight up water.  Water?  Yes, just water.  I ask them about the paint chips in the garden.  It's safe low VOC paint.

Okay, now I have a plan that doesn't include panic.  I can pick out the paint chips and call the Oregon State Extension Services to talk about garden safety.

Yes, we will continue to wash our edibles thoroughly, toning as we water and wash and consume.  In a decade when our house gets another coat of paint, we will either do it ourselves or hire someone who uses completely biodegradable healthy products.  We are learning these lessons so we need not repeat them.  We send such appreciation to our supportive healing community.  We give the greatest of thanks to Mother Earth as we nourish our bodies with her vast abundance.

Joyous Jennifer

We are so in love with our healthy garden!

Talisman & Firewalk

My children and I love attending local firewalks with friends.  We prepare a talisman ahead of time by crafting a Y-shaped stick with natural burnable materials.  We joyously and meditatively sing to fill our talisman with intentions to release old habits and bring in new blessings.  This is the Lakota ceremony similar to our New Year's resolutions.  

During the firewalk ceremony, we each dance our talisman stick around the fire and then thrown it in.  Then we shout our declaration for the year.  Three year old Liam danced the fire, threw in his talisman and claimed "STARS!"  Six year old Hannah claimed "friends."  Last year I claimed "True Self" for myself and all year my authentic self has become stronger in my life.  

This afternoon we went for a nature walk to collect this year's talisman.  What a great excuse to get out into nature.  Now we discuss what we wish to release out and welcome into our lives for this coming year.  

My children are so thrilled to dance the fire on their own this year.  After we make our declarations for this year's ceremony, we will feast, and then sit back and watch our friends walk on fire.  It is such a gift for my children and me to partake in these ceremonies with our loving community.

Out searching for the right y-shaped stick
Romping through a marsh on our way to talisman
Heading home with treasures
Decorating talisman

Clay Play

We treasure our clay play.  I create little love stars or hearts to share with friends and mushroom fairy houses.  This spring I made a set of vegetable-shaped garden markers for Holly's garden.  Liam makes race tracks with tiny cars and spells out his name.  Hannah delightfully designs cups, birds, nests, bowls, pinch pots, and figurines.  Sometimes we just mash it into different shapes until a form comes into being.  It is bliss to watch clay take form in our hands.

Where do you find your creative bliss?

Fairy houses
Spelling out Liam's name
Racetrack with cars
Little love stars and Rapunzel
Matching cups

Gingerbread Love

We love our gingerbread.  We throw gingerbread parties every couple years, bake it often, and go so far as to call our love of the cookie a lesson in kitchen chemistry.  This week while my children rolled, chopped, and shaped their latest batch of gingerbread, I read The Magic School Bus Gets Baked In A Cake: A Book of Kitchen Chemistry to them.  We talked about how the ingredients work together to make a fluffy cookie.  I read various poetry (Shel Silverstein, Mary Oliver, and Jack Prelutsky) as we drank a pot of licorice tea.  After washing hands and popping cookies into the oven, we watched the same story in video form: The Magic School Bus Ready, Set, Dough: Chemistry- It's A Piece of Cake.  Hannah was thrilled to finally see a Magic School Bus video.  What a treat to spend this time together, baking cookies for friends, cozy and warm as the storms rain pours outside.

What baked goods bring you bliss?

Summer gingerbread

Have I mentioned how much we love gingerbread?

Frosting faces!
All decked out and ready for friends

Canning Togetherness

This autumn my family invited friends to join us in gathering other friends' abundance of fruit.  My children helped harvest, sort, and wash fruits.  While three-year-old Liam sorted supplies, seven-year-old Hannah helped cut fruits and stir pots of sauces as we canned plum jam, crock pot applesauce, and tomato sauce.  Thanks to my daughter's helpfulness, we shared humor, sweat, and learning while preparing edibles for our family.  Her gift is a gift for us all.

Canning togetherness