Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Coming in November: 30 Days of Thanks

I'm starting a blog project on November 1st. Each day, I'll share something I'm thankful for - not very original, I know, but my plan is to make this project a little unique by also highlighting some related organizations or people that are doing important work and that I think are worth learning more about and supporting.

So, that's the plan. Let me know if you'd like to join me!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Breakfast for a Chilly Saturday: Pannukakku (Baked Pancake)

Does Fall unleash your inner chef? I love baking and cooking year-round, but Fall is when I wake up giddy thinking about what to make that day. It's when I pore over cookbooks and recipes in magazines. It's when I make soups and stews and roast chicken on Sunday afternoons. (Tomorrow afternoon will be pork chops with cabbage and apples and roasted beet salad with gorgonzola.)

This morning, I wanted to make something hearty for breakfast. I also wanted to use up some eggs because we had 13 eggs in the fridge, with a half-dozen more coming on Wednesday with my weekly Boston Organics delivery.

I've stumbled across a few blogs recently focusing on Swedish and Scandinavian design (check out and My Scandinavian Retreat for some amazing photographs and ideas) and, besides making me want to hop on a plane to Sweden and then completely redecorate my house starting first by painting all the walls white, they have made me hungry for Scandinavian foods.

So, on this chilly morning with eggs to use and a lonely oven, I dug into my Swedish cookbooks and decided on this one:

The Great Scandinavian Baking Book by Beatrice Ojakangas
I found the perfect recipe: Baked Pancake (Pannukakku), which the book says is popular in all of Scandinavia. It was so easy to make - a bunch of eggs, flour, milk, and a touch of sugar and salt. (If you want the detailed recipe, let me know!)

Whisk everything together and then let the batter rest for half an hour, though I wasn't quite that patient.
The recipe called for melting basically an entire stick of butter in the pan in the preheating oven. I did that, but next time I'll probably use half that or less. We ended up with puddles of butter on top of the pancake - glorious, but my body isn't used to that much fat in the morning anymore and the extra fat didn't help much with the pancake sticking to the pan, so it seemed unnecessary. (That may be the first time in my life that I've referred to butter as unnecessary.)

Coat the pan with the melted butter, then pour in the batter, and bake at 450 for 15-20 minutes.

Beautiful, huge golden pancake with butter pools. Look at those lovely crisp peaks around the edges!
I served it with strawberries, blackberries, and homemade whipped cream. The pancake was wonderfully eggy and slightly sweet.

Velvety, decadent breakfast - perfect for a chilly Fall morning.
A and I devoured half of it, R tried a few bites (he liked the crunchy edges best), and I saved the rest for tomorrow. I'm hoping it reheats well.

This was definitely a special occasion breakfast for us. (It would be perfect for Christmas morning.) It was much richer and sweeter than our everyday breakfast. But we enjoyed it very much, and all those eggs gave us the protein we needed later in the day to make it through the huge corn maze at Connors Farm!

Next up in my Scandinavian cooking adventures: Swedish oat cookies and coffee bread

What are you making or craving this Fall?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Sweet dreams

I still check on R almost every night before I turn in for bed. With the nights on the chilly side now and probably 10 days to go before we turn on the heat, R usually needs some blanket adjustments or additions. He moves around a lot in his sleep, and his room gets pretty cold. Sometimes I find his blanket on the floor and him curled up in the fetal position on his bed. I guide him back up to his pillow, lay his heavy blanket on him, and watch him visibly relax and snuggle into the warmth.

R knows I do this - because I tell him - but he almost never wakes up or remembers it the next day. Almost.

Last night was one of those rare nights where I walked in his room and heard him say softly, "Hi, Mommy." That was all. I covered him up, kissed his head, and wished him a good night.

It's amazing, the power of words and sound. That sweet, small voice and those simple words melted away all the stresses of the day, the ones I was going to agonize over before falling asleep. In that sleepy voice was pure love and trust and peace. It washed over me and set my mind at ease. It reminded me that no matter what ridiculous stuff happens in life beyond our home, above all, I'm a mom and I am loved.

I don't know when I'll stop checking on R at night. I'm betting in a few years he won't want me to do it or he'll be really annoyed that I do.

But for now, I'll keep checking. And listening for that small, sweet voice.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Not Quite Wordless Wednesday: Fall Colors Around Town

No matter what is going on in life, I can't help but be encouraged and thrilled by the beauty of the world around me - especially at this time of year.

Early morning sight behind my neighbors' house. It looked like the willow trees were on fire!

My favorite tree in town. Always an amazing color show.

Even half bare, this tree behind the library took my breath away.

Despite record high temperatures this summer and virtually no rain, the trees are putting on their usual show. Nature is so resilient!

How are the fall colors where you are?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Sugar and spice and everything nice

What a great day! We didn't do anything out of the ordinary, but it was filled with nice things and time with my boys. I needed that.

While R and A were off at R's swimming lesson, I cleaned the bathroom, vacuumed and Swiffered, dusted, and ran two loads of laundry. I can't remember the last time I was that productive in just 45 minutes! That was a nice feeling.

After lunch, we headed to the mall to find accessories for R's Halloween costume (he wants to be an Army guy). A and I were giddy to discover that the long-awaited Sur La Table had finally opened! While R whined and laid on the floor (until I told him that if he kept doing that, we weren't going to the Lego store), A and I shopped in heaven. Oh my word, that is the best kitchen/cooking/food shop ever created. I picked up just a few little things - a demitasse spoon for R (he finally came around and found some things he liked), letter cookie cutters to spell out R's name, and a little ceramic spice jar that we plan to use for storing our kosher salt. Isn't it sweet?

While I was paying at the register, an employee came over and asked A if he would be interested in a cappuccino. Um, hello - me, too! The guy demonstrated two different espresso/cappuccino makers for us (one of them cost $3,000!), and I enjoyed a lovely little free cup of decaf cappuccino while A had his espresso.

A and I are planning to go back to Sur La Table for our next date night. :-)

After finding R's Army accessories at the party store, we headed to Whole Foods. To keep R's spirits up while we shopped, we saddled up to the gelato counter and got a black raspberry gelato for him and a tiramisu one for us. Oh my, what a perfect sweet treat for the afternoon. Even the tiny cups and spoons were beautiful, so we kept them.

At home again, R and I played a Lego board game and listened to "A Prairie Home Companion" while A made dinner (rotisserie chicken and roasted vegetables - carrots, sweet potato, zucchini, and mushrooms with shallots). The perfect fall meal!

After dinner, we curled up under a blanket (we live in New England where waiting as long as possible to turn on the heat is a source of pride, so sweaters and blankets it is until our family's goal of November 1st) and watched a National Geographic show about the crystal caves of Mexico. R's interest in geology is alive and well, and he was fascinated by the giant crystals and harsh conditions in those amazing caves.

Now, I'm blogging (writing makes me so happy) while sipping a hot mulled cider mixed with blueberry port, and then I'll be poring over the new issue of Whole Living, my new favorite magazine.

I call that a good day. And a blessing.

How was your day?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Time to hop off the carousel

Life can sometimes feel like this:

Running in circles. Not much changes. Reaching for the golden ring and missing it.

But then...

... things start to take off. 

I'm not sure how, but I have this feeling life is about to get really interesting. 
In a good way. 
And, I'm really excited.

(How's that for vague?)

Monday, October 11, 2010

Switching to Cloth Napkins

Slowly over the last few months, we've been changing how we live. I've been gently pushing us to create less trash, use all natural things, eat at home. A lot of it is about saving money, but it's also about reducing our impact on the environment and taking better care of ourselves.

Our mini revolution began with napkins.

At Target one day, I picked up a 10-pack of white all-cotton cloth napkins as an experiment. We had been going through paper napkins at an alarming rate, and I wanted to put a stop to it.

The first thing I noticed was that the cloth napkins worked a lot better than paper. R would wipe his face after dinner, and the cloth napkins actually cleaned off the goo. Even he noticed the difference.

Then (oh happy day!), R started putting his napkin on his lap during meals. Cloth napkins stay put in your lap. They don't blow away in the breeze. It's easier for R to keep them in place.

Cloth napkins dress up an otherwise ordinary table. We're not fancy people. I'm not big on tablecloths, and our dishes are casual and hefty. We drink out of small canning jars. So having cloth napkins on the table feels a little more special.

I was worried when I bought the cloth napkins that the extra laundry I'd have to do would cancel out any tree-saving and trash reduction we accomplished. But I've found that I don't really have any more laundry to do than usual. When it's just the three of us, we re-use the cloth napkins quite a bit. Unless they're really soiled, I just refold them with a new clean side out, and we can go a couple of days using the same ones. (Don't worry - if we have company, I put out new napkins.) And, because they're relatively small, they don't take up a lot of space in the laundry, so I really haven't had to add any extra loads to cover them.

I'm really proud and excited of how easy this change was for my family. Now, I stick a cloth napkin in our lunchboxes or any time we're packing along food for the road. If I think we're going to need wipes, I wet a napkin or washcloth and put it in a ziploc to bring along. It's become second nature to me.

But the best part? We haven't bought any paper napkins since my experiment began!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Born to be wild

A big part of my focus lately as R's parent has been on making sure he has time to be wild. I don't mean crazy and out of control. I mean giving him access to places where he can be free to run, explore, and climb. I mean time outside, not just at the playground or on the paved bike path, but in the woods, at the ocean, in caves, knee-deep in rivers. Places where he can get dirty and wet and where he can find crabs, snails, snakes, bugs, and fish.

It has made a huge difference for R. He needs that time. I wish it could be more often because of the freedom and joy it gives him. It's not like his world at home is full of rules and restrictions, but in wild places, we all seem to relax and breathe easier. I've thought pretty seriously about moving somewhere where R could have that access to nature and wildness daily, instead of just on the weekends or during vacations. But for now, that's all we can give him. At least we're lucky enough to be able to do that.

Last weekend, we visited my dad and walked down to the nearby river. We toted R's fishing rod and Star Wars tackle box, and R and A fished while my dad cooked up hot dogs on a little grill. Using pieces of hot dog for bait, R caught two fish. Hanging out with his dad and grandpa and me, eating in the woods with yellow jackets and mosquitoes for companions, catching fish and learning how to unhook them and let them go again (and that fish are really slimy) -- all of that made for an amazing experience, one that R will always remember.

Suze Orman mentioned on her show the other day some study that found that people end up placing far more value on experiences in their lives than on material things. R and I talked about that this week, and he agreed with the findings. My job as his mom is to make sure he has those memorable experiences. For him, I think most of those experiences will involve wildness and freedom. And, I hope they do -- because I'm realizing he's not the only one who needs to be wild.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Open mouth, insert foot

On Thursday night, we visited R's school and classroom. And, yeah, apparently, I didn't need to worry AT ALL.

First off, I should have known because R was so excited in advance for us to see his work. That has never happened before. He specifically instructed us to look at his watercolor painting of a castle that was hanging up in the cafeteria, his paper chain, and his self-portrait. In his note to us that was at his seat, he reminded us to look at his paper chain.

It turns out that R's castle painting was one of only four pieces of artwork from the entire kindergarten last year that were selected for display in the cafeteria. And, his teacher told us that the paper chain (which was unbelievably long and intricate) was his idea during choice time in the first week of school, and that R ended up with a team of classmates helping him make it. It was hanging up right outside the classroom door with a handwritten sign that said, "Don't touch it!" That made me chuckle. He is very protective about his things.

The self-portrait was really cool, too! I spotted it as soon as I entered the classroom. He captured all the details of his lightning bolt shirt and did a really good job with his facial features.

All of this made me so proud of him - and so happy that he's proud of himself. What a difference from kindergarten! To top it all off, when we walked around the classroom and saw R's writing examples and thumbed through his writing journal, we realized that R is going to be just fine in that area. He participated fully, writing multiple sentences and drawing very detailed illustrations. And, as an added bonus to me, several of his writing examples included things about how much he loves me, how I'm one of the things that makes him smile (in addition to "doing things I'm not supposed to be doing" - A and I just laughed), and what he was planning to get me for my birthday. That's either pure, innocent sweetness and love for his mama or he's even smarter than I give him credit for.

We're still meeting with his teacher this week, but I feel so much better about his school experience now. Which reminds me... have any of you seen "Waiting for Superman"? The trailer alone made me cry and reminded me how lucky we are to live in a town with good schools. I'm curious to hear what people think of the movie.