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.

cozy cooking

I woke up to beautiful, quiet world of white, where snow-covered bare tree branches look soft as feathers against gray sky. I hear the scrape of the plow against my driveway, clearing our way through last night’s snowstorm. Everything is hushed and heavy and monochromatic in the most elegant of ways.

Of course, it is also late March. We are beginning to chafe for sunshine and grass. The joy of snow angels has waned, and what was cozy in January is beginning to feel stale. This is the real test for us Northerners. All that “hygge” comes so easily in December, but can we keep it up in late March, while the rest of the world enjoys the first bursts of daffodil-yellow and azalea-pinks?

If you’re needing a bit of a boost, try candles, soup, and delicious homemade bread. A little mini tulip in an even mini-er pot helps, too. Hope springs eternal and all that jazz.

*****

My Favorite Roast Chicken
a wee bit adapted from Jamie Oliver

1. Heat oven to 375 and get out your dutch oven.
2. Season a whole chicken (theirs are the best, and BIG!) with salt and pepper (generously!)
3. In dutch oven, brown chicken in butter or olive oil or coconut oil over medium high heat until it’s a bit golden on all sides.
4. Add 10 unpeeled garlic cloves, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp sage, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, juice of two lemons (or equivalent from a bottle — shhh, I won’t tell), 2 cans coconut milk (or 1 can, and make up the difference with whole milk.) Don’t need to stir, just dump it in.
5. Put on the lid and bake for 45 minutes. Take the lid off and bake for 45 more.
6. Take the chicken out of the amazing sauce, pick meat off bones, and stir the meat back into the saucy pot. Serve over basmati rice. Heaven.
7. Save leftover chicken and sauce for tomorrow.

*****

Soup The Next Day

1. Fill the pot you used yesterday with the chicken carcass you saved and cold water to cover. Simmer for HOURS.
2. Strain resulting broth (if you’re like me, it’ll be about 3 cups because you let it all evaporate — oops!), and pick any meat off of bones before discarding. Be thorough! This is a good chicken you’re dealing with!
3. Saute 1 medium onion in coconut milk until translucent. Add about 4 cloves of chopped garlic and cook for 1 minute or until fragrant.
4. Pour in reserved broth + enough water to equal about 4-6 cups of liquid. Add a can of coconut milk.
5. Stir in 3 chopped carrots and the leftover chicken and sauce.
6. Season with 1 tsp coriander, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1-2 tsp salt, and pepper. Simmer until carrots are soft (or longer!)
7. Add half a bag of frozen peas, a generous squeeze of lemon, and Israeli couscous towards the end — when I add pasta, I like to simmer for a few minutes, and then just lid the pot off the heat to let the pasta keep cooking while the soup simultaneously cools.

*****


Easy and Delicious French Bread!
seriously the best bread recipe I’ve ever found — makes 4 loaves

1. Mix 4 1/2 cups flour, 1 Tablespoon salt, 3 Tablespoons sugar, and 6 3/4 tsp active dry yeast in mixing bowl.
2. Stir in 3 cups warm water (120*F) with wooden spoon until smooth.
3. Add 2 – 3 cups more flour, until sticky dough forms. Turn out onto well-floured surface and knead until smooth and springy, about 5 minutes. (Keep sprinkling flour as needed — I like to not add too much at the beginning, knowing I’ll likely need it as I knead.)
4. Put in oiled bowl and cover. Let rise for about an hour till doubled.
5. Preheat oven to 400*. Turn dough out onto counter and divide into 4 equal amounts. Shape each ball into a rectangle about 8″x10″. Roll tightly (the long way), and place seam-side down on greased pan (or silpat.) Repeat for others, using two baking sheets with two loaves each. Cover with clean towel and let rise 45 minutes or so.
6. Brush with egg wash for extra fancy, and then make three slashes with sharp knife on an angle. Pop into the oven for 20 minutes or so, rotating baking sheets halfway through for even baking.

august 9

The last week of July, Ryan and I bit the bullet and started Whole30. Probably you know someone who can’t speak highly enough of this 30 day food cleanse/healing program, and so far, neither can I. After years of adding this, cutting that, modifying that, measuring pH levels, yadda yadda, and still suffering from digestive troubles, we decided to try a strict regimen with the road map predetermined. No cheats, all in. No almost grain-free except those two nights I ran out of time and made pasta. After eating bagels for breakfast because I forgot to buy eggs. (Oops.) None of that.

True, I spend a solid hour each morning chopping vegetables and making them into breakfast and lunch, and I have to actually have a dinner plan concocted prior to 5:45 (some of us have made an Olympic sport of totally winging it when it comes to summer dinners!), but I’ve loved it.

Step One: Pull every ingredient out of the fridge and just start chopping. When the pile on the left is all on the right, you’re done.

Step Two: Put two salads-in-jars in the fridge. His and Hers. Awwww, so cute. (Those are just missing greens. Gotta pack that lettuce in firmly with so much other goodness going on!)

Step Three: Start eating…

and eating…

and eating…

and just when you think, holy cow, I’ve consumed SO MUCH PROTEIN and SO MANY VEGETABLES, you have to eat dinner.

*****

Yes, we feel good, I have more energy mid-afternoon (thanks to lunches that are actual meals and not just Mom picking through cupboards as she moves laundry), I haven’t had a single sugar craving or ANYTHING, and we’ve not really been hungry or “munchie” feeling.

But more than that, I’m just feeling thankful.

People around the world will live and die having never eaten a well-balanced meal. Not once! And here we are, able to procure wholesome food for three meals every single day. It’s like complaining that we can’t drink plain water — we need strawberries and lemon and a sprig of mint, or ugh, who wants to drink water? — when children walk miles and wait hours for a few gallons of amoeba-ridden rainwater.

I love ice cream and potato chips and flavored seltzer, so no judgment there. Just perspective. We are rich to even have the option of pursuing healthy choices.

*****

Self-care: at first, I was a bit disappointed to give up a big chunk of my morning — the very best of my day, really — to food prep. I want to be outside! I want to walk! I want to journal! At the very least, I want to get some laundry done.

But having a really good lunch made for myself each day, it turns out, feels very nourishing. Not just to my body, although there is certainly a huge change in my energy levels come 2pm, but also to my soul. I love good food, I love pretty food, and that giant bowl of salad just for me gives me pause each day. Yum. Thank You, God, for giving this to me. For this reminder to stop and fuel the body You’ve given me. Feel the nutrients wake up the weary parts of me.

*****

So this month of continual food prep: it’s been worth it.

Also, I’m already dreaming of Jameson’s birthday cake in September. Just being honest.

an overview

The snow is long gone, though lingering days of cold have made the spring feel slow. No surprise, then, that I can’t quite wrap my mind around May. Well into the fifth month of this year that I thought just started.

Even more shocking is to look recently for a blog post I wrote a little while ago — only to realize it was 2.5 years ago already. And reading it over to realize, sure enough, there’s been a significant shift in this little [growing] family of ours: a shift from all littles to most definitely young men. Sleeves are still rolled, and I’m up to my elbows in the very real work of shaping young lives, but already there are glimpses of what will rise from these foundational years. I am, in very real and very practical ways, enjoying the fruit of days and days of digging in dirt. It’s happening: they’re growing up. Not just getting bigger — although oh my, the length of those legs and size of those feet! — but shoulders are broadening and starting to carry weight. Hearts are awakening and needing shepherding in deeper, slower, tender, firm ways. We have five children. Five! We are moving ahead. I think part of me always thinks life will settle back down and we’ll get back to “norma” — where my boys are forever little, stuffing pockets with who-knows-what and imagining themselves to be heroic explorers as they head off with a big stick and tri-corn hats. Where Beatrice never outgrows missing Rs and little girl cuddles.

We’re not going back to that. We’re not.

I could cry buckets about that. Knowing it goes fast, treasuring the moments, doesn’t slow life down. And it doesn’t mean you’re not sad to know those moments are gone.

But the path of the righteous shines brighter. We look ahead, not because it’s the only way to look, but because that’s where our hope lies. The morning sun dawns, and there is for that day an amazing promise of the presence of a faithful God. He leads us on paths of righteousness that are going somewhere. We live on this spinning planet, watching folly after folly unfold, knowing with King Solomon that there is nothing new under the sun — and yet, we are rescued from cynicism and fatalism by the Savior who has come to redeem. Now, tomorrow, and then. He is redeeming and making beautiful.

I see it in my growing sons. I see their minds growing and their words forming, their hearts widening and softening. I see it in my Beatrice who catches herself mid-sin and chooses to repent and turn — all on her own, because the Holy Spirit is her Shepherd, too. I see it in our marriage, blending us and tethering us and already forging something that could never be separated to the two parts we were ten years ago when we began. I see it in our lives, not because every day is easier (ha!), but because the light that leads us into the gathering dusk of this Age becomes more steady, more brilliant, more sure.

*****

It’s always easier for me to look out and see redemption than it is for me to look in. If I catch a glimpse of my soul, I am quick to say, “Who will deliver me from this body of death?” And this will be a mountain I’m sure to circle again, a familiar foe. But becoming equally familiar are the truths the Holy Spirit equips me with to fight the good fight. Is it a coincidence that Philippians 1:6 was a favorite verse in my early childhood? No.

And He continues to pour truth into my soul.

*****

We are running outside, soaking in life-giving green and the vast blue above. We are squealing at daffodils, celebrating bleeding hearts, dancing through dandelions. We are wearing sundresses and wool sweaters.

School books are nearly done, to be gladly replaced by more trail-blazing and swamp-searching, Huck Finn-reading, and Four Square-playing. (All that diligence in February pays off in the spring!)

Family came, playgrounds were visited, bagels consumed.

Meals have expanded beyond the early postpartum options of Main Dish Salad, Spaghetti with Meatballs, Repeat. Bread is made! –even if it is just the quick cheat kind, more often than not.

Colds are nursed, fevers tended to. Laundry is continually washed and dried, although less often folded and put away (got to figure out a better system for that.) Books are read, perhaps not on the couch cuddled under an afghan (as my idealistic self requires), perhaps while little girls sit in the tub, or while pb&j is being consumed. Correction is given, obedience required, kindness cultivated, anger and malice put aside. (Mine and theirs.)

And all the while, wrinkles appear on my face. Is it possible I’m this old? I’ve been too busy to have time to get older, but I guess that’s one thing that happens with no effort or intent on our part. Suddenly noticing that my hands don’t look 18 anymore — a quick reminder that life is short. Carpe diem. Give it all. This is my only chance to live, and give, today.

full days, full heart.

Don’t let him fool you. My boys call for me every night to come tuck them in (even though they already have their quilts up to their chins) and kiss them good night. The arms that lock around my neck are strong and wiry and all boy. I love my boys.

I love/hate that every meal would look like this if I let it. I can tell if the book I assigned them is good by how long it takes them to get hungry for lunch. Poor Beatrice. She can’t wait until I teach her to read so she can be part of that world, too. They love to read.

And I never get tired of watching them together. ALL DAY LONG. They love each other so deeply. They are such opposites, and already, I can see iron sharpening iron. They’re learning how to interact through differences, how to point out weaknesses in an encouraging way. I wonder what their future together holds. Maybe just a deep connection each time their paths cross? Or will they be shoulder to shoulder, pursuing Jesus together?

*****

We’ve had a few PJ morning walks, when my little sidekicks wake up before I can slip out of the house. Are they the cutest? I really think so. And isn’t summer all about fresh mornings spent in pajamas?

She sings. All the time, everywhere. Her favorite theme is “When the storms come, You will be there.” Yesterday, as we drove to do errands, her chatting turned to, “When I’m a big girl, I’ll sit up next to you.” I smiled and nodded, imagining trips together and long conversations and a life of having that wonderful person for a friend. She chatted on about, “And I will fill up the car with gas for you! And go into the store and buy the things. And I will order the bagels!!” Apparently ordering bagels is quite the milestone in her eyes.

*****

I know it’s almost July, and I’m still trying to realize summer has started. I’m surprised to look at my gardens and not just see daffodils — in my mind, that’s where we still are. But no. A sea of evening primrose, the start of lilies, baby gooseneck loostrife ready to pop, delphinium waving tall and proud (unless this current rainy day does them in.) And yarrow. Deep, sunshine-yellow yarrow. I’ve never fully appreciated how many perfect little flowers it takes to form one of those beautiful heads of gold.

*****

And food. The food tells me it’s not April anymore. We will eat lots of salad, in place of winter’s pb&j. Along with our CSA’s generous shares of greens, I also planted plenty of kale this year. I hope it does well, because I can certainly eat my way through a LOT of kale in a week.

She enjoys it all as much as I do. She’s a bottomless pit! While the boys sit and read, she quietly eats all of the food. ALL of it.

Sautéed garlic and spring onions, baby kale, lemon juice, and heaps of fresh basil and parsley. It makes my mouth so happy. I forget what fresh herbs taste like!

Making pretty food does something for me. Nothing fancy, just pretty. Edible sweet pea flowers, golden yellow eggs, deep red strawberries, ta-da. Even with a fridge that is bare, it feels like we’re eating like kings.

*****

Growing.

Suddenly, last week, overnight, I went from feeling round and lumpy to being quite clearly pregnant. Funny how that happens. Ryan, the boys, my friends tell me it’s true as their eyes widen and they exclaim, “Hey! Your belly!”

Sixteen weeks of baby growing in there. Already! It’s flying by. Maybe that’s why I’m so surprised to suddenly not fit in my clothes? Perhaps pulling out some stretchy-waisted pants will help me remember: there’s a baby coming.

(I love getting a peek at what this avocado-sized baby looks like. Astounding.)

*****

Even more astounding is realizing ten years of marriage has come and gone. June 25 ten years later was a much more temperate day. It also came and went with much less fanfare, but a quiet shared remembrance that Hey, today is special. This covenant is special.

*****

And this man is special. He’s talented in a hundred ways that I am not (and therefore am all the more impressed by.) He grows. Stagnant and stubborn is not his style. He wants to grow. There is always a sense that we are moving towards eternity as we live life together, because he just wants Jesus. Sometimes it’s hard, this calling to build something that is so here, but with our eyes continually lifted to then, but he crunches numbers hard because it’s faithfulness, and he treats each person like they’re deeply important because they are, and he comes home and gets smothered by adoring children because he needs space but they need love and they’re the most important to him.

He makes the most of life’s moments. He’s not a “at 7pm every night, we’ll have devotions in this particular format” kind of guy. He grabs the teaching moments and sits down right then and helps them learn how to hear from the Lord, and how to process life by His word.

So he grabs paper as soon as he walks in the door and draws a diagram to teach about executive, legislative, and judicial branches, their powers, and the breaches thereof. He talks about the American Constitution. But he talks mostly about kingdoms rising and falling, and our God reigning forever. About living lives that are sown in death and raised to life. This is “home schooling” at its best.

molasses spice crinkles with chocolate chips

I’ve been wanting to try a ginger spiced cookie with cocoa and chocolate chips, so today’s efforts turned out these, based on Baking Illustrated’s Molasses Spice Cookies.

Note: I used very black molasses and the end result was a fairly strong flavor. Use mild molasses if that’s not your thing! Also, I always substitute raw sugar or evaporated cane juice for granulated sugar.

1 1/2 c all-purpose flour
3/4 c cocoa (I used Dutch)
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp finely ground black pepper
1/4 tsp kosher salt
12 Tbsp soft butter
1/3 c packed dark brown sugar
1/3 c granulated sugar, plus 1/3 c for rolling
1 large egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 c molasses
1 cup chocolate chips
1 tsp cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 375
2. Whisk dry ingredients together in medium bowl.
3. In large bowl (with wooden spoon or electric mixer), beat butter with brown sugar and 1/3 cup granulated sugar at hight speed until fluffy and light. Add yolk and vanilla; beat until incorporated. Add molasses; beat until incorporated. Add flour mixture and beat just until mixed. Add chips.
4. Mix 1/3 c granulated sugar and 1 tsp cinnamon in shallow bowl. With damp hands, roll a heaping Tbsp of cookie dough into 1 1/2″ ball; roll in sugar mixture. Place 2″ apart on greased sheet (or silpat; I love mine!).
5. Bake about 11 minutes, till set but still soft. Don’t over bake!

Serve with cold milk. Your kids will beam and your husband will say, “This is fun! I like cookies and milk. I should sell these!”