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 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 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 Homesteading, Thoughts

Is Zero Waste Attainable?

Hey all,

Happy Earth Day! This big, beautiful planet of ours has a lot to offer us. Mainly, it provides us a home where we do minor things like breathe and eat and survive. No big deal. Except it kind of is a big deal when I stop and think about humanity’s stewardship of this planet’s resources. I’d say we as a collective group don’t seem too concerned with trashing this home of ours.

I happen to live in an urban neighborhood where I come face to face with a shocking amount of litter. What bothers me most about the litter on my streets is that the majority of it is cans and bottles that are 100% recyclable. So, I have a dirty little habit of picking it up as I walk around my hood. It’s gone so far as this: carrying reuseable bags on my person for the sole purpose of collecting trash off the street as I walk to and from the bus. I’ve started heckling coworkers who absent-mindedly throw their drink containers in the trash cans at work. And yes, I’ve dug in trash containers to retrieve recyclables, and frequently have bags full of cans and bottles in my trunk. I’ll admit, I have a “problem”. I might be a litter magnet. I literally feel like I have litter radar going 24/7.

There’s a little local coffee shop within walking distance of my home that is a zero waste business. Serendripity Spot does not have disposable cups. You have to bring your own mug or drink things in store. At first, I thought this mindset would not be a sustainable business habit. How on earth could a coffee shop garner enough profit to counteract the lost business from customers who’d prefer disposable cups? But I’m so encouraged Serendripity Spot finds that risk worth taking. The owner, Kelley, would rather make less money than contribute to the litter in my neighborhood and trash in our local landfills. That is awesome.

Zero Waste. Could it really be a thing?

I saw this Buzz Feed video and got really excited about the idea: check it out here. Who else wants to make a worm compost after watching that??? Most impactful to me was her little Mason jar of trash after a MONTH. I wanna do that! According to that video, the average person generates 4+ pounds of trash PER DAY. What!?!?!?! That is craziness!

I don’t know what it would look like for the Minnesota Brookes household to transition to a zero waste household. But I know that I want to take steps towards that. I know acquiring less stuff in general is a giant leap towards a more sustainable life. And it really annoys me that most food packaging isn’t recyclable. I guess on this Earth Day, I wanted to say…I’m less cool with forgetting my choices affect the one planet we have. And I want to make choices that are better for the extended life of this beautiful home we all share.

Are you moving towards a zero-waste home? Tell me what you do to reduce, reuse and recycle by commenting below!


Posted in Crafty madness!, Culinary adventures, Homesteading

Hard-boiled joy

Easter is upon us: a time to reflect & remember that the God I worship literally died so I’d be free. Yet while all that heart-heavy stuff is marinating, windows are opening, the sun is shining and Spring is upon us. It’s as if the world is asking us to shake off our heaviness and come play a little. “Weeping may last the night but joy comes with the morning.” –Psalm 30:5

And over here at the Brookes’ homestead, we’ve been boiling our own joy: naturally dyed Easter eggs! This tradition dates back thousands of years, and I’ve long wanted to experiment for myself. With some help from Mama (who’s in town for a visit), we boiled eggs and made dye baths. Science is fun!

So, without further ado, here are the results:

Top photo: Dye baths -top row: curry, spinach, red cabbage, beets -bottom row: onion skin, green tea, beets. Bottom left photo: turmeric with string. Bottom right photo: red cabbage with string. Loved this process! Definitely repeating!
My favorite dye bath was the onion skin. Super cool (and really cheap!!!)
Dye bath processing. Next time, I’ll double the vinegar.
This year, we did canned beets and a mix of canned and fresh spinach. Fresh is for SURE the way to go. Now I know for next year. Beets are supposed to dye eggs brilliant pink.
Super appreciate my local Co-op making these great reference sheets available! Definitely will try the red cabbage and onion skins again. Stunning color!
Posted in Culinary adventures, Homesteading


It could be the direct result of where I’m employed, but it seems like there’s a lot of talk about turning vegetables into noodles. Our cooking section at Half Price Books has a few books specifically focused on spiralizing: hand-making noodles from veg. As a person who has flirted with the Paleo diet and whose gut responds well to little or no grain, the idea intrigues me. However, Nayt & I have had serious momentum into minimalism, so accumulating another kitchen gadget to experiment with was not my ideal. Enter my friend Karyn!

Friends let friends play with their cool toys. And it turns out, when you’re a grown-up, those toys might be weird kitchen gadgets.  🙂

So, last night, I played around with turning zucchini into noodles.  Olive oil, garlic, roasted onions, dried parsley, salt & pepper, and Herb de Provence* coated my freshly spiralized zucchini. It was tasty and satisfying. I was surprised at how the texture was so similar to noodles. I will say this, don’t try to trick your veg-reluctant spouse or kids by substituting zucchini for pasta. It is obviously veg when you bite into it, both in flavor and texture. BUT very tasty, and a totally ingenious way to mindfully increase your vegetable intake.

Now that I’ve played with it, I don’t know if I’d ever use it enough to justify owning one. Still was super fun! Thanks for sharing your toys, Karyn!





*I’ve never cooked with Herb de Provence before. A 9yr old sealed jar of it was staring at me from the spice rack. Have you cooked with this dried herb? It smells really delicious, but I don’t think I used enough (granted, it’s pretty old). I had a hard time identifying it amidst the garlic and olive oil flavors. If you’ve cooked with it, what dishes have you used it in?

Posted in Homesteading

Winter is trouncing us…

Well, here in the tundra, we’ve been experiencing some of Winter’s opening act. She started off mild and then flipped her switch into Canadian. Here at the Brookes homestead, we are excited to report the 6+” of snow from Sunday’s storm are sticking around real nice. This could be why…

Uhhh, I think I’ll stay in Saturday…

With temps hovering in the single digits all day, our snow should be around for a good while. Minnesota tends to accumulate snow in December that has no chance of melting til the Spring. Usually, the snow trumps my whining about the bitter cold. But this year, all I want to do is this…


And I’ve got extra reasons to hibernate, as I am now experiencing two different types of cold…

Cepacol and Throat Coat vs. Winter.

I still think the snow is beautiful…


But maybe I’ll just enjoy it from inside buildings and cars, cause…


Posted in Homesteading, Kitten dramas

Squirrels gone wild…

Squirrels are going nuts over here on the old Minnesota Brookes’ homestead. We’ve got 4 cheeky buggers running all over the front banister and flower boxes hunting for treats. Naturally, the felines are intrigued…




But what had me rushing to get the camera wasn’t the insane squirrels who seriously looked like they were staring into the house at times…it was to document the proximity between Tobycat and the kitten.

Lookit that closeness! They are, like, TOUCHING.

I’m callin’ it. They are now (drumroll please)…


Thanks, you nutty squirrels, you brought my furries together!