a little bit of everything

Beatrice, out on Kevin and Liz’s boat

July 17th is a big deal this year: Beatrice is eleven months old today, and next month, we start counting by years. We are all so in love with this happy, spunky, silly girl. The feeling is mutual, of course. She loves her brothers and adores her daddy. The funny thing about being the mom is that love is simply assumed. She crawls after the boys and works so hard to get a laugh from Ryan, but me? She just knows I’m here. Being a mama is such a privilege.

Watching this afternoon’s storm come in

It’s raining.* This is also a big deal. Our grass is so dry that walking on it hurts. Worse, crops are dying of thirst. Needless to say, the sound of rain as I woke up thrilled me. I do not begin to have the emotional stamina and resiliency needed for farming, but the closer I get to my local farms through greater dependency on them for food, the more I get to share in those ups and downs. Hats off to them.

Pretty breakfasts are one of my favorite things

I got to read through Animal, Vegetable, Miracle again, since one of the moms groups at church decided upon that book for a fun summer read. Second time through, I caught little things I missed the first time. One thing Kingsolver pointed out was that while Good Eating is full of positives in many cultures (think Provence, Tuscany…), Good Eating in the States is a food culture of negatives: you can’t have dessert. Drink skim milk. Low sodium cold cuts for you. Freezer meal while your family eats KFC. And largely, I think that’s true. If my friends and I have a conversation about healthy eating, what gets talked about? What we can’t eat. I realized that part of what I’ve so enjoyed about creating a home for my family has been defining a good and positive food culture. Instead of depriving ourselves of yumminess and calling it healthy, we’re eating delicious food that celebrates taste and health. Guess what? God wants us to be healthy, and He didn’t bother creating a Crystal Light plant in the Garden of Eden — so maybe there are actually yummy ways to be healthy. Right?

Of course, that idea of “good” being a concept riddled with negativity made me think about so many other things. How often does our meditation on a “good and holy” God turn into thoughts of what isn’t holy instead of what is? After mulling this over for weeks, and thinking about how I want to live a life of “I get to!” in front of my kids, I read C. S. Lewis’ words on the subject. He, naturally, says it much better than I ever could:

If you asked twenty good men to-day what they thought the highest of the virtues, nineteen of them would reply, Unselfishness. But if you asked almost any of the great Christians of old he would have replied, Love. You see what has happened? A negative term has been substituted for a positive, and this is of more than philological importance. The negative ideal of Unselfishness carries with it the suggestion not primarily of securing good things for others, but of going without them ourselves, as if our abstinence and not their happiness was the important point. I do not think this is the Christian virtue of Love. The New Testament has lots to say about self-denial, but not about self-denial as an end in itself. We are told to deny ourselves and to take up our crosses in order that we may follow Christ; and nearly every description of what we shall ultimately find if we do so contains an appeal to desire. If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased. [more…]

Pirates, sleeping in our very own yard!

Today I dropped off my IHIP — required by the state of NY for home schooled children. All spring and summer, thoughts about next year’s school has occupied a place on the back burner of my mind. Now, heading into summer’s end, it’s time to move thinking into planning. Not that first grade is terribly complicated or taxing — but still, there are priorities to sort and Big Rocks to put in first, because how quickly our jars fill with the pebbles of life.

I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to teach Jameson at home. The further along this road called Family that I find myself, the more I realize how much there is to reevaluate, and how much lives outside the box. Another brief side note Kingsolver makes in her book is the observation of the school year: children originally had the summer off because their families needed their help during planting and harvest. Yes. School doesn’t need to rule our lives; it should fit into and enhance our lives. That made me stop and ask: How do our children fit into this family? And how does school fit into that? We have the incredibly daunting responsibility of shaping and equipping children to become young men and women of ethic, honor, and function. I’m so very thankful to know that God has called us and God has anointed us in this endeavor.

*I wrote this post this morning, and then the rain returned in force this afternoon. Hopefully the farmers were blessed, and the people in Potsdam certainly had a fair share of excitement!


Since the beginning of May, I have only eaten dessert, or sweets of any kind, a few times on a few special occasions. This is amazing for me. I feel like I’ve climbed Mt. Self Control for the first time ever.

…and then tonight I had to make dessert for our church picnic and caved. I ate a cookie.

Those cookies get me every time!


One special occasion was last week when we went strawberry picking. All three kids, in the middle of the afternoon, trying to find a place I’d never heard of. Beatrice decided to try out a new facet of her personality and cried her head off, William cut his finger on a blade of grass and joined her, and Jameson sat happily in the middle of strawberry plants declaring how much fun he was having. That kid is a keeper.

We brought home 4 quarts — not much, but enough, given the howling that was our soundtrack.

And Jameson helped me make a strawberry cake to celebrate strawberry season. (Since they’ve been deprived of baked goods since my attempts at cutting out dessert, they were especially excited about this cake!)


That night, I also made Ina Garten’s grilled chicken. It was, as all of her recipes are, fabulous. Full of flavor, and really easy. Mashed potatoes (with plenty of whole milk and butter, of course!), and salad from right outside our door finished off the meal. It really was a wonderful celebration of summer’s beginning.


Another big hit? Jamie Oliver’s Chicken Tikka Masala — or at least a version of it. I used chicken thighs and cooked it in the oven at 250* for a couple of hours, but otherwise followed the recipe fairly closely. The cilantro lime rice is a must.

Did I mention that cilantro is taking over my little herb plot? It is. And we love it.


I’m so proud of William. He’s not quite as adventurous as his brother, and that’s putting it mildly. Last year, he spent the entire summer watching people swim from the comfort of dry ground. This week, he went from barely being comfortable dipping his feet in, to being happy climbing in and out all by himself, and letting me help him “swim”. Most of all, it’s fun to see his eyes shine and realize how proud he feels to have accomplished so much.


I pulled out a Copland piece today for the first time in…years. Jameson heard me, and quickly assembled an eclectic assortment of household items that he transformed into percussion. I couldn’t believe how quickly he understood the (modern, sounds-like-chaos to most people) music and figured out how to appropriately add strums and cymbals and such.


Meanwhile, Beatrice is busy getting callouses on her feet — on the tops of her feet, that is. Crawling babies get so dirty, too! She has a self-appointed roll as household floor cleaner, and very seriously picks up every speck and fuzz and eats it. She’s also been introduced to some real food (so, really, shouldn’t she realize that dryer lint is just not worth eating anymore?) and has loved it all. Chicken, salmon, snap peas, lettuce from the garden that she picks when I’m not looking… She’s very eager to be included in our meals. And I just think, Really? Really, you weren’t just born?


Long days of sunshine, long days of work for Ryan, long days of pools and walks and watering thirsty plants. Living the best we know how, loving that He upholds us.

He is good.

food from this week that tasted yummy

I go in spurts. Greek spurts, Middle Eastern spurts, Indian spurts, Mexican spurts, classic French spurts, totally made up spurts — any kind of spurt.*

This week was a bit Italian inspired, and that’s probably Ryan’s favorite spurt. (Well, he does love a Greek salad and hummus, too. But the kima is definitely for me!)

I made two things that he loved, and so I’m putting them here so I can remember them when the “I don’t know what to make!” dilemma strikes.

*Most popular is the “huh, blank stare into the fridge” spurt. Just in case anyone thinks Ryan lucked out and married Ina Garten II.

Roasted Broccoli on Lemon-Garlic Penne

(Yup, that’s pretty much it. My recipes aren’t too deep!)

1 head broccoli — cut crown into bite-sized florets (think penne!). Toss with generous glug of olive oil, salt and pepper, and roast on rimmed baking sheet at 425 for about 15 minutes, tossing and checking a few times along the way. (You want some brown edges. Brown = carmelization = super yum.) Remove from hot pan (add to saucepan with garlic/lemon mixture; see below.) Scatter about 1/2 cup of sliced almonds on pan and put in hot oven for 3-6 minutes till toasted, stirring occasionally.

1 lb whole wheat penne, boiled till al dente in salted water.

3 T butter and 2 T olive oil heated in saucepan; add 4 minced cloves of garlic. Cook till fragrant, about one minute. Off heat, add juice of 2 lemons, s+p. Add roasted broccoli and stir.

When pasta is cooked, drain. Put in large mixing/serving bowl. Pour garlic, lemon, and broccoli mixture over pasta. Add the toasted almonds and 1/4 cup pecorino romano (or whatever is your Italian hard cheese of choice). Stir. Eat!


Kale and Ricotta Pizza

Wash and de-stem one bunch of kale (any kale). Chop roughly.

Mince 3 cloves of garlic and saute in large pan in 2 T olive oil till fragrant, about 1 minute. Add chopped kale, s+p. Stir and cook over high heat until bright green. Add 1-2 T water and cover (kale needs a bit of steaming in order to get truly soft.) Cook a few minutes covered until green and tender. Drain if necessary and set aside.

Saute 2-3 cloves minced garlic in olive oil for 1 minute. Add 14 oz petite diced tomatoes, 1 1/2 T dried basil, 1 T dried oregano, pinch of red pepper flakes, s+p. Bring to gentle boil and simmer for 20-30 minutes. Set aside.

6 oz whole milk mozzarella, grated

8 oz whole milk ricotta

dough for 2 pizzas

Preheat oven to 500. Roll out dough for 2 pizzas. Rub with 1-2 T olive oil. Spread sauce, scatter kale, sprinkle mozzarella, and drop spoonfuls of ricotta (about 6 1-T blobs around the edge of the pizza, another in the center.) Bake for 6-10 minutes until brown and bubbly. Let cool for a few minutes before diving in — the flavor is much better.

What did you make this week that was a home run?

highlights that made it to my phone

summer veg

uber cool

snitched from mama’s garden

roadside loveliness

sweet cherries from williamson

he’s for real

will heaven look like this?

what the farmer left in our field

being incredibly eager to go

golf at papa’s (in maine)

jameson’s new passion

balancing ball on tee = hardest part

papa bruce is the MAN.

yes, they really were fantastic on the road to and from maine

“mom, i’m like a big boy. take a picture, mom.”

flatbread and scapes

One of our favorite summertime meals is hummus (heavy on the garlic!), flatbread, and a big salad of fresh greens, feta, peppers, and olives. Yum! I’ve tried a few different pita and flatbread recipes, and then realized there was one in my go-to cookbook, Baking Illustrated. Yup, that’s the book I’m always linking to. You really should buy one!

Here’s my version:

Grilled Flatbread

makes 16 6- to 7- inch breads

4 1/2 tsp instant yeast
4 tsp sugar
3 tsp salt
3 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour*
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups water, room temp
1/2 yogurt**
2 T olive oil, plus more for oiling the bowl

1. In your mixer, combine yeast, sugar, salt, flours. Add water, yogurt, and olive oil and quickly mix. With dough hook, knead on medium speed for 8 minutes, adding flour in 1-tablespoon increments if necessary for dough to clear sides of bowl (it will stick to the bottom of the bowl, though. This is a wet dough!) Scrape down sides of bowl as necessary.

2. Transfer kneaded dough to a large oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let sit for 45 minutes to an hour, until doubled.

3. Punch down, turn onto lightly floured work surface and sprinkle with flour as necessary. With chef’s knife or pizza cutter, divide into 16 equal portions. Roll each portion into a round ball. Roll each ball into a 4-inch circle, let rest for 10 minutes, then roll to 6-inch circle.

4. Heat your grill, high heat. (Alternatively, you can use a large, heavy skillet, but I always end up with burned flour when I do it that way!) Life the dough circles, gently stretch to about 1-inch bigger, and set on grill. Cook until small bubbles appear, about 30 seconds. With tongs, flip, and cook until there are deep golden brown spots (2 minutes). Flip again; cook until bottom has deep golden spots, 1-2 minutes.

5. Transfer to wire rack, cool for 5 minutes. (Brush with melted butter if you’re going Indian!) Serve the breads warm. Or, wrap the breads tightly in foil and store at room temp for up to 2 days; reheat on the grill or in a 300-degree oven.

*Or you can figure out your own combo of whole wheat and white. This bread can stand up to quite a bit of whole grain without losing its tender chew.

**Or, if you’re like me and can’t seem to keep yogurt in the house, mix half sour cream, half milk, and a splash of lemon juice together.

My other favorite recent discover is Garlic Scape pesto! These crazy little things were in my CSA box, and since I hadn’t the foggiest, I googled them. As soon as I saw the recipe for pesto, I scrapped my previous dinner plans and pulled out my blender. Yum!

For my pesto, I used more oil in order to get a better consistency. I also threw in some fresh basil. I served it on penne, with chopped fresh tomatoes. It was hot and spicy in a fresh garlic sort of way. Delish!

I think garlic scape season is probably over, but should you happen upon those strange creatures next summer, make pesto!


It’s summer. And so far, it’s been gorgeous. Warm, sunny days, the smell of fresh cut grass (okay, okay, AND fertilized fields), just enough rain, and vast amounts of green space. Boy, I sure missed the space.

Summer also means:

:: first boxes from the CSA. It feels like I had to wait forever (because I did!), but I guess that made it all the more fun to see boxes and boxes of huge, beautiful heads of lettuce. When I arrived at the pick-up site on Friday morning, bright and early, the excitement around that table was palpable. Like Christmas morning with a bunch of kids — except it was June, we were adults, and the excitement was about cabbage. I think you have to live in the frozen tundra of Upstate New York to truly appreciate the beauty of radishes and baby carrots.

:: slipping out of the house before 7 in work clothes and gardening gloves. I can get more done in those uninterrupted 30 minutes than I do the rest of the day. Unless you count refereeing light saber wars as “getting more done.” Also, I don’t know why I’m constantly berating myself for my lack of exercise, since working in my vegetable garden means running up and down a huge hill to check on why the boys are screaming, where they’ve disappeared to, how much dirt they’ve tracked through the house, etc. I’m pretty sure sprinting uphill is exercise, right?

:: watching my first attempts at gardening. And reminding myself to be stalwart, resilient, ready to do better next year. I’ve already learned several things: When you’re in the last 30 minutes of planting, and your baby is screaming his head off because he’s wanted to nurse for at least an hour (or more), better to take a break than to just scatter carrot seeds all over — and then beet seeds, basil seeds, and spinach seeds. Especially if you don’t know what these little sprouts will look like, and are then forced to wait for all sprouts to grow two inches or so — at which point, half your garden is thickly populated with grass. Did I mention that half my garden = about 175 square feet? That, folks, is a lot of grass. Next year, I foresee many more seedlings and not quite so many seeds in my future.

:: housework going out the window. No, really. I pick up, do laundry, cook, and occasionally vacuum. And every morning, I wake up telling myself that really, today needs to be cleaning day. But it’s summer! When I start to worry that I’ll never regain routine, I remind myself that autumn comes every year, and summer is only a season. In the meantime, I’m just trying to make sure that the boys have their teeth brushed before they head out to find their bikes — in their pajamas, crocs, and helmets, the ultimate summer uniform.

:: riding my new-to-me bike down the country road. Breathing deeply of clean, sweet country air. Stopping to fill my basket with cheerful little flowers. Catching the first glimpse of my very own house on my way back — and loving it.