Princess

My house is a castle, kept perfectly clean. Meals are always on time and come out looking like a magazine spread (cooked from scratch of course). My children are dressed to the nines, playing quietly on the living room floor. I am the mistress of my castle, everything is just as it should be. Then I reach up, adjust my crown, and then I’m snapped back into reality. It’s almost 2:30, I’ve been so busy with homeschool and playing I’ve lost track of time. I’m just now putting my lamb chop in the oven to bake for lunch. My 4 yr old daughter is sitting at the table eating her mac n’ cheese (yes organic) and my 6 month old son is screaming in the living room. I hurry and get the lamb in the oven, go scoop my son into my lap and try to distract him with blocks. He makes it very clear that the only he is interested in is nursing. So I settle onto the couch, prop up my feet, and turn on Little Men. Ahh…a few minutes to relax, until my 4 yr old spills food all over her new outfit. Oh well, I can dream. I love my life and appreciate all the blessings God has given me. Although I strive to be Christ-like I am no where near perfection. In fact I hate the terms super mom and cookie-cutter mom. I am just pushing through life the same as you. I hope that this blog will inspire you, and I would love your input as well. Happy reading!

Frugal Meals

So I was hoping to be able to do a post of what my shopping trip was like and what we ate this past week. That is just not going to happen. The fruits have been sick, so Mr Vine and I have been dashing to the store when we can, but not any real formal shopping trip.

I thought that I would share some of the ideas that we typically use.

Breakfast: Oatmeal (made fresh that morning or overnight in the crock pot), homemade granola (lightly doused with milk or a dollop of yogurt), pancakes, dutch oven pancakes, coffee cake, toast, or french toast (on rare occasions).

Lunches: Leftovers, soups, pasta, loaded baked potatoes, pbj, hummus sandwiches, quesadillas w/ re-fried beans and rice, grilled cheese, homemade pizzas, breakfast for lunch, hot dogs, dal and rice, and lunch meat sandwiches (rare occasions)

Dinners: pasta, tacos, fajitas, chili. chicken and rice casserole, bean/ sausage/ spinach soup, lasagna soup, taco soup, white chicken chili, 2 meal roast (split into 2 meals 1 pot roast other bbq beef, or Asian beef w/ noodles), chicken Caesar salad sandwiches, Egyptian Lentil Soup, Sausage w/ peppers & onions (served w/ rice or couscous),Swedish meatballs, risotto, gnocchi, philly steak sandwiches, beef stroganoff, and blts.

Snacks: fruit, yogurt, veggies & dip, cheese, bread w/ butter, popcorn, and homemade cookies

Meal Planning

I’m going to be up front and honest, I hate meal planning. It is so laborious. I am not the type A person, I can be to some extent, but I love to have the freedom to go with the flow. The freedom to give in to the whims of my cravings. When those cravings come a knockin’ it’s hard for me to ignore. This has been one of those weeks, nothing has sounded good. I’ve slugged my way through the week, and to be honest I have slipped up big time this week. Oh well, today is a new day to start fresh.

So when I do meal plan I give myself grace, I think that is where I failed this week. Having a few ready to go meals (preferably homemade, so much cheaper!) stocked in the freezer or pantry help when the day gets away from you or your original meal no longer sounds tasty.

I use a method which is referred to as reverse meal planning, when I am not on a kick to clean out the freezer and pantry (more on how I adjust for that). I use to meal plan by picking all these fabulous meals, that would call for gobs of ingredients I didn’t have on hand (thanks pinterest!). I would dutifully write out my grocery list, filled with items that I would only use a fraction of (spices, exotic veggies/ fruits anyone?) Then after a week or so these moldy odds and ends would get pitched or the spices shoved in the back of my spice drawer to be forgotten. My grocery bill was crazy! So I tried a new plan.

On Sundays I get the circulars of the local grocery stores delivered (free!) to my house. After church I take a few quiet minutes to peruse them. I jot down all the food that we like that is on sale and at what store. Now for those of you that hate shopping at multiple stores, I don’t blame you, but sometimes (when your budget is tight) you have to. Thankfully I can typically go to 1 store and get everything I need. Once I find the sales, I look at what I currently have to see what I can make based on what I have and what is on sale. I make a meal plan based on this. I do take to pinterest if my creative juices get clogged (I guess you redeemed yourself here pinterest!)

That is it! So basically unless an item is an absolute staple (i.e. milk, butter, eggs, etc.) I will not purchase it if it isn’t on sale. For example: I hardly ever pay more than $1.99/ lb for chicken breasts. In fact I know that if I am patient enough I can get chicken breasts at my favorite store for $1.77/lb. When they run that sale, I stock up baby! I love grassfed beef, but it is so EXPENSIVE! Again at the same store they will run it on sale for $3.99/lb (everywhere else sells it for $6/lb), I even was able to get it for $2.99/lb onceūüėÄ I won’t pay more than $2.99/lb for roasts (beef), but I live for when they put it on sale for $1.99/lb.

This is where knowing what items typically cost when not on sale, and what the typical sales are, comes in handy. Again I am not a type A personality. I love lists, lists do not love me. In fact they typically run away from me….er get lost…or thrown away or destroyed by the fruits. So if you are like me and you are blessed to have a smart phone, take a picture. Sounds nerdy I know, but it works. Someone recently asked me if the organic maple syrup at Costco was cheaper than the regular maple syrup at Trader Joe’s. I didn’t know! I hadn’t looked at their maple syrup in a while, in fact I hadn’t been to Trader Joe’s in a few months. As fate would have it I need to go to TJ’s a few weeks later. I took a picture of the maple syrup with the price listed below. Then on my next trip to Costco I compared the price. Costco was $2-$3 cheaper! I was so glad that I took that picture because I had run out of maple syrup that week.

So what do you do when your money is really strained or you just need to come up with a little extra cash? Cut the groceries of course! Typically you have to cut money some where (or make more income) and groceries (when you are already on a bare necessities budget) is what gets cut. I sat down and meal planned 4 weeks worth of meals based on my freezer and pantry, then allotted myself $50/ week. It is similar to the above, but the emphasis is on using what you have 1st before buying the sale items. Typically I have my meal plan already written out based on what I have before I even look at the sales. So my grocery list is mainly staples (milk, eggs, etc.) and then only fruits and veggies that are on a great sale. As a sample here is what I purchased this past week:

12 lbs chicken breasts ($1.77/lb!), asparagus, peppers, lettuce, peaches, 2 pineapples, bananas, onions,  3 boxes of pasta, 1 rotisserie chicken, soda (yeah bad habit that needs kicking), and baby food.

My total was $60 for this week, I allowed myself to go over because of the sale on chicken breasts. I only had enough food to get through the 4 weeks on $50, but I really needed to get through 6 weeks. Purchasing the extra chicken will allow me to do that, thankfully my wallet also had the room to allow it. Wait! No milk?  I have cut down on the amount of milk that I serve my children per day, so now I can make a gallon of milk last longer than a week. They each get one small cup a day and we might have to skip a day of milk, but they will live! They still get plenty of calcium from cheese and yogurt that they eat throughout the week. Again cheese is bought in bulk from Costco, so I only need to purchase 1x a month and the yogurt is every other week deal.

I think that about covers it! How do you do grocery budgeting? Do you meal plan?

Happenings on the Vine

Life has a way of just flying by. The last time I was on here, I had a miscarriage of our beautiful baby. I miss that child with a fierceness! There were many health issues as a result of the loss that had to be dealt with. I am so thankful for my health physicians. I was on the road to recovering and a few months later, we were blessed with the news that we were expecting again. This newest fruit has been a blessing and a joy! Our family has been growing by leaps and bounds. We have eldest fruit, the 2 littles in the middle, and baby fruit.

We didn’t put in a garden this year, much to my dismay. The groundhogs came back in the spring and it just wasn’t worth it to see all of our hard work eaten again. We enjoyed visiting u-picks this spring. I took the product of our labors and made a lot of jam….and I mean a lot of jam! Pretty soon it will be apple picking time and I will be able to put those up as well.

Eldest fruit has completed the 3rd grade. I am so proud of her and all of her accomplishments! The eldest male fruit (aka one of the littles in the middle) will be joining us this fall for kindergarten. I am looking forward to this year’s school, it looks to be a fun one! We have switched to Tapestry of Grace and I am excited to see how it fits our family. On the homeschool front I have decided to help start up a new homeschool community. I am in charge of communications via facebook, pinterest, and instagram. God has great things in store for this community! We have been blessed by the number of families that He has drawn to us.

On the debt front, we have hit our $6000 medical deductible this year. It is almost completely paid off! The insurance is now kicking in and paying 80% of our medical bills (yeah, kinda stinky). August and September are our busy months, debt reduction has been put off in favor of school supplies, school books, and fall clothes. We have decided to take a vacation this year and trying to keep it as frugal as possible. In order to come up with the money that we need, I have drastically reduced our grocery budget. I haven’t been able to stick to it 100% I went over by $4 the first week and $10 this week, mainly due to poor planning on my part. So what put us over? I decided to take the children out on an excursion, but I didn’t have any snacks ($4) and baby fruit has gone through a growth spurt, putting a run on baby food ($10). Thank goodness for Big Lots! I was able to go there and stock up on organic baby food ($.30-$.50 each). The only caution I have about buying food from there is to make sure to check the expiration date and plan accordingly. So by now you may be wondering what our grocery budget is.

$50

Yes that is right, I am attempting to feed my family of 6 on a budget of $50 a week. It has been more like $60 though. I am going to try to plan better so that I can get my bill consistently down to $50. No I won’t be able to afford everything organic, but I will do my best and I will feed my family real foods.

So that is what has been going on around the vine. What have you been up to?

Psalms Prayer Day 2

Why do the nations rage and the people plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying, “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.” He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. Then He will speak to them in His wrath, and terrify them in His fury, saying, “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.” I will tell of the decree: The Lord said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” Now therefore, O kinds, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him. Psalms 2:1-12 ESV

How do we kiss the Son? I was blessed to be taught by a man on great faith, that we kiss the Son when by declaring His Words to him in prayer.

Dear Jesus,

Let us today kiss You with Your holy words. Many of our brothers and sisters are being killed for their faith. Just as You proclaimed Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all the nations for my name’s sake (Matthew 24:9 ESV) Thank You that You are our King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Thank You for Your Word says He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. And He who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.: Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are thrustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. (Revelation 21:4-7 ESV)

Lord we wait for that day when all these temperal things shall pass away and You make all things new. You are our God and we are Your children. Thank You that You give us water from the spring of life, without payment. It is only through Your Grace, not anything we have done or can do. Thank You for being the beginning and the end. For what You start You finish and we can trust in You, for whatever You say, You do. Send Your Comforter to our brothers and sisters. Remind them of Your Word, of Your promises.

Soften the hearts of those that rage and plot in vain….against You and Your anointed (Psalms 2:1-2 ESV). Help us to Love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5 :44 ESV) instead of pursuing anger, bitterness, or revenge. For Your Word says Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vegeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; of he is thirsty, give him someething to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”¬† Do not overcome by evil, but overcome evil by good. (Romans 12:17-21 ESV) Lord this command goes contrary to our flesh, our human nature. Only through Your power can we do this. Thank You that You are the one who stands as Judge, for You are holy, worthy, and true!

Amen.

Praying for our brothers and sisters- Day 1

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is the law of the Lord, and on His law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the the judgement, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish. Psalms 1:1-6 ESV

Dear Father,
Thank You for planting us by streams of Living Water. Let the life that Living Water brings us, come to fruit in our lives. Bless our brothers and sisters that are being persecuted for Your Name sake! Bring about the fruit of Your Peace and Love in their lives. Bless them and keep them Abba God! Let Your Word be sustenance to their souls. Thank You that through Your Son we are made righteous, for there is no other way. Lord, as Your Word says let the wicked be as like the chaff that wind drives away. Drive the wicked away from Your loved ones! Just as Saul on the road to Damascus, let these wicked oppressors be blinded by Your light. May they know You as Saul did and change them as much as You changed Saul to Paul. If you can change this zealous killer into a man after You, so You can do the same to those that now persecute Your children.
Amen.

God Bless Betty Crocker (circa 1961)

My poor husband has been really busy and up until now all the snow we’ve had was powder. The snow shovel we have is perfect for it, but then 2 weeks ago we got snow with freezing rain. Our driveway isn’t exactly covered in ice, but it isn’t exactly snow….When shoveling it comes up in slabs. The little fruits have had fun making forts out of the stuff, it stacks really well! Unfortunately our shovel isn’t up to par. Hubby did a great job of clearing a path to get the cars in and out more easily. Then this weekend our van starts acting up and hubby spent all weekend getting it fixed. Today I felt bad that he didn’t have time to go get a better shovel.

As I looked out over the driveway I thought how it would be nice to surprise my husband when he gets home with a cleaned off driveway. So early this morning I went out to the garage and got the snow shovel down. I soon realized how much it took for hubby to clear the path that he made. Now that path was again covered in more snow! Determined I went back into the garage and started perusing all the tools hanging up. Spying a landscaping tool, I grabbed it down. I thought “Self this looks like the perfect thing to clear the driveway with” So began the saga of clearing off the driveway.

It was going well, I re-cleared the path that my husband had made and was working on the other half of the driveway. Neighbors slowed down, some waved and some simply watched. I thought “Self don’t we just have the friendliest neighbors?”¬†These were the neighbors that had the right kind of shovel or hired someone with the right shovel to clear their driveways. Then the mailman handed me the mail “Getting tired of all this ice?” Why yes, yes I am…..I attacked the big pile of snow ice at the end of the driveway with a vengeance. In a mighty thrust, I drove the landscaping tool in to break up the snow ice. I easily tugged out the handle and noticed something was amiss as I went to drive it back in. “Self, did we just break husband’s landscaping tool?” Why yes, yes we did.

 

Broken edger :(

Broken edgerūüė¶

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Uh oh….perhaps I will just tell hubby that my anemia got the best of me and I gave up. I surely was tired and perhaps I could buy a new edger before he noticed. After all he won’t need it until spring…No better to face the music (think Beethoven Symphony number 9). So I thought to myself “Self we better go inside and clean the entire house so that it is spotless and it’s a good thing there are left over cupcakes (lemon chiffon from my mom’s Betty Crocker cookbook)for hubby surely has a sweet tooth.” So that is what we did.

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Then I prayed “God bless the 1961 Betty Crocker staff” Amen.

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Of Comfort and Love

Cheery flowers

Cheery flowers

Have you ever been sick or in a stressful situation? I think the majority of us would say yes. If you are one of the lucky few that hasn’t, then count yourself blessed! It is in times like those that your friends and loved ones can be such a comfort. From kind words, prayers, flowers like the beautiful ones above, food, or just plain being there. When difficult times come, the little things make you feel so loved and blessed.

Recently I have been through a difficult time, and I have never felt so loved! I was surrounded by prayers from my friends both near and far, I treasured them so much. I received several sweet cards and flowers. I had friends and family help with the children. This was so helpful allowing me time to rest and heal. I also received scrumptious food. While I wish that I had thought to take pictures of all that I had been given, the memories will be ones that I cherish. I might not remember exactly what was given, but I will remember the love by those that gave. Like a hug, spreading warmth encompassing your whole being. The physical effect might fade, but the feeling stays like a the memory of snuggling under a favorite blanket.

parmesan chicken, garlicky green beans, lemon dilly carrots, and a brioche roll

parmesan chicken, garlicky green beans, lemon dilly carrots, and a brioche roll

When I came home after surgery my throat felt scraped and raw. Simply taking a shower left me feeling like I ran a marathon. The warm comforting chicken noodle soup not only soothed my tender throat, but warmed me by the tender expression of friendship. The velvety potato soup and sweetly spiced rice pudding brightened my day. While I am not eager for the opportunity to return the favor (I don’t wish illness or sadness on anyone), when life eventually happens (as it so often does) I will eagerly return or pay forward the love. Hopefully when the next opportunity presents itself it will be for a blessing (like a new baby or adoption)!

a delish chocolate Bundt cake

a delish chocolate Bundt cake

Have you ever been delightfully spoiled as I have? Or perhaps you were the one to spoil someone else? What are your favorite memories? What are some of the meals that you like to share with people?

Hungry, Hunrgry Sourdough Tutorial

Yesterday I raved about my new New England Sourdough. I also shared how I am terrible with following written instructions, so I thought to share a tutorial. Now your sourdough starter will undoubtedly come with instructions of it’s own. Please read them carefully incase they are different than the ones from Cultures for Health. Here is a basic tutorial on how to feed your baby sourdough starter. Like all babies they are hungry, hungry, hungry!

For this tutorial we will stick with a 1/2 cup of sourdough starter.

For this tutorial we will stick with a 1/2 cup of sourdough starter.

Place your starter in a non-reactive bowl.

Place your starter in a non-reactive bowl.

Pour in 1/2 cup of room temperature water. The water can be slightly warm, but not hot or cold. The extremes can kill your starter.

Pour in 1/2 cup of room temperature water. The water can be slightly warm, but not hot or cold. The extremes can kill your starter.

Stir the starter to incorporate the water. It will look like a sloppy, cloudy mess.

Stir the starter to incorporate the water. It will look like a sloppy, cloudy mess.

Add a scant cup of flour to the water sourdough starter.

Add a scant cup of flour to the water sourdough starter.

Stir again to incorporate all the flour.

Stir again to incorporate all the flour.

Now the starter will look wet and lumpy.

Now the starter will look wet and lumpy.

Cover with a paper towel or a tea towel and place in a warm area. It should be at least 70 F, but no more than 85F . Trying to save money on heating? Place the bowl in a cold oven and turn on the light. The light from the oven should keep it sufficiently warm.

Cover with a paper towel or a tea towel and place in a warm area. It should be at least 70 F, but no more than 85F . Trying to save money on heating? Place the bowl in a cold oven and turn on the light. The light from the oven should keep it sufficiently warm.

New England Sourdough

After my last post, I received my New England Sourdough Starter from

Cultures for Health. Now I’ve tried sourdough a few times before without success. I researched trying to find the easiest, most forgiving sourdough, because face it I had all but thrown in the towel. Finally I found this starter and was encouraged by the reviews. I have found it to be everything that the reviewers claimed. Now on a side note, I did manage to kill this sourdough, through no fault of it’s own. Thankfully I had some starter saved back in the fridge and was able to make a new batch.

So my starter arrived in the mail in this cute little box with instructions. I have to admit, I was hooked. Unfortunately I am not one for following directions, somehow something always seems to get lost in the translation. I did great the first couple of days. I discarded everything but 1/2 cup of starter 3 times before I realized I didn’t have to do that every. single. time…..see lost in the translation! Thankfully I had set the excess aside in the fridge. My goal was to use the excess to make sourdough pancakes and sourdough crepes . However my plans were for naught.

The night before I was going to make the pancakes, I started hemorrhaging from my miscarriage (it wasn’t complete at that point) and had to be rushed to the hospital. Thankfully after almost 24 hours, a procedure in the ER, followed by a surgery, I was allowed to go home. Unfortunately I lost a lot of blood and was suffering from acute blood loss anemia. So I spent the rest of the week in bed. Finally on Friday I felt strong enough to venture into the kitchen and much to my dismay the starter was dead. Now before you judge me, I had at that point known we lost our baby 4 weeks prior. I had time to adjust and mourn our loss, and at that point needed some normalcy for my own sanity. I wasn’t very hopeful that anything could be salvaged. I scooped out some of the reserved starter and fed it. Much to my amazement it grew!

Refrigerated sourdough starter

Refrigerated sourdough starter

Now I know everyone deals with grief differently, but for me the sourdough has been very therapeutic. I have to nurture the starter for it to grow, and experiment with it to produce anything worthwhile. In turn it allows me to nourish my family, which somehow produces a sense of satisfaction. It is something that I can control, when so much in my life has been beyond my control lately. The children have also really gotten into it and love helping me feed the starter or bake with it. Sourdough has become a family affair!

Into the oven (no heat, but oven light is kept on)!

Into the oven (no heat, but oven light is kept on) we go!

While I have yet to try the pancakes or crepes, I have tried other delicious recipes with success. I can’t wait to share them with you! I hope that you enjoy them as much as we have. Do you like sourdough? Have you ever tried growing your own starter or baking with one? I would love to hear your experiences or try your recipes!

6 hours later we have a beautifully fed sourdough, ready to be used!

6 hours later we have a beautifully fed sourdough, ready to be used!

Growths and Pruning on the Vine

So many things have happened since I’ve last been on graftedvine. I decided to try another blog, break out of the rut that I had gotten myself into. Turns out a change of scenery didn’t help all that much. I¬† need to be true to myself, write what is relevant to me. Before I tried to write what I thought my readers would want to see, what would draw more people to the blog. Unfortunately that was a complete drain on me. So my goal this year is to share me, my life, my hopes, dreams, and failures. What you see is what you get. I hope that someone will enjoy it, but if not that’s ok. This blog is for me, not for others.

So some of the highlights from 2013: Baby fruit is walking, talking, and climbing. Nothing seems to be wrong with her spinal cord (praise God!) Eldest fruit completed the 1st grade, it was crunch time over the summer to make sure that we covered everything. Honestly I think the crunch was my fault, trying prove that I can do home school. hah! Middle fruit is growing like a weed and just adventurous as ever. We took our first family vacation in 5 years. We had a wonderful time in Charleston and Savannah! It was a great time of bonding and relaxing as a family, truly something we¬† needed. We found out that we were expecting a 4th little fruit! Christmas was a low-key event as the children all came down with a tummy bug. Despite the sickness they still enjoyed themselves. On the home school front we switched to My Father’s World. I wanted to make sure that I had everything covered this year, and not feel panicked when it was time for our evaluation.

So far in 2014: School is plugging along, I feel more relaxed about everything. Middle fruit just got some preschool workbooks to help keep him busy during school time. His favorite activity is cutting and pasting. Littlest fruit is getting several new teeth in all at once. This is a very exciting, but painful time for her. At 10 weeks pregnant we found out that our 4th fruit hadn’t developed properly and we were looking at a possible miscarriage. At 12 weeks, the miscarriage has started. Prayers are appreciated during this painful (both physical and emotional) time.

Garden: Our garden didn’t do so well this year for multiple reasons. I was having symptoms of anemia again, so I had no energy to put into the garden. It languished under my inattention and then came under attack by ground hogs.¬†Hubby and I did our best to chase these intruders off. I can still see us running out our back door weapon in hand (shovel, hoe, garden claw, etc) to¬†dispose of this foe. Unfortunately they were too savvy and quick, having multiple escape routes out of our yard.

Currently there are snowflakes swirling¬†about outside, while I lay huddle on my couch. I’m not in any physical shape to do much yet¬†as the miscarriage is still in progress. I flip through¬†seed catalogs daydreaming of warmer weather and making plans for the future. ¬†Trusting in my Gardner who brings new growth and prunes away the excess.