12.18.2014

holiday birthday sparkle.

Before we jump into the most wonderful week of the year, I wanted to quickly share a few snapshots from Jenna's first birthday party that we hosted last week. For all of you with December loved ones, you can clue me in on how to differentiate the birthday to the holiday for years to come, but with all the sparkle and twinkle in the air, pops of black, white and gold were on the menu.
Just a family affair, which means a house full of six cousins and one big sister, we ate from giant pots of homemade chicken tortilla soup with cornbread muffins, drank and were merry over Christmas cookie decorating after diving into birthday cake; Ina Garten's coconut cake that is now my all-time favorite cake. In the world. I'm done searching.
Most party supplies (including frosting tubes) came from - you guessed it - Shop Sweet Lulu, with some Amazon purchases for cutlery and to-go soup containers. Becker's Bakery gingerbread men saved the day. Invitations were a DIY job, using Martha Stewart glitter dust, glue and Paper Source envelopes and liner kit.

I've kept around much of the decor all month long, and will do so into New Year's Eve. Gold is so good that way.

Merry, happy everything!

12.08.2014

jenna bean.

Sweet Jenna Bean,

When it rolls off my tongue, it sounds like "jelly bean," which is what we have called you since the day we brought you home. Of all your nicknames, it's my favorite because it's so accurate. Everything about you is one happy, sweet jelly bean.

You don't know this yet, but you will: birthdays are such a gut check. They are good at getting us to pause and take stock in this life. I'm overcome with such joy when I think about what you have brought to our lives in just one year, and how far we've come.

This first year is such a marathon sprint. With your patience and deep belly giggles, you've allowed me to slow down, loosen my grip and make mistakes, and attempt to do it all with a bit of grace. You've made me tougher on the outside but so much softer on the inside. Pregnancy hormones have nothing on you.

It's so very hard to describe just how magical you are, but if you can take the warmth of this Christmas season and multiply it 365 days, then you might have an idea of the light and love you share with our family every single day. You are my daily dose of twinkle lights, all year round.

Just the thought of your happy smile makes me crumble with such gratitude that you are mine.
Happy birthday, my big one year old.

I love you forever.

Thanks to my amazing sister-in-law who captured these moments and my heart at Jenna's first birthday party with her cousins last night. 

11.19.2014

seasons.

I suppose if I wait long enough, there will be something burning in my head so much so that I just have to write it down. So, here goes.

With Jenna's first birthday just a few weeks away, I find myself drifting back to one year ago so many times throughout my day, especially when there are moments in time, that each season, get repeated.

Right now, for instance, as we approach Manhattan Beach's official holiday season kickoff tonight, I go back three years when I was in the very first week of my pregnancy with Mari and so sick to my stomach that I can almost taste it. And, on the flip side, to one year ago when I was blissfully near the end of Jenna's pregnancy that I could see the finish line in the distance, even though just walking the streets of MB was enough to tire me out for the rest of the week.

And, so, with these seasons that come and go, my hope is that I can always remember, feel and taste moments past, the good ones and the challenging ones; that there was once a Thanksgiving when I dropped an entire sheet pan of warm and gooey brownies into my sister-in-law's oven because I was so jittery and newly pregnant; that nursing my new baby with the glow of twinkle lights from the Christmas tree is so magical that it defines miracle; and seeing my Mari's mind, for the first time, start to process these little people and why we really celebrate Christmas.

These memories also provide such perspective; there are some seasons where things just don't get done, and you do what you can, and I'm not just talking about the holidays.

In the last few months, I've admittedly struggled to get to this white space and write. Reminding myself that that's okay has been something I've done only with the help of my family; they've taught me best to do my best at what I want and can do, and that's enough.
Even if I still think that I'm going to make dozens and dozens of sugar cookies, because this is the year that I'm making cookies to enjoy all season long. And that is something that every year, must repeat.

One of my favorite (and only!) photos of just the girls, from our family trip to Lake Tahoe, back in September.

9.09.2014

mari's third birthday: we scream for ice cream!

Mari's third birthday was my favorite summer day - as it has become annually - and after celebrating with pizza and park friends, we invited over her three besties for a play date at our house, with all of her favorite things. And, at the top of Mari's favorites list is ice cream. So, we went with it.
Here are some photos from her big day back in July, and later this week, I'll list out sources, so come back and visit if you're interested.

Lunch trays filled with the birthday girl's picks: heart-shaped turkey and cheddar cheese sandwiches; carrots and ranch dip; pirate's booty; watermelon balls.
Egg crates filled with Mari's favorite candies and sprinkles for make-your-own-ice-cream sundaes.
Kraft favor boxes filled with popsicle-shaped lip gloss and jelly bellies.
Also: we had a little Susie Cakes. Our kryptonite.
Come back later this week for sourcing info.!

PS: photos from Mari's second birthday? Right here.

9.04.2014

pineapple coconut cream pops.

Hello there! Anyone out there?

I'd like to say I took a long vacation from blogging to actually go on vacation, but we just plugged our summer right along, blinked, and now it's September. I'm happy to say we enjoyed all things beach; shell collecting, kite flying, biking, picnic'ing, sand eating (in Jenna's case) and lots of time with family and good friends. Summer was good to us, but just like that, Mari started pre-school yesterday (!) and we're off and running.

I know I'm a little late to the party with popsicles. It could be cold where you are. But, if you're like us, you know that this is the best time of year at the beach: late summer, and so you're probably still pining for ice cream, gelato, popsicles and/or all of the above. Or maybe that's just our household.
We are popsicle, pineapple and coconut obsessed over here. Using this Bon Appetit peach-vanilla cream pops recipe as our base and method, here's what Mari and I did to make these tropical beauties:

- For the peaches, we subbed an entire fresh pineapple, cut into chunks.
- Whirled fruit in a blender with simple syrup and a few splashes of vanilla extract (the beans are worth it, if you have them) and then strained into a bowl.
- Then whisked in fat free Greek yogurt and non-fat milk and a generous handful of shredded coconut.

Depending on the sweetness of your pineapple, you might go light on the simple syrup like I did. These babies are so sweet, but oh-so-good when tamed with the cream from the yogurt and milk.

By the way, more ice cream is coming next week! Remember Mari's third birthday party back in July? I finally have a post ready to share with you! More to come. 

PS: for some general popsicle tips, see last year's experiment with watermelon

7.18.2014

friday foto: three cheers.

I don't know if you can hear it, but somewhere in cyberspace, there's a giant exhale. That's coming from yours truly, from my corner of the world, where after a month of chaos, we are settling down.

If in May, we were getting grounded, we spent most of June becoming totally ungrounded. Between our uncharacteristically hectic travel schedules, the four of us have not been under one roof for a stretch of more than five days in the last 30. For us, that's not the norm and it was only made slightly less chaotic with the help of our loving parents and super nanny.

For so many reasons, Mari's birthday on Sunday was so major. Turning three is, right? But, her birthday weekend was also the finish line after a challenging month, testing so many things in so many ways. 
But, we made it! And I'm excited to get back to a routine. Take on that summer bucket list (which I may share before it's not too late). And do some really boring things like reorganizing our kitchen storage and my desperately neglected iPhoto library. Who's with me?

Thanks for all of your sweet notes and comments (here and on Instagram) with birthday wishes for Mari. It has been a pretty perfect week (party coverage coming soon!).

Also: this is a total fake-out. We forgot the party hat for the real candle blow-out, and this was a re-do. Hope it's not too obvious. Good sport, that little Mari is.

For more Friday Fotos, start here.

7.15.2014

solid mechanics.

This post has been a long time coming, and it's all about babe, just fyi.

When I was learning the solids ropes with Mari a couple of years ago, I thought about sharing the process for how she got fed; in other words, not so much on the making of the food, or the tools and equipment used, but how it layered into our day with an ever-changing newborn schedule.
The hardest thing for me, with both kids, was figuring out what rhythm [read: schedule] worked for them, and letting that be the guide. As with most things baby, kids have a way of letting us know when they are ready for a change, and with Jenna, I've let her take her time and show me the way. I guess that's what happens with the second kid, when I'm not so hung up on expectations - of my baby or myself.

Do I feed Jenna solids before milk? After? Do I space out her feedings throughout the day? Did I start with rice cereal like everyone says you must? And how many times a day?

Before I dive in, I'll say that as with all things new in newborn, I relied heavily on my best gal pals who had navigated solids before me. Their words and advice is what helped me most. It's my hope that I can pass on some learned tips to those who may be going through solids for the first time.

All that said, here's a rough schedule and guide that I've rediscovered over the last few months as we experience solids, all over again. For your reference, Jenna is now 7 months old.