Category Archives: live better

on not forgetting: we already have a great kid

The other day I asked one of my kids if they knew I loved and was proud of them. It was a rhetorical question, because of course – I DO AND I AM.

But the reaction? There was kindof a shrug. So I pulled over and said, “Wait a second, you DO KNOW THAT, RIGHT?”

Yeah, sure, mom.

It’s been looping inside my mind like a reel: they KNOW I love them, but do they know it’s absolutely unconditional? That NOTHING can separate the love I feel for them? No matter what?

There’s the rub: no matter what

I had a friend who told me that every morning her mom would say, “you’re so pretty.” This was absolutely well-intentioned, but when she went to college, no one said that to her every morning. Am I pretty? began to be a constant, nagging question. It began a serious struggle with worth. Would I still be loved if I weren’t pretty?

Will you still love me if I’m not skinny?

Will you still be proud of me if my best friend makes the team and I don’t?

Will you still love me if I’m attracted to my same gender?

Will your eyes always light up when I walk into a room – no matter what?

Many months ago, when one of my kids was having a hard life stretch, I realized that I really only wanted one thing. I could let go of all the awards, public acclaim, athletic talent, musical ability. The only thing I really really wanted was for my child to rise up every morning and walk out the door feeling truly and utterly loved. What we couldn’t do and overcome!

I am convinced that with this sure knowledge, that even through the hard days, there would still be happiness on the horizon. That’s it. She/He could be ugly, misshapen, failing a class, dumped from a friend group – whatever. I just wanted a child who knew who she was: a child of God. Divine. Created from love. And absolutely and unconditionally LOVED by her parents.

It’s come into sharper focus for me with these school shootings. I see myself standing outside a school, waiting for my child to come out. I can feel the desperation and panic start to rise, just imagining such a scenario. In that very moment, all I would want is for my child to come walking out the door and into my open arms. That’s it. I want them to be alive.

Alive. And running in a field together. That’s all.

I think we sometimes forget what our children need. We are so hell-bent (and I use that word intentionally) on getting them into lessons and schools and teams and social groups that I worry – do they know that without any of those things – we would still love them?

How could they know? When all of our effort, when all of our praise is focused on the accolades?

I’m not advocating false praise, or handing out a trophy every morning – that’s external, materialistic, and meaningless “stuff.” You can love your child and not like them every minute. And true love can be tough love: “you will get a summer job and pay for your own cell phone” because I love you.

I’ve just finished reading the most terrific and heartbreaking book I’ve read in a very long time: EDUCATED by Tara Westover. What she is able to overcome is one of the most inspiring stories I’ve ever read. It also makes me want to weep – Tara is fiercely unique in her ability to get out of a family that is completely dysfunctional and literally crazy. I want to think I would be her, but I doubt my own strength, especially as a sensitive, compliant child. While you read, you can’t help but hurt for all the others left behind.

Amazingly, without ever going to school, Tara studies on her own to learn trigonometry (okay, right there, I’m dead in the water) and takes the ACT, earning a 22. She studies harder and earns a 28. She’d never seen a bubble sheet before.

Remarkably, she is admitted to BYU (where she sees all sorts of heathens showing their knees and ankles 🙂 ). She eventually earns a scholarship to Cambridge (you HAVE TO READ THIS BOOK!)

A professor observes how uncomfortable she is, how she “knows” she doesn’t belong. Dr. Kerry says,

“You act like someone who is impersonating someone else…it has never occurred to you that you might have as much right to be here as anyone….You should trust Professor Steinberg. If he says you’re a scholar – ‘pure gold,’ I heard him say – then you are.”

“This is a magical place,” I said. “Everything shines here.”

“You must stop yourself from thinking like that,” Dr. Kerry said, his voice raised. “You are not fool’s gold, shining only under a particular light. Whomever you become, whatever you make yourself into, that is who you always were. It was always in you. Not in Cambridge. In you. You are gold. And returning to BYU, or even to that mountain you came from, will not change who you are. It may change how others see you, it may even change how you see yourself – even gold appears dull in some lighting – but that is an illusion. And it always was.”

So good. Pure gold.

I am sometimes heartsick to think of all the ways we mess up our kids after they come to us, as small babies, so completely perfect. For all of our good intentions, it sometimes goes horribly awry. But all is not lost. I think it’s actually very very simple. WE JUST LOVE. Tell them their beautiful – but not just on the outside. Tell them their souls are beautiful, that their hearts are kind. Tell them you’re proud of them – but not just when they excel – but also when they fail. Because failing is perhaps the greatest show of courage; they can fail and they will still be forever and unconditionally LOVED. Teach them what goodness and true love is; use words if necessary.

Our kids are in the arena. They are fighting a daily battle. They are warriors just for enduring. I don’t think we know the half of it. And they sometimes forget – because we do – that they are already golden. That gold should SHINE, not dull, by the light in our eyes.

It’s that time of the year, when many many kids are being awarded, graded, applauded. But not everyone is, are they? I don’t begrudge any of the above. Achievement is important and good for our personal growth.

But in all of our effort to make our kids “great again,” let’s not forget that they already are.

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Recent Book Reads {+ good shows, movies & podcasts!}

Books! Podcasts! Shows and Songs! Here’s what I’ve been loving the last three months.

First: BOOKS. Got book goals? I keep track using a notebook (and pink ball point pen) and the Goodreads Reading Challenge. Haven’t signed up? It’s free, easy, and a great way to track books.

Here’s what I’ve read (and liked!) since January:

1. Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes: An inspirational kick-in-the-pants guide to what happens when you say YES to more opportunities. A bold account from a minority woman in show business, self-described introvert, writer (creator of hit shows Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal), and single mother. I went back and forth between, “I need to say yes to more,” and “This is exhausting. Can I have a nap?” But no doubt about it: Shonda Rhimes is a FORCE.

2. QB: My Life Behind the Spiral by Steve Young: A fascinating look at sports, anxiety, faith, and how to throw the perfect spiral when you’ve got a photographic memory.

3. IQ by Joe Ide: The lovely literary agent, Zoe Sandler, sent me IQ and the follow-up, RIGHTEOUS, as she also represents Joe Ide. What I liked: A Sherlock Holmes in the hood mystery, and a needed diverse teen figure in literature. What was hard: the language. Like, it ain’t for the faint in heart. I’m kinda faint.

4. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng: This one is getting all the feels, and for good reason. I’m a sucker for a great family drama, and Celeste Ng can articulate the great nuances in family life SO WELL.

5. Everything I Never Told  You by Celeste Ng: Ng’s first book. More great family drama writing. But this one is sadder, left me in a funk.

6. The Woman in the Window by AJ Finn: As a huge “Rear Window” Hitchcock fan, I dove right into this psychological thriller. Does she see what she thinks she sees – or is Anna crazy? A satisfying page-turner.

7. The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion: A stunning, unflinching account of Joan Didion’s husband’s death, daughter’s illness, and navigating the world without them. Sad, but heartbreakingly readable. I loved this.

8. The Witches by Roald Dahl: Paige and I read this together. Paige loved it. I liked it 🙂

9. A Deadly Wandering by Matt Richtel: Have a phone? Do your children have phones? Do they drive? Read this RIGHT NOW. So sad, so scary. DON’T TOUCH YOUR PHONE WHILE DRIVING. Your brain cannot pay attention to more than one thing at a time. Think you’re the exception? You’re not.

10. How We Die by Sherwin B. Nuland: Nuland writes that most people don’t die with “dignity.” Calm and descriptive, Dr. Nuland breaks death down from the point of view of the body. Fascinating – and also disconcerting. I kinda thought it wouldn’t happen to me. It will. I’ve been thinking about my coronary arteries a lot more.

11. Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast: I DO NOT enjoy graphic novels. I LOVED this one. NYTimes Bestselling cartoonist, Roz Chast, wrote a memoir about her parents aging and dying (what’s up with my reading choices?). Honest, funny, poignant. It’s so so good. Highly recommended!

12. The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant: I’ve finally read Anita Diamant! All the girls and the cousins and the moms in my family raved about this book until I finally read. A good coming-of-age novel about a Jewish immigrant becoming a woman in 1900 America.

Podcasts I’m digging:

1. Everything Happens by Kate Bowler: Think a podcast hosted by a young mother and divinity instructor diagnosed with an incurable cancer would be a downer? It’s not! Kate Bowler, a self-described optimist, is walking us through the hardest part of life. Skeptical? Start with the Alan Alda and Wes Moore interviews – awesome.

2. That’s the Way I Heard it by Mike Rowe: Short historical sketches (10-14 minutes) told in mystery format, I sit in parking lots, unable to get out, absolutely riveted. And Rowe’s voice? Perfect.

Shows I Watched and NEED MORE OF:

1. Victoria by Masterpiece Theater: I could be happy just staring at Jenna Coleman on-screen. Her beauty is unreal. Oh yeah, the story is pretty good, too 🙂

2. Home Fires by Masterpiece Theater: No Season 3? I OBJECT!

Movies I LOVED:

1. The Greatest Showman: Hugh Jackman, Zendaya, Zac Efron…I loved it.

2. Coco: You’ve got to watch this with your family!!!! Tears, laughter, so good.

3. The Post: Inspired me to write THIS.

Songs I Can’t Stop Singing:

Midnight Train by Sam Smith

Greatest Showman Soundtrack

And now it’s your turn – what are you reading and watching and listening to???

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Embrace the Cheese {life is more fun}

On the Happier podcast this morning, I listened to sister, Gretchen and Elizabeth talk about “why you should embrace the cheese” – and I absolutely loved it.

I’m a firm believer in cheese. It really does make life more fun, even as you’re rolling your eyes at the cheesiness.

In high school I constantly began saying, “that’s so cool” or “that’s so uncool.” My twin, irritated at my black and white view of the world, snapped – “Everything to you is either cool or uncool.”

“No, it’s not!”

“Yes, it is!”

Yeah, he was right. My own insecurities were leading me to judgmental conclusions about everything. Cool or uncool. And if it was uncool, well then.

I began to ponder my relationship with cheese on a deeper level. Perhaps I needed to embrace my inner cheese. Perhaps that was the ultimate expression of confident.

This embracing was solidified for me in college when I was regaling a dramatic love story gone awry to my best buddy. I said, “I know it’s so cheesy,” and she laughed and said, “Amy, everyone loves cheese, whether or not they’ll admit it – everyone loves cheese.” Oh, yes, she was right! I was sold.

We are embarrassed by cheese and emotion and vulnerability. We squirm and cringe – and deep down I think we love it. And as humans – we need it.

I declared from that day forth, cool would NEVER crush my inner cheese.

Just ask my kids!

I consistently have to remind them (esp when they are rolling their eyes at me, and saying utterly ridiculous phrases like, “Oh my gosh, mom, are you SERIOUS?”) that EVERYONE LOVES CHEESE (even when it gives you gas.)

I have numerous examples of cheese working in my favor, and most of them have to do with The Professor, aka, dear Husband – THE LOVE OF MY LIFE, MY CUPCAKE, MY EVERYTHING (see? You probably cringed reading that. He will definitely cringe reading it and it will make me laugh and laugh. Laughing is good for you. You’ll live a longer, happier life. CHEESE IS FUN, especially at the expense of Husband – in the kindest of ways, of course.)

The first time I was really cheesy with Husband was our first Valentine’s Day. Dismayed when he staunchly declared Valentine’s a “Hallmark Holiday” designed by companies who just wanted your hard-earned cash, I reconsidered our union. Could I marry a man who did not value the cheesiest of holidays?

I decided he must be given a test. I emptied an entire bag of Hershey kisses all over his college bedroom floor and wrote a note: Now that I’ve kissed the ground you walk on, will you be my Valentine? Very cheesy.There was A LOT of cooing from my roommates – so I know I was on the right track.

The result? He was totally mine 🙂

You want more cheese in your life, believe me. LIFE IS MORE FUN WITH CHEESE (just listen to Elizabeth’s Valentine story.)

To achieve more cheese, you must be BRAVE. Cheese requires BOLD. I believe the resistance to cheese is fear. You’re waiting for someone else to make the first cheesy mood. Because what if you’re rejected? What if your cheesy move is not reciprocated? Will you die of mortification?

Go read or watch the Queen of vulnerability, Brene Brown. I’m positive she loves cheese!

I was lucky because I went to BYU, where, believe me, there is not better Cheese Ball training than BYU (and I LOVE BYU so don’t think I don’t!) There are dances every month and there is this expectation that you will ask and respond in the cheesiest of ways. (Not coincidentally, it’s a huge Utah Mormon thing – just ask my nieces!)

Another generation of cheese…and the absolutely most coolest girls!

For instance, my freshman year, Ben Owens asked me to Homecoming by putting a note in a jar of honey and writing something like, “Honey, will you go to Homecoming with me?” I’m cringing just thinking about it….but of course I had to respond in a BIGGER AND BETTER WAY. So finally I came up with the idea of giving him a huge block of ice shaped as a heart (this was not easily done, mind you) and once the ice heart melted, a note inside read, “Now that you’ve melted my heart, I would LOVE to go to Homecoming with you.” You’re likely rolling your eyes, aren’t you? I even rolled my eyes at the time, but guess what – IT WAS FUN! Good, cheesy, fun.

So anyway, this is just to say, embrace your inner cheese. Just this last weekend I brought a group of teens to a “Super Saturday” where we went to workshops, listened to speakers, ate dinner, and went to a dance. Some teens in my group were NOT EXCITED. In the beginning there was a lot of sighing, slumping of shoulders, frowns, this is dumb, this is so cheesy, can I use my phone? And you know what, good wholesome fun is often very cheesy. It’s not “cool.” But what exactly is “cool”? Pretending you don’t care? Being on our phones? Watching movies alone? Nice clothes? The best cars? Making fun of people’s clothes and cars? Sex? Alcohol?

Bah.

You know what’s really cool? Cheese. Cheese is the coolest. Cheese is kind. Cheese is goodness. It’s getting outside of your comfort zone to do something really “uncool.” It’s dancing in the middle of the room. It’s Mr. Rogers. It’s letting go of FEAR, and some silly societal expectation made up by who knows who.

So I’m sticking with cheese for life. BRING IT ON.

And those kids I brought to Super Saturday? By the end of the night, everyone was smiling.

If you have stories of cheese, please add your voice here. There is strength in knowing that you, too, LOVE CHEESE as much as I do.

Didn’t you know? We are the cheese we’ve been waiting for!

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A Blog Writer’s Mid-Life Crisis…and finding a way through

A month ago I was ready to throw in the towel. Maybe it was time to quit the blog life. What do I have left to write about anyway? Posting the smallest detail about the kids is like trying to gain clearance for a special ops mission (mom, stop blogging about my underwear). And if I don’t have underwear, tell me – WHAT DO I HAVE?

Fine. I guess I see their point.

In addition, I’ve been so bummed out about the world of late that life was just too depressing to write about.

The books I’ve read this month are too sad.

Two years ago today I was on a cruise ship in the Bahamas.

This year? No cruise ship. A poor state of mind.

Do you feel this way in March?

Also, I’m thinking about my web presence. I’m having a book published. JUNE 12TH!!! You can pre-order now 🙂 Am I now supposed to have a more serious presence? An official amymakechnie website? Who cares about my cream puffs? sniff.

I fell into the trap, an all-too familiar trap for me, in the form of you have nothing worthwhile to say in your little blog. 

Post ideas would come. I didn’t write them down. The longer I went without writing, the more paralyzed I felt (get a grip, Amy, it’s only been a month.) Still.

I hadn’t given up writing altogether. No, I’ve been poring that creative energy into my latest novel. It’s been a bit torturous, probably my hardest project to date; very emotional (more to come on that…!)

Well. I guess you could say I was looking for a sign. And don’t I know it: we see the things we are looking for. I was looking for a reason.

Today a woman, Marci, whom I admire immensely, showed a class full of women a picture from a post I wrote last summer. I posted a picture of a dead butterfly that I thought was beautiful, even though the butterfly had recently met its demise. I wrote: I found this butterfly today. It was dead but looked ready to launch…there’s a lesson in there somewhere…

Really, I was thinking about the next spiritual journey of this butterfly’s soul. But Marci saw it in a different way. She said that this picture and my caption – I kid you not! – changed her life. She spoke about the girls that we teach. We might think they have it all together, like this shiny, beautiful, colorful butterfly. But inside they might be hurting or even feel dead. She said our girls need us to really know them, to watch for them, to lift them up. They need us to love them, to help them launch.

I sat there thinking, this is my sign. there is more to write. 

Two lessons for me: when the universe calls on us to act (“the universe,” “the muse,” our “conscience,” “God” – call it what you might) we should act. My medium is writing. I feel compelled to do so. What you feel called to do, you should – that is your great gift to the world in whatever big or small sphere you operate in.

The other lesson is this: when we are moved by another, we should acknowledge the art or action and what it means to us. So, thank you, Marci and Danielle(!) for telling me that the picture I took of a dead butterfly with a caption meant something to you. That means something to me.

And so I had to write.

The End.

Happy Monday to you!

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Monday Encouragement

Are you also in dire need of a news detox? Me too. Which is terribly ironic (re: my previous post on the free press.)

Reading too much and watching too much news has left me despondent, especially regarding politics, gender, guns.

You know, I’ve had to be reminded that before there was 24 hours news, there were still terrible things happening in the world – it just didn’t land in our mailbox 24/7.

There is the evidence for optimism (see Melinda Gates speak about lowering child mortality.)

History teaches us that lesson over and over. We have madeTREMENDOUS PROGRESS. I’ve heard my parents talk about how hard my ancestors had it (teaching our children about their resilient ancestors is key to modern day resilience.) I’ve heard my parents talk about how scary the 70’s were, when there were hundreds of political bombings, sometimes daily. I’ve heard my parents talk about how scary it was to live through the threat of nuclear war continually hanging over America, the scandal or Watergate, the long gas lines.

In the 70’s, two of my brothers-in-law escaped Vietnam on a small fishing boat. That’s a really cool story now – but it wasn’t cool then.

Is modern life getting worse? I don’t know. But look around. Look around, look around, how lucky we are to be alive right now.

Can we do better? Yes.

And first and foremost, that starts with our families.

It feels easier to march and yell and  “save the world” (and hey, I’m ALL FOR THE MARCHING and the voting!) but it’s much harder to go home and love our families. It’s harder to love our neighbors and those people who don’t vote like we do. Much, much harder. But that’s where our greatest sphere of influence is.

Here is my first inspiration:Thee first family I knew. My mama was so tired (she says this look is apropos of her mental state at the time 🙂 ) Our baby boy Patrick was born 17 months later. And man, I admire and love her so much for working so hard at creating the family she wanted, for fighting for stability, for turning off the tv, for making us run around the block for exercise, for preaching the importance of breakfast, and opening the scriptures and showing us how to get down on our knees to pray, for teaching her girls what true feminism is. I love my father for his kindness and hard work and providing and showing us all what it means to be a real man. These two worked so hard at creating a loving family. Yea!!! It worked! I still love this family, 40 years later!!! LOVE IS WINNING.

(We can talk about the haircuts another day.)

I say, let’s love your family first. Second, find your causes, get your boots on the ground and ACT – BUT ALWAYS WITH LOVE.

Hate only begets more hate. Let’s stop worshipping violence. Let’s not allow it in our homes! Let’s turn it off. Let’s reject the idea that we have to be entertained by watching other people hurt each other. Let’s RISE UP and BE KIND to EVERYONE – wouldn’t that be a revolution?

As my good friend, Sue Houston wrote:

The basic problem is that at some level we still think that violence can produce peace, that violence can be entertainment, that violence can be depicted everywhere and that there will be no ill effect on our collective psych.

If we want peace, we need to teach peace.
If we want compassion, we need to act compassionately.
If we want Love to win, then we need to learn to Love, not just our friends and people who are like us.

We need learn to see the common humanity in every single person, and to Love everyone, without exception.

Boots on the ground. Love is a verb. Act. The power lies within us – how much do we value the children of the world?

“And I think that we in our family don’t need bombs and guns, to destroy to bring peace just get together, love one another, bring that peace, that joy, that strength of presence of each other in the home. And we will be able to overcome all the evil that is in the world.”

Mother Theresa, Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech. December, 1979,

Happy Monday, friends.

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Christmas Granola

As a self-described granola addict, this is one of my favorite Christmas gifts to push on the neighbors {I don’t think they mind}.
It’s extra festive because we candy the nuts with maple syrup and a pinch of sea salt. Oh my. Read on…life will never be the same.
You’ll start with the usual suspect: rolled oats (not quick oats)
About 7-8 cups Granola. Add cinnamon.
In a saucepan, over low-medium heat, add water, honey, olive oil, and maple syrup. Heat until small bubbles form around pot. Pour into dry mix. Stir. Lay out on two lined cookie sheets. Cook for about an hour until toasty brown.
 Add Dried Cranberries, Pumpkin Seeds, and Coconut Flakes. It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…
Candied nuts are simple: heat maple syrup in a skillet, add nuts. Stir occasionally. Done! YUM.
Load into gift bags and you’ve got a great gift. Tasty, healthy, WE RUN ON OATS!

MaisyMak Granola Snack, Christmas Edition:

Heat Oven to 300

Combine:

7-8 C Oatmeal
1/2 C Sunflower Seeds
1 Tbsp Cinnamon

Heat in Saucepan:

1 C Water
1 C Honey
1/2 C Olive Oil
1/2-1 C Pure Maple Syrup
Heat until tiny bubbles form around pot. (If you want more “sticky clumps,” you’ll need to add more honey or maple syrup.) Pour over the dry mix. Stir evenly. Spread granola onto two lined (foil or parchment paper) cookie sheets. Place granola in oven, stirring every ten minutes, rotating granola from top to bottom racks to ensure even browning. About an hour.
Meanwhile….

Heat in Skillet:

1/2-1 C Maple Syrup
A pinch of Sea Salt
1 C Pecans
1 C Almonds
1 C Walnuts
In a skillet pan (I use a well-oiled cast iron), heat maple syrup and sea salt over low-medium heat for one minute. Add the nuts. Stir occasionally until syrup begins to “candy” the nuts, being careful not to let the nuts burn. You’ll know it’s ready by the delicious smell, and when the liquid is soaked up. About 7-9 minutes. (Beware: these candied nuts are a DANGEROUS snack 🙂 )

When Granola is out of Oven, Add:

Candied nuts
1 C Unsweetened Coconut Flakes (I like Bob Mills)
1 C Dried Cranberries
1 C Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Place in gift bags. Or consume. Whichever. Merry Christmas!

You may also want to try: 3-ingredient homemade dark chocolate, my favorite sugar cookie, sugared cranberries and brie bites, famous NYTimes No-Knead Bread!

See you in the New Year!

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Chocolate Fudge “Blackout” Cake (a new favorite!)

Did you know? The most popular summer recipe is CAKE. I find this surprising…over ice-cream? Unless we’re talking this cake recipe. Then I totally get it.

I rarely create an original recipe, I taste-test. King Arthur Flour made this one, the Chocolate Fudge “Blackout” Cake. As a devoted cake mix girl, it takes a lot for me to consider making a cake from scratch – especially one with three layers of different chocolate.

This one? Oh my heavens. It made me look real good.

Summer epiphany: when you’re actually home and demanding a SLOW summer, you have time to make a cake! And while time is still a precious commodity, some cakes demand to be made. THIS ONE.

Upon taking a bite, my husband, the critic of all food critics, pretty much melted into a puddle onto the floor. I’ll be making it again.

And with strawberries just coming into season, they are the perfect addition to this lusciousness.

King Arthur didn’t have strawberries in the original recipe – that’s my contribution. We like it! Also, I eliminated the optional espresso powder b/c I didn’t have it – still good! Would you like a bite? I suggest making the three different chocolates (not hard) the day before and assembling the day of – then you can relax and enjoy the cake of your labor…

Hurry up now! Before you lose your nerve…make this cake!

Chocolate Fudge “Blackout” Cake

FILLING

  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

CAKE

ICING

  • 1 1/2 cups chopped semisweet chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream

Instructions

  1. To make the filling: Place the chocolate chips, salt, and sugar in a blender or food processor and pulse until finely ground.
  2. Add the egg and pulse just until the mixture is smooth.
  3. Heat the cream to just below a boil, with small bubbles forming around the edge of the saucepan (or microwave-safe bowl).
  4. Turn on the blender or processor, and slowly add the cream. Scrape down the sides of the container if necessary. Add the vanilla and pulse to blend.
  5. Pour the pudding into a shallow bowl, and refrigerate it until chilled and thickened, 2 hours to overnight. I found that overnight works best. Still not setting? Stir in gelatin.
  6. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease two 8″ x 2″ round cake pans. Line them with 8″ parchment circles, if desired, and grease the parchment; this step will ensure your cake’s crumble-free turnout from the pan.
  7. To make the cake: Whisk together the dry ingredients.
  8. Add the eggs, oil, and vanilla; beat on medium speed for 2 minutes, scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl.
  9. Stir in the water; the batter will be thin.
  10. Pour the batter into the two prepared pans.
  11. Bake the cakes for 35 to 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  12. Remove the cakes from the oven. Cool them for 15 minutes, then turn them out of the pans to cool completely on a rack.
  13. To make the icing: Combine the cream and chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl or in a saucepan. Heat until the cream is steaming and showing small bubbles around the edge.
  14. Remove the chocolate/cream from the microwave or burner, and stir until the chocolate is melted and the mixture becomes completely smooth, with no lighter areas remaining visible.
  15. Refrigerate the icing for 30 minutes (I went longer). Beat the chilled icing briefly, until it thickens a bit and becomes spreadable.
  16. To assemble the cake: Cut the domed tops off both cake layers; these will become your crumb coating.
  17. Place one layer on a serving plate. For best presentation, lay strips of parchment around the edge of the plate before laying the cake on top; these will catch the inevitable icing drips, and can be removed once you’re done icing the cake.
  18. Top the cake with the filling, spreading it evenly to the edges.
  19. Center the second layer of cake atop the filling.
  20. Spread the icing over the top and onto the sides of the cake.
  21. Crumble the reserved cake, and gently press it onto the top and sides of the assembled cake.
  22. Serve immediately, or within a couple of hours. For longer storage, refrigerate. This cake is best served the same day it’s made, or within 24 hours. Freeze, well-wrapped, for longer storage. You may also choose to freeze individual slices — for those times when you HAVE to have a piece of chocolate cake!

Enjoy!

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Top Ten: What I’m Loving Right Now

1. This Revlon blow dryer. It’s not hyperbole to say it’s changed by frustratingly-unruly hair life. I LOVE It. So fast and no frizz!

2. This root spray. The best part is watching Gregor’s face as I spray-paint my head. What are you doing? Found at Target (of course it was).

3. Garnier BB Cream. I’ve blogged about this before, but our relationship is going strong. With a hint of color and coverage, I ADORE this product. (Target)

4. Good quality Gardening Gloves and Mud Boots. It’s a real gardening game changer to have gloves and boots that fit and don’t give you blisters. Pay a little more and you’ll enjoy your chores more. Found in local stores & online!

5. Blister Gel Guard Band-Aids. Wow. For two kids who had bad blisters this week, these were fantastic! A boy could work all week and a girl could hike a mountain with me. Awesome product. Found everywhere! 

6. The Bullet Journal. For years I’ve been a wee bit obsessed with finding the perfect calendar system. Clearly I have problems. I’ve slowly started the bullet system, ignoring the multitude of bullet journal talent out there. Nina gives some good tutorials and is metaphorically holding my hand through this trying time.

My calendar is not a “true” bullet journal as I’m using a regular notebook – but that’s the beauty of the system! You can use whatever you want with whatever notebook and pens you like. (I also have a pen problem.)

Boho Berry and her bullet journal obsession inspires and intimidates (see below). But the bullet journal is YOUR journal. Do it your way.

7. Watercolor paper. Brynne and I have had so much fun on Sunday mornings. We pull pictures off the internet and magazines to paint. Putting a drop of water on paper, followed by a drop of paint and watching it spread…so beautiful! I’m into birds these days. Clearly, you don’t have to be an expert, just paint!

It’s been especially fun to paint and send cards

8. Shutterfly puzzles and scrapbook. I’m just tickled pink at the possibilities! This one was free, minus shipping with one of their many weekend deals.

9. Seed and Sky. I’m obsessed. These necklaces are etsy hand-painted by a gal who grew up in my little New Hampshire town. They make a great graduation, birthday, or anytime gift. My aunt has the nest (my fave!), Brynne has the fox, Cope has the compass locket. I’m drooling over the hummingbird, the bunny, the succulents! I want all. Follow on Instagram for deals!

10. Skillshare. Want to learn a skill? Like painting or watercolor or or calligraphy or design or lettering or like, anything? Try it free for two months! My current favorite is teacher Louise De Masi who is teaching me and Brynne how to paint this fox:

Well, that was fun to share. What about you? Any favorite anythings?

 

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Graduation

Well, we did it. 

I can say “we” because y’all know this day is a family affair.

This milestone – wow.

It is the toughest paradox of love: letting go and holding on.

I’m so proud of this girl. She has worked really really hard. She has hiked and sang and ran and studied. She has cried and laughed and prayed and LEARNED SO MUCH. She stumbled and fell and got up many many times. She sailed the ocean blue, was elected school leader, played Belle and freaked out over finance class (the drama runs deep :). I’m so grateful for it all.

I give thanks for a tremendous education, an amazing advisor who not only advised, but fed and loved her. I give thanks to the many fabulous teachers that not only noticed, but SAW her. Cope was born a “faculty brat,” raised on campus with 12 dorm boys until we moved off campus, and has always aspired to walk across this specific stage. The “bittersweet” cliche? Totally true.

This girl made me a mother and I’m in awe of her. There’s the other paradox: the child becomes the teacher.

Brene Brown says the etymology of the word “paradox” captures the heart of what it means to love. Greek origins joins the two words para (contrary to ) and dokein (opinion.) The Latin paradoxum means “seemingly absurd but true.”

Parenting captures that exactly – seemingly absurd but true!

It is seemingly absurd that we are here…but it’s also true. It’s seemingly absurd that my “baby girl” Cope (who was just wearing a onesie!) will not live under our shared roof this fall.

It’s seemingly absurd that I will survive this. But alas, that is true, too.

This day of graduation is a paradox of joy and grief. There is absolutely no control over either one. And I know very well that in life there is no joy without sadness. There is no sadness without experiencing that great joy.

Now excuse me while I go find my tissues. This is a happy day 🙂

 

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These are my poems; these are my short stories

“Many people have said to me ‘What a pity you had such a big family to raise. Think of the novels and the short stories and the poems you never had time to write…’ And I looked at my children and I said, ‘These are my poems. These are my short stories.'”
Olga Masters

Happy Mother’s Day 

To all the women doing the raising: you’re doing good work!

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