Thursday, September 3, 2015

Apple Cinnamon Muffins

When I find a recipe online that I really like -- but then end up making several modifications -- I like to post it here so that I can easily find it again, along with the method I used to change it. In this case, I found this tasty muffin recipe, then cobbled together some of the commenters' suggestions to make them healthier. This was a great find to use up the giant bag of apples we have from apple-picking two weeks ago.

Apple Cinnamon Muffins

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1/4 cup butter at room temperature*
1/4 cup applesauce
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 medium or 3 small apples, peeled, cored, and finely chopped (I used Fujis)

*If you want to remove all the butter, then increase the applesauce to 1/2 cup, but I think the taste and texture improve with at least some butter.

Preheat oven to 450 F. In a medium bowl, stir together the flours, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon. 

In a large bowl or standing mixer, cream the butter and sugars. Add the applesauce. Add the egg and beat fully (mine looked oddly separated here). Mix in the yogurt. Then stir in the flour mixture gently (the batter will be thick).  Fold in the apples.

Scoop the batter into 12 muffin cup liners. I was able to get 24 mini-muffins and 4 large ones out of this batter, If you want, sprinkle a little extra brown sugar on top. Bake at 450 F for 10 minutes, then turn the oven down to 400 F and bake for another 12 minutes. Let the muffins cool a little in their tins before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. (For mini-muffins, I did 450 for 8 minutes and 400 for 10 minutes). 

The kids liked these. I found them tastier warmed up. Next time I'll add walnuts. 

Friday, May 8, 2015

Perspective

(This post is written through tears. Please bear with me.)

Recently, I asked a wise friend of mine if conceiving a child via lots of scientific interventions made her less likely to get frustrated with that child. In other words, if you work harder to become a mom, do you treasure that kid more? 

Because there are days I think that parenting is hard, maybe too hard, and maybe it'd be easier to not have that kid. Or days when I beg for a few days off, or wonder why in the world people ever choose to have more than two kids. How do they manage? How will I manage? So I wondered if someone had to work harder to conceive a child, would she have fewer of these dark thoughts?

"I know what bad days are," she said calmly. "These are not bad days."

Perspective.

I've been balancing that perspective for a year now as I watched another friend, Mary, as she has helped her young son Lachlan battle a rare form of leukemia. I wrote about their journey here and here. She is not a close friend (our paths cross rarely, though I wish they did more), but her story has touched me deeply and affected our entire community. It has also changed how I parent.

I still get those big feelings of frustration, of wanting to run away, of questioning our choices. But then I stop and soak in some perspective. I watch Mary find joy -- no, choose joy -- along with laughter, love and hope -- in her most difficult of all parenting situations. I sit with my friend who worked so hard for her babies, amidst her own personal struggles, and I soak in her calm understanding of what bad days truly are.

Sweet Lachlan died last night. This is a bad day.

I am not having bad days. Mary and my other friend have taught me that. In my world of privilege, I am gaining perspective. I will hug my babies tighter. I will choose joy over frustration, I will give more hugs. I will teach my children to spread joy. I have been blessed with these stories in my life to help make me a better person, a better mom, a better steward.

I weep with Mary and our entire community. I stand alongside my friends having fertility struggles. I will not take parenting lightly. I will choose joy. This is the best way I know to react.

Love and hope.


Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Home, Heart, Community

For a few weeks now, I've felt called to write a post about how much I love Clemson. I would have never thought, 10 years ago when D. suggested we move here, that I would ever call this place home, much less love it here. The idea of living in a tiny town in South Carolina, much less the same place my in-laws still live, sounded constricting, isolating, dull. Now I find it supportive, friendly and joyful. I love Clemson and I'm proud to call it home.

I'm taking the Leadership Clemson course, which has taught me so much about how (well) the city runs. I leave each meeting eager to tell folks about what our administrators and fellow citizens are doing to make this city so great. I've started following (and occasionally participating in) city politics, school board meetings, community foundations, and other groups working to make a difference. I feel like anyone who cares can be heard here.

I can't quite write the post I envisioned, though, as another issue has been weighing heavy on my heart. Several weeks ago, we learned that Lachlan, the little boy I wrote about here, had a relapse of leukemia. Even though his body took to the first bone-marrow transplant very well, the cruel disease returned in force. His superhero of a donor agreed to donate again, but Lachlan's body became too weak to undertake another round of the chemo and transplant. Late last week, his family took him home to rest and enjoy time with his twin brother and little brother, and all the family and friends who were eager to see him. They are currently soaking up memories, love and life for as long as they can.

While my heart aches daily for this child and this family, it has also soared in seeing the community come together during Lachlan's illness. Lachlan lives in an even smaller town next to Clemson, and I doubt anyone who lives in Seneca doesn't know his story. Houses, trees, mailboxes and storefronts are covered in orange ribbons in his honor (he loves his Clemson Tigers). The family has hosted several donor drives for Be the Match, staffed by loving volunteers, which have resulted in an incredible boon of much-needed donors and funds. Blood drives in Lachlan's honor take place at churches and businesses around the entire Upstate. Campus groups (especially Tri-Delts) and churches have held ceremonies, prayer circles and special events.

The community support is proof of the best of what a small town can offer. There are people here who care deeply about their neighbors, who give what they can, who pray hard, who check in. Lachlan's family may be going through the hardest thing anyone can be asked to endure, but they are not doing it alone.

These days, community exists online too. If you're the praying sort, please send up a prayer for Lachlan and his family. If you're healthy, please join the donor registry (it's an easy process!) at www.bethematch.org. If you have a few extra dollars, please donate to Be the Match or your favorite cancer-research charity.

You can also send checks to the newly formed Lachlan McIntosh Tannery Foundation at PO Box 63, Seneca, SC 29679. Mary's friends started that foundation in the middle of Lachlan's treatment. It was their way of creating a new community to care for other families that will battle this disease.

Love and Hope.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Inhale

People always talk about needing to exhale more. My husband has this goal for the new year: he plans to alleviate stress, not let bad things get to him,  focus more on the good. He's looking into meditation and other ways to force exhales, to breathe out and let go of bad juju and kept-in, fermenting negativity. I understand this need. Exhaling is good and needs to happen often.

But this year, I've decided to focus more on inhaling.
The good stuff.

You know that feeling in winter when the air is cold and crisp, and you go outside and take a deep breath in and it's like you just cleaned out your lungs? It wakes you up, energizes you. That is what I want out of the new year.

I want to fully breathe in this wonderful, joyful life I'm now a part of. I want to take in and remember ever detail about my girls, ages 2 and 5 (what great ages!). I want to appreciate our quiet pace of life, this little bubble we've created with limited deadlines, few stressors, manageable problems. I want to breath deeply as we enjoy uncomplicated schedules, afternoons without plans, and trips without itineraries.

This time is short. Chaos will catch up with us. Busyness will leach in. Sylvia will go to kindergarten in fall, and I'll miss her presence at the lunch or picnic table. Amelia's regular naps, the ones that require us to be home and be quiet for at least two hours every afternoon, will soon be replaced by after-school activities, errands and playdates.

Something worse may happen. I have friends currently managing cancer (theirs and their kids'), some with parents dying, others tackling divorce, job loss, and more. Our idyllic current state could be derailed any minute, and I'm painfully aware of that.

So for now, I want to inhale. I want to start my morning with a deep breath and keep taking it all in, in giant, overwhelming gulps, until I fall asleep each night. I want to take that energy and move my body and engage with my children and volunteer some and take the stairs every time. And if I forget to inhale, or if I start focusing too much on the exhale, I want to be surprised into inhaling quickly and starting over.

Happy breathing, everyone.


*This post was inspired by this line I read this morning in Margaret Atwood's short story "Alphinland," from the book Stone Mattress: "Nonetheless there's something brisk about being out in the storm, something energizing: it whisks away the cobwebs, it makes you inhale" (p. 9). I read that line and paused for a moment just to experience that brisk inhale with the narrator. I love the idea of nature making you inhale.