This summer pasta with lemon and cream has a prime spot in my heaven. I love it for so many reasons. One, it reminds me of days in Italy. At school the wonderful Sicilian cook would make her version of this pasta at least once a week and it was truly everyone’s favorite meal. Well maybe only second to her homemade pancakes smothered in Nutella.
Eating this pasta made me realize that good food doesn’t have to complicated. In fact, all the recipes I gravitate towards are simple recipes and I think I owe it all to this pasta. In Italy, we devoured this pasta all through the winter and spring. Now, my favorite season to make this recipe is summer when lemons are extra ripe and you don’t want to turn your oven on!
The simplicity of this recipe makes it an easy weekday meal, plus my picky toddler completely devours this summer pasta. Another reason I keep this recipe in rotation is because it’s an amazingly filling meatless option, especially when paired with a vegetable side, like this simple arugula salad. We typically eat vegetarian a few times a weeks and this summer pasta is so delicious, you don’t even miss the meat. And now, the recipe. I hope you love it as much as me.
A guzzle of olive oil
A half a cup of white wine
Juice from half a lemon plus lemon zest
A few tablespoons of heavy cream
Shredded parmesan cheese, lots of it
Boil the pasta. While the pasta is boiling, mix together the olive oil, wine and lemon juice in a big pan. Let it combine over low heat for a couple minutes. Then, when the pasta is done add it to your sauce, along with the cream and some shredded parmesan. Serve with lemon zest and more parmesan on top.
That’s it! Use the best and freshest ingredients you can find to make this simple summer pasta pop.
What about you? What are some your favorite simple summer meals?
I’m beyond excited that my friend Britney is sharing her story for my second motherhood interview. Britney is truly one of the sweetest, and yet also strongest women I know. Britney and I met in college and back then she had a crush on a boy named Elijah. Now, a decade later, Britney and Elijah are married and live in Nashville with their three beautiful children, including twin girls, born at 25 weeks.
After the twins early arrival, Britney spent months away from her home, husband and eldest child to be with her baby girls in NICU. Below she’s sharing her story about learning to thrive in the midst of uncertainty by fighting fear with strength.
Hi Britney! Let’s begin with your first child, Avett. Can you share a little about him?
Yes! Avett just turned five and is my absolute sunshine. He, like me, can be SO stubborn and hot-tempered. But then he can turn around and say the most heart-melting things. We often clash during the day and he has been our most difficult child (which is saying a lot when you know the girls’ story!) but at the end of each day I feel so completely blessed to be his mama and best friend.
How did you feel after becoming a mom for the first time?
My husband says the first thing I said when Avett was born was “I have been waiting SO long to meet you!” We have been best buddies since his birth and we’re pretty much inseparable. Until he was two and a half when the girls came, we had never spent more than a few hours apart from each other.Being my first baby, I had to let go of a lot of expectations I put on myself and learn to adapt to a child who is so similar and yet so different from me.
It taught me a lot about motherhood being more “rerouting” than mapping out ahead.
Did you know you wanted more children after Avett?
I vividly remember telling Elijah a few moments after Avett was born, “That wasn’t so bad! I could totally do that again!” to which he nearly passed out! I think having a natural birth was a bit more traumatic for him than it was for me. To me, it’s one of my most beautiful memories.
But it was around Avett’s second birthday before either of us really felt ready to add to our family. Hardly a couple weeks later I was taking a test and already feeling the morning sickness! I had a feeling baby number two was a girl, or that there was more than one baby, but all my friends said I was crazy.
BUT, you were right, on both accounts! I remember you writing somewhere that you always thought “I never want twins” and then, you found out you were pregnant with twins! What was your first reaction?
The night before we went in for our first ultrasound, I told Elijah, “Heads up, there are going to be two babies in there.” Elijah said the hormones were getting to my head. Then at the ultrasound the first thing the nurse said was “Well it’s your lucky day! You have TWO babies!”
I babysat a few sets of twins growing up and remember thinking how cute they were, but that I never wanted to actually be the MOM to twins. Too many tv show twin mixups had ruined that for me. Plus, the fear of never being able to give either twin the full attention you want is terrifying. But almost as soon as they were born, I knew that our family couldn’t possibly be our family without identical twin girls. They somehow fit so perfectly that I can’t imagine only having one second baby.
Your twin girls, Margot and Meryl, were born at 25 weeks. Can you talk a bit about those first few days?
I went in for a routine ultrasound, which was happening about twice a week at that point, and they said everything was shockingly normal. The girls are identical which means they were at risk for twin-to-twin transfusion (one twin “donates” all the placenta to the other twin, leading to fluid overload in one and malnourishment in the other) but so far no signs of that happening were present.
Then, three days later I went in for another ultrasound and my fluid levels had changed so drastically, they told me to drive the five hours to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital immediately. The plan was for me to undergo surgery (something they couldn’t do at our local hospital) that would split the placenta and allow the babies to continue to grow at their own rate.
I ended up going into labor before the surgery was performed and decided an emergency c-section was our best shot at saving either or both babies. It was surreal, being thrown into a situation we had feared, yet had thought we were miraculously in the clear for.
Mostly the memories of those days are filled with suffocating uncertainty. Uncertainty for when I would see Avett again (he was at my in-laws), if the next nurse to come to my room would have bad news, when I would get to see my babies who were rushed to the NICU within seconds of being taken from me, how we would pay for everything, how Elijah would keep teaching back home, if our family would be separated for days or weeks or months.
But God sustained me through every single moment. I remember thinking that this is how people make it through those unimaginably hard stories we hear about, knowing that as long as you are ok in the present moment, that is all that matters.
Each moment turns into the next and somehow you are still there, still crushed by fears and grief, and yet still there.
During the girl’s stay in the hospital, you stayed at a Ronald McDonald House. What was your experience like there?
Ron House (as we have affectionately come to call it), saved my life. Within two days of being released from the hospital, the staff called and said they had a room for me for as long as I needed it. I was really skeptical but reluctantly went to check in. However, I was in shock from the moment we drove in the gates and promised never to slander a McDonald’s again.
Not only are the facilities at the Cincinnati Ronald McDonald House beautiful, but the people take care of every need you could possibly have. I wasn’t just physically cared for with a free room and meals, I was nourished to my soul by the love and genuine care each volunteer showed me. They absolutely care for the whole being there.
Since there birth, there have been enormous medical challenges with Margot & Meryl. Can you talk a bit about each child & where they are now.
When we were deciding whether we should do a c-section at 25 weeks, we had several conversations about the developmental (physical, emotional and mental) impact it would have on the babies. Not only were they just barely viable at 25 weeks, they were smaller than normal since they are twins.
Speech delays, brain bleeds, lung development, heart defects, cerebral palsy, permanent disability, blindness- all these were “casually” thrown out as significant possibilities by the doctors and nurses.
But when you are looking at the lives of your babies, the question for us was not how to avoid disabilities, but how to keep them alive long enough figure out the next steps.
Immediately after they were born, both babies were rushed to the NICU and plugged into more life-saving machines than I knew existed plus a million monitors reading every vital sign and pattern. They each weighed barely a pound.
When you see that, it’s hard not to imagine a life full of doctor appointments and tubes and wires and tests and diagnosis. Over the past two years, we have been through 37 surgeries, eight therapists, a six month NICU stay, seven months of 24/7 home nursing, and four months of daytime home nursing. Margot has had a tracheostomy, full airway reconstruction, a g-tube, and an eye surgery. Meryl has had a brain shunt placed, a g-tube, a handful of airway surgeries, and multiple eye surgeries.
Not every day held progress, actually most days had what felt like incredibly large steps backwards with only a few forward creeping days. But the girls grew faster than we imagined, and have gradually graduated all medical equipment except for the shunt and an eye contact for Meryl.
I love this phrase you wrote on one of your blogs – “fighting fear with strength”. Can you share what that means to you?
That is one of my favorite phrases- fighting fear with strength- and something I have been training myself to embrace daily. About three months into the girls’ lives, I became really depressed. I stopped eating, I stopped sleeping, I stopped allowing myself to be excited by milestones the girls were meeting.
I was so sick of being afraid every moment and realized that living permanently in fear was not living but more a walking state of comatose.
I became obsessed with the idea of fighting my fears- no matter how small or big- with strength. I started weightlifting before bed to help me sleep better and to improve my mood during the day. I started digging into my Bible for every truth I could hang onto in times of doubt or fear. I started pushing myself to stop reacting to news from the girls’ doctors and instead research their answers and suggestions and own the role of being a mom to medically-complex twins. It was obvious at that point that the girls would be coming home with multiple medical needs and I was tired of fearing that.
Can you share any advice for moms with medically-complex babies?
Never underestimate your gut and never be afraid to be an advocate for your child. You know them the best as you have been to every different doctor and specialist and therapy session and ER visit and have the biggest picture of their overall health. Ask questions always, research on your own, voice your fears, share your suggestions, and don’t let doctors or nurses bully you. While I don’t recommend ignoring your doctor’s advice, I will always push for the right to be involved in every decision and to be fully informed. You are so much stronger than you realize and there are almost always multiple solutions to a problem. Just knowing that can be so strengthening and empowering!
What are Margot & Meryl’s personalities like now as toddlers?
Margot is our introverted bookworm who loves food and wants everyone to just love her. Meryl is Avett 2.0- outgoing, extroverted, emotionally volatile, and Avett’s biggest fan. They are so opposite in personalities, quirks, preferences and even looks that it’s hard for me to reconcile their being genetically identical!
On top of raising three children, you also own your own business! Tell us about your business & why you started it.
I have always been motivated by the idea of owning my own business and about a year ago it finally started to take shape. The girls were finally stable, we no longer had nurses living in our home, doctor appointments were less often, and we were looking at the last big chunk of medical bills to be paid. So we went for it.
I started off by selling produce and homemade goods at local farmer’s markets, and organized a five family CSA from our backyard gardens, as well as coaching a couple friends with their first gardens. I now sell my homemade granola at markets and stock it at a local brick and mortar store, and am selling more produce and seedlings at local markets.
One day I would love to open floral studio using only my own flowers and offer healthy cooking and gardening classes for those with lower incomes. I have always loved food and plants. When the girls came home from the hospital and life was contained to our home in Nashville, I found my release in the garden and kitchen. Any day started with my plants is a good day!
How do you balance it all? Are you super organized and plan out your days, or do you take it one day at time? Alternative reading: how do you stay sane?
Both! I function at my best when everything is planned out and organized on my Trello boards (an organization app that has my whole heart forever), but with three kids, a business, gardens, chickens, and a house in the mix, I have learned to roll with each day. I plan out each day pretty rigidly but view that plan as a dream day plan. Almost every day throws curveballs, so when I view my list as a dream day, I feel less frustrated and behind when something unexpected is added to the mix.
Plus, my husband is also the best partner I could dream of. He often helps with cooking and has never been afraid to take all the kids out so I can work on a project. Without his willingness to care about the things I value and push me to go for the things I dream about, I would be a hot mess. We have always tried to support each other in our dreams and goals and realize that there are seasons when each of us is the helper or the doer.
One thing I love about your IG is that through everything, the unbelievable challenges, you are always smiling & full of wonder & gratefulness. How do cultivate this attitude?
I think a lot of it stems from my desire to find beauty in all things. As an individual, my personality seeks and craves beauty and that has helped me to both create and find it in my days.
I want my kids to look back on their childhood as being filled with wonder, joy and beauty and I know a lot of that comes from my attitude.
Throughout this whole experience God has showed us his unconditional love no matter how much we rage against him or question his goodness in the midst of all our pain. He has brought us to a place where we can truly know his goodness despite the outcome- because God didn’t give us the miraculous healing we prayed for.
We spent six months in the hospital fighting for the girls’ lives with the best doctors in the world and we still ended up with more medical devices than I originally thought possible. But I without doubt know that it is His love and blessing that has allowed us to remain a family through this nightmare. We have gone through incredibly low and high points in our relationships the past two years, but without God’s faithfulness and strength, I know we would not have come out on the other side as strong as we have.
Thank you for sharing Britney! If you want to keep up with Britney and her sweet family, you can follower her on IG @britneyammen. And make sure to check out her website Dinner:Unprocessed for healthy recipes, resources and local events around Nashville.
When Lewie turned two we took him to his first movie. We assumed he would last 15 minutes but to our surprise he was enchanted through the ENTIRE MOVIE, eating popcorn like a pro and everything! It sounds silly, but it was truly a magical experience. One of those “firsts” you never want to forget. I actually saved the movie stub for his baby book. Curious what movie?
Paddington 2! Which, is you haven’t seen, you need to remedy immediately. It’s unbelievably charming. Here is a great review about why children and adults need more movies like Paddington 2. Also this quote from the Wall Street Journal made me laugh, but it’s also true:
“Paddington 2 is “The Godfather Part II” of Peruvian bear movies, a sequel that surpasses the superb original.”
Completely impressed by Lewie’s attention span through the movie, we decided to implement family movie nights on Friday evenings. Of course we can’t do it every Friday, but when we can I like having a sweet ritual to mark the end of the week. I usually make something simple for dinner, pasta or pizza (the best pizza dough recipe here)and eat in front of the telly.
I pretty much always make popcorn too, which is one of my all time favorite foods. It’s a very simple routine, but I’ve found that it’s something to look forward to. While Paddington 2 tops this list, here’s a few more family movies we’ve found worked with Lewie, aka not too scary, and that we also don’t mind watching on repeat.
Cars & Cars 3 – Underrated Pixar movies, especially Cars 3 which has a sweet message. Toy Story 2 – Toy Story is terrifying through toddler eyes. Toy Story 2 is pretty perfect. Monsters Inc. & Monsters U – Both have a couple scary parts, but overall super fun. The Muppets– The newer one, although I would love to re-watch the classics too. Mary Poppins – This movie is way too long for toddlers, but the parts we watch he loves.
And some movies on the watchlist: Lady & The Tramp, Lost & Found & Fantasia.
My all time favorite movie as a child was Chitty-Chitty Bang Bang, but watching it as an adult I realize it’s pretty terrifying, so I’ll probably wait a bit before letting Lewie watch the whole thing.
P.S. – Here is an easy recipefor homemade popcorn. There is a ton of popcorn advise out there that involves extra steps that I never do. I just throw in some coconut oil, let it melt, add the popcorn and shake. Does it burn? Sometimes, a bit. Do I eat it all anyways? Absolutely. Finish with her favorite seasoning and try to share.
What about you? Do you do family movie night? What are your current favorites?
Currently is a seasonal series where I recap some of the simple things I’ve been doing / making / reading / listening and such throughout the season. Thanks for reading along.
Reading //Animal Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. Kingsolver boldly addresses the concerns of modern farming, from the depletion of the soil, to the treatment of animals, to our own suffering health. But she is also hopeful about our future as we learn from the past. Inspired, humorous, factual and optimistic. My friend called it “idyllic and yet realistic- the perfect balance.” It will definitely have you running to your local farmer’s market and then to the kitchen.
Doing // Camping. I took Lewie on his first camping trip in Washington and he was in heaven. He spent most of the time playing naked in the dirt and eating watermelon. It was amazing to see him explore nature and I wish I had gone sooner. I’m already planning our next trip. Fort Stevens in Astoria, Oregon looks amazing. Plus, here are some simple tips for camping with toddlers.
Writing //Motherhood interviews. I just finished my first interview with my friend Jessie Love. Coming from a journalism background, I love interviewing and writing people’s stories and I feel so honored that I’m getting to do that again on this blog. Jessie’s story is about choosing hope for their unborn baby, Franklin, who was diagnosed with a rare disease and then choosing healing after Franklin’s death at eight days old.
He lived when the medical community said he wouldn’t, he fought when they thought he couldn’t, and he left a scar on my heart that I never want to go away.
Currently is a seasonal series where I recap some of the simple things I’ve been doing / making / reading / listening and such throughout the season. Thanks for reading along.
Buying // Baby gifts! My best friend is having a baby girl and so I finally have an excuse to buy a baby gift. I love practical and creative gifts, like hand-me-down baby books and swaddles, but I also think it’s nice to gift something beautiful you would never buy for yourself.
Thinking // Have you ever heard of the organizationGive Directly? It’s based on the economic model ofbasic income. Instead of giving to a charity, who then decides how the money is allotted, Give Directly does what the name suggests and gives directly to those in need. This progressive idea could potentially lift millions out of poverty. Give Directly is orchestrating a 12 year experiment in Kenya to track the effectiveness of basic income. You can follow along with the experimenthere.
700 million people around the world live in extreme poverty. It would take $80 billion in cash transfers to move everyone above this poverty line, while the world spends almost twice that in global aid every year. — Give Directly website
Making //Homemade Pizza. I love baking and for me, winter is the perfect baking season. This pizza dough recipe is ideal for weekend meals with friends. I’ve made it countless times and always get compliments on the crispy crust.
Watching // Anne with an E. I just finished the series with mixed feelings. I think the casting is superb–I mean how charming is Amybeth McNulty?! But it’s definitely a darker twist on a childhood classic and critics have strong and differing opinions. TheNew York Timescalls it a “rewarding return” whileVanity Faircalls it “terribly wrong.” Whose side are you on?
Currentlyis a seasonal series where I recap some of the simple things I’ve been doing / making / reading / listening and such throughout the season. Thanks for reading along.
I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers – Anne of Green Gables
Most of October in LA was unbearably hot, until just before Halloween when the temperature miraculously dropped 40 degrees and suddenly like Anne I’m in love with October again and all the traditions this season brings.
Autumn always seems to gather people together. The sun sets so early, it becomes natural to spend the evenings at home with friends and family, making meals, enjoying an outdoor fire, sharing stories. After the whirlwind of summer, autumn is a chance to slow down, to reconnect and, like Anne, to be grateful for the beauty of the world.
Reading // The Year of Magical Thinkingby Joan Didion. An honest and raw portrayal of grief, but also a reminder to be grateful, to take chances and to live.
“Life changes in the instant. The ordinary instant.”
Baking // Wheat bread. Homemade bread takes some time, but it’s quite simple, very inexpensive and tastes 1000 times better than store-bought. Make a double recipe and share with some friends.
Listening //Valerie June The Order of Time.I have a special place in my heart for Valerie June. My dear friend bought her homemade cd from a record store in Memphis and in college we listened to that album countless times. So when I heard her again a few years later on NPR I was ecstatic. I felt like I had found a favorite sweater I forgot I loved.
Doing // Things without my phone. I’ve been so attached to my phone lately and for no good reason, so I’m taking some intentional time away from it, like going on a walk and leaving my phone at home. A small jolt of fear curses through me when I realize I’m without my phone, even though I don’t even need it. It’s shocking how many times I’ll reach for my phone just within one hour simply out of habit.
How about you? How are you slowing down and enjoy this season?
Baking is one of those luxurious activities I said goodbye to after my baby. I feel like I never have time to bake, and when I do have sprinkled minutes of free time, I tend to fill it with the more practical needs of living. Baking is not a practical need of living, at least not anymore. But there is something satisfying about baking–the slow process of the task, the kneading, the time waiting for it to rise, the smell of it baking in the oven. Continue reading “Weekend bakes // Easy pizza dough”→