Fresh Oregon berry crisp- one of the very bestest things about Oregon berry season…some sweet memories and tastiness.

Growing up in the Willamette Valley in Oregon, specifically in Forest Grove, come June 1st we would be released early from school to pick berries on local farms on all kid crews. You had to be going into the 5th grade to work. If you were really fast and hard working, your field boss might recommend you to work on the picker machines. I was one of those lucky kids and teenagers who could earn money for school clothes, spending money, and Christmas money working for a local Berry Farm called Love’s Berry Farm. It was hard work, but we worked along listening to our transistor radio, drinking Pop Shop Pop, joking around, all while making about $1.25-$1.75 a flat. I could pick about 16-23 flats a day, netting me about $1000 a summer after working June days in the strawberry fields and July nights on the picker machine. That was a lot of money during the early 80s and it provided me with what I needed and wanted. It also taught me how to work and work hard. Getting on the berry bus at 5:30am in the summer taught many lessons about constancy, the value of going to bed early, and what earning a living would be like later.


Fast forward about 30 years….. I’m working for this beautiful Berry Farm owned by one of the nicest farmers around, Dave Heikes. He is best friends with Jim Love, the owner of the farm that provided me with work throughout my youth, providing me with school shoes, clothes, college money, and all that growing up entails. Life has a way of coming around in full circle, doesn’t it?  I know these crops- strawberries, blueberries, black caps, raspberries, boysenberries, and all the wonderful foods you can make with them-jam, jellies, cobblers, pies, syrups, milkshakes, and the list goes on. Selling fresh berries is a pleasure and customers come happy and leave happier as they tote off the flats. They enjoy sharing what they are going to do with the fruit. They share similar memories about growing up working on our local farms. This is probably my dream job.


So, berries were a large part of childhood as I know they were a part of yours too if you were raised here. Our grandmas taught us how to make cooked or canned jams, they fed us breakfast berry cobblers or fresh pies for Sunday supper. This brings me to fresh baked mixed berry crisp.


10 Cups of fresh mixed rinsed berries, placed in your favorite baking dishes. Easy peasy.


Don’t look but there is *some* unsalted butter (2 1/2 sticks) added to old fashioned oats, granulated and brown sugar, cinnamon, flour, a little salt, a couple of teaspoons of vanilla…as my grandma would say, “This will cure what ails ya.” She lived to be 90+, so I’ll go with that. 


Mix- you have a buttery, oatmeal, sugary cookie crumble for the top.


Top it while eating some. (Don’t forget that step!)


Into a 350 oven until it looks like….


an angel dropped this down from heaven.


Now we have come full circle again. This is what can be done with these fresh and perfectly sweet Oregon berries. Memories of growing up in the Willamette Valley, working for my current boss’ best buddy, making a fresh berry crisp like my grandma did and ending with a sweet breakfast.

Oh the bounty of life and the harvest. 

Be blessed friends.

Stop and smell the roses…

I’ve been really busy, as busy as a bee. While I have been busy, my flowers have been busy too, putting on their annual display of prettiest blooms. After pruning and watering in the cool of the evening, I stopped to smell the roses and take in all the beauty of the garden. It is my paycheck for all the tending the rest of the year. 


My French and English Lavender is covered in bees.


This rose opened in a triple blossom, making a bouquet all of its own.


Double delight is perfectly named because of it’s lovely scent and the vibrant blush against the creamy center. A double treat for both the eyes and nose.


I love the blush roses because I can’t always commit to just one color. This is a peace rose. I love it for what it stands for and that seems to be what we all desire the most.


Day lillies are named for the fact that each flower that opens lasts for one day and the next day a new one opens, replacing yesterday’s blossoms. This seems to reflect the circle of life. 


Orange day lillies remind me of orange creamcicles on hot July days. I think I might be craving a creamcicle now. Darn! I love how this variety is always reaching for the sun.


This is a new variety of hollyhock in my garden it is a creamy yellow one with a purple eye. The photo color makes it appear white, but it is more the color of buttercream frosting. Now I’m on to wanting a cupcake. Back to flowers. If I were a bee, I would tell all my bee friends about these hollyhocks. The pollen is so thick on these and the bees are always hanging out in them. I wonder if they are sweet, like cupcakes or vanilla birthday cake. ūüėā


Pink hollyhocks with mauve eyes. There is nothing ordinary about these striking flowers. I can’t figure out why so many people can’t seem to grow hollyhocks. I grow a natural fence with a wall of them. They give me no guff and come back year after year. I plant about 6 new ones each spring and so I have hollyhocks every summer. I buy them at Blooming Junction on Zion Church Road. If mine get rust on the leaves, it doesn’t affect their stunning flower show of 5-8′ towering stalks.  ūüĆļ 


Hydrangeas are heavy with their bestest blossoms in shades of lavender, periwinkle blue, mauve and baby pink, and sometimes many colors and shades all on one plant. I love to admire their watercolor like shades and thankfully, they don’t make me think of something yummy. ūüėč well, maybe lemonade, or wedding cakes, or wedding or love and love is yummy in its own funny way. ‚ô•ÔłŹ So back to something yummy. 

What’s blooming in your garden? What do you flowers bring to your mind? 

Ahh summer.

Dear Summer,

I love you.  No, I adore you.   

I love your growing pastures and the horses that play.  

 

Warm night skies that are filled with stars….

Gardens that grow….


Sweet peaches and slow cooked food….

Time to just be.


Love,

Your biggest fan. ‚̧ԳŹ

 

These are a few of my favorite things….

image

What are your favorite things about Christmas?  Is it your tree and the familiar ornaments you enjoy rediscovering each year?  For me, my teenager dressed like Waldo makes me laugh.  image

I love my continually napping dogs, sharing a blanket by the fire.image

I enjoy making soap and other home made items to give as gifts to friends and neighbors.

image

I love sitting around and cuddling the bunnies, while watching movies.  Which Christmas movie is your favorite?

image

My favorite is “It’s a Wonderful Life” because it is and I adore George Bailey.

image

What is your favorite Christmas cookie?  Mine are Russian Tea Cakes, served with Russian tea, of course.

image

Some of my favorite Christmas memories were shared with my grandparents.

image

I always think about them and remember the fun we had at Christmas.

image

I love it it when my family decides to try something non-traditional, like last year’s Christmas dinner. ¬†We had a fresh crab feed. ¬†My grandfather would have said, “This is the best Christmas dinner we have ever had! This is the best Christmas we have ever had!” ¬†He said that every year. ¬†He said that every holiday. ¬†His announcement was predictably positive and appreciative! ¬†We say this in his honor at each meal. ¬†My grandmother would have giggled and said, “Yes Cecil!”

image

My my favorite decorations are my Christmas elves who hang out all over my kitchen. They are seen here working out in front of their gingerbread house. My grandmother’s tree was decorated in all elves like these. ¬†They remind me of her.

image

I could go on forever about my favorite things about Christmas. Christmas is about memories, traditions, music, family, love, remembrance, time spent with loved ones,¬†feeling the joy of the season and for us, celebrating the birth of Jesus. ¬†I love Christmas and I hope your heart is filled and over flowing with joy and happiness. ¬†Celebrate these little favorite and special things and be thankful. ¬†The little things we love about Christmas are truly the most valuable gifts that cannot be bought or wrapped. ¬†I’d love to read about your favorite things.

My Multi-Generational Home

image

It it is all I ever knew. ¬†My mom, dad, brother, grandfather and grandmother all took me home from the hospital. I was “their baby.” ¬†I came home to “our home”- all six of us. ¬†Our home was a custom built duplex in our small town of Forest grove. ¬†I grew up with two kitchens, two living rooms, two bathrooms, two dining rooms, two China cupboards, two sets of washers and dryers, two pianos, two yellow family station wagons, two sofas, two land line telephone numbers (503-357-2605 & 503-357-3918), two sets of parents. ¬†Two sets-one house. ¬†My parents and my grandparents lived under one roof with two addresses: 3333 and 3331 17th Place. ¬†That was our family home. ¬†Almost a city acre, a large garden, room to play with comfortable back porches for picnics. ¬†They built it that way. ¬†They planned it, purchased the large lot and built a home and life together.

image(Insert “a family” for “cities”)image

I would hear other children during show and tell share about “going to visit grandma and grandpa” and I remember thinking to myself , “How sad they live far away. ¬†I get mine every day and all the time.” ¬†I loved having my grandparents right there. ¬†They were warm, generous, kind, active and taught me all sorts of old school skills like canning produce, old fashioned recipes, crochet, how to thoroughly clean a house, how to properly prune a rose bush, how to weed a garden, how to operate a pump and how to properly plan, plant and water a large garden. ¬†I learned how to hem a skirt by hand, how to embroider tea towels, how to know when vegetables and ready to pick, and how to really get a bathtub squeaky clean. ¬†I learned how to cut hair, how to give a permanent, how to properly set a table, how to play the piano, and how warm stewed tomatoes with cottage cheese and toast for breakfast on a frosty morning is actually quite yummy. ¬†I learned that bacon and eggs can be eaten for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

image

My grandfather went into the rabbit business with me, funding my 4H rabbits and hutches. I listened to hours of stories of my grandma’s childhood on the farm and my grandfather’s stories of world war 1. ¬†I truly understood what the Great Depression was like to live through. ¬†I learned generosity to neighbors as my grandfather divided up and distributed all his extra produce to friends and neighbors for free. ¬†There were sacks and boxes and bushels of organic produce for anyone who could use it.image

My grandparents became adoptive grandparents to all the neighborhood kids.  They often would hire us to weed, paying .25 cents a bucket.  They would always give wrapped Christmas presents to my closest friends. They were our audience for our outdoor talent shows and would come running if we fell while roller skating and would patch up our skinned knees and elbows. My grandpa volunteered at local stores as a very genuine Santa Claus and drove the zoo train for many years.  My friends would tell me how lucky I was to have my grandma and grandpa next door. My friends always called my grandparents granny and grandpa.  They loved all the kids.

image

So, this concept of “multi-generation living” is what I know. ¬†I know first hand what a difference having two sets of parents living in my home made in my life. ¬†Two loving sets of parents who were there for you, setting you straight, setting an example, holding you accountable and reinforcing right and wrong. ¬†Living in our single family home feels quite strange. ¬†It feels like I’m away at camp and I never am going home. ¬†Having grandparents living far enough away that you have to drive or call is so foreign to me. ¬†It feels so strange and wrong. ¬†I keep looking to move, not because there is anything wrong with our house, but because I would like to live again in a multi-generational home. ¬†I have found several homes lately that offer dual living. ¬†I want that. ¬†I could care less about how fancy, how big, how modern, how many bathrooms or the year it was built. ¬†It is not that I want more help with my boys because I have passed that stage. ¬†They are more independent now. ¬†It is truly for the lifestyle and camaraderie you get from living with the mixed wisdom of multi-generations under one roof facing life and all the challenges together, every day, every storm and every celebration.

image

Grandmas will often take the tantrum ridden little one off your hands and straighten them up without batting an eye. ¬†Sometimes they feed them chocolate cake before dinner to stop them from crying. ¬†I like that, even though it blew my mind that giving chocolate cake to end a tantrum is quite counter intuitive to discipline. ¬†Grandmothers can get away with it and the child adores them like they were the best person in the entire world. ¬†Grandparents can put the fear into a sassy teen by asking a simple question followed by a long pause. ¬†Suddenly, the point is driven home that “they know” and you best knock that off and now. ¬†I like that too. ¬†When you live in a multi- generational home, this happens daily as things arise, not just on a phone call or visit. ¬†Okay, and we did fight, living in an extended family. ¬†We did tell each other to “stuff it” or “shut your mouth”, but we always forgave, apologized and moved on. ¬†My grandfather once, in a fit of angry feelings, announced he was moving to Mexico and we all burst out laughing, including him. ¬†Mostly because he didn’t care much for Mexican cuisine and then we imagined what he would look like in a sombrero. ¬†We were all nuts fallen from the same tree, but quite happy to be facing life together.

 

image

My grandparents lived long and full lives.  They were surrounded by love and they were the matriarch and patriarch of our family.  It seems to me that their happiness and contentment about how we lived together helped to make their very long, active and healthy retirement so enjoyable and so full of life.  It was a life lesson about caring for your loved ones to the end.  I saw courage, Faith, love and cohesiveness on a daily basis in our home.  I saw people who could disagree and settle matters in a family meeting in one of our living rooms or at our dining room table.  There were never grudges or arguments that lasted longer than 15 minutes.

image

So, I continue my daily life, with the disconnected lifestyle we are living, feeling like I’m walking a marathon with shoes that are two sizes too small. ¬†We call, we have visits, my boys ask continuously when grandma and grandpa are going to come stay for a while. ¬†They miss my brother’s family who lives in Colorado.

image

I am hard wired for togetherness.  It is part of my brain chemistry to cling to family, to care for loved ones, to absorb the words and wisdom of another and to go about life with the wisdom and charm of those older than myself.  It has been programmed and hard wired into every fiber of me.

image

I will gladly care for my parents until the end. ¬†I watched my mother and dad care for my grandparents and vise versa. ¬†I hope I can provide the same. ¬†Meanwhile, I keep looking for a multi-generational home for our future blended family. ¬†Don’t be too surprised if one day we pick up and move. ¬†Now you know why.

image

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tea, gardening, literature, planting seeds…

image

As a homeschooling parent, I have always found that a child’s interest is the best way to fuel the desire to learn. ¬†Now, before you think we don’t have a curriculum, don’t lose your minds thinking I’m depriving him of typical curriculum, textbooks, theme papers, grammar, spelling and traditional tests, quizzes and a LOT of busywork. ¬†I’ll be honest here, we skip busywork as soon as the concept is solid, but that’s another topic. ¬†Because we homeschool using an Oregon public school online option called “Oregon Connections Academy”, he gets all the traditional textbooks plus enhanced curriculum in literature. ¬†All of that is fine and good and he has learned so much by following a traditional “grade level” curriculum and even has the opportunity to be in a TAG section based on test scores, so his work is tailored to his level. ¬†We like it and are motivated to finish up the daily scheduled lessons and assignments so we can go crazy and follow HIS interests for learning, like his Hobbit model he built last spring.image

I come back to the topic of tea. ¬†Let me explain how we have come to tea. ¬†We have been reading stories that are British like “The Secret Garden” and the tales from Beatrix Potter. ¬†Peter Rabbit’s mama rabbit gives him two teaspoons of chamomile tea as medicine. ¬†Mary and Dicken stop playing to have tea. ¬†Tea is prominent in these stories and tea is interesting to him. ¬†It began with wanting to try tea. ¬†We have dug into our garden dirt and after visiting the garden stores, he has discovered that one can grow and harvest tea from Chamomile and ¬†peppermint. ¬†So, we prepare and amend soil, and plant seeds. ¬†He designs wooden screens to dry tea leaves and chopped flowers. ¬†He leads, I follow. ¬†His interest towards a goal fires his desire to learn and plan how to accomplish a goal. ¬†His intense interest fuels his love of reading more of the stories we are reading. ¬†He is bringing to life elements from the stories. ¬†He is engaging with the characters and inviting a little of their world into his. ¬†He becomes captivated and this is how learning is a beautiful experience, fueling love of learning. ¬†This is “The good stuff”, the fire in the belly that I can only hope he’ll be able to apply to a passion for study in college and into adulthood.

image

Should I tell him that growing tea and drinking tea is not for boys? ¬†I do believe that is what our popular American culture would tell him. ¬†He certainly knows that it is not true because a lot of men drink tea, garden and enjoy growing things. ¬†Should sexism become a judgmental cloud over what he truly wants to learn? I don’t force hobbies on my boys and Brady comes to gardening naturally. ¬†He has a peaceful nature, an “old soul”, patience beyond measure and has a lovely way of tending to things long term. ¬†He has a talent for art, piano, and writing. These are all qualities I admire in him. ¬†These are all “factory installed” qualities. ¬†My older son is quite opposite, taking no interest in gardening or birds or bunnies. ¬†He LOVES camping, hiking and being very outdoorsy in other ways. ¬†Both boys are growing into their natural selves. ¬†We have chosen fertile soil for planting seeds of interest. ¬†Let me explain.

image

I homeschool because I enjoy seeing my kids grow organically into the person they already were when they came into this world.  As a trained teacher I found one dynamic about traditional school that seemed prominent is the hammer and nail tendency of group learning.  If you are holding a hammer and you see a nail sticking up a bit, your tendency is to want to hammer down the one nail that sticks up.  I think people who are allowed to grow into their genuine self without being hammered down are happier adults.

image

I know a lot of adults who have spent a lot of their adult life trying to accept their true and genuine self. ¬†They often share stories of judgement and rejection by peers and adults at school and home. ¬†Those judgements can often become heavily engrained and damaging to self esteem. ¬†For us, we have found a certain freedom in being able to watch our boys follow their true passions and desires without judgmental peer pressure of what is and what is not “cool”. ¬†We just “go with it”, follow where there is motivation for learning and take that where it leads.

image

Brady has learned hands on science about plants, soil composition, fertilizer, worms, helpful and harmful insects, weather, growing tea, cooking, herbs, landscape design, and long term responsibility. ¬†And because we chose to do school differently, we have time to learn this way, follow passions for topics to learn about and follow those pathways to deeper learning as far as they will go. ¬† Please don’t get me wrong. ¬†I understand that so many people cannot afford to pursue this option and I am extremely grateful it is an option for us. ¬†I also know that not all schooling options work for all kids or all parents. ¬†For us, it’s beautiful and has been lovely for certain seasons of both our boys lives.

image

Parker and I studied an entire year from the fall of the Roman Empire to the Renaissance.  When it came to diving into Shakespeare, I saw the spark.  We spent 5 days in Ashland seeing some of the plays we had studied, particularly Julius Ceasar.  We saw the single most fantastic performance of Julius Ceasar I have ever seen, where the Roman ruler was portrayed as a woman and set in a mixed time period, even a bit of Seattle grunge costuming.  I saw his interest grow and intensify.  This spring, his high school english class is reading Romeo and Juliet and again, I see him enjoying another masterpiece in literature.  I feel so thankful I had the time and opportunity to plant the seeds for a love of Shakespeare, during a time when there were not peers telling him differently.  I was able to sow seeds in healthy, organic soil.  I see the growth of those seeds that we planted so carefully together.

Looking forward to some home grown tea this summer. ¬†Looking forward to a beautiful harvest some day. ¬†This quote seems beautifully appropriate today. ¬†Plant seeds, instill confidence and let those passions lead wherever they may lead. ¬†Remind your children that you love them just as they are. ¬†Then, remind them again. ¬†And again. ¬†That’s the best fertilizer ever.

image

 

Sunny, spring days, summertime thoughts & Mr. MacGregor’s Garden…

image

Spring blossoms are bursting forth, awakening memories of the bounty of summer crops.  You cannot find a better apple than local Gravenstein apples.  They make the best applesauce, apple butter and pie filling.  I canned about 30 pints of applesauce  from these local beauties.  We are down to our last few pints.  My boys will eat a chilled pint in one sitting together.  It is fantastic added to a cake or muffins and so savory when served with grilled pork chops.  If the crop is good this year I hope to put up double the amount this year.

image

Brady and I have been busy planting our small bunny garden patch. ¬†We put in six tomato plants and will have a continuous supply of lettuces, radishes, carrots and yummy salad veggies. ¬†We’ll stagger our plantings and will continue to renew our rows all summer. ¬†Our little garden can actually produce a lot more than we expect.

image

This year our yard is to be featured on the friend’s of historic Forest Grove garden tour on Sunday, June 1st, 1-4pm, ¬†so we’ve decided to transform our bunny garden into Mr. MacGregor’s garden. ¬†Fitting with the beloved Beatrix Potter story, we will have a little scarecrow with a small blue coat, little brown shoes and a proper Scottish Tamoshanter. ¬†If you look closely, you may even see Peter or Benjamin Bunny hiding in the garden.

image

Brady is also working his magic miniature gardening skills in a fairy garden, gnome gardens and a three bears cottage garden. ¬†We hope you’ll consider coming on the tour and will come see our gardens and say hello. ¬†Friends of Historic Forest Grove help preserve the history of our town, give grants for restoration of historic homes and help FG remain a beautiful place.