our messy table

summer’s end

I had been working here and there on a short blog post for the past few months of summer. And now that August is near its end, that post feels a bit outdated.

Summer’s end has always been a difficult reality for me to swallow. When I was young summer meant we would visit my grandmother’s house by the river more often. It meant I could stay up late into the night running around the endless black of our yard in the country, shoeless and free. It meant marshmallows and swimming pools, cartoons and wearing shorts and the same cat shirt every day (bliss!).

And even in adulthood summer satisfies my same, mysterious needs of being human: long days, warm, steady evenings, camp fires, grilling our entire dinner, meals from the garden (or, the neighbor’s garden. We did not manage to keep a garden this year), reading for pleasure, fresh flowers on the table, weekday trips and nesting into my happy place: being home with my kids. Summer has always served as a kind of sanctuary for me. And to see it go has always felt like a terrible injustice.


. . .

I want to write a bit about being a mother of two. Because when I first began writing the uposted post, I felt very differently about it than I do now. Having a head-bobbling baby in my arms while wrapping a large bath towel around a wet toddler was newer then. More strained. And though Jude is only two months old and it is still very new, having two kids feels much more like a forever home.

I’ll confess. I was hesitant to welcome Jude into our lives. I liked the way things were. I loved that Porter was the one and only baby. But now that Jude is very much so here, and Porter is a big brother, I cannot imagine life differently. Jude is so completely a part of things now. And Porter, with his big open heart and resilience has taken on his role with stride. He sings “Hey Jude” to him every day (the “nah-nah” part his his favorite). He fills his swing with “buddies” and helps give Jude baths. He will occasionally, in a polite tone-of-voice mention that he would like for Jude to go to Grandma’s, or that I should put Jude down and play ball. But he is always very polite about it. And never spiteful. And he accepts my responses with a lot of grace for a 3-year-old person.

And as Jude gets older, he watches Porter with the kind of fierce curiosity that I know will morph into a fierce love and admiration. A kind Porter will, for better or worse, live into.


. . .

Which brings me to tonight, my first alone moment since 6 am. And though I am tired, and there are a lot of other things I know I should be doing, (sleeping at the top of that list) I needed to return to the unposed post and make my updates. Because I want to remember how grateful I feel. And how precious this gentle, fleeting stage of maternity leave is. I want to remember sitting on our living room couch mid-afternoon cutting the finger nails of a feverish 3-year-old while he watches Clifford and next, the squirmy, plump starfish hands of a very healthy 2 month old.

I want to remember those precious baby naps in the afternoon when I can watch Porter draw or paint or when we can work side-by-side on our own things. And I want to remember the luxury of Monday morning salad-making. When Porter is up but busy playing in the living room. And Jude is taking his morning nap. And I can work alone in the kitchen on a salad intedned to last the week.

Our neighbors generosity played a large role in allowing this to happen (garden cucumbers! Green beans! Lettuce and radishes and tomatoes and squash galore!). Thanks to the bounty of their gardens and their willingness to share, I was able to make salads all summer, last week’s being one of my favorites. It is a bit old-school with its mayonnaise and dried herbs. But a goody, indeed. I especially loved how is feels light and fresh but substantial enough to eat alone for lunch.

You will notice in the photo my veggies do not look very “diced”, but rather, chopped or loosely hacked at. This is because I am, as we already establish, a mother of two. And sometimes dicing vegetables is a very unrealistic goal. And heck, the salad tastes all the better with chunks of veggies if you ask me. So if you’re like me with few and far between  “alone moments”in your life, go ahead. Leave it all undiced. I promise, no one will complain.


Perfect Protein Chickpea Salad

From: PCC

  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cup spelt berries, brown rice or grain of choice
  • 2 (14-ounce) cans garbanzo beans
  • 1 English cucumber – peeled, seeded and diced (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeds removed and diced (about 1 cup)
  • 3 ribs celery, diced (1 cup)
  • 1 carrot, peeled and diced (1/2 cup)
  • 1/4 red onion, finely diced (1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 bunch green onions, thinly sliced (about 1/3 cup)
  • 1/3 bunch parsley, chopped (1 1/2 cups)
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried dill
  • 1 teaspoon salt, plus more to season
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic

Add 3 cups of water to a medium pot and add the spelt berries. Over medium-high heat, bring the water to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cover, cooking until tender but still chewy, about 45 minutes. Drain and cool.

In a salad, bowl mix together cooked spelt berries, garbanzo beans, diced cucumbers, green pepper, celery, carrots, red onions, green onions and chopped parsley.

Mix together mayonnaise, lemon juice, vinegar, dill, salt, basil and garlic; pour over salad and mix well. Serve immediately or refrigerate. Salad will stay fresh for up to 4 days, covered, in the refrigerator.

in the morning


I wish I had some seed of wisdom to plant within this blog post when it comes to writing about being a new mother of two. I like to feel that I have something good to offer when I share my writing. But truthfully, my husband has worked late, late late laaaaate the last few days, or at least it seems that way. And some days it feels like a struggle to simultaneously meet the needs of a 3 ½ year old and a newborn. And some days, like this one, motherhood feels like a breeze. There is certainly no consistency to it. And therefore, no wisdom or insight can I offer. I would, however, like to talk honestly about how things have been going.

. . .

I was holding my breath the entire month before our baby was born. I kept an eye on those early labor signs like prey watches its predator. Quietly. Hoping, praying for a little more time.

That may seem like a dooming analogy. Least of all for a mother awaiting the arrival of her new son. And I don’t mean for it to sound that way. But those who know me well know how much I love to feel in control of my environment. I knew a baby would throw a wrench in everything we had built for the past 3 ½ years. And I was afraid of all the feelings I would feel when our routine started to unravel.

I was also afraid of the helpless newborn stage. And I was afraid of the loss I would feel when my relationship with my 3-year-old son would have to change.

Labor came and went fast and our new baby son, Jude, was born. In the past 3 weeks, sure enough, every bit of control I had before has, like papery fireflies, slipped through my fingers.

For instance, we have been fed by our neighbors and my mother for nearly every meal. There is no longer predictable sleep for anyone. The dog has been officially kicked out of the house until further notice. And for the love of God, there is still no wine with dinner.

But. In the morning I am usually sitting in our blue rocking chair feeding his little brother when Porter (the 3-year-old) wakes up. Porter choses a place to wake up to the world in his own, slow way. Sometimes he squeezes in the chair with Jude and me. Sometimes he lies down on the quilt drifting around my feet. Sometimes he curls up on the couch alone and I can only see his blonde tuffs of bed head skimming above the armrest. And each morning, at the very moment they are both awake and the day is new, I look at the two of them and the fear is gone. Nothing fell apart like I thought it would. And regardless of routine and control, everything feels right. Like our lives just opened up and stretched to make room for this new little person.


And forgive me for taking the gushy-mom road, but when I pull Porter’s hand-me-down onsies over Jude’s head or roll the too-long sleeves up so I can see his hands, it feels very much like when I used to do it for Porter. It feels like I was doing it for Porter yesterday. And my chest feels small as I am struck by the cycle of life. Baby. Toddler. Mother. All under the roof of our home. Under the sky on a walk while toddler rides his bike and I push a stroller under the shady streets.

Don’t get me wrong. I can sense that this stage of life; life with young children and careers and home-owning and marriage can only get more challenging. That no future decisions, big or small, will be easy for me. But at least today I feel at peace with where we are. Our little house in a small town. Two beautiful, napping boys. A cup of coffee. And time to write to you.

. . .

Seedy Almond Chocolate Squares

This recipe makes for a granola bar that is not so dependent on the oats, but rather, a variety of seeds and grains that make for wholesome crunch and texture. As with many granola and granola bar recipes, these are extremely adaptable. Just keep the proportions of wet and dry ingredients the same.

Yield: 15-18 squares, depending on size

Adapted from: A Sweet Spoonful

  • 3/4 cup tahini, almond butter, peanut butter or I like to use a combination thereof.
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil, plus more for the pan
  • 2/3 cup maple syrup
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup raw millet
  • 1/2 cup raw quinoa
  • 1/2 cup spelt flour
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped raw almonds
  • 3/4 cup sunflower seeds
  • 3/4 cup roughly chopped dark or semi-sweet chocolate
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 9×11 inch pan with coconut oil

Mix the nut butter, coconut oil, maple syrup and honey together in a small heavy bottomed saucepan. Bring to a low simmer over medium-low heat. Remove from the heat and set aside while you prepare the dry ingredients.

In a large bowl, mix together the oats, millet, quinoa, oat flour, almonds, sunflower seeds, chocolate, salt and cinnamon.

Pour the warm syrup mixture over the dry ingredients and mix well. If using chocolate, be prepared for it to melt! Press the mixture into the prepared pan using the back of a rubber spatula. Bake the bars until the edges are just turning golden brown, about 28-32 minutes (the bars will feel a bit soft to the touch at this point which is ok; they firm up as they cool). Let them cool completely in pan before slicing, about 2 hours.

Once cool, slice into squares. Wrap the bars in plastic wrap for easy snacking or store, covered, at room temperature for up to 5 days. You can also freeze them.

big and small things


I have been thinking about this post for a while. And now, on day 2 of our snowed-in experience, I have a window of time. Much has happened in the past few months that I have been itching to write about.

Between now and December, when we watched a little person turn 3 and press a toy backhoe inches into in their very chocolate birthday cake, many big and small things have happened. For instance, yesterday while the snow blew around and my son and husband napped, I emptied out half of my son’s closet to store things away into newly organized storage space upstairs. The plan is to fill the cleared closet with totes to host clothes for a new baby due at the end of June. Our son is pretty sure the baby will not need a room, least of all need to share his. But we figure clearing out closet space and moving him into a “big boy” bed are a fair beginning to the process of acceptance.

As for being nearly 5 months pregnant… I can say I am extremely grateful to be beyond the nausea/fatigue stage that lasted up to my 16th week. Sometimes I watch my husband drink a beer and recklessly throw himself down a snow hill with our son and I think, “Thiiiiis sucks.” But then there are moments like today, when I took my first belly selfie in the bathroom mirror. And I thought, “Holy crap! Look what my body can do!” And I feel very, very humbled and blessed indeed.

People often ask me if this pregnancy is different than the first, and I answer yes! In every! Single! Way! I think that is mostly because everything about our phase of life was different when we were expecting our son. We were living far from family, working short-term jobs, anticipating a move and a return to school, living in a basement, phasing out of college-life. I don’t envy those two people. And looking back, I am sure other people were worried sick about the little guy we were about to bring into the world. I can honestly say we were too. But now, after all of that and then some, our now rascally, smart, and loving 3-year-old is destined to become a sweet, most caring big brother. In spite of us.

A few small things to mention: Thanks to a junk pile behind my husband’s work place, we now have pantry shelves to hold the contents of our overflowing kitchen cupboards. And with any luck, the pantry will also host the contents of our summer garden.

In March, I will be hosting a 3rd-5th grade art show at the elementary school I work at. I am busy working out the fine details and getting my students excited. But as I was thinking about it this morning, it dawned on me that my Grandmother, who passed away just a short week ago, will not be there.

It hurt to think about that. Because I know that if my grandma hadn’t suddenly left us, she would have most certainly forced someone to drive her to the show. She was every one of her grandchildren’s number one fan. And no matter how old I got, she made a persistent effort to be involved in my life.

In fact, I can still hear her for the 22nd time on my 22nd lap of a college track meet, running the Godforsaken 10K. I can still see her just before the 300 meter mark, standing alone, yelling quite loudly and taking pictures with her disposable camera. And there are no other runners around me because very few athletes would voluntarily compete in such a race. And I can still feel her strong hands gripping me in a hug when I finally finished, almost yelling in my ear, “Did you hear my cheering?”

I didn’t appreciate her because she was always there. She had been there ever since I was a baby.

When she died, I felt that I not only lost her, but also lost a bit of my own life, my childhood, memories that shaped so much of who I am. It’s funny how that happens when you lose someone you take for granted. You feel surprised to lose a part of yourself.

Last week, after her funeral, my family started going through her house to collect things we could use or wanted: sentimental belongings… chairs and couches and Tupperware. We ended up picking out quite a few toys for our son. Toys that I had played with when I was little. We washed them and put them in totes. And since then they have become his favorite things: fake food and a picnic basket (including a startlingly real-looking E.L. Fudge cookie), toy plates and cups, a small yellow dog house with stuffed puppies, a fishing game. He has been playing exclusively with these things all week. And though I expected this to make me sad, to make me miss her, it has had the opposite effect. In some strange way, seeing him play with things that belonged to my Grandma brings her back. Every time my son brings me a tray of fake hot dogs for “my dinner”, and every time he asks me to play the “shark” game, it feels a little more true that she indeed lives on.

Which brings me here on a snow day. It feels so good to be here, to write all of this down. And yes, to share a recipe.

If I were to flip through cozy winter breakfast recipes looking for something delicious but quick, I would have to toss this aside. This is not a quick breakfast. This is one that demands a few pots and pans, some prep, and wait-time. But oh my, on a slow, snow-day morning, it is just the most perfect thing.

When making this recipe, I improvised quite a bit from Megan Gordon’s original “spiced bulgur porridge” and used steel-cut oats instead. I swapped out her almond milk for dairy milk due to a nut allergy in the house. I added spiced apples in place of her almonds and golden raisins and threw in some orange zest with the dates. A warm, spiced aroma filled the kitchen as it cooked and I knew I had done something right. We ate it happily, served with a fair amount of honey and our favorite orange juice. The leftover porridge tasted very good the next day with a scoop of yogurt as well.


Spiced Steel-Cut Oat Porridge with Dates and Spiced Apples

Serves: 4

  • 2 /14 cups water
  • ¼ tsp pure vanilla extract
  • ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
  • Pinch ground cardamom
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • 1 cup steel-cut oats
  • 1 cup whole milk (or a non-dairy alternative)
  • 1 cup pitted and chopped Medjool dates
  • 1 Tablespoon orange zest
  • 1 apple of choice, peeled and diced
  • 1 Tablespoon virgin coconut oil
  • Dash ground cinnamon and cane sugar

1n a medium saucepan, bring water to boil. Add vanilla, cinnamon, cardamom and salt and stir. Stir in oats, cover and remove from heat. Let stand for the next step.

In a small saucepan, warm milk with dates and orange zest until little bubbles start to form on the edge of the pan. Don’t let it come to a full boil. Pour hot milk mixture over oats and let cook, partially covered over medium-low heat for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, heat coconut oil until liquid and toss in apples with cinnamon and sugar. Allow to cook until soft and fragrant.

When porridge is done, remove from heat and cover. Allow it to sit for 10 minutes. The consistency should be a bit loose but creamy.

Serve porridge with apples on the side, honey, and yogurt if desired.

This dish will keep for 3-4 days if covered and refrigerated.

buckwheat granola


My toddler son has taken to exclusively playing with clothes hangers. The child-sized ones meant for his 4T stature.

This  began a few weeks ago when my mother was visiting. For whatever reason, we were sitting on the floor in my son’s room while he played with whatever he pulled out of the toy box, just chatting about this and that. And as her eyes scanned the room, she noticed that there were only a few clothes hangers swaying quietly in my son’s closet. “You need more of those”, she said curtly, which made me feel like a bad adult. So much so that the next time we were in Target I made it a point to purchase a pack of 15 child-sized clothes hangers.

When my mother came over again a week later, she also had bought a brand new bundle of 15 child-sized clothes hangers to suit my lack of adult responsibility. I dutifully hung them in the closet next to my previously purchased ones.

A few days later my mother came over coffee. And with her came another handful of used, child-sized clothes hangers that she had found somewhere in her basement. And then on Sunday, when we graciously received a large bag of hand-me-downs (yessssss) from a friend, we learned that the gift also included at least another 15 colorful child-sized clothes hangers.


That very afternoon, my son, perhaps for the first time noticing the colorful assortment of fixtures, crawled into his closet and removed as many as he could from the wood beam meant for hanging clothes. He scattered them around the living room and began utilizing their hooks on every ledge or surface possible. He began using the hooks as a modified hand to open the fridge, pick up books and drag random things about. Yesterday, he insisted on walking our dog with the hanger hooked to the end of the leash, which proved to be more difficult than it sounds. Later, he took a nap with a clothes hanger gripped in each hand.

My son climbed into bed with me this morning, nestled deep in my pillow with his cold little feet pressed against my knees, and then, in a flash of concern declared, “Oh no! My hooks!”

Quickly, my 2-year-old wriggled from my bed, scurried across the hall into his room and returned with two child-sized clothes hangers.  He crawled back into my bed and handing me the green one. “This is yours”, he said.

“What if I don’t want the hook?”

“Sshh, just close your eyes”, he said.


Later in the day, after my son had hung a pink and blue clothes hanger from each arm and declared himself a butterfly, and after I told him several times to stop picking up the live farm kittens with his modified hook hands, he tried to hook the loops of my jeans with his hook hands and succeeded more times that I will admit. And then I hid the clothes hangers in the tall grass hoping he would forget about them.

And after a while of breathless searching, he did.

Until we went back inside where there were many more clothes hangers scattered everywhere. Then, while I made dinner, he watched PBS with a clothes hanger in each hand, ready if any more fun should arise.

. . .

The summer is coming to a close, my friends. Which means back to school for me and back to full-time day care for my son. And I honestly don’t know what makes me want to sob uncontrollably more: the fact that I will no longer have the time every morning to close my eyes as my son brushes my hair with the end of his clothes hanger hook… or the fact that someone else will be tucking him and his clothes hangers in for his afternoon nap… or the fact that summer is over. It was a GREAT summer. Full of so little weed-pulling (just look away from my garden) and so much reading and swimming and making countless batches of granola for the most amazing two-year-old in the world.

My son has always liked granola, but this summer he took a special liking to the buckwheat granola recipe posted on the back of Bob’s Red Mill’s buckwheat groats package. I cannot blame him. For one, this recipe recommends that you boil the honey, maple syrup, coconut oil and spices together before folding them into the dry ingredients. I believe this brings out a deep, nutty flavor in each giant, crunchy cluster. For road trips, we like to toss this granola in plastic container with a bit of dried fruit. But at home, it is perfect with a simple knob of yogurt, splash of milk, or on its own in a little dish while watching your favorite episode of Go Diego Go.


Buckwheat Granola

Adapted from Bob’s Red Mill

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup buckwheat groats
  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 2 Tbsp white sesame seeds
  • 1/2 cup raw honey
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup virgin coconut oil
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt

Preheat oven to 300°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl combine oats, buckwheat, coconut, nuts and seeds.

In a small saucepan combine honey, maple syrup, coconut oil, cinnamon and salt. Bring to a boil and hold at a steady boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and add vanilla and almond extract.

Pour syrup mixture over the oat mixture and mix well to evenly coat. Spread the granola on the prepared baking sheet in an even layer.

Bake granola until browned and crispy, about 30 – 35 minutes, stirring thoroughly every 10 minutes.

Let cool thoroughly before breaking into clumps.



It had been a goal of mine to write more this summer. In fact, I began the summer with a list of goals which were, for the most part, achievable. I had hoped to wash every one of our dusty farm-house windows. To keep a tidy garden blooming with vegetables and herbs. I wanted to run… “lots!” and work my way down the slow-moving book list.

I threw that list away a few days ago. And not because every speck of dust remains laced along the panes of our windows. Or because our meager garden is a wild jungle of weeds. But because it seemed that the list didn’t matter anymore. I knew I could not find value in achieving these goals that could match what has already come with this summer.

My son and I have spent lazy mornings walking around the over-grown yard, feeding the rabbit grass clippings, holding kittens, chasing chickens back into their pen. Our family has sailed on a river in an old fishing boat. We have picked wild berries and made cobblers and grilled our dinner outside. We have driven miles and miles to spend time with people we love. We have stayed up late watching TV shows.

I am so thankful it does not have to be more than this right now.

. . .


I found the original recipe for frozen blueberry margaritas at the beginning of the summer and have been tinkering with it ever since. I loved the idea of it. But I am not a fan of slushy drinks, particularly slushy alcoholic ones. I am also not a fan of blueberry skins wedged in my teeth

I removed the ice from the blender and whipped out my fine mesh strainer. Mind you, I have never made more than one serving of this drink at a time, so I image staining out the solids straight over the glass would not work as well with multiple servings. If you wish to double, or triple this recipe, try straining out the solids over a pitcher to pour over iced glasses when ready.

Blueberry Margarita

Yield: 1 cocktail

Per margarita, multiply as necessary

  • 2 ounces 100% agave silver/blanco tequila
  • 1½ ounces fresh orange juice
  • 1 ounce fresh lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon agave nectar or simple syrup, more to taste
  • ½ cup frozen or fresh blueberries

Garnish (Not Pictured)

  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • Optional: ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • Small lime wedge

First, prepare your glasses: Pour the salt and optional chili powder onto a very small plate. Run a small wedge of lime around the upper outer rim of your glasses. Roll the dampened rim into the salt mixture. Fill glass with ice.

In a blender, combine the tequila, orange juice, lime juice, agave nectar or simple syrup, and blueberries. Blend until smooth.

Taste and add more a bit more agave nectar if the mixture tastes harsh or just doesn’t quite sing, then blend again. Place a fine mesh strainer over your prepared glass. Pour the mixture over the strainer and allow solids to separate. I use a small spatula or spoon to help release all the liquid. Carefully drop one big ice cube or a few smaller ice cubes into the drinks to keep them cold. Serve immediately!

bear with me


Bear with me. I feel a little rusty when it comes to writing. It has been too long since these fingers have clicked away at anything other than a schedule, email or lesson plan.

But now that I have put my son down for a nap, and the kitchen has been wiped clean of ketchup finger prints and Legos have been stored in their rightful place and laundry is spinning in the dryer and I do not have to write any lesson plans because it is SUMMER VACATION and all is well with the world… I felt it was time. Time to share a recipe.

. . .

Endives are sparse to come by in this part of the Midwest. So when I spotted them a few months ago I was quick to scoop them up. I was reminded of their scarcity when the cashier had a difficult time pricing them. They could not find the word “endive” in their system, no matter how many times I spelled (E-N-D-I-V-E). Finally, the cashier called for a manager who found the item immediately because “endive” does not begin with “D”…

My husband and I laughed about it the whole way home.

And we made this immediately for supper over a plate of hot brown rice.

My son, who is two and no longer eats anything green (please let this be a short phase!) picked over the butter-wilted leaves and went straight for the rice soaked in butter sauce.

And though there are certainly more healthy ways to prepare endive, with all its nutritional value and sharp, bitter qualities, this is by far my favorite.

I came about this recipe from Molly Wizenberg over at Orangette, where she sources Jennifer McLagan’s Bitter: A Taste of the World’s Most Dangerous Flavor, With Recipes.

. . .

May this be the start of a summer filled to the brim with weed pulling, exercise, swimming, penny pinching, safe travels, family time, health, book reading and potty training stickers. And of coarse, a good many recipes to come.


Belgian Endive Bathed in Butter

Yield: 2 servings

  • 3-4 Belgian endives
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced
  • Table salt or sea salt
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 300°F.

Wipe the endives with a damp cloth, tear away any leaves that have gone bad, and trim the stem end, if needed.

Choose an ovenproof skillet with a lid, one that’s just large enough to hold the endives in a single layer. Place the skillet over low heat, and add the butter. When the butter is melted, raise the heat to medium, and cook the butter, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan from time to time, until the milk solids begin to brown and the butter smells nutty. Add the whole endives and lower the heat. Turn them to coat with butter, and season them with salt. Cook, turning occasionally, until they are lightly colored, then pour in 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice. Cover the pan, and place it in the oven for 1 hour. Remove the pan from the oven, turn the endives carefully, and then cover it again and return it to the oven. Cook for another 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the endives are limp and very, very soft.

Before serving, taste a little of the pan juices, and if you’d like more brightness, add lemon to taste. Serve hot, with more salt at the table and freshly ground pepper.

a good fight


After completing a family weekend trip with a toddler and infant this last weekend, my sister told me that she was never going to get married or have kids.

I had to laugh at her honesty. Because I can only imagine what my college-aged sister and high school-aged brother think of my married/child-rearing older brother and myself.


We had spent two nights in a hotel and were all pretty much at the mercy of the little one’s sleep/eating schedules, which is the norm for my husband, brother, sister-in-law and me. But from where the two bright-eyed youngsters stood, the view of 4 arguing, sleepless young parents probably looked nothing short of miserable.


I had to laugh because I forget about the perspective of my two youngest siblings. Their oldest sister: cursing her helpless husband for everything from our son’s mismatched clothes to the weather… as I fidget with guilt and strain to make every simple decision.

And I have to love them for it, because I forget.  Meaning, they don’t even let me know how crazy I look because I guess they love me anyway.


My youngest siblings never avoided the extra responsibility of playing puzzles with my son as I got dressed or look for a room key. If anything, they held the baby, swam in the freezing pool with the water-crazed toddler, and made me very proud to be their older sister.

My message to them: It’s the good fight, young ones. And it is all worth it, regardless of how it looks on the outside, or from the depths of a freezing cold hotel pool.


Thanks to my mother and father for treating us this weekend, and my mother and father-in-law for watching our naughty dog. We had a very very blessed and memorable Easter weekend (to say the least). And to you readers, I wish you all the same.


 Deb’s Kale Salad with Apple, Cranberry and Pecans

Adapted slightly from Cookie and Kate

Yield 4 servings


  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped pecan halves
  • 8 ounces curly green kale
  • 4 to 5 medium radishes
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 medium granny smith apple
  • 4 ounces goat cheese


  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoons smooth Dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons honey
  • sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
  1. Pull the kale leaves off from the tough stems and discard the stems. Use a chef’s knife to chop the kale into small, bite-sized pieces. Transfer the kale to a big salad bowl. Sprinkle a small pinch of sea salt over the kale and massage the leaves with your hands by lightly scrunching big handfuls at a time, until the leaves are darker in color and fragrant.
  2. Thinly slice the radishes. Add them to the bowl.
  3. Coarsely chop the pecans and cranberries and add them to the bowl. Chop the apple into small, bite-sized pieces and add it to the bowl as well. Crumble the goat cheese over the top.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk the dressing ingredients together and pour the dressing over the salad. Toss until the salad is evenly coated with dressing. Serve immediately, or for even better flavor, let the salad marinate in the dressing for 10 to 20 minutes beforehand.

10 things


I cannot recall a time when I wasn’t a painfully self-conscious person. I remember as an elementary student that something in my body physically hurt whenever I was made to answer a question in front of the class. I remember the white streak of panic when I didn’t know answer. I remember feeling hot shame when the next person to be called on did know because it was apparently an easy question.

I am learning more and more that I am hardly alone in being painfully self-conscious as a kid. And it has been interesting to see how insecurity plays out in the adult world.


. . .

I remember during a developmental psychology class in college when we were asked to make a list. On the list, we had to write 10 things that came to mind when we thought about ourselves. The room went quiet as we all got to work. I struggled a bit. Finally, I think I wrote something along the lines of:

  1. Insecure
  2. Confused
  3. Impatient
  4. Sinful
  5. Yada… yada…

You get it. I wrote down things that were bad.

When the class was asked to share what we wrote, I kept my hand glued to my side. Our professor called on the other eager students, and I was surprised by their answers.

A lot of the guys said:

  1. Funny
  2. Athletic
  3. Friendly

…. Things like that.

A lot of the women said things like:

  1. Nice
  2. Smart
  3. Christian

…. Obviously, our lists were quite different.


That class period was a turning-point for my way of thinking about identity. As I listened to the students in the room sharing their very positive lists, I realized I didn’t have a healthy view of myself – that I was dragging around my insecurities like ball and chain.

. . .

It has been about 6 years since taking Developmental Psychology and learning that most people don’t and shouldn’t hate themselves. And during the 6 years, my personal identity has undergone a few shifts.

I have been influenced by strong and gracious people. I have had to overcome challenges and loss. I have had to eat dirt, be humbled, and let people help me when I needed it. For all of that I am a different person.


Today, there are situations in which I feel quite confident. And there are also days when I am so self-conscious that I feel like a second grader all over again.

At any rate, the words on my list are different. They are no longer quite as ego-centric. But rather, my list is constructed of words given to me by the people in my life – the people who shape me – who depend on me – who give me a lot to feel confident about.

  1. Spouse
  2. Mother
  3. Sister
  4. Daughter
  5. Friend
  6. Teacher
  7. Artist
  8. Fearful
  9. Understanding
  10. Strong


Maple, Peanut Butter and Oat Chocolate Chip Cookies (GF)

From: Cookie and Kate

Yield: about 30 cookies

  • 2/3 cup natural peanut butter
  • 2/3 cup maple syrup, preferably grade B
  • 4 Tablespoons coconut oil, melted and cooled slightly
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 ¼ cups rolled oats ground for 30 seconds in a food processor
  • 1 ½ cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup (6 oz) semi-sweet or bitter sweet chocolate

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit with two racks in the middle. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper (if you don’t have parchment paper, lightly grease the baking sheets).

Pour the peanut butter and maple syrup mixture into a mixing bowl. Add the melted oil and whisk until the mixture is well blended. Use your whisk to beat in the egg, scraping down the side of the bowl once it’s incorporated, then whisk in the vanilla, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Switch to a big spoon and stir in the ground oats, rolled oats and chocolate chips until they are evenly combined. Drop the dough by the tablespoon onto your prepared baking sheets.

Bake the cookies, reversing the pans midway through (swap the cookies on the top rack with the cookies on the lower rack) until they’re barely set and just beginning to turn golden around the edges, about 12 minutes. Remove the cookies from the oven and let them cool completely on the pans.

service engine soon


On the current property we are renting, buried deep in one the barns is a lawn mower that works 20% of the time with a blade attachment made for snow removal. Here in the Midwest, when the ground gets very cold, the earth tends to shift. This is a problem. Because in our situation, the winter has shifted a slab of cement in front of the door of the barn so that we cannot open the door to access this mower.

We have a very long driveway, and we have a great many drifts of snow blockading us from the road.

As you may have guessed, this leaves us with no way to remove the snow so we can easily make out way to work every morning.


My husband has spent roughly 1 hour and 1/2 a tank of gas the last few evenings driving one of our vehicles hap-haphazardly through the snowdrifts (with its blinking “service engine soon” light) to make tracks for his flimsy little car  to make it through in the morning. Then he spent another 20 filling up said flimsy little car’s routinely deflating tires with air.

And sometimes… sometimes it feels like we just don’t fit the mold a smooth-functioning life. Like our life can be summed up to a puzzle with pieces that got sucked on by a toddler then lost under the couch for 8 months. And now we are doomed… doomed to function. Doomed to create a neat and perfectly finished picture.

Sometimes it feels like we are metaphorically my husband’s flimsy little car, and that our life-obstacles are the snow drifts in our driveway and we are just trying to make it through somehow… with a blinking “service engine soon” light and a flat tire.

Its a little scary how quickly the little things can build me up and tear me down. These little things, for me, metaphorically assemble the puzzle of our life;  a finished picture that illustrates where we are. And when it doesn’t come together (which it often doesn’t), I begin to feel defeated. Sometimes depressed. Sometimes angry and like I am completing losing control of myself.


And sometimes I retaliate against our bad luck. I clear out the basement so our son has a place to ride his bike. I drive to the grocery store and buy ice cream for 3. I paint with my toddler.  I stay home all day making actual meals and spending actual time with my family. I chose to win in the ways that I can.


Hopefully, with time, the pieces will come together and make sense.

Hopefully, with time, the earth will shift again so we can… you know… get into the barn.

Hopefully, with time, we will get a better grip on things. And when that happens, I sort of hope we miss the old puzzle – the assembled pictures that didn’t quite fit.


Warm Green Lentil Salad

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, very thinly sliced
  • 2 medium carrots, very thinly sliced
  • 1 celery stalk, very thinly sliced
  • 1 cup green lentils
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 4 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper, plus more to taste
  • 1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley or cilantro to top (optional)
  • fried egg, to top (optional)

Put a kettle or a pot (containing about 4 cups water) on the stove and bring to a boil.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and cook until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook for an additional minute. Fold in the carrots and celery.

Add the lentils to the saucepan and stir to coat with the onion mixture. Pour the boiling water into the pan and stop when the level is about ½-inch over the top of the lentils (should be roughly 3 1/2 cups of water). Bring back to a good boil, reduce the heat to low, cover the pot and cook the lentils for about 20 minutes. Stir in the mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper and cook an additional 10-15 minutes – or until lentils are tender but still slightly chewy.

Remove from the heat and let sit for ten minutes. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper.

Serve warm – with a lightly-fried egg and a sprinkling of parsley on top if you’d like. Leftovers can be covered and refrigerated for an additional 4-5 days.

roasted squash toast


There was a time during our first 10 months of marriage where my husband and I would come home from work, stare into each other’s eyes and dreamily ask, “What would you like to do tonight?”

Most often the evening consisted of long, luxurious walks by the lake with our dog. Others were spent renting multiple Redbox movies and eating frozen pizza. Sometimes we would invite friends over to brave an experimental meal. Or we would just go out for food and drinks.

We were young with a small income to burn… or so we thought. But it didn’t matter that our priorities were self-indulgent. After we clocked out from an 8-hour shift, we were responsible for no one until 6:30 the following morning.

Don’t get me wrong. It has only been about 3 years … I will make it a point to say that we are still young. Alas, 3 years, 3 moves, several job changes and a baby later, our evenings are a bit more tied-up.


If you would have asked me 3 years ago if I was ready for evenings as predictable as ours are now – evenings that consist of a pattern of events that result in half-eaten dinners and a very early bedtime – I would have probably, I don’t know, taken an oath of celibacy.

Yet, I am grateful to not be that person anymore. Our evening routine is deep in our bones. We all find comfort in it. And all 3 of us place a bit of our identity in it, too.

Often I have to take a moment to pause in gratitude for the fact that we can come home to each other each night. That my son can expect me to read to him after his bath, before he goes to sleep. That he can hear my voice rhyme to “Llama, Llama, Time to Share” as he slowly nibbles a graham cracker. That my husband can build him a “big, big barn!” out of Legos while I empty my head during an evening jog. That we can eat together in the messy, scattered, imperfect way that we do.


. . .

It seems like we fall into familiar cooking patters this time every year; lots of roasted potatoes and root vegetables, mushrooms, broccoli, rice and eggs. I decided last week that I needed to rekindle some of that pre-Thanksgiving spirit by bringing back a meal that frequented our table in October and November; a meal consisting of roasted squash, caramelized onion, cheese and toast.

Pre-Thanksgiving, every time we placed this dish before our toddler, he would sort of scooch the squash and onion off the toast. Then we could proceed to eat the cheese and the toast… but not the squash or the onion. As you can imagine, it was quite annoying. But this last week my son lapped up the whole thing and finished with a, “Mmmm, thas goo, mommy”.

I was pleased and dumbfounded all at the same time. So much so, I thought it was time this recipe found a home on “Our Messy Table”.

Please forgive the awful pictures. This is a popular evening meal for us – hence the lack of natural light – and we never have leftovers for lunch-time photos! I will note that we typically use butternut squash since it is easier to peel. But any kinds of squash works and the additional peeling step is not necessary. This dish also serves well with rice or another hearty grain.

Roasted Squash Toast with Caramelized Onion and Ricotta

From Smitten Kitchen

Yield 4 servings as a main, 8 as an appetizer

1 2 1/2- to 3-pound butternut or other yellow-fleshed squash (such as delicata, acorn or kabocha)
1/2 to 3/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dried chile flakes, more or less to taste
Coarse sea or kosher salt
1 yellow onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
3 Tablespoons maple syrup
4 slices country bread, 1-inch thick
1/2 cup ricotta, goat cheese, feta or Parmesan

Heat oven to 450. Prepare a large baking sheet. No need to peel your squash, just halved, seed and cut your squash into 1/4-inch thick slices. Toss with 3 tablespoons olive oil, 1 to 2 teaspoons salt and chile flakes until evenly coated. Transfer mixture to prepared sheet and roast until tender and slightly colored, anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes, flipping once about 2/3 of the way through. Once tender, you can cut the flesh from the skin and discard it. Leave roasted squash on the tray.

Meanwhile, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and 1 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring frequently, until onions are softened and beginning to brown, about 10 to 15 minutes. Add vinegar and syrup and reduce heat to medium. Cook, stirring, until onions are jammy and broken down, another 10 to 15 minutes.

Pile onions on top of roasted squash, still on their baking sheet. Use a fork to gently half-mash the mixture; I like this best when the mixture is not uniformly combined. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil per slice of bread, and cook bread until just golden brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels. Spread cheese on toasts, heap with the squash-onion mixture, sprinkle with coarse salt.