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making a molehill out of a mountain

Rhythm of the Home’s Holiday edition is out today! Check out my article about simplifying our kids’ toys. I’ll be conducting our “pre-holiday purge” soon. Care to join me?image
Author’s note: You can read my past contributions to Rhythm of the Home here


I have no idea when or where I came across the handy, unpretentious 1994 Washington Cookbook, Volume 2, but I’m glad I did. Who could keep from smiling at such entries as “John McCain’s Baked Beans”?

Aunt El as a WAVE, Miami, FL, 1941

Author’s note: I originally published this post on February 8, 2012. In honor of yesterday being Food Day–which encourages us to get kids cooking–I am reposting my Aunt El’s recipe for cinnamon rolls (and dinner rolls) today. It is my children’s favorite dish to help me make. I love it because I get to play with them and tell stories about Aunt El, allowing me to–as Kim John Payne says in Simplicity Parenting–“emphasize the importance of now while introducing the infinite.”

My Great Aunt Eleanor is one of my favorite people. I happen to believe she was one of the best people ever to have graced the Earth, but I suppose I’m a bit biased. My family ascribed to whatever knowledge El shared with us as the absolute, 100%, golden truth. Perhaps it is because she was the big sister, or because she raised six children, or because of her big personality. Perhaps it was a little of all of those, and it didn’t hurt that she always gave darn good advice.

Last week I mentioned it was World Food Day. Today we’re celebrating a nationwide Food Day, with a particular focus on helping children cook real food. Spread the word! The more we can get the conversation started about real, local, sustainable food, the better.

In honor of the occasion, today I’m putting up (canning & freezing) a bounty of soups, chutneys, and jams with the season’s harvest. I’m also sharing my three year old’s favorite recipe for pickled red cabbage. This recipe originally came from The Joy of Pickling but I’ve modified it to make it my own. I love having the blog to document all of my quirky home recipes, but I only share the adaptations that I think make the recipe better. Otherwise I just link to or cite the original source.

When it comes to Halloween, I usually go all out and let the kids loose with few rules about their activities, decorations, and the inevitable amassed pile of junk food and just plain junk.

Having said that, it was easier to ignore the junk when the kids were too young to know the difference; we’d just hide or throw away every piece of cheap crap/candy but a small handful of raisin boxes and pretzels. Now that we have a kindergartner who knows what’s up, it would appear I have to be a little more conscious of the candy part of Halloween.

After chatting with mom friends and researching the issue a bit, I am happy to report that there are ways we can insert real food in the mix, and I’m sharing a few ideas on the blog today.

On the RangeOctober 15 – 21, 2013

{On the Range} is my weekly series where I discuss what we’re doing, reading, and eating. It’s a little bit 52 project and other photo projects, and a little bit {Did you Read?} and {In the Ranger Kitchen}

My week/Meals

  • We had a great weekend full of fall events: a hayride, the Head of the Charles regatta, and football (the last one was not so good).
  • I have been cooking recipes from The Family Flavor cookbook so I can review it for you, and I’m looking forward to telling you more soon! I’m also excited to have discovered this America’s Test Kitchen magazine today in Whole Foods. Oh, did I mention our town got a Whole Foods? Trouble!


You’re probably thinking, “Is this the second post about Christmas she’s written before Thanksgiving?” Yes! I am discovering that to simplify our lives, I often need to plan ahead. If I’m organized, I’m able to say with confidence whether Vivi can take that skating class or I can volunteer to hand out holiday gifts for our town again. Otherwise, I’m flying blind and trying to guess whether we have time and space to take on more. I owe my better preparations to Simplicity Parenting–for philosophy– and Minimalist Parenting–for strategy. Have you read them yet? I’m betting they will change the way you approach the holidays this year.

After a few years of ho hum holiday cards, I’m looking forward to getting some crafty cards from Minted this year. Have you heard of them? I first found their website via my friend Nole’s stellar website devoted to stationery, calligraphy, and design. Minted is a crowdsourced marketplace that connects consumers and designers for everything paper, from cards to wall art. Personally, I’m psyched that they have both ornament and foil-press options for holiday cards.

So adorable! If I got these, I think I’d save one and put it out again every year, don’t you?

Right now, you can get 10% off holiday cards at Minted using the promotion code FALLHOL10 (thru Oct. 29th)! If you get some, let me know in the comments which ones you got.
Minted and West Elm are also hosting a chance to win $500 each in their products at this Deck the Halls/Deck the Walls Sweepstakes. I hope you win! If you do, send me this picture of a cardinal, pretty please.
Yes, Minted is giving me free stuff from their store for posting about them. But I truly love them and think you will too!

Ladybug Girl and Princess eat apples after our local farm’s spooky hayride

The Halloween countdown is on. Every year Vivi impresses me by being more excited about the holiday than the year before. As a kid, I never put as much effort into the planning and decorating as she does, so it’s fun for me to create new traditions with her. Here’s a shot of one of the two banners she made completely by herself:Read more >>Today Oxfam celebrates World Food Day, the anniversary of when in 1945 the Food and Agricultural Organization was formed as part of the UN to eradicate world hunger. In honor of the cause, I am sharing a simple and easy vegetarian recipe for quinoa chili that utilizes local, seasonal ingredients (minus the spices and quinoa from overseas, which we are grateful to be able to get from so far away).

Here’s a snippet from the Oxfam America website, discussing what you can do today to help address this issue:

This World Food Day, use your power as a consumer to change the way some of the world’s biggest food companies do business. As demand for sugar increases, so does the rush for land to grow it. Oxfam has found that companies that supply sugar to Coke, Pepsi, Associated British Foods and other food and beverage giants are kicking poor farmers off their land and robbing them of their rights – leaving many homeless and hungry.

Land grabs are the sugar industry’s bitter secret. But we can change this. You’re a consumer – big food and beverage companies care what you think. Get the facts and take action at – See more here


“A portrait of my children, once a week, every week in 2013.”

On the RangeOctober 8 – 14, 2013
{On the Range} is my weekly series where I discuss what we’re doing, reading, and eating. It’s a little bit 52 project and other photo projects, and a little bit {Did you Read?} and {In the Ranger Kitchen}


  •  Are you listening to that blah blah music again? (she meant opera music)
  • Me: You can paint for one more minute. Charlie: No! I want to paint for all the minutes.

Although we adore the Trader Joe’s pumpkin pancake mix, I’ve always thought it needed more cowbell pumpkin, so I created my own recipe that ramps up the pumpkin flavor. (Note: If you like less pumpkin, just back it off and substitute applesauce).

We love our learning tower

Side note: This recipe is an adaptation of a blueberry banana pancake recipe I’ve been making ever since we lived in England. The whipped egg whites, applesauce, and pumpkin provide moisture, eliminating the need for dairy. It’s a useful recipe when you have about a half a can of pumpkin needing to be used up (usually I do after making “cheez-it bread”). It’s a simple recipe that even the kids can help make; we’re making griddle cakes this morning to participate in the Kids Cook Monday movement.

With the addition of buckwheat flour and cornmeal, these cakes are healthy by pancake standards and have a toothy bite to them. I know some people use the terms “griddle cake” and “pancake” synonymously, but in the south, griddle cakes have a cornmeal component. I grew up eating them in the mountains and love that slight crunch, but you can omit the cornmeal in favor of more flour if you prefer.

photo f6765cae-f7a2-4d0c-b310-25ffa6623eaa_zps9356fc50.jpg

pumpkin griddle cakes {dairy-free} {gluten-free & vegan variations}
serves 4 (10-12 small pancakes)

3/4 c. pumpkin puree

1/2 c. applesauce or mashed banana (~ 2 bananas)
2 Tbs. unrefined organic sugar
2 tsp. lemon juice
2 eggs, separated*
1/2 c. white whole wheat flour**
1/4 c. buckwheat flour
1/4 c. yellow cornmeal (we like Bob’s Red Mill yellow corn grits/polenta)
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
pinch of pumpkin pie spice (cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice and cloves)
1 Tbs. melted coconut oil
1 c. pecans or chocolate chips (optional)
Whisk together flours, baking powder, salt, and spices in a small bowl. In a medium bowl, mix together pumpkin, applesauce/banana, sugar, juice, egg yolks, and cornmeal. Let it sit a few minutes so the grits soften. Fold flour mixture into pumpkin mixture. This batter can sit in the fridge/freezer until you are ready to use it.

When you are ready to make the griddle cakes, whisk egg whites with a pinch of salt until stiff. Fold into pancake batter.

Keep folding
Needs some water.

If the batter is still too thick (like mine was), add a few teaspoons of water until it has a still-thick but pourable consistency.

Heat a griddle over medium heat. Grease with coconut oil. Drop on a heaping tablespoon of batter. Smoosh it down into a pancake shape with the back of a silicon spatula. After one minute, sprinkle in a few pecans if you like, or chocolate chips if you want to gild the lily. They will take longer to cook than a standard silver dollar pancake, and you can’t rely on the bubbles to tell when they’re done. I treat them like any baked good and give it the old toothpick test after about 5 minutes on each side. I also cook them on lower heat after the initial sizzle to avoid burning the outside before the center is done.

While they are delicious with maple syrup or whipped cream, our preference is to top them with spiced applesauce (recipe from the Food in Jars book).  They’re also fabulous drizzled with cranberry syrup (another recipe from the wonderful Food in Jars book). After conducting a quick Google search, I’m seriously considering making cranberry apple brandy syrup or pumpkin syrup. If you’re going for dairy-free all the way, you might try whipping some coconut butter.

These griddle cakes are even flavorful enough without a topping; I find that I can make them ahead, then heat them and stash them in a handkerchief for a breakfast-on-the-go, which is great for Sundays when we get up and go quickly, heading straight from church to choir practice.

*If you need the recipe to be vegan, substitute 2 Tbs. flax seed meal and 1/4 c. + 2 Tbs. water. Add this mixture when egg yolks are called for, and omit the egg white whipping step. Be sure to cook them at a low temperature so they are given a chance to cook through before burning on the outside.

**If you need the recipe to be gluten-free, substitute oat flour for whole wheat flour. Despite its misleading name, “buckwheat” flour is gluten-free.

Author’s note: This recipe was shared with the Homestead Barn Hop Real Food Wednesday, and Fight Back Friday

{this moment}
A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see.

Mommy’s little helper

While Charlie and I had fun picking through clearance items at Target, around the world other girls are not leading nearly such charmed lives. That’s why it’s important for events like today, the International Day of the Girl Child. If you haven’t yet, please take the time to watch Jon Stewart’s interview with Malala Yousafzai. HuffPo has a great article by a woman who was sold as a child to her adopted mother on the street. You can also learn more about the day here. You can read more about non-profits that support girls’ education like the Malala Fund and 10×10 (I wrote more about them in March when I saw the film Girl Rising).I know it’s insanely early to discuss such things, so if you are a person who is easily offended by the slightest whiff of Christmas talk prior to Black Friday, this is not the post for you.

But if, on the other hand, you are a planner like me who is petrified that her girls will get more pink plastic crap instead of games and toys that challenge their minds, then step on down! You are the next contestant on…

The Price is Wrong…But We’re Buying It Anyway Because of Guilt and Competitive Parenting
Tell them what they’ve won, Bob!

A Brand New Scooter!

Around this time, it seems everyone in the Boston area is headed out of town to peep at leaves in other places…New Hampshire, the Berkshires, Vermont. But this year the leaves in our own backyard are spectacular (note: leaves below are not quite in our backyard but are on conservation land near us). I’m not sure what’s different about the weather this year to make the leaves so beautiful, but I can now say I truly understand what all those people meant when they waxed on about fall in New England. When it’s good, it’s GOOD.

“A portrait of my children, once a week, every week in 2013.”

On the RangeOctober 1 – 7, 2013
{On the Range} is my weekly series where I discuss what we’re doing, reading, and eating. It’s a little bit 52 project and other photo projects, and a little bit {Did you Read?} and {In the Ranger Kitchen}

Selfie in Sweden, pre-kids

After graduating college, Nate and I embarked on a journey as a newly minted family, leaving behind our home state for adventures in the uncharted beyond. Moving away from our families of origin was exciting! Graduate school and moves to the Midwest, the US capital, and across the Atlantic Ocean opened our eyes to different and interesting ways of thinking and living.

Along the way, we became parents. Welcome to the best learning experience of all! While we were thrilled about our growing family, we also encountered our share of challenges and foibles. None of our friends had kids yet, so we navigated the choppy new waters solo while they smiled and did their best to understand the dark circles and panicked voices. Without family in town to assist us, we floundered quite a bit on just what to do with our new bundle of joy. We relied on our nanny to tell us what and when to feed Vivi. I chuckle to remember how we browsed stacks of parenting volumes promising new and different ways to achieve better results, as though she were a new iGadget instead of a person.

Although advice was still only a phone call away, the temptation of “the unknown better” beckoned louder. Eschewing family secrets for propaganda, we replaced the village with pop science. Whereas pride in continuing our families’ traditions was once the goal long ago, shiny-new-object syndrome stepped in and took over.

Unfortunately, our manic pursuit of novelty did not improve our lives. The promise that the latest parenting trend would solve our problems didn’t deliver. We were paralyzed by choice and growing dizzy from the pendulum of polarized philosophies. Put simply, we were not happy parents.


Junior choir practice for “The Mikado.” The director is tough as nails and fantastic.


“A portrait of my children, once a week, every week in 2013.”

On the RangeSeptember 24 – 30, 2013

{On the Range} is my weekly series where I discuss what we’re doing, reading, and eating. It’s a little bit 52 project and other photo projects, and a little bit {Did you Read?} and {In the Ranger Kitchen}
My week…

  • Thanks to junior choir practice, I now sing this song in my head all the livelong day.
  • I accompanied my friend to the mall to provide support while she checked out some watches. It had been so long since I’ve been in a mall. After that trip, I now crave these welly socks that I spotted in Nordstrom.
  • Our 9th anniversary is tomorrow! I do believe nine years is a pair of welly socks. {hint, hint}


  • Anna Gunn wrote an excellent NY Times op-ed discussing what the “I hate Skyler White” vitriol could mean about our culture (spoiler: it ain’t good).
  • I enjoyed this New Yorker article arguing against holding back younger kids. A main point of the article is that research with the younger kids suggests, “in striving to catch up with their peers, they ended up surpassing them.”
  • Here’s another New Yorker article suggesting Middlemarch is a good story to weave into an episode of Girls. I can’t wait to see if she does.
  • Thanks to my friend Emily for sharing this article giving positive ways to encourage your kids to take turns on their own terms. Building patience muscles is hard but important work.
  • I am intrigued by Popular Science’s decision to stop website commenting (thanks for sharing, Noe!). I think NPR should consider doing the same.
  • I know I’m late to the party, but I would like to know where they got this dress for Marnie