Fermented What? Kombucha....

(*day 20// write31days)

I love my friends. Have I mentioned that lately???

So Caroline and I had this little texting conversation last week:

Please notice that I said "Yes!!!!" before I even knew what I was saying yes to. That's how this month is going, friends. But I instantly arranged things in order to make this whole kombucha-thing happen.

(mostly, I just wanted to go to Caroline's house and hang out for a while)

But fermented tea??? Sounds gross. 

But Caroline doesn't do gross, that's just not how she rolls. So as good friends do, I trusted her. And as soon as we arrived she let us taste this mystery tea and it was wonderful, and my kids enjoyed it too.

It really doesn't taste like tea, it tastes like Italian soda. And wonder of all wonders, it's full of probiotics and amazing things that grow in it that boost your body's immune system. 

Isn't it pretty? (so hint--you can get these bottles at World Market, but buy them filled with Italian soda because they are much cheaper that way...then you can drink it up and reuse the bottle. I'll be buying myself some tomorrow).

I'm sure I'm going to get the order of all this wrong, and I will be calling Caroline in two more days once my fermented tea is ready for the next step. But here goes...

So this kombucha stuff is some sort of fermented liquid that when left covered grows these disc things that then "make babies," as Caroline says. So what we did was remove this fleshy thing from her fermented and ready tea, and poured some of the liquid out over it and then dumped the rest into another beautiful jar that she had put frozen berries in to flavor. This will sit for a day or so to extract all the berry goodness.

Then we took a clean jar and added some black tea bags to it, and poured boiling water over them and then let it steep. Then we squeezed the bags out and added sugar to the jar and stirred.

(courtesy shot of me to prove I did do some work)

(it's at this point that I feel the need to tell you that I made the sweater I was wearing. I did not knit it, but I sewed it, using my own pattern making skills {I know nothing of pattern making} and it's been super fun to wear!)

Next, we took the fleshy growth thing and poured it into the tea. I think. (I keep getting the order wrong and then when I look at the pictures I'm reminded of what we actually did). Then we filled it up to the top with water and covered it with a pretty doily. 

Then we put it on her amazingly cute vintage sideboard table and admired it. (but if you don't have one of these, your laundry room will do, which is what I did when I got home). 

And then, we kept kicking gently ushering the kids back outside and sat ourselves down for some African spiced tea and talked our heart out until I absolutely had to leave.

The tea will be great and I do plan to keep up with it and make it for my family, but again, it's mostly the memories I'm making this month and learning about the details of my friends' lives that is making me smile these days.


Preparing for Halloween

(*day 19// write31days// more here)

Public service announcement: You have two weeks to get your game on for Halloween...

Last year was the first year we actually participated in Halloween. Neither Luke nor I had ever trick or treated before, and we always analyzed and discussed this every year, never feeling quite comfortable with it. So last year was a giant step for us out of our comfort zone, and we kind of did it with fear and trepidation.

God is growing us and changing us, challenging us to embrace our neighbors, love them, figure out what gets people out of their houses and enjoying each other's company; relating to each other and building relationships...(notice a theme?). We are so weak at this! We want to be better, we want to have better relationships with our awesome neighbors, we want to meet more neighbors. It's a work in progress, friends, and it's slow. And it's definitely a way this homebody momma has to be challenged daily, to get out of my comfy home and walk around outside and enjoy my neighbors, my friends.

In the past, when Halloween would come up, we had to figure out what to do about it--will we turn off lights, turn on lights, hand out candy, leave the premises, attend a fall festival, do costumes, no costumes, etc, etc. Last year was the same. Except we finally asked the question, "Why don't we celebrate Halloween again? I'm really not sure anymore."

So Luke and I spent time thinking about it, researching it a bit, our pastor led a small group discussion about it, we prayed about it, and we finally landed on this: this is the one time of the year all your neighbors actually come out of their houses at the same exact time, actually ring your doorbell, and most people are in really great moods. We figured that shutting ourselves up in our safe houses to avoid zombies was just a really weird way of closing our neighbors out of our lives, yet again.

So last year we embraced it. Not the dark, sinister, scary side, have you. We are children of light, we worship the Father of Lights, so we won't celebrate the dark side. But we won't shun those who do. Our neighbors came over for chili in the front yard, each bringing a dish to share. We pulled out the lawn games, opened up the garage for some ping-pong, and voila! A neighborhood gathering. It was such fun.

And the kids dressed up and indeed went trick or treating, with our neighbors. It was a really fun night and we felt we were a part of something unique and special. It challenged our traditional Christian views for sure, and not everyone will come to the same conclusions that we did, and we understand that.

But for us, it was a beautiful way to spend time with neighbors, building trust and friendships that are sooo important!

And so this year, we plan to do the same thing. In fact, I hope to do some official inviting starting tomorrow (or if you are my neighbor and are reading this right now!)...

May I encourage you? This might be the year that God wants you to embrace your neighbors instead of leaving them in the dark. It might be the perfect opportunity to make some new friends, host a party, decorate cookies, have a chili cook off, just round up the neighbors for cider and trick or treating, whatever.

And if it's not the year for you, that's fine too--but maybe consider it a bit? Think of ways you can bless your neighbors and get to know them better.

We definitely don't claim to have it all right around here, but we love our neighbors and know that God put us here in this neighborhood on this street for a reason, and we need to make the most of it.


Renewing Relationships Even When It's Uncomfortable

(* day 18// wrtie31days)

(since first publishing this, I have updated it with  a few more details in order to clarify the story a bit more). 

Sometimes stepping out of your comfort zone means giving someone a second chance. It's hard when on principle you feel like you don't agree with someone or a method of the way someone treated you, but time passes and you realize it's time to try again.

For us it involved going back to a restaurant we hadn't visited in about year, on principle. It's going to be hard to explain this one without sounding uppity, but I'm going to try.

There's this local taco place that we have frequented ever since we moved back to SA. We went there so much that the owner knew who we are and the wait staff welcomed us in like family. They seemed to really enjoy our children, and we really enjoyed their food.

Business had gotten better for this little joint, and with more business comes more money to replace old chairs and tables and give the place an uplift. Yay! That sounds awesome--we support local business growing and gaining success and popularity. And of course we enjoy sitting on more comfy cushions and chairs.

But sometimes with success comes the feeling that you want to protect your things instead of your people. And there came a particular moment when this came to a head, and the comfort of the clients was sacrificed in order to keep a pristine restaurant.

One early Saturday morning, the waitress uncomfortably asked Landis to sit in a booster seat instead of on the bench so he wouldn't rip the bench. That might not sound like much, but when Luke kindly said, "Oh he's fine. He's too old for a booster and always sits like this now," the waitress asked him to talk to the owner about it.

Luke actually didn't want to go that far and talk to the owner about it, he didn't want to cause a scene. But the waitress begged him to, because apparently, many customers had been put off by the new vibes up to that point, and the waitress really wanted the owner to hear it from us since we had been coming for so many years.

And really, for all those years previous, the restaurant had a 30 minute line outside the door just to get in. But at this point, it no longer had a line even in peak hours. The restaurant seemed to have lost its warmth and heart and the neighborhood seemed to have notice.

And the wait staff seemed to really want us to speak that to the owner, so that maybe she'd understand that with all this new "comfortable seating," she was actually making more people uncomfortable. And when Luke finally agreed and went to the owner, she insisted that she needed to protect her new benches and she just couldn't and wouldn't understand what Luke was talking about.

Just to be clear, it wasn't all about us not wanting to force our precious perfect child to sit in a booster. And it wasn't about us being the kind of parents who let our children run wild through a restaurant and misuse people's property. We want to teach respect for people's things, and we definitely insist that our children take care of things and use appropriate behavior.

The reason we pursued this issue was because we were sad that her restaurant was changing from a place of comfort, where people and relationships and atmosphere are valued, into a place where things and prettiness were valued more than people.

(this balance is definitely hard to explain, so I hope you are getting my meaning)

We've all been to people's houses where we felt like we can't touch anything and our children can't touch anything, where the owners seem on edge because they are worried about their things and concerned about messes, and you just overall feel uncomfortable and almost eager to get out of there so you can breathe.

And Luke was concerned that this sweet little place was going to do that for the customers--turn it into a place where people are valued less than things.

You may be thinking, "Well of course she wanted her benches not to get ripped, I'd feel that way too." And I understand you, but the problem is the emphasis and the atmosphere--aren't people and hospitality and comfort the priority?

I'm not at all talking about a "customer's are always right" philosophy, but more that "people are more important than things."

And I understand that this is challenging, in a day when there is tons of disrespect and business owner's are constantly having to deal with the destruction that comes from people who don't care about other's hard-worked-for thing. So this concept is definitely a difficult one, for sure!

So, Luke took the kids and left that day without eating, and he wasn't angry or huffy, but just sad that after all those years of relationship building, it had come down to whether or not her seat got ripped.

Fast forward to present day...

The kids have been missing that place and asking to go back. And after repeated pleas, we finally decided to give it another chance.

We were kind of nervous to enter the place again, because it's uncomfortable. Just like it's uncomfortable to go up and talk to the person you had to confront about something. It's just awkward and weird. But once you do it, it sort of breaks the ice and makes room for relationship building again.

But that's what this month is for (and hopefully it's the start of something)--to embrace things that my comfortable self would initially step back from.

So it was good. It felt oddly normal, like we hadn't missed any time at all there. We didn't interact with the owner, but I definitely noticed a pleasant surprised look on one of the waitress's faces, and it felt good to be gracious and show someone with our actions that we value them enough to give them another chance.

I know not everyone will have the same philosophies and values as we do, but we feel so strongly about this principle, that relationships come first. It's hard to put into practice, it's hard to see your pretty breakables broken, it's hard to have a ripped couch because of people's rough kiddos, but building relationships with people is so much better.

And I have to constantly remind myself of this, seriously. Because I can get to where I cling to my things so much that I get selfish with them and focus on preserving my things to the extent that I'm ignoring the people in my life. And this is where we have to push ourselves past what's comfortable.


Full Disclosure, and Some Links to Inspire

(*day 17// write31days// previous posts here)

So, full disclosure: the only thing I did today that was remotely close to stepping out of my comfort zone was order a salad at one of our favorite Friday night restaurants.

I guess you could say this actually is stepping out of my comfort zone since salads just aren't my thing and I've always felt a little self-conscious about it, being a woman and all and finding that I don't fit into that salad-eating stereotype of women. It's isolating sometimes.

(Oh I jest)

Sadly, this particular salad only helped to perpetuate my relationship with salad, since it had no lettuce at all and in place of lettuce it had Thai basil and cilantro--a perfect combination to spice up your mouth in not such a beautiful way. I basically just dug around the salad with my fork and ate french fries smothered with a fried egg.

What's a girl gonna do?

But if you want to try a few things new, here are some ideas:

1// Bullet Proof Coffee...I've heard about this, and then saw it on the Tonight Show, so I looked it up and found what seems like a good recipe and explanation here.

2// Felt Ball Garland--I realize I'm a little late to the party on this one, but I love the look of these, and it seems like it would be fun to make. Upon doing research (and by that I mean checking pinterest), I found this tutorial which seems super easy and just involves ordering the felt balls and stringing them together.

3// Butternut Squash Risotto--I have a butternut squash on my counter and I think a risotto is calling my name. Pioneer Woman's recipe looks promising....

And goodnight! See you again tomorrow!


Enjoying the Culture of My City: Grocery Shopping on the Other Side of Town

(*day 16// write31days// more here)

Landis and I took a 25 minute road trip to an H-E-B (our grocery chain around these parts) on the completely opposite side of town. Luke told me it was an amazing store with very Mexican influences.

And since this is the city that I love, that I'm longing to understand and know more about, I thought this would be perfect.

I may have grown up here, but it's taken years for me to realize that when you are immersed in something so much, you don't have the proper perspective of it until you step out and take a bigger look at it. And you have to want to do it, too.

When we went to Soma School last year, one thing they encouraged us to do when we got home was to take careful note of our own city-- our side of town, our neighborhood, our community, everything, and almost pretend that we were outsiders, so that we could learn more about it and figure out what the rhythms and heartbeat and passions are of our culture. If we want to see the Gospel deeply impact our culture and community, we have to first figure out the story and the context and the pressing influences.

It's extremely hard to put your finger on it when you are swimming in it. You have to get out of the water and look around, so to speak. And I do want to know what makes my city tick. And not that going to a grocery story or visiting a park gives me all the answers, but it's a start, a piece of the puzzle. And that's what I want.

So Landis and I got out and took a look around our city. I went with my usual grocery list and we just did regular old shopping. But it was extra delightful. I felt like I was in a Mexican market, except everyone was speaking English, which was nice. I was at first struck by the colors--our city is a colorful city, and I really think alot of that is attributed to the Hispanic influence, and I'm so thankful for it!

The tortilla making center was amazing--I had no idea that when they make corn tortillas they literally punch the tortilla shapes out of a sheet of corn tortillas with this huge machine. Landis was in awe of the fast moving machines and busy worker bees, and of course the employees spotted his blonde hair instantly and came over with a piping hot flour tortilla for the little man. He enjoyed it, and come to think of it didn't even give me a bite. The nerve.

Tortillas. They're essential. And I've lived here long enough to know to only buy my tortillas from the H-E-Bs that actually make them in front of your eyes. They are way different than the ones on the shelf, and way better. And I always buy extra bags and freeze them. Every culture has a bread type of thing--tortillas, pitas, steamed buns, pasta...

I was mesmerized by the rows and rows of bags of pinto beans, not to mention the open bins of beans you can scoop up by the pound. I guess the pinto bean aisle is similar to the pasta aisle on my side of town. 

The Aguas Frescas section was colorful and beautiful, as well as delicious. Landis picked the Fresas con Limon, which was fancy for Strawberry Lemonade. And of course the rows of Mexican inspired candy had Landis intrigued, so we had to buy one little treat to share with the sisters.

It's interesting how much you can notice about a culture by what they sell at the local grocery store. You can make observations about colors, foods, treats that are well-loved, and even religious preferences. 

It's almost silly how visiting a different grocery store can make you love your city more, but it did. It made me appreciate the diversity we have here and the beauty and the intermingling of worlds and cultures into what we call San Antonio. 

If this store was closer I know I would visit more. It was a hustling, bustling market place but it made me feel right at home.

*all pictures taken with my iPhone. I couldn't bear to play the tourist and take my huge ol' camera out*