Shrubs for #fijchallenge #3

March’s challenge was either jelly or shrubs. Since I’m not a huge fan of jelly and have made them before, but never quite used them well with the exception of pepper jelly, we went for shrubs. We had suspicions about the usability of this one so other then buying Bragg’s unfiltered apple cider vinegar, went for things we had and stayed with 2 small batches. Thanks to some frozen blueberries, fresh mint, plenty of ginger for kombucha making and a handful of mandarin oranges, we landed with blueberry ginger and mandarin mint. IMG_20170306_134055837

My pictures didn’t turn out too well, essentially the process is 1:1:1 parts vinegar, fruit and sugar with the mint/ginger added in. We macerated the fruit, combined it with the sugar and a bit of the vinegar and then left it in quart jars for a couple days. Then strained and added the balance of the vinegar. They turned out gorgeous colors.

So far we’ve experimented with blueberry ginger rum drinks (local spiced rum), which were fine, but not my new favorite thing. I am however, enjoying blueberry ginger with soda water as a nice fill in when I’d really like something different than water to drink and it’s too late for coffee or would like something a little sweet at night, but want to bypass dessert.

In the end, not sure these will land in the regular rotation, but they were a fun and very easy experiment.


an apartment list

I haven’t been writing much lately. Or I’ve been writing a bit, but it’s mostly been resume adaptations and emails. Not really of the’ inspiring, share online and consider anyone else might be minorly interested’ type of writing.

What should follow after that statement is some thoughtful piece on Lent or inspiration from the communities I’m beginning to learn from befriending refugees in Portland or a story about how I spent the morning hanging out with women from 6 countries practicing describing ourselves in English. But, alas, the words just haven’t been quite working lately so instead you’re getting a list. Another musing of observations on apartment living.

  • We can hear snippets of at least 3 languages through our walls. Enthusiastic Spanish that carries surprisingly well through the floor from the neighbors below, English and a yet as undetermined language the top guess for at the moment is Korean.
  • Parking is at a premium, but we have an immense advantage since at least one of our cars is almost always in the lot during the day, we can claim one of the few covered spots. Very seldom have we had to park in the almost parking lot, gravel sloping, sometimes river I’m calling the back 40. Every once in a while we park far away to make us feel a bit better about the unfair advantage.
  • Things I miss about not sharing walls:
    • The yard. I miss being able to spend a couple hours doing yard work in my own space.
    • The garden. This marks the 3rd year I haven’t planned and put in a full garden. I miss it. Anyone want help establishing a garden? J
    • Garage parking. It’s nice to start up a non-cold car and not be drenched when hoping in.
    • This is something I never thought about before and is absolutely a major privilege, but that hand wash setting on the washer was sure nice and having a dishwasher that didn’t even require a prewash was pretty luxurious.
  • Local coffee. The little town we were in had 3 coffee roasters and 4 local coffee shops, plus a Starbucks and all the usual drive throughs. Now we have Starbucks. Several Starbucks, most with awkward space for working and I’m no longer much of a fan of their coffee. On the plus side, we bought a little coffee maker and have been making mostly our own, which is a definite cost saving mechanism.

And on that note, I’m going to decide it’s officially the weekend. Here’s to hoping the sunshine continues and that this little foray back into writing will make diving into something more inspiring an easier next step!

#fijchallenge #2: Salt Curing

This month’s img_20170206_132107796challenge was salt preserving, focused specifically on infused salts, preserved citrus and/or salt cured egg yolks or fish. Keeping with the citrus theme, we went for preserved lemons. I’ve made them once previously and they were easy and quick, but the challenge came in using them. I just never got in the habit or found ways that really worked so they ended up eventually getting tossed after living for way too long in the back of the fridge.

This batch should be just about ready to break into, which will be the more challenging and interesting part of the process, at least for us.






perks of apartment living

This phase of life has us living in an apartment for a handful of months. It’s the first time we’ve spent a month in one place since we were in Greece in October and prior to that since we moved out of the house in July last summer. It’s also the first time we’ve moved into a place together and the first time I’ve lived in an apartment since I bought the house in 2009! It’s been nice to have a real kitchen (and good knives!) and to not be constantly looking for the next place to stay. There’s plenty I miss about our roaming and the house, but have been thinking more lately on the perks of this phase and writing them out, mostly for myself seemed fitting.

  • When the dryer is broken a new one appears: carried up the 3 flights of stairs, installed and paid for by someone else.
  • The blocked gutters are also someone else’s concern.
  • No yard maintenance.
  • No garbage/yard waste/recycling cans to remember to put on the street at the correct time.
  • When the sidewalks of the entire town are uncharacteristically ice over for an entire week using a normally despised treadmill for the first time in a year doesn’t require a gym membership.
  • Leaving town requires only locking the door. No notifying neighbors, asking someone to put out garbage cans and considering yard/house maintenance needs.
  • New/old running trails to explore/rediscover.
  • Local happy hours!
  • A large, comfy (if not nearly as quaint/cozy) library.


Marmalade and the #fijchallenge

Blood Orange Marmalade in process

One of my favorite food/canning blogs (Food in Jars) announced early this month that she was going to host a canning challenge this year.  I’ve been canning for almost 10 years now (!!), usually a mix of things we love and use, plus things our families love since baskets of canned goods are our main holiday gifts (my take on Advent Conspiracy) with a couple new things mixed in every year as there’s time.

We have our standbys: herbed tomatoes, pizza and pasta sauce, dilly beans and spicy jams for appetizer plates and grilled cheese. There’s our family favorites: pepper jelly, fig jam, spiced apple butter and Asian plum sauce and then what originally got the best friend and I into canning in the first place – our salsa :). Usually we have a salsa weekend event made often with my sister and some level of interruptions from the littles with our spouses (mostly willingly) involved in some manner  at one of our homes with the kids nearby in the heat of August/September when tomatoes at our at their prime. For the most part I’ve found we tend to better use the savory vs. sweet and when I do use jam, I much prefer my mom’s freezer variety than canned ones.

The #fijchallenge kicks off this month with marmalade. Which marries lots of new for me – I’ve never worked with citrus in the canner and never made a marmalade. In fact, I can’t remember eating marmalade although I’m positive I’ve tried it at some point, because really who hasn’t tried the small packaged orange marmalade found on all restaurant tables? Also I’ve spent several months’ worth of life traveling in the British Isles and I’m pretty sure it’s a requirement for anyone who steps on the ground there to eat their share of marmalade on scones. I love good oranges, but never seem to figure out how to determine what will taste good and I rather hate peeling them so other than a bag of cuties each year, eat very little citrus. Except limes! We also have a stash of limes that go into soups and tacos and burritos and salads and…

Blood Orange Marmalade

Which brings us to yesterday and the best friend’s visit to our new little temporary home for marmalade making in between taking care of a sick kiddo and dodging our insane winter weather. We made 2 small batches of marmalade in sync. The best friend chose Blueberry Lemon Marmalade from Eat Live Run and I made Blood Orange Meyer Lemon Marmalade from Kevin West’s Saving the Season.

Both turned out great from initial taste tests, although with marmalade you’re supposed to wait a bit to open jars and gauge the final flavor/set so we’ll see. The Blood Orange was super runny in the jars, but this morning had set up firmer than the Blueberry, which has a great set even if it doesn’t photograph quite as well. I love the color the Blood Oranges adds!

I picked the Meyer Lemons we used in both recipes up from a little produce farm on our way to the airport home from San Diego last week; the blueberries were from her freezer stash from last summer and the Blood Oranges were from New Seasons who is having lots of Citrus tasting and sales this week – if you’re in the area definitely go check it out – the Cara Cara Oranges were amazing!

Blueberry Meyer Lemon Marmalade
Blueberry Meyer Lemon Marmalade

Peace and Response

The Peace of Wild Things – Wendell Berry

When despair for the world grows in me15392928_10153932115741736_7714780074808315155_o
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.


The world wears heavy on me today. What looks to be the final push for Aleppo claims the news today, but Afghanistan is also in shambles, people are fleeing Eritrea, Libya, Pakistan and the list goes on.  I have immense concern surrounding our incoming president and his Secretary of State nomination does nothing to quell those concerns for our future. As a friend quickly reminded me, there is much good as well and I agree. The prognosis on the world is not entirely dismal. There are so many things, people and situations that restore hope and take my breath away, reminding me that there’s hope for humanity and that we have a good Creator.

And yet, today it feels heavy. After a couple months in Europe the term refugee has faces and names. People I may never speak with again, but who have captured and broken my heart and whose resilience has also given me hope for the future of humanity.

I did nothing to solve the refugee crisis, fix Syria or any other country or even solve one single individual’s situation. I did a lot of laundry, (sometimes) kept a minor semblance of order to the chaos of shower and laundry queues and cleaned a fair amount of showers. I played peek a boo with smiling toddlers and laughed with the kindest 12 year old boy ever and his mother while we figured out how to fit his twin 3 week old sisters into baby carriers someone gracefully donated and allowed us to gift to his family.

I was often exhausted and not always the kind, gracious person I would like to be in the midst of bathroom squabbles. I did very little to relieve suffering and nothing to solve the actual systematic problems, but for several weeks it felt good to be exhausted going SOMETHING.

Now we’re back home. I participate in small ways in welcoming refugees to Oregon – a minuscule proportion of the globally displaced and I read the news and it breaks my heart. But where to go from here is the question on my mind most often lately. I’ve been musing over 4 arenas of response, but have no great answers. My current percolating thoughts are below, not in any linear progression, the four areas are more concurrent and overlapping and mostly documented for my sake.


Rest – Rest as in Wendell Berry’s poem above. I so often come back to his Mad Farmer Liberation Front when I’m trying to center, but this one I’ve discovered more recently and been returning to often. It was on my mind this morning as I got in my first run since leaving Greece on a cold sunny Oregon coast day. Rest with intention. This is part of our goal in this phase of life. We’re trying to rest, to pause and to strategically plan what comes next. Where we spend our time and invest and where we live. I’m working to pause before I say yes to things and carefully consider how I spend time. To practice health and to practice intentionality.

Pray – My friend Astrid grew up in East Germany and has mentioned a couple of times in her writing how Americans occasionally mention praying for the wall to come down and that that wasn’t something she prayed for growing up – it was unimaginable to imagine life without the wall. She says “I am glad someone in the world stepped into the gap. Because whether you believe prayer helped the fall of the iron curtain or not, a great and unexpected thing happened. Not praying, I received. And this magnificent gift changed my whole life. I think they call that grace.”

I want to be someone that prays for the unimaginable, because great and unexpected things do happen that change the entirety of people’s lives. And so today I pray for peace in Syria – for the safety of the 100,000 people remaining in East Aleppo. I pray for peace in Afghanistan, Eritrea and South Sudan. I pray for those who have lived their entire lives in refugee camps and I pray for our incoming president.

Engage – The husband and I have had several conversations lately about how to engage well within our relationships in arenas where we disagree. My go to has been to exit conversations and call it a form of keeping the peace. But more and more that is feeling unacceptable in some realms and we’ve been discussing how best to engage, to stand firm for what we believe and do so well. Our recent travel creates easy openings into conversations that I would love to use better as does the recent election.

Act – Currently this is limited to attempts to be better educated, some small donations we make and some time I put into helping people at our church make connections to help welcome refugees locally. For the moment, we’re intentionally keeping this small as we rest, pray and consider where to fully invest our time and resources.


Election Day 2016

I have so many thoughts on the refugee crisis – on volunteering, on current events and on what to do with the things I’ve learned throughout the process. Things I am still processing and plan to continue to write on, but today is Election Day and it’s been an interesting time to be both outside of the country and working with refugees. Everyone seems to have an opinion on our election regardless of the fact that they do not get to vote in it. Which in many cases makes some level of sense since it does have significant impact in many areas outside our borders as well.

Belgrade and the Sava river, because it felt like this post needed a photo!

Oregon votes entirely by absentee/mail and this is the first year I’ve been away for the duration of the vote by mail window. I love our little county and a quick email to the elections office resulted in a near immediate reply back in August with us getting set up for vote by email. The logistics of that meant we were emailed our ballots in mid-October, printed them in Athens, carried them to Belgrade where we used being sick and cold to procrastinate on them and took them north again to Berlin. There we took advantage of our great hotel lobby to drink tea and research state measures and finish our ballots. Then with a little help from the front desk, scan and send them off to the county who almost immediately acknowledged their receipt. A slightly more cumbersome than usual process for an election that felt particularly important to participate in even from afar.

It’s been nice to have a little space from the election and surrounding news. In keeping with past travel experience, American politics are a popular topic outside the country, particularly in an election year. But not speaking the local language means that outside of catching key names, we understand little of passing conversations on the topics. Most of my intentional news reading has surrounded other world news and more specifically following the refugee crisis. I haven’t hidden from it, and it’s everywhere of course, but it’s been nice to have a little space from the ear mongering and disparaging comments that make up so much of the advertisements and commentary. It maybe let the voting process be a little bit freer of the irritation I usually have for everyone on every side by the time I get to voting.

Thanks to time zones, our day will end much ahead of polls closing instead of our usual position on the west coast of watching it all unfold.

My choices are made and submitted. Now what I hope and pray for is tomorrow. I love that I live in a country where I have the right to participate in choosing our laws and leaders. And I love that I live somewhere that come January, no matter the outcome today, a peaceful exchange will occur with no fear of blood loss or violence.

What I hope for though, feels like a bit of a miracle from today though. That the next few years would involve the parties working together instead of endlessly blocking each other. I think that’s where the power in democracy really lies. Neither party has entirely correct, but rather I think, needs the other. That tension is important to measure and check each other as we move into the future. I, for one, am praying what feels like giant prayers for miracles today, that we might work together tomorrow.

And also being incredibly thankful that the campaign ads will be over before I land back in the US.