Love is …

  • A proper night’s sleep, after several rotten ones
  • Another day to recuperate, feeling better
  • Daddy at home
  • Fresh banana bread
  • Convenience robots that work, creating some leisure hours and making life more than just prepare-a-meal–clean-up–prepare-next-meal, repeat
  • A bluster of boys (a blush, a blurt, a bluff, a boast, a brawl?) on our street for my kids to play with
  • An exciting first basketball game of the season, and a much longed-for win
  • Time to take down Christmas (so much Christmas to take down!)
  • Ian making burgers and fries, because I asked for them
  • “Avatar the Last Airbender,” a perennial favorite
  • Dreaming of this year’s running events; I can do this, right?
  • A plan for an early morning run with a friend, who keeps me accountable
  • (Only) one more day of the kids’ winter break

Our Happy Solstice

sun ornament

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The Sun in Winter

Pale sun goes sailing
Through the frozen sky;
Trees raise to him their arms
As he goes by.
Haste, sun, grow brighter
As the days go past;
Wake from their sleep the buds
And leaves at last.

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My day started with a gorgeous trail run with my friend.

The kids played with the neighborhood boys, and just at sunset, Ian got to explain to the kids what the winter solstice is—that the earth’s axis is 23.5 degrees tilted to the plane of her orbit, and thus we have seasons of more sun and less sun, and that after this shortest day, the hours of sunlight each will get longer for the the next six months.

Solstice fruit salad. #Solstice #holiday #home

We declined a party invitation with regret, and celebrated at home on Saturday evening. It was quiet. It was cozy.

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Soltice dinner: fruit salad; spinach salad; avgolemono soup; honey suncake #Solstice #home #holiday Avgolemono soup

It was a little dark, just as I wanted it to be. The candlelight was lovely.

Honey suncake!!! Simple. Delicious. #Solstice #holiday #home

We had a meal of Greek avgolemono soup, fruit salad, green spinach salad with little yellow squash suns, and a honey suncake for dessert. Simple and delicious. I had a vision, so the kids and Ian just relaxed while I prepared it. I loved the part when I called them in to eat, and everything was glowing, perfect, and pretty. I only wish the boys had enjoyed the soup more.

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And I convinced my darling boys to do some art with me. We painted these pretty sun symbols. Now we can hang them to remind us of how grateful we are for the sun’s warmth and light. They could be Yule or Christmas ornaments, or a kind of mobile. I don’t know yet. But I love them.

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And as for our furry friend, Solstice the dog—we celebrated his second anniversary in our home. He got some new treats and a new rope toy. We adore him.

Favorite Fall Soup: Butternut Squash and Leek

Butternut Squash and Leek Soup

This is by no means a foodie blog. My food photos aren’t pretty enough and I don’t spend most of every day in the kitchen. Nor do I have all the gizmos and gadgets and pretty work surfaces and good lighting. Nevertheless, I do cook good stuff.

Here is my favorite fall soup hands down (and I love soups—my kids say I specialize in soups and stews). I present it here because some friends on Facebook have been asking for it. Incidentally, I never measure when cooking this. I don’t think it’s possible to screw this up.

Butternut Squash and Leek Soup

This soup makes a wonderful fancy starter for a holiday meal, but also serves as an easy, earthy weeknight dinner when paired with a salad and bread.

3 lbs. butternut squash
4 tablespoons butter (or olive oil with a tablespoon of butter for flavor)
3 large leeks, washed well, halved, and chopped.
6 fresh thyme sprigs, or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
3 oz. cooked bacon, chopped (or fake bacon, or omit entirely)
2 quarts chicken or vegetable broth
2 teaspoons salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
½ cup sour cream
2  tablespoons chopped chives

Slice the squash in half and scrap out the seeds. Cook the butternut squash, cut side down, in a baking pan with a little olive oil in it, in the oven at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes. I usually turn the oven off and let the oven cool with the squash still in there. Cooking the squash well is the difference between this recipe being easy and fighting for your soup; and cooking the squash early in the day makes this next part nicer: Scrape the cooked squash from its skin.

Let’s take just a tiny moment and contemplate the humble leek. Leeks are WONDERFUL! Seriously, why aren’t leeks in everything?! Just be sure to wash them well, because soil can get trapped among the layers of the plant as it grows.

In a large pot, melt butter (or heat olive oil) over low heat. Add the chopped leeks and thyme and cook, stirring occasionally, until leeks are soft and browned, approximately 40 mins. If you get distracted and/or have the heat too high, they may burn. Trust me on that. Discard thyme stems, if you used fresh thyme.

In a frying pan, cook the bacon until crispy, drain the fat, and chop the bacon into crumbles.

Put broth, squash, and salt into the pot with the cooked leeks. Simmer over moderate heat about 20 minutes. With handheld blender, puree soup until it’s smooth. Add pepper.

Serve soup warm with 1 teaspoon sour cream, some bacon crumbles, and some chives in each bowl. Serves 6, or so.

My friend Sonya tried this recipe last night and she thinks it’s the thyme that makes it awesome. Her teenage exchange student from Germany liked it so much he reheated it this morning and ate it for breakfast. That’s quite an endorsement, I think!

 

Recipe is adapted from Food & Wine Books, Soups and Stews, 1994.

Apple Flower Breakfast

Asher's breakfast

Breakfast on summer days around here is pretty relaxed. I don’t mind sipping my coffee and letting my kids get hungry enough to help themselves to some food. I think that I should not have to prepare every meal for them, now that they are competent enough to do some things for themselves. Sometimes our breakfast is home raised eggs from our hens; sometimes it’s cereal or oatmeal; sometimes it’s leftover pizza or a quesadilla. Lucas often prepares food for his brother or for all of us. This morning we all four ate different foods.

This is what Asher requested: Apple Flower Breakfast. This time I made it for him, but I think he can do it next time. Smear a honey-flavored rice cake with peanut butter and arrange apple slices to make a flower. The kid’s got style. (By the way, this makes a wonderful lunchbox meal, too.)

Tangy Fruit and Cabbage Smoothie

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We make a lot of smoothies around here. During the school year they often serve as healthy, refreshing after-school snacks. I discovered a couple of years ago that a smoothie after school helped smooth out the transition from school time/behavior to home time/behavior. After-School Smoothies of Love (TM) also keep me from being (unjustly) perceived as the Bad Guy. So it’s a habit I embraced fully.

In summertime, smoothies often serve as breakfast. We don’t serve the kids eggs every morning in the summertime, though that’s generally the rule during the school year. A lighter breakfast is OK in summer because they are here and able to snack when they need to.

I’ve created a new smoothie recipe and thought I’d share it.

2-3 handfuls frozen mixed berries
1 banana
1 mango
1 to 1.5 c orange juice
1-inch thick slick of cabbage from whole cabbage head
Optional: Whey protein powder

Purée until smooth.

The cabbage adds a tangy quality that most berry smoothies don’t have. It also adds beta-carotene, vitamin C, and heaps of fiber. Several studies indicate that indole-3-carbinol in cabbage boosts DNA repair in cells and appears to block the growth of cancer cells.

Makes 3 to 4 12-oz smoothies.

Summer, Lately

Asher swimming with Papa. This summer Asher can swim!!

Lately, we have been enjoying:

Swimming at Grandma and Papa’s house. Last week I took a quartet of kids over there and met my brother’s family for an afternoon swim. We’d been having many days in a row over 100 degrees and we were all feeling fried. (I think it got up to 111 degrees one day.) Our home’s AC decided to die during this time, so we were fried and desperate.

Kids!

She called me Tia.

Little JuJu called me Tia for the first time. Tia means “Aunt” in Portuguese.

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Asher has found his flippers, so to speak. He finished one set of swimming lessons this summer and is now done with fear. Grandma Syd took him to eight lessons as a gift to both him and me. Best! And now he’s a fish, using his new skills joyously, without all the trepidation and worry he used to have. His strokes need work, of course, but I’m sooooooo delighted that he’s enjoying the water now.

Festive new star

Independence Day. We opted to spend the holiday mostly in the pool, after a bit of work time.

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We made an Asian noodle salad for dinner, roasted sweet potatoes, and these red-white-and-blue fruit skewers with whipped cream. Simple. Satisfying. Done. It was about all we could handle.

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The boys were satisfied with huge packages of sparklers and some front-yard fireworks. The grandparents enjoyed their cavorting. The dog coped better than most dogs. All in all, it was a very relaxing afternoon!

Lucas made strawberry bread sans recipe. He also set the table with matching cloth napkins and put a lily in a vase. I love this boy!

A whole new kind of independence from our older son. This is a strawberry quick bread he made, without a recipe. He didn’t want one. He was only interested in doing it all on his own, so we let him. When the bread was done, he set the table, placed a lily in a vase, and put out matching cloth napkins. The bread was good, though we agreed that the recipe needs some tweaking, such as more baking powder and longer baking.

My son now dries and stores herbs from our garden. He learned how in gardening class. This is lemonbalm.

This independence is also manifesting in his solo runs; herb harvesting, drying, and storing (he now has several glass jars full of dried herbs in his room); and various craft projects, like this star made of spent daylily flower stalks, which I completely adore. He made two and they adorn the side and back fences of our garden.

My son made this pretty star for me out of spent, dry daylily flower stalks. I love it!

This summer, Lucas has been sent on his bike with a backpack to the supermarket to buy things we need for the first time, and has traveled to and from friends’ homes on his own. He is itching for more freedom, too. Today we had to talk about not leaving the house early in the morning for a run without telling us. Recently, he made a jigsaw puzzle for his brother—out of wood—using his 4-in-1 woodworking tool!

So, all in all, I would say that, lately, things are good. We are all growing and stretching into new skills and new patterns. I have new clients. Ian has new and exciting pursuits. The summer days are ticking by, but there’s still plenty of time for books and boredom, play dates and deadlines, camping trips and day camp.

Tomorrow marks passage of the first month of summer vacation. I’d say we’re doing it right.

The Miracle of Eggs

Two days' worth

I get it now. Although I’ve always loved Easter and the springtime, I think I really get it now. I’ve studied Christianity and the goddesses of world religions and I’ve done my share of pagan festivals. The rites of spring have always been glorious and inspiring.

But I really get it now. The miracle of eggs.

I keep hens, and I currently have 15 beauties in my backyard. They range in age from 5+ to 1 year old. All are mature enough to lay and their eggs are delicious.

Sweet hens Feeding time

In the wintertime, the hens stop laying, or slow down to an unbearable trickle. They slow down so much that it’s frustrating to be feeding them all winter long and getting so little—especially when the chicken run gets cold and sloppy with mud and manure and I have to tromp out there daily to make sure they get fed and watered, and to collect my rare, occasional egg. In the wintertime, I buy eggs at the supermarket and I buy feed for my chickens.

As February arrives, the hens start laying a little more. Some days I get two or three eggs. Some days it’s back to one.

It’s March now. It’s the Spring Equinox and the girls have fully ramped up. In the last 24 hours I’ve collected 15 rainbow-hued eggs. Just in time for Ostara. Just in time for Easter egg rituals and children’s hunts. Just in time for the eggs to take their exalted place in our cultural observances for one day.

Rainbow Eggs

So let’s look at that a moment. All winter long, if we were subsistence farmers, we would be eating mostly last year’s food—stored or preserved food. When it comes to protein, that means either a winter slaughter or dehydrated, salted, or frozen protein. What if we, like previous generations, didn’t have freezer technology? That leaves us with the risky expenditure of energy on hunting for fresh meat, dehydrated or salted protein, or the sacrifice of a valuable animal.

Signs: Eggs

But with the coming of the springtime, the eggs return. The flow of fresh, nutritious protein begins again. Bellies get full. Muscles get stronger. People can return to the hard work of living because they’ve got the fuel to do so, and it comes in safety-sealed, perfectly portion-controled little packages— boxes without hinges, key, or lid, yet golden treasure inside is hid.

And so the egg is naturally the symbol of renewal, of hope, of plenty. Chicks hatch from some, and that’s delightful because they are cute and fluffy (and because when they fall asleep they instantly flop over and doze, awkwardly and ridiculously, however and wherever they fall). But really, baby chicks mean more eggs will come.

Lucas in the school orchard #waldorf #spring

Eggs aren’t the only symbol of springtime renewal, of course. And we honor them all: workable earth, seeds for planting, tender sprouts, fresh edible greens growing where there had been snow. Flowers mean bees and bees mean fruits. Pregnant livestock give birth. Milk and honey flow.

All of these are longed-for signs that life will continue, that mothers and fathers can feed their babes.

Happy Ostara!

Chinese New Year 2013

Chinese New Year at home

Tofu stir fry with pot stickers for dinner tonight. Gung Hay Fat Choy! upload

Gung Hay Fat Choy! Happy New Year!

Today was a busy day at home. The boys tackled making both class sets of valentines, with some support from us. We worked on our family book-related art project, which I cannot wait to show you (when it’s finished). Ian and I both worked. And we washed tons of laundry. When the day wound down to evening and I realized we needed a grocery run for tonight’s dinner and to be ready for next week, I trudged out for supplies. Meanwhile, Lucas tackled chores, spelling words, and piano practice. (What a great kid!) We had a 6-year-old hunger meltdown while Daddy prepared a simple dinner of tofu stir fry and pot stickers.

Add a candle, a red place mat, and some toy snakes, and break out the chopsticks and—voila! Instant celebration! I love that my kids enjoy all types of foods. Asher will tell you he doesn’t like tofu, but he gobbles it up! Anyway, I have a Chinese New Year craft project to do with the boys, but frankly we did so much arts and crafts this weekend that I knew I’d be pushing my luck if I brought it out. Perhaps tomorrow.

 

Santa Lucia Morning

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Santa Lucia Day Breakfast

Good morning! And happy Santa Lucia Day!

Santa Lucia Day Breakfast

We ate a lovely breakfast of eggs and Lussekatter buns. Daddy told us about winter in Sweden and Santa Lucia Day—about how he used to walk to school in the dark and he wouldn’t see the sun until lunchtime, and then would have to walk home in the dark at 3 p.m.

Lussekatter for Santa Lucia Day

The Lussekatter turned out beautifully this year. My recipe is on my post from last year. These simple celebrations are getting me ready for Solstice and Christmas, I think. There’s something exciting about baking at 10 p.m. And while I am in no way a “morning person,” I love early morning magic!

Star Boy crown

I made two star boy crowns yesterday afternoon for $2 each. They are … improvised. A wreath and a 6 foot length of very soft “florist wire,” both from the Dollar Store. I just bent the wire into three continuous stars and put a little wave in between them, then wrapped the ends around the back of the wreath and tucked them in. This design fit the small wreath perfectly.

I have everything I need to make pointy felt star boy hats like the ones Ian wore when he celebrated Santa Lucia Day at his university in Sweden in 1993, but I didn’t get the time to do it this year.

Star Boy crown for Santa Lucia Day

I think the crowns are cute, but my own stjärngossar (star boys) didn’t much want to wear them. Alas.

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It rained last night, and there are shimmering jewels on the branches, sparkling in the weak winter sun.

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Have a beautiful day!

Almond Shortbread Calderas Cookies

Almond shortbread calderas cookies. I kind of made them up.

Halloween was a big deal for us this year. Big projects, big fun. Today I’ve been so tired that I just felt like trying to put our home back together again, creating some order out of the costuming chaos, and getting back to normal (chaos). More about Halloween later, but …

I meant to make these groovy witch finger cookies on Halloween, but there wasn’t time to do it. I wondered if I could use a similar recipe to create something fun for Dia de los Muertos. Honestly I didn’t know if these would work.

1 cup butter softened (which to me means microwaved for 35–40 seconds after being in the fridge; is that what it really means?)
3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 cups whole wheat flour
flowery sprinkles or stars (optional)

Butter sugar almond cookies. I have no idea how these will turn out when they are baked.

Cream together butter and sugar, add vanilla and almond flavorings, and then add in flour, a half cup at a time. Roll about a tablespoon of dough into a ball. With the end of a big spoon, chopstick, or other poky object, poke two eye holes. With a knife, draw a mouth line. With the tines of a fork, make a quick stroke up from the mouth line to make upper teeth, and another stroke down to make lower teeth. With a narrow skewer or similar object, make a little triangle nose hole. Now with your thumb and forefinger pinch the jaw of your face a little to make it narrower than the cranium. Place the skull on a greased cookie sheet. The most important feature of your caldera is the eye holes, so if they’ve become too squished while making the other features, use the same eye-hole making object to poke the eye holes again to make them nice and round and dominate the skull shape. Do this a bunch of times till you use up all the dough. Asher (5 years old) enjoyed making skulls too, and his are pretty great.

Now, if you want your calderas skulls to be flowery, push some flower sprinkles or stars, or whatever into the skulls. Personally, I think a few flowers go a long way toward creating the Dia de los Muertos look. I didn’t put flowers on all of my cookies and the plain ones look pretty cool too.

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Here they are baked—simultaneously cheerful and spooky—and ready to eat. They got a bit bigger in the baking, but kept their basic shape beautifully. By the way, I used whole wheat flour because that’s what I had. Because of the whole wheat flour, I upped the sugar to 3/4 cup. Your skulls will look whiter if you use all purpose flour, and you might not need as much sugar.

How’s that for a recipe post created late on the night of the holiday for which it is appropriate? OK, night-night. I hope you’ve had a lovely day and that you were were able to take a moment to remember those you love who have passed out of this world. Remember them fondly.

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  • About Sara

    Thanks for visiting! I'm Sara, editor and writer, wife to Ian, and mother of two precious boys. I am living each day to the fullest and with as much grace, creativity, and patience as I can muster. This is where I write about living, loving, and engaging fully in family life and the world around me. I let my hair down here. I learn new skills here. I strive to be a better human being here. And I tell the truth.

    Our children attend Waldorf school and we are enriching our home and family life with plenty of Waldorf-inspired festivals, crafts, and stories.

    © 2003–2017 Please do not use my photographs or text without my permission.

    "Love doesn't just sit there like a stone; it has to be made, like bread, remade all the time, made new." —Ursula K. LeGuinn

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