Because this was our first real home, one we owned and planned to stay in for awhile, we imagined ourselves slowly but steadily building a collection of beautiful things to hang on our walls. I wanted artwork that reflected who we are and who we once were (before being a married couple in Los Angeles). I didn’t want anything to be generic or bland or straight from Ikea and on to our walls. I wanted the art to be sentimental, attached to a person we knew or a moment in time.
As I sit here typing in our dining room – which isn’t a real dining room, it’s one of our main rooms and probably the room that I spend most of my time in – it still feels like we have so many blank spaces. I sort of long for the day when the house we live in is full and cozy and we’re surrounded by years, even decades, of the life we have lived. Our kids will come home from college or jobs or their own families and feel as if they are snuggling back into a nest that has been well tended over the years. People will come over for dinner parties and feel the warmth and love of the home we’ve created because the objects in the house will be the type that speak to people.
But there’s a price to pay for that kind of authentic coziness built up over years, isn’t there? It means you have more life behind you than ahead of you. It means this crazy, exhausting, but amazing period of childrearing will be over. I remind myself of this when I feel like my house still doesn’t quite look like the full-on home I want it to be.
But lately, all those blank spaces are quickly being filled up by a steady stream of toddler art. I get a kick out of how amazed I am by each piece she presents to us. Take a gander at the latest haul from her cubby at school. To you, those might just look like paper towel rolls with wads of brown something-or-another glued on, but to me, those brown globs were painted and glued by someone who two years ago could barely burp on her own, let alone hold a paintbrush.
Below, we have two pieces I call “Abstract Bear & Puppy with Pom Poms”
(taped to the wall over O’s recent graffiti art in her bedroom)
This next one is a favorite. Every time O finds it in her room she says, “What is this Mama?” I don’t know either, but I’ve always liked it. And I love it when she calls me Mama.
Finally, her latest art installment, “Speaker Warranty with Blue Flower Sticker.” O hung this above her bed, which admittedly was a big blank wall I’ve been meaning to fill. She got around to it before I did.
I’ve bought the plastic bin for under her bed where we keep art for posterity. Some pieces get taped on the wall or fridge and a few make their way into the toy box. But the thing about toddler art is that it keeps coming. And coming. And coming. Inevitably, some of it has to disappear into the recycling bin. Those two brown logs she painted? Recycled this afternoon. I kept the one with the popsicle stick stuck through the middle because we like to pretend it’s a periscope, but when she gets tired of playing with it, should I save it in the art bin or throw it out? I always feel like I’m betraying O a little bit when I throw something out, but there are only so many painted paper towel rolls one house can hold.
But this one, this fantastically colorful mess of art will definitely be saved in the plastic bin for posterity. She calls it “car seat” which feels like a pretty big artistic statement, probably inspired by her campaign to get me to turn her real car seat around.
Yes, she is still rear-facing. Yes, I know most kids her age are front facing. So does she. She reminds me of this daily. “Mom,” my almost 3 year old says patiently but firmly, “I’m ready to turn my car seat around.”
I feel like the mother who makes her daughter be the very last one to get her ears pierced or start shaving her legs. Thankfully we’re not close to that age yet. But lately I’m feeling like I just want to swaddle her up and rock together for awhile, staring into each other’s eyes like we used to do.
Clearly, I am a woman in need of some comfort food so today I made my most comforting food of all: homemade bread warm from the oven with a whole lot of butter spread on top.
If you’ve been wanting to bake whole wheat bread but didn’t know where to start, then start with this recipe.
These rolls have just the right amount of whole wheatiness without being too heavy. The recipe is really easy and practically foolproof. For these reasons, I love these rolls. Plus, if you time it right your house will be filled with the sweet, yeasty aroma of baking bread just as your kids or partner comes home. And you will casually say, “Oh, that? I’m just baking some homemade bread” like it’s no big deal.
If you want to get picky, then yes, the texture of these rolls isn’t as light as air; they’re a little chewy. Some might say the “crumb is slightly tough” but those type of people have way more time than I do to experiment and perfect every whole wheat roll recipe out there. While they’re kneading and proofing and fermenting their mother starters I’ll be cranking out dozens of these easy rolls that my toddler loves.
Easy Whole Wheat Rolls Adapted from Whole Foods Market
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 tablespoon ground chia seeds (made by putting 1 tbsp of chia seeds in a coffee grinder)
3 tablespoons warm water
1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 (0.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
1 cup warm (105 to 115°F) milk or unsweetened almond or soy milk (put it in the microwave for 6o seconds to reach the right temperature)
1 cup all-purpose flour
Melt the butter first, so it cools a little before you add it to the dough.
Next, use a fork to whisk together the ground chia seeds and water. Let it sit for 5 minutes. The texture will be like gel.
In a large bowl mix together the whole wheat flour, sugar, salt and yeast.
In a small bowl, use a fork to whisk together the warm milk and chia mixture. Pour into the whole wheat flour. Add the butter. Mix well with a wooden spoon.
Add the all-purpose flour in 3 parts, mixing just enough each time to combine the flour.
You’ll end up with a sticky, fairly wet dough. Cover the bowl and set aside in a warm spot to let rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
Oil a 12-muffin tin.
Preheat oven to 400 F
Spoon even amounts of the dough into each muffin cup, shaping each blob of dough gently with your hands so they’re roundish and smooth.
Let rise uncovered for about 1 hour, until rolls rise up just over the top of the muffin tins.
Bake rolls until golden brown and cooked through; I baked them for 15 minutes.
Recipe Note: I make these rolls using ground chia seeds mixed with water instead of 1 egg because eggs and me don’t get along anymore. You could just use an egg. Or, not. The original recipe says the egg isn’t even necessary but you might have to add more flour so the dough holds together.
I buy chia seeds at Trader Joes. Whole Foods and other health-foodie markets also sell them.