2.28.2014

friday foto: eyelashes.

They are my kryptonite. Impossible to resist. I have way too many photos of them not to share.
Lately, we're hanging around a bunch with our treetop friends, and when I remind myself to get out the camera, I notice that I take so many of the same photos that I did with Mari. Which is really fun, and I can really see the difference between the two girls.

Our sweet Jenna is edging towards three months (next week!), and I'm finally getting around to important business, like her birth announcements. I will share more when they are all signed, sealed and delivered, but I'm sure I'll post an Instagram or two along the way.

In other really, really exciting news, it's been an amazing week. We have another beautiful niece in the family and I'm reminded all over again at the miracle of newborns, the strength of mothers, the gentle grace of fathers and the wisdom of toddlers. And, that it indeed takes a village.

Life is so good!

For more Friday Fotos, see last week's post

2.21.2014

friday foto: meet and greet.

If you follow me on Instagram, you probably couldn't have avoided the blogger-to-blogger excitement that erupted a couple of weeks ago. You see, after years of exchanging emails, covering everything from what's-for-dinner to what we really want to be when we grow up, I finally got to meet Mary of Tulips & Flight Suits in person. What's more is that our families met, and with that, my cup runneth over.

Just look at those sweet girls (and so patient over a whole box of cronuts, I might add).
Earlier this week, Mary captured our meeting it in her most perfect way, as she always does. If you've not yet ventured over to her corner of cyberspace, you must. Before you do, take some time to get comfortable because you'll be there for a while.

There are days when I don't like the internet. But then, there are days like this that remind me that it has the ability to connect people from opposite coasts and cultivate the kind of friendship that is inspiring in every way, and for that I am forever grateful, because it led us to Coronado.

And, by way of Mary and her beautiful family, we made some new friends on our trip, too. To steal a word from Mary's Instagram feed, it was simply epic.

Happy weekend, friends.

For more Friday Fotos, see last week's post.

2.19.2014

surviving the early weeks: the practical list.

Thank you for your sweet comments to my first surviving the early weeks post. I had intended on writing something more practical, which is what you're about to read today, but that pizza feet story just told itself as I started writing, so I went with it.

But, let's get down to business. There are lots of things that help make parenting easier. I've blogged about some of my favorite baby products over the last couple of years (see: first month; months two and three; baby food tools). Now that I'm going through newborn life again, I've reaffirmed what helps me get through the days. As in: what's good for my soul.

Sure, a good wipes dispenser can be a game changer, but having a few things to look forward to each day just for me - morning, noon and night - have helped me make it through, especially in the early weeks when there were those 3 a.m. moments that felt impossible to survive.

But, there's hope! Caffeine helps. And I have a few other thoughts to add. Here we go.
 + A really good cup of coffee. I have never been a coffee drinker. I've proclaimed that I prefer tea to coffee, but a French Press entered our life (on sale, at the time!) and I haven't looked back. I drink one very diluted cup of coffee every morning, and the ritual of warming hot water, pouring it over coarsely ground beans and letting it steep makes me so happy.  Getting up is slightly less painful.

+  To a good cup of coffee, add a good breakfast. I started eating oatmeal when I was pregnant with Jenna and then, like you do, got a little tired of it. But, once I got Megan Gordon's beautiful new cookbook, Whole Grain Mornings* - on recommendation from The Faux Martha - my oatmeal addiction has reached a new high (see page 30). Like Gordon suggests, I double the recipe and have enough for a few days of re-heats. I make mine with almond milk, and usually top it with blueberries, granola and sliced almonds.

+ A really hot shower with this. Holy cow. I've long been a fan of Kai products but had not yet scrubbed with the body polish until Eddie surprised me with it for Christmas. Do yourself a favor and get some. And then take a long, hot shower. My skin has never felt so pampered and smooth.

+ Back to tea vs. coffee. At night, after the girls are asleep - or at least in bed - I heat up some water in my favorite Le Crueset tea kettle and sip some tea (highly recommend for nursing moms, btw) with a drizzle of honey. Sometimes Eddie joins me, and when he does, he sips on chamomile. This evening ritual will one day be replaced with a glass of wine, I'm sure. Until then, this daily wind-down is one of my favorite moments of the day.

+ Lastly, having a few good meals in the bank does wonders for all of us. We've been making a lot of soup that carries us through a few nights of left-overs, and I really do believe that soup is good for everyone's soul. Our two favorites that I can make with very few brain cells are The Barefoot Contessa's Italian Wedding Soup (most days, when I don't have time to make meatballs, I just use cooked, shredded chicken) and Whitney's white bean chicken chili.

+ And, on those bonus nights when leftovers are what's for dinner, sometimes I do make it to yoga. I'm trying to get back into the swing, and it's painfully hard but it feels so good. And I'm so thankful to Eddie who encourages me to get out and go as often as I can.

The beauty of blogging is that I am able to consciously recognize what helps me be a better person, partner and mom and then record it, and I'm so grateful for this space. My hope is that whether you're a mom or not, pregnant or not, you might get an idea or two from this post and discover what, for you, personally helps make your days better and brighter.

Here's to a happy rest of the week.

2.14.2014

happy heart day.

Hope you get lots of good mail, a hug, a kiss and some candy, of course. We're starting our day with a big breakfast - including our favorite waffles - and a long walk to deliver valentines to our friends at the park.
This is just the best holiday, isn't it? These are some last minute sweet treats, made possible by butter, marshmallows, rice krispies and a heart cookie cutter. And... my favorite heart sprinkles.

Happy Valentines weekend, all!

For more Friday Fotos, start here and see where the inspiration started for our 2014 valentine cards.

2.13.2014

love is in the mail: our 2014 valentines.

If I could just design valentine cards for the rest of my life, I'd be one happy girl. What's not to love about an over-abundance of hearts, cheery colors and candy? I loved last year's cards, mostly because I crave Swedish Fish more than any gummy candy - in the world - and I was really proud of them because I had just finished Illustrator 101 with Alma Loveland. They were my first big project on my own.
Determined to work with doilies this year, and add Eddie's favorite candy into the mix, we settled on these cute little pink-and-orange numbers, with Circus Peanuts. Now, I know some of you out there aren't lovers of the Circus Peanut. But, give them a chance. Plus, they're orange and cute and they worked. Know what I mean? 
Not the most efficient of assembly lines, we took a few days to get these cards done. We spent one morning individually wrapping the little candies with cellophane and twine; a late night printing and cutting lots and lots of hearts with good old fashioned Fiskars; and another morning with double stick tape, gel pens, stamps and envelopes.
And by "we," I mean "me." Mari sat in my lap or very close to it for much of the crafting, ate a handful of candy and generally kept me on my toes (read: encouraged me to finish these little cards as soon as humanly possible). And Eddie kept me company - and awake - when I opted to craft at night (ill-advised for families with newborns).
We are pretty happy with how they turned out and we had fun.
Pants were optional for all crafting sessions. As was a good hair brush.

Sources:
+ Orange-and-white twine: Shop Sweet Lulu.
+ Poppy envelopes: Paper Source.
+ White mini heart doilies: Amazon.
+ Circus Peanuts: the local CVS.
+ From the supply closet: cellophane, white cardstock, gel pens (and stamp/stamp pads for return address) and really sharp scissors.

Happy almost Valentine's Day!

2.10.2014

comfort food: baked pink pasta with ground turkey, sausage + spinach.

Photographing casseroles is just plain hard. I revert to dressing it up with some of my favorite things from the kitchen, like this set from Anthropologie (thanks, mom!).
If you look past the yummy serving spoons, you'll notice this ruffle-y, cheesy baked pasta dish that is one of my favorite things to eat and enjoy with company, so much so that I will never go back to traditional lasagne again. I don't have an exact recipe, but I've pieced together my method for you.

But, it's not short on prep. It's a bit of a choreographed dance, and once you do it a few times, you get how to multi-task this into one amazing dish. Also, I use marinara sauce from the jar. So, that's how we get this done on a timer.

I was inspired to try this from my good friend Michelle, who is one amazing cook. She made a smiliar dish for a big holiday get together a few years ago, and it's taken me this long to find a method that really works for me, which meant learning how to make bechamel sauce really, really good. It's not hard, but like risotto, bechamel needs some attention (but good news! it's quicker than risotto!). You can't walk away from it. You give it love and it will give it right back to you in the form of a smooth and delicious sauce that is a marriage made perfect with marinara.

Enter Smitten Kitchen's baked pasta with broccoli rabe and sausage. When I saw the recipe last fall, I knew that I could use it as my base and to it, add a dressed-up red sauce... from the jar, which is something we do once a week around this house. To the red sauce, I add sauteed onion, ground turkey and sausage, which is what Michelle recommended, and I love the combination. The sausage gives the ground turkey a good, flavorful kick, but you could certainly make this with just one meat or the other (or no meat, of course!).

This fancy casserole is totally dinner party-worthy, especially since it's make-ahead friendly, which is a deal-breaker for me. You can make it all early in the day, and then bake it off just before you're ready to serve.

2.04.2014

surviving the early weeks, or: pizza feet.

Nearly two months have flown by since Jenna's birth, which I have to confess, feels different than it did the first time around. With Mari, time seemed to move slower. It was just the two of us - and there were days when that was scary, mostly because I didn't know what I was doing - not that I really do now. But, in hindsight, that time was such a gift.
With a big sister in the house, we don't have a lot of quiet moments, but that keeps my brain working in a good way. The second doubt may creep in, I look over at Mari and remember that I've done this once, and I can do it again. Mari also has a remarkable sense of knowing when I need those reminders most, and she usually pairs it with a hug, a look or a big, girly giggle. Just about a month ago, though, she did it with her pizza feet.

If you follow my Instagram feed, you may remember the image above, of my tiny dancer. She started taking ballet and tap when she turned two in July, and repeats nearly the exact same lessons every single week. I get to join her for these classes, in which I have to hold myself back from pointing her toes for her. These classes may be for Mari, but they've taught me about restraint and independence and the joy of watching your child experience all kinds of firsts.

For six months, we've been working on "pizza feet," the official toddler term for first position, which is known as the home base for ballet. I've been watching Mari struggle to understand and then execute this thing called pizza feet, where the instructor asks them to stand with their feet together in parallel, then hold their heels in and point their toes out to a "v," like a pizza slice. For five months, Mari just stood there listening with her feet parallel to each other and didn't move.

About a month ago, in the midst of really, really sleepless nights and that newborn fog that is so hazy, crazy, wonderful and scary, Mari took my breath away. She grew up right before my eyes. When it was her turn to run and leap across the floor, starting in pizza feet, she methodically joined her legs together, looked down at them and then very slowly opened her toes up to a pizza slice. It was like a slow motion, textbook how-to video of first position and my heart nearly leapt out of my chest. I teared up.

She connected all those months of instruction and when I needed a pick-me-up most, she did it. Her little pizza feet moment was exactly what I needed to get me from feeling challenged and tired to optimistic and downright joyful. And, every week, as she methodically goes through each step to find her pizza feet, I feel that joy again and again.

I'll keep this in mind as we go on week two of a rough bout with the cough/cold. It hit us, and it hit sweet little Jenna the hardest, but she's on the mend. She has her big sister's pizza feet to thank for helping our family get through our toughest test yet.

I'm so grateful for that silly little dancer. Who, by the way, is quite good when she's not tackling the other girls in her class.