Summer is ending and as always I’m feeling bittersweet about the impending transition. I can hardly believe in two weeks I’ll have a second grader and an almost four-year-old preschooler.
Even my daughter is in awe of her rising elementary school status. She keeps saying, mom, I feel like I was just in kindergarten! Yup. I hear you, kid. Me too.
I can still see her posing shyly in front of someone else’s brownstone in Brooklyn because we were too flustered to take a picture before leaving our apartment.
Fast forward a year, a first grader in New Hope, PA, our brand new town, walking through those double doors without me, knowing not a single person. My brave girl.
Now, here we are, on the cusp of another year. But first: summer.
Summer with kids is always a challenge, as well as a gift. The grinding schedule of school suddenly screeching to a halt, like a city bus we’ve been evicted from, the wheels still turning, as we stumble to find our footing.
With only 3 weeks of camp starting at the end of July, we had many days to fill, and yet, somehow, they blew by. There were touch and go moments of sanity (mine) and some freaking out (everyone’s), but here we are at the end of August, the finish line of this short season in sight, and my heart aches at the upcoming shift.
Before I began writing this post, I studied my phone calendar, trying to figure out where the time had gone. What had we done to fill those days? Did I fail to take advantage of our first summer in our new town? Scrolling through my pictures proved otherwise.
Summer Checklist Highlight Reel
1. Eat LOTS of ice cream. Check.
2. Go all out for the 4th of July fireworks display. Check.
3. Go to the beach at least once, more to come. Check.
4. Host family gatherings and insist on very long, hug-filled goodbyes. Check.
5. Spend time in nature. Check.
6. Do a ton of arts & crafts. Check.
7. Get your nails done and let your kid pick the color. Check.
8. Act silly. Also, take full advantage of the ice cream truck. Check.
9. Go to local fairs and carnivals. ALL OF THEM. Check.
10. RELAX. Check.
Turns out, we had a lot of fun this summer in the midst of craziness, whining, and all around lunacy. Basically, life as usual, but with no homework and lots of pool time. Not a bad way to spend a couple months.
Did I get much writing done? Not a ton, but more than I expected. There was my successful Highlights trip where I finished a draft of my novel, plus I wrote my first guest post series on The Gift of Writing.
But the best thing I did for myself was to surrender to summer, because fall comes around way too fast.
I’m leaving you with one of my favorite recipes to help ease you into the new season.
Cranberry Orange Muffins (Gluten Free)
This muffin is the perfect blend of summer and autumn. Also, completely irresistible, according to my husband’s sweet tooth. They usually disappear within a day – or less.
If you don’t have to be gluten free, check out this Food Network recipe made with white flour that inspired my creation. But if you dabble in GF, definitely give these a try. They are worth the effort.
- 1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter at room temperature
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- zest of one medium-sized orange (preferably a juicy one)
- about 1/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice (1 to 1 and a half oranges)
- 2/3 cup of dried cranberries
- 1 1/2 cups gluten free flour blend (I use Better Batter)
- 3/4 teaspoon xanthan gum (omit if your flour blend has it already)
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup of full-fat or low-fat sour cream
- raw sugar to sprinkle on top of each cupcake before baking (if desired)
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease a 12-cup muffin tin OR a jumbo 6-cup muffin tin with butter or cooking spray and set aside.
- Zest orange and set aside. Squeeze juice and run through a sieve to eliminate pulp and seeds. Place juice in a small saucepan with cranberries. Bring to just a simmer over medium heat. Remove pan from heat and set aside so the cranberries can cool and plump.
- In a large bowl, mix (by hand) butter and sugar until creamy and fluffy. Add the following ingredients one at a time, stirring well after each addition: eggs, vanilla, orange zest, flour, xanthan gum (if necessary), baking powder, and salt. Beat to combine. Continue stirring until the batter becomes thicker and slightly more elastic, which means the xanthan gum has been activated. Add sour cream to the batter and mix until combined.
- Finally, fold the cooled cranberries and orange juice into the batter. Do not over mix.
- Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups – for those who enjoy being extra precise, use an ice-cream scooper. Top each muffin with a generous sprinkling of raw sugar if desired.
- Bake in the center of a preheated oven for about 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes in the muffin tin and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Eat and enjoy! They go fast…just like summer.