Saturday, January 30, 2010


I love this purse and have just the right fabric for one (thank you, free patterns!). Now I just need some more thread.
I discovered this blog yesterday. Beautiful.
I'm proud that there's not too much that captures my consummeristic desires these days, but is it wrong to say, "ooh! ooh! i want, i want, i want!"
And I think that there are some baby pinafores coming Lily's way. I love making stuff for that cutie.

And here's a little snapshot from our normal: lovely idea, Anna. Those may or may not be my pajama bottoms, lying just where I took them off. Note to self: tidy house. And do you recognize that mirror, Annie? Yet to be hung up, but lovely nevertheless.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Instrument of Peace

It was one of those mornings: not enough sleep, a lingering disagreement, a sniffly child. A grumpy morning. A pity-party morning. One where I was just a hair away from giving in to that little sliver in every soul that loves the drama, loves to feel miserable.

And then the words came to my mind like some beautiful unexpected gift. Arose in my memory out of nowhere, and gave me the space to take a single deep breath. And then another. And then I clung to those words all morning, repeating them over and over so that my mind could not travel anywhere else. They were my anchor, reminding me in every second to choose to be a present, to choose to celebrate.

I emerged out of it. In time to apologize. In time to transform the mood in the home into something a little more joyous. In time to say a prayer with that man I love more than words before he left for work. And all I am left with is a speechless thank you. And the lingering taste of that curious experience, the unexpected transformation of grace.

Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury,pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen

(photo Ben's)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Naptime Tunic

To clarify: this tunic is not for naptime, but rather it was made during naptime-- a charmed hour and a half that I had this afternoon when both of my sweeties were blissfully sleeping. I came across this tutorial this morning, and it claimed that it only took an hour or so to make a cute little peasant top for your toddler, so I thought, why not? I have tons of thrifted bedsheets laying there just tempting me to try new projects (I was tickled to find that a single pillow case yields almost the perfect amount of fabric for this toddler-sized top. And it saves you from having to do the hem if you just use the existing hem).
And it really would have taken an hour if I were not such a beginning sewer. Although, I am quite proud to announce that I did something that I have been dreading for months now: adjusting the tension. And I am so glad that I did it, because the machine works wonders now.
Now if I could just find an adult version of this shirt, I would be all set.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Make Me Smile

A colorful scarf to wear around my head, neck, or waist. Or all three in one day.

A sweet vintage book we found at our new favorite used bookstore. It has captured my wee one's heart. And my heart too.

Little reminders that there are tiny children present. All around the house.

This blog part of Steady Mom's 30-minute blog challenge. Other 30-minute moms, please let me know if a picture post is cheating. Because we certainly want to abide by the rule around here. :-)

Irene's Hat

I'm hooked on this pattern-- it's just so incredibly lovely to knit. No cables, but it ends up looking all textured, and very easy to throw together (it generally takes two leisurely days of knitting during my free moments). And the ribbed area by the ears is doubled up, which makes it extra warm for chilly winter days.

Here's my sister Irene's hat-- yarn her choosing, and I like the way it turned out. Sort of oatmealy. And somehow I am continuing my trend of wearing hats I intend to give as gifts. Oh well.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Quinoa with Peppers

I have been trying to reduce/cut out gluten around here-- I'm prone to eczema, especially in the winter, and I heard that gluten is a common allergen that can cause dry skin. I'm one week into the gluten-free thing, and aside from a major laps this weekend, the week has gone quite well (I felt I had more energy, was naturally gravitating towards healthier whole foods, still finding ways to eat with my family). One grain that has a cult following among gluten-free and non-gluten free alike is Quinoa, a grain that I have never cooked with before. So I picked up a box at TJ's and started by trying the recipe right off the box (which actually ended up getting modified substantially, largely out of necessity)-- I was skeptical, but it was absolutely delicious, filling, and much quicker than starting brown rice from scratch. We served it with some tilapia, but really it would go wonderfully with just about any meat, or would make a great simple dinner on its own. And our two kids actually loved it, too. Although Z picked out the peppers.

Quinoa with Peppers
1 cup TJ's Organic Quinoa, prepared with chicken stock, according to package directions
2 cups TJ's chicken broth
(combine and simmer for 10-15 minutes, until absorbed)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
1/2 green bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
5 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
20 leaves fresh sweet basil, julienne
Grated Parmesan Cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Heat large skillet over high heat and add oil. Add onions, bell peppers; saute for one or two more minutes; add garlic, and saute until peppers become slightly limp, but still bright, about one to two minutes; season with salt and pepper. Remove the pan from heat; add quinoa. Garnish with Parmesan cheese.

For more Monday Meal Challenge (our little attempt at trying a new recipe each week), see what some friends are doing: knitter mama, Young Ones, Whirliegig, Chicken Counting Once Upon a Parent and Earth Mama. And feel free to join in, too. The more the merrier!

Sunday, January 24, 2010


“People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don't even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child -- our own two eyes. All is a miracle.”

Thich Nhat Hanh

Saturday, January 23, 2010

What you may see from the street

Hello there! So nice to see you passing by my home! Won't you come in?

Really, it would be so sweet of you to come just a bit closer. I would love to have a chat.

The thing is, I really really like you. Won't you just lean in... a bit closer...

for a lovely little kiss?

Oh, thank you. That was nice.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

A Child's Temperament

In our journey into parenthood, we have often thought about the temperament of our two children. The question we keep coming back to is, "How do we treat our two very unique children in a way that fosters growth, acceptance, a feeling of being loved, and behavior that allows our family to keep functioning?"

I had a huge "aha" moment a few months ago when I stumbled upon the Waldorf temperament classifications. The four types, melancholic, sanguine, phlegmatic and choleric are so helpful in understanding children. And, while each person contains elements of each personality type, often one or two are dominant, which is certainly the case in our own family.

Each temperament has gifts and challenges. And knowing the temperament of your child (or spouse/roommate, whatever) is a tool in building understanding.

For example, our eldest child is a very dominant melancholic. This means that she has an extremely strong ability to empathize with others, is very exact in what she does, and can be quite silly (as a side, melancholics are the most likely to enter into service professions or become artists). It also means that she can wallow in self-pity for what appears, to other temperaments, to be no good reason. She loves drama and seems to love to dwell on minor bumps in the road. There have been so many times that Ben and I have looked at one another and done everything in our power to suppress laughter at this tiny little person who experiences emotions so intensely. But of course, to her, it is no laughing matter.

And in reading about temperament, I have learned that the best thing for a melancholic child is to acknowledge their emotions and allow them to wallow for a bit-- that's just what their personality needs. Recounting stories of your own suffering is a wonderful teaching tool, as are stories and tales that involve a character overcoming extreme adversity to obtain a goal (we had a good laugh last night when Zosia asked me again and again to recount a story about how I once broke my tooth. She loved it). And if we can allow her to grow into a empathetic and mature melancholic it will be a gift not only to her, but to the world.

Our baby, on the other hand, seems to be phlegmatic (she is only 9 months so we can't really say for sure, but it's amazing how quickly a child's temperament becomes evident). She is as easy going as they come. She is happy and adaptable and slow (phlegmatics are the easiest temperament as babies... happy and mellow). But this temperament has its challenges, too. Phlegmatics are slow to act, can be stubborn, and prone to lethargy. So as she blossoms into toddlerhood, knowing and understanding her personality will be key to being centered and loving in parenting her. She will need extra time, extra encouragement, concrete expectations. It might be tricky to propel her into action, because she is generally content in inaction. But at her best she is sweet and loyal, not at all unlike that daddy of hers that I love so much.

So here we are with these two beautiful children-- two individuals with their own preferences, personalities, and gifts to give to the world. I am humbled by the challenge before me: to celebrate, love and encourage each of these two individuals in a way that makes each of them their best person.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Pale Pink

Yesterday, during that sweet silence right after both girls go down for their nap, he casually looked at me and said something to the tune of, "I was wondering if you wanted to get your nails done today." As if this was a normal thing to say. As if the last time that I "got my nails done" wasn't over two years ago-- when I was hopelessly pregnant with our older daughter, and I hobbled down to the nearest nail place in the only flip flops that would accommodate my swollen feet. To paint my toenails in some sort of defiant gesture to the fact that I could no longer even see my toes.

I am not one of those women who gets her nails done. It's not something I even think of these days. What? With washing dishes and wiping noses and sweeping floors. Painted nails seem like some sort of luxurious relic of a bygone era of my life... or maybe some future era, sipping tea with old friends with our frail hands covered in tissue-paper skin. But today? In the thick of parenthood?

I went. And despite what I initially thought, I actually loved it. The new nail place up the street is calm and quiet, has soothing piano music-- not the noisy, noxious salon I had imagined. I took my knitting and relished the peace. And all of today I have been doing double takes at my hands and feet-- which, unexpectedly, inappropriately, are a shiny pale pink. What a sweet husband I have.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Colorful Crockpot Beef Stew

I love cooking with a crockpot. It's just so wonderful to set up a meal in the morning and know it will be ready for dinnertime. And, especially when cooking meat, I feel that using a crockpot yields a more tender result than other cooking methods. This Christmas we received a lovely crockpot that I have been dying to try out. So today, I improvised upon a classic crockpot recipe and created something that uses whole, unprocessed food, a little less meat and a few more veggies than the classic version. I hope you enjoy! It smells wonderful, but I won't know for sure until dinner tonight. I'll post a comment and let you know the final verdict.

Colorful Crockpot Beef Stew

1 pound thinly sliced beef (we used "stir fry" beef)
1/2 cup flour (we used whole wheat... I'm sure you could use gluten free, too)
Kosher salt and pepper
3 cups broth or water
1 T Worcestershire sauce
2 cloves garlic
handful of small red potatoes, quartered
1 onion, chopped
3 stalks celery, sliced
2 carrots, chopped
1 cup swiss chard, chopped roughly

1. Sprinkle flour, salt and pepper over meat in crockpot
2. Add remaining ingredients and stir well
3. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours, on high for 4-5 hours, or until meat is tender. Stir thoroughly before serving.

For more Monday Meal Challenge (our little attempt at trying a new recipe each week), check out knitter mama, Young Ones, Whirliegig, Chicken Counting Once Upon a Parent and Earth Mama. And feel free to join in, too. The more the merrier!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Pain Transformed

“When we become aware that we do not have to escape our pains, but that we can mobilize them into a common search for life, those very pains are transformed from expressions of despair into signs of hope”
-Henri Nouwen

Saturday, January 16, 2010


We cleaned the house out... even the window sills.

The guests arrived to a tower of cupcakes. Oh, to see the joy on the faces of those five children. Not to mention my own.

And the birthday girl, that sweet niece of mine, loved the hat I made her.

It was a lovely afternoon with laughs, stories, and some of the people most dear to my heart.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Sewing a Dress

My experience of sewing thus far has been full of extremes-- there are the picnic blankets that I've been making, a very large-scale sort of project, and then there are little projects, things like these coffee cozies, or these country angels. So I am happy to report that I am undertaking a nice middle-of-the road sort of project: a dress for myself using a cute vintage pattern I picked up at the thrift store. I'm still hunting for some fabric-- I am checking back at the thrift store for something that is colorful and makes me think of spring, and if that isn't successful, I might just splurge and go to the fabric store. But I'm getting excited about the possibility of making my own clothes... talk about saving some money.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


My heart has been elsewhere these past few days. I lay awake at night, thinking about other mothers, other children who are hurt, separated, terrified. My heart is with them, sending prayers for healing and hope amid the wreckage in Haiti. My heart, that same heart that was opened and expanded by love for my own two children, has been broken.

Just like you, we have been earnestly praying. And just like you, we are saving every last penny we can scrounge to send over there.

Here's where we're planning on sending our money. But really, there are so many organizations who are diving into the relief effort.

And I'm holding on so close to those people that I love, laughing at my own selfishness and childishness, trying not to let this harden my heart. And praying. Because sometimes that's all you can really manage.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Tasty Update

Remember I said I was going to order tastebooks for the women in Ben's family for Christmas? I promised an update, and here it is, inspired by Small Notebook's discussion of recipe organization.

I'm always hesitant to plug products. We're all trying to buy less, not more. And I am totally committed to keeping this space free of advertisements. But I do mention books/products that really work, and tastebook is one such product.

In Ben's family, there are many treasured family recipies-- Christmas cookies topping the list. These are recipes passed down through generations of German women, taken into exile in Russia (there's a fascinating family story), and finally taken across the ocean here. They're so special and yummy, and here's the problem: with a large family (Ben's mom has nine grandchildren and counting), there is only one set of hand-printed cards. And we want these recipes to survive.

Then there are the other recipes: things that we sister-in-laws have enjoyed at one another's tables and said, "Oh, won't you give me that recipe." So our Collins Family Table cookbook has all these things. And it looks lovely, don't you think? I imagine an industrious and crafty person could pull together an equally professional looking book on their own, but I appreciated the help. It makes it so easy, I promise! If you want to see our recipes, you can "friend" me on tastebook to see them. And if you're on and have some to share, I'd love to hear about it!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A Cosleeping Situation

Sleeping is a complicated subject in our house. We generally start out the night in our proper places: me and Ben in our room, Zosia in hers, Lily in hers. But by the time 8 am rolls around, we are often somewhere else entirely-- babies in grown up beds, grown ups snuggled up with babies on the couch. Ditto with nap time. And somehow, this seems to work for us: our kids are wonderful sleepers, we are rested and happy during the day, as are they. Truth be told, cosleeping helps us get a little more sleep than usual. We've learned that when we pull a little one in with us at 6, we can usually squeeze out a couple extra hours of sleep, and who doesn't love that?

So this weekend in the interest of facilitating this enjoyable little habit, we set up an official family bed. It's a simple foam mattress, only a few inches off the floor so we don't have to worry about anyone rolling out and getting hurt. It's in Lily's room, and has no clear cut rules-- it's a comfy and warm bed, covered with a nice down comforter, that is available for sleeping, snuggling, reading. As a graduate of cosleeping myself (I coslept with my sister until I was well into elementary school), I know what sweet memories cosleeping can lead to. Some of my own fondest childhood memories were formed while snuggling and laughing at bedtime, telling stories, waking up together.

Somehow, our own family bed has turned into a favorite play area for toddler, baby, and parents. One day I would love to transition our kids into a full time cosleeping situation with one another. But in the mean time, we're enjoying the flexibility, warmth, and sweetness of our little cosleeping situation.

Completed in 14 minutes.

This is part of Steady Mom's 30-minute blog challenge.

Monday, January 11, 2010

New Recipe: Black Bean Sweet Potato Burritos

My family has a deep and undying love of burritos-- especially when I make the tortillas myself. So when I undertook the challenge of trying a new recipe this week, Black Bean Sweet Potato Burritos from my Simply in Season cookbook looked like a great choice-- easy, using whole, seasonal foods, and with an interesting flavor combination. And I've been trying to cook vegetarian a couple nights a week.
I made the tortillas myself, using this recipe, but with whole wheat flour. Quite unlike store bought tortillas-- a little fluffier, and with beautiful irregularity in shape. And the rest was easy as can be, and produced something entirely unlike the burritos that I usually make-- creamy, a little spicy and little sweet. And Lily actually loved them most of all, finishing off handful after handful of the filling on her own.

Black Bean Sweet Potato Burritos

3 cups sweet potatoes (peeled and diced)
1/2 onion (chopped)
Saute in large frypan in 1 tablespoon oil just until tender. Add water or apple juice as needed to prevent sticking.

2 cups cooked black beans
1 teaspoon ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
Add and cook until heated through.

8 flour tortillas
1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese (shredded)
Divide bean mixture and cheese among the tortillas and roll up. Place in a 9X13 inch baking pan. Lightly spray with olive oil if desired. Cover pan with foil and bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes. Garnish with sour cream, salsa, and fresh cilantro.

And for the record, I only made one plate look all pretty... the rest were more do-it-yourself. :-)

Head over to Once Upon a Parent and KnitterMama for more new recipes!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

A Menagerie

Here are a few additions to our play material-- some lovely little finger puppets made by my sister Irene, an artist among many other things. They're all pretty much made of felt, embroidery floss, and those googly little eyes-- definitely a doable project for a loving parent or even older child. Bonus points to anyone who can name all of the animals (and there are some under-represented ones in our collection!).

Happy weekend wanderings!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Hello Operator

We've been becoming more and more creative with our time indoors around here-- which is my optimistic way of saying that the combination of sickness and cold weather have succeeded in keeping us hunkered down in this warm home of ours for many days now. And we've been trying to make the best of it-- Monday night we played with my sister Irene and made our 6-minute chocolate cake, Tuesday we actually made it out for a walk (ah, to go for a walk), Wednesday I gave Ben a break at home and the kids and I went to the petstore and out to lunch, and then Thursday I was fully convinced that I was all better when, as I opened my mouth to greet Ben on the phone, I realized that I had lost my voice. So back to square one.

I'm always amazed how simple household objects have a way of capturing the imagination of children. Who needs noisy store bought toys when a simple old fashioned phone (one that we used for many years and has since been sitting in the basement) provides such great amusement? I only wish I were standing a little closer so I could hear her whispered conversations.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Mama's Hat

And here's the adult version! Not sure that it's going to stay with me... but until I send it on its way to its new home, I'm filling it with sweet thoughts, prayers, and positive energy.
And how could I not include a post of two of my babies? Zosia, jumping like a frog in jubilation after I painted her toenails red (Her new litany of love for me goes something like this..."I love you, mommy. You do all the things I like to do. You paint my toenails, you paint my face." And after something like that how could I refuse?)
And sweet little Lily sharing a pensive moment.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

A Handy Mistake

I'm thankful for having a variety of head sizes around here-- I loved this "star crossed slouchy hat" (free download on Ravelry) but didn't have quite the right circular needle size (I'm guessing mine were around an 8 rather than an 11)... and apparently that's just fine, because it results in a perfect little toddler hat. And then once I did get a hold of some size 11 needles, I had enough yarn left in my ball of yarn to make an adult hat, too (will possibly take pictures when I am no longer a sniffly mess). I love it when mistakes work out like that.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Dealing with Rivalry Graciously

Since our two kids are not only small, but fairly close in age, we haven't had to deal with the rivalry issue too much in the past few months. Just when I thought that perhaps, by some magic gift, we had skipped the rivalry stage altogether, here it is, staring us square in the face. Our little baby has started crawling, meaning that she no longer gives our toddler much space... and that has tipped us out of balance. In one late night parent strategy session, Ben and I decided to just lay out a plan and stick to it, and see how it goes.

1. Try to keep problems from cropping up
*Give each child ample play space by setting them up separately from time to time
*Increase one on one time with each child while rivalry seems intense: this has been surprisingly effective in our household! I never imagined that a date with mommy would lead to a pleasant disposition all of the next day.
*Set expectations at the beginning of trips and play times (I'm setting Lily up with this toy so she can play with it by herself, etc)
*Give children plenty of opportunities for exercise, artistic expression, and adult interaction. Make sure that immediate needs, like hunger, thirst, and warmth are met. Seems obvious but I must admit I often forget the basics myself!

2. Deal with problems graciously but firmly when they arise
*Use child's temperament to guide reaction: for example, our 2 year old feels things very strongly and is quite likely to respond to empathy if we give an explanation. A more physical child may need something like physical separation.
*Have zero tolerance for physical aggression, but give the child some outlet for their emotions: "I can tell you're feeling angry. Do you want to show me how that feels on this pillow?"
*Acknowledge the emotion that is leading to an action without encouraging the behavior.
*Take a deep breath, give thanks for one wonderful thing your child has done in that day, say a prayer, and wait for a better day.

One week into our experiment things feel like they're leveling out. Parenthood seems to be a delicate mix of chance, grace, and effort, so who knows exactly what has pulled us back into equilibrium. But I do have more peace knowing that I have a plan of action to help deal with the problem-- a plan that is gracious and loving, yet addresses our family's issues.

Okay, experienced mamas and papas out there, how do you deal with rivalry? I'm taking notes!

Completed in 18 minutes.

This blog is a part of Steady Mom's 30-minute blog challenge. Less time blogging, more time for parenthood. Amen to that.

Monday, January 4, 2010

An Ornament Book

I've always wanted to be intentional about Christmas ornaments-- getting at least one special ornament for each child every Christmas and then passing those ornaments along when the chicks are ready to leave the nest. So this year I'm starting a tradition: snap a photo of the ornament, give a taste of context, any significance, and then put all the photos together in a special little book that will accompany the ornaments. That way each child will not only have a box full of ornaments, but a book full of stories and memories, too.

Here's one entry:

Year: 2009
The Family: Zosia is 2 and enjoying her first "aware" Christmas, singing carols and talking about Jesus. Lily is 8 months and crawling all over. Mama and Papa agreed that it was the most beautiful Advent yet.
Significance: Just a pretty ornament. Since we finally feel all settled in Virginia, it felt appropriate that it was a cardinal: not only the state bird, but also a frequent visitor to our deck!

How are you keeping your memories alive this Christmas?

Sunday, January 3, 2010


A sweet little girl in the house realized her dream of ice skating for the first time this weekend. So what if for now "ice skating" means going somewhat limp while her mama pulls her around the ice? It seemed to make no difference to this one, who, for the remainder of the day beamed while announcing, "I was ice skating today! I was ice skating today!" Just another reminder of the magic that happens when we reach for our dreams.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Birth of a New Year

Here are some highlights of the past year:
A surprise valentine's day trip all alone with the man I love.
The addition of one little bundle of love to our family.
A celebration of five years...
and then a celebration of two.
Some work on simplifying things around here,
some creative energy flowing
and a whole lot of beauty in all the in betweens.

Thank you so deeply for joining me on the journey, for sharing your own inspiration, ideas, and life. Every comment, email, feedback means to world to me. And let's get buckled in for another round. I am waiting with baited breath to see what the coming year holds.