Wednesday, February 3, 2016

H is for... {Honey Muffins}

Honey Muffins ::

I've thought a lot about "survival mode." About those times in your life, like when you've just had a baby, when you have to get down to the most basic level of what absolutely needs to get done in your life for your family to stay alive. Nothing (or almost nothing) extra. Quick and easy meals. Instacart for groceries. Calling that walk to the park and back your "workout." Leaving clean laundry unfolded in a basket for weeks and calling it a win that it even got washed and dried.

Truth be told, I think it's the attempted re-entry to normal life that's hardest for me. I want to know what to expect. In survival mode, I don't expect anything, so anything at all feels like a victory. This in-between time, though? The baby is four months old, not a newborn any more by anyone's standards, but still needing me an awful lot. It seems like I have it together every other week. Every other week I'm able to get my house cleaned, make reasonably delicious, interesting, healthy meals, parent successfully (read: with minimal yelling), get to the gym, talk to friends, connect with my husband, get some reading time, drink enough water. On the in-between weeks, though, I feel like a complete and utter failure. I just did this last week, I think. Surely I can replicate what I just did last week!

But then I'm yelling at my 3-year-old, eating cookies one after the other like a crazed starving person, wondering how a family of four could possibly have worn this many clothes since I last did laundry, which couldn't have been more than 2 days ago... could it? It's like last week I was comfortably swimming in this lake, thinking how cool and wonderful the water felt, thinking that yes, I was getting tired, but this work was so worth doing, was even fun! And this week, nothing is perceptibly different, but I am half-drowning, wondering how I'm possibly going to get through another minute, let alone until bedtime.

This morning, I got back to basics. I listened to my girl instead of getting distracted by my phone. I sat down next to her on the floor and joined her in arranging and rearranging seashells. We read picture books for a good deal longer than I had planned on. We made cookies together, with sprinkles and yellow icing smiley faces. She went down for a nap, and I folded just one load of laundry. Put another one in. Did a few dishes. And just like that, I was swimming again. Because I decided to put love first. Put our relationship first. I put aside my sometimes-compulsive desire to get out the door and give my daughter enriching experiences, and reminded myself that sometimes the best thing for all of us is just to stay at home together, playing and reading and enjoying this fleeting time of life.


This week, we're focusing on the letter H. H is for...

How am I going to do this? How will I survive?
Hard. So hard.
Healthy choices making a real difference. Enough water. Enough sleep. Healthy food. Fresh air. Basics.
Happy. Dancing to happy music, making happy faces on our treats.
Heaven: the end goal of all of this striving. All of this worry, all of this work. So very worth it to bring glory to Him.

Honey Muffins ::

Honey Muffins
from Super Natural Every Day

These simple muffins are quick to mix together and contain no refined sugar! The addition of millet gives each bite a lovely pop! They are also fantastic on subsequent mornings split, buttered, and broiled until crispy.

2 1/4 cups white whole wheat flour
1/3 cup raw millet
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup plain yogurt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup melted butter
1/2 cup honey
Grated zest of a lemon, plus 2 tablespoons lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a standard muffin tin with paper liners.

Whisk together the flour, millet, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, eggs, butter, honey, and lemon zest and juice. Pour the wet into the dry, and mix together as gently as possible. The batter will be slightly puffy. Scoop the batter into the muffin cups, and bake for about 15 minutes, until the muffins are golden and beginning to crack on the top. Let cool for 5 minutes in the pans, remove to a cooling rack, and cool completely (or eat warm!).

Makes one dozen.

Friday, November 20, 2015

A is for...

This week, we started a really low-key, simple homeschool routine for Anne, who just turned 3. I was starting to feel like we all needed just a little more structure, because winter is coming, and if I don't have an alternative ready when someone asks to watch a movie, it's really hard to say no.


We're using "26 Letters to Heaven" by Sarah V. Park, which has tons of great ideas and a stellar book list for each week. It's a great jumping off point! Each week, we focus on a particular saint, and we memorize a Scripture verse that reflects that week's virtue. We have a little bulletin board where we keep track of what we're doing.


Here's what this week looked like:

Saturday: Trip to the library to check out as many of the books on this week's list as we could find.

Monday: Wrote the virtue ("Amiability") and its definition on a card. Had Anne repeat it. Did the same with this week's Scripture. Read a short biography of St. Anne, printed out her picture, and tacked all three things to the board. Read some books.

Tuesday: Reviewed saint, virtue, and Scripture. Made the letter "A" out of Elmer's glue, and let Anne cover it with almonds. Read some books. Later, made patterns with red and green apples, and then  glued them onto two apple trees I drew.


Wednesday: Review. Read. Started searching for things that start with "A" in magazines and cutting them out.

Thursday: Review. Read. Met friends at the nature museum. Later, finished cutting out pictures and made an "A" collage.

Friday: Review. Read.

That's approximately 20 minutes a day of "school," and for the rest of the time we did all the things we always do: play, go for walks, cook, read, color, paint, etc. There was still some TV time in every day, but so much less. And if you ask her, Anne can now recite this verse!

A cheerful heart is a good medicine, but a downcast spirit dries up the bones. -Proverbs 17:22

My life as a housewife and stay at home mom can feel so repetitive and never-ending. I clean the house. It gets dirty again. I nurse the baby constantly. My family is hungry (at least) 3 times a day. Laundry has to get done again and again. Toys dumped out and cleaned up a million times a day. And it feels really good, at the end of a tiring week, to have visual proof of having accomplished something real with my daughter.

Oh, and there's also THIS girl. Six weeks old and already smiling at us!

Eleanor 6 weeks - SMILING!

Monday, November 9, 2015

The Red Party {Anne is Three!}

Today is Anne's third birthday, but we celebrated this past weekend with a red birthday party. Anne loooooves red. And she loves cardinals. Ever since last winter when we watched a pair of cardinals visit our front yard feeder, they have had her heart. I had a lot of fun with the theme!

Anne's 3rd birthday

The cupcakes were red velvet, of course. A couple days before the party I showed Anne the recipe photo from my Martha Stewart Cupcakes book, complete with traditional cream cheese frosting. Her face fell and she said, very seriously, "I don't want white frosting. I want red frosting."

Man, am I glad I showed her that picture! Red velvet cupcakes with red velvet frosting, coming right up!

Anne's 3rd birthday

Waiting for guests to arrive in her... drumroll please... handmade (by my mom!) cardinal print dress! And hat!!

We asked the amazing and talented teacher from Anne's Music Together classes to come and provide entertainment. Best money I've ever spent. Anne was ecstatic, and her face as she jumped and laughed and danced and sang, as her beloved Miss Julie sang just for her... I could have watched her all day.

Anne's 3rd birthday

Anne's 3rd birthday

Anne's 3rd birthday

Anne's 3rd birthday

Happy birthday to you, sweet girl! My life is immeasurably better with you in it.

Monday, October 26, 2015

A New Creation

Eleanor Catherine was baptized in Christ last Saturday! Sacraments make me so happy to be Catholic. I love involving all my senses in the practice and celebration of my faith: tracing the sign of the cross on my tiny daughter's velvety head, hearing the beautiful words that claim her as a child of God, the delicious smell of holy Chrism that lingers for days.




{lots of tears as my mamma sang a beautiful arrangement of "Jesus Loves Me" after the baptism}


Eleanor is blessed to have a surplus of godparents to love and pray for her: my little sister and her husband (not Catholic, but committed Christians who are officially called "Christian witnesses"), and our dear friends Adam and Lauren from college, who are currently stationed in Japan with the Navy. Nolen and Ben looked so so sweet holding her. Even though they're only approaching their first anniversary now, I can't WAIT for them to have babies of their own! And they brought the loveliest, most thoughtful handmade gifts!




Ben made the cross out of Michigan cherry wood, with Eleanor's initials and baptism date, and my sister made this rosary with beautiful green beads she found at a local shop! It feels like a symbol of Eleanor's spiritual growth. Such special treasures for her.


{the whole gang}

Afterward, we hosted a luncheon to celebrate with family and a few friends. Hosting approximately 25 people at your home less than two weeks after having a baby calls for two very important things: help and shortcuts. We had lots and lots of amazing help! Here's what we served:

Slow Cooker Italian Beef Sandwiches (via A Spicy Perspective) <-- So good. Seriously. Make them.
Green Salad with Roasted Butternut Squash, Walnuts, and Dried Cranberries
Kettle Chips
Apple Slices with Caramel Dip (via Five Heart Home)
Veggies and Hummus
Cake! (from the grocery store!)


I made the beef (a double batch), the caramel sauce, and roasted the squash the day before, so all I had to do on Saturday was get things out and heat them up. Easy peasy. It was an awesome day!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

In Praise of My Postpartum Body

The world tells me that my postpartum body is something to be ashamed of and hidden away.

That I should do everything in my power to get "my body back."

Let me tell you something: my body never left.

My body is the miraculous, shapeshifting form of a woman. Always has been, always will be.

My body is still mine. It was mine in the fatigue and nausea of the first trimester. It was mine in the proud swelling and high energy of the second trimester. It was mine in the heartburn and stretch marks and exhaustion of the last few weeks.

My body built a baby. And then my body did humankind's hardest work to bring that baby into the world.


I don't want my pre-baby body "back." I bear the marks of a woman who has been on a journey, an adventure.

I'll keep this body, with its aches and scars. I've earned this body doing my life's work.

My body and I are good friends. If I listen, it tells me just what it needs. Rest. Water. Good food. Walks outside, a little longer every day. The embrace of my loved ones. Laughter.

My body is strong, capable. I will carry it with pride, because it is a great gift, and through its mysterious, miraculous transforming I have received the most precious gifts of my life: my beautiful daughters.




Tuesday, September 29, 2015

An Impromptu Michaelmas {Pear + Blackberry Pie}

I didn't have any plans to celebrate Michaelmas this year, because with a 9/28 due date I was frankly hoping to be otherwise occupied. But when this morning rolled around with no labor at all, much less a baby, I decided to throw together an impromptu celebration with some of our best friends. It was so much fun that I was really able to enjoy day #1 of being "overdue," instead of just sitting in my extra-clean and well-nested house twiddling my thumbs and poring over hilarious lists of things to do to get labor started.

Since I had exactly no plans for today, I had all the time in the world to make a big project out of dinner. We had roast chicken, honey-glazed steamed carrots, and green beans. For dessert, a pear and blackberry pie! (Why these foods? Haley has it all laid out for you.)

Michaelmas 2015

Michaelmas 2015

And we put our capes of light to good use for the second year in a row! Stickin' it to the devil, one small person at a time. :-)

Michaelmas 2015

Michaelmas 2015

Michaelmas 2015

There's a beautiful free downloadable version of the St. Michael Prayer on Carolyn's blog today - check it out! Can't wait to see more of her beautiful work, soon to be available via her new Etsy shop, Brass & Mint Co.

Pear + Blackberry Pie

My favorite crust, as always.
5 cups peeled, cored, and chopped pears (1-inch pieces)
2 cups blackberries
zest of 1 lemon
juice of 1/2 lemon
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of kosher salt
2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons milk or cream
coarse sugar for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Combine the fruit, lemon zest, and lemon juice in a large bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar, spices, salt, and cornstarch, and add them to the fruit. Toss together gently.

Roll out half of the pie crust and fit inside a 9- or 10-inch pie plate. Fill with the fruit mixture, and then roll out the second half of the crust and top the pie with a lattice. Brush with milk or cream and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for one hour to one hour and twenty minutes, until the crust is deeply brown and the filling is bubbling. Cool before slicing. Serve with vanilla ice cream!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Tart Cherries: Picking, Pitting, and Processing!

Our final foray up to northern Michigan for the summer included a mamma-mandated trip back to Rennie Orchards to pick tart cherries! Homemade cherry jam is one of my favorite things to eat all winter long, and there is just something about the fact that I hand-picked and pitted these cherries that makes the jam even sweeter for me. I love preserving the season for later!

cherry picking ::

cherry picking ::

cherry picking ::

Jackpot! Low-hanging fruit!

We ended up with about 18 pounds of fresh tart cherries to take home to Chicago with us, and the next day we got right down to business. (Tart cherries don't like to wait around.)

With this new cherry pitter in hand, we pitted and pitted and pitted! Anne helped, of course. Never underestimate the enthusiasm of a toddler for an excruciatingly tedious task.

cherry pitting ::

Once pitted, the cherries were processed in one of three ways:

1. Maraschino Cherries, a half batch of this ginormous recipe, using about 5 pounds, and yielding 2 pints and 8 half-pints:

Assemble booze, etc:

maraschino cherries ::

Bring to a boil:

maraschino cherries ::

Pack the pitted cherries:

maraschino cherries ::

Pour over hot, sweet, boozy goodness:

maraschino cherries ::


2. Tart Cherry Jam, doubling this trusty recipe that I've used for the last 2 years, using about 8 pounds, and yielding 3 pints and 8 half-pints:

cherry jam ::

cherry jam ::

3. Frozen pitted tart cherries for pies, etc. Two pies' worth, about 2 pounds per pie.

The final product:

Cherries 2015 ::

Not pictured: one exhausted, cherry-stained, and happy pregnant mamma.