Four Years

The day before Ada was born, I came home from work in the afternoon to make banana muffins for a meeting I had the next morning, a Friday. That Friday, November 20, 2009 was scheduled to be my last day of work before I took maternity leave, exactly one week before my due date. I gladly never made it to that meeting because my always observant, aware, thoughtful little girl knew her timing was perfect.  Instead, my banana muffins accompanied us to the hospital and were my midnight snack that Thursday night as we awaited our girl. By mid-morning on Friday I was holding my brand new Ada baby close, admiring her long dainty fingers, her dark full hair, her almond shaped eyes, her perfect teeny tiny heart shaped lips, and her ridiculously precious button nose. I had truly never felt such bliss. Such gratitude for a gift that had seemed too good to be true since the moment I looked at that peed-on stick and saw the telling lines. Since the first moment I thanked God over and over again for this child, tears and adrenaline racing, it felt too good to be true. I desperately tried to distract myself by walking down the block to the grocery store so I wouldn’t call my husband and give him the biggest news of his life over the phone…it felt too good to be true. I had dreamed over and over so many times about being a mother, and mostly about to whom I would have the privilege of being their mother.  I have described Ada’s birthday and the months following as blissful, peaceful, joyful, and sacred. I never felt a lot of fear during pregnancy or birth (except for the half-delirious moment in the tub 11 hours into labor when I pondered out-loud, half-crying, “how is this going to work? how does she really come out of there? this isn’t going to work!” hahaaaa).  I was nervous about things going right for the baby and me, of course, but the mothering and baby part I just couldn’t get to fast enough. So, on Ada’s birth day, there I was, exactly where I’d wanted to be for as long as I can remember. All made sweeter by the fact that my wonderful husband and I were parents together to this perfect girl. Like any brand-new mom, I had no clue what this new person would bring to our lives. Though, looking back, I was never surprised by how much I loved her (and that the love grew infinitely each day), I was never surprised that leaving her side and going back to work was hell, nor was I surprised when I was awake every two hours every night for the first months. She had prepared me, God had prepared me. It felt like Ada had been there all the time, through my whole life, and that our lives finally converged on 11/20/09 in body, mind and spirit. I am eternally grateful for this child. For her tenderness, her warmth, her heart, her voice, her soul, for her tantrums, her scrunched-up mad face, her particular-ness about everything right now, for the way she forgives and loves,  for ALL of her. For the past four years, Ada has taught me what it means to be her mother. She gave me new expectations for the person I want and need to be in this world. Even on days when I don’t fulfill my vision of mothering, I am shown grace.  I am always learning to reach outside of myself in challenging ways, how to be quiet and listen, how to be truly present in time so I am parenting the child before me, not the infant it seems like last week was snuggled in bed next to me on our first night home, nor the teenager I am, quite frankly, a little scared of. There will never be words enough to describe what her birth day means to me and more importantly what she means to me. She is…in all her imperfections and sass and strength and attitude and observation and kindness and creativity and love…she is my perfect girl.

We got a “happy birthday” coupon from her dentist’s office for frozen yogurt, so rain or shine, 40 degrees or 60 degrees, tomorrow we’ll be dumping candy onto overly sweetened fake tasting yogurt because Ada will love it. We already had her Princess Ballerina birthday party which was a blast and definitely pink :) I will be sewing little felt butterflies onto a new bed canopy for her tonight, as she has been admiring other girls’ canopies for a while now. She received some much-beloved princesses and princess accessories at her party, so the past few days have been occupied, needless to say. Every year for the birthday girl (or daddy) we set a place setting at the table with birthday surprises and notes and decorations, and this year is the first year Ada has asked “so will my table have surprises on it on my real birthday in the morning?” It’s the first year she has remembered this tradition.  Yes darling, it will. We love you so. Happy Fourth Birthday my little love!

Snippets from around here …

I’m realizing that having this little space to write is nice. I miss it when there just aren’t enough seconds in the day to sit down and type something out. I’ve been gazing at my small girls thinking how fast they are growing, how Ada is almost FOUR YEARS OLD. Just the other day we were baking and I told her we needed six half-cups of flour, and as we counted to four, she said “only two more!”. I mean, wow. Math. And she came  home from preschool the other day and said, “Mommy, do you know what animals are nocturnal? Bats. They are awake at night and they sleep in the morning!” Nocturnal. I was floored by my learning girl. At night when we say prayers (well, Ada has been requesting that we don’t do prayers, but we’ve compromised with saying what we’re thankful for, or “thanktful” as she says), she’ll say “i’m thanktful you’re my mommy and I’m thanktful we have lights and I’m thanktful for our house and I’m thanktful for my family and I’m thanktful for friends to play with and I’m thanktful for food. your turn, mommy!”.  Amidst so many new developments, Francie is starting to truly act like a kid now, not a baby. She loves reading books, with us or on her own. She likes to push her babies in the toy stroller or wrap them up, rock them, stroke them, kiss them and make them cry after chucking them to floor.  Ada used to do that too, like she was giving the doll a reason to cry by slamming it into the ground. That would probably do it, I suppose ;) When Francie wakes during the night, I hear her wailing, “maaamaaaaaa, maaaamiiiiii” through the monitor. It breaks my heart wide open and I have no choice but to go in and hold her tight against me for a while, soaking in her moments of baby-ness that are left. If we end up waking up together in the same bed (not a rare occurrence), the first thing she’ll do is lift up her chick-fuzz-hair covered head and say “hiii”. I usually respond with desperate pleas of “hi, it’s night night time, lie down, go night night, pleaaaasssse. i love you”.  My sweet loves.

Anyways. I think I eluded to the fact that Fall is a busy season around here (we certainly aren’t the only ones, i’m sure!), and I haven’t had much time to sit down in front of the computer to post any sort of coherent thing. I’ll try right now, but don’t hold me to it. My ‘snippets’ post is full of some end-of-summer photos. Here’s some things that have filled up our last 1.5 months:

1) ripping 700 bricks out of our patio space

2) pouring concrete into said patio space

3) daddy has been working hard for a year building his real estate career, balancing two jobs, and he just transitioned to doing only real estate!

4) fabulous family vacation

5) mommy got Lyme disease (i’m ok, but it was strange, and it’s SUPER rare in WA State. like, I’m ONE out of 0-3 people who get it here per year. cool, huh?)

6) preschool and ballet started again

7) bakery walks as we’ve termed them in our little family. find a local bakery (new to us or revisit a favorite) and then jaunt around whatever neighborhood it happens to be in.

8) hosting a party to celebrate a cute engaged couple

9) painting our poor-quality dark brown doors white

10) starting to plan holiday festivities

Next up is Ada’s Princess Ballerina Party! I’m just a little excited about it. I’ve been eyeing everything pink, sparkly, glittery, and tutu for a while (all because that’s what my girl wants, I’ll have you know). She also requested a pink cake. I think I can handle that. Ada and I had so much fun planning her Daniel Tiger party last year. This year, her requested theme has stayed pretty steady. Last year we fluctuated daily between wanting a “flower”, “garden”, “Spiderman”, “ladybug” and “daniel tiger” party. I finally just started obsessively pushing the Daniel Tiger theme and left no room for further requests. Once we started making the characters into little felt puppets she was sold. She dressed up like him in a little red sweatshirt, converse high tops and khakis. It was the cutest. I’m hoping we don’t get a last minute request for a Spiderman party this year.  stay tuned :)

Tonight will include in no particular order: watching ‘Biggest Loser’ while mindlessly shoving Trader Joe’s candy (left over from the party we hosted) into my mouth, dinner requested by Ada – “kale, chicken leg, arugula, mashed potatoes, and pizza” (wish me luck), and attempting to fold and put away the expanding pile of clean laundry.

Have a great Tuesday evening ♥

Pie Crust Shards, with honey and cinnamon

My mom has always made the most fabulous pie crust. In fact, it was (and is) the BEST part of the pie in my opinion. I eat my pie in a way that honors and savors the beloved crust. I still get taunted by my family when they see me dissecting a slice of pie, even though I’m sneaky and strategic now so I don’t look like such a weirdo. You’d think I didn’t like pie if you watched me eat it (not that many people watch me eat pie). I carefully remove only the fruity or pumpkinny innards by the forkful, eating as I go. What’s left is just the shell of crust. Beautiful. The crust then gets devoured before some well-meaning soul tries to steal it because they think I just don’t like crust. Au contraire. I’m a little protective of my pie.

After my mom would place the top crust of pie dough onto her unbaked pie, she trimmed the extra parts off the sides before she crimped it into a perfect scalloped border. As a little girl I was so excited about the trimmed scraps of pie dough. I got to roll them out, cut them into abstract shapes, sprinkle them with cinnamon and sugar and bake them. Bake time for the dough shards is short because they are thin. As a child, I loved that they were always ready to eat quicker than the pies ever were. As we all know, speed is highly valued when you are young and have VERY limited patience. My Ada also shares this value and adores having her own dough to roll, bake and eat when we bake together.

I’ve altered my childhood recipe a bit, adding honey instead of sugar, and drizzling it over the shards after they bake instead of before. I still have to try so hard not to eat all of them at once right after they are pulled from the oven perfectly hot and bubbly and slightly crunchy. It only seems right and fair to share with my little family these simple treats that gave me such lovely memories of being with my own mama in the kitchen.

Pie Crust Shards with honey and cinnamon (it’s one of those “recipes” that feels silly to write down, but here you go!)

- scraps from pie making or tart making. Try this one: Pastry Dough from my Cinnamon Apple Tart

- honey

 – sprinkles of ground cinnamon

1) Preheat oven to 350°. Crumple all the scraps of dough together and then roll out to about 1/4 inch thick round on a floured work surface.

2) You can then cut out shapes with a cookie cutter if you feel fancy (Ada is definitely on the fancy train) or you can do as I’ve always done and take a knife and just cut random slices to create the “shard” look.

3) Place shards or shapes onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Sprinkle cinnamon over the top of each shard.

4) Bake for about 15 – 20 minutes (might take more or less depending on your oven). Watch them carefully, they should be lightly browned before you remove them.

5) Once removed from oven, drizzle honey over the top, as much or as little as you’d like. Let them cool a tad before eating.

This is a nostalgic treat for me; I hope you enjoy this simple little idea for using up your pie dough scraps!

Cinnamon Apple Tart

We moved into our house almost three years ago. Ada was just over a year old. I was still working at my office job for a Seattle non-profit and was barely staying sane attempting to work from home and in the office, drop off the baby at my mom’s house or find sitters for her on the days my mom worked, organize my new home, be an attentive wife/mom/family member. You know, that balance that doesn’t really exist. When we moved, I was kind of a stressed out mess. Albeit, an excited and thankful mess too. What really sticks out for me about moving into our new home is the neighborhood we moved into, the neighbors we were blessed with. We never could have planned for it or guessed it, but our house is between two families with little girls the same ages as ours and more families up and down the block with young kids.  These are things that only the universe can throw your way, and we are more and more grateful each year to have landed in such a fabulous spot for our growing family. I always dreamed of a childhood for my kids that involved neighborhood bbq’s, running between yards playing chase on summer nights, neighbors showing up at the front door (or me at theirs) for a cup of sugar (or laundry detergent, or a parenting book, or a wheel barrow, or printer paper, or a princess DVD), and it has all come true. Just the other day we were gifted with a bucket of apples from our neighbors who have a very fruitful apple tree, and two daughters who are two of my girls’ best buddies. Ada just loved that the bucket the apples came in was pink with butterflies on it.

The small, tart apples are perfect for baking. So naturally, I got my bake on and tried a new recipe – while my kids flung the contents of all the lower kitchen cabinets onto the floor, narrowly avoiding a bag-of-quinoa explosion and successfully emptying a Costco-sized box of Cheerios onto the floor. There’s a reason Francie’s favorite activity is trotting around the house with a bunched up paper towel wiping down surfaces, pretending to clean. It’s what I do all. day. long. Even though it did require some extra clean-up, the crispy pie pastry and the soft caramelly apples were totally worth it.

Cinnamon Apple Tart

Pastry Dough

- 3/4 cups all purpose flour

- 1/2 cup whole wheat flour

- 1 tablespoon sugar

- 1/2 teaspoon salt

- 1/2 cup cold butter (1 stick), cut into 1 inch cubes

- 5 tablespoons very cold water

1) Combine flours, sugar, and salt.

2) Add butter to the flour mixture and mix in with a pastry cutter or your fingers until the mixture is mealy.

3) Add cold water to flour/butter combo and mix with spatula until just combined. If it is very difficult to mix in most of the flour (the dough will be a little crumbly but should still come together) add 1 tablespoon of water at a time until you can bring the dough together just enough to roll it out without it crumbling all over the place.

4) Roll out a 12 inch round of dough, about 1/4 inch thick. Place it on a parchment lined baking sheet and place in the fridge until you need it to cover your apples (see below where apple tart recipe continues)…..

…..for the apple tart:

- 1/4 cup butter cut into pieces

- 1/4 cup sugar

- 1/4 cup honey

- about 5 apples, peeled and cored (golden delicious, Rome Beauty, Pink Lady, or Fuji apples work well)

- dash of ground cinnamon

1) Preheat oven to 375°. Use a 10-inch oven proof frying pan  to heat the butter over medium heat until melted.

2) Add the sugar and honey evenly over the butter in the frying pan and continue cooking it until the sugar turns golden brown and melts (about 4 minutes). Sprinkle a little cinnamon over the sugar mixture.

Note: jiggle the frying pan frequently while butter and sugar are cooking to prevent sticking and burning. Reduce temperature if you fear your sugar is burning.

3) Add the apples, core side up, to the frying pan, placing them close to each other so they fit tightly in the pan. Raise the heat to medium high and cook until apples are slightly tender (about 10-15 minutes. The carmel/sugar sauce should bubble up in between the apples as they cook.

4) Remove the pan from the heat, and remove your pastry dough from the fridge. Place the pastry dough round on top of the pan and tuck the edges around the apples (be careful! the pan will be very hot!).

5) Place pan in your preheated oven and bake for about 30 minutes. The crust should look golden brown. I started baking the tart on the lower/middle rack of the oven, then midway through baking I moved it to the top rack.

6) Let the tart cool for a few minutes, then get a large serving platter and place it upside down on top of the frying pan. Invert the pan and plate together (flip the whole thing), and lift the pan off of the apple tart that should now be sitting crust-side-down on your serving platter or plate.

Obviously ice cream or whipped cream would be decadent with this. It’s also delicious for breakfast the next day.

Thank you to my fabulous neighbors for our baking apples, and for the pretty pink butterfly bucket which Ada is I am still planning on returning.

Happy Fall baking to you!

Snippets from around here …

Happy Monday to all! We’ve been unearthing our brick patio all weekend so we can pour concrete later this week. The whole area now is one big pit of dirt, weeds and sand (and stacks and stacks of bricks waiting to be Craigslisted). As Ada gleefully put it, “we have a SAND BOX!!!!!”. You can tell we have a “sand box” just by walking through our house. I’m never going to have a sand box again, let me tell you :)

Anyways, it is the start of a busy week and a busy season for us. I am looking forward to it. I am also enjoying these last few summery days when there aren’t coats to be bundled into, shoes to tie, hats to coerce onto children, mittens to untangle fingers into, and ice to scrape from windshields.  I am enjoying opening up the back door and letting the babies run free, that we get to see our neighbors so much because we’re all just hangin’ with the kids outside all the time. I love that it’s light out past 3:00 pm. But I miss the crunchy leaves and spicy smells in the air. My scarves are happily waiting to be worn, and I do love wearing socks.

I’ll be back with some recipes soon. Thank you for visiting.

Autumn, you are here!

I don’t care that the official first day of Fall is the 22nd, today feels so Fall-ish! Or like Midwestern summertime. I’m having a hard time deciphering seasons between the golden Fall sunshine, humidity, thunder, lightning, and torrential downpours. It doesn’t really matter to me, though, because Fall is my FAVORITE season. It always has been.

Pumpkin bread, cider, apples, steaming mugs of tea or cocoa, stew, soups, breads, baked pastas, root veggies. Being cozy in socks and sweaters on those rainy days feels comforting. I don’t feel as guilty for not going outside during our colder months (however, with two active kids now it IS a little harder to be cooped up, I’ll admit). Fires in the fireplace are a weekly thing, and candles feel like they belong again (in the summer, lighting anything other than citronella feels wrong). I’m so looking forward to this bountiful and beautiful time of year. Our season is very FULL of wonderful family celebrations too, so we keep pretty busy between our comfy days and nights at home.

We also have more activities on our calendar than before, regarding childrens’ schedules. We are trying to start out relatively slow when it comes to signing Ada up for classes and school, etc. As a family, I can only imagine how our calendar will look when our girls are both involved in various sports, music, arts, etc. in addition to school. So for now, I’m soaking up as much of this stage of minimal preschool and simple one-time-a-week ballet (and also trying not become a “dance mom”, as I’ve heard those are pretty nasty) as I can. I know we’ll all kind of evolve into whatever our next school year looks like, as most of us parents do with every childhood stage and change. But for this school year, I’m feeling like we’ve got plenty packed into our weeks for a 3 year old and a 1 year old.

Right now I’m making dinner and listening to the sweet voice of my Ada who is playing upstairs with her dolls. I hope I can always remember her 3 year old voice in my mind, just the way it sounds to my ears right this minute. So light and smooth and calm and tender. A little chirpy in the loveliest sense of the word. Francie is at my feet, sitting, which doesn’t happen often in the climbing-falling-jumping-dancing-devious stage she is in. She is playing in her drawer with the plastic utensils and cups. She is stirring her “pot” with a baby-sized spork (I’m madly stirring a pot of polenta), and she keeps “tasting” her mixture.  I love noticing the tiniest bits of our daily goings-on that she picks up and imitates flawlessly. It’s a perfect little evening for me. Fall sunshine pouring in our huge front window, happy baby sounds all around, NPR’s calming voices I remember from my own childhood evenings, and some real dinner in the oven (ie: not leftovers or eggs or pasta thrown together in 5 minutes. I do that a lot lately, which can be yummy and easy, but tonight it was nice to have time to cook). I hope my children grow up feeling as much love and peace as I did just being at home with the ones I love. It’s a perfect little evening with two of the ones I love the most.

wishing you a wonderful (almost) Autumn evening ♥

Cup of Jo – Parenting Around The World series

some blogs are really cool. I love this one, and I love this series she is doing:

Cup of Jo – Parenting Around The World series

As someone who wholeheartedly believes there is no “right” way or “one” way to parent, and who is fascinated and inspired by how parents in other countries and cultures do this mama and papa thing – this series is really fun to read. I look forward to Joanna’s new post each Monday about Parenting Around the World. Enjoy!