Are you a Soaky McSoaker?

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“The treadmill routine of the week is: washing, baking, ironing, fixing dried fruit, airing clothes, sewing, cleaning, baking and cleaning again. So it goes week after week. Eating and drinking, cooking and cleaning, scrubbing and scouring we go through life; and only lay down our implements at the verge of the gravel!…You bake, and boil, and fry, and stew; worry and toil, just as if the people’s principle business in this world was to learn how much they could eat-and eat it.” Jane G. Swissholm, Letters to Country Girls, 1853.

I love Helen Nearing’s book Simple Food for the Good Life. Filled with recipes and pithy sayings, I selected the above quote from Nearing’s book because it sums up my average day.聽I try not to find drudgery in homemaking and consider a skill, a privilege and a science. Our world has belittled the career of motherhood and domesticity. Most of us don’t teach these skills to our children and then don’t understand why our kids can’t take care of themselves, eat horribly and have homes in disarray when they are older. My three sons are ages 22, 18 and almost 16 and they know I’m on a mission to change that. They make a mama proud. God gave me three olive shoots for a reason and in general, I like how they’re sprouting up to be competent, Jesus loving, strong men who can also throw down.

But today I want to write about pre-soaking grains and seeds literally. I am a total neophyte in this arena. A caveat, please correct any of the information I am going to share as my desire is to contribute to the discussion. Add to the conversation also, I want to learn.

But first, did you know about 15 years ago, I had a funny flax seed story published in a book? It’s true! I shall soon share. It’s about Nate, brownies and a little bit of trickery on my part.

Do you want to hear a super creepy story in the interim? I had a friend whose boyfriend had his wisdom teeth extracted. He ate pizza a few days post-surgery. A few days after that, the guy went into the bathroom and screamed to his girlfriend to come right away. She rushed right in and there he was mouth agape. He said, “@*&@!!,” pointed and she spotted it. Back where one of the wisdom teeth had once lived, a tiny sprout had grown in its place! Can you imagine what it would have been like to pull a small plant out of a hole in your mouth! I would have Instagrammed it.

If you thought the only time you sprouted a seed was before you planted it or following dental surgery (!), here are some things to know.

Sprouted seeds

Sprouting biologically activates the seed and makes the plant proteins, essential fatty acids, starches and vitamins bio-available.

Flax seeds are hard for our body to digest. They have natural enzyme inhibitors which prevent digestion. There is much to love about flax seeds – their crunch, color, flavor, even tactically, put your hand in a bag of flax seeds before and after you buy them from Whole Foods and you’ll notice their silky texture. Let’s just say I “know” someone who does this. You’d really like her. 馃槈

Despite a flax seed’s many attributes, though I don’t need a stomach ache. My family will usually try anything I make but if they have a bad reaction or don’t like it, I’m done. They won’t revisit it. Ask them about kale cake. Gigantic epic fail. If you’re sensitive or allergic to certain grains, soak your whole grains beforehand, in a salt brine, anywhere from 7-24 hours and it will probably lessen the symptoms. Oh, and don’t ever make kale cake. Ever.

Use warm water. It coaxes the enzymes out of their little crusty shell. Don’t soak them too long or they will grow bacteria. I think I did this for you, so trust me. Last year I made a batch of granola. I was a Soaky McSoaker and soaked the oats in a mixture of keifer, coconut oil, butter and water. Recipe said overnight but I pushed it a little. This resulted in a granola which brought facial expressions reminiscent of kale cake. I fed the trash can, not the Hubs or my OS that time. Duly noted.

SueGregg.com puts it this way,聽 pre-soaking, “allows enzymes, lactobacilli and other helpful organisms to not only neutralize the phytic acid, but also to break down complex starches, irritating tannins and difficult-to-digest proteins including gluten.”

Here are some great websites with additional information. I’m giving them mad props for their discoveries and information. They’re not quite as humorous but super helpful.

Passionatehomemaking.com

The Nourishing Gourmet

and in case you’re interested in soap nuts, which are not edible but organic, biodegradable and incredible, 100% natural laundry soap, there’s always

Olive Shoot Institute!

Let’s be Soaky McSoakers, kk?

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The girl with the funky arms

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Karen and her hubs

Karen is packed and ready to go to Nepal today.

Tabitha, an “ambassador” for the Guinea Pig Girl doll collection, is with her which is super exciting.

But Tabs (as her friends like to call her), almost didn’t go and that’s because she has funky arms.

I was piecing Tabitha together and fishing her legs and arms out of the side of her fabric frame

When suddenly I see her funky arms

“CRUD!” I think to myself.

Tess the original Guinea Pig Girl doll and Tabitha spend cherished time together before Tabs goes off to live in Nepal.

She looks double-jointed

Seriously

They are so funky Tabitha could be at a state fair in one of those sideshows

or a performer in Cirque du Soleil

“Wow. Tabitha’s got funky arms,” I mutter to myself.

Sitting there on my couch, fairly disgusted at my lack of sewing prowess, crestfallen.

How can I give her to Karen?

But then I heard God’s whisper as He reminds me of a truth. Karen was just a regular wife and mom and now she’s also an anti-human trafficking agent. Through Tiny Hands International, (please, please click here to read about this incredible organization), my friend will encounter many broken people. Tabitha will fit right in.

And then the Lord assured me, I’m a broken girl too. So is Karen. But we are redeemed, precious in His sight. Blameless. Holy. Pure even. In God’s eyes we are saints in fact which is quite surprising considering I’m quite familiar with my flaws. At times they are more obvious than Tabitha’s two funky fabric arms. So it’s all good.

“Let her go,” God said.

But the Lord wasn’t done with me so I espy Tabitha again.

Karen kindly offers Tabitha a few nights in her house to help transition to life in Nepal. Since they will be traveling together, it might be nice to get to know one another. Good thinking, Karen!

“Daughter, look at her funky arms and remember me.”

For聽as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his聽steadfast love toward聽those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he聽remove our transgressions from us.
As聽a father shows compassion to his children,
so the聽Lord聽shows compassion聽to those who fear him.

Psalm 103:11-13

Now I see this Guinea Pig Girl doll differently. Tabitha’s arms are open wide, really wide for a reason. She and Karen must to go to Nepal. Tabitha’s funky arms might bless a tiny hand. Their plane leaves in just a few hours.

Please pray for those I care about specifically聽Karen and JD聽as they are traveling to places far away this week. May their arms and hearts be stretched wide open to offer love and compassion. Let all who encounter these folks find ultimate freedom and redemption only Christ can give.

Thank you, Heavenly Father for teaching me something again today through sewing. I’m no longer embarrassed by Tabitha’s funky arms.

Sew far away – Guinea Pig Girl doll memoirs

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So many beautiful faces just like this one

I had to go to the bathroom.

#1

in the outskirts of Lima, Peru

Dust-covered village, not a porta-potty in sight – understatement

so I ask my translator and soon we’re following a man to his house

Dirt steps, hollowed out rooms, feels kind of like the Flintstones

The father tells his family someone is here and they come out to briefly greet us

Yes it’s awkward

because I have to go to the bathroom

#1

Over to the side is a makeshift curtain

And I step inside and observe a hole on the ground

which I use

This was the common landscape in Lima

And soon I thank the family who has graciously offered a stranger into their house

But in the corner

over to the side

So many moments like this meeting people and sharing the love of Christ – I will never be the same

I see

a doll

that looks like it belongs in a dumpster

but it is in a house

Is this filthy doll a little girl’s toy?

That image has stayed with me, humbling me many days

Years later, I sew and I pray sometimes

“God, use my simple sewing skills for others, keep me open to your ways.”

I wish I had been making Tess the Guinea Pig Girl dolls back then

because I would have given her one

or two

or a dozen

Tess and Esther, Joy and Leah hang out together. On Friday, Tess’s friends will begin their journey to live in Madagascar.

I want the Guinea Pig Girl dolls to go places

Near and far

Mission trips

Operation Christmas Child boxes

Regular places too

To be loved

and hugged

Three of them go to Madagascar on Friday

Esther, Joy and Leah will meet the聽Mahafaly people聽

On Saturday, Tabitha, another Guinea Pig Girl doll, 聽goes to Nepal聽with an anti human-trafficking advocate

Can you imagine?!

Although Tess will miss her greatly, she’s excited for Tabitha and her big move to Nepal.

To bless a little girl or a hurting soul

In my own comfortable land or continents away

My sewing machine feels happy, just wish “we” would have started sooner.

“Heavenly Father, mightily use my human brothers and sisters in Christ. Protect and anoint every aspect of their journey. And for my fabric friends, Lord, whoever receives one of these little dolls, may she receive it with the love with which it was made and sense the everlasting love which only comes from you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

Read more about my friends’ travels here and here, I hope to have some pictures of the GPG in their new homes.

To order a Guinea Pig Girl doll, check out my website at oliveshootinstitute.com.

One of these things just doesn’t belong here!

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My most recent experience with a foreign object trapped in my own body involved a chopstick. I was at our favorite local sushi restaurant and after removing the paper sheath from the chopsticks, I rubbed the tops of them together to enjoy a smooth eating utensil. This was a really bad idea. As my finger slid along the chopstick ever so gingerly, a tiny wood shaving lodged deep inside my finger where it stayed for THREE STINKING WEEKS!


Despite my best efforts, I couldn’t see the sliver nor could I tweeze or soak it out. The Hubs and the OS learned of my sliver woes on a daily, if not hourly basis for nearly a month. Each time my West Point OS called home, I gave him a “sliver update.” I even thought about going to the doctor. And then one day, in a pain I liken to childbirth, the sliver decided to move elsewhere and poof, it was gone. Huh.

oh herro dere, sewing needle! long time, no see!

Many of us have weird corpus alienum stories. Take, for example my cousin’s husband who fell a few days ago. Concerned, Ben went to the doctor and got an x-ray. Ben learned three things that day.  
1. He hadn’t broken anything
2. He had a moderate to severe sprain requiring rest
and 3. (prepare yourselves, friends)…Ben has a sewing needle in his foot. 


Apparently when Ben was a kid, he must have stepped on a sewing needle. It has been living in his heel peacefully for 20+ years.


The post on his facebook has elicited much conversation. I have removed names of people who have commented on Ben’s status but I had to show you what his friends and family have said.


  • That is my lifelong fear.

    Yesterday at 11:29am 路 Unlike 路  1

  • that is awesome!

    Yesterday at 11:31am 路 Like


  • That happened to me when I was 6…stepped on a needle and it broke off…had to have it surgically removed:)

    Yesterday at 11:36am 路 Like

  • coolest thing ever. i hope your heel doesn’t start hurting during bad weather when you’re older.

    Yesterday at 11:37am 路 Like

  • I had a thorn buried in my head for a couple years that I didn’t know about.

    Yesterday at 11:41am 路 Like


  • that’s crazy

    Yesterday at 11:53am 路 Like


  • dude thats crazy..u are the talk of my cubicle group lol.

    Yesterday at 11:54am 路 Unlike 路  1


  • Ur my new hero. This is pretty crazy.

    Yesterday at 12:20pm 路 Like


  •  Do you need a hug??

    23 hours ago 路 Like

  • Man, I stepped on a sewing needle when I was in high school and limped around for a while. After a week, or so it felt beter so I went on about life. Three months later a boil appeared on my thigh and when I popped it I saw what looked like a splinter. I pulled a sewing needle out with tweezers.

    16 hours ago 路 Like


  • I feel like a terrible mother. The sewing needle had to be mine or Grandma’s.

    14 hours ago 路 Like




I can’t figure out if my favorite comment is that my uncle had a thorn buried in his head for a couple of years that he didn’t know about (which explains a lot!) or if it’s Ben’s friend who said he stepped on a sewing needle in high school. The guy limped around for a while and after a week or so, he felt better. Then three months later, a boil appeared on his thigh. When he popped it (sorry about the disgusting word picture!), he saw what looked like a splinter. But it wasn’t a splinter, instead he pulled a sewing needle out of his thigh with a pair of tweezers.

At least one of these guys, (all members of 
my extended family, btw), currently has a 
sewing needle living in his foot. Good times. 

So here’s my question. Do you have a strange splinter, chopstick or a sewing needle story? I’d love to hear about it. I’ll even sweeten the deal, I will write on a slip of paper the names of each person who comments on this post and next Friday, January 27th, I will draw a winner. I will then send the person a little something I’ve made with a sewing needle! I’ll announce the winner on January 28th. If you comment on my blog or on my facebook about this post, you’ll be in the epic drawing!


Wednesday remix – part two, from the middle OS

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My middle OS Aaron is at it again. My arm is no longer confined to a cast and a sling but I relinquish my blog to him so he can continue exaggerating his dolorous journey to the Quilting Symposium. Here is part two which means that yes, there will be a part three. I had no idea he had this much teenage angst!

Mom and I not at the symposium

Fully aware that the decision I had made could possibly claim my life, I rode in the car with my Grandma and very excited mother. We pulled into Peace College and stepped out of the car. My heart pounded, vision blurred, muscles tightened and senses heightened. I became completely conscious of my surroundings as we walked to the symposium. 


I spot a tent pavilion on my twelve o’clock with two ladies guiding us toward the quilts, another middle-aged lady on my nine also approaching the tent, a lady with a small purse on my four o’clock sitting on a bench, a lady on my three o’clock heading to the symposium, a lady, a lady, a lady, a lady. THEY WERE ALL LADIES! Was I the only male in attendance? Was I the only person under 40 interested in鈥 mean NOT interested in quilting? I now stood in a desert, devoid of all teenagers, males and attractive young girls. 

Where had I to turn? I was completely on my own. I carried my mom鈥檚 backpack with all her essential quilt symposium tools and followed her and my grandma to the front desk. The ladies there gave us sheets of paper with all of the vendors in attendance listed. 

Quilty things

鈥淚f you get all of the vendors to sign this, you can enter it in for a raffle prize afterwards.鈥


鈥淭hanks so much.鈥 I wanted that raffle prize badly, but did not have the dignity…or lack of dignity to go to the vendors and ask their signature for my chance at a quilting prize. 

Then the inevitable happened. And I knew it would happen. My mom looked at me, gave me her purse, and said, 鈥淚 have to go to the bathroom. Stay here. Come on, Mom.鈥 

鈥淵ou want me to just stay here?鈥 
鈥淵eah, wait for me and your grandma.鈥

This was where the nightmare began. In the midst of a tornado of frenzied quilters, my mom left me alone to go to the bathroom. I thought she loved me, now she just leaves me here to wither away in my own dark corner of the Quilting Symposium

Someone remind me, what am I doing here???
“I hope they鈥檙e ok. I hope I鈥檓 ok.” With every passing second, I drew nearer and nearer to my impending doom. If it seems like I鈥檓 exaggerating, (and those of you who know me know I am very careful on never being too dramatic) I鈥檓 not. I felt sure they had left me at the symposium. All hopes of a safe return home were now smashed. Goodbye world. Goodbye friends, guitars, graduation, college.            
One of these things just doesn’t belong here!

鈥淭here you are. I鈥檝e been just standing here forever.鈥

鈥淥h, haha, people probably thought you were a little cutie.鈥 Thanks, Mom.


We entered the venue starting with a wall of aprons, of which my favorite was the pastel orange and purple. 

The mother of all machines

Then to giant long arm sewing machine. This was the T-Rex of all sewing machines. The Queen of the quilters. This thing could embroider the southern border of the U.S. We continued on with empty bladders and frenzied nerves.

(to be continued…)

Guest blogger – from the middle OS!

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“What am I doing here?”

i’m typing with one finger on my left arm…it’s slow going so i enlisted the help of my middle OS to write this post. it appears that aaron has his own version of doing hard things! 馃檪 now here’s aaron!

my wonderful mom

Seeing that my mom is at this moment, incapable of typing and, more importantly, incapable of posting embarrassing stories of my family and me on the Internet, I will take the opportunity to tell you a story about my family, particularly my mom and me, through my eyes. 


I am the middle OS, Aaron, and despite all of the stories that you may have read about me, I do think I鈥檓 a pretty good son. I mean, I鈥檓 taking over the blogging responsibilities for my mother while she sits handicapped with her arm in a sling. If that鈥檚 not care, devotion, and sacrifice, I don鈥檛 know what is. So, I will tell you now, the purpose of this blog post is to prove, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that I am a good son. (I would also like to add that I am the best-looking, smartest, and strongest son, However, this hardly needs to be proven in a blog post.)


Last month, my mom came to me with a question, just one question that presented one of the hardest decisions I鈥檝e ever had to make in my life. She walked into my room and asked, 

鈥淒o you wanna go to the Quilt 
Symposium with me next week?鈥 
My first and last time using a free arm quilting machine

I felt like a deer in the headlights, frozen, unable to respond. Being mildly asthmatic, my breath shortened. 

“where is my inhaler???”

My eyes shot around the room for my red inhaler. These were the questions that tortured my mind, telling me that if I left home now, and never married, I could be free from this wasteland of lose-lose situations. I could reply with a quick 鈥淣aaah鈥 and give a bad excuse why I couldn鈥檛 attend. I wouldn鈥檛 have to worry about spending the day in a symposium (whatever that is) of quilters, whom I felt sure, if I went, would kill me, wrap in a quilt and leave on the side of the road; but, my mom would be hurt and angry that I didn鈥檛 want to spend the day with her. On the other hand, I could sound a cheerful 鈥淪ure鈥 and my mom would be happy and excited to go to the Quilt Symposium with me, but I would surely die and spend the last minutes of my short life listening to an explanation of what a free arm sewing machine is and telling which quilt was my favorite and why. 

Still scaling the options to this agonizing selection, all I could respond was a painfully pensive, 鈥淯hhh…ya鈥u…wha鈥hen is it?鈥 as if I needed to check my schedule. This was before I had a summer job and spent my days reading, playing my guitar, mowing the occasional lawn, and watching movies. 

My grandma and me at the “symposium.”
We haven’t quilted anything in our lives.

My schedule was open. At this point, I need to remind you of the purpose of this post: I am a good son. I do not wish you to think that I could not have formulated an excuse to save me from the bloodthirsty quilting monsters, for that would imply that if I said agreed to go, it would not have been out of the sacrificial, devoted, and encouraging love I have for my mother. I鈥檓 clever enough to have thought of something. 


鈥淔riday,鈥 she replied hopefully.

My mind, defrosted by the torching decision looming over me, remembered, in the midst of all the fearful quilters and patterns and sewing machines that danced in my brain, all the things my mom does for me. 鈥淪ure, Mom, I鈥檒l go.鈥


Wow! Did you hear that? He said yes! He鈥檚 gonna go to the Quilt Symposium! What a great, kind, loving, caring, sweet, sensitive, thoughtful, ambivalent, agreeable, self-sacrificing and loving son he is. 

the hottest guy at the symposium…for real

I know, that was my reaction too when I heard it. He really is a great son

(to be continued…)

Defeat and victory in skirtland

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Unless you are my 22 month old niece, if I offer to make you a skirt, say no.


You don’t have to be polite about it either. Really, it’s for the best…

The skirt “prototype”
I’m not sure what compelled me to think that I could do it. It’s a mystery to me. All I know is that a week ago I, without presentiment, asked my friend Becki to help me replicate a favorite skirt and bless her heart, she said yes. Three DAYS of nearly non-stop effort on the part of both of us and if you determine fashion by the wearability and beauty of a garment, let’s just say it’s we’ve got ourselves an epic fail. 



So what do you do with that? Was it all in vain? 


Reasons it was a waste of time…

Approximately 4,000 pins on this dumb zipper

Zippers – correctly sewing a zipper is perhaps one of the most frustrating endeavors of my life. Just as I thought one side of the invisible zipper was good, the other side would be horrible. I contemplated chucking the whole thing, such a mess.


Man-hours – My skirt would cost over $300 if Becki and I were paid minimum wage. I’m not sure it would get fifty cents at a garage sale. :*

“Hi, I’m Nate and I’m
the cutest conehead you’ll ever see!”



I’ve given birth to ALL three of my OS in the time it took to make this simple A-line skirt. And at least during childbirth, I had a finished product. Yes, my OS were gooey and slippery. Nate even had a cone-head but overall I was pleased with the results…three lovely creations.  I’m not able to gloat about my skirt. I still haven’t hand-sewn the waistband. The skirt and I need some space…


BUT, I refuse to say that it was a waste of time and here’s why…

Becki and I on Day Two – optimistic 
and still speaking to each other!

Friendship – despite her own desire to sew, Becki pushed that aside and poured herself into my project. Who does that? She pinned and measured, explained and repeated countless times. She researched and investigated skirt making. She invited me into her home, she drove over to mine. She laughed and shared, commiserated and forged ahead. When I was literally flat on the ground from the emotional weight of the stupid invisible zipper not working again, Becki pressed on. 

A view from the carpet, that’s Becki slaving away



On the third day of our skirt journey, I began taking pictures of the ceiling. I lay on the carpet, far from the skirt because I couldn’t take it anymore. There Becki sat at the sewing machine. Gf faithfully yanked the stitches out of that blasted zipper again as I clicked away on my camera phone and went to my “happy place.” 

Amazing grilled veggies and goat cheese on a bed of greens

And check this out, Becki even made us a delicious lunch of grilled veggies, goat cheese and salad greens. She was the epitome of being a friend and a teacher.


Hope – If left to my own resources, surely I would have scrapped this project.  Many Bible verses traveled in my brain during our time together. This one, James 1:2-4, resonated the most within me.


Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 

A little cherry skirt that will spend more
time in the closet than on my person!

Perseverance finished its work. I collaborated with a person who cared and not just about the skirt but about me.  I may only wear this garment while cleaning the house. Yeah, it’s janky, the waistband is awkward, the seams don’t match perfectly but WE did it. And as stupid as this may seem/seam (a pun for people who love to sew), guess what? I think I’m going to do it AGAIN!