March 25, 2013

Adventures in Vegan Baking: Morning Glory Muffins

Yesterday, we woke up to a snow storm. Despite my excitement for our celebrating Palm Sunday at church and with good friends, we were NOT going to trek down the mountain yesterday.

So we put on comfy sweats, and Emmett went down easy for a morning nap, and I baked my little heart out over a recipe I've been dying to try. Have you ever heard of Morning Glory Muffins? They find their roots in the 1970's, and the more I go searching, the more I see you can pretttyyy much add anything to these muffins and they're still delicious. The premise is carrots, dried fruit, nuts, cinnamon, but after that? It's like a choose your own adventure recipe.

My first variation yesterday turned out SO good. Seriously the best muffins I've probably ever had. That batch made 18, and this morning there was only one left. I repeat, one muffin. They were that good. (Please remember that 5 adults live here, so Neil and I weren't being TOTAL gluttons yesterday). I decided to try another variation today, since the original intention was for breakfast muffins for the week, and today's only Monday so we definitely needed more!

The first muffin was a little bit on the really moist/dense side (not gonna lie, I LOVED it that way), so I decided to try a different egg substitute in the second batch to balance it out and make it a little more muffin-y. They look a little bit more appetizing, and are still scrumptious. They're a little fluffier, had a bit more crunch (since I added sunflower seeds in the second go-around), and they would probably sell better in a bakery just because they could appeal more to the masses, I suppose. (My vote is still for muffin 1, but the point is to show you that variations are welcome!).

So, both of my ingredient lists are below, and the basic instructions carry over no matter which add-ins you dare to bake into your recipe. I made mine vegan by subbing applesauce in the first batch (1/4 cup=1 egg), and used pumpkin puree in the second version (1/3 cup=1 egg). I love that this particular basic recipe (that I used as my inspiration) doesn't call for any butter or white sugar, and it uses whole wheat flour so I just feel better already for consuming as many as I have these past two days :) I've read about Morning Glory Muffins that use pineapple (fresh, canned, crushed), all different kinds of nuts, and vegan, paleo, gluten-free, versions, etc. Really, you can't go wrong with a muffin that tastes a little bit like carrot cake and a lot a bit like heaven. ;)

Vegan Morning Glory Muffins
Round One Ingredients:
1/2 cup dried cranberries
2 cups Whole Wheat Flour
1 cup brown sugar
2 tsp. baking soda
2 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. salt
3 medium carrots
1 tart green apple (I left the skin on, because I love it!)
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/3 cup quick cooking oats
3/4 cup applesauce 
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 cup orange juice

Round Two Ingredients: (differences in second recipe are italicized)
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup raisins (added these in because we love 'em in our house)
2 cups Whole Wheat Flour
1 cup brown sugar
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. ground cinnamon (I was running out of cinnamon so I just reduced the amt. slightly)
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. salt
2 medium carrots (one fewer than in recipe 1)
1/2 of a zucchini (I love zucchini baked into sweets so this was a fun addition)
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/3 cup quick-cooking oats
1/3 cup sunflower seeds (the original recipe called for these; added wonderful texture!)
1 cup pumpkin puree
2 tbsp applesauce (I added this in for the moisture/flavor/to sub the green apple)
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 cup orange juice
Let's Make Muffins
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Prepare muffin tins for baking (use baking cups or oil).
2. In a small bowl, cover your dried fruit with hot tap water and let soak.
3. Grate carrots/zucchini/apple by hand or with a food processor.
4. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, brown sugar, baking soda, spices and salt.
5. Drain the dried fruit and add to the flour mixture, along with the carrots, apple, coconut, oats, and seeds.
6. In a separate bowl, whisk together vegetable oil, vanilla extract, orange juice and your applesauce and/or pumpkin.
7. Add your wet mixture into the dry and use a rubber spatula to stir until evenly moistened.
8. Scoop into muffin tins (fill 'em up!). These muffins do not really rise, so you want to be generous in your scoops!
9. Bake the muffins for about 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted to the center of a muffin comes out clean. I experimented in making a few mini muffins and they only took about 14 minutes.
10. Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes before removing from pans.
11. Enjoy with a cup of coffee or a cold glass of orange juice! (These lend themselves really well to inducing an orange juice craving). Milk/vanilla soy milk/almond milk on the side would do just as well!
Yields about 18 muffins

The Round One Muffins
Round Two, looking a little more muffin-y
Hey, Mama Muffin
Muffin One, in all her glory
Muffin Two. I see you, little zucchini flakes!

Okay, so now that I'm done trying new things (vegan baking, instagram photos to make myself feel better about my food photography, doing a recipe post), I'm going to wrap up with something familiar and close to my heart. Clearly, that means pictures of the sweetest little man I know.


Love, muffins, and snow in spring,
Mama Bird

P.S. What would you add to your Morning Glory Muffins? If you try these, let me know what you think!

March 23, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Remember

 Today I'm joining Lisa-Jo Baker for Five Minute Friday, where we write for five minutes flat and join in a chorus of raw, honest writing around her one-word prompts. Today, we write about 'remember.' Will you join us? Head on over to Lisa-Jo's blog and link-up!


Memories lie dormant; we forget they're there until suddenly, a word, a song, a smell, a color, a touch, a texture, starts that churning. Out of apparently nowhere, slips a memory to the forefront of our minds.

I see a warm light yellow color and think of my voice teacher's piano studio in high school. It reminded me of sunflowers and made me feel good about myself.

I hear the familiar notes of an old favorite song come on the radio, and I'm instantly back riding in the car with my best friend, or dancing in my room at home with my sister, or nursing a broken heart from a high school fling.

I taste the tangy, sweet lemonade and think about visiting my great-grandmother in the nursing home when I was a young girl. Lemonade, and lemon bars, and lemon products to clean and cover up the stale smell. All lemon. I remember Helen.

I touch the stretchy winter fabrics of the clothes I go through to pack away. These were the dresses I wore during my winter of rubbing my rounding tummy and coming to love the child growing inside.

I smell my mother's perfume and I think back to my first ballet recital. The frenzy backstage, as we pulled on our pink tights and sequined costumes, and wore our hair pulled back in tight buns, and watched the older girls waltz through the room in their bright lipstick and confidence, and I felt so nervous. She sprayed some on my wrist before we lined up to go onstage and told me to smell it if I felt scared. The perfume she sprayed on my wrist before every recital, show, performance thereafter. The perfume that makes me feel brave enough.

My senses help me remember these moments through the years, whether they come back sharp and stabbing, dull and warm, or just bring a comforting smile to my face, I'm thankful that I have a way to look back and think upon the moments that make up a life.


The Little Adventures // 2

// A series of pictures. Maybe a few words. Here's a glimpse into our week... //

I had a bit of a rough week with Emmett. I'll be honest. I was not joyful, or content, or even the least bit at peace with being a stay at home mama. He didn't sleep very well (but for one night of a solid 10 hours surprisingly), was refusing to eat, and was just generally clingy/fussy. I'd been looking forward to attending the mom's group on Thursday morning that has started to be a beam of light in my weeks, not just for the fellowship and prayer, but also for the opportunity to have some time to myself. I was ready for Emmett to try the nursery for the first time ever, after weeks of observing their system, feeling comfortable with the women who would be watching him, and carefully packing detailed instructions that morning. My pager went off to come back down and check on him after only about 25 minutes. I rushed down and heard him crying hysterically from down the hall and scooped him up in my arms and covered his little face in kisses and wiped his tears away and rocked him to quiet him down. He started getting fussy any time I made a movement towards leaving him, so I brought him back into my mom's group, tears stinging in my eyes for having seen him that upset, but also in deep selfishness/exhaustion for just wanting a little bit of time to myself.

Neil is watching Emmett all day today so that I can have the day 'off' to recharge. I am having a chance to do things I've been wanting to do for a long time (try a Zumba class, sit in a coffee shop and write, treat myself to a healthy lunch out without baby hands grabbing at my plate), but also to reflect on this past week. I want to figure out how I can try to change my heart to feel more content with this place I am in life right now and be at peace with where the Lord has me. The biggest struggle at the moment is the lack of sleep, and the lack of time to remember who I am outside of 'mama.'

A passage from Philippians 4 came up in my devotional study on Thursday (I'm doing a SheReadsTruth 18-day study to try to get back into the habit of quiet time with the Lord). I've been chewing on this passage a lot since then. Also, the highlight of this week has been strapping Emmett into his carrier and going for quiet walks on the farm to pray and breathe in the spring that is in the mountain air.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  -Philippians 4: 4-7



What are the little adventures or words that have filled your heart this week?

Mama Bird

March 15, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Rest

Today I'm joining Lisa-Jo Baker for Five Minute Friday, where we write for five minutes flat and join in a chorus of raw, honest writing around her one-word prompts. Today, we write about 'rest.' Will you join us? Head on over to Lisa-Jo's blog and link-up! **Char, I'm looking at you!!! You need to try it this week!**


I love mornings with my little boy. Coffee is brewed while I put him in his highchair and we chatter through the preparation of our breakfasts. He keeps me on my toes as I airplane the spoon towards his mouth and try to get him to eat as much as possible before he is ready to be down and playing again. While I sit in a rocking chair and sip on my coffee, sunlight comes in the window from behind me, and Emmett rolls and crawls and pulls and pushes and reads and climbs and laughs around the living room and I brace myself for the day ahead of us. We play hard for a long while, until I start to see those eyes getting heavy.

He fights sleep. I scoop him up and rock him a little bit. I give him a bottle while I stroke his hair and coax him towards napping with a soft prayer or story; the humming of our favorite hymn. He's almost to the point of giving in and suddenly hears the chirp of a bird from outside, the creakings in the floorboards above us as someone moves around and gets ready for their day, etc. I carry him downstairs to our little apartment, and pull him into the nest of quilts on our bed. We look at the colors and textures and patterns of each quilt. I point out my favorite patterns on the quilt made by Neil's grandmother; he loves to play with the yarn that ties together pieces of another quilt that was gifted to us as a wedding present. We play peek-a-boo and he giggles as I tickle him. Those tired eyes just won't give up.

Finally, at some point, he'll curl up like a little cat, cozy and nuzzled against me, and I just stay there with him. They say 'sleep when baby sleeps, rest when baby rests.' As much as our lack of recent sleep leaves me relatively exhausted, I cannot fall asleep in those late morning naps. There is something peaceful, quiet, beautiful about watching the rise and fall of his little chest and staring at his soft little cheeks, rosy with warmth and perfect for little kisses. There is a filling up for me in lying there, thinking about how lucky I am that I get to love this little boy for the rest of my life. And that gives me the rest I need in the quiet before he awakes once more.


March 9, 2013

The Produce Aisle

The grocery store has become a really special place for me on days when Emmett is in the mood to go shopping. I love watching him take in the world, and there are a lot of interesting people and things for him to look at while I dream of the meals I'll cook for the week and search for the best finds to stick within our weekly grocery budget.

When he is in an especially good mood, I love taking my time and introducing him to the fruits and veggies in the produce section. I tell him, 'yellow pepper' and take his tiny hand and glide it over the shiny, smooth vegetable and repeat, 'yellow, Emmett.' We go past the cold and watery lettuce and look at the 'orange, long carrots' to find ourselves introduced to mangoes and tomatoes and avocados. I don't know who enjoys this game more. The shapes, colors, textures are a whole new world for Emmett; the idea of slowing down and looking at the shapes, colors, and textures rather than rushing to fill my cart is a new adventure for me.

Today, Emmett was not in one of those moods though. I was a little disappointed as we had hardly gotten past the display of bananas when I realized Emmett was way too tired/overstimulated to do a full week's shop. I figured we could pick up at least a few items, and Neil and I tried passing him back and forth while we wrestled with the cart, a fidgeting, fussy eight-month old, and trying to remember what we needed since I hadn't written down a list. I ended up with Emmett on my hip as I stood in front of the citrus fruits, trying to contemplate whether I'd go for the 5.99 bag of huge navel oranges (a splurge, but a delicious treat), or stick with my normal staple of the green apple bag, when suddenly Emmett got quiet. I looked down at him and saw his big gummy smile and his shining eyes and followed his adoring gaze to see what, or who, he had found.

She was older, probably in her mid-eighties. She had white hair curled softly around her face, and she had the creases around her eyes that only come from years of smiling. She and Emmett were waving at each other and she was laughing a cheerful little chuckle that made me stop and laugh along with them. She asked me his name and told me she loved it. She watched him wave and then hide his face in my neck and peek up at her again. She told me he was a smart baby. She asked me how old he was and said he was a big boy. This woman had clearly spent a lifetime around children. Whether she was a mother herself, and now a grandmother and maybe even great-grandmother, or had spent years in a classroom or as a nurse, I wasn't sure. What I did know is that she was gentle and that children love her and she knows how to connect with them. Emmett clung to me and nuzzled his little head on my shoulder, and she told me, 'That boy loves his mama.' I nodded my head and beamed. My heart felt like it could burst, warm, and full, and so aware of this truth.

I have been surprised over the past eight months or so with the length of time it has taken me to connect with Emmett on a very deep level. I think I had an expectation (that many women carry with them) about what it would be like the first time I met my son, and what it would be like when we brought him home from the hospital, and how I would know that I loved him more than anything else in the world. When we met him for the first time, all pink and crying and wet from the womb, tears fell down my face and I knew that I loved him. He hushed when my husband whispered his name. Our boy was here. But between the post-partum depression I experienced for the first few months, and Emmett's severe colic and acid reflux, those first months were far from the joy I had always expected upon entering motherhood. It felt more like a haze that I could only move through slowly, barely feeling like I was surviving from one fussy day to one sleepless night at a time.

In living with Neil's parents, I have experienced help from my in-laws that I will never fully be able to thank them for. In a time when I needed that support most, my mother-in-law stepped in and helped me learn how to mother. I watched her calm him and feed him and he came to love her and I watched and thought at times, 'what if my baby doesn't know who his mama is? what if he doesn't love me?'

It has taken me longer than other mamas I know to fall in love with being a mom. It's taken me a while to feel completely confident (without having to ask all of the time 'is this how you do it? what if I mess up? can you help me?'), and it's taken me even longer to finally get into the groove of our daily routine and know how to respond best to Emmett's needs and show him well the love that he needs. I have never doubted that I loved him, singing him to sleep at night, and feeling my heart swell with each smile, and feeling proud of him when he learns something new, and bathing him in prayer all day long. But I have wondered if he loves me back.

I see it now.I watch him search for me when I leave the room for a minute and I see him light up when I walk back in. He eats the best for me (oh, the challenges of getting this boy to eat these days), as I sing him his favorite songs and spoon his food towards his little bird mouth. I know that he is comforted by me when he's hurting or sad, and my chest is the one he falls asleep against best when he just needs to be held. I know that my baby boy needs me, but more than anything else, he loves me dearly. Our love for each other is growing yet, and it is like nothing else in this world to know that love.

I cherish the words of the woman in the produce aisle today. I write them here, and in my journal, and will probably think back on that observation and profound statement many times in the months and years ahead (especially when things get challenging). I'm so thankful to know, and to know with confidence, that this boy does love his mama.

March 7, 2013

The Little Adventures // 1

// A new series. A single picture (or a few of my favorites) from the week's adventures. A few words that are on my heart... //

This week, my pictures remind me of quiet hope. Light coming in a window. A child exploring. A visit from a dear friend. Walks on the farm. Watching my little boy awake from a sweet afternoon nap.
“It is spring again. The earth is like a child that knows poems by heart.” - Rainer Maria Rilke

What are the little adventures that have filled your week?

Mama Bird

March 6, 2013

The Gray Hair Dance

I found my first gray hair last night. Before I took a shower, I pulled my hair down from its perpetual bun and combed through my tangled hair with my fingers. (I'm a mama! I can't wear my hair down lest it be yanked on by my boy's sticky little hands!)

But alas, there it was, glistening in the fluorescent light of the bathroom. I almost mistook it for a blonde hair, but oh no, there it was doing a little gray hair dance; shorter than my other hair and very thin. I was simultaneously terrified and giddy. In the end, I decided to celebrate. After my shower and a new bun for my now-graying-hair, I marched upstairs and called everyone into the living room. I made my husband and in-laws gather under a lamp by the green armchair my father-in-law was sitting in. I ordered them all to lean in so that I could announce my findings. I slowly unfolded a dark piece of paper with my trophy of silver lying there for all to see. I trumpeted, 'I found my first gray hair, everyone!" They all laughed and welcomed me to the club and I felt so proud. My husband teased me that he found his first gray hair a decade ago (he rocks that salt-and-peppery look so well), but last night felt like a rite of passage for me for some reason.

I jokingly blamed it on my son/being a new mom. I know a large part of it has to do with genetics and possibly stress, but for some reason it made me feel like I have suddenly emerged into a new level of adulthood.

Recently, my husband and I have really been finding that as much as we miss the independence of being young 20-somethings with the freedom to stay out late, spend money a little more freely, and put our social lives at the forefront of our priorities, we're coming to really love our 'new lives' as parents. We really are cherishing the early bedtimes curled up in bed together watching a favorite show, making Emmett laugh as hard as we can and watching him grow and learn, cuddling with our son on Sunday afternoons, and most importantly, learning to put family first. It feels pretty remarkable to see that gray hair and know it's not a reflection of me being an old haggard mom, but rather a beautiful sign of a life I've grown into and have come to truly love.

March 1, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Ordinary

Today is Friday. Recently, the only day I've been posting (ah, the life of a mama with a mobile, teething 8-month old!). But I'm posting on Fridays right now because I love these five minutes of writing. I write with others who bring their hearts to the table for five minutes, too, and on Fridays we get to read and encourage one another. This week, we're all writing on the word, 'Ordinary.' We'd love for you to join us! Head on over to Lisa-Jo Baker's blog and link up!


I watched her from behind my coffee, notebook in hand, writing down any observations I could find. Our assignment was, 'Choose a stranger. Watch how they move. Get their walk into your body. Come in on Tuesday with their walk. You will create a character from this. You will write their story.'

It was for a theatre class, this assignment. I was totally in my element and so excited to find the person who would inspire several weeks of character development and monologue writing. I chose the most ordinary looking stranger I could find. Someone who kind of blended in with the crowd, a person's story who could be wide open. She wore a baggy sweater and her hair was a bit messy. She was carrying several tote bags and some groceries and looked like she should be in a rush, but was a little bit weighed down and moving slowly. I worked over the course of half a semester to draw out my 'character's' profession, insecurities, passions, place in this world. At that time, I was much more interested in creating my own story for her than thinking about what I find myself reflecting upon tonight.

If someone watched me for a class assignment, or even just observed me in passing, what would they see?

I think back on that assignment and that 'ordinary' stranger now and I realize. She must have been a mama. I know it. I see in myself the clothes and the hair that aren't always quite up to snuff. My hands are always full, and when I am away from home and my responsibilities here I still carry the weight of my family and my job as wife and mama with me wherever I go. 

I used to pride myself on being extra-ordinary. Wanting to stand out. Be at the top of my class, star in all of the musicals and plays I could get my hands on, be a leader, take the opportunities to speak in front of others, etc. I loved putting on make-up and feeling my best whenever I was in public, and I liked being great at what I did (whether it was in school, work, in social circles, etc.).

Since I became a mama, I'm okay with seeming ordinary sometimes. I wonder if when others see me, I kind of blend in with the crowd. If someone were to write my story and create a character for me, they might not see anything too special these days. The thing is, my heart has changed immensely. I wish when I was people-watching years ago during that college class, I would have looked past the worn-down outer shell and seen a little further into her extraordinary mama heart. That's what I hope others see in me.


A Mama Bird who is teaching herself to feel extraordinary in her new skin