Sunday, January 26, 2014

Pumpkin Muffins

I cannot believe that I have never posted this recipe here, since it is one of my favorites, but it doesn't show up in my search of the site.When I used to make these, Benjamin and I would hoard our portions, stretching them to last several days; now, there are four of us in the house (Benjamin, me, Malcolm, and Benjamin's mom), and a dozen muffins was reduced to two lone survivors by the end of the day.

From Gourmet November 2006
Adapted from the American Club
Makes 1 dozen
Active time: 15 min.
Start to finish: 1 hour

1.5 cups all-purpose flour (I used 1 cup white flour, 1/2 cup whole wheat)
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup canned solid-pack pumpkin (I used a little over 1 cup of baked, purreed pumpkin)
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 tsp pumpkin-pie spice (a combo of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, and allspice) (I used 3/4 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ginger, 1/4 or 1/8 of the rest)
1.25 cups plus 1 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon

Equipment: 12 foil or paper muffin liners; a muffin pan with 12 (1/2-cup) muffin cups

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350F. Put liners in muffin cups.

Whisk together flour and baking powder in a small bowl.

Whisk together pumpkin, oil, eggs, pumpkin-pie spice, 1.25 cups sugar, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl until smooth, then whisk in flour mixture until just combined.

Stir together cinnamon and remaining 1 tablespoon sugar in another bowl.

Divide batter among muffin cups (each should be about 3/4 full), then sprinkle tops with cinnamon-sugar mixture. Bake until puffed and golden brown and a wooden pick or skewer inserted into center of a muffin comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes.

Cool in pan on a rack 5 minutes, then transfer muffins from pan to rack and cool to warm or room temperature.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Running again

Over the holidays, as a form of motivation to keep me from overindulging,  I decided that I want to run a 10K this spring. It is also a bit of unfinished business - at some point while I was pregnant, I had promised myself that I would (a) get back to my pre-baby tennis form and (b) run a 10K. I have achieved the former, but that took all my energy for a while. Now that Malcolm is older, and I have more babysitting options, it is time to get running. The race I picked is scheduled for March 15th, so I have about 8 weeks left to train.

I'm almost two weeks in to my training plan, and while I am enjoying it, the more I run, the slower I feel! I'm trying not to worry about how long any of the distances take, and I'm running slower than I would on the treadmill so I don't get burnt out or hurt, but sometimes I wish I moved more like a racehorse than a chubby pony. Oh well - my goal isn't to win the race, after all, but to finish without walking (although I won't be too upset if I end up walking a bit).

A question for the runners out there: What do you do once the race is over? I mean, what sort of running routine do you have in ordinary time, as it were? I'm not sure how much running would be a good goal to maintain fitness and maybe work on gaining a little speed, without having a deadline to aim for. I'm not really interested in running any more races for now; mostly I want to use running to keep in good shape for tennis, although I am not ruling out a half in the future. If you have any thoughts, share them in the comments.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Birding with Malcolm

Brown Creeper
Back in December, we had an ice/sleet/snow storm that kept us all at home and inside for several days - it was far too slick to even walk in the backyard! To keep ourselves occupied, Malcolm and I spent a lot of time watching birds out of his window. I had recently relocated the bird feeder to the front yard, in part so that we could do precisely that (and partly to keep it away from the dog, who developed an unhealthy obsession with it, and would spend hours trying to keep all the birds out of his yard).

Cardinal, white chinned sparrows, and mourning doves
Because it was so icy, the feeder was the best place around to get food, and we had about 20 different species of birds show up over the 3 days. Malcolm was captivated by them, and spent 30 minutes or more at a time standing on his little chair, watching them.

Eventually I remembered that I have a telephoto lens for my camera and I started taking pictures of as many of the birds as I could. It is just a standard zoom, so I couldn't get as close as I would have liked, and I was shooting out of a (not entirely clean) window, but I still managed to get some good shots.

Carolina Wren

I am delighted that Malcolm is already interested in bird watching, since it is the favorite past time of his grandmother and great-grandparents, who used to travel all over the world to see birds. And I am happy because he is already developing a love for nature that experts warn is becoming rarer and rarer among children these days. Not that I was particularly worried about him, since Benjamin and I both love being outdoors and doing nature-related activities, and plan to take him hiking and camping as often as possible.

White-breasted Nuthatch

Since he is getting started early, I am sure Malcolm will be a better birder than I am by the time he is 5 or 6. He even started getting the hang of binoculars (when he wasn't putting them in his mouth).

Red-bellied Woodpecker
Now that the ice and snow are gone, it is a bit harder to spot birds, and they aren't coming in such numbers, but we still spend time every day looking out the window to see if there are any birds.

My favorite, the Tufted Titmouse

Friday, January 10, 2014

My time is not my own

One thing I would not have predicted missing quite so much after having a baby is being able to choose when I get up. I knew I would have to get up when the baby got up and so forth, but I think I had a naive idea in my head that babies slept 12 or 13 hours a night, and so if Malcolm went to bed at 7 PM, he would sleep until 7 or 8 AM and I could get up before him and have a little time to myself. Ha ha ha. Silly Hope.

Anyway, Malcolm currently sleeps about 10 hours a night, on a good night, which means he is getting up around 6 AM most days. (And this is, I might add, an enormous improvement over the summer, when he was getting up between 4:30 and 5 AM many days, even with a blackout curtain and extended cuddling). Since I rarely ever slept past 7 AM, even on weekends, and usually got up no later than 5:30 on weekdays, 6 AM is generally an OK time to get up. No, it isn't really sleeping in that I miss; it is being able to wake up on my own terms. Yes, I used to wake up with an alarm clock, but I controlled that alarm clock. I set the alarm myself before bed, and if, in the morning, I changed my mind and wanted to sleep in, I could turn it off. Or I could lie in bed and listen to the news for 5 minutes, or 15. (OK, now I am being a little selective in my memories, because in reality, I got up at least an hour before Benjamin most days, so I never actually let the radio just play. I usually hopped out of bed and either turned it off and got out of bed, or turned it off and went back to sleep. None of this lying there waking up slowly business). On weekends, I woke up when I woke up and got out of bed when I was good and ready.

Now, I wake up when Malcolm wakes up. I get up when he is ready to get up, be it 4 AM (as it was over Christmas when we were in Seattle, and two hours behind his internal clock), or 6:15, or 7. I never know when I will have to get up; I can't just hit snooze and go back to sleep. When he is ready to be up, he is ready, no stopping him. Someday, someday I will be able to get up when I want to. But by then I will probably be waking up at 4 AM myself.