Sunday, September 30, 2012

chicken soup and childhood memories

Rafael and I were packed and ready to fly to Germany to visit family. On the morning of our flight, Rafael had a fever, and my throat was killing me. I ended up having to cancel the trip, and since then, we've been sick at home. 

I made myself a pot of chicken noodle soup, trying to recreate a childhood memory of mine. My friend's mother Lucie would make chicken soup on cold foggy days, and she always had large pieces of carrot in it. She left the inch-long carrot pieces unpeeled, and they were always candy-sweet in the salty, warm broth. I still remember so many things about that house, and about her....she had a huge hedge of camelias that I thought of as 'fake roses' beside the walk way leading up to the house, and had gladiolas of all different colors growing in her small garden. She mopped the wooden floor every day, and loved watching Soul Train. Her son held Monopoly marathons with his friends that would sometimes last days, and her daughter and I played with My Little Ponies and Barbies and ate fruit snacks shaped like sharks out of little plastic packets. She shopped at Costco and had enormous boxes of Raisin Bran in the cupboard. If we were going to watch a movie she pulled out the popcorn machine; it had a little compartment for melting butter on top while the kernels popped below. She would spend a long time putting her daughter's curly hair into braids, using sweet-smelling products, and it made me wish I was black too, so someone would spend all that time on my hair. Once, after I begged a lot, she also put my hair into braids, and of course it looked really silly. 

When I remember all these things, it makes me wonder what Raffi's friends will remember about his mom later in life. 

Just some thoughts and memories on a cold, autumn night.

Can you believe it's October tomorrow?


Monday, September 24, 2012

Happy Autumn!

It's finally here...the season of mist, copper leaves, toadstools, and rain boots. Of cold woodsmoke scented mornings, early twilight, and the first twinkling thoughts of Christmas dancing in our heads. 

The autumn season is so precious. In autumn, I find myself taking in every little detail, every little change in the foliage and weather. I am hungry to get out into the woods with my camera in hand. I want to document the beauty of fall every chance I get, because this time of year is so fleeting. 

I'm so sentimental about autumn. The crows certainly caw all the year through, but in fall, I always seem to think their caws belong to the season. There are so many little things that feel like they are an imperative part of my fall experience...even the geese flying over, honking, in a V formation, feels more like a tradition than an act of nature. The way the fog creeps with white fingers into the creases of the hills; the sight of the church steeple and red shingled rooftops of the village against the orange woods; folks bundled in bright scarves, picking over pumpkin heaps at the farmer's market; it's funny how all of these sights sometimes feel like they were created just to bring me joy.

Every year I find at least one of those yellow leaves with a little heart cut out of the middle by nature's hand. Another thing that feels like an autumn tradition.


Sunday, September 23, 2012

Life Right Now

Lately I feel life going at a pace so quick that I sometimes wish I could press pause. Now that Rafael has turned one year old, I am learning first hand why parents look at their grown children and say, "Time went by so fast." 

Before I had a child, there were always days where I could say, "Today I'll get those book shelves organized. Today I'll get those kitchen shelves organized. Today I'll sleep in read and bake and write a letter. Today I'll give myself a pedicure and iron my husband's big stack of shirts." I could always rely on at least one day a week where I could focus on something, and then relax for the rest of the day.

Fast forward to life right now: All the things on that list still have to get done somehow and at some point. But now I can't plan days where I can focus on them. I have to squeeze them into scattered moments of opportunity, in between the things that need to get done on a daily basis. Sometimes I wonder why the day to day chores can seem so exhausting to me, and then I realize it's because, in the back of my mind, there is this long list of things that I know I need to do, but have no idea when or how. Clean out the (unbelievably cluttered) pantry. Baby proof the kitchen. Clear out the spices. Re-organize the pots and pans. 

And then there are things that I dream of and wonder if I will manage to actually make them come to be. A terrace that is abundant with plants, flowers, and creepers, making it feel like a secret garden hideaway. A large closet in our bedroom so that we can finally have all of our clothing in one organized, neat space. How will any of these things become a reality when I find it challenging to squeeze in a shower long enough to wash my hair and shave my legs?

The truth is that life with a toddler races by. The days are a whirlwind of fixing meals, entertaining, cleaning up messes, and going to play dates. There are moments where I can look at Rafael and just study his face, feel my heart throb with unconditional love and awe, and live for one second in whole awareness of the blessing that he is. But mostly, if I look back on my day, I can hardly remember a single thing. I know I got a lot done...the house is (relatively) tidy, the dogs are fed and walked, there are stacks of folded laundry, and my baby is sleeping quietly in his bed. But the details of the day....hmmmmm. 

Another thing that has changed are the mornings. I need to wake up every day, no matter how the night was, ready for action. When Rafael wakes up, he doesn't lie there quietly for a half hour, getting his thoughts together and planning the day ahead, and waiting politely for me to wake up. He opens his eyes, sits straight up, and says with a big sunny smile, "MAMA!" He is ready to play, ready to grow and learn, and ready to take on the day full of energy and interest. As he crawls over me and points at things and babbles all the words he knows so far, I am blinking with tiny eyes and trying to get my senses in order, half asleep and catching a blurry Raffi a dozen times right before he falls off the edge of the bed, with arms still half numb with sleep.

The photographs here were taken today, at Raffi's friend Clara's birthday party, in moments spent outside with Ramon getting fresh air, visiting the kittens, the garden, and the tractor. Looking at these pictures, I am filled with mixed feelings. On one hand, they don't really represent how our day was, or how life feels right now...they are much too serene and quiet for that. But on the other hand, these are pictures from our day, and so, there truly are these moments, too. Maybe this blog is the place to collect photographs like these. Maybe this is my place to forget the mundane, and the list of things to do. Maybe this is the place I can imagine, for a little while, that my life is just as simple as these pictures.


Monday, September 17, 2012

Rafael's First Birthday Party!

Thank you all so much for your lovely birthday greetings! 

We celebrated on Sunday, with Raffi's friends and family members. It was gorgeous weather....sunny and crisp. Perfect! The theme for the party was woodland animals and autumn. There was chocolate cake (and a little smash cake for Rafael that he loved), a blow up pool with colorful balls to play with, thoughtful gifts, party favors tucked into handmade acorns and moss, and poached apples for the babies to enjoy. Sunflowers, pumpkins, wreaths of dried flowers, and benches on the terrace made comfy with pillows and quilts. 

I had planned on serving cream of mushroom soup and warm roast vegetable salad, but learned the hard way that you can't plan much when you have a toddler. He screamed and cried all morning, while I tried to clean and decorate. I almost cancelled the whole thing. But as soon as the first guests arrived, he turned into a cheerful, sunny boy. Thank goodness!

Nights have been rough, and the days are a mix of clapping and calling out 'BRAVO!' when Rafael stands on his own, and pure exhaustion because Raffi refuses to nap. But Ramon and I agree that he has never been as fun as he is now! He says so many things: 'hat,' 'up,' 'nein' ('no'), 'auto' ('car'), 'Papa,' 'Mama,' 'Oma' ('grandma'); and a bunch of animal sounds; and the most exciting thing is, if you ask him 'Where is Rafael,' he points at himself! 

I know I should do a proper update, and I will soon. But I am so incredibly tired right now.....I'm headed off to bed!

Thanks again for all of your sweet words!


Saturday, September 15, 2012

Rafael: One Year Old!

Happy First Birthday to the most amazing little son Rafael!!!

I thank God every day for my cuddly, funny, smart, healthy, happy little boy. He is everything I ever hoped and wished for, the fulfillment of my most precious dream.

Today he came to me for hugs and cuddles about a hundred times, always saying 'Mama' and rubbing his face against me. Melting my heart!

Thank you all for joining me on this journey of motherhood, and for always being here with advice and kindness. I appreciate it so much.

Here's to another beautiful year spent getting to know my sweet son, and making every together day special.


Monday, September 10, 2012

Personal Reflections

My husband's little stay-at-home vacation is coming to a close, and soon home life will fall back into it's regular rhythm. Rafael has grown very attached to his Papa, and today he was especially clingy with him, crying if he left the room. 

A friend visited today and told us that one of her grown sons had some criticism for her having to do with his childhood, and I wondered to myself if Rafael will have complaints for us later in life. For example, his father not being home as much as some are. 

I don't know exactly why, but I have been somewhat melancholy and reflective lately. I feel lost and overwhelmed, and like I am just 'winging it,' not really knowing if I am doing everything right. Keeping our home clean, fridge well-stocked, laundry folded, dogs walked, and of course Rafael fed and happy, can be exhausting sometimes. Especially the household part (the dogs get everything so dirty so fast!). I have been trying to organize help the past few weeks, and have yet to find the perfect solution. 

There is one main thing that is bothering me, and I don't know how to deal with it. I keep hoping that the situation will be resolved, mainly within my very own heart. In this particular case, I don't know if it's better to just keep quiet about how I feel and make peace with the way things are, or if I should voice my disappointment. 

Rafael brings so much light into my life, and I want to be a cheerful light for him too. But sometimes it's a struggle to be full of energy and give everything my 100 percent.


Thursday, September 6, 2012

September Days

"The breezes taste
Of apple peel.
The air is full
Of smells to feel-
Ripe fruit, old footballs,
Burning brush,
New books, erasers,
Chalk, and such.
The bee, his hive,
Well-honeyed hum,
And Mother cuts
Like plates washed clean
With suds, the days
Are polished with
A morning haze."

- John Updike, September

We've been enjoying these first September days. The air is a bit cooler, and there are a few yellow leaves here and there. I've tossed out the withering tomato vines and replaced them with chrysanthemum, white cyclamen, and silver ragwort. In the woods, nature has it's own flowers of the season on display, like the wild heather pictured above, feathery and delicately purple on the mossy hillsides. 

Mornings stay dark noticeably longer now, and it makes me remember last winter, when Rafael was so small, and we would wake up together when it was still dark. We would tiptoe into his room, warm and smelling of the heaters, and play quietly, as the room slowly grew lighter and lighter, and the sky behind naked trees outside turned from black to grey to white. Those were such precious hours. Even as a tired mommy, I knew to cherish them. It felt like we were the only people awake in the world, in our dimly lit, cozy den. 

I look forward to winter mornings like that again.

But first....glorious autumn. 


Monday, September 3, 2012

Golden Afternoon in Lainzer Park

It's so funny how you can live somewhere for a long time and still discover places you've never been right near by. I had heard of Lainzer Tiergarten, a nature preserve about a 15 minute drive away, for a while, but had never been. Had I known how beautiful it is there....I would have insisted on going sooner!

This afternoon we went with some friends and their babies, taking a forty minute walk to a little cafè for hot chocolate and strudel, then having fun with the babes in the the playground, and then heading back towards home in the golden September sunset. Above are just a few of the 118 photos I shot of this gorgeous place. I hope to go again when the landscape is saturated in autumn colors. 

I would love to hear about beautiful places you like to visit where you live. I know the news makes us believe the world is a horrible place, and this may be true in some ways; but it is also so full of beauty and breathtaking nature, just waiting to be discovered and appreciated.

Thank you as always for visiting!


Sunday, September 2, 2012

Windfall Apple Pie

Happy September!

The weather has turned and we had two rainy days and nights. Some trees have yellow leaves that fly off into the wind. And for me, even though the calendars officially say something else, September marks the beginning of fall.

Ramon makes the perfect pie dough. Mine always seem to end up on the tough side, but his are always flaky, buttery perfection. So whenever I want to make pie, he's in charge of the dough.

With the cold weather and rain, and autumn's arrival tingling like a song in my heart, I knew it was time for apple pie. I used windfall apples, the ones that fall on the ground and tend to have bruises or imperfections. These are easily cut away, though, and what's left is tart, crisp apple, ready to be tossed with cinnamon and sugar.

This is the best apple pie recipe I've come across, and it's utterly simple and classic. It's an annual fall favorite in this home, and I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

Windfall Apple Pie
adapted from Country Living's Farmhouse Apple Pie

2 1/2 pounds apples (about 7 or 8) peeled, cored, and sliced into thin pieces
2 Tblsp all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar (I mix brown and white)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tblsp lemon juice

2 discs pie dough (We only used one for the pie pictured, and although we had to roll out the two halves real thin, it was enough...and delicious!)

Pre-heat oven to 375° (170°c)

Combine the apple slices with the remaining ingredients.

Place one half of the rolled out dough into a 9-inch pie pan. 

Pour in the apple mixture. 

Top with the remaining dough, pinch together the edges, and crimp them.

Cut vents into the top dough for steam to escape.

Bake for 50-55 minutes, until golden and bubbly.

Cool on kitchen counter until room temperature. Don't cut until fully cooled, or the juices will run.

Enjoy! And HAPPY FALL!



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