Thursday, January 30, 2014

Even Spider-Man Has to Practice his Handwriting

This afternoon I was deleting pictures off my camera and I stumbled across these beauties, snapped a few weeks ago in the midst of our morning routine. Apparently superheroes need to have good penmanship too.

"When I grow up, I want to be a little boy."
-Joseph Heller

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Library: A Love Story

Every so often, I have the chance to get lost in the library sans children.

Mostly, I have the four of them in tow, the tiny blond one racing over to the fish tank, the loud one exclaiming over a stack of Superman books, the dreamer sneaking up into the pillow-filled kid tower with Anne of Green Gables, the movie lover unloading the shelf of every single DVD that has a picture of Harry Potter on it. There's lots of shushing and sidelong glances from grumpy librarians. If I don't have exactly what I need, call numbers and titles and whatnot scribbled with a tiny pencil on a little square of paper, I can forget about getting out of there with anything for myself. Even when totally prepared, I often abandon my quest for the book I longed to have on my nightstand, too defeated by the sighs of an army of old people to dare enter the adult section with my four crazy kids trailing behind me.

But every so often, I have the chance to get lost in the library sans children. Today was one of those days. I wandered through the biographies, the fiction, the "Hot New Books." I picked one, found another one, put the first one back, pondered. I drifted through the Children's department, marveling over the selection of audio CDs and ballerina books and brightly colored hardbacks with puppets attached. I had the time to think about what we'd be learning in history and science, and then find the perfect compliments to our lessons on the states of matter and the French Revolution. Interesting, fun books for my normal, non-genius children.

I took up a vast armful and deposited it on the counter, probably three hundred dollars worth of books if I'd bought them on Amazon. I paid the ever-present fine with a smile; the three bucks would go to good use.

I brought them home and the kids ran to greet me, and I've got a surprise for you, I sang. What is it, what is it, what is it? they chirped, and I gleefully handed them out. The dinosaur book with the puppets for the tiny blond one, the history of ballet for the dreamer, Robinhood for the loud one, and a version of The Wizard of Oz performed by none other than the Muppets for my movie lover.

Presents! yelled the loud one. Presents! he yelled again and did a little shimmy. Then they were gone, three weeks worth of treasures tucked under their arms, their little minds flashing with the ideas of new things.

"I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library."
Jorge Luis Borges

Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Bread & Wine Girls

Back in the fall, when the trees dressed themselves up in red and yellow and the thermometer was starting to dip, I spent a few weeks in what my favorite heroine from literature called "the depths of despair." I was missing home, missing friends, missing all the joy of October in Pittsburgh. Quite by accident, I came across a little blue hardback book at the library called Bittersweet. I devoured the book, and then reread my favorite chapters three more times. It was like curling up and chatting with an old friend. My soul found rest in its well-worn pages.

When I'd finished Bittersweet I was hungry for more from the writer, Shauna Niequist, which led me to her newest book, Bread & Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes, and to a fantastic idea. Why not gather a ragtag group of new friends together for the food and fellowship Niequist so beautifully writes about? Why not be intentional about it?

I started asking new friends who I thought might enjoy this sort of thing, and before long the Bread & Wine Girls were official. Eight of us, all different in many ways, all similar in many ways, gathering one night a month to share a little bit of our hearts and our lives with one another while plates are passed and friendships have the space to take root.

We had our inaugural get together last week, and I have to say, it was a smashing success :-). I made a few recipes from the book, and there was lots of talking and lots of laughter. I'm going to share the recipes I tried on the blog this week - the good, the bad, and the gluten-free ugly. I was surprised at how much fun it was to try to cook new things.

I'm thankful for bread. And wine. And new friendships. And good food. And books that minister to our hearts when other things simply can't.

"It's about a spirit or quality of living that rises up when we offer one another life itself, in the form of dinner or soup or breakfast, or bread and wine."
-Shauna Niequist, Bread and Wine

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Resplendent Reprieve

Hero [heer-oh], noun; a person of distinguished courage or ability, admired for their brave deeds and noble qualities. Also, a mother-in-law who drives nine hours in snow to watch your four kids so you and your husband can go away for a night.

Forget Spiderman, Superman, and Batman. My mother-in-law, the darling Grammy Pammy, is our hero.

Greg and I slipped away a few weeks ago for a wonderful 24-hour respite. We went to a Bed & Breakfast close by, read books, watched movies, and ate amazing food cooked for us by our hosts. We finished entire conversations and then started new ones. We slept in. We remembered a few of the things we liked about each other before four kids began demanding 95% of our energy. That's always a good thing, isn't it? To remember how much you actually like your spouse?

We had lunch at an Irish place - Greg drank Guinness and watched soccer, which are his two main hobbies. He's very good at them.

Breakfast is served!

A million thank you's to our hero, Grammy, who held the fort down like a champ.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

My Happy Place

Dear Village Bakery,

Oh, how I adore you. Your communal tables, your fluffy croissants, your childless atmosphere. Your fresh-from-the-farm eggs and cheese, your strong coffee, your sun-soaked, dirty windows. I could go on and on, Village Bakery, but the clock is ticking and I don't want to waste my babysitter. I'll simply end with this: I'd move to Rochester ten more times because of you.


Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Soup, Bread, and Limping Back to Normal

I am just getting back to some sense of normal around here. Christmas was a wonderful mix of family, lots of food, sweet time with old friends, and a surprise visit from my sister. Because of the way Christmas fell on the calendar this year, Greg was off for more than two weeks. It's amazing how out of the routine you can get in two weeks. We are limping - and I mean limping - back to normal.

Yesterday's below zero temps screamed for a dinner of soup and bread. As I was devouring the leftovers today for lunch, I felt that I HAD to share the recipes with you. Nothing Earth-shattering about this meal, just simple, healthy, and delicious. It makes you grateful for cold weather and long days indoors smelling rising bread and simmering soup.

Easy Beef Vegetable Soup:
1 lb. ground beef or turkey
1 envelope Lipton's dry onion soup mix
1 bag frozen soup vegetables
1 carton V8 vegetable juice

Brown the meat and put it in a crockpot. Add vegetables, soup mix, and V8, give a good stir, set crock on low, and cook for 6-8 hours.

Mom's Awesome White Bread
In a bread maker, add the following ingredients in the order suggested for your machine:

3/4 cup milk
2 eggs
3 cups bread flour (King Arthur's is best... I've tried to cheap out and get a less expensive brand, but it doesn't taste as good)
1.5 t salt
3 T unsalted butter
1/4 cup sugar
1.5 t yeast

Set it and forget it. If you serve this bread with pasta to your dinner guests, you will be a hero. I promise. Save the heel and toast it for lunch the next day, smothered with butter alongside a big bowl of the leftover soup.

Stay warm & happy, friends!