Monday, December 31, 2012

new year's resolutions


There is something about the arrival of a new year that stirs something within me. I appreciate the opportunity to reflect back on the waning year and make goals for the new one. I like that sense of hope and renewal - the excitement and determination to be a better person.

While reading Cinderella Ate My Daughter a few months ago, I was struck by a passage about new year's resolutions. The author, Peggy Orenstein, compares the goals of a modern-day girl and a young woman from the 19th century. The contemporary girl resolved: "I will try to make myself better in any way I possibly can... I will lose weight, get new lenses, already got new haircut, good makeup, new clothes and accessories." The young woman of lore wrote: "Resolved: to think before speaking. To work seriously. To be self-restrained in conversations and actions. Not to let my thoughts wander. To be dignified. Interest myself more in others." Orenstein comments: "... though the 19th century girl may have lived in a more repressive ere - before women could vote, when girls' sights were set solely on marriage and motherhood - her sense of self-worth was enviably internal, a matter of deeds over dress. Whatever other constraints she felt, her femininity was not defined by the pursuit of physical perfection; it was about character."

Though I definitely desire to improve in some external areas (a haircut is a must in the next few weeks and I really need to start working out again!) I am inspired by the old-timey girl's self-awareness and internal sense of self worth. Thinking before speaking and practicing more self-restraint are good goals for me. And being dignified? In this age of Twitter and Facebook and tell-all blogs and TV shows, that seems to be a forgotten value. I would like to be more dignified...

A few years ago I tried assigning a theme for the year... in 2011 I vowed to seek more tranquility in my life. Alas, in 2012 I was really just trying to get by, so there was no true resolution set beyond survival. IVF cycles, an uncomfortable pregnancy followed by the birth and care of twin boys chased all bits of tranquility away. There are so many areas of my life where I seek improvement, but I this year I want to follow in the steps of that young girl from the 1800's and cultivate more thoughtfulness in my actions. This takes on as plethora of other habits and values needed to reinforce that goal.

How does one become more thoughtful? For me this means:
- truly listening to other people when they speak (and remembering what they say) rather than waiting for the opportunity to say what I want to say. This will require thinking before speaking, so that my words are not used to grab attention, but to convey meaning and uplift others.
- performing acts of kindness and service, no matter how small, that are personal and meaningful to those around me. This will require cultivating intuition so that I can find the inspiration to serve. I think intuition is honed through prayer, scripture study, meditation and healthful living (getting enough sleep, eating well, exercising..). When my body and spirit are in tune with each other, there is clarity in the mind. Oh my, this will be a challenge for the spacey girl that I can be!
- being aware of the world around me, focusing on the present moment rather than constantly making plans for the future.
- sharpening my mind and learning new things. Reading good books, watching good films, interacting with good people...

I'm resurrecting my mantras from these quotes:

To live content with small means; to seek elegance rather than luxury and refinement rather than fashion; to be worthy, not respectable; and wealthy, not rich; to study hard, think quietly, talk gently, act frankly; to listen to stars and birds, to babes and sages, with an open heart; to bear all cheerfully, do all bravely, await occasion, hurry never; in a word, to let the spiritual, unbidden, and unconscious grow up through the common. This is to be my symphony.
~William Ellery Channing
(posted about this here)

"To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded."
~Ralph Waldo Emerson
(posted about this here)

Indeed, it is a bit ambitious, but shouldn't new year's resolutions be lofty and inspiring? I'm pumped! I'm ready to do some personal improvements! 2013 is going to be a good year!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

these are a few of my favorite things...

sugarplum fairies 
drooly kisses

making pierogis

opening gifts

decorating the house

visions of sugarplums?

winter greenery

the smell of a Christmas orange

babies and grandmas and twinkling lights

Christmas breakfast

brown paper packages tied up with string!

holiday photo cards

first snow (so excited she didn't even change out of her pajamas)!

music lessons with dad
The past few days have been filled with happy moments and lovely things. Hope you're making good memories too! Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012


Hope your days and years are filled with JOY!

Merry Christmas to you and yours!

Friday, December 21, 2012

{this moment}

A Friday ritual (inspired by Soulemama). 
A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. 
A simple, special, extraordinary moment. 
A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

peace on earth?

I don't even know if I have the words.

Sometimes I operate in a bubble of non-awareness, ignorant of the goings-on around me. It wasn't until yesterday evening that I heard the news about the shootings in Connecticut. Since then I've read little snippets here and there, but I haven't had the courage to turn on the TV.

My daughter is kindergarten age. If I think about it too much I can't breathe.

Like everyone else I am so very sad. And angry. And bewildered. I know that it is possible to find peace amidst the tragic.

But it seems right to be sad right now. To ache a bit. To mourn with those that mourn. And hopefully we will all eventually find the peace we seek, after we are worn out from the tears.

Friday, December 14, 2012

{this moment}

A Friday ritual (inspired by Soulemama). 
A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. 
A simple, special, extraordinary moment. 
A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

yarn along: making merry

Joining Ginny over at Small Things for the regular Wednesday Yarn Along!
Two of my favorite things are knitting and reading, and the evidence of this often shows up in my photographs. I love seeing what other people are knitting and reading as well. So, what are you knitting or crocheting right now? What are you reading? ~ Ginny Sheller from Small Things

Why is a Christmas tree bad at knitting?
Because it's always dropping its needles!

Knitting by the lights of the Christmas tree is just as wonderful as knitting on the beach I think. Like in most homes, it's been busy here as we make preparations for the season. Crafting, baking, wrapping, adventuring, singing, visiting, hosting... oh yes, and during those rare quiet moments (thank goodness for two nursing babies, right?) a little reading and knitting might get done. I just started reading The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce. It was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize (I usually like those books) and because I read Major Pettigrew's Last Stand it was recommended to me by Goodreads. And I am enjoying it so far - it is subtle and thought-provoking and I think it is going to make me cry. 

And yes, I'm still working on Maya's sweater. I've sort of lost hope that it will be finished in time for Christmas, and I'm okay with that. She is not demanding in that sort of way - she is simply excited to get it... at some point. And I think she would rather have some time with me (we've been making the most marvelous things, like nutcracker ornaments and St. Nicholas cookies and friendship pins...) than have me hide away with my needles and wool. Since these precious little boys have come along she gets so little of my attention these days. So it's okay if we linger a bit over this sweater, right? But it will get finished and then there will be much rejoicing!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

merry moments

Advent devotionals and seasonal activities keep us busy, but mostly merry. This mama has promised herself that we will have a plan but will not be glued to it - there must be flexibility! Which is just as well since we've been battling colds and adjusting to life with twin infants. Quite frankly, sometimes things just don't happen the way I intended - the cookies I wanted to bake didn't happen, we never got out to go ice-skating that one day, and we still haven't hung up the bird seed ornaments outside. But it's been quite magical all the same, even if we're just hanging out around the Christmas tree, passing around the babies, eating cookies (homemade or not!) and telling jokes. Mayumi has been expanding her repertoire recently.

Like this one:
Knock knock!
Who's there?
Mary who?
Mary Christmas!

Ha! Get's me every time!

Friday, December 7, 2012

{this moment}

A Friday ritual (inspired by Soulemama). 
A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. 
A simple, special, extraordinary moment. 
A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Monday, December 3, 2012

oishii: baked breakfast barley

I'm a big fan of breakfast, and in the colder seasons I find myself making warm, nourishing meals (as opposed to my favorite cold cereals). We love oatmeal, but then I came across this baked barley recipe and I had to try it. What a treat! With chopped dried apricots, pistachios, and honey, it is a nod to middle eastern fare and it was so substantive and delicious.

I used regular pearled barley as well as some fancy purple barley too, though it ended up looking just plain brown after it was cooked. If you like the chew in steel-cut oatmeal, you probably like barley as well. And it is so good for you! The sweetness comes from the honey and apricots - there is no refined sugar here. I prepared it the night before and put it in the fridge so that in the morning I just had to pop it in the oven. The recipe is adapted from Not Your Mother's Casseroles by Faith Durand.

Baked Barley Breakfast
1 1/2 cups pearled barley
1 T unsalted butter
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups unsweetened vanilla almond milk
2 1/2 cups water
3 T honey, plus more for serving
2 large eggs, beaten
1/4 cup chopped, dried unsulphured apricots
1/4 cup shelled pistachios, chopped
1/2 cup unsweetened dried coconut

Preheat oven to 350ยบ. Lightly grease 8-inch square baking dish.
Rinse barley in water and drain. Heat butter over medium heat in a saucepan and cook barley for 3-5 minutes or until it smells toasty. Add salt, almond milk, water and honey and bring to a boil.
Meanwhile, beat eggs in a small bowl. Once barley mixture is boiling, turn off heat. Pour a spoonful or two of milk into the egg and whisk together to temper. Whisk egg into barley mixture.
Stir in apricots, pistachios, and coconut. Pour everything into prepared dish.
Bake uncovered for 45 minutes or until top is light brown and it is no longer liquid-y. Serve warm, with a drizzle of honey. Oh, and I may have eaten it with a piece of baklava, too...

There are a few other baked barley recipes floating around. This week I'm going to try the blackberry barley bake and also try to make it in the slow cooker. 

This morning I ate some leftovers while Miss Mayumi and I had our morning Advent devotional. This year I created little cards that outline our devotional (song and scripture) along with a simple activity and service project, as well as a corresponding ornament for the tree. It has been so endearing to see her excitedly open the little drawer every morning to see what they day will bring her.

In other news, I've finished addressing our holiday card and am hoping to stamp them and get them in the mail today (these are the exciting things in my life!). Though sending out all those cards is a daunting task every year, I love to do it. I smile at the idea of family and friends opening it and seeing our THREE little munchkins - how fun to announce a new birth this way! I still get a childish thrill when I receive cards in the mail, especially Christmas cards. I adore it when people send out their yearly newsletter with updates on every one in the family. So I like to imagine that our humble little card will bring cheer into some homes this season.

Friday, November 30, 2012

{this moment}

A Friday ritual (inspired by Soulemama). 
A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. 
A simple, special, extraordinary moment. 
A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

yarn along

Joining Ginny over at Small Things for the regular Wednesday Yarn Along!
Two of my favorite things are knitting and reading, and the evidence of this often shows up in my photographs. I love seeing what other people are knitting and reading as well. So, what are you knitting or crocheting right now? What are you reading? ~ Ginny Sheller from Small Things

PapaQ came home from running some errands last week and presented me with a small gift that he picked up at Barnes and Noble.  Isn't that sweet?  Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson was a charming and quick read. Made me even more in love with the British and even more determined to go and visit that lovely island across the Atlantic (I know, it is shameful how little I've traveled the world). I enjoyed the book, though was a teensy bit disappointed in the ending. I'll try not to ruin it for anyone, but really... aren't we past (love) stories where the (white) man plays the knight in shining armor and rescues the damsel in distress (who is perfectly capable of saving herself, thank you very much. Why on earth doesn't she? Is this another nod toward white colonialism that is justified in "saving" the savages)? The characters were so well-drawn and interesting until the end. If you've read it, I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Other good reads include a bit of poetry by Richard Wilbur and Mary Oliver. I've been trying to expand my cooking repertoire, thus the cookbooks. And I'm still working on Pink Brain, Blue Brain, though Major Pettigrew trumped it this past week. But it is so comforting to have a shelf-full of books to turn to while I'm breastfeeding or have a moment to myself.

As for knitting... well, I get a few rows done here and there on the sweater, but no major progress. Ah, dear me, I'll be lucky if I finish before Christmas, which means all the other projects in my queue will have to wait until the new year. So much for giving everyone handmade gifts this year. That's always a bit of a pipe dream anyhow, but now that newborn twins have been thrown into the mix it is doubly so!

Hope you've been enjoying some cozy, good reads and a creative outlet as well. xo!

Monday, November 26, 2012

the perfect tree

Despite dropping temperatures we made it out for our second annual tree-cutting. I went along for the ride and even managed to get out with both the twins strapped to me in the Moby wrap, but it was so cold and they were crying that we quickly retreated to the minivan and cranked up the heat and the Christmas music, nursed a bit, and did the proper ooh-ing and aah-ing when Mayumi and PapaQ returned dragging the most beautiful tree!
A quick drive down to the farm market was in order. While the strapping young lads there shook and baled our tree we indulged in hot cider and donuts and picked up some apples to take home. Since then there has been much merriment as the decorations have gone up.
What is it about a Christmas tree? Those gleaming lights, the ornaments collected through the years, those fragrant evergreen boughs...
Well, no one really wants to hear me wax poetic, so perhaps you'll welcome Mary Oliver's words:

When I Am Among the Trees
When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness,
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.
I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.
Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, "Stay awhile."
The light flows from their branches.
And they call again, "It's simple," they say,
"and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine."
~ Mary Oliver ~

Oh, to become closer to the hope of myself! I love how a Christmas tree indeed invites one to stop and stay awhile. Those twinkly lights, so hypnotic and soothing. 
More tree loveliness to come!

Friday, November 23, 2012

{this moment}

A Friday ritual (inspired by Soulemama). 
A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. 
A simple, special, extraordinary moment. 
A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

giving thanks

Hope your home is full of loved ones, good food and the happy recognition of abundance and blessings. 
Happy Thanksgiving!