Category Archives: Out and about

An Expression of my Gratitude

loveMy sister will laugh when she sees this post. Just this weekend when we took our 2nd annual sister road trip to Cannon Beach, I mentioned how I was over all the gratitude posts everyone was posting on Facebook. It’s not that I don’t like the concept. It is lovely – expressing your gratitude for your friends and family. It’s sweet and we don’t say those things often enough. “I’m just not planning on jumping on that Facebook status bandwagon,” I told her. And yet here I sit at my computer, wanting to write about our weekend road trip and all I feel like writing is an expression of my gratitude for her presence in my life. The Universe has a funny sense of humor. To hell with my plans to resist the trend.

1382845_10202296045348360_2005719498_nI am grateful for my sister. I am grateful for how we still belt it out to 80s tunes and pop music like when we were kids. I love how easy it is to talk to her and how she listens. She listened for hours as I gushed about the new love of my life and I never once saw a hint of annoyance or exhaustion with the topic. She was receptive and all ears.

1395852_10202296049308459_853269252_nI love how she loves up the kale salad I bring as my contribution for road trip lunch. We laugh at how impractical it is, but revel in its deliciousness as we eat it together in a parking lot on the side of the road. She eats every bite and calls it “The Road Trip Lunch of Champions.”

1379305_10202296046748395_1267542930_nI am grateful for how we laugh together, cracking up to the point of belly aches. Rachel hit the nail on the head when she said, “Isn’t it weird how being on the beach just makes you want to run, waving your arms and screaming, like a kid?” We totally did that. And of course, so that we could watch it later and bust up laughing again, she got that goofiness on film. Our kind of silly cannot be contained.

1390613_10202296049348460_1466731682_nI am thankful to be able to call my sister my best friend and I was grateful to have this bonding time together. This weekend away was just what the doctor ordered. If my students noticed a little bit more pep in my step on Monday, they noticed right. I ended the weekend with a full cup and a grateful state of mind. Spending time with a sister like mine will do that.

*All of the pictures in this post were taken by my sister, Rachel Mae…except the one I took of my feet. But I’m sure you probably guessed that. 

Blue Ribbon Fig and Thyme Jam

ribbonOn Friday, the first one of the new school year, I found myself feeling a little run down. I ate lunch and checked the updates on my phone only to find the most exciting message, “Your fig and thyme jam took first place! Woohoo!!!” I bounded into the other room to share the news with my colleagues. It was just the kind of news I needed to boost my spirits and get me to the end of the day.

fig_jamAfter winning my blue ribbon last year, I didn’t know what to expect. I was open to the possibility that it might not happen again and at the same time hopeful that I would end up with another blue ribbon under my belt. I am beyond thrilled that I did. I am beaming as I write this.

Since I can’t let y’all taste the winning jam, I wanted to at least share the recipe. It was a winner even before it won a ribbon.

Fig and Thyme Jam

Adapted from So Easy To Preserve
(a highly recommended preservation cookbook of safe and tested recipes)

Makes about 5 pints

About 5 pounds fresh figs (~ 2 qts. chopped)
3/4 cup water
6 cups sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon dried thyme

Prepare the Figs:

Rinse the figs and place in a large bowl. Pour boiling water over the figs and let stand for 10 minutes. Drain, stem and chop the figs.

Make the Jam:

In a large dutch oven or saucepan, add the figs, sugar, thyme and water. Slowly bring it to a boil, stirring occasionally until the sugar dissolves. Cook rapidly until thick, stirring frequently to prevent it from sticking. Check to see that the jam has reached the jelling point. (Click here for three ways to test if your jam is done.) Once it has reached that point, add the lemon juice and cook for a minute longer. Pour hot jam into clean, hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. *Process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes.

* Follow these instructions for safe water bath canning.


Click here for adorable label ideas!

Postcard from the Mt.Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

chalkThis weekend I went camping – one last chance to get away before the craziness of a new school year begins. It was exactly what I needed.

shadowI went with a special friend who took it upon himself to figure out where we’d go. He picked me up and I got to be a passenger from the moment I got into the car. I didn’t worry myself with where we were going, the route we were taking or which campsite we’d be staying in. I just got in the car and let myself be transported to the most relaxing place I’ve been to in years. 

highwayOn our way out to the Mt.Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest via Highway 2, we made a special stop along the highway that was recommended by a friend. We climbed over the guard rail and shimmied down a rocky trail to an amazingly beautiful river below. It was an absolutely beautiful way to start our outdoor adventure.

streamThe campsite we originally intended to stay at, Money Creek, was full, which sent us off on an hour-long journey to where we ended up staying. This change in plans ended up being the most amazing gift because the campsite we ended up at was a little slice of heaven!

trailI’ll let you know right now that I’m not going to reveal the name of the little campground we ended up at. I’m going to hang on to this special gem – our little “secret” spot. If you ever end up there, you will know.

tentLying on my back in the tent, with the rain flap tucked away, I took in the beautiful canopy above me. I admired how the sun streamed in and hit places on the trees like a spotlight. I tried to take pictures through the screen of the tent to have something to hold onto and share with you. No shot that I took compares with the way it really was. I tried to read the book I brought along, but the quiet beauty of it all distracted me and I found myself staring into the forest-covered sky instead.

mossThe moss hangs down over branches like decorations. We imagined the camp site manager throwing handfuls of moss tinsel on the trees just for our arrival.

Recent rains have added to the water in a creek nearby, causing the waters to rush with a little more enthusiasm. The natural white noise of the raging waters soothed my mind and filled empty space.

smoresI made sure we ate well on this trip, making every meal from scratch. Of all the delicious food I brought, the homemade marshmallows were the food we loved the most. The powdered sugar that the cubes where dusted in charred over the fire like the sugar on a creme brûlée and the insides melted to a creamy perfection. I learned on this trip that s’mores are delicious for breakfast.

selfieI hope your labor day weekend has been as restful and rejuvenating as mine was. I’m sending lots of labor day love your way.

Wish you were here!



“Take rest; a field that has rested gives a bountiful crop.” – Ovid

The Giving Chair

Artichoke seedling on the giving chair.

Artichoke seedling on the giving chair.

On my little porch, there is a little chair. When it was black, it wasn’t much to look at. Now it’s a cheerful shade of yellow.

Succulent babies on the giving chair.

Succulent babies on the giving chair.

At first, it was just a chair, but soon it became a place to exchange gifts with friends and neighbors. The more I share my skills and passion for homegrown food with the community, the more they give back to me. I often come home to find happy little surprises waiting on the chair and I am ever grateful.

Egg cartons on the giving chair.

Egg cartons on the giving chair.

During an egg exchange, when I left eggs for her and she left empty cartons and other goodies for me, my neighbor called it the giving chair. The name stuck and it continues to give.

Figs on the giving chair.

Figs on the giving chair.

Yesterday, a friend dropped off some fresh figs she picked. She left them for me on the giving chair. After a long day of prepping and planning for the first week of school, I put my hair up, got out the water bath canner and got to work making some fig jam. It turned out so good, I decided to enter it into the Puyallup fair this morning. The giving chair might have just given me another blue ribbon! Fingers crossed!

Heads up!

My last canning class of the season, the only one that is not yet sold out, will be this Sunday, August 25th! Have you been wanting to can, but just aren’t sure how? Take this class and I’ll show you how! Click here for more information!