Advent Blur

Another old post that has been sitting around, waiting to be finished, for ages now…

“My heart always needs beautiful Christmas.” ~Seraphina Violet Juliette, age 2

Everywhere we go it’s like Christmas cards come to life; snow covered, candle lit, evergreen trimmed New England countryside.

I listen to podcasts on minimalism while working on absurdly intensive projects and smirk to myself over the perversity.

My children are obsessed with holiday diffraction glasses.  They have come to expect gingerbread men everywhere.

Butter Tarts.  My word!  THE official holiday treat of the 2016 season.

She calls our advent wreath a nest, a belief that is probably reinforced by our forever tucking feathers into it.

I keep making her the same booties, over and over again, because I love them so much.  Each time I just alter the pattern to be larger and now call them slippers instead- this time in a festive bright red.

When the Papa Bear was too ill to take us for our Christmas tree, our newly licensed man cub stepped up.  It’s a brave new world and him a star in it.  He did brilliantly on his exam, plus bonus style points.  The examiner said that in 13 years, he’s never before had a kid show up with actual driving gloves on.  ahem.

In the children’s room at the library one day, the only other person present is watching me out of the corner of her eye with awe, or perhaps like I’m crazy- I’m really too preoccupied to discern which, as I scan the shelves looking for just the right books while simultaneously reciting Goodnight Moon from memory to Seraphina as she turns the pages.  Clearly not a mother of many.  A head pops around the stack, “Mommy, who wrote the Pippi books?” “Astrid Lindgren dear….and a comb and a brush and a bowl full of mush and a quiet old lady who was whispering ‘hush’…”.  Galen returns, arms stretched straight down with a stack of books balanced up to his chin.  “Ten, ten, ten, you may get ten books and no more.”  He plots and schemes with Mairi and between them they agree to get several books that they both want to read to make the most of their limit.  A woman by the door asks if we’re getting them by the pound.  I explain that there are only this many because I put a limit on them.  She thinks I mean that I used some kind of reverse psychology to convince them to get books.  I don’t really know what to say to that.  The librarian behind the counter quietly giggles a bit and overrides the system restriction, which we’ve now managed to go over again.  She knows us and she understands.  She was a child like this once.  I don’t get kids who don’t read.  I don’t get people who don’t read.

Every time he comes on stage she jumps up and screams, “Iain!  It’s Iain!  There’s Iain!”  And no amount of begging, pleading, cajoling or popping dried fruit in her mouth at just the right time can stop her.  On the way home I wonder, is this our last year of being the family with the disruptive young child?  Maybe it will be so for one year more?  Either way we are growing away from certain phases in life and while certain things will surely be easier, it’s a strange feeling to know these days a numbered.  Days that are too busy and too loud and too stressful and too beautiful to comprehend.






















The Handcrafted Wardrobe: Off Track

My heart isn’t really in a true Handcrafted Wardrobe post tonight.  My mind it too full of other things, flitting about, unable to settle.  I do have some finished projects, but no pictures, getting photos of myself being rather a bother and a chore at times.  I have been pondering cold weather needs and adding to my cool weather capsule wardrobe mood board.  I’ve been comparing what I’ve made so far to what I’ve dreamed up with that board to see if I’m keeping on track, and I don’t believe I am.  I’ve been teasing out silhouettes in my mind of a Thanksgiving dress in vintage floral print on a deep wine ground.  Then I think, oh slippers for the baby!  And is there enough of that crimson wool for a bonnet as well? Is that costume plan foolhardy or does it truly stand a chance?   And when will I find the time to make it?  Is my lesson plan for the week full enough??  And off I go again…

This weekend was supposed to be devoted to sewing for children, but ended up being all about cooking instead.  We had our first little snow squall, the fire burned without end and the wind howled and howled.  Even now it continues to whip around the eaves and thrash the trees about.

Both our pork and beef arrived this week.  A whole pig and whole cow respectively, except for the bits of pork that are still being smoked.  As a former long time vegetarian, I am still not entirely comfortable with eating meat, though I make a good show of it.  This, I at least believe, is the best way of going about it.  Local, free-range, grass-fed meat from a small family farm.  The price per pound works out to be around the equivalent of inexpensive cuts of conventional meat, only we get all of the cuts down to expensive roasts and porterhouse steaks, along with the reassurance of a good, healthy life for the animal involved and nutritionally superior food for our family.  But it does require freezer space!  Which was on the tricky side and lead to a frozen harvest cook-a-thon.  I made a huge pot of beef stew with all sorts of autumnal root veggies, turned some summer squash puree into a dairy-free cheese and baked a strawberry crisp, using home-made coconut butter as the topping, as per this recipe.  We had the fresh pork chops Saturday night, cooked with onions and pineapple sage and served with orange and yellow chard.  I grew pineapple sage for the first time this year and I find the scent intoxicating.  It has somehow managed to escape harm despite all of our recent frosts and brilliant scarlet flowers are just beginning to peep out of their buds.  I have delusions of somehow finding a way to winter it over in the garden, though I know the thing is impossible.  Perhaps I’ll dig it up and see how it fares inside.

I still have some thawed chard that I think I’ll turn into creamed chard and a couple of jars of shredded zucchini that I haven’t decided what to do with. We also spent almost an entire day rendering lard, which was a first for me.  Eight whole quarts full! I’ve never even cooked with lard before. And maybe, just maybe I’ll finally sew up that skirt full of pins by my side.

Has the season scattered your focus as well?  Do you find a discrepancy between what you like and the items that you make, buy and wear?  This has always been true for me and I’ve been trying to correct it, but apparently without much success.




Feeding Our Families- Postpartum Meal Planning Part 2

postpartum vignette: knitting, book, food, baby

Some of the meals I ended up making and freezing:

Shepheard’s Pie

Pork and Apple Bake (2)

Lemon-Olive Chicken with broccoli

Beef Bolognese (5 quarts)

Carrot-Ginger-Coconut Muffins (2 batches)

Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins (2 batches)

Creamed Spinach (modified with safe for us ingredients)

Honey Sesame Chicken and Broccoli

Chicken Apple Curry* (2)

Peach Chicken*

Apple Pie (2)

I also made a list of the food that we still had available from the harvest this year; apple sauce, jams, chutney, roasted tomatoes and a bag of zucchini muffins that turned up when we rearranged things in the freezer.

I had plans to make more but a couple of friends were talking about maybe dropping off a few freezer meals and I wanted to be sure we still had room for them.  That didn’t actually happen, but two dear friends did drop us off some lovely fresh food, which provided us with salads and soups to pad out our meals.  Also the most wonderful nut and fruit bars that turned out to be the perfect solution for those middle of the night, suddenly ravenous, nursing mama moments.  I really must get the recipe for those!

*I’ll try to post recipes for these at some point.

Expect posts this week by:


Feeding Our Families: the art of breakfast

I am not a morning person.  This may well be the understatement of the year.  I used to think it was because I was lazy or unmotivated.  In recent years I’ve discovered that it’s not a heinous personality flaw, that there is in fact a valid, well documented, physical cause for my issues.  While I will spare you the details, the gist of it is that my body has a great deal of trouble transitioning from a waking state to a sleeping one and vice versa.  Given the current circumstances, for the time being, that means that I am the last person out of bed in my house every single morning, which is in no way my ideal.  The children actually prefer it this way since they get some time to play, read or do as they please before we start in with school work and chores.

When it comes to parenting, there are certain areas where I’m rather old-fashioned and grandmotherly.  I’m a big believer in family dinners, early bedtimes, woolen hats, children being children in general and starting off the day with a hearty breakfast.  Accomplishing that last one can be quite tricky, considering the above.  I’ve devoted a lot of time to developing a system that works for us.  We have a set rotation of seven breakfasts that we eat every week.  This completely saves the step of having to think about what to make on any given day and that is a great relief.  The selection does shift a bit with the seasons.  As the weather warms we’ll be switching out some of the hot warming meals for lighter, fresher fair.

The kids all know they can help themselves to a piece of fruit upon waking and that breakfast will be served shortly after.  And there are always leftovers about if they need something more to tide them over.  I have three main strategies that help us all to start the day off right.

The first is the crockpot.  Why the crockpot?  When I first wake up I need some very specific things….I need to pee (I do have an entire person on my bladder), to be able to move slowly, not to be spoken to and especially not to be asked questions, not to be touched, to be surrounded by complete quiet and calm and to have prepared food appear in front of me as if by magic.  With the crockpot, two of those things at least are a possibility.  If you are an oatmeal eater, try it in the crockpot overnight; it turns out amazingly rich, thick and creamy.

My second strategy is help.  I get more help with breakfast then any other meal.  More on that below.

And third I try to keep anything that’s not taken care of by one and two as quick and easy as possible.


Buckwheat pancakes, banana pancakes and bacon:

Sometimes we have orange juice as well.  Several years ago Iain and Elijah got inspired to make us breakfast and somehow the habit stuck.  Sunday mornings are their day.  The littles help out where they can and set the table.  Recently Galen was eager to learn how to flip pancakes and now he mans a pan as well.

We usually use whole grain buckwheat, the pancakes pictured above look a bit different then our norm because they were made using light buckwheat leftover from holiday baking.

Buckwheat Pancakes

3 C of buckwheat flour

3 C milk of your choice (we usually use the kind of coconut milk that comes in a carton)

6 eggs

1 T cream of tartar mixed with 1 T baking soda or 2 T baking powder

1 T lemon juice

2 tsp vanilla extract (optional)

In a medium bowl, mix the lemon juice and vanilla into the milk and set aside.  In a large bowl mix together all of the dry ingredients.  Beat the eggs and add them to the liquids.  Thoroughly mix the wet ingredients into the dry, stirring as little as possible.  Let the batter sit for 5 minutes.  It should bubble a bit.  Fry pancakes in the cooking fat of your choice.   

I find I do much better with little to no grains or pseudo-grains, so in recent years they’ve added banana pancakes to the mix as well.  Everyone can pick and choose as they please.

Banana Pancakes

1 egg

1 banana

1 tsp. cinnamon

splash of vanilla (optional)

Obviously this is just the proportions and you can make as many batches as you please.  Blend all of the ingredients in a blender until smooth.  Cook as you would regular pancakes.  These are trickier to flip and keep together.  Smaller “silver dollar” style pancakes work best.


Breakfast sausages, yams and fermented sauerkraut:

This may sounds strange, but it’s a fabulous flavor combination.

Have you ever made yams in the crockpot before?  It’s super simple.  Just rinse the yams and put them in the crockpot still damp.  Turn it on low over night and serve perfectly cooked yams in the morning.  A very filling and hearty breakfast and all I have to do is put the sausages in to cook while I set everything out on the table.

Sometimes we treat ourselves to molasses tea with this meal.  To make molasses tea, mix a tablespoon of blackstrap molasses into a mug full of hot water.  Blackstrap molasses is rich in iron, calcium and potassium.


German Pancake recipe here:

Elijah has declared himself the greatest German pancake maker in the world.  Which means that he always insists on making them himself.  And who am I to argue?  Generally he gets to work when he hears me start stirring.  The others help with gathering supplies and such.  Waking up to food being made?  Quite possibly the most awesome thing in the world.  Many a time I will literally sigh with relief when I wake and realize what day it is, then I come down and kiss him on the top of the head all over until he gets sick of me.


Hot “Cereal” from the book Paleo Cooking from Elana’s Pantry: Gluten-Free, Grain-Free, Dairy-Free Recipes.  You can check out the book for details.  It’s basically a concoction of nuts, seeds, dried coconut and cinnamon.  It’s kind of a little bit like Cream of Wheat, but not really.  That’s just the closest thing I can think of.  I freely substitute the various nuts and seeds based on what I have and more budget friendly options.  I add in vanilla and chopped fresh apples or pears, raisins or any other dried fruit I have about.  With it I set out ghee, so people can add a pat to their bowl if they like.  And honey or syrup to be drizzled on top if desired.


Pork and Apple Bake:

Since posting about this I’ve started adding all sorts of things to it.  Pretty much whatever happened to be ripe in the garden at the time; peas, green beans, garlic scapes, green onions, chopped up radishes, parsley, spinach, kale.  We are especially fond of mixing in kale. yum.


Scalloped yams and breaded fish:

More yam-y fodder for the crockpot!  Peel and slice 5 yams, top with a couple of pats of ghee/butter/coconut oil, 1 can of coconut milk, a sprinkle of powdered kelp and lots of sage…much, much more sage then you think it will need.  Again, cook on low over night.  Sometimes in the morning I’ll turn it up to high and take the lid off to let the sauce thicken a bit, but it’s generally not needed.  Add salt and pepper to taste before serving.

I don’t always make the fish.  I can’t say that it’s the healthiest thing to grace my table, but this dish is absolutely adored by three of my four children.  It starts with some form of mild tasting fish; catfish, tilapia, flounder, anything along those lines.  Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.  Prepare a cookie sheet with a thin coat of oil.  Chop the fish into small pieces.  Dredge each piece in arrowroot powder seasoned with salt and pepper.  Lay them out in a single layer on your oiled cookie sheet and bake until brown and crispy, flipping at least once.  Some sort of green as a side dish rounds out this breakfast nicely, but I honestly don’t often get to that.


Cashew yogurt:

Shown above topped with some honey sweetened peach jam that we put up over the summer.  I’ve made several kinds of nut milk yogurts over the years.  This one is by far the quickest and the easiest.  It also happens to be incredibly delicious.

Cashew Yogurt




flavoring (optional)

This one works best in a high powered blender, a Vitamix or the like.  For a regular blender you might want to try soaking the cashews first.  Pour your cashews into the blender.  Break a probiotic capsule over top.  I use one that has around 7 billion bacteria for 9 oz. of cashews.  Add water until everything is just covered.  Blend until it’s all extremely smooth.  Add more water until desired consistency.  It will thicken overnight so make it a little runnier then you ultimately want.  I pour mine into a half gallon mason jar, drape a flour sack towel over the top and screw a lid ring on it.  This way it can breath, but nothing can really get in.  Set it out some place warm overnight.  This would be by the wood stove in our house.  I sometimes experiment with adding in sunflower seeds of shredded coconut.  But straight cashew is our favorite.

Two more breakfast ideas:

Stuffed squash:

Another great crockpot option.  The kids love this one, truth be told I think it’s only so-so.  Cut your squash in half and scoop out the seeds.  For the stuffing combine any combination of chopped apples, pears, nuts, seeds and/or dried fruit.  You can add a splash of lemon or orange juice, spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, etc) and/or sweetener.  Fill the squash.  Balance and stack them upright so that the stuffing doesn’t fall out. Cook on low overnight.

Simpler option: fill the cups with a pat of some buttery substance, a drizzle of syrup and a sprinkle of nutmeg. This is a lovely way to pad out a meal.

Sausage patties and steamed or braised greens:

Though not in rotation at the moment, this has been a regular favorite in the past.  The patties are seasoned ground meat.  You can use beef, but I prefer pork or poultry.  For beef or pork you can just put it directly in the pan.  With turkey or chicken you’ll need to use a bit of oil to keep it from sticking.  They can be cooked under a broiler or fried on the stove top.

A couple of flavor combinations:

chopped onions, sage and a pinch of clove

curry and cinnamon, a bit of cardamom is nice too

maple syrup, cinnamon, clove

Italian seasoning, garlic, red pepper flakes and fennel

Always include a good bit of sea salt and fresh cracked pepper.  Mix well, form into small patties and cook.  Sauteed onions are wonderful with this.

And one other totally random food related thing: add leeks to your roasted Brussel sprouts. You won’t regret it.

Expect posts this week by:


simple cookery: pork and apple breakfast bake

This is a great favorite with all of the kids right now.


2 lbs ground pork

6 apples- minus some nibbling by the kids- cored and sliced

1 onion- diced

2 celery sticks-chopped

spoonful of oil

2 T lavender flowers

sprinkle of kelp (optional, I add a sprinkle of kelp to most things I cook for the trace minerals)

1 tsp each ground rosemary, cloves and sage

pinch of crushed red pepper

salt and pepper to taste

maple syrup

Gently melt oil (I use coconut) in a skillet, add onions and celery, with a sprinkle of salt, and cook until onions are soft and translucent.  Add in pork and all of the spices.  Cook over medium heat, stirring regularly until pork is cooked through.

Line a baking pan with the apple slices, there is no need to grease the pan.  Layer the cooked pork and all of the juices on top of the apples.  Drizzle the top with syrup.

Bake at 375 for approximately 25 minutes.

This is the right amount for my family.  Adjust the proportions however you see fit for yours.