Posted in Foliage Fridays, Homesteading, New-to-me

Playing in dirt

Well, it’s officially Spring here in Minnesota-land. And I’m having fun playing outside with plants. I truly never expected gardening to bring me such joy. Poking around in dirt, spending money and time on leafy things? Teenager Jes would have rolled her eyes and thought, “booooooring!” But 35-year-old Jes is a ridiculously gleeful novice gardener. And though I have to overcome my tendency to kill plants due to naivety, lately my “black thumb” is just a crust of dirt from gardening!

I’ve also begun volunteering at my local CSA. I figured I wanted the gardening experience if they had anything a novice could do. Turns out anyone who’s willing to follow directions and has a little time can split sprouted seeds or plant a long row of kale in freshly tilled soil. Being outside for even an hour in the warm May sunshine is like bathing in liquid gold. And rubbing shoulders with experienced gardeners/farmers has yielded me some pearls of wisdom.

So, this season, I have a bit more confidence regarding my own little homestead, and a lot less fear of failure. And that’s a beautiful place to be.

But without further ado, let’s get to the photographic good stuff, eh?

1.5 hours of sowing kale!

Posted in Being real, New-to-me, Thoughts

Reflections on parenting

Well, here we are 5 months into 2018 and I finally have the energy/will to sit down & blog a little. It’s ironic to me that in the last trimester of pregnancy, I am finally feeling as though I can process being pregnant AND be a Jes. I’m so glad human gestation takes 9 months. It really gives all parties involved time to prepare.

I’m wrapping my brain around the myriad of changes coming to the Brookes household as we transition into parenthood. One of the ways a good Jes prepares to be a first time mother is to reflect on all the examples of parenting she has witnessed. A good Jes learns from any teacher: strangers at Half Price Books with children in the kids’ section, strangers on the bus, families in house church, relatives, friends. You have all been showing me how you do it: this parenting thing. And I’m hyper-aware that I have a lot of theoretical ideas & ideals but not so much preparedness for the new job I’m transitioning into this summer.

Because let’s just be clear: parenting is a job.

You can be unwillingly employed, unskilled and unaware. You can fail on a daily basis. You can feel like at times you want to quit. You can resent management for a lack of communication and feedback on your performance. You can doubt your ability. You can rise to the challenges. You can be physically, mentally and emotionally drained only to find out your shift is an overtime/overnight gig when you least want it to be. It can demand you work on things you are weak in for the betterment of the whole team. It can demand you show up for work when you are sick, or angry at your coworkers, or desperately needing a vacation. It can feel like it doesn’t pay enough or the benefits package sucks. Yet it can be a place of pure joy, of deep pride in the effort you’ve put in. It can be a place you love to go, alongside coworkers you truly enjoy. It can be hard AND rewarding because it IS hard.

I repeat: parenting is a JOB.

In 2008, a naive bride prepared herself to marry the man she loved, armed with ideals and a lot of blind faith. Turns out I’m also walking into this new job with relatively no skills. My resume is padded with good intentions, idealized dreams of what it “could be” and how I’ll perform. Thank God we go in that way, not fully knowing. Cause if we knew what anything would ultimately cost us, we would never risk getting off the couch to go.

And I want to go. I am thrilled to learn more about my flaws; to grow as a human as I take care of this budding new life. It will be humbling and embarrassing and I absolutely will fail this child. I will fail to see them when they need to be seen most. I will hurt them where it matters more than I know. And going into this knowing I have the best of intentions, but will still fail? Man, that isn’t an easy pill to take.

But newsflash, you warrior parents out there, with your brave hearts: failure is not the only legacy you leave your children!

Love washes over a multitude of things. Your children remember your kindness, your stories, the food you make, the ways you saw them and met their needs, the times you rose to the challenge and sacrificed without their knowledge so they could flourish. It may take awhile. And they will never know everything you gave and did, how parenting emptied you of yourself so they could be them. But your children will stand and bless you. They will give you gifts you didn’t expect, and joy you didn’t think possible to experience at moments you were bracing yourself for sorrow.

I sometimes get the feeling that parents feel like all their kids remember is the moments when they blew it. Kids (young or old) can act like that. They may be little punks and hurt you real deep, or expose your worst fears. But you have not failed 100% of the time. Love washes over a multitude of things. How your parents messed up doesn’t matter in light of the love they give you. I feel like this is what God teaches us when He gives us agape love.

We are human, and we fail each other. But when we love/agape each other, we say, “It’s okay you failed me (this one time, lots of times, whatever). I see that overall you try to love me, and you’ve successfully done that (insert specific examples). I forgive you for hurting me when you were just in human-mode. You have more than made up for this with the countless ways you have loved me. I will choose to remember those.” And then we do, until hurt is a distant memory.

My parents are some of the people I respect the most on this planet. I have been privileged to witness: their lives, their personalities engaging in their work, their struggles, their being real. That is a gift. It affects me profoundly. And that’s what parenting is: affecting other humans profoundly. What you say and do as a parent, is remembered. The wonderful moments you give your children ARE REMEMBERED. I don’t care who your kid is. They will remember some time you saw them, for real, some moment you gave them something special and interacted with them on their level. And this will be a thing they TREASURE FOREVER. It will make small & even big hurts seem less important, even miniscule. Being loved and seen and known and accepted washes over a multitude of failures.

So, brave mamas out there: on this mother’s day, DO NOT BE DISCOURAGED. You are exactly the kind of person for the unique job of parenting your kids. You have what it takes. Showing up might be all you can bring today. Bring that. Any moment you choose to be a mom is a win. Any moment you choose to love? That’s a win. No one may comment on it. No one may seem to notice, but it matters. You, being you, sharing your life with your children, matters. Every day you show up for work is another faithful testimony to your strength, courage and love.

And I have so much respect for you all. Thank you for the lessons in how to overcome your human-moments. Thank you for showing me ways to be kind and treat little humans with respect. Thank you for showing me: how to remain yourselves when the job is overwhelming, how to say no to most things and yes to a few, how to get it right and how to bounce back when you get it wrong, how to show up and stay and fight and love well. I wanna be just like you.

Happy Mother’s Day.

Posted in Joy: 2017 Word Meditation

Joy! the breaking news

Well, just because I’ve been absent from blogland doesn’t mean life has been dull and boring. No sir! In fact, quite the opposite. But rather than write out a lengthy description, I figure the following photograph sums it up quite nicely:

Circa our 10 year wedding anniversary in July of 2018, we’ll be expecting a new Brookes. And even though Nayt, the cats and I have no idea what we are getting into, I am all smiles as I think of the miracle God is doing RIGHT NOW.

Joy indeed.

Posted in Homesteading, Kitten dramas

October: a fleeting month

October has flown by us here in Minnesota. And the trees have just been stunning:

Seriously? Now, you’re just showing off, tree. 😛

We’ve had some unusually balmy days this month (in the upper 70s) juxtaposed with cold, cold rainy/breezy days and our first snowfall (all day yesterday)! Overnight lows dropped below 30 degrees (finally!) but this year my beloved incoming winter weather holds one drawback. (Yes, just one, I truly love the snow and cold.)

This is “Honey”.* She’s a beautiful and affectionate feral kitty that’s been “hoteling it” on our back deck for about a month. And now that the overnight lows are dropping, my kitty-mama heart worries about Honey being safe & warm through the cold Minnesota nights. The hubs genuinely saw my bleeding heart and decided to give me one of my birthday presents a couple weeks early. This weekend, we are installing a warming cat bed that has fancy sensors to turn on when an animal is resting on it. It will heat up Honey’s little paw-paws & body to the cozy, kitty-resting temperature of 102 and will turn off when she’s not sitting on it. My husband is just the coolest. I had no idea such a thing existed!

Meanwhile, our indoor cats are being extra snuggly.

That is, when they aren’t engaged in outdoor cat observation, of course. I bet you all can quickly discern which cat response belongs with which cat:

Cat A: Observes Honey’s use of room & board with curiosity & eager friendliness, “A new friend! Hi!!!! Do you smell like the outside?!?! I like the outside!!!”

Cat B: Obverses Honey’s use of room & board as a threatening affront to his way of life, “That’s MY kibble you’re eating! Stop rubbing on MY human! Get away from MY window! No! You can’t come in!!!”

Lol. And yes, Honey has burst into our kitchen from the back deck many times. Rudi’s reaction: “Who’s this!?!?!” Toby’s reaction: “WHAT!? NO!!! NOT ANOTHER ONE!!” Honey’s reaction: “Ooh! It’s warm in here! Is this where the kibbles are? Who’s this grumpy fat cat? This skinny one is kind of nice.”

We already stressed out Tobycat by adopting Rudi last year. Nayt & I both agree that bringing in Honey would tip Toby’s sanity over the edge. So, for now, we’ll keep her warm & fed outside our home while we try to find her the perfect furever home. Feline Rescue helped us last year when we wanted to adopt Rudi. So, hopefully they’ll be able to help Miss Honey too.

Until then, we basically have 3 cats. And I’m loving it…until I worry about Honey being too cold or Toby’s heart exploding with self-imposed anxiety. 😉

It’s not all bad, Tobycat. Sometimes even Rudi is tolerable…when you’re already asleep…and unaware that you’re being warmed by his presence.


Cat drama: always free, always fun.


Enjoy what’s left of your October, all. With stunning tree beauty and cats to snuggle, I know I will!




*I started calling feral kitty “honey” because she was so sweet and would rub her little face all over our legs and purr and head-boop us. I know these actions are simply her tools to extract kibbles from the nice humans. I don’t care. She’s a sweetheart who will often jump into my lap when I sit outside so I can pet her. Seriously, who cares if her affection is manipulative? She’s cute and furry and tiny and sweet and hungry. And I want to make sure she doesn’t die this winter. She’s wormed her little furry face into my bleeding heart. I will always want to love all the cats all the time. Case end point. That’s all she wrote, folks. 🙂


Posted in Being real, Thoughts

Quenching the wildfires

Hello all,

This week, my heart is burning for people that live in Northern California, some I know by name. The wildfires there are just plain crazy/scary & so many families have been uprooted. So much loss, so much fear, so much worry as the fires keep raging.

My heart is heavy as I think of you who live in the state I used to call home. Some of you share DNA with me and hearing of your distress causes me physical pain. So, you beautiful families of Northern California: I am praying for the fires to be extinguished, for you to be comfortable & safe while exiled from your homes, and for God to move hearts to give compassionately to your collective and specific needs. May you all be satisfied with every good thing in this horrible time. May you all have rest and deep peace. I am so sorry that this has happened. And it weighs on me, so I had to do something. Even if my “something” is just a prayer and a blog post.

What did Mother Teresa say? “Small things done with great love will change the world”? May so many small things done in great love change the wildfires’ waves of destruction in California.

God, please go and sit with people and meet their needs in their distress. We are waiting for You and we desperately depend on You. Come and help us! Amen


Posted in Being real, Joy: 2017 Word Meditation, Media Mondays, Thoughts

Joy & Sorrow: kindred spirits

Hey all, remember Media Mondays? (dusts them off) Yeah, me too.

I’ve previously mentioned my affinity for Ann Voskamp’s words (and heart and life). And this weekend, I read a blog post on her website and started weeping. That’s right, straight up ugly crying. So, for this Media Monday, I’ll leave you with this piece of my heart:

Joy can still be found in brokenness.

To be honest, I don’t really understand why I had such an intense emotional reaction to Katie Davis Majors’ words. I deeply resonated with her book Kisses from Katie when I read it many years ago. And I had no idea that she and Ann Voskamp were connected.* But something is stirring within me as I keep living on this busted, broken planet full of busted, broken humans (of which I am one). We get it so wrong. We fall so short of God’s hopes for us. And yet…there is still very real joy to be had.

For the most part, I’d say emotions are a pendulum which swings between two polar opposites: sorrow and joy. But no. Sorrow and joy can occupy the same space. They are not extremes that come nowhere near each other. To be deeply, profoundly affected by sorrow can mean I experience real, tangible joy. Because the Author of my life is near those who are brokenhearted. And He really is.


At house church this weekend, some dear friends related their week as they engaged with a beloved family member going home. Really going home, to the Lord. And I was reminded that there is more than we see. There is so much going on behind the scenes, in the reality that is unseen, and that God is there too.

And I imagined myself, at the end of my life, turning to see Jesus literally come to meet me. And that thought wrecked me.

Right now, we see in part, but then…we will see REALLY. What I experience now on this planet is a shadow in comparison to what is to come. I forget that, cause these shadows have weight; they can hurt me, they aren’t wispy and light. But there is more. And I am not alone.

And if I’m willing to live in the place sorrow lives, sorrow will not be all I experience. Cause joy lives there too. And God is close to the brokenhearted. God is willing to be wounded to sit with those who are hurting. Wow. That is just echoing in my brain and I’m truly hearing it. If I claim to love Him and want to be like Him, I will sit in my sorrow and not run away. I will stay through the tough stuff, I will let the arrows & slings of His enemy come, because He is right beside me and there is true joy to be had, right here, right now.

Bring it on.




*I am thrilled Katie has written another book. And I am equally thrilled that two women I profoundly respect for their reckless abandon to Jesus are friends. I want Ann Voskamp, Katie Davis Majors, Sara Groves and Audrey Assad to all come over to my house for the realest, most raw worship session ever. 🙂 Hey, a girl can dream. 🙂

Posted in Crafty madness!, Homesteading, Joy: 2017 Word Meditation

On the home-front

I recently had some off time that was lavished on the home-front. Now, I’m just as excited as anyone to take vacations to exciting places, don’t get me wrong. But how often do we truly have energy & time to spend within the walls of the places we call home? With work at the bookstore and other “less professional” jobs keeping me busy outside the home-front, time slips away from me and my home becomes “that place I sleep sometimes.” How sad to pay a mortgage or rent on a space you don’t enjoy or even use for the majority of your waking hours!

The to-do list for home-front related chores is often steep and overwhelming. I picked at a couple nagging ones this week:

Exhibit A: a draft blocker for our housemate’s room, cheerily created from the legs of some jeans I cut off into shorts this year!


Exhibit B: a custom pincushion from a hand-embroidered hankie my Aunt Greer made me, I am so pleased with how this turned out!


Exhibit C: an autumnal wreath to replace the springy one I made earlier this year, cause it’s Fall now! (squee!!!!)


I also “Marie Kondo”ed my dresser drawers, which was fun. Never heard of Marie Kondo? OH MAN, she is the absolute guru of minimalist thinking. I read her book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up in 2015 and it only gave me more impetus toward reducing how much stuff I surround myself with on a daily basis. I am nowhere near “done” in this area of my life, but I have enjoyed owning less and redefining the word “necessary”.

Anywho, I also had the great pleasure of hosting a sewing circle in my home yesterday. More details on that to come later, for sure. I’m a beginner sewer (is that a word?), but I have greatly enjoyed taking classes at Treadle Yard Goods here in the Twin Cities. I also benefit in the amazing local support, encouragement & instruction from my friend Amanda who makes her own clothes (among other impressive feats). And as I surround myself with people who are comfortable playing with fabric, I have become less harsh on myself. Instead of getting anxious about messing things up, I’m learning to treat sewing like playtime. If I mess up a project, it’s just part of learning this skill.*

I greatly enjoyed my stay-cation. It was full of my home, among many other things, and I didn’t realize how lucky I am to have such a beautiful space within which to be. It is so lovely to invite others into a space you intentionally design and set apart to welcome others. It’s so lovely to get those proverbial ducks in a row. And to quote Charlotte Lucas in the P&P version most true Austenites shun for its departure from the text, “{Oh Lizzy} it is SUCH a pleasure to run my own home.” Well said, Charlotte. It is a pleasure indeed.






*big breaths everyone and maybe don’t throw the bobbin at the wall when it snags the underside of your project to oblivion…

Posted in Culinary adventures, Homesteading

Autumn Bounty

As summer harvest winds down here in Minnesota, the old Brookes homestead still has a few treasures in the backyard garden.

Hello, Gorgeous!

Back in May this year, some friends & I were wandering around the Minnesota State Fairgrounds at a truly stunning plant sale when I stumbled across purple carrot seeds. Firstly, I had no idea purple carrots were a thing. Secondly, I’d never tried to grow carrots before. But they were dirt cheap (pun intended) and I figured, “why not!”

I’m sure carrots take their flavor from the soil they grow in, so as I continue cultivating these delightful root veggies I’ll be intrigued to discover flavor differences as our soil becomes more organic & healthy. For now, these carrots are squat, little, sassy-tasting beauties. And I am really unnecessarily proud of how gorgeous they are. All I did was poke some seeds in some dirt, water them every once in a while and wait for like 3 months. It’s not like I invented the carrot and caused them to grow.

But lookit how pretty!


And since I had such a large crop of carrots, I decided to dust off one of my favorite Fall recipes from The Soup Bible*:

Spicy Carrot Soup with Garlic Croutons (serves 6) vegan friendly!

Soup ingredients:

  • 1 Tbls. olive oil
  • 1 lg. onion, chopped
  • 4 c. carrots, sliced
  • 1 tsp. each ground coriander, ground cumin, and cayenne pepper
  • 4 c. vegetable stock
  • salt & black pepper to taste, sprigs of fresh cilantro to garnish (if you garnish soups)

For the croutons:

  • 1-2 Tbls. olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed (I double this as I’m making the croutons cause GARLIC)
  • 4 slices bread, crusts removed, cut into 1/2 inch cubes


Heat the oil on medium heat in a large soup pot. Add the onion and carrots. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the ground spices and cook 1 minute longer, stirring. Add stock and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 45 minutes until the carrots are tender. Meanwhile, make the garlic croutons. Heat oil on medium in a skillet. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds, stirring. Add bread cubes, turn them frequently in the oil and fry for a few minutes until crisp and golden brown all over. Pat dry on towels. Puree the soup in a blender, food processor or with an immersion blender. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Return to soup pot (if needed) to reheat. Serve hot, sprinkled with croutons and garnish with cilantro (if you garnish stuff).

Hello Autumn in a pot!


Such a joy to be part of the food process from start to finish. Who knew that growing my own food would be so satisfying! What are you growing in your garden? Anything you grow that has become a staple you just can’t live without now? Also, let me know if you try this soup recipe!





*I got my copy of The Soup Bible at Half Price Books for $2 in the clearance section. I have made over 10 soup recipes from it and each one has been super tasty. There are many very affordable recipes and a lot of great, wholesome flavor combos. I highly recommend this cookbook.

Posted in Culinary adventures, Homesteading, Word Study: "Joy"


One of the glories of having a small patch of garden is reaping the harvest. And after planting 16 varieties of hot and sweet peppers in May, we have been enjoying the fruits of our labors.


This was yield 1 of 50 bajillion. 🙂

So I did Nayt’s favorite thing and made some salsa.


It turned out SPICY. So spicy that Nayt has been using it on our homemade Chipotle-style rice bowls WITHOUT adding hot sauce. I’m calling that a victory. 🙂 Such a simple joy to make a treat for the hubs (and me! I eat salsa!) from things I’ve GROWN. Simple yet profoundly satisfying.


Thanks garden peppers! You are very tasty!

As I was lovingly staring at the broccoli/cabbage/kale/carrot bed, I noticed a small li’l cabbage is ready for picking. And I have plans for that cabbage. (Rubs hands together with glee.) Stay tuned to learn what happens to the li’l guy! 😉

Homesteader out!

Posted in Being real, self-care, Thoughts

The land of the living


Been awhile, I know. One way to lose all your readers is to casually disappear. Good thing I’m not blogging “for the views”.  🙂

It’s been a summer, y’all. Actually, to be real honest, it’s been a heck of a year. But for the first time in awhile, I’m beginning to have a little hope things could change over here at the Brookes’ homestead. We’ve jumped over a couple really scary-looking what-if fences, and are on the other side with scraped legs…but we’re okay.

Nayt is now doing contract work at Code42 in downtown Minneapolis, which has many perks: proximity to home cuts his cycling commute WAY down, he has a fantastic view from his cubicle and access (once again) to a myriad of free snacks. It’s like tech companies know IT staff are super food-motivated or something.  😉  Nayt has access to all the iced tea and gummy bears he could ever long for. And after 1pm, Code42 actually lets you drink beer on the job. Yeah. Jealous much?

I’m still plugging away at Half Price Books in Roseville. We’re amping up for the Holiday season. For those of you not hip to the retail-scene, thinking “what!? it’s AUGUST!” yeah, we get ready for Holiday* in August. We already have Christmas cards in stock. And get this, people have actually bought some. This week, I imagined an alternate reality where I didn’t work in retail during Holiday. There were 15 seconds where my brain’s tires spun out. I’ve done retail for the past 4 years and the concept of experiencing the Christmas season when it actually starts was like, “wait…what?”

Otherwise, summer feels like it ended about two weeks ago. Minneapolis has been having a very balmy August. It’s been rainy and chilly…so…wonderful. Case end point: I started wearing sweaters. This Fall-baby is in love. I’m drinking my Novembre Te from Sweden, so it’s official, I declare Fall is here**.  I fully expect leaves to turn and pumpkins to magic their way to my front stoop at any moment. #AccioAutumn

As I type this, I have sleeping kitties on my lap and the back of my chair, Hem’s album “Rabbit Songs” is quietly making Nayt’s office into a calm oasis of sound and I am content. I can just be. Moments of utter freedom to be who you are becoming; truly the definition of home.

To be frank, these past 60+ days, I haven’t really felt like I wanted to live my life. I’ve been coasting, just going through the motions and escaping reality. For a long chapter, I’ve disengaged to protect myself; a friend even labeled me “poky”, like a hedgehog all rolled up. Because I’m a mature adult, I had been giving God the silent treatment. But last week, the prayers of all the saints in my life broke through the wall I had wrapped around myself. And God gave me some completely undeserved and real, actual, tangible happiness. So I started talking to Him again…because I’m a toddler and need to be reminded 1500 times/day that my Papa still loves me and is taking care of me.

Naturally, being on speaking terms with the author of my personhood & life has made a radical change in my daily experiences. Circumstances aren’t much different, but I feel like I am willing to take up my cross. Just last week, I was focused on the weight of it on my back and the splinters on my hands. But miraculously, I had a moment where I looked ahead on the path. I saw Jesus standing there with outstretched arms and a smile on His face. I can see Him now and He’s beckoning me to come after Him. What’s crazy is I really believe He means it when He tells me it’ll be worth it.

Faith makes no sense.

So, I am back in the land of the living, all. I’m sorry I forgot to rely on the God I love. I’m sorry I forgot to trust Him with the deepest needs of my heart. I had been looking for those to be met in the wrong places. It wasn’t working. Putting Him first is working. (Imagine that!) CLEARLY, I have the attention span of a 3-year-old. I want to be obedient to Him and just am not so often. To my prayer warriors, thank you and please keep praying for me!

Much love,





*”Holiday” is the hip merchandize-y word for the season during which customers request and are supplied with a myriad of choices to celebrate American commercial Christmas. Other lesser known holidays sometimes get small sections of merch as well: Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Kwanza, Christianity’s version of Christmas and if the store is REALLY niche, the Winter Solstace.

**Outside of the Twin Cities, Fall may not be currently available. Please check with your local stores to see if Autumn is “in stock”.