And suddenly we can see the mountains!

Great gusts of wind have accompanied the colder temperatures and suddenly we can see the mountains!  [smile]

I knew “the Parsonage” was perched on a ridge encircled by soft mountains, but we haven’t been able to see them until now.  Directly behind our house is a little wooded area that has been a vibrant green until just a few weeks ago when it mellowed into the yellows and oranges of autumn.  Now that most of the leaves have fallen the outlines of the mountains beyond our little valley/hamlet/cove/holler are visible through the spindly winterized trees.

With every change of the view through our living room window, I think to myself, “This is it! This is my favorite and the most beautiful!”  And several weeks later another phase of the evolving tapestry appears and I can only sigh, “Wow!”  [smile]

Living in Appalachia as fall turns into winter, I feel like I am discovering the changing of the seasons again for the first time.  I think my senses are always heightened in the fall because so much change happens so quickly, but this year living in a new place I feel even more ready to detect the beauty of each little change and surprise that awaits. How wonderful it is to experience the beauty of this created world!

-Margaret

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Reflections from the Road

Well I’m on the road again today.  This is my third trip in about 2 months to ASP’s center in West Virginia and I’m beginning to learn the route.  I am beginning to anticipate when I am approaching both tunnels on I-77 and brace myself for the nervousness I feel whenever I travel through the massive mountain in my path.  I imagine in another few months I’ll comfortable enough with the directions that I’ll even be able to flip off my GPS.

Happily a dusting of snow added a little extra magic to what might have been just a regular journey.   If the Farmer’s Almanac is right, the magic might wear off a little after my first winter in Appalachia.  That traditional trusty weather predictor and the prolific wooly worms are foretelling a hard season ahead.  I know I am probably being a bit naive, but honestly I say bring it on.  Even though I’ve experienced plenty of snow in adventures in North Dakota and the UK, the Georgia girl in me still sees snow as a sparkling and elusive gift. [smile]

I am so excited for my first snow day in “the Parsonage” when we’re both stuck at home drinking hot chocolate eating warm chocolate chip cookies and putting together a puzzle.  [smile]  That vision of the perfect snow day will have to wait a few weeks or maybe a month or so to come to fruition.  The small snow shower doesn’t look like it will bring on the blizzard or ice storm that will keep us indoors for very long yet.  Still the promise of the perfect snow day certainly feels closer than it did yesterday and that is something to get excited about.  [smile]

-Margaret

October was too short…

Life is too short to ice cakes; cakes are good without icing.
Life is too short to read all the church periodicals.
Life is too short not to write regularly to your parents.
Life is too short to eat factory baked bread.
Life is too short to keep all your floors shiny.*

October was too short.  Time passed so quickly this month– so quickly that I just couldn’t keep up with all our happenings here in real time and I must confess I’ve felt a little guilty.  [smile]  But October was too short… Full of little anniversaries of our first date and first kiss and bigger celebrations like my 30th birthday and our first wedding anniversary, October is already a busy month in our household, but happily we added a bit more hustle and bustle with a record total of 7 overnight guests this month (my parents and our seminary friends), the wedding of dear friends in Georgia, and of course Halloween.

Life is too short to let a day pass without hugging your spouse and each of your children.
Life is too short to nurse grudges and hurt feelings.
Life is too short to worry about getting ready for Christmas; just let Christmas come.
Life is too short to spend much money on neckties and earrings.
Life is too short for nosy questions like “How do you like your new pastor?” Or—if there’s been a death—”How is he taking it?”

October was too short.  The busyness of October bubbled over into our lives at work as well.  At the beginning of the month, Caleb celebrated his first baptism and we welcomed four new members to “The Church.”  What an exciting Sunday!  That evening at the prayer class I’ve been teaching, I had a hard time focusing our discussions because so much joy was spilling over from the mornings activities.  [smile]  “The Church” is slowly growing and we are blessed to bear witness.  This was my first full month in my new job with Appalachia Service Project and essentially I spent the whole month establishing and living into new routines.  Since October 1st, I have made trips back to each of the centers in Tennessee, Virginia, Kentucky, and West Virginia.  I have loved discovering how I am being called to be present for these young adults who are serving in these centers.

Life is too short to be gone from home more than a few nights a week.
Life is too short not to take a nap when you need one.
Life is too short to care whether purses match shoes or towels match bathrooms.
Life is too short to stay indoors when the trees turn color in fall, when it snows, or when the spring blossoms come out.

October was too short.  The most brilliant transformation during the month happened to the mountains.  Slowly the greens of summer have been replaced by the yellows, reds, deep purples, and oranges of fall.  It’s really been quite a spectacular show!  We’ve tried to be intentional about using down time to take in the colors as much as possible.  We’ve taken long drives, biked the Creeper, and spent mornings just sitting by the great floor to ceiling window in our living room.

Life is too short to miss the call to worship on a Sunday morning.
Life is too short for bedspreads that are too fancy to sleep under.
Life is too short to work in a room without windows.
Life is too short to put off Bible study.
Life is too short to put off improving our relationships with the people we live with.

October was too short, but I don’t feel like we’ve let it pass by without taking in the fullness of this very special month.  So I didn’t write about it all until now… at least I have the memory of having lived this October in a way that I can happily proclaim with orphan Ann-(with an)-e Shirley that “I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers!”

-Margaret

*Poem by Doris Longacre, the author of the Mennonite cookbook More with Less and the book Living More with Less.

From our table to yours

We have finally gotten back in the routine of menu planning!  Yahoo!  [smile]  Perhaps you think my enthusiasm a little over exaggerated, but menu planning is something that really works for us.  By mapping out at least what we plan to eat for dinner, we are able to stick to a grocery budget and watch our waistlines.  [smile]  I will admit that we don’t always stick rigidly to our plan, but knowing that we have the ingredients on hand for a few specific meals during the week really takes the pressure off the late afternoon dinner decision making.

Since we’ve started back our menu planning process, Caleb has been encouraging me to post a few of our favorite go to recipes.  Particularly because a couple of them have come up in conversations he’s had with friends who read my musings and he’s promised that they would show up.  [smile]  Below is one of our all time favorite super easy dinner recipes and the other is a new treat we’ve been making lately to celebrate the changing season.   Hope these inspire your dinner plans for the coming weeks.

“Easy Stuffed Baked Potatoes”- I usually serve these hearty stuffed potatoes as the entree with broccoli as a side.

Lightly coat 2 baking potatoes with olive oil and coarse grain sea salt.  Place potatoes on a baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for about 40 minutes.  While the potatoes are baking, combine one can of black beans and one can of original Rotel (canned tomatoes and peppers) in a small saucepan.  Cook on low until black bean mixture is simmering.  Remove potatoes from oven and top with black beans.  May garnish with sour cream/Greek yogurt and/or shredded cheese.

“Oven S’mores”- It is very possible that everyone has been making s’mores like this for years, but it’s new to us. [smile]

Line baking sheet with tin foil.  Place half graham crackers on tin foil.  Top with mini Hershey’s chocolate bar and 2 marshmallows.  Broil on high.  Don’t leave these to sit in the oven.  Watch them and remove from oven when marshmallows have reached desired done-ness.

-Margaret

Through my kitchen window: “Zine-urs”

Last week on a quick trip to Lowes for some sandpaper for a project I’m working on, I picked up a hanging basket of zinnas for half off.  The bright yellow-orange blooms were irresistible and I knew they’d add a pop of color to our still in progress front porch and lawn. We decided to hang them just outside the window above the kitchen sink which makes cleaning up after our meals a lot more fun.  [smile]

I love zinnas.  They are bright happy flowers and they remind me of my grandmother Bertha Nell, who I’ve always called “Mom.”  Mom and Pop were my birding and gardening grandparents.  Each summer without fail their mostly vegetable garden was decorated with several rows of zinnas, which my Mom called “zine-urs.” [smile]  A tour of the garden plot was never complete without a walk around/thru the zine-urs that I remember being as tall and taller than me by the end of the summer.  Mom always spoke with such pride about her zine-urs and rightly so her patch of the flowers rivaled any late summer garden spread in Southern Living Magazine.

When it was time for us to leave, Mom would always insist that we take a rainbow colored bouquet home along with as many ripe tomatoes as we could carry.  Inspired by the bouquet whose stems were wrapped in wet paper towel and tin foil, Sarah, Rachel, and I would giggle about Mom’s extra syrupy Southern pronunciation of the colorful blooms for at least half the ride home. [smile]

Mom and Pop are still living but haven’t planted zine-urs for several years.  They are now living in a graduated residential care community where they don’t have a garden plot.  But even though I’ve not actually heard her say zine-urs in years Mom’s is the voice I hear in my head each time I look out my kitchen window at the basket of yellow-orange flowers greeting me.

-Margaret

Why you could eat out of my sink

The war is over and I have emerged victorious!  The fruit flies put up a really great defense, but after a week and a half without seeing one of the little pesky critters I think they are gone for good.  [smile]  So I kid, but only a little bit.  Those awful fruit flies have really been driving me bonkers.  Nothing feels clean when you have a fruit fly buzzing about.

The frustration hit a high about 2 weeks after we moved in when I realized these critters weren’t going to just disappear.  So of course I headed to Pinterest to find recommendations to fill my arsenal.  First, I tried the creating a fruit fly trap with apple cider vinegar, dish soap, and decaying fruit.  The fruit flies hanging out in my kitchen were not big fans.  I don’t think I got rid of any fruit flies from that trap.  After lots of other attempts including leaving a light on overnight to make a trap more appealing, I finally found the pin that lead me to success!

Fruit flies breed in drains. Pour a mixture of half white vinegar half boiling water down the drain daily to stop them at the source. Keep the area around the drain dry. (Courtesy of Everyday Roots)

Ever since reading this I’ve diligently poured boiling water and vinegar down the drain each morning then cleaning the entire sink.  And finally no more flies! Perhaps part of the disappearance of the flies is due to the change in the weather, but I like to think that my daily routine of cleaning the sink was the last nail in the fruit fly coffin.  As an added bonus my sink is so clean that you could eat out of it if that’s something you’re into.  [smile]

So that’s my tip from life in “The Parsonage.”  Happy Tuesday!

-Margaret

Growing in Gratitude: Cooler mornings

The weather is changing.  All around the Tri-Cities this morning communities were waking up to temperatures in the upper 50s and forecasts for sunny days in the low 80s.  It’s not even September and still 28 days away from the autumnal equinox, but fall is almost here.  I can feel it and even caught of glimpse of it’s approaching glory yesterday when Caleb spotted a tree whose leaves were beginning to change– from bright green to yellow and orange.  Though calendars show that fall marks the beginning of the end of a year,  fall feels like a time of new beginnings.  Perhaps its because we’ve been students for so long and every fall marked a new school year.  Whatever the reason, the seasonal change that happens sometime between August and October feels ripe with possibility and promise.

If you couldn’t tell by my waxing philosophical outburst above, fall is our favorite time of year in the Fragwell household and any sign that it’s approaching is greeted with great fanfare.  [smile] This year the first cooler mornings are particularly exciting because they signal the start of my first full autumn in Appalachia.  I can’t wait to see the changing colors in a brand new setting and am already anticipating the beauty of the views surrounding “The Parsonage” that will only be revealed when the leaves begin to fall.

Today I am thankful for cooler mornings.

What are you grateful for?

-Margaret

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Growing in Gratitude: A weekly series on “Daily Musings on Life Together”
The psalmist wrote, “Sing a joyful noise to the Beloved all peoples of the earth! Serve the Lord with a glad heart! Join hands in the great Dance of Life!” (from Nan Merrill’s Psalms for Praying). Join me in this dance each Monday as I practice giving thanks for things big, small, tangible, and intangible. Feel free to count your blessings in the comments.