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Clarke Clan: Welcome Cecily Eleanor Clarke

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Cecily 4 days old

Ryan and I want to announce the birth of our Third daughter, Cecily Eleanor Clarke. Born in October, she weighed 7 lbs. 14.81 oz and 21 inches long. Almost the exact same as Rosalyn (who was 20 in). I was only measuring at 34 weeks on my last appointment; when Cecily was born, my midwife asked, ‘where were you hiding an almost 8 lb. baby!” I have skills.

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Cecily 4 days old.

 

When it came to picking out a name for our third girl, we thought that procrastination was the best option. We would wait for inspiration to strike. Unfortunately it never hit me. So the task was left up to Ryan.

When choosing a name for our offspring, we use these criteria for a first name:
1. Not in the top ten most popular names but not weird either.
2. Not the name of a serial killer or well-known celebrity.
3. Significant meaning to the name.

A couple weeks before she was born, Ryan settled on Cecily Eleanor. Cecily hit 2 out of 3 of on our criteria list.

Cecily (SES-i-lee) is the English Medieval form of Cecilia (a Latin name). Back in the day, there was a Roman family named Caecilius. The name Cecilia (f) are derived from this Roman name. Cecilia probably would have never gained popularity if it wasn’t for St. Cecilia who was martyred during the 2nd or 3rd century for refusing to worship Roman gods (there is a lot of myth surrounding her story). Because of this, during the Middle Ages, Cecilia became a popular Christian name. The Normans brought the name to England where it was changed to Cecily. Unfortunately it retained its Latin meaning: Caecus or Blind (1).

Eleanor is an old English name used by a few queens down the ages. It means Shining Light.

Ryan really loves the name Cecily, but I wasn’t crazy about the meaning. So he thought it would work well to juxtapose Cecily with Eleanor. It reminded him of 1 Corinthians 13:12

“For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known” (KJV).

We want our little, Cecily Eleanor, to shine brightly in the midst of the darkness and confusion of life. We don’t always understand everything that happens here on earth, but someday we will understand and someday the Lord will make everything right.

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Cecily and Mama 4 days old.

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Cecily one month old.

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Honora, Rosalyn, and Cecily one month old.

 

 

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Children’s Book Review: Mr. Brown’s Fantastic Hat by Ayano Imai

Mr. Brown's Fantastic Hat book cover

Mr. Brown’s Fantastic Hat book cover

Mr. Brown’s Fantastic Hat by Ayano Imai

Published by minedition, 2013

Plot: Mr. Brown is a bear who lives by himself and likes it that way. He has a smart, white hat that he wears when he goes for walks. Much to Mr. Brown’s displeasure, a wood pecker decides to make a home in the hat and then invites more wood pecker friends. But the more birds that come to live in the hat, the taller it grows, soon Mr. Brown’s hat becomes the envy of the town. Winter comes too soon and all the birds fly south, leaving a lonely Mr. Brown and his hat. Too late Mr. Brown realizes that being intimidating and lonely isn’t the best after all. He hibernates with a heavy heart; although, he doesn’t realize it, spring is coming….

About the Author: Mr. Brown’s Fantastic Hat was written and illustrated by Ayano Imai; a Japanese lady who was born in England, lived all over the world including the United States, and now resides in Japan. After studying Japanese painting, specifically mineral pigment painting, she began to paint illustrations eventually leading to her writing and illustrating Children’s picture books.

Text: the sentences are simple and easy to read out loud with about one to two short paragraphs on each two page spread. The sentences don’t rhyme; they are more simple and crisp, yet don’t sound stilted or awkward when read aloud. There are also not a lot of extra sentences (like the books that a person only has to read one or two sentences and skip the other five or six on the page because they are either superfluous or repetitive. Extra sentences usually make reading out loud laborious). Another interesting aspect of this book is the frequent questions within the text (e.g. “Why would they leave?” “Would he ever see his friends again?”). This encourages the child to start analyzing the story: thinking about why an event in the story happened and what might happen next. Well placed questions encourage active reading (or listening as the case may be) which engages the brain. The page layout is also designed for easy read aloud because the text is on the left hand page while the illustration is on the right hand page. The child can look at the picture, and the mom can read the book without the child’s head in her line of vision (which is a major perk).

Illustrations: The full page, color illustration are simple yet whimsical. Each picture combines both urban and natural elements: for example the bear lives in a normal house, but it has grass on the floor and tree branches sticking out here and there. The little bird houses in the hat are not just round holes; they are square with little colored doors. The pastel colors do not just make the illustrations beautiful but also make easy to look at.

My favorite illustration from Mr. Brown's Fantastic Hat

My favorite illustration from Mr. Brown’s Fantastic Hat

I’m no usually a fan of over stylized illustrations in children’s picture books, but I love the illustrations in this book. I like there simple, natural feel. They are beautiful, and I feel like I could take most of these picture out of the book and frame them to decorate my kid’s room.

Overall impression: great story, great illustrations, and easy to read aloud. I would get it from the library again. This book is more for ages 3+. Honora (3.5) liked the book, but Rosalyn (23 m) didn’t really pay attention while I read (too many words not enough onomonopea).

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Clarke Clan: April Fool’s Day 2015

April Fool’s Day

Last year was the first year that I did anything, and since it was such a success I thought I’d try it again.

In all fairness, I don’t actually play tricks on my kids (I’m waiting till they get a little older and develop a sense of humor) usually I make a silly meal for dinner. Also I don’t always get my April Fool’s prank pulled off right on April 1. My kids have no concept of time, so I can get away with doing it a few days after April 1 if need be.

Silly Egg Breakfast

Honora huffing over her yogurt and peach

Honora huffing over her yogurt and peach “egg” breakfast

If you can’t tell, it’s just a peach in yogurt. Honora was not amused that I called it an egg. Little literalist.

Dinner: Calamari with Broccoli and cauliflower and chocolate chip cookies.

April Fool's dinner: Hot dog octopuses, mashed potato black bean

April Fool’s dinner: Hot dog octopuses, mashed potato black bean “cookies,” peas and carrots Jelly Bellies.

Ok so I wasn’t Calamari; it was spaghetti noodle and hot dog octopuses.

And they weren’t actually chocolate chip cookies; they were mashed potatoes and black beans cooked in a cookie shape. Honora also insisted on calling them hot dogs with noodles instead of octopuses. Way to spoil the fun.

For dessert we had peas and carrots: Jelly Belly peas and carrots that is. The peas and carrots were the best part of the meal, and poor Auntie Anna had her peas and carrots confiscated too.

Rosalyn enjoying her meal

Rosalyn enjoying her meal

The meal was enjoyed by all; especially since Mama and Papa went out for a dinner date afterward.

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Clarke Clan: Rambling Thoughts on Being Pregnant…Again

The latter part of the winter, I usually find dreary, and being nauseas and fatigued doesn’t make it any cheerier.
This is the third winter wherein I’ve been pregnant, and the first trimester gets reeeeaaaaal old after a while.
Pregnancy is not on my top 10 favorite things to do for just a few reasons:
1. The food aversions: just thinking about chicken, quinoa, fish makes me want to throw up; let’s not even talk about their sight or heaven forbid smell.
2. Heightened sense of smell: while we’re on the subject, let’s talk about smells. Any smell, every smell is either weird or gaggable (especially any artificial scents).
3. The fatigue: I just want to sleep all the time….zzzz….except at night.
4. Nausea: last but most certainly not least, the incessant nausea. Thankfully there is Diclegus for that, but it doesn’t really help with the other three.

Now, I’m not using this as a platform to complain about pregnancy (ok maybe just a tad). My point is it’s hard and not always enjoyable (although some women have wonderful pregnancies). So why do I–why do women in general–go through pregnancy and birth? Is it because I love torturing myself, or I can’t figure out how to use birth control? Ah, no, not at all. As I lay on my couch thinking for the hundredth time is this really worth it? I see my little ladies running around playing their little games, laughing, crying fighting, and I know, from experience, this momentary suffering is worth so much more than I can ever imagine.

Honora and Rosalyn in their parents boots

Honora and Rosalyn in their parents boots

It is because I love my little souls. My goals and ambitions righteous as they may be will not last forever like these little souls will. Their are no other people that I can impact for good like I can impact my girls. Their potential goes beyond mine; they will make the world better and through them, I can touch the future. Through them, I learn to be just a little less selfish and a little more loving.

A mentor of mine once said, “Pregnancy and birth is an awesome gift for it is a tangible way that women can experience ‘laying’ down their lives for another person in the way that Christ did for his family.” He gave up His glory to come to earth to live in obscurity and poverty then die for people who did not love Him or can help Him in any way. So I choose to give up my body, in a sense, to be inhabited by a little person who cannot help or better him or herself (let alone me) in any way. I learn how to selflessly love, the way I am loved by Christ. It is good.

While pregnancy is a momentarily discomfort to my body, its lessons are good for my soul.

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Clarke Clan: 2015 Addition

May 2014, was the month of my last blog post for 2014; it was also the month that Honora swore off naps forever. I thought it was time for an update and some cute pictures…

Let me start out by saying, basically my girls are crazy.

I tried so hard to get some cute pictures of the cuties. But alas all I got where these (see below).

2015 is the year I am totally getting a real camera and learning how to use it. I promise myself.

Honora and Rosalyn wearing Big Sister Little Sister shirts

Honora and Rosalyn wearing Big Sister Little Sister shirts

Smiling so sweetly

Smiling so sweetly

Board of the picture taking!

Board of the picture taking!

Yes, they are adorable.

In these pictures below, Rosalyn INSITSED on wearing this stupid monkey hat. I tried every trick in the book to get it away from her, but she screamed and hollered until I gave it back.

Yeah, not really the look I was trying to capture.

Are we done with the pictures yet!

Are we done with the pictures yet!

I will now substitute the monkey hat face for my own.

I will now substitute the monkey hat face for my own.

Honora and Rosalyn wearing Big Sister shirts

Honora and Rosalyn wearing Big Sister shirts

Oh and both girls insisted on holding their stuffed animals. We can’t have a cute sister picture without about 1,000 stuffed animals. Thankfully, I talked them into one each.

Suffice it to say, Life with these little girlies is never dull and usually adorable.

That’s why God said, YOU NEED ANOTHER, so Ryan and I are adding another cute kid to the clan sometime around Oct. 1, 2015

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My Favorite Mug(s) or Why Tea Time is the Best

Last fall my in-laws were visiting.
I consented to allow my mother-in-law to use my favorite mug for her tea: it was cute green Starbucks mug with ribbing around it. One that I had for years.

Unfortunately she broke it.

MIL: “Oh sorry I broke your mug.”
Me: “THAT WAS MY FAVORITE MUG EVER!!!!”
My Husband: (rolling his eyes) “all her mugs are her favorite ever.
Me: “Actually, he’s right. Don’t worry about it.”

Thankfully my mother in law has a great sense of humor.

I love mugs.
90% of my mugs are my favorite because they were given to me as gifts from people I love.
5% I bought because ‘it was love at first sight.’
3% were my husbands before we were married.
2% are not my favorite.*

Here is a few pictures of my mugs
Darling Starbucks mug from dear friend (I used the mug so much she finally gave it to me).

Starbucks mug

Starbucks mug

Creative green mug my husband (who at the time was just a friend) had hand crafted for me by the highly acclaimed Georgian artist A.E. Goff.

Artistic green mug

Artistic green mug

Ryan’s nondescript Blue mug

Blue mug

Blue mug

My aspirations in life (besides teaching Shakespeare) is to own a tea and cupcake shop and sell adorable mugs. I’ll call it Cups with Cakes.

What’s Wrong with Me?
So you may ask, why are you so attached to your mugs?
I am addicted to tea.
Haha, just kidding, not addicted, well maybe…

Not just the tea, but the relaxation it brings with it. Years back, when I was a teacher, I developed the habit of taking time for tea every afternoon. Going through the ritual of brewing and drinking the tea, helped my brain to relax and refocus. Now that I am a mom, life still gets so crazy and busy a little time to relax and recharge is vital to my sanity.

Every day in the afternoon when that slump hits around 3, I like to take some time to brew and drink a lovely cup of tea (and a little snack). Seriously if I don’t I usually end up wandering aimlessly around the house and nothing is accomplished. This helps me relax and refocus giving me the reserves to make it through “toddler and baby witching hour” which hits about 5 pm.

My Tea Time Ritual

3 minutes to boil water
5 minutes to brew tea
2-5 minutes adding cream and sugar or milk and honey and waiting for it to cool off.
10 minutes to sip: tea is not gulped down; it is sipped.

20-23 minutes of de-stressing time (I usually just round it up to 30 min.)

Here are some of my favorite teas to sip during tea time

London Fog
Chai Tea

*For you engineers, the % are used more as a literary device than actuate estimates of my mug collection.

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Recipe: Masala Chai (Tea)

I am addicted to Chai Tea.
It is seriously my Prozac.
Now, I’m of course talking about my homemade from scratch chai not the little packets you buy in the store.

Source

There are probably 5 million of these recipes floating around Pinterest, but they aren’t as good as mine (ok there are probably like 4 or 5 but not that many). Why? Because I had mine passed on to me by a dear friend then I spent many years perfecting it. Not to mention, it is made with whole spices not ground spices (Bleh).

Masala Chai (Tea) Recipe
6 cups water
3 sticks cinnamon
15 all spice berries
10 black pepper corns
10 cloves
5 slices of fresh ginger
5 star anise
8-10 cardamom pods
2 grates of nutmeg
6 bags or 4-6 Tbsps. black tea
1/3 cup organic sugar cane
1 tap vanilla

Add spices to water. Bring to a boil, set heat on low and simmer with lid on pan for 20 minutes to 3 hours. Strain out spices. Bring spiced water back to a boil. Take off heat and add black tea (do not boil the tea). Steep for 5 minutes. Strain out black tea. Add sugar and vanilla and stir till dissolved.

Heat ½ cup chai tea mixture with ½ cup milk for a lovely drink. Or mix with milk and enjoy cold.

“Each batch of Chai has its own Karma” -Joanna

Usually when I make chai, I just eye ball the spices. Sometimes, I crack the spices with a mortal ands pestle to help them steep better but most times I don’t.
By using whole spices, it gives me the ability to add a little more cardamom or ginger or less clove or allspice and tweak the taste till I have found a blend that is perfect for my taste buds, hence why I think my recipe is the best. I also like to experiment with using different teas: green, oolong, or rooibos (although black is my favorite).

If you want to make real authentic chai, then boil the spices and tea with water and milk, but if you do this, you have to drink it right away. I like to make two quarts of the chai then mix with milk whenever I want a cup.

Since I use quality spices, I usually get two batches out of one set of spices. After I strain out spiced liquid (before I add the tea), I add more water to the spices and put them back on the heat to simmer. Usually this second batch is simmered longer than the first. I even turn off the heat and just let it sit all night. This second batch can be weaker, but still makes a nice brew.

Usually I pick up my spices from Penzey’s Spices or Whole foods.

Although, I am a severe critic of chai tea brews, here is one that is also positively smashing as well.