Tuesday, November 8, 2011

a special birthday

I am one of those people who loves birthdays. I joke with Will that he'll never be able to forget my birthday since I remind him constantly as it approaches. And at the close of my actual birth-day, just before closing our eyes for sleep, I'll gently whisper, "only 364 more days...."

This year challenged my usual heady revelry with what we are now referring to as 'the great birthday illness of 2011'. For the past 4 weeks at least one - usually multiple - members of our family have graciously been trading viruses and bacteria back and forth in a stunning, exasperating, show of runny noses, coughs, sneezes, fevers, infections and all other sorts of unpleasantries that need not be named. Not a single one of us has been spared. And usually just as it seems we may be on the tail end of the ordeal, some new symptom shows its face and we begin again. Really, we are all sick of being sick.

So, I must admit, that while the mama in me carried on as best she could, caring for those things and people that needed caring for, the child in me stamped her feet and sulked "no, no, no! This is my BIRTHDAY! We need to celebrate with a weekend full of family fun, special meals and all things wonderful that I associate with birthdays!" It challenged what I think of as a happy birthday, and I was sorely losing the battle against my sour mood and disappointment. My sweet husband was trying so hard to step up to my birthday expectations despite being laid out on the couch swaddled in his favorite blanket. And then, when it seemed we all might actually make it out for a special birthday dinner, little Ava woke from her nap wailing anew with a bit of a fever and a whole new set of symptoms. 

I think at that point I gave in, my inner toddler retreating to make way for a mama's persistent empathy. As we finished eating our simple dinner and collectively blew out the candles on our cupcakes that my poor sick husband had driven all over town to find (who knew bakeries were all closed on Mondays?), I looked around at our little family and did feel a sense that it had been a good birthday. We were certainly not all feeling our best, but our love for each other shone through with the ways that we cared for each other and kept each other going in our time of not feeling well.

It reminds me of our last anniversary before Ava was born. Will and I took a trip to Chicago for a friend's wedding that happened to coincide with our anniversary weekend. We were about 8 months pregnant with Ava and knew that this would be one of our last evenings together as a couple free of the overwhelming responsibilities of parenthood. Our final night of the trip we had planned a lovely dinner at a fancy restaurant and had gotten all dressed and ready to go when one of us started feeling very poorly. It became clear that a night around town was not in the cards for us, and we decided to hole up in our hotel room, order room service, watch our wedding video for the first time and eat frozen leftover wedding cake (which was actually quite good a year later) in bed. Despite us both not feeling wholly well, it was really a perfect evening. 

We all know that life does not go as planned. And it is just when our expectations start to balloon that we are set up for the most stunning disappointments. But, really, the most important things are quite simple, and having a special birthday requires not much more than being with those you love - even if they are a bit under the weather. 

Will's birthday card to me this year was simple and poignant. Among his words were these: "The most important thing is that we are together as a family." Thank you Will and the rest of my family and dear ones for making me feel very loved and making my birthday a special one. I love and cherish you all.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A handmade halloween

It's official...the season of celebration has begun. Do you love Halloween as much as I do? I'm grateful that as a mom I have even more reason to get into the Halloween spirit. And, to me, Halloween is the ultimate excuse to get creative, jumpstarting the season of handmade.

Our weekend began at Two Pony Gardens with a horse drawn carriage ride, delicious brick oven pizza, and a much welcome spirit of community. We are so grateful to Katherine over at Kitten's Lost Her Mittens for letting us in on this little secret. The farm, the farmhouse, the horses, the people, the food - all so beautiful. And reminiscent of some of the community revelry we left behind in Ann Arbor. 

Then it was time for the little lion to don her costume and practice her roars at the Hay Day celebration in downtown Linden Hills. I knit Ava's lion hat and tail using a combination of three different patterns and some of my own innovation. I'm so happy with how it turned out! And after just a tad bit of fretting that she might not want to wear her hat for trick-or-treating, the girl has been insisting on wearing her hat ever since. This is the ultimate success. Notes for the hat and the tail can be found here on ravelry. I found the yellow velour sleep outfit at a local consignment store and modified it only slightly so Ava could wear her shoes underneath. I don't think I could have found anything more perfect to clothe a little lioness!

Mama got to do some trick-or-treating of her own at Becky Lyon's vintage and antique button sale held at Linden Hills Yarn that afternoon (oh, but that's a whole other post!). 

Ava helped carve our pumpkins and make our annual batch of pepitas. We've recently been roasting all of our squash seeds (acorn, sweet dumpling, butternut, etc) with just a touch of tamari as recommended by Ava's Waldorf teacher, Ms. Kerry (why didn't I think to do this before?). They are smaller, a bit more tender than pumpkin seeds and oh so yummy. But for the pumpkin seeds I've gotten into the habit of using this recipe - seriously yummy, addictive little things. Cut back on the spicy cayenne and they will be more palatable for the little ones - Ava goes nuts for them.

When I was a little trick-or-treater I had a giant orange plastic pumpkin treat container; I wanted to create something similar for Ava, but from felt instead. I made her treat bag by sketching a pattern and sewing it all together just in time for Halloween eve.  

We culminated our weekend with trick-or-treating on Halloween night. "More house, More house" the little lioness repeated, even as Will and I had each taken her through the neighborhood and bedtime was approaching. Us big kids enjoyed cozying up to a warm bonfire, libations and eating an occasional treat from the abundant leftovers. Will's 11th hour urging that "we don't have enough candy, we're going to run out!" spurred me to stock up - way up. He says this every year - maybe it's his ploy to ensure ample stash that he can munch on in the days following Halloween eve.

I hope your weekend was festive, just the right bit of spooky, and filled to the brim with sweetness.

Friday, October 28, 2011

This moment

{this moment} - A SouleMama Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Colors of Fall

The leaves often steal the show with their glowing reds, golds, and orange in the annual kaleidoscope of color that is fall. Yet I find myself appreciating some of the many other, somewhat less showy, hues of the season...

I wish you a week brimming with the colors of fall.

Friday, October 21, 2011

This Moment

{this moment} - A SouleMama Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Another reason to knit

As if I needed one in this craft-dense time of year...but this is the best kind of reason. As mentioned in my previous post, we are expecting another little one come winter (which isn't quite around the corner yet, is it?). I am amazed at how the time has flown really, and how present this little presence is becoming in our lives - with my obviously growing bump, but also with his not-so-little kicks and nudges we are beginning to witness through the wall of my belly. Last night our littlest one had Will laughing out loud as the two of them played a game of 'poke me and I'll poke you' - you know, where you give one of his tiny limbs a nudge and he gives you a whopping kick right back. I can already sense there may be increased physical rowdiness in our more gender balanced home. Will breathed a slight and subtle sigh of elation when we found out the scales would be tipped a bit less steeply towards princess in our female dominated household.

As for me, I am back in full swing of my prenatal knitting frenzy. It happened when I was pregnant with Ava, but it is even more intense with a couple extra years of knitting experience under my belt. So among the knitting and crafting for the upcoming season and celebrations, some knits to keep this little boy warm when he decides to join us in the cold of Minnesota winter...

Before we knew whether this littlest one would be a boy or girl, Grammy and I found this super-soft yarn while exploring a new (to us) yarn shop in downtown Minneapolis. I fell in love with the color and the subtle sheen, which I think will add a bit of glam to the babe's early wardrobe. I wanted to make a pair of sheepy pants for our babe after using the pattern to knit gifts for some of my favorite little ones - I find knit cargo pants to be rather irresistible. I knit a quick, simple hat with the leftover yarn to keep his precious noggin warm. See my ravelry notes here.

The day or so after we learned the sex of our little boy, I impulsively turned to my stash basket and my other tried and true pattern - the milo vest. This is another simple, reliable pattern with so many possibilities for variation. I could probably make it a hundred times and not get tired of it - and I'm already counting. Here's Ava's milo from last spring. No doubt, gender color palettes these days are so much broader than simply pink or blue (or yellow and green for that unisex look) - and we try to keep Ava outfitted in a wardrobe that doesn't always immediately scream "girl!" (though I admit she is becoming rather picky about wearing only her purple sparkly shoes). At any rate, I felt particularly excited about making something that was clearly 'boyish', so I dug through my stash and found this trio of blue, brown and beige tweed yarns - don't quite remember what they are. My ravelry notes are here.

I am so loving this pint-sized instant gratification knitting! What's on your needles these days?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Simply Ten Good Things...

{inspired by SouleMama}

little nudges from the growing babe in my belly
the return of dada after several days of solo parenting
a freezer restocked with my favorite breads
the crunch of autumn leaves underfoot
these last days of sun and heat
the albino squirrel who lives nearby
a new (to me), inspiring book just in at the library
so many reasons to knit and so many projects on the needles - and my current love affair with Elizabeth Zimmerman
the kitty's warm fur after a cat nap in the perfect sunbeam
modern medicine - which undoubtedly saved the life of one of my most loved ones today

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

My favorite cold weather soup

No, it's not winter yet - not even officially autumn. But the winds blew in fall-like weather and we've had our first frost of the season. To me, this is enough to declare the start of emataje season.

I first got this recipe - really a verbal list of ingredients I quickly jotted down on a piece of scrap paper that lives in a pile in our house somewhere - for emataje from a dear friend and fellow food lover. She said it is a Tibetan recipe that her teacher, Gelek Rimpoche, brought from his homeland. She gave few specific amounts and scarce instructions on how to combine them - luckily this is about the easiest stew ever, so it's almost impossible to go wrong. Since then it has been a regular on my fall and winter menu and I never feel totally secure unless there is a decent stock of the stuff frozen in my freezer.

With the heartiness of potatoes and beef, the richness of bleu cheese and the spike of heat from the jalapenos, this stew will warm you on the coldest of nights and leave your tongue buzzing gently.

This week we had our first emataje night of the season - and now have our first quart frozen for the coming frigid months. In an attempt to convince Ava that this stew is worth a regular spot on our cold-weather menu I removed all the seeds from the jalapenos (the soup really does best with a nice kick) and served it with Ava's favorite bread, the Roadhouse Rye from Zingerman's. (I could write a whole post raving about this bread in particular and all bread from Zingerman's in general. Will stacked the car full of Zing's bread on his last trip to Minnesota from Michigan and we are using up our last loaf of Roadhouse Rye. Truly, it may be worth the hefty fee to mail order some more.)

She wasn't quite as convinced as I, but unable to bear the thought of an emataje-less winter I will continue to offer it (they say it can take as many as 10-20 times of introducing a new food, right?) - maybe with some yummy side dish I know she'll like.

I couldn't resist sharing my version of the recipe with you. Please tweak it to fit your own and your family's preferences. The following recipe will make about 4 large servings:

1-2 baking potatoes cut in cubes with skin on
1 large yellow onion sliced in half moons
3-4 tomatoes quartered (more if they're small)
2-4 jalapeno peppers sliced lengthwise (scoop out seeds if you prefer less heat)
1 lb cubed stew meat (grass-fed)
sea salt
fresh-ground pepper

Place the ingredients above in a large pot or dutch oven and add filtered water to just cover them. Bring to a boil over high heat and skim off the frothy layer just as the stew begins to boil. Let simmer for at least 45 minutes, but longer if you have the time (the stew will taste better the longer you let the meat tenderize and the flavors marry). Towards the end you will add the following ingredients:

a few handfuls shitake mushrooms sliced
lots of spinach (lots!)
1 moderately sized wedge of bleu cheese crumbled

About 10 minutes before you'd like to serve the soup, add the shitake mushrooms (if you are using dried mushrooms, you can add them near the beginning with the other ingredients) and the bleu cheese. Taste the stew and adjust the salt and pepper seasoning as needed. When you are happy with the seasoning and mushrooms are tender, stir in the spinach, give it a minute or two to wilt and turn off the heat.

Sit around the table with your family and friends and Enjoy! And do let me know what you think.

Monday, September 12, 2011


We had a weekend full of festivals, sunshine and good family time. The Fulton Fall Festival alongside our neighborhood farmer's market, Woofstock (just as it sounds, a celebration for four legged furry ones) in Linden Hills, an all day renaissance festival block party (which we vicariously enjoyed through the live music and sounds of revelry humming from the alley behind our house), a potluck with Will's new colleagues and their families; it seems our lives are busier here after only a month than they were when we left Michigan, though I suspect a vast slowing down is approaching. 

With temperatures still in the 80s it's hard for me to believe that we could be celebrating fall already. And yet by tomorrow it seems the winds will have changed. Ava and I heard the first crunch of leaves under our feet as we walked to the park today. I feel ready and welcome this changing of seasons. And I'm so glad we managed to fit in that final afternoon at the beach. 

Friday, September 9, 2011

This Moment

{this moment} - A SouleMama Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Coming home

We have been here a little over a month now and are starting to feel just a bit more comfortable in our new city, our new home. Finding some nooks that we've been cherishing (ah, the beach just blocks from our house!), meeting many kind people, wondering which of those meetings will lead to deeper relationships. After weeks of Dada traveling back and forth from Michigan and grandparents flying in to help us unpack those many boxes (thank you, we couldn't have done it without your help), we are united and finally, thankfully, settling into our more normal routine. 

I am reminded just how much I cherish that routine; the everyday rhythms that carry us through our days. In a place where so much is new, I take such comfort in the simple, routine occurrences that bring a sense of familiarity. My favorite omelet in the morning, our daily adventure, the stories before naptime (some favorites we may read several times a day), the words and silliness we trade back and forth, the excitement over dada's return at the end of the work day, sitting down together as a family for dinner, then some quiet mama time after all have gone to bed. And I note how the routines get subtly tweaked over time as seasons change, as Ava grows, as our needs evolve. Stable yet ever changing, our rhythm carries us along and cradles us through the uncertainties in every day. 

Even as we start to find our way here, news from the east pulls at me - making me long deeply to be there to share in the excitements and give hugs when loved ones face challenge and uncertainty. As I meet new people that I am just beginning to learn about I am reminded of how much I value those I have known and loved for many years.  

Now with the breeze carrying hints of a cooler season ahead we are soaking in as much of the sunshine and warmth that the final days of summer have to offer. The fall festivals are nearly upon us, and I am grasping these days of utter sunshine and temperatures in the 80s knowing that soon our sun-kissed limbs will be bundled beneath many layers and our rhythms will slow their pace as we curl together during the darker months. I do think we may be able to squeeze in one final day at the beach before we declare summer over. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


It has been a busy - overwhelming, really - spring and summer, as evidenced by the lull in my posting. Oh, but there has been so much to say and note. After 15 years of living in my beloved Ann Arbor, Michigan, we dug out our deeply rooted roots and relocated to Minneapolis, Minnesota this past week. First loves leave an indelible mark on our hearts - we forever hold them safely nestled in that special place reserved for the most precious and dear to us. Ann Arbor is my first love. I moved to tree town from the east coast for college and in my years there grew into the person I am today shaped and cradled by its branches. My heart was shaped in Ann Arbor, in the diverse experiences I had there, and by the many people I love there. I learned about love, freedom, joy, creativity, hard work, who I am, and who I strive to be. I take all of this with me in our move -  and it is far more valuable, far more treasured, than any of the boxes that were loaded onto that moving truck. 

We spent our last days in Ann Arbor trying to live as normally as possible, enjoying every little extraordinary and mundane thing that we cherished about it. We went to the farmers market on Wednesdays and Saturdays, we played at Belize park on Fountain St, we spent time with friends while denying impending goodbyes, we watered the garden and watched the broccoli heads grow, hoping that the new family living in our house would enjoy it round their own dining room table (for despite my efforts to plant a garden that would be ready for harvest before we packed our bags, those carrots, beets and other veggies were still working their way to maturity when we left), we dreamed of the gardens we hope to plant and grow at our new house.

When the movers came there was a sense of surrealism and trying to just make it through those hectic days of packing, loading, traveling hundred of miles with animals and a toddler. I was so impressed by the grace and resilience of the animals and the little Miss, who (mostly) kept their cool while our things were packed into boxes and we were left living in an empty house for a week. They found ways to turn transition into an opportunity for play - stacks of boxes lining the walls of the house turned into endless canvas for coloring, a makeshift dining room table, even a jungle gym.

Kuma the dog had her turn at the fun when it came time to paint several of the rooms in our house back to white.

As I process this move to an unfamiliar city, I realize that place itself is significant mostly as a backdrop to the people it contains and the way it shapes those that reside within it. We may find a great new storytime to attend, discover a small but consciously managed farmer's market right in the neighborhood, befriend a fabulous new food coop, discover a lovely natural space to take walks, find that delicious new restaurant that can lift your spirits even when you start to question all the decisions that have brought you to this place. But it is people that make life and a place so special, so much more than the place itself - and they are simply not replaceable. No doubt, we will integrate into our new community in time - the people here are kind and genuinely seem to love living here. But sometimes being in this new space, meeting new people, seeking out new rhythms and haunts really just makes my heart ache even more for my first love and the people we had to say goodbye to.

We ate our last supper in Ann Arbor at our favorite restaurant - the place we went on family dates whenever we went out to eat - where they said their goodbyes followed with, "You'll be back." Because we often do return to the places that we truly love. We certainly never forget them. 

Friday, April 8, 2011

This Moment

{this moment} - A SouleMama Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.

Monday, April 4, 2011


I've been looking forward to Festifools for weeks, not just because it brings bigger-than-life-sized community fun, but also because it welcomes April and the sense that spring has truly arrived. Huge handmade puppets wielded by children young and old parade up and down Main Street commemorating April Fools Day and the general wackiness that spring inspires in us all. The grim 40 degree rain/snow/sleet weather forecast did not dampen the spirit of the parade or our tenacity to participate. We headed downtown dressed for the squall, reassuring ourselves that "this weather is hardly bad at all." Happily, the weather broke, keeping humans and puppets mostly dry through the parade.

Our Mayor Heiftje and his human sidekick

 I hope you're weekend included a bit of fun-spirited spring foolishness!