“Can we just tie it to the car, daddy?”

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A Sunday family affair; checking the progress of a loose tooth.

IMG_3640 Pliers

IMG_3683 Floss OR……

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The door knob?

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Maybe tying it to a weight?

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Get some sister hug time…

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Pull your hair back, and let’s let mom try.

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Everything ends well with ice cream!

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Laughter. Indeed, the Best Medicine.

I have anxiously awaited these last few weeks where I have longed to pour my soul into a recipe, yet the desire was absent.   Sometimes my passion for cooking is directly related to my eagerness to spread my love around through food; to create atmosphere and social outlets.  Since we’ve distanced ourselves from such a steady flow of that because of our move, my creative outlet seems caught in a storm of busy.

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(Mt. Rainier, Washington)

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(stuffed family orchard apples roasted on an open fire)

We’ve been taking these last few weeks to pour ourselves into each daylight minute.  Being in the northwest, it is commonplace that the sun sets around 4:30. By 6 pm that evening fatigue sets in and all ambitions are lost to the dusk and the cry of nighttime critters. Sitting ringside around a fire to keep the chill from your nape, is the only thing worthy of unspent energy while sipping on Adagio tea.

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(Lake Cushman, Washington State)

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Nothing is sweeter than the blessings of time for the wonderful company that we have been graced over this holiday season.  When your soul aches for the companionship of family and friends, it is in every effort one minimizes time spent on chores and instead calculates promoting self indulging activities with others; be it kayaking bay side or simply preparing meals together while embracing table side conversation with utter delight that fills oneself with complacency.  Each laugh noted; memories engrained.

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What Do You Love Most About Our Move?

Today was a bit of a rough one for me.  I miss my friends.  To be honest, I think the kids have adapted more easily then I have.  They have not complained once about the move. Nor should they. I’ve never seen them so happy running around and exploring, out in nature, & hanging out with their cousins.

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Each morning, they dash out of bed to eat quickly, and then rush off to visit with nano and papa. It’s a joy to have them free to run and play at the crack of dawn while I prepare fresh-baked sourdough,  home-made granola, and a farm fresh fruit smoothie.  With six acres to run around on, they are pooped by the end of the day after tending to chickens and playing with their cousins.

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This place has so much glorious charm: kayaking the bay across the road, running hills, partaking of fresh food (we have our own live-in co-op), and all of the wildlife right at our fingertips, not to mention the hiking.  But when you say the grass is always greener, that is not true.  There is always a trade-off.  We traded convenience, for rural. We traded social chaos for leisure. We traded rushing ourselves crazy to calming the storm. The trade-off is positive, but different.  The thing I miss most is our friends, and our church.

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When we moved, our cell service did not move with us. We have to drive 6 miles to town just for reception. Our catching up with friends, has been minimal. So when we split from our jobs, and all we have ever known, we also severed any socializing we knew.  It’s been super limited, and at times sad.  Yes, we have family. For that I am super thankful.  I cannot imagine moving to a new setting not having those comforts.

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As we look towards the start of school next week, knowing we are trying homeschooling for the first time, I only hope that I can settle in socially for the kids through extracurricular along with a 4-H club.  I look forward to being their teacher, and being able to build their interests individually. This is my first time ever being a stay at home mom. I have really wanted this opportunity to be a bigger part of their days; to influence them whole-heartedly.

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So today when my heart was heavy with “What the hell did we do!”, I was gently reminded why we did what we did.  Ever since Thanksgiving last year, our nightly routine at dinner is to go around and each give thanks with a direct compliment, and for something we are thankful for in general.  Tonight as I proposed the question, “What do you love most about our move?”, the responses settled my heart.  Mallory replied, “I love how much time we have together as a family”. Margeux said, “I love seeing Nano and Papa”. Lastly, Matilda chimed in with, “I love my family”.

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I know the things I don’t miss at all.  I don’t miss my job. I don’t miss the traffic. I don’t miss the anxiety of rushing about.  Spending time with those you love, is absolutely what is important!

 

 

 

 

 

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CONTEST!!! “Oh, Sully!”, an Adventurous Whale, by author Kevin Gard

 

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I met my husband when I was 17.  At the time, I had no clue we’d end up marrying 9 years later.  He has been my rock.  He has seen my good sides, my bad sides, and helped to keep me motivated with personal endeavors during the 20+ years we have been best of friends.

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Kevin is truly one extremely talented guy; and so wonderfully grounded as a person with a gift of humor that keeps giving.  From diaper bags, to mommy-and-me apron sets, to quilts, to inventing Mattress Masseuse, re-doing our entire “fixer” home, and making time to write & illustrate a children’s book, and still maintain his deep commitment to our daughters & I, I’d say he is quite the catch!

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This catch of mine, is doing a wonderful collaborative book give-away with Sue  (blog.sueparke.com)

Sue’s blog is wonderfully written.  I thoroughly enjoy her honest approach and  feel I can relate to her as a reader. Please visit her site and explore her stories. If you get a chance, please help by voting for her as one of the best Mommy blogs of 2014.  You can vote several times.

 

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This Friday, tune into Tree Swing Press @ Facebook to enter to win an autographed copy of “Oh, Sully!”, free of charge.

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Kevin and I are such huge advocates of literacy and truly want children to be inspired to create their own books, and to enjoy reading.  Please share this contest with your friends.  This contest starts this Friday, August 15th and ends in one week.  Winners will be announced Friday, August 22nd. at blog.sueparke.com, on Facebook, http://treeswingpress.com

 

Giveaway Terms & Conditions

* You must be awesome!

* You must be 5 or older to enter the contest

* Only one submission per person

* Publisher agrees to pay for the cost of shipping the autographed book

* To submit your entry for the contest, please draw/paint/or use other art media of your interpretation of an amazing whale on a grand adventure, and post to the Tree Swing Press FB  page, by liking the page and posting your comment.

* Two winners will be chosen by a strict panel of children ranging from ages 4-9.

* Winner will be notified on http://www.slparke.com,  http://www.treeswingpress.com, and https://www.facebook.com/pages/Tree-Swing-Press

* No purchase necessary, unless you want an extra signed copy by an incredible author/illustrator and all around good guy.

 

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Transparency

Transparency is both a wonderful thing and a scary thing. It can leave you feeling vulnerable yet let out a sigh of relief. It’s been in my nature to allow boldness to lead me when I express myself, and to let the worry come afterwards.

So to be transparent with my readers, I’d say this…

Moving away from all we have ever known has been a much-needed breath of fresh air, yet the hardest thing we’ve done. We’ve moved away from all our comforts, our routines, our connections, and the little house we poured our heart and soul into to make our own. Making sacrifices is sometimes the only way to obtain those things you cannot put a price tag on.

The much-needed breath of fresh air came with each mile we drove; further and further from the nonsense of jobs we loathed. Jobs that provided stable income, great insurance, and could be lifelong.

But those jobs were not us. Those jobs we left a month ago, drained us of spirit and laughter and left us eager to clock out at the end of our shift to pick up where we left it; with each other.

Luckily for us, we are quite compatible and love each other’s company more than anything. I think we have a pretty special relationship the way we both lift one another up and truly seek to bless each other with unconditional support of each ones dreams, goals and endeavors. I think it’s made us richer all along to have such a blessed friendship turned marriage. I can honestly say that I get to spend life alongside my best friend.

When I said “I do”, I meant it. The part for “richer or for poorer” never made more sense then it does now.

I’ve never been more financially poor in my life. It’s been quite a wake up call not affording some of the things I’ve become accustomed to, and at the same time, I’ve never felt more rich. Now, I have the one thing I felt all along was the best commodity anyone could have; because I never had enough. Time!

I finally, after years of working, get a taste at being a stay-at-home mom. I wake to my children and prepare a fresh loaf of sourdough. I am able to prepare intentional meals and do my loved from-scratch cooking. There’s time to read, to take walks, to play. It brings my heart such joy. Our surroundings are something out of Narnia with the vast rivers, forests, and wildlife. I do not take those for granted.

But of course, along with that, I wholeheartedly miss my friends, my roller derby league, our kids’ elementary school, our rad neighbors, and our amazing church. Nothing can replace those.

Why the move? It’s with life’s short season that I want us to die knowing we put our heart and soul into trying to follow our dreams and bless others by the gifts God instilled in us.

Yes, I believe he has our route all mapped out, and uses us regardless. But, I also think he knows our hearts and desires. Through happiness, sorrow, good times and bad, faith led us.

As faith leads us now, and on our tomorrow’s, I only hope that this time we have on this journey, allows us to grow more deeply as a family, more committed to one another, and allows our dreams to be fulfilled.

Because as the saying goes, life is too short. My good friend Jackie who passed away from cancer, reminds me of that daily, and it’s with each minute that tics away, that I attempt to use my time wisely.

Now, off to make peach galettes with cashew cream with my daughters. Glorious sun-kissed, vine-ripened peaches from the orchard. Recipe to follow. Peaches not included.

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Lavender Lemon Bundt Cake

What a whirlwind of a month this has been!  Renting out our home, quitting our jobs, and moving to Washington State.  I’d say, it has been a grand adventure; one definitely worth it.  As we adjust to our new setting, and begin working away at building our businesses, it’s has been utterly lovely having ample fresh food at our fingertips.  My mom has quite a green thumb when it comes to gardening, and my dad’s woodworking and photography is pretty impressive.  It is pretty wonderful being in their guest quarters; though we are hardly guests.

I’ve busied myself with getting acquainted to my “new” kitchen; the one my dad built from scratch. It’s cabinets are a great hue of cobalt blue, and reminds me of my new-found love; Crater Lake.

Today the girls and I broke in the oven.  The four of us diligently set to task preparing and baking a lovely vegan lavender and lemon bundt cake with honey lemon icing.  It’s flavoring is so exquisite, that I need write about it while whisking away the mosquitoes that are circling my head.

INGREDIENTS:

Cake:

3 cups all-purpose unbleached flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. salt

8 Tbsp spectrum palm shortening

8 Tbsp. earth balance

1 1/2 cups of granulated organic cane sugar

1 Tbsp. of herbs de provence

4  tsp. egg replacer  (by EnerG)

1/4 cup almond milk

1 1/2 tsp. of lemon extract

1 cup of plain coconut yogurt

1 Tbsp. of finely grated lemon zest

1 Tbsp of fresh lemon juice

Glaze:

2 Tbsp. honey

1/2 cup organic powdered sugar

1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Have all the ingredients at room temp. Grease and flour a bundt cake pan; tap out excess flour

2. To make the cake: Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

3. In a bowl, with an electric mixer, cream together the shortening, and butter along with the sugar, herbs de province, eggs, extract, and yogurt.  Add the lemon zest and lemon juice and for a short 30 seconds, whisk again.

4.  Make a well in the dry mix, and fold the wet into the dry.  Spoon the batter into the prepared pan, spreading the batter so the sides are higher than the center.   Bake until the cake comes out clean or begins to pull away from the sides of the pan or a toothpick comes out clean, about 1 hour.

5. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and allow to cool for 15 minutes.

6. To make the glaze: in a small saucepan over low heat, warm the honey until runny.  Place the 1/2 cup of powdered sugar in a small bowl along with the lemon juice and mix the honey with the two. Using a pastry brush, brush the cake with the glaze. Let the cake cool completely; at least 2 hours before serving.  Dust with powdered sugar before serving. Garnish with fresh lemon zest or lavender.

 

 

 

 

 

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Gard’s Goodbye

Not much to post here in the ways of food lately. We’ve been super busy trying to finalize the stitching to our sweet home so that someone else feels super blessed to move into it. As a family, we have been living out of a cooler for well over a week now. On one hand, it feels like this rocky boat ride is almost over and we will soon set anchor, but I honestly think the boat ride will actually begin when we depart.  Really, what we have been doing for the last few months, is preparing for the ride; emotionally, spiritually, physically, and mentally.

In our best Gard efforts, we find this last week to be ultimately one that is both enjoyable and one that is full of accomplishments.  Nothing gets done by itself, and you must maintain being pro-active even when you feel like throwing your hands up in the air, and hiding beneath the bed to shield yourself from frustration.

We Gard’s wanted a lasting fond memory of our home; one that set the tone for our leaving and one that said something about us as a family. Our annual bathtub photo began just shy of 6 years ago.  Our home was much like a blank canvas, but was also the worst on the block.  Needless to say, the head high weeds in the yard was just the obvious of what needed fixing. Having a baby 1 1/2 days after moving in, was really quite an adventure.  It was not having hot water for 5 weeks following the birth of our second, and trying to remodel a dilapidated home, that really set the tone of our strong characters; smiling through the process.

Our bathroom was one of our first remodels.  We were so proud of it, and absolutely thrilled it was complete, that we chose to use it as the setting for our first Christmas card, in 2008-our new home. It has remained as our Christmas card photo locale.

With our departure so very near, we want to say thanks to all those who have come across our paths. We have truly felt blessed by our friendships. Thank you for giving us your time, and for enriching our lives.