Sunday, September 28, 2014

Because There Aren't Enough Pumpkin Spice Latte Recipes...

The leaves started to change on the trees and so began my favorite of the seasons - fall. The most beautiful, the most comforting, and yet - the most short in length. Oh how I wish that fall in New England could actually extend until Thanksgiving instead of the winter creeping in much earlier than should be allowed.

Part of what makes the fall so wonderful is the food. Apples and cinnamon and nutmeg and roasting poultry and butternut squash and of course - pumpkin. Try to find a chain that doesn't cash in on the arrival of the Great Pumpkin; one look around while driving and you'll see advertisements for pumpkin lattes, donuts, bread, muffins, pie, bread pudding, soup, and whatever else people can create out of the big orange ball that seems to become prominent this time of year.

Before I had kids, I would pine for my first purchased Pumpkin Spice Latte (or "PSL" for the 140-character crowd). The first leaves would fall from the trees and I would be desperate for the spiced coffee. Now, however, I have found that dragging an infant and a toddler into a "FiveBucks" just doesn't make the PSL all it's cracked up to be. Unless, of course, I could make it at home in the same amount of time it takes to wrangle a toddler and lug a carseat into a coffee shop. Plus, then it would make my house smell all fall-like and comfortable too.

So I set off to research how people do it, and found that like any other recipe there were many iterations. I found one that used what I had in the house (I don't remember which one now), tweaked a couple of things, and came up with what I believe to be the perfect homemade Pumpkin Spice Latte recipe.

For me, anyways.

Note: If you are looking for a Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte, do a search for a copycat recipe. This... this is not Starbucks. It is, however, wonderful and full of fall comfort. 

Pumpkin Spice Latte


  • 1.5 cups unsweetened vanilla almond milk (I used Almond Breeze)
  • 1/4 cup canned pumpkin 
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1.25 cups brewed strong coffee 


  • Combine everything except the coffee in a small saucepan and bring to a boil, whisking regularly. 
  • Once it is boiling, bring down to a simmer and add coffee. If the coffee you're adding was already hot, turn off the heat before adding (mine tends to be room temp or chilled when I add it because I brew it ahead of time).
  • Serve. Sip. Enjoy. 
A note: because this recipe calls for real pumpkin and not pumpkin-flavored syrup that is used at fine coffee establishments, there will be sediment at the bottom of your mug that not properly tended to will become sludge. I just keep a spoon in my mug and stir it between sips to reduce the amount of sludge at the end of the mug and make sure to get as much of the fall-pumpkiny-goodness in every sip.

Happy sipping!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Why I Joined (and stuck with) a Moms' Group

I remember lying on the couch, hoping to fall asleep, absently watching "Kelly and Michael" while a 3-month-old Will snoozed peacefully in the cradle beside me. My sweet baby boy, my first born. My perceived-to-be-perfect infant son who wouldn't take a bottle, he cried every time he dirtied his diaper, and his nursing habits were annoying at best (one side every 1.5 hours on the button... and he took his time). It was then that I got the text from a friend inviting me to a women's brunch at a local church. It wasn't my "home" church, but one that I know a lot of people from and would be comfortable at.

It started in 30 minutes.

I remember starting the text saying I couldn't make it. Will was asleep and I didn't want to move it. I was in frumpy clothes and couldn't change in time. I just generally wasn't feeling up to it.

At least he was cute... Will, 3 months.
That wasn't the text that was sent. What I sent was something along the lines of saying I'd be there, please save me a seat. I gently moved Will to the carseat, packed what seemed like a million diapers, and went.

I hadn't realized it yet at the time, but I was struggling through a mild case of post-partum depression. I was anxious. I was down. I dreamed of the end of the first 9-12 months daily. I felt frumpy on a daily basis but did nothing to lift myself out of it. I looked forward to naptime not so I could get time to myself, but so that I could nap too.

To this day I am convinced that my friend's text was moved by God to get me there. It was God that moved my fingers to text her back, and I know this because my fingers would have sent an excuse as to why NOT go left to their own devices. I don't want to say that joining a moms' group saved my life, but I will say that doing so set me on a path to get "me" back again.

There is no way I could go through motherhood without other "mommy friends".

Image from
Did I know everyone in the group? No. But that didn't matter. Everyone in that group was a mom. Everyone in that group knew what it was like to have a new baby, and a lot of people in the group could relate - if not in whole - at least in part to what I was struggling through with Will. And above all else, being surrounded by moms who had been there and watching other moms talk of their struggles with varying instances of PPD after their babies helped me to find the strength to listen. Listen to my heart, listen to the pleas of my husband, listen to my brain and realize what I was going through.

Once I realized it, I sat on my bed in tears opening up to my husband and apologizing for not listening to his concerns with seriousness. I sent a note to a few close friends admitting where I was at and asking for prayer. I no longer felt alone, I began to feel less anxious, and I let the healing begin. By the time we became pregnant with Evie, I was feeling more like "me" again.

We are not meant to be alone, we are not meant to do life alone. Though I knew few women at that first brunch and though I was nervous to be there - I went. When Will started to go into the nursery and his tears would flow and I would get called back to check on him and my heart would break - I pushed through the anxiety and the pull to stay home - and I went. I kept going because I knew in my bones I could not keep going without the strength of a community of moms to hold me up.

Image from
Today I went back for my third start-of-session women's brunch and was once again reminded of why I kept going. I dropped off Will to his new room and the tears and screams for "Mommy" almost immediately began to flow. I had several moms assure me that it was a phase, that their sons went through it at the same age and outgrew it. I was reminded of what community is as the moms I've grown closer to over the years came together and talked about plans to do with our kids in the coming weeks. I accepted hand-me-downs from other moms whose kids no longer needed them. I shared in a brunch meal with moms I haven't gotten to know as well over the years and am glad that I did. I was able to ask for help rather than allowing anxiety to overtake me when I had to fetch Evie to feed her from the same room Will was in. I made sure to connect with at least one of the new moms in the group that came today.

I came to a moms' group because another mom invited me.

I joined a moms' group because I felt in my heart that I needed to at least try it out.

I stayed in a moms' group because we are stronger as a community of moms than we are alone as islands of moms.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

I Need to Stop Surviving

I was caught off-guard last night by my son's big toe.

Ever since Evie was born in April, I've found that most of what my husband and I do could be considered "surviving". We make sure the house isn't a complete disaster, that no one is dead, make sure we tell everyone we love them and that we love each other, and we make meek attempts at sleeping. Whereas five and a half months ago, I was noticing everything - these days I have realized that things are flying right by me and I am very likely missing things.

I have no idea what things I am missing. I have no idea if the growth and development milestones I've noticed in both of my kids recently happened well before and I didn't notice or if they just happened. Like Will coloring in specifically identified areas in pictures or Evie pulling the glasses off of Daddy's face. Did that just happen, or has there been a build-up that I missed? Did it happen before right now and I blinked?

On my wall is a reminder that I printed from a Proverbs 31 Ministries devotional: "Noticers see the lovely in front of them and learn to love their story."

I try to be a noticer. I really do. God has blessed me with a home filled with love, a home that is filled with the smiles and laughter of two wonderful children, the resources to allow me to stay at home with them, a husband who loves me and tries his best to show it, and so many other things that I just don't deserve. There is so much for me to take pause, to notice, to take joy in during the course of the day that it's insane that I don't just walk around with perma-grin.

Seriously. Just look at these little blessings.
But my noticing skills are getting lost in the survival shuffle. And with it the moments that I should be taking to thank God for the joy that He is trying to fill my home with.

Yes - all of this thought process was triggered by a brief 10-second encounter with my son's big toe.

Why my son's big toe? Well... it's big.

As anyone with more than one kid will tell you, the first period of just you and your first child are filled with moments that you can just savor. You can take the time to memorize every detail of that child. Their hairs, their smiles, their eyebrows, their eye color, their smile, their coos, their giggles.

Then number two comes along and life changes instantly. And I don't know if it's because they're only 2 years apart, but I feel like life with a toddler and an infant is especially crazy. The 2-year-old doesn't understand the logic of "No, I can't read you a story right now because your sister is attached to my breast and doesn't just chill and eat". The 5-month-old doesn't understand that you're way overstimulated with dinnertime chaos and the last thing you can cope with right now is her crying fit.

The time to analyze and memorize every detail of the children has been gobbled up by making sure everyone gets attention, making sure everyone is fed, making sure everyone feels loved. By surviving.

I've stopped noticing and started surviving.

Then last night happened. Last night I was down on the floor playing trucks (or maybe Mr. Potato Head) with Will when he pointed out a "boo-boo" (crayon mark or something) on his big toe. Of course I made sure I took a close look before reassuring him that there was not any boo-boo and that it would come off in the bath - and that was when it happened.

I missed a breath. His big toe got big.

Those who know my son know he's a peanut (we're talking 3rd percentile on the charts), and so this is the kind of big that only a parent who realizes suddenly that their kid is growing up. But I really had to stop and say... when the heck did Will's toe get so big? Where did his baby big toe go?

I hid the tear because my son is also incredibly empathetic and I didn't want him to see me crying right before bedtime, but the tear was there. I missed it. I blinked. And his big toe got big without me noticing.

What else haven't I noticed?

When you focus on survival, you don't take the time to realize what is in your surroundings because you just want to make sure you don't die before you get to the other side. Say, for instance, you're lost in a jungle. If you're lost in a jungle, you're not going to focus on "Gee, that's a gorgeous flower on that tree" or "I bet those vines would weave into a really comfortable hammock so I can enjoy the sounds of the river and the monkeys and such". You're going to focus on "What the heck can I do to get out of this horrible, humid, place where every animal wants to eat me for breakfast alive?".

Image from I've never been to a real jungle.
I'm in a parenting jungle. I want to make sure I get myself, my husband, and my kids out of the next couple of years alive. The thing is that in a parenting jungle - you need to focus on the gorgeous flowers or the vines that make hammocks. I mean... the crayon scribblings and the blanket forts. If you don't, you miss big toes that become bigger toes.

Every mom that has come before me tells me to make sure that I slow down and enjoy the moments because they're not little forever. No one has the answers as to how though. As far as I can tell, there's a whole lot of moms out there that are missing big toes.

We need to figure out how to stop surviving and start noticing. The way I figure it, the right place for me to start is to pray. Pray that God can help me to slow, because I can't do it myself that's for sure. Pray that God can help me to treasure these moments close to my heart. The goofy smiles, the interactions of toddler and baby, the tickle giggles, the filthy diapers, the moments in the ER, the snuggles, the shoulder hugs, the floppy tired baby.

The big toes.

And we need to prop each other up as moms and dads. We need to help each other survive so that we can better notice.

I need it, anyways. I guess I should stop speaking for you. I need to stop surviving. I need to notice more. Maybe you do too.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Sweet Potato Quesadillas - Naptime Dinners

For those who don't know me, I'm a mom of 2 tiny humans - a 2 year old (William/Will) and a 5 month old (Evangeline/Evie). This means that I need to maximize every minute of every day or my house would look like an episode of "Hoarders". As any mom will tell you, naptime is a prime time to get things done; in my case, I like to take advantage of the time to get things ready for that night's dinner. 

A friend of mine suggested that I share with you all the things that I make during naptime so that others may try their hand at doing the same. When I post these recipes, I'll make notes of the things that I was able to prepare ahead of the dinner hour so that you know where you can get some bang for your minutes. If you alter or experiment or have other tips that you discover if you try one of these recipes, please feel free to comment with what you did. I'm always looking for tips of things to do. 

The first Naptime Dinner that I'm going to share with you are Sweet Potato Quesadillas. I made these last night and thought the filler was pretty tasty. 

Sweet Potato Quesadillas

  • 1-2 tbsp. Canola Oil
  • 1/2 onion, chopped 
  • 2-2.5 cups chopped sweet potatos
  • 1 large apple, chopped (I used Paula Red)
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 1/3 cup apple cider
  • 1/4 tsp each cinnamon and sage
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 10 tortillas (I used corn, but if I made these again I would try flour)
  • Shredded Cheese (I used a sharp cheddar, and you should use as much as you want the quesadillas to be cheesy)

The part of this that I made ahead was the filler. To make the filler - heat the oil in a large skillet. Once the oil is warm, add the onions and saute until the edges are just brown. Once the edges are brown, add the sweet potatoes.

Time to add the sweet potatoes!
Saute until the sweet potatoes begin to brown, then add the apples.

Time to add the apples!
Once the apples are added, saute for another 2-3 minutes and then add the salt & pepper (to your taste). Once the sweet potatoes are tender and the apples start to reduce, deglaze the pan with the cider. Add the spices & brown sugar, stir and remove from heat after about another minute or two. 

Finished filler
Assembly is pretty easy and you could also do it ahead if you had time (which I did not as the 5-month old woke up from her nap). You take a tortilla, spread 1/5 of the filler around, sprinkle with however much cheese you want, the put another tortilla on the top. 

Assembly required.
To cook these, heat a skillet/cast iron skillet (or if you have a flat griddle that works too). Place a quesadilla down on the hot skillet and weigh down with another pan (or if you're cool enough to have a panini weight or steak press, those work too... I'm not that cool). Cook for 2-3 minutes, flip, and cook 2-3 minutes on the other side. I found that once my skillet was good and hot, 2.5 minutes/side did the trick. 
There's a quesadilla in there.
Once they're cooked up, cut them in quarters (or halves, whatever you prefer) and serve with your preferred side dish. I served mine up with some roasted sweet plantains, but rice or apple slices or even potato chips would work well too. 

If you decide to make these - enjoy! We thought they were pretty good but I didn't like the consistency of the corn tortillas after they were cooked up (which is why I think next time I make quesadillas I'll be making them with flour tortillas). If you make this and have any tips/ideas - please share!! I'd love to hear your feedback.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

It's Been Too Long

There was a time when I blogged fairly often. 

I openly admit that I don't have a plethora of followers, and the few that I have had in the past are probably off reading other things at this point. But it's time. 

It's time for me to start writing again. Well... more often anyways.

I've come to realize that blogging was something that I did for myself and if I was able to help, entertain, or otherwise spark thoughts in others - then that was an added bonus. Writing helped me to gather my thoughts, to share some things that were on my heart, and to continue to work on being an articulate human being. You could say that it was a combined means of stress relief and continuing education.

I've been writing in a private blog that we keep for ourselves that documents our kids' milestones, but this blog has always been a way for me to process my faith in brief devotional-type writings, to share my thoughts on movies/books, to share recipes. A little glimpse into my brain, how it works... no matter how interesting or uninteresting it might be. 

And so, it's time. The kids are on a somewhat regular schedule, and so if I can take a few minutes a few times per week to write I think that it will be good for me. It will be my "me time", as it were. Something that is so important for moms to regroup - as any mom will attest to. 

Why today? Because Steve and I are both overtired. And today is the day that my toddler decided it was going to be his first "Naked Day". 

I needed some me time. There were very few ways to slice that. 

At any rate... I hope that you'll stick around, that you'll share my posts, that you'll offer your opinions/thoughts on my musings, that you'll allow yourself to be entertained (or helped... or put off... whatever), and that you'll be patient with me if I ramble a bit. 

I promise that there will be more posts - at least 4-5/month - because it's something I need to do to maintain my sanity. It's like yoga for my brain.

Especially on "Naked Toddler Days". 

Thanks, and I welcome myself back.