Saturday, April 18, 2015

Jamie my Jo

For each kid I've set up a photoshoot in the few months before they turn five. They're my "Farewell to Babyhood" pictures. I have a set of matching frames that hang together where I can see and remember each child in that precious moment where they hung on the edge between babyhood and childhood. Here's the highlights from Jamie's set this week. I have to choose just three ;) Wish me luck!

Monday, April 6, 2015

Good-bye, House...

In an awesome twist of fate or providence, one year later I return to say that this Florida house, with which I had finally made my peace, is now for sale and we are returning home to the mountains, the black dirt/red clay, the peonies, roses and hostas.  We will leave the yard and tree branches echoing with the laughter and conversation of our tropical family to another homeless wanderer. Perhaps the lingering ghosts of the joy we have found and felt will comfort and delight the next occupants. I know the memories we take with us will occupy a secret melancholy place in our hearts. I will plant red geraniums beside my gladiolus and never forget my Florida home.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The post I've spent a week not publishing because I wanted to find and upload some pictures....

(...aaaand now you see why i never post any more...)

Easter is over. My house and I breathe a conflicted sigh of relief and regret. We have been stretched to the breaking point these last few days-- full of laughter, activity and rich food. We now both rest in silence and remember the joy of the last 24 hours. It is a comfortable, easy silence, but we have not always been in such harmony, this house and I.

When we first met, I was still post-partum, breastfeeding, lonely and homeless. Not house-less, but Homeless. I yearned for my little rose-covered cottage and my cozy Small-town Southern life.

I was dazed from a long progression of low-slung block houses, wrought-iron barred windows, bright green swimming pools (some complete with families of tadpoles) and terra-cotta roof tiles.

The house search had not been kind to me. Nary a white columned front porch, picket fence, or rose arbor had I seen. Second story dormers are scarce in Orlando. Claw-foot tubs and farm sinks even scarcer. The suburbs of this city rose out of the swamps in the 80s when popcorn ceilings, florescent lighting and patterned linoleum reigned supreme.

When I first met this house, I saw not what she was, but what I thought I would make of her.

I saw the magnolia tree, but I saw it ringed with hostas. I saw the live oaks towering over a lush green yard rimmed by flower beds full of gladiolas, tulips, camellias and crocuses-- not fireant hills, aloes, pineapples and palmettos. In my mind's eye, the living room ceiling held rough-hewn beams and cozy-cushioned Adirondack chairs ringed the pool deck.

We bought the house and I waded into the warfare with a will. But I reckoned not with the force of the hundreds of years of being Not Virginia. This house has a mind of her own. She will not be made a cottage. She fought back. Her obdurate tropical foreignness resisting my attempts to re-establish the familiar Southern shabby chic ambiance of my former life, her very soil rejecting my gladiolas, tulips, camellias and crocuses. Here there be no English Tea Gardens. Here grow cacti, hibiscus, bananas and palms.

But today as I sit in my pajamas, recuperating from The Party Of The Year, I suddenly realize that over the last three years, we have reached a tentative peace, this house and I. We have formed a tentative alliance. I have not been allowed roses, but she has given me bright red geraniums.

There are no rough-hewn beams or Adirondack chairs, but she has given me pineapples, gardenias and a water slide and the back yard is strewn with confetti and egg shells, and the live oak branches echo with the laughter of friends and many children.

I do not know if this is the house where J and I will grow old, where our grandchildren will visit us and we will "retire", with the puttering and the sleeping late that we always joke about, but don't really believe will ever happen. But I do think we are no longer Homeless.

Monday, February 3, 2014

The promised granola bar recipes!

Here's a link to the original recipe. I made it just like that the first time and everyone loved it. I objected to how sweet it was, though, so I started playing around with the recipe and here's what I came up with :)

Here's the ingredient list for the original recipe:

  • 2 1/2 cups (230 grams) old fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup (80 grams) whole almonds, coarsely chopped
  • 1/3 cup (113 grams) honey
  • 1/4 cup (56 grams) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1/4 cup (50 grams) packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup (60 grams) dried cranberries, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (67 grams) mini chocolate chips

  • For my first experiment, I simply decreased the amount of sugar and chocolate chips. I would estimate that I used closer to 1/4 c of honey, I didn't pack down the brown sugar and I only used a scant 1/4 choc chips mixed in and didn't sprinkle the extra on top. I also subbed raisins (unsweetened) for the craisins.

    The next time I made them, I swapped out unsweetened coconut for the almonds-- same measurements. I toasted it right along with the oats, just like I did with the almonds. I cut out the chocolate chips, subbed dried mixed berries (chopped finely) for the raisins/craisins and kept the same reduced sugar measurements. Deeeelicious!

    The NEXT time... I wanted to try using peanut butter to help hold it together so I could reduce the sugar further! ( I am aaaaall about reducing sugar. Annoys the crap outta the kids :)  So. I swapped out a cup of popped amaranth cereal (any puffed grain would probably work-- rice, wheat, quinoa) for the almonds this time, but didn't toast it with the oats. Then when I cooked the butter and sweets (1/4 honey, about two or three tablespoons of brown sugar), I added in about a half to 3/4 c of natural peanut butter and proceeded as usual. No fruit this time. Again-- deeeelicious.

    I followed all the assembly and cooking directions of the original recipe and here are a few hints I've learned along the way. The main problem that seems to arise with making granola bars is keeping them in that perfect texture zone-- not too crunchy, not falling apart. So far, I've been lucky.

    1) Cooking the butter and sugar makes it a little caramel-y which helps hold it together. I let it boil for about... two minutes? Close to that. Maybe soft ball stage on a candy thermometer?

    2) They're not kidding about pressing it HARD into the pan. I finally figured out that my hands worked the best. Once I got it more or less pressed down in with a spoon, I laid a sheet of saran wrap over top and used my hand to be sure it was packed as tight as possible.

    3) The thinner I spread it, the more crumbly it was. It really needs to be at least 3/4 inches in thickness (when you're done pressing it down in).

    4) Peanut butter works great to keep it sticking together. Too bad I don't love peanut butter.

    5) You can use rolled oats OR quick oats :) Yay for versatility!

    6) I get an even dozen out of the quantities in the original recipe. We eat that up in about two or three days, but once the novelty wears off, they might last longer...

    My favorite one was the coconut and fruit version. Next time I make the peanut butter one, I think I'll sprinkle just a smidge of chocolate chips on the top and press them down in. The kids liked all of them :) I can't wait to try more versions!! The basic recipe is so simple, it should be easy to modify here and there. I plan to try sunflower seeds, various nuts, banana chips and maple syrup subbed in the appropriate places in future.

    Enjoy! Let me know how you like it :)

    PS. If you've never tried popping your own grains, that's another super-easy healthy breakfast option. Lots of tutorials online. We love amaranth-- a protein rich grain with a nutty flavor. The kids eat it with honey and milk.