07-29-2016

Friday’s TidBit

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This quote was shared during a writing workshop I recently attended and I loved how thought provoking it was.

Enjoy your weekend!

jessica

07-21-2016

The 6th Anniversary of Mat’s Death: Grieving A Suicide (or any death) Takes Time

The 6th anniversary of my brother in law’s death to suicide is this week.

As the week unfolds I am reminded what I need most during pressing times like these is to move slower.
Breathe deeper.
To give myself time to process the grief that wraps itself around you and clinches tight.

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Losing someone tragically, without warning, provides no time for the slow process of letting someone go.

Before we lost Mat, death was, for me, found most often at the end of an elderly person’s life.

Death at an old age seems natural in a way.
The body decays as we age and at a certain point our souls can’t continue on in a decomposing body.

When a 32 year old man who seemed to be thriving in so many ways is declared dead, to say it’s a tough pill to swallow is the same as saying Niagara Falls is just like that tiny creek in your backyard.

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Between “go to the pool so the swim lessons will be worth it” and  “putting up jars of peaches, tomatoes, and figs that occupy my kitchen table”…there seems little time this week to work in grieving.

I am easily overwhelmed when my to-do list stretches longer than “play at the house today”.

When I add ‘grieve for a loved one’ the list aches my soul.

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Relationships are forged over time and grieving works the same way.

We must permit ourselves time to grieve.

Time to process the sadness.
Time to process what was that will never be again.

My friend Amy who lost her mother in a tragic car accident a few years prior to Mat’s death told me…
time will never be the same for you.

Your reference point for the rest of your life will be “post this date”.

She was right.

Even now, six years later, I chronicle events in my head with Mat’s death as the marker of them all.

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It took me two years post Mat’s death before I would be able to write in a journal again.

Me, the girl who’d been journaling since pre teenage years. But to write it down meant I was committing it to reality.

When all I wanted to do was turn back time and have more time and alter reality.

In six years we’ve come so far. {There’s an entire book that could be written here in what happens in being a suicide survivor. That’s actually what they call the family members and friends who’ve lost someone to suicide. Crazy isn’t it? Usually being a survivor of “something” means you actually had the atrocity done to you. But picking up the pieces of a torn up broken into rags life is the atrocity that’s been done, the war wrecked reality you have to wade yourself through.}

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For me, losing someone tragically seems to magnify the loss.

The anniversary seems more poignant, more reminiscent.

And that’s where I find myself today, this week.

Simply needing time.
Time to be slow.
Time to acknowledge what was lost.

Reminding myself that the tomatoes desperate to be canned will be just fine if they end up being frozen instead.
Recollecting it’s okay if my children don’t perfect their swimming skills this summer.
Repeating the mantra to make time for myself so I can be a patient, compassionate, and caring mom and wife.

{There is so much more I could write & say on the subject of grieving a suicide. To sum it all up, you just feel a heavy aching in your heart that this is now reality. I even feel weird posting this. I didn’t write it to have condolences. I am just sharing because it’s what is on my heart and I want to be authentic. Plus, maybe it will encourage someone out there who is grieving a loss. And whether that loss is from a tragic death or from watching a loved one slowly slip away year after year – grieving is all the same…healing from loss requires time to experience and journey through grief.}

Love,

jessica

07-15-2016

Nice, Dallas, Minnesota, Louisiana: When will the bloodshed end?

82 in Nice, France

Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota

Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisana

5 officers in Dallas, Texas

Washing away blood stains on the sidewalks of Nice is someone’s job today.
Blood is dripping on the streets of this planet.

Where do we find solace?
How do we make sense out of any of this?

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There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us….And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother. I John 4:18-21

Love is being kind, patient, tolerant, accepting, looking out for
those whose religion or views doesn’t match our own, those with skin a different pigment than our own.

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Fear invades our soul when mass killings are rampant. When we realize it could happen to us, to those we love.

When I am afraid, I will trust in you.
In God, whose word I praise, 
in God I trust, I will not be afraid. 
What can mortal man do to me?   Psalm 56: 3&4

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When the questions arise, because surely they will.
When having faith feels like walking on eggshells.
When our daily companions are Where are you GOD? WHY? When will you intervene? WHY? 

Remember faith is not only a choice but also a gift from God.

When faith can’t be found on our own, we need to ask Him to help us have it.

There is one God, the Father, from whom are all things {even our faith in Him} and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist. I Corinthians 8:6

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May the hearts of those who grieve today be comforted deeply by the words of Christ.

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace.
In the world you will have tribulation.
But take heart; I have overcome the world. John 16:33

jessica

07-13-2016

Photojournal of Summer 2016: Choosing Contentment in the Messiness of Life

We’ve made it to July 13th which seems equal parts miracle “we’ve survived thus far without siblings killing one another” and equal parts “where in the world has summer gone”?

Every weekend is full of friends and family visiting or taking trips of our own and I am starting to feel like we are careening on a roller coaster that won’t slow down.

Being a girl who not only wants but truly needs a lot of margin in her life, I’m feeling a bit unraveled by all this busyness.

Despite my best intentions to fill our days with minimal cost activities and trips to the beach, we’ve actually spent most week days being very lazy at home.

Just us in our pj’s. Reading books. Getting messy with science experiments. Making lego princess castles.

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Now, don’t let me fool you that it’s all roses and peaches while we lounge around.

Our house is quite messy, sibling squabbles abound, and made beds are a thing of the past – as if they were ever even in existence in my house.

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You may look at these pictures and see joy & fulfillment or you may never see further than the dirt, grime, and mess.

How you look at my pictures – how you take in your own summer – your own spot in life right now,
it’s all in your perspective.

Isn’t that what joy and gratitude are really all about?
They are a choice you make every moment of your life.

You can focus on what you don’t have or spend your moments being thankful for what you do have.

When I can’t find contentment, I pray for God to show me what to give thanks for.  There have been days, months, years when all I saw was darkness, anxiety, and fear. All my life didn’t turn out to be.

But when I pray for an eternal perspective, when I beg on my knees for Him to show me what I do have right in front of me that I never fully appreciate…
He whispers back and nudges me to find the beauty found within the dirt, grime, and mess.

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There is beauty all around you.
I hope you find some today.

jessica

happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn, or consumed.
happiness is the spiritual experience of living every moment with love, grace, and gratitude.
~ spiritual gangster

07-08-2016

Friday’s TidBit: An Easy Trick to Reduce Acidity in Tomato/Spaghetti Sauces

When I started this blog 5 years ago, I really had no clue what I was doing.

I simply wanted to share recipes and encourage other people to live life locally.

Fast forward 5 years and there have been plenty of changes to both the way my blog looks and to how I write.

More & more I write about faith and less & less do I share recipes.

But more than anything, I have this desire to write but writing isn’t always my top priority.

I finally realized though, these thoughts in my head will never be more than just that: thoughts in my head…if I don’t do something about it and simply write.

So here’s my new goal: to write 2 blog posts a week. One post (perhaps on Tuesday’s?) will be deeper/reflective/insightful. The other post (hopefully on Friday’s) will be a fun fact I’ve learned, a quick recipe trick, a quote that was touching to me.

So there it is…perhaps writing down & publishing my goal will help me stay on track? I’ve never been great at habit setting. But if I want to be a better writer, if I want to grow as a writer, then I’ve got to take the first step and simply write more frequently.

Today’s First Friday Tidbit is all about making tomato sauce not have acidity.
Or at least lowering the acidity so it doesn’t cause heartburn.

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I grew up on a farm so it should come as no surprise that I adore tomatoes.

In my mind, summer = tomato.

There’s tomato sandwiches on biscuits for breakfast, BLT’s for lunch, and caprese salad for dinner.

Then there’s the obligatory hours spent in the kitchen canning all those tomatoes so you can enjoy them in the winter.

It’s funny how adulthood rituals are often habits we learned in childhood.

I spent every summer of my childhood canning tomatoes and I’ll probably be spending my 38th birthday this month: canning tomatoes.

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Until recently everytime I had spaghetti sauce or any dish with cooked tomatoes, the acidity would cause the worst heartburn/indigestion. A few years ago, I even went to the doctor because I was worried about chest pains. It’s a bit humiliating when she simply says: I think it’s just heartburn.

Recently at the library I checked out The Clever Cookbook by Emilie Raffa at The Clever Carrot and ya’ll….
did you know you could reduce acidity in tomato sauce type recipes by using butter instead of oil??

It’s the best discovery of 2016 for me!

Her tomato sauce recipe was so simple but SO GOOD. It’s basically just using butter in place of the olive oil I’d normally use but it changed the chemical makeup so drastically that I was licking the tomato sauce bowl clean.

I realize most of us think tomato sauce is very basic and you can’t imagine wanting to drink it. But I promise, her recipe is that good.

I used the trick earlier this week when I made spaghetti sauce and I had no problem with heartburn.

Simply use 2 – 3 TBSP of butter when sauteing onions or garlic before adding in canned tomatoes to make any tomato/spaghetti sauce dish less acidic.

It’s that easy ya’ll. Nothing complicated here in today’s Friday TidBit.

Thank ya’ll for reading my blog and being so encouraging! I hope you are able to find a cool place to be this weekend with temps in triple digits for many people. Thank God for air conditioning!

jessica

07-05-2016

Fine Art and Kids: 3 Tips for Taking Kids to an Art Museum

{Recently I was able to attend a media day for the re-opening of the Gibbes Museum of Art following their 2 year renovation. I was lucky to meet the very talented Merideth Garrigen of A Spot in Time photography. Unless otherwise noted, all photographs in this post are kindly provided by her. Thank you Merideth!}

I know you’re probably thinking…

Fine Art + Kids = NOT A GOOD IDEA

But I promise…
Fine Art at the Gibbes + Kids of any age = A great way to cool off in this summer heat

Whether a Monet or a homemade kid portrait, I love art.

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{
source for these 3 photos: The Local Goodness}

There’s just something therapeutic when you pick up a paint brush and express yourself on a blank slate of canvas.
It’s equally cathartic to walk through an art museum and ponder what the artist was hoping to convey.

But the thought of taking my kids to an art museum can easily send on heart palpitations.
Grimy hand-prints, a kid’s inside voice that closely resembles yelling, feet running down corridors of art…
Enough to make any brave mama pause for a moment to consider her sanity.

But passing on a love of fine art to our kids doesn’t have to be something complicated or evoke fear.

It’s simply being brave enough to expose them to it.

I’ve broken down our local art museum into what kids of different ages would appreciate. While these 3 tips/age ranges are focused on the Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston, I think they can be applied to most art museums in the country.

Take as few kids as you can, pick one exhibit to focus on, and don’t feel bad if you simply enter, enjoy some free AC, and then be on your merry way.

And parents, one note of advice: You may want to only take one kid at a time. 
{I for one can handle one loud talking, hands everywhere, feet running 8 year old. Add a feisty six year old into the mix and it’s simply too much for me on my own. Plus, kids love getting one on one attention from a parent.}

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PreSchooler Age: First Floor
Admission to the first floor of Gibbes is free! Don’t feel bad if you only enter to take advantage of the cooling air conditioning. We recently walked Duval Street in Key West and stopped in at numerous art galleries simply to get a break from the oppressive heat.

On this floor, youngsters can watch artist in residence at work, take part in kid classes, or grab a bite to eat and take out to the garden in the back.

The artist in residence program is really neat because your kids can watch artist create masterpieces and give you an opportunity to ask questions to the artists.
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Elementary Age: Second Floor

You and your kids will be entranced as you walk up marble ensconced steps to the breathtaking rotunda that was previously carpeted. Intricate details on the window trim, previously hidden under coats of paint, has now been exposed with the original walnut stain. {I could go on and on about the renovation changes – it really is amazing that the beauty of the building was there all along – it just happened to be covered up with paint & carpet for decades.}

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The second floor holds a miniature portrait exhibit – the selfies of the 1700 & 1800’s. It’s thought provoking to think before photography was widespread, miniature portraits were how family and friends were held close. In this day of Instagram feeds, realizing the time it would take for a portrait to be painted and then that portrait was your one keepsake of someone – how priceless.

This exhibit left me feeling nostalgic but also blessed to be able to take photograph after photograph of my kids.

Further into the second floor is The Mary Jackson gallery of sweet grass baskets, including a huge piece that took Jackson 3 years to make specifically for the Museum. It is her largest basket ever made. Make sure to ask the Gibbes how they hung the basket using magnets.

Teenagers: Third Floor
This new gallery space is perfect for teenagers and those wanting to reflect on deep intellectual thoughts while viewing special exhibits.

An unraveled Confederate flag. Burnt artwork. Monuments being torn down.

All things to consider as you view The Things We Carry, a contemporary art exhibit focusing on the troubled history of race relations in the American South.

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Words cannot describe this exhibit.
Allot plenty of time to process and reflect on the meaning found in these masterpieces.

We were lucky to have the Museum curator guide us through this exhibit and explain in detail each piece of art. If a tour guide is available for this part of the museum, I highly recommend it.

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So let’s go inspire our kids to be artists!

Be brave, take the kids one at a time if you can {that’s what I’ll be doing}, and check out your local art museum.

Find some AC this week & Stay Cool!
jessica

 

{A huge thanks to the Gibbes Museum of Art for inviting me to their media day. The renovations are stunning and I can’t wait to show their fine art to my children.}

 

05-26-2016

Event Calendar: Summer 2016 in Charleston

I’m one of those mamas who doesn’t believe in the last week of school, so tomorrow’s the last day before summer break for my kids.

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And right about now, I’m feeling pretty good about our summer plans.
Which primarily involves the beach, the library, and the sprinkler out back.

You see, all our summer activities hover around one common denominator: that word being FREE.

So every year about this time, I’m thinking – Okay, this is gonna be the year that I am FINALLY organized with our summer calendar. I’m going to make a master spreadsheet of all the going ons in our town and any time I feel like we are on the verge of insanity (which, in our house, normally happens a few times every day) – we can voila – look at the calendar and find something fun and different to do.

But reality looks a bit more like this…

By June 14th, only two weeks into summer break, I’ll be skirting the edges of a mental breakdown from 24 hours a day with my kids and my house will have turned into pure chaos with no hope of finding out what activites are offered that day.

So this year I finally did it!

I created a master schedule of all the free or minimal cost events for kids in Charleston!

This calendar isn’t about camps, events that require pre-registration or cost a lot of money.

Instead, this is the perfect resource for those…
“I just need to find something happening in one hour or the kids are going to drive me to bedlam” moments.

There is now a link on my homepage called Charleston Events, so you can go directly there to find it.

Please keep in mind the library has hundreds of activities all by itself if you count all their locations. So don’t throw away your Charleston County Library Summer Reading Program Calendar! There are also at least 7 places in the lowcountry that offer movies for kids & families in the summer. I’ve tried adding all the June movies for 3 of the locations and will continue to add the remaining June movies in the next week.

I hope ya’ll enjoy this and it helps you out a little this summer when you just don’t know how to entertain the kids one more day!

jessica

05-24-2016

Encouragement for when personal failures seem to abound…

{On those days when all I can see are my shortcomings & failings, this verse reminds me that ultimately my frailty is what gives God the most glory. I’ve expounded it out in my words. I pray these words uplift & encourage you when in dismay as you walk through your own life struggles.}

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For Jesus says: “My grace Jessica, the grace found in me, that grace IS sufficient for you and your needs.

It was enough yesterday, is enough for today, and it will be enough for tomorrow.

For my power, the power found in the divinity of Christ is made perfect in weakness.
You see, Jessica, my power is exposed when you are weak and cannot bring anything to the table.”

Therefore I, Jessica, mere human – mere speck of minuscule dust in this cosmic environment – will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses – of the frailty found in my impatient parenting, in the weakness of this in control seeking, people pleasing, perfectionist because the weaknesses of my shortcomings cause me to rely on the power found in Christ.

So for the sake of Christ to be glorified above myself, then, I am content with my personal shortcomings, insults against me and what I stand for, hardships I traverse, persecutions I have endured and calamities that never seem to end.

For the times when I am weak on my own, I am ultimately stronger because I have leaned on the power found in Christ.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
II Corinthians 12: 9  & 10 ESV

jessica

04-20-2016

The Benefits of Boredom…Why it’s great if your kid says “Mom, I’m Bored”

There I was, a 14 year old girl stuck in the throes of puberty, navigating S curves on a back mountain road en route to my aunt’s house.

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That dreaded season, aka – tax season, had arrived.

April was again upon us and my parents were driving to my number loving accountant Aunt Judy’s house.

I never understood why I had to go along. Her having daughters much older than myself, there wasn’t much for me to do.

Back in those prehistoric times, before tablets and instant internet access, there were only 3 tv channels to choose from and none of them featured anything interesting to a teenager.

Looking back, I don’t even think she had a tv so there wasn’t much for me to do except “be bored”.

And in that boredom, I spent countless hours reading magazines.

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But CosmoGirl and Seventeen, these were not.

No, instead I got the thrill of reading Mother Earth News and every academic journal you could imagine on healthy organic earthy type eating.

I had no idea what composting was and held no interest in the microorganisms found in collards.

{Kale had yet to become gourmet back then.}

Yet, when push comes to shove – and you have nothing better to do – you read whats in front of you.

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Looking back now, I am grateful my parents made me cross the mountain to go to my aunt’s house.

Blessed I am, that there was nothing to do but read food science periodicals.

Undoubtedly, reading gardening and food magazines helped shape me into being the food lover I am today.

I learned a ton of random cooking tips and helpful hints that even now, 20 plus years later, I incorporate into the foods I prepare on a daily basis.

Did you know that when sauteing onions, you should sprinkle salt on them when they first go into the pan to allow them to ‘sweat’ out some of their natural water – which helps speed up the browning or caramelizing of the onions.

Or this tip…when you add seasonings and salt for soups you should do this in a gradual process throughout the entire cooking time. This provides a depth of flavors that cannot be achieved if you only only add the salt and seasonings at the end. If you only add stuff at the end, it really just tastes salty.

Or…Dried herbs really need liquid and time for absorbing to impart their flavors, so use those in soups where there is plenty of liquid plus quite a bit of cooking time. Try to only use fresh herbs (which cost more) when you aren’t cooking with much liquid or plan to only add the herbs at the end, right before serving.

I learned moderation must be key because
In 1989 eggs were bad but by 1992 they were great.
In 1990 butter was all the rage but in 1991 it was banned.

Even as a teenager I thought it was a bit odd how often different ‘studies’ conflicted each other.
Moderation, not a diet, is the only way to maintain a healthy body.

I learned benefits of raised garden beds and composting methods long before they were hip and trendy.

There is no doubt, my love of food and the geeky studies of food science, is a result of being bored and forced to do something I didn’t want to do.

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Reading what was on hand broadened my horizons and shaped me vastly into who I am as an adult.

Cooking and baking are my two biggest hobbies, hands down.

Nothing gets my time like my kitchen and nothing delights me more than friends at my kitchen table eating a home cooked, from scratch meal.

So the point is.

Allow your kids to be bored.

Allow them to drive you crazy and get used to them saying their friends get a tablet, a smart phone, a new whatever. Accept that you will often hear them yell “life isn’t fair”.

You know what, they are right.

LIFE ISN’T FAIR.

But the earlier you figure that out, the better off you’ll be.

Being bored has great results and unexpected outcomes.

I’m quite sure my parents never worried over my boredom and they had no intentional plans for me to become a foodie.

You may feel as if you are depriving your child if they aren’t constantly doing something FUN. You may feel as if you are doing something wrong if every minute of your child’s day isn’t jam packed in this overscheduled crazy busy society we live in.

But there is a beauty found in curling up in a window box seat with curtains whipping in the breeze as you read something you’d never normally read. Your imagination soars, your curiosity is cultivated, and your mind is exposed to new ways of thought.

No video game
No tablet
No smartphone
can ever win when compared with the lifetime of learning which results from being bored.

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So be brave, you moms & dad’s of the 21st century.

“The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.” Dorothy Parker

Be empowered to take away the digital screen
even if it means they say they hate you.

Don’t feel guilty if you have to force them to go outside,
to play, to rediscover the natural world.

Be bold and hand them a book they’d never normally pick up by choice.

You just might be doing your kids’ future selves a favor.

jessica

 

03-29-2016

4 Easy & Fun Spring Break Crafts

Falling asleep last night, I asked my husband if we could homeschool.  You see, it’s Spring Break in our neck of the woods and that means lazy mornings, pajama clad bottoms, and outdoor excursions of who can jump the highest on the trampoline.

It’s sublime.

That’s exactly what home-schooling is like, right?

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Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) Jared isn’t a fan of me being the kids’ sole educator so back to school in a week they will go.

To be realistic, I’ve heard when you homeschool, you actually have to get stuff done! That’s where I’d have a problem…follow through isn’t my #1 skill.

I like the overall concept of homeschooling {especially the not rushing out the door in the morning} but I’d also be EXTREMELY happy if they’d just shorten the hours for public school. 7 hour work days + almost 1 hour of getting there and back {afternoon carpool lines are LONG in this town of mine} = almost 8 hours a day for kids who should be out exploring the great outdoors longer than the time they spend indoors every day.

I wish legislature would introduce a bill making school only 4-5 hours long. I promise you, you really can cover everything a kid needs to learn in less than 5 hours. But I have zero hope any legislature would ever introduce or sign that bill into being. Not only are there numerous parents reasons that would stand against it, but when the presidential race is as disheartening and low-class as it is this year, there is little confidence I have in government at the moment.

In other news, I’ve begun freelance writing!

I never set out to be a writer. Freshman English was a major battle with victory being anything other than a failing F. Redlined papers were the norm and constantly switching between present and past tense verbs seems to be something I am exceptional at.

But I’ve felt a calling on my heart to write more and when I say calling – I mean – I’ve tried to do anything other than write but yet I can never escape the voice in my head telling me to write. So I write my blog, do occasional freelance writing, and my newest goal is to write for 30 minutes every single day. Not with the purpose of publishing – but simply writing every. single. day.

So to the point of this post…I recently wrote Get Crafty This Spring: Easy projects to try with your crew for Lowcountry Parent. Activities for all age ranges are provided and the activities are not hard. I hope you’ll enjoy some quality time with your kids this spring break (or this summer) as you put together rafts and sailboats, create a zippered pouch perfect for holding treasures like rocks and seashells, or build a zipline for Goldie the Engineer.

{A huge thanks to the local businesses that dreamed up these activities and provided instructions. Huck Finn School. Five Eighth Seams. Camp Perri. Education Station.}

Today’s spring break agenda for us includes taking a nature walk to find the ‘perfect’ sticks for building this raft.

Enjoy your spring break being crafty and making messes with the kids!

jessica