Only recently have I discovered the heavenly combination of strawberries and rhubarb. Oh my! Now I’m making up for lost time, using this family favorite peach cobbler recipe.Rhubarb’s tart and texture married with the sweet juicy strawberry…you’ve got to try this!
Last summer my friend, Tamar, gave me a tiny, and very special rhubarb plant. I stuck it in the ground and watched it grow into an enormous plant. And even better – I keep cutting stalks and they keep growing back! (Just for fun, have your kids take a bite out of the stalk…hehehe…but not the leaves!)Not to worry if you missed June’s strawberry season; this cobbluh’ was made with frozen picks from last month. It’s just as good as freshly picked! With only six simple ingredients, you can whip this up in a snap. Bake for about an hour Mmmm… Top with whipped cream or vanilla ice-cream. Or eat it right out of the baking dish. YUM.
Strawberry Rhubarb Cobbler
1/2 Cup (1 stick) of Butter
1/2 Cup Brown Sugar
1 Cup Self-Rising Flour
1 Cup Milk
1 Cup Raw Rhubarb (chopped)
1 Cup Strawberries
Melt butter in microwave.
In a separate bowl, mix brown sugar, flour, and milk together. Whisk in cooled butter. Pour batter in greased pie dish. Drop cut rhubarb and strawberries into batter.
Then, watch the 1984 masterpiece with Megan Follows as Anne. We all adore it – even The Professor.
For Cope’s 18th birthday we decided to take a spontaneous trip to find Anne Shirley of Prince Edward Island, a mere 10-hour journey north to Canada.
Make sure to fill every seat in the car, and wedge yourself in the back while your son practices his driving skills – it’s a real hoot! Headed north! Should we attempt Nova Scotia, as well? Make sure to have those passports readyThe 8-mile bridge across the water, from New Brunswick to Prince Edward Island. We settled into a tiny little cottage a mile from the water. Wedged together and happy at all times 🙂 The sand is soft and red (like Anne’s hair!) Beautiful coast In July, Prince Edward Island is loaded with jellyfishPaige and I got stung! It felt like a bee sting.In anticipation of finding Anne, we watched the fabulous show and played a rousing game of cards. On July 8th, our sweet baby Cope turned 18. (Still in shock and denial.)Look! Bosom friends Diana Barry and Anne Shirley. Millions of fans visit Prince Edward Island in the hopes of finding the setting for L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables; it’s now a national park! It wasn’t crowded, but how interesting to see people from China and other countries loving Anne as much as we do.Inside the home of the real-life Green Gables, where L.M. Montgomery’s aunt and uncle lived, and the inspiration for the novels. Make sure to dress up And wear romantic hairstylesThe typewriter L.M. Montgomery used – can you imagine???
Could this be the bridge that inspired those fabulous Anne and Gilbert scenes?
Prince Edward Island is similar to New Hampshire – but with longer winters (yikes!) The red earth grows many potatoes And lots of red hair Before leaving, make sure to find PEI’s Cows Ice-Cream, it’s mighty tasty! Alas, it was time to cross back over the other side…with another adult! We decided we would save Nova Scotia for another trip. But someday we will sail the six hours from Portland, Maine to Nova Scotia – dreamy! We crossed back onto American soil and spent the night in Bangor, Maine …where we discovered the home of Stephen King. After feasting on L.M. Montgomery, it was only fitting to visit King’s abode, don’t you think? I have a particular fascination with authors!We made a quick stop in Portland, Maine, to eat pizza by the water. Three hours later we were home sweet home after a whirlwind of a weekend.
Thinking of finding Anne Shirley? I highly recommend it!
“Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It’s splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.”
Did you know? The most popular summer recipe is CAKE. I find this surprising…over ice-cream? Unless we’re talking this cake recipe. Then I totally get it.
I rarely create an original recipe, I taste-test. King Arthur Flour made this one, the Chocolate Fudge “Blackout” Cake. As a devoted cake mix girl, it takes a lot for me to consider making a cake from scratch – especially one with three layers of different chocolate.
This one? Oh my heavens. It made me look real good.
Summer epiphany: when you’re actually home and demanding a SLOW summer, you have time to make a cake! And while time is still a precious commodity, some cakes demand to be made. THIS ONE.
Upon taking a bite, my husband, the critic of all food critics, pretty much melted into a puddle onto the floor. I’ll be making it again.
And with strawberries just coming into season, they are the perfect addition to this lusciousness.
King Arthur didn’t have strawberries in the original recipe – that’s my contribution. We like it! Also, I eliminated the optional espresso powder b/c I didn’t have it – still good! Would you like a bite? I suggest making the three different chocolates (not hard) the day before and assembling the day of – then you can relax and enjoy the cake of your labor…
Hurry up now! Before you lose your nerve…make this cake!
To make the filling: Place the chocolate chips, salt, and sugar in a blender or food processor and pulse until finely ground.
Add the egg and pulse just until the mixture is smooth.
Heat the cream to just below a boil, with small bubbles forming around the edge of the saucepan (or microwave-safe bowl).
Turn on the blender or processor, and slowly add the cream. Scrape down the sides of the container if necessary. Add the vanilla and pulse to blend.
Pour the pudding into a shallow bowl, and refrigerate it until chilled and thickened, 2 hours to overnight. I found that overnight works best. Still not setting? Stir in gelatin.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease two 8″ x 2″ round cake pans. Line them with 8″ parchment circles, if desired, and grease the parchment; this step will ensure your cake’s crumble-free turnout from the pan.
To make the cake: Whisk together the dry ingredients.
Add the eggs, oil, and vanilla; beat on medium speed for 2 minutes, scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl.
Stir in the water; the batter will be thin.
Pour the batter into the two prepared pans.
Bake the cakes for 35 to 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Remove the cakes from the oven. Cool them for 15 minutes, then turn them out of the pans to cool completely on a rack.
To make the icing: Combine the cream and chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl or in a saucepan. Heat until the cream is steaming and showing small bubbles around the edge.
Remove the chocolate/cream from the microwave or burner, and stir until the chocolate is melted and the mixture becomes completely smooth, with no lighter areas remaining visible.
Refrigerate the icing for 30 minutes (I went longer). Beat the chilled icing briefly, until it thickens a bit and becomes spreadable.
To assemble the cake: Cut the domed tops off both cake layers; these will become your crumb coating.
Place one layer on a serving plate. For best presentation, lay strips of parchment around the edge of the plate before laying the cake on top; these will catch the inevitable icing drips, and can be removed once you’re done icing the cake.
Top the cake with the filling, spreading it evenly to the edges.
Center the second layer of cake atop the filling.
Spread the icing over the top and onto the sides of the cake.
Crumble the reserved cake, and gently press it onto the top and sides of the assembled cake.
Serve immediately, or within a couple of hours. For longer storage, refrigerate. This cake is best served the same day it’s made, or within 24 hours. Freeze, well-wrapped, for longer storage. You may also choose to freeze individual slices — for those times when you HAVE to have a piece of chocolate cake!
I’m feeling something I haven’t felt in years: the huge relief of a slow, summer day. Honestly, it makes me a bit weepy.
At the moment, my two older kids are traveling (England) and working (grounds maintenance) and the younger two are in school until June 23rd (have to admit…it’s lovely quiet!) Graduation has occurred, the class I teach is finished, and I’m feeling a lightness while taking deep breaths. And there’s that weepy thing.
This summer is needfully slow.
Two years ago we were gearing up for Europe, It was a most wonderful experience but not exactly relaxing.
Last year at this time I was sitting at my desk when my husband came home and said, “I got a phone call – want to come to the hospital with me?” We had no idea how serious it was. In fact I was a bit annoyed to be interrupted from working, to waste a trip to the hospital because surely Heather was fine and would not like all this fuss.
It was not the summer we were expecting. I didn’t really get to my “Design Your Summer:”
Last year’s plan that went awry
You know, so much happens in a year. Life changes very very quickly. “The best laid plans of mice and men…”
Two homes were combined. We sold a gazillion things. We acquired stuff that holds a lot of years and memories. Dearest Arthur (my most wonderful father-in-law) came to live with us. My study became his room. Nelson’s room became my study. The awful basement became – a livable gathering place – and yes, Nelson has a room!
The basement last August. Nelson and Cope slept in random places for three months.
It’s been a hard year emotionally, but we did more than survive. We are good. We are doing really well (and hallelujah it’s behind us.)
And now it’s truly summer.
Because I am taking our Cope out to college in late August we are not taking our usual western trek across the United States. My children, Brynne and Paige especially, are salty about this, quite aghast, fearing I’ll make them do nothing but clean(!)
Besides one week of camp for Brynne and Nelson, we don’t have any other camps or lessons on the schedule. We have two shorter family trips planned: an ocean excursion and Acadia/Prince Edward Island.
I have goals (well, of course I do) that include:
Home and Yard:
Purge the house. The excitement I feel rivals my love of hair products. Yes, it’s that deep. I have a notebook with many notes. I’ve heard of the “40 bags in 40 days challenge” and might try that. I also have projects that need much attention like a huge garage clean-out. This year I’ve decided to pay the kids to help with huge jobs like this. Win-Win.
Yard: Tree trimming and weeding. The garden was a sad, neglected mess last summer. This summer the tomatoes are in and the peas, carrots, and lettuce is growing. Bliss.
Reading and Writing:
Reading: I have a stack of books on the bedside table. Yea! At the moment: THE INVENTION OF WINGS by Sue Monk Kidd (love it) and next up: HOURGLASS by Dani Shapiro (can’t wait!) For the girls: an hour of reading everyday – they like this plan! Maybe some math facts thrown in.
Writing: I’m working on a new novel and vow to have my really crappy first draft done by June 23rd, the last day of school! I work on it for a minimum of two hours of day, setting my buzzer and doing it as early in the day as possible. First drafts are the worst (for me, anyway). Plow through the self-doubt. Get the words on the page!
I feel so much better when I take care of myself (duh). Luckily, I have running and soccer buddies who make me move. Today, Maryn got me out for 5 a.m. intervals (horror!) while the sun was just coming up and guess what? Fabulous. Done by 6. Nap at 1 🙂 Lovely! Also, my upper body is getting soft and flabby. I’ve got a little routine I need to get back at.
Running! Need shoe ideas? I’ve got them 🙂
Soccer with my peeps!
Also planned: a short, daily soccer training plan for Brynne and Paige and daily excursions to our local lake.
Really it’s just me, Brynne, and Paige, which is more manageable to think about. Kindof stinks to grow up and have to work. So before that happens they are going to play mini-golf with me. Or hike mountains, or pick strawberries and blueberries, or see things in New Hampshire we’ve never seen.
I plan on making a daily list for the girls that I can laminate next to their beds that includes: scriptures, prayer, make bed, ukulele or piano, tidy room, exercise, reading, summer chore. When it’s done, it’s free time! This will likely include dressing up in heels and a costume to frolick the yard with Tenny (dog), a little show to watch, and LOTS of cousin time (because the cousins are MOVING HERE!) This shall be followed by mandatory eating of lots of watermelon.
Summer Meal Planning:
One cannot eat cereal for every meal. Or maybe we can…the meal plan is something I’ve got to get a handle on. Ideas?
Of course, as slow as I want it, the days are still busy with chores and cooking and driving kids here and there, like driver’s ed three days a week for Nelson and driving him to work every morning at 6:50. There will be orthodontist and dental appointments, and a family reunion, BUT this summer feels different than last (because IT IS different!) and it’s a glorious thing.
Yes, much changes in a year. It changes over the years, too. It used to be I was actively seeking for THINGS TO DO! What could keep my kids busy? Because being in the house all day with four kids was long and torturous – they got bored, hot, cranky, and were prone to annoy me and each other. I did not feel the same glee as I do today.
But it’s a new stage of life and today it’s SLOW and wonderful.
1. This Revlon blow dryer. It’s not hyperbole to say it’s changed by frustratingly-unruly hair life. I LOVE It. So fast and no frizz!
2. This root spray. The best part is watching Gregor’s face as I spray-paint my head. What are you doing? Found at Target (of course it was).
3. Garnier BB Cream. I’ve blogged about this before, but our relationship is going strong. With a hint of color and coverage, I ADORE this product. (Target)
4. Good quality Gardening Gloves and Mud Boots. It’s a real gardening game changer to have gloves and boots that fit and don’t give you blisters. Pay a little more and you’ll enjoy your chores more. Found in local stores & online!
5. Blister Gel Guard Band-Aids. Wow. For two kids who had bad blisters this week, these were fantastic! A boy could work all week and a girl could hike a mountain with me. Awesome product. Found everywhere!
6. The Bullet Journal. For years I’ve been a wee bit obsessed with finding the perfect calendar system. Clearly I have problems. I’ve slowly started the bullet system, ignoring the multitude of bullet journal talent out there. Nina gives some good tutorials and is metaphorically holding my hand through this trying time.
My calendar is not a “true” bullet journal as I’m using a regular notebook – but that’s the beauty of the system! You can use whatever you want with whatever notebook and pens you like. (I also have a pen problem.)
Boho Berry and her bullet journal obsession inspires and intimidates (see below). But the bullet journal is YOUR journal. Do it your way.
7. Watercolor paper. Brynne and I have had so much fun on Sunday mornings. We pull pictures off the internet and magazines to paint. Putting a drop of water on paper, followed by a drop of paint and watching it spread…so beautiful! I’m into birds these days. Clearly, you don’t have to be an expert, just paint!
It’s been especially fun to paint and send cards
8. Shutterfly puzzles and scrapbook. I’m just tickled pink at the possibilities! This one was free, minus shipping with one of their many weekend deals.
10. Skillshare. Want to learn a skill? Like painting or watercolor or or calligraphy or design or lettering or like, anything? Try it free for two months! My current favorite is teacher Louise De Masi who is teaching me and Brynne how to paint this fox:
Well, that was fun to share. What about you? Any favorite anythings?
I can say “we” because y’all know this day is a family affair.
This milestone – wow.
It is the toughest paradox of love: letting go and holding on.
I’m so proud of this girl. She has worked really really hard. She has hiked and sang and ran and studied. She has cried and laughed and prayed and LEARNED SO MUCH. She stumbled and fell and got up many many times. She sailed the ocean blue, was elected school leader, played Belle and freaked out over finance class (the drama runs deep :). I’m so grateful for it all.
I give thanks for a tremendous education, an amazing advisor who not only advised, but fed and loved her. I give thanks to the many fabulous teachers that not only noticed, but SAW her. Cope was born a “faculty brat,” raised on campus with 12 dorm boys until we moved off campus, and has always aspired to walk across this specific stage. The “bittersweet” cliche? Totally true.
This girl made me a mother and I’m in awe of her. There’s the other paradox: the child becomes the teacher.
Brene Brown says the etymology of the word “paradox” captures the heart of what it means to love. Greek origins joins the two words para (contrary to ) and dokein (opinion.) The Latin paradoxum means “seemingly absurd but true.”
Parenting captures that exactly – seemingly absurd but true!
It is seemingly absurd that we are here…but it’s also true. It’s seemingly absurd that my “baby girl” Cope (who was just wearing a onesie!) will not live under our shared roof this fall.
It’s seemingly absurd that I will survive this. But alas, that is true, too.
This day of graduation is a paradox of joy and grief. There is absolutely no control over either one. And I know very well that in life there is no joy without sadness. There is no sadness without experiencing that great joy.
Now excuse me while I go find my tissues. This is a happy day 🙂
“Many people have said to me ‘What a pity you had such a big family to raise. Think of the novels and the short stories and the poems you never had time to write…’ And I looked at my children and I said, ‘These are my poems. These are my short stories.'”
– Olga Masters
Happy Mother’s Day
To all the women doing the raising: you’re doing good work!
My one-word theme for the year, “Simplify” is staring at me from the wall. Personal progress is suspect.
I tell you, simplifying is hard. It means saying No to SO MANY THINGS.
I experienced further angst when reading this stove analogy by humorist David Sedaris on management: “One burner represents your family, one is your friends, the third is your health, and the fourth is your work.” The gist…was that in order to be successful you have to cut off one of your burners. And in order to be really successful you have to cut off two.
Oh dear. This is likely the reason I’ve never qualified for Boston. It’s the reason my great American novel is…well, where exactly is it? On the other hand, I’ve fought very hard for to keep the family fire burning. My friends probably feel very cold #sorry.
Is there any way to keep all four burners successfully lit? By trying to “do it all,” can we ever master anything? Logistically, getting those “10,000 hours” takes much longer. We become “jack of all trades, master of none.” For the select few, like elite athletes, master painters, novelists, and craftsman, cutting off select burners is essential.
But for the rest of us mere mortals? It seems those burners are constantly competing.
Over time I’ve become very aware of this simple fact: saying Yes to one thing means saying No to another.
It’s why my garden looked like this last summer:
My good and faithful garden still delivered tomatoes without much attention
I’ve always been a HUGE proponent of balance until one day, a few years ago, I thought, No, there should not be balance any longer – I’m throwing that out the window! I should choose the most important things in my life and pursue them with a single-mindedness. Everything else should fall to the wayside.
I struggle daily to find the focus. Every night I write out the next-day schedule. I have my “Top Three” priorities. I can tell you that “Write One Hour” is always on the list. Though I’ll be honest, it’s a pitiful five minutes.
I’ve noticed this stove burner thing play out in several different scenarios. If I immerse myself in total family activities/running errands/grocery shopping, “my work” (writing) suffers. If I stay at the computer all day long writing or getting ready to teach a class, I feel horrible for neglecting my children. Most times, “the work” takes the backseat. Sometimes I wonder if that’s the best choice.
Tough choices abound daily. For instance, I want a really clean and organized and perfectly decorated house, but I’ve consciously made the decision to not use my best mental hours to clean. Sometimes this is embarrassing (for every repair and mailman…)
I refuse to get any more chickens, rarely volunteer at school, and won’t make an extra trip to school when kids forget stuff (full disclosure: I still cave.) But darn it, it’s also the reason I can’t seem to get the pictures hung on the wall.
A Personal Manifesto to Keep the Burners Burning Bright:
1. Protect the things that are most important. That means we need TO KNOW what those things are. Make an actual list.
2. Pursue the MOST IMPORTANT things FIRST.
3. Practice the art of saying No. This is particularly hard for women. We like to save the day. But why? Are we trying to be helpful or are we trying to make ourselves feel good? “I’m sorry, I just can’t make that happen right now,” is a muscle that needs to be exercised! When we say NO to something, we are saying YES to something else – like time or family or a hobby – or A NAP!
4. Remember: we choose our own level of busy. I remind myself of this when I see my name next to “feed dinner to 50 cast members.” I CHOSE to put my name there. (why, Amy, why???)
5. Make a decision and than own your choice. There needs be no battle between stay-at-home and working parents. We are all working parents. We are all doing our best to support and raise our families. Individual families require individual decisions. When it comes to one another, I think our only job on this earth is to love one another no matter what. Be confident in your choice. Haters be darned.
6. Stop being a people pleaser. Ugh, I’m such an obliger. Stop it. The End.
7. Learn to delegate. Did you know? In families, 40% of women are the main breadwinners, yet 70% of women still take on the majority of the household tasks. It seems to me that we women want and need help and we resent the fact that our families don’t help more, but if they try to help, they don’t do it the way we would do it. We feel badly when there’s resistance. “Oh no no no, let me get that for you. You sit there while I load the dishwasher, sweep the floor, and kill myself from exhaustion…” puh-lease.
We handicap our children when we don’t let them help. They become literally help-less. My first college roommate left college after a week because independence was so scary. She was scared to walk to class. “Laundry is too overwhelming.” As I sadly said good-bye I remembered scrubbing our kitchen floor as a child and I was finally grateful that I was taught to clean, cook, and wash my own clothes. I wasn’t good at it for a long, long time, but it came. Let the children fail, work and struggle. It’s a gift.
8. Seek guidance through prayer. I believe there is a God who loves us, gives us gifts, and wants us to succeed. Seek Him first and we will know what burners to light.
One last story: the other day I was at a track meet for my daughter. I took a video of another child winning a race and sent it to her mother. Her mother was thankful but I sensed she felt guilty that she wasn’t there, that she had to apologize and explain. Was I making her feel guilty by sending a video? Was I making her feel that I was the better mother because I was the one there? I wanted her to know that I’m not always the one “THERE” either. Next week, I can’t be at the track meet. Another mother or father will take a video of my child running and will send it to me. I may feel guilt but I will fight it. That No means a Yes to someone or something else. And sometimes that’s just the way it has to be.
I used to actually think that when my kids were older, life wouldn’t be so crazy – that life would be easier and might actually slow down…oh, silly rabbit.
Life is going by at warp speed. If our family isn’t incredibly intentional about scheduling time together, we are the ships passing in the night. How easy it is to lose sight of one another. How easy it is to drift.
Paige and I are still joined at the hip. Brynne is in middle school but is slowly weaning herself from my clutches (sob.)
But high school? It’s a whole new world – that often doesn’t include you. With all the wonderful activities, sports, clubs, student government, classes, musicals, and friend time, it’s more like a weekly wave. Weekends, especially Sundays, are sacred, but during the week, more often than not, I’m getting the younger girls to bed when the teens come home. We say hello, how was your day, sorry about the drama, do your homework, see you tomorrow.
In some ways it feels like high school is the beginning of the end – you send them off and just hope and pray you’ve taught them how to behave, keep their pants on, and be kind to others.
This is how I usually see Cope – bye, Mom!
Cope with the backpack I used in high school and college!
But you see, stuff has to get done. Like work applications, scholarships, scouting merit badges, emails sent, college visits, and on and on. And you, as the parent, can’t or shouldn’t do the job. What to do? Remind? Nag? Talk about it incessantly until you see action? It’s exhausting for all parties, and tremendously annoying.
Let’s just say that none of these tactics were helping our relationship.
Note: the time to remind the kids about something isn’t while they’re exiting the vehicle (um, me.)
“Don’t forget to…”
“Yep, Mom, I got it.”
But, hmm. Do they?
But ho – here’s a strategy that’s working REALLY WELL! (an idea from the fabulous Happier podcast featuring Gretchen Rubin and Elizabeth Craft.)
A weekly one-hour appointment with the teens. It’s obvious, right? Well, it’s also genius.
At first, the idea was met with skepticism. Cope said, “Uh, honestly mom? I don’t think I have an hour a week for you.” Good thing she laughed after she said it. But she was right – we were having a hard time finding an hour to even have a conversation.
But she penciled me in, and that week we refined some essays, responded to college emails, and got those scholarships sent off. Done. So much relief! And you know what? It was FUN. I also got juicy tidbits of high school life (buzzword: “bralette.”) WIN.
Experimenting with the boy was harder because what we really needed to work on were merit badges and HE DOES NOT WANT TO DO THEM. Me neither.
“Are you ready for our scouting date?” I said in my overly cheerful annoying voice. However, I know the way to the boy’s heart: MEAT.
Thanks for the meat, mom!
It’s the habit of pairing. If boy associates meat and yummy food and positive attention from mom, he’s more likely to cooperate. Total success. We only went half an hour and we got the job done.
On my calendar I now have a weekly note to self: schedule Cope and Nelson hour.
The great thing is they aren’t resisting it. (shhh…I think they might secretly enjoy spending time with me 🙂 )
Schedule a weekly meeting.
Try to be consistent with time and day, but even if it changes, set the appointment before you adjourn so it’s not one and done.
Try REALLY HARD not to nag about scheduled matters during the week. Save it for your date.
Your meeting doesn’t even need to be for things you HAVE TO DO. It could be a walk together or a pedicure, but as time is teaching me: these final moments with our kids under the same roof is Precious Time.
My boy and I didn’t get our hour in this weekend because I was sick and he had homework, but right before we said good-bye this morning he said, “I think we can do our hour tonight.” Oh good, I said, happily surprised. “Maybe you could defrost some meat?”
Check. Hey, whatever it takes, buddy, ’cause I sure do love you.
(Marriage? It also works wonders!)
Let me know how this goes, dear readers. Successes? Failures? Already doing it? I’d love to hear.