Define Home


 Jordan and I moved into my family’s lake house when we got married 3 years ago. It was such a gift to be able to stay there while we raised Lila and Jordan finished his bachelor’s degree in exercise sports science. The plan was to move out after that, but Jordan was offered an opportunity to be the Carthage GA coach and while doing that, they would pay for his masters degree. It was a no-brainer opportunity and we discussed it with Jordan’s parents and mine to see if it would be okay to stay at the lake longer. We also talked about our desire to expand our family and keep the age difference between the kids relatively small. We all agreed that we would stay put at the lake and continue our life course there.

            Life did continue, but not necessarily as planned. We were blessed with another child, but so so sadly lost her at 12 weeks. Meanwhile, my brother made a huge life decision to leave the Wakeboarding Pro Tour to move home and follow a new path. So, the lake house was very busy. Dante moved in and the rush of summer brought friends and family in and out. It was the lake house. That’s what it was for. However, recovering from a D and C proved to be far more difficult, physically and emotionally, than I had imagined. Keeping up with a very large summer home and tending an amazing garden, caring for my 7 flirty hens and raising and potty training our sweet and silly 18 month old daughter was too much for me. It was all things I wanted to do, but I should have paid attention to my body. I bled for 9 weeks and ended up in the ER hemorrhaging. I didn’t give myself time to heal. I tried to keep myself distracted from the reality and pain I was dealing with. ‘I would be 6 months pregnant right now….I would have known the sex and name of my baby’.

            Fall came and went. We were able to conceive again, and Jordan started another school year and soccer season. I was in a scary place. Conceiving after a loss is such a healing gift. It calms a lot of fears, however, it creates so much fear too. ‘Is the heart still beating? Is my baby okay? What if… how can I be sure..?’ It took all I had to surrender to God’s plan for us. I just wanted to hold on with clenched fists, but that wouldn’t do anything. By the time winter hit, I was feeling those reassuring kicks and soaking up moments with my precious princess. It was a rough winter, as many of you know. I was getting too big to do much. The driveway was covered in ice and so was the lawn. My chicken coop door had frozen so that it only opened a little bit and my belly couldn’t squeeze through. That meant that Jordan had to brave the slippery path to and from the coop to thaw water, feed and collect eggs for me. He had to clear snow on our private drive so early in the morning to get to school on time. One day he called and he had totaled his car. He was ok, he wasn’t in it. He was helping a family that slid off the road. We bought a replacement car. Then, one day, he took my jeep to work because it was too snowy. Then, he called saying he slid off the road and almost flipped over a bridge.

            People, it was time. We knew it. The commute was too much. The house was about to fill again for summer and we knew we couldn’t raise a newborn there again. I couldn’t heal the way I needed to and Jordan and I felt ready to step out on our own.

            Have you ever tried to find somewhere to live? I couldn’t. Every place I found to show Jordan was either on Sex Offender Ave, or at the corner of Meth Lab and Prison. Research is not my strong point. Luckily, Jordan’s native language is Internet, so he took care of it. We looked at completely renovating a farm-house in Elkhorn, we looked at buying an old house in Kenosha to use later as a rental property, but in the end, we chose to rent an apartment out here. Jordan only has one more year left of his masters and we want to be free of the debt and worry of a property to manage out here. My amazing mother in law, Lisa, took my chickens and coop and is caring for them now. They’re like my kids, they know that Nana’s house has all the good stuff. They have a crazy garden with magic dirt and are generously sharing eggs and produce with us and we we’re even still able to plant a full, organic garden at the lake.

            We’re looking at it like we had to take one step back in order to be able to take a huge step forward when we know what that step is. Yes it is an apartment, but it’s our apartment. It’s our first real space. It’s so exciting. It’s so bare. It’s a work in progress. I knew the only way to feel at home was to get comfortable in my kitchen. It’s been a month and my rhythm has been off. I keep switching cabinets and drawers (bothering my husband) to make it feel right but I just couldn’t. My stove is old and impossible and nothing has turned out quite as I would like. Then I had an idea. You’re not home until you can make a batch of cinnamon rolls. It’s true.

            I know what you are thinking, “Darla Jean! Aren’t you supposed to be losing that baby weight? Didn’t you just finish a sugar fast?” Yes, and yes. But listen, it wasn’t about stuffing my face and stress eating. It was therapy. Nothing is more peaceful than making dough. Yeast is so delicate and dependable. It rises. It is smooth. 


     Then I rubbed butter all over it with my bare hands, and followed that with some soft brown sugar and tons of cinnamon. I let it rise again while I washed dishes and tried to remember where to put them away. I set my wonky oven and guessed when it was ready and put them in.


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That smell. The butter and sugar and cinnamon. It softened everything. Made it feel more welcoming, like I belong. The fresh ground coffee beans. The sound of my kettle whistling to signal that was ready to pour over my French press. I feel I’ve found my footing, just in time to kick my feet up and enjoy my creation…in the peace of my new home.



Homemade Cinnamon Rolls
Yields 12
Write a review
Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
3 hr
Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
3 hr
For the Dough
  1. 1 cup warm milk
  2. 2 1/2 teaspoons yeast
  3. 2 room eggs at room temp
  4. 1/3 cup melted unsalted butter
  5. 1/2 cup sugar
  6. 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  7. 4- 4 1/2 cups flour
  8. 1 tsp salt
For the Filling
  1. 1 cup packed brown sugar
  2. 2 tbs ground cinnamon
  3. a pinch of salt
  4. 1/3 cup softened butter
For the Frosting
  1. 8 oz. softened cream cheese
  2. 2 tbs softened butter
  3. a pinch of salt
  4. 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  5. 2-3 cups of powdered sugar
  1. 1. Start by stirring your yeast together with your warm milk in a separate bowl and let that sit and sponge for 10 min while you gather your other ingredients. In the bowl of your mixer (this can all be done by hand too) beat the eggs a bit and slowly add the melted butter, sugar, vanilla and the yeast mixture. Switch to your dough hook and add the flour and salt. Don't add all of the flour at first, add it about a cup at a time. You may not need all of it. Your dough is ready when it forms a ball and cleans the sides of the bowl. Continue to knead it either in your mixer or by hand for 5 min and then put it in a greased bowl with a cloth over it until it doubles in size. (1 hr)
  2. 2. After it's ready, punch it down, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and let it rest for a few minutes while you mix together your cinnamon, sugar and salt in a separate bowl.
  3. 3. Roll your dough out into a large rectangle (about 16 inches/21 inches. With your hands, rub the 1/3 cup butter all over the surface and then cover it with the cinnamon and sugar mix.
  4. 4. Roll it so it's a 21 in log. Cut in half, cut each half in half again, and then cut each quarter into thirds. This will leave you with 12 pretty equal rolls. That you can arrange in either 2 greased pie dishes, or one 9/13 dish.
  5. 5. Cover and let rise until doubled in size (about another hour)
  6. 6. Place your rolls in a preheated oven (400 degrees) for 20 min. Meanwhile, make your frosting by creaming your butter, cream cheese, salt, and vanilla together. Slowly add your powdered sugar, cup by cup, until you reach a nice creamy constancy
  7. 7. Take your rolls out when they are golden brown on top and seem firm to the touch. If for some reason it seems they browned before they cooked through, cover them with foil and put them back in until they feel done.
  8. 8. Allow them to cool slightly before absolutely slathering them with tons of frosting. Burry them. Then they are ready.
  1. This recipe seems complicated, but it is totally easy and worth the work. I can personally vouch for freshness for 3 days, but honestly haven't had any left longer than that. They go quick.
  2. There are endless adaptations for these, add what you like! leave out what you don't
Dear Darla


    • DearDarla says:

      Thank you September, you are so encouraging and inspiring. Thank you for staying in my life, even from a distance 🙂

  1. Rachel Jason says:

    Dear Darla,

    You’ve made the apartment complex into a neighborhood with your homemade cinnamon rolls. Their airy texture, light cinnamon twist, and sweet finish make the morning sun brighter. Thanks for sharing your creations, both from the oven and from your pen.

    Can’t wait for more (writing, that is)!

    • DearDarla says:

      Love having friends nearby to do life with! Thanks for making me feel welcome, and for giving me little fur babies to love on!

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