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Baking with Tété

I’ve always done a lot of cooking, but I never baked much after my mother died. When my kids were little I seldom baked with them. Homemade dessert items, let alone bread, were a rarity.

As a child, I baked a lot, because my mother baked. We mostly ate homemade bread; the crazy woman used to make her own filo, because it wasn’t available in our midwest town.

Three years ago when I cut preservatives out of my diet I had to start baking, because I have a terrible sweet tooth and I really couldn’t live without dessert. I haven’t mastered the candy thing yet, but I’ve become a decent baker. This is partially because, having baked, and observed baking, so much as a child, I actually had the “feel” that you need, to know whether the batter is the right consistency, and how elastic the pie crust should be.

Which makes me feel somewhat guilty on my kids behalf, because if they ever decide to start baking, they won’t have that deep childhood memory of these things.

Last Saturday I borrowed a friend’s child, and we made muffins. I gave her the option of applesauce muffins or chocolate muffins. Guess which ones she chose. She knew all about chemical reactions (what baking soda is for, how vinegar reacts with milk and that honey is actually acidic). We learned how to measure 3/4 cup when you only have 1/2 cup and 1/4 cup measuring cups, and how to crack an egg with one hand.

Tete is 8, what you can’t see here is that she is using a very sharp paring knife to cut up fresh strawberries, which we used because I didn’t have any chocolate chips. She assured me that she was proficient with knives; according to her mother this was a bald-faced lie. She did fine however. No fingers lost.

Best muffins I ever made. Recipe here. We substituted the sugar with 1/2 cup of honey, and increased the baking soda to 2 teaspoons to compensate for the more acidic honey.

I am very much looking forward to being Granny Xanny and having grandchildren to bake with (should my children ever decide to get on the stick and come up with some!)

Who do you bake with?

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Emily from Tanglewood Farm, here! My mother has been a huge role model in my life. She is incredibly practical, hardy, and full of life, and it’s these traits that I’ve been trying to cultivate in myself as I’ve grown.

She has a sort of quiet appreciation of things, and the ability to find wonder in any natural thing, often exclaiming things like “Hickory trees are nice!” or “Hello, squirrel!” Oh Boy, she’s going to kill me for posting those quotes… but it’s things like this that make me love her. She’s not afraid to blurt out the little-kid phrases that pop into her head. She’s willing to admit to staring at the way water pools on leaves and closing her eyes to pick out the songs of the local frog population. I don’t think of her as a hippie, no. More of a Hobbit. We’re all Hobbity folk, in my family – aside from living above ground, that is. (Radon gas is a real threat to modern-day Hobbits!)

This is the first Mother’s day that my mom and I have been apart. She has moved to New Hampshire while I remain in Michigan. Every year I think about how Mother’s day is so silly. It’s just one of those consumer driven buy-this, buy-that sort of holidays. Then it hits me (every single year) I don’t care if it’s consumer driven. My mother is full of inspiring energy and hard work, and it’s from her that I get my love of gardening and making things. I owe her a day – my life, really – even if I’m states away. Happy Mother’s day, Mom.

***

For me, Jennifer, moving from my tiny corner of Northwest Indiana all the way to Nashville, Tennessee was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, next to raising my own daughter. Fifteen years ago I decided it was time to break the invisible umbilical cord that I felt was holding me so close to my mother.

retro?

We’d been through a lot together, she and I. For ten years it was just the two of us. Because of that, we’d grown tremendously close. I’ve always considered her my best friend – from the time I was a small girl. It was incredibly difficult when she remarried, as I was afraid I’d lose my best friend. What I didn’t realize was that I was gaining a wonderful dad and a brother that still amazes me.

Moving away from that family, and the woman I idolized, was difficult, but to this day we talk several times a week. We make plans to visit as often as possible. Sometimes I even think that being so far away from each other makes our relationship and our visits that much more special. Extra efforts are made to make every moment count.

I miss my mom horribly. And to this day, fifteen years later, I still tear up when we part. I’m just glad to know that that umbilical cord still exists, but is now reciprocal. I love you, Mom.

***

Mother’s Day is very bitter sweet for me (Xan). My own mother died when I was a young woman, so I’ve made up the whole motherhood thing as I went along. I wrote this for my daughter when she graduated from high school. I have no photo, but rather a poem about a photo.

I think sometimes about a picture I have of the three of us
My mother, my daughter, myself
We’re laughing, arms linked and people turn to see
granddaughter catching grandmother’s eye.

I have been imagining this moment since I was a child.

It’s just a fantasy
My mother died eleven years before my daughter’s birth.
She never knew my daughter nor my daughter she
Except in the crumbling pages of the black and white photo album.
“You look just like her, Mom”

I shake my head, because I look neither like my beautiful mother
Nor like my beautiful daughter
Their beauty reaches around me,
Embracing me and connecting them
Two vibrant women who are so alike
And look so much alike
And can never know each other.

Still, I think about the three of us
and the image in my mind is so clear, it must exist on a black and white photo somewhere
I’ve just misplaced
That is why I know it so exactly  that I can tell you what we’re doing:

We’re laughing, arms linked
People turn to see because we are so happy to be together
And so connected by the shared face of my mother and my daughter
Who can never know each other
Except in my imaginary photograph.
Where we are always laughing, arms linked.

For Nora Aspasia, from her mother Alexandra, down the generations, through her grandmother Olga Aspasia and her great grandmother Eleni and her great-great grandmother Aspasia

***

Thinking of all of you mothers out there, with fondness in our hearts.

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I’m so not one of “those” girls. I scoff at mini skirts, would prefer work shoes to high heels, and was the girl that made boys cry when I liked them. In  high school and college wearing Doc Martins with a dress was fancy. What can I say, I was a misguided youth lacking a father figure while growing up. My mother had to fill both roles and was pretty much a feminist. I was raised believing I could do everything a man could do and better.

The last 14 years has been about finding balance between that feminist and femininity. Especially the last 7 years while raising a daughter. I refused pink baby clothes, all while explaining that my bald-headed baby was a girl. Oh! but this girl wants to dress up in costume like a princess, have tea parties, help me garden and cook, and she’s just at that age where pink and peach and flowers and puppies and kittens are all so cute and enticing and … cute.

So while I’m here, at age 36, still figuring out my own personal flaws (with all due respect and no fault for my wonderful Mom) as well as society’s, I have figured out that I love some aspects of girly-girl-ness. I’m learning that men really can do as much as women – and just as good sometimes! Sometimes I even wear a dress with high heels.

But only on the most special occasions … like weddings and tea parties with my daughter.

Wildflower Crepes

Makes about 12 crepes

  • 1 cup all purpose flour, wheat flour, or gluten free substitute
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup water (add 2 Tbsp more water for wheat flour)
  • 2 tsp oil, like walnut or sunflower, plus 1 Tbsp for pan
  • 2 eggs
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup of fresh, edible wildflower blossoms – we used redbud blossoms and violets

Filling:

  • 2 cups sour cream
  • 2 Tbsp buttermilk
  • 2 Tbsp sweetener (I used some granulated sugar I’d stored some used vanilla pods in)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  1. Mix wet ingredients together, add salt, then add to flour and whisk lightly. Allow to rest for 10 minutes.
  2. In the meantime, prepare your filling. An excellent substitute is sweetened cream cheese. Chill in refrigerator until later.
  3. Warm a small, non-stick pan on medium to medium-high. Put a dab of oil in the pan then wipe out with a dry, clean cloth.
  4. Pour about 1/4 cup mixture in pan and swirl around to cover pan. The first crepe is always the test. It should be relatively thin. You may need to add a little more water or flour to adjust the consistency. Before the crepe sets up, add a generous Tbsp of your flower buds to the wet batter. When the edges of the crepe easily come free, it’s time to flip. Crepes should not be brown and crispy, you just want them to set up and be tender.
  5. Cook all crepes before you begin to fill them.
  6. To finish the crepe, put the flower side down, add a bit of your cream mixture down the center and fold about 1/3 of the crepe over the mixture. Fold the rest of the crepe over to keep the cream inside. It looks a bit like a fancy enchilada! Top with a dollop of cream and some fresh fruit or jam like elderberry then enjoy with your favorite dress up partner for some tea.

You can find Jennifer at Unearthing this Life where she blargs about life in rural Tennessee. She’s also been featured at Rhythm of the Home. Mostly she’s just a mom, a homeschooler, and keeper of critters.

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While gardening with children is a boom industry, gardening with teens and even more with young adults is rare, at least in the working class and affluent neighborhoods that I’m in (there are lots of urban gardening projects for young people in inner cities). Hipster Supported Agriculture is my private little corner of the food movement. I work at rounding up teens through twentysomethings to do gardening and cooking.

This happens both in my own garden and through the Peterson Garden Project, a community garden and seed-to-table education program in Chicago. Last week we started planning and preparing for this year’s projects. At Mather High School, the biology teacher is leading a Service Learning (Community Service) group in seed starting– they’ve started more than 1,000 plants as a joint fundraiser for their club and the Peterson Garden Project. On Thursday I went to assess the progress, bring them some more seeds (generously donated by Renee’s Garden and Territorial Seeds) and to talk to them about winter sowing.

On Wednesday, I met with a working group from an organization that helps troubled teens. They have four group homes near Peterson Garden, and the kids from the program will be tending some plots for their own use and some for donations to food pantries. The exciting new aspect of the program this year is that they will be working with a nutritionist from Cooking Matters and a professional chef, who will help plan the garden and will work with the kids to prepare the food they grow.

As we were working through goals, plans, and philosophy, talking about the difficulties of working with these kids and how to engage them in the project, it occurred to me first that gardening is a wonderful metaphor for life, and then that in fact, it’s not a metaphor at all, but life itself. The non-gardeners around the table were very concerned about motivation, goals and buy-in, but I know what will happen once those young men and women see a seedling sprout from a seed that they put in the ground.

Like every gardener I’ve ever met they will be struck by the miracle. The first time they eat a meal from food they grew themselves they will understand. They will not need it explained to them.

Last year I was struck by the engagement, humor and searing intelligence of one of the girls in the pilot program–in another context this was a college-bound kid breezing through school. Her intellect was both apparent and heartbreaking, because she was a 15-year pregnant black orphan. It broke my heart. And then I heard, in this meeting, of how she was driving past the garden recently and excitedly pointed it out to her companion–”there it is! That’s the garden where we grew our meals!”  Maybe not so heartbreaking after all.

Hipster Supported Agriculture is rather tongue-in-cheek. I named it that to poke fun at my own uber-cool children. But in reality it’s not really funny. It’s how we’ll save the world. Or at least our little corner of it.

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Over the past few years my daughter and I have developed a seasonal tradition of working on a craft a day. I’ve found that this is a wonderful way to keep her involved in the daily activities of the holidays; especially when so many of us tend to get overwhelmed with the shopping, gatherings, weather, cooking, and baking.

glitter

sugar plums

Since we’ve begun homeschooling this year I’ve tried to incorporate our crafts into her lesson plan. We’ve made Sugar Plums while discussing the Nutcracker Suite and “The Night Before Christmas”, learned songs while making Christmas trees, discussed science while making Cranberry Coffee Cake, and so on.

cranberry

circles

Do you have a seasonal tradition to keep your children involved in the daily workings of the holidays?

Jennifer can also be found at Unearthing this Life blarging about her experiences living in rural Tennessee.

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stream

Now that the heat is going away, we are spending even more time outdoors. I find it extremely important to teach my daughter about the environment around her, and how to take care of it. This morning we went for a hike on the nearby Natchez Trace. This is the second official “hike” she’s gone on with me and I was afraid we’d already taught her poor lessons about nature. Thanks goodness my sister came to the rescue. She’s been going to school for, well, years – I call her the tenured student. She’s studied geology, teaching, and biology; she’s worked as a tutor, homeschool teacher, nanny, camp counselor, nature guide; and she’s more patient than I have been as of late. If it wasn’t for my sweet sister, I’m not sure I’d have the desire to take my daughter back on a hike anytime soon.

trailhead

So what could be so hard about taking a six year old hiking on a nature trail? She got upset when I told her she could not take home some leaves and sticks to save in her nature box. The girl talked and talked and talked, then talked some more, as we were hiking – interrupting all the conversations we older gals would have. She wanted to stop at every water crossing for snacks and drinks. It was a special treat for her, but it was frustrating to stop every 15 minutes for a break. We quickly learned that we’d have to work around the Kid’s desires. I don’t feel the need to leave her at home for these shorter hikes, but we quickly found some tools to keep her interested in the world around her instead of the “plans” she’d made. Ahh, it’s tough having a perfectionist as a child, but even more difficult when you’re a perfectionist and idealist yourself!

rock table

My little sister, she who is seven years younger than myself, she without her own children, she who’s been going to school for just this thing for, well, forever… she showed me how to manage my own daughter on a hike and I love her for all of it! In my excitement to spend time out in nature, exercising my tired bones and spending time with my sister, I’d forgotten that part of the reason of taking my daughter with was to teach her something.

quartz

  • Get them thinking about the world around them by engaging their brains.
  •  Ask children about what they see.
  • Why would a plant grow in one place instead of another?
  • Why should we cross streams on rocks instead of tromping through the water, overturning every rock we come across?
  • Why is it important to stay on the trail?
  • What can your children see that is significant of the season?
  • Count the different sounds you hear.
  • birds, bugs, water, wind through trees, raindrops, sticks breaking, nuts falling.
  • Have the children guess what could be making those sounds. What type of bird do you think is singing? Do you think that squirrel is angry with us? And so on
  • Can you imagine why it would be so important for an animal to have good senses?
  • Why is it important to take only photographs and memories with you?
  • Imagine someone coming into your house and moving all of your food and furniture around. How would that make you feel?
  • Even items that aren’t food for animals can be food for other things like mushrooms, trees, and so on. The circle of life affects all organisms.

yellow 

Having my sister with us on our hike today gave me insight of how to teach my own child about the world around us. What techniques and tricks do you use with children when out in the wild?

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I have four sons ages 24 to 3

I am the mother for the first time of a 7 year old daughter.  She is my one and only girl…she is so precious to me.

I have found myself increasingly aware of the real pressure our society is trying to place on my daughter.  As I see magazines in the check-out lines out the market, see programs on tv, or read the women’s catalogs that come to my home, I am dismayed by the pencil thin women that stare back at me.

Did you know that the average girl teen girl gets 180 minutes of media exposure a day of media exposure as opposed to 10 minutes of parental interaction?  I personally find the completely disturbing and disheartening.

I find it strange that with what seems to be an epidemic of children who are now overweight that all that is thrust into our faces are women the size of a stick.

What ever happened to moderation?

Why are there not more women in the media that are of normal healthy body proportions?  Even the toys little girls play with have unnatural and unattainable proportions.

According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 40% of nine and ten year old girls have attempted to lose weight!

WHAT?

When I was nine all I thought about was getting home from school so I could go outside and play!  I didn’t even know how much I weighed as we didn’t have a scale.  My mom made sure I ate healthy food and I made sure I got enough exercise on my skates, bike or climbing my tree…of course it wasn’t labeled exercise back then, just a kid playing.

When I watch PBS with my kids there are monsters on Sesame Street that come on and tell kids the importance of exercise.  Since when did kids in the Sesame Street age demographic need to be reminded to get off the couch and play?

I know this is a rambling post and I wish I had the answers…I do not. Just concerns at how out of whack we have become as a society.  Just concerns I have for my daughter’s generation.

As a mom I can not possibly hope to shield her from every young bone thin starlet.  I cannot cover her eyes in the grocery store from every magazine.  I cannot even control all that she watches on tv once she is old enough to see it at other people’s houses.

All I can do is make sure I offer her healthy food choices.  Give her lots opportunities for active and healthy play.  I can model good behavior and not obsess over my own weight.

And make sure the she knows that God makes women in all shapes and sizes… that the body He gave her is perfect for her.

There are countless articles, books, and resources about girls and body image.  I found this one at WebMD particularly interesting.

Kim can also be found at the inadvertent farmer where she raises organic fruits, veggies, critters, kids, and…a camel!

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