joy during the winter

I almost began "I can't believe it's been over a month since I've posted!", but in all actuality, I can believe that.
School is the main dish on my plate right now, with large helpings of family and pregnancy as sides. This pregnancy has been very difficult for me emotionally and mentally. I am still trying to embrace the fact that I am pregnant.

Meanwhile, it's turned into winter.
I have been noticing the bare trees, stark against the cold blue skies. I have been feeling depleted in every way, and sometimes feel I am struggling to make it through the day. I cannot help but to look forward to someday leaving this place, though I know that no matter where I live, I will still be who I am, and still struggle with the same things.
Winter is usually a mixture of two things for me: quiet reflection and wonder, and depression. The cold brings both clarity and a longing to withdraw into myself. The snow and empty branches feel both bleak and enlightening.

But there's also the joy. I feel joy when I'm warm in my winter scarf and hat, and crunching through the snow. I feel joy baking lemon scones and drinking tea in the afternoons. I feel joy in giving, and in loving.
What brings you during the winter?


the temperature diplomat

My head is muddled with gender and sexuality issues. I am loving my Women's and Gender Studies class, because it challenges my thoughts and I find that I am not alone in many of my life experiences and my observations.
That said, how are you?
Autumn seems to be coming to a close around here, with the leaves once brilliantly aflame in the trees resting now in puddles of cold rain water. It's windy and rainy, without much sunshine lately. I've been suffering the dry heat of the thermostat. Anyone who knows me well knows that I live with a ridiculous heating situation in this old house, and the temperature in my apartment is contingent upon keeping the entire (big! drafty!) house at a temperature that doesn't leave too many residents angry. The only thermostat is on my floor, making the me temperature diplomat. It's a hard job.

In other news, Finn is walking! Did I say that last time? Because now he's really getting the hang of it. It is so strange to see your baby (toddler) walking, trying to talk, and causing general chaos around the house. Especially since this baby was just a wee, helpless being not so long ago. From what I understand, this is only the beginning.

Did I mention that he gets into absolutely everything?
He has such joy in life!
I really don't have much to say in the way of food, which is sad because that's how this whole blog came to be, really, but oh well. Oh! Last week we had a wonderfully simple and delicious dinner with Luke and Natalie. Perfectly cooked chicken, roasted herbed potatoes, ciabatta with butter and a great fall salad full of fruit, dried cranberries and sliced almonds with a homemade honey dijon dressing. Are you drooling? It was fabulous! So fabulous, in fact, that I recreated it for one of our meals this week. Thanks to those two love birds for a recuperative visit and lots of inspiration, meal-wise and otherwise!

That's all for now. Thanks for reading this my friends. I may be inconsistent at best but I have a lot of heart! And hopefully this week will bring chocolate chip cookies - now that's something to blog about!


the quiet inside

Because my life has been devoured by school, I have not updated recently.

But today! Today! Be still my heart. Today it is "sunny, warm and windy" as forecasted this morning on the radio. 70 degrees, windy, beautiful blue sky, cascading yellow and orange leaves. Need I say more? It is the quintessential fall day - just perfect.
And I have some news to announce: I'm pregnant.
It feels good to have this happy secret today, when all is right. In other news, Finn has just started walking! He gains some momentum and takes a bunch of steps, arms high in the air for balance, before falling on the ground and smiling triumphantly. What a fun age!

Like I said, school swallowed my life, so I don't have any photos today. I'm sorry - I really wish I did. But I have had so many tests and papers lately that I haven't had time for much else. I didn't even get to the farmers' market on Saturday, which is a travesty in my book.

So I am trying to re-cultivate that quiet place inside me that seems to have disappeared lately due to all the hustle and bustle of life.
How do you maintain the quiet inside?


swamped with fresh food

Ah, the end of summer. Finn and I were lucky enough to accompany my mom on her vacation, to the beach. This was taken at Isle of Palms, an island off the coast of Charleston, South Carolina. It was Finn's first time at the beach, and he loved it!

Now that we're back, I'm swamped with homework. And fresh food.
Like local apples! Which called for an apple cake.

I have been doing many things in way of procrastination - laundry, baking a cake, meal planning, even making homemade toothpaste. I'm procrastinating because I have so much homework. I have so much homework because I'm procrastinating. It's a vicious cycle.

Thankfully, I have a blog I can turn to for even more procrastination!
And something to blog about - my green goals. After reading Vanessa Farquharson's "Sleeping Naked is Green" I am brimming with ideas for how to "green" our family life. Here are some goals I'd like to achieve:
- replacing our toothbrushes with Preserve toothbrushes
- when our laundry detergent runs out, go natural
- and more that I can't currently remember

In other news, the farmers' market has been bustling with the most amazing late summer/early autumn harvest. This is what we made away with this week. Note the garden peach tomatoes, a personal favorite! As well as Missouri pecans, half the price and twice the quality of grocery store pecans. Also blackberries, raspberries, arugula, bok choy, cucumber, zucchinis, basil and parsley, fresh flowers, two sweet potatoes, and a lonely red bell pepper.

With tons of produce, I've been cooking quite creatively. Here's the ratatouille I assembled, right before sliding it into the oven to roast.

Here's the plum tart I made for all the elephant heart plums that were on sale at a local natural foods store.

And here's Finn, checking out our pumpkin. This year I'm doing something new - buying a pumpkin purely for the purpose of eating! If we do make a jack o lantern this year, I want to eat it, too. It's silly to waste a pumpkin like that. And pumpkin is too delicious to waste!

What are you doing differently this year?


becoming inspired and challenged

The summer has flown by, and I don't want to jinx anything, but it seems to me that autumn is beginning to grace us with her presence. The temperatures have cooled enough to leave windows open all week, and late summer/early fall produce is making an appearance at the farmers' market.
My summer was a flurry of book devouring, house cleaning/rearranging, vacationing, and preparing for my return to school - to complete my final year of undergraduate college, thank God.
Right now I'm reading "Sleeping Naked is Green" by Vanessa Farquharson, author of Green as a Thistle blog. In her book she documents one year of small changes to her life - green changes. She makes one change a day, which ends up being an overhaul to her entire lifestyle. I'm adoring this book, and becoming inspired and challenged to make small green changes to my life.
I want to make some new rules in my life, easy ones to begin with, such as no more styrofoam. That should be easy, considering I almost never encounter styrofoam. Another thing we can do is to consume locally brewed beer from reusable, recyclable glass containers. I'm slowly running paper towels out of our house, as well as incandescent lights, over-packaged food items, and anything that contains harmful or questionable ingredients, such as shampoo. And when our toothbrushes bite the dust, I can replace them with eco-friendly ones. Maybe I won't be turning my fridge off in the near future, or selling my car, but I can try to make other changes.
For the sake of brevity (or is it too late?) I'll stop here.
In short, I am excited to challenge myself and my family. And in other news, Finn is almost one. year. old. Obviously, I cannot believe it.


rambling along

A lot has been happening!
The garden is rambling along. No spinach to speak of, but the tomato plants are looking hopeful. One large, green tomato is growing bigger by the day. Many other blossoms are visible, but have not yet turned to tomatoes.
A volunteer butternut squash plant has shown up in the compost. At least that's what I think it is, and if so I'm in luck, because butternut squash is my favorite.

I made bread twice recently, using the recipe from the incredible River Cottage Family Cookbook. This cookbook also has a recipe for homemade butter, which I drool over every time it crosses my mind.
Jamie came to visit, and we had such a wonderful time together. Here she is, lovely as always.

Finn's been eating blueberries by the bucketful, and also wearing them.

He's also learned how to pull to standing, and has been practicing every second of the day. He's a very busy young man.

And I found a new way to wash dishes, which has changed my life. I don't have a dishwasher, so I hand wash, which wastes tons of water. Then I came across this article, which tells you how to wash dishes using the least amount of water possible. I'm a convert! In fact, this whole website is very helpful for anyone trying to make little changes to better the health of their body and the environment.
The next exciting thing is Scott's actual graduation from nursing school and our subsequent vacation to Michigan!!! I am so ready to visit Jenny and co. and spend a week living their super hippie, laid-back life. Then it's back to the books for me, to complete my last year of school.


dream kitchen

This is not a post, really. It is my wish list for building my dream kitchen. Also, I hope to refer to this list when people start wondering what I might like for Christmas, because when people ask me I can never remember the things I had noted to myself earlier in the year.
Here goes.
- an instant read (digital) thermometer
- a wooden spoon, preferably bamboo
- a microplane zester, maybe
- bamboo cutting boards


how we spend our lives

"How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives." - Annie Dillard

Think about that for a minute.
I found that terribly inspiring and convicting quote over at Jessie's sweet little blog. Thank you, Jessie, I really needed that wake up call.
There are things I want to do! Not "some day", because we know that means "probably never". Instead, I want to seize the day and do things I want to do today, and every day.

Here are the things that have been on my mind to do lately:
make no-knead bread (this want arising from our family going through nearly two loaves of bread a week)
make homemade butter
make a quilt! (I've been wanting to do this since the winter, and just realized a day ago that I should do it now, before fall classes start)

In fact, speaking of things I would like to do, here's my list of resolutions made in February. Now I have to stop pretending that I never made that list.

This post is more of a mind-bleed than an update, but I will not leave you without posting a photo. First, my happy breakfast of spinach, zucchini, and eggs. Second, the summer scarf my mother in law mailed me.


straight from the bag

I have fallen into a deep well and cannot, nor do I wish to, come out from it. It is called "Anna Karenina" by Count Tolstoy, and it is incredible. If ever drowning was pleasant, it would be now. It has consumed me so deeply that I have devoted my evenings to devouring the well crafted novel and have only made a batch of cookies here and there, instead usually resorting to stove popped popcorn or just chocolate chips straight from the bag.
So, dear readers, I apologize.
That said, here are some photos to chronicle the rest of my life, as of late.
A neighbor's slowly ripening blackberries:

The lime bars I made for my dear (and pregnant!) friend Jessie:

The lasagna I made to freeze for the same dear, pregnant friend: (it took every last ounce of willpower to not eat this)

My sweet bath time boy:

What I consider the perfect afternoon snack - home made whole wheat biscuit with butter and Natalie's freezer strawberry jam:

And a blurb of good news: the sunflowers are blooming! Scott's and my long lost (yes, it's almost been three whole years!) wedding photos have turned up and been sent to us! my sweet mother in law sent me a summer scarf! (it's ikat - I guess it's back in style) AND I visited Audrey Kawasaki's page and she has new stuff up!
It's a great week!


books and food and all things good

Just something quick, to let you know what's going on.
Last night two beautiful Natalies came over and we enjoyed wine with peach apple cake, delicious natural vanilla bean ice cream, frozen blueberries and mint leaves.

We each had seconds. We talked about books and food and all things good.
A few days ago I finally made that peach upside down cake.

I don't have much current news - I am reading "Anna Karenina" by Leo Tolstoy, and I love it so far. I have a penchant for Russian novels, their wordiness and detail oriented descriptions leave me breathless.
My mom mailed Finn this toy car. We put the batteries in and he was terrified, so we took them out and now he likes it just fine. He can't get on it by himself but once he's up there he does a great job of balancing. He'll even pick his feet up to be pushed around the house.

I just can't believe how the time is flying. He will be 9 months next week. Soon he'll be a year old. He is already looking like such a big boy. He is such a joyful and social baby. Everyone comments on how happy he is - it's true. I am lucky to be a parent to such a sweet boy.

The garden is doing fine, save for the aphids on the tomato plants and the unknown critters eating the potato leaves. The purple cone flowers look like they might bloom in the next week or two, and I've spotted a head coming up on a big sunflower plant. I'm sure they'll make quite a show, just like last summer.
And for my final bit of good news - I am back to my pre-pregnancy weight. Sure, my whole body is different, and rearranged, and (gasp) saggy compared to my old body, but I'll take it all - because I have something great to show for it!


a grand compliment

First of all, I love this toddler t-shirt.

Now that that's out of the way - how are you? I'm doing well, I think I'm on the upswing of the past few weeks, when I've felt mostly depressed and/or angry. I'm not an angry person, by the way, but a severe lack of sleep can most certainly transform the most cheerful of dispositions.
But let's talk about cake. Remember the cake question? Well, I wanted to use raspberry jam for the filling with some fresh raspberries on top for decoration. My plans were foiled, because first there was no raspberry jam left at the farmer's market. So I chose "triple berry" because it included raspberry. Then when I went to the store and bought organic raspberries, I found when I opened them the next day that they were moldy - every single last one. Actually, that's not the first time that's happened. It seems they can't ship a load of organic raspberries without ruining the whole batch with mold. Whoever they are.
So I took the moldy berries back and chose strawberries instead. It came out lovely.

A few cake eaters proclaimed that it was the best cake they had ever had, which is a pretty bold statement if you ask me, but also a grand compliment.
Other than Mimi's birthday bbq and Scott's new schedule - weekend nights (7pm - 7am) in preceptorship - not much else is new. Besides, of course, Finn's antics. He's just becoming such a little boy. He's crawling like crazy, and making new noises. He likes to crawl around in our bed in the mornings, and come right up to mine or Scott's face, and make this *click* noise with his tongue. Then he smiles proudly at his new noise.
Because I can't leave without sharing this picture, here it is. My men.


strawberry or raspberry

I apologize for my lack of posting! Not that I have a huge following . . but I do like to keep my loved ones updated. I just haven't felt inspired lately, I suppose, though I have been busy.
I visited my mom for a week, Finn came along. We had so much fun! Shopping, the zoo, a tiny inflatable baby pool, more shopping, many meals al fresco; it was a revitalizing mini-vacation. Scott stayed home, walked Rufus regularly, and ate God knows what for dinner.
Oh, and my mom and I found this gorgeous antique cake stand at an antique shop my mom frequents. It is begging for an upside-down peach cake, and I have promised it one next week. But the first cake to grace the cake stand will be my dear friend Mimi's birthday cake. She has requested chocolate cake with chocolate icing, and who am I to deny her? I will use local jam in between the two cake layers, I just have to decide which to use - strawberry or raspberry. I'm looking forward to indulging in chocolate butter cream frosting. Oh my.

In other news, Finn is crawling! I rearranged the kitchen and made him a "play cabinet". It's full of fun things like washed clamshells - you know, the ones that greens come in at the grocery - ice cube trays, mixing spoons, wooden bowls, etc. He loves it, and it's perfect to keep him in sight and away from the stove while I cook or wash dishes.
Here's the juicy triple berry crisp I made that lasted less than 24 hours. It would be an enormous understatement to say that it turned out pretty good. Too bad the photo quality doesn't convey that.

Back to the cake dilemma . . which jam would you prefer in between the layers of your chocolate cake - strawberry or raspberry?


things with lemon

Another week has flown by. My love graduated Nursing School! Well, he attended the ceremony. He still has summer classes however. But his graduation ceremony meant we had family in town and I, for one, love my in-laws. So it was a grand ol' time. A few days before the family arrived, I happened upon an incredible deal at my local natural food store.
When life hands you half off lemons . . .

you make things with lemon!!!

Lemon bars, lemon almond biscotti (not pictured - I used Dorie Greenspan's Lenox Almond Biscotti recipe and added lemon zest), and lemon scones (Molly's Scottish Scones with Lemon and Ginger).

We also attended a graduation party for the nursing students and I brought along Paula Deen's Gooey Butter Cake. Gooey Butter Cake originated in St. Louis, and now that we're living in the midwest, we find it at almost every coffee shop in town. Scott loves it, and since it was his graduation, I made it.

Today the baby and I will be going to visit my mom, who lives 5 hours away. We're leaving Scott and the dog at home, and we'll be missing them sorely. On a happy note, though, I'll get to spend some time with my brother, who's about to deploy to Qatar. Omaha zoo, here we come!


we had a picnic planned

My week has flown by!
Here are the highlights:
- a lightning storm
- an indoor picnic featuring iced tea, chicken salad in pita pockets, fresh veggies, and chocolate cake with wine soaked strawberries
- an impromptu bbq with burgers, brats, roasted potatoes, pasta salad, and strawberries
- a mother's day dinner cooked by a friend, and for dessert peach champagne sorbet with fresh bananas and blood oranges
- tie dye
- a new game where Scott builds towers of blocks and Finn knocks them down
- new vacuum cleaner

And coming up:
- Scott graduates from Nursing School on Friday!


practicing cherishing

I am sorry, but I don't know if I have any photos to share today.
But I do have some links!
At the craft club on Thursday, we did this. Our shirts came out awesome.
Today on NPR I heard Mo Willems' interview with Michele Norris. Mo talks about how adults don't draw, because they realize they aren't good at it. He makes a good point - you don't stop playing basketball (or doing whatever other hobby) when you realize you'll never make it professionally. He encourages adults to draw, because when you are drawing, you are empathizing.
So I did a little doodle.

I suppose I do have a photo, after all. Here's Finn with Natalie.

And today I've been contemplating the act of cherishing.
With Finn so young, but the days and weeks already slipping by so quickly, I've been practicing cherishing him. I try to take mental photos, but they fade. Instead, I find it's better for me to just revel in the moment. One of my favorite moments to practice cherishing is after I've nursed him to sleep, when I'm holding and rocking him. I take in every detail - his limp arms, his solid little body, his soft hair under my chin. Precious moments indeed.

Which moments do you cherish?


arsenal of cakes

Here I am, dreaming about cake all week, baking up a storm, and I slip on by Molly's page only to find she, too, has been thinking about cake! It must be in the air.
Here are the cakes of my week - number one, a classic, easy chocolate cake, just one layer. It has coffee in it so it went perfectly with coffee ice cream. Best eaten in the afternoon, with a friend.
Number two - a heavenly fragrant, moist Fig Cake, made with homemade jam from dried figs. This one takes an extra hour to make the jam, but my friends who tried it all said it was one of the best cakes I have ever made. Naturally, this cake is going in my repertoire, rather, my arsenal of cakes.

Number three (shown above) - Molly's French Yogurt Cake, made with tangelo instead of lemon. I soaked the cake with both the syrup and the glaze, as suggested by Molly. I wanted to use lemon, believe me, but all I had was one lonely beautiful tangelo. Yesterday it was raining and Finn was napping and I had just enough time, maybe 10 minutes, and all the right ingredients to throw together this lovely cake.

Allergies have been terrible, but it hasn't stopped the loveliness of life from proceeding. The bearded irises are blooming.

The sun tea is steeping.

And the cakes are cooling.

I wonder what cakes this coming week will bring!
What is your favorite cake?


watchfully and tenderly

Happy Earth Day!
As you can see out my window, the trees are donning their green and the air is fresh and warm.

I updated the mantle as part of my spring cleaning. That painting with mixed media was made by a good friend of mine, actually one of the dearest friends to my heart. It says "My Life Is Changing", which is a mantra I began long ago and which she and I chant to one another as the years go by.
It is never not true.

And here is the sweet little lace trim peeking out of the pocket of my apron. Now that it is done I am anxious to bake a cake while wearing it.
I do have my eye on a recipe for a Fig Cake. I imagine I might make it tomorrow, to welcome home Mimi and Gen, who have been away for nearly a week.

Because the weather was finally warm and not windy today Natalie and Luke came over and we worked in the garden. I battled some spearmint but they are really the ones that did the work. They brought over the seedlings they watchfully and tenderly grew at home, and they transplanted the tomatoes and onions into the garden.

Like I mentioned, we battled the spearmint. Here's Natalie, showing the remains of our plunders.

I'm reading "Something I've Been Meaning to Tell You," a collection of short stories by Alice Munro, whom I love. Her work is the best example of ideal fiction I could imagine. She writes with such simplicity, but the reader can plainly see how carefully her words have been chosen. Sometimes I pause at a short paragraph, wondering exactly why she found it necessary to add those sentences. What do they mean in relation to the rest of the story? What weight could a cherry pound cake wrapped doubly in wax paper and newspaper carry in a story about romance or the lack of?
When I read her words I feel that I need not ever try to write my own fiction, because she has already written exactly what I would hope to convey. It's a feeling both comforting and disconcerting.