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Five Spring-Inspired Meals

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The days are growing longer and the air warmer here on the east coast. Yards are full of spring flowers: daffodils, tulips, and hyacinths. The air has a fresh earthy smell. Kids are outside playing after school with bubbles and sidewalk chalk.

Spring is here.

As I menu plan the seasonal change is apparent in the list of meals I’m making. Gone are the hearty stews and slow cooker soups. I want lighter—yet still filling—meals that are full of seasonal vegetables yet easy to prepare. Here are some of my spring favorites:

Spring Couscous Salad

I love this couscous salad bursting with bright flavor, despite the rather simple ingredients. It’s a perfectly easy one-pot weeknight meal that tastes like spring to me.

The Ultimate Club Sandwich

Sandwiches are an often-overlooked dinnertime choice. But pared with some tortilla chips, hummus, and fruit, it makes for a deliciously easy and simple dinner. Joy the Baker’s Ultimate Club Sandwich really hits the spot. Creamy brie cheese, crisp bacon, ripe tomato, silky avocado, and roasted turkey—what’s not to love?

Lemony Salmon and Dill Toss

My kids don’t like asparagus, but they do like pasta and salmon, so there’s enough in this tasty meal to make them happy and full. I love the flavor combinations of salmon, dill, and lemon.

Classic Cobb Salad

We love hearty salads around here and the Smitten Kitchen’s cobb salad is certainly that. Loaded with protein (bacon, chicken, hard boiled egg) this salad will leave you full. If you’re short on time, you could always buy salad dressing instead of making it.

Chive Risotto Cakes

I love risotto but it’s not really doable on weeknights. It’s more of a special occasion type of thing. But Ina Garten’s Chive Risotto Cakes are soooo good. You can also make up the mixture ahead of time and let it refrigerate overnight! The cakes are fried crispy on the outside and yet are creamy on the inside. They are hearty yet taste of spring with the fresh chopped herbs. Even my kids like them! (What kids won’t eat anything fried?) We adults eat them over a bed of spring greens with a drizzle of olive oil and splash of lemon.

What spring-inspired recipes do you enjoy?

Bethany - April 25, 2015 - 9:32 am

Oh my goodness! These all sound amazing, especially the club sandwich and risotto cakes. Thank you for sharing!

Cultivating Creative Motherhood

“I don’t know how you do it,” she said as I walked my friend towards the door. “Homeschooling, four kids, writing…” her voice trailed away.

I didn’t know what to say. Instead I felt uncomfortable and said lamely, “Well, it keeps me busy!”

But that was the third time someone had said something similar to me in a month. I’m not wonder woman. I don’t have amazing multitasking skills. I don’t want people to think I do. I don’t do more or better than any other woman who juggles children, work, home, and extra-curricular activities.

But I have made creativity a priority, even after I became a mother. I don’t want to look back over my life and say, “I wish I made more time for _______ instead of washing dishes and doing laundry.”

Whether you identify yourself as a “creative type” or not, everyone is creative in some aspect of their life. As a Christian I believe God made us in His image. He is the ultimate Creator. When we use our creative talents for expression and problem solving we are imaging God, and so it is little wonder we find the act of creating so satisfying. When we create, we image God by crafting beauty, displaying truth, fulfilling a service, or doing good in the world on behalf of others.

But not everyone feels the need to be creative. I’m not writing this article to make you feel guilty if you aren’t a person who desires to have a creative outlet. I’m not advocating adding one more thing to your to-do list or for you to get less sleep than you already do. But if you identify yourself as someone yearns to express yourself creatively but struggle to find time or make time for it in your life, I’m writing this to encourage you.

Continue reading over at Ungrind.

How do you cultivate creativity for yourself in your home?

(Image from Ungrind.org)

 

 

All the Light We Cannot See

All the Light

The title alone captured my attention when I first read about the highly acclaimed novel, All the Light We Cannot See. The title aptly captures the parallel stories of orphan boy Werner and blind Marie-Laure. The two children grow up in the face of World War II and their paths meet briefly, each of them impacting the other.

Lyrical prose, a stirring story, a hidden jewel. It didn’t take long for the story to grab me and not let go. Anthony Doerr’s writing is some of the most exquisite I’ve ever read. The characters captured my heart and imagination. Moving back and forth in time the narrative switches between Werner and Marie-Laure’s stories until the climatic moment when their lives collide.

I loved how Doerr weaves other famous pieces of art into his story. Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea is an important “story within a story” that mirrors the action, to some degree, of his characters. Marie-Laure reads the novel throughout her World War II years, and the climax of Twenty Thousand Leagues parallels the climax in All the Light We Cannot See. Also, Marie-Laure’s great-uncle plays Clair de Lune for a few minutes over the illegal wireless after transmitting some numbers to the French resistance. After her great-uncle is no longer able to transmit over the wireless, Marie-Laure starts reading Twenty Thousand Leagues over the wireless instead. The music and story serve as an encouragement and inspiration to survive for a trapped Werner and his comrade.

Clair de Lune and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea are used as means of fighting the darkness and despair for Marie-Laure and her great-uncle. They might seem odd choices, but they push back against the night with their beauty. They remind people of a life worth living. All the Light We Cannot See reminded me of the story of Vedran Smailovic, the “Cellist of Sarajevo,” who in an act of defiance played his cello for 22 days on the site of a mortar blast in memory of the 22 civilians it killed. It reminded me how art can inspire, fight, and be a light against darkness.

The story of the “Cellist of Sarajevo” also inspired Sara Groves’ song Why it Matters. And I think it captures the spirit of at least one message contained within All the Light We Cannot Seethat we all have a choice to dissent participating in darkness, that we can instead spread light, even if doing so seem very small and insignificant.

Sit with me and tell me once again
Of the story that’s been told us
Of the power that will hold us
Of the beauty, of the beauty
Why it matters

Speak to me until I understand
Why our thinking and creating
Why our efforts of narrating
About the beauty, of the beauty
And why it matters

Like the statue in the park
Of this war torn town
And it’s protest of the darkness
And the chaos all around
With its beauty, how it matters
How it matters

Show me the love that never fails
The compassion and attention
Midst confusion and dissention
Like small ramparts for the soul
How it matters

Like a single cup of water
How it matters

Why it Matters, -Sara Groves

 For those of you who read All the Light We Cannot See, what did you think?

Briana - March 31, 2015 - 7:59 pm

This book and your post here about it are both beautiful!
I think God’s been slowly showing me the value of beauty not just in the natural world but in what He allows humans to create as well

Briana - March 31, 2015 - 9:43 pm

Looks like the first time I tried to leave a comment, it was cut short.

I just tried a 2nd time, and accidentally hit something on my keyboard at which time I was taken to the internet page I was on before this one.
Ugh.

I am going to try this a third time. WE’ll see if it takes. ;)

This post reminded me of a work God’s been doing in my heart for the last year or so.
I *think* it was initiated, unsurprisingly, by something Ann Voskamp shared in cyber-world somewhere from the verse John 1:5, “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.”

The thought that Ann shared was something to the effect that anything that is beautiful, lovely or true is light pushing back the darkness. I latched onto this, mulling it over in my mind for hours last fall as I blew the gazillion leaves that fall from our trees. :)

It has helped me assign value not only to the mundane, daily tasks of cleaning my kitchen or doing laundry but also to putting time into doing my hair, makeup and assembling an outfit. **You know these latter activities have not long been priorities of mine, self-righteously viewing them as vain efforts to put on appearances. Now, I see that the same behavior can be motivated by one’s desire to ‘push back the darkness.’ It makes sense to me now, and I am beginning to give this and all expressions of beauty a lot more time and value.

I loved seeing that in the motif you mentioned above from “All the Light We Cannot See.”

Danielle - April 1, 2015 - 9:49 am

Thanks Bri for your thoughtful comment!

Claire @ Lemon Jelly Cake - April 1, 2015 - 2:30 pm

I’ve been wanting to read this book and your post motivated/reminded me to request it from the library. Only problem? There are 48 other people ahead of me who want to read it. By the time it comes in for me, I will have forgotten I ever requested it. ;) Must be a good book!

Bethany - April 25, 2015 - 9:36 am

I keep seeing this book around, and now I’ve got to add it to my list! It sounds absolutely wonderful.

Inspire: Women Who Create | Ainsley Arment Interview

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Last September I had the opportunity to go with good friends to the Wild + Free Conference. It was a refreshing and inspiring time. I wrote about my experience here. I met the founder of Wild + Free, Ainsley Arment while we were there and started following her on Instagram. It’s been amazing to watch the Wild + Free community grow through Instagram. It is a community largely made up of homeschoolers, although that is not a necessity and not every participant homeschools. Ainsley came to mind when thinking about Women Who Create because she is cultivating a community through Instagram, conferences, and digital media that is quite inspiring to me. I hope you will find her inspiring too!

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Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and introduce us to your family?

I was born on the campus of West Point in New York and graduated from college in Greensboro, NC followed by a few years outside of D.C. and Atlanta. Other than that, I’ve lived in Virginia Beach, Virginia for all my life. I don’t feel like I’m home unless I’ve got sand between my toes and saltwater on my lips. I live here with my husband Ben, our four children Wyatt (10), Dylan (8), Cody (5) and Annie (2), along with a Pomeranian named Clementine we rescued from the highway. We’re expecting our fifth child, another little girl, this August.

What influenced you to begin your homeschooling journey?

I put my oldest two boys in the public school system when they were in kindergarten and first grade and they did great. But after having them gone for most of the day, I realized I was missing out on the most formative moments of their lives. I wanted to be a bigger part of it. Plus, I started seeing their dispositions change, and it wasn’t always good. I didn’t feel the need to protect them from other people per se. I wanted to preserve their sense of wonder, their innocence and their uninhibited view of themselves.

How did you become inspired to create a conference for homeschool moms? How does the Wild + Free Conference differ from most of the other conferences out there for homeschoolers?

Wild + Free has been an unexpected journey. I started posting my own homeschool photos on Instagram and quickly saw there was huge resonance among other mothers out there. The conference was our first attempt to gather this community, and it was a great time. I’ve never attended another homeschool conference, so I’m not sure how it differs. I suspect our community is more focused on what we call intentional parenting and raising free-range children. Plus, we just have some really great women in this community. =)

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You’ve mentioned that Instagram was influential in igniting the idea of the Wild + Free conference; can you tell us some more about that?

Everything we do comes out of the community we’re building on Instagram. It’s a place where homeschool mothers from all over the world can connect and encourage each other. The conference is an important but very, very small part of what we’re all about.

How did the quote, “All good things are wild and free” become the quote to inspire the Wild + Free community?

I’ve always loved this quote from Henry David Thoreau. He said it many times in a lecture called “Walking,” which contends that our experience in the civilized world needs to be balanced with the wild. We believe this to be true of our children. So much is lost in their character and experience when they’re confined to sterile classroom environments.

What do you hope women who attend the conference walk away with when they leave?

We certainly want them to walk away with practical homeschool insights and favorite practices. But most of all, we went them to come away with deep friendships. Homeschooling is often a lonely endeavor, but it doesn’t have to be. There is a flourishing community of women who are eager to support and encourage each other.

Putting together a conference seems like a big task! Did you have experience in organizing events prior to Wild + Free? What have been the biggest challenges and joys in putting together this conference?

No way! I’m just a mother of four, soon to be five, who is trying to figure it out as I go along. On top of that, I’m an extreme introvert who gets worn out quickly by social interaction. But now that we’ve organized one conference, I know what NOT to do. =) I couldn’t pull this off without the help of so many wonderful friends and supporters, and that’s the best part of it – the friendships I’ve made. We’re not experts, but we’re in this together. The experiences are going to get better and better the more we do.

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You also put out Wild + Free monthly bundles. I’ve bought two and they are beautifully photographed with great interviews, recipes, ideas for book clubs, and nature journal inspiration. Why did you decide to create bundles on top of putting together an annual conference?

I’m not good at a lot of things, but one thing I love to do is collect, research and curate things. The Content Bundles are a wonderful way for me to serve the homeschool community with my own gifts. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t write or photograph many of the pieces at all. I leave that to the women out there who are so gifted with words and images. But I love bringing it all together into a beautiful collection each month.

What hopes do you have for the future of the Wild + Free conference?

We’re taking this one step at a time. It’s all I can do to homeschool, curate the Content Bundles and care for my own family. But we do have some big plans for the conference. You’ll find out more on the Wild + Free Instagram feed soon.

When you’re not busy homeschooling or working on Wild + Free, what do you like to do in your free time? What inspires you personally right now?

I don’t have much time outside of homeschooling and Wild + Free, but when it comes to love languages, I’m a quality timer, so I love spending time with my husband and kids. We go to the beach a lot in the summertime and play lots of games by the fireplace in the winter. I’m a voracious reader, so I read novels every chance I get. But I also keep a garden in the backyard where I’m learning to grow our own food.

Thank you Ainsley for sharing with us today!

Ainsley would like to offer any of my readers your own FREE Wild + Free content bundle to check out! You can download it here.

For more information, you can follow Ainsley and discover more about the Wild + Free Community online in the following places:

Wild + Free Website
Wild & Free Instagram
Ainsley Arment’s Instagram

Briana - March 24, 2015 - 1:21 pm

I am grateful for the wild and free community. Following the IG hashtag and some fellow w&f homeschool mommas has been so inspiring to me who so wants to live this way and create this kind of atmosphere in my home yet is still so bound up by my past experiences of school and home life that were performance driven

Jenn - March 24, 2015 - 3:56 pm

I am so inspired by Ainsley’s success at bringing a diverse group of homeschoolers together to encourage each other. It truly is a beautiful homeschool community.

3 Ways to Prepare for Easter Together

I cut dogwood limbs from the tree in the front yard. Knobby grey buds are still tight, not yet ready to open. Taking my distressed blue stool that my husband found discarded along the side of the road, I tuck it into a corner of the dining room. Pulling my earthenware pitcher down from the shelf, I place it on the stool. The dogwood limbs go into the jug, along with some water.

The branches are now ready to decorate. We’re getting ready for Easter.

As my children have grown I’ve looked for ways to involve them in celebrating Jesus’ death and resurrection in tangible, hands-on ways. Ways that build up to Easter morning, so that they have a clear idea as to why we celebrate. The following are some ideas that have become traditions in our home that our kids look forward to every year.

To find out more, read the entire article over at Ungrind.org.

(Image Credit: Ungrind.org)