Sunday, November 22, 2015

speaking of pancakes....

In my last blog post, I mentioned pancakes.

This made me want to eat pancakes.

So I made these.

You should make them, too.

I was originally just going for pumpkin pancakes.  Major props to three-year-old Charlotte for suggesting we add chocolate chips. Granted, she suggests adding chocolate chips to just about everything - granola, cupcakes, soup, pizza, tacos,  but this time she was right on.

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Pancakes with Vanilla Maple Syrup
  • 1 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 TB. brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • good pinch of salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 egg
  • 2 TB melted butter, plus extra for the skillet
  • A good handful of chocolate chips

Vanilla Maple Syrup
  • About 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, spice, and salt.

Mix together the milk, pumpkin puree, egg and melted butter in another bowl or liquid measuring cup.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and whisk together just until combined. Use a rubber spatula to fold in chocolate chips.  Do not over mix.  A lumpy pancake batter is a yummy pancake batter.

Preheat the oven to 200° F.  Have an oven safe plate or serving dish ready.

Heat skillet or griddle over medium heat.  Melt some small pads of butter right on the skillet. 

Once the skillet it hot and the butter is melted, add a 1/3 cup scoop of batter to the pan.

Cook until bubbles begin to form on the top surface.  Carefully flip with a spatula, and cook the second side until golden brown, a couple minutes more.

Transfer the cooked pancake to the oven safe dish, and place in the oven to keep warm. 

To make the vanilla maple syrup, just add vanilla to warm syrup.

So simple.  So yummy.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

rebuilding our village

Today I enter a new public writing territory -- motherhood.  It is a territory I have thoroughly explored in my private writing, but not one I have ventured out to publicly.

Motherhood is a tricky topic, and this is certainly not due to lack of material.  Moms are a wealth of stories to suit any crowd and any mood.  We're ready at any moment with the tear-jerkers, the tender moments, the terrifying, the hilarious, the disgusting, the melt-your-heart, the weird, the confusing, and the "so-cute-I-could-just-scream" stories.

But writing about mama life is very different than living mama life.  

A couple months ago, I wrote about surviving in our landominium that had long exceeded maximum capacity.  In this post, I explained that my perspective about overflowing out of our home gains much clarity when I'm writing in the early morning hours and all the darlings are still sleeping.  In those calm moments, I can find humor in the cozy chaos, but there are many moments I find no humor. The struggle is real and ugly.

The same goes for motherhood.

Days after our nine hour road trip with minimal napping, dozens of "I have to go potty" claims, whining, seat kicking, and no less than 247 requests for a snack, the rough edges have softened.  I can chuckle, turning that nightmare into an amusing story that would prompt any parent to nod along and feel my pain.  But there is no chuckling in that car; there is frustration, crabbiness, self doubt, and even tears, wondering how to pull myself up from the current exhausting moment and move into the next.

This is the balance of writing about motherhood.

It is my hope to bring out the humor, absurdity, and joy in it all, while carefully giving full weight to the struggles, questions, fears, and doubts.

And it is for that reason I have steered cleared.  But Andrew turned one a couple weeks ago, so my maternal walk down memory lane is in full stride as I recall exactly what we were doing one year ago today.  The transition to two children was much more difficult than either Stephen or myself expected.  This wasn't due to lack of sleep or an extra needy big sister (well, not entirely), but because welcoming our second child were some of my loneliest days.

Our first child, Charlotte, had been born two years earlier, and within hours of her arrival, our hospital room was filled with at least a dozen friends, all of whom were bubbling over with love and excitement for our new daughter.  During our two-day stay in that room, there was a steady stream of visitors with lattes, cupcakes, Jimmy John's, and pink onesies in hand.  We arrived home to pink balloons decorating the porch and meals lined up for weeks.  There was hardly a day someone didn't stop by to just chat, check in, and keep us company.

I recognize that for many new moms, I have just described your worst nightmare. But for Stephen and me, this village of people celebrating with us was a showing of love that we will always treasure.

Two years later, nearly every detail surrounding Andrew's arrival differed from his sister's, but the most impactful difference was the absence of that village.  It was a harsh reminder that so many of our dear friends, as if almost on cue, moved away from Oxford over that past year.  This mass exiting from Oxford spread our closest friends all over the country from California to New York to Florida to Hawaii.  But this is the nature of a college town.  Very few people, particularly those in their twenties and early thirties, expect to stay more than five or six years, ourselves included. 

I remember sitting on the couch nursing Andrew and thinking about how I'd possibly survive the upcoming cold months of maternity leave with limited friends.  Who would I talk to?  Who would Charlotte play with?  Where would we go?  What if we didn't leave the house for weeks?  Would anyone check in on us?  My tremendous joy was being overshadowed with an intense state of loneliness.

I wasn't looking for someone to watch Charlotte or hold Andrew or fold my laundry.  I didn't need someone to relieve me so I could nap or shower or spring for a latte.  I was just looking for friends.  Friends to patiently listen to every boring detail of how my new baby spent the past twenty-four hours. Friends to scold me for trying on regular jeans far too soon.  Friends to remind me that the outside world was still in motion, and I would rejoin it again someday.

I slowly lowered myself to the ground and asked Jesus for friends, and more specifically, mom friends.  Not just mom friends to make small talk with, but mom friends I could really connect with, laugh with and be real with during this season.  I prayed God would slowly rebuild that village we missed so dearly.

I have prayed dozens of prayers on that living room floor.  There are requests I have been laying before the Lord for years, pleading with Him and waiting to see how He will work. But there have also been times God fulfills an immediate need almost before I've picked myself up off the floor.

This was one of those times. 

Within days, I received an invite to come over to a friend's house for a pancake breakfast, yoga pants expected.

A few days later, a young mom from our church invited Charlotte to join her and her girls at the library story hour so I could have time with just Andrew.  Her kindness led to multiple doughnut dates and a few day trips to the children's museum.

A month later I connected with another mom during Charlotte's toddler gymnastics class. This friendship led to playdates, some great conversation, and of course, doughnut dates. (Should I be embarrassed about all the doughnut dates I schedule?)
Those winter months chugged along, and I soon found myself laying out those work clothes I hadn't seen in months. I sat with Stephen on the couch processing the jumbled mess of emotions every mom feels at the end of maternity leave. 

God had been so faithful.

Andrew's arrival didn't come with the crowds and balloons that his sister's had.  The enormous community we had surrounding us at that time was unique, a precious season of our lives.  A village would have been great.  I always prefer a house full of people,  but what I learned so deeply in those months after Andrew's birth was that I didn't need an entire community.  God didn't rebuild that village of friends we'd lost, but instead He taught me the simply beauty of someone who would just say "come eat pancakes at my house," or "let's meet for doughnuts."

After all, no one, especially a new mom, is saying no to pancakes or doughnuts.

And in honor of Andrew Boston...

"I'm one!"

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

creamy corn and veggie soup

In our home, soup is a year-round go-to.  I will unashamedly admit to simmering a pot of soup in the middle of July, and as soon as fall hits, my soup making really kicks into high gear. Three pots a week is not uncommon, and here's why.

Soup is the perfect way to load up on the veggies.  For the life of me,  I cannot get my three year old to like raw red peppers.  Dice 'em up, throw 'em in some soup, and she's on board.  Amen.

Most soups fall into the "chop and drop" category.  This means I can plop my children on the counter, and they're content to sample raw potatoes and gnaw on a onion (strange, but true) while I get chopping.  The measuring is minimal which means I don't have to think much.  Thank goodness.

Soup recipes are so easy to double (and even triple if only I had a pot big enough), and most recipes freeze well too.  This means an easy dinner down the road, and that makes mama happy. Win for everyone.

I pack four lunches a day, and one could argue that soup is almost always better the next day.  This means lunch packing just became super yummy and super simple.  Hallelujah.

Stephen posted this Creamy Corn and Veggie Soup last week on our Instagram account, @bakeitlikebecker (are you a follower?!?!).  There were requests for some recipes, and I'm happy to share this veggie-packed goodness. (Never fear, there's bacon and cream, too.)

Creamy Corn and Veggie Soup
  • 2 TB extra virgin olive oil
  • 3-4 slices of bacon, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 red pepper
  • 10 ounce bag of frozen corn
  • 2 small zucchinis
  • About a pound of potatoes (This time I used russet, but I have used red potatoes in the past.)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 TB flour
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup cream (I admit I used half and half this time because it's all I had.  Still yummy, but we all know cream would have been better.

Heat the olive oil in a medium pot over medium-high heat. 

Add the bacon and cook until it is close to crispy. 

Toss in the onion, garlic, and pepper and cook until those soften up.

Add the corn, potatoes, bay leaf, paprika, chili powder and some S&P. Give it a good stir and let it cook for about five minutes.

Sprinkle the flour into the pot, stir, and cook for about a minute.

Slowly add the broth, milk, and cream. Let the soup simmer for about 10 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.

Happy Soup Season!