Simple With Tsh Oxenreider Podcast Episode 211: Rhythms + Community

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In this episode, I share some rhythms Steven and I have created that help us gather people together more easily - I hope it inspires you and makes it more doable for you to have simple gatherings at home, no matter where you live!

In Tsh’s segment, she shares some rituals that are helping keep her sane during really busy days lately - so helpful.

Listen in on iTunes or at The Art of Simple, and let us know your thoughts!

You can also read my post, Finding Community In An Unexpected Place, which inspired this episode.

Finding Community In An Unexpected Place - For The Art of Simple

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If you’ve ever struggled to find community in a new place, or wondered how to build a deeper community where you live, I wrote this post for you! Today on Art of Simple, I’m sharing some fears I had about moving to the country, and how God showed me how much beauty there is on the other side of bravery. I also share some ways to connect more with your community, wherever you live.

We talked about having our own farm one day, and when it actually became a reality shortly after we moved to Tennessee, I resisted it wholeheartedly, fearing the potential remoteness of living in the country and its high contrast to city life. The one big thing I was worried about was feeling isolated. What would I do without sidewalks? Where would my kids learn to ride a bike? Would anyone ever come to our house? Would we have a close community again? Continue reading…

Sunday Funday: A Different Kind of Sabbath - For The Art of Simple

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If you know me personally, you know that Sunday afternoons with my family are often filled with chasing as many Tennessee waterfalls as possible. Sunday Funday has become quite the event and tradition, and I’ve learned a few things along the way. In this post on Art of Simple, I’m sharing our “why,” ideas of where to go (not just waterfalls!), what to pack, some playlists you can download, and other ideas for how you can try a Sunday Funday adventure of your own.

“Whenever we can, we go on a little excursion away from home on Sundays, because the combination of Sabbath + adventure seems to work well for us. I personally feel more connected to the heart of God when I’m getting out in wild places often and being surprised by new discoveries in creation.” Continue reading…

Thoughts on Returning Home

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I’ve been here in New Jersey, having cups of morning mushroom coffee barefoot with the Black Eyed Susans in my parents’ backyard while Steven holds down the fort back home at the farm. I so wish he could be here with me and the girls, because life is generally just more wonderful and exciting with him around, and my girls sorely miss their daddy.

But we decided to come anyway, because we haven’t been here in three years, and I wanted my youngest little gal to make some real, lasting memories in this place like her older sister has. I wanted her to know more about her heritage and have a visual of where her NJ grandparents live when they’re not visiting us. And, of course, to meet all of Mimi’s crazy, pampered cats - Brandon, Suzannah, and Melanie.

Returning to your childhood home is surreal. It can be great, and it can be weird. I notice how some things never change - like the collage frame of my yearly school photos from K-12 and the macrame plant hangers that have been in the living room window my whole life.

Yet, so much has changed. I’m not even close to the same person who took her first steps in this backyard, who played badminton under the oak trees so high you can no longer see the tops. At times, I feel like I can reach out and touch scenes from childhood and adolescence in this grass and driveway and along these neighborhood streets - a first bee sting on my foot at my best friend’s house, a first time jumping off the high dive, a first kiss in Summerhill Park. But really? Even though those things are all a part of me, they happened so long ago.

It’s okay. I know who I am now. I also know distinctly who I’m not. This trip has been low-key and freeing to know I can go back to my childhood home now and not expect it to fill me or complete me as a human being.

This quote by one of my favorite authors has inspired me so much over the last few years, and it continues to gently prod me as I face each day:

“The world will tell you how to live, if you let it. Don’t let it. Take up your space. Raise your voice. Sing your song. This is your chance to make or remake a life that thrills you.”
~ Shauna Niequist

Yes, I’m so thankful for the girl who began here on this New Jersey soil and for the faith and love of learning, beauty and simplicity it rooted in me.

And I’m thankful for where life has led me away, by way of Nashville and Houston and Dallas and back to Tennessee again to Kindred Farm where I belong. Where, finally, I feel completely and fully myself.

Summer Favorites

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I was inspired by this post to share some of my summer favorites with you. I love hearing what other people are into right now, so share yours too, pretty please!

Here are a few of my summer favorites:

  • Rainbow colored zinnias. Yes, I’ve taken approximately 8,000 photos of my zinnias this summer. Can’t stop, won’t stop.

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  • High rise button-front denim shorts from GAP. Yay for 40% off sales so I can replenish my jorts stash after my old ones were surrendered to “farm clothes” status. I got these button-front denim shorts in the vintage black color, and I’ve worn them almost every day. They’re perfect for tucking in shirts and are just the right length for me with the cuffs unrolled.

  • Birkenstock Gizeh EVA sandals. These pretty much haven’t left my feet since I got them in early spring. They cost less than regular Birkenstocks but are still great, thick quality. Mine are metallic bronze, and they’re waterproof but nice enough to wear with skirts. I slip them on to go swimming, or to check on things on the farm when I don’t need boots, or just whenever. They’re the only thing I wear besides my red Saltwater sandals.

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  • Harvesting calendula to make my own calendula salve. This is the one thing that helps my dry, cracked farmer hands. These bright orange blooms are currently bathing in Extra Virgin Olive Oil and will be made into salves at the end of summer.

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  • Against All Grain Almond Flour Zucchini Bread. For when you harvest zucchini as big as your leg (oops!). I added some Enjoy Life mini chocolate chips, and everyone in our family loved it.

  • The perfect summer smoothie = bananas + peanut butter + almond or coconut milk + hemp seeds + stevia (or honey or maple syrup) + kale + 1 drop doTerra peppermint oil. The secret is making sure the frozen fruit sticks out a little above the liquid - this makes for the best consistency. I can’t think of anything that tastes more nourishing after I’ve been working outside all morning. My girls love it too, with a little twist…I sprinkle some Enjoy Life mini chocolate chips in the bottom of the glass for when they get to the bottom. :)

  • Blasting my “Top 40 Songs of All Time” playlist while singing at the top of my lungs and driving country roads. “Galileo” by Indigo Girls, “Hold On” by Wilson Phillips, and “Sky Full of Stars” by Coldplay are a few on my list. Have you ever tried to whittle down your favorite songs into a Top 40? It’s so hard but so delightfully nostalgic.

  • Swimming in waterfalls + lakes + creeks more than pools. Rock Island State Park has been a favorite this summer with its multiple waterfalls, rock jumping, and magical swimming holes. P.S. It’s made our lives so much easier to have a swim bag packed at all times, for either pool or state park. It always has shampoo, conditioner, hairbrush, towels, clean swimsuits, bug spray, sunscreen, goggles, sunglasses, and a wet bag to store wet things until we get home. Gamechanger.

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There’s still so much summer left - let’s soak it up while we can without trying to look ahead too quickly to fall. What are some of your summer favorites?

I Love This Place: Columbia, Tennessee - For The Art of Simple

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Today on The Art of Simple I’m sharing all the things I love about Columbia, TN, our closest major town just 15 minutes down the road. Well, not all the things - I could have included about 50 more places and businesses I love, but I had to stop somewhere! I’m so thankful to be a part of this growing community full fo so many entrepreneurs, artists, creatives, artisans, and just generally kind people who care.

“I’m writing this from the square in downtown Columbia, Tennessee on a park bench that says above it: “Welcome to our beautiful downtown. Sit down and enjoy yourself.” To me, those two sentences accurately capture the endearing, welcoming, connective nature of this town, one I’ve grown to increasingly love over the last three years we’ve lived nearby.” Continue reading…

Have you been to Columbia? What are some of your favorite places?

Be More Scrappy

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From the Urban Dictionary:

Scrappy:

Someone or something that appears dwarfed by a challenge, but more than compensates for seeming inadequacies through will, persistence and heart.

Have you read Chip Gaines’ book, Capital Gaines: Smart Things I Learned Doing Stupid Stuff? I read it last year and expected a funny, lighthearted read. And it totally was. But it was so much more. What I didn’t expect was for it to completely change my life perspective. I didn’t realize this book would shake me awake out of fear, into freedom and bravery, and…scrappiness.

By “scrappy,” I don’t mean argumentative, or in a constant stage of being ready to punch someone in the face. I mean exactly what the above definition says, because “appearing dwarfed by a challenge” is the story of pretty much my entire life.

Time and again, I’ve shrunken down from challenges, or I’ve walked away from them altogether saying, “It’s just too hard.” I wasn’t good at hitting in softball? I’m done with that. I’m slow at running track? Bye bye. I even quit a job as a hostess at Houston’s Restaurant one summer during college because it was just too stinkin’ hard AND PEOPLE WERE YELLING IN MY FACE ALL NIGHT. After the final straw when a lady chewed me out during the busiest dinner rush one evening, I lied and told them I was going back to college sooner than I thought and then got a job folding clothes at Old Navy instead. True story.

After college I started to hone in on my gifts just a little bit, and I took initiative to go after my goals and dreams of working in the music industry, but I still struggled with being in leadership roles or pushing through hard times. I didn’t know then that God had already begun leading me on a journey to becoming more brave, as He’s called me to be.

I was soon paired with a headstrong, forward-moving, autonomous, inspiring, visionary man for a husband. We couldn’t be more different, and that’s wonderful, because we each have our own unique gifts. We stretch and balance each other in good ways. Steven (enneagram 8w7, “The Maverick”) will always be an entrepreneur at heart who’s extremely driven, fast-paced, optimistic, living life full-tilt. As an enneagram 9w1 (“The Dreamer”), I’ll always be the calmer, slower-paced, more grounded force, considering the details and others’ perspectives.

Steven is honestly my biggest cheerleader, believing in me as a writer and podcaster and farmer and homeschooling mom. And over the last few years particularly (becoming a farmer and turning 40 helped!), I’m learning how to actually be brave and face challenges on my own, not just because someone is prodding me. I’m finding my own voice and learning to be a fighter in the best possible way.

I’m learning to be more scrappy.

Admittedly, will and perseverance just don’t come naturally to me. But I desperately want - and need - more of it in my life. Here are some parts I underlined in Chip’s book…

“Life isn’t safe, remember. But life can be wonderful if you choose adventure rather than fear.”

“When others bail from challenges, we’re just getting warmed up.”

“When something seems insurmountable to most, we shrug, because we eat ‘insurmountable’ for breakfast.”

Hmm, that sounds familiar. Just a few days ago when we were moving our chickens to new pasture and I was worried about ticks in the tall grass, Steven said, “Whatever. I eat ticks for breakfast.” Meanwhile, I was obsessively dousing myself with essential oil spray.

Seriously though? On the farm, without scrappiness, you just don’t survive for very long.

Yes, this whole 17 acres of land might seem too much for two people to handle.

We might sound crazy to sell tickets for 150 people (5 times now!) to come eat dinner on our land.

It might be insane to get up every Saturday morning at 5:30am and sweat down to our underwear by 7:30am, planting 100 feet of lettuce while most people are still sleeping.

The blisters, aching muscles, the multitude of bug bites and mounds of not just dirty, but muddy laundry - all of it sounds TOO HARD, right?

But we’ve made a firm choice to do it together and to rise to the challenges, and we’re not going back. We’re not going to let them dwarf us. I’m not going to let them dwarf me.

And at the end of the day, I’m rewarded with pockets full of tomatoes, armfuls of zinnias, children catching fireflies and harvesting bouquets barefoot. There’s no lovely without the contrast of the hard. There just isn’t.

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This morning was a true test. I found myself in the position of having to lift an enormous, bulky 50 lb bag of pelleted chicken fertilizer, which, I promise, you don’t want spilling on your clothes. Steven had left for work to cook for one of his clients, and no one else was around except for my 8-year-old and 5-year-old daughters, and we know they weren’t going to be much help when it comes to heavy lifting. This was a crucial step in laying a new lettuce row, so I had to get it done.

So you know what I did? I dug deep, I channeled “scrappy,” grunting louder than was probably necessary, and I lifted that sucker.

I propped the unopened end of the colossal bag on a bucket which helped brace it while I used every muscle in my arms and abs to slowly position the opening to pour the fertilizer into another bucket.

My arms were trembling when it was done, but it worked! And I actually yelled, “HECK YEAH! GIRL POWER!” really loudly in the middle of our produce field, although no one heard it but me.

And that action that I overcame will make all the difference in the way the lettuce grows.

Will. Persistence. Heart.

Three things I really want more of in my life. What about you?

~ ~ ~

P.S. Here’s Chip’s book on Amazon - this is an affiliate link, so if you purchase it, I get a small commission. :)

Simple With Tsh Oxenreider Podcast Episode 198: Body Image & Sabbaticals

In this episode, I get to share my heart on body image issues and some practical ways that we can foster a healthy body image. I really hope this speaks to you!

In Tsh’s segment, she shares her heart on why she’s taking a sabbatical this July, and I think it’s brave and genius. Major goals to be able to do this with Steven in the next five years. Listen in on iTunes or at The Art of Simple, and let us know your thoughts!

You can also read my post, The Liberation of Lake Life (A Body Image Manifesto), which inspired this episode.

The Liberation of Lake Life (A Body Image Manifesto) - For The Art of Simple

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“So, as I put on my swimsuit in front of the full-length mirror in our room on the houseboat, I decided to choose life and freedom, not just as an example for my daughters, but for myself. I decided that to really soak up the moments and gift of this trip, I was going to have to leave behind the self-absorption and appreciate my body for the strength and beauty that it is.

I was indeed going to walk around for four days in nothing but a swimsuit and believe that it’s okay not to look like someone else; it’s okay to look like me.” Continue reading….

In my latest post for The Art of Simple, I’m sharing something deeply personal: my struggles with body image. This was a tough one for me to share, but I know I’m not alone! As summer approaches, let’s encourage one another as we live in freedom and embrace our bodies as they are, with all their beauty and scars.

Have you ever struggled with this? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

11 Things I Learned This Spring

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Have you tried to actually sit down and reflect on what you’ve been learning? It’s not that easy. We go through life so much on autopilot without taking time to reflect. So I’m loving this new practice, joining in with author Emily P. Freeman to look back on each season and notice and name some of the things I’ve learned. Join me - I’d love to know what you’ve been learning too…

1) How to slow down time.

Oh, don’t we all wish we actually could? But I’ve learned a little secret while writing this post for Art of Simple that’s become my new daily motto: Today, I will log more moments in the present so time feels longer. The more moments we log in the present, time actually does feel slower - and more full of the good stuff. I still look at my two growing daughters (5 and almost 9) and see that “the little years” are mostly behind us (lump in throat), but I honestly don’t feel time slipping out of my hands. While we’re entering a new stage, I know I squeezed every drop of life I could out of the previous one.

2) “God will not let you miss your own future.”

HUGE exhale. This line is from Emily P. Freeman’s The Next Right Thing podcast (episode 76), and it’s one of the best things I heard this spring. It really is such a relief to know I’m not responsible for it all. I say I believe that, but to live like it’s true is another thing entirely. I’m working on doing more of that.

3) I prolly shoulda started farming at age 25 instead of 39. #ohmyachingbones

But seriously, I’ve learned this spring that it’s just gonna hurt and be uncomfortable, and the more I have that expectation, it’s a wee bit less hard. My husband Steven always says, “High expectations lead to much frustration.” So I’m setting the expectation: there’s gonna be mud caked under my nails. I’m going to feel gross and need to take like 10 showers a week. And to save myself some frustration later, listen to my gut next time and always add at least 2 irrigation drip lines to a new row, no matter what anyone says. There were some definite choice words involved in pulling up those rows and re-doing them. Oy.

4) It’s important to keep a childlike wonder, no matter my age.

Every single time a new seed sprouts, I have the same feeling of awe: it actually worked!

And a new discovery: apparently birds really like to nest in ferns. This may be old news to many of you, but this was my first time seeing it when I took down my hanging fern to water it, and I literally gasped.

The other evening, I was walking back to the produce washing station after feeding the chickens, and this sight of our barn with the almost-full moon stopped me in my tracks (look closely for my oldest daughter in the rye grass). The best part is that I texted it to my husband, and he said he didn’t even know where that was at first - sometimes we see our own surroundings with fresh eyes.

5) It’s good to accept others’ help.

A few weeks ago, on an ordinary weekday, my girls ended up staying the night at my close friend’s house. It was totally impromptu, and Steven and I found ourselves kid-free for the night at our own house, which we’ve actually never done. He finished his chef work in the barn kitchen, and at 8:30pm, we went on a random but much-needed date to one of our favorite local restaurants, Vanh Dy’s, in our little nearby downtown of Columbia, TN. It’s shocking how hard it was at first to accept that help, that another mom was willingly watching my kids all night while we got to have a date, but I realized how freeing it is to accept people’s help when they offer. It actually blesses others to let them help you - it’s done the same for me when I’ve been on the other end.

6) Sometimes God removes the storm, and sometimes He’s with us in the midst of it.

Photo by KT Sura

Photo by KT Sura

On the day of our spring Kindred Dinner for 150 people, it was predicting storms all evening. This was our 5th farm dinner, and we’ve never had to go with our rain plan. I was so worried, y’all. These people bought tickets and were expecting an amazing, memorable experience. In my shallow vision, I thought our best-case scenario was that it wouldn’t rain, but instead God wanted to show me - and so many others - how beautiful and intimate and nourishing breaking bread together can be in the very midst of a storm. I’ll hold this experience close for a long time.

More thoughts and photos on our Kindred Farm Instagram. My favorite part of this photo is all the umbrellas leaned against the side of the greenhouse!

7) Intermittent fasting is how I should eat most of the time.

I started the practice of intermittent fasting in January, thinking it would be temporary. It feels so good and freeing that I think this is a new longterm pattern in my life. I wrote all about it here.

8) But feasting is just as important.

I’ve learned that feasting is so much more meaningful when you’re not doing it all the time. We were made for both feasting and fasting - there’s a time to reign things in and go without, and there’s a time to let go and enjoy. One of the best things about a collaborative feast is that each person gets to bring something - so be sure and let others help even if you’re hosting. Here are some amazing feasts we’ve had this spring:

Easter Sunday with dear friends and alllll the colorful spring goodness...

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Then, a heavenly little outdoor charcuterie board feast with friends on a Saturday evening, where we just cut up a bunch of pretty things and put them on cutting boards (no cooking!). Add some wine and sparkling water, and you have what feels like a very fancy dinner with no cooking. Bonus for fun patterned tablecloths I got over a decade ago in India, twinkle lights overhead and fireflies all around.

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And here’s something different…we put a little propane tabletop grill in the middle of our dining room table and had some friends over for a Korean ssam (lettuce wraps) feast where everyone got to grill their own meat and assemble unique, colorful lettuce wraps to their heart’s desire. All the lettuce, cabbage, Asian greens, and radishes were harvested from our farm a few minutes before. And I’m pretty sure we used every plate, bowl, and pair of chopsticks in the house.

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9. I still know every word to all the classic NKOTB songs.

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My 11-year-old self would have completely passed out to be this close to Joe McIntyre and New Kids on the Block, but 30 years later it was just a lighthearted blast of a night with my best college gals (and New Kids on the Block, Debbie Gibson, Tiffany, Salt N Pepa and Naughty By Nature!). We sang every word to all the classic NKOTB songs like “Please Don’t Go, Girl” (this was played at every middle school sleepover), “Tonight”, and of course, “Hangin’ Tough.” I reminisced about recording mixtapes from the radio, Aqua Net hairspray, claw bangs, BOP Magazine, posters in my locker and plastered on my bedroom wall, and Electric Youth Perfume.


10. It’s best to relax a little and give my girls space to learn some things on their own - this works better than pushing.

After playing Monopoly on and off for several days, my oldest daughter is a master at mental math and being the banker, and my 5-year-old just learned how to ride on two wheels on her own at my friend’s house in her gravel driveway. I so often try to control and feel like everything is my responsibility. Letting go - and seeing that everything is okay - helps me grow so much in this area. I’m also learning to let them help more, even if it’s not how I would have done that particular thing. Plus, I don’t want to miss out on hilarious sights like these:

Well, that’s ONE way to seed a new row of beets…

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11. My husband is an incredible podcast host.

I knew he would be. This man is one of the most compelling communicators I know, with an ability to cast a vision and share stories like none other. Check out Steven’s brand new The Korean Farmer podcast here or on iTunes, where he shares meaningful conversations about life, business, food, and everything in between. We record right here on Kindred Farm in our barn studio…and maybe we’ll be doing an episode together in the near future! :)

Photo: KT Sura

Photo: KT Sura

YOUR TURN! What are some things you learned this spring? I’d love to hear!