Wednesday, December 21, 2011
Friday, December 16, 2011
I talked to my mom on the phone today and she told me a funny story about my Dad and the outdoor Christmas lights.
He and I have put up the Christmas lights together whenever I was home. This year, even though I was home visiting, I didn't help him. He grumbled a little bit about it. Not directed at me, just at anyone who would listen. He finally got the icicles straight and plugged in, and declared that he was done.
Then, my mom told me that my sister was telling him that there weren't enough lights on the house. He grumbled about that. My mom answered, light-heartedly, "Since when have you listened to her?"
But my Dad has a big heart for his kids. Sure enough, off he went to BiMart to pick up more lights...and went back and forth from the store about five times. The garage power outlet, according to my mom's account, looks like the Griswold's. The fuse has already blown once.
"You remember that this isn't our house, right? So we can't blow it up."
Lights around the trees in the yard, wrapped along the front porch bannister, with cords running to and fro.
I think it's because his kids are coming home. With every string of lights, Dad is connecting us; connecting our memories of Christmas together, connecting our traditions that we all hold very close and dear.
The last few years have been full of big changes. I've been married for almost five years. My brother is out on his own. My baby sister is a freshman in high school, slowly spreading her wings. One by one, we're making lives of our own. And yet, Christmas is still ours. Still a sacred family time.
And in his small way, Dad is connecting us, lighting the way home.
1. Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking.
2. Link back to thegypsymama and invite others to join in.
3. Most important: visit, comment, encourage the person before you.
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
I write best in the middle of the night, while lying in bed, in between feeding the girls and hushing them back to sleep. Full essays, chapters of novels, inspired articles...it all happens under the covers. And when I wake up in the morning, it's all completely gone. So this morning, I can't even piece together an idea of what profound thought came to me last night. All that remains is a feeling, a lingering scent, a cloudy reflection that I can't make sense out of. Like that favorite sock lost in the dryer.
Where does it all go? There is a small self-authored library in my brain that is locked up tight during daylight hours. This is unfortunate, because I am not about to get up out of bed when inspiration hits and do anything about it. Keeping a notebook by the bed? Is that cheesy, like a wannabe writer? Nobody would know but me, though...and you. And the husband. Although he's in the guest room due to his wrenching cough, a sound to my ears that is like fingernails on a blackboard. We all flinch when he coughs and then double, triple coughs. Echinacea and Elderberry, friends, before it's too late.
Things that seem rational and brilliant in the middle of the night seem dim and silly in the light of day. There is a verse about this somewhere, I know, in Proverbs. Must be true, then, and not just me.
So I sit with my hot drink and watch the girls nap and wonder where did it all go? Because I was going to blow your and my mind today with inspired words that had me revved up around 2:55 a.m., excited to sit down during the morning nap and pound out some truth bombs.
Locked, I tell you.
So about that bedside notebook...
linking up w/just write @ the EO.
Friday, December 9, 2011
My house looks like every cupboard and drawer vomited its contents out onto my counters and floors, and there is a nice big load of laundry that needs to be folded...and a few more to-do's. And I need to go to bed. But oh well.
And I need some new inspiration, so follow me on Pinterest and I'll follow you back, and we can waste time together!
Wednesday, December 7, 2011
We have a tradition of eating soup on Christmas Eve. As we've all grown older, our meal has evolved from pillsbury dough bread bowls and Campbell's canned tomato soup to sourdough bread bowls and homemade roasted tomato bisque. Last year, though, I was pregnant and in the throes of terrible nausea. We were waiting to surprise my family while opening Christmas Eve gifts, so I had to struggle through preparing the meal with my mom and keeping my gags under cover.
I remember her asking me to make a salad, and as the smell of romaine lettuce was one of the worst offenders (weird, I know!), I snuck off to the bathroom to call Andy and tell him that I was suffering and didn't think I could make it until later that night. Mom also had put me in charge of making the bisque, and I didn't check the seasoning or flavor, because we had made it for a few years and it was always delicious. Big mistake! I didn't add salt or any other seasoning. I added too much water and not enough broth. It was all I could do to stir the pot without throwing up.
We dished up the bowls and sat down together, excited for our meal and our time together. After prayer, we all took up big spoonfuls of the red fragrant liquid. The table got quiet, and we all looked around at each other.
"Ummm"...."Errrr"...."What happened?"..."This is really gross".
But I still had to keep the pregnancy a secret, so couldn't tell anyone why I had completely ruined the soup! None of us finished it, and we all left the table still hungry.
After we had told my family the news, my mom asked how I was feeling, and I said, "Terrible!" The soup fiasco was justified and explained. Now, it's a running family joke. Oh, and that was also the same day that I made pumpkin pies without any sugar. Pregnancy does weird things to your senses!
The reason for the story is that I now hope to redeem the soup disaster by making this New England Clam Chowder instead. It's hearty, rich, and filling. I did a test run for my Dad while visiting them last week, and it received two thumbs up. I can't wait to make it again.
New England Clam Chowder
(adapted from Cheeseslave)
1 can whole or 3 cans minced clams
5-6 slices bacon (added-nitrate free, as you'll be saving the fat)
Large onion, yellow or white
1 1/2 lb. Potatoes, sliced into coins (Russet, or I used Yukon Gold)
1/2 lb. celery, sliced (2 cups)
2 Tbsp. flour
32 oz. chicken or fish stock
1-2 cups cream (not ultra-pasteurized or UHP) depending on how creamy you'd like it.
Sea salt & freshly ground pepper, to taste
1. Fry the bacon slices over medium-high heat until crispy. Set bacon aside to drain on paper towel. Leave the bacon grease in the pot.
2. Chop the onion. Chop the clams if they are canned whole.
3. Peel and dice the potatoes, slice the celery.
4. Add the onions to the pot and fry in the bacon fat until the onions are soft.
5. Add the flour and stir until well incorporated. Add the potatoes.
6. Lower heat to medium. Add the stock. Simmer until potatoes are "al dente"
7. Crumble up the bacon and add to the pot, along with the clams and cream.
8. Salt and pepper to taste. Let sit at low for a while to thicken up; you can also mash up some of the potatoes and that will thicken it up as well.
Serve the chowder with buttered sourdough bread, or in bread bowls.
linking to the Healthy Home Economist's Monday Mania.
Tuesday, December 6, 2011
We have a family tradition of waiting to listen to Christmas music until after Thanksgiving. Crazy, I know. Every year since I can remember, we bring our CD's and Christmas movies and have a holiday-fest on the 9-hour drive home from visiting relatives in southern Idaho. Until then, though, it's frowned upon.
So this morning, I have Sarah McLachlan's beautiful Wintersong album playing as the girls nap in their swings. Earlier, I plopped the girls in their bouncy seats and put them in the kitchen with me while I made breakfast, and sang along to the music. I would look at both of them and sing, and Afton would get the biggest, happiest, most heart-breaking smile on her face and start to coo softly, like she was joining in with me. It made my heart ache.
We'll be returning to Southern Oregon for the majority of December and the holidays, and I hadn't really given thought to getting a tree, or to pulling out all my decorations. Fortunately, I didn't need to, as I came home on Sunday from a visit to my parents to an amazing Christmas-tree stand-in: 2 bar stools, some bungee cord, a wine bottle and our duvet cover. He wrapped it in lights and picked out some of our ornaments, and topped it with our star. He had also put lights up on our balcony and brought out the manger scene, and bought a mini poinsettia at Trader Joe's. As we walked in the door, he made me stand in the hallway so he could turn on all the lights and surprise us. He has such an amazing heart towards his little family. It made my heart ache.
For him, I'm thankful. I'll let his disdain of the Avalon JOY album and Christmas muppet movies (but how can anyone hate the muppets?!?) slide, because without him, I wouldn't be enjoying a softly lit "tree" and the baby Christ-scene figures along with my music and coffee.
Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
It was a slow progression; each day she let something go, each gossamer-thin thread that was her confidence snapped until she felt herself dangling by a tiny thread. This was the last humiliation.
The doors to the room open the door and her saviors step in. There is concern in their eyes, but behind those furrowed brows is a shimmer of hope. She looks at her feet, the blush of embarassment creeping up her neck like the incoming tide. They tell her, first of all, that she is beautiful. Affirmations and critiques spill from their mouths alternately. She is reduced to rubble and rebuilt, brick by brick. Eventually, she believes she is beautiful, too.
What Not to Wear: retail and psycho therapy all in one.
I am visiting my parents and spent my afternoon watching the What Not to Wear marathon.
linking up with Just Write.
Monday, November 28, 2011
Monday, November 21, 2011
Today, both girls sleep snippets and we're all feeling the repercussions. Ruthie wakes up and looks at me with her red-rimmed eyes as if to say, "help me, mom!" Afton's lower lip pokes out and when she cries, her mouth takes up the whole sweet surface of her face. She's been a sensitive one lately.
Daddy takes Ruthie into the dark bathroom and I hear him singing a made up lullaby, and when she's finally asleep, he comes back into the room, stands over her swing, I stand at his side; my task is to lightly keep the binky in her mouth with a cuddly blankie at the ready. She'll sleep for a few hours in that swing, if we can get her in it. In our arms, she'll sleep for 20 or 30 minutes tops. We need more. She needs more.
He swoops her down, still singing, and I fold the blanket over her and turn the dial. She opens her eyes and we hold our breath...OK, still good. Sleep, sweet sister. We cross our fingers and check on Afton, who, thank God, is going on her second hour of slumber.
The unblended smoothie sitting on the counter will have to wait. As will the dishes, and the packing for our Thanksgiving trip. As with life, everything else takes a back seat. My word for this season is Surrender.
We've hit the four month mark, where for these two, everything and anything is interesting, and eating and sleeping become less and less attractive. Watch me kick my legs! Look at that pretty light. What's going on over there?
These girls are changing so fast I feel like I can hardly keep up. I've read and heard it said that once you figure out your rhythm, they'll hit a new phase and you'll have to start over. Truth.
Tomorrow, we start over. But for now, sleep.
from Lucky Charms and backyard barbeques.
I am from brightly painted rooms and floral wallpaper,
homesewn pillows and curtains that wave in the summer breeze.
I am from green grass trampled into mud around the pool,
from stone garden steps and spring tulips and daffodils.
I am from always opening presents on Christmas Eve
and dry skin,
from Hansens and Lees, Flynns and Hewitts, Winnie and Georgine.
I am from stubbornness and people-pleasing,
a contradiction hard to live with.
From little love boats and are we there yet? on car rides
to summer visits and Thanksgiving feasts.
I am from a fear of losing salvation and no jeans on Sunday,
a faith that has deepened and mellowed with age
like a fine wine.
I'm from Wales, those rainy woods and ancient stones,
from a stern rancher and his rascally boys,
from banana bread, freezer jam, and homemade donuts on rainy days.
I am from a California girl who fell in love with a cowboy,
who almost named me Mallory but am glad she didn't.
I am from World War II veterans and a chaplain and medals in a frame,
from carefully curated albums and hastily labelled kodak envelopes,
from prayer and daily journal entries.
Most of all,
I am from love.
This is based on the Where I'm From poem by George Ella Lyons, find the template to write your own here. I was inspired by Stephanie at Adventures in Babywearing. Leave a comment with a link if you write one too, I'd love to read it!
Monday, November 14, 2011
One of my favorite foods growing up, and into my early 20's, was breakfast cereal. I loved the crunch of the grains and the cool sweetness of the milk and the delicious result of their union. Unfortunately, it's also nothing more than sweetened and dyed cardboard and about as easy to digest. Expensive cardboard. So I don't eat it that much anymore.
Sometimes, though, I miss cereal as a before-bed snack. There is something comforting about it... perhaps because of all the childhood memories? Cereal is a family favorite, and a couple years ago, my Mom bought seven different boxes because she knew we were all coming home for Christmas. We made huge kamikaze bowls of multi-colored and sugar-coated O's, flakes and stars, and felt downright sick afterwards. Ah, the memories.
This is cereal you can feel good about eating, because all the hard to digest components are pre-soaked in an acidic medium, doing some of the breaking down for you.
The best part? It can vary according to your tastes. I made the first batch with pecans, raisins, cranberries and chia seeds, but you could also do dried apricots and slivered almonds, walnuts and banana chips, pumpkin seeds and cranberries, or wherever your tastebuds takes you.
Adapted from Cheeseslave's Recipe.
A note from Ann Marie: "this recipe calls for nuts and seeds that are soaked and dried ahead of time. I usually soak and dry my nuts and seeds and large batches and store them in mason jars or other airtight containers — so I have them on hand for recipes like this one..."
A note from me: Making "crispy" nuts is so easy and really improves their digestion. Raw nuts are high in phytic acid, which can cause problems in some people. Combine 4 cups of your chosen raw nut and 2 tsp. salt together in a bowl or mason jar. Fill with water, and leave in a warm place for 7 hours (for cashews, do no longer than 7 hours) or overnight. Drain and rinse. Spread on a baking pan lined with parchment paper and bake, in a warm oven (150F) for 12-24 hours, or until dry. Turn occasionally. Store in an airtight container in the fridge.
3 cups oatmeal
3 cups warm water
6 Tbsp. Whey, yogurt, kefir or buttermilk, or you can use lemon juice or vinegar if you have dairy allergies. (I personally use kefir)
1 cup unsweetened coconut
1 cup dried fruit of your choice
1-2 cups nuts and seeds, your choice (Save time and soak these right along with your oats, unless you have some already on hand!)
1/2 cup wheat or spelt flour
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup organic sugar, rapadura or sucanat
1/4 cup honey or pure maple syrup
1 tsp unrefined sea salt
- The night before, combine the oats, water, and whey, kefir, or etc. in a large bowl. Mix the nuts, salt, and water in another bowl or mason jar. Cover both with a dishtowel.
- The next morning, preheat oven to its lowest setting (usually 150-170F). Drain and rinse nuts.
- Combine soaked oats, dried fruit, nuts, seeds and flour and stir until thoroughly mixed.
- If the coconut oil is solid, melt in a saucepan. In another bowl, combine coconut oil, sweeteners and salt. Add to oat mixture and stir.
- Spread mixture on baking pans lined with parchment paper and bake in oven until the oats and nuts are dry and crisp. Break into pieces and store in an airtight container. I store it in the fridge.
*(To make a quick version of this, set your oven to 350F and bake until crispy, turning every 15 minutes. I prefer to "set it and forget it"...I would invariably forget to check it soon enough and end up with a charred mess. You can't burn much at 150 degrees!)
Linking up to the Real Food carnival @ the Healthy Home Economist and Tasty Tuesday @ FTLOB!
Saturday, November 12, 2011
Thursday, November 10, 2011
I just found the neatest blog: Vintage Kids' Books My Kid Loves. She has an Etsy shop selling vintage books and posts about her favorites on her blog.
Wednesday, November 9, 2011
Take a look at what happened to my kitchen over the weekend. Andy decided to make crepes. Then, it all exploded out of the cabinets onto the counters. Ugggh. It would have been so much more relaxing to eat these delicious fancy crepes in a clean-ish kitchen. Because, of course, we were eating them standing up in between bouncing babies and replacing binkies. C'est la vie.
Enough guilt. I'm starting Organization Made Fun's 31 Days to an Organized Home. It doesn't require fancy containers or a complete system overhaul. I figure I can easily commit to 15 minutes a day, whether it be between naptimes or an extra 15 minutes after the girls go to bed. Or maybe I can even convince Andy to entertain them while I woo him with promises of a pretty-looking closet that doesn't overwhelm him every time he tries to find something.
Want to tackle your own organizational nightmare? Join me!
Monday, November 7, 2011
Tuesday, November 1, 2011
We aren't a gluten free household by any means, but I do like avoiding white flour as much as possible. Andy's dad was diagnosed with Celiac Disease about five years ago, and we as a family have done major research about the condition. It can be triggered by so many different things, so as a precautionary measure, we watch out for too much processed flour in case Andy is pre-disposed to it. Sometimes, you can't and shouldn't avoid it, like when making delicious Redemption Cookies or a proper cake. But for other occasions, I like to experiment.
In my freezer, there is a big ziploc bag with some Bob's Red Mill spelt flour, buckwheat flour, and more recently, oat flour and coconut flour. I've had great success with spelt flour, but it still contains gluten, and I'd love to have some recipes ready for my in-laws when we visit them at Christmas. He would love it! He's usually the one eating his hamburger wrapped up in a corn tortilla.
If you can't find coconut flour at your local supermarket, co-op or health food store, you can use regular flour...but you might want to scale back the number of eggs you use. Because coconut flour is high in fiber, it requires more eggs than would normally be needed.
I found this recipe posted in the forums of Elana's Pantry and modified it just a bit.
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies (Grain & Dairy Free)
1/4 cup butter or coconut oil, softened.
1/2 cup canned pumpkin puree
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup coconut flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1. Preheat oven to 350 and grease a baking sheet.
2. Combine wet ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
3. Combine dry ingredients in small bowl.
4. Blend or whisk dry ingredients into wet, making sure no lumps remain.
5. Let batter sit for a couple of minutes to thicken. Dough should be soft but hold its shape when scooped.
6. Scoop dough onto parchment-lined sheet, about 1" scoops. Cookies will not spread much during baking, so press them down and round them as you would like them to appear.
7. Bake 17-20 minutes. Cookies will be set and very lightly browned. Store in an airtight container. Makes about 20 small (two-bite) cookies.
Monday, October 31, 2011
This year has been a strange one for me, with brand new experiences and changes that I never could have anticipated:
We have twins. I was so sick for most of my pregnancy, starting the week of Christmas 2010. I went into pre-term labor at 31 weeks. I was in the hospital for 3 weeks. My water broke and my babies were born 5 weeks early. My sweet daughters were in the NICU for 16 days. I lived in the hospital from the first of June until the end of July. August, they were home. We're still finding the rhythm of our new life together.
It feels like just yesterday that Andy and I were leaving for an absolutely beautiful Fall in Europe. We left the end of September, and had been there a month by now. Where were we on Halloween? I have to go back to our pictures and look. We were in Cinque Terre, Italy with my aunt and uncle. Oh, to be back on the coastal cliffs, hiking through vineyards and enjoying wine, gelato, and fresh anchovies!
Now, I am here in my pajamas watching my two precious daughters nap. A very different life, and I feel older. I am a deeper person. A year ago, I was collecting souvenirs and memories of canal boats, gastronomy and architecture. They sit on my shelves and hang from my walls and surround me as I go about my day, caring for these little souls that bring me more joy than I could have ever imagined.
I don't necessarily wish to go back and be the carefree young married couple of one year ago that we were, going wherever and doing whatever we wanted; it's the memories we made that keep me smiling about the richness of my life and, ironically, keep me here in the moment, knowing firsthand how quickly time passes.
The trees are a little more bare every time I venture outdoors, and I want to take a moment to breathe in the smell of leaves and moss. Pretty soon, the smell will shift to a hoary, woody smell. Take a moment with me to recall your own past autumns, and think about what made them memorable.
People tell me to cherish this time in life, when the girls aren't mobile and are still cuddly and dependent, and I truly feel that I am taking their advice to heart and doing just that.
This is what I am taking away from my moment of seasonal reflection: Moments of relational joy create memories that last a lifetime. Be here, now, in the moment, and breathe it in deeply.
Saturday, October 29, 2011
I know I posted this photo below when I wrote about our trip to the coast, but I'm also entering it into Paper Mama's October Photo Challenge, and now linking up with Breena at Life As This Mommy Knows It, because I love it that much!
Afton/Ruthie, 15 weeks.
Manzanita is a beautiful little beach town about an hour and half from Portland. Supposedly, it sits inside a "weather donut" (scientific, I know) that allows it to be sunny and gorgeous even when other parts of the coast are wrapped up in fog. We were lucky enough to experience this phenomenon on Tuesday! It was just beautiful. We cozied the girls up and strapped them into their buggy and off we went. The sound of the waves crashing was like their noise machine, only better, because it was real, and they fell to sleep pretty quickly.
Now came the fun part. We relaxed in our little room and at 10 p.m., all four of us went to bed. At 11, one of them woke up. At 12, another woke up. We then saw 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8 and finally 9 a.m. At 10, we were going to go crazy if we had to stay one more minute in the room. Check out was at 11, and at 10:59 we managed to get everything out. We were starving. We put the girls in their wraps once again and went to breakfast. They fell asleep because, of course, they were just as tired as we were, and they slept through our breakfast and coffee at Bread and Ocean.
We wanted to make the best of the trip, so we dutifully walked through the shops and admired the ocean view once more, but we were ready to leave. Coast trips are usually very restful and relaxing, and this just wasn't. Reality check! Of course not, I have two 15 week olds! I don't really know what we were thinking.
But it is funny to look back on, and a good "first" memory of our first trip as a family. How boring if it had all gone smoothly! I can see us, in a few years, telling the girls, "Once, we took you to the coast, and you woke up every single hour, except 5am!" And they'll love that story, because it was about them.