What’s Happening in My Garden – February

GardeningBooks

I’m pretty excited that, despite what’s going on in the rest of country weather-wise, spring is already in the air in the NW and I can think about my garden. We are in a new house this year with a little over an acre to start filling with color and nummy edibles.

It’s hard not to be overwhelmed … this property is pretty much a blank canvas and there are SO MANY blackberry bushes to contend with! Basically the previous owner sculpted out a lawn (thank you very much on that part at least), but did very little in the way of thinning out the perimeter bushes and brambles or planting anything with color.

I’ve spent the last couple of weeks pouring over gardening books, making plans, thinking about what plants and flowers I want, where to put the veggies, where to put the roses, etc. That’s a great way to pass the final grey, rainy, dreary days of NW winter and hurry on the arrival of spring. But the past several days of sunny weather (hooray!) have enabled me to get out there and get my hands dirty and really start figuring out what I want to do. My regular daily work often tends to be kind of cerebral and I’m behind a computer a lot, so gardening is my therapy … it gets me into the fresh air, working with my hands, and thinking about color and flower and plants instead of words and ideas and books. I really need that.

I think if I create a series of small gardens instead of thinking about the whole yard at once, it will be less overwhelming. So at this point I’m going to focus on three areas and go from there. Below is a BEFORE pic of the one I’m starting on first; it will be exciting to see how it looks come summer!

GardenWinter-2

Oh, and here’s something cool (at least I thought it was). I just learned you can test your soil ph with a simple home test.  Scoop out soil from several spots around the yard and put a few tablespoons of it in bowls (test one section at a time because you may have different ph levels in different parts of your yard). To one bowl of dirt, add 1/2 cup of vinegar.  If it foams, your soil is alkaline. If nothing happens, add a little water to the second bowl, then add 1/2 cup of baking soda.  If it foams, your soil is acidic.  If nothing happens to either, your soil is neutral!  Of course this doesn’t give you a specific number, but for my purposes this was good enough to tell me what I need to add to the soil or what plants will do well in that spot (or not).

GardenWinter-4

 

Here’s the promise of things to come … really looking forward to spring. I am thankful the previous owners at least planted one daffodil and some pink hyacinths to greet me this month! 🙂

GardenWinter-6

 

Journey to the Cross — A Lenten Devotional

StainedGlassWindow You can follow this link below to the first installment of a daily Lenten Devotional from my friend Cynthia Bezek. It’s poignant, inspirational, and timely. I definitely think giving up being served is much more impactful (to myself and others) than giving up coffee or chocolate! I am looking forward to following along with Cynthia’s devotionals this Lent. Maybe you will want to, too. Journey to the Cross–February 18. Photo courtesy of digidreamgrafix and FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Parenting Is a Team Sport

This is a blog I posted last Valentine’s Day; thought I’d take it out of the recycle bin. 🙂 ~Arlyn

Arlyn Lawrence

ParentingIsaTeamSportpic

Last Valentine’s Day, the parents of our teenage daughter’s best friend took the two of them, and a third friend, out to a fancy restaurant. The dad gave the girls pretty rings and a pep talk about their priceless worth and the importance of loving and respecting themselves. He had contacted Doug and me earlier to ask our permission and we happily consented.  After all, he was reinforcing something we felt strongly about and we were glad for Hillary to hear it from more than just us.

Doug and I joke all the time that parenting is a “team sport”—and our team extends beyond ourselves as Mom and Dad. Some experts believe the magic number is five—that every teen needs at least five adult voices in his or her life that will reinforce positive values and a healthy self-image. For our kids, these voices have included:

  • their grandparents and other…

View original post 421 more words

Bring on the Cookies!

1217110852a

“A balanced diet is a Christmas cookie in each hand.” ~Anonymous

Despite the business of life and particularly this season, one of my hands down favorite Christmas activities is baking. Creating delicious treats in the kitchen together is something that always brings our family together.

I think it’s important to not just make DELICIOUS foods on holidays, but to make them with MEANINGFUL recipes. The kind that evoke memories of special people and special times–or that make you feel connected to whom and where you came from. For our family, that means the Lawrence family’s ubiquitous Chocolate Crinkles and Snickerdoodles. Muddy Buddy’s a la Auntie Deanna.  Grandma Magner’s Nuts ‘n Bolts. And for Christmas dinner, Great-great Aunt Ethel’s Cranberry Christmas pudding (simmered on the stove top in a coffee can to be especially authentic and true to its roots)—with caramel sauce.  Num!

Family traditions are important. Family is important, period. Whom and where you came from is an important part of who you are, whether you like it (or them) or not. It keeps you connected to the bigger picture in life.

I am grateful for a family who loves God, loves each other, loves me, and loves Christmas cookies.  🙂

How to make the cookies pictured above:

Whipped Shortbread: 1 c soft butter, 1-3/4 c flour, 1/2 c icing sugar, maraschino cherries. Cream butter thoroughly. Combine and add dry ingredients at low speed on blender. Roll in small balls, press in a piece of maraschino to the top of each. Bake @ 325 for 13 minutes.

This shortbread recipe has been in my family since who knows when and is my earliest memory of a FAVORITE Christmas cookie. Unfortunately the dough is as good as the cookies so it’s always debatable how much dough is actually going to make it to cookie form!

 

The Greatest Gifts We Can Give a Teenager

Guest post by Dennis Trittin 

back view of graduate student girl hug future

The teen years are among our greatest periods of change and self discovery. When you know who you are and why you’re here, you’re inspired to define and pursue your passions. Knowing “what makes you tick” and being able to carry that out, brings great joy and fulfillment. Unfortunately, for some, that’s easier said than done.

Take teenagers who receive few expressions of love or healthy modeling in the home. It doesn’t take long for that deficit to show up in their academics, motivation, relationships, and demeanor. In acts of sheer desperation, they search for love and false comforts in all the wrong places and check out of school. It’s a tragic cycle that has become all too common, with one unhappy ending after another.

During the past year, I’ve had many opportunities to speak with teens and young adults who are, in one form or another, facing a crisis of relevance. They see school as irrelevant, and worse yet, they see themselves as irrelevant. Some of their questions are:

“What am I worth when my parents never tell me they love me?”
“What’s the point of staying in school? I’ll never use this stuff anyway.”
“What can I do to convince my parents to let me live my dream?”
“I’m not that smart and my family has no money. Can I still become a leader?”
“All my parents care about is my performance…not me. How am I supposed to deal with that?
These conversations are heart wrenching. But, interestingly, it’s these kids who often most engaged in my talks on leadership! They ask the most questions and ask to share in private. They’re the ones asking questions and opening up after my speaking engagements. They’re desperately searching—for hope, relevance, and worth—even though it may not appear that way on the surface.

We’ve got to give it to them. All of them! Until young people see the relevance and value of their own lives, there’s simply no way they’ll reach their full potential.

Here are some ways adults can help:

Recognize that no one (especially a young person) has a complete and accurate perspective on all he or she has to offer—whether character qualities or skills. They need the perspectives of others who can offer additional insights about their value and opportunities.

Parents can ensure their children understand their uniqueness and value, and avoid showing favoritism through words or attention. They can value the person more than the performance. Educators can offer opportunities for skills/aptitude assessments and programs where friends, relatives, and mentors honor each student with expressions of value. For example, some innovative schools hold special retreats where students receive letters collected from important people in their lives—life changing keepsake experiences. Look for opportunities to “speak life” into young people and encourage them to do the same. Remember, relevance breeds hope, and hope breeds motivation and direction. Motivation and direction help uncover passion and purpose. Passion and purpose help fulfill potential.

These are vital gifts to give the young people in your life. Give generously.

A Taste of Washington

InnatBlackberryCreek

 

A few thoughts from my husband highlighting our summer taste and travel adventures in our own home state of Washington this summer …

Doug Lawrence Real Estate

2014 may possibly go down as the busiest year ever in the Lawrence household. It began with a Seahawks SuperBowl victory and celebration, and included a wedding, a move, and a back injury (all in the same month). And it seems like a steady flow of guests ever since. After all that, Arlyn and I did carve out some time to explore some of our own beautiful State of Washington. We explored the Yakima Valley and the gorgeous hidden jewel that is Walla Walla and all the sites and tastings that the east side of our state had to offer.

WallaWalla-Doug

A nice meal in downtown Walla Walla, WA (which is on Fodor’s List of the 10 Best Small Towns in America)

We toured the Westside’s urban landmarks with our amazing British friends and we explored the pebbled shore of the Dungeness Spit in the wind and rain.

DungenessSpit

We also took delight…

View original post 219 more words

Family Togetherness

Familytogetherness-2

 

If you were to ask either Doug or me what has been the single biggest blessing in our lives, I think we both would unanimously and enthusiastically reply, “Our kids!”

Being the parents of five children has been … shall we say … an active existence. If you had asked me back when they were small what “family togetherness” looks like I would have said, “Crazy!” These days, I get asked all the time, “How did you do it, raising all those kids?” Frankly, I’m not quite sure! I certainly don’t have the energy today that I did back then. (I’m sure glad we started as young as we did. Funny how your energy fades as you age. The spirit may be willing, but the body, well …)

Family97

Our brood in autumn of 1997. 

I’m grateful that our now (mostly) grown kids have become such great friends of ours and of each other. They are all starting to move out in their own directions in life: college, careers, travel, marriage, starting families, etc.  But despite distance and schedules, staying connected to one another is still a high priority to all of us.

Families are incredibly important for a number of reasons, no matter how old you are (and don’t let your teens try to persuade you otherwise). For one, the security and support that come from being in a healthy, loving family are a foundational part of God’s design for humans. We need each other! We need the belonging and community. We need the opportunities to practice patience, kindness, and generosity. We need the “iron sharpening iron” effect of learning to live in harmony with (other) imperfect humans. There’s no better place to learn these graces than in a family.

Our family has always found that a great way to maintain family togetherness is to play together—to hang out, have fun, and do things we enjoy in each other’s company. That was a lot easier when everyone lived with Mom and Dad. Nowadays, since we aren’t all under the same roof anymore, we have to find new ways to cultivate family togetherness, like our annual Labor Day Family Get-Away where we rent a lodge in the mountains and the whole family “retreats” there for a long weekend of games, swimming, fishing, and food. Everyone has to take a turn preparing a meal, because cooking together is another great way to build family togetherness.

And guess what? It’s still crazy. 🙂

 

FamilytogethernessSome of the crew hot tubbin’ during our annual Labor Day Family Get-Away.