Saturday, December 15, 2012

What I learned this year

Before my children were here I thought that they were for us.  I realize now that we are here for them, and happily so.

Silence is an option.

Give people 1st, 2nd, 3rd, chances.  Actually stop counting chances, and be thankful that the people that love me aren't counting mine.

Letting things that I knew were important to me reign in my life brings me peace, and leaves me to wonder why I waited so long.

Friends are not overrated.  I am thankful for the beautiful people that help me navigate this life and share their joys and sorrows with me.

When you buy onions in bulk it is time to admit that you don't hate them anymore.

Loving others is more important than being loved.

Our house is not a starter home.   It is the place that welcomed our  babies, where we tuck them in at night and it should be loved as such.

Porter is not an evil dog, he is just a tricky character, and one that I should pet more often.

Live in gratitude.

People that have different opinions than my own are not idiots.  I need to listen, and ask respectful questions.  Maybe we can find a common goal, a way to work together. If I want to raise tolerant compassionate children I have to work on those traits in me.

Never, never stop growing.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Saying Goodbye

Very soon a mother will leave her children.  A wife, daughter and sister will be lost.  I have tried for months to make sense of this, to answer on my own the only question I have, why?  In the end I am left with the same resolution that I rejected in the beginning, there is no answer.  It just is.  

The time that I got to spend as a close friend to this remarkable person was short, but I am so grateful for it.  Throughout her illness she never gave up, endured every pain that gave her the only thing she wanted, time.  She apologized, for the hurt that her leaving would cause and used all of her remaining energy to take care of her family.  I have never known a stronger, braver, more loving person and it is likely that I never will.

My birthday is this week.  I get to be 33. I am able to fix my family dinner tonight, help my daughter with her homework, and kiss three babies before they go to sleep. Then I will get to sit in the quiet evening with the man I love and talk about our day and make plans for tomorrow.  These are not small things, they mean everything to me.

I am going to tuck my friend and her family into my heart.  Everyday that I am given here on this earth I am going to try to be a tenth of the person that my friend is.  And when it is time for me to take my last breath I will rest easier knowing that I will see her again.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Hearts of my Matter: Max

Max Baker Strayer, Maximus, Maximo, Maximoto, Maximototito, Moto,Tito. How is it that one name can spawn so many nicknames?  When I found out that we had a little boy on the way I was admittedly terrified.  My experience with baby boys was limited, having grown up with three sisters.  I had really never considered what being a Mama to a little sir would be like.  I was so worried, what would I do with this little male being? Did this mean I was going to have to (gulp) play in the mud all day? Did I need to develop an affinity for Matchbox  cars?   

The very second that Max was laid in my arms every apprehension washed away, replaced with love and excitement. I could not wait to get to know this little creature and to help him navigate life.  Flash forward 4 and a half years and Max is everything that I ever dreamed a little boy to be.  

He adores super heroes, planes and cars.  He loves his older sister so much that he will play whatever girlie game she has devised for him.  He is kind and compassionate, always the first to compromise in any dispute with Charlotte and after a day of hard play he still crawls into my lap for a snuggle.  

Recently we discovered that Max loves to hike.  A friend and I decided to walk our children up one of the foothills in Boise.  It was a toasty day, we quickly had a few little people that were ready to throw in the towel.  Max was not one of those little people.  He had arrived at the trail with a destination in mind, he was headed to the top.  He was devastated to discover that his fellow hikers were not as dedicated as he was.  So a promise was made, I told Max that he and I would return together and go all the way to the top.

And so a couple Sundays back I woke my sweet boy up at 6:00am on a Sunday morning.  Maxie is not so much a morning person so I was a little hesitant to wake him so early.  I gently nudged his shoulder and whispered in his ear, "Moto time to get up, lets go for our hike." Max's beautiful brown eyes flew open, he sat straight up in bed and said, "I'm ready, let's go!"

He carried that excitement to the trail head, where we were met by my sister, and all the way up the trail.  Every hiker we ran into that day took the time to encourage Max, they were so tickled to see a little boy up early in the morning to hike.  Max kept his eye on the prize the whole way. Atop this trail is a white cross which he kept both my sister and I abreast of at all times.  "Mom, we are getting closer to the X (Max, understandably, has a fondness for the letter X, he has been informed again and again that the X's at Table Rock and at church are actually crosses but he is choosing to ignore me on this matter).. When we reached the top the glow of his accomplishment was on his face. We lingered for a bit there taking in the sites of Boise and then we headed back down.

The climb down the trail was harder for Max then the way up. He was exhausted and began to trip. After a tumble or two (and a scraped knee) he said, "I don't like hiking." I scooped him up and his YaYa praised him for his efforts and told him not to lose heart.  By the time we got back to the car I had an idea of how to celebrate his accomplishment, so we stopped at the store grabbed two chocolate milks and a donut for us to split.

The whole ride home with chocolate glaze all over his face he chatted my ear off, and cracked me up. His imagination and enthusiasm know no bounds. By the time we got home Max had decided that hiking was the best.  The next day upon waking requested to go again, and go again we shall.  I cannot even begin to imagine the heights this little fellow will climb in his life, or the goals he will set his eyes on.  I do know that as long as I am able I want to be by his side, his encourager, his cheerleader. I am so thankful for my Max. 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Hearts of My Matter- Charlotte

Before the end of the school year Charlotte and I took our little commuter car to school. In this car we are in such close quarters that we are able to momentarily hold hands at stop lights, and unlike our much loved mini van,  one does not have to speak loudly to be heard. On this day we were stopped in a construction zone for quite awhile. A few minutes in to our delay Charlotte asked for my hand. This tugged at my heart, and so I asked her a question that I usually reserve for bed time, "Charlotte," I said, "do you know how loved you are?" She usually responds with a smile and then I list every person in our life who loves this little girl, ending with her Dad and I.  This time however, Charlotte took the reins and asked me, "Mama do you know how loved you are?" She began her list before I could respond,  "Daddy loves you, and Maxie, and Willa, Nana, Papa and the YaYas love you, Grandpa and Grandma too."  I was speechless, completely over whelmed by Charlotte's beautiful little spirit, by her tiny hand in mine.  Just as those words comfort her at bed time, they provided comfort to me.

I set out on this parenting journey with few goals in mind.  I want my children to be happy, loving and kind.  I want them to be giving and to nurture those around them.  I believe that each one of them came with all of these attributes and that it is my job to continue to help grow them.  That day, sitting in the car waiting to be let by, I got to experience those traits in Charlotte.  This six year old little person of mine is constantly and unintentionally reminding me that my babies will model my behavior.  They do it now, and they will continue to do it in the future whether they are are aware of it or not.  Recently Charlotte became fond of using my face lotion.  As I am putting it on myself she asks for some of it in her hand, then she carefully and meticulously applied it, just as I do.  A few days into adopting my ritual she said to me, " I am doing it just like you."  My response was a nod and a smile, but it led to much more thinking.

She is watching me.  She is watching me love, watching my anger, watching my forgiveness and my compassion. This realization is both terrifying and empowering at the same time.   The beauty of this is that I get to choose my reactions, my behavior.  Throughout my life I will fail in this regard and sometimes I will succeed. Some of the behavior that I have modeled for them will be benign, and yet followed none the less, as in my preferred method of lotion application.  Some will not, as in using ones sassiness and wit against their Nana (sorry Mom). My hope and prayer is that more often than not, it will be used to take someone's hand and remind them that they are loved.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Making Whoopie-Pretzel Roll Style

I have been working at making a decent bread product for nigh on 3 years now.  Most of these little escapades have ended in complete and total failure. Looking back at my little baked product journey I find that the fault of my mishaps can be laid squarely on my own two shoulders.  Ready for a self-truth?  I am not so patient.

I would continually harass my rising dough.  My dough probably felt about me  the same way I feel when on an 8 hour drive with my kids.  I was constantly peeking in saying, "Are you done yet?  No?  How about now?"  This lady can be so annoying sometimes.  And this method of constant checking often led to risings being cut short and then disaster.

The other issue with my bread making was that I didn't actually know what kind of yeast I was working with.  I have been buying from bulk bins for years without taking a second to read the two words prior to the word yeast, words which read, instant rise.  This little tidbit of information may have saved me from eating so many craptastic loaves of bread (which in a way I do not regret as even sad home baked bread kicks the store bought product squarely in the boot).

But lately the tables have turned for me.  Not only do I not have the time to harange my rising dough (me thinks having three kids has something do with this), but I am also well acquainted with all of my ingredients.  Already this new relationship of mutual respect has taken me to amazing bread places. The first major success were cinnamon rolls.  The dough was heaven to work with and the rolls themselves were light, fluffy, and gooey in all the right places. 

But then I got too cocky (it takes a special kind of someone to get cocky after one baking triumph, unfortunately I am that kind of special).  After having what can only be described as a spiritual moment while eating a Pretzel Roll, which came from Costco, I decided to come home and make my own.  I quickly found a recipe on Pinterest (wonderful, beautiful Pinterest) and was undeterred by the terrifying idea of simmering unbaked dough.  I immediately whipped them up, baked them and then was sorely disappointed when they were nothing like the Costco version. 

Now this is where things start to get crazy up in here. I had an epiphany.  I was going to make a new and improved Pretzel Roll baby by adding a few ingredients from my beloved cinnamon roll recipe.  I know right now you are thinking, "Sista, I don't even know you and I can already tell that you should not be messing around with baking recipes."  But this is where the cockiness starts working in my favor.  Again, I grabbed my sweet kitchen aid by the hand and together we made our way into this area of terror and delight.  And I promise you my friend that the result was rewarding.

Here they are:
TA DA!!!!! Firework explosions in the sky, the universe does the happy dance. They were the perfect union of cinnamon and pretzel roll (obviously favoring their father in outward appearance, mama comes through on the inside).   The best part is that I, for once, actually took notes as I altered and mixed.  Me.  This girl.  I paid attention to what I was doing for the first time.  We are growing by leaps and bounds over here.  Deep sigh of approval, small pats on my back.

Here is the recipe that I came up with:

Preztel Rolls

1 1/2 cups water (110 degrees F)
2 1/4 tsp. instant rise yeast
2 tsp. sugar
5 1/2 cups flour divided
2 tsp. Kosher salt
2 T buttermilk
2 egg yolks
4 T unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cups baking soda
1 whole egg lightly beaten
Pretzel salt for sprinkling

In the bowl of your stand mixer (fitted with the dough hook attachment), add the water, yeast, and sugar. Stir and let rest 5-10 minutes until foamy.

Add 5 cups of the flour, salt, egg yolks, buttermilk and melted butter and mix using the dough hook until combined well. Use the reserved 1/2 cup of flour if your dough is too sticky by adding a couple of tablespoons at a time until you have a soft, non-tacky dough.Cover with a plastic wrap (or a towel) and allow to rise in a warm place for 1 hour or until doubled in bulk. Punch the dough down and turn it onto a lightly floured clean surface.

Line 1 large sheet pan with parchment paper and set aside. Cut the dough into 8 pieces. To shape the dough "take a piece of dough and start forming a round, smooth ball by pulling the sides to the center and pinching to seal. Place, pinched side down, on a counter and lightly cupping your hand around the dough ball, rotate your hand in small circles lightly rolling the ball around the palm of your hand."

Place the ball on the prepared baking sheet pinched seam side down, with at least 1” between each roll. Cover with a towel and allow to rise while you work on the next step (my second rise was probably only 15-20 minutes and wasn't hugely noticeable).

Preheat oven to 425°F and place oven rack in the middle position. In a large saucepan, bring 2 quarts of water to a low boil. Remove from heat and slowly add the baking soda then place back on heat and lower to a simmer.

Place 2-3 of the rolls at a time into the poaching liquid, seam side down. Poach for 30 seconds and then carefully turn the roll over and poach for another 30 seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon to the same prepared sheet pan, seam side down. Repeat with the remaining rolls.

Using a pastry brush, brush each roll with the beaten egg, making sure to coat all sides completely & then sprinkle each roll with a little pretzel salt. Using a sharp straight edged knife, cut 2 slashes-or- an “X” shape in the top of each roll. Bake the rolls in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes. Serve hot!

Adapted from: My Life as a Mrs.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Fiber Train 2012

This post is mostly about a knitting class and fiber celebration event that I went to yesterday; it is also a little carpe diem. You see, I knew for a couple months that a LYS (that's local yarn shop for the non-knitting out there) was pulling together a celebration of fiber in a neighboring town. As usual this event had landed on my scheduled weekend to work. So I filed the whole happening under the "snow balls chance in hell of attending" folder that I keep in my mind. This file is full of similar gatherings that I,for many reasons, am unable to do at this stage of my life.

Then on Friday I got an email from the LYS (the sweetly named Puffy Mondaes) with updates and reminders for Fibertrain. Since I was enjoying my coffee/internet search time, I decided to see just what would be going on while I worked my 12 hour shifts. This led to a glorious realization, the festival was going on through Monday!! I do not work Mondays, and....wait for husband also would be home, and......wait for it.....Lucy Neatby was going to be teaching a class and there was still some spots available in this class!!!! The heavens rejoiced! Ok, it was mostly just me rejoicing but whose to say that somewhere up there a group of dearly departed knitters did not set down their heavenly knitting (I have heard that up there it is all cashmere-all the time) to do some happy clapping for me.
Lucy Neatby and Me

So yesterday, I found myself in downtown Nampa meandering through some booths of local fiber vendors, proudly wearing my Ravelry name tag and hanging/shopping with like minded people. The second best part was that two ladies from a knitting and spinning group that I sometimes get to hang with were in the class as well (am so bummed with myself for not getting a picture of them but I am sure that there will be another opportunity).

My new knitting basket, it is so happy that if you listen closely you can hear it clapping.
The class was so fun. Lucy Neatby was everything that I dreamed she would be. Her hair was blue, green and fuschia, her doc martens were blue and pink (one of each) and when her little tootsies needed a vacation from those she donned a two different colored keen sandals, so adorable!  She regaled us with pictures of her home in Nova Scotia, stories of her travels, all the while helping us to digest the whole concept of steeking (I am so going to do that).

Umm....Jane Austen stitch markers.  I love these so much they may become earrings
The whole experience was amazing, and even though I did not have much time to linger, I found myself content when I left and excited for the next time the moon and stars align for a similar happening. The knitting community is so special and full of amazing people. My knitting journey began as a slightly solitary path. Many hours were spent staring at the computer screen while a sweet stranger taught me various techniques via you tube. But I find that whenever I get to submerse myself in knitting people whose hearts and minds channel the same creative frequency as my own,  the experience is like nirvana (not the grunge band, the other one).  So, back to that carpe diem thing.  Go I say, and seek out your own knitting people, your own knitting experiences.  You will be received with open arms (even if they wait until the end of their row to do so).

More adorable stitch markers, I totally subscribe to the whole "put a bird on it" life philosophy

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Pamchenko Twist

I have been having a love affair with caramel for most of my life. In the last few years the passion has has been turned on high as I learned how to take matters into my own hands and make my own caramel (the perfect marriage of supply and demand). This little dance was near perfect.  I would make the caramel, either sauce or candy and then enjoy it as soon as temperature would allow. It was beautiful. Sadly, two weeks ago the saucy little Manx turned on me and I thought it was all over.

 It was largely my fault, do not blame caramel. Ok blame her a little bit. For some reason I had decided that the time had come to learn to make caramel corn. This was an odd decision (as a dear friend of mine pointed out) as I do not really care for popcorn. It turns out though,  that once it is smothered in my gooey little lover, I am a huge fan of the stuff. I am talking a "get it out of the house so that I do not turn into Gilbert Grape's Mama" kind of a fan. Anywho, back to the caramel corn apocalypse that went down in my kitchen.

Thankfully I decided to tackle this on an evening when my husband was home. His presence was probably my saving grace, as I failed epically at making caramel corn not once, or twice but four times in a row. I was a women possessed and was slightly infuriated that this spineless, craptastic recipe dared to not work for me! For me??? The humanity! The wasted sugar (12 cups total) and butter(6 cups)! I refused to fail at this seemingly simple task and was heard yelling, " Again!" each time I had to scrap sugary, burnt remains into the garbage. I was not slowed by the sounds of the smoke detectors and I ignored my family's pleas to stop. I had become Moira Kelly in the Cutting Edge and Alan was my DB Sweeney (but instead of throwing me into the air he mostly kept the children out of the kitchen). The caramel corn was to be my Pamchenko Twist (I am still running with the movie comparison here, and yes I do own it and did watch it with subtitles on in order to spell Pamchenko correctly, and yes I am aware that makes me a wee bit of a loon but I am trying to paint a picture here).

Despite my persistence it all ended in failure with not even one tiny bit of edible popcorn. Sadness. Defeat. Ugh. I woke up the next morning with renewed resolve and began to study every caramel corn recipe that I could find. I talked about caramel corn with E-V-E-R-Y-O-N-E. It turns out their are two camps concerning this sweet snack. There are those that prefer a crunchier corn and others that like it soft. I imagined this to be some sort of personality indicator, a caramel corn mood ring if you will. I did not know where I belonged on the caramel corn spectrum, I just knew that I wanted to have a ready opinion on the matter.

Finally I did what I always do. I randomly picked a recipe and jumped in. This time my sister was my DB Sweeney/child wrangler and this time we ended up with a huge bowlful of yumminess. I learned a lot about on this little journey. First, that buying butter in bulk is necessary, and secondly that I do have the ability to conjur some pretty dogged determination when I set my mind to it, that changing the batteries in the smoke detectors twice a year may not be enough when you spend a couple of evenings trying to burn down your kitchen.  And lastly I found that in the crunchie verses soft debate I like to have my cake and eat it too and find myself somewhere in the middle.

This is the recipe I finally found and now love.  If you spread it onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and set it in the oven at 300 for a couple of minutes (5 is my magic number) and then let it cool for about 15 minutes (although I find that no one is able to keep their paws off of this stuff once it is out of the oven) you will get a slightly crispy and gooey in all the right places treat.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Knit a Long

This is my friend Chrissy. Isn't she lovely? Isn't she wonderful? (You have totally caught me quoting, and in fact singing as I type, a Stevie Wonder song) I have known this amazing human being since I was in the seventh grade. She was the older and so cool that I could hardly speak in her presence sister to my junior high bff. Flash forward 20 or so years and I find myself doing the happy clap dance whenever I get an email from her, or plotting for months so that we can see a movie together. Plotting is required because unfortunately I live 9 hours away from my darling friend.

Chrissy is the kind of girlfriend that you hope that you end up living with in Miami when you are eighty (a la Golden Girls.). If that scenario ever plays out I hope that I am a mix between Betty White and Bea Arthur (you know sarcastic but fun and funny at the same time but not as ditzy as Rose). Anyway I digress.  She is an amazing mama, and her cooking is to die for.  Seriously, she needs to prepare my last meal for me.  She is also a devoted gardener and one of those women that always has perfect hair. 

A few months back Chrissy and I decided to do a knit a long of the Nanook pattern by Heidi Kirrmaier out of the lovely Quince and Co. yarn, Lark.  The amount of glee that was enjoyed planning this knit a long and actually doing this knit a long is hard to describe.  First there was deciding on colors (I LOVE her choice!!), then the receiving of yarn and then casting on.  So much happy clapping and giggling happened (at least on my end) that I am surprised that I was still able to complete (most of) my responsibilities here at home.  It was not all rainbows and sunshine though, we both had to rip out substantial portions of our sweaters in order to achieve the project we had in mind.  Had to may be a misstep there, what I should say is that we are both perfectionists and chose to rip back sweaters to repair minute errors that would have called to us from our closets in the night had we ignored them.  But even ripping out isn't so bad when you have a friend to commiserate with.

I spend a lot of time missing Chrissy, or lamenting that making cinnamon rolls with her would be so much more fun, and wishing that I could call her up and say, "Let's go shoe shopping, be there in 5."  But during our knit along I kinda felt like we were hanging out, both working on the same thing at the same time.  Conquering lace patterns, and wishing that a seemingly easy edging detail would die is so much more fun when you are doing them with your friend.

Monday, February 6, 2012

4 Month Sweater

I am a fast knitter, like creepy fast. Generally I am able to make an adult sized sweater in 2-3 weeks, a child's in just days. I need to forget about my previous sweater finishing abilities. Now with baby in tow and two big kids to drive to and from school I am finding that my knitting has slowed to a crawl. This sweater was started about 3 weeks before Willa's birth and was finished just last week. Ugh, a 4 month sweater. Staring at the same yarn, the same pattern for 4 months was completely foreign to me and it bothered me.

But then on a run I decided the following: Any knitting, and any finished product is a triumph when you have 3 babies, a husband, a home to care for and a job. I also decided to put the lace knitting on the back burner and stick to easier projects for the time being. Seems like a sound plan, lets hope that I can put it into practice.