When It Rains: Celebrating During Covid February 11, 2021
Guest blogger Sabrina Manno from "A Momma & Her Pen" illustrates how planning children’s birthday parties during COVID offers parents a unique opportunity to get creative with themes and traditions in a fun, intimate, and memorable way.
Half-Broke Horses: Advice from one tough lady February 3, 2021
Jeannette Walls tells the story of her grandmother, Lily Casey Smith, in her true-life novel, Half-Broke Horses. Here are some of my favorite quotes from the indomitable lady.
Your and You're: Not Equal January 30, 2021
What is the difference between your and you’re? Try this easy mnemonic device to help you learn when to use which word in this quick grammar tutorial.
Homemade Coffee Creamer: 5 Ways January 19, 2021
Ditch the store-bought creamers and make your own! These homemade coffee creamer recipes are simple and contain nothing artificial. Know exactly what’s in that sweet, creamy cup, sip after steamy sip.
Homemade Honey Face Wash January 13, 2021
Looking for an effective holistic skin care regiment? This combination of pure castile soap, nourishing and essential oils, and raw honey creates the perfect DIY face wash for oily or acne-prone skin.
21 for 2021 January 5, 2021
Thinking about setting goals for a new year? Here's my list of manageable resolutions for 2021.
Wrapping up 2020 December 31, 2020
Coming to terms with 2020 is a lot easier when we make a list of what we've accomplished.
Crispy Potato Stacks December 29, 2020
Parmesan potatoes with olive oil and herbs stacked in a muffin tin and crisped to perfection? They might as well come with bows on top.
The Spirit of Dickens December 26, 2020
Every year, a few days before Christmas, I begin reading A Christmas Carol. It is a story that has been told and retold a hundred times over for a reason...it is brilliant. Not only is the concept of a ghost story for Christmas completely genius, but the writing itself in this little novella is representative of the best of Charles Dickens. It is tight and impactful, with almost none of the long-winded prose you may remember from having to read some of his other works in high school. To me,
Christmas Snowballs December 16, 2020
Finely chopped nuts and powdered sugar are the star ingredients of these rich but delicate yuletide treats.
Cassoulet: Conquered. December 8, 2020
If you've ever tasted classic French cassoulet, you know the glory that can be achieved through baking beans with meat. And if you've ever wondered how to make cassoulet, the recipe is not for the faint of heart. Today, though, I made Julia Child's cassoulet and lived to tell the tale.
Thanks for the Giving December 1, 2020
Hello there, friends. I hope your Thanksgiving holiday was full of peace and plenty, even if you didn’t need as many folding chairs. Here we hosted only my parents, but there were no shortages of gratitude or calories.I took advantage of a smaller group to make more things from scratch. I’ve written before about my adventures in sourdough this year. And can I just say? I lament that this new hobby happened to coincide with the pandemic bandwagon that rolled into town. The door was opene
Americana Reads November 11, 2020
As I sat down to write some quick reviews of three books I read recently, I realized that they are connected. All three are true-life tales (a historical fiction, a journalistic novel, and an autobiography), and all three grapple with different ideas of what it means to be American. I chose them randomly, but I’ve been thinking so much about our country lately in the current political climate that my subconscious might have weighed in. From revolutionary colonies, to southern voodoo culture
Pumpkin Banana Bread November 6, 2020
I don't care how clichéd pumpkins are in the fall. You bet your latte I'm loading up on the canned orange stuff as soon as September hits. I don't really cook with it throughout the rest of the year, so during the fall months I like to make a point to incorporate it into meals for my husband (who thinks he doesn't like pumpkin), the kids (who don't always take to novel vegetables), and the dog (yep, it's good for them). Today was actually our Newf's birthday, so he got some pumpkin peanut bu
All the Light We Cannot See October 19, 2020
I recently finished Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See. My husband gave it to me a few Christmases ago, and I love the habit he has of choosing books for me. He does his research and carefully selects what he thinks I’ll enjoy. But even though this one is a New York Times Bestseller and Pulitzer Prize winner, I shelved it until I could steel myself for a book about World War II. Now I am no stranger to heavy literature (Shakespeare’s tragedies are not exactly beach reading) bu
Julie's Butternut Squash Soup October 12, 2020
This recipe came from my lovely friend, Julie. We first met in the fall, when our little girls were babies, and we spent their first Halloween together. It was raw and wet outside, and I was a sleep-deprived, sore-boobed, somewhat lonely new mama, but in her living room she had a fireplace going, a pumpkin candle lit, coffee brewing, and a bag of goodies ready for the girls. I left feeling warm through and through. I discovered that day that she is one of those truly hospitable people who pu
Herbal Tea by Me September 26, 2020
Every summer since moving to my first apartment, I’ve grown some kind of herbs. They started out in little pots on my tiny balcony, and have graduated to a stone herb box that my handy, thoughtful husband built in our backyard. I have some perennials in there, like a clump of chives that comes back every year with plump purple blossoms, thyme that won’t quit, and two types of lavender (did you know that Spanish lavender looks prettier but English lavender has a stronger scent?). In the sp
The Rise of Fall September 18, 2020
School has begun, and mamas all over have kicked it into high gear, especially this year of years. New shoes are on, snacks are packed, and Google Classroom is up and running as we settle into this hybrid blend of at-school and at-home learning. And I will say this: we are getting it done. Maybe this is because the spring hurtled so many scary curve balls that I was ready for September to bring it on. Or maybe it’s that first breath of crisp fall air that has me feeling refreshed and ready
I think I can September 4, 2020
This summer, I was determined to try my hand at canning. There’s an uplifting feeling of growth when you teach your hands how to do something new. Plunging them into soft bread dough that takes shape underneath my touch, coaxing vegetables out of the dirt, squeezing plump tomatoes until the juice runs through my fingers...my hands have been busy and productive lately and it feels good.Accomplishing canning this year required some steps. It’s something I thought of a while back, when I enco
Summertime Tian August 20, 2020
I come back to this recipe summer after summer when the eggplant, tomatoes and basil are in season. This year we actually grew all three in our backyard garden. A “tian” is a French term meaning vegetables that are baked au gratin. This recipe is adapted from a Weight Watchers Cookbook called Simply Delicious (2002 Weight Watchers International, Inc). I’ve altered it because, like Hugh Grant says in the movie Two Weeks Notice in regards to Sandra Bullock’s fat-free muffin basket, “
Changing Habits August 13, 2020
I used to buy scores of tiny plastic tubs of yogurt without a second thought. It’s a solid breakfast choice, and those flavors are pretty fun to pick out. Boston creme pie? Strawberry cheesecake? Gimme a spoon. But a while ago I found something better. I always steered clear of plain, fat-free Greek yogurt because I thought it tasted like sour cream. And truthfully, it can, especially if you add savory spices to it. But I buy the big container of the thick, creamy stuff and here’s wha
My Six Compost Myths August 1, 2020
Here are the words that shared living space with the word ‘compost’ in my mind before actually attempting it:smellymessyfliescomplicatedsomething only farmers dogarbage dumpNow, we have kept a garden for years but this thing known as composting still seemed kind’ve separate in my mind, like something we don’t do in suburbia. Isn’t it weird how we create these illogical limitations? The older I get, the more I realize that I do this way too often. So in this spring of the Corona blos
A page from her book: Mrs. Sowerby July 25, 2020
I’m on a bread-baking kick, and it has reminded me of a passage from one of my favorite books from childhood, The Secret Garden. Mrs. Sowerby is the mother figure of this book, and her ways remind me to get back to basics when it comes to raising kids. Mary and Colin, the central figures, are introduced as petulant, sickly children who spend most of their time isolated inside their grand estates being cared for by servants. The rural Mrs. Sowerby's son Dickon helps them to reclaim their phy
Bringing back the clothesline July 16, 2020
If you’re like me, quarantine has made you pay more attention to all things home. We’re super thankful for backyards, since entertainment like amusement parks is out of the question this summer. In the kitchen, we’ve learned to appreciate our pantries and the comfort of a well-stocked freezer. We’re also probably painfully aware of garage doors that need to be painted, shelves that need organizing, and empty walls asking for something to hang. Now more than ever, we're in touch with
How to close read July 8, 2020
What does it mean to "close read" a text? How do we learn to apply critical thinking to analyze and interpret literature? Read on for a quick tutorial on how to get more out of what you read.
Halftime 2020 July 6, 2020
In January I made a list of 20 things I wanted to accomplish in 2020. It seems that list was written in an alternate universe. But since we’re midway through this crackerjack year, I thought I’d take a moment to think about which ones I’ve done, which ones I haven’t, and which ones still matter.Launch Bookish Mama. Ok, well that was kind’ve a freebie since I knew we’d have this site up and running. It’s been a comfort to me to be able connect with others during this time.Write
Strawberry Sourdough Muffins June 24, 2020
Since I came to possess sourdough starter about a month ago, I’ve been discovering new worlds. Sourdough starter is a living thing that you keep in a jar in your kitchen. It is simply flour and water, but the fermentation process harnesses the wild yeast naturally present in the flour and the mixture transforms into a bubbly leavening agent (mine's name is Pan). To keep it going, you feed it, keep it warm, and it loves you back with gorgeous, crusty loaves of chewy bread. But I’m learnin
Sedum and Suds: Shampoo bars June 18, 2020
Shampoo and conditioner bars that beat the bottles and an inspirational mompreneur who makes them? Sign me up. Please note: this is not a sponsored post.
Home Instead June 10, 2020
A couple weeks ago my sister-in-law gave me some of her sourdough starter. I like to cook, but have never baked a loaf of bread in my life. Baking scares me a little, with its math and science and all. So I read up on it and took her advice to “just bake something” even if it wasn’t perfect. The first warm, crusty miracle that I pulled out of the oven and sliced up for my family satisfied that primal parental desire to provide. I made it out of flour, water, and salt. That’s it. T
An Unfair Fight June 4, 2020
I am in the middle of reading Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver. My husband picked up this book for me because he knows how much I loved The Poisonwood Bible, which contains one of the best opening passages I’ve ever read (idea for another post!). Her style is elevated but completely accessible, so it’s perfect for evenings when my quarantined mama brain is fried from homeschooling, germ paranoia, and disturbing news headlines, but not quite pulp that will tolerate nothing but spoon-fed Ne
No-Chop Chili May 13, 2020
Tonight I needed dinner to come together quickly. I have made chili a bunch of times, but this was the first time I tried a shortcut. My kids wanted to play outside all afternoon and are too little for me to watch from the window while prepping dinner (a 2-year old and a 2-story playset...you get me). So I had a little brainstorm and used salsa to save the time spent chopping garlic, onions, and peppers. Why not, right? After browning the meat, the rest was literally dump and stir. Even th
Potato Corn Chowder with Kielbasa May 3, 2020
“Ka-BA-see”, as it is pronounced in my family, is always on the table at Easter and Christmas Eve dinner. My grandfather is Polish, so I grew up with the good stuff from the European specialty store. The huge, garlicky smoked rings were always accompanied by spicy brown mustard, horseradish, and sometimes sauerkraut. Everyone was sent home with leftover slices, which could be sizzled up with eggs for breakfast the next morning or layered on rolls with honey mustard for lunch. Not to ment
Sun Salutation April 26, 2020
Their Eyes Were Watching God is a text I have devoured many times, and always in the spring. Zora Neale Hurston’s love of language comes through in life-breathing metaphors that capture the mysteries of nature. This book begs to be read outside where it leaves words rolling around on the grass.The excerpts I’ve selected here revolve around the sun. The first scene takes place at dusk, as she opens her story with personification: The sun was gone, but he had left his footprints in the sky.
Five things getting me through April 15, 2020
The challenges of the past month have left me with little time to write along with uncertainty about exactly what I should write. I still stand by my post at the beginning of quarantine about focusing on the positive while staying home. But life is hard right now. Aside from the global chaos, we have had our own upheaval inside these four walls. My husband fell down the stairs, broke his ankle in two places, and needed surgery in the middle of a pandemic. He is recovering now, but what this
Pantry Cooking March 21, 2020
Whether we are waiting for that grocery delivery, stretching until the next paycheck, or just avoiding a stop at the store on the way home, knowing we can pull together dinner with what’s already in the cabinet and fridge allows us to take charge without take out. Most of these are not actual recipes, but ideas to keep in mind when figuring out what to put on the table.If you have eggs…There are of course breakfast-for-dinner options in the form of omelets and such. But consider using them
Let's Stay Home March 14, 2020
Remember being a kid on the morning of a snow day? Sitting in your pajamas at 5:30am eating cereal and watching the ticker or listening to the guy on the radio go through the alphabetical list of school closings? My brother and I would fidget, waiting for the monotone voice to rattle off the name of our town followed by that glorious word…”Closed.”The rest of the day lay in front of us, an unexpected respite from all expectations. That science test wasn’t going to happen, practice was
Almond Oat Pancakes March 10, 2020
Last year I learned that I have a gluten sensitivity. Now, while wild horses can't keep me away from pizza and pasta, the truth is that when I have too much gluten in my system I get itchy. So I look for ways to cut it where it doesn't kill me to do so, like in these delicious pancakes. Believe it or not, my kids have come to prefer these over the traditional pancakes we've been making them for years. I owe my version to this recipe, which I came across when searching for a gluten-free panca
Why "all or nothing" isn't everything March 2, 2020
I’ve come to realize how damaging the “all or nothing” mindset can be. My entire life I’ve followed rules, honored deadlines, met requirements. I don’t consider myself a perfectionist, but I definitely like to have my ducks in a row and my boxes checked. Here’s the thing. Motherhood and the degree to which the pace of life has picked up has made systematic, punctual completion of everything nearly impossible. The birthday party starts at 2? Ok, it takes 15 minutes to get there,
Pick Your Party Snack Mix February 14, 2020
This snack mix delivers salty crunch and satisfying sweetness held together with pretty white chocolate. It's customizable for any holiday, and great for parties and kids.
Sweet and Saucy Beef February 6, 2020
My mom used to have this yellow plastic bin of printed recipe cards that I would leaf through and organize, pretending I was a librarian in charge of a card catalogue (yep, I had a lot of friends) and when I wasn’t forcing my brother to play along, I was hanging out in the kitchen. Out of those hundreds of cards, my mom had a few that were go-to recipes, and this is a version of one of those. She made it a lot when we were growing up but I hadn’t eaten it in years when it popped into my he
Dappled Things January 29, 2020
George Orwell’s 1984, like any dystopian novel, isn’t exactly an uplifting read. It rather unforgivingly portrays humans at their worst, and makes us question whether or not we are spinning toward a place without redemption. Its characters live in an atmosphere of constant fear, hatred, and uncertainty.I have taught this book to sophomores many times, and I believe it holds important political and sociological lessons for them. But I don’t want to write about those here. What I want to
Veggie Cream Cheese January 26, 2020
Here in NJ we have an embarrassingly large selection of excellent bagel shops. My husband heads down to the corner a couple mornings a month to fetch that paper bag filled with a warm, freshly baked dozen. We freeze whatever we don’t eat in two days, then defrost and toast them up to tide us over between visits. The kids can never get enough. However, I try to healthy-up these carb bombs a bit by serving them with veggie cream cheese. I used to pay $8/lb for the stuff at the bagel place,
To the Mom with the Pink Hair January 19, 2020
I see you from across the elementary school gymnasium, your little boy in tow as you make your way through the sea of moms who look like me. We are mingling with one another, but not with you. I see you buttoning his coat with the quick tattooed arms that say, “Come on honey, let's get out of here.” I see the striding step and the chin angled a bit defiantly, saying, “I do not care what you think.” I see eyes that stare straight ahead. They say, “I see you seeing me.”I see mysel
Prescription Chicken Soup January 15, 2020
The healing benefits of homemade chicken soup are no secret, and this bowl is the real deal.
Try this: Waste not the peel January 11, 2020
Create a zero-waste, practically zero-cost homemade air freshener by repurposing fruit peels destined for the trash or compost. You can add a little flair with some herbs or spices, and the simmering water releases essential oils into the air for all-natural, permeating scent.
The List: 20 for 2020 January 7, 2020
Last year, I made a list of 19 things I wanted to accomplish in 2019. I’m embarrassed to say that after careful review, I’ve added four pitiful check marks. But I know where I went wrong. I wrote the list down, stuffed it away, and promptly forgot about it. So some of this 20 for 2020 list is comprised of carry-over items. Others are new. I love the idea of making this list vs. a single New Year’s resolution because it allows me to address several areas of my life, big and small. T
Birthday Wish: A Pair of Silk Stockings January 4, 2020
Kate Chopin's short story, "A Pair of Silk Stockings", invites us to judge a mama who dares to indulge herself. I couldn't help but relate to its central character today, but have written myself a happier ending.
Just Right Porridge January 3, 2020
Perfectly creamy, wholesome porridge will help you gather your little bears around the table for a sweet weekend breakfast.
Sloppy Not-So-Buffalo Joes January 2, 2020
All the deliciousness of buffalo wings in a healthy, kid-friendly sandwich that is perfect a quick weeknight dinner.
January 1: Resolved. January 1, 2020
I want to talk about the word “resolution”. January 1st holds the fleeting purity and possibility of a blank notebook. It is a beginning. So we make a resolution, a promise to ourselves, and we are resolved to follow through in the coming year. But in literature, the resolution comes at the end of a story and has a fancier French term: “dénouement” (pronounced day-new-ma). The conflict that drives the plot is resolved during the dénouement. So, why talk about the end of things at