It’s been almost three weeks now, since I became an auntie to the most beautiful, perfect little baby boy. My first nephew.

Not a one of us ever even had an idea of what these weeks would hold ~ weeks we thought would be brimming full of joy, and excitement, and wonder at a new little life, turned into weeks overflowing of tears and sorrow and how can this be true.

They have been weeks when the grief washes over and over us, like waves at the ocean, never stopping, just sometimes bigger waves than others.

I’ve been so excited about my first niece or nephew arriving on my side of the family. Ervina’s Southern Maternity shoot was taken last fall when she visited us to excitedly document 20 weeks of pregnancy, and I had so much fun preparing little clothes and accessories for the little love. We were so in love with that sweet baby, even before meeting him.

I come from a long line of baby-lovers. And by that, I don’t just mean the women gushing over a baby. But in my dad’s family, even the men absolutely adore babies. They are seen with a baby in their arms as often as the mother is, talking in sweet tones, chuckling and teasing and adoring. And I have to say, my brother-in-law Kenny topped even that. I had never seen a father-to-be more excited about his baby! So many people talked about his excitement.

When Ervina comes to visit 557

The day finally came when my sister went into labor, and at a checkup before heading to the hospital came the shocking, gut-wrenching news, “Your baby is not alive.”

There is nothing in the world that can prepare someone for words like those. All had been fine just one week earlier at the checkup, and even the day before the baby was moving. There was no warning sign at all that anything was wrong.

Little did we know, as Kenny & Ervina were preparing a nursery for their baby, the most beautiful nursery I’ve ever seen in all my life, that Jesus was also preparing a home in Heaven for their precious baby boy.

Little Kenneth, named after the man who was so proudly anticipating being his daddy, weighed 7 pounds, and 11 big ounces, and was 22 long inches. He was born on March 22, 2014, safe in the arms of Jesus.

Baby Kenny

[photo courtesy of Ervina Yoder]

Whoever knew that a little life could mean so much to us, to me? I am not even the mother, but my heart had all kinds of butterflies when I thought of that little baby joining the family. When he was overdue, I was trying to stay busy and occupy my mind because those six days seemed like an eternity! And now, the loss feels so so deep, a continual ache. And I’m just the auntie, not even the mother. My heart breaks for my sweet sister.

These are her words, about a week after his birth…

It’s been six days since Kenny and I found out we’d never get to see our precious baby boy, the delight and expectation of our hearts, take his first breath. The anguish of this has pierced our hearts beyond what we could have imagined possible. We’ve needed Jesus more than anything and have found Him to be so near, so faithful, so sufficient, so redeeming. We miss our son desperately, but through your prayers, words and presence, God has shown His comfort through His Body… we are humbled and grateful.

“I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel.” [The Apostle Paul, Philippians 1:12]

We have been slammed headfirst into the Grace of God, as my sister Claudia speaks of it. That doesn’t mean the tears stop, or that the hurt goes away. But it means that the presence of God is so precious, He is so faithful. As big as the need, He is bigger still. Jesus is everything.

I spoke with Ervina about a week after the death and birth of her little son, and asked her how she can go on from here, what the anchor of her soul is through this. And her words were powerful and tender… “I don’t know why this happened, and it hurts so much. But, I know my God. I know Who He is, and even in this, I can trust Him.”

In times of deepest grief and tragedy, what truly is within a person comes out. And in Ervina and Kenny, there is a sweetness and strength even in the middle of the agony. The foundation of their lives was built on Jesus long before this tragedy ever happened.

We as a family are so grateful for Jesus, for the promise that He is good, even now. Even though our hearts are breaking in the loss of little Kenny, and seeing our precious sister and her husband walk such grief, we choose to believe Him, and trust His faithfulness to us.

the coming joy[ via]

Without the perspective of eternity, of a Sovereign God, life is hopeless. But Jesus makes all the difference in the world. He gives us strength to endure the pain of today because of the joy of eternity. One day, all tears will be wiped away, and one day, sweet little baby, we will be with you again.

we have not lost him.

Just about a week before the birth of little Kenny, I wrote this quote in my journal, being deeply impacted by the truth of it, and also deeply missing my friend Ruth. And now it touches me so much again, healing and ache all in one.

“We have not lost him, He is only gone a little before us. There we shall soon find him, and enjoy him again and forever – far more than we ever did in this life.” [E. D. Griffin ]

Yes, the loss is still felt so deeply, achingly so. But there is a perspective greater than the pain, that of Jesus, of the preciousness of eternity. For that better world to come, that HOME to come.

Eternity, and Heaven, are all the more real, and precious. We were not made for this world, for all the pain, for the sorrow and agony, for the effects of sin. There IS a bigger reality than what we can see: there is a Heaven, there is a Hell. And it’s real. The life we live here matters. The choices we make on earth matters. ETERNITY MATTERS.

Ten thousand more words could be written, and it still wouldn’t sum up the emotions, the grief, and the way God has carried us these weeks.

But we also want to say we are so grateful for the outpouring of support to our extended family, and especially to Kenny & Ervina. We are seriously blown away by the kindness and care of so many people. The body of Christ has become ever more dear to us. Thank you, thank you…

Please continue to take Kenny & Ervina to Jesus in prayer…

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spring fever quote

Ahhh, yes, hello Spring!
We’ve been seeing hints of your arrival for the past month, but this week especially we knew you were near.

This morning we woke up to beautiful warm sunshine, and it was the perfect start to springtime. All winter I was jealous of the snow in the north. But now? The north can have their snow. I’m happy to take Spring. :)

This little southern town is simply wreathed in dogwoods and Bradford pear trees and azaleas.  It is the most beautiful time of the year here, and I always anticipate all the lovely blossoms everywhere.

There are little bursts of sunshine all over the house, and little touches that say,
“I’m happy spring is here!”

// In the kitchen //

Tulips in silver pitchers – I do the same thing every year, just cheap grocery store tulips in a an elegant thrifted pitcher. I love it so.

spring in the kitchen

 

// Dining Room //

First blooming Dogwood branches! They are my very very favorite springtime blossoms.
I just cannot get enough of them! They are dainty and soft, they are elegant and beautiful, they are unique and dazzling.

spring world

lovely spring

 
// Living Room //

Springtime mantel. It’s done very simply this year, with an oversized chalkboard with my favorite quote at present. It’s something I saw online, and I wish I could remember where, but I knew it must be in our home. Truly, the Gospel is all I have. Without it, I am nothing, and have nothing.

the gospel is all I have

spring mantel with fresh blossoms

 

//  first bouquet //

Zoe is a little flower girl, always bringing in little weeds blooms and blossoms she finds. Then she carefully arranges them in vases and bottles of her choice. I love this about her. I found these two sitting right here on the patio table.

Zoe's first bouquet

 
// gardening //

Perhaps it’s more rightly called, “hopes of gardening” because there is no garden at present.
But, husband buys lots of tomato plants anyway. :)
And I am excited right along with him.
This post has me dreaming and planning… at least in my mind.

young tomatoes

 

// new discoveries //

On one of the first 80 degree days we had, we abandoned the house and spend the whole afternoon outside. It was glorious! Fresh sunshine does wonders for a human soul!

This little guy discovered the water hose, and I spent at least an hour just giggling at him. He was being such a little BOY, turning the hose on his sisters and hearing them shriek, and then he’d had to stop and LAUGH and laugh to himself at how much fun it all was.
Oh goodness, he just melts me in a puddle!

my darling son

hello spring!

spring beauties

// twirl //

There is something about little girls, sunshine, and twirly skirts that speak of innocence and delight, of how the world was meant to be.

One night after supper, when the evenings were getting longer and daylight stayed close to bedtime, Zoe and Olivia were running about the yard. They had chosen matching dresses earlier in the day “Because we want people to think we’re twins!!”. I looked out the window to see them laughing and twirling, arms stretched out wide, spinning until they tumbled, and then back up again, doing it all over.

I was mesmerized. It was so carefree, so uninhibited.
It was living fully in the moment, simply delighted with sunshine and each other and skirts that spin wide.

It was worship.
I want to live like that.

spring twirlers innocent happiness

 

Happy Spring, my friends!

Let yourself be loved of God today, and twirl.
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A week ago I was part of a little cooking demonstration with ladies from our church. It was a fun, informal event, and the basic gist of the evening was that different women were asked to show how to make particular dishes.

One woman showed how to make THE pie crust (which I am so excited about trying, because all my pie crusts have been epic fails!), another how to decorate a cake using various tips, and still others on butter making, Bourbon Chicken, and Gyozias. It was so fascinating! Plus, our church ladies love to talk, so any spare minute we were busy chittering away. :)

My part of the evening was to talk about Making Biscotti. Since I’ve given a few biscotti recipes on this blog before (Chocolate Chip and Pumpkin Spice) I thought I’d include a third recipe here, along with a few tips I gave that evening.

Let me just preface by saying it really did tickle me to be giving tips on making biscotti. My roots are European of various kinds, but Italian is not one of them. So basically I’m a work-horse German giving advice on an Italian treat. It’s kind of like an Italian giving a class on Amish cooking. Kind of humorous, right? :) But it really is amazing the various cultures of foods we have available to cook and eat in our modern day!

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This is quite possibly my favorite recipe. I created it several years ago, and although it could be seasonal during the winter, it’s also perfect anytime of the year.

Gingerbread Biscotti with white chocolate icing

 

The Ingredients For Gingerbread Biscotti:

 

Cream together until fluffy:

  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup white sugar

Then add:

  • 3 eggs, beating well after each addition
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup molasses

Sift together dry ingredients:

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves

Gradually add dry ingredients to butter mixture,  then stir in:

  • 1 cup slivered almonds

 

Grease a jellyroll pan (which is slightly smaller than a cookie sheet). Divide dough in half. Using heavily floured hands, shape each half into a log form, and place on a jellyroll pan, on the shortest length of the pan. Continue to shape, making each log approximately 5 inches wide.

Bake at 300 degrees for approximately 35 minutes, or until the top is firm. Remove from the oven and cool, then cut each log into 1-inch slices using a sharp serrated knife or electric knife. Return to the oven and bake at 200 degree, or the lowest temperature, 7 hours or overnight Bake until completely dry. Cool, then frost with white chocolate icing (Ghirardelli melting chocolate).

 

 

Gingerbread Biscotti for a coffee party

 

A few pointers:

Many people are scared of making biscotti and think them intimidating and difficult. Let me just say: biscotti may take some time to make, but the truth is – they are really very easy. If you can pull out a mixer and put ingredients together, you can make biscotti. The twice-baking is what makes biscotti unique from many other cookies or specialty baked items.

In the recipe, there are a few basic instructions that factor into the biscotti of your dreams. :)


1. Softened butter vs. melted butter: This makes a difference in the final texture of the dough, making a soft dough rather than a watery texture.

2. Beating each egg well: Beating each egg well helps with dough elasticity, resulting in a final product that holds together well and isn’t crumbly/doesn’t break apart. Often homemade biscotti tends to fall or crumble apart, and it may be because of this small step.

3. The log size: Remember that the dough rises because of the baking powder, so be sure to spread the log wide (about 5 inches) rather than short and fat. The final product will look bigger than the pre-baked log on the pan.

4.  The slow baking times: I do not recommend a baking time of higher than 300* for the first baking, and 200* for the second. Of course, it’s very possible to bake at a high temperature the whole way through for both baking times and have a finished product much faster. However, I have a theory [and it’s only my own theory, but it has held true for me]: a fast baking, whether in biscotti, granola, or a few other things results in a bit of a “burnt” taste in the final product. Yes, it is finished faster, but there is a hint of a burnt flavor. A SLOW baking time, in my opinion, not only doesn’t have the look of the dark edges, but it also seems to enhance the flavors of what it being baked. A bite into a slow-baked biscotti, such as gingerbread, and you will be able to taste the ginger, the molasses, and maybe even some of the other spices. The flavor is incredibly richer. The overnight baking at the very lowest temperature your oven will do (180 or so) is what I’ve found to be perfect.5.

5. The melting chocolate. A friend recently introduced me to the Ghirardelli melting chocolate, which is amazing in and of itself. If you’ve worked with melting white chocolate chips before, you know that sometimes it turns out perfectly and other times it’s a sticky hard lump that you can hardly spread with a knife! The melting wafers are amazing. It’s the perfect melted consistency which you can then pour into a condiment bottle and use to drizzle on the icing. Melting instructions of various kinds are even on the back of the packaging.

the best melting chocolate

frosting Gingerbread Biscotti

So there is my favorite recipe and all the  things I’ve learned by trial and error tricks up my sleeve. Hopefully it will help someone out. :)

Enjoy!

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palms at the beach

Hellooooooo, March!
I am very happy to see your arrival, because it marks the beginning of a most happy month (namely, the birth of my first niece or nephew)!

However, February passed by ever-so-fast that it seems a blur,
so, the next few posts may just be back-tracking…
There may even be a few Valentine’s Day pictures, how sad. :)

But today, here are a few pictures of our first day at the ocean this year!
[Well, technically, it was our second, since we were there on a colder day bundled up a bit.]

This was a sunny, warm day in February, when some friends were in town.
And what better way to enjoy an 80 degree day in February than be at the coast?
We may not have snow days, but we do, on occasion, have beach days. :)
#perksoflivinginthesouth

And, it was one of the first 80 degree days of the year,
which seems crazy while 7 hours north there are still snowstorms,
but hey! We’re all trying to choose joy, right? :)

 

We joined three other moms and their kids, so it was a party for the kids.
Unfortunately, we arrived late because it was a last-minute morning-of decision to go
and I realized the kids had grown out of their swimwear from last year.
Enter quick shopping trips and lots of time lost looking for cute swimwear that didn’t exist.

[Also, since when is little girl swimwear so provocative?? Frustration is the mildest emotion of what I was feeling, as I looked at the little strings my six-year old was expected to wear.I shopped online after returning home and decided it's worth it to pay more money for swimwear that is both cute and modest, so the next beach trip we'll be better prepared. Lands End and DownEast Basics offer several options ~ thanks to Anita for the referrals! I'm off my soapbox now.]

// little boy child, enjoying the sunny blue day //

little man hudson beach day

But, even the few short hours we spent at the ocean were so worth the trip.

Warm sunshine,
sand between my toes,
kids laughing and playing, even in freezing cold water,
sitting with friends…

Ocean days are the very best kind of days. :)

// little girl child, always running and laughing //

sweet olivia girl always running

// Sibling snack break //

snack bread

palms and blue sky
One of the things I enjoy most about living in the South IS living close to the coast.
The ocean is therapeutic; the sound of the waves, the warm sunshine, the time to quiet.

But the greatness of God is so very evident there, and I love that the most.
Whenever I feel overwhelmed by life, by the challenges & unknowns,
all I need to do is walk by the water, or sit in the sand,
and my heart KNOWS.

I KNOW that my God can handle anything that is present, and anything that may come.
He is big enough, He is sufficient, He is more than adequate.
His resources know no limits.
His wisdom has no end.
His strength isn’t ever maxed out.
His love is always there.
His faithfulness will always continue.

How can I not trust this kind of Savior, this Lord who has given me all of Him?
My only response can be giving Him all of me.

Until next time, grand ocean…

the ocean is my favorite

 

/Could we with ink the ocean fill
And were the skies of parchment made/
Were every stalk on earth a quill
And every man a scribe by trade/
To write the love of God above/
Would drain the ocean dry/
Nor could the scroll/
Contain the whole though stretched from sky to sky

Oh love of God! How rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure/
The saints and angels song!/

{a favorite song of mine, and of my beloved friend Ruth,
who now sings in the very presence of our Sweet Jesus}

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Well, if you want to be all technical, it’s actually the laundry room where I make all the pretties and sew the burp cloths and all the items for My Faire Lady Designs. But, let’s not be technical, because ‘sewing room’ sounds a little more inspirational than laundry room. :)

The blog front has been quiet. Usually a good guess for that would be there are lots of other activities & responsibilities pressing, and you’d be right 71-99% of the time. This winter has just been so full – so many good things, to be sure.

One of those things has been My Faire Lady Designs. I feel a little old-fashioned when I talk about sewing, because it’s an old art form that’s somewhat forgotten these days. But the truth is ~ I love it. I learn more about sewing all the time, and I enjoy that ~ the learning, and fun exploration and creativity that comes along with fabrics & colors & patterns.

This little business keeps me busy ~ as busy as I’d like to be with being a mom at home with my three precious little kids. I’m so grateful for all your orders, and the connections made through it.

Lately, there has been some more crafting and orders filled, and also some new inspiration. So here are a few pictures.

deer silhouette onesie

hipster glasses onesie

tuxedo top onesie

mary jane shoe onesie

pink lace top onesie

vintage inspired onesie

There is a reason behind the new inspiration, and no, it’s not bun in my oven. :) No, there’s actually a little one very soon to be born to my sister and her husband, and this soon-to-be-auntie is so excited I can hardly handle it!

Of course, I must be on my way on the long trip home as soon as I hear of the first signs of labor (or at least, very soon after the birth of the wee bebe’), so I must be all prepared to simply jump in the car and begin the journey, right?

Of course, right.

I was wanting a hint of vintage with a flair of modern on these onesies, and although it took quite a bit of time to come up with patterns and figure it all out, it was so worth it. I have the patterns now for future onesies, but these will always be a little extra-special. :)

So, if the bebe’ is a girl, she’ll be given these little dainties…

// 1. Peter Pan collar 2. gold shoes  3. cream lace 4. vintage tuxedo style //

niece's onesies

 

And burp cloths are always a necessity, so why not make them pretty?
// find them on Facebook at My Faire Lady Designs //

kumari garden burp cloths

 

And if he’s a boy, we are prepared for his arrival too.

I experimented with fabric paint for the gold shoes for the girl, and the deer silhouette and hipster glasses for the boy. That was a new thing for me, and much fun!

// 1. tie  2. deer silhouette  3. hipster glasses

nephew's onesies
I have to admit to being in love with the little deer onesie. It was an idea that I acted upon, and it turned out even better than I had hoped. This was an original with My Faire Lady Designs. Yes, I was a little happy. :)

navy anchors & dots

red anchors

 

Meanwhile, there have been other orders for baby things, some of which are being sold at the Main Street Exchange ~ locals in Pennsylvania, shop there and you won’t have to pay shipping! :)

stack of onesies

vintage inspired

the happy collection

aqua burp cloths

grey paisley

 

Headbands and hair accessories are still in the making too.

white flower headband

triple flower headband

blue and white stripe flower clips

pink lace bow headband

black and white stripe flower clips

aqua pink headband

And those are a few of the things that make my heart happy.
Mostly, it’s happy thinking of meeting my new little niece or nephew very soon.
These are just things to show my love and welcome him or her to the world.
I can hardly handle the excitement!!

Happy Thursday, you all!

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post script: these items and more can be found on Facebook at My Faire Lady Designs