Friday, January 16, 2015

strawberry cream cake

Daddy and Ethan were gone on a moving-related trip for a few days this week and I had four sad little people around here. The downside of having a close family is that when someone is missing, it leaves a hole as big as a moon crater. Couple that with the fact that Mama is still down a good part of the time with morning sickness, and it made for a long week. One day for lunch, I cheered everyone up with this lovely little cake. Yeah, we totally turned to food for comfort. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

It's a very simple, egg white-based cake rolled around a strawberry and cream cheese filling. The best part? No sugar. I used xylitol and stevia because that's what I had on hand, and it met with the approval of even my pickiest eaters. We may or may not have eaten the entire thing in one sitting.

Find the recipe (with delicious variations!) here.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

odds and ends

My life these days consists of school, packing, laying on the sofa, and eating carb-y foods with lots of jalapenos. Packing is such fun (insert sarcasm here). Actually, it's going pretty well. I'm just doing a few boxes of non-essentials every day. In-between quesadillas.

Of course, I do have a diversion in the form of this little girl who is growing and changing by the minute. She is such a funny mix of clumsy tomboy and girly-girl. She loves clothes, loves them way more than Anwyn ever did. I bought her a new outfit yesterday and she cried when she had to take it off to put her pajamas on. When I assured her that she could wear it again today, she carried it around like a security blanket while she sucked her thumb, pausing occasionally to ask me, "wear it tomowwow?"

I dropped some stuff off at Goodwill yesterday (moving is such a great time to get rid of stuff) and of course, I had to run inside for a moment, just to look. I came away with a Julie and Julia DVD, a Michael Card CD, a couple of maternity dresses and a copy of Mrs. Tiggy Winkle (the pocket-size version). I still dropped off more than I bought, so it was all good. I've already gotten hours of enjoyment out of the CD. I'll always love 1980s and 90s Christian contemporary music. Twila Paris, anyone? Keith Green?

I am absolutely in love with Teaching Textbooks. My kids are grasping concepts that I have struggled to teach them for years. They ask me to do their math every day. Shock and Awe. And while I still offer occasional guidance, they are able to largely do the work on their own, which frees me up to do other things. In other school news, Owen is reading!

We watched Fed Up as a family last night. Check it out if you need some motivation to cut out sugar and refined carbs. It is motivating us. I think. If I can kick my quesadilla habit. This baby has some kind of craving for Mexican food.

Have a lovely Thursday!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Provence, 1970

As a lover of good food, cookbooks, and Julia Child, my ears perked up when I first heard about this book, and I was thrilled to get a chance to review it. Provence 1970: M.K. Fisher, Julia Child, James Beard, and the Reinvention of American Taste is a glimpse into the complex world of French cooking, American cooking, and the personalities that have largely shaped the food culture in America today.
Written by M.K. Fisher's nephew, Luke Barr, the book is a warm and personal account of a unique time when six culinary icons found themselves living close to each other in the south of France. They came together around their common interest--cooking--and through meals and conversations, they developed a philosophy of food. Those who returned to America took with them the results of those conversations and friendships (and sometimes not-so-friendly relationships) and developed an American food culture that, while it drew largely on French cuisine, developed into something distinctly American and all its own--good taste, but without the snobbery that often accompanied their time in France.
While I found this book fascinating in many ways, I also found it to be sad and a little depressing because it shows that a devotion to food and to the finer things in life does not necessarily produce a happy or fulfilled life. Some of these culinary geniuses, while passionate about their work and their friendships, died lonely, unhappy and unfulfilled. It was a reminder to me that while interests and hobbies here on earth can enhance life in wonderful ways, they fail to produce the true meaning that can only be found in living a life that transcends the earthly and the temporal.
For more information, click here.
For more information about the author, click here.
I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Monday, December 29, 2014

these days

The name of the game around here these days is survival. How a little person the size of a blueberry can render mama so unproductive amazes me, but I am pretty much knocked flat. It's hard not to get discouraged when my mornings consist of laying on the sofa with my face a lovely shade of green while the kids eat graham crackers out of the box and indulge in cartoon marathons. While I guess I could consider it an extended vacation, I'm not the kind of person who enjoys doing nothing, so it's a humbling and taxing experience to have to rely on others to accomplish even the most basic aspects of caring for my family. However, I tell myself, if won't last forever. It didn't with the others and it won't this time around either. Just a few more weeks and I'll be in the wonderful, energetic second-trimester zone and life will be more normal. In the meantime, I'm trying to focus on all of the things that I have to be thankful for:

My husband and my kiddos. They're always awesome, but in times like this, they step up and do what needs to be done without complaint. Laundry, cooking, dishes, babysitting, waiting on me hand and foot. So, so blessed with this crew.

Nutritious food. While I've pretty much lost my appetite for things like coffee and chocolate, and while meat and salad aren't high on my list at the moment,  I'm still enjoying things like farm fresh eggs and whole wheat toast with peanut butter. Oatmeal. Steamed veggies. And jalapenos, which, oddly enough, I'm craving like a mad woman. Hey, what if I put jalapenos and peanut butter together? Mmmmm...

Music. A little Natalie Merchant helps on the rough days. Instrumental hymns. Bluegrass. Celtic. I've also just discovered and am loving Josh Garrels.

Sunshine. We've had a lot of grey, cold days lately. I love clouds, but after several weeks, I start to crave my Vitamin D. Today is warm-ish and gloriously sunny.

Perspective. I've been thinking today about motherhood in general and how it calls us to die to ourselves. One of the biggest shocks to me when I had my first baby was just how selfish I was. And with each subsequent pregnancy, I have had to re-evaluate my personal walk with God and my willingness to lay my own comfort and desires aside to serve the blessings that He has put into my life. In an age-old cycle, from the discomfort of morning sickness and the physical toll that pregnancy takes, to the awkward final weeks when you can't breathe or see your toes to the pain of labor to the sleepless nights of caring for a newborn, self has to die in order to bring forth life. When the days are long and I have to ignore the book and lego-strewn living room floor and I want to go outside and do things but can only lay on the bed...I try to remind myself of that. It also gives me great compassion for people I know who deal with chronic illness. I have a light at the end of the tunnel, but for many that I know, this is reality, with no end in sight.

Most of all, I am thankful for this little peanut who, although he (or she) is making me so sick at the moment, already brings such joy, such excitement, such anticipation to our family. When we hold this little person in our arms, every moment will be oh, so worth it.

Friday, December 26, 2014


Coffee and I have had a recent breakup. The separation wasn't nearly as traumatic as it might have been otherwise, due to pregnancy aversions and morning sickness (yes, I am making an announcement here!), but I do miss something hot to wrap my hands around first thing in the morning. So I decided to give hot tea a try and oh, joy, it actually tastes good and seems to sit well on my often-uneasy stomach.

I haven't drunk a lot of tea in recent years and I didn't expect the enthusiasm that I received from two little girls who are now old enough to enjoy the ritual with me. Bigelow Sugar Cookie Sleigh Ride with a little sugar and milk (and an ice cube added to cool it off quickly) was the perfect caffeine-free choice for an almost-two-year-old and almost-four-year-old.

My current favorites are Twinings Irish Breakfast Tea and Bigelow Salted Caramel. The Salted Caramel would probably make any proper British tea drinker throw up their hands in horror, but with a little sweetener and cream, it makes me very happy. Both of these are caffeinated, but they have half the caffeine of coffee so I feel comfortable drinking just one cup a day during pregnancy.

For some fun, cozy reading about British tea (and other things that feed my inner Anglophile), check out this post from Joyness the Brave on her semester of studying at Oxford.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014


I apologize for the long silence. I have sat down to write multiple times, but when big things are going on that I am not yet free to share, it's really hard to act like life is rocking along as usual.

But now I can share. We're moving.

Short version: it's another farm, an opportunity that we weren't really looking for but that came out of the blue and that seems to be the perfect fit for us.

The hard parts: leaving family and friends, a close community that has grown around us over the last five years. This was our biggest question in trying to make a decision: is it worth it to leave our people? Leaving the little homestead that we have worked at and loved. Leaving my garden spot. Crazy, I know, but that is one of the hardest things!

The good parts: We will be going to a state that we love, to a beautiful piece of property with a beautiful home. There will be lots more opportunities for outdoor activities, which we have always wished for. There will be the adventure of learning a new place and building a new homestead. There is an awesome business opportunity. There is the joy of meeting new friends, forming a new community.

The last couple of months have been a mix of emotions, excitement, tears, dreams. It's been especially hard to share the news with the people that we love. One sweet friend responded like this: "We will miss you terribly, but we understand that change comes." And it does. No matter how we would sometimes like to live in a bubble, to freeze time and keep everything exactly the way that it is, the world keeps right on moving. God calls. Opportunities present themselves. And honestly, would we want it any other way? It's part of this glorious, messy thing that we call life. Like a river, it bends and turns, sometimes runs along smoothly, then rolls into churning rapids. But every stretch is necessary, every stretch serves a purpose, every stretch is good is its own way.

The coming weeks will be filled with planning, packing, driving, good-byes and hellos. Some things I dread, some I can't wait for...but all are part of the journey, a journey that we embarked on over eleven years ago when we stood before a preacher and committed our lives to each other and our family to God. He continues to lead and guide, sometimes in the most unexpected ways...and we follow, knowing that He holds us in the hollow of his hand.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014


I walked in the pasture today.
The sun shone, but a chilly north wind rattled the bare branches of the trees and rippled the grass beneath my feet. Brown. Everywhere I looked, I saw somber shades of brown and grey. In the grass, the branches, the rusted fence posts, the curled leaves. I sat under a tree and an empty cicada shell rattled down the hill. All around me, the world felt dead.

The reality was that under that dead fa├žade, life pulsed in a myriad of colors. There was the brilliant blue overhead.

 Small ants scurried around my feet, working frantically before the next cold front arrives. Birds twittered. Shakespeare the mini-schnauzer snuffled in the grass, then dug enthusiastically to try to reach a mole or a gopher buried deep underground.

I knew that in the branches of the tree above me, blood will flow again. Leaves will emerge.

I found that if I parted the dry grass, at its base I could see small green shoots.

I discovered a patch of chickweed, Spring's hardiest edible, pushing its way through the dead leaves and grass to reach for the sky.

On these days that are only shades of brown and grey, there are reminders that winter is not forever.

Struggles come. Bad things happen. Depression threatens to overwhelm. And yet I know that underneath the darkness, through these winters of the soul runs a current of Life and Light that is far more eternal than what we see with our eyes. Weeping may endure for a night but yes, joy will break through in the morning.