While not a bakery, per se, the Hunger Mountain Coop has a nice deli with homemade muffins, cookies, scones, and bagels, as well as brownies, individual pieces of cake (flourless chocolate, gluten free, cheesecake) and other dessert treats. They also have a coffee and espresso, which is why they qualify for the Bakery Tour. Sometimes we'll head to the coop when we also want to pick up a few groceries or need more of a picnic than just a croissant. But beware the chocolate peanut butter malt balls. They may be hidden in a little basket in the bulk food section, but once you discover them, they magically find their way into your cart every time. There is no escaping them.
On our last visit we tried the chocolate frosted macaroons and a peanut butter cookie. The big girls generously shared with me one.single.crumb of their macaroons, but neither crumb had frosting on it, so I can't say whether it was any good. I should know by now to get my own when it comes to chocolate in this family.
Even though I'm not writing as much as I want to, other people are! Here are a few links to posts I've really enjoyed lately.
A mom writes a letter to her children On Turning 40. It is full of wisdom, although I'm pretty sure Elaine is wise far beyond her forty years.
"I've thought a lot about what I would tell you on turning 40, and the thing that always comes back to me is how exceedingly lucky I am. I hope you never underestimate what a huge role luck plays in your lives. We don't have a lot of control in this world. Terrible things happen, wonderful things happen - and almost all of them are completely unexplainable, or their explanations ring hollow if given more than a moment's thought. I urge you not to dwell on either. Just keep moving forward - luck can turn on a dime. And wear a hat when it's sunny!"
Celebrating her 14th wedding anniversary, Stacey shares what she's learned over the years. As always, she'll have you exclaiming "Exactly!" out loud (for example, see #7!)
"7. Keep in mind the things he does. It’s so easy to get caught up in the things he doesn’t do. Like, just off the top of my head FOR EXAMPLE, we have a deal wherein going out after the kids’ bedtime is always okay. But if he goes out for beers, the kitchen is spotless when he gets home and when I go to wine night I’m lucky if the dishes have made it to the sink from the table. But. That is okay because I have never – in my entire life – so much as touched a lawn mower and I never will. He also kills spiders, builds playhouses, snakes drains, and cleans up all dog vomit, even if it happens during the day and I obnoxiously throw a towel over it so that I don’t have to look at it."
And if you have time, check out A Nation of Wimps... it's a long article, but worth the read.
"No one doubts that there are significant economic forces pushing parents to invest so heavily in their children's outcome from an early age. But taking all the discomfort, disappointment and even the play out of development, especially while increasing pressure for success, turns out to be misguided by just about 180 degrees. With few challenges all their own, kids are unable to forge their creative adaptations to the normal vicissitudes of life. That not only makes them risk-averse, it makes them psychologically fragile, riddled with anxiety. In the process they're robbed of identity, meaning and a sense of accomplishment, to say nothing of a shot at real happiness. Forget, too, about perseverance, not simply a moral virtue but a necessary life skill. These turn out to be the spreading psychic fault lines of 21st-century youth. Whether we want to or not, we're on our way to creating a nation of wimps."Happy reading!
We are two months into our new work schedule and I'm finding it harder and harder to find time for this space. I have a lot swirling around in my mind, but without stretches of time to let it settle during the day, the words don't come when I finally sit down to write at 9pm. Plus, I am much less excited to sit down at the computer at night when I've spent all day in front of it.
Once again, I find myself struggling to fit everything I want to do into the routine. There is always something that has to be temporarily juggled out, and I'm afraid that something is this space... at least for a while until I figure out how to work it back in, or rotate something else out.
So maybe this will be a once a week blog for now, or maybe it will be more recipes, book reviews, and pictures, and fewer words. Maybe someone will want to write a guest post?
In the meantime, any working moms out there with wisdom on how to juggle it all?
One of our favorite weekend rituals is to load the kids into the car, stop at a bakery/cafe, go for a nice long drive through the countryside while we sip our coffee, and end up someplace for the kids to play and eat a bakery treat. If we time it so that the nice long drive coincides with nap, Dave and I get to talk - with no interruptions (other than the unavoidable "I need to pee! She's touching me! I'm thirsty! Mom, she's putting her feet in Alexandra's face again!") It is an outing we look forward to all week.
We have our favorite bakeries, but we've noticed many others while driving around... so we've decided it would be a very good idea to try them all. A tour of Vermont bakeries. And so I introduce this new series:
I thought I'd kick off with an outing to our favorite bakery: Birchgrove Baking.
What I love most about Birchgrove is that everything they make is beautiful and they always have a selection that includes the basics (like almond croissants, savory scones, and chocolate chip cookies) as well gourmet pastries and desserts (like banana caramel tart and cherry pistachio orange cookies). You never know exactly what will be there and I love asking what everything is - if for no other reason than to hear about the ingredients and flavors they put together. Also, best lattes in town.
The kids love the cookies - chocolate chip is the favorite, but this week we were tempted by their sugar cookie.
I made Eating Well's chocolate cream pie for a school fundraiser this weekend - it was (way too) easy, delicious and very chocolatey. I used a store-bought gluten free crust this time, but the original recipe calls for a chocolate wafer crust (which I've also made before and is quite good). The filling is pudding-like, so it works with no crust, too.
My favorite part is pile of chopped chocolate...
(See Eating Well for crust recipe and tips for decorating)
- 2/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- Pinch of salt
- 2 1/2 cups low-fat milk
- 2 large eggs
- 4 ounces chopped bittersweet chocolate
- Combine sugar, cornstarch and salt in a large saucepan.
- Whisk milk and eggs in a medium bowl, then whisk into the sugar mixture.
- Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until bubbles begin to form around the edges.
- Cook, stirring vigorously, for 2 minutes more. Strain through a sieve into a large bowl.
- Whisk in chocolate until completely melted.
- Pour the filling into (your preferred) crust. Press a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface to prevent a “skin” from forming. Refrigerate until firm, about 3 hours.
- Spoon or pipe (with a pastry bag) 10 dollops of whipped cream around the edge of the pie. Garnish with chocolate curls.
I have never bought a stuffed animal for my children (although Santa brought a puppy, and the Easter Bunny brought a rabbit). But look all the friends who attended Eastie's birthday party (and this is only half the attendees)!
I don't have anything against stuffed animals, it's just that we have too many. Every time I try to cut down the population, I remember who gave us what and when and get all sentimental about it. I'm not like this about anything else - usually I quite enjoy getting rid of stuff, to the point where the kids have turned "disappear" into a verb, as in, "Mom, are you going to disappear my balloon tonight?" But apparently, despite my general indifference towards them, I have a weakness for stuffed animals.
A fresh space for a new year.
One afternoon, a year ago today, when all three children were miraculously napping at the same time, this blog was created out of a caffeine high combined with a maternity leave "I can do anything" mentality. I initially tried to get my friend Sarah to co-author a blog called SisterWives, but that never happened. So YellowLadybird it was.
Happy one year!
Let's reflect back on that first post: Oatmeal Honey Cookies. I think this is as good an excuse as any to bake.
A while back I wrote an essay on my experience with miscarriage. Stop over at Mamalode to read it!
To lighten things up around here, I saw one of those Facebook parenting cards with this caption on it:
First child eats dirt. Parent calls doctor. Second child eats dirt. Parent cleans out mouth. Third child eats dirt. Parent wonders if she really needs to feed him lunch.
So very true.
Over the past few months, I've attended a few rallies in support of our local GunSense Group, and I've heard some pretty impressive people speak about the gun problem in our country. I wish I could remember exactly who said what so I could give credit appropriately, but at least I can share their wisdom.
A Public Health Issue
There are over 30,000 gun-related deaths each year in the U.S. (11,000 assault, 19,000 intentional self-harm), and each year nearly 20,000 American children and teens are shot. This is a public health issue. To give some perspective, an average of 500 people die from the flu each year (1), which is considered enough of a public health issue that the government spends millions on the flu vaccine to prevent that number from being greater. Gun violence should be treated as a public health issue and we should respond as we do to other public health issues: we should do something.
Guns or Mental Health Care or Video Games?
The pro-gun side says the problem is our mental health system, not guns; and if it's not our mental health care system, then it is violent video games. But it is definitely not guns because guns don't kill people, people kill people.
According to the World Health Organization, we are in the same range of spending on our mental health care system as other developed nations. In fact, we spend more on our mental health care system than France does (2). Yet our murder rate is roughly 15 times greater than those countries (3). The difference isn't our mental health care system, it is the fact that we have more guns per capita than any other country, with almost three times as many guns per capita than most European countries (4).
Well, then it must be the violent video games (which, by the way, gun companies use to market their products, making it rather ironic that they then blame these videos for gun violence). I think we are all disturbed by this phenomena in our country. I cringe to think of children playing games entitled Bulletstorm, Splatterhouse, and Kindergarten Killers. But still, if we are to blame gun violence on video games, we would expect to see a violent video game - gun violence correlation in other countries. Japan, a country that allows the sale of video games even more violent than those allowed in the U.S. (5), had 11 gun-related deaths in 2008. Eleven. In the U.S., there were over 12,000. The difference? Japan has very strict gun laws and almost no guns.
Gun Laws and the 2nd Amendment
America loves its guns. We are a hunting society. It is our constitutional right to own a gun. Like it or not, we need to take that into consideration when writing new laws to reduce gun violence.
Leaving Background Checks and the Assault Weapon Ban aside for a minute, consider the following proposals, none of which violate the constitutional right.
A Safe Storage* law would require gun owners to keep their weapons locked in a safe. This, at the very least, would prevent children from gaining access to a gun. Just as there are extensive requirements for barriers around residential swimming pools so that neighborhood children do not drown, it is reasonable to require safe storage laws for guns on residential property so that neighborhood children are not shot.
A Reckless Ownership Penalty would hold adults accountable for their guns. For example, if an adult's reckless practice enables a child to access a gun and subsequently injure or kill someone, that adult would be held responsible.
A National Registry would require gun owners to register their gun. This would help prevent the illegal sale of guns. Of course, if we have no restrictions on who owns a gun, this isn't really necessary, but it would help enforce a Reckless Ownership Penalty.
Require gun owners to purchase Weapon Insurance to cover damage caused with their weapon, such as victim's health care and/or property damage costs.
None of these four laws threaten the 2nd Amendment. They do not restrict gun ownership in any way. They only aim to make gun ownership safer and protect the public from gun violence. Some states have some of these laws, but they should all be passed at the federal level.
If we are objective, we have to recognize that Health and Criminal Background Checks and Assault Weapon Bans do aim to restrict the 2nd Amendment, and as much as they are common sense laws to us common sense folks, they may need a little extra explanation for those who so fervently protect "the right of people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."
Require Reporting Mental Health Data to the National Instant Check System. Pro gun people talk about fortifying the mental health system. Well, this law would do that. It would help prevent disturbed individuals who are prone to violence from going on shooting sprees.
A Background Check would prevent individuals convicted of a violent crime from purchasing a gun. To me, this is a no brainer, and I'm a little surprised the pro gun folks are so concerned with the rights of convicted felons. As for the law-abiding citizens who would be subjected to the inconvenience of a background check? I can’t imagine that any decent citizen would mind undergoing a background check if it meant saving even one child’s life from gun violence.
An Assault Weapon Ban would prevent mass murders, like Columbine, Virginia Tech, Newtown, to name a few. There is no reason for assault weapons. None of the hunters I know need or use an assault weapon, nor do they want to be in the woods with someone who does. For those who enjoy using assault weapons for recreational shooting, either use blanks or go to a shooting range where such weapons are available for use on the premise. These military weapons are not designed for personal use. At the time the constitution was written, nothing even close to these killing machines had been invented, therefore they should not fall under the definition of "Arms."
An Assault Weapon Ban is drastic, and some people say it wouldn't make a difference given there are already (approximately) 3 million assault weapons in our country (6). This is a problem, there is no doubt about that. But we can solve this problem. We have solved many more difficult problems than this. Polio was a problem, and we solved it. Getting to the moon was a problem, and we solved that. We can solve the problem of existing assault weapons in our country.
Why can't we fix this problem?
I'll get into that in the next post.
*A common counter-argument to the Safe Storage proposal is that keeping a gun locked in a safe prevents one from using a gun in self-defense, and therefore violates the 2nd Amendment. For example, an armed intruder enters your house in the night and your gun is locked up such that you can't access it to shoot the intruder before he shoots you. To this I say, the number of times this type of scenario will occur and result in a gun-related death is not likely to come close to the 20,000 instances of children and teens who are shot each year. So if you are concerned about an armed intruder, carry your gun secured on you during your waking hours and invest in a high quality alarm system at night so that your gun can be stored safely.
I don't consider this a space for political discussions, but gun violence has become a parenting issue and so I have decided to write about it.
I am so very disappointed with what happened today. The fact is that 90% of Americans support background checks, but the bill still didn't pass. This is just a small glimpse of a serious and deeply disturbing problem in our country. But before I get into the legislative debate, I'd like to explain why it is so personal to me.
On May 20, 1988, a mentally ill woman with a history of violence went into one of our town's elementary schools and shot one first grader and five second graders. One died. Two were the siblings of my 7th grade peers. The woman then fled the school, entered a house and shot a twenty-year-old before killing herself. My parents, who had been at a meeting at the junior high when the call came in, went to the school to help and served as first responders.
It is difficult to write about that day, what it did to our community. I can state the facts, but not more than that. My sister, who was in second grade at the time, recently commented that none of her friends ever talk about it, and I have noticed that, too, among my friends. Twenty-five years later we still can't find words to describe the horror of that day. There is nothing we can say that even touches it, so we say nothing. But it lives in us and always will, and every time another school shooting occurs, the vivid pain and grief of that day comes rushing back.
There have been many school shootings since the one in my town, and each time I try to shrug it off and block out the information and images. I've already been through that, I've already grieved for children shot. But Newtown is different. I am a mother now, and not only that, I am a mother to a six-year-old. I have spent two Thanksgivings with friends in Newtown. My children have played on a Newtown playground. I ran in the Newtown Thanksgiving Road Race. I cannot shrug off the horror or block out the information. I am haunted by images of children with holes through their little bodies, lying still on the floor. I can too easily see my daughter's face on one of those lifeless bodies, still in the clothes she had picked out the night before. I have to force these images out of my mind on a daily basis. But even when I succeed in suppressing them, the grief cuts in when I least expect it - when I am combing my daughter's hair before school, reminding her to sit still at the dinner table, kissing her goodnight at bedtime. I can barely grasp the pain that overwhelms me before my mind's reflex rejects it, leaving me empty, anxious and depressed. All of this grief... and I am not even part of the Newtown community.
After the shooting in my home town, I rationalized that it would not happen again. It was a once in a lifetime, random tragedy. Surely measures would be taken to solve whatever problem there was in the system. But it has happened again. It keeps on happening. Here we are twenty-five years later and nothing has been done. In fact, gun ownership has increased, military-style assault weapons are available to anyone who wants one, and there are approximately 11,000 gun-related deaths per year in our country.
And today congress voted down a simple, sensible law that would require a background check before purchasing a gun… a law that 90% of Americans supported.
That is all I can write today.
Living in DC, it was really nice having one little car. Then when we decided to have a third kid, everyone told us we'd need a bigger car, so naturally we dug in our heels to prove we did not need a bigger car.
Now that Alexandra is getting longer (and we have experienced our first "mud season"), we may need to rethink our car situation. But not yet. We are going to hang onto our little Versa for as long as we can.
I just finished reading Bringing up Bébé, which I loved. One of Druckerman's observations is that in American kids' books there is usually a problem, a struggle, and a happy resolution, "Lessons are learned, and life gets better" (p. 162). Stepping back, I see how true this cultural phenomenon is, and I wonder, is this another automatic and empty reflex that has blindly taken over children's literature the way "good jobbing" has taken over parent talk? Do we really want to communicate to our children that life is full of neat and tidy endings? Because I have yet to experience that kind of life and I'm not sure raising our kids to believe it will make it so...
To avoid turning my children into anxious underachievers who will never ever succeed in life because they are wasting away in a neurotic spiral of doom while waiting for that happy ending promised in all the childhood stories I ever told them... here is my first Curative Story à la française.
Curative Story: Molly Artiste
Once upon a time there was a bunny, and her name was Molly bunny. Molly bunny lived in the forest with her mama bunny and her daddy bunny. Molly bunny was 6 years old and loved to draw. Every afternoon while her mama was cooking carrot stew, Molly bunny would sit on the stump with her favorite long stick and draw pictures in the dirt. She drew tall trees, little flowers with petals, bumble bees, butterflies, and even her best friend, Agoo the chipmunk.
One day, Molly bunny was drawing a picture of a tree she had recently discovered in the forest. It was an old tree with many strong branches. One branch held a bird's nest and another had a long rope swing that a little girl would sometimes stop to play on when she took a walk in the woods. Molly bunny was trying to draw the girl on the rope swing. She frowned in concentration as she dragged the stick across the earth to make the rope hang down from the tree. Then she drew a head and a body and arms to make the girl. Molly bunny looked at what she had drawn and it didn't look like a girl on a rope swing at all. She smoothed the dirt to erase the girl and tried again. It still didn't look right. Molly bunny threw her stick in frustration and yelled, "This is NOT working!"
"Molly!" exclaimed mama bunny, looking up from her stew, "what's wrong?" "This drawing in terrible," said Molly bunny angrily. Mama bunny came over to look at it. "Hmmm," she said, "what don't you like about it?" "It doesn't look like a girl on a rope swing. It doesn't look like anything. It's terrible!" And with that Molly jumped down onto her picture and stirred up all the dirt until no picture was left.
Mama bunny sighed. "Well, you could draw something else. Or try it again. But it might not look the way you want it to. Sometimes art is like that." Molly bunny looked at her mama. "I really want to draw the girl on the rope swing," she said, gazing at a clean patch of dirt. She picked up her stick and started over. After a few minutes she stepped back and looked at her drawing. The tree looked good, she thought, but it still didn't look like a girl on a rope swing.
Molly tossed her stick aside. Her artwork was not working today, she decided. So she hopped off the stump and went to gather stones to play hopscotch instead.
When we moved to Vermont I was ready for a real winter. I faced it full of energy, prepared for a good 4-5 months of cold and snow. But now it is April and my "I love winter" energy has run out. Leftover dirty, icy snow covers our yard and the wind is still chilly. It feels like we're in some sort of no man's land - winter is over but spring feels far away.
I can't help but long for DC... March and April are my favorite months in DC (or maybe I should say DC is my favorite place in March and April), and I'm pretty sure they are my least favorite months in Vermont.
Vermont in April:
DC in April:
I won't miss DC's 90+ degrees from May-September, but right now? I'm kind of wishing I were there.