1.20.15

mommas helperHappy 2.5 Libby.  I have to say, the 2’s have been an education.  You feel and want and do EVERYTHING on a level that astounds me….as though your joys, your sorrows, your smiles, your tears, your wants all pass through a magnifying glass.  It’s amazing, and a little terrifying, to watch you experience the world.  And it’s an incredible gift to watch the world experience you.

What do I want to remember about this time?  I want to remember how you still smile and laugh in your sleep like you did as a baby.  Seeing that completely pure smile still melts me.

I want to remember the sound of your feet tearing across the floors as you charge full steam ahead.  You’re usually chasing the cat and desperately trying to be his friend.

I want to remember how proud you are when you are able to do things yourself.  Whether it’s putting on your socks and shoes or helping dry the dishes, you started saying “I do it” before you started saying “No”.

I want to remember how you sing the same three songs after breakfast every day.   Roar, Edelweiss, and Fix You are the soundtrack to our mornings.

I want to remember how it feels to have you wrap yourself around me.  There is something magical and melty about feeling your body completely relax in my lap.

I want to remember how every single day with you is an adventure….and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

 

Closer To The Heart

I was brought up with the expectation that when I received a gift, the proper thing to do was send a thank you card.  As a young child, I would sit at the dining room table and, in my loopy juvenile cursive, thank my aunts, uncles, grandparents, and great grandparents for their thoughtfulness in remembering my birthday, or sending a present down for Christmas.  Those thank you notes were uncomplicated….thank you for “Where The Sidewalk Ends”.  Books are my favorite thing. xoxoxo

As I’ve gotten older, the things for which I say thank you have gotten more complicated.  And there isn’t always a direct mailing address for my note.  Because sometimes it isn’t an individual who has given me a gift as much as it is the Universe allowing me an experience that will stay with me for a lifetime.  Like the opportunity to see my dad before he passed away.  Or the opportunity to get to know my grandmother as a person and not just as my guardian.  And biggest by far would be for the opportunity to open my heart completely to a precious little girl.

Last time I was in this space, I was asking the Universe to give me that chance.  I was asking it to eliminate the obstacles that The Mistah and I faced in our attempt to adopt.  I know I was not alone in my petition.  Our family, our friends, our entire village crossed fingers and said prayers.

While we waited, I did my best to let go of the fear and anxiety of what might happen.  Instead, I focused on Libby.  I held her, fed her, watched as she discovered something new every day and tried to think about how the world looked through her eyes.

And in what is likely the best gift I will ever receive, our prayers were answered.  The obstacle that had been so daunting was simply gone.  There’s no guidance from Emily Post about how to say thank you for something like that.  So I have to find my own way…by announcing the news to family and friends that our family is growing, by joyfully loving this person who has forever changed our lives, and by saying thank you to everyone who has encouraged us along this journey.

It only feels right to actually write a thank you note, even if I have no way of mailing it, so here goes.

Dear Universe,

Thank you for the trust and confidence you have shown in us.  Becoming Libby’s parents is a tremendous gift that we will cherish for a lifetime.  As I watch her grow and develop each and every day, I want for her to have a world of endless possibilities.  I delight in seeing the joy in her whole body when she smiles and I take comfort in feeling her fall asleep with her head buried in my chest.  The last seven weeks have been unlike anything I’ve ever known but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.  xoxoxo

Pumpkin Bread

You may feel like you’re experiencing a bit of deja vu seeing that photo.  Yes, you saw it when I talked about the quick bread frosting I made with the new Kerrygold Premium Spreadable Butter.  You even got the recipe for the frosting.  But I didn’t really talk about what was under the frosting.  And that must be addressed.

Back in October I was introduced to this pumpkin bread by my friend Mary.  She stopped by for a visit and brought along a wee loaf of it for me to enjoy.  Now let me say that a visit from friends is an absolute pleasure.  But when they also come bearing gifts lovingly made with their own hands….multiply that by infinity.

After only one bite I was badgering Mary for her recipe.  And she told me that she had found it on allrecipes.com.  A few google moments later, I pulled the recipe up on my phone and had her confirm that I found the right one before I could continue in any kind of normal conversation.

A few weeks later, I went about making the pumpkin bread not knowing the chain of events that it was about to start.  First, I used it as the delivery vehicle for the quick bread frosting as part of the Kerrygold competition.  Then, I took some to work for a birthday celebration….congratulations, you’re a year older, please have a slice of quick bread.  I also delivered a loaf to the folks at the coffee shop who get my morning caffeination needs met Monday through Friday and to my chiropractor and his staff for taking such good care of me after the latest fender bender.  Lastly, I sent the rest of the batch off to the Headquarters staff of my sorority to thank them for all of their support in the last few months.

Yes, I was using butter, sugar, and pumpkin to express my thanks and appreciation.  Or in the case of the competition, to share my #butterlove…it’s what I do.  And I do it for the joy that I receive from the act of expressing my gratitude or sharing my love of something with others.  It’s as simple as that.  But sometimes, that gratitude has a way of being returned to me.  Take the Headquarters staff.  They had no idea that a lovebomb was coming their way.  When it arrived, it made them feel special.  And it could have ended there with their enjoyment of the pumpkin bread and cookies.  But they took a moment to sit down and write me a note to tell me how much they enjoyed the treats and to thank me for thinking of them.  It made my heart smile.

And then, most unexpectedly, my chiropractor asked me whether I sell any of the things I bake because he had 16 guests coming for Thanksgiving and wanted to include the pumpkin bread in their holiday meal.  If I hadn’t been so relaxed and dreamy from the adjusting he was doing, I would have probably laughed because it has never been my ambition to do the cooking and baking as my profession.  On the contrary, I do it as a bit of personal therapy.  So I told him that what I don’t keep for our personal enjoyment I give away.  And then I asked whether I could give him a batch of pumpkin bread for his Thanksgiving.  Because really, is there a bigger honor than being asked to share something I have made with someone’s family for Thanksgiving?  In that moment, I felt the Universe beaming my gratitude back to me.

I can’t promise you that this pumpkin bread will bring you fame or fortune.  But it just might bring you a bit of gratitude when it’s least expected.

Pumpkin Bread

Adapted from allrecipes.com

BAH Note: Go ahead and bake up two batches like I did…the quantities below make a single batch. Because according to Mary, the loaves freeze beautifully.  So even if you plan on giving most of it away, stash a well wrapped loaf or two in your freezer for your own enjoyment.   You  will likely need to mix each batch separately, unless you’ve got a ginormous mixing bowl.  And be sure that you’re using canned pumpkin puree, not pumpkin pie filling.

  • 1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin puree
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter and flour six 3×5 disposable aluminum loaf pans and set them on a baking sheet.

In a large bowl, whisk together the pumpkin puree, eggs, oil, water, and sugar until combined.

In a separate bowl, using a clean whisk or a fork, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, and spices.

Stir the flour mixture into the pumpkin mixture until they are just combined.  Pour the batter into the loaf pans and bake for 40 to 50 minutes, rotating your pan halfway through the cooking time, until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

Transfer the loaves to a rack to cool completely before wrapping in several layers of plastic wrap for freezer storage.

{printable recipe}

Be Brave

I have been procrastinating, avoiding the “Add New Post” page.  Just today I stalked a Praying Mantis in my rose bushes, watched the moon crest just above the trees in the fading afternoon light, uploaded photos of said Mantis and moon, and stopped just short of cleaning the cat’s litter box to avoid opening this page.

This procrastination is not for a lack of recipes I desperately want to share.  I’ve got 22 drafts and a baker’s dozen of recipes that haven’t even made it into draft form yet.  Each and every one of them is worthy of your time and mine.  But I’m not ready to talk Apple Slices, Sweet Pickle Relish, or Crockpot Polenta just yet.  I know, you come here for the food…but I appreciate your patience as I ramble about other things while I work my way back to the food.

I said that “words have been swirling through my head“.  In its uncanny ability to recognize what I need before I do, the Universe has had one word in particular following me around.  That word is gratitude.   It started with Maggy’s piece talking about her husband’s expression of gratitude for the meals that she makes for him.  I had a chance to chat with Maggy after I read that post, and what I didn’t tell her in the conversation is that reading her description of Andy’s expressions of gratitude instantly made me think of my dad.

My dad could cook, had cooked, but in his adult life he did not cook.  Yet at the end of every meal, whether it was a simple ham and cheese sandwich with chips or a pot roast with mashed potatoes and gravy, he always thanked whomever had made the meal.  It wasn’t until I started cooking for him and was the recipient of that thanks that I realized it was about more than the plate of food.  It was his gratitude for the effort and love that went into the food.

Up until he became sick, my dad was not one to say “I love you”.  And it was only after his death that family members told me that he was proud of me.  But in his way, each time he expressed his gratitude for a meal, he was saying those things.  I just wasn’t able to hear it in that moment.

As I said to Maggy, her discussion of gratitude really spoke to me at a time when I needed a reminder about why it is important for me to take the time to cook.  It’s not just about the food.  It’s about all that goes into it and how we, or I, use food as a metaphor for all of the things I can’t find the words to say.

And then a few weeks later, I opened a link in Twitter, not having any idea that I would again be coming face to face with the word gratitude.  But there it was, in something like 18 point font, on a post by Matthew Naquin.  As I read his words, I felt his pain.  Because it was my pain also.  But here it was, in black and white, the Universe basically giving me a lesson plan in how gratitude and the free will to choose can make a difference.

So why am I rambling about gratitude instead of talking about Peach Preserves or Honey Dijon Chicken Thighs?  Partly because I’m struggling.  Struggling with the day to day reality of feeling like my world has been turned upside down and shaken like a snow globe.  Struggling with the overwhelming emotion that takes me by surprise…both with the fact that in my life I will never see either of my parents again as well as the fact that I have to consciously choose each and every day to make my future what I want it to be.  So when these emotions come and knock me off balance, I have to stop and think about exactly why it is that I’m hitting a wall.  What is it that I am reacting to?

In a single word, it’s change.

And that gets me to the other part of the why.  I have been taking part in a weekly discussion with a small group of women.  We each have our own struggles and challenges and we’re all at different places in our journeys.  But there is so much that we can learn from each other’s experiences that the fine details aren’t quite as important as the big picture.  In our discussion last week, I heard two more words that triggered this latest round of reflection and emotion, and reluctance to talk food.  Be brave.

Two words that are simultaneously simple and powerful.  And what they mean to me is not necessarily what they mean to anyone else.  I hear them and think: be brave in the face of change; be brave and reach out for help; be brave and admit that I don’t have all the answers; be brave in spite of being afraid; be brave and actually choose change; be brave and express gratitude each and every day.

So maybe my procrastination earlier today was actually a bit of disguised gratitude.  I chose to take the time to see the Mantis hiding in the rose bushes.  And I chose to watch the moon crest the trees in the fading afternoon light. I chose to be brave and not care if the neighbors thought I was weird for climbing into the rose bushes or walking around my yard with the camera.  And now I choose to go upstairs and make dinner for The Mistah to express my gratitude for his patience, support, and love.