falling hard for flowers & a video.

last year, i fell hard for growing flowers. i wanted to plant some things to spruce up our yard, and it seemed that if we were going to have flowers, it would be nice to be able to cut some to have in the house or gift here & there. however, i honestly had very low expectations which were maybe the result of the flowers i planted two years ago failing miserably.

with equal parts refusal to submit to defeat, and an unquenchable love of flowers, i tried again. to my complete surprise a bunch of things grew! beautiful things. it was a little slice of heaven.

last harvest 2017-1027

now, here we are with days warming, sun shining, and the hum-of-what’s-to-come in the springtime air. crocus & muscari will pop up to surprise us through the thinning blanket of snow in the coming weeks, and next month, i’ll be tucking the first wave of brave, cold-embracing seeds & seedlings into our yard.

march is when things start to turn, making it that sooo close yet sooo far month. finding this slice of wonderful made my day a few weeks ago, and i had to share it. i hope it makes you smile as much as it made – and keeps making – me smile.

*so sorry! i tried to link the video here directly, but no dice. i’ll keep trying ;o)

[this was one of the bouquets from the final harvest last year…October 27th.]


hygge & cinnamon pear cake.

last year, talking with a few girlfriends about books we were reading, a friend said she was reading The Year of Living Danishly. she had just started it but said that so far it was funny and interesting and explained that the part she was in was talking about a Danish word: hygge. she said it was something about being warm & cozy, and we all laughed about how to pronounce the word (“hue-guh” not “hoo-gah”).

sounding like an interesting, light-hearted read, i put the book on my to-read list, but i was the most intrigued about that word: hygge. warm? cozy? sold! Google, of course, gave me lots of great places to learn more, which i did lightly, but it wasn’t until the end of the year that i really came back to it.

each year, i choose a word to focus on for the year. i first heard about “one word” in 2012, and i think of it in a few ways: sometimes as a word that i need to focus on…something to choose. other times the word is more of a lens…something that helps me as i’m making decisions. without much expectation, i chose “breathe” for 2013, and lo & behold, it truly was a word that helped guide that year; so i kept at it.

usually a word would surface as the year began, but at the end of last year, “hygge” popped back into my mind. i felt like it would be a good word for 2018, so i started to dig into it more seriously. without a direct English translation, hygge can maybe most closely be described as a feeling, but as i continue to learn, it seems more like a mindfulness or an intentionality to me. i love how alex at hyggehouse put it:

…whether it’s making coffee a verb by creating a ritual of making it every morning to a cosy evening in with friends where you’re just enjoying each others company to the simple act of lighting a candle with every meal, hygge is just about being aware of a good moment.

and with that: i think hygge is basically my life word…but starting with a year is probably a good idea ;o) hygge effectively sums up in one word what i’ve been using many words to try to describe for the past few years; what i have been working towards & how i want to continue to grow.

wired for productivity & feeling a constant need to be a better multi-tasker, i truly long to slow down & be more intentional. getting married, becoming a parent, and moving into our house are all things that have made continuing to choose this new lifestyle even more meaningful, but – even after a few years of work – daaaang do i have a long way to go! i know i’m doing a lot of re-programming after so many years of feeling like i’ve needed to work harder, do more, and excel. i remind myself often that Rome wasn’t built in a day & that small steps matter.

by the grace of God, i’m getting there, and i feel like learning more about hygge is already another helpful lens for me. it’s helped me take a step back & think less about what i need to do or not do and more about how i do things. how i hope others receive time with me or time with us at our house.

then it hit me, these past few days, that it also includes how i go about doing even the most normal things & the simple ways i can enjoy them – or enjoy them more. lighting a candle while i work. [finds & lights candle; immediately feels more cozy.] a cup of tea. gardening. weekend brunch. a vase of pretty blooms. typing those things out makes them sound so simple, and in general they are, but i know that the profundity of hygge is the balance it strikes between how we do what we do, why we do it, and who we do it for (ourselves included). and that sounds like a very worthwhile life – er, year – pursuit.

it could just be me, soaking up the cozy, slow nature of these snowy winter minnesota days, but i think winter may draw out the hygge-ness in many of us. bundling up to head out, then the rush of warmth as you enter a cozy house and gather around fireplaces and tables with friends and family. slow meals. pajama-jamy days with only playing & naps & movies under soft blankets on the agenda. whatever it is for you, i hope you find those simple moments more readily and that they leave their joyful, peace-breathing mark on your heart each time.

one thing that brings me great joy & slows me down is cooking & baking for others. the very nature of cooking & baking evoke hygge for me (maybe not so much weeknight cooking hygge-ness, yet. i love it but, i’m working on more cozy/calm, less post-work hustle/multi-tasking. maybe lighting a candle will help? haha!), and the recipe below was really fun to make and has been a gift to enjoy together this weekend.

:: cinnamon pear cake with vanilla fudge sauce ::
adapted slightly from nigel slater, ripe

pear cake slice

nigel writes, in the head note for the recipe, “This is the most gorgeous fudge sauce imaginable, tasting like melted, creamy vanilla toffee. The pear cake isn’t bad either.” our family would like to enthusiastically second, third, and fourth his sentiments. that sauce…

i needed to make a few ingredient substitutions:
–  i commonly sub light brown sugar for light muscovado sugar and did so here.
– i used granulated sugar in place of golden baker’s sugar. google pointed me in that direction, letting me know that golden baker’s sugar can be found – it’s just rather expensive.
– i didn’t have self-rising flour but found a number of recipes that all lead me to the same result: it’s super simple to make. to each cup of flour, add 1½ teaspoons of baking powder and ¼ teaspoon of salt. whisk well & use as directed in recipe.


14 tablespoons (200g) butter, softened
1 cup (200g) golden baker’s sugar [sub: regular granulated sugar]
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1½ cups (200g) self-rising flour [if making your own: 1½ cups flour + 2¼ teaspoons baking powder + ⅜ teaspoon salt]
½ teaspoon baking powder

1½ pounds (750g) ripe pears
½ lemon
3 tablespoons (40g) butter
3 tablespoons light muscovado sugar [sub: light brown sugar]
heaping ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

vanilla fudge sauce
scant ½ cup (100g) light muscovado sugar [sub: light brown sugar]
⅓ cup (100g) maple syrup or golden syrup [i used maple syrup]
3½ tablespoons (50g) butter
⅔ cup (150ml) heavy cream
a couple drops of vanilla extract


  1. preheat oven to 325º.
  2. lightly butter a 9½ inch springform cake pan (ours is 9 inches and was fine. i don’t see why an 8 or 9 inch square cake pan wouldn’t work).


  1. peel, halve, and core the pears. dice into ¾ inch cubes. to prevent pears from browning, you can put them in a bowl of water mixed with the juice from the half lemon.
  2. melt butter and muscovado/brown sugar in a medium sauté pan over medium heat, stirring occasionally. add pears (drain, if in lemon water) and cinnamon to the pan, cooking until they are tender and the sauce coats the pears; about 5 minutes. take pan off the heat to cool.


  1. in a medium bowl or stand mixer, beat butter and golden baker’s/granulated sugar until light and creamy.
  2. alternating (so that the mixture doesn’t curdle), add eggs and half of the flour to the butter/sugar mixture, mixing well after each addition.
  3. using a spatula, fold in the remaining flour and the baking powder, followed by the cooked pears and their syrup.
  4. pour batter into the prepared pan, smooth the top, and bake 45 minutes, until risen and golden. a metal skewer inserted in the center of the cake will come out clean when it’s done. in a pan smaller than 9½ inches, the cake will take longer.
    * i checked the cake every 3 minutes and ended up needing and additional 6 minutes for a 9 inch springform pan.

vanilla fudge sauce

  1. stir together sugar, syrup, and butter in a small sauce pan.
  2. bring mixture to a boil for about a minute, stirring only enough to prevent it from sticking to the pan.
  3. stir in the cream, remove from heat.
  4. add the vanilla, stir well, and leave to cool. sauce will thicken as it cools.

serve slices of cake topped with a spoonful of sauce. slater also recommends ice cream which would be decadent, but even with “just” the sauce, it’s a warm, cozy, luxurious treat.

yield: one 9½ inch cake; approximately 1 cup of sauce; 8-10 servings

weekend scenes

nightstand books 2018-01:: current reads & re-reads ::

new growth
:: when your husband gets you birthday flowers,
and they’re still giving & giving 3 weeks later ::

bulbs 2018-01:: 40º in january = a second chance at spring bloom prep ::

latte:: st. paul exploring ::

banana bread
:: banana “fuffin” bread ::

then, there is this video. on repeat. often. and i’m not mad about it ;o)
something about the way the instruments come together at 1:37 gets me every time.


our greatest expression & a first-in-twenty-years garden.

tomato-basilthere’s just something about having my hands in the dirt & watching things grow.

peaceful and grounding.

soothing. intentional. life-giving. healing. hopeful.

when i was 12 years old i had surgery, and when i got home after too many days in the hospital, apparently i walked straight through the house to the backyard to check on my vegetable garden.

for our wedding, we got a lemon tree instead of a unity candle. to commemorate our first anniversary we got a fig tree.

to celebrate the birth of our son and my husband’s sweet grandpa’s life-richly-lived, we got a beautiful Charles White peony.

my mother’s day gift this year was a little stunner of a rose bush. as if the sweetly scented, delicate, creamy-apricot-y blossoms weren’t enough, the name is fantastic: Champagne Wishes.

and this spring, i got to build my first garden at our very own house. to say that it’s been a treat to spend mornings and evenings watching things grow is an understatement. for Christmas and my birthday, i asked for a gift certificate for supplies. i poured over catalogues and websites hoping to find just the right mix of trusted, must-grow and fun, new-to-me flower and vegetable varieties to plant in my first-in-twenty-years garden.

as seed-starting and mother nature would have it, there has been plenty of trial & error, anticipation, shriveled seedlings, and excitement woven throughout these past few learning-laden months. i’ve planted & re-planted seeds. some sprouted the first time. some sprouted the second time. some sprouted when i tossed a handful on a patch of bare dirt a few weeks ago. others i’ll try again next year. we had a big storm in the spring with wind that scattered my fledgling vegetable plants, damaging many of them. and as for the raised garden, i planted it late in the season and for sure planted more than i had space for.

we have to start somewhere, right? and sometimes starting is the most important step, even if the rest looks a little more trial & error and a little less polished & perfected. as it turns out, i’m ok with this year being more about simply enjoying that i finally get to have a garden and a yard to experiment in, learning through experience, and tucking observations & tidbits away for next year. i’m a rookie, i tried some things i knew could be challenging, and i often learn best as i go. or maybe i’m just in la-la land since somehow my dahlias & sweet peas are blooming after having absolutely zero success last year. that alone is a gigantic – and beautiful!- win in my book.


as i’ve spent mornings and evenings watering, weeding, and watching our backyard actually turn into something rather pretty, i’ve thought a lot about what it is about gardening that draws me in. because, truth be told, it’s a lot of work. much more work than i anticipated it being back in march/april when my mind was a swirl of idyllic daydreams. it was a fair amount of work & time to build the raised bed. planting took time to plan, prep, and actually do. since our yard was full of random overgrown bushes, digging everything up & preparing the beds was a task and a half. and now the watering, worrying about 90º+ days, and maintaining everything takes time away from other things i’d like to be doing.

but even with all of that, gardening brings me incredible joy & thankfulness, and i’m realizing two things.


first, i want to pass gardening on to charlie in some way. not that he’ll want to be in the garden with me all the time or will be a farmer some day…but just the simple joy of watching something grow. the being-together-ness of it. planting seeds with him this spring was an experience i’ll always treasure, and it’s been so fun to see him still get excited to water the plants (tonight’s entertainment: him running back & forth between his water table & a planted container on the patio, watering the rhubarb).

i love that sometimes as he plays in the backyard, he’s running over to me with a bubble wand, as i prune the tomato plants, so that i can blow bubbles with him or with a toy from his water table, as i snip flowers for a bouquet, for me to come splash with him. i’m thankful that he sees and experiences what’s growing around him and that it’s all part of where he lives, plays, and is learning about the world around him.

gardening buddy

second, and probably the most enduring truth in my life about gardening is that it holds immense hope for me. and when so much these days feels uncertain, hard, or discouraging, getting my hands in the dirt, catching a new blossom opening, and watching our vegetables grow feels…healing. it causes me to take a deep breath. to slow down. it restores something that was missing…something that i can’t quite put into words but am deeply grateful for.

floret_truckthe process of creating our little garden began over the winter as i thought ahead to the promise of warmer days. then in march/april when we were all completely over winter, i was able to tuck seeds into their little piles of dirt with hopeful anticipation…waking up each day to see what had sprouted overnight, watching them stretch and grow. once the days were warmer, i nestled the seedlings that had soldiered on through the long, cold winter into the ground, believing that one day, a little bud just might pop out.

then one did! and another. and another! then things started to grow much bigger than i imagined (hello 6 foot tomato plants?!)…some budded but didn’t blossom…a storm/extreme heat left their marks. i know in my head that it’s just a garden/plant/seed, but when those things happened, i felt guilty for having been over-zealous and planting too much, for not planning better, for not thinking of all the random scenarios so that i could have avoided them. and you know what i’m learning (albeit very slowly and with lots of over-thinking)?


it’s ok. the plants figure it out. earlier this spring, after a particularly damaging storm hit their farm, our CSA (and favorite) farmer said, “[the plants] mostly just simply re-grow…sometimes even growing back even bigger and more bountiful than before. what a lovely example of resilience for us all as we weather life.” oh my heart, if that it’s so. dang. true.

veggie babes

and i figure it out, too. i trim the squash back to keep them from trampling the carrots. i found 6 foot polls to stake & secure the tomato plants. i let the shallots go & will plant them in a different spot next year. the peony is in the ground now (so its growth won’t be confused by my planting it too late), and i’m guessing it will be just fine. i’ve learned how to prune a rose bush and lemon tree. i’ll try ranunculus again next year.

garden bouquet

while there are things i’ll do differently next year that may result in a few more wins, there will still be lots of learning. and that’s a really good thing. because it means i’m still trying. still hoping. still getting to have these crazy fun, life-giving, special experiences with my boy.

while i have the wonderful gift of gathering little fistfuls of blooms that i grew. watching tiny cantaloupe buds turn into actual growing melons…streaky red-yellow tomatoes grow, slowly but surely…peppers slowly transition from green to bright red.

both/and. the tension of growth & learning, letting go & transitions, holding hope & trusting.

for a seed to achieve its greatest expression,
it must come completely undone. the shell cracks,
its insides come out, and everything changes.
to someone who doesn’t understand growth,
it would look like complete destruction.

~ cynthia occelli



this everyday life.

this past monday, one of those completely awesome, out of the blue things happened where i crossed paths in the most unusual of places with a sweet friend i haven’t seen in at least two years. we keep in touch sporadically through texts & instagram, but nothing beats a big hug & getting to catch up ever-so-quickly; it was the greatest surprise.

in the maybe five minutes we had for catching up, i love that as we talked about what our families have been up to, we both mentioned that we’ve been enjoying a slower pace. more home time. more down time. more playing in the backyard & going for walks & finding airplanes in the sky and trucks passing by.

this, mind you, is coming from someone who is wired for productivity & multi-tasking. left to my own devices, i can really kick things in to high gear & make things happen.

however, a few years ago, when i met my husband, for the first time i realized – to my surprise – that i didn’t always miss doing all-the-things…because i was able to really be present when i was hanging out with him. i started saying no to after work groups and coffee with friends so that i could be home with him. a few years into marriage and with our sweet boy now, it’s even more important to not be gone more than one night a week. even that is hard for me sometimes!

although i’m aware of my natural tendency towards productivity, sometimes it still takes a second thought for me to not over-fill our time (even with fun things), be picking up toys when we’re playing with something else, or working on a project while we watch a movie.

but every. single. time., it’s worth it. the unplanned days when we get to wander around the farmer’s market – waving to all the puppies, high-fiving farmers & vendors, and dancing to the local musicians…planting flowers and vegetables in our backyard with our boy – watching him waddle around with his watering can, watering every patio paver and some plants sometimes, too, and teaching him in some tiny way about gardening…walking to the bench at the end of the block to watch the trucks – holding hands with my husband and talking about our days.

the everyday things that so often slip right by.

as laura & i sent devo card drafts back & forth to each other one bazillion times, there were a few cards that struck a chord for one reason or another. this one got me first with it’s whimsical font and unexpected pop of color. it just plain made me smile.

then i read the prompt that laura wrote to go along with the verse…and i have come back to this card every day since, considering this question she posed:

“What does it look like to like to live with [God] in everyday ways?”

i don’t know about you, but there are a number of big things i’m asking God for. trusting Him for. but most of all, i need Him in the everyday ways. i need to slow down my thoughts, my worries, my questions, my schedule so that i can see Him at work in my interactions, my family, and, go figure – my thoughts, my worries, my questions, my schedule. a slower, less full, dare i say less check-things-off-my-to-do-list-productive pace creates space for me to be more present and attentive to noticing the little everyday ways that i sense God’s nearness, see Him at work around me, and rest in Him.

when i am present in the little moments – the, “mama, see?” moments where i am more often smiling & laughing at what he’s pointing at as he’s asking me to look at it than i am asking him to show me again because i was doing something else (which also happens; don’t get me wrong – i’m a work in progress) – i am reminded of how deeply important the everyday things of life and the everyday ways of God are.



gratitude, day 26.

gratitude_xsgratitude is a miraculous, wonderful thing. it really does turn what we have into enough. sometimes – often, even – it reminds us that what we have is even more than we need. although it’s kind of a “thing” for people to list something they are grateful for each day in november, this isn’t really that. it’s sort of my mash-up of a daily writing exercise i see people do every day in october paired with practicing gratitude. it won’t be the same every day. sometimes it will be a short, quick post, and other times it will be a reflection or recipe. but most importantly, every day there will be gratitude.

today, i am grateful for our home.

townhouse spring

as we have been looking at houses over the past year, dreaming & thinking of what we would want in a next home, i have been overcome on many occasions with how great our current home is. the open floor plan, the island in the kitchen, the windows streaming light in to brighten everything up…all make looking for a new house harder than we imagined. what a great problem to have!

this is the home that i became a homeowner in, it welcomed me home from the world race & was a safe, familiar space when everything was crazy. this is the first minnesota home that dustin had & was his homebase as he got acclimated. this is where we came home to after our wedding and where we started our life together. we have hosted family meals, small groups, book groups, showers, birthdays – this space has been so good to us.

i know that we have outgrown this house & am excited for what house is out there waiting for us. as we wait & dream & trust what’s next, we also pray that our home will pay blessings forward on the person or family that fills these walls & loves this home next.

gratitude, day 1.  ::  gratitude, day 2.  ::  gratitude, day 3.  ::  gratitude, day 4.  ::  gratitude, day 5.
gratitude, day 6.  ::  gratitude, day 7.  ::  gratitude, day 8.  ::  gratitude, day 9.  ::  gratitude, day 10.
gratitude, day 11. :: gratitude, day 12. :: gratitude, day 13. :: gratitude, day 14. :: gratitude, day 15.
gratitude, day 16. :: gratitude, day 17. :: gratitude, day 18. :: gratitude, day 19. :: gratitude, day 20.
gratitude, day 21. :: gratitude, day 22. :: gratitude, day 23. :: gratitude, day 24. :: gratitude, day 25.