Welcome winter, I fear you not.

The holiday weekend was… rich. Thick with family and friends and food and love. It's all good.

I'm especially grateful to have gotten the chance to give a big squeeze to my dear uncle, who just a day later fell very ill unexpectedly and is in serious condition in the hospital. Without diving into too much detail, we're worried about him, and we are praying and meditating on his and his family's well-being and peace. I am simultaneously feeling a bit of that fear of mortality "that could be my dad" kind of thinking, and also intense gratitude for everything I have and everyone I love. It is always worth the costs- even when that means my uncle's family is gathered around his bed, just praying for him and giving him their love and presence.

Food. Food is good this time of year. Turkey was (and continues to be) had, and I really like corn pudding and stuffing and all that. Here were my contributions to this year's celebrations.

Cranberry sauce. People have mixed feelings about cranberry sauce. This one? I've only had one bad review, from a person who doesn't like cranberries at all. So that doesn't really count. Most people say it's the best they've ever had, and I'm commissioned to make it for Jeff's side of the family every year. Mmmhmm. So here's a recipe for ya, cuz I like to share good things.

Cranberry-Cherry Relish

1 lb fresh cranberries
2 c sugar
1 orange
1/2 cup cranberry juice
1 c dried cherries

Grate zest off orange and juice it. Rinse, drain, and pick through cranberries. Combine all except cherries and boil slowly until berries pop open (about 10 min). Skim foam off top with metal spoon. Stir in cherries and let cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate (lasts a month).

* I added a small handful of chia seeds this time around, because I have several diabetics in my family and they slow digestion and help to balance blood sugar.

Enjoy for years to come!

* I must also note that this is dynamite on top of vanilla ice cream. I will be making larger quantities of this from now on just for that purpose.

Butternut squash pudding. I totally loved this. I will be making this a lot in the future. So simple, too. Just roasted squash, maple syrup, eggs, milk, a little sugar and cornstarch, vanilla, and a little time. So good and simple. It was perfect with a dollop of whipped cream.

Garlicky kale salad. Now this salad is a recipe from Whole Foods. It's pretty awesome, and so simple. Raw kale, tahini, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, garlic… It's really delicious. And yet, I took this salad thinking I had goofed and not made enough. At the end of the night I saw that most of it was still there! I took it to the gathering on Jeff's side the next day, and it was again barely touched. I know this is a good salad, we make it all the time and people have asked for the recipe. This was not my bad, you see. You know what it is? It's kale-o-phobia, me thinks. On Jeff's side the only other green thing was green beans! This was the only salad, and people didn't even try it. I'm out to change the world, people! EAT MORE KALE.

Vera. My sweet, strong, funny, insightful, bright little girl. Deeper in love I fall, each day that I am their mother. Sometimes I fear I will explode, it fills me up so full. 

Things I don't want to forget about her- feisty little 3 and a half year old:

-The pictures she draws right now. So detailed and thought out. I'd recognize her style out of a stack of 3 year old's drawings.

-She asks me a lot of questions, and I don't dumb down any answers. She asks about death. She asks about why parents don't live together. She asks about birth. She asks about why people hurt themselves and our earth. I just talk to her. I tell her I don't know when I don't. We have great conversations.

-I love reading stories with her now. They are stories I can actually be interested in, and it's got me all excited to start chapter books with her in the near future.

-Her sense of humor is completely rockin. Every. single. day. she has me in stitches. And it's not just because she's my kid (okay, maybe a little…), but she really is funny and so bizarre. I totally appreciate this about her. She makes up tons of silly words, too.

-She loves Asa. She kisses and hugs him and cares for him. She's rough and gets frustrated, too, but she really is just the best big sister. The other day I heard her saying "Oh look at that little budda-boo, he's so STANKIN cuuute!" See what I mean? So funny.

-She loves to do this thing called "Bellies" where she lifts my shirt and her own and lovingly presses her belly against mine. It reminds me of this.  <3

-I love this look, the one in the picture below. Where she's trying to be grumpy but just can't hide her smirk.

Asa. Little love of my life. Again, with the incredibly full-to-bursting feeling, all of the time. 

Things I don't want to forget about this sweet little 16 month old:

-He's talking like crazy. Regularly stringing two words together. Says "Thank you" unprompted when I give him something. Says "sorry" when someone has a bonk. Says "snuggle" when we are reading his books at night, and giggles with that toothy little grin. He knows tons of animal noises, and is just precocious as all get out. I need to count his words. There are so many. I'm communicating with him in full sentences, and he clearly understands. I like this.

-His dancing. Oh man, can he shake it. He feels the music all through his pudgy little body. His favorite songs are ABC's and Itsy Bitsy Spider, but he'll get down to any ol' thing. We regularly have intense and sweaty family dance sessions. It's awesome and good exercise. We really are that cheesy. 

-He loves his books. I have no doubt that this boy will have a stack of beloved reading material for years to come. 

-He's getting 8 teeth all at once, 4 of which are molars. Little buddy is a trooper, despite these month(s) of sleep deprivation for both of us. We're both troopers, dangit. It's a labor of love. Little man will soon have full chompers and we'll both rest easier. I'm excited for him to have popcorn without my constant worry that he'll choke on it. That'll be nice.

-He is so lovey with Vera. They just hug and fall over and roll around on the ground.

-He kisses so sweet and moist and makes the smacking noise often a little before he's reached your face. So cute.

-He loves to be naked all the time, and rarely pees on the floor. He calls this "Nakin". His belly… oh man.

-True to my previous assertion of him when he was just a little(r) guy, he has a will. He can tantrum with the best of them- I mean full on screaming and wiggling and even mad little swats at mama and papa. When he is mad, oh my… But otherwise he's so sweet and easy going. He has always been this way, ever since he was born. So intensely one way or the other. I sort of wonder how this will manifest when he is older, but I will take it all one step at a time.

Loving the crisp air in combination with the warm low sun.  

I'm actually more organized lately. I decided to stop waiting around for organizational units to be built by Jeff. He's got a long list, ordered by priority- it's not like I expected this one done soon anyway, but yet I waited. Here you see milk crates containing hats and scarves on top of Asa's dresser in the front entryway. It's not the prettiest, but it's also not a cardboard box or hats all over the floor. So I'm pleased.

My house feels so cozy and like a place I want to be. It can't really get better than that, can it?

Got our Solstice tree already. I put my sun tree topper up on top, and we got new LED lights (which are different, I'll admit, but the energy-efficiency/safety/longevity bit won me over…).  

In the living room I set up a little comfy nook for Asa, complete with his record player and some books and his basket of toys. I didn't even show it to him and before we knew it he was like this. Maya is pretty fond of the lambskin in front of the heat vent, too. Kids (and adults, and dogs) really respond to a little order and intention.

Decorating. I'd never done the popcorn/cranberry thing, but I like it. 

I sliced apples and oranges and made them into ornaments for the kids to help with. They liked it… a little too much. 

Quote I recently fell in love with: 
"‎The natural world is the larger sacred community to which we belong. To become alienated from this community is to become destitute in all that makes us human." (Thomas Berry)


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