Food love Friday: a week collection

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I recently read this article about mindfulness in making dinner each night for one’s family. I tend to agree with this, especially the last few months. I don’t think we have seen the sun since October around here and well, it is starting to weigh on me. I have made some really good meals though!

A few recipes I have made the past few weeks:

The Recipe Critic Creamy Bacon Mushroom Chicken ( a favorite!)

Mark Bittman’s Spinach Lasagna ( I have made this three times, delicious)

White Beans with Lemon and Rosemary (I tried to replicate an amazing dinner we had at Quaintrelle in Portland. While not even close, this is still a good one)

Chocolate chip oatmeal cookies

Very Berry Cloud Cakes ( amazing!)

Wishing for Spring around here!

 

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2017!

That is a terrible title for a post, I know. It is the equivalent of writing “Obvious!”. But I am having a tough time wrapping my mind around the new year this time around. There is a lot of uncertainty out in our larger, collective world and we feel it.

Nick and I both have been really trying to focus on all of the certain things ahead for us and our family this year. Like Juniper in pre-school! Which she is totally rocking, as best a three year old can. Seriously. Every time I think about her pre-school program, how awesome her teachers are and how totally thriving she is, it is enough right there.


And, a baby! We are going to have a baby! A little baby due at the end of May. We decided not to find the gender out this time and I am loving it. Nick, not so much. He really goes back and forth between extreme excitement for the surprise of it all! and total paralysis for the lack of control he feels in not knowing. Sorry friend, surprise and excitement wins out!


Also, I kon-mari’d our closets over the Winter break. Which I felt pretty amazing about. Until it snowed a ridiculous amount for the Pacific Northwest and completely shut everything down. Which means I have been too chicken to go outside anymore than necessary and there are bags and stacks of clothing just sitting in my dining room, laughing at me. Plus our mudroom is filled with recycling and they just canceled garbage and recycling services for this week. Seriously.


Well, the weather services says we are in for an ice storm today. Picture one thousand cry laughing emojis here.

Rainbows and dragons, oh my!

As I am sure all soon to be three year olds do, Juniper began planning her birthday party roughly six months ago. (Not your three year old? Okay, then the apple does not fall far apparently.) The party had different versions but pretty solidly stayed “rainbow dragon” themed. Since I live for a good themed party, it was pretty much the best thing ever.

It is funny how three suddenly means I no longer have a baby. I mean, I obviously knew that, but in a more “sure, she’ll get big eventually”way. On the other hand, she is so sweet and spirited. I love all of her ideas and how she will unexpectedly exclaim “oh my world!” 

We had a little party over at an art studio for kids in Portland (smartypantspdx for any locals!) and it was fantastic. The first part the kids made rainbow dragons with construction paper and lots of washi tape. Then they had open studio time (lots of paint! a giant cardboard castle! amazing!) until we did cake and gifts. 

Juniper has some of the sweetest cousins and friends, and it was so fun watching her open gifts from them. We talk a lot about celebrating people and intentional ways to make them feel special, so it was so fun to witness Juniper experience that as a recipient.

I made a cake using this recipe and this frosting. My nephew said it tastes just like sugar cookies and I have to agree. It was delicious. My dear friend Abi made the sweet topper.


We had rainbow fruit salad and rainbow goldfish crackers to snack on. We filled party bags with some dragon paint by numbers, plastic dragons and rainbow stickers, as well as these dragon pins (huge hit!) and these hair bows for the girls.

(Best family picture from the day, because three year olds are increasingly difficult to capture long enough to photograph. Still love it.)

Favorite picture books for fall reading

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There is something about the early October that makes us want to collectively call in sick and hide away, cozy in blankets and warm beverages.  The three of us are the most home bodied people you could ever meet (I feel like we should explain to Juniper one day that her tendency to say “let’s just stay home” whenever asked what she would like to go out and do is genetic. Also, I am sure I will be oh so thankful if that genetic trait is still around at 13 or so).  We each have a stack of books we are looking forward to reading.  Some of Juniper’s that are on a constant rotation are:

In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak. We all love Sendak’s storytelling (Juniper’s first birthday party was a Where the Wild Things Are theme) but what really gets me each time in this story are the illustrations.  They are mesmerizing.  Juniper right now follows along and loves the story.  I don’t think it will be much longer though before she notices all of the details in the drawings.

Stormy Night by Salina Yoon.  Found, the first bear and bunny story was such a favorite that I ended up hiding it for a while.  (I am hoping I am not the only one who has resorted to this!) The second book following bear and bunny though is a sweet and empowering story about overcoming a fear and comforting others.  I love the friendship between the two and Juniper really enjoys watching bear become very brave in the face of his fear of the storm.

A Treasury of Curious George by Margret and H.A. Rey.  I did not grow up reading Curious George, and the first time I read the very first one to Juniper I laughed out loud at George’s trip to prison, because I couldn’t believe what I had just spoken!  (Also, when George is smoking a pipe Juniper thought he was drinking coffee, and I felt that was a safe lie). I love this treasury though.  We usually read two stories a night, and there is something about a spunky, mischievous monkey that Juniper really identifies with.

Have You Seen My Dragon? by Steve Light. Nick found this book at a recent trip to Powell’s in Portland and it is an instant favorite.  I love anything with intriguing illustrations because I think they really challenge children to become engage in a story on a whole new level.  As you search through each page to find the dragon, Juniper also identifies colors, tells stories about what she is seeing and helps count.  Plus the dragon is adorable.

Finding Wild by Megan Wagner Lloyd.  I will admit, this probably is not on Juniper’s top 10 list currently.  But it will be.  Likely because I want to read this story every night.  I love the message behind it and again, the illustrations.  They are really unique and tell the story along with the words.

These are some of our favorite picture books right now!

Food love Friday: Apple Butter 

Labor Day weekend for many years meant work for Nick and getting my brain ready for returning to grad school. This year we found ourselves with a wide open weekend and no responsibilities, so we excessively packed and headed over to eastern Oregon to spend some time with Nick’s grandparents.

75, sunny, dry heat. Count me in sister.


We filled the weekend with hiking, pancakes, unearthing Nick’s go cart (middle school super star 18 years strong!) , mountain climbing and apple picking. Bliss.


An old apple tree sits up on the property and we picked approximately 1000 apples (give or take a few). Nick had the idea to make some apple butter (which I had never had before this!) By the third batch, we hit the sweet spot on baking time and spice ratio. Plus my house aroma mirrored that of an amazing 100 Vermont cider press house (or so I imagine). Fall, basically.


Baked apple butter 

Adapted from Joy of Cooking

Quarter six pounds apples and combine in a large saucepan with 8 cups water.

Cover and simmer until apples are soft, about 1 1/2-2 hours.

Preheat oven to 200•F (mine worked best closer to 225•F).

Using a large wooden spoon, mash the apples until they resemble apple sauce. Add zest and juice of 1/2 lemon,

3/4 c brown sugar

3/4 c white sugar

2T cinnamon

1/2t cloves

1T pumpkin pie spice

1T vanilla

Slowly bring to boil, stirring frequently.

Pour mixture into a deep baking dish and bake, uncovered until thick enough to mound on spoon.

The original recipe said to bake for 10 hours. I kept mine in the oven for closer to 30 or so and thought this was perfect.

Let cool. You could put in freezer bags and freeze or put in jars and refrigerate. Enjoy!

We have had some other great meals this week, including;

Alexandra’s Kitchen Chicken and Rice

Smitten Kitchen Raspberry Buttermilk Cake (I used peaches! Delicious!)

Bon Appétit Faux Lobster Pho

 

Beach trip!

I think traveling anywhere with kids is a small act of bravery. The logistics and planning and remembering both kinds of toothpaste one toddler absolutely needs. No small feat. My sister and I took four (count ’em four!) kids by ourselves to the beach a few weeks ago to soak up the last of summer and I literally grew two inches taller, I was so freaking proud of myself.

My wild girl. Juniper detests swimming pools and the last time we tried swimming lessons, it ended with us quitting mid session because her level of yelling to get her “OUT OF THIS POOL” was frankly more than my resolve to have her learn to swim. No surprise, she loves the ocean and I had to bribe her every so often to come out just to ensure her feet did not drop from hypothermia.
This is the good stuff.

Plaid for the win!

Happy September!

Everything is better with jeans and boots.  Juniper is a ninety year old woman stuck in a toddler’s body, so naturally she prefers to wear long pants and cardigans at any given chance.  She actually cheered yesterday when she realized the turn in weather here gave her free reign over pants and long sleeves.

In other news, my almost three year completely embraces the coolness in being twins with her mom.  I got dressed before Junie yesterday and she looked at my outfit, gave a “hmmmm” and came out dressed like this:

junie and me

I will save this picture forever and bring it out when her teenage fashion undoubtedly goes sideways, as it will, given the awkward genes I know she inherited from me.