Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Some Holiday Pie, then Some Serious Ramble

Hope everyone had a large dose of joy and rest this holiday season! Here are some of our highlights:

-Mr. Pie talking to his little brother after the birth of our new niece, the siblings have all officially joined the ranks of parenthood now. Welcome to the club.

-the eating of clementines and pistachios (so against my attempts to eat local, organic, sustainable, etc.),and yet so addictively delicious!

-Mr. Pie and I both chose just one gift for one another - a book. And both are great selections.

-Youngest kidlet's refusal to take off his new Batman Lego outfit for 3 days straight. His superhero dreams were worth the stinky laundry.

-The yumminess below that went into this winter fruit pie, found here.

-a pared down, new-tradition-filled holiday, which, though exhausting, felt right and good.

-And last, but never least, the kidlets enjoying it all.

Now onto 2010. I've been debating and desparately ignoring this post since the clock struck midnight. Instead of looking ahead and reflecting on the past, I'd rather tell you about ridiculously fun and useless iPhone apps I'm in love with (like the Kindle for iPhone, which I'm giddy about, even though I'm disgusted by my part in the demise of the printed page). Or it might also be fun to wax on about my book selections for the Parenting from Different Faith Perspectives for church, or just all the books I have hanging on my "To Read List".It might also be entertaining to get your opinions on organizing posts and weeding out the useless. However, what keeps churning in my mind are the things which really impacted me this year and where it will all settle out in 2010.

This year, just when I had hit my weight loss goal, Mr. Pie had found his long sought after new job, and we finally felt settled and happy back in the midwest, our oldest kidlet had a lump removed from his foot. All went well and he recuperated with nothing more than a scar. When I say all went well, I mean we dodged the cancer bullet. For a couple of weeks, we weren't sure what that lump on his foot was, or what ordeal our son might endure to rid his body of it. Those are the kind of moments which freeze time -when you wait to hear whether your flesh and blood, your first born, your joy made real, will be yanked into a "new normal" of tests and medicines, needles and nurses, hospital walls. We steeled ourselves for a war which luckily we won in the first battle. I don't want to imagine what the fight would have been, but I know our family had the strength to bare it. I know because of the outpouring of love, love from family, friends and even acquaintances. Those nightmares which bring you to your knees, also keep you on bended knee in gratitude for all you've been given.

So where to put all that gratitude? How to keep up with the weight loss and lifestyle changes I've maintained, even with a big scare thrown in? How to keep living in the moment, instead of in my head, as I promised I would do when we heard his tumor was benign? How to give back to the universe the love we felt? How did that experience change my thoughts on God?

See? It's all a bit too f***ing serious isn't it??

Maybe an iPhone apps list and a good book club selection are all that's needed. I'll save it for next time when the mind stops regurgitating '09. Hope you all have entered 2010 in a less churnful manner than I. Thanks for the listen.

Thursday, December 24, 2009


All is calm, all is bright.

Sleep tight.

Wake with joy.

Merry Christmas....

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Crafty Goodness

This is a much behind schedule update on our very first year participating in the Crafty Crow ornament swap. It was so fun creating our "Kingdom of Nutville" ornaments and mailing them to all corners of the country. And, other than spending way too much on mailing because I thought they needed to reach the families a week before they actually did, our little project was a great success! (Note to self: read your emails carefully, even when you are also playing crazy eights with the kidlets and dinner is burning on the stove).

The theme for the swap was Fairy Tale. I have to say this was not a popular theme with my house of boys, but we settled on using walnut shells and adapting a Family Fun craft, here, which we did last year. This meant nothing new to buy, except for a new bag of walnuts. I was in charge of the queen, while the kidlets and Mr. Pie worked on the rest of the court. We used an old pack of cards for decoration, and odds and ends from the craft pile for the rest. The nuts have a little surprise hidden inside, which can be cracked open on New Year's.

We thought we should hang them on the tree before saying our goodbyes (sorry for the blurry pic, I'm hoping Santa sees my desperate need for a new camera).

We received many adorable ornaments in return, and the kidlets have found each the perfect spot on our tree. Thank you families far and wide for your little pieces of crafty goodness.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Happiness is...

-These snow balls fresh from the oven.

-Our new niece, born into such a wonderful family, and at such a beautiful time of year.

-Knowing our days grow longer, even if our ground becomes heavy with snow.

-Cub Scout holiday parties, where you see in the faces of these grade school boys, both the silliness of childhood and glimpses of the men they will be.

-And last but not least, almost everything crossed off my holiday crunch list.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Advent/Solstice Candles Finale

The last Sunday of Advent, and Winter Solstice eve has arrived. We had fun breaking out the nativity people for their first appearance in the ring. We found our little felted wool nativity set at a non-profit store which sells global items to help those who make them. I love how it looks like a little social gathering in the ring.

And here are Mary and Joseph on their journey (if their journey to Bethlehem were our dining table, and the manger was our candle ring). And, yes, kidlets request to keep baby Jesus up Mary's skirt until Christmas day has been respected.

The verse for the fourth week is my favorite I think:

The fourth light of Advent,
It is the light of man.
The light of love, the light of thought,
To give and understand.

Original words were found on Pea Soup's blog, here.

The winter sky was so gorgeous and clear this evening. It is nights such as this, filled with the promise of more light, and yet perfect in its crisp, cold dark, which I treasure. Happy Solstice everyone, hope you are finding peace in the winter air.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Advent/Solstice Sunday,Part 3 and Other Ramble

This Sunday found us lighting the candles in daytime, as we had to go from church to home to my nephew's b-day celebration and back home too late for dinner. The lack of night (or at least that's what I'm blaming it on) meant the kids were in no way tired or calm. Surprisingly, Batman was not produced when they were asked to pick animals to place in the circle. Being thankful for the animals, reminded me of this fella who was leisurely lying around in our backyard garden when we collected stones for this first week of Advent.

We have been quite busy with baking, crafting, and holiday activity. Pics will soon go up for our Crafty Crow kids ornament swap. They were fun to create and only one item ended up in the dog's digestive tract.
The holidays, the births of a new niece and nephew right around the corner,and a parenting book club I hosted last week, have put me in a contemplative mode. I'm wondering how well (or not well) Mr. Pie and I are doing in this parenting journey. In my book club reading, The Blessing of a Skinned Knee, the author shares a word in Hebrew, tsimtsum, meaning "contraction of divine energy". The phrase suggests even God has to let go. I love that the translation uses the word contraction. Parenting is a beautiful and painful process, and the contractions, the labor of it all keeps coming in waves. Ultimately, with each contraction, we let go of them, they release their grip on us ... stand on their own, speak on their own, become their own ... hopefully the imprints we leave are more helpful than harmful, more good than bad, more light than darkness.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

And Then Things Went Downhill

An Advent/Solstice candle bit the dust at dinner tonight, the dog ate some crayons off the craft table, and after just buying the most adorable wool felt nativity set (pics soon) our youngest kidlet lost baby Jesus. We searched and searched the playroom, until Mommy discovered he had shoved him up Mary's skirt. He said, "I forgot I put him there, 'cause it makes sense, it's not his birthday yet!" He then proceeded to ask if we could leave him up there until Christmas??

Monday, December 7, 2009

Advent/Solstice Candles Part Deux

Second Sunday of Advent came and went. We ate soup as I was still a pathetic sick girl who begged hubby to get it. Regardless of illness, we gathered up pine cones from a previous nature walk, a couple sticks, and too beautiful to be real Holly from the Holly tree in the backyard. We have yet to find an appropriate manger that will fit in the circle, so Mary and the crew are on hold until next week.

The kids are actually not resistant to the new candle lighting ritual, and both mentioned it as a favorite when we had our gratitude time at dinner. The verse which can be found on Pea Soup's blog here, goes as follows:

The second light of Advent
It is the light of plants.
Plants reach up to the sun
And in the breezes dance.

I've loved having a reason to light candles at dinner. I highly recommend it, seems to calm things down even with crazy kid life all around.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Comfort and Inspiration

I'm sick. Terrible cold, possibly flu set in this week and it's taking forever to fight it off. Instead of going to church with Mr. Pie and the kidlets, I'm stuck at home with a general case of the ughs. This post is an effort to comfort myself. This delicious bowl of oatmeal made me feel warm and cozy.

As did these scones from a couple weeks back. They were cranberry/lemon from Smitten Kitchen.

If you sometimes dream of scones, and can persuade yourself to indulge in the heavy cream, you must try them (or like me, tell yourself you'll work if off at the gym, and then lie around the rest of the day with scone smells in the house and one in your hand). I didn't mess with the recipe at all, but must admit I did use dried cranberries, because we are never without them at the house.

I also just finished listening to Speaking of Faith, which I usually do when I walk the dog, but was actually home to hear this time. What a great piece they did on Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. Despite the lack of church with the fam, this inspired me on many levels. Rabbi Heschel was an activist, opposing Vietnam, and among many other things, working with King on our countries' civil rights.

Being Unitarian, I have been asked about my faith "What's the point?" Since we require no creeds, and embrace all people on their own spiritual path, why don't we just go to Ethical Society meetings, or go on our own path at home? My answer is community and praise. The Pie family has no one belief, but we feel a need to have somewhere to express our desire for justice in the world, and a reverence to this awe-inspiring universe. Heschel's legacy is this same need to work together, no matter the faith, and praise God, no matter the form. I loved his answer to this question posed by interviewer Carl Stern in 1972:

Stern: That raises the question, though, if you're saying if God were to control every aspect of man's life it would not be living. And that raises the question why pray to God, then? If God is not going to interfere, if God is not going to intervene, if God is not going to help, what is the role of prayer?

Rabbi Heschel: First of all, let us not misunderstand the nature of prayer, particularly in Jewish tradition. The primary purpose of prayer is not to make requests. The primary purpose of prayer is to praise, to sing, to chant. Because the essence of prayer is a song and men cannot live without a song. Prayer may not save us, but prayer may make us worthy of being saved....

Amen to that! With that inspiration I leave you, as I try to provide myself some comfort with a good bowl of soup. I think that's going to be about as far I get today in helping God. Good enough.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Our Advent/Solstice Traditions

The Advent stockings are up! Coming from the Queen of Procrastination, this is a monumental feat for me each year. I stenciled the numbers on years ago with metallic paint, and hung it with scrap ribbon from another project.

We've tried hard, as many families have,to avoid the commercialism and boil down the meaning of the holidays to our kids in simple traditions. Inside each wee stocking is usually a tiny treat(just one and not everyday),a funny note to make the kidlets laugh, and some puzzle pieces. They put a few puzzle pieces together each day, until they see the full pic on Christmas Eve. I love the puzzle idea, because it adds to the anticipation of the season, and frankly, it's cheap.

New this year is our Advent ring. I've been wanting to give the Advent/Solstice candle thing a try for awhile, but wasn't sure if both kidlets were old enough to grasp any of it. This year however, my aunt (and possible only reader of my blog, thanks Vickie!)gave me a beautiful celtic Advent candle holder she'd held onto for awhile. Although I can't claim to have purchased candles that live up to the beauty of the holder, we think it's nice lit on a cold night with our little votives.

Sometimes the combination of Solstice and Advent can get quite murky and confusing for kids, but I found a beautiful tradition by one of my favorite Australian blogs, Pea Soup, found here. Her tradition reflects both appreciation for Advent and the earth/sun/light. She uses a Waldorf/Steiner approach. [DISCLAIMER HERE: Most of the time Waldorf creates anxiety in me about my inability to produce gentle, creative children who romp in the forest 24 hours a day, and create beautiful fairy tales of their own on homemade parchment, and then act them out with organic sock puppets.] BUT, since I personally find a hard time feeling gratitude for God's green earth in the middle of winter when nuthin's green, I thought splitting the candles into four thanks (one each for minerals/rocks, plants, animals, and people) is a nice show of appreciation to the earth at all moments and all manner. She also slowly adds pieces of the manger to the table each Sunday, and let's the kids choose toy animals for the manger (which resulted in a giraffe one year for their family, and in our household may very well include Batman).

Here is our first week of Advent, which I forgot until Sunday was already past, so they were lit for the first time on Monday, good enough. I will keep adding pics of how our Advent ring/candles progress and notes on what the kidlets gain from the experience (or if they sat through the whole thing just wondering if they missed SpongeBob's Christmas special).

Hope all are enjoying their own family traditions and keeping in mind the definition of Advent, the "arrival that has been awaited," whether that means baby Jesus or a slow arrival of more light, or both. If you use any of these ideas from me or Pea Soup I'd love to hear about them, leave me a comment.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

My First Blogger's Block

I'm returning from Thanksgiving break with nothing to say. I guess I can't call myself an official blogger, until I go through this first case of writer's (blogger's) block. Maybe all the pie has fogged my mind, or maybe I just don't have much to say .... So I leave you the response the 8 year old kidlet gave me tonight as I went to tuck in and kiss goodnight "Oh mom, NOT the sweet, the dreams, the love, the you, the goodnight, AGAIN!" Yep, that again, 'cause I got nothing else, and I do desperately need some sleep.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Inspired, Tired

It's been very dreary weather-wise around here, so I've been avoiding the blues by trying out recipes for Thanksgiving and other holiday events. Today I made the most delicious dinner rolls from an old Family Fun recipe, here. Although I would recommend adding a bit more water to the dough, and a little less butter before the rise. And, because I've been drooling over this recipe since seeing it on Posie Gets Cozy's blog, I cooked my first Chicken Saltimbocca, which will definitely be returning to my kitchen table.

The warm oven and the bright green sage against the red of my cutting board, put me in the holiday mood:

And, in case you think my life looks like a domestic dream, here are some shots of the aftermath in the kitchen, and the DVD my dog ate while I was cooking:

Oh yeah, and the kids hated the chicken. Goodnight, inspiration is over.

Monday, November 16, 2009

In Thanks

So much to be thankful for this season. Our church has an annual bread service the week before Thanksgiving. We break bread at a large communal table set in the center of the sanctuary, holding fresh loaves of bread from our homes. It is one of my favorite moments of the season, where the definitions of sharing and family are wrapped up in all this abundance at the church table. As I mull over what bread to bring this year, I'm sharing a pictorial thanks:

Monday, November 9, 2009


My little guy often gives me food for thought on the short walk to pick up his big brother from second grade. It is one of the joys of living so close to the grade school, these little snippets of time where the boys talk in easy, fluid stories. Today he found one of the last dandelions of the season. He can't resist blowing the seeds into the wind and he has always been a wish-maker of the highest order. He plucked, blew, made his silent wish and on we went. When we were at the doorstep of the school, he looks back at me and says "Mommy, after you wish, do you just let it go?" He meant the remains of the dandelion stem, but the question struck me on a much different level. Yes, what do we do after?? After we wish, after we pray, after we've done what we can do, how many of us just let it go? We can control the actions but not the outcomes, and anything less than letting go creates pain and anxiety. So my answer to the little man is "Yes, Absolutely! Make those wishes, dream those dreams, and when you've done what you can to make them come true ... just. let. them. go."

On a lighter note, you remember those little chore cards of yesterday's post, today the kidlets told me I should have a chore card to remind me to clean my stuff off the kitchen table. Like I said, parenting is humbling!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Chore Card Score

I'm not really one to give parenting advice. I'm too humbled by parenting my kidlets to feel I have the answer to any parenting dilemma. But (you knew that would be followed by a BUT and me giving advice anyway, right?), I feel like I've hit upon something that folks might find vaguely useful. After reading a section on Pioneer Woman's blog, this chore card idea sounded interesting. I created cards with one chore apiece which are set out for my boys to see in the morning. After they complete a card, they put it away in a little basket. If, by the end of the day, there are no more cards out, they get a sticker. Seven stickers grants them their allowance (or seven checks b/c my oldest is way too cool for stickers).

There are two reasons I find these better than a chore chart -- pictures and flexibility. My youngest is four and he loves cards, especially ones with a good pic. I quickly scrapped these cards onto a plain index card and added a fun, cartoon picture of the chore which he could understand. He doesn't need me to remind him what job he has, I just tell him to look at his cards. The visual clue is close-up and separated from the confusion of a chart. The second score for these cards is the flexibility. Chores seem so official and set in stone on a chart. With the cards, I grab the chore I need help with, or more important, a chore the kids need to practice or focus on when it's appropriate.

These cards may fall to the wasteside, as have other well-laid plans, but for now it works, and in parenting that's all I ever ask for -- one day at a time!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Blog Happy

This is my hallelujah for blogging post. I came to blogging VERY late. I looked at my first blog only a couple years ago, and felt like someone brought me to Disneyland! What? ... there are all these interesting folks out here just writing, creating, sharing, giving, and it's free?? I don't know why I never thought to check it out before. I guess I was busy with kids, life, trying to stop my dog from chewing shoes, who knows, but now that I am in blogland I have to say it is just plain fun. I know many think it a waste of time, and I do think someday it will be added to an addiction list for rehab, but I want to share with all of you what blogs have given me, just in the last month:

-got our pumpkin carving idea from Crafty Crow
-made mini pumpkin pie bites and lollipop pies from Bakerella
-cried and reflected on posts about loss and parenthood from Sweet and Salty Kate and Catherine Newman
-found out Mr. Pie can't live without these Oatcakes
-wasted so much time playing grown-up fashionplates from Polyvore which I found through Angry Chicken just yesterday, and I rarely buy clothes.
-created chore cards for my kidlets based on this advice from Pioneer Woman. I don't homeschool, but PW is so much fun I look at every section, and this time it paid off.
-laughed very hard at WhimsyLove's tacky Christmas sweater search.

And that is just one month. Look at those verbs I used: got, made, added, cried, found, wasted, created, laughed. So to all my favorite blogs, the ones here, and to those I've yet to find, I say "THANK YOU!"

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Birth, Death, and the Thrills and Threats In-Between

A very busy week of Halloween activities just ended at our house. After a rather dismal week of rain and wind, the sun came out for Halloween day and it was a beautiful night for trick-or-treating. My uncle always holds a giant Halloween celebration at his place, passing out candy and much needed cups of water to more trick or treaters than you can count. It is a reminder for me every year of the sheer joy kids find in this mix of thrill and threat. They don't know what is around the corner, what scary mask or frightening noise could emanate from the next house, but they are more than willing to find out. I've tried hard in the last couple years to maintain that willing attitude for what is around each corner I turn. We are born and die in a world where no certainty exists. We walk a path with so many doors open wide -- some joyful, some horribly infested with all manner of pain. I want to approach every door as it comes, thrill or threat I want to enter willingly, because ultimately the journey is worth the fear. Hope you got a good scare and a good treat this Halloween, and take a tip from the kids, never be too afraid of that next door!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Food or Foe?

I am gearing up to make a bunch of yummy Halloween treats for my aunt and uncles big annual Halloween get together, and the following week I'm cooking appetizers for a friend's open house. I get so excited about making a good plate of food, but it certainly was not always this way.
Until a couple years ago, I loathed most cooking. I loved to bake for the kids, but even then, it was mostly decorating cupcakes I enjoyed. This past year I lost a significant amount of weight, but I have never cooked more in my life. Why? Something in my mind and body finally clicked. It was certainly never the food I hated, my butt can attest to that. What I hated was the chore. I saw cooking as a chore. The endless, what's for dinner question drove me insane. When we finally figured out what to eat, I rushed, chowed, and snacked more later. When I eventually made a conscious choice, to truly take the time, enjoying the process and smells and taste and colors - it turns out I LOVE to cook and bake. AND, the added bonus, I usually don't scarf the food down and over-eat, because part of me is satiated from the cooking process itself. It seems so cliche, but once I slowed down and lived in the moment, losing weight and cooking became a joy for me. Don't get me wrong, I am not always so Zen about food! I still have busy-mom drive-thru moments and PMS overindulgence, but food is no longer a foe, and what a relief!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Not Quite Yet

This past weekend we headed out for a gorgeous fall outing. I dropped hints that I would love for us to get out and see the fall color before it's gone. So, after some brunch, we headed out to Pere Marquette for a weekend drive and light hiking. The picture above is the view from the top of the bluffs with my littlest on the steps. What an odd feeling to see him practically a kindergartner, ready for all the world in front of him. Me, standing behind, contemplating: the view, my sons, this place where Mr. Pie and I married 13 years ago. Fall brews this bittersweet taste in my mouth each year. The contemplation of things which lie ahead, while remembering moments which have slowly fallen away. I find myself begging the leaves not to fall, not yet, not just yet...but ahhh how good those leaves feel underfoot and how I want my little guy to run and see all that is ahead, just not yet, not quite yet....

Monday, October 26, 2009

Ramble Pie Hi

Hello out there in blog land, I'm Ms. Pie. Thought maybe by ramblings on facebook and relentless picture taking (and posting) of food would be put to better use on this blog. I pale in comparison to my favorite foodie, author, and mommy blogs -- but hope to combine a little of each of these genres to my own humble little piece of the pie. Welcome, pull up a chair and stay awhile.