Frugality sometimes sparks my creativity. I've painted two pictures in the past seven months in an effort not to waste what the kids don't use. It's very therapeutic and I really should do it more. The second one (Sunset Tree), which I did last fall, was so thickly layered with paint that I ended up carving it with my fingernail. The first one (Spring Roses) has all my favorite colors (blue, green, pink, red = my cylon song). I gave it to my mom for Mother's Day.
Indian Valley Open Space Preserve in Novato. My husband brought his little Bible and read Psalm 1:1-6 to us. Nothing better than being with family while immersing the senses in God's creation and filling the heart and mind with his Word. It may be brief (especially with young children), but moments like these invigorate the spirit--and when accumulated over seasons of life--eternally impact the soul.
We had the privilege of picnicking on the beach with some friends who have totally got a handle on the staycation concept. They usually travel every summer, but with times being tough they decided to create a tropical destination right at home. All they did was buy a bunch of sand and plunk it in in their backyard, which is already surrounded by water (a swimming pool and a creek).Al fresco dining with sand between our toes, and all we had to do was drive seven minutes. We could actually enjoy this glorious noshing platter because the children busied themselves with buckets and shovels, popping in and out for crackers, leaving us to savor the salami, brie, and artichokes (three of my favorites).I've known these friends a long time but this is the first time we've shared a meal as families, so I had forgotten about our mutual appreciation for fine food. This feast for the fingers (click photo for details) was the perfect preamble to a light supper of sun-dried tomato pasta and a green salad.Our view from "the beach" as the sun began to set (yes, those are wine grapes, and to the left there's a chicken coop -- on our next visit we hope to sample the wine and eggs).This was our first time taking a trip with friends, so it was really nice not to have to go anywhere :)
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My interpretation of simple pleasures can be summed up in a provencal tablecloth: olives, grapes (wine), and lavender. And by inference, cheese. During college, I went abroad, and my forays into the French countryside brought to life the delicious sensations I had had imagined while reading Peter Mayle's A Year in Provence. One thing I didn't get to experience, though, was drifting through a field of lavender. When the children are grown, and we can somehow afford to travel, I want to take my husband, who has never left USA soil, back to the special spots I found in Europe, and to discover new places, including a field of lavender.In the meantime, I keep finding creative little ways to fill my senses (both smell and taste) with my favorite aromatic herb. Here are some of my favorite lavender hacks, recipes, links and more:Mini FacialI do this at night before I crawl into bed with a good book. If I've worn make-up (usually I haven't), I wash my face first.1. Take a baby washcloth (because it's gentle on the skin) and run it under very hot water.2. Squeeze it out and put one drop of high quality lavender essential oil on it. Optionally, add a few drops of rose oil (I like the fragrance combination). Scrunch up the washcloth to distribute the oils.3. Rinse it again in hot water and squeeze it out.4. Lay it over your face and breathe deeply. Do this for about 5-10 seconds or until the washcloth cools down.5. Repeat steps 3 & 4 until the scent evaporates or you've had enough. I usually do it about 5-7 times (approx. 3 minutes).6. Splash cold water on your face to close your pores, and then towel dry gentle.RefresherFill a pump type spray bottle with 8 oz distilled water and add 10 drops of lavender essential oil. I do half lavender, half rose oil, since those are my favorite scents, and because lavender calms, while rose energizes (I'm a wannabe aromatherapist). People with oily skin can do half water, half witch hazel. Store it at room temperature or in the refrigerator. Mist your face for a relaxing invigorating pick-me-up or spray into the air as a room freshener. This might work as a linen spray also.Scented Dryer SheetPut a few drops of lavender essential oil onto a wet washcloth, scrunch it up to distribute the oil, and throw it in the dryer with your clothes.Lavender Garlic Bread (Lavender Butter)I just tried this the other night and it was lovely. I didn't pulverize the buds and I sprinkled the bread with all the ingredients instead of mixing it all in the butter. The entire website is a great resource for lavender lovers.Blueberry Lavender Mojito (using Lavender Simple Syrup)We actually made ours w/o mint (taste preference), doubled the lime juice (the simple syrup is quite sweet), left out the seltzer (we were out), and used ice cubes instead of crushed.Cuppa LavenderThough I'm somewhat hesitant to cook with lavender (aside from the aforementioned moorish bread and this lavender cream cheese I have to try), it seems perfectly suited to being sipped. When the weather gets cooler, I'll shift from mixing lavender accented cocktails to making hot drinks, like lavender Earl Grey tea and even lavender coffee.Culinary and Bath/Body Lavender Products from Matanzas Creek Winery (MCW)I recently treated myself to the the lavender tea (mixture of black tea, jasmine and lavender) and lavender fragrance pot (grapeseed oil infused with MCW estate lavender--see first photo--lavender essential oil, beeswax, and Vitamin E), both of which did not disappoint. Sonoma Lavender Hand CreamI put this on last thing at night and my dry tired hands thank me as we slip into fields of lavender dreams.This post was budding in the back of my mind, but the most recent recipe on Bitten blog, Pasta with Shredded Vegetables and Lavender, made it blossom. I may attempt this, minus the zucchini, since I'm not a fan (unless it's breaded, fried, and dipped in ranch).