crumbling

When Little Boy started asserted his adorable independence in the form of chubby fingers reaching for forbidden plug points, I prided myself on being a yes-based parent. I was going to let him adventure off, explore, test the boundaries, and yes of course the important boundaries would be enforced, of course I would say, No. But most importantly he would know the sound of, Yes. He would know that in our home, Yes is a way of life: Yes, you can explore. Yes, you can be who you are. Yes, you are free. 

But a baby became a toddler and the toddler became a bigger boy who has opinions, insight and a frightening quantity of smarts, and the next thing I know I’m standing next to a car carrying Baby in the car seat while Little Boy’s feet inch closer and closer to the road, with a cheeky look to Mommy thrown over the shoulder.

No, STOP, I scream, and lately those two words leave my mouth more than I would like. Please don’t misunderstand me – all of us need to hear the word “No” and be able to respond (and that goes for adults, not just children), and it is of vital importance to us that our children know they are expected to obey when we give them instructions. But this isn’t the cornerstone of our home, it’s not the thing I am most focused on, it is not most important to me.

Saying no is easy. I give him the boundary, enforce it and move on. As he gets older (and sometimes even now), we have to do some heart exploration. What’s going on here? What’s at the root of the defiance? 

But saying yes to my boys? Infinitely harder.

Every yes opens up a world of possibilities, complications to my schedule, messes where it was once clean, joyful chaos interrupting my order. Saying yes means I have to adjust, open up my world to let them in, go with the flow, abandon plan for spontaneity.

When I say yes, I’m having to shut the door on my control and let go. 

scones pan

Yesterday I could feel the weight of weeks worth of saying no. Little Boy and I both felt heavy like the joy of our time together was gone.

So instead of setting up our time to suit my needs, I did something for him. Would you like to bake with Mommy? I asked, and of course the answer was yes. We found a recipe for scones that didn’t need lots of eggs (were were out) or milk and required only the most basic ingredients. I measured out the flour, sugar and baking powder, he poured it into the large bowl and stirred. I cut the butter in, he and I crumbled it into the flour. He was totally focused on his task, my son is a dedicated, detail-oriented worker, and when he is doing something, that task gets his undivided, exacting attention. This is why saying yes to him is crucial to our relationship – I see him again, get to know in a new way, we go deeper as our fingers press butter and flour together. 

But it’s still hard – I still find myself irritated at a whisk-fulls of flour thrown around the room, still find myself raising my voice, and yes, still hear the word, No, come flying out of my mouth when he loses some control of the bowl and spills flour. Before I can stuff it back in, the word is out – it was unnecessary. Messes are part of baking with a three-year-old. And this is the other reason why I need these times: To see myself again as a parent, to see how I bend, to see that it’s hard for me to let go of my order, my way, my control, and to realize that as much as it may be my desire to say yes to my children, I will have to fight myself to do it. 

Because it is worth it. Creating a space in our home and in my heart where my children are free to explore, learn, and make mistakes is a gift I want to give my children. And letting go of my own control is gift I want to give myself.

scones

scone table

Date, Pistachio & Pumpkin Seed Scones

from ABC’s delicious. Baking cookbook (I can’t find a link online)

These scones, it must be said, were a gift for me as much as it was for him. In the way that sweet, gluten-filled things are good for you. Are they good things? Let’s discuss some other time. I will only say that yesterday’s yes involved letting go of most of my food opinions for myself and for my son. White sugar? YES. White flour? YES. Butter? YES. This was originally a cranberry and pistachio recipe. I had no cranberries, but substituted dates and only a few pistachios, so I added pumpkin seeds. I also realized after I made it that I used 160 grams of butter instead of the required 120. Misreading that led to incredibly…buttery… and light scones. I may or may not have eaten them for lunch. 

2 cups (300g) white flour
1/3 cup (75g) white sugar
1 TBSP baking powder
120g chilled unsalted butter, chopped (or 160 grams if you’re feeling adventurous.. and buttery)
2/3 cup (165 ml) milk, plus extra to brush
1/2 cup (75g) dates (or cranberries, or presumably any dried fruit)
1/2 cup (75g) slivered nuts or seeds (pistachios recommended, but the pumpkin seeds worked beautifully

1. Preheat the oven to 220C. Line a baking tray with baking paper.

2. Mix the flour, sugar and baking powder in a large bowl. Cut the butter into it and crumble it in with your fingertips until it looks like breadcrumbs.

3. Add the milk, dates and nuts and mix to combine.

4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead five-10 times. Pat the dough flat and shape into a 3cm-thick circle.

5. Cut the dough into eight wedges and place the wedges on the baking paper in the try.

6. Lightly brush the scones with milk and bake for 12-15 minutes, until golden.

7. Cool slightly and serve with more butter.

lent 2014

basil

There are few things in life I love more than feasting. Sitting around a table, eating, laughing, talking, these elements are part of my life’s favourite memories. My parents and sisters all love to sit around the table with good (usually spicy) food, and we talk about everything from politics to theology to movies and television. The discussion is now mostly civil, often funny and always boisterous. We can spend hours at the table.

When Little Boy was born, I couldn’t wait until we were eating family meals together, but that took a long, long time. First we had different eating times, then he was eating purees, and it wasn’t like a meal together so much as one of us feeding our little emperor, and there was only adult conversation going on (interrupted by some shrieking).

But the closer he got to two, the more we could have meals together, and meals where we were all eating food cooked the same way. It was around this time last year that I first read a Simple Bites series called Bringing Back Sunday Dinner. The idea was to pick a meal a week and put in more effort – a main course, side dishes, dessert, the special little things there isn’t any time for during the week.

We eat mostly simple, standard food during the week. Lots of frozen peas, it must be said. I need our day-to-day to be as straightforward as it can be because multitasking isn’t my great skill, and I have my hands full with our Baby and Little Boy. As much as I love simple food, it has done so much for my creativity to have one meal a week that I can think about, prepare for and enjoy. The food doesn’t need to be complicated; sometimes fancy food is so fiddly, it’s no fun.

melon salad

Lately most of our family feasts come from Jamie Oliver‘s 30 Minute Meals. I love this cookbook because there is a main course, side dishes and often a dessert that comes together, which helps me keep planning simple. Most of the time it takes me longer than 30 minutes to cook, but it’s never very long, and the food has tons of flavour and colour.

Last weekend we had a simple pasta dish with broccoli and two summery salads, perfect for the sunny and warm (although now quite summer) day we had. These salads took five to 10 minutes each to put together, and are so basic and versatile, they would work with meat dishes or vegetarian main courses.

There is a difference when we sit down to eat at a table where the food is abundant and beautiful. It creates an atmosphere where love can abound, where little bellies are filled and taste buds tantalized, and hopefully it’s an atmosphere that will lead to rich, meaningful relationships between us in the years to come.

I love giving my family this table

saturday spread combo

Melon & Prosciutto Salad

from Jamie Oliver’s 30 Minute Meals

This salad is an update of an Italian classic. Every year I have every intention of staying away from processed meat until I have raw ham from Italy, Spain or France. It’s the best stuff in the world. In moderation. If you think the ham and melon combination sounds weird, try this, I promise. Pair a sweet, firm melon with a good, salty Italian proscuitto. On a warm summer day, nothing is more refreshing. 

half a ripe, firm, sweet melon
a few slices of prosciutto
a small bunch of basil
olive oil
sea salt
balsamic vinegar

1. Start with your dressing. Put the large basil leaves in a mortar and pestle and start bashing away until the leaves form a paste of sorts

2. Add some sea salt to taste and keep bashing, then pour in some olive oil (I estimated the quantity based on how much dressing I thought we would need and also based on how “basily” we like things to taste). I probably used 1/4 cup of olive oil if not a bit more.

3. Stir together and set aside.

4. Arrange slices of proscuitto on the edges of a serving platter leaving a space in the middle.

5. Take a spoon and scoop out the seeds from the melon half and then begin scooping out the flesh and putting it in the middle of the prosciutto slices. Scatter the smaller basil leaves on top and dot with some balsamic vinegar. Serve with the dressing on the side.

Zucchini Ribbon Salad

 from Jamie Oliver’s 30 Minute Meals

Zucchini is one of those bland, basic veggies when it’s raw, so it needs a zesty dressing to make it sing. Don’t skimp on the mint, lemon or chili. 

1 zucchini (the recipe called for two or three baby ones, but I only had the regular kind)
a few sprigs of mint
1 birdseye chili
half a lemon
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

1. Chop your mint leaves and chili finely and put it on the serving platter, drizzle over that the olive oil and lemon juice.

2. Take a peeler and “slice” the zucchini into ribbons using the peeler. It’s less like slicing and more like a slightly deeper peel, but then you peel the whole thing. I ended up with the middle core of the zucchini unused, so I sliced that up and roasted it for Baby’s dinner.

3. Put the zucchini ribbons on the platter and toss with the dressing. Add salt and pepper at the very end to taste and take to the table.

lent 2014

jesus2

Sweden is one of the most secular countries in the world, and I’m a person of faith who is happy to talk about what my faith means. This usually leads to some form of the question, So, you’re religious? My default answer is something along the lines of, Well, I don’t really believe in religion, but I believe in relationship, so what’s most important to me is my relationship with Jesus, which I imagine sounds a bit like, I have this friend.. I have this boyfriend.. It sounds false, unclear and very 21st Century postmodern-like of me.

What I’m trying to say is that life with Jesus is a new way of seeing.

I see my condition, broken, lost, a mess, but I also feel in me the weight of something else, beauty, glory, redemption. But there is absolutely no way I am able to bridge the gap between the two without soul-killing striving and trying and pushing and pulling. 

I see who God is: love, love, love, love. Love that pours out power, love that pours out grace, love that is able to do all things, love that knows all things, love that is full of goodness, love that is truth and so many other things, but at the centre of who he is, it’s a beating heart of love. 

When I talk about a relationship with God, it’s the recognition of these two parts, Jesus holding my hand and taking me from one to the other.

Jesus who sees my brokenness and says I am a healer, do you want to be well? 

Jesus who sees me lost and says, I am the way, do you believe that I am who I say I am, I set before you life and death, will you choose life that you may live and walk in my path? 

Jesus who sees my messes and says, I have power of sin, will you confess your mistakes to me, let me take it all away and fill you so that you can have power to change? 

jesus

My growing up years were full of the mechanisms of faith, and I was surrounded by faith-filled people. We attended church every Sunday (and often more), almost all of my education from primary school to university was in faith-based institutions, I read the Bible, prayed everyday, I did everything you were supposed to do, and yet.

And yet.

God was still far away. God was still the one holding a checklist, and my life, my behavior, me – who I was – somehow didn’t check the boxes. God was the one with displeasure on his face when he looked at me, and I was the one running, hiding, disappearing every chance I got.

I didn’t know then that what I battled against was only religious structures in my mind because this is what religion must do to keep people inside of it. Religion only survives where there are no real answers in a place where there is no real freedom. Religion only works if you take out Jesus as a mediator, and replace him with someone or something else.

You can only be in the presence of God in this building. 

You can only talk to God if you first talk to this person. 

You can only know God if you first give this amount of money. 

You are only part of God’s family if you first join this church. 

No.  No. No.

This is why God put on human clothes, came down to us, gave up himself into the body of a young woman in a way we can’t comprehend, coming down to us when we couldn’t reach up to him. He reached down to us, to me, he became like us, like me, like you, lived like us and died for us, and came back to life.

So that we would not have to try anymore. So that all we would have to do is reach out our hand to the hand he offers, to say, Yes, to his invitation of new life, to turn our back on the systems that promised security but gave slavery.

No one imposed religion on me – I willingly submitted myself to it because it gave me something to do, it gave me a sense of power and control. I could command my own destiny. I could reach God, it was so simple, if I could only do this and this and this and be a bit more that way and this way, then, then it could be final. Then I would be there. Known. Loved. Safe. Secure.

Except there was no intimacy, love, safety or security in religious ways, only fear, insecurity, and an unending exhaustion. Even after the years when I found freedom, times of the year like Advent or Lent still filled me with old feelings, What more could I be doing? I’m not where I want to be. 

This is one of the many ways in which Lent this year led me away from introspection and instead toward a radical posture of receiving from God and then pouring out what I receive.

Jesus gave me everything I could ever want or need when he gave me his life. Lent is for giving.

Jesus took everything wrong and bad and sinful away from my life, so I could walk forward into new life with him whole and free. Lent is forgiving.

When you think about God are the words fear, insecurity and exhaustion part of your thoughts and feelings? Friend, could it be that you’re talking about a religion, a system that keeps channeling you toward what more you could be doing and who else you could be pleasing?

Jesus offers something different. He offers himself, his hand, to take you and walk with you to a new place. He’s there the whole way, never leaving, never forsaking, always faithful. He came to meet you where you are and he will take you where you need to go. 

lent 2014

bunting

I made a bunting last week, approximately five years, three months and two days since the trend began on Pinterest, or perhaps it’s been a thing for longer than that. I wouldn’t know – I’ve never been trendy. But I’ve been scrolling throgh Etsy, reading blogs, sitting on the sidelines and watching everyone else’s lives, and I’ve seen your buntings made out of fabric, lace, pom poms, plastic spoons, denim, beer bottles. Wait. Maybe not the bottles, but I’m certain I’ve seen a bunting made out of pretty much anything else.

Watching and waiting, I’ve been doing that for a long time, and as much as I attribute this to my personality, the truth is I’ve been afraid, complacent and lazy. Afraid of what people will think, complacent because I can’t be bothered and lazy because what there is to do requires work.

house

We had a party last weekend, and after it was done, the boys and I lay out on a blanket under the sun, Husband read The Economist, we were quiet, we were giggly, the sun warm, the air cold and as I looked at the chairs strewn around the yard, plastic bags overflowing with trash and empty juice bottles, my heart swelled. This is the life I want: creating joy and celebration-filled spaces for people to connect.

For the past three years, all I could see was what I didn’t have. Community was my greatest need, and everywhere I looked, I couldn’t find it. It’s taken me this long to realize other people can’t create what I am looking for. It wasn’t something someone else was supposed to do for me. It was my work, my joy, the thing that would require fighting fear, complacency and laziness, and it would all be worth it.

Do I have the community I was looking for? No. Hardly. But I could be staring at an empty garden and empty table whining about what I don’t have or I can attempt to build something. I choose to build, and with every brick that goes down, with every piece of dirt unearthed by the shovel of hard work, life buds inside of me, and in the end this is what I know I was created for: New life. Every time. I know the story will be new life, redemption, purpose.

Calling and purpose are big words, and the topics for self-help weekends, life coaches, Oprah, popular Christian conferences, coffee talk, and a therapist’s couch. I’m not even scratching the surface with this blog post, but I wanted to say something to you today in the middle of Lent, this time when I’m thinking about giving.

What are you longing for? 

How could you be that longing for someone today? How could you create and give that longing for yourself, for someone, for a community today? What would it mean to go out and do it? 

For me it meant, drawing coloured triangles on Photoshop, printing them out and stapling it onto a piece of twine. Simplest bunting in the history of the world. Ok, I also had to take a risk, invite people, and do a tiny bit of cooking.

Friend, there are too many days we can wait sitting on the sidelines watching. I’m sure there are lots of good reasons to not try, but why not try anyway? I’m guessing there will be at least one person who will say Thanks because you gave your gift instead of hiding it inside.

What are you waiting for?

lent 2014

bouillon 3

lent 2014

Sometimes I can’t believe I call myself a blogger or that I even once wrote daily for a whole month. Let’s just say the words have been inside my head, and my energy has been going in a different direction than this space. Christmas came and  I planned to write about Advent, then there was the New Year and I was going to write about goals and words for the year, but all of a sudden it was February, and then I was going to write about love, and start thinking about Easter because I wanted to blog daily during Lent, then you know. Lent started 14 days ago. Or was it 15 days ago?

The truth is every year Lent rolls around, and I hear person after person talk about what they will give up, the meditations they will read, and the seriousness of it all, and I don’t get it. Year after year Lent grabs me and shakes me into action. I’m a melancholy type who could sit all day long reflecting in my head and with my pen to the lines in my journal, but when I start thinking about Jesus’ last 40 days, I see a man who knew his identity and understood his purpose and let nothing stop him from walking toward it.

I want to know who I am and to walk in purpose, wasting no time for the days are few. I don’t know how long I will live, and neither do you. We have one life to live. What will I think about mine at the end? Will I wonder what could have been if I took more risks? Loved more freely? Lived without thinking about the judgments of others?

bouillon

Believe me when I say I have no great ambitions for Lent 2014, only that I want to give and give and give some more out of who I am. In 2014 this looks like a lot of cooking, a lot of feeding people I love and people I want to love, a lot of bringing people around the table and connecting people who don’t know each other. This is one of the reasons for my life in Stockholm right now, I’m convinced of it. I want to take my eyes off myself, my dreams, my plans, and instead knowing who I am, take what I have to give and pour it out into the world.

Lent is for giving.

bouillon 2

In other unrelated-but-related news, we have a new kitchen machine. It’s a Thermomix, and I use it daily, often several times a day. It’s my favourite thing in the kitchen now, and I’m stunned by the speed at which it chops. Several years ago I came across a recipe for homemade vegetable bouillon at In Jennie’s Kitchen, and wanted to try it immediately but only had a blender. It’s been in my mental filing cabinet waiting for the day when we would have our own kitchen workhorse. So last week I tried it out, and yes, it is amazing. I could happily drink the veggie broth this bouillon makes  straight out of a mug, but it’s fabulous as a soup base and also in risottos. It would also make for a lovely gift.

Homemade Vegetable Bouillon

adapted slightly from 101 Cookbooks 

150 g leeks, sliced and well-washed (a bit less than 1 large leek, I used parts of the white and green, trying to get an equal balance)
200g fennel bulb, chopped
200g carrot, chopped
100 g celery
50g sun-dried tomatoes
1 onion
3 medium garlic cloves
250g fine grain sea salt
40 g flat-leaf parsley
60g coriander

1. The way you make this will vary depending on the power of your machine and the capacity of the bowl. My Thermomix is powerful, but I wasn’t sure how everything would fit. Instead of putting everything in at once, I followed Heidi of 101 Cookbooks‘ instructions and put the first four ingredients in, and then I added the next three followed by the salt and at the very end, I blitzed it all with the herbs.

2. I chopped each set for 10 seconds at speed 9. For a food processor, the 101 Cookbooks instructions indicate to pulse 20 times.

2. I put the herbs in whole without chopping, which means our veggie stock ends up with these lovely pieces of herb leaf in it, and I adore it.

3. You end up with a paste – don’t be scared if you taste it after the salt has been added and wonder what you’ve done. The salt is necessary to preserve it, and also keeps the texture nice and smooth. Keep some in a jar in your refrigerator and the rest in the freezer to use later.

I need a heaped tablespoon for a liter of water, but I like my stock strong and salty.