Monday, December 9, 2013


First, let me introduce you to my newest niece, Riley Marie.  She is every bit of perfect.

When we walked into the hospital room to meet her, the air was charged with newness, love, life.  I could feel God there as strong as I ever have.  I feel that a new baby is the closest a person can come to physically touching God. A way to remind us, as humans, about the true beauty of life.  There wasn't space for anything else in that hospital room but joy.  Thank you Riley, for bringing so much joy to our family.

This scene brought me instantly back to the day both my girls were born, breathing in their softness and breathing love out of every pore of my body. It recharged me and it renewed my love for them in a way that surprised me.  It reminded me of all the promises I made about the kind of mother I was going to be....and how many of those promises have taken a back seat as life has taken over.  I mulled those promises over in my mind as my girls slept in the backseat, and I drove the hour home from the hospital the night Riley was born.

Which of these promises were made out of fantastical ideas of motherhood while I was still pregnant, and which are realistic enough to start anew?  Which vows can I renew to my girls?  And which have I made since entering parenthood that are waiting to be fulfilled?

These are the vows I can honestly and truly renew to you, Anna and Claire.  While this list will certainly be added to, these are the promises I make to you today.  You are my monkeys, my sunshines, my kisses and hugs.  You are my Bean, my Muppet, my breath and my air.  You make my world go round, every single day.  My life would be empty without you in it, and because of this great void you fill in my life...

I vow to tell you I love you every single day.

I vow to love you absolutely and unconditionally.

I vow to be present with you.  I will set aside time from the dishes, the phone and all life's distractions to be totally focused and present with you every single day.

I vow to be kind, loving and respectful towards you.

I vow to be patient with you, though I cannot vow to never lose my cool....I do, however, vow to always apologize if I hurt you in any way or lose my temper.

I vow to be an adult you can trust, no matter what.  You can come to me with anything and I will listen with an open heart and ears.  No matter what it is, we will get through it together.

I vow to set limits so that you stay safe.

I vow to stand back and let you make mistakes, as long as you are safe, so you can learn to make good decisions in your future.

I vow to listen to you.  I will listen to your ideas, your words and your stories with open ears.

I vow to talk healthily and respectfully about my body and yours, in order to give you the fighting chance at a healthy body image.

I vow to feed you nutritious meals and to teach you about healthy eating.

I vow to also sneak in a treat or two.

I vow to remain active so I can be a role model, and to encourage you to be active as well.

I vow to laugh with you, have fun with you and be a little bit silly as often as possible.

I vow to talk daily about our family that does not live near, so that you may know them through me until you are with them again.

I vow to encourage your interests.

I vow to to instill in you a strong love for God and Jesus.

I vow to be your mama for always and forever.  To wrap you tightly in my arms as long as I can...then open them and watch you fly, with the total trust and understanding that I will always be your soft space to land.

I love you Anna.  I love you Claire.  With all my great big heart I love you.

And Happy Birthday sweet Riley.  Thank you for reopening my eyes to the beauty of this world, and my daughters. Welcome to this family.  Welcome to this world.  You are already so blessed and so loved.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Claire is 1!

A year is a strange thing.  They can pass by at a pace that makes you want to scream at time to hurry up.  But more often, they pass so quickly you can hardly catch your breath before the next one appears.  Such is the case, continually, since I became a mother.  How is it that Claire is one year old already?  Seemingly, one breath ago, she was a helpless life sleeping on my chest, waking me every two hours to eat, awing me with her tiny eyes, nose, mouth, feet.  Awing me with her presence, her life.

And now this life is one amazing year old, awing me still.  Claire, the happiest baby I have ever known...I swear she was born smiling.  She has Mace's happy gentle spirit, Anna's laugh, my smile.  She came into our lives one year ago and completed our family so perfectly, we forget she wasn't always here.  

Claire breathes joy out of every pore of her body.  Her whole body smiles when she does, its impossible not to be just a little happier in her presence.  People constantly stop and grin at her and she does a full body wiggle-smile that I know makes peoples' days.  Apparently she really digs this life thing.

Claire makes my day every single day.  Her gentle, peaceful spirit, her beaming smile, can turn my day around in a heartbeat.  She is one amazing child.  

Claire, on your first birthday I look ahead and see so much brightness and love in your future.  I cannot wait to continue seeing the person you will transform into and to watch you grow.  It is an honor to be your Mama and I love you with all my heart.  Happy #1 my sweet girl.  

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Raspberry Streusel Bars

Something I love about our new lives is the absolute presence of my husband.  For the past three years he was so engulfed by grad school, that being completely present was, understandably, challenging.  These past couple months, since he started working, he has been 110% present in everything we do.  We get out and do things without a deadline and with total leisure.  We enjoy each other, our children, basking in the indulgence of just being together. Oh, the simple pleasures.

Last weekend we decided to take a family outing to Afton Apple Orchard to pick raspberries and apples.  If you know anything about my eldest, its that this girl loves berries more than almost anything on earth.  Girlfriend would eat them breakfast, lunch and dinner if we could afford it.  So, this was obviously heaven on earth to her.  At first, the price of $4/pint seemed steep to us for pick-your-own raspberries...until we realized that we all likely ate our weight in raspberries while we were picking them.

It was a day that was so hot and humid that it was hard to breathe, but it didn't matter an ounce.  We were together, and we were basking in the hot sweaty glow of our togetherness.

We gorged on raspberries and apples.

There was a petting zoo and we met this guy.

Llamas are hilarious by the way.

And when we got home, I made these delicious raspberry bars.  Actually, delicious doesn't quite capture the essence of these bars.  Amazing, awesome. So. Damn. Good. There is 18 tablespoons of butter in one little 9' x 13" pan.  If that doesn't clear up how good these bars are, then you probably don't know anything about butter (I forgive you)...but you'll still love these bars.


Raspberry Streusel Bars
Serves 12-15
Adapted from Cooks Illustrated

2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour
2/3 cup (4 2/3 ounces) granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup (2 sticks) + 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided, cut into 1" pieces and softened
1/4 cup packed (1 3/4 ounces) brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 1/2 ounces) old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup pecans, finely chopped
3/4 cup (8 1/2 ounces) raspberry jam
3/4 cup (3 1/2 ounces) fresh raspberries

Adjust oven rack to middle and preheat oven to 375F.  Line 9" x 13" pan with tin foil, allowing it to hang over the edges to easily remove the bars later.  Grease foil and set aside.

Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, mix flour, granulated sugar and salt on low speed until combined.  Add the 1 cup of butter a piece at a time, then continue mixing until the mixture resembles wet sand, about 1 to 1 1/2 minutes.

Measure 1 1/4 cups loosely packed flour mixture into a separate medium bowl and set aside.  Dump the rest of the flour mixture into the prepared pan and, using clean hands, firmly and evenly press the mixture into place to cover the bottom of the pan.   Bake until the edges begin to brown, about 14 to 18 minutes.

Meanwhile, add brown sugar, oats and pecans to the reserved flour mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until combined.  Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and work it into the mixture by rubbing it between your fingers until the butter is incorporated.

Combine jam and raspberries in a small bowl and mash gently with a fork until combined but some raspberry pieces remain.

Spread jam mixture evenly over the hot crust.  Sprinkle the streusel topping evenly over the jam, but do not press it into the topping.  Return pan to the oven and bake until the streusel is a deep golden brown and the jam is bubbling, about 22 to 25 minutes.

Allow to cool to room temperature on a wire rack for 1 to 2 hours, then remove the bars from the pan by lifting the overhanging foil.  Cut into squares to serve, and then you most certainly should...


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

She's Three

She's three.  Our Bean, our Monkey, our Anna.  Three years ago she came into our lives and rocked our world forevermore.  She turned us into parents that hot summer day.  We barely remember our world before feels like she's always been here.

I would have bet money on me not being that parent that says "Where did the time go?".  I try so hard to live in the moment and not focus on the past.  But, guess what?  I am.  I cannot believe she was just a tiny baby three short years ago and now she's a walking, talking, full fledged-human, full of fire, love and so much personality.  This kid is her own person.  A person I adore with a fervor I never knew existed.

This year has been a year of big, huge, enormous changes.  As we all did, Anna experienced the intensity of these changes with sadness, joy, confusion, and finally, acceptance.  Considering she's only lived three short years on this earth, I believe she took these changes in great stride.  Looking back I don't think I've given her enough credit for the changes she's endured this past year.  Girlfriend was dealt it, and she dealt with it.

She had a tiny human invade her world and demand she share her parents.

She watched as all of our things slowly disappeared, and the piles of moving boxes grew.  She cried as we packed up her room and the only thing left was her tiny twin bed on the floor and a rogue stuffed animal tucked between the bed and the wall.  She hung in there while we moved into a new, enormous house...then moved three weeks later to Gammy and Poppy's house...and then moved yet again, 2 months later, back into the new, enormous house.

She's still trying to work out why Mace isn't home with us all day anymore since he got a job...that's been a big adjustment for us all.

And she started preschool.  Huh? Yeah.  Preschool means not a baby anymore, not a toddler anymore.  Preschool means she's turned into a full-fledged kid.  We marched through getting dressed, breakfast and playtime, all the while talking about what school would be like today.  She was off kilter, I was off kilter, and I couldn't figure out for the life of me why.

But, it hit me when we got there.  We were both "off" because she was going to preschool today for God's sake!  Its a really big deal, and I seemed to forget the significance of such a big day until it smacked me right in the face.  I teared up, I didn't want to leave...emotions that I thought would be reserved for Anna today, not me.  She wanted me to hang out for awhile, and when I said I was leaving she gave me a big kiss and hug and was off to play.  I spied through the classroom window for five minutes and my heart swelled with an unreasonable amount of pride as she listened to the teacher, put toys away and sat down in a circle with the other kids for story time.  I am so proud of that kid.

This is undoubtedly just the beginning of school years coinciding with her birthday.  The beginning of a week each year of me being a complete and total sap.  A week for reflecting on the past year and convincing myself that time is really moving this fast.  A week for preparing myself for the next big step in Anna's life.

Anna is three.  The years keep rolling on by and it is such a joy to watch her grow, change, and become her own amazing person.  Happy Birthday my sweet girl!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Burger Buns

I am flabbergasted that it has taken me this long to post this recipe.  I make these buns at least once a week and they are the most requested bread item from Mace and the rest of my family.  I think they are so ingrained in my brain and my daily life that they never hit my blog radar.  Utterly flabbergasted.

These buns are easy to make, requires ingredients you already have on hand (granted you are a frequent bread maker and have yeast), and so soft, supple and delicious you will not be able to eat just one. I make them often to go with turkey burgers and hamburgers, but the leftovers are great toasted the next day for sandwiches or breakfast with a bit of PB&J.

If you are anything like me and are obsessed with your kitchen scale, then you may take the extra step and weigh out each bun so they are exactly the same size.  Although, this isn't necessary (unless, as I said, you are scale obsessed and then this is absolutely necessary).  The only true advantage to weighing the rolls is that you won't have to worry about snatching the biggest roll for yourself because they are all the same size!

There have been studies done on the affect that fresh baked bread has on people's emotions.  I am not a scientist and don't really remember the actual results of this study, but I know that it makes people happy.  I know this to be true because we are always happy when we have fresh baked rolls in the house.  I never regret having homemade bread in the oven or in my mouth.  You won't regret it either...promise.

French Bread Rolls
Makes 12 rolls

1 1/2 cups warm water (approx 110 degrees)
2 1/4 teaspoons (1 package) active dry yeast 
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for brushing
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
4 cups all-purpose flour

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the water and yeast and allow to sit for approximately 5 minutes.  Once the yeast proofs (this is when it rises to the top and is slightly foamy) add the sugar, olive oil, salt and 3 cups of flour.

Mix on low speed until the dough comes to together.  Add the remaining one cup of flour a little at a time until the dough comes together completely and a ball forms (you may not need the entire cup).  Once the ball forms, continue to mix on low for another 4-5 minutes until the dough becomes smooth and elastic.

Put the dough in a well oiled bowl and then turn the dough over once so the oiled side is up.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap and allow to sit in a warm place for approximately one hour or until the dough is doubled in size.

Punch the dough down and divide into twelve equal pieces.  If you are weighing the dough they will be approximately 85 grams each.  Shape each piece into a ball (fine cooking has a great tutorial here) and then flatten each piece with the palm of your hand.  Flattening them will give them less height and more girth.

Put the rolls on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silpat mat approximately 1" apart. Sprinkle flour generously on top of the rolls and then cover with plastic wrap.  Allow to rise 30-45 minutes or until doubled in size.

Meanwhile...preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Once the rolls have doubled in size, remove the plastic wrap, and then using a sharp knife cut two parallel lines in the top if each roll.  This is purely decorative, so if you want to make crisscrosses or nothing at all, it is perfectly fine.  Brush the top of each roll with olive oil and then bake for 12-14 minutes or until the rolls are light golden brown. Allow to cool on a wire rack for 20-30 minutes, or they are also delicious warm so you can also just go ahead and...


Friday, July 12, 2013

Maple Glazed Oatmeal-Pecan Scones

Better late than never, we got our Claire Bear baptized the last weekend in June.

At the drive-in movie theater.  Uh huh.

I'll fess up, it is no longer a drive-in movie theater, but a former one that our church has transformed into the funkiest, coolest, most eclectic Sunday morning worship locale around.

It may sound like an odd place for church, but oh, can you feel God's presence in so many ways...

And truly, how many people can actually say that they were baptized at a drive-in movie theater?  Well, at least one...our little Bear.

After the service we headed to my parents home for a brunch.  I made scones.  60 of them to be exact.  Scones loaded with pecans, oatmeal, cranberries and maple syrup.  They were divine. These scones were the right amount of moist so that they weren't dry and crumbly like a lot of scones, but not so moist they were muffiny.  I might go so far as to say these are my favorite scone of all-time.  They were darn good, and the perfect way to celebrate our Claire.

Maple Glazed Oatmeal-Pecan Scones
Adapted from flour

Makes approximately 10 scones

1 1/2 cups (210 g) all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups (125 g) old-fashioned rolled oats
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup (50 g) pecans, toasted and roughly chopped
1/2 cup (80 g) dried cranberries
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
1/3 cup (80 g) cold cream
1/2 cup (160 g) pure maple syrup (don't even think about using the fake stuff, gross)
1 cold egg

Maple Glaze:
1 cup (140 grams) powdered sugar
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1-2 tablespoons water

Heat the oven to 350F degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a non-stick mat.

Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, mix together on low speed the flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, salt, pecans and cranberries for 15 seconds or until well combined.  Scatter the butter on top of the flour mixture and beat on low speed for 30 seconds or until the butter is slightly broken down and grape-sized pieces are still visible.

In a small bowl, whisk together the cream, maple syrup and egg until thoroughly combined.  On low speed, pour the cream mixture into the flour mixture and beat for 20-30 seconds or until the dough just comes together.  The dough will still be fairly wet.  

Remove the bowl from the mixer and using a rubber spatula, scrape down the sides and bottom to ensure all the ingredients are mixed into the dough.  Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup, drop mounds of dough onto the prepared baking sheet, approximately 2 inches apart.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the scones are golden brown.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool for at least 30 minutes.  

While the scones are cooling, make the maple glaze.  In a small bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, maple syrup and enough of the water to make a smooth and pourable glaze.  (The glaze can be made a week ahead of time and stored in an air-tight container at room temperature.)  Once the scones have cooled for 30 minutes, brush the tops evenly with the maple glaze and then...


Saturday, July 6, 2013

Catching Up

You haven't heard from me in awhile...but we made it.  We made it to Minnesota!  We loaded up a very small, and very tightly packed (thanks to my dad) Budget Rental truck and we left Montana June 1st. The girls and I flew, Mace and my dad in the moving truck and our car.

In some ways it feels like we've been here forever, and in others it feels like we're just on vacation and Montana is still waiting for us to come home.  It may always feel like that.  Its okay to have two place that feel like fact we're lucky we do.

We have been soaking up love into every crevice of our bodies from our families here.

It is thrilling to see my parents, sisters, brother, nieces, and Mace's aunt & uncle with so much regularity.  We all feel a bit spoiled.  We are all okay with that.

I will fess up about something.  I was over the moon at the prospect of moving so close to my family, but wasn't excited about living in Minnesota itself.  I embraced the small town life of Missoula with such a fervor I couldn't imagine living any place bigger.  The Twin Cities is much much bigger.  I was worried about all the driving, and all the people, and all the bigness of everything.  My biggest surprise about moving here is how much I love the place. There is a whole new world that has opened up for us.  There are so many things to do and see and so many opportunities that were not available in Missoula.  I am happy here.

My girls seem happy here too.  We got to play with 6 week old puppies at my parent's friend's house, the girls were sorta thrilled about it.

There are new parks to explore...

The Children's Museum had a Dora the Explorer exhibit.  WHAT?!?

Catching up with old BFFs and watching our children love each other...

Baking an obscene amount of goodies...

Slowly we are finding a groove here. I want to find a blogging groove and get back to posting more recipes here. Hold me to that okay?

Happy Saturday!  Enjoy this glorious day!