a favorite kitchen corner and my favorite granola recipe

I really do love this beautiful, quirky and customized, finally for real and not just on paper kitchen! I love how the room has opened up, how the cherry counters gleam and glow with just the right warmth, how the cupboards open and close without any loud magnets, and of course the beautiful craftsmanship of each detailed trim piece and mitered corner. As the days are beginning to cool, I’m eager to give this heart-of-the-home its first fall and winter experience: fill it with heavy pots of apple sauce and the scent of stews and floured counters and floors as we cut out cookies for the holidays… Food is an amazing thing, isn’t it? How physical and basic it is, but how deeply it nourishes souls and creates community and family identity? Amazing.

One of my favorite quirky-custom parts of the kitchen is this long, shallow drawer right next to the stove. I wanted a space for my spices, and I knew I didn’t want an open shelf because too much dusting, and I didn’t want them just in a cupboard because I was tired of digging and rearranging and knocking them over. And so I designated this space for them. I open the drawer, and ta-da! There they are. (I bought those jars on Amazon for my most-used spices.)

And below, my flours and oats and sugar have a pull-out drawer perfectly sized for the jars I keep them in. They used to sit on my counter top, and as much as I love the look of them, I just didn’t want to devote the space to them anymore. I also didn’t want my kids pulling huge jars out of cupboards, so this seemed like a good solution. So far, I love it.

Also, I love the hardware on this little corner of the kitchen! It matches the patina and style on the antique Swedish hutch across the room, and that little tie-in just makes me happy. It’s the little things, right?

And because I’m thinking about food and kitchens, a quick nod to summer eating:

Those tomatoes have seriously changed breakfast and spoiled me for all winter eating. I don’t know what I’m going to do when my CSA pick-up is devoid of them. Seriously: if you’re local, you need to try a Kent tomato. Their veg is simply some of the best I’ve had.

While William and Jameson have rather commandeered the kitchen as far as baking goes (cookies are their new passion!), I do manage to slip in every other week or so to make a big batch of granola. I have not delegated that task, as it’s primarily for me and I have particular ideas of how I like it. Probably you do, too, or maybe you’re still looking for the perfect granola recipe. I can’t promise you that your particular ideas will be satisfied by my particular recipe, but if you’d like to give it a whirl, here it is:

My Granola (at least, currently)

Mix in large bowl:
6 cups old fashioned oats
1/2 – 1 cup whole wheat flour (optional; helps bind)
1 – 2 cups unsweetened coconut
2 cups mixed chopped nuts (I do walnuts, almonds, pecans, cashews, and pepitas)
1/2 – 1 cup dried cherries
1/4 cup chopped candied ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cardamom
dash allspice
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

In small bowl, stir together:
1 cup melted coconut oil
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 T kosher salt
2 tsp vanilla

Add wet ing to dry ing and stir well. Spread in sheet pan. Bake at 300* for 90 minutes, stirring halfway through. (This makes a crunchy, fairly loose granola. Lower baking temp and shorten time for chewier results.)

settling in, waiting, soaking up sunshine.

That sums up the last few weeks of life, I suppose.

What started to certainly feel like a long 11 (or so) weeks without our usual rhythms has resulted in a beautiful, open kitchen that feels so grown up and real and like me. How amazing it was to see the elements of cabinetry and collected antiques get put into place, exactly resembling the drawings and ideas I’ve been concocting for so long.

I feel above and beyond blessed. I just keep smiling.

The cupboards are arranged (at least, for now!) and I have almost broken the habit of going to the garage for refrigerated items (where the fridge was kept since February!) The wide expanses of windows that we missed so very much are freshly appreciated as we gather around the kitchen table for meals, and enjoy the family room’s views.

And just in time to watch the world magically and suddenly turn to vibrant green right before our eyes!

Such a long winter we had, with no real hints at spring. April cold and gray, windows shut tight and not even a thought for summer clothing switches. But then, suddenly, it all changed. Better late than never, and certainly received with extra thankfulness and enjoyment, spring has arrived. Trees that were only in bud a week ago are unfurling leaves. Lawn is emerald and lush and scattered with the sunniest dandelions. Daffodils went from tentative little shoots to full blown flowers in only a few days. Bird song fills the morning. Cheeks and shoulders are pink at the first suggestion of sunshine, after months and months of sweaters and snowsuits.

We soak it in and pinch ourselves and try to find the sunscreen.

And we also are waiting. 40 weeks and 5 days, waiting. Keeping up the balance of walks and exercise and crossing off to-dos while guarding rest time each day, collapsing into bed each night. I’m feeling so good this pregnancy. I feel pregnant, but good, and I’m so thankful for that. The kids are so excited, and how fun to be living in an atmosphere heavy with expectation.

I’m feeling less prepared for the actual delivery than I have in the past, but learning even there to lean and trust. What ifs can creep in, and certainly life is uncertain in so many ways. But this is true: Strength for today, a favorite lyric from a favorite hymn. He knows the way I take, and He has promised to never leave or forsake.

Courage is the word on my heart this time around — at first, a reminder to myself to take heart and have courage, but as I mulled that over and prayed for a fresh dose, the deep assurance that God will not just give me courage; He will be my courage. I don’t need to keep it together and hold on; I can fall on Him and lean on Him completely, and He won’t let me down.

This morning, a spring rain that began so gently I don’t even know when it came, and now strengthening into a thoroughly soaking downpour. Even this is lovely and calming, as gray settles in around spring greens. We will take this day slowly, quietly. We will know that His name is near, and how that changes everything.

packed up, put away, and looking forward: january.

There are a very few houses still wearing their Christmas colors, warm colored lights greeting me in the dark mornings as I walk. I’m sure their owners are cringing at how behind they are, and when they will ever find the time, but I wish they could see me smile as I walk by — wistful already as I recall the days of December, their warmth and memories, how they sped by far too quickly, how I wish we could just do that one more time before moving onto the rest of the year.

December passed in its own unique way, as it seems to do each year — this mother and home manager whose heart is full of ideas and plans, who learns every single year to hold such things loosely as real life topples day dreams, only to find that the actual gifts of a Good Father are perfect for us.

Piano performances, choir practices, movie nights, early to bed nights, colds and upset tummies, cookies that taste like the memories of a hundred Christmases past, school winding down and play winding up, first snow, quiet days at home instead of the usual bustle of play dates and get togethers (because viruses), gifts purchased and wrapped and rejoiced over, choral performances that made this mama cry, books read aloud, and suddenly the blessed days of rejoicing and celebration and tradition are upon us, and we revel in it all.

Then it’s over, and we happily let the days slip by as we embrace vacation mode, staying long in PJs, playing with new toys for hours while Mama tries to create some semblance of order. The end of the year purge, making room for new things, getting rid of the broken and unused.

Cold snap. Temps plunging way, way below zero, keeping children inside when frostbite seems to truly threaten. Boys shoveling fast and furiously, coming inside with eyes full of hot chocolate hopes. (Yes, of course yes.) The few days in the 20s and 30s feel like a heat wave, and the play time goes on for hours as they shovel their way through the backyard, creating their very own North Country Roxaboxen.

House projects. Laundry room upheaval, and us short a bathroom, but who cares when there’s long term gain? Slowly we watch it get put back together, and finally the weekend comes when we can vacuum and mop and organize and move in and smile as the washing machine hums its familiar hum.

At last, that means, school.

Fresh starts and new energy escaped me this year, I’ll confess. Oh, those long and often intense days of schooling sounded just like that: long and intense. All I could remember was Cecily up to no good and loose ends left undone every evening and a general feeling of “are we having fun yet?” True story: this happens. It happens to me. Deep in my soul, tentacles of discouragement wrap and bind and pull me down.

But hand to the plow, shoulder to the grindstone, and most of all, heart set on promises: He has never failed me yet.

New routine thought through, fresh pencils, and without any more to-do (because no excuses; that’s what I told myself) we started. To the tune of an unending snowstorm and boys shoveling half the day, and I had to laugh at my carefully laid plans.

You know what?

It was peaceful and fun and synergistic and good.

He has never failed me yet.

So, off we go: into a new year, on a path winding forward, heading towards the rising sun.

slipping into september

September came…

A few weeks with a dear family — continual laughter and friendship and food. What a gift!

And then back to just us.

They love each other. So much.

We’re slipping math and workbooks into the days, but looking forward to one more special guest this week before we break out the new routines. We can’t wait to break it all out — and we’re also loving the fluidity of these weeks.

Soon.

For now, the beauty of transition.

springtime

A month of magic: from twiggy trees and yards of last year’s faded grass, gardens piled with wind-blown sticks and muck, there is the magical transformation of spring.

Leaves.
Emerald lawn.
Perennials waking to new life.

Over all, truest blue skies and softest white clouds.

Fox runs back and forth through our field, hunting for a little den of kits somewhere in our woods. Birds of so many varieties wake us before dawn, a dawn that comes earlier and earlier. Deer brazenly meander through field, somehow keenly aware that this is not the season for hunters.

The world awakes, every year.

This is an awakening I am often watching for so eagerly — but this year, it slips in all around me and takes me utterly by surprise. (Wearing wool socks more often than t-shirts may have something to do with that!)

*****

We turned to May and saw every calendar day of that first week marked PRODUCTION! My four children performed with our homeschool program’s high school musical, and it was the most wonderful experience for each of them. Jameson loved being a part and watching all the backstage workings from an up-close vantage point; Beatrice just loved the camaraderie; Fiona, it would seem, has a great love for this sort of thing and had every line and movement memorized; and William (in a larger role) was just wonderful. He was full of sparkle and life and energy, and worked so hard to do his very, very best all the time, despite how tired he may have been. I was incredibly blessed to watch him come to life up there, with his fellow cast members, in a way I’ve never seen before. The production itself was phenomenal and a testament to how much can be accomplished in a setting where parents and church pour into and value children.

*****

My dear mother in law also came for a visit, long enough for us to get used to her being here, living life with us! The kids were all so sad when she had to leave. The best moments (for me) were looking into the family room to see her sitting on the couch in conversation with a few of the kids, them happily telling her all about something or other, just so happy to be with her.

*****

And now, whew, where are we? Growing children, yearning soul, weed-filled gardens, filling forms for next academic year…

For now, today, just a pause.

I know there are so many things to do — needful things, hoped for things. But these last few days have slowed enough to just breathe, and rather than quickly cram with the next page of to-dos, I’m smiling and laughing and getting off that bad habit of a hamster wheel.

april in pictures

This spring is winning the award for Most Money Spent Heating Our House. To welcome May 1st, I turned up the thermostat. But rain or no rain, this month promises to be bursting with fun and activity. Before we launch into all of that, a quick bit of reflection. April was…

…days of routine at home,


(I love Beatrice’s drawings!)

…bringing the boys to their NYSSMA performance evaluation, where they both did superbly,


(I tried to get pictures of the boys getting ready to perform, but too many nerves to stand still and smile.)

…Easter celebrations!,

…a few mild days that found us running to be outdoors,

…food, of course,

…presbytery meetings at church, and William receiving prayer,

…and shuttling my four little thespians back and forth to rehearsals. Each drive finds them more and more and more excited to perform this coming weekend!

That’s it! April is done. A fresh page today (true, with many squares filled in already), that can be given completely to Him. He’s got a book, too, and all my days are written in it. Comfort and purpose.