Memories

“If we’d never met, I think I would have known that my life wasn’t complete. And I would have wandered the world in search of you, even if I didn’t know who I was looking for.”

Nicholas Sparks, The Longest Ride

There are so many different loves that we experience in life. From the love for a parent to the first love that we experience in our adolescent years to the various loves that we find before we find the one.

At 36 years old, I can say with complete confidence that I have experienced each one. The one that teaches you a great deal about yourself. The one that helps you realize what you are really looking for. And, of course, the one that makes you wonder why you ever thought you were in love all of the times before.

Tonight is another of many sleepless nights. They are a frequent occurrence for me, for I find myself quite often kept awake by the various thoughts that make their way through my mind in the middle of the night.

A few years ago, I took Tristin home with me, to North Carolina, for the first time. It seemed like it was right for him to meet my family and, to be honest, I did not want to spend two weeks without him. So, we loaded up our suitcases, got in the car, and drove. That was when our tradition of kissing at state lines began.

On one particular day during our visit, my mom wanted to spend the day with the children, so we took advantage of it and snuck off for a date. Our dates have always been the kind that nourish my soul and give us both more to remember than just a meal. Museums, lakes, long walks…

That day, we got in the car and made our way to the mountains. We drove up to the Linn Cove Viaduct in the Blue Ridge mountains. There’s a parking lot just off of the highway there, allowing you to safely get out to take in the view. It is a very popular spot, particularly in Autumn, when the leaves are changing colors. The landscape, during this time, is painted with the most beautiful golds, reds, oranges, with a bit of green mixed in.

After parking our vehicle, we decided to hike down one of the trails leading down from the Visitor’s Center. As we hiked down the mountain, weaving through the trees, we talked. I can no longer recall what the conversation was about, but the content isn’t really of consequence. A cool mist lightly peppered us as a rainstorm approached the mountain.

Just before it started to really pour, we found a dry spot beneath the bridge above to seek refuge until it passed.

How long we sat there I do not remember. We talked, we gazed out at the incredible view before us, and we talked some more. At one point, I looked over at him. He was smiling just slightly, focusing on something off in the distance. As I watched his quietly amused expression in awe, I remember thinking to myself, “This is what the rest of my life looks like. Wow.”

In a world so often driven by extraordinary moments and things, this moment was, by all considerations, ordinary. It was ordinary and, yet, I was wonderstruck. By the picturesque landscape of the mountains before us. By the light in his eyes as he surveyed it. By the curve of his lips as we spoke.

That moment under a bridge in the rain took place four years ago. As ordinary as it may seem, it was, to me, a moment of astonishment that still resonates within me as strongly today as it did that day. It feels like it just happened yesterday.

I have so many memories from a myriad of moments that have taken place during the 36 years that I have existed and that one will always be one of my favorites.

He is the love that taught me what real love is. He is the love that makes me wonder why I ever wasted my time on anyone else. He is the love that readers of Jane Austen hold out for. A Wentworth. A Mr. Darcy. A once in a lifetime kind of love.

Personal though it may be, this memory felt very much worth sharing with you tonight.

With hope that the day ahead of you is full of beautiful moments,

Quinn

Sundays

“Out of clutter, find simplicity. From discord, find harmony. In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.”

Albert Einstein

Sunday mornings are my quiet time. By “quiet time”, of course, I really mean that they are the time spent deep cleaning my home while my older children are off at church.

It’s 10:30 in the morning. I’m on my second cup of coffee. Presley is still sound asleep and will be for another hour or two. When she awakens varies from day to day.

I stepped outside hours ago to gather everything from the garden that was ready for harvest and gave everything a good drink of water to ensure that they have plenty to get them through the scorching hundred degree day that lies ahead. There was plenty of tomatoes. They’ll be turned into salsa later today.

With the gardening out of the way, it is time to focus on the interior of the house. I truly do not enjoy cleaning but, at the same time, a filthy house stresses me out to no end. So I suppose the appropriate thing to do is suck it up and clean to avoid unnecessary stress.

My bathroom is currently sparkling. That was the first room that I worked on. And, currently, I am taking a momentary break before I start in on the big open area that encompasses my living room, dining room, and kitchen. The room is already quite clean, if I am being honest, but the walls could use a good dusting, the floor a thorough mopping, the rugs a once over with the vacuum. Laundry is nearly caught up for the week.

Everything will be complete before the kids return home for the day.

I plan on baking a fresh loaf of bread today, though I am undecided on what kind of bread to make. I also think a carrot cake sounds perfectly delightful. Or perhaps an apple cake. I have already decorated for Autumn ( I did that on a particularly hot day last month when I was so over the summer heat that I used Autumn decor to make it feel as though I was willing the much cooler season to arrive sooner), so why not bake an Autumn dessert?

Baking. Cleaning. Washing. Drying. Folding. Putting away. Sunday rituals.

Do you have a Sunday ritual? I would love to hear what it is!

A Little Fresh Air

“The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just the body, but the soul.”

Alfred Austin

This morning, the entire household (minus the baby) rose with the sun. Our oldest went off to practice while the rest of us got to work.

We love our garden. It is only our second year of having one and we are constantly learning new things. It is a labor of love that is both very hands-on and reading intensive. Over two summers, we have educated ourselves so much and yet, there still seems to be so much that we do not know. One of my favorite gardeners, the person I go through for so much advice, is Kevin over at Epic Gardening on YouTube. Most of what I know, I learned from him and his buddies, Chris and Jacques. Jacques also has a really amazing channel called Jacques in the Garden.

Yesterday afternoon, I sat down in my home and worked on starting seeds for Autumn while watching the two of them do the same. While they worked away at starting tomatoes, cauliflower, leeks, cucumbers, and other goodies, I was busy starting cucumbers, a second round of herbs, peas and green beans (which can be started now through the second week of September in zone 6B), various greens, and more squash and zucchini (they also do well through November in zone 6B).

While I did that, my husband spend his time outside building an arched trellis over each of my two garden beds. I knew he was building a trellis, but I didn’t know he was arching them for me. What a truly fantastic surprise! It was exactly what I had been wanting. Now the vining plants (like my sugar pie pumpkins) will have a sturdy structure to climb as they grow.

After pruning back my rather wild tomato plants this morning, I set myself to filling several grow bags and two large planters that I found on clearance at Walmart yesterday. The bags will have peppermint in them that will later be used to make essential oil. I like growing peppermint. It keeps flies at bay. The large planters will have nasturtiums and will be placed near my cucumber and squash plants. Squash bugs and aphids, from everything I’ve read, do not care for nasturtiums, making them a good choice in the garden.

I really try my best to find natural solutions to any pest problem. Part of the motivation to start a garden was the desire to control what is and is not used on my food.

My herbs have done so well this summer, despite the intense heat that we frequently experience in northwestern Oklahoma. Perhaps it is the placement that I chose for them, providing them equal amounts of shade and direct sun throughout the day, but they are healthy and vibrant. When you stand near the herb garden, you smell the delicious fragrance of fresh sage and oregano.

On the direct opposite side of the walkway from the herbs is what should have been a flower bed. I say “should have been” because I planted a lot of different things and the morning glories took over. I love morning glory vines. They climb the trellises around the porch providing shade that we would not otherwise have throughout the day and naturally reduce the amount of heat at the backdoor. They are beautiful, but they also tend to overwhelm literally everything else. This year, it was a battle between them and the sunflowers that the birds planted from their feeder.

Beneath the morning glories, though it cannot be seen here, is peppermint that has been growing for a couple of years now. The downside to peppermint is that the wasps love it, so they’re everywhere once it gets hot outside. I am not a fan of wasps. At all. But, I would rather have wasps than have every fly between here and Texas trying to come into my home.

By the front door, I grow lavender. Have you every inhaled fresh lavender? It is delicate and sweet yet woody and smoky. I don’t know if there is anything I like quite as much as lavender.

The fresh air felt great this morning and the hard work that went into prepping the garden for Autumn was exceptionally therapeutic. If you’ve never tried your hand at gardening, it is something that I very highly recommend.

With that said, I bid you a lovely and prosperous Thursday.

Rainy Summer Days

“Rainy days should be spent at home with a cup of tea and a good book.”

– Bill Watterson

Saturday morning, I woke to the quiet pitter-patter of rain on the tin roof. I love days like that. Sleepy and quiet, with a coolness in the air that hints at the crispness of Autumn.

Those days are perfect for curling up on the couch with hot tea and a good book. In the middle of summer, they are also well-suited to baking, which is something I enjoy greatly.

My day began with a cup of vanilla cinnamon tea, which is one of the coziest beverages I have ever had, and the new Jane Austen movie on Netflix, “Persuasion”. I have read the book a few times, of course, but I just had to watch the movie. I’m a huge fan of Dakota Johnson. My son watched it with me and, to my own amazement, loved it. Who would’ve thought a boy of thirteen years would love anything Jane Austen?

After the movie, I made my way to the kitchen. Once all of my ingredients were lined up neatly on the counter, I set to preparing the two recipes that I had decided on during the movie. Pumpkin bread and sweet molasses brown bread.

Because it needs time to rise, be kneaded, and rise again, I started with the molasses bread. Things that take time should always come first. Once I had the dough in a bowl, covered and left to rise, I moved onto the pumpkin bread. Yes, it’s summer. No, I don’t care. Pumpkin is one of my very favorite things any time of year. As a matter of fact, I am currently growing sugar pie pumpkins in my garden to can for use throughout the year.

The batter came together quite quickly, as any batter of that manner does. Making short use of time, I transferred it to a loaf pan and placed it in the oven where it baked for about an hour and a half. My house had the most delicious aroma for the entire duration. Warm and reminiscent of late Fall; cozy and inviting.

The end result was absolute perfection. Cloves lent a spiciness that stayed on your tongue and left you tingly inside. A crispy outer crust provided the most sensational bit of crunch. And the flavor was immeasurably pleasing. It made me long for the turning of the leaves, the coolness in the air, and snuggly socks.

My children loved it as well. Ava, my oldest daughter, may have consumed half the loaf herself. She even paired it with dollop of Cool Whip at one point. All of them asked me to please make it again soon. I love that they all find such delight in my middle-of-summer pumpkin cravings.

When the baking was done and the bread dough was still rising, we cleaned the house. There is nothing better than a clean house. It is both soothing to the soul and comforting to the ever-anxious mind. By the time it was clean, the rain ceased for a little while. Cadence and I walked out to the garden to gather fresh tomatoes, not fully expecting the number of them that would be ready to come into the house.

These delicious little fruits will be turned into salsa or tomato sauce and canned for use over the coming winter. Part of the joy in growing things during the warmer months is preserving them for use in the cold months. Living simply and in the moment, preparing things with your own hands, is an experience beyond all experiences. It is something that I recommend to everyone. It is a form of therapy that money cannot buy and no doctor can provide.

I did make time to read the book, by the way. In the quiet evening hours as I was settling in and relaxing my mind, readying myself for sleep.

With that, I bid you a happy and fruitful week.

Dutch Oven Herb Bread

In the last couple of months, I’ve baked a LOT of bread. I found that I love the entire process, start to finish. Just being present in the moment while mixing, kneading, kneading again after the yeast does its thing… It is so exceptionally cathartic. I cannot imagine skipping that process in favor of a bread machine.

It came together quite quickly with minimal ingredients and paired well with the Brunswick Stew that I made for supper that evening. The herbs used were cut fresh from my garden and given a good rinse. Don’t you just love the fragrance that comes with fresh cut herbs?

Dutch Oven Herb Loaf

Servings: 12 Slices | Cook Time: 1 Hour | Total Time: 3 Hours

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (250ml) warm water
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 heaping tablespoon fresh herbs (I used basil, rosemary, and thyme)
  • 2 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 3-4 cups (567 grams) bread flour
  • Olive oil

Closing Out 2021

Happy Tuesday!

It’s only 3am and already I’ve been wide awake for about an hour. I’m not really sure what it was that woke me, but here I am just the same. As I contemplate whether or not I want a cup of coffee, I thought I’d take some time out in the quiet of the night to reflect on the end of one year, the beginning of the next, and the Christmas that didn’t quite feel like Christmas.

Honestly, I started out the month of November in a place where I was mentally very ready for Christmas. I was excited and absolutely in the spirit. The Halloween decorations came down and the Christmas decorations went up. I began planning out all of my holiday baking, starting with peanut clusters that I made in the Crock-Pot.

Thanksgiving came and went. While Thanksgiving use to be something I looked forward to each year, it’s hard to do so anymore. I love the food more than I can say, but my stomach doesn’t agree. Around the second week of December, my oldest daughter fell ill. When she tested positive for COVID, everyone in our home was forced to quarantine until just a couple of days before Christmas. It should have ended there, allowing us to return to life as usual but, exactly one week after my daughter, I tested positive as well. With temperatures outside well into the 70s, my sense of taste and smell missing, an inability to get out and shop for Christmas, and family drama that I had no desire to be a part of, my Christmas spirit faded.

Still, though, even when you aren’t in the mood to celebrate, you try to appear excited for your kids. My older children understood. I just wasn’t feeling up to it. A couple of days before Christmas, my husband took me to the doctor to retest because his family really wanted us to be able to attend the family gathering. When we returned to the house, my children greeted us at the door. They said they knew I wasn’t really in the Christmas spirit, so they wanted to do something to change that. They had hung the stockings and cut out paper snowflakes. The snowflakes were hung on the windows and walls. It was such a simple, but equally sweet gesture.

In case you are wondering, I decided to get a cup of coffee after all. I love my Honeyduke’s mug. Don’t you?

Since I tested negative and no one else in the home was testing positive (we were very careful not to expose others), my husband and I decided to hurry up and get some Christmas shopping done. We were delighted to see that, since it was Christmas Eve, most stores had already marked things down. Even the toys were half-priced! Within two hours, our shopping was complete, stocking stuffers included. We hurried home, got things wrapped, and spent the rest of the afternoon playing Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker together.

Christmas morning came and I was far too anxious to let anyone sleep in, so I woke everyone up. This was the first Christmas that Presley would be fully aware of what was going on; the first where she would actually open her own presents and interact with them.

We all have little traditions, whether they’ve been carried down from yesteryear or they began with us and our own children. For me, it’s wrapping paper tucked into the bottoms of the stockings. I never use gift labels at Christmas. Instead, I use a different wrapping paper for each person and I place a small square of that paper in the bottom of the corresponding stocking. My kids have begun doing it too. They wrap all of the gifts intended for myself or my husband. I started doing this when my oldest daughter was about five years old. Without labels on gifts, it guaranteed that they’d care about their stockings just as much as what was under the tree.

The exception this year, of course, was Presley. She’s hardly old enough to care about her stocking. With that in mind, we wrapped all of her gifts with Baby Shark wrapping paper. She’s such a huge fan of that adorable little yellow shark that we knew she’d get excited when she saw that paper. Sure enough, she tore right into it! Much to our amusement, she also tried to put it back together, to rewrap the gifts that she had just opened.

After all of the gifts were opened and the house was cleaned back up, we all got dressed and headed out to the family Christmas gathering. I cannot stress enough how unenthusiastic I was about going. There was drama this year and I enjoy my quiet, drama-free life at home far too much. Still, we went. My mother-in-law was more than enough reason to make an appearance.

Even though there were family members who showed up with a chip on their shoulders and a passive-aggressive axe to grind, we made the best of it. I couldn’t taste anything, but I ate anyway. We opened our gifts, helped with clean-up, hugged everyone, and headed back home to enjoy the rest of the day at home. The weather was beautiful, so the kids rode their brand new bicycles while I cooked Christmas supper and my husband built toys that didn’t come pre-assembled.

All in all, it genuinely was a wonderful day.

The rest of the year past relatively uneventfully. Kids played to their hearts content. My oldest daughter began learning how to play the guitar that she received from my mom. She’s hoping to learn how to play Taylor Swift songs. Taylor Swift is the entire reason that she wanted a guitar to begin with.

So, here we are in the new year. I’m already planning out my garden and flower beds for the coming Spring despite that cold weather that seemed to come so suddenly after what has been a rather warm holiday season. I will definitely be planting more tomatoes this year. They did so well last year and we ended up with so many. This past growing season, all of the sproutlings that I purchased from the local nursery turned out to be spaghetti squash despite being labeled as other things like summer squash, zucchini, and cucumber, so I think I’ll start from seeds this year to avoid that odd mix-up.


I hope your holidays were joyful and that you found something in this past year to be thankful for.

Happy New Year!

Quinn

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