Thursday, October 6, 2011

Since I was here last I decided to be a flapper for Halloween. I'm SO excited to be competing in a costume contest for the first time ever. The Rooster will be Mayhem, of the AllState insurance commercials. Hopefully I can create a realistic looking bruise with make-up. I'd rather not give him a black eye the traditional way.

Tonight I made pumpkin spice lattes for me and the Rooster. I love Starbucks pumpkin spice, so when my mom sent me this link I hardly dared to hope anything I made at home would measure up. I couldn't have been more wrong! It's a simple recipe. Milk, strong coffee (I used instant decaf), pumpkin, pumpkin pie spice, vanilla, and sugar all go in a small pot on the stove.

Heat until steamy, wisk to create frost, and serve! I didn't achieve much froth, but I'm ok with that.
 (There are rules in our house about mugs. The Big Ben mug belongs to the Rooster. The Eiffel Tower mug belongs to me. I get upset when he uses my mug.)
I topped with whipped cream and a drizzle of caramel. Can you say YUM? I sure did! The pumpkin flavor was so rich and delicious, way better than fake syrup. I used half the amount of vanilla called for, mostly because I'm almost out. My dear readers, you have to try this one! If you listen to nothing else I tell you for the rest of pumpkin month listen to me this once: make this latte. One thing I discovered in this process, there's a reason the baristas at Starbucks keep the caramel in those squeezy bottles. It's impossible to drizzle caramel on a drink with a spoon. Not that I was upset about the big lump of caramel that fell in my drink, it just wasn't as pretty as it could have been.

Earlier this week I tried Target's store brand (Archer Farms) Pumpkin Pie yogurt. Delicious! I was originally under the impression that all Archer Farms items were organic, but that's not true. This was lowfat yogurt, it may have had some artificial sweetener, I didn't study the label. It was a lovely seasonal treat. Their Vanilla Maple was good too. The Rooster wasn't impressed with the Apple Cider flavor, and I'll be trying Apple Cobbler tomorrow. They were a great deal at $.50 each.

Have you started decorating for fall yet?

Monday, October 3, 2011

Oatmeal & Yogurt, plus a Dream Come True

Leftover pumpkin is just a delicious something or other waiting to happen. I'm happy to just add a little Splenda, cinnamon, and nutmeg, and warm it up in the microwave. All the delicious flavor of pumpkin pie with so few calories, it's ridiculous! Try it, really, you'll love it. Instead of my basic, though, I went for pumpkin oatmeal. YUM! I didn't have time to cook up a batch of steel cut oats last night, and the poochies were in rare form this morning, so I had to dump the pumpkin in a bowl and grab a packet of instant to cook up at work. The instant was maple & brown sugar, and it really complimented the pumpkin perfectly, while the pumpkin tamed the somewhat overboard sweetness of the oatmeal. Just what I wanted for breakfast on this chilly autumn morning!

Lunch brought yogurt plus pumpkin apple butter. I was a little concerned about the interaction of my Trader Joe's European Style Organic yogurt, which is a bit thinner than traditional plain yogurt, and the apple butter. I've become addicted to plain yogurt plus frozen fruit plus honey. To me, it just tastes better. It works best with Greek yogurt, because as the fruit defrosts you get a lot of natural juices flowing, and I think the fruit pulls some of the moisture out of the yogurt somehow. With traditional yogurt the result can be pretty thin. So when I added the pumpkin apple butter (not frozen) to the European yogurt, I was afraid it would end up being something I could sip through a straw. Not so! It stayed thick, and the butter gave it such a rich flavor; it was lovely.

Now, as I've mentioned, I LOVE Halloween. I don't know if that's emphatic enough. I luuuuuurrrrrrrrvvvvvvve Halloween! It's just so much fun! And I've always dreamed that my house would be the house that every kid looked forward to visiting on Trick or Treat night. Just slightly creepy, but mostly fun and over the top. Maybe a cauldron full of dry ice, definitely some spider webs on the porch (because obviously in this fantasy I live in a house with a huge wrap around porch), Rooster lurking somewhere dressed like a vampire/Frankenstein's monster/mummy to scare the older kids, and pumpkin sculptures in the yard. Well, when I opened the 2011 Halloween issue of Martha Stewart and saw her version of my little dream, I almost got choked up! It's exactly what I want my someday house to look like. Glowing windows, spider webs and pumpkin towers on the porch, and eyes peering out between the porch railings. Go out and look at a copy. I can't tell you how much I want to work my way up to something like that. When I do, you're all invited!

Now go eat something pumpkin!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

A Month of Pumpkin

Before I get to my main post, I want to say that I've been meaning to post about Liam's birthday, but I'm not sure what I want to say yet. I will get to that eventually. 

Fall is one of my favorite times of year for so many reasons. My birthday is at the end of October, which lends a feeling of excitement and expectation, and I've always loved Halloween. This year I'm actually enjoying our first cool snap, since our fireplace is in working order. We had a fire last night and tonight, and I just can't get enough.

The crackling sound is so soothing, the smell is delicious, and our living room is nice and toasty warm!

Back to fall. I love carving pumpkins, decorating the house (a la Martha Stewart), coming up with a costume, and the food! Oh, how I love pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread... If you put pumpkin in it, I'll probably eat it. I even convinced the Rooster to make Pumpkin Chili once, and it was delicious! So when I found out that Gooseberry Patch was offering an entire cookbook of Pumpkin recipes free for download to Kindle, I snatched it up. As I paged through the recipes I thought about the movie Julie & Julia, and how that blogger got her start cooking her way through Julia Child's The Art of French Cooking, and I thought "what if I made one of these recipes every day in October?"

And so, my Month of Pumpkin was born. Due to my 30th birthday this month I'm forgoing my annual Halloween party, and I've taken a season off from the chorale I normally sing with, so I don't have as much to take up my time. The perfect opportunity! Unfortunately, I developed a nasty ear infection in the last few days of September, and on October 1st I was not exactly up for cooking.

This afternoon I felt much better, so I went right ahead and knocked out two recipes. First, I whipped up a batch of pumpkin pie spice. Yeah, yeah, easy stuff. I could have just bought some, but why bother when I already have all of the required spices in my cabinet? Besides, there was a recipe for it in the book. Easily accomplished. Besides, the next recipe called for it.

Next, I set out to make Pumpkin Apple Butter—two things I love combined, and the recipe seemed pretty simple. I peeled some MacIntosh apples, which are my fave for pie, so I thought they'd work for butter.

Then I cored and grated them. If I had it to do over I'd run them through the food processor until they were like applesauce. We'll get to that part later.

Then I measured out the pumpkin (thanks to Mama-hen for finding it, since there was none to be had in Leola), apple juice,

pumpkin pie spice, and brown sugar (dark).

It all went into a medium pot.
I brought it to a boil, and then turned it down to simmer and prepared to wait 1.5 hours for it to be done. As the first hour went by I started to wonder if I had done something wrong. I used my box grater to grate the apple, but I guess it was more of a shred. The apple didn't break down the way I expected. So when it looked like this after the full cooking time,

I dumped it into the food processor and blended it to a lovely velvety consistency.

I put it back on the stove to try to cook a little more liquid out of it, and once it cooled I spread some on bread and it is delicious!

The pumpkin and apple play well together, giving it a sweet, caramel-like flavor. Perfect for stirring into oatmeal, spreading on toast, or... well, that's pretty much all I can think of at the moment, but it's darn good. I plan on trying it mixed with yogurt tomorrow, as an experiment. I'll let you know how it goes.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Four Quartets

What we call the beginning
is often the end.
And to make our ends
is to make a beginning
The end is where we start from.
~ T. S. Eliot

We're planning a party to commemorate the anniversary of the day Liam was born. His birthday. I've pulled out a book, Still to be Born which has an order form in the back for birth announcements for subsequent children, as well as invitations to a first birthday party. I'll admit it, I'm using their text as a guide for the invitation we're designing. Might be out and out plagiarism, but somehow I think the authors would understand. They're not out to make money, they just want to give people someplace to go to order these sorts of things. Cause I'll tell you, the internet has a lot of things, but I haven't found anything for this (yet). As I was flipping through the book, I found this T.S. Eliot quote and remembered how much I enjoyed Four Quartets. I'm going to have to find it somewhere and re-read it. Mr. Eliot quotes Julian of Norwich in the same poem:

All shall be well 
and all manner of thing shall be well.

Julian's version was a bit longer.

All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.

And she said that God told her that. What comforting words! Even the rhythm is soothing. To think that God gave her such amazing revelation... I think that those are words every bereft parent needs to hear. Maybe not in the first week, or the first month. But with almost a year under my belt, I can hear those words and the truth rings through. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Waiting is the Hardest Part Two

I realized today that yesterday's post was somewhat incomplete, and I sort of stopped mid-thought. So, where was I?

The rain falls on the just and the unjust. The truth is, there's nothing intrinsically wrong with my plan, how I'd like my life to work out. It's just that God's plan is better. He sees my whole life, and to Him there are good and probably manifold reasons why it was not in His plan for us to have a baby this past January. Someday, when I get to heaven, I'll get my answers, and all of the pain and frustration will be gone. Does that make me feel better today? A little. Do I spend my days skipping around like a little ray of sunshine? Uh, no. But I haven't lost hope. Even when it feels like it will be forever until I get the answers I seek, I know that the answers exist and that whatever God holds for the Rooster and me is infinitely better than what I can imagine. In the mean time, I hope that I can find a way to reach others who have been through the pain I've been through, ways to do good in honor of Liam. Every good deed I do because of him is a brick in what I hope will be the grand castle of his legacy. It's a way to take all of my frustrated energy, all the effort I ought to be putting into motherhood, and giving it another outlet.

Life is not always simple, easy, or clear, but God is always there to catch me when it feels like everything is falling apart.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

I'm dealing with a couple of situations in my life right now where I just have to wait and see what happens. Waiting is not my strong suit. If I have to wait for something, I distract myself. When I wait in line, I play Angry Birds on my phone or check Facebook. When I wait for a doctor, I read or knit. When I wait for documents to print at work, I do other work. Waiting at traffic lights makes me crazy. I rarely just sit and wait for anything. So when the timing of an event is out of my control, I don't know what to do.

Losing Liam has taught me that pretty much everything is out of my control, and that's not a fun realization to make. I used to think that I knew how my life would go. I did well in high school and participated in plenty of activities so I could get into a good college with a scholarship. I studied hard (and had lots of fun) and graduated college with honors. I met a wonderful man and after an appropriate length of time we got engaged. We got married, we bought a house, we got a dog. And after a reasonable amount of time, we decided to have a baby. For me, through all of that, I knew I wanted to be a mom. It was in the back of my mind all through college: what kind of job can I get so that I can be at home with my kids as much as possible? When I married my Rooster, I thought the right thing to do would be to wait several years to enjoy being young and somewhat free before we started having kids, even though I didn't want to wait that long. It was the right thing to do. I am so sick of doing the right thing.
 All of my life leading up to that horrifying moment in the hospital was planned. It all worked the way I expected it to work. I was a good person, I loved God, and I lived my life the right way, so God would bless me. I never had to work that hard for anything, and I didn't see why that should change. It's not as if I didn't work hard in school. I did, it just wasn't difficult for me. Being good wasn't difficult either. I don't know why, I'm just wired that way. I'm not saying I'm perfect, far from it. I'm just saying the most rebellious thing I've ever done is get my belly button pierced, and when I called my mom to tell her I was going, she said she thought it would be really cute (I was a bit disappointed). I've totally run off on a tangent, but the point is that my life has been pretty easy. This is the most difficult thing that has ever happened to me, and I pray it's the most difficult thing that ever will happen to me. I can't imagine anything much worse than burying your child.
Now I know how true the saying is, "Man plans, God laughs." I know what the plan would be if I was in charge. I can't see any flaws in the plan, even when I'm at my most objective. The things I want are good things, but there's nothing I can do to make those things happen in my timing. I used to believe that God would give me good things because I was a good person. Now I know that the rain falls on the just and the unjust.

Saturday, July 30, 2011


A week or two ago my mom brought me a bouquet of queen ann's lace for my cubicle at work. They were gorgeous (thanks Mom!), but little did I know they harbored stowaways. After it had been there a few days, I noticed something on the flowers out of the corner of my eye. A caterpillar! Upon closer inspection, there were two. One yellow, black and green striped, the other black and orange. I brought them home, someone gave me a big (empty) pickle jar to keep them in, and I started feeding them. It was a little difficult to figure out what kind of butterfly they'll be, but it turns out they're both Black Swallowtail caterpillars (visit this website for photos of each life stage)

They were well taken care of while we were on vacation (thank you Neighbors!), and just this morning I noticed that one of them is in pre-pupa stage. Soon he'll create a cocoon and take a little rest, and when he's ready he'll come out as a beautiful butterfly. I was hoping that the whole process would take long enough that we could release the butterflies on Liam's birthday, but according to the information I've read, it won't take that long. Either way, I'm excited to see this miracle unfold before my eyes.