-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
      
 INSTAGRAM BUTTON    PINTEREST BUTTON    FACEBOOK BUTTON       
----------------------------------

these final winter days | coffee ideas



The days are finally starting to become ever-so-slightly longer. We have been pleasantly surprised with warmer days lately, and it just brings the hope of spring to the front of my mind. However, I still look out and see leafless trees, brown grass, death where there was once life. The days have been constantly overcast, making for a dreary glow in the windows.





We are up with the birds whom I hear more and more from each morning, building up to the dawn chorus that is so inspiring in the spring. I carry a baby and follow a toddler, eyes still mostly shut, to the kitchen and flip on the kettle for coffee. I set baby down, rummage for the egg pan, warm it with coconut oil as eggs are cracked and whisked with a fork. In between whisking, pouring, warming, I typically move Calvin to his seat at the table with a full glass of milk and a book to leaf through as he waits for breakfast, usually void of all patience.

After breakfast is made, tummies are full, dishwasher is loaded, I remember the kettle. Every morning, it happens the same way. I mean for coffee during breakfast, but preparation is hurried and coffee is not. And so, as the babes play quietly, I flip the tab for the electric kettle once again and prepare coffee.



Black in the morning, with coconut cream and a bit of honey in the afternoon. Black coffee used to be the only way I preferred it, but lately it's felt like such a treat to get everyone down for naps, I just make it a little more fitting for the occasion.

In the winter, things sometimes need to have a bit more personality to get us through. Black coffee is amazing, but every once in awhile something added makes for a little spark in my days. It may sound silly, but these little things make the biggest difference, don't they?

I've been putting little fresh things in my coffee here and there, and it's turned out quite tasty! I thought I'd share in case you needed a little something to liven up your morning rituals, as I do.

My brew method of choice is my Chemex. It's super easy to add things to the grounds, and I love the ritual of slowly pouring water over them out of my goosneck kettle. I prefer it to my French Press because it seems to come out smoother and without the little film of residue that I find in my press. That being said, I opt for French Press often, as well. It's a little quicker and I can just set the timer for a few minutes and pour when it beeps. I can't recommend adding things to the grounds of your instant coffee machine, because I haven't done it! Just experiment as you like and find your favorite things.



Freshly Grated Nutmeg
Just grate a bit into your grounds (I use probably half of a teaspoon or less), and brew with your coffee! Fresh is key. You can't beat it!

Cinnamon Stick 
I like to throw a cinnamon stick into the bottom of my French Press. I typically add a bit of nutmeg, as well. The stick will strain with the grounds! Keep it and use a few times, if you'd like.

Lavender and Honey
Use just a pinch of food-safe dried lavender in your coffee grounds. Too much will taste soapy, but a little bit will remind you of summer and leave the perfect hint of flavor. I like to squeeze a bit of raw honey in the bottom of my mug before pouring coffee over it. Lavender and honey are one of my favorite combinations. You could also make a simple syrup with lavender, sugar and water to keep on hand in the fridge. In that case, I'd omit the honey.

Fresh Rosemary
I don't always have this around in the winter. When I do, there is typically extra from cooking. A friend made this for me in her french press when I went over for a play date and it was amazing! Just stick a sprig of rosemary in your grounds and it makes for a lovely flavored coffee. Sounds a little weird? Just try it. I was skeptical and am in love.


What kinds of things do you like to add to your coffee? I'd love to hear more ideas!


p.s. If you want a guide on pour overs and french presses, I like to use this one.



a snowy day project: simple homemade ornaments



Around here, we like to keep Christmas cozy, simple, foraged and homemade. Most of our decorations are things we make (dried citrus, foraged wreaths, garland). One of my favorite little crafts, especially now that I have a little helper, are these cinnamon ornaments. This year we had one of Calvin's little friends over, along with his mama and together we mixed and rolled and cut and and dried these ornaments. By the end, there was cinnamon sprinkled all over the kitchen (including the boys' faces), and our home smelled glorious. 

The thing I really love about these ornaments is that they are made of cinnamon, applesauce and cloves. Most recipes for cinnamon ornaments out there have some sort of glue in them. With two-year-olds helping, it's nice to have something absolutely edible. I'm not encouraging them to eat it by any means (SO MUCH CINNAMON), but I can rest assured that if they do, it wouldn't bother me as glue would.  

We hung these on the tree (they are some of the few ornaments within Calvin's reach) and have adorned many of our Christmas gifts with them. 

My favorite cut-out shapes were the stars and trees! Although little gingerbread people would be awfully cute. 




Recipe: 

2 cups applesauce
about 3 cups cinnamon (go buy the big cheap containers at Aldi!)
1/8 cups ground cloves


Mix together the applesauce, cinnamon and cloves. Dust the countertop with cinnamon and roll out the dough about 1/4 in. thick. Cut out ornaments and place on parchment lined cookie sheet. Use a skewer to poke holes in them. Bake at 200 degrees F for around 2 hours, until very hard. Tie strings through holes and decorate! 

These are not for eating, just decorating. 

Enjoy this little snowy day project! 


home | hygge: winter

As we slip deeper into the beginning of winter season, I am reminded of a word I recently heard defined. Hygge. I am seeing quite a few different definitions to this Danish word, but the theme I'm gathering is coziness, warmth, community, loving life's simple pleasures in this season. And as these lovely days get cooler and the darkness is longer, I find myself doing little intentional things to promote this feeling in my home. I thought I'd pass along a few ideas for keeping this season cozy, uplifting and finding the simple things to bring pleasure and togetherness in this season.

. lights-As it gets darker sooner and sooner, layer your warm lighting all around the house. Have a few lamps scattered around, light your fire place, bring those cafe lights off the deck and into your sun room, put fairy lights on your shelves and, of course, always have a candle going. I also strung lights under the cabinets in the kitchen, which brightens the room when cooking supper while it is dark outdoors. The warm glow is inspiring and uplifting.

. blankets-invest in a few cozy blankets that are welcoming as you curl up on the couch. Fold them up and place in a basket, or hang over your furniture for a quick grab whenever you have a minute to cozy up.

. books- one good thing to keep yourself mindful this season is to have books sprinkled around the home in easy to grab places. Opt for a few pages instead of scrolling through social media. Maybe set out a journal with a writing utensil nearby to jot a few thoughts here and there. Let your mind have some space to just wander and fill it with goodness from written word on physical pages.

. games- keep a couple of board games in easy reach and plain site. Perhaps on a coffee table or end table. When you are in the living room with another person, open up the game instead of flipping on the tv. Or, plan a night of the week to just relax with friends or family and play games.

. music- find or make a couple of playlists as your go-to for this season. I'd recommend having both a quiet, relaxing one and a more upbeat one for those winter blues.

. drinks- keep your pantry stocked with your favorite teas, hot cocoas, and coffee. Have a kettle on the stove ready to warm.

. meals-one helpful thing that I've started incorporating is freezing meals. If I make a pot of soup, I choose to double the recipe and freeze half for a day when nobody is in the mood to cook but everybody wants a homemade meal. Here are some of my favorite recipes to have on hand:

Quinoa and Sweet Potato Chili

Lentil and Black Bean Chili

No-Time Bread








home | preparing for the season and a simple gift guide for the man in your life



It's almost that time of year--one of my favorite times. Although I am fully enjoying autumn, in order to have a slow, worshipful and homey Christmas, I prefer to do some Christmas shopping in advance. Each year I try to gather gift ideas and have my Christmas shopping finished by the first week in December. After that, I can wrap, bake, craft, drink hot cocoa, watch movies, celebrate each week of Advent and snuggle to my heart's desire.

Gifting to others is one of my favorite things. My mother is probably my favorite person to purchase gifts for, because I know her taste so well and she enjoys gifts as much as anyone I know. Generally speaking, most of the ladies in my life are pretty easy to shop for. It's the men that are hard! My husband, especially. He keeps things pretty simple and doesn't like having a lot of "stuff". He's not into cologne, he doesn't wear ties anymore (his job lets him keep things less casual then previous jobs), and he isn't a big reader. Those are the things I first think of to purchase for a man.

After that, I'm kind of out of ideas.

I feel like many women may have the same difficulties, so I've teamed up with JORD watches to create a guide for the man in your life, however particular he may be! This guide covers something extra special budget-wise, to something for those on a tight budget.

*Also, be sure to take a peek at the end of this post for a $25 discount on their site and link to a pretty amazing giveaway!*



1. A nice watch. You guys. This men's watch is made of wood (what!), and its even more pretty (handsome?) in person. Seriously, these watches are amazing. Comfortable, unique, gorgeous. JORD has quite a few kinds of unique watches and they are easy to dress up or down. One thing I like about wearing watches is how it keeps us a little more attentive to each other. Adam and I try to mostly keep our phones put away when our whole family is together. However, we have noticed that there are no clocks in our house because we are used to just checking a phone! He likes wearing a watch to keep track of time...and look pretty smoking hot, if I do say so myself. You can also win credit to their shop in a giveaway here


(Image via Pinterest)



2. A night out. One thing Adam and I regularly gift each other is a nice date-night. Instead of a physical gift, we get a babysitter and spend an evening out to dinner and, this time of year, looking at Christmas lights or shopping. 


3. Bluetooth speaker. This little guy is amazing. We turn it on all. the. time. and love that we can hear music all over the house! The quality is great, as well. 



(Image via Pinterest)

4. Something homemade. Adam really loves when I bake for him. Surprising him with a homemade meal and special dessert for a "date night in" after the kiddos go to bed is just about as meaningful to him as any physical gift. 


5. This leather wallet. It's soft. It's minimal. It's not fat and chunky. You can hardly tell when this wallet is in someone's pocket, and it is just real handsome. 

Whatever you do, be sure your guy feels all the loves this season. xo
(PS-Giveaway link below!)



Right now, JORD Wooden Watches is offering a giveaway ! You will get a $25 off code just for entering! Click here to enter.


(This post was sponsored by JORD wood watches.) 

Wooden Wristwatch

recipe | a simple and filling weekend breakfast




Weekend breakfast has become a bit of a special tradition in our home. Typically, I am up early with the baby, Calvin close behind. Sometimes we sneak downstairs and begin making breakfast while their daddy sleeps and other times the whole family is involved. One of us whipping up pancakes and eggs while our toddler is perched on the counter "helping", while the other juggles a baby and grabs ingredients. 

Our go-to is usually a whole wheat pancake recipe that includes oats and minimal sugar. But lately, I've mindlessly grabbed a pound of breakfast sausage here and there to keep on hand for our weekend breakfast. I was glancing through the pantry and came up with this recipe. 

This is a chop-chop, throw in the oven, sizzle-in-a-pan sort of recipe. It really comes together pretty quickly and is best served hot. I like to add heaping amounts of chopped up fresh sage both part way through cooking and at the very end for an extra kick because I love the flavor. The sweet potatoes add the perfect texture of softness and touch of flavor along with the onions. I put them in early so they'll caramelize. Toward the end of sizzling sausage, I actually like to take it out of the pan and soak up the grease, rinse the pan and wipe it down and then continue cooking. That may seem like a lot of work, but I prefer less greasy texture in this dish and that's how I accomplish it. Just before taking the sausage mixture off of the stove, I throw in extra sage and drizzle with maple syrup. I like to heap spoonfuls into a bowl and top with a fried or poached egg. 

Take this recipe and do with it what suits your taste. Maybe a different herb or roasted butternut squash instead of sweet potatoes. Perhaps you like your onions crunchy instead of caramelized. That's the beauty of a breakfast like this. You get to use creativity and taste for a cozy morning meal.






Ingredients: 
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes
Olive oil for drizzling 
1 lb. breakfast sausage
1 large onion, thinly sliced 
1 handfull fresh sage
1 T. maple syrup (more or less to taste)
4 eggs, cooked however you prefer (really, any way is great. My favorite is poached or fried.)


Preheat oven to 400 F
Spread sweet potatoes on foil-lined baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake for 20 minutes, or until a fork easily pierces the cubes. 
Cook the breakfast sausage in a deep skillet on medium-high. After about 5 minutes, add the onions. Let them sizzle together until sausage is almost finished. I like mine very brown and onions very caramelized. 
If you'd like, take this time to drain off the grease and wipe down the pan. Return sausage and onions to the pan and turn back to medium-high heat. Toss in most of your fresh sage and drizzle in maple syrup.
Throw a couple of eggs on another skillet and cook to your preference. 
Mix sweet potatoes into sausage mixture, add the rest of the sage and pile high into bowls. 
Top with egg, seasoned with salt and pepper. 





recipe | our favorite (and most healthy) banana muffin recipe



Bananas are something my family always has around. Always. Adam grabs one in the morning for breakfast, Calvin snacks on them throughout the day, not to mention we love to make things like smoothies and magical ice cream with them!

Inevitably, they sometimes get a little old. Nice and brown, wrinkly. I personally have a narrow banana-eating window. Just after the green is gone but before another day has passed. I am teased about this in my house, but I seriously can't stand a mushy banana. Ew. The texture is already weird enough...and then they get all mushy and stringy? Nope. Can't handle it.

BUT. I am a big fan of banana bread. Or, in this case, muffins. I used to only make banana bread (I love the nice crust it gets, and the way bread looks and slicing it...I'm a bread person). But since having a toddler (who loves hand-held food), and a husband (who likes to throw random things in his lunch box), I lately prefer muffins. Less crumbs from slicing, easy to throw in a diaper bag (inside another container, of course. Nobody wants muffins mixing with the diapers!), muffins are the answer to everything.

However, we are those parents that don't really give our kiddo sugar. It isn't that he's never tried something with sugar, it's more that we try to keep it out of his diet as much as possible. So for a few months now, as bananas get old, I have been tweaking this recipe.



I'm finally satisfied with it. This recipe uses honey instead of sugar, and depending on your taste, is very flexible. It is forgiving if you'd like to toss in a handful of flax seeds or chia seeds. It has some protein with that plain greek yogurt, and uses coconut oil as the fat. Also, oats. Oats just give bread of any kind that lovely, hearty texture that I love.

All that said, these still taste nice and sweet. I kid you not when I tell you all 16ish (yes, they are a weird not-even-dozen-amount because of my tweaking) are gone within a week. Or less. We LOVE them!

I think the key is waiting until your bananas are almost-dead-ripe. That's when they're the sweetest. Then, you can use less honey (or use all of it! They will be delightful), and they are sweet and full of flavor.

These muffins make a great little breakfast or midday snack. You can also freeze them after you've baked and let the muffins cool and pull them out a couple months later for breakfast or surprise guests. If you ask my husband, he'd recommend slathering peanut butter on them between bites. To each his own.




Recipe:

3 ripe bananas
2/3 cup coconut oil (melted)
1/3 cup plain greek yogurt
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4-1/2 cup honey (depending on your taste and the sweetness of the bananas)
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup white flour
1 cup old fashioned oats
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt


*optional: 1/4 cup chia seeds or 1/4 cup flax seeds

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.
Mix bananas, coconut oil, yogurt, eggs, vanilla and honey in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment. If you prefer, mash bananas with a fork and then mix with a spoon.
In a seperate bowl, mix dry ingredients.
Add dry ingredients all at once.
Mix until incorporated.
Scoop into greased or lined muffin tin until each cup is 3/4 full.
Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown on top and when inserted, a toothpick comes out clean.

Enjoy!

A note: I think the honey makes a difference. My favorite is raw honey that I buy locally. I like the strong flavor it provides to the muffins.










motherhood | her brave choice



She was 19 years old. Her whole life ahead of her. She was dating the love of her life. She met him at a Christmas party and says she couldn't resist when he asked her out. They spent every moment together and became very close in a very short amount of time. Everywhere they went they were the center of attention. They were planning to move across the country and settle in Boston, where she would pursue dance and art and he would work at his dream job.

They were so in love. 

And one day, her stomach churned when she realized she hadn't started on time. She took a test and it was positive. Not wasting any time, she told her love. She wanted to keep the baby. 

And (as many cowardly men do) he disappeared. He was everything I wanted in a man except responsible.

I can't pretend to understand what she must have felt. So utterly and completely alone. So betrayed by the one person she expected to embrace her. So completely responsible for something she only was supposed to share responsibility in. She didn't ask for this. I'm sure it all felt so unfair. He could run away and pretend it never happened, but she would be left here, her stomach swelling with every passing day, nauseous and exhausted, heavy. Heavy with child, heavy with this burden.

What a burden. 

And this is the point in the story where many women decide it's not worth it. And I get that. It doesn't feel right to be left with that. It doesn't seem fair that he gets to have pleasure without consequence. And many women would drive to an abortion clinic, think of their decision as best for everyone and bury their pain. 

But not her. She chose to be a brave woman. She didn't have money or the support of a partner. She didn't have time or energy. She could have gotten rid of me easily and quickly. But she drove herself to a crisis pregnancy center and lived in a convent among motherly women for nine months. As her belly grew, as her baby moved and kicked inside of her, she decided to put my little helpless life up for adoption. She grew up with a mother and father and felt I deserved the same.

I want you to have the best life can offer. I could not devote as much time and energy to raising you as you would need, also you would not have a father there for you anytime you need him. When I looked at you again you are so beautiful, I know in my heart you deserve the best and if I can give it to you, even if it means I can not be with you, I will. 

Can you imagine? Your whole body changes to accommodate this tiny life inside of you. Nobody can ever know your baby as you when you're pregnant. And to make the decision to give that baby to a better home? So, so brave. 

The family she had chosen for me decided at the last minute to back out. So one night, just before I was born, she stayed up all night rifling through files to find the perfect match for the baby taking space in her womb. Nothing. Not one family could she find that seemed to click. So her lawyer pulled out an application that had just come in. She had received that file so recently, it wasn't even in the pile. And as my birthmother read and looked at pictures, she knew. They would be my forever parents. The family that was a perfect fit to raise the life being knit together inside of her. 


On a crisp fall night, I was born. She held me as I cried all night with colic. How hard that must have been. To not even have an "easy" baby but to give so much love to someone made up of half of the person who broke your life apart. And then to let go of the only thing you had to need you and love you forever? What a strong woman.


I really don't know how to put this into words. I'll start with I love and I miss you. I wish I could watch you grow and learn and laugh and cry. I looked at you and I thought how easy it would be just to hang on to you, my family would have supported me in any decision I made. 

Please try to understand that I'm doing the only right thing by you and if I didn't love you so much I couldn't let you go. 

Every day I wonder how you are doing. I know you are much happier where you are than you could be with me. I love you so much. The easiest thing in the world would have been to take you home. But if I did I would be cheating you out of a real chance at a normal life and normal for you would have been abnormal. 


Her name for me was Victoria. As in victory.

All this to say Thank You. Thank you, Birth Mother for doing the hard things. For putting aside your dreams for a time to live in a home full of women. For giving up your body for stretch marks and leaky breasts that would remind you of me. For being brave when it would have been so easy to get rid of me in less than an hour and move on with your life. For your love that is so unselfish, hopeful, protecting, trusting, and persevering.


*Italicized words are quotes from a letter she wrote and sent to my family soon after my birth.