March 30, 2011

Happy Birthday to - ME!

Tonight, I've stayed up much, much later than I should have. But, I am reveling in the loveliness of celebrating another birth-day today (YES!!!) and I am not quite ready to move on yet, despite my husband encouraging me not to stay up all night. Oops! I'll probably pay for that tomorrow in exhaustion but... that's what coffee's for, right?

The truth is, I wasn't sure if today was going to be amazing because I went to bed last night away from my family, nursing a tired little monkey who was worn out from nearly a week of stomach flu (ugh!). But, when I woke, I decided to be thankful - that I have a little monkey girl to nurse and a family to miss! And somehow, this day became amazing despite it's uncertain beginning. It didn't happen without a lot of love and care from family and friends who went out of their way to make it special. THANK YOU!

I have spent a lot of time over this last month reflecting on the blessings of my life. These past few years have not been without challenges. But, somehow, as I look back, the blessings stand out to me in drastic relief against everything else. It is as though all those challenges have served to more brightly illuminate what an absolute treasure each moment of life can be if only I will let it.

Added together, those moments beam like bright stars through the darker moments of my life. I am so awed by their light and beauty, I cannot stop gazing at them. My heart and mind are blinded by their radiance! Thus - my late, LATE night.

As I wonder at their loveliness, this arrangement by Morten Lauridsen comes to mind. The poetry by James Agee perfectly describes my feelings in the line..."Kindness must watch for me this side the ground"

I love the University of Utah's rendition.

The rest of the words follow...

"Sure on this shining night
Of star made shadows round
Kindness must watch for me
This side the ground.
The late year lies down the north.
All is healed, all is health.
High summer holds the earth.
Hearts all whole.
Sure on this shining night I weep for wonder wand'ring far alone
Of shadows on the stars."

Hope you enjoy it as much as I do. Are you enjoying the shimmering night of your life?

Blessings - Monna

March 28, 2011

A Few of My Favorite Things

Is Monday here yet? After 3 days alone with a toddler suffering terribly from stomach flu while my husband cycled 175 miles for the National MS Society (what a stud!), I'm actually greeting Monday with a cheer. And, wondering if I can find a space in my brain for some fun links. But, I cannot let you down today, can I? Of course, I cannot. And, it will motivate me to get off my bootie and get moving!

For those of you who aren't musicians and didn't grow up obsessed with Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals, the title of my Monday's post is gathered from this. I'm not so much into strudel or wild geese but I have a few favorites of my own!

You should know by now that we are seriously into GOOD food in this house. And, since I'm still working on breaking the post-traumatic ice cream addiction, this seems like a good alternative. Completely delicious & HEALTHY (& don't forget - delicious) ice cream. Seriously. Try it.

I love supporting other moms. Here's a really creative one who makes it her business to create something beautiful to display your family memories. Gracie Deen

The sun is shining and it's beautiful outside here in the great Southwest. A great time to get that garden started. Check out this local garden. Sweet Life Garden

Again with the food (yes, chocolate is FOOD, duh!). But not only is this delicious, it is art. David Leibovitz visits Patrick Roger Chocolate. Seriously, I'd trade a few days worth of food for a box of these. Or half a box. Or even one. Maybe just a bite??

A Visit to Patrick Roger Chocolate in Paris from David Lebovitz on Vimeo.

March 23, 2011

Love Your Neighbor

Sometimes it seems like there are so many sad things going on in the world, there's no way to make a difference. We are inundated with information and overwhelmed with places and people who need help. We're on budgets ourselves and don't even know where to start.

This is not one of those days. Today, in lieu of the post I've already written, I decided it's more pressing to post this story from a fellow blogger's page. A fellow sister and mother is in need of some help as she seeks to protect her daughter from her abusive father and husband. The court fees are exorbitant so A Mom in Red Heels is co-hosting a fundraiser with Shop Suey Boutique. You may either shop and part of the proceeds will be sent to help this mom or you can just donate using the paypal button.

I will tell you that this is definitely not a scam. I know this mom and am familiar with her story.

These days, finances are tight for a lot of people but please consider forgoing that cup of Starbucks today and help a sister in need.  Please feel free to pass this link on to those who might be able to help.

Read her story here at A Mom in Red Heels.

March 21, 2011

A Few of My Favorite Things

Morning. Don't want to sound tooooo cheery for those of you who are morning haters. Haha! I'm definitely waking a little slower these days since I've been on a late night jag lately. But, hopefully, these links will provide just the distraction we need to keep us from falling into our morning coffee mugs. Enjoy!

Don't these look delicious? I think I'll try my hand at them, um, eventually... They bring back memories.
Fruity Goodness

Some cool architectural structures in Arizona. Who says we don't have art here?

If you celebrated the Irish a bit too vigorously last week, you might need a touch'o'green to mend your body. Try this.The Alkaline Sisters Green Drinks for a Healthy St. Patty's Day

Or maybe you're trying to get yourself motivated to clean the house and (like me), you don't even know where to start. Well, this might help!  Real Simple's Daily Cleaning Checklist

And on a completely different note. This is amazing. I won't interpret it other than to say, it's meant to be art. What does it mean to you? Have a great day, everyone!

March 17, 2011

Recovering from Miscarriage & Hemorrhage - Physically, Emotionally and Spiritually

This list is for those women who are recovering from miscarriage (or serious hemorrhage as a result) - and possibly more importantly, it's for their partners and loved ones. This month has felt like a roller coaster in some ways and I can honestly say that I would not have emerged as healthily as I have without the encouragement of my friends and family. I don't want to waste space recounting the original story so you can read it here.

I have simply listed what I felt - and I have decided to categorize it all as normal. I do want to say regarding the "Guilt - was it my fault?" entry, don't worry about reassuring me. Technically, I know it probably wasn't my fault but those feelings are a natural and probably necessary part of the grieving process.

These are just some of the things I'm moving through or have already passed. If you want to read the one month update, you can find it here.

I hope this is a help for those of you who are going through this. I will not minimize your pain by trying to make it ok. It isn't ok. But, know you are not alone and even if I don't know your name, I am saying a prayer for your healing even as I write these words.


  • Really weak at first but vitamins, chinese herbs and good nutrition, including lots of veggies and some red meat seemed to help me recover quickly
  • Mild headache from the anesthesia for about 3 days
  • Feeling like my head was going to fall off my body if I got up too fast in the first few days. I learned to sit up slowly and stand even more slowly. The sensation went away after 4 or 5 days. I think this is a normal result of severe blood loss. As my strength returned, my blood pressure normalized.
  • I had no cramping despite the major doses of pitocin they gave me to fully contract my uterus and stop the hemorrhaging. This surprised me because I remember pitocin contractions being unbearable with my first delivery but of course, my uterus was a lot smaller for this miscarriage since I was only finishing the first trimester. 
  • Swollen, full breasts. In a crazy twist of fate, my breasts swelled up just after I returned home from the hospital and started aching like they would in pregnancy. My hormones weren't back to normal yet, I suppose. 
  • Brief bleeding. Differently from a natural miscarriage, because I had a D&C, I only bled for about a week. I didn't see anything for another few days, then I had mild spotting. I freaked out (still a little nervous about bleeding, understandably) so I called a friend and she said she had the same experience. It went away after 2 days. I understand that bleeding in a natural miscarriage takes significantly longer.
  • Other physical symptoms of pregnancy - like still having some odd taste aversions that went away as the hormones faded. 
  • Desire for comfort food like chocolate and ice cream. This is only physical because I definitely ate the chocolate and ice cream. I do realize the desire was emotional. A friend suggested writing a future post about chocolate therapy. It might just happen. Heehee. I refuse to judge myself. It's been a pretty successful therapy so far.
  • Exhaustion. Yeah. Still feeling this way a lot of the time. I don't have my normal stamina yet. Guess recovery from losing a lot of blood can take a while. I'm heading in the right direction. 
  • First period after miscarriage - I had my first mooncycle (menstruation) about 35 days after my miscarriage. It was a little heavy and a normal length - about 6 days counting heavy and light days. Then, I stopped. But two days later I had a little spotting for a few hours, bright red but not heavy. I talked to several friends who said they had similar strange spotting between periods as hormone levels returned to normal.

  • Numb - at first. Too exhausted to even think of what had happened. 
  • Fear - about the actual miscarriage. For about a week, I had bad dreams and had a hard time not thinking about it. Remembering stuff I'd forgotten -
    • like being on oxygen from the time I was in the ambulance until after my D&C
    • discovering I'd been categorized in "Critical" condition & figuring out - it's not good.
  • Fear that I will get pregnant again and that I'll lose the baby or go through a scary miscarriage again (highly unlikely).
  • Fear that I won't be able to get pregnant again (because I do want more children - Whoa. Did I just say, child-ren?)
  • Guilt that maybe I did something to cause this. My reasonable side knows it may be impossible to prove exactly what happened - which is why doctors and midwives always say, "There's nothing you could have done to cause or prevent this." But, my mom's guilt kicked in anyway and I went down the laundry list of everything I'd eaten, done, how much sleep I'd gotten and possible incidents of bad karma. I know I will probably never know if it was just genetic or something else. I'm convinced this is a natural part of grieving a baby lost in utero. 
  • A return to reason - We mothers are programmed to protect our young and being unable to do that with an unseen child is an excruciating experience. Thankfully, I remembered that babies are born to moms with poor nutrition and even moms on crack. Women not even close to the nutrition and healthy lifestyle I'm fortunate enough to have. In the end I trust that, for some reason, this baby was not meant to be here now. I don't like it but I have faith that it is true.
  • Guilt that I'd always hoped I would never be a part of the group of women who have lost a baby. I always grieved with friends and even acquaintances who went through a miscarriage and then secretly prayed, "Please, not one of mine."
  • Bursts of grief at odd times, like when I -
    • realize there are certain foods I can now eat that I couldn't eat just a few weeks ago because I was pregnant
    • see pics of newborn babies on friends' facebook pages or meeting pregnant women in the grocery store
    • recalculate what I'll be able to do this summer and fall because I won't be completing a pregnancy and taking care of a newborn
    • read the children's books to my girls that we read before bedtime the night of the miscarriage
  • Anger about random, unimportant stuff - such as a nasty coffee drink and wi-fi not working at a coffee shop I visited. So not my normal tendency.
  • Anger - This is kind of embarrassing but I felt this way toward people who didn't realize how serious my miscarriage was (this is completely unfair but who says the grieving process is rational?) or who minimized the experience with comments like, "Well, it's over. Now you can move on with your life." Jerk. Or people who asked "How are you?" but didn't want to hear the truth. Part of me wanted to shock them with a blatantly honest answer. I didn't.
  • Control freak-ishness. I don't think this is in the list of typical stages of grief but I believe this is my way of compensating for not having control over what happened to me and my baby. So, I tried to control everything my little world. For instance, I hyper-cleaned or got frustrated with the kids if they didn't do exactly what I asked within say, oh - 2 seconds of my thinking it. Yeah, that's reasonable.
  • Gratitude - for my sweet husband, daughters, family and friends I was surrounded with during the weeks following my miscarriage.
  • Feeling abandoned. Life goes back to normal for everyone else - even a loving, supportive husband who has to return to work - but seemed to stand still for me for a while. People stop calling or asking about the baby (very normal) and it feels like they have forgotten.
  • Depression. As I was recovering mentally from how scary my miscarriage was and as I began to feel the loss of the hopes and expectations of greeting a new baby, I felt dark, listless and grief stricken. Like my life was over. This stage did not last long for me because I woke up one morning and decided that despite the circumstances and the loss we endured - I am lucky to be alive! While I still have moments (and probably will for a while) when I feel sad or cry unexpectedly, I choose not to dwell in the darkness.

I've always believed that women have an incredible intuition and connection to the spiritual world - especially in times of menstruation, pregnancy and the death. As I get older, I find this is true of many of the wise women in my life as well.

Insight can come in the form of dreams that help us to realize something about ourselves, our lives or the person we lost. It can come in the words of a friend, stranger or something we read. It can even arrive through a quiet voice. In all of the above listed experiences, I have personally received strong insights into areas of personal growth and spiritual understanding. I must add miscarriage to that list.

I received strong intuition the night I miscarried. After I felt the first labor-like pains and passed some blood and tissue, I thought I would try to lie down and rest. But, as I went to bed, I had a strong feeling that I would bleed too much and asked my husband to watch over me because of that concern. I believe it was a message, and one that may have saved my life.

Besides the message during my miscarriage, the last few weeks have been very spiritually eye-opening for me. Those lessons are for my spirit alone to process but I'd encourage you to listen if you're in any of the above stages. If we desire wisdom, we only need to listen. She speaks loudly.

My suggestions for healing after a miscarriage

  • Be in the moment you're in already. If you try to escape it, it will only chase you till you pay attention.
  • If you are feeling physical pain, acknowledge and deal with it. Meaning, if you need Tylenol (or something stronger), take it. Just be careful not to get dependent on it.
  • Eat strong, nourishing food and drink lots of water so your body can recover and take a multivitamin at least till you're done bleeding.
  • Pamper yourself for a while - new books, pedicure, massage, chocolate. :)
  • REST as much as possible the first few days following a miscarriage - even if you didn't go through hemorrhage. Miscarriage is a huge loss - for your body and your spirit. You will need rest to recover from the bleeding and to have the strength to deal with the emotions to follow.
  • Get some sunshine for at least 10 minutes every day. Walking in the sun every day soothed my sore spirit. It gave me hope that life would go on and I would feel normal again.
  • Allow yourself the chance to be sad or angry. These are normal stages of grief. Cry or yell if you feel it will help. I would suggest not yelling in front of kids (*smile*) but crying is perfectly normal and ok.
  • For those of you who have children, don't hide your grief from your kids. Death and loss are part of life. Keep it simple if they catch you in a moment of grief. When my kids ask why I am crying, I answer simply, "I am feeling sad about the baby but I'll be ok." Kids are pretty pragmatic. They usually hugged me and return to whatever they were doing.
  • If you find you're crying all the time or feeling hopeless or listless, call a friend or, if necessary, a counselor. Sometimes, we just need to hear words of hope or be reassured that what we're feeling is normal. But don't wait till you feel desperate.
  • Let your friends and family help. If they offer meals or babysitter, let them. If you're feeling worn down and the laundry is unfolded, ask for help or let it wait till morning. You'll catch up soon.
  • Find some time alone with your partner and make a real effort to include topics other than the miscarriage. You can still bring it up but you might find it is a relief to your healing heart. Plus, your partner lost a baby too and might need encouragement or a change of topic himself.
  • Pray, sing, exercise, go out with people who really love you and will allow you to be real with them about where you are.

Recovering from Miscarriage, One Month Later

It’s hard to believe that one month ago, I was waking up in a hospital after hemorrhaging during a miscarriage that didn’t progress properly. Like the other significant events of my life, it seems like yesterday and it seems ages have passed. Most of you know the story already but if you missed it you can read the original account here. As promised, here is an update on what it has been like for me to recover from miscarriage.

I’ve healed a lot during the last month, physically and spiritually, thanks to the love of my family and friends and some significant amounts of chocolate and ice cream. I’m trading the latter in for hiking shoes soon before I need a new wardrobe!

The truth is, I’ve had a really hard time writing this, partly because it’s sad and I didn’t know how much to share and partly because my two year old deleted the whole thing after I’d written it. Ah, life! These are some personal observations I made following my miscarriage. Some of them are blunt and raw but I included them because I've learned quite a few women I know ran into these situations and words after miscarriage. Hopefully, including them here will help us all to be more thoughtful about how powerful our words and actions can be when directed toward a person who has lost someone they love.

For those of you who are looking for a more specific "what to expect following a miscarriage" list, it's here.

This month, I discovered that the “silent pain” of miscarriage is silent for several reasons. Sometimes, it’s easier to just put one foot in front of the other and keep going. Less messy. The pain of losing a child is deep and personal and almost too physically draining to discuss. Second, there is no ceremony, no ritual that marks the passage of an unseen child which would make talking about it seem normal and offer people the freedom to offer their condolences without wondering if they've crossed a line. Lastly, an unborn child is held inside a place of blood and water inside a woman, a topic that seems to be kind of taboo in our culture.

Without a funeral, grief feels illegitimate within a very short time. We’re supposed to put on our happy face and act like we feel better already even though we actually feel like our lives have hit a full stop while everyone keeps moving around us. I felt self conscious writing about this again. What would people think? Should I be over it already? Stop feeling sorry for myself?

Even though I said I would allow myself to grieve, I soon discovered it was harder than I thought, both because of normal social customs and other people’s expectations. The common greeting, “How are you?” usually asked in a perfunctory manner, became difficult to answer. A few people asked with genuine interest but most expected the typical “Good.” Especially when the latter was expected by people who knew what I'd been through, I felt like saying, “Let's see, my baby died and I'm lucky to be here myself. How do you think?”  Of course, I clung to the social norm, looked at them blankly and asked, “How are you?”

After awkward moments like this, I was even more grateful for kind friends. The best friends didn’t just say, “Let me know if you need anything.” That’s so difficult when you’re usually an independent, strong woman. How does one ask for help? I felt relieved and thankful when friends went out of their way to call me and ask how I was doing or bring a meal. In another post, I’ll list some helpful things you can do for friends who are suffering a loss.

Some other people in my life tried to “fix” what had happened by offering words they probably hoped would diminish my chances of depression. While I understand their intentions and appreciate that they meant well, their comments still seemed to minimize the grief I was feeling. Some were probably trying to be comforting while others were just uncomfortable with what had happened and didn’t want to talk about it or didn’t know what to say. These kinds of comments often came from the people closest to me - but I realize they were just at a loss for how to help.

“Thank God you’re ok. Now you can just move on with your life and focus on the beautiful children you already have.”

“Well, the important thing is, you’re ok. Now you can just move on with your life.”

Catching a theme here? I’m sure these people were just horrified by what happened and wanted to save me from depression by pointing me to the wonderful things in my life. But, I needed a moment to catch my breath and grieve for the dream of the sweet baby I had lost. The truth is, an event like this becomes a part of who we are. I am so thankful for my girls. But, I loved this baby. I dearly wanted this baby. And this baby will always occupy a place of love and grief in my heart. He or she is a part of me now.

While I was still in the hospital, someone said to me, “I know you don’t want to hear this but you’re now a statistic.” You’re right. Didn't want to hear that. But...

This event connected me to a new group of people who have lost children. After my first post, an incredible number of women contacted me with their own stories of loss and grief. Their words were a balm to my heart as I realized I really was not alone. I cherish every message. 

I am not a statistic but I have undergone a rite of passage that, similar to getting married and giving birth, has offered me access to a circle of women who I might not have known otherwise. While I never would have chosen to lose a baby, I am so grateful for the connection I have gained to these dear women who opened their hearts to me.

This experience was not without its spiritual lessons either. I have long believed that women possess powerful intuition and connection to the spiritual world especially in times of blood, like menstruation and pregnancy, and near the death of a loved one. In the western world, where science and the empirical method reign supreme, we often ignore this spiritual wisdom and do our best to escape the discomfort of being wet and bloody. But, blood and water can be signs of new birth.

Looking back, this spiritual wisdom manifested itself in my life several times before, during and after the miscarriage. The weekend before my miscarriage, I was overwhelmed with deep grief and kept bursting into sobs over unimportant things. At first, I credited pregnancy hormones, but then a voice clearly said, “Maybe something is wrong with this baby.” I pushed the thought away but I believe it was a gentle indication of what was to come.

The same spiritual wisdom may have saved my life during my miscarriage. After the first pangs of labor yielded results, I wanted to rest a little. But, this little voice prompted me to tell my husband, “I want to sleep but I’m afraid I’ll bleed too much. Will you watch over me?” Within an hour, I was breathing oxygen through a mask as an ambulance whisked me to the hospital. What if I hadn’t listened and had just gone to sleep? This event convinced me to listen even more closely for wisdom. She’s pretty loud if I will only open my ears.

This month has seemed so long and so short. I learned a lot about life and myself I didn't realize I needed to learn. While I have felt the normal sadness, anger and depression that comes with loss, something else has taken over my current mood. About a week ago, I woke with a hope in my heart that sort of squashed that sad/numb feeling that had previously surrounded me. It was strong enough for me to choose to smile through my tears.

I still have sad moments and I’m sure they will continue to come at times but for now, I’m willing to take the pain along with the joy. It’s what reminds me I’m alive. 

March 14, 2011

Wake Up! It's Monday Already...

Guten Morgen. If you're snoring  while awake this morning (like I am because I stayed up way too late so I could hang with my handsome husband) and wondering how in the world you're going to make it to lunch, these links might help. Be sure to inhale your coffee with 6 shots of espresso (Heather!)
First, a laugh.
Next time you think you're having a bad day (life), imagine yourself as Mel Gibson in his latest movie. I know it's supposed to be serious but I laugh hysterically every time I see it.
Feel like lunch in a hip atmosphere with great service and delicious food and drink? This local place will hit the spot. They don't need my free advertising but I love them so here you go.
I saw this a while back. What would you consider a good value? 
Speaking of food, here's some suga' for you this morning. Amazing. 
Ok, just one more. These are incredible!
If you think you might need sugar when you get home tonight, try this healthy version. So yum.
I am filled with hope and joyful expectation when I hear this music.
And, I got the inspirational word of the day from a friend who read it to her son last night for a bedtime story. It really spoke to me.  
"You BECOME. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."   The Velveteen Rabbit - Thanks Renee'!
Good luck out there. Remember to enjoy this day.

March 9, 2011

Best Brownies Ever, A Respectful Variation on the Malgieri Brownie

Last week was my husband's 35th birthday and instead of a cake, he requested a chocolate brownie sundae that oozed chocolate. I had a sneaking suspicion he might be supporting my recent need to indulge in chocolate-y goodness every few days as exhibited by the fact that the only recipes I've posted lately have been chocolate. But I resolutely pushed aside my conspiracy theorist tendencies and got to work. A brownie sundae begins with the perfect brownie and I intended to find it.

But first - I have a confession to make. Please, don't judge me too harshly.

I have never been a big brownie fan. They have never done it for me. While I love dark chocolate, I prefer it in creamy desserts like mousse or a chocolate creme brulee. So, I knew the brownie would have to be the perfect texture and flavor to tempt me. And, I figured if I could find a recipe to tempt a non-brownie lover like me, my intended audience would be happy too.

I started with a brownie from the Smitten Kitchen, one of my favorite sites. See it here. I liked the description of the recipe she posted because it was so easy, used only cocoa powder and didn't require my tempering any chocolate. But, when I tasted the finished product, the cocoa powder bitterness stood out to me. I didn't do the brownie any flavors by leaving it in the oven just a minute or two too long (classic brownie error!). It was still chewy fudge-y but I could tell I'd overdone it. It was not a bad brownie by any means - just not the one I was looking for. By the way, if you haven't visited the Smitten Kitchen yet, you should. She's a really funny writer, the pictures are great and the food is phenomenal. You'll love me for it!

Next, I tried the Best Brownie EVA recipe over at the feeding time blog. And, in classic "Monna" style, I altered it by adding just a little cocoa powder since I wanted it to be SUPER chocolate-y. And, it was. But, the cocoa powder definitely gave the brownies a bitter flavor. More importantly, when those brownies came out, I realized the real problem.

I thought I wanted a fudge-y brownie. But, both those fudge brownie recipes seemed heavy, flat muddled. I wanted a taller, chewier brownie with a with a crispy top that would showcase the flavor of chocolate and finish with chocolate chunks melting into my mouth. I'm serious about chocolate.

Know how they say third time's the charm? Well, it was. In my insane perusal of hundreds of brownie recipes to find the perfect one (maybe that's an exaggeration but barely. I spent way too many hours on this project!), I stumbled across several forums frequented by people much closer to "nuts" about brownies than me. We're talking some seriously passionate, brownie-pated individuals! Several of them referred to a recipe for Supernatural Brownies by a guy named Nick Malgieri as the ultimate brownie. I had to find it.

Sure enough, I discovered the recipe in another of my favorite places. The website for the American Public Media radio show called The Splendid Table, hosted by Lynne Rosetto Kasper had the recipe posted here.

By now I'd learned a few things about brownies, so I tweaked it just a leeeee-tle. I just can't help myself. I have a chronic tendency to change recipes.

And, this one nailed it. I can't tell you what your taste in brownies should be. But, if you want the best brownie you've ever tasted, try this one. Despite the fact that it requires tempering, it's pretty darn easy. By the way, no cocoa powder. 

Notes: The pan you use in a brownie recipe makes a big difference. I used a metal Nordicware quarter sheet. That's smaller than Mr. Malgieri's recipe calls for but the smaller size lets the brownie puff up to the height I wanted while still allowing it to remain chewy. If you use a bigger pan, shorten your cooking time. If you use glass, lower the temp 25 degrees to prevent burnt and squishy brownies. Yuck.
For the record, I've been having problems with my oven, thus the wide variance in baking times. But, I'd rather have a slightly underdone brownie than an overcooked one.
Finally, for those of you who would argue this is NOT a brownie with baking powder in it, I have only to say - I don't care. It tastes DELICIOUS!

Best Brownies Ever, A Respectful Variation on the Malgieri Brownie

16 tablespoons butter (I used salted and decreased the salt in the recipe)
10.5 oz bittersweet chocolate pieces (I used TJ's 85% bars. Reasonably priced with a smooth flavor)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
4 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour with 3/4 t. baking powder carefully stirred in (nothing worse than a bite of leavening)
1 1/2 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips


Quarter sheet (12x9x1) baking pan with parchment paper and let a little hang over the sides
1. Preheat oven to 350F and set oven rack in the middle
2. Bring a saucepan of water to boil and turn down to med-low. Set a heat proof bowl over the pan and combine butter and chocolate until melted. Whisk thoroughly.
3. Remove the chocolate mixture from heat and add sugar. Whisk until sugar is nearly dissolved. 
4. Let mixture cool to just warm (as in, not enough to cook eggs!) and add eggs one at a time and whisk. .
5. Add salt and vanilla and whisk. 
6. Add flour and baking powder to chocolate mixture and whisk until the batter takes on a sheen, about 1 minute. 
7. Add chocolate chips and stir in briefly.
8. Pour into prepared pan and spread evenly. 
9. Bake between 25-40 minutes. I started checking around 20 minutes. Having over-cooked a batch already, I didn't want to ruin this one. You really must do the toothpick test on a brownie. When it's done, it should have just a few damp-ish crumbs on the toothpick and spring back when you touch it with your finger. If your toothpick comes out dry, it's over-baked. Don't worry. Just eat that batch with ice cream and try again.

March 7, 2011

My Favorite Things (or How to Survive a Monday)

This morning finds me busy with lots - paying bills, running errands and picking up the groceries I didn't get on Friday because I was celebrating my husband's birthday and trying to find the PERFECT brownies for his birthday lunch. (I found it by the way - and I'll share this week!!) So, I thought I'd put together a list of some of my favorite things right now - and wish you a happy Monday!!! (hope you don't have a case of the muuuuunndays! Ack!)

It's mid morning, I bet you could use a laugh. Trust me, this will do it!

If you're one of those people who has a problem with Mondays, I have the perfect remedy. Do what you can to get through the day. Then, on your way home, make a quick stop to pick up some Crave Artisan Ice Cream. When you taste this, you'll want to pledge your undying love to me. (Or, maybe to the owner of Crave.) It's made with real cream and eggs in small batches. My first taste was of the salted caramel with almonds ice cream and I haven't been able to get past it to try anything else. It is simply DIVINE and I would eat it every day if I could!

Get distracted by some fun photography contest entries over at Pioneer Woman's blog.

Apparently, I'm only interested in creamy foods right now. No apologies. It's comfort food. Love chai and  this looks amazing!

If that doesn't do it for you. remember - you're a FIREWORK! lol. I guess I'm a sucker for corporate music and good marketing but I like this song.

More creamy foods. Plan lunch for tomorrow. If you haven't been to this local joint, your tongue/brain/stomach will thank me. Preferably by offering me a bite.

And, if you REALLY want to escape, imagine how fun this would be! 

Have a great Monday!

March 4, 2011

Rob Bell - Herald or Heretic?

This week, Rob Bell's video promo for his new book, Love Wins, ignited quite a controversy in the Christian community. If you haven't seen the video, check it out.

I usually don't touch on this subject. It's very private and dear to my heart. But I need to get this off my chest.

I watched Rob Bell’s video. It’s interesting that he doesn’t actually answer any of the questions he’s asking. Despite that, he’s already been labeled and discarded by some Christians. I guess it’s because these aren’t the safe questions allowed by Christian doctrine. Too scary.
But here's my real point.

I don't know what Bell’s conclusions will be in his as-yet-unreleased book. More importantly, I DON'T CARE what they are.

Because the real problem isn't whether someone like Bell, who has already identified himself as Christian, believes Christian doctrine as he should. Christians are supposed to believe that God gets to decide whether Bell is a believer or not, right? As I say this, I'm not suggesting Christians shouldn't know history/doctrine/faith tenants and hold true to them.

My real problem with this entire controversy is that it clearly illustrates a significant problem with a large portion of the Christian community. Here it is.

In Rob Bell's video, he voices genuine questions asked by people unschooled in church doctrine/language. The people who aren't familiar with "allowed & safe" Christian inquiry. These aren't "pie-in-the-sky" questions. These aren't shallow questions. These aren't questions that are just "excuses" for not choosing to believe in God - as some people I know suggest. They are the kind of questions asked by the people who are supposed to be the target of the Church’s love & evangelism.

These are the questions  real people I know and love - who came face to face with Christ from outside the church (and some from within it) - have seriously wrestled with in the hopes of finding something true, deep, transcendent to believe. I'm not talking about shallow people. I'm talking about people willing to seek truth, face doubt and grapple with questions that challenge the foundation of who they are, who God is and how we're supposed to live out life.

Many of these thoughtful truth seekers discovered there was no place for real questions in the  faith communities who originally claimed to welcome them "just as they were". Sadly, this is the reason many of those friends have walked away from Church. Yet others outside the Church won't even glance toward the God of Christianity because they believe there is no place for them to ask honest questions about life. 

Did you hear that?

How can the Church expect people outside the faith to want the God inside if current members are rejected for honest inquiry? Is the God of Christianity too small/afraid to handle it?

I don’t believe it.

In this blog, I always encourage honest inquiry and the thoughtful quest for wisdom. That is part of the journey. Life happens, good and bad, tragic and joyous. You know I don't say this lightly. I've faced loss and death and I'm not afraid to ask honest questions.

I'm also no longer afraid not to have all the answers. So, I'm not going to give any here. I would rather leave you with more questions than answers so that you can think for yourself about what you believe about God, life and our purpose here with each other. Because I believe that if we seek truth, it will answer. After all, it's not really faith if it can't stand up to doubt, right?

But, for believers, I want to point you to one of the most famous Bible chapters on love, the topic of Bell's new book.

1 Corinthians 13 isn’t just a text for weddings.It’s a message about the strength of real love. How it's not easily angered, believes and hopes for the best. Love is stronger than hate, prophesy, knowledge. It transcends the dim view we have of the full picture. I believe this is the fullness of who God is.

Not threatened at all by questions. Not afraid of genuine inquiry.

Read it again.



1 Corinthians 13 (New International Version, ©2011)

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

March 2, 2011

Garden update, March 2011

Can you believe it's already MARCH?!! I'm not sure where the last three months have gone but it's time to get moving on the garden. Thankfully, we can grow food all year long here in AZ, but there are a few things I really want to get in this month.

We started with my front flower bed this weekend. I worked on it before Christmas but left it in lasagna mode. I added lots of layers of dirt/straw/manure etc. to build up the dirt into something that would feed my plants! Check out how that process works here.  It hasn't been very pretty because I've been a little busy lately. Here's how it looked.

Little flower seedlings were popping up despite my neglecting it.
But - when my girls and I went out and turned over a few handfuls of dirt, look what we found!

Wormies! As my youngest would say.

My girls were very excited by this development. Not only did we find the few in my hand, we found over 30 worms in only 2 or 3 shovels full of dirt. (Thank you crazy rainy season!) The girls know that worms in the dirt are a sign of living soil because worms aerate the soil and leave special "fertilizer" that provide nutrients for our little garden. My oldest, who is super girlie, consented to touch one.  My two year old has no fear of "wormies" and wanted to hold one. She did pretty well and was very gentle.

She only smushed one.

It was an accident.

She was deeply concerned about it.

- For a two year old. -

We gently placed it back in the dirt and covered it.


We also put a few plants in the dirt. Of course, we choose to do it right before the rain started and the temps dropped. So, we'll see if these guys survive. Thankfully, nature is forgiving...

The front plants are Calendula and the back one is Borage.

Stay tuned! Updates on my other garden and plants to go in this time of year - to come soon
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