Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Great Pumpkin

I couldn't let October slide by without a single post. Especially, since there is a recipe I want to share with you. I've been a bit reflective in this Autumn, and a bit sad, as the November sadness has set in, and I can no longer hide from it. I'm trying hard, I am, yet the cells in my body have held a memory that I cannot run from, so I let myself break apart. It is the only thing I know how to do. It's amazing, the human body, how it can remember pain, persevere, weaken, surrender, and adapt, all at the same time. The wounds I carry were never physical, unless you count what it did to the inside. The wounds inside can be far more gruesome, and for those of you that have lost a child, you know that we are patched together inside, in a very awful, fragile way.

These foggy days are just that, foggy almost to the point of day after day blending into one another, without a distinction. I can totally relate. One thing is for certain: it is Fall outside. The trees are so lovely right now against the low riding grey, and you can watch the season change, right before your eyes. My little one and I stare in silence at the big maple let go of it's leaves as we wait for the bus in the morning. We watch the low clouds roll through in ghostly waves, pulling those orange leaves down, our big puffs of breath, mimicking the fog. It is quiet. Peaceful. Beautiful.

One thing I love about fall, even though it is a painful time of year, is pumpkins. Pumpkins make me very happy. I love, love, love them.

Someone once asked me why I like pumpkins so much. I couldn't find an answer, except, that " I like everything about them. I just like to look at them, I suppose".  She nodded, and said she understood liking something just because it makes you happy, but you don't exactly know why. Doesn't need a reason.

Pumpkins are not only good for my soul, but they are also food for my soul. No surprise, I like to eat them, too. And so, if you do too, here is a weekend project for you. Make some yummy Pumpkin Butter. Please feed your soul, too. Especially, if it is hungry for pumpkin.

So, the great thing about this recipe, is that it only dirties one pot. I like that in a recipe, easy peasy clean up. The bad thing, if you can call it bad, is having to man the stove for a bit.  And for my gf friends, I think this might be gluten free? Please correct me if I am wrong! I don't want to make anyone sick, but the ingredients seem pretty gf friendly, yes?

                                                       Pumpkin Butter

One 28 oz. can of pumpkin puree ( I used Libby's)

1 Cup of apple cider

1 Cup of packed brown sugar

2 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon

1 tsp. nutmeg

1/2 tsp. ground ginger

couple pinches of allspice

couple pinches of cloves

1 tsp. vanilla extract

3 Tbsp. pure maple syrup (optional)

Okay, now that you have gathered all of the ingredients, measure them out, and put them all into a heavy bottomed sauce pan. Make absolutely, positively sure, that you use a pan that has a tight fitting lid. You can add, or not add the maple syrup. It does add a little maple-y back flavor, but if you don't have it, you can omit it and still have a great pumpkin butter. Do not substitute the maple syrup with pancake syrup though, it will make it too sticky sweet.

So, whisk up those ingredients, and slowly bring it to a boil over medium heat. ***Warning!!*** When that sucker starts to boil, trouble will follow! That pumpkin when it boils, becomes a big, hot, gloppy mess!


Here is where that handy dandy lid comes into play. Immediately cover that sucker with a lid, and lower the heat to a simmer, somewhere between low to medium-low where it will sit and thicken, and soon turn into golden spreadable goodness.

I simmered my butter for about thirty minutes or so, stirring it every four or five minutes, making sure that it was simmering, and not burning. Watch carefully, you don't want to burn the butter! When I stirred it each time, I took it off the heat, because I didn't want the big, hot, bubbly, glops to burn me. You should do this, too.

The color gets a little darker, and the consistency a little thicker, when your butter is done. Once it is done, ladle the hot, delicious mess into sterilized jars, or tupperware containers. Pumpkin butter is not for use using the hot process method, so keep the jars in the fridge, or freeze the rest to eat throughout the season.


The pumpkin butter tastes the best when it is cold. It tastes like cold, spreadable, pumpkin pie. My daughter and I can polish off a whole jar of it smeared onto graham crackers in one sitting.  It is good on pancakes, too.

So, that is your assignment for this pre-Halloween weekend. Pumpkin butter. Make it. Eat it. Love it.


Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Birthday Blues

I never intended to be away from the blog for so long, but I have to admit, it felt needed. After much thought, I came to the conclusion that it was feeling a bit more like a job, rather than what I had intended for it to be in the first place. A way to set my words free, and maybe even for some of the pain I carry, to be lifted in that. The blog is hard for a private person, and I have been feeling a bit shy lately. So now, I intend to being very free about the writing, and free form it a bit. Instead of blogging on Sunday nights which I have done for the last couple years, I will blog when the words come. Give them freedom to be silent, and freedom to flow as they choose. I still have stuff to say, and recipes to share. Plus, I like you. And you, and you, and you and yes, even you. Soooo, future posts may be few and far between, or they may be in a cluster, as the shyness comes and goes. Thursdays, Mondays, Fridays, we will see what happens.

I turned thirty-seven a couple weeks ago. On my birthday I was sick, which wasn't a surprise since it is actually more common for me to be sick that week, than not. Like clockwork. Right on time to coincide with the start of school and the bacteria filled petri dish that it has proved to be.

Since I stumbled a bit on the actual day, feeling so crummy at the start of thirty-seven, I have felt this shift inside. An uneasiness that wasn't there at thirty-six. A trepidation to the year ahead. Maybe it's because the older you get, the more grateful you are of the simplest of things and the fear and anxiety is elevated because it is all so fragile. Or, maybe that door, that window of opportunity is shutting, and that slim slice of a chance that could bring a new baby into our lives is almost closed. Fear, sadness, age, history, is keeping me from trying, and I am afraid I will wake up one morning and have finally made that decision to jump off that cliff into motherhood again, and the chance will be gone.  I can't tell you how crushed I am that motherhood has been such a challenge. I never thought it would hurt as much as it does, and how I wish it was different. The smell of fresh diapers makes me instantly nauseous. I cannot even look at a baby without cringing, and having my heart drop to the floor.  A big, heavy, throbbing heart that holds so much pain, and I will never have the chance to have it not hurt as much as it does. How free it would feel to love your child without a searing pain that comes attached to it. I am on the outside, looking in. This is what keeps me up at night.

Among the things that helps with some of the pain besides the beautiful band-aid on my heart that is Grace, is the sweet little ones that make up my extended family. My gaggle of nieces, and my one rough and tumble baseball loving nephew. I love them dearly.

  For my birthday, Jeremy more often than not lets me pick out something and buy it myself, rather than buying me a gift. I could complain that it is unromantic, but him knowing that I am a control freak with specific needs is romantic enough. Especially, because he loves me regardless. Romantic? You bet.

Sooo, I was perusing the wonderfulness that is Groupon one day, and happened upon this fancy little gadget. Now I am all about foodie gadgets, but this one jumped right out of the screen and bit me. Or rather, whispered in my ear, "never mind that you will gain ten pounds by purchasing me. It will be worth it. I promise."

 A pizza oven. It was a splurge, and I put in some of my monies towards it too, but I must have you. I love pizza mucho, mucho. There is no other food better, except enchiladas, and they might have to arm wrestle for the title.

And so, once I was feeling better, we loaded that sucker up and took it to my parents house, and a family birthday pizza feed to celebrate ensued, to break this puppy in.

And we pumped pizza after pizza after pizza out and sat in the late September sun and ate pizza and drank wine and brew.

 So, the big selling point of the oven is that it has a ceramic bottom and a ceramic top that spins above it at a super high heat. That way, the pizza is done and cooked in three minutes or less, mimicking a wood fired oven. We give it five stars for taste and speed. This will be our Saturday evenings. I freaking love this thing.

So good, you even have to stand guard to claim your pie.

Pizza and cousins? How lucky are they? There are so many of them we were trying to think up names for them aka the Spice Girls, so they could start a band.   Poopy diaper Spice...I said "NO!" Spice....Backtalk Spice... whatdidItellyou Spice... you get the picture. : )

 It was tough, but we had to add my sister's profiteroles to our bellies to complete the feast. My birthday badness dessert of choice.

And with that, I blow out another candle, and become thirty-seven.

I would tell you my wish, but I think you already know what it is.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Calling

I am in a very grateful mood.

As I have grown older, there have been many things I have to complain about. I have started running, and have kept on a running routine all summer, and I love it, however my knees and ankles don't. They hurt a lot. Complain, complain. When I brush my teeth at night, I multi task by taking tweezers and comb through my hair, weeding out the greys. Now, all of the sudden, they are everywhere. There are too many to pull. Complain, complain.
I still have a hole in the middle of my house, no pantry or downstairs bathroom which will not change in the foreseeable future. Complain, complain.

I can easily say things are stressful right now, and I can complain all I want, but in reality, it is pretty much pathetic. If these are my biggest problems right now, I have it pretty darn easy. Scratch that. I have the easy button. Shame on me.

It is typical and normal to get drawn in to your own problems. A natural response to humanity, I suppose. However, for me, I need to center myself when the big bad world gets too big. A place to go to where I can shed myself, hollow out my insides, and fill it back up. A place that humbles me, and shuts out the problems that seem so foreboding. A place where I can live, breathe, and dance easily. A place where me and God can be at peace, and I can feel Him with every fiber of my soul.  I need that rejuvenation, and feel so fortunate that those places I have chosen, or yet, the places that have called to me, are within a decent driving distance.

The first place, my most favorite place on this Earth, is Cannon Beach. I will blog about that trip later. My second place, a very close second, is Mt. Rainier.

 I love her.

 She is dangerous, gorgeous, inspiring, unforgiving, possessive, and predictably unpredictable. We've been there in August and it is barely scratching at 50 degrees, and we have been there in August and it is 80 degrees and climbing. She is pure beauty, but underneath that lacy white dress, make no mistake, she is darkness underneath. I used to not understand why people would want to climb her, now I understand. She is hypnotic and can bewitch the best of them in the blink of an eye. She makes you want to climb, climb,and climb some more, baiting you with a danger coated beauty.

This year we took Lavern to Ohanapecosh, a campground on the Sunrise side. We usually poke around the Paradise side, so this was new and exciting.

Great campground, I highly recommend it. As we were eating dinner the first evening, Grace paused, tipped her head to the side and said, "someone is tuning a violin." We looked at her and shrugged. Not long after, we heard music, beautiful music, gliding through the evergreens. It sounded too good to be live music, it must be someone playing a CD we thought, so we continued eating, then heard the faint sound of clapping when the song was finished. Okay, we must check this out. So, in mid bite, we dropped our dinner, and followed the sound to a small outdoor amphitheater, mid campground, with a group of four people on stage in their campground grubbies playing the most beautiful music.

Come to find out it was a family that was staying there at the campground that had asked permission to put on an impromptu concert. They sang too, and invited their parents and brother onstage where they joined in a beautiful harmony. You know those uber talented families where each of them has this huge talent and you shake your head because it is almost too much talent? This was them.  A full, concert grade family of talent.

After the performance, one of the ladies was nice enough to show Grace a thing or two on the violin.  It was a magical evening that felt far away from the rest of the world.

The next day we got in the truck and went to check out Sunrise. It was a big deal for me, as I've always wanted to go up there, and managed to keep my breakfast down on the way up. One thing about Rainier. The roads. I am not a fan. Steep, no shoulder, if-you-make-a-mistake-you-will-fall-off-a-monster-cliff kind of road. It was traumatic for me, that drive.

About a mile or two before the park gate to go up to Sunrise, the traffic was at a standstill, and there we stood for a good twenty minutes and didn't move an inch. We were on vacation time, so we forgot. It was Saturday. Boo. Not a day you want to explore one of Washington's most visited areas. So, reluctantly, knowing it was completely packed up there and we were going nowhere fast, we turned around and slunk back to the campground. No worries though, we found The Grove of the Patriarchs to explore, instead.

So, the best thing about the campground was the swimming hole. It was in the mid eighties when we were there, so, I was all over that. Jeremy, not so much. It was clear as a bell, bright aqua blue, and about thirty- seven degrees. Just a hair above freezing, pure glacial water. Taking a dip renewed my soul, and brought me closer to the mountain. Splashing in her waters, it felt like a gift.

Through the stay at the mountain, Grace was working hard at earning her Junior Ranger patch and badge. At each state park in Washington and Oregon, you can earn these. She was so pleased to earn it, a happy memory for her for sure!

Our next stop was about 45 minutes off the mountain, a place called Rimrock Lake. I was super bummed to be leaving Ohanapecosh, and was kicking myself for not making longer reservations on the mountain, but the campground was full, so, off we went.

                                                                           Uno face.

But something was bugging me. I still didn't feel finished. The mountain wasn't done with me, and I wasn't done with her, so she called me back.

That evening I told Jeremy I had to go back. It was a longer drive than before, and we would have to forgo spending the day laying on our floaties on the lake, but I had to go back and see Sunrise. So early the next morning we left Lavern at the lake and headed back up the white knuckled drive to Sunrise. This time, on a Tuesday.

The elevation is the highest you can go on the mountain without climbing her, so being up there felt like being close enough to hug her. As soon as we crested the last hill and pulled into the parking lot I exhaled. I found what I was looking for.


Jeremy didn't want me to post this on the blog. Well, it's my blog. And, it makes me giggle like a 4 year old.

I hope, if your world is stressed, you can hear what is calling to you. It may be a person, it may be a place. I know it is not easy to make the time or afford the expense to follow the voice, but, even if it is once every five years, or once every ten years, be kind and treat yourself to follow the calling with this one, precious life you are given.

You just might find what you are looking for.

***September is a busy work month, I hope to blog, but it may be spotty at best. Be back soon!! : ) ***