Friday, November 27, 2015

the day after

Thanksgiving is, hands down, my favorite holiday. While I love the others, this is one has none of the added pressure of gifts, none of the consumerism that the others is just a simple celebration of all that we hold dear.

But you know what is nearly as good as Thanksgiving its self? The day after. There's no let-down, no anti-climax. A fun day of being together, finishing up our traditional 1,000 piece puzzle, and eating lots of leftovers. You never know...I might even squeeze in a little knitting!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

giving thanks

We had a couple of really cold days this week, then the temperature started to climb and we are back to shirtsleeve weather and enjoying every minute of fleeting Fall beauty. In this season of thanks (which should really stretch into a year of thanks--a lifetime of thanks, shouldn't it?), we pause to reflect and to remember how blessed we truly are....with home, with family, with friends, with the beauty and the goodness that is all around us.

 Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 23, 2015

hot bread

I love to bake bread. Love, love, love it. I make it at least once a week and I always mix and knead it by hand. To me, it's part art, part science, part therapy as I measure and stir and shape the loaves. I will admit, however, to getting into a rut when it comes to my recipes. I make a basic sandwich bread, sometimes challah, sometimes a rustic no-knead loaf. That's about it.

That's why I was excited to get this cookbook. It comes from the Hot Bread Kitchen, a New York City bakery that employs immigrant women, providing them with a job and with skills that will guarantee them an income wherever they might go. These women bring with them the recipes of their cultures. If you are a fan of authentic ethnic cuisine, this book has you covered. Maybe you want to try a flatbread from India, corn tortillas from Mexico (starting with the whole dried corn), or a sweet stollen from Germany. Sprinkled among the bread recipes are a handful of main dishes such as Ethiopian braised cabbage and carrots, and a beef and potato curry from Bangladesh.

Over three hundred pages, this book is filled with gorgeous photos and stories of the women whose lives have been impacted by the bakery. Highly recommend!

For more information, click here.

To read more about the author, click here.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Thursday, November 12, 2015


Ok, so I have fallen down on the job when it comes to meatless Monday posts. Not that I haven't wanted to write them--it's just that life doesn't always cooperate on a Sunday or a Monday to grant me the time to sit down and hammer out my thoughts. However, I am happy to report that we are going strong (plant-strong, that is). Here's the rundown:

I have been completely plant-based for about two weeks now. I'm not saying that I will never eat meat or dairy or eggs again--in fact, I can state that I most probably will. But as an experiment, I have wanted to do this thing whole-hog, just to see what happened. And I have to tell you that I feel amazing. I told Stephen the other day that I felt like I had just had about three cups of coffee--the energy that I hoped for has kicked in and I am getting so much done! I am up with the baby at least once every night and don't nap at all, but I'm not tired (other than your normal, bedtime tiredness). I've ditched coffee in favor of herbal tea or just plain water every morning and I think that has helped too. I'm eating mostly whole foods, with the exception of an occasional  bagel or tortilla or pasta, and I do eat dairy-free chocolate chips, mostly in this recipe. Also as part of my experiment, I have pretty much given up peanut butter, because if there is one food that I am addicted to, that would be it. I haven't been perfect on that, but I've only had it a couple of times in these two weeks.

As I've shared before, food has always been a big issue for me and I worried that this experiment would trigger some negative behavior patterns, but I've actually found it to be the opposite. I focus and obsess on food much less. It's pretty straightforward. I don't stress about carbs or fats or calories or portion size or how long I've gone between meals and snacks. I don't have to buy special ingredients that the rest of my family doesn't eat. I just eat plants. I haven't been doing it that long so I'm not going to jump to any conclusions as far as long-term goals, health, or victory over food addiction goes, but I'm excited about what I've experienced so far. I'm still not a fan of anything labeled a "diet" and I don't believe that one eating plan fits all, so don't worry--I'm not going to go crazy-vegan on you. :)

Now on to the rest of the family. My goal is to do about 50% of their meals plant-based right now. Some of these do include eggs and cheese or milk. But they're mostly rice, beans, potatoes, etc. We're finding some meals that everyone really likes. Mexican-type dishes are easy because they are heavy on the beans and you can add lots of flavor with salsa, lime, avocado and cilantro.. Tonight is a new recipe--roasted chickpeas, sweet potatoes and asparagus over quinoa. We'll see how it goes over. The kids are all eating way more veggies and actually enjoying them most of the time! So while we're far from where we would like to be, we're making progress.

One of my favorite breakfasts or snacks lately is a very simple green smoothie:

1 to 1 1/2 frozen bananas
1/2 c. frozen blueberries or one apple, peeled and cored
a couple handfuls of fresh greens (I've been using chickweed because it's readily available right now)
2 Medjool dates
1 T chia seeds
1 c. water

Blend til mostly smooth. I don't have a high-speed blender so I still get little chewy bits of date, but I actually really love that. Completely smooth is boring.

Later this week, we will be trying parsnips for the first time. Will report on that soon!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

little bags

Sometimes you just need to shut your eyes to the cobwebs in the corners and the dust under the sofa and spend the afternoon with a few fabric scraps and a sewing machine. Two purses + two little girls who love to collect things = happiness. I used (and loved) this tutorial.

Monday, November 2, 2015

privilege, not drudgery

I told Stephen the other day that I feel like I am in my most challenging season of motherhood to date. It's not so much the physical work--he is awesome to help me when he can, and between the two of us, with help from the kids, we stay mostly on top of laundry and housework--but it's the fact that I feel like all of my children need me emotionally in a new way right now. The problem is, there are six of them and one of me. Which means that most days, this introvert is emotionally stretched beyond her limit! I am a person who thrives on quiet and needs a decent amount of alone time in order to maintain my sanity. With this many people in the house, especially now that Autumn is upon us and the weather is often cold and rainy, quiet and alone time are foreign words. It's easy to become overwhelmed. It's easy to complain. It's easy to fall into that deadly trap of self-pity.

Right now, both older girls want to be right next to me, 24/7.  Anwyn's most common question is, "what can I do?" and what she means by that is "what can I help you with?" If I am baking bread or fixing supper or dusting the living room, she wants to be involved. Her toys actually don't get much use these days. She wants real work, real jobs, real projects.

Not long ago, Ava woke up early from her nap and I sat on the sofa to feed her. Beatrice grabbed her baby doll, climbed up next to me and for about twenty minutes, quietly "fed" her own baby, rocking gently back and forth and humming a little tune. As I watched her, I remembered how I would do the same thing as a little girl--sometimes for hours. At two, at four, at six, keeping house and caring for babies was all that I wanted to do.

When I was a little girl, motherhood was play, and I would get upset if it was interrupted. Now, I sometimes get annoyed when motherhood interrupts what I would rather do.

It hit me in a new way that now, I get to "play" being a real mom, all day, every day. Why and when does it cease to be fun, does it cease to be a joy, and become an exhausting burden?

God is so good to gently remind me of just how privileged I am. Yes, there are nights of no sleep and days of fussy babies and loud toddlers and needy adolescents. Yes, there are times when I would give my right arm for an uninterrupted hour to read or sew or enjoy a snack (without sharing!). But may I not lose sight of the bigger picture, of the fact that God has given me exactly what I dreamed of and prayed for from the time I was young. And that if my attitude is in the right place, this life can be just as much fun as it was when I played "house" all those years ago.

Of course, there are times when a mama just needs a few minutes of refreshment. An emotionally whole and healthy mom is necessary to an emotionally whole and healthy family.  Next time I'll write about some ways that I am learning to feed myself  during this season so that I don't get burned out.

Have a lovely, joy-filled Tuesday!

Saturday, October 31, 2015

trim healthy mama cookbook

Of all the books that I have been privileged to review, it really pains me that I have to give this one a less than five-star rating. It pains me because I absolutely love the authors...I have been familiar with their music and their writing since before Stephen and I got married, and have been blessed and encouraged by them in countless ways. I bought their first Trim Healthy Mama book right a couple of years ago and loved reading it (all 600+ pages!). I have followed their Facebook page and was excited when the cookbook came out. I know that many, many women have been blessed by the THM eating plan and have found greater health as a result of following it. So I am not knocking the plan in general...I still believe that it's a great fit for some people.

First of all, the positive: It's a beautiful book. I was surprised at how big and hefty-feeling it is, and at the number of recipes (over 350). The photography is lovely, both the food pictures and the family photos that are included. It has the same friendly, conversational tone of the first THM book and is a fun cookbook to read, whether or not you want to follow the plan or try any of the recipes. The recipes do look delicious! My nine-year-old spent twenty minutes "ooh-ing" and "ahh-ing" over the desserts. He kept saying, "MAMA! How can this be trim and healthy?!" 

My disappointment with the book came when I saw how many of the recipes called for special THM ingredients, specifically their baking blend, sweeteners and collagen. While there are a few that don't, the vast majority, especially desserts, treats and baked goods call for these exclusive ingredients. One of the things that I loved about the first book was how do-able it made this eating lifestyle, while using mostly normal, affordable grocery-store foods. And while technically you can still do this, the whole tone of the plan--including the Facebook page and other online encouragement--seems to have shifted to "Buy our products". This makes me sad. :(

I have no doubt that the products are great, but I just don't find many of the recipes to be practical or affordable for my large family on a limited budget. Unfortunately, I don't think this is a book that I will be keeping. Sorry, Serene and Pearl...I love you, I really do!

For more information on the authors, click here.

For more information on the book, click here.

Follow Trim Healthy Mama on Facebook and Twitter.

I received this book from Blogging For Books for this review.