Friday, April 12, 2013

Funny, Beautiful, Interesting, Kind. (Vol. 1)

funny beautiful interesting kind, volume 1 |

In the past few months, I have often caught myself daydreaming about how I will parent in the future, as my daughter grows older and our family (hopefully) grows in size. One frequent daydream is of our family at the dinner table as our kids grow, sharing stories from our days out in the world, reconnecting and recharging together. But I know all too well how conversations go when they begin with, "How was your day?"


...Not exactly the sparkling conversation of my dreams, is it?

So with an eye to living intentionally and being present to each moment of our lives, we have started a new dinnertime tradition: Funny, Beautiful, Interesting, Kind. When we sit down to dinner together, each of us (Anne is exempt as of now, although not for long!) has to share one of the following from our day:

  • What was the funniest thing that happened?
  • What was the most beautiful thing you saw or heard (or tasted)?
  • What is the most interesting thing you learned?
  • What was the kindest thing you did for someone else?

When you know these questions are coming at the end of the day, you pay closer attention to the happenings in your life. And if the day is half gone, and nothing terribly noteworthy has happened, you can take control! Grab a book and read about something new! Get creative and make someone's day with a random act of kindness! Present to our lives, and intentional about living well.

I'd like to expand this conversation into this space, too. Every Friday, I'll post the answer to one of the above questions, taken from the past week. And I hope you'll join me in the comments, starting today!

The most interesting thing I learned this week: if you lightly brush the leaves of tomato seedlings each day with your fingertips, the plants grow sturdier, stockier stems.

What happened in your week that was funny, beautiful, interesting or kind?

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Baked Rhubarb Oatmeal

Long ago, motherhood -- womanhood -- was a community affair. Pregnancy, childbirth, nursing; these things were not so cloaked in mystique and taboos in past generations. There was support, practice, experience that came with being one of many women living in close quarters. Much of that is lost in our society, or at least it can be. Motherhood can be a time of tremendous isolation, since most of us live miles from our families and friends. I am so deeply grateful for the online communities I have found to give support and encouragement, answer crazy questions, and laugh and cry with me. I am grateful to be able to connect with women who completely understand when I talk about erratic sleep schedules, nursing marathons, and the fact that, to my dismay, my house looks nothing like what I see on Pinterest.

Baked Rhubarb Oatmeal |

Motherhood is still a community, albeit more Jetsons than tribe. This morning I had coffee with my mom via videochat. We showed each other the progress our seedlings have made, watched my daughter wiggle and squeal, and lamented the caprices of late spring (Michigan got snow again!). Later we went to a bakery to spend time with several other moms and babies Anne's age, whom we met through While we rocked to sleep at naptime this afternoon, I checked the moms' groups I'm a part of on Facebook, commiserating, praying, and sharing what little advice and experience I've gained in five short months. I checked Twitter for updates on a new baby in the NICU, offered encouragement and more prayers. This may look very different than it used to, but it is essentially the same. I'm grateful for all my little tribes of mammas, living the joy and struggle of raising these tiny people together.

Baked Rhubarb Oatmeal |

This recipe is adapted from Heidi Swanson's Super Natural Every Day, a fabulous book full of unusual and inspiring vegetarian dishes. The original recipe calls for bananas and huckleberries (which, incidentally, I've never had!). I was craving rhubarb crisp, but looking for something a little more wholesome and substantial that could be eaten for breakfast, guilt-free. Rhubarb probably won't be at the local markets for another month or so, but I cheated last year and froze some. How wonderful it was to look in the back of my freezer and pull out the gift of spring a few weeks early! This would work with any fruit you have on hand; apples, pears, or berries would be lovely. Let me know what you try!

Baked Rhubarb Oatmeal

4 cups fresh or frozen rhubarb, chopped
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1.5 teaspoons cinnamon
2 cups milk
1/4 cup honey
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 tablespoons melted butter

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, and arrange a rack in the top third of the oven. Butter the inside of an 8-inch square baking dish (or equivalent). Mix together the oats, half the walnuts, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. In another bowl whisk together the milk, honey, egg, vanilla, and butter.

Arrange the rhubarb in the dish and sprinkle the sugar over. Toss the rhubarb a little to evenly distribute the sugar, but not too much; you don't want all the sugar to go to the bottom. Spread the oat mixture evenly over the top. Slowly pour the milk mixture over the top, and thump the pan on the counter gently to evenly distribute the milk through the oats. Sprinkle the remaining walnuts on top.

Bake for 35-45 minutes, until golden and set. Serve warm.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Lovely Links (March 2013)

Because it was Holy Week when March slid into April, and... better late than never!!

March 2013 |
1. Sunrise on the way out of town to visit all the grandparents.
2. Gorgeous huge tree in my parents' yard.
4. Sprouts! 3 days after planting.
5. Helping me cook on St. Patrick's Day.
6. Tomato seedling with its first set of true leaves!

Smoky Beet Burgers. Good grief those look amazing.

Betcha didn't think of everything in this post about poison prevention. I saved the number for poison control on my phone.

Dried fava soup with mint and guajillo chiles!! That's reason enough to hope it doesn't stop raining quite yet - more soup weather, please!

"Your 'art' is really just the thing you love, the thing you’re good at, the thing you do that’s authentically you."

I never met a Reuben I didn't like, so I think I can get on board with Hot Reuben Dip.

Creative ways to upcycle wood pallets. One day I will be patient and awesome enough to pull off things like that.

I've never done stuffed cabbage rolls before, but after seeing several iterations lately (like these Asian Stuffed Napa Cabbage Rolls), I must say I am intrigued.

Love how the Church is getting more and more into the online/social media world. Case in point: Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI published an interactive e-book shortly after resigning.

Bees Wrap. Reusable beeswax and cloth food storage alternative to plastic wrap. WANT.

I now have several more reasons to want to visit the Bay Area sooner than later.

Bringing professional musicians into your home for concerts tailored especially for kids? Awesome.

How come all little girls can be princesses... but little boys aren't all princes?

Monday, April 8, 2013

Maple Olive Oil Granola

This parenting thing, man, it's for real. I was so cavalier about it all through my pregnancy. I've been babysitting since I was, like, eleven years old, I thought, I've got this. Let me just say, I don't think there is anything that could have prepared me for the crazy balancing act of motherhood.

Maple Olive Oil Granola |

Most recently, I've learned that anything some doctor can think up to write in a book, they can find a study to back it up. Seriously. A great example: Kids should be left to cry vs. Kids shouldn't be left to cry. So you read those two articles (or two books corresponding to the respective parenting strategies), and then for weeks your brain whirrs nonstop, trying to figure out what is best for your baby and your family. You find yourself unable to think or talk about anything but the problem you're currently trying to solve. And then as soon as you think you've got it figured out... they grow out of it. WHAT. I've never been great at improvising or relinquishing control, but this takes "rolling with the punches" to a whole new level.

Maple Olive Oil Granola |

Things that have helped: Prayer. Google*. Tea and wine and chocolate. Getting outside every day. Hilarious mom friends, in real life and online. And a simple morning routine that involves, in no particular order, coffee, a shower, getting dressed in real clothes, minimal makeup, and a good breakfast. Good breakfasts are not to be missed, and that's what I'd like to share with you today. Homemade granola so delicious it (almost) makes you forget you were up every two hours last night. I like to sprinkle a few tablespoons of granola over a bowl of unsweetened cereal (like this one), top with sliced fruit and douse with whole milk. It's also fantastic with plain whole milk yogurt.

*Google is not always helpful. 

Maple Olive Oil Granola
adapted from Orangette

3 cups rolled oats
1 cup raw hulled pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
1 cup raw pecan halves
1 cup raw sunflower seeds
1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes/chips (the big ones that look like shavings)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup Grade B real maple syrup
1/2 cup olive oil

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees, and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Combine the oats, pumpkin seeds, pecans, sunflower seeds, coconut, salt, and brown sugar in a large bowl and stir to mix. Mix together the maple syrup and olive oil (I measured mine directly into a Pyrex measuring cup and mixed in there) and pour over the oat mixture, stirring to coat. Spread the mixture evenly on the prepared baking sheet and bake for about 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes, until evenly golden. Allow to cool completely before storing.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Seed Starting!

Wanted to give a quick update about what's been going on, garden-wise. Last July, we moved into a building that has a large, easily-accessed rooftop deck. I've got big plans for our convenient full-sun spot!! I ordered a bunch of seeds in February from Seed Savers Exchange, and on March 14, they went into their little pods! I was so nervous, but they are doing great! I'm telling you, I must be a glutton for punishment. As if it's not enough that I'm dealing with the constant uncertainty that comes with being a new mom, I'm piling on the uncertainty of starting a garden. I must be hard up for some serious personal growth. Stay tuned for the new and improved Elizabeth, apparently.

I am utilizing both and heavily to answer all my gardening questions, and to bolster my confidence.

Here the progress so far:

Seeds |

Ready-made seed starting kit, and all my little seed packets. So much potential!

Seeds starting 2013 |

A few days after planting. I should have had my shop light ready to go; my tomatoes starting bolting for the sunlight coming from the window, poor guys.

Crowded seedling flat! |

A couple weeks after planting, clockwise from top left: basil, tomatoes, peppers, more tomatoes, parsley, and thyme.

Plant-growing bulbs |

To make your own grow light out of a plain old shop light, make sure to get full-spectrum bulbs.

Thinning and repotting station |

Ready for thinning and transplanting! Two weeks from planting.

The tomatoes that didn't make the cut |

Tough love. Poor little guys. Only the strong survive.

Repotted tomatoes |

Roomy new homes! Droopy little plants, but nothing a little water and light can't fix.

Repotted Herbs |

Some DIY containers.

More updates to come soon!