Vintage

I come from a long line of bakers, although my mother, bless her, is not a baker. The few memories I have of her in the kitchen are only sounds of frenzy, before the eventual deafening fire alarm. Rather I have memories of her situated at her sewing machine, coming alive late into the night, beside her latest creative endeavor. My childhood smelled like burnt toast and muslin, both of which still bring me comfort to this day. It should go without saying, I did not learn to bake from my mother. I have only spent my whole life hearing stories and witnessing a sparkle in both her and my fathers eyes when they talk about the treats their mothers baked. I grew up romanticizing these stories and knew that if I were to ever become a mother, a baker I must also become. 
This instinctual rhythm is my connection to the women I never knew, but whose blood runs through me. I get a glimpse of them and unravel another piece of me. The act of mixing, kneading, rising, waiting, slicing and serving, is my access to their heart. I inherit their wisdom every time I tie my apron. I hear whispers of truth passed down through the generations. I am most eager to share these domestic adventures, with the little lady at my hip and the one beneath my feet. I dream of them sharing this existence with their daughters, and their daughters, daughters. 
I want them to remember me with that same sparkle in their eye. I want them to remember me in the smell of cinnamon rolls, and loaves of sourdough. I want them to find me again and again in flour and time, in the mysterious transformation and the single-minded joy. Because it is in between the understood and the impalpable, where my watchful heart resides. They probably don’t know it just yet but the warmth I pull out of my oven is my eventual vintage heirloom, the gateway to my heart, long after I am gone.

Explore

"It is not down in any map; true places never are. " - Herman Melville 

My brave + bold Octave, may you never stop inquiring about this good green earth. May you always revel + delight in the smallest forms of life that others are so quick to overlook. May you always live this wild and free, full and completely found. 

Pork + Red Wine Lasagna

Lasagna from scratch takes patience and time. It’s for the committed lovers, the ones who are knee-deep in that unconditional love that can only reveal its depth after sleepless nights and crying babies. It’s for that love that is hard and messy but also transparent and true. It’s for us, learning love from the ground up.

Pork + Red Wine Lasagna

Recipe from What Kate Ate

12 ripe vine tomatoes

10 cloves of garlic, (8 left whole & unpeeled, 2 thinly sliced)

Large handful each of fresh basil, oregano & thyme

Salt & pepper to taste

10 oz ground pork

10 oz ground beef

2 tbsp. olive oil

1 large yellow onion

14 oz can of diced tomatoes

1 cup full-bodied red wine

2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

2 1/4 cup water

1 cup of finely grated parmesan for final topping

Bechamel Sauce

5 tbsp. butter

1/3 cup flour

2 1/4 cup whole milk

1 cup finely grated parmesan

salt & white pepper

pinch of nutmeg

When I make my noodles from scratch I use this recipe.

Otherwise use 8 oz of dried lasagna noodles and cook as directed on package.

Instructions-

Preheat oven to 350. Cut tomatoes in half and place them on a baking sheet, cut side up.  Sprinkle tomatoes with half of the chopped herbs, salt and pepper.  Slice 2 cloves of garlic and place one slice on top of each tomato. Leave the rest of the garlic cloves whole and unpeeled and spread them throughout the tomatoes.   Bake for 90 minutes.

Meanwhile heat a large pot on medium heat with 2 tbsp. of olive oil.  Sautee onions for 3-4 minutes until soft and fragrant.  Add ground pork and beef and cook about 5-7 minutes until browned.  Add can of tomatoes, wine, balsamic vinegar and water.  Add a few generous pinches of salt and pepper and the rest of the fresh herbs.  Bring to a boil and immediately lower heat to simmer for 90 minutes, allowing the ragu to thicken.

Once tomatoes are roasted, place them in a blender or food processor.  Remove the peel from the garlic cloves and add to the tomatoes.  Blend until smooth.  Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.

Once ragu has cooked and thickened, add pureed tomatoes, and let marinate and simmer for 15-20 minutes while you prep your noodles (either from scratch or store-bought,) and then make the bechamel sauce.

Increase the oven temperature to 400.

In a small saucepan melt butter.  Add flour and stir to form a thick paste.  Continuously stir the paste for 2-3 minutes, being careful not to burn.  Very slowly pour in warm milk while continuing to stir until you have a thick creamy sauce.  Add salt, white pepper, nutmeg and parmesan, stir and set aside.

Finally layer the lasagna. Spoon a layer of pork ragu into the pan, approximately 13×9, and spread evening over the base. Next cover with a layer of the béchamel sauce, and layer with enough noodles to cover the area without overlapping. Repeat the layering process three times, finishing with the last layer of béchamel. Sprinkle with finely granted parmesan and fresh basil.  Bake for 30 minutes, or until golden and bubbling. Let stand for 15-20 minutes before slicing and serving.

Daughters

I have few memories of Octave being a still baby, even as a newborn. In hindsight I can see that the lack of memories has less to do with my memory and is more telling of her little spirit. Her energy was and still is big, loud, and kinetic. I can so clearly see and feel her desire to do more, see more, say more, feel more, give more, take more, be more.  So. much. more.  Her rest is seldom, both literally and figuratively.  Just her presence, let alone her words, beg me to dig deeper than I’ve ever dug and to see myself clearly.  She rocks me, shakes me, and leaves me upside down before she asks me to arrive at my fullest potential, every.single.day.  She is my mirror, my joy, my teacher of patience. This is such a beautiful blessing but usually after it is unflattering, hard and messy. I am most certain she heard me preach to the world all those years ago just how much I LOVE being taken out of my comfort zone, because that is exactly what she does almost every hour of every day. But oh how she melts me. She melts my heart deep and wide, making herself at home in the most untouched spaces inside these bones. No one can soften me the way she can, truly no one.

Bijou is only nine months old but her differences are obvious, even from the most oblivious passerby. When she was growing inside my belly I could feel her little spirit already teaching me something different from her sister. She came earth side and those words I swore I heard her whisper in my womb, became a little louder but only loud enough for the most steadfast ears. She is present, and rooted, exuding a comfort that I never knew until I knew her. She doesn’t question or ask much of me, she just looks into the deepest place she can find and wants me to stay there with her. Her spirit feels so familiar that when I look deep into her eyes I feel like I have known her my whole life. Yet sometimes I feel like I don’t know the first thing about her. She is equal parts mystery and transparency.

I’ve been told to be careful how I talk about and compare my daughters differences. Surely I understand and want to be sensitive, yet I can’t help but find it to be more helpful than harmful.  I think it would be lovely to be a grown woman reading words your mother wrote about you from the moment she first met you.  I think it would be empowering to look back over your life and see how some traits were so uniquely you, even from day one. I think it would be positive to teach your children that their differences are celebrated and needed, not only inside a nuclear family, but in this world.  But selfishly this sifting, organizing, and reflecting is good for me too.  I feel the need to articulate and understand how and why they grow me. It’s important for me to express that just because one might make me more uncomfortable or stretch me to my max, does not mean that I value and love her any less than the one who holds my hand right where I am at. Their differences are what I need, and even more, what the world needs. These girls are my daughters, but I am forever their student. It is from them I am learning the most complex, heart wrenching, visceral love I have ever known. Every morning I see my life lessons laid before me inside my bottomless cup of steaming truth, but I’ve only begun to take my first sip.

Honey Wheat Oatmeal Bread

Last week we rented a zipcar and headed into the beautiful Columbia River Gorge.  When we dreamed about moving back to Oregon, this is what we dreamed about.  It took us an entire year, almost to the day, but we finally did it.  We have some special friends who just bought a home, right in the middle of this dreamland.  Behind their home was a gorgeous waterfall to explore, and inside their home was the smell of potato bacon soup and freshly baked bread waiting to be savored.  Our time was short but our souls felt refreshed.

As we drove away a few thoughts danced around in my head.  One, when you don’t use a car often, it can become a romantic form of transportation, like train hoping or sailing. I never thought I would say that!  Two, after a year hiatus of baking my own bread, my bones are aching, and my tummy are longing for it.  It’s time my simple seeking, slow beating, dough kneading heart, come alive again.  Three, I have greatly underestimated the power of choice or lack there of.

When we chose to sell our car almost two years ago we had a long list of reasons why we wanted to do so. That list still remains, but I will admit that with the growing of our family, I’ve held it looser than ever before.  At that time finances felt really tight, but technically we could afford our car, we just had other things we wanted to do with our money.  Getting out from under our student loans, eating good food, and having date nights with not one, but two cocktails, always sounded more attractive than owning a car.  It still does!  However the financial reasons for living car free were never at the top of my list and they were never the motivation that energized my legs in 10 below.

About a year into living car free, and a year ago this week, we moved back to Portland and started over. From scratch.  We were at our rock bottom, with no job, no insurance, no midwife, and no home for our desired home birth.  I was six and a half months pregnant.  I’m sure in five years I will have a very different, perhaps more light hearted tone in my voice when I remember and share stories from the last year.  It was completely nuts, to say the least.  In any case, we spent the last year climbing ourselves up and out of our rock bottom but it has taken time and patience, and we are still climbing.  And so using a car share as much as we would like, or buying a car is not an option in our current situation.  Let it be known that we are not throwing in the towel, and we aren’t planning on buying a car anytime soon.  BUT, what if we did have a change of heart, and what if we did want to buy our own car?  The feelings that come from the reality of that answer have played games with my head and heart this last year.  Most days I really enjoy and believe in our lifestyle, I just never realized how much that enjoyment could be connected to the fact that it was once a choice.

I grew up thinking choice was a birth right and maybe it is when you grow up in white, middle class America.  For the majority of my life the choices I had and made did not leave me without, they just left me with something different.  But there is a difference between choosing not to spend your $5 on a latte and not having the $5 to buy a latte.  There is a difference between choosing to keep your holiday shopping simple and having to keep it simple.  There is a difference between willingly scheduling your C-section and being told you must have a C-section.  There is a difference between taking an hour and a half bus ride at 10 pm because you’re reminding yourself of an awesome date night that saved money allows you to go on, and taking that bus because there is no other option.  You have tangible choices until you hit rock bottom, then you have the choice to make the most of what you have, the choice to be content with your life.

I am content with my life and I can’t remember the last time I was in such a sweet, peaceful place.  I am blessed beyond measure and there is not a day that goes by that I don’t wake up believing that.  But behind all this gratefulness has been the wrestling of these thoughts and emotions.  I find it interesting how one year to the next, our lifestyle can look the same on the outside and feel so very different on the inside.  You could assume that the last two years I didn’t own a car because I was a tree hugging hippie but this year I can’t afford one and that could place me under a whole other label.  Which brings up something else on my heart.  I am no longer interested in being defined by labels.  They once felt fun and empowering but quickly they can become divisive and toxic.  I don’t want to be a breastfeeding, baby wearing, organic, car free, bicycle riding mama.  I just want to be a mama who loves her babies, riding her bike and baking bread.  I want to enjoy things and do things, without being defined by them.  In this season, this year of living without a car, I’m learning that contentment is less about the end results and outcomes and more about the story upon arriving.  Our stories will always be more powerful than the text-book labels we try to put ourselves in.  And choice, it is a very powerful thing.

Whole Wheat Honey Oatmeal Bread

Slightly adapted from Girl vs. Dough

1 cup water

1 cup whole milk

2¼ teaspoons (1 packet) active dry yeast

3 tablespoons honey

2 ½ cups whole wheat flour

2 cups bread or all-purpose flour

1 cup rolled oats

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly

1 tablespoon salt

Topping:

Small handful of oats

1 tbsp. butter, melted

1 tbsp. honey

Heat water and milk in a small sauce pan until it is warm to the touch.  Pour into a stand mixer and add honey and yeast.  Let the yeast activate for 10 minutes.  Melt butter and set aside to cool.  After yeast mixture is proofed, pour in the butter.  Attach your dough hook attachment to your stand mixer. Combine all your flours, oats and salt in a medium size bowl and give it a quick mix with a whisk.  While mixer is on a medium speed, slowly add in the dry ingredients.  The dough should start to come together into a large ball.  It should be slightly tacky but you don’t want it to stick to the sides of the bowl.  If the dough appears to wet, you can add a tablespoon of flour at a time.  Knead for 8 minutes.

Place dough in a well buttered large bowl and cover with a tea towel.  Let rest for 1 hour, (or doubled in size,) in a warm draft free place. I like to place my rising dough in the oven with the light on.  After risen, punch down the dough and pull dough from the sides, bringing it into the center, until you have worked all the way around the bowl.  Generously butter your loaf pan then stretch out dough to fit the length of the pan.  Place the dough inside and cover again with a tea towel and let rise in a draft free place for 45 minutes.  While dough is rising a second time preheat oven to 400.

Once dough is risen the second time, pour melted butter and honey on top of the loaf and sprinkle with oats. Bake for 40-50, depending on your climate.  Let cool completely before removing from the pan.  From my impatience and eagerness to try the bread, I have learned the hard way.  LET IT COOL! Slice and serve honey butter.

Lemon Bars, For the Traveler (at Heart)

I’ve been cooking and baking my way through Green Kitchen Travels, a beautiful cookbook written and photographed by the same couple behind the blog, Green Kitchen Stories.  I’ve been mesmerized by their life, their travel inspired stories and the beautiful colors and images that fill the pages.  As I’ve read and eaten my way through this book, I’ve felt my heart yearning for more adventure, and more life.  There has been a lot of reflection on my part, and I feel as though I have lived in a constant state of reflection.  While I have a fierce longing to see, taste, touch and smell every square inch of this earth, this is not what I crave most.  I long to be the person I am when I’m traveling.  I want to be her now, as a wife and mother.  I miss the person who could lose her passport and plane ticket and not get too bent out of shape.  I miss the person who would sit with the sunrise and sunset and never run out of enough praise for such beauty.  I miss the person who would intentionally go on walks only to get lost and found and lost all over again.  I miss the person who surrendered to every moment and gave gratitude for it all.

Unlike every year prior, I have had little intention or focus for the year, only a mantra that has rushed in and transformed every cell.  A mantra that was once my, fake it til’ you make it, pep talk.  You know, the pep talk you give yourself when both children are melting down, you are running on a few lousy hours of sleep and you wake to dirty dishes, laundry and blueberry stained surfaces (ALL surfaces.) Give in, give gratitude, these words happened quite accidentally, after a rather rude awakening.  I was once a spontaneous, go with the flow, anything in the world could happen to me and you will still find me smiling, seeker of joy. But I woke up this fall a huffing and puffing, tired mama, nagging wife, an out of touch stealer of joy.  Seeing myself become these unattractive things was both humbling and earth-shaking.  I wallowed in this realization for a day, maybe two and then I took a good hard look at myself and I started to give thanks.  I listed, spoke and meditated on my gratefulness.  It just seemed like the most natural thing to do, a remedy for healing, a road to getting back home. I gave thanks until it became contagious, almost addictive.  Then, just like that, I woke giddy to find yet another thing to be grateful for.  The most simple things like an apartment facing east and babes who rise early, became something to celebrate.  My sense of awe and wonder was reborn.

I used to wonder why it was so much easier to surrender to even the greatest catastrophes abroad and so much harder to remain open and grateful for an equally growing experience back home.  I’ve found that it’s easier to surrender when your days feel numbered or when you know you will find yourself in a new place sometime next week.  Abroad or domestic, land or airborne it is all just as fleeting, but there is something about the day in and day out monotony of domesticity that can dull your senses, and tell you that adventure and life are found elsewhere.  The things that once sparked your attention and received your thanks become old news when you start to see that it will all happen again tomorrow.  It’s like saying, tomorrow I can celebrate, tomorrow I can give thanks.  But the spilling of shredded coconut out of eager helping hands, and another happy baby chasing her mess, or that mesmerizing sunrise, they only happened once in that unique way. Just once.

I’ve been given an informal invitation to take back the every day, to chase beauty and find joy in the little things.  I don’t need a new city or suitcase, in fact I don’t have to go anywhere.  I can even stay inside our little apartment because traveling does not have to be something I do, it can be a state of mind.  I believe more adventure and life are waiting for me in bubble baths and dishes, fort making and cookie baking.  This year I am giving in and giving gratitude. This year I’m becoming a traveler inside my very own home.

Lemon Cashew Date Bars

Recipe from Green Kitchen Travels

Makes 6-8 bars 

1 cup raw cashews

15 soft fresh dates, pitted

1/2 cup of shredded coconut

1/4 cup of lemon juice (about 1 small lemon)

Place all ingredients into a food processor or high-powered blender. Pulse for about 20-30 seconds or until the ingredients turn into a thick, slightly tacky dough.  Press the dough firmly into a small 4 x 6 rectangle pan, or a mini loaf pan, like pictured above.  Leave in the fridge for at least an hour or overnight.  Cut into bars or using a knife small butter knife, gently pop them out from the molds.  Wrap in parchment paper and keep in the fridge for up to a few weeks, (they probably won’t last that long!)  

Surrendered

It’s 2 am, or something like it, when she sneaks into my room filling our bed with four warm bodies, leaving me the smallest sliver of space.  She kisses my face, tells me she loves me, and just wants to snuggle.  The tired inside these bones starts to shift and breakdown.  The tears start flowing, and suddenly uninterrupted sleep seems so unimportant when it’s traded in for this.

Soon they are all sleeping sound, except me, the one who might need it most.  I could be bitter,  I used to be bitter.  I could be tired, I used to give in to the tired.  But in this quiet vulnerable space, side by side with my tiny tribe, I see myself.  I see my mishaps and regrets, but  I also see a heart that has doubled in size and overflows will a fierce and selfless love. Sometime after becoming a mother of two my heart has transformed and redefined itself.  I’ve given in, surrendered, and said yes.  I’ve said yes to it all and in return this heart has fallen deep, deeper, deepest, into the most joyful heartache I’ve ever known. Interestingly, I didn’t feel like a mother the day I learned there was life growing inside of me.  I am not so sure if I felt like a mother the day I birthed Octave into this world.  It is now, almost three years later that I can confidently claim my name as a mother, and even better, their mother.  There’s not too much I really need in this life, just keep me where the light is, and where they are.

 

Orange Honey Wheat Rolls

I turn my back briefly, and then turn back around to find her this way.  It’s probably safe to say that there are few 2 year-old staging photographs of their dinner rolls.  It’s far too precious to disrupt, even if she is moments away from potentially breaking one of my few prized possessions.  I chuckle and grab my phone to take a picture of her, taking a picture.  When we are in the thick of rainy season, with a heavy dose of cabin fever, I find myself saying yes to almost anything that peaks her curiosity, and keeps the peace.  Baking is our go-to, meltdown free, domestic adventure these days.  Especially if I surrender and trade in cleanliness and precision for destruction and independence.

These rolls are the BEST homemade rolls you will ever taste!  They are so close to perfection that I am forgoing sharing a heartfelt story because it’s almost Christmas and you must make these rolls.  The dark circles beneath my eyes are begging for some beauty sleep and my thoughts are too scattered to come together in a timely fashion.  The story can wait, but the rolls cannot.  I have made them three times, first on Thanksgiving, once on a Tuesday and again last night.  They are most definitely worthy of scheduling your life around them, even with two small babes.  Start the dough the night before you want to eat them, and your extra effort will not go unnoticed.  Merry Christmas friends!

Make Ahead Honey Orange Wheat Rolls

Recipe from The Faux Martha

Makes 9 large rolls

3/4 cup whole milk

2 1/2 tsp. yeast

4 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

3 tbsp. sugar

1 tsp. salt

1 large egg

2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1/4 cup potato starch

Glaze

2 tbsp. butter

2 tsp. honey

Squeeze of orange

*Serve with Orange honey butter.  All three times I forgot to document my ratios.  I suggest you use high quality butter, raw honey and a few squeezes of fresh orange and just go with it, because with these three ingredients you really can’t go wrong.

Directions:

Heat milk on the stove top until it reaches to 110 degrees. Sprinkle the yeast on top of the milk and set aside to proof for 10 minutes.

Combine all purpose flour, wheat flour, and potato starch in a medium bowl and set aside.

In a stand mixer with the dough hook attachment beat butter, sugar, egg, salt, and the milk and yeast mixture on medium speed.  Slowly add the flours and potato starch until the dough starts to form into a ball.  The dough should be soft but not sticky and should not stick the sides when mixing.  Mix for 8 minutes to activate the gluten.  Place the ball of dough in a large lightly oiled bowl and cover for 2-3 hours or until doubled in size.

After the dough has risen I like to use a butter knife to cut the dough horizontally, vertically and then twice diagonally, making 9 equal pieces, resembling a small pizza.  Use your hands to pull apart and shape into little balls.  I pull the dough from the sides and pinch them into the center until I have gone all the way around the edges.  Place the pinched sides down into a lightly oiled 9 inch pan (I love using cast iron,) but any baking dish will do.

Cover with serran wrap and place in the fridge overnight.  The next day, about an hour or two before you want to eat them, remove them from the fridge and let sit at room temperature.  Preheat the oven to 375.  Drizzle the glaze over the rolls and with a pastry brush or your hands make sure rolls are evenly covered.  Bake for 18-22 minutes or until golden brown.  Enjoy warm with orange honey butter.

Our Happiest Place

Before I was able to ride my bicycle with both girls, I had a handful of less than desirable experiences with public transit.  I will admit that I was doubting just what the heck we’ve been trying to do here.  But then about seven weeks ago I got back on my bike and I felt the magic all over again.  I realized that all my huffing and puffing is less about how we’ve chosen to transport ourselves and more about the season of life we are in.  Navigating the city by car, bus, bike, or foot, with little people, is just challenging.  Usually getting out the door, is the hardest part.  But when we eventually do, we are well on our way to our happy place.  I know that once we all get to our cargo bike, everything is going to be okay.  More than okay.  In fact, I’ve never had a mood too cranky or a body too tired to resist the joy of riding my bicycle.  At the very least it’s functional and fun, at best it is life-giving and transforming.  Most days it’s the latter.

On my bicycle, I am the laid back, patient and present mama I’ve always wanted to be.  I am so present that sometimes we don’t make it to our original destination, because we find birds to chase, roses to smell and strangers to wave to and mingle with.  It’s a time and place where we are completely unplugged.  Having uninterrupted and meaningful conversations together feels effortless.  Octave can inquire about the world around her and we aren’t going so fast that I miss all the scenes that inspire her questions.  My head is clear and my heart is happy and pumping from a load that is quite heavy, albeit full of good things.  Our bicycle is one of the few places where there is little to no crying and we can almost always bet on a nap if and when our apartment fails us.  It’s how and where I get most of my exercise these days, but it serves a purpose AND it’s free!  Even with winter and rain drawing near, most days it’s one of my favorite places to be.  I am beginning to think that pedaling my family through our days might be the most simple and rewarding adventure I’ve embarked upon.

Pumpkin Waffles

I’ve been sitting on a gold mine of thoughts but I’ve had little to no mental space to sort them out on paper, on-screen or preferably with a good friend.  My heart is growing and evolving, in need of unraveling and sharing, it’s just been hard to grow enough energy to do so.  I suppose this is my attempt.

Friday night I took a dance class from a friend, mentor and inspiring teacher from my past.  Being his student again was refreshing and good for my soul.  For the first time in a long time I was not teaching, giving or serving.  I was taking, absorbing and feeling. I was learning, observing and focusing on something outside of the daily grind.  There was time and space for me to sort out the intangible.  Movement has always been the catalyst for unlocking the truest parts of myself, while connecting all my missing links.  It’s also brought out a critic, full of expectations and judgements. But two babies and some years later, I have dropped my judgements. It feels as though I have nothing to prove, even to myself, only much to feel and everything to experience.

I am not sure whether it’s age or motherhood, time or exhaustion, but perhaps one or all have given me freedom.   Some of the things that seem to stir up conflict, create a heated debate, or leave me feeling like I have to prove or explain myself, have come and gone.  My babies have been born and there is no more talk of how, when and where they will be born.  There are only stories. The decision to vaccinate or not vaccinate has already been made, and our car has been gone for well over a year now.  Whether some think it is innovative, sacrificial or just plain crazy, we already survived living in a one bedroom apartment.  All four of us.

My lifestyle choices are commonly found in the minority.  My beliefs and decisions surrounding faith, childbirth, parenting, transportation, consumption, food, and money are often under scrutiny.  In the past I’ve been quick to react and I’ve felt the need to defend myself.  But now being on the other side of a few big milestones I see how silly and exhausting it is to keep up with worrying how my life choices are going to be perceived by others.  I’m settling into a humble confidence, probably because nothing has ever begged me to know myself more than motherhood.

These pumpkin waffles have little to do with my thoughts, and more to do with the season in which I am redefining myself.  Its fall and I am letting go of the things I don’t need, and creating more space inside my head, while eating lots of pumpkin waffles and diving head first into the pumpkin craze.  Pumpkin ale, pumpkin chips, pumpkin ice cream, pumpkin butter… how have I underestimated pumpkin all these years? Sometimes it feels good to join the masses and surrender to the seasonal indulgences, especially when they taste this good.  Happy Fall friends!

Pumpkin Waffles

Makes about 16 waffles

Slightly adapted from Smitten Kitchen

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/3 cup dark brown sugar

2 1/4 tsp, baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. sea salt

2 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. ginger

1/4 tsp. ground cloves

4 eggs, separated

2 cups whole milk

1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted

1 tsp. vanilla

1 cup packed pumpkin puree

Spray oil for waffle iron

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 250. Combine all dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Separate eggs.  Combine yolks with milk, pumpkin, vanilla and melted butter. Whisk the egg whites together with a stand or hand mixer, until soft peaks begin to form.  Gently fold the egg whites into the batter until everything is fully combined.  Spray your waffle iron with oil of choice and cook as directed by your waffle iron.  As waffles cook, place them in the heated oven so they can stay warm and crispy.  Serve with maple syrup.

Bruschetta

Bruschetta was the very first recipe and story I posted on this blog.  It seemed so fitting that it would be the very beginning, because it was the very first thing I ever made, unless you count cinnamon toast and cereal.  I learned to make Bruschetta from my cousin Jane, on my first visit to Italy.  I was sixteen, eager and impressionable.

The last few weeks I have missed her dearly and so I went back into the archives to re read my very first post.  I found nothing.  Somehow it got deleted and now there is no memory of her in this collection of recipes.  It is heartbreaking when anything gets deleted, but this story is especially unsettling.  It was a good one!  And seven years ago Jane died of cancer, leaving behind a husband and two beautiful little children.  One day I wanted to give her children my collection of recipes and stories, because their mother was the very first person who inspired me to cook.  Not only that but she opened up my entire world and now after becoming a mother myself, I have more respect and understanding for Jane than ever before.

Last weekend I arrived to a potluck with this bruschetta after a bus ride from hell.  I was already stressed about taking the bus for an hour, by myself with the girls.  I was annoyed that I wouldn’t be able to serve my appetizers on pretty dishes.  I was upset that our bike was not yet set up to safely ride with both girls and taking a cab or a zipcar in this instance would not have been an affordable option.  It was 10 am and I was already having a pity party about the reality of my transportation options.  I could either take the bus to my potluck, or I could stay home.  I opted to take the bus but not without admitting to my husband how much I wish we had a car.  (I should note that this was the second day within our second year of living car free that I completely questioned and then doubted our lifestyle.)  After some reflection I can see that those feelings come up when I feel stuck, and I usually feel stuck when I unable to ride my bike.  Still, those feeling were real.  Very real.

We make it on the bus.  Octave is terrified by some incredibly colorful riders and so for the first time in her life, she is quiet.  So far so good.  Until right around the time my motion sickness goes into full effect, and a homeless man spills his bottle of booze all over the girls and I.  It’s 11 am and we smell like a bar.  A few minutes later a woman boards the bus and sits across from us with a big bucket boldly labeled “potty pail.”  I have no idea what that means, and I don’t want to know.  As if that weren’t enough, the  next 20 minutes consist of me, (motion sick, hot, boozy, and uncomfortable,) listening to an older man unfold a tragic story of his twin brother blowing his brains out last week.  Look, I love hearing people’s stories, in fact usually I ask for them, but clearly my hands are full and there is no room left in these bones to engage.  I am barely hanging on here people.  I had enough and I pulled the cord early.  Two miles early.  I walked in 95 degree heat with Bijou on my chest and Octave in the stroller.  I watched the cars zoom past us and tears started rolling down my cheeks.  Who’s idea was it to sell our car?  Oh yeah, that was actually mine.

As I pushed my stroller with bruschetta, and a few extra huffs and puffs, I thought of Jane, and not just because I was bringing a part of her to my potluck.  I had flash backs of watching her mother her small children, and while I didn’t get to be around her day in and day out, I saw enough over my many visits to know that in that moment she would have identified with me deeply. Living as a foreigner and raising small children in the heart of Naples, was most definitely not easy.  And while I may not be raising my children in the heart of Naples, raising them in North Portland, (where it often feels like children are despised,) and sans automobile can some days feel like no easy feat.  And truthfully some days I feel like a foreigner inside my own city.  Some days I am not sure where I belong.  If Jane were still alive I would write her a handwritten letter, all the way to Italy, only to say…I get it!

I remember one night after a long day of whinny babes, Jane and I escaped for gelato.  She almost always walked or took public transit, but that night she stormed out the door, quicker than I could keep up, jumped behind the wheel and exhaled the biggest sigh of relief.  She cursed and then exclaimed “I just want to feel like a normal human being. I just want to get in a car and drive.”  Of course, the act of driving cannot or should not make someone feel human, but now I can understand exactly what she meant.

While I realize normal is a relative term and is largely shaped by our culture, in this moment I couldn’t help but want to feel “normal.” I just wanted to arrive to the potluck in an air-conditioned car, somewhat put together, with my food on pretty dishes. I didn’t want to be so exhausted from the journey that I couldn’t enjoy the actual event. I also wanted to arrive wearing clothes that actually fit me, but that is a whole other story.

Now that it’s passed it all seems rather silly when I think about Jane.  Even the hard days and bad bus experiences are beautiful because they are spent with my girls.  I am alive to love them well.  I’m sure Jane would live a thousand days on that bus, and endure many bottles of spilled booze if it meant she could still hold her babies.  I was with her in her last days, holding her hand, massaging her feet.  I am thankful I was not yet a mother and was not capable of comprehending what her heart was feeling.  Surely it would have taken my breath away.  It does, right here and now.  They say, time heals, but the more time that passes, the deeper my heart breaks.

As I navigate my kitchen and motherhood, Jane floods my memory.  I remember  how she was practical and wise and far less emotional than I.  She was strong and grounded, and so dang smart.  She was passionate and serious but when she laughed I felt so accepted and welcomed into her life.  Oh how I wish we could sit across from each other and talk about New York and dance and art and books.  I wish I could hear her complain about how horrible italian television is.  I wish I could hear her vent about the cheapness and roughness of  the toilet paper her mother in law would stock her apartment with.  I would laugh so hard I would snort, but she never laughed because it really bothered her.  I wish I could introduce her to my husband and babies.  I wish I could bake her loaves of bread. She would be so proud of me.  I wish I could vent to a woman who could understand the complexities of my heart. I wish I could hear her cheer me on and support the way I’ve chosen to live.  I can almost hear her… “brava bella!” And it would mean the world, because she was one of the most incredible women I ever had the privilege to know.

Jane’s Bruschetta

1 baguette, thinly sliced (or ciabatta cut into slices and then halves)

1 pint of cherry tomatoes, sliced in half

1 large clove of garlic, minced

2 tbsp. finely chopped red onion

3 tbsp. chopped basil

1 tbsp. oregano

1 tsp. sea salt

Fresh ground pepper to taste

3 tbsp. good quality olive oil

1 1/2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

*1 clove of garlic for rubbing

Usually I use ciabatta bread, cut into slices and then halved but because I was trekking this across town, I chose to use smaller baguette and assemble once I got there.

Cut tomatoes in half and place in a medium size bowl.  Add all other ingredients, oil, and vinegar. Mix until combined.  Let marinate for at least 20 minutes, but the longer the better.  Meanwhile, slice bread and place on a large baking sheet.  Jane would rub the clove of garlic on top of each slice of bread.  Depending on my commitment to my bruschetta, I may or may not skip this step.  Depending on size of bread, scoop 2-4 tbsp. of tomatoes on top of bread.  Broil in the oven for 5-7 minutes or until tomatoes are slightly blistered and bread is toasted.

Lemon Blackberry Olive Oil Cake

I’ve had the image of picking berries with my family all spring and summer long.  I’ve pictured us in the good evening light that shines just before sunset.  I would wear a flowing vintage summer dress, and a sun hat providing just enough shade to keep my eyes on the ripest berries.  There would be just enough warmth, just enough breeze, a lot of laughter and buckets of berries.

Mid August we finally make our way to Sauvie’s Island.  It’s noon and there’s no breeze.  It’s the hottest time of the day on the hottest day of the summer.  I’m wearing a dirty (always dirty) frumpy black dress.  No hat and thirty extra pounds of baby love. My tired brain pretends to listen to the farmer as he verbally guides us to the blackberry fields.  I can’t seem to listen, so I just smile and nod.  I assume that finding the berry fields is fool-proof, but I am wrong because forty-five minutes later we arrive at the vines, sweaty and flushed, confused and cranky.  I wonder why I picked today of all days.  Bijou is hot, probably too hot, crying and hungry.

Just as I start to get in a tizzy I look for Octave and find her, bucket in hand with her summer hat on.  I see her eyes captivated by blackberries in their purest state as her mind fills with wonder.  All my preconceived notions start to dissipate and I decide maybe today is just right.  I notice we are completely alone because it’s Monday and everyone else knew it was too hot.  My children feel me let go.  Bijou stops crying.  Octave has never looked so smitten.  I am still sweating.

When I look through my lens I don’t see or feel all of the mornings mishaps, I just see my daughter and her perfect, untainted joy.  With no expectations she gives herself the gift of being completely present.  Full of expectations, I want what she has.  I capture these sweet moments and then I tuck away my camera, out of sight.  I want to be present.  I want to share in her joy, not just observe it. We eat sun-kissed berries that are so hot I can taste them before they ever hit my tongue.  Our fingertips start to show signs of our fun.  We stop before they stain, because we only pick what Octave can carry.

On our ride back home and in between talking with Octave about what we should bake, I wonder why picking berries with her was so important to me.  All summer I felt as though my soul could not rest until we did this.  I am honest with myself and I admit that my life feels out of balance.  Very little about the way we live as a society feels normal to me and yet I keep going along with it, because I don’t know what else to do.  I just want my babe and babies in the good evening light, without my phone and all its notifications, emails, texts, and reminders taking me everywhere but the present.  I want more wild.  I want more free.  I want more of my life, unplugged and free from meaningless distractions.  What is this need to connect with an online world I cannot see or touch? Why does it feel like I am missing something if I don’t.  And why do I feel empty if I do?   Am I cultivating a life that is rich enough for me and my classic pen and paper?  I miss my pen and paper.  I miss my photo books.  I miss the tangible.  I miss the feel.  There are still things I keep near and dear, sacred and secret, but it doesn’t feel like enough these days.  Perhaps this is why I crave moments away from the chaos and grind of life, and why I daydream perfect scenes of my family in berry fields.  It’s not the berries that I want, it’s a connection to the earth and an intimacy with the present that I crave most.

Lemon Blackberry Olive Oil Cake

Inspired by Local Milk

3 cups flour

1.5 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1.5 tsp. flaky sea salt

3 tsp. herbs de provence

2 cups sugar

1 cup olive oil

1/2 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice

1/2 cup whole milk

1/2 cup whole milk plain yogurt (european style)

3 eggs

1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 1/2 cup blackberries

Glaze

1 1/4 cup powdered sugar

2 tbsp. lemon juice

2-3 blackberries

1/8 tsp. vanilla extract

Zest of 1 lemon

Pre heat oven to 350.  In a large bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and herbs.  In another bowl combine olive oil, lemon juice, eggs, milk, yogurt and vanilla.  Whisk together well.  Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients, being careful not to over mix.  Gently fold in the berries.  Oil your pound cake or bundt cake pan with olive oil.  Pour in batter and bake for 60-65 minutes or until cooked all the way through.  Test with a knife or toothpick.  Let cool for 15 minutes before turning over onto a plate or cake stand.  While cake is cooling, whisk together all ingredients for the glaze.  Put icing into a piping bag or ziploc bag (cutting a tiny hole in one side.)  Drizzle icing across cake. Slice and enjoy.

 

Roasted Corn + Tomato Blue Cheese Salad

A friend in our apartment building made this salad and left a portion of it outside my door.  I ate it up within minutes and went to her that same day to get the recipe.  A few days later we received tomatoes, basil, and sweet onions in our farm share.  I immediately went to the store to get the few other missing ingredients and made this salad during nap time.  I was happy.  Happy that I had the energy and enthusiasm to be back in my kitchen, wrapped up in the magic of creating colors and shapes that will nourish my body and make my heart sing.  Happy that it was summer and that I wasn’t pregnant.  Happy that I have TWO healthy beautiful girls and that they were BOTH napping, and without a fight from a very passionate 2-year-old.  I was so happy that I started making faces with the tomatoes and opened up a beautiful gifted bottle of white, at 4:15 pm.

I have had this salad three times now and I can’t seem to get enough of it.  I am confident that when I taste it next summer, it will remind me of this current one.  Tastes do that, they take me back and saturate my senses, leaving me reminiscent of the good, bad and indifferent.  And the funny thing I’ve just recognized about the seasons in my life…once it’s past, I miss all of it.  Every single moment.  Like, biking in subzero weather while pregnant and nauseous, or walking the entire island of Manhattan because I did not even have $2 for transit fare, or more recently,  laboring and pushing out a baby.  The challenging moments in my life that can consume me, and some days eat me up, will truly be missed.  Knowing this gives me a new sense of freedom.  It gives me the freedom to be deep in the present moment, regardless of my circumstance.  Even when the days are long and tiring or when the evenings are lonely, without my husband who is working around the clock trying to make us a better future.  Surely, I’ve always known I would miss all the joyful happenings in my life, but knowing I will miss even the darkest hour, shakes me to my core and screams, be here now, live now, love now.

Roasted Corn, Tomato & Blue Cheese Salad

Serves 4-6 as a side

6 corn on the cob

1 pint of cherry tomatoes, halved

1 large heirloom tomato, cut into bite sized pieces

1 large sweet onion, halved and sliced

1/2 cup chopped basil

4 oz. blue cheese crumbles

1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 cup rice vinegar

1 tsp. sugar

1 tsp. sea salt

1/2 tsp. fresh cracked pepper

Directions:

Place corn on grill and cook for 15 minutes, turning often until all sides are chard.  Once cooled, use a large knife to cut corn off of the cob.

Put grilled corn, sliced tomatoes, sliced onions, chopped basil, and blue cheese in a large bowl.  Mix olive oil, rice vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper in a small bowl.  Pour dressing over ingredients and mix well.  Let the salad marinate and sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.  This salad can be stored in the fridge in an air tight container but is best when enjoyed the same day it is prepared.

 

Movement + Light

I am captivated by the way she moves.  I am moved by the light that dances in her, with her and around her.  I am tickled with the beauty that’s born from the simplest act of pouring cream in my coffee.  Little goes unnoticed, nothing goes without praise.  

I am lost and then found, or perhaps, found, forever lost, but these moments are enough.  This life is more than enough.

Make Ahead Burritos

I’ve been a mama for over two years now but I seem to wear it so differently than before.  There are signs of motherhood all over me.  Maybe they’ve been there all along, or maybe I can just appreciate them in a whole new way.  I can see my beautiful girls in the dark crescent moons beneath my eyes and a mark on my belly that whispers, life was here.  I can see them in the bizarre thinning of hair that frames my face. I can see them in all the new happy lines that frame my mouth.  Some days I am knee-deep in spit up and overflowing milk, while diffusing tantrums, and hoping scotch, but I am bathing and sometimes drowning, in the most beautiful love story I’ve ever known.  My tired body and eyes might not look so full of life, but each night I lay my head for rest with the fullest heart I’ve ever known. I am loving this season and slowly but surely I am getting the hang of it.  Most days.  Or at least I think I am until six o’clock comes around and I have no inspiration for dinner, in fact I had not even thought about it.

It turns out, I am not alone.  I’ve asked a lot of other tired mamas lately for some ideas and inspiration.  When I ask how they make dinner happen, most of them laugh and say, “i don’t.”  Mac and cheese and take out are their dear friends.  Quite honestly, if our budget allowed that I would be taking full advantage, especially since we live on a street with some of the best food Portland has to offer.  But that is not an option in this season of our lives and I really do find so much joy in cooking for my family, I just need a little creativity these days.

And so, the tired mama’s burrito was born.  I have made these twice since Bijou was born.  I cook and prepare them one day out of the week and freeze them for later.  When reheated in the oven they become perfectly crispy and then topped with avocados, salsa and sour cream they suddenly become attractive.  The best part is that they taste great and require very little effort on the day you actually eat them. They also happen to be budget friendly, working out to be a little more than $2 a burrito (using all organic ingredients.)  You can follow the recipe or make it your own. Any type of meat would be great. I also think adding grilled corn and sliced olives would be super yummy. You get the idea. The burritos themselves are pretty simple, and I feel so tempted to want to make them fancier but I suppose simplicity is the point here. And the concept of freezing them is worthy of sharing.

Tired Mama’s Burritos

Makes 10

10 flour tortilla’s

4 cups of cooked brown rice

1 lb. chicken breasts

1 tbsp. olive oil

1 large red onion, chopped

15 oz. can of black beans

1 cup of salsa

1 small bunch of cilantro, chopped

Juice of 1 lime

2 packets of simply organic taco seasoning

4 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Directions

Bake, grill or boil chicken until cooked. Let cool and shred chicken into small bite sized pieces. Set aside.

Meanwhile cook your rice as directed on package.

In a large skillet on medium heat, saute onion in olive oil until soft and translucent.  Add shredded chicken, drained beans, salsa, lime juice, rice and cilantro.  Mix until combined.  Mix the taco seasoning with water (see ratios on package) and pour into large skillet.  Mix until everything is saturated in the taco seasoning.  Turn off heat and set aside.

Shred your cheese, place in a bowl and set aside.

Arrange your ingredients in a way that is easiest for you to build your burritos.  I keep the skillet on the stove, place the bowl of cheese and tortillas near by on my counter and prepare  the burritos one at a time and on a large plate or cutting board.

First start with the cheese.  This is important because it is the top of your burrito and will keep the cheese from melting out of the bottom.  Sprinkle a large handful of cheese, top to bottom inside your tortillas.   You want to leave about 3 inches on the top and bottom of your tortilla so you can wrap it well.

Next scoop out your chicken beans and rice and spread on top of cheese, top to bottom.  I have not ever measured the exact size of my scoop but I would guess it’s about 1 cup.  There really is no exact science here, you can build them as little or big as you want, however the bigger they are, the harder to wrap and keep together.  Just experiment as you go.

Fold the top and bottom parts of your tortilla into the middle.  Next bring in the sides.  Let the sides fold as needed to make an even rectangle.  It will freeze in the position you wrap it and this ensures the filling will not come out once it is reheated in the oven.  After each burrito is wrapped, transfer them, (folded side down) to a large baking sheet and place them side by side.  Repeat this process with all 10 burritos.

Place baking sheet in the freezer for 1-2 hours.  This keeps them from freezing to each other.  Once they are completely frozen you can place them in any sort of storage you prefer.  I used large ziploc bags.

On the night you want to eat them...preheat your oven to 400.  Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until slightly golden and crispy.  Serve with sliced avocados or guacamole, sour cream, and salsa.  Of course you can also microwave if you are in a hurry but I prefer how the oven makes it nice and crispy.

 

Peach Pie For Bijou

Disclaimer: Speaking, let alone writing intelligible sentences 3 weeks postpartum is proving to be challenging. This birth story is LONG, as was the labor and I am sure is full of typos. Please excuse them…I just needed to start somewhere before I forget the details.

Dear Bijou,

Your sister and I baked you a peach pie as a way of asking (maybe begging,) you to come meet us and join our baking adventures. You took our bait, although took your own sweet time coming into this world. The entire pie was gone before you were even born. And so, I find it most appropriate to bake another peach pie (only possible because nanny is here to help me,) and remember your beautiful birth…

On the night of June 4th at 41 + 4 days pregnant, I went to sleep begging to you start the process of coming into this world. The next morning my last midwife appointment was scheduled and I did not want to pedal 5 miles there and 5 miles back. Up until 41 weeks riding my bike was a dream. It uplifted my spirits and was probably the only time I didn’t dwell on all the aches and pains that comes at the very end of pregnancy. However, I was feeling quite emotional and tired and I did not want to wake up early and leave our apartment. So, I was giddy with excitement when I woke on Thursday morning and noticed I was loosing my mucus plug and had what is called “bloody show.” Both are two signs that labor is imminent. I started to calculate that most likely you would be born on June 7th, a day I always knew would be special. I called Angela, my midwife and told her what was happening. She thought it would be best to stay home because the mild contractions I was feeling would most likely start to escalate and she didn’t want me to tire myself out by riding my bike to her. Great news, I could stay home! I was so excited I couldn’t really rest though.

Your Dad and I started cleaning our apartment and getting things set up for your birth. I made a grocery list of the snacks and drinks I wanted for labor and your dad and Octave biked to the store and left me to rest. In the afternoon nana came to pick up your sister so that we could have a good nights rest and some time just the two of us.

That day I had contractions that were different from the Braxton hicks contractions I had experienced the weeks prior, however they were mild enough that I could continue to go about my daily activities. They continued that entire day and I went to bed slightly bummed that nothing more was happening, but excited because I knew it had to be soon.

On Friday Angela suggested I come to her for my last appointment seeing as though I still was still not in labor. While I would love to sound like a rock star and tell you that I biked there, I didn’t. Your nana came and picked me up. When Angela checked my cervix it was soft and dilated to a 3 but not yet effaced. She suggested I go get some acupuncture after my appointment with her and was hopeful that it would set me into labor. Acupuncture was exactly what I needed because as I laid on the table with needles in all my favorite points, I started feeling the most intense contraction yet. They kept coming a few minutes apart and it was almost getting hard to continue to be still on the table. When the acupuncturist came back in the room I told her the point under my knee and along the outside of my shin kept calling my name and asked to be needled. Ironically she told me she was on her way back in to stimulate the needles and add another one there. That point translates to “run three miles,” and it is a great point for endurance. My body and my acupuncturist’s intuition must have known that I was about to forgo two nights of sleep and be in labor for 48 hours. This point may have been my saving grace. I got off the table and felt like a new woman. I felt ready for labor and could feel it coming on. Before leaving my appointment the acupuncturist took me into the sunlight to examine my ears. In Chinese medicine there is a way to tell the sex of the baby based on the veins on the mothers ears. It was kind of hard to tell but she thought I had a little more on my right side (the female side.) This made your nana boast with confidence because she is the only person who was adamant you were a little girl. Everyone else, family, friends and even strangers always commented on how they thought you were a boy.

Nana drove me home and the contractions continued to get stronger. They were still very manageable but I was starting to get a little moody and did not want to be in the car anymore. Nana stayed with me until your dad got home from work and she took Octave another night for us. Your dad and I ate one our favorite meals, the Brian’s Bowl from Por Que No, and then walked our street to help keep the contractions going. The intensity of them died down but they were coming every 3-5 minutes. I went back home, took a bath and went to bed early. After an hour of lying in bed my contractions got stronger and it was too uncomfortable to lay flat. I went back into the tub and hung out there for a few hours. I woke your dad up around midnight and asked him to time my contractions. He laid down in the bathroom with me while I breathed through my contractions that were coming every 3 minutes. I was feeling more but I was trying my hardest to play it cool. I kept thinking that it was just the beginning and I didn’t want to admit that it hurt yet. But truthfully it did hurt and I was resisting these contractions rather than embracing them. I wanted to call Angela because I really felt like things might progress quickly, but I doubted myself and did not want to call her over in the middle of the night for nothing. When I eventually called her an hour later, she told me that she didn’t think I was in active labor yet and to just lay down and try to get some sleep. I was frustrated because while I may not have been in active labor, my contractions were still strong and frequent enough to keep me from sleeping. In fact, I wasn’t even able to be anywhere other than the shower for the entire night and into the early morning.

The next morning Angela and Maggie, her midwife in training, came over to check my cervix and just see how I was doing. When they got there my contractions started to calm down and come less often. They assured me I was not in active labor yet but my body was in early labor and preparing. My cervix was dilated to a 4 and I was completely effaced. I was encouraged that even though my body was moving slowly, things were happening. However I had not slept a wink that night and was pretty darn exhausted. Thankfully my contractions stopped for about an hour and I was able to sleep an hour before waking up to a good contraction. That whole day was the same story as the evening and night before. I had contractions that ranged from 3-7 minutes apart that were strong enough I couldn’t sleep or lay down but not so intense that I felt like I needed the birth tub just yet. I kept feeling like my body was ready to have you but something was holding me back.

I got a call from Angela around 8 pm on Saturday the 7th. She wanted to come up with a plan for me. She asked if I knew why my labor was not progressing. Maybe she sensed I was holding back something. I burst into tears and admitted that I was scared. I wasn’t scared that you or I were unsafe, because I knew we were just fine. I was not scared that anything was going wrong, I was simply afraid of my own body. If I was having a hard time with the contractions so far and they were telling me I wasn’t even in active labor yet, I was terrified I would not be able to last through the hardest work yet. I was embarrassed that maybe I wasn’t as strong as I thought I was. I started to doubt myself, especially with little to no sleep over the last few days. Crying and admitting I was scared is exactly what I needed. She guided me through some images and spoke positive, encouraging words. Within minutes I felt a change in my body. I was still on the phone with her and I started having contractions that I had to make deep low sounds though. I hung up the phone with her feeling a million times better and ready to surrender.

About 2 hours later I woke Chris up and told him I had decided it was time to have a baby. He inflated the birth tub, and started filling it with water while I rocked and moaned and moved through my contractions in the shower. Soon after we called Angela and Maggie and told them to come over. Even if I still had a long ways to go I wanted and needed their presence there. I looked at the clock when I stepped into the tub and it was 11:30pm. I was a little bummed that you would not be born on June 7th, but at that point I was so excited to meet you that I really didn't care what day you would be born. And after all, the 8th is a lucky number in the Cheney family and your Bompa and Auntie were secretly hoping you would be born on June 8th and join them in the 8 club!

By the time Angela and Maggie arrived our space was in full-out birthing mode. Lights out, candles burning, music playing and essential oils out and ready for inhaling during each contraction. I kept repeating the word “open,” under my breath as I rocked in the water on my hands and knees. As things got more intense I kept telling myself “my contractions cannot be bigger than me because they are me.” I found comfort knowing that my body was not going to give me something I couldn’t handle, and so I had to keep my mind on those words as to not lose focus. This went on for 6 or 7 hours. I told Angela that I felt a lot of pressure and things were starting to feel different. She called Brandee, my other midwife and told her to come over. The pressure started to get more intense and the contractions closer together and longer. At this point the water was my saving grace. I quickly realized that I was not getting any breaks between my contractions and Angela told me I was in transition. Hearing those words was a sigh of relief because I knew I was close. I had read hundreds of birth stories to know that transition was going to feel like the craziest thing I ever experienced but it meant I was close to the end.

Brandee arrived at some point during all of this. I can’t remember exactly because I was starting to go to a different place. I just remember being aware of her comforting touch and her signing me a song about my body opening up. As she sang I could actually feel my cervix open the last little bit it needed. I will never forget that feeling. Never in my life had I been so vulnerable and so open, emotionally and physically. Being aware of this was really powerful.

I had to get out of the tub to go to the bathroom, and once I was out the pain was almost paralyzing. It must have taken me 15 minutes to even get to the bathroom because I had to stop with every contraction. I finally made it to the bathroom and when I was finished I leaned over the sink working my way through the most intense contraction yet. It literally took my breath away and I wanted to panic. Brandee started lightly massaging my back and it was as if she put me in a trance. I was experiencing the most intense sensation in my life and yet I was the calmest I had ever been throughout labor. I cannot explain or even understand what was happening but I felt out of this world almost, looking down on myself and my body. I slowly walked to our bed and laid down. I laid there for what felt like 10 minutes, feeling but not feeling the contractions take over me. I suddenly popped straight up out of the bed and said I wanted to push. I walked to the bathroom, sat on the toilet one last time before I wanted to get in the tub to push and my water immediately broke. There was a huge pop sound and my water burst across the room and reached the tub. I went to the bathroom and then decided I wanted to take a really hot shower before getting in the tub. I was so happy that I had the complete freedom to do whatever I wanted during this process.

I got in the tub and the urge to push suddenly went away. I doubted that I was fully dilated and ready to push you out. I asked if I should just try to push or what to do next. My midwives reminded me that I was the one running the show and I was the one who was telling them what I was going to do next. I felt kind of silly at that point for not listening to my body. After all, this is exactly why I wanted to give birth this way.

I remember looking at the clock on our stove and seeing that it was almost 5 am. I always envisioned giving birth to you as the sun came up, so I was quite happy that it was actually happening. I could smell coffee steeping in the French press and I felt so happy that I was in my own home and that you were coming soon.

Just minutes after I felt like I wasn’t ready to push, the most shocking noise and sensation come from my body. A gutteral, primal noise came from the deepest part of me and out of my mouth. With that noise, my entire body started to involuntarily push you out. “wooow,” I said and laughed. This happened a few more times. For a few minutes I remembering thinking “this is going to be easy, I don’t even have to try to push my baby out.” Unfortunately, those natural instincts and whole body pushes were just getting you deeper into my pelvis and preparing me for the real work. At that moment complete panic set it. I felt sensations I never thought existed and my eyes were wondering the room, desperately looking for someone to connect with, someone to save me. The world felt like it was spinning and I was desperately trying to grab on for help. I locked eyes with Brandee and started to follow her breath as much as I possibly could. I had a great support system but no one could help me, no one could save. It was the most scary and liberating thing I have ever felt. I pushed and yelled and wanted to cry, but I was felt too deep into a survival mode to let my emotions take over. I pushed a few more times and Angela said she could feel your head. She asked if I wanted to feel it too, but I was more concerned with getting you out as soon as possible. After another push your head was out and I felt a sigh of relief, because the hardest part was over. One more push and out came your entire body. You came floating up to me with your back towards me. Angela and Brandee helped guide you into my arms and on my chest. I was filled with so much emotion and cried tears of joy and tears of relief. It was over. I did it! We did it! It took a minute or two to even look to see if you were a boy or girl. We asked, “who are you?” and turned you over. Even though the very last week of pregnancy I started to think you might be a girl, I was a little surprised to see that you really were. Like I mentioned earlier, everyone other than your nana, was convinced you were a boy. It was such a wonderful surprise!

Maybe 10 minutes later, we got out of the tub together with your cord still attached and transferred to the bed. You laid on my chest skin to skin while I pushed out the placenta. We cut your cord and I remember feeling slightly emotional about that moment. You were officially your very own person in this world. You found your way to my breast very quickly and latched on immediately. After a few hours I gave you to your dad for some skin on skin time with him while I went to take a shower. I came back to bed, we ate snacks, drank some coffee and cuddled with you. The midwives checked you over and weighed you. You were 7 lbs and 9 oz. of complete perfection.

When it was all said in done it was 48 hours, 10 hours of that which were considered active labor and I slept a total of one hour during that time period. While it was much longer than I had hoped for I think somehow it was exactly what I needed to understand a deep part of myself. Birthing you into this world was without a doubt one of the most epic moments of my life. I am so happy I got to experience the home water birth I always dreamed of. I am even more excited that you are finally here, my little Bijou Haru, a little lady I had anticipated for many years. You complete our little family and we love you more than you will ever know.

Love,

Mama

Peach Pie for Bijou

Crust

2 1/4 c. flour

3/4 tsp. sea salt

2 tsp. cane sugar

15 tbsp. unsalted very cold butter

10-12 tbsp. ice water

Egg+ splash of milk for brushing

1-2 tbsp. turbinado sugar for dusting on top of dough

Filling

6 large ripe peaches

1/4 c. cane sugar

1/4 c. brown sugar

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. nutmeg

1/8 tsp. ground clove

Pinch of sea salt

3 tbsp. cornstarch

1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

Directions

In a food processor combine flour, salt and sugar.  Pulse until combined. Cut very cold butter into tiny bite size pieces and place in the food processor. Pulse  6-8 times, or until flour resembles tiny pebbles.  One tablespoon at a time pour in ice water and pulse.  To test the dough remove the lid and try to pinch the dough together.  It should just barely hold together.  Your dough will look more like sand and you might think that it is too dry, but as long as it just sticks together in your fingers you have achieved the correct consistency for a perfect flaky crust.

Pour crumbly dough on a large clean surface and start to frisage your dough. Watch this video to learn how.  This technique always produces a flaky crust for me.  Form two disks with the dough and wrap in seran wrap.  Place in the fridge for at least 1 hour or up to two days.

While dough is chilling, cut peaches into bite sized pieces.  You can choose to peel the skins or leave them on.  I left them on but would probably choose to peel them next time.  Place them in a large bowl and spices, sugar, cornstarch, flour and lemon juice.  Mix together well and let sit at room temperature while you roll out your dough.  This is also a good time to preheat your oven to 400′.

On a well floured surface or pastry mat roll out your dough into a 10″ circle.  Place and form dough inside a 9″ pie pan.  Pour peach filling inside.  Roll out the second disk of dough into another 10″ circle.  This is the time to cut out any shapes if you desire.  Place dough on top of peaches (you want it to just come to the very edge of the pie dish.  Using your thumb and index finger on one hand and your thumb on your other, scallop the dough all the way around the dish.  Brush dough with one beaten egg and a splash of milk.  Sprinkle sugar on top.

Bake pie on top of a large baking pan.  This helps to ensure that the pie crust on the bottom gets baked all the way through.  Bake for 50-60 minutes, until golden brown on top and filling is bubbling.  Check your pie after 40 minutes to see if you need to place some foil on top to keep from browning too much.  Let your pie cool for at least 2 hours, preferably 4.


Raw Cashew Cake

This week my little lady has showered me with enough genuine “I love you Mama’s,” to make my heart nearly explode. She’s been the fuel I need to keep on pedaling with my 37 1/2 week belly. She’s the reason that while I am brewing with anticipation, I am still content being so uncomfortable. I am not ready to say goodbye to the days where it is just the two of us. She is the one who made me a mama, the one who doubled the size of my heart and the one who has taught me the true meaning of life. I have loved every single moment with her.

As excited as I am to meet the newest addition of our family, I will admit that I am slightly mourning our family of three. I remember feeling something similar a few weeks before I got married, and then again before Octave was born.  I am trying to make little judgement on my feelings and simply just observe them. While life continues to get better with the building upon my life and family, it is sometimes hard to say goodbye to what was. And while I embrace change, I embrace the present even more.

I am trying to be as intentional as possible in these last days. Slow, steady, present, with no agenda and few distractions, I’ve been savoring every last drop of my precious little lady. I’ve been so consumed with her that I’ve hardly read or written a blog post. I’ve hardly cooked or baked anything worth sharing. I’ve hardly had a moment to even think and process all the changes we’ve experienced the last six months, let alone the changes that are coming. “Mama’s time,” during nap time or in the evenings has been non-existent because we’ve fallen asleep together most days and nights. I wouldn’t want things any other way right now and I’ve been so happy being completely consumed with her sweet cheeky smiles, but to be honest, this body has needed a little break. So, when a friend asked to take Octave for the day I gladly obliged.

It is 2 pm and I have already made one of my favorite desserts. I’ve swept and mopped my floors, washed the laundry, eaten 6 salted caramels and pedaled to a local coffee shop. I sit here sipping espresso, with my computer out for the first time in weeks. There is even a book beside my computer. A BOOK! While I miss my little lady already, this is so good for my soul and it might also be one of the last moments to myself before becoming a mama of two. Just like I am savoring every last moment with Octave, today I am savoring time to myself.

On my day off I wanted to make, eat and share one of my favorite treats. This recipe is originally a cake, but I’ve made it into cupcakes a handful of times. It is simple, beautiful, healthy and absolutely delicious. Perfect for Birthdays, perfect for friends with special diets(it’s gluten free, dairy free and can be made vegan if you replace the honey with agave nectar.) In this case, it is perfect for a mama’s day off, and an early mother’s day treat!

Raw Cashew Dreamcake 

Recipe from My New Roots

Makes 12

Crust

1/2 cup raw almonds

1/2 cup pitted medjool dates (about 10 dates)

1/4 tsp. sea salt

Filling

1 1/2 cup raw cashews, soaked overnight

1/3 cup coconut oil, melted

1/3 cup honey

Juice of 2 lemons

1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 cup raspberries + more for garnish

Directions

In a food processor or high powered blender, pulse almonds, dates and salt until it starts to clump together.  Depending on the freshness of your dates you may need to add a splash of water to help the crust combine.  You should be able to pinch crust between your fingers and have it stick together.

Scoop out 1 tbsp of crust for each cupcake and place in the bottom of pan.  Using the back of a spoon or your fingers, evenly press crust into each cut out.  Place in freezer while you prepare the filling.

Place cashews, lemon juice, vanilla extract, coconut oil and honey in the food processor.  Blend for 3-5 minutes or until completely smooth.  Scoop out half (about 1 cup) of filling and pour a dollop over all 12 crusts.  Place in freezer for a few minutes while you prepare the rest of the filling.

Add raspberries to the remaining mixture and blend until smooth.  Pour over all 12 cupcakes and garnish with raspberries.  Place in freezer for 2 hours or until frozen.  Before serving let cupcakes rest at room temperature for a few minutes.  Using a butter knife you can loosen the cupcakes inside the pan and help pop out.  You can also use cupcake wrappers, but I was not motivated to make a special trip to the store.

 

Granola

“If your daily life seems poor, do not blame it; blame yourself, tell yourself that you are not poet enough to call it forth its riches.” 

-Rainer Maria Rilke

The Last Granola…

(you will ever make)

Slightly adapted from Marge Granola

3 cups old-fashioned oats

2 1/2 cups nuts

1/4 cup seeds

1 1/2 tsp. sea salt

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. cardamom

1/2 cup olive oil

1/2 cup + 1 tbsp. maple syrup

1 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract

1 cup dried fruit

This is the basic recipe with the perfect ratios that any nut, seed or dried fruit will taste great in.  In the granola pictured above I used 1 1/4 cup almonds, 1 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds, 1/4 cup sesame seeds, and 1 cup dried cranberries.

Preheat oven to 250.  Combine all dry ingredients in a large bowl and set aside.  In a small saucepan,  using low heat, warm olive oil, maple syrup, and vanilla until it is slightly warm to the touch(3-4 minutes.)  Pour on top of dry ingredients and mix until all the dry ingredients are saturated with liquid.  Pour mixture on a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Use a spatula to pat down the oats.  Keep everything nice and close together if you like clumpy granola or want to make granola bars.  Otherwise you can spread the oats and nuts out a little more.  Bake for 75 minutes or until golden and crispy.  Let the granola cool for 15-20 minutes.  Cut into bars or break apart for granola.  Store in an air tight container for up to a week.