Designing an event from start to finish allows us to create a unique experience each time. Even though the evening has it’s own personal feel, the pieces we’re using for decor are not fresh and new each time. Most of them … Continue reading
Some weeks are full of dinner party prep, others with garden prep. Both equally time consuming and fulfilling. Gardens just stinking amaze me though. You take these crazy small dried up flecks of a plant and burry it under a pile of compost : egg shells, horse manure, last years watermelon rind, soggy spinach, used up coffee grounds, unwanted vegetable scraps. And the seed actually GROWS. Not just into some wimpy little weed…it produces food!
This weekend we spent a lot of time helping our little seeds. We planted a new plum tree in the orchard, tilled and planted the garden beds, watched the kids riding bikes down the drive, painted chairs, played t-ball and soaked in the sun eating dinner on the deck.
Our life is like a little seed. Each seed holding the same potential. It just depends on where you plant it. This thought just kept rolling around in my head. As I was reading articles on the earthquakes in Nepal and the effect it’s having on the rise of human trafficking I kept thinking, ‘why was I planted here and not there?’
I know, it’s a heavy question, the kind that can blind you because quite honestly it’s easier not to ask. Life is full. We have our own unique challenges and sorrows, but you look around at the lovely bits and pieces and can’t help but see the imbalance. We, not just the Welks or CiderPress Lane, but the collective we of our community, this county, our nation, have so much to give that we have to ask the hard questions. We have to keep chipping away at the rose colored glasses that easily slide back over our perspective. It’s the hard questions that allow us to see clearly. They make it possible for us to be so grateful for our own freedom that we are compelled to action.
As our little garden grows this year it’s going to be a continual reminder to keep asking the hard questions. The most important being ‘How can I help?’. Even though we are just a few little seeds, we have the potential of producing a big harvest.
Come join us, there are about a million ways that your lovely life can help make a lasting change on this world.
Don’t be afraid of what you’re good at. Whether you’re not sure that you want what you do naturally, you’re super humble or you feel stuck…it’s fear. And it’s debilitating.
I’ve heard the same compliment for a long time ‘you’re a good hostess’… it translated, ‘you’re really good at being home.’ Yikes, I felt like I was going nutzo just being at home. I didn’t want to be stuck at home. I’ve got big fish to fry and big stuff to DO! How insulting that all I’m good at is hosting….fear. It’s just fear; that I would never be able to do anything different from what I was doing (keeping 3 little humans alive…just that). Fear that maybe I would never work outside the home again. Fear that my reality would forever and always be exactly what it was then : wake up, feed people, clean up fed people, entertain said people, feed those same peoples, clean up those same peoples, pray that all the peoples would nap at the same time, awake again, snack again, entertain again aaaand you get the point.
I love my little people and am so grateful for them. They’ve helped me to see more of who I want to be than anyone else I know. I look at them and say don’t be afraid of who you are. You are powerful and strong. When you land on the part of your heart that defines you, it’s like hitting a gold mine. Living free of the fear of yourself empowers you to be BOLD.
And now there’s this…I hit my gold mine. My heart for people overruled the fear of being ‘just a hostess’. Almost a year ago Aaron and I hosted our first Dinner at CiderPress Lane. At that point I was basically astounded that folks would pay money to come eat at our home. Now after a year of dinners where we’ve served several hundred people and donated several thousand dollars to RescueFreedom.org, I am realizing how powerful this gift is.
So I will say it again, don’t be afraid of what you are good at. Find it, hone it and use it as a mighty weapon against the injustice of our world.
When our kids come home from school they head directly to the red tins : without any purposed intention the red tin snacks have become a staple in our house. I kind of love it. So, when the tin is empty, it’s time to create something new to fill it.
Here’s a super yummy and (shhh…they’re healthy too) muffin, from our house to yours.
Cider House Muffins
3 ripe bananas
1 cup applesauce
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 cups pastry wheat flour
1 heaping cup frozen or fresh blackberries (tossed with a couple tablespoons of flour to lightly coat them)
*coarse raw sugar for dusting the tops
Preheat the oven to 325. Place the bananas, apple sauce and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and blend until the banana is in small chunks. Mix in the egg, then add the baking soda, salt, cinnamon and flour. Mix until combined. Using a rubber spatula gently fold in the flour dusted blackberries (the flour keeps them from sinking to the bottom of the muffin tins). Lightly grease the muffin tins and spoon in the batter to fill the cups 3/4 full. There should be enough batter to make 16 muffins. Dust the tops with coarse raw sugar and bake for 18-20 minutes.
When life feels still and you are doing daily living, the dreams slip quietly in and start to take shape and form. They take root as you take out the trash, wipe up after breakfast, vacuum the floor again, change more diapers, wipe bottoms and noses and tears, make more meals and more and more… You give and give and it feels like it is just all the same. That whatever the dream, it has floated away : and then the sun breaks through and hits the disco ball.
Your dream has been there all along, shifting, changing, stretching…growing – and so have you.
When our kids were all under the age of 4, Parker would sit in the rocker while Maddie and Bella stood on chairs shoved up to the opposite side of the counter and we would bake. Banana bread, spice cakes, maple oat scones, biscuits, muffins, rolls, cookies, caramel squares and any other recipe I could find. It kept me sane, them happy and sugar floated in the air. Their eyes would light up because they could help and I would swallow my desire to do it on my own. It was in those moments that the dream took shape, as I taught our kids how to create.
It seems like forever ago that we were just making it day to day…or maybe that was just me feeling that way. The dream felt so heavy, so untouchable and intangible. All I know is that it was in those times that it took shape.
It’s the quiet dreams that are the strongest, they are the most wild at heart. Never underestimate the dream that takes shape in the dark : it has the power to envelope everything. It has the power to change you.
The sun is hitting the disco ball more these days, and that dream that started to take shape in the dark is reflected into a million different pieces…and now we are putting the puzzle together. I can’t wait to share this dream with all of you.
It is powerful, it is changing me : it has the power to change our community and how together we can change our world.
I am a full fledged goal setting, list writing, calendar scheduling resolutionist. This year, I’ve decided to be crazy and break free of the mold that is so thickly cast around me. It almost makes me feel a little shaky like I really am taking a cast off and my muscles don’t know how to work without it’s support. I just have this crazy feeling about this next year: new things are on the horizon. Not sure what really, but it’s enough of a feeling that I don’t want to confine my thoughts and focus to only what I can see right now.
Here’s what I do know :
we are all getting older. The kids will start a new phase this next year, the ‘all the kids are in full day school’ phase. Woah, that is crazy to even say because I honestly didn’t think I would ever escape the diaper, spit up, up all night years. And just like that, boom…we all survived, everyone is lovely, and caring and enjoys being together (at least half of the time).
we have an incredible life. Even if nothing changed or shifted or grew we just simply have an amazing life.
we get to spend time doing what we love. This right here is the big one for me. When I am trapped and chained and not able to keep my hands and mind and heart focused on the things I love, I start to wither away. The beautiful view I have of our life gets foggy and blurred. So, that’s why I paint furniture and repurpose vintage finds, it’s why we remodel and dig in the garden, spend time outside hiking, camping, exploring…it’s why I cook and we invite people into our home. It’s why we host dinners to fight for other people’s freedom. Because I know how much this freedom changes me, I will gladly take what I love and use it to help others.
If I could encourage you to do one thing this next year it would be to spend time doing what you love, you just never know how it will change someone’s life. Let’s start a revolution of resolutionists, ditch the crazy personal expectations and focus on the things you love. I would be thrilled to hear stories this year of folks using their ‘loves’ as a tool to change the world…so write to me, I want to share your stories!
OK…first things first : hosting a dinner for a large group requires a big time commitment. I’m not going to sugar coat that, but the pay off is worth it. Since we love filling our house with people, we don’t mind the work to make it happen.
With that said if you are going to host a dinner or a party or even just have a large group simply coming over, recruit some friends. The entire process will be a big hang out session and you won’t even realize you just spent two days cleaning, rearranging, decorating, setting up and cleaning up.
In terms of food, if I were hosting a smaller group I would choose 1 appetizer and 1 dessert. For large groups it is nice to have options, and it’s actually just as much work to make 3 different items as it is to triple 1 recipe.
Here’s the latest dinner menu:
Gluten/Dairy Free Stuffed Mushrooms : These are great because they can be prepped the day before! We made half of this batch without cheese so it was gluten and dairy free. If you are leaving out the cheese mix in an egg to help it all stay together.
20 whole mushrooms
2 Tb butter
1/2 of an onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced (or if you have a fine grater or zester, just grate the garlic into the pan)
1/3 pound of your favorite sausage (I like the sage sausage for this recipe)
1/4 cup of corn meal
1/4 cup of parsley
1 tsp Poultry Seasoning (more to taste)
2 tsp Dry Sage (more to taste)
1/2 tsp or more of Salt to taste, check the flavor after you’ve added the parmesan
Directions : Preheat oven to 350
Remove the stems from the mushrooms and set aside. Wipe mushrooms with a damp cloth. Chop the stems to add to the sausage mixture.
Using a frying pan sauté the onion and garlic in the butter, after a few minutes add in the sausage, sage, poultry seasoning and parsley and continue sautéing until the sausage is browned. Add the diced mushroom stems, corn meal, and parmesan cheese and cook until warm.
Place whole mushrooms on a baking sheet. Using a spoon stuff mushrooms with the filling. Top with parmesan cheese and bake in oven for 20 minutes. After the 20 minutes place under broiler for tweo minutes to get extra crispy.
Bri & Apricot Crostini : slice a baguette loaf in 1/4 inch piece, place a 1/4 inch thick slice of Brie cheese on the bread (cut the brie so it is slightly smaller then the slices of bread). Place the bread with the cheese on it under the broiler (on low) until the cheese is melted. Once out of the oven put a small spoonful of apricot preserves on top of the cheese. Dust with a light sprinkle of salt and you’re done! These can be prepped for the broiler the day before, just store them in the fridge until you are ready. Warm these under the broiler 15 minutes before your guests arrive.
Boursin w/ cranberry jalapeño preserves on crackers : you can purchase all of these items at Trader Joes! This is the EASIEST appetizer, break out some cute little plates and cheese knives and you will be the talk of the town.
Wine Braised Roast : I followed this basic recipe and added a few things. I seared the roast in 3 tablespoons of butter with a fresh rosemary sprig. Remove the rosemary before you sauté the onions. I left out the potatoes and carrots. Word for the wise, check on the roast. The crock pots I used must have been much hotter then the one used in the attached recipe, despite the fact that the meat is cooking in a yummy wine broth it got dry! Uggh, so irritating. So, depending on how slow your slow cooker cooks…beware, the meat can dry out.
Rosemary Roasted Potatoes : These can be prepped the day before & don’t be afraid of fresh herbs! If you don’t have access to them, substitute with dry ones. Here’s a good rule of thumb : 3 to 1, meaning 3 Tablespoons of fresh equals 1 teaspoon of dry. And, if you are feeding a large crowd, use red potatoes or yukon gold so you don’t blow your budget. Fingerling potatoes are so cute and dainty, but the price is not friendly for big groups.
Winter Orange Cranberry Mixed Greens : make this recipe really simple by using pre made candied pecans and buying a frozen concentrated orange juice. I found the dressing needed straight concentrate and a few tablespoons of sugar.
Pugliese Bread : hit up Trader Joes, Costco or your local super market bakery for this crusty delicious bread
Serving decaf coffee or tea with dessert is always a win, and you can really wow people by making your own whipped cream. It’s simple, I promise. Buy a large container of whipping cream (it comes in a carton just like half & half), pour it into a bowl and add 3 tablespoons of white sugar and 1 tsp vanilla extract. Beat with a mixer until it becomes stiff (if you would like it sweeter add more sugar, plus the sugar will help it firm up faster) Top the pie, flourless cake and even the coffee with it. After the fresh whipping cream sits for a while it will get a little watery, I suggest making it when you are ready to serve dessert. But if you need to make it in advance, just be prepared to whip it again for a minute if needed.
This year something really amazing happened…our heart for people, lined up with an idea to help, which has turned into an incredible reality. Here’s a glimpse into why we host these Dinners at CiderPress Lane.
Every year it is estimated that nearly 27 million people, human beings just like you, me, and our kids are enslaved. Human trafficking is the fastest growing criminal industry in the world. Generating an estimated $31 billion each year, most of which comes from commercial sexual exploitation. This, this information right here, is what moved us to do something. Anything, to join the fight.
When I look at the faces of our sweet little kids and think that there are children just like them trapped in a life too awful to imagine : I’ll be honest I can barely think of it without tears coming. So, I was wrecked inside and felt paralyzed by the magnitude of the problem. It is just too big. But the feeling that we must do something would not exit my heart and mind. For the past couple years I’ve been throwing crazy ideas out for ways that we could raise funds to join the fight.
Dinners at CiderPress Lane was another crazy idea in the long line of thoughts, but it was just crazy and simple enough to work. So, as we sat in our living room with friends and talked through the possible details, it just made sense. This one lined up with all the things we love and already do. We love people, we love filling our table with friends, new and old, and we love great food. I actually can’t believe we didn’t come up with this idea earlier! We were already doing it week in and week out.
– We host the dinners at our home which we affectionately named CiderPress Lane. We move furniture out and tables in and squeeze as many cars in the drive way and people around the table as possible.
– The dinners are open to everyone. You do not need a personal invitation to come. If the date of the dinner works for your calendar (dates are posted here), simply respond in the event that you would like to come and send a personal message with your contact info.
– All of the money donated goes directly to Rescue:Freedom, an organization that partners with people working around the world that provide long term aftercare for the women and children rescued out of sex trafficking. This means that once the women or children are rescued, they will have a loving community, a home, clothes, food, education and most importantly the hope for a future.
– The dinners are made possible by donations from our community and volunteer help. If you like to cook, arrange flowers, wash dishes, set tables, move furniture or maybe you want to help by donating items from your business or the groceries for the dinners, it is all necessary.
– We have some pretty amazing community partners that have jumped on board to help make the dinners possible. The greatest part is that there are so many businesses doing what they do best and turning their work into a tool to join this fight. For example : Purpose Boutique , changing lives through fashion, Sozo Wine, eat and drink to help others, Cafe Lusso, coffee fighting for change and Love Squared Designs, inspired jewelry that gives back!
Each month that the dinner packs out is another month that we get to make a difference together. Our hearts continue to desire to do more, so we will continue to open our home, and invite you to join us at the table. Your Friday night dinner can change a life forever.
When you sit down to dinner and everyone happily eats, talks about their day and doesn’t whimper, whine or cry as they try and gag down the amazing dinner you just made…that’s what we call a dinner win. And I’m giddy because it’s a dinner Aaron and I want to eat too! Plus, to top it off, it’s simple to make. You might have to buy a few new ingredients initially but I promise you it is worth it! BTW – shout out to my sis-in-law for starting this ball rolling. Lettuce Wraps are now a regular occurrence at our place – thank you KK
Lettuce Wraps, Asian Green Beans and Spring Rolls:
Lettuce Wrap Ingredients:
1 Tb Sesame Oil
1 lb Ground Chicken – marinate chicken in the recipe below
1/2 of a medium onion – chopped
1 can (8 oz) sliced Water Chestnuts – chopped
1 ‘box’ of fresh sliced mushrooms – chopped
4-5 green Onions – chopped
1 head of Iceberg Lettuce
2 tsp Corn Starch
2 tsp Sesame Oil
2 tsp Rice Vinegar
2 tsp Soy Sauce
1 Tb Soy Sauce
1/3 cup Hoisin Sauce
2 tsps fresh ginger – finely grated
1 Tb Rice Vinegar
Equal parts of Soy Sauce, Hoisin and Sriracha Sauce
– I marinate the ground chicken while I’m chopping everything. Mix the marinade in a medium sized bowl, toss in the ground chicken, stir it up and let it sit while you chop away.
– once everything is chopped and ready, saute the chicken in 1 Tb sesame oil (we like our chicken in bigger chunks so I don’t break up the pieces too much)
– remove the chicken from the pan, without wiping out the pan add the onions, mushrooms, water chestnuts and saute sauce : saute for around 5 minutes so mushrooms and onions are cooked through
– add the chicken back into the pan and toss together, when you are about ready to serve mix in the green onions (they only need about a minute of cook time on the stove)
– Serve in the iceberg lettuce with the dipping sauce drizzled over it. We don’t add any extra sauce for the kids since they don’t like theirs spicy.
Asian Green Beans:
1 lb fresh green beans – these only take about 5 minutes tops so throw them on the stove when you are about ready to sit down.
Heat 2 Tb Olive Oil on meduim heat add 1 large Garlic clove sliced and saute in the oil before adding the rest of the sauce and beans
1 Tb fish sauce – you can go with less to make sure you are okay with the flavor
1 Tb lemon juice
2 Tb soy sauce
Mix up the sauce then throw in the beans – put a lid on the pan and they’ll be ready in 3-5 minutes. You’ll need to stir them a couple times during cooking.
Another big win are the spring rolls Amma and Papa introduced us to from Costco – the kids love them. They’re super easy, just pop them in the oven while you’re cooking the chicken for the lettuce wraps. The spring rolls cook for 15-20 minutes at 425 turning them once.
Here’s to your family having a dinner win!
We were so excited when we moved into our house, excited for all of the possibilities and endless projects and in the midst of enjoying life with our kiddos and hosting as many folks as possible we’ve been digging, scraping, painting, planting, trimming, pruning and on and on. I love it. I love making a house a home. I love living in a home where our kids can grow up; it is truly a place of peace.
Here’s one of the ‘completed for now’ projects we’ve finished. This was actually the first thing we tackled, our bedroom. My good friend gave me the advice to complete one space so you have at least one room where you aren’t looking around at unfinished ideas and a to do list. Our bedroom is definitely a sanctuary, I’m so glad we took your advice Kristin!
And come on, who doesn’t love a project where you discover something new about your home. Here’s what our room looked like before, layers of wallpaper which we didn’t realize were covering the bigger prize, wood paneling!
To be fair, the wallpaper wasn’t falling off the wall till I got a hold of it.
And here’s the jack pot – funniest part about it is that there isn’t any sheetrock behind the paneling. Hence the phrase : ‘completed for now’. Eventually we’ll re-sheet rock the ceilings, possibly the walls, pulling up the old carpet, putting in new molding and doors….still lots to do but the finished for now product is pretty close to what we have in our minds.
I have to add this photo, because I was so determined to finish scraping the wall paper that poor Aaron had to go to bed with me spraying and scraping above his head…but hey, a mom’s got to get things done while the kids are asleep!
Beyond the wall paper scraping I found a vintage brass bed frame on Craigslist to add to the new ‘cottage’ look. I’m pretty much addicted to finding old things that I can paint and make new.
word for the wise…be sure you do a coat of primer on metal before you paint. I forgot to do the primer and I’m going to have to repaint the bedframe. There are really great spray primers for metal – don’t forget to use one! With that said, never underestimate the power of a fresh coat of paint.
And the finished product – I really love the way the wood paneling + paint gives the room a Cottage ‘esk’ feel. I’ve contemplated hanging something above the bed but haven’t found anything perfect for that spot. I kind of love the clean simple look. But, if you have any ideas throw them at me!