Sunflower Lessons

This single bloom was enough to satisfy my sunflower hunger this year.
I found it as a seedling, accidentally sprouted between bricks on the greenhouse
floor—a birdseed spill only partly cleaned up during our spring chaos. 
Admiring its gumption, I transferred it to a pot and expected it to die. 
But it thrived.
It earned an honored spot in a raised bed with the zinnias, 
guaranteeing protection from the roly-poly rabbit mob

What started as accident—completely unplanned, unexpected, and unlikely—speaks its lessons 
to my backyard world daily: Determination. Strength. Perseverance. 
TRUST in the Master Gardener who notices the tiniest seedlings of grace in our lives 
and takes action to deliver an abundant yield.


Hosting Bluebirds

"The bluebird carries the sky on his back." -  Henry David Thoreau

We hosted a family of bluebirds this spring in an 
ancient box on the backyard fence. I was so excited at the 
first sight of them checking out the area.
"I have had more than half a century of such happiness. A great deal of worry and sorrow, too, 
but never a worry or a sorrow that was not offset by a purple iris, a lark, a bluebird, 
or a dewy morning glory."  
Mary McLeod Bethune

Watching the parents continually tending their twins was 
an every-night distraction. 
"What do you want to do tonight?"
"Hmmm ... should we check on the bluebirds?"
"The bluebird enjoys the pre-eminence of being the first bit of color that cheers our northern landscape. 
The other birds that arrive about the same time--the sparrow, the robin, the phoebe-bird--are clad in neutral tints, gray, brown, or russet; but the bluebird brings one of the primary hues and the divinest of them all."  
John Burroughs

Now the box is empty and we never see their beautiful blue 
on our small Kentucky acre. But we hope they'll return next year. 
We added another box in case they bring friends.
These cards, featuring the eastern bluebird, are tiny, signed lithographs 
which used to be found inside boxes of Arm & Hammer Baking Soda
In 1938, these beautifully detailed treasures were collected by bird lovers ... and quickly discarded 
by those who just wanted to "clean enamel surfaces," "boil rat traps," or "put out a fire." 
This collection is for sale in my Etsy vintage shop. Take a look at more photos here.
These suggestions, and others, on the back of every card.


Four-Layer Cereal Treats or Lake House Snacks

If you take your clan to a lake house, they're going to want these. 
This weekend I saw someone in a float, munching one of these
and paddling along with the other hand. Sunshine, water, and a good snack—bliss!
These layered cereal treats are easy to make ahead, look special, transport well, and ...
they're so easy!

Completely line two 9"x13" pans with parchment paper. Coat the parchment lining with cooking spray. 

Gather ingredients: 
1 stick butter, divided 
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
6 1/2 cups plain crispy rice cereal
6 1/2 cups cocoa-flavored crispy cereal
10-ounce packages of mini marshmallows

In a large non-stick pan, combine 4 T. butter, vanilla, and one package of marshmallows over low heat. Stir until the marshmallows are completely melted. Remove from heat and add the plain cereal. Stir until the cereal is coated. Divide the cereal mixture in half and spread each half evenly in the bottom of the pans using a buttered spoon back. Press it gently into flat layers. You should have two pans, each containing a flattened layer of vanilla cereal mixture.

In the same non-stick pan, combine remaining butter, cocoa, and one package of marshmallows over low heat. Stir until the marshmallows are completely melted. Remove from heat and add the cocoa cereal. Stir until the cereal is coated. Divide this mixture in half and spoon it over the first layers in each pan. Using the buttered spoon, spread and press it evenly over the first layers, making the second layers. You will have two pans, each with two layers—vanilla and chocolate.

While the layers are still warm, carefully lift one of the parchment linings with its two layers and place it lightly in the other 9x13 pan, on top of its two layers. Gently slide the parchment paper out, creating four layers. Press lightly to join the layers.  

Cool completely, then use a buttered knife to cut.
*Hint: Use a plastic knife to cut these or any kind of sticky dessert. The treat won't stick to a plastic knife and the pieces will be neat and tidy, with the layers intact.

Sprinkle mini-chocolate chips before you transfer the topping layers and create a yummy filling. Look for strawberry-flavored crispy rice cereal and create a Neopolitan-style layered treat with three layers of color and flavor. The plain cereal will accept any flavor or food coloring to match the theme of a party or event. 


Ready and Willing

A friend gave me this heavy, wooden door, taken from her grandparents' empty home.
Only a few days before bulldozers did their work of subdivision development, 
we walked through mostly-empty rooms searching for 
useful bits of an old life that could fit in the back of her truck.

Last summer, it made the perfect backdrop for my butterfly bush
This year it brings sunshiny-yellow charm to my shade garden.
And a bat lives behind it. 
Do you pray for open and closed doors? It's a recurring theme over here.
Every time I pass it, my friend's door reminds me of these powerful prayer verses. 
"A huge door of opportunity for good work has opened ..."
" ... a door was opened for me in the Lord ..."
"... opening doors no one can lock, locking doors no one can open ..."

I don't know about you, but I've tried to break down a few doors and walked 
away pretty bruised from the effort.
By the same token, I've tried to slam a few that keep creaking open again.
It's good news that a loving Father is in charge of opening and closing the 
right doors for me. So ... if He holds the keys, then what's my job?

I've got to be ready to walk through open doors 
willing to walk away from closed doors. 

I can't be obsessed with a locked door, peeking through the keyhole, 
testing an endless series of secret knocks and creative passwords
And walking away from a closed door is just as challenging as working up the nerve 
to cross the threshold of an open one. The cool breeze of the unknown in my face 
isn't always exhilarating—sometimes it's downright terrifying! 

Walking through and walking away both require one thing: 
Confidence that what's behind a locked door is really, really not good for me and 
certainty that whatever waits beyond an empty threshold is His very best.
What doors are you dealing with today? 

Lord, thank you for holding the keys to every door in my life. Help me recognize and walk away from the doors You close. Give me Your courage to walk  through the doors You open, into the future planned for me. My trust is always and only in You.