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    This is Halloween (HALLOWEEN, halloween)

    Friday, October 1st, 2010

    Halloween is big in our house. BIG. Z has declared it her favorite holiday ever since she was old enough to declare such things, and last year she had a record 5 costumes. Planning starts for the next year on Nov. 1, and it gets talked about all. year. long.

    Seeing as it’s October 1st, it’s about time to start celebrating. Last year I picked up this adorable count-down to Halloween …thing, calendar I guess, (it’s not an advent calendar, because it’s not advent.), and filled it with candy.

    This year I wanted to step back from the candy every day idea, and instead filled it with slips of paper containing Halloween missions. They include everything from “Go to a pumpkin patch” to “read a Halloween book”, and even “Find out what’s inside a pumpkin”. I’ve also included things that will need to be done for Z’s annual Halloween party (which will be Z and A’s party this year), like making and sending invitations, and buying things for the party.

    Hopefully this will allow us to spread out the celebration, avoid a bit of the candy, and not binge on our rather massive stack of Halloween books and movies right at the beginning of the month. And since I know (it will be a surprise for the girls) that two of the days have papers that say “Get a new Halloween book” and “Get a new Halloween movie”, hopefully that will keep me from buying new things all month long.

    It’s also inspired me to try to make a “holiday” countdown calendar that can be changed up and decorated for each holiday so that we could do the same thing for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentines Day, birthdays, Easter, you name it. Having a separate calendar for each holiday is a bit much, but with just one, you’d only have to store it and the decorations that went with.  Has anyone done anything like this?

    And before I go, let’s zoom in on this darling pumpkin, shall we?

    I LOVE it. Doesn’t it look like it’s been painted? *blissful sigh*

    Instant spice

    Sunday, February 7th, 2010

    I know I just posted, but I had to share my morning’s inspiration to add instant spice to our day:

    Add chocolate chips to the pancakes.



    What’s your recipe for instant spice?


    Thursday, January 21st, 2010

    I’m reading this book.  Don’t get judgy on me.  It’s awesome.  An example of awesome is this quote:

    You bear God within you, poor wretch, and know it not

    I’ve been sitting with that idea for several days, and it really resonates with me.

    Would you like to do an experiment?  It’s probably raining where you are, so an experiment where you don’t have to go outside might be nice…

    Will you sit with the idea that God is inside you for a few days, and let us know how it goes?  I hope you do…


    Tuesday, October 20th, 2009

    A deep, tender, ineffable feeling of affection and solicitude toward a person, such as that arising from kinship, recognition of attractive qualities, or a sense of underlying oneness.–definition of “Love” from the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4th edition

    Sometimes people say that I love you is an overused expression.  I think the quality of ineffability is why we look for other ways to “say” that we love someone.  Maryanne mentioned in a recent post that giving gifts is one of her main love languages (what are the others Maryanne?).  A coworker is into big romantic gestures, like rose petals scattered throughout the house and candles lit on every surface.

    I express love by taking care of someone, and I “hear” love that way too.

    I came home today to this…


    and this…


    An empty sink and folded laundry?  Nothing says “I love you” to me more than that :)

    How do you express love to the people in your home and life?  How do you “hear” that love from them?

    Chocolate Cherry Cookies

    Tuesday, October 13th, 2009

    The best thing, well, one of at least, about being an adult is not having to wait for cookies. Right now, it’s getting late in the evening, but I just pulled a batch of warm cookies out of the oven. Baked because it’s going to rain tonight (I hope) and it’s fall and my husband and I just wanted cookies. Sometimes you have to give in and let go and bake cookies.

    To this end, I am sharing a recipe. I love these cookies. Addictive, easy, and almost healthy. But don’t let that stop you from whipping up a batch when the mood strikes. Go on. Share some with someone you love.

    Chocolate Cherry Cookies

    makes about 3 dozen

    Ingredient List:

    1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature

    1 cup packed brown sugar

    2 eggs

    1 tablespoon vanilla

    1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

    1 teaspoon baking soda

    2 teaspoons cinnamon

    1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

    1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

    2 cups rolled oats

    1 cup high-fiber cereal with flakes and twigs (I use “Twigs Flakes and Clusters” from Trader Joe’s. Kashi “Good Friends” is another good choice)

    1 cup dried cherries, sour cherries are the best

    1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips


    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

    Cream together the sugar and the butter until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla, beat until well incorporated.

    In a small bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda and spices.

    In a medium bowl, stir together the oats, cereal, cherries and chocolate chips.

    Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and slowly blend (on low if using a stand mixer) until just mixed. Add the oat mixture and blend (on low if using a stand mixer) until the dough comes together and the ingredients are distributed fairly evenly throughout.

    The dough will be very soft and clumpy because of all the good stuff in there.

    Drop dough in rounded tablespoon fulls onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Make sure to keep the dough mounded–the cookies will flatten out in the oven. Bake for 12 minutes or until the centers are just set but still look a bit underdone. Let cool on the cookie sheet for about 5 minutes before removing to a cooling rack.

    The cookies will keep for about a week in an air-tight container. But I doubt you’ll be able to keep them around that long.

    Cooking Feeds More Than The Body

    Friday, September 11th, 2009

    This past weekend I went to visit family and friends in the Bay Area for Labor Day.  I have so many good memories, including watching Coraline with Justin and Hilary wearing 3D glasses and riding the carosel at the Children’s Playground in Golden Gate Park with my Mama.  The best part of my trip, though was Sunday evening, when I baked an apple pie with my Mama.

    Mama makes pieMama and I sat across from each other and peeled apples and we talked.  We talked about her upcoming retirement and my adventures in dating.  The pie was delicious (obviously):

    Apple Pie…but the time I spent making it was even better than eating it :)

    Please comment any experiences with household chores/activities that feed more than the body…

    Breakfast Magic

    Thursday, September 3rd, 2009

    I have a special relationship with breakfast. My dad made the best weekend breakfasts while we were growing up: pancakes, muffins, bacon scrambled eggs or other treats. We looked forward to those breakfasts all week.

    As an adult learning my way around a kitchen, breakfast was first on my list to be “perfected”. I have friends who remember the evenings that extended into mornings at my little house where I would wake all my sleeping guests with Fleetwood Mac and a pile of fresh from scratch pancakes or french toast made with cinnamon raisin bread.

    During our long-distance courtship in San Diego, John and I eschewed the normal dinner/date routine and indulged in long weekend breakfasts at our favorite spots around the city. We’d linger over pancakes as big as our heads filled with fruits and slathered with butter and syrup, drinking coffee and planning our day.

    Breakfast was what brought me to professional food, in the magical roundabout way that things happen in life. John joked over one of our extended breakfasts that I could certainly “do this” gesturing to the busy dining room. I took a business class and then found a hospitality program so that I could, one day, have my own kitchen to make breakfast bliss in.

    Of course, my kitchen currently only serves five, plus a guest here and there, but breakfast still holds sway as a magical meal.

    When Maia was little she did not eat. It was a wretched experience for a foodie mom to have a child who would not eat. Her first birthday was an exercise in misery as she flat out refused our attempts to get her to even taste a dreamy cream-filled pastry that served as her impromptu birthday cake. I was at my wits end until I stumbled upon something she loved with gusto: French toast. The humble breakfast food was our saving grace at meal time.

    I made batches of toast at the beginning of the week and added nutrition by smashing bananas into the batter, stirring in finely grated carrots or zucchini, or adding apples and sauce. She ate French toast at almost every meal for months.

    She finally became a more adventurous eater, but she did survive on French toast and still loves it. At this point, we still make toast 1-2 times a week for breakfast and Maia will tell me what to get out of the fridge for her. Sometimes when we’re not fast enough, she’ll get out the eggs, milk and bread herself.

    I like to think she’s on the path to making her own magical breakfast memories.

    Apple-Cinnamon French Toast

    The rule of thumb for French Toast is one egg + milk will coat about 2 pieces of standard sandwich bread. I really soak my bread, so I get about 1 1/2 pieces per egg. This recipe is sized to make about 6 pieces. Adjust to your family as need be.


    4 whole eggs

    3 tablespoons milk

    1 teaspoon vanilla extract

    1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

    1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

    1 4-ounce container or 1/2 cup apple sauce

    ~6 slices bread (I use whole wheat–it gives it a wonderful hearty flavor)


    Beat together the eggs, milk, vanilla and spices in a shallow, wide dish (I find a pie plate works perfectly for this job). Stir in applesauce. Dunk bread into batter, pressing lightly to help really soak in the batter. Place soaked bread on a heated and oiled skillet. Cook until nicely browned on both sides.

    Serve with butter, warm syrup, or more apple sauce. Enjoy!

    Letting the outside in

    Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009

    Charlotte Mason, an education reformer from the early 1900s said that all children should spend the majority of the first six years of their lives outside, “with no pressure, just taking in the fresh air and impressions of nature”.  She suggested that nature was the best early teacher, and that the fresh air and pleasures of the outdoors would incline children to be happy and good.

    We try to get outside at least a little bit every day, which is sparse compared to Charlotte Mason’s suggestion of a whopping 6 hours a day.  But today…..

    Z wanted to go to the “park with swings”, so we got up and ready early and set off at 8:45. The walk to the park is really lovely, down a tree lined path, over a bridge, and across a levee next to a river.  As we walked we looked at the trees by the river, and talked about how some were changing colors, how fall is coming, how pretty red leaves are. I’d brought the camera, and Z picked things for me to take pictures of, and as we took pictures we slowed down and really looked at the bee, the snail, the dandelion.



    We got to the park and played for a bit, but while the day had started out coolish, it was getting hot.  I told Z it was time to go, and following no logic whatsoever I decided to walk the other way down the levee – something we’d not done before.  As we walked we gathered rocks to paint when we got home (anything to distract her from the sadness of leaving the park).

    After we’d walked for a little while, I remembered that there was an inlet into a nature reserve area off of the levee. I hadn’t been there in years, but the last time I had, there had been rabbits, so I was hopeful.

    Entering the area, I told Z that animals lived there, and that if we were really quiet, we might see some. It was as though I’d cast a magic spell. For 45 minutes she was nearly silent as we walked through trees and flowers, whispering questions about signs we saw.  The only sounds were the calls of birds and the crunching of leaves under our feet. It was so quiet that A fell asleep in the stroller.

    The beauty was stunning. Colors complimented and contrasted, the variety of  textures  was inspiring. We walked until Z said her legs were tired, and then she got in the stroller and we walked some more. She gestured for  me to come to the front of the stroller and whispered, “Momma, I like this place.” When I told her we could come back anytime we wanted, her smile was gigantic.






    On the way home she stopped and excitedly pointed at a pine cone.  In somewhat of a rush to get home, I brushed it off until she said that it looked like an animal – it had eyes!  Looking closer, I realized that it did appear to have eyes, and she deemed it a “pinecone animal” and named it Rosicella.  Of course, Rosicella came home with us.


    I know Z learned a lot being outside today, taking in the beauty of the world. She learned about what bees do and that some trees change colors before others and what jackrabbits do when you get close to them.  She learned the value of silence, the virtue of observation.  She probably picked up any number of things that I didn’t notice and that she can’t put into words. For that I am incredibly grateful.

    But perhaps more than that, I’m grateful for what I got out of our morning outside. Walking in the quiet, in the peace and beauty of growing things, I felt enlivened, inspired, renewed.  I came out of our walk more centered; ready to face the noise and bustle of life.

    We left the house at 8:45 and got back at 1. My feet are sore, but my soul is full.

    Everyday miracle

    Monday, August 31st, 2009


    Bite size magic

    Monday, August 24th, 2009

    Jessica’s post about bite size pieces has gotten me thinking. (Have you read it? Go read it!)  You see, I have a penchant for the large gesture. If something’s a good idea, then something bigger and more dramatic must be better, yes?

    As I’ve been thinking about nurturing and making magical moments in my home, I see some of the wonderful things that women around the internet are doing, and I’m incredibly inspired, and almost as incredibly overwhelmed. Start of the school year parties, poetry for each child, hand stamped fabric family projects; I can’t figure out when I’d have the time to even think of the ideas, let alone put in the effort to make them come to pass. OK, so that’s not strictly true. I can think of when I’d have the time to do all of that, but not how to do all of it AND clean my house.

    So where does that leave me?

    With a green straw.

    Let me explain.

    Z,  (my 3 year old), has a sippy cup with a straw that slides out of the top. It’s been lost for the last week or so, (I strongly suspect it’s in the church bag, but keep forgetting to look) and the other day she asked for it at lunchtime. I told her that I couldn’t find it, and offered her another cup, which she took, albeit a little sadly.

    In a flash of inspiration I remembered the box of straws that I knew existed somewhere in the house. They weren’t anywhere I expected them to be- I finally found them with the art supplies in Z’s closet (the organization of my house is the subject of another post entirely)- but find them I did, and I pulled one out quickly and went back out to where Z was eating, and told her to close her eyes.

    She opened them to this.


    Oh the rapture.  Her cup of milk was no longer just milk,

    it was a treat,

    an experience,

    a beverage.

    She used the straw all day.

    It didn’t take tons of planning or preparation, just a moment of squelching the part of me that just wanted to hand her the cup and be done with it, and a couple of minutes to search out a straw. And the payoff? Magic.

    And you know what?

    We discovered yesterday that the only thing better than a green straw is

    a blue straw.