Food + Wine

Lennon Loves…

 When my daughter, Lennon, was just starting to eat solid foods, I began taking pictures of her after every new food she tried.  The food would be all over her face and I couldn’t resist snapping a photo.  I now have a picture collection of different-colored-first-food-faces.  After I took the picture I would send it to my husband and mother with the subject ‘Lennon Loves…peas!’ or whatever the food that day may have been.

Peas.

Some day I plan on getting one of those big collage-type picture frames to put them all in so I can hang it in our home. But for now, every time I give her something new I think of those picture mails I sent when she was just a little baby, exploring new tastes for the first time.

Carrots.

I can’t believe she’s not a little baby anymore.  By the time this will be read, my little baby will be 1 year old. I know every mother says this, but it’s amazing how quickly the first year goes by.  And it’s even quicker with the second one.  I honestly feel like I just had her, and because she advanced quicker than my son did, it really feels like it’s gone by fast.  But here we are, a year has come and gone and yet it feels like a minute ago that I was rocking her to sleep dozens of times a day.

She just did things faster and earlier than my son did.  She crawled and walked earlier, communicated earlier.  And she, very unlike my son, was sleeping through the night almost immediately.  So as much as I appreciated the sleep at the time, I now realize that I missed out on so many 3 am rocking sessions.  Those are the moments when, no matter how exhausted you are, you get to spend special quiet time with just your baby.  The rest of the world is fast asleep.  Nothing else matters, there are no sounds other than the gentle inhale and exhale of the infant that is here, right now, in your arms solely because you loved another person so much.

Lennon never had the ear infection issues that my son did, which kept him awake at all hours of the night for so much of the first 18 months of his life.  So as much as I appreciated having my pillow to myself this time around, I now realize that I missed out on so many chances to wake up to a sleeping baby in my face. Or to hear soft baby sounds being whispered into my ear as I drifted off to sleep.

When my daughter was sick a couple weeks ago I was really stressed out because she was so uncomfortable and needy and I couldn’t get anything done around the house.  But then she would fall asleep nursing like she did as a newborn, and I would just continue to rock for as long as I could because I knew those moments are so hard to come by the older she gets.  I kept thinking, ‘what if this is the last time she’ll let me treat her like a baby?’

I actually crave her, I mean, I’m really a little obsessed with my own child!  Is that strange? I just cannot get enough of her and I don’t know if it’s because I know she’s my last baby or because she’s a girl, or because she’s just so sweet and precious.

I love going out with just her.  Those times are very rare because I stay at home with my 4 year old too.  But I feel like this magical dynamic duo or something when it’s just the two of us.  We could fight crime, me and my gal.

There’s just something so very indescribably special and lovely about being a mother to a daughter versus being a mother to a son.  And I’m so lucky I get to experience both, as they are each amazing and I love my two roles equally.  But the future I get to have with my daughter, the things I get to teach her about being a woman, make me giddy with excitement.
The make-up…

…the accessories…

…the shoes…

 …how to flirt…

…how important the right undergarments are…

…You know, all the important stuff.
But I really want to teach her the strength and power it takes to be a woman and the finesse needed to make it all seem effortless and painless.  I want her to be independent and free to make her own choices, but know that I am always there for her and behind her every step of the way.

I can watch this girl all day.  Everything she does is interesting and unique, from the way she walks and sways her perfect tush from side to side, to the way she holds her arms out like she’s about to take flight. She laughs and I can tell she’s an old soul and I love the way she looks me deeply in the eyes when I’m doing anything for her as if she’s thanking me simply for being there.

In the beginning I really tried to not be one of those obnoxious mothers who put bows on heads without hair and shoes on feet that couldn’t walk, but now that she is moving around I just love getting her dressed. When I first had my son I thought little boys clothes were so cute but I had no idea what I was missing!  First thing every morning, her pj’s come off and a new outfit comes on. And it’s wonderful.

And yes, I’ve even been known to match a couple outfits to my own…

I just love everything about having a daughter.  And I think about all the years when I said I didn’t want a girl, that I didn’t even want another child.  It makes me cry to think that I could ever not want this beautiful creature.  But once I could feel her inside of me I knew I had something special.

She is the light of my life, she and her big brother give my life meaning and having a second child is just the most amazing thing I’ve ever done.  It’s also been the hardest thing I’ve done, every day it is so unbelievably hard, but it is truly the most wonderful thing.  Watching my baby girl play with my son, who used to be my baby boy just a moment ago, makes my world spin.

I know how close I am with my brother, how much I feel that he is a part of me, so I just get so excited thinking about what lies ahead in their relationship.

My son is so sweet to her and is protective over her, he teaches her new things, he talks to her and kisses her, he makes her laugh and she thinks the sun rises and sets in his eyes.

They are my little angels and I am so lucky that the universe put the three of us together.

I have been asked numerous times why I chose the name Lennon for my daughter.  At first people want me to spell it to be sure I wasn’t naming my daughter after sheets. Then they always want to know the reason. The people from my grandmothers generation are always the most confused. A lot of them think I named her after Vladimir.  Sometimes I let them think that…it’s just kinda fun to shock an old lady in the produce aisle.  But most times when I see someone’s confused face I just say, ‘You know, like John’.

I was named after Abbey Road and once I had my first child, I always said that if I ever had another, and it was a girl, I would continue the tradition in some way.  My son was born on the same day, 27 years later, that John Lennon lost his life.  So if there was ever a sign that I was cosmically linked to another soul, it would be that. There are a lot of people who perhaps weren’t the biggest Beatles fans that only know John Lennon for his controversial statements. But that’s not the John Lennon I grew to love and admire.  He had a brilliant mind and if you look at all the things that John Lennon accomplished, at all of the things he stood for, at the root of it all was Love.

Love is all you need. Real love. Love is the answer. Love, Love, Love. He made beautiful music, he wanted the world to be a better place, and he Loved. That is the Lennon that I am raising. That’s my girl. I want her to always remember that it matters not who you Love, where you Love, why you Love, when you Love or how you Love, it matters only that you love.

I loved her the minute I laid eyes on her.  I held her for so long after I had her that I think I worried the nurses and midwives a bit.  They hadn’t even cleaned her off yet and I was just holding her and staring at her.  And she spent the first several hours of her life in my arms staring up at me, just as she does now.

I had never seen a newborn baby keep their eyes open for so long.  But I suppose I didn’t have much to compare it to.  When my son was born I didn’t get to hold on to him.  The nurses took him away so fast that I never knew him until he was 2 weeks old.  He was having trouble breathing and all I can remember about him as a newborn was that his little chest was moving up and down so hard and fast that I thought it may break.  But my baby girl came out so healthy and happy that I just couldn’t let her go.  I suppose I was making up for the time I had lost with my son, back when my baby felt like a stronger to me and all I could do was reach my hand through a tiny hole in a box and touch him with a finger or two.  Back when I ached for just the chance to touch my child.

Since this is my second child I know how quickly a year, two years, three years, and four years can go by and I don’t want to miss a second of it.  I have been with my little girl every single day of her life.  I have held her a million times, I have kissed her a billion times, I have loved her more and more every second that she is with me.

Lennon, from the very first moment of her life, has been filled with and surrounded by Love. She smiles more than any baby I know. She giggles more. She hugs and snuggles. She is adorably delightful and is so easy to Love.  She is perfection all rolled up into a squishy ball of joy.

I see in her so much of the good in me.  It’s like everything special that my husband and I have, everything we do right, the universe put inside of her. There is nothing about her that isn’t pure and sweet.

…although I have often questioned her sleeping habits…

My little Lennon has Loved many things in her year of life and feeding her is so much fun. She is extremely picky, which is something I’m not used to.  My son as a baby grabbed anything I put in front of him with his fist, swallowed it, and then thought about what it tasted like.  But my girl is a very specific and particular eater.  She looks at the food, ponders on whether or not she should try it, reaches out with two dainty fingers to grab it, slowly puts it to her lips like a baby bird, and mindfully chews it. So when I can get her to eat and enjoy something, it makes my day!

She Loves a lot of things, but her favorites are all things green, my homemade sourdough wheat bread, and blueberries. This girl sees a blueberry and squeals. She has a blueberry dance. She would turn into a blueberry if we lived in a Mel Stuart movie.  So as her first birthday began to approach, I thought long and hard on what would be the perfect 1st birthday cake. Her little birthday party had a ‘Tea party’ theme with finger sandwiches, tea and mimosas because my little girl, no matter how un-ladylike her mother is, is very, very dainty. All the ladies were instructed to wear big hats and frilly dresses, I even pulled out my grandmothers white gloves. So instead of a cake, it seemed appropriate to make little blueberry cupcakes for my little lady.

This past year has been challenging.  It has been filled with loss and gain, love and heartache, and every day I am allowed the luxury to sit back and watch what I was so lucky to create.  I have a wonderful and loving husband, a creative and handsome son, and a beautiful and playful daughter.  I have grown a lot, learned a lot and become a better person thanks to all of them.  My family is my everything.  We don’t have a lot of possessions, we don’t go on fancy trips or to fancy restaurants, but we are so incredibly rich because we have one another. When another year goes by, I only hope to be sitting in this very spot, as happy as I am at this very moment, watching my beautiful family grow and thrive.

Happy 1st birthday, my little angel. This recipe was created especially for you-
my beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, beautiful girl.

*White Chocolate Blueberry Cupcakes

(recipe makes 22-24, depending on how much you fill your tins)
(This recipe was inspired by the idea of a Blueberry Shortcake. And I’m just doctoring up a boxed cake mix here because I get so many of them for free with my coupons.  I’m not ashamed of it, but if you’re not a fan of the boxed mixes, I completely understand.  Use your favorite yellow cake recipe or pound cake recipe and add 12 ounces of melted white chocolate and the zest of 1 lemon or some lemon extract.  And I happen to like using cool-whip in cake frostings but if you’re against it, sub freshly whipped cream.) For the Cupcakes:
-1 box yellow cake mix
-1 stick unsalted butter, melted
-1 cup milk, room temperature
-3 large eggs, room temperature
-1 tsp vanilla
-the zest of 1 lemon or 2 splashes of lemon extract
-pinch of kosher salt
-12 ounces white chocolate (1 bag of morsels), melted over a double boiler and then cooled slightly
——————————–
-Blend all the ingredients in a mixing bowl with an electric mixer if you have it. Blend for about 3 minutes, being sure to scrape down the sides to get everything incorporated.
-Pour into muffin pans lined with cups and sprayed with cooking spray.  Each muffin cup should be filled 3/4 of the way.
-Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 19-22 minutes, or until you see golden brown around the edges and the center has set.  (Due to the moisture content of these cupcakes, they will most likely have a slump in the center, but that’s okay because you will be filling them with jam.)
-Allow to cool for 10 minutes in the pans and then transfer to a rack until completely cooled.

For the Filling:
-You can buy blueberry preserves from the store, I happen to like the ‘all-fruit, no added sugar’ kind, but use what you like.
-OR make your own by boiling down 12 ounces of fresh blueberries (2 small cartons from the store) with a splash of water or lemon juice, a pinch of salt and sugar to taste.  Let it simmer on low until thickened.
-Whether you’re using a store bought jar, or have made your own, be sure to reserve about 1/3 cup to add to the ‘frosting’.
-Place your cooled filling into either a piping bag or large zip bag and just snip off a small-medium piece of the corner of the zip bag.  (You won’t be able to use a piping tip here because of the blueberry pieces in the homemade filling.) Set aside.

For the ‘Frosting’:
-In a medium mixing bowl blend two 8 ounce bricks of neufchatel cream cheese, softened, with 16 ounces of whipped topping, thawed, and 4 big spoonfuls, or roughly 1/3-1/2 cup of marshmallow fluff*.  Mix this until completely blended.  Then add your reserved blueberry preserves until well incorporated.  It should be a very pale lavender. (I don’t like very sweet frosting, so my cake frostings never contain a lot of sugar.  But you make yours however sweet you like.)

Assembly:
-With a sharp knife, make a small hole in the top center of each cupcake.
-Using the piping or zip bag full of filling, squeeze about 1 tsp or so into each hole. And don’t worry about the exposed hole, you will cover it with frosting.
-Once all your cupcakes have been filled, add your frosting to the tops of each cupcake.
-Garnish with fresh blueberries.

(*marshmallow fluff is my trick to keeping a frosting like this thick for longer periods of time.  This is especially useful if you’re using real whipped cream, as it will help it stay firm.)

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9 Comments

  • Reply Gail March 12, 2012 at 10:36 pm

    Wonderful photos, Abbey, wonderful post. Yes, all you really need is love.

  • Reply Sebia Cooks March 12, 2012 at 11:26 pm

    Really beautiful post & pictures, Abbey. Happy Birthday Lennon. So much of what you said about having a daughter resonated with me. thanks

  • Reply Anonymous March 12, 2012 at 11:29 pm

    Amazing party with a beautiful family…so blessed to be a pert of it! XXX

  • Reply Velva March 17, 2012 at 12:28 am

    Rock on Abbey! Motherhood is an amazing journey.

    Love, love all the photos. Amazing. Thanks for sharing it with us.

    Cheers.
    Velva

  • Reply Everyday Champagne March 17, 2012 at 1:37 am

    Thank you, Velva! It certainly is.

  • Reply Terrianne, Call me Ree April 7, 2012 at 8:52 pm

    I know Lennon had a wonderful first birthday. I also know that first birthday's are really for the Mom's. The first year you get to spend with this amazing human you carried and anticipated, and now get to watch as they learn, grow and discover–words just can't properly capture the transformative journey in love that is. What a blessing! Congratulations to you on your first year with Lennon. <3

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