August 27, 2013

In the Herb Garden

Our small herb garden is overgrown in summer's fullness. The Lemon Balm has spread through the grass, fragrant when crushed underfoot. The Peppermint is home to spiders' feathery webs; its purple puffball flowers are diminutively lovely next to the proliferating Lavender.

Armed with scissors and equipped with a basket, Evelyn and I head out. This is just a little harvest. Mama's plotting soap. Here's my inspiration. I'm making infused oils to get ready for fall soapmaking, and when I make soap, don't worry I'll tell you all about it!

I decided to harvest Lemon Balm, Peppermint, and Lavender for my infused oils. The scent of the lemon balm lifted me right out of my self and into a calm sweet green fragrance haven. Combined with the lemon verbena I bought dried, I hope to carry that wholesome scent with me into the dark days of winter, cleansing my skin with it's sunshiny fragrance.

What are your favorite herbs?

August 17, 2013

Empowering Fearless Birth + Giveaway

"The Buddhists say that pain is inevitable, but suffering is a painful feeling about pain. Pain is simply a sensation, but suffering comes from thinking that what is shouldn't be." The Gift of Giving Life

I became a victim of my pain in the depression I experienced following the birth of my daughter. Suffering, afraid, I felt that this pain ought not to be. Recovery was terribly slow and healing came even slower.

I began to heal when I found my community. A group of like-minded women who were compassionate, God-sent, and wise even in their own floundering. I found resources to draw on, talents to call on, and shoulders to weep on. My daughter's birth experience was finally drained of fear, pain, and I began to recall tender moments and sweetness crept back into my memories of that time. 

Now my experiences lead me to cry out in support of my sisters. I feel deep compassion, and I even begin to feel that all these things were to give me the experience to be a peer for those in similar situations. 

One of the stunning brain-children of this amazing group of women I found is the fast-growing, evolving event Empowering Fearless Birth. 

A semi-annual celebration and educational event, Empowering Fearless Birth is an opportunity for Utah parents and providers to meet, learn about each other, and empower one another. 

Attending the event you can expect to experience:
  • Vendors from all over present beautiful goods and services. 
  • Birth and Pre/postnatal professionals available to meet and greet you. 
  • Keynote speakers bringing their powerful messages. 
  • Delectable and nourishing food which is readily available. 
  • Panels who dicuss topics you care about.
  • Last, but not least, breathtaking birth films crown (pun...mostly intended) the event with an overall sense of purpose, wonder, and awe and leave you feeling empowered and inspired. 
It's the place to be this September. 

At the courtesy of Empowering Fearless Birth, we are giving away a couple's tickets to the Evening Events! 
To Enter:

1. Share the website on a social media page telling your friends why fearless birth is important.

2. Share this post on a social media page of your choice.

3. Comment on this post letting us know what sites you shared on! 

Winner will be selected and announced next Saturday at 10:00 AM MST

August 13, 2013

English Date and Walnut Pudding

Whenever I eat cake the thought runs through my mind, Hmmm . . . tasty, but I'd like it better if it were less fluffy, less dry, and had more substance to it.

Well, I've figured it out. My long-ago English roots knew how satisfying a pudding can taste. American desserts are either sadly lacking in imagination (Otter Pop anyone?) or they have a bit too much (Jello Salad containing both rice and Cool Whip . . . I know right?).

In Britain "pudding" can refer to the dish of a pudding itself or merely to the dessert whatever it may be. Sticky toffee pudding (reputedly the fave of Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge), Spotted Dick (I kid you not, that's what it's called), and many more including the iconic Christmas pudding are cake-like batters traditionally steamed either in the oven or stove rather than baked in a dry oven. 

The resulting steamy, just-sweet-enough concoction is then drizzled (or drowned if that's your style) in a vanilla-licious pourable custard (what we poor Yankees would call pudding) or some other lovely sauce. 

For the last week or so I've been obsessed. I created a new board on Pinterest called . . . Anglophile. Yes, yes, that's me. This week in Sunday school I was called on to pronounce the word Hertfordshire for my class. For uninitiated Americans this word is deemed as hard to pronounce as that famed condiment Worcestershire sauce.

Well, today was the trial.

With the help of some Online tables and my food scale I turned out a delicious pudding. Trotting it out after dinner made me feel like a modern Helen Herriot. 

Here, for your benefit and possibly your culinary pleasure, I include the recipe adapted for the American kitchen. 

Date and Walnut Spiced Pudding

3/4 Cup Pitted Dates, chopped
3 Tablespoons Milk, divided
6 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter, softened
1/4 Cup Brown Sugar, packed
2 Eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 Cup Self-rising Flour (I used this recipe)
1/4 Tsp Cinnamon
1/2 Tsp Powdered Ginger
1/4 Cup Walnuts, finely crushed or chopped

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Pour 2 tablespoons of the milk over the dates. Stir to coat.

2. Combine butter, sugar, remaining tablespoon milk, and cream them together. Add the eggs. Sift the flour and spices and add. 

3. Beat mixture until creamy smooth.

4. Fold in dates and nuts.

5. Butter a small oven-safe (like Pyrex) bowl. Spoon mixture into bowl. Place bowl in a cake pan and add an inch of hot water. Tent bowl and pan both with foil. 

6. Bake covered for 60-90 minutes or until toothpick or butter knife inserted into the middle comes out clean.

7. Let cool for 5-10 minutes then turn out on to a serving plate. Serve with custard or whipped cream. 

Adapted from this recipe at

Mindful, slow moments chopping the dates...

The batter

My jury-rigged bain-marie

Spongy spicy goodness...


Delicious. Just Delicious.

July 31, 2013

Portrait of a Mama

My hair is sometimes a bit tangly or at least hastily styled. It's beautiful.

My face is more round than it used to be, my skin is ruddy, my face free of all makeup execpt for kohl. It's lovely.

My eyes have deeper lines around them. They're earned the hard way. They're beautiful.

My neck holds up my head. Though I work to improve its angle so that my posture might be better, it is lovely the way it is.

My arms have held burdens through the night and day. They are stronger than perhaps they have ever been. They are beautiful.

My breasts are lined with miniscule strech marks. They have been pulled, streched, bitten, caressed, punched, and very appreciated. They are just right.

My midriff is soft and curvy. It is the perfect soft-landing place for a small person with a wound or a need to be held. That makes it beautiful.

The stripes on my abdomen have been earned by sacrifice, tears, and no "bikini body" is more lovely.

Evelyn's birth canal is scarred. It has endured more than any other part of me. It is strong. It is beautiful.

My legs are strong, coated with stubble from the infrequent shaves, and they support me in all my weight gain and loss. They are beautiful.

My feet have paced many miles. They have been massaged. They have been kissed. They are beautiful.

My body is sacred. It is a vessel of hope. It is a temple. It is the body of a mature, yet young, woman. Maidenhood is behind me; I am a mother.

I embrace the fact that if I were to go back to looking like a fifteen-year-old I would lose precious, hard-earned parts of myself.

Experience is a blessing. My mother-body is perfect in every detail. And I rejoice in it.

photo by Jennifer Grigg

July 22, 2013

Summer...Business/Blues/Blessings. All of the Above

Daughter = Interesting, volitile, sleepless, experimenting, boundary-testing, ball of energy.

That pretty much sums up what I've been up to since my last post.

Other reasons...

Outings of beauty...forgot camera

Digging/watering/weeding the garden getting deliciously dirty = totally cathartic, difficult to post about but I did my best here back in the spring...

Moments of funniness...only funny if you know us

Time for tears...too personal to share

Laughing at the toddler laughing at her own jokes...

Paring down posessions...going through every box. Inspirational...yes, but not really blog material.

Hours of service...sweet but again, personal

Our days have been full, beautiful, creative, moving, sweet, difficult, and fast. 

Summer steals my energy. What little I have seems claimed already. The little I have left I hoard to keep my own little internal fire going.

Oh, and popsicles are a gift from the Mama-loving-gods.

What makes your summer yours?

July 12, 2013

Summer Rains

 I woke this morning to the delicious sound of pouring rain outside my widely open summer window. The rain feels like a promise, a deliverance.

I have a confession. I hate summer. I don't hate everything about summer, I just dislike most of the things that come with it: wasps, heat, headaches, fireworks...

But I love the rain.

When I was growing up, rain and the sound of tires splashing, these were winter sounds. Coastal Northern California winter rain is fairly legendary. Summers there are normally rain-free in the extreme. Any moisture comes in the form of fog which rolls in in from the ocean at night.

But now I live in the desert. Rain usually comes as a rage of tears after a long hot day complete with wind and lightning.

Not today. Today is a cool, fragrant gift. A cool slice of California November in the middle of a Utah July. The perfect cure for my summer fatigue.

I sit outside in the garden getting deliciously wet as I let the random drops fall where they may. Eventually I am caressed in dampness. I breathe deeply, stocking up for the next heat waves. I remind myself of swimming, farmer's markets, barbecues, and reading in the hammock as I know that as soon as the rain ceases and the sun comes out, it will dry in moments, and be as if it never was.

Except...the plants will be a little greener, the air will be cleaner, and I will be ready to try again to love it.

July 5, 2013

Fear Release and Guided Meditation

This is a piece I wrote specifically for a dear friend of mine. I would like to make it available, not only for her to read again, but for all to enjoy.

Feel the grass beneath you. As you inhale, let the earth embrace you, cradle you. You are safe. 

As you take a deep breath notice the places that you are holding tension and give it permission to slip down into the earth. With each breath, the earth swallows your tensions. 

Turn your mind inward. Notice the shapes behind your eyelids. Can you make out the shape of a gurgling stream? Full of rocks and minnows, and that nearly indescribable summer stream smell. Following the sandy banks you wind through a thickly wooded area. There are branches you must push by, some you must climb over, and one or two that you have to detour and go around. With each obstacle you feel yourself growing tired. With each obstacle you pause to take a breath, and let your tension and tiredness be swallowed up by the earth. 

After a while you notice the extra weight you are carrying. You try to lighten your load. But it does not come off easily. It must be carried and cannot simply be shed. You redistribute it and keep moving. 

The stream is now a river broad and quietly flowing. It grows wider and wider. The trees grow thinner and more bent. The sun shines golden in your eyes. Your sense of anticipation grows as you hear the deep singing murmer of the sea. 

Your burdens are heavy to bear, and you long to let them go. Lifting your eyes to heaven, you see a V-shape winging across the sky. A flock of white birds headed to the sea. You catch your breath as one leaves the flock and comes down to light near you. It bows its head, inviting you. It takes the weight of your burden on its broad strong back. The duty and love remains. Deeply exhaling with sheer lightness and relief you run to meet the next rise in the ground. 

At last your feet are touching true sand. There are shells, cries of seagulls, and most of all, the sky is sinking into a magestic purple sunset. Safe, unburdened, fearless, you let the warmth and energy of the earth fill you. The sound of the waves, the smell of sweetgrass, and the purple sky.

Rachel Jackson

July 3, 2013

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp Perfection

It's Farmer's Market time again. Fresh rhubarb anyone?  You see it there in the stall, cheap, strangely tasty-looking, so you buy it. And it sits on your table or in your fridge for a few days. The ambitious idea you had of making jam sounds absolutely insane in this heat wave. Your frugal heart can't endure to just throw it out...and then you realize there are those strawberries you found on sale...

Here's a no-added-sugar, fresh-from-the-market/garden, gluten-free recipe for dessert perfection. One catch, you do have to bake it. The good news is it's quick. Make it late at night for that tasty midnight snack or a delicious cold breakfast.

Bonus: It's easy enough that the kids will love to help!

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp Perfection
5(ish) Stalks Rhubarb
2 Cups Fresh Strawberries
3 Tbs Applesauce
1/3 Stick Butter
1 Cup Almond Meal
1/3 Cup Fine, Unsweetened) coconut
Pure Almond Extract

Toss the chopped rhubarb, strawberries, and applesauce into a 9" square glass pan.

In a medium bowl toss the almond meal, coconut, and a few pinches of salt. add the butter gradually and crumble. Add a 1/2 tsp or so of almond extract. (More if you like a macaroon taste, or you can use vanilla.)

Arrange the crumble over the filling.

Bake at 350 until the crust looks like this! Serve with vanilla ice-cream or whipped cream for a idealistic porch-swing-summertime-delight.

June 25, 2013

The Perfect Litha Loaf

Two bread recipes symbolize our relationship to the seasonal solstices. At the Winter solstice we make Julekake, a spiced sweet bread fillled with candied orange peel and raisin.

In the summer we make a Litha loaf. Litha, or midsummer, is the magical longest day of the year. It marks the time when the sun is at its zenith, and at the end of the day the sun will begin its seasonal downward journey into winter. The sun brings us light, warmth, food, and many more gifts. 

One of the gifts is the heat that makes yeast grow swiftly. We use the heat of the sun to raise the dough for our Litha loaf. It is imbued with the power of the sun and even its baking time is reduced. I think my project for next year will be to make some kind of solar oven for the whole baking process. This recipe is so light and fluffy (like croissants) that the baking time is minimal. When you're eating it, it's easy to think you're eating sunshine.

We used the recipe for sculpted bread from Knead It, Punch It, Bake It by Judith and Evan Jones. We got this wonderful gem of a kid's cookbook at our local library book sale. It has easy-to-follow, rewarding-to-make recipes for kids and adults. Real cooking from scratch is a magical experience for kids, and is a great solution for helping selective eaters. It's so much more fun to eat something you made isn't it?

Perfect Litha Loaf (Recipe adapted from Knead It, Punch It, Bake It)

1 package (1 scant tablespoon) active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1/3 cup raw sugar
2 large eggs
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) melted butter
1/4 stick butter
1/4 cup whole milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
zest from 1 orange
3 cups white flour, divided

Dissolve yeast and sugar in the warm water. Add the eggs, melted butter, milk, vanilla, salt, and orange zest and whisk until well mixed. Stir in 2 and 1/2 cups of the flour into a soft dough. Turn out on to a well-floured surface and knead until smooth (5-7 minutes) until smooth and only mildly sticky, adding more flour if needed.
Usng the 1/4 stick of butter, coat a medium bowl and the ball of dough. Cover with plastic wrap. Set out in the sunshine until doubled in size (about 25 minutes).
Shape the dough into a sunshine shape (we used a twisted spiral shape) and place on a well buttered cookie sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and put out in the sunshine for about 15 minutes. Glaze with egg if desired. Bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown. Serve with fresh butter. 

June 22, 2013

Fairy Lights, Magical Night

June 21, the longest day of the year. Barriers between people, things of magic, things of heaven seem a little thinner. Some are sure that the fairies come to play.

Fairy Ring

Fairy Wing

Fairy Sweet

Fairy Treat

Fairy Light

Fairy Night

What a lovely night!

June 14, 2013

Butter Buttons

We're in the thick of potty-talk. I'm proud to say that I'm raising a very...independent-thinking young lady. It quickly became clear that going potty is going to have to be 100% self-motivated. However, whenever she takes the initiative and pops off for a poop all on her own, feel like celebrating. That lead me to search  for tasty little positive reinforcement cookie recipe for Evelyn. While doing so, I stumbled on this recipe post from The Elliott homestead. I assumed it was a cookie. In reality, it is so much more.

True, high-quality butter is full of good fats, and for a toddler who loves to eat butter I feel good about giving it to her this way. Candy, cheap toys, gum, even cookies, just didn't quite seem like what I wanted to give her. These butter buttons fit the bill perfectly. Made with Kerrygold butter and pure maple syrup (or whatever you want to use) it's the ideal tiny treat! Just like the kid over at the Elliott Homestead my little one asks, "More butter treat?"

The best part is that it's a family activity to make them! Toddlers love to help "cook" things, and this is the ideal way to include them in their own reward. I'll bet that makes them that much sweeter to eat!

Step 1: Soften some Kerrygold or homemade butter. The Crunchy Cottage way is to stick it in a summertime windowsill for a few minutes.
Step 2:  Place in a plastic zippered bag.
 Step 3: Add a few teaspoons of pure maple syrup.
 Step 4: Squish!
 Step 5: Let small hands help
 Step 6: Cut a small hole in the corner and squeeze onto a wax paper lined cookie sheet. Or squeeze into an icing bag for fancy effects!
Step 7: Refrigerate and/or freeze to harden. Let them eat butter!

What "rewards" do you use at your house?

June 10, 2013

Teaching Routine and Order to Toddlers: Part 3

Even very small hands can help make the work light. I invited Evelyn to work with me and showed her how to pull off the leaves. This was great fun, and appealed to her natural senses. She peeled and peeled without knowing that there was purpose beyond the fun of the game. Then when she saw the corn underneath, the light dawned, and she became excited.

Later that evening she ate her corn on the cob with a gusto I don't usually see from her at the dinner table. Her grin said My hands were involved in making this dinner.