Saturday, December 20, 2014

Plum-Ginger Muffins

I probably should have posted this recipe months ago, in late summer, when backyard trees all over the city are heavy with Italian prune plums. I have plenty of excuses for my long silence in this space--I'm fully immersed in yet another manuscript rewrite; various ailments have been making their way around the house; work and school have been hectic; plus, you know, the holidays--but, alas, none of that is especially interesting.

You know what is interesting, though? These muffins. (Ahem. Please excuse the clumsy segue.) They may look like muffins, but they taste kind of like doughnuts. Doughnuts! I don't know why; some sort of inexplicable magic happens when the brown-sugar/coconut oil topping bakes into the sweet/tart muffin batter.

If you don't have any plums lying about (we still have 2 bags of frozen ones in our freezer, which I think will be used solely for muffin production this winter), pears make a fabulous substitute.

Plum-Ginger Muffins
Makes 12-15 muffins

1 cup non-dairy milk 
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup canola oil
1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup white flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 TB baking powder
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp salt

1 cup diced plums (or pears)

For the topping, mix together:
1 TB melted unrefined coconut oil
3 TB brown sugar
3 TB almonds
Pinch of salt

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. 
  2. Whisk the wet ingredients together. 
  3. Mix the dry ingredients in a separate bowl.  
  4. Add the wet ingredients and stir in the chopped fruit. 
  5. Fill muffin tins 3/4 full, adding about 1/2 tsp of the topping mixture to the center of each muffin. 
  6. Bake about 22 minutes, until a knife inserted in the center of the muffin comes out clean.       

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Art of Letting Go

Last week, C finished reading her first chapter book (The Time Garden, by Edward Eager).

Pictured here reading another Eager book, Half Magic

I was working in the kitchen when she ran in from the living room. "I finished!" she exclaimed, a wide grin shining on her face. I scooped her up and hugged her tight, both of us so proud, so delighted at her accomplishment.

And then she began to sob, burying her head in my shoulder.

"What's wrong?" I asked.

"It's just... I didn't want it to be over. I loved the Natterjack."

I tried to explain that wonderful thing about books, how you could just pick them up and start all over again, and those characters would be right there waiting for you like they never left, but she just shook her head, unsatisfied.

"But it won't be the same. It won't ever be the first time again."

I wanted to keep holding her forever. I felt it too, that ambivalence: the joy that comes with each milestone, but also the sorrow, because moving on always means leaving something behind.

In fact, I feel it all the time. Watching my children grow in all the big ways and little ways that they do, I know that change is constant. I tend to be a person who holds on, but parenthood has helped me appreciate the art of letting go.

A page from C's current WIP.

Even though I recognize how important this is, it is never easy. It means growth, of course; it means pushing upward, striving. But it also means accepting the loss of what came before.

Our family is on the brink of big changes right now. C begins public school next week; D will be returning to preschool. While we are used to an abundance of time with our children, we will suddenly be faced with a scarcity of it. I'm not quite sure how that will go, for any of us. But I know that we will adjust, eventually. We will thrive on our new routines, and because our together-time will be more precious, we will appreciate it all the more. I trust this to be true.

But for now, I hold on. Even though, sometimes, my long days with the children have felt endless, now that they are numbered I treasure them. I love my children as they are right now, how they are filled with so much sweetness and energy and mischief and goofiness. How they invent elaborate games; how they tie strings to their toys and dangle them off the deck to put on marionette shows. How they spend hours digging a giant hole in the backyard, digging deep, with strange urgency. (We have to find Mother Earth, they explained. She is very old, and she will die soon. We have to take care of her children.)

And next week I will let go. I will kiss my daughter goodbye on her first day of school, and she will leave to have adventures that belong to only her. I will cook oatmeal and slice apples for my son's preschool class. I will love watching them grow, and change. Our weeks will be filled up, but it will be good. And there will still be plenty of time for reading, and puppet shows. Plenty of time for digging deeper holes.

We will adjust. After all, this is parenthood. This is life.

Hold on.

Let go.



Thursday, August 7, 2014

Ten Years

On this day ten years ago, I awoke in a downtown hotel room. My mother and sisters and soon-to-be-sister-in-law were with me, but I still managed to miss Brett, though we'd been apart for only one evening. I was nervous, jittery, peeking through the curtains at the cloudy sky and hoping it would not rain on our outdoor wedding.

The four of us, my sisters and I, left the hotel to wander the crest of the hill where the wedding would be. It was early, and quiet. I remember eating oatmeal, scooping it out of a paper cup very slowly, because it tasted that morning like warm glue. We roamed the hilltop in search of nail polish; I got my hair done. I probably drank some tea. And so the hours passed, skies growing bluer and bluer, as we readied for the day ahead.

The wedding began in the afternoon, in a tiny public garden nestled between grand mansions, adjacent to cobblestone streets and a sea wall with a marvelous view of the sound. Everything was bright and beautiful, flowers and green, not a trace of gray anywhere. And then the best part: seeing Brett again. My handsome groom, obviously as fluttery-feeling as I was, but happy. So, so, happy, the way he is. The way I am, with him.

We had been together for five years before that day. Which means that a large proportion of my life has been spent with him. And I am thankful everyday that he is here, thankful that we share the same vision of how to live, that we are still--and will always be--evolving together. That our personalities balance, that I can always rely on his easygoing optimism to counter my anxious tendencies. That we bring out the best in each other, always.

So on this day, we celebrate ten years of marriage. The skies are blue. And if it rains, we'll just huddle under an umbrella, together.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Catching Up

This morning the rain has come. It is dark, dreary. A good day for books and tea--and blogging! Since it's been a while, let's catch up, shall we?

Back in January, it snowed. We built a snowman.

We have done much exploring.

 Visiting a Chinese Garden

 Hiking by the river

 Floating in the river on a hot summer day

 Wading in shallow streams

In February, C turned six. A few months later, D turned four. In June, C celebrated the end of her homeschool kindergarten year with a big recital for her ballet/tap class. I thought she might be nervous for the performance, timid onstage, but she was neither. Instead, she relished it; her dance moves were extremely animated, and she adored the applause. Afterward, she told me, "I watched my tap shoes get dimmer and dimmer [as the lights went down], and the audience was so loud, cheering for us."

We presented her with a bouquet of flowers after the performance. She said that was her very favorite part.

D, meanwhile, finished up his first year at our beloved co-op preschool. He watched in envy as the older children were given felt crowns and wooden swords upon graduating, already anticipating the day next spring when he will receive his.

In just over a month, C will head into first grade at our neighborhood school, and D will return to preschool. This will mark a huge change in our days. While I'm looking forward to having more time to work on the book, I know I'll miss having the kids around as much as we do now.

But, right now, summer is in full swing, despite the rain. And, for the next few weeks, we have all the time in the world to just enjoy it.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014


Hello there!

As mentioned in my last post, I've been keeping my head down these past months. Writing a couple hours every single morning, chipping away at a novel that seemed like it would never be done.

Until it was.

The day before D's fourth birthday in early June, I worked on the final scene late into the night. At 2:30am, I wrote the last words. And then I slept.

It's a strange thing, finishing such an all-consuming project. On the one hand, it feels amazing to have created something out of thin air, to have taken my clumsy first draft and turned it into a story I'm proud of. But on the other, it feels weird, to have so much brain space suddenly free. No more plot knots to ponder on my walk to work, no more not-quite-right sentences to stew on. At least, not until I get the next round of feedback from my beta readers.

Once I complete my final edits, it's time for the next step: pursuing publication. To be honest, I'm nervous about what lies ahead, about nudging this little fledgling out into the world, and seeing what becomes of it. I hope, hope, hope that someone out there loves it and understands it and wants to help it become the best it can be.

But even if it never sees the light of day, writing this novel has changed me. For better or for worse, I uncovered a need to write, a hunger for it. Now, everything I see and hear and read and watch and live becomes potential inspiration for future stories. And that knowledge compels me to look more closely, pay attention more deeply--when I'm not lost in my own thoughts, that is.

During my absence from this space, I did manage to get out of my head enough to enjoy visiting wonderful places like these, all in the name of book research:



And now, the book is done. (Or at least done-ish.) I have returned, emerging bleary-eyed from my writing cave to find that it is summer. There are parks to explore, creeks to splash in, blueberries to pick. There are sunny mornings and bright-blue hydrangeas and tiny fruits growing on the grapevine we planted years ago. It's a good time to take a little break, to rejuvenate after two years of hard work on this project.

Because, soon, it will be time to start on the next one.