amidst the clutter

I like to have the house all clean and tidy before we decorate for the holidays.  Of course it doesn’t stay that way for long.  The regular toy-book-paper-musical instrument clutter accumulates again.  Decorations get arranged and rearranged and played with and misplaced.  I try fairly hard for a few days to keep things organized and looking the way I would like it to look.

And then quickly I am reminded that the living we do in this house — the learning, playing, creating, and mess making that goes on here on a daily basis — isn’t going to cease just because I’ve put up some lights and garlands.  The house isn’t going to stay any tidier during the Christmas season than it is during the rest of the year.  And that’s fine.  The nativity sets, the Jesse tree, the lights, they’re still there amidst the clutter of our everyday life.  They still stand out as reminders of what’s most important.  They’re no less meaningful for the mess all around them; in fact, I think perhaps there’s a metaphor in there somewhere, in the way my kids incorporate the symbols and reminders of this sacred story into our own messy, common, everyday lives.  Perhaps it’s a lesson that’s worth remembering long after the decorations are packed away for the year.

And anyway, once darkness falls and the lights are sparkling, it’s much harder to see the rest of the mess.

and now back to our semi-regularly scheduled programming

Hello again.  I’m back.  Well, I’ve been here all along really, only not in my usual capacity.  And now that I’ve crawled out of the black pit of despair that is (for me) the first trimester of pregnancy, we’re so ready to return to normal here.  I’ve written and revised this post (in my head) so many times; there’s so much  I could say about the last few months: the extreme awfulness of throwing up six times a day, the guilt about not being able to take care of my children, how thankful I am for my amazing husband and family.  But honestly now that it’s over I just don’t want to talk about it.  I don’t want to think about it.  Also my friend Carla, who is in a similar situation, has written a few eloquent posts on the matter.  I think I’ll just leave it at that.

So we’ve pretty much patched our lives back together and are ready for the peace and reflection of the Advent season, trying to fully enjoy this time with two relatively independent little girls before Baby #3 enters our lives in April.

Wishing joy and peace for you yours in this Season of Hope.



We eat soup all year round, but what’s in the pot definitely changes with the seasons.  In the winter it is most likely a big pot of hearty cheeseburger soup from the Simple Food for Winter cookbook.  And right now, mid-summer with all that garden bounty, we’re often enjoying an old family favorite: borscht.  As my two minutes of research into the subject shows, varieties of borscht are numerous, but what makes it borscht is (almost always) the beets.  But beet-haters, take note: even people who don’t like beets have been known to polish off a bowl or two of this delicious vegetable soup.

The measurements are just haphazard guesstimates; I usually use what we have on hand and just eyeball it, which I know is extremely  annoying when you are trying to replicate a recipe — sorry!  I promise that you can’t really mess it up; the ratio of vegetables isn’t that important, just use what you like and what you have.  The vegetable prep is a little intense, so this doesn’t work well as a last minute meal.  The rice can be made ahead of time.  This borscht is great leftover and it freezes well (just don’t add the cream before freezing), and makes an excellent gift for new parents or anyone else in need of a meal.

Best Summer Borscht

bone broth (chicken or beef work equally well, and it’s super easy and cheap to make your own), about 2 quarts
1 cup rice, precooked (it’s ok to undercook it a little, as it will absorb some of the soup liquid)
beets (about 6 small, 3 or 4 large), diced small
potatoes (I like to have about the same amount of potatoes as beets), diced
carrots (about 3-5 medium ones, or whatever you like), diced
green beans (I have no idea how many; use your discretion), ends snapped and cut to bite-size pieces
peas (we use frozen), 1-2 cups
fresh dill (imperative! the fresher the better)
salt & pepper to taste
cream and/or white vinegar for serving

Add broth, beets, potatoes, and carrots to the pot.  Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes.  Add the green beans and peas; cook 10 minutes more.  Add rice & dill.  Serve!  We stir in cream and a tiny bit of white vinegar at the table.