parsley, sage, rosemary

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One of the reasons cooking has been such a stumbling block for me is because I get overwhelmed by the expectation that I’m supposed to be entertaining my family.  Novelty, variety, and dodging people’s picky palettes is not to be my guiding force.

Food is a gift from the earth–from the earth’s Creator–and a gift that our culture enjoys in abundance.  I want to enjoy this gift as well, but sometimes what I concoct as my primary cook job requirements get in the way.  I enjoy cooking so much more when I put some thought and effort into it, when I am free to bring heart and soul and desire into it.

I started a sourdough starter today.  It’s merely an experiment to see if it works, but if it does, I want to then see if I can actually learn to make daily bread from it.  I, too, immediately start thinking of Against All Grain and years of things I’ve read against flour and white bread.  What did they use in the Bible to make bread?  Somehow, someway, there has got to be a version of bread that can peacefully co-exist with man’s stomach.

Bread is known as comfort food.  It’s one of those foods that makes everything right with the world and a meal.  You could eat bread every day and I do not think we would ever get tired of it.  Bread is one of those pleasures in life that says to me God truly desires for mankind to enjoy life.  There’s more to life than simply being sanctified in suffering.

Seven months out of the year here it’s too cold to swim.  These are the times I not only delight in warming foods, but desire to serve them to also warm others.  Children are not fond of the appearance of lentils, but the more I offer these warming soups and foods, the more I think they’re beginning to accept them.  I could seriously get used to this.

Instead of coming up with something new every day, I’m wanting cooking to be more of an experience where meals revolve around everyday staples.  Rice is what I’m wanting to incorporate more of, along with experimenting with fresh herbs and spices. I’m wanting less excess cultural influencing on what to eat and more trusting my instincts.

 

 

 

January book stacks

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Reading is a wonderful evening activity, particularly winter evenings when daylight ends early.  I retire to my bed before any of the others (I come out later to tuck children in).  An afghan, cup of tea, possibly a cat, and my current pile of reads accompany me there.

Liver Rescue by Anthony William
There’s a lot of talk today about gut health and even brain health, but the liver is not an organ we typically pay attention to, and this liver neglect is one of the author’s main concerns.  He isn’t a fan of too high-protein or high-fat diets that limit the intake of fruits and vegetables, precisely because these are the foods that nourish the liver.  He is a fan of apples, root vegetables, and foods like broccoli, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts.  This book has been so interesting to me I’m hoping to read the other books in its series.

Back to the Table by Art Smith
The family table is a place where bodies are nourished, spirits are revived, and souls are charmed in the presence of kin.  The author, a private family chef, shares stories of childhood memories of food and tables intermixed with pages of beautiful, delicious, and hearty-looking recipes (I haven’t tried or tasted any yet). One thing he says is that he doesn’t care what people say about carbohydrates, he serves fresh bread at every meal (Oprah hired him, so maybe he’s right).  I’ve had this thought before myself, how amazingly wonderful and delicious lunch and supper would be everyday if there was fresh bread with variations on butter/honey-butter/olive oil for spreading or dipping.

The Wisdom of Menopause by Christiane Northrup, M.D.
A few months ago my sister introduced me to the MyFLO app.  It’s an app you can use to track not only the days of your menstrual cycle, but also any symptoms that come along with it.  The symptom tracker offers suggestions on what hormonal issues might be along with specific steps to address them. The app also gives insight into each of the four phases of the menstrual cycle–the menstrual, follicular, ovulation, and luteal phases–including what foods and exercise routines are best for the particular phase you are in, along with emotional, mental, and relationship factors to consider. The app’s creator, Alissa Vitti, wrote a book called Woman Code which contains an introduction by Christiane Northrup, which is what drew me to this menopause book.  Both authors believe in the importance of women listening to and learning from their bodies. I’m appreciating the perspective and life-experiences of women from mid-life and beyond.

The Healing Art of Essential Oils
For the longest time I pretty much ignored essential oils.  I always said I didn’t have the brain space needed to look into them at the moment.  They basically seemed like quackery to me and I didn’t really see how small bottles of oil could be all that helpful.  My mind was changed after a personal healing from flat-warts.  After twenty years of watching painless skin-lesions slowly spread across my right forearm, I wanted to see if there was anything that could be done to get rid of them.  A dermatologist years before had confidently diagnosed the lesions as flat-warts and given me a small tube of sample cream.  Because I was breastfeeding at the time, I was hesitant to use the cream and never did.  Several years later I googled “home remedies for flat-warts” and oregano oil was named in an article.  I had oregano oil at home in a home-care kit I’d recently purchased from homeschool co-op mom.  It took about six weeks of morning and evening applications, as well as several instances of burning my skin (oregano is considered a “hot” oil) before using a carrier oil, but the warts completely cleared.

Being Mortal:Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande
A surgeon writes about his lack of preparation in dealing with death in a modern world. As a physician he was trained to keep people alive.  The author wrestles, however, with his own limitations in being able to save people, and also with the reality that not all patients are on on the path of being saved.  He specifically examines past and present care and considerations of the elderly population. After working in various long-term care facilities, I have a special place in my heart for the elderly.  This book strikes a chord of longing in my heart for the community and shared life of intergenerational living.

The Healing Power of Mindfulness by Jon Kabat-Zin
Since my New Year’s word is “mindful”, I saw this book displayed in Barnes and Noble and was convinced it was meant to be bought with my Christmas money.  This is the kind of book where you read a chapter, take a break, and then return for another round.

Inside Picture Books by Ellen Handler Spitz
These are the treasures I find at Goodwill.  This book examines various classic children’s books and draws out the lessons and themes in the story and illustrations. “Adult participation–physical, emotional, and intellectual–is vital in the cultural lives of young people.  It matters for both learning and for pleasure, which go hand in hand.”

 

 

on having babies

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As we lingered in bed a little longer this morning, my mind drifted off into what it would be like for us to have another baby.  Four of our five kids were born in the winter, and each winter baby was born in an odd year. I wondered then on what I’d do different.  I would yell less, take care of myself more, and not expect so much from a three-year-old. Those last two things, I imagine, would be certain to significantly help with the first one.

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It was sad at the time (and that is simplifying things), like any time a baby weaned (and weaning the last one was the hardest). Though it wasn’t something I ever rejoiced in or ever looked forward to, I felt a relief when we stopped having babies.  I haven’t yet experienced the talked of baby fever.  I say “yet”, not because I’m anticipating any of this happening, but because I’m not willing to write off the possibility that I might, at some point, experience the things I’ve heard other women speak about.  In a way, when it comes to my two youngest boys, it feels like I’ve had a kind of redo at motherhood.

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I have wondered before if my two boys being little has kept those baby fever feelings at bay.  As they continue to grow and transform into the stage of not-quite-as-little-boys, I find myself going back to those classic bedtime board books I read with my older kids. The little boys each got a new book in their stocking.  One was Guess How Much I Love You and the other one was Corderoy.  We’ve already formed what feels like a new–and yet old–routine, and each night we alternate between the two books, still tired by then.

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Each cats feels to me like the size and weight of a newborn.  I’ll look down at one walking past me in the kitchen, and recently, I feel the need to pick them up and hold them close to my chest.  The mother’s instinct in me wants to keep creatures warm, particularly on days when earth is snow-covered.  The kids have already been out once today, and I told them in a little bit we could go back out again and check on the lake.  For a moment I imagined sledding down the hill with a newborn swaddled to my chest beneath my coat.

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Older kids are pretty special.  We switched up our chore routine to simplify it slightly. There’s so much trial and error with house chores.  Something works for a while, and then it doesn’t anymore.  As abilities grow, and family needs change, I appreciate the ongoing flexibility to change things.  The oldest three kids–ages 14, almost 12, and 10–now alternate weekly between these three major chores:  kitchen work, both bathrooms, and cat food/litter box.  The little boys have areas they’re responsible for as well, such as tidying the family mudroom, but their first assigned priority is keeping their room clean.

silver spoons

My children live in a different world than I do.  January, for me, seems like the perfect month to hibernate, to slow down, to cuddle up with a hot drink and rest.  Children are  not inclined to hibernate in winter.  They’re eager as ever to get outside, freezing cold as it may be, and explore the realms of the naked woods.  There’s a physical connection that exists between me and my children, where I cannot fully be at peace when they’re out there, and I’m in here.  I’m not fully resting in here.  Part of me is out there playing.

This is one of the most frustrating parts of motherhood for me–I can’t be selfish anymore.  There was a time in my life where I could be selfish and never even have to realize that that’s what I was.  I’m not saying it’s selfish to want to relax, or to need time in the day that is peaceful and lower-key.  But once you have children, it’s not always possible to do that, and even when it’s physically possible, it still feels mentally impossible forever.  If a mother is ever to feel mental peace again, there is no other choice but to turn her children over to God, to accept His hands is where they will be.

Motherhood connects us to other parts of the world.  Our horizons are widened beyond our own selves.  And it isn’t just motherhood, it’s anytime God shares His own world with us–a person, an animal, a place, or a memory.  Christ is the ultimate example of giving, and God’s gift is what eases the pain of our loss, and makes the world a better place.

 

teacups and kettles

Today we tackled the backdoor pantry.  In between my husband’s personal office and our family’s cozier dining room table space is a small section of the house that tends to fill up with boxes rather quickly.  It’s the corridor where cardboard goes to be burned.

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It had also been the storage place of all my old paint cans.  My experiences with painting are rather embarrassing, and I do not wish at this time to go into it. As my “mindful” new year ticks on through the days, I decided the paint scenario was worth a quick Google. It suggested stirring in cat liter to soak up any paint that remained in the can.  I didn’t want to use all our litter on paint, so I set them outside to see if the sun would dry them out.

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For the paint I wanted to keep, I made a collection in the mud room.  By the end of the day, my goal is to get this paint downstairs into storage, neatly stacked on one of the shelves.  We can now see the floor of our backdoor pantry, and while it’s nowhere near as beautiful as a Joanna Gaines magazine, I am proud of the work we accomplished.

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We still had to time to do school in the morning.  The littlest one never made it to the table, but Lego towers counted as Kindergarten today.  The boys burned boxes in the late afternoon, while I took a moment to write this down.  The oven preheats in the hopes of making cookies, and the kids are looking forward to A Christmas Carol later. We checked the movie out of the library, and are currently in the middle of reading it together. This was something I had wanted to do over Christmas, but Epiphany became soon enough.