My New Year Resolutions, 2012

Saturday, December 31, 2011

I survived the holidays. I didn't want it all to feel so perfunctory, but it did and as soon as it was over I breathed a big sigh of relief. The day after Christmas, I took down the tree and packed away all the decorations. I am ready for a new year.

I am always plaguing myself with resolutions, big plans to be a little bit more and a little bit better every single day. The beginning of a new year feels no different. I want to be a little bit more and a little bit better this year too. But that's not to say that 2012 doesn't feel special. At 29, and almost 30, another year feels like a gift.

For nearly half this year, I have had to remind myself to breathe far too often. In recent weeks I have been stumbling through days, anchored only by my constant plea: Lord, Make Me An Instrument Of Thy Peace. These words, my late night lullaby, my courtroom prayer, my eternal entreaty, are of course all my wishes and hopes for 2012.

Tomorrow, and in all the days that follow, I want to be grateful. I want to be patient with all the unanswered questions and I want to trust the answers when they come. I want to be more understanding of faults, my own and other's. I want to forgive, every single day. I want to listen more. I want to feel okay being different, being wrong sometimes, being alone, being me. I want to be more brave, more willing to trust my intuition. I want to let go of the things I carry and I want to fill the space with love. I want to find more ways to give. This year, Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.

I'm lucky, and I know it. I'm blessed, and I vow always to remember that. It's going to be a Happy New Year. As I close the door on 2011 tonight along with everybody else, I am going to say it and mean it too.

What resolutions do you have for yourself this year?

Sometimes things just fall apart

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

If you had asked me today how I am doing, I would have told you I am fine.  I am good.  Life is great.  I might have told you the good news about a wedding I booked for next month, or how excited the kids are about the possibility of more snow this week.  I probably would have offered you some homemade peppermint bark and told you about the cute paper snowflake presents my kids surprised me with this morning.

And it would all be true. Mostly.  Because I am fine and life is good, except when it's not.  But I don't know how to tell anyone when it's not.

Right now, I am not okay.  Today, I was not okay.  This past week, I was anything but okay.

If I was being honest, I would have to tell you that I am heart broken.  I haven't slept in over a week now.  I am finding it difficult to eat.  My heart hurts and when the kids aren't looking, I can't stop the tears.  I feel overwhelmed. I feel betrayed.  I feel confused.  I feel alone.  

But if you ask, I will tell you that I am fine because I don't know how to say these things.  I won't tell you these things because I don't want them to be true.  I am courageous. I am positive. I am living with faith and hope.  I am a glass half full kind of girl, always have been.  I can't tell you that I haven't been able to figure out up from down this week because that is not who I am.

I can't tell you what I've lost because that would be ungrateful.  I am not someone to complain. I don't want to burden anyone with my worries, my fears, my failures.  And it's not that big of a deal anyway.  This too shall pass.  It will all work itself out in the end.  At least, this is what I tell myself.

So, I do what I've been doing for so long now.  I keep a good home.  I take care of my kids.  I go to Christmas parties, church activities and playgroups, I lend a helping hand, and I keep busy.  I've never been comfortable with being the victim or the storyteller, but when I do talk to a friend I tell a little bit, I admit some things, but I'm quick to point out the stars in the darkness.  I'm quick to remind everyone that it will all be okay.

I don't know what else to do.  I can't put words to this grief.  I can't tell you what it's like to feel so alone, so misunderstood.  I can't explain the short circuit between heart and mind right now.  I don't want you to know how fragile everything feels, or how quick I am to fall apart, to cry out that this is not the life I wanted.

When I sat down to write this I intended to write the truth.  I wanted to tell someone all the things I can't tell anyone.  I thought if I could put them here, list them out and send them on their way, that it might help.  Bounce back, I keep telling myself.

But now that I'm here, I don't think I can tell you everything or anything really.  I don't think it would help.  People will offer to listen.  They will ask me what they can do, how they can help.  And that's the tricky part - they can't, not really.  

Right now, it's enough just to be able to say that I'm not okay.  I just wanted someone to know.

Celebrating Winter Solstice

I have always been drawn to the natural rhythm of the changing seasons.  As the sun follows it's yearly track, I can see nature's changes reflected in my own life and rhythms of home and family.  Winter Solstice, the first day of Winter and the longest day of the year, marks a special time of year for me.

As the days have grown darker and colder, and the winter stretches on ahead, I love to turn Winter Solstice into a celebration of light.  On this darkest day of the year, I find myself ready to shed some of the darkness that has crept into my life through the year and make room to welcome the light.  I am grateful for the earth's cues that it is time to cross over into a new cycle, a new season of living.

Below are photos and ideas for celebrating Winter Solstice from our family celebrations in years past. 

Invite the Light

Turn off your electricity and use nature's light.  On winter solstice, we use candles to light the darkness. It's a simple way to connect with nature, but it makes the light feel so special. 

Make a fire.  We cook over the fire and spend the evening gathered round it. 

Activity:   Gather round an outdoor bonfire. Write down something you would like to bring light to in the coming year, then toss it into the bonfire and watch the light consume it.

Perugian Cheese Bread: An Adopted Holiday Tradition

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Bethany, of the well-written site Coffee Stained Clarity, knew that my life went off-road this past week and has generously offered to share a recipe that she picked up while living in Italy with her family.

In addition to living and traveling abroad with her family, teaching, writing, and baking up some seriously delicious food, Bethany is also working on an exciting new project. With the help of Kickstarter, Bethany hopes to raise enough funds by the end of this week to be able to write a book, Aperitifs & Sippy Cups: A European Adventure Guide for Families.

Check out her project here and find a way to support her efforts. She needs help to make this dream come true, but a little bit can go a long way!

And now, let's get to the Italian Food!  When I saw Bethany's recipe, I couldn't wait to give it a try. I made it for dinner last night and this Torta al Formaggio was absolutely delicious!  Thank you Bethany - though I wish I could have you over for a good long chat, I am so happy to have you here on my blog today.

Perugian Cheese Bread: An Adopted Holiday Tradition

by Bethany Bassett

Raising children in a foreign culture presents some unique challenges. Since moving to Italy four years ago, we've had to learn through trial and lots of error how to do things as simple as filling out permission slips and as complex as getting internationally recognized birth certificates.  As much as I'd like to glide through the expat process gracefully, I'm building a nice collection of embarrassing stories along the way.  This life we've chosen isn't easy, but it is rewarding, and I'm thrilled that my girls are growing up with a unique blend of American and Italian traditions.

Winter Breakfast Fruit Crisp: Pear, Pomegranate, Cranberry

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

I have to do something difficult today.  Not a day has passed in the last six months that I have not thought about this difficult thing I have to do.  Today is finally the day.  

So on this monumental morning just before I face the dragon, after all the days of praying, and worrying, and praying some more, what am I going to do?  Eat a good breakfast, of course!  I am going to rely on the routines and comforts of the ordinary this morning as I pick over my winter selection of fruit and heat up the oven.  After that, I'm going to rely on God.

My favorite fruits in the winter are Cranberries and Pomegranates.  I am always trying to fit them into my baking.  This morning, I combined them with pears to make a delicious baked fruit crisp.  Absolute comfort food!  I played with a dessert crisp recipe to make it a little bit healthier for breakfast - less sugar, more protein.  The result: A perfect breakfast on a cold winter morning and a perfect start to this day.

Winter Breakfast Fruit Crisp

Adapted from Mark Bittman's Food Matters

Favorite Family + Kid Games: Holiday Gift Ideas

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

We play a lot of games at our house.  There are a lot of good game options for really young kids, and we have enjoyed many of them.  However, now that the girls are getting a little bit older, our game options are increasing and I couldn't be more excited.  Maybe, just maybe, I will only be called to play Memory fifty times a day instead of seventy five.  (Seriously, my girls are crazy about memory).

These are a few of our favorite games that I am sure would make great holiday gifts!

Games for Toddlers and Preschoolers

(though my school-age daughter still loves them too!)

The Picnic Game:
Try to create a balanced meal on your plate before the ants steal your food.
It even comes with an adorable mini table cloth that my girls love!

Animal Bingo:
One of the first games my girls were able to play. 
I personally adore the illustrations!

A lovely version of Memory - and I would know because
I have only played it ten million times!
Another fun version of Memory. I love this one because it always
starts interesting discussions about other countries and cultures.
The Head to Toe game by Eric Carle is a great way to get
the little ones moving and learning the parts of the body.

The Princess and the Pea Game by Haba. 
Much loved by my girls!

Games for Elementary Kids

Tell Me A Story - Fairy Tale Mix-up.
These story cards work well for pre-readers, but my little reader loves them too!
They also have different story versions like Robots, Circus, etc.

Brownie S'mores

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

We've been spending a lot of time outside in the snow these days.  And when we are inside, I can't keep myself away from the oven.  There are so many good warm treats for baking this time of year. 

While the snowflakes were falling this week, I got into my head that I could combine our favorite summer time treat with my favorite brownie recipe.  Voila!  Brownie S'mores were born in my very own winter kitchen.  They are delicious in a sticky, gooey, lick your fingers kind of way.

Pin It

Brownie S'mores

(Printable Recipe)


Graham Cracker Crust
1 3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 stick butter, melted
1/3 cup sugar

4 eggs
2 sticks butter, melted
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
1/3 cup cocoa
1 tablespoon vanilla
pinch of salt

1 package large marshmellows
6 ounces chocolate, melted (dark or milk)

Snow Day, Again

It was cold.  It is still cold.  In fact, the current temperature as I write this morning is hovering just around zero.  The kids, however, have been entirely oblivious to the freezing temperatures.  They stayed outside in the snow yesterday long after my cold nose and toes couldn't take it anymore.  They really only consented to come in after I promised hot cocoa and pumpkin cinnamon rolls. 

Today, more of the same.  They will lose themselves in the magic of the snow and I will reluctantly leave the warmth to join them, and in the end be so glad I did. 

P.S. These Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls are seriously the best ever!

Snow Day

Monday, December 5, 2011

I took these photos on a snow day in early January.  We started the year off in the snow, and it looks like we'll be ending the year likewise - the kids, of course, couldn't be happier.  After a few days of cold weather and skiffs of snow, we woke up this morning to a full blown snow storm. 

The kids are still gathered at the windows marveling at the snow, fallen and falling, and making plans for the day.  HUGE snowmen!  FIFTY snow angels!  WIN Grandpa in a snowball fight!  There is even talk of an igloo!  My plans have me by the fireplace and the oven - baked eggs, cinnamon rolls, homemade hot chocolate, maybe even rice pudding.  I love a good snow day!
P.S. I don't doubt we'll end this day with hot chocolate in the bathtub again!  I will also try to make it back here with a few photos of our adventures.

Wishing you warm thoughts wherever you are today! 

Our Book Basket: Good Children's Books for Winter

Thursday, December 1, 2011

We do a lot of reading around here.  A whole family of book worms.  Since we read so much, I have found that keeping a basket of books set aside for the seasons is a good way to keep old books fresh and exciting as they rotate in and out every few months.

On Thanksgiving the kids cajoled me into pulling out the Winter Book Basket just a little bit early.  There is snow in the forecast for tomorrow though, so I am thinking that winter may make an early appearance here too!

A few favorites from our Winter Book Basket:

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