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I’ve long been an advocate of every season BUT summer. Hot, humid, languid, permanent afro — none of these qualities are particularly endearing to me. However, while there are rewarding things about gardening in the spring and summer, there is something about a summer garden that is steadily transforming me into a summer lover.

I realized this yesterday morning, which Sprout and I spent under the fig tree. Teaching her how to pick fruit and vegetables for herself and pop them right in her mouth — there is something undeniably fulfilling and magical about this act — and then I remember that it’s not magic — this is one of God’s carefully crafted perfect provisions for us. And that we are richly blessed to have a tangible reminder of the truth that is very, very true, whether we recognize it or not — that God faithfully provides for us every single moment of every single day. That he protects us like he protects the seedings when they’re young and growing. That he lovingly re-shapes us into something even more beautiful when we acknowledge that we’re totally wrecked, like our garden this spring. That he delights in us when we bear fruit.

“These all look to you, to give them their food in due season. When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are filled with good things.” Psalm 104:27-28

And as a side note, is there any fruit prettier than a fig?

So, as we’ve harvested veggies from our garden, here are a few of my go-to recipes for fresh summer produce.

Fig Preserves

8 cups of figs
1/2 Tbsp baking soda
6 cups of boiling water
4 cups white sugar
2 cups water
1/2 sliced lemon

In a large mixing bowl place figs and sprinkle with baking soda. Pour the boiling water over the figs and soak for 1 hour.
Drain figs and rinse thoroughly with cold water. In a large Dutch oven combine the sugar and the 4 cups of water; bring to a boil and cook for 10 minutes.
Add the figs and lemon slices to the syrup in the Dutch oven and cook for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
Spoon figs into hot, sterilized jars and spoon syrup over figs, leaving 1/2 inch of head space. Top jars with lids and screw bands on tightly. Process for 10 minutes in a hot water bath.

Tomato Sauce

Extra-virgin olive oil
Fresh garlic, coarsely chopped with some nice salt and allowed to sit 10 minutes if possible
Plenty of vine-ripened, garden fresh tomatoes cut into chunks (I use a serrated knife)
Fresh basil (at least twice as much as you think seems like the right amount—I measure fresh basil by the handful)
Fresh oregano (more than you’re about to put in)

Heat the olive oil in a heavy saucepan over medium heat, then add the garlic and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Do not allow the garlic to brown.

Add the tomatoes, basil, and oregano and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid cooks out. Cooking time will depend on the juiciness of the tomatoes.


When there is still some liquid left in the pan, carefully puree the sauce using a blender or a food processor.

Bring the sauce back to a boil and continue simmering until desired consistency. Let cool, then spread on pizza dough. (I have a great pizza dough recipe, too — I will get that on here another day)

Squash Cakes (from the kitchen of Brooke Burgess)

2 cups cooked squash, mashed
2/3 cup Jiffy corn muffin mix
1/2 cup chopped onion (I do this in the food processor to get it finely chopped)
1 egg
1/2 c Canola oil

Mix together corn muffin mix, onion, and egg. Add this mixture to the mashed, cooked squash. Heat Canola oil in skillet, then drop large spoonfuls of the batter onto the skillet, and cook a few minutes on each side until golden. The Sprout LOVES these.

Zucchini Bread (also from Brooke’s kitchen)

3 eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups grated, unpeeled zucchini
3 tsp vanilla
1 c all purpose flour
1 c whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
3 tsp cinnamon
1 c chopped nuts

Preheat oven to 350. Beat eggs and sugars together. Mix in oil, zucchini, and vanilla. Sift dry ingredients together and beat into mixture. Stir in chopped nuts. Pour batter into two greased and floured 9 x 5 inch loaf pans. Check at 40 minutes, but cook for one hour. Best if allowed to cool for a few hours after baking.

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There’s really no accounting for the long gap between posts, other than that the spark of writing inspiration somehow got buried deep in a pile of dirty laundry.

The storm damage clean-up in our yard (which was paltry compared to the heavily damaged parts of town) has been a gradual process. The upside is that I’m now proficient at dealing with all manner of tree men.

We went to the beach. At the time we had a crawling toothless baby.

Two months later I have a toddler with a mouthful of teeth who runs wind sprints with our dog around the back yard.

We had a garden party for the Sprout. She was shockingly delicate with her first bites of chocolate.

If I’m judging by the jars she foraged around for in the pantry this morning and brought into the den, she has now moved on and has a taste for capers and Caesar dressing. [To the worried grandmothers: don’t worry, the bottles were closed.]

The Goose has acquiesced to her new role as the Sprout’s best friend. I assume because of the added perks of the job [read: apricots, cheerios, popsicles].

We went to the lake with sweet friends. Absolutely no fun was had.

Against all my expectations, our resilient garden, after being crushed by a 100 year old oak tree in April, has grown back beautifully. Sprout likes to pick black eyed susans and cherry tomatoes. I am trying to get her to enjoy the squash and zucchini.

Does anyone have a good recipe for homemade spaghetti sauce using your own tomatoes? I have 13 juicy red ones in the window that I’m hoping to transform into some kind of sauce this week.

We ate our first ripe figs yesterday. Hooray. Sprout is eating them by the handful

We’ve enjoyed time with family as they’ve come through town, a family reunion, an unexpected funeral, and through the magic of Skype.

FCL has put in long hours this summer on a big work project, but it has made our time with him that much more precious. One byproduct is that we’ve gotten to scatter Cheerios all over the floor of his fancy downtown office on our visits there. It has also made our sweet neighbors that much more dear, as Sprout and I have spent many nights sharing a dinner table with them instead of eating alone.

So, the summer is zipping by. And on that note I will zip off of my computer.

April is one of my favorite months in the garden. The first roses and peonies bloom, and the green shoots of summer plants seem to grow by inches every single day. Every morning these past few weeks the Sprout and I have gone outside to pick roses. She likes to eat the petals. I can see the appeal – they do smell like they might be tasty.

We had a great resurrection Sunday, beginning with an early morning worship service.

Then, shortly after this photo was taken, the Sprout slipped on the window frame and busted her lip wide open. The human mouth contains a surprising amount of blood. She handled it much better than I did.

We’ve deemed Sunday afternoon officially fort time at our house, so we spent Easter afternoon transforming the couch and den into a pillow and stuffed animal fort. Sprout requested James Brown music to dance to, ostensibly because she was wearing “Hot Pants.”

She has also named her stuffed koala Jethro Tull. Peculiar child. But good taste in music.

It has been a wet, windy day in our corner of the world.

We have a large front window in our old house, and I love that my Sprout is endlessly fascinated by looking out of it. She loves to perch up on the back of the couch with her hands pressed against the glass, staring at the wind-whipped leaves. Even when she’s in her high chair eating she gets distracted, and I’ll catch her perfectly still [a very, very rare occurrence], gazing out the window. Maybe she is a storm-chaser in the making. Maybe if she chooses that career path she will know better than to tell her mother, lest I never sleep another wink.

In other news, I have been battling both a cold and poison ivy. Poison Ivy is winning like 27 to 1 over the cold in the battle of trying to make my life miserable. Its most wily trick thus far was to spread from my cheek to riiiight on the edge of the inside of my ear. Well played.

So, to combat the yuck outside and the yuck I feel, I have been looking at swimsuits. Because looking at swimsuits is much more fun than the grim reality of trying on swimsuits.

Here are some that have caught my eye. What about you? What are some other good sources for cute swimsuits?

at Boden: Jade Two Piece Top + Bottom

Or, this Target Top

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Or, another favorite from Down East Basics

Or what about this bikini top from Old Navy with this black swim skirt?

I also love love this Liberty of London print from J.Crew, but I don’t love the price tag.

And also this one.

… Maybe by the time I work my way into one of these my poison ivy will be gone.

Frozen grapes.

Grape hyacinths.

Green hostas popping up through the dirt.

Rose buds.

Lawyer humor.

Louisiana Strawberries. Strawberry Trifle. Abita Strawberry. Strawberries in the garden.

Cruising Sprout.

Teething Sprout.

New babies. Baby showers. Weddings. Flower arranging.

Bacon, 3 ways.

Sprout’s grandparents.

My grandparents.

New Bissell.

Broken stove.

New stove.

Outdoor dinners.

My parents’ back porch.

Root beer.

Reading.

Umbrellas.

Spring.

We had an oven repairman come check our oven because, among other things, it was 75° off. Now it is 175° off.

I scrubbed, mopped, and vacuumed all the floors in our house, only to find Sprout licking the side of the kitchen trashcan. Twice.

I gave her a bath, dressed her in a brand new dress, and then gave her a teething biscuit. She is now covered in what looks like caked on bread dough from head to toe.

I bought food for a dinner party, forgetting that because of #1, our oven won’t reliably heat above 300°.

I have now been to the grocery store three days in a row.

I finally got the mountain of clean laundry folded and put away in drawers only to notice that the hamper is piled full again.

I looked inside my new cowboy boot to find a pool of spit-up.

Hilarious the repetition, the one step forward three steps back dance of days like this. But I will remind myself that motherhood and the keeping of a home are anything but futile.

We have an oven that (kind of) works. I have a Sprout with a budding sense of humor. I am sure by 2015 there will be ‘smart laundry’ that can wash itself.

And it is in the small spaces, the repetitive tasks, the tone of my voice with the Sprout, the opening of our home to others – that is how I am being called to redeem my part of the world right now. And that is then woven into the bigger Story, which is THE thing that matters.

Dear Birmingham friends, do you need any vases?

I am editing my collection (with the ulterior motive of making room for this or this or this at some point).

None of these are particularly special, but they are in good shape, and I thought I’d offer them up before I toss or donate them.

Any of the below are yours for free if you want them — just let me know!

MARTHA STEWART Living Magazine March 2011 - LIKE NEW

So, I have devoured the March Martha Stewart Living, gardening edition. Holy Moly. It is good. Of course, it also makes me want to convert our entire backyard into garden beds and grow a large money tree right in the center to fund all of my plant-related endeavors. So there’s that.

With seed germination day coming up, I have been reading catalogs, making lists, editing lists, ordering seeds, and thinking. The fact that the arbiters of spring, daffodils and hellebores, have begun blooming in the yard are (kind of) tiding me over, but mostly they are just making me impatient.

I do love daffodils more and more every year.

At first it was just because they were the only bulbs our gophers didn’t mangle over the winter, but now it is an affection based on their own merits. Right now I am staring at 7 daffodil blooms plucked from the yard yesterday in a vase on my coffee table — each one is different. Some have long ruffly necks and others have smaller, dainty proportions. Some smell like sweet vanilla and some smell like laundry detergent.

The variation even within blooms in the same genus and species is a humbling thing, and lends conviction that I should see the differences in PEOPLE as so lovely, interesting, and intentionally creative. The creator is purposeful in all of His creations, and it would serve me well to recognize it.

Too often I catch myself impatiently thinking life would be easier if the people in my life were just like me – there would be no need for arguments, decisions would be made efficiently, we’d be on the same page… yet how colorless would this world be? [And let’s face it, if everyone was going to be the same, we should all be Claire Hardin. Or The Pioneer Woman.]

How much more precious should our uniqueness be than that of my flowers? For WE have been fearfully and wonderfully made.

We spent the weekend away with our dear neighbors at Gorham’s Bluff in North Alabama. If you’ve never heard of it, you should.

Turns out February is the perfect time for a middle of nowhere escape perched high above the Tennessee River.

There was biking, tree forting, picnicking, hiking, dining, reading, curling up by several fires, field frolicking, and cartwheeling.

Lots of cartwheeling.

Our cottage was the one with the bird’s eye perch on top.

Being away with my better half and friends who feel like comfortable family was a refreshing jolt for the winter doldrums.

Here are a couple of yummy recipes we made for the trip.

White Cheddar Pimento Cheese

Especially easy when you use your food processor to shred the cheese. May be made in advance.

1 pound white cheddar cheese, grated
1 small red onion, chopped
2 (4 1/2-ounce) jars pimentos, drained and chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 cup mayonnaise
White pepper to taste

Combine cheese, red onion and pimentos. Mix garlic with mayonnaise, add to cheese mixture; blend thoroughly. Add white pepper and stir well to blend. Serve with crackers.

Lemon-Poppy Seed Shortbread (Claudia Fleming, The Last Course), from Lottie+Doof

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons poppy seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar until creamy and smooth, about two minutes. Add the lemon juice, zest and vanilla and beat well.

In a bowl, combine the flour, poppy seeds, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix until combined. Form the dough into a disk and, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 3 hours and up to 3 days or freeze for up to 2 months.

Preheat oven to 300° F. Roll the dough between two sheets of wax paper to a 1/4-inch-thick rectangle. return dough to refrigerator for an additional 15 minutes. Cut the shortbread into shapes with a two-inch cookie cutter, or use a knife, and place 1 inch apart on parchment-lined baking sheets. Do not reroll scraps, if using cookie cutter. Prick shortbread with a fork and bake until pale golden all over, 23 to 25 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

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Have I mentioned that I love Christmas?

Not the sappy Christmas music on top 40 radio (or even XM — does anyone else hate the XM Christmas music stations as much as I do? ) or the futility of trying to drive anywhere near a shopping mall on a Saturday, but rather, the cozy way Christmas fills up our house.

The sweet woodsy scent of our tree reaches all the way to our bedroom. We get to eat dinner on Christmas dishes every night. (And by dinner last night, I mean cereal. Sorry, husband. At least it was in a Christmas-y bowl.) I love going through an Advent devotional each day, curled up in bed with FCL. And I love the way decorations soften the walls of our house and make me want to stay under a quilt watching Holiday Inn (or this) and drink hot tea all day long.

I’d like to take a brief moment and apologize to Marisa Martin, Jill McCleskey, Katie Witthauer, Michelle Bloch, Katie Dixon, Claire Hardin, Melissa Galbreith, Susan Russell, Courtney Wright, my husband, and anyone else who has ever lived with me during the month of December, for subjecting you to an inhumane number of viewings of this particular movie.

Now back to business. Here are a few other crafts I’ve been working on:

1. Cedar Wreaths — I didn’t want to pay the money pretty greenery usually costs at the garden shop, but I love the look of wreaths and garland on the outside of a home. We have 6 cedar trees in our front yard, so I mined them for branches. Supplies needed: cedar, fir, or pine branches, wire wreath frame (about $1 at Joanns), floral wire, and pliers.

Wind each cedar branch around the wire frame, securing it in two places – at the base of the stem, and again near the end of the branches, so that it lays more or less flat against the frame.

To secure the branches, cut floral wire into two inch sections.

Once each wreath was full enough with cedar to my liking, I wrapped a strand of Christmas lights around each one and slapped them on the windows! Please forgive the ghetto look of the unlevel mini-blinds seen through the window.

2. Burlap and Sparkle — Next, to pizazz up some brownish-gold garland I usually string around a couple of doorways in our house. I used to hang colored ornaments on it, but trying to stay with neutrals while re-using things I already had, I took some plain glass ornaments from Target and stuffed scrolls of cut burlap down into them. This, mixed in with gold and silver balls, lent just the right natural quality to give it some interest.

Clear balls with burlap would be really cute hung from branches collected from your yard and suspended on a wall — or intermixed with branches or clear vases of dried leaves or white fall flowering plants as a table centerpiece.


3. Pine Cone Chair Sash- The last project I tackled was probably the easiest. Supplies: burlap, jute twine, pine cones.

To change up the look of the dining room chairs (which I also use as sewing machine chairs, i.e. this shot) for the holiday, I cut strips of burlap leftover from Sprout’s nursery into long pieces (maybe 1′ x 4′- I didn’t measure at the time).

I then simply looped them around the chair like I was going to tie a knot, but didn’t. Instead, I ran some jute twine under the top row of tines on a pine cone and tied it around the sash created by the burlap. I saw this done somewhere recently with a large jingle bell instead of a pine cone. Cute.

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