Hey! I'm Emily... homebody, amateur philosopher, professional photographer, mama and wife. This is my little world-- a place for me to preserve the little snippets of my life that bring me joy, make me think, or show my creative leanings. I'm so happy you're here. If you get a minute, please introduce yourself in the comments. If you like what you see, you are invited to follow my blog through your RSS Reader. Just click the link at the bottom of the page to add me.
Thank you for being part of my little world... :)

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Friday, September 30

Ordinary Days, Part 2...

I'm still spinning from the thoughts that hatched with yesterday's post. If you'll allow me, I have more on my mind I'd like to ramble on about...

I think the thing that is hitting me the most with this book I'm reading is that I am suddenly, sharply understanding that all this WORK I'm putting into my life right now is.... essentially.... for nothing.

Wait. I know that sounds AWFUL. So let me try to explain. I guess, in my innocence here as a relatively new mom of only 4 years, it has seemed that every day I am working to refine myself to be a better mom, better wife, better person. There are concrete steps to get there--- feed my kids healthy food, give my kids opportunities to explore and imagine, lift up and support my husband as he provides for our family... And even through the bumps-- a hard pregnancy, a colicky baby, a changed career path-- I have seen PROGRESS. I am able to feel authentic in my daily life, like I am becoming who I have always wanted to be. It has been WORK, but I am seeing results.

Yet.

Katrina Kenison, veteran mama, is telling me, gently, that all too soon, I will no longer be able to define myself so simply. The work in becoming THIS mama will no longer be relevant. I will have to figure out a NEW way of being "Mom" to my kids... and then, even after all THAT work, one day I'll have to figure out how to be authentic as just ME again... Kids gone, living their own lives. So in that, way, I am stunned... and a bit sad... at the revelation that all this WORK I am doing RIGHT NOW is for something temporary, really.

So of course, I KNOW it isn't for nothing. The work I do now is building my own foundation, hopefully, so I can be ready for the next level, and then the next, and the next... Trying with every stage to be authentic and to be the person God wants me to be. And I know that even for my kids, this work I do now is setting them up for success in the next stage--- the disconcerting adolescence that seems so far and so foreign to me right now.

It just brings to me a weight of sadness and melancholy to realize that these days now, with their repetition and their SAMENESS and their routine... these days that seem so endless-- sometimes frustratingly so-- WILL have an end. Ms. Kenison writes,

"...I felt so certain that tomorrow would be just another day, another chance to try to get it right-- followed by another, and another after that, and hundreds more, all more or less like the very day I was struggling to get through at that moment..." pg. 6

And so... it turns out this isn't so. Of course, logic cries that I should have know this all along. But my heart is so entrenched in this daily business of rearing a pre-schooler and baby (and more to come, God willing), that it doesn't have time to step back and understand that one day, these days will run out.

So.

I'm not trying to be a downer. I'm not trying to work myself into a full-blown depression about the futility of my daily work.

But I AM seeing with some new clarity just how poignant and beautiful THIS version of "mama" is. My gosh, it's exquisite, when you stop to think about it. These are the times where hugs are the currency of the day, and sandwiches cut into fun shapes with cookie cutters can brighten an entire afternoon for that little person... These are the times when there is an answer for everything, and all your kids really NEED is security and consistency and love... with a LOT of fun sprinkled in. When they aren't being torn into a thousand pieces by the bigger, wider, often harsher world, and still only really know the things YOU choose to teach them. When forgiveness is immediate and completely sincere. When WE PARENTS are the ultimate superheroes to our children. What a magical thing. And I LOVE it. I love it so much I don't think my heart can hold it all in.

And I know I have YEARS ahead of this, especially if we are blessed with any more children. I know that for now, the days DO number in the hundreds. I thank my God for this.

But I also now understand that I will miss this. I will miss the "ME" I am working so hard on right now... The "mama" that will have to adapt one day and become "MOM", with totally different requirements and challenges and expectations. I wish.... I don't know... I wish I could keep refining and cultivating THIS "me" forever.

But we are placed here on Earth to learn, to grow, and to CHANGE... and I need to have faith that everything has its season and that there will be incredible beauty and truth in the next levels ahead. And possibly, it will only get BETTER. Wouldn't that be amazing? This feeling I have now, only magnified by more years and deeper experiences?

For now, though, I am deeply, humbly grateful for these thoughts this week. For seeing my present life with fresh clarity.

Because my gratitude for all of it is so sweet I can hardly breathe.

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And thank you, commenters, for your incredible comments yesterday. They carried me through the beginning growing pains these new thoughts have given me. I am so glad this resonates with many of you... that it's not just silly me, being too analytical or emotional or sentimental. Please keep the thoughts coming. I'd love to hear your thoughts. I'll try to respond with comments of my own if there's something that begs a response... And PLEASE go get these books if you are feeling a connection to these thoughts. Ms. Kenison is incredible at putting the beauty and emotion of motherhood into words. I am so glad I took the time to read her first book, and know that this second book will be a huge journey for me with these ideas of change and how "mom" is defined at different times of our lives. Get reading, and come back and let's talk!!

Thursday, September 29

Ordinary Days...

I'm taking a week, maybe two, off of Facebook/Twitter... I got to that saturation point where a little detox from the IMMEDIACY of the Internet seemed like a good thing. It's been several days and already I am amazed at how much my productivity has increased. When I'm on the computer, I am more focused... not hopping back and forth checking the latest news and updates and chatter from folks... And when I'm not on the computer, it's not enticing me to come back and check again. It's a good thing.

I thought I'd fill the days with a daily blog post instead...But here it is, Thursday, and I'm just now writing my first one. And even this one feels a bit like a chore. I just haven't felt the need to be present online very much throughout this Social Media Detox, I guess...

And I'm just.... living. Living a string of VERY ordinary days. Days that consist of keeping Noah's insane imagination fed as his sidekick on whatever game/story he is reenacting at that moment. Days filed with baby nap awareness, small jaunts out of the house to take Noah to preschool, to get to the store, to stop by the post office, to go on family walks... Days consisting of making yet another peanut butter sandwich, another bottle, another fast dinner. Days of trying to keep the house picked up, trying to find moments to take a photo or two, send an email or two, make something pretty... Days of quick phone calls to special people, photo texts to stay connected...

Storytime.
Snacktime.
A cartoon or two.
Wiping the counter again.
Sitting on the outside steps with a baby in arms, just enjoying the gorgeous weather.
Contemplating makeup/bra/shoes or just foregoing all of the above for the day.
Packing a backpack/diaper bag/my tote for whatever outing we're headed on.
Dishes.
Laundry.
Diaper changes or bum wipes.
Picking up toys again.
Diddling around on the iTouch.
Baby naptime again.

And on and on....

Ordinary. Repetitive. Routine.


Baby in her bouncer, mama and Noah sitting nearby in the sunroom and on the back porch steps.

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A headband made to match the outfit... a burpcloth nearby since she's a spitter... Baby chins and cheeks and smiles...

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A happy, carefree, imaginative kiddo, 90% potty trained (hallelujah!)... always ALWAYS needing to be near me, to have me engage in playacting games with him...

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His 100% pure kid FEET--- the bumps, bruises, blisters... and yes... that is aqua toenail polish on his big toes. He named my feet Burt and Twinkie and loved seeing them painted, so he asked for some paint for HIS Burt and Twinkie. Why not?

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And mama-- not really put together for the day, yesterday's makeup on, just spending the majority of her time caring for the two rugrats in the photo with her...Remembering for once to get IN a photo instead of just take them all...

It's not much to write about. There's not a lot of epiphany or revelation going on here. Oh, I might have a burst of fresh thought when out and about in a car or when rocking the baby to sleep...I might even have a half-started blog post going in my head at that moment.  But when there is actual free time to sit and write, those clever ideas are gone and my mind is just happy for a break. No epiphany. No revelation.

Ah well. 

It's not bad. Any of this.... 

In fact, I finally found time to begin a book today--- the second book by Katrina Kenison, the author who wrote that remarkable book Mitten Strings for God I read last summer... the one that shaped so much of my changes last summer. This one is called The Gift of an Ordinary Day, and is more about parenting your kids as they begin adolescence. Mitten Strings For God is about the stage of mothering I am currently in, so when I began this new one, I found myself feeling a little let down, like, "What does this have to do with me? I am nowhere NEAR raising pre-adolescents! Maybe I'll put this away until Noah is older, when I can REALLY enjoy it..."

But I decided to finish the chapter I was on, and I am so glad I did. Because in order for Ms. Kenison to get really deep into how it feels to parent these older kiddos, she has to revisit what it meant, in hindsight, to raise the little ones. 

And hearing it from someone who has been there, is now done, and is looking back, is incredibly poignant. She is, in essence, telling me the future-- an oracle of "been there, let me teach you" that has already been very powerful. And not a little frightening. She makes me understand that this string of ordinary days, seemingly endless, does not, in fact, last forever. That if at all possible, I must live each of these simple, repetitive days with mindful presence, because they WILL be gone, all too soon. 

I love her description of how it feels to be the mom of young children I am right now:

"Intense and demanding as they are, the years we spend with our young children can also be deeply, viscerally gratifying. We know exactly where we are needed and what we need to be doing... At times, the hard work of being a mother seems in itself a spiritual practice, an opportunity for growth and self-exploration in an extraordinarily intimate world, a word in which hands are for holding, bodies for snuggling, laps for sitting." pg.7

And my heart constricts at her description of how that changes... how the clarity of what our current job is fades to an uncertainty of what the older kids will need from us:

"The changes, when they began, were subtle at first. Somehow our treasured family ritual of reading together at bedtime slipped away. No one asked for stories anymore....Baseballs stopped flying in the backyard. A bedroom door that had always been open, quietly closed." pg.7

I am only one chapter into this book. And I KNOW she will help me marvel at the magic of the next stage of parenting. But reading about how we will lose THIS life, THIS string of ordinary days, tears me into pieces right now. 
Yesterday, I might have looked at the above photos with indifference--- "Oh, how cute are my kids? What a simple day... Not important enough to edit or blog..."

But today, I list all the ordinariness and look at all the details of those simple photos... and I know I will miss it all when it is gone. And they become special to me. THESE DAYS are sweet. Their predictability leads to a feeling of safety, and of comfort. I know I am loved unconditionally by my little ones. I know I am doing the right things for them, mostly. We are in a bubble of unity and routine that feels so good that we forget to notice it most of the time. 

But for a few minutes today, I was gifted with the reminder that this is not, in fact, permanent. That as soon as we figure some things out and get to a good place, life changes again... And we are back to figuring out yet MORE things... 

So. 

For now, I'll take these ordinary, not-so-remarkable days. I will hold them tight. I will be IN them, as fully as I can be. I am not ready to lose them... not for a long long time will I be ready to lose them.

Tuesday, September 20

They Are the Best and The Worst

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Noah's turn for bedding on the clothesline...

Needless to say, he has had a few setbacks with potty training.

It continually astounds me how these children we bring into the world are the utter, absolute BEST part of our day....

And the utter, absolute WORST.

Potty-training setbacks fall into the WORST part of my day.

I am not proud of how it makes me feel to see this kid willingly, stubbornly poop in his underwear, literally 30 minutes after I had him sit on the toilet for ten long minutes-- AMPLE opportunity to get the job done in the right place.

Since the day we brought him home from the hospital, nearly four years ago, he manages to bring me so much pure, unadulterated JOY and light. But when he ruins my day, WATCH OUT. I am at my lowest low. Lucky for him (and me), the last year of our lives together have been pretty even-leveled, and I haven't felt true despair with him in a long time. So I guess today's feelings were overdue. And gosh darn it all--- even when I want to throttle this kid for that poop fiasco... all he has to do is be his true sweet self and I am back in the euphoria of being his mama.

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(Do I spy some baby legs?)

For example: one rough day a few weeks ago (unrelated to the poop fiascoes), when I was at my lowest, he asked me how my day was. I couldn't keep it in anymore and I started crying and said simply, "I'm just really really sad." He walked right over to me and said, "I can give you the biggest hug and you will feel better!"... and he did just that. The sweetest hug, and I was consumed with love for this kid.

He is my highest high, I swear it.

And this stinker:

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(Dontcha love her Build-a-Bear Surgeon's Hat??)

She has been AMAZING lately. Her chubbo cheeks and that smile. Her gaspy exclamations of joy. The way she devours her bunny lovey like he was her long-lost twin... She is HAPPINESS all bottled up into one small, chubby, wiggly body.

Except.

After two weeks of being AMAZING for nap and bedtime put-downs, she decided the last couple of days to mess with the status quo. Like the Borg, she becomes hip to all my tricks and defies them, one by one. She is unstoppable. Today, especially, every trick in the book failed, one by one. And I was left to let her cry herself to sleep... helpless to do much else.

Lowest low, I tell you--- hearing your baby wail on a baby monitor that manages to AMPLIFY the ugliness of crying... Knowing that even trying to console her at this point would only make her cry harder.... The frustration and helplessness of that.

But then.... eventually.... both kids are napping. My window next to my computer is open to the lovely September breezes. I have time for a tall glass of chocolate milk and some photo editing.... Pinterest surfing... relaxing... All is quiet-- even that monstrous baby monitor...

And this photo comes up in Lightroom:
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My babies. After only an hour break from them, feeling revived a bit, it is possible I MISS them? Of course it is. They are my highest high. The BEST part of my day. I live for their smiles and their love.

And that, dear friends, is why we keep going, day after day... Even when potty training threatens to kill us. Even when babies start teething or husbands have to work late. We live for the highs.... so we push through the lows. And eventually, the bad stuff fades out of memory and we get to remember mostly the good.

And if it seems the lows just keep a-coming?

My cure, what works for me, is just to find one small way to be creative in the day.... Make SOMETHING pretty to counteract the uglies in my heart.

Even if on a bad day, it's just getting clever with Ramen and hot dogs:

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(Dinner for Noah and myself on one of those long days where Joe has late class.... The idea is from the Taste of Home "Fun Food" edition!)

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Even one little creative thing really moves my heart back on track as a mama... Maybe it does the same for you?

Ah.... Kid #1 is up from naps.... The break is over. Gonna work on keeping the rest of this day on the happy track. Prayers appreciated!

Saturday, September 17

Lucy: Five Months Old

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She is five months. Already. Somehow, it has been the swiftest five months---- and the longest. It feels like we just brought her home, were just in the thick of those rough first three months.... Feels like we're still recovering from that madness.... Yet here she is, five months old, and has been an absolute dream for much of the last several weeks. Somehow, she is old enough to coo and kick and roll and laugh and grow into her own little body. Somehow, she is one small month away from eating solid foods. Sitting up. TEETH. How is it that five months can go so fast and so slow?

And what a month it has been since her last official photo. Between August 12 and September 12, Lucy's whole world shifted dramatically:
~ She lost the binkie and the swaddle. 

~ She learned to soothe herself back to sleep far better than before. 

~ She fattened up quite a bit. 

~ She found out that life is pretty great, and is now quite cheerful and content during her waking hours.  

~ We realized that being really attuned to her napping/sleeping needs was critical to her happiness, and dove back into the world of strict nap rituals. She now naps, if at all possible, within two hours of waking up, and then again within two hours of that first nap. If there is still a sizable chunk of the day left between nap #2 and bedtime (6:30... she chose this bedtime, not us!!), then she gets yet another nap. It means I stick close to home, but the trade-off has been 1,000% worth it. She is simply a happier baby when she gets this sleep.

~ She is less portable now... for the above reasons. Without the binkie to soothe her anywhere, anytime, it's harder to get her into sleepy mode without the comforts and familiarity of her own bedroom. And I'm okay with this. I miss the jaunts around town in the mornings, trusting her to get catnaps all morning as we went along... But I love the steadiness of the home-rituals just as much. So it is all good. 

~ We aren't on solid foods yet--- I'm waiting til the 6-month mark my doc recommends. But she is definitely moving towards that milestone. She has become FASCINATED with watching me eat! 

~ She CAN roll from tummy to back, and from back to tummy. She just DOESN'T, not very much. I can count on one hand the times she has done either. Looks like she's not a "gross motor skillz" rockstar just yet. That's all right. Noah wasn't really, either. He took his time on all of it... 

~ Lucy LOVES kicking. She gets the biggest smile after she's kicked and made contact with things... so I often lay her on the floor under my feet when I'm sitting on the couch. She can look up at me AND kick the side of the couch, and she is completely content to do so for long stretches. 

~ Unlike Noah, she LOVES the car. Hallelujah!!

~ She's been responding to music since birth... but especially now that we have the piano, she will clam right up and listen raptly if I muddle through a song or two... and she especially loves it if I attempt to sing and play at the same time. I'm rusty, but it's been fun.

~ Lucy LOVES her brother. I swear, he is tho only one to get her to laugh. But I'm okay with that. It is amazingly cute to behold. 

~ She's still pretty tiny-- just barely moving into 3-6month clothes. But she's chubbing up. Her cheeks are ridiculous, and I love love love them.. and her slowly-chunking-out thighs. 

~ Her blonde hair is filling back in on top, after several months of being barely there. I love to smooth her hair and "pet" her... 

~ Her eyes still show NO signs of turning brown or hazel, the only two colors I SWORE we'd get in our kids. I am still a skeptic that she'll keep the blue, but she seems bent on proving me wrong!

I guess that's enough Lucy stuff for her 5-month check in... I am just grateful that we are in a lovely place in our lives now where she is happier and we can enjoy her more... Where there are enough quiet moments and smiling moments that the love is free to flood in and overwhelm me with gratitude. I needed this. She did, too. 

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Credit:
Lucy's monthly photos are inspired by the Young House Love blog, here. You can see Lucy's 4-month post here, her three-month post here, and her two-month post here. The fabric in this month's photo was totally in honor of September being the first days of school... I love that chalkboard fabric!

Thursday, September 15

My First Clothesline Batch... Happiness!

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All I wanted for my birthday was a clothesline...

Thanks to Joe, I have a wee one in my back/side yard. 

Thanks to Lucy, I have laundry that could use some fresh sunshine-drying...

I love it.

Wednesday, September 14

You Are:

Gloomy, rainy day over here... Anyone else need a pick-me-up?

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(I don't know who to credit for this... So whoever you are, THANK YOU for these affirmations!)

Love,
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ETA: Found it as a print on Etsy. Possibly the original creator? Link here: http://www.etsy.com/listing/60768048/you-are-love-8x10-on-a4-uplifting-print)

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(If you haven't noticed, giving credit is so important to me. I appreciate it when it is given to me, and really REALLY want to share the love for any other creator out there when I love their work. Pass it on!)

Tuesday, September 13

A Cake For My Joe: Chocolate Raspberry Vanilla Buttercream With Chocolate Drip

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My sweetie requested only one thing for his birthday--- no grand gifts, no big parties... He just wanted cake. He didn't have anything more specific than CHOCOLATE as his request.... He just wanted CAKE.

So.

I pondered cake for a few weeks. Slowly, the ideas came together. First, I saw this wedding cake on Pinterest. Very cool and kinda manly with its chocolate drip effect. I knew I'd be using a Cake Doctor recipe for the chocolate cake--- altered cake mix, so it's not fully from scratch, but also more dense and good than the basic box mix--- and I also knew I'd be using my mom's buttercream for the main frosting. Adding a chocolate drip on top didn't seem too hard, so I had the basics worked out.

I didn't need to do a tiered cake like the wedding cake-- but I did want a layer cake. I decided on 9" rounds, and after reading one recipe where the girl split her 9" cakes into two thinner cakes, making four thin layers, I decided to do that. Next, I needed to ponder what would fill the layers. Joe LOVES raspberry and chocolate together, so I decided first to do raspberry pie filling between the layers. But the more I pondered that, the more boring it seemed. What about a MOUSSE? Yum!

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So this chocolate layer cake became a raspberry-filled, buttercream-topped, chocolate-dripped layer cake idea. And I had my plan. I compiled some recipes to get all the pieces together, and over the course of a few days, I made this craziness happen. There was a LOT of mixing... and I do NOT have a gorgeous stand mixer like many folks do (though I dream one day of a yellow or aqua Kitchenaid on my countertop). So my hand mixer got a LOT of action, and those poor beaters got washed and rewashed a LOT to be used again and again. And after all was said and done, I'll say this-- this cake is not for the faint-of-heart, or for someone wanting a quick and tasty treat. It took time. And effort. And LOTS of love. But I am thrilled with how it turned out. And that thrill was quintupled by the reaction from the recipient... My sweet Joe, whose jaw dropped in just the right way and whose compliments were just the right words.... And I knew I'd hit a home run for my hubs on his birthday.

And that's what counts. :)

So. For anyone who feels the need to replicate this insanity, I have compiled ALL the separate recipes that go into creating this and have thereby made my OWN recipe, free for the trying. Presenting:

Joe's Chocolate Raspberry Vanilla Buttercream Layer Cake with Chocolate Drip

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Shopping List
Cake: Devil's Food Cake mix, instant chocolate pudding mix, sour cream, vegetable oil, eggs
Buttercream Frosting: butter, vegetable shortening, milk, vanilla, powdered sugar
Raspberry Mousse: unflavored gelatin, raspberries (fresh or frozen), granulated sugar, eggs, heavy cream
Chocolate Frosting: Baker's semisweet chocolate squares or semisweet chocolate chips, heavy cream, butter, powdered sugar

Step One: Bake the cake. You can freeze this cake for later, so it's okay to make this in advance when you have some time.

Darn Good Chocolate Cake (from food.com recipe here) 

1 (18 1/4 ounce) package devil's food cake mix
1 (4 ounce) box instant chocolate pudding mix
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 large eggs 

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease 2 9-inch round cake pans. Dust with flour and tap out the excess; set pans aside.

Place the cake mix, pudding mix, sour cream, water, oil, and eggs in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed for 1 minute. Stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl. On medium low speed, continue to blend for 2-3 minutes more. The batter will be very thick and should look well combined. Pour batter into prepared pans and smooth it out.

Bake for 27-32 minutes (I started checking the cakes at 25 minutes-- it was like gooey chocolate pudding-- then 3 minutes later it was perfect. Another couple of minutes and I think it would have been dry, so keep an eye on your cakes.)

Allow to cool in the pans on a wire rack for 20 minutes. Run a knife along the edges on the cakes pans and carefully remove cake by inverting it; allow to cool for 20 minutes more on the wire rack right side up. When the cake layers are completely cool, cut layers in half.


Step Two: make the vanilla buttercream frosting. This also keeps well in the fridge, so you can make this in advance, too. 

Mom's Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

1 cup butter/margarine (2 sticks)
1 cup shortening
1/4 C. milk
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 lb. bag powdered sugar

Cream the butter and shortening together. Add the milk and vanilla and mix. Slowly add the bag of powdered sugar a little at a time until the frosting is fully blended. It should be stiff and not runny, so don't be tempted to add more milk unless absolutely necessary. 

Step Three: Make the raspberry mousse. This recipe calls for blackberries, but fresh or frozen raspberries work just as well. I was a bit nervous that this mousse wouldn't store well when I was preparing everything, but it turns out it did very well hanging out in the fridge til I was ready to use it. Still, I recommend making it the day you assemble your cake so it is in premium condition.

  Blackberry Mousse (I subbed raspberries)

1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
3 tablespoons cold water
1 cup blackberries
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg white
3/4 cup heavy cream

In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over 1 tablespoon of the water and let stand until softened, about 5 minutes. In a blender, puree the blackberries with the remaining 2 tablespoons of water. Strain the blackberry puree into a small saucepan; there should be about 3/4 cup. Add the sugar and bring to a boil. Simmer the blackberry mixture over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until it is slightly reduced, about 5 minutes. Stir in the softened gelatin until dissolved. Let the mixture cool.


In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the egg white until firm peaks form. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the cooled berry puree until no streaks of white remain. In another bowl, beat the heavy cream until softly whipped. Fold the whipped cream into the berry mixture and refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour. 

Step Four: Prepare your cake base. You can use a cake platter or a foil-covered cardboard circle like I did. Place a blop of buttercream on the bottom and spread it a bit. This is the "glue" that will anchor your first layer to the bottom. Place your first layer of cake down and center it.

Step Five: Make the chocolate frosting. This will happen right when you are ready to assemble and decorate your cake, since it is a cooked frosting.

"Perfect" Chocolate Frosting (from food.com recipe here)

6 oz. semisweet chocolate (either 1/2 bag of chocolate chips or 6 squares of Baker's Chocolate)
1/2 C. heavy cream
1 C. butter, cut into tablespoon size
2 1/2 C. sifted powdered sugar 

Place a large bowl, filled halfway with ice, in the sink (a bowl that is large enough to hold the pot that you will cook the frosting in). In a medium size pot over medium low heat, melt chocolate, cream, and butter.Stirring constantly, cook the mixture until all of the butter and chocolate melts and thickens.Cook for 5-6 minutes. DO NOT LET BOIL.

Remove pot from heat. Whisk in the sifted confectioners' sugar until mixture becomes smooth (approximately 1 minute), then put the pot on top of the bowl of ice (be careful to not allow any ice from the larger bowl to get into pot with the chocolate mixture).

Beat with an electric mixer on low speed for 4-5 minutes until frosting becomes smooth, thick, and fudgy. Remove from ice. It is ready to use now. 

 Step Six: Pour enough of the chocolate frosting onto the first layer of cake to spread it and cover the layer. Don't let it drip down the sides. 

Step Seven: Place layer two of cake atop the chocolate. 

Step Eight: Get your raspberry mousse and spread a thick layer of it all over the top of layer 2. Add layer three of cake atop the mousse. Don't let it come out the sides too much-- clean up as necessary. 

Step Nine: pour more chocolate frosting onto the new layer, as before. Place the last layer of cake on top. 

Step Ten: using about 1/3 of your buttercream in a separate bowl(we're trying to keep crumb contamination to a minimum!), do a "crumb coat" on the entire layer cake. This is a thin layer of frosting that covers the entire cake, used to seal in the crumbs of the cake. 

Step Eleven: Place cake in freezer for about 15-30 minutes to get everything nice and solid and the crumb coat really firm. 

Step Twelve: Bring the cake back out and frost the entire cake with the last 2/3rds of the icing. Spread it thick to avoid pulling dark cake crumbs into the top layer. Smooth it as much as you'd like. If you want, pipe a border on the bottom of the cake (I did a "dot/pearl" border.)

Step Thirteen: Chocolate Drip time! You'll now need to reheat the chocolate frosting. The frosting thickens as it sets up, and also becomes hard to spread or pour as it cools. To get it back to pouring consistency, put back on LOW heat and stir constantly until you get the spreading consistency desired. Be patient! 

Step Fourteen: Carefully and slowly pour the frosting onto the top of the cake. Keep it confined to the top as you pour, then set the pot down and nudge the chocolate towards the sides of the cake with a spatula. Let it drip down the sides naturally-- don't "fake" the drips. If there doesn't seem to be enough chocolate to drip, pour more on the TOP of the cake, near the center. The outside edge will spread outward from that. go slow if you want to keep the drips under control. OR, if you just like the idea of a big mass of yummy chocolate on the top, pour at your leisure and let it fall where it may... it'll still taste marvelous without the pretty drip effect!

Step Fifteen: Top with fresh raspberries if desired, then put it in the fridge til you're ready to serve it. 

Ta-DA!!

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Aaaaand seeing how between baby meltdowns, mama meltdowns, and toddler potty-training, this post has taken three days to write/compile/proofread/format, I'd better just get it posted and move on. So no pretty conclusions or deep thoughts about anything.... Just.... Enjoy the cake idea, and go get something done on YOUR to-do list! I am hopelessly behind and have a few things I'm off to go do myself. Toodles!!

Friday, September 9

This Rainy Friday Morning...

Rainy, chilly Friday morning, and I am listening to quiet music that tugs at my heart... I drove Noah to preschool after a not-so-great morning of me not being patient. Luckily, that kid forgives me really quickly, and I get a new chance to do better right away...

Lucy is sleeping now, and I SHOULD be wrapping presents for Joe and finishing his cake--- HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MY LOVE!!!--- Instead I am giving in to the wistful natsukashii of pre-fall and rain days and pondering little snippets of my world.... never lingering long on any one thing....

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Like-- this is scaring the crap outta me:
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That's a countdown chain. It started at 20. I let Noah choose how long til we switched out of diapers forever, and he said, "Twenty days." So 20 days it was. And we made a chain. And.......... We're really close now. And I am terrified.

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Also, we got a piano:
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My amazing in-laws asked if we'd like to borrow theirs, since it was mostly gathering dust in a neighbor's house while my in-laws continue to live in Korea. Not only did they offer the use of their piano, they sprung for piano movers to do the dirty work. AMAZING. (My deepest gratitude, Mama Vicki and Papa Joe!!!!)  I am so excited to have the chance to have piano music in our home. I have a LOT of brushing up to do....

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I've been letting the nostalgia waves of autumn begin washing over me, and have found myself drawn to my old journals. I want to dig into them and remember who I used to dream of becoming. I want to see how close I've gotten, or how far off track.. or if those old dreams even still fit. I want to pore over the pages of the me of ten years ago, just to get reacquainted and maybe learn something new.

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(Ugh. I was so LITERARY ten years ago, deep into my English degree, devouring books and poems and amazing things... I miss that....)

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A quote from the front of the journal pictured above, one that applies to my years-long collection of past journals, as well as to why I continue to journal in the form of a blog today:

"...Journal-keeping...[helps] me to discover and uncover myself, to encourage my own bravery, sort out my difficulties with other people, to invent new ways of being, and of seeing, to plan all kinds of adventures and plans, and most of all, to live experiences more than once."

-SARK

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A peaceful, nastukashii-Friday to any of you who are as sentimental and emotion-based as myself, and to the rest of you-- just have a lovely weekend!

Thursday, September 8

Y'all Are Crazy.

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This is Me. Just Little Ol' Me. 
(Perhaps I'm a Bit Crazy, Too.)

It seems I've acquired several new blog followers over the holiday weekend... Mostly owed to Pinterest and my Famous Flower, here. And I mean, I am SUPER flattered. I love that flower too, and have managed to eke out other crafty tutorials and un-tutorial'ed projects now and again.... I love my fleece mailbox, and have so much fun making burned fabric flowers, and this teeny bunting out of scraps.... And if you know me at all, you KNOW I'm a sucker for cupcakes...

But I am NOT super consistent on posting that great stuff... I simply am NOT a craft blog, though the cute stuff I make pops up now and again. I'm just.... Well, I'm what I say I am at the start--- 

"...homebody, amateur philosopher, professional photographer, mama and wife. This is my little world-- a place for me to preserve the little snippets of my life that bring me joy, make me think, or show my creative leanings..."

And it just BOGGLES me to have all these new followers. And I say again, Y'ALL are CRAZY. This blog is NOT going to keep your attention. I am, above all, a rambling journaler who overshares her life--- that's the "amateur philosopher" part of all this--- in the hopes that someone, somewhere, can find hope/joy/commiseration/humor in shared life experiences. That somehow, my life journey will connect with someone else out there. That through blogging, I can add some CONNECTION in my world and in the world of others. 

But crafty brilliance? New, fresh tutorials? Brilliant photography? Amazing things to pin and pin and pin? 

Notsomuch. I'm basically a fraud with no original ideas anyway... Ha! (Especially since Pinterest. Wow!)

So. If you're a new follower.... welcome. I mean, of COURSE you're invited to stay awhile. Perhaps my special brand of crazy is just up your alley. 

But if you get through another week or two and it's just me, talking about my mood swings and my cranky baby, and all you get to see are pictures of said cranky baby, and you get TERRIBLY BORED, well..... I'll completely forgive you if you UNfollow me. 

Just know: sometimes--by the grace of God and napping children---- there WILL be new crafty fun. Maybe even a tutorial now and again... And some photos of things other than my kids... And MAYBE we'll end up really getting along, you new readers and me... Just maybe. 

I'm cool with whatever. 
(STAY!!! LOVE MEEEE!!!)(awkward.)

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(And isn't that photo up top GRAND??? Yeah, that's really me. Like TEN YEARS AGO. Sarah, Katie, remember?? Rochelle? Who else remembers that pic?? Gosh, I was skinnier then. Hm. I never expected to be the fat old lady bemoaning skinnier days, and here I am. Ack. And yeah, I still nearly snort soda out my nose when I look too closely at those glasses. Good times... good times....)

Wednesday, September 7

Happy.

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These days, I'm feeling.........

HAPPY.

Just... HAPPY.

And by "these days", I specifically mean that in the last three weeks, my mood has completely changed. The weight I've been shouldering has lifted and for the first time in forever, I feel light. I feel serenity. Just.... HAPPY. No better word. Happy.

For sure, this incredible weather has been a huge factor: I am SO DONE with Missouri summer heat for the year. I know it's not done with me-- I'm sure there will be several more pockets of too-hot days ahead... but this break in the temps this week has been absolutely cleansing for my soul. 75 degrees and breezy... sunny... AMAZING. 

And Noah starting preschool has contributed to my new balance. My excitement for him, his joy at his new experiences... the change in our routine... the peaceful pocket of time in my home when he is gone and Lucy is napping.... It's been so good for all of us. 

But the biggest change has come simply from a shift in my Life with Lucy (should be a tv show, no?). Once she hit 3 months old, her colicky temperament eased considerably. She was much better, but she still tended to be really high-maintenance when she needed something. She didn't need to be held ALL THE TIME, but she still managed to cry quite insistently and stridently when she needed something.

And then she hit FOUR months. And in the middle of my ongoing angst and anxiety and exhaustion as a new-again mama, I abruptly made a bold (some would say insane) decision. After several nights in a row where Lucy went from3-4 wake-ups to 6-8 wake ups, I TOOK THE BINKIE OUT OF HER LIFE. Forever. It was an afternoon nap, and I'd been reading about other mamas whose babies had suddenly started waking a million times at night at this age, and all it took was taking the binky away and they learned to get themselves back to sleep. 

Trust me, if there had been an easier solution, I would have taken it. But I was at the end of my rope... emotionally, physically, existentially... And something had to give. 
So I took away the binky. Which meant we had to put her through some crying, since she'd long lost the ability to get herself calmed to sleep without a pacifier. Which meant we needed to take her out of the swaddle, since it didn't seem fair to ask her to self-soothe if she didn't have access to her hands. It also meant I needed to start watching her sleep cues WAY better than I had been doing so that I could get her to sleep when she was ready and ultimately reduce the crying she did before each nap and bedtime. I took away the bink AND simultaneously became a Nap/Bedtime Nazi like I used to be with Noah.

So basically, what I am saying is, my BOLD/insane decision to take away the bink led to one of the HARDEST weeks yet in my life with Lucy.... But coming out the other end of that week, seven LONG days, we all emerged lighter. Free-er. Stronger. 
And Lucy? 

HAPPIER. 
Abruptly, shockingly, consistently HAPPIER. I swear it. I don't even think of her as "high-maintenance" anymore. She is totally a new baby.

I think she was just as sleep-deprived as I was. And helping her learn to self-soothe, as well as giving her as much sleep in her own bed at the right times as possible, MADE HER A HAPPIER BABY. (And oh how getting better sleep has healed me as well!)

And I am reconverted to SLEEP SLEEP SLEEP for the little ones. Being vigilant and (some might say) obsessed about Noah's napping and bedtimes 3 years ago really helped him settle into his energetic personality and find consistency... and here we are again, and it turns out it wasn't just something Noah thrived on. It wasn't just me being a crazy first-time parent. MY BABIES CRAVE THIS. They want consistency and routine like you wouldn't believe. And the proof is in the chubby, smiling, content, thriving little near-5-month old I spend all day with. 
She is a totally new baby. 

And I am a totally new woman. 
It's been nearly three weeks now, and life has hit a new rhythm, revolving a lot around Lucy's sleep--which sounds constricting, and kind of is--- But I'm telling you--- we are ALL thriving on the routine. We stay closer to home... we calm our wanderlust in simpler ways (which translates into saving money, actually!)... We enjoy being outside in our own neighborhood. 

And Lucy naps. BOY howdy, she NAPS. A LOT. And LONG naps. And not in my arms anymore, so there's this liberty in having my arms free... 
I use that freedom to do so many little things I've missed doing:

Noah time
Tidying and cleaning (can you believe it?)
Sewing!
Baking (like the rainbow cupcakes pictured.. Inspired from Pinterest and made for our church party)
Working (I am getting back into the work groove with more and more sessions... and finally feel able to mange it all.)

And what this all translates to is---

I am HAPPY.

I feel it. I'm not even trying anymore. It's just there.

And basically, that is it. That's what the theme of my days are the last several days. I didn't even plan to come here and get detailed about the Lucy Changes... really. I was just gonna report that I feel joy and contentment far beyond what I've been able to feel for months. But the Lucy Changes are so intrinsic to this wave of happiness that the story just joined up with the rest of my rambling here. 

So. 


It feels amazing. And I am grateful. 
(And thank you to my loved ones who have helped carry me through the dark and tiring times leading to now. THANK YOU. I could not have stayed sane without you who let me vent, moan, cry, admit defeat, rage, and all the other things I did to get through it. I am a better person because of my loved ones. You know who you are.)

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