7. Take Up Gardening

Take Up Gardening | sarahesh.com
Take Up Gardening | sarahesh.com
Take Up Gardening | sarahesh.com

The summer after Herm and I got married I wanted to plant a garden. But up until that point I had managed to kill every house plant and potted plant I owned. So instead I erred on the side of caution, opting to help my mom out with her canning and freezing in exchange for some of the produce.
My mom was generous and I was working full time, which meant I got the better end of the deal. She did most of the work, and we still enjoyed the fruits, or rather, the vegetables of her labor.
My hopes were up again for last summer, I still wanted to try gardening, specifically with raised beds. Spring was a busy season and the beds were never built. I planted a few tomatoes in pots and grew peppers and herbs in among the flowers in my flowerbed... and for that busy season of life, it worked.
As winter was fading into spring this year, I placed my request again for two 4' x 8' boxes. Gardening was on the list so I was determined, this year more than ever before, to make it happen.
My mom lent a few books to me,  and shared some sage advice on what dirt mixture to use and a few other techniques on how to have  beautiful, weed-free, moist soil.
Following her advice I stopped at a local nursery for peat moss and vermiculite, and then worked out a deal: I would muck out my brother's horse barn in exchange for free manure. He didn't argue with me.  Equal parts of those items are what make up the soil in the beds.
Some time, maybe next year, I would like to start a lot of the plants from seed, but this year I picked up all of the plants at local greenhouses. So far I have two kinds of tomatoes, onions, basil, two kinds of peppers, spinach, sage, lavender, and three kinds of lettuce planted.  I would like to plant one more variety of peppers and a few cucumbers in the remaining space. 
My grandma is always generous with green beans and peas and potatoes, so I figured I will get those from her. And squash and zucchini multiply like rabbit families, which means every roadside stand I pass will be selling them for next to nothing. 
I will keep a list of everything I plant this year, and make notes for next year, as I figure out what we want more or less of. 
And in the mean time? Well, let's just say I might be out watching my garden grow. :)
Take Up Gardening | sarahesh.com


Smokey Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Smoky Roasted Sweet Potatoes | sarahesh.com
After the first bite, I knew I was hooked. This recipe would be on heavy repeat in my kitchen, I would use it as a side for everything. If there were leftovers (which often is not the case) I would fry an egg for breakfast and serve it over top of the sweet potatoes for a deliciously healthy start to the day.
The recipe comes for the cookbook, Meals Made Simple by the author of Against all Grain. I absolutely love this cookbook, and would recommend it to anyone who wants to cook healthy and delicious meals without spending hours preparing them. It does fit the Paleo lifestyle, but is certainly not limited to that. (And it does not take all sorts of weird and expensive ingredients, which is one of the main reasons I love it so much!)  

Smoky Roasted Sweet Potatoes

  • 2 pounds sweet potatoes, diced
  • 8 ounces bacon, chopped
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper 
Preheat oven to 400*F.
In a large bowl, toss together all of the ingredients. Spread onto two rimmed baking sheets.
Place in oven and roast for 15 minutes.
Toss to coat potatoes in the rendered bacon fat. Continue roasting for 15 minutes, until the potatoes are crisp.



Currently | sarahesh.com
Reading: Savor by Shauna Niequist
If you've been following my blog for any length of time, you most likely know that I love Shauna's writing. Often she puts to words things I have felt or experienced, but am not able to articulate well. I feel so inspired and encouraged and refreshed after reading her work. So naturally, when her book, Savor, was available to review, I immediately requested it. In the days that followed I eagerly awaited mail delivery and whenever the UPS truck would pull in the drive I would cross my fingers, hoping. Is that all there is? I asked, disappointed again, when Bill, our UPS driver, delivered four boxes, none of them addressed to me. Yup, that's it. You expecting something? A package for your baby? No, I shook my head, just a book. He looked at me, with what he probably thought was understanding and said, Yeah, I suppose you would need books to give you something to do at home all day. If looks could kill, he would have been wounded. But in typical UPS driver swiftness, he was already halfway down the drive, racing the clock to the next delivery, and failed to notice the glare.
After four long weeks, I came home one afternoon to find a small package on the stoop, addressed to me! Excited, I ripped open the box and spent a few minutes lingering, before I needed to head out for the rest of the day, eager to come home and curl up with a hot mug of Chai and get lost in the book.
Savor is different from other books by Shauna in that it is a 365 day devotional. Each day has a Bible verse and a small excerpt to go along with it. A lot of the stories she shares are taken from her other books.
I have been reading through it fast, maybe ten entries at a time, because I am reviewing it. But this will be a book that I keep on my coffee table and go back to time after time. Its beautiful and inspiring. Shauna has done well, again.
Note: This book was courtesy of BookLookBloggers.com in exchange for an honest review.
Loving: Days spent at home when the sun is shining and the yard needs mowed. The thrill I get from mowing the yard is ridiculous. 
Dreaming: To traveling again. Internationally. All three of us.
Wishing: For a few 'key' pieces in my closet. I'm loosely following Un-Fancy's capsule wardrobe for myself. Instead of having four distinct seasons, I decided to mix spring + summer and do the same with fall + winter. I've always had a relatively small closet, but by creating a capsule I have become more intentional about what I'm buying. I'm pretty boring when it comes to fashion, so I want to branch out a bit with a few trendy pieces, things that I always admire but am never brave enough to purchase.
A few of the pieces I would like for spring +summer are: this dressthese sandals, and this romper. Most of my closet comes from consignment stores and Salvation Army, and I don't plan to buy any of these items new, so wish me luck, okay? 
Thinking: About life and friendships. 
The past few weeks have been busy and stressful and tiring. Grief is hard work, it's exhausting. But throw on top of that a toddler who is feverish and clingy from teething, a dog that is very sick, and even the Vet doesn't know what is wrong, a lawn mower that breaks down just days after being serviced... and so on. I'd be lying if I said I'm taking in all in stride. But this week, instead of dwelling on all the gloom that's happened, I keep reminding myself of all the good - the cards of sympathy that arrived in the mail; friends who bring dessert, a delicious French rhubarb crisp, just because they can; a trip to the border to meet my Canadian friend, Lara, for a few hours of shopping and coffee, but mostly conversation; another friend who wakes in the middle of the night and begins praying for me at a time when I needed it most.
Yes, I am thinking about life and friendships. I am so blessed by those who I do life with. 
Listening: To the podcast Serial. Actually I finished the first season in just a few days, and I'm eager for the second season to come out. 
Serial, for those who aren't familiar with it, is a true story, told week by week. The season I listened to was an unsolved crime investigation that took place in Baltimore, MD, in the 90's. 
It is well done, intriguing and suspenseful. 
Watching: My Little Man grow. Someday's it feels like he sprouted two inches over night. What happened to my baby?
Trying: My hand at gardening! Herm built two 4' x 8' raised beds for me a few weeks ago. I begged to muck out my parents horse barn in exchange for the manure, and bought peat moss and vermiculite, and mixed it all together for nutrient-rich soil. Today I plan to stop at a local greenhouse for herbs and vegetables. I am determined to make this work. By the end of summer my can shelves will be filled with the fruits, or rather veggies, of my labor.

What are you currently up to?


Bathroom Reveal

Try not to think too hard about that title. It sounds so awful, doesn't it? I promise to keep the post rated G.
Bathroom Reveal | sarahesh.com
After Herm and I got married my goal was to take his house and make it a little less 'man cave-ish'. He did a really good job keeping it neat and orderly, but the house was lacking a cozy atmosphere. It needed some neutral paint on the walls, a few throw blankets draped over the sofa, and house plants here and there, to liven things up. (I didn't do so well with the house plants, but it's been almost a year since I last killed one, so things are certainly looking up!)
With my 'go-getter' personality,  the entire house was redone. Well, everything except the bathroom. It still boasted grass green walls and cheap yellowed Formica cabinets. 
When I first moved in, it drove me crazy. But I guess I lost momentum, and after painting all of the other rooms in our house, I was done. Simply done. I didn't want to think about another room or breath in any more paint fumes. The green colored walls could stay green. 
Bathroom Reveal | sarahesh.com
Herm, however, grew fond of the neutral shades I chose for the rest of the house, and he kept mentioning to me that we need to do something to that bathroom. 
As work slowed down for him over winter, he decided it was time to start. He ordered a kit to make a concrete counter top, and gave me instructions to pick out the rest - paint colors, a sink, floor samples, and so on. 
We share very similar styles, which makes it fun and easy to work together on projects like this... there is no butting of heads or arguing. We just go with it. 
Originally we were planning to use the existing cabinet, and replace the counter top on it, but once we started on the project, we realized just how cheap the structure was. So Herm, my artist-husband, built a new one.
In the middle of this project, we went on vacation, to a little cabin near Lake Placid, NY. We felt refreshed and had such a wonderful time together as a family, but as soon as we got home, we went back to work. We had less than 24 hours to complete the project before our house was filled with guests. Herm's sister Anne, her husband, and their crew of 7 children were coming for the weekend, and since we only have one bathroom, this was a must!
We divided and conquered. I took over painting - the walls, ceiling, trim, and cabinet; Herm installed the cabinet and counter top, mounted the sink, worked on the silly plumbing, and laid the new flooring. 
Within 30 minutes of completion (other than a few detail things) our guests arrived. And that, my friends, is how you get things crossed off the list. :) 
Weeks later, we still stand back and admire our work. It's such a good feeling to have a project turn out like you pictured in your mind, but it's even better when you're blown away with the end result. And in our opinion, this looks good!

Can I share a quick funny story with you before I let you go?  
I often get complimented on my smile and how white my teeth are. But after I got married, I couldn't keep them white. No matter how hard I tried, they always looked yellow-y. Herm assured me they didn't look bad, but I wasn't convinced. It was frustrating, and I wasn't about to spend a fortune on whitening strips, so I kept hoping for new results with baking soda and regular brushing. I was married and letting myself go, I guess. Well, after the bathroom was repainted, my teeth suddenly appeared brighter too. We solved that problem without really trying too. Grass green reflects yellow hues, folks... Moral of the story: If your teeth look yellowed, paint the bathroom.


When Memories Are All We Have Left

Life can change in an instant. 
Two weeks ago I was thinking about Cheryl, and how I should text her to find out how she's doing, and beg her to come east for the family reunion this summer. It had been years since I saw her, and I had yet to meet her husband and toddler son. She was due four weeks before the get-together. Surely she would be up for an 18-hour road trip with a newborn.
Growing up we were extremely close, but many miles separated us. Life took us to different parts of the country and across oceans. When she married, I was living in Jamaica. And when I got married circumstances interfered and she wasn't able to be there. But we still kept in contact - She was the type of person who, even after long spans of time apart, I could connect with as though we had talked just days ago. She was a kindred spirit.
But I was busy at the moment, and the text was forgotten.
Now, I would give anything to turn back time and send that text. But it's too late.
I met her husband and precious toddler son. We embraced each other, tears flowing, as we stood next to the coffin holding Cheryl and her newborn boy. There is no words at a time like that. Nothing can make it seem okay or dull the pain. How can life possibly go on when all we have left are the memories? 
The past week has been incredibly hard. I feel like I'm gasping for air, desperate to breath again. By now I should be a pro at facing death, as though there is a 6-step plan to grief and after it's complete I just move on. But as multiple people have told me, grief is hard work. Exhausting. Draining. You never completely heal. And I know what Jason is feeling is a hundred times stronger than what I feel. I can't comprehend it.
How do you move on after something like this happens? It feels irreverent in a way to go on with life. Yet, that is what Cheryl would want. She was so full of life and joy. All I have left of her are sweet memories and albums filled with photos. And for all of those memories, I am thankful. 
Yes, the past was incredibly hard, and to be honest, it feels like I am only now starting to grieve. But I've been wrapped in prayers and love from friends near and far, and I've felt it. Thank you.
Life is so precious, don't take it for granted.