Cooking & Eating

The Season of Thanksgiving Day Four: I’m Thankful for Bread

The girl loves homemade English muffins and staring at Mommy’s phone. You can kind of see the needlepoint in the background.

There is a piece of needlepoint hanging in my kitchen (I made it myself) that reads, “All sorrows are less with bread.” This is a quote by Miguel de Cervantes, from his famous masterwork, Don Quixote. It’s also kind of my motto for life.

I’m not just talking about eating bread, though I’m obviously a fan of that. There’s something about baking bread–mixing it, kneading it, watching it rise–that’s about the closest I get to going to therapy. It’s a little bit scientific, but it’s a science I mostly understand, so a good loaf of bread makes me feel smart. Once an understanding of that science is achieved, bread is a blank canvas for creativity and experimentation. A good loaf of bread from my own recipe makes me feel triumphant.

There’s almost no smell as wonderful as the smell of freshly baked bread. Almost nothing so satisfying and pummeling and hand-kneading the dough. Continue reading “The Season of Thanksgiving Day Four: I’m Thankful for Bread”

Friends & Family

The Season of Thanksgiving Day Three: I’m Thankful for Scout


I don’t say much about my cat, do I? Well, her name is Scout. She was born on April Fool’s Day (or so we like to think), 2002. That makes her fourteen-and-a-half years old and I can hardly believe it.

Scout came to my family because my mom was doing a play: You Can’t Take It With You. She’d landed the leading role, and for one scene of the play, her character was supposed to have two kittens. Bullheaded as he was, the director wouldn’t just cut the kittens or change it to “cat” and accept our fat, calm, Siamese as a substitute. And my mom really wanted to please him, and really wanted to do the role right. The kittens were her props, in a way, and so she signed us up to foster two sisters. One of those sisters was Scout. Continue reading “The Season of Thanksgiving Day Three: I’m Thankful for Scout”

Cooking & Eating, Friends & Family

The Season of Thanksgiving Day Two: I’m Thankful for Apple Days


Back in September, our family had one of those golden days. We took a long car ride, the baby napping while the boy happily watched cars and trucks go by, and ended up at an apple orchard, where we picked our weight in apples. It was a cute little farm, nothing too touristy, with good variety and neatly numbered rows. My husband played with the kids while I did the bulk of the picking, and then we wandered the rows, the boy ducking back and forth under the dividers and the girl riding on Daddy’s shoulders. Continue reading “The Season of Thanksgiving Day Two: I’m Thankful for Apple Days”

Friends & Family

The Season of Thanksgiving, Day One: I’m Thankful for Teachers

My son is three-and-a-half years old, and he attends a developmental delay preschool. It’s an amazing program, available for children who qualify as having significant delay in at least two areas (for Sam, it’s speech and fine motor, though they are in the process of adding gross motor to this list as well). They get up four days a week, get on a school bus, and go to school like the big kids. There are kids with all different kinds of challenges in the class, and Sam loves each and every one of them–he even has a best friend, and the bus driver tells me there’s a girl whose hand he holds every day climbing off the bus. But though he now has nearly a dozen friends to babble about, I know that his first loves in class were his teachers.

A small sampling of the artwork the boy has brought home from school, courtesy of his teachers and therapists. My favorite is a big green monster with a purple hat, but that one is taped to his bedroom door. Until starting preschool, the boy was never particularly proud of any such work, but now he tells me what I should hang up and where I should hang it.

Now, for rhetoric’s sake, I’m going to lump them all together as teachers: the actual teacher, the paraeducator, the occupational therapist and the speech language pathologist. Because when you get down to it, they all teach. At a recent parent-teacher conference, the OT showed me a photo she’d snapped of Sam coloring that robot. It might look like scribbles to you, but my boy has managed to put dots into circles and generally color within the lines, identifying each separate shape and using separate colors. And he smiled while he worked–not the cheesy, you’re-pointing-a-camera-at-me smile, but a real, Look-what-I-can-do! sort of smile. Continue reading “The Season of Thanksgiving, Day One: I’m Thankful for Teachers”

Cooking & Eating, Friends & Family

It’s the Season of Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving 2015. Pregnant mommy. No presidential election. Sam had gingersnaps for dinner and clearly, I did something strange to the turkey. Good times.

It’s that time of year, folks. The air is crisp. There’s Halloween candy in the pantry. The leaves continue to fall and, if you live somewhere rainy like I do, to plaster themselves together and cover your deck in wood-rotting, slug-filled piles. Everything you see on the internet is either election related, Christmas advertising, or people griping about either one of those things. Usually, though I believe myself to be at least one-eighth Christmas elf (if you doubt me, take a close look at my ears), I am in the camp that would prefer the Christmas season not to begin until the fourth Friday of November–but not this year. It’s November 4th and already I’ve watched four Christmas specials. Maybe it’s the election stress. Maybe it’s this cold that won’t stop strangling me. Or my increasingly precocious, increasingly needy, increasingly sleep-troubled eleven-month-old. Or my preschooler with ever-evolving special needs diagnoses (more on that some other time). Or something.

Anyhow, it is NOT Christmastime yet, and I do not want to wash up on Christmas Eve thinking, When will this ever end? It is still autumn, my favorite season of them all, and though the pumpkin patches are now closed there’s still plenty of fall fun to be had. More importantly, we have a holiday coming up that, at its core, reminds us to be thankful for what we have. In my case that’s a whole helluva lot. It’s a time to think of the positive, even when the negative rises all around. A feast to fortify us for the coming winter.

That’s what I’ve been looking for in those Christmas specials. Also, the aforementioned Halloween candy I can’t stop picking at. Sweetness. Warmth. Distraction.

So here’s what I’m going to do. Every day until Thanksgiving, I’m going to post something positive. Something I’m thankful for. And it won’t be one of those positive things that’s really an excuse to highlight something negative (e.g. I’m so thankful I have a safe car because there are so many ridiculous drivers on the road.) If you want to loop it up with something negative, that’s your prerogative, but me–I’m going to spend a little time on the bright side. I hope you’ll join me.

Reading & Writing

I Should Be NaNoWriMo-ing…

It’s November third, which means it’s day three of NaNoWriMo: what you might call a literary event, held every year, in which hundreds (thousands?) of writers sit down for a couple hours a day all November long and try to crank out a novel (or, at least, 50,000 words). It’s a task I’ve tried twice and completed once, both a long, long time ago. The time I “won” (they love their supportive and potentially over-the-top language on the NaNoWriMo site), I never ended up finishing the novel (even if 50,000 words were a full novel draft, which it ain’t, a first draft is not a finished product, I don’t care who you are), though I worked on it for a couple years after that. The novel I eventually did end up completing, which is in my agent’s (and several potential publishers’–eek! wish me luck!) hands at the moment, was the product of maybe five years all together, writing connected stories, figuring out my character, cobbling things together–about as opposite as you can get from the NaNoWriMo model. Because as much as people will tell you to spit out the first draft quickly and then fix it up later, that’s not how I work. New ideas come to me. I reroute and redirect. I comb through the old before I try to untangle the new.

So that’s why I’m NaNoWriMo-ing. Because it’s not me. Because I never work from an outline or spit things out quickly or write without looking back. And I will not cave to all those who would say that’s a bad thing, but I do believe that writers need to keep trying new things. I don’t want to write the same story over and over again, so why should I always write the same way? So this time, I have an outline (at least, through two-thirds of the book–plus a pretty good idea of the ending), and I’m plugging away during my baby’s naps and after the kids are sleeping and whatever stolen moments I need. And I’m already feeling the old urge to polish up the sentences before moving on but I won’t do it. Instead, I’m taking to the internet to publicly remind myself of why I’m doing this and how it is to be done.

That wast three hundred and seventy-nine words. Do they count toward my total?

Cooking & Eating, Friends & Family

Violet’s Tummy Yummies

img_0406My baby girl, in all her glory (pictured above), has a little problem that I think a lot of babies can relate to: she’s gassy. She’s gassy, and she only poops once or twice a week (TMI? Not if you’re a mom) and I’ve been searching for ways to help… move her along. She won’t eat prunes straight, and she’s not big into purees. We’re working on teaching her to use a straw, so she can start drinking smoothies with a little probiotic mixed in, but until then, I had to do something. So I came up with a cookie recipe. It’s loosely based on the British digestive, which was originally developed for similar medicinal purposes but is now most often enjoyed as an afternoon snack, dunked in tea, with no thought of digestion at all. Here’s hoping that these somewhat chewy, healthy cookies, will become a regular treat (pun intended) for my darling baby. She’s happily gnawing on one now, and I’d say she’s getting about half of it down, which is pretty good for such a wee one.



1/4 cup prunes

1/2 cup oatmeal

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1/4 cup wheat germ

pinch salt (optional)

1/2 cup applesauce (no sugar added)



Preheat the oven to 375 F

In the bowl of a food processor, blitz the prunes until they look quite mushy. Add the oatmeal, flour, and salt and blitz again until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add applesauce and pulse until all the crumbs are moistened (it won’t come together in a ball–don’t worry, you will smush it all together in a minute).

Lay a large sheet of plastic wrap on the counter and dump the contents of your food pro onto it. Use the plastic to help you press the crumbs together into a nice rectangle, then lay another sheet of plastic wrap on top and roll the rectangle to about a quarter inch thick, using your fingers to neaten the edges if you care about that sort of thing. Turn the rectangle onto a sheet of parchment paper, and put the parchment paper on a baking sheet. Cut the rectangle into pieces, as pictured below (I did 14. You could do 16 or 12.) No need to separate them at all, as long as they’re cut through. Bake for 11 minutes, until nice and firm.