Monday, February 27, 2012

Birthday Blog

As a kid I was always so jealous of my sisters on their birthdays.  They all had summer birthdays, or in Julie's case labor day birthdays.  No school, sun, warmth and all day celebrations.  In contrast it seemed a bit cruel to me that I had to go to school on my birthday, follow instruction, LEARN even...the horror.
::gussying up for some pre birthday fun::

 Even so birthdays were such a fantastic ordeal.  Your choice of food, oodles of thoughtful gifts, delicious cake and daiquiris.  I remember feeling so special on my the whole world was smiling at me, giving me a big warm hug.

::birthday friends!::

I vowed I would never lose that zeal for my day of birth, never become one of those adults who nodded and smiled the day away.  But it's not really that is it?  The magic doesn't so much go away as morph and replace itself in the form of nostalgia, comfort and thankfulness.

::birthday dinner downtown with my boy::

Today I woke up, and quite frankly forgot that it was my birthday until I descended to Ian and the girls eagerly waiting to belt out "happy birthday mama!".  Ainsley was so proud of her card, her big A and L prominent on the front, her cute rendition of me on the inside.  She was DESPERATE for me to open all my gifts right away.  "Peanut, mama's don't have too much to open, so I like to save some for later!"  She was happy with me opening my new awesome watch that Ian and the girls trekked to get this weekend and my first pair of red amazing Toms from my own mama.  I haven't taken either off all day.
::wearing all my new birthday duds, patagonia baggies, 
Toms, watch, scarf, earrings, socks, sweater, posing with my sweet Tootie girl::

Today's been predictably normal.  After a weekend of celebrating with friends and my boy today is about me and my girls.  Grocery shopping, playing, cake making and sunshine.  I guess I don't need  too much to be reminded of how good I have it and how great 28 feels.

::cake, candles, sprinkles and three precious loves, what more could a girl ask for?::

Birthdays seemed to be much more about the spoiling as a kid, but now?  It's another day, quite normal in every way but that I take special stock in this wonderful life I have, and that I've been blessed with another year to enjoy it even more.

Meal Plan 2-27

I've kind of had an epiphany that staying on a budget is a lot like dieting.  There's a lot of ups and downs, cheating and discomfort and strain.  But in the end it's always worth it right?  And you know what helps a lot? Accountability!

So I thought I'd start sharing my meal plans on here, along with how much I've spent on food.  I don't assume that anyone really cares about all this stuff,  but it's a good way for me to keep track and share with others who may be interested.

Meal Plan::

Pork Roast with roasted veggies and quinoa (crockpot roast recipe from
Ham and Bean Soup (from 15 bean bag recipe...sooooo good!)
Leftover Roast made into pulled pork sandwiches with onion rings and corn
Homemade Bolognese Spaghetti with green beans (bolognese recipe from Smitten Kitchen)
Trader Joe's Birds Nests and Chicken Springrolls
Cheese and Leek Quiche (from the Art of Simple Food)
leftover frozen Mexican Casserole (made a few weeks back from Pioneer Woman)

grocery grand total:: $112

$48 under budget!!! (ok, I still need to get some of the meat for the bolognese, and most likely will need to buy another gallon of whole milk for the girls at some point, even so we should have at least $20 to play with or SAVE...very exciting stuff)

until next week...

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Cookbooks, Favorite Meals, Planning...YES!

Thank you.  I've been motivated by your comments on my food block post to reorganize and re-prioritize my cooking routine.

While I understand that it's part of this keeping house and raising the family job to plan and execute meals I've come to the conclusion that it can't overtake my life.  My routine up until now has been to sit down at some point on the weekends and make a meal plan and grocery list for the week.  Then throughout the week there's the inevitable revamping, moving meals around based on my willingness to cook, Ian's work schedule and how the day has gone.  By the end of the week I have nearly always overplanned, or overestimated what I'm willing to make, leaving our freezer FULL of unused ingredients and LOTS of leftovers.

So these past two weeks I've been systematically working through the freezer and let me tell you its been brutal.  I save things that weren't really good in the first place, only to rediscover it's mediocrity upon reheat and serving time.  The good news about all these so so meals it's that it's rekindled my zeal to cook and plan well.  I am ready.

After cleaning out the freezer, pantry, recipe box and cookbook shelf I feel refreshed and eager to make good on my promise to share some favorites with you.  So here we go.

I've wittled my collection down to 6 essentials,

The Joy of Cooking

The quintessential cookbook in my opinion.  Instructional, traditional, simple and good.  I turn to this book for most pastry recipes (caramel rolls, pie crust, breads and rolls, pancakes, waffles) as well as scrumptious casseroles and meal plans.

The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters

This books is wonderful for those, whoops! I have no meal plan but a pretty well stocked pantry, nights. I especially love her ideas for side dishes and pantry suppers.

Tyer's Ultimate by Tyler Florence

For those nights when I want something fancy tasting, without being too involved or finicky.  His beef stew recipe is my absolute favorite and the carbonara pasta is a family favorite we've had MANY times.

The New Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen

I've gone through phases with this cookbook and every time I revisit it I fall more in love.  Even Ian admits he likes most of what I've made from it (despite it being a meatless cookbook).  Our favorites are the cauliflower cheese pie, calzones, spinach rice casserole and bulgar casserole.  I love that these recipes have made us try new ingredients and introduced me to some great variety in our diet.

More With Less

This cookbook was given to me by a dear friend and it's part cookbook part food reference.  I had so many "ah ha!" moments when reading this book.  One was that we eat WAY too much protein.  If I'm making something with lots of cheese in it I don't also need meat and vice versa.  This book has so many great recipes for one dish meals.  The sausage apple sweet potato casserole is one of our favorites.

The All-American Cookie Cookbook

You know I had to keep a dessert cookbook in my aresenal, and this is the one.  I know I've mentioned it before but litereally EVERY cookie I've made from here is fantastic.  The sugar cookie and shortbread recipes are my favorites.


I've watched a lot of cooking shows in my day and tried a LOT of online recipes.  Conclusion?  There are a few chefs who's recipes I trust and websites I know I can count on.  Here we go.

Rachel Ray

I haven't looked up anything new of hers in years, but when we were newly married her 30 minute meal show taught me how to manage my time in the kitchen and how to multitask to make meals more quickly and efficiently.  For example? If you're making something with pasta start the water on boil right away, then you won't be stuck waiting around for a pot of water to boil at the end of your cooking.  I still make her orange cashew barbecue chicken and birds in a nest recipes frequently.

Paula Deen

Talk about comfort food.  Of course I can't cook like her ALL the time but there is a place for a little Paula in all of our lives.  Her gooey butter cake is a dessert treat favorite for special occassions and her texas beef brisket and pot roast* recipes were my first real successes with slow roasted meat.

*while an excellent recipe I have since found a new favorite method for pot roast, see below

Ina Garten

Ina's cooking show will always be my favorite.  I love her yummy relitively simple food and her mantra that home cooked food SHOULD look homemade.  Her list of kitchen essentials is simple and good and her recipes are almost always amazing.  Her baked shrimp scampi and cauliflower gratin are to die for.


While a bit over the top in her cooking show, her recipes are really good.  Her winter minestrone is what made us all fall in love with swiss chard. I still make a pot just about every month and it's lapped up happily by all.

Ree Drummond

Oh goodness Pioneer Woman, how you've changed my life.  I stumbled across her delcious hilarious blog last fall and after making almost solely her recipes for our delcious thanksgiving I was completely hooked.  Her stuff is great, without being too fancy or stuffy.  I have yet to try something of hers that I don't like.  Here's a list of the recipes we've tried so far...all keepers.

mashed potatoes
spicey pop pulled pork
pot roast
broccoli cheese soup
mexican lasagna
chicken tikka masala
soul sweet potatoes
cheesy grits
braised short ribs
pasta with pancetta and leeks

I was going to keep going with some recipe box favorites but this has gotten long enough.  I'd love to hear about your favorite recipes, from books, chefs, grandma's, restaurants...whatever!  Yay to recipes! Tried and true!

If I Were a Wealthy Girl

If I had all the money in the world I would want 3 things.

1. A big DEEP old fashioned claw foot tub.  It doesn't have to be shiny and new, actually salved from some flea market and refurbished would be preferable.  I'd want that tub in a simple, white and cornflower blue bathroom.  I'd want a whole lot of candles lit and bubbles bubbling.  Soft white towels and plush woven rugs.  I'd soak in that tub every day.  Even in the summer.  Ahhh.  Deep.  Clawfoot.  Tub.

2. To be able to buy the materials I crave for crafting.  I nearly always have to revamp patterns for the yarn and fabric I can afford.  I want it to be a non issue that the beautiful succulent yarn for my dream sweater is $22 a skein, or that the new gorgeous line of liberty of london fabrics are $35 a yard.Oh goodness.  Life would be rich then.

3.  To eat good food, like REALLY good food.  To be able to afford to support our local farmers, drive out and pick up fresh meat every month.  Or better yet? To be able to grow most of our own food with land enough for a REAL harvest and our own chickens to lay eggs.

::or just live in this Irish cottage, that would be pretty perfect too::

Three things.  See really?  I'm a simple simple gal.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

THIS Moment (January 2012)

Ainsley May (3 years old)

Oh Ainsley, you continue to say the darndest things all day long.  I've had to work real hard at my straight face to keep from cracking up!

Just now I went to go check on you during nap time and you were in your leotard and tights twirling around your room with your new favorite penguin toy, who was also decked out in a pink fairy dress.  "Look mama!  See how beautiful my penguin is?  It fits her and she's so pretty and we're going to twirl and twirl and twirl."

The other day you woke up from nap with your usual bright eyes and hurried mind and were simply exploding with joy over an idea you must have conjured in your sleep "Oh mama, I have a great idea!  Lets go get on our jackets and socks and boots and mittens and hats and go outside and bring that popcorn thing that Nana gave us and the bird house where the bird lives and hang it up and look at it and smile because it's SO pretty!"  You have the best ideas Ainsley girl.

You sing and dance to everything.  Even your dad has suggested that we need to put you in dance classes because it's all you want to do!  You love to run around in your new leotard, tights, and ballet slippers twirling and leaping and jumping.  You are so happy when you're moving.

You have also started to read!  You read your first word at the park the other day "N-O.  Hmm.  N-O. NnnnnO. No! NO mama!  That sign says NO!"  You have loved finding letters that you know on signs and in books for quite a while now and are just getting interested in putting the sounds together.    We are so proud of your zeal to learn and read.  It's one of your daddy's and my favorites too!

Playing pretend is still your favorite activity (aside from dancing and singing of course).  You got lots of new wonderful imaginative toys for your birthday and Christmas and have loved putting them all to use.  One of your new favorites are some story cards that santa gave you.  We sit on the floor and you chose a card to start a story and then keep picking up cards to add on to your tale.  You are such a good story teller Ainsley May!

I love you THIS moment.  Fully a preschooler, ready to learn and play and thrive.  Happy to be active and snuggly and with your family who loves you to bits!

Louise Adele (16 months)

You are on the move Louise!  You started walking for REAL just shy of 15 months.  You'd been practicing for months and once you knew you could you took off!  Just like we knew you would.  Now you dance and spin and climb and "jump", march and waddle.  You love to show off your tricks to new friends, or even to mama and daddy if we ask.  Today I took you and your sister to the conservatory and you two ran circles around me!  She went one way and you went the other, squealing and giggling in delight of your independence.  I kind of love it too.

You continue to chatter and talk away.  The other day I tried to count up all the words you say and I just can't!  You parrot a lot of what we say and can repeat most one syllable words.  We rarely have trouble communicating between the various signs and words you know.  You'll even tell me when you're tired now and are a big enough girl to know when you've had enough.  The most notable new words/ phrases are "move it!" "camera!" "bye guys!" "up peez!"

You and your sister LOVE each other and spend most of the day playing and making mischief together. Now that we're indoors for much of the day we're finding new fun games to play.  Obstacle courses, playing in the play kitchen, stacking and knocking down blocks, and your new wooden train are your favorite indoor activities.  You also love to sing and dance. Must be something in your genes :o)

 I love you THIS moment.  Funny and sweet, charismatic and moving.  We are all eating up this adorable age you're at Louise!  Your family loves you SO much!

Hump Day Nuggets:: Clarity

Some things become so much clearer with age and time.

As a kid I got sick a lot.  Ok, not REALLY sick and not REALLY a lot.  But I'd have these days that just felt off.  From the moment I woke up I knew I just couldn't handle the day.  Putting on clothes and getting out the door was impossible.  Let alone interacting with friends, doing schoolwork, extracurriculars, making it through.  No way.

But I had a mom that needed a fever or vomit to legitimize a sick day.  I rarely had that.  I remember frantically trying to find a way to convince her that while I wasn't on my death bed, I also wasn't playing her, I truly needed a sick day.

I thought I was somehow clever, faking it well, because when those days came my mom nearly always obliged, as stern as she was in her rules.  Looking back now I know she saw something in me.  That while I was chatty and social and active I also had this crazy introverted side, a sensitivity that really needed quelling every once in a while.

Funnier still?  I don't think I got that about myself until yesterday.

I've always so fought that part of myself.  But now I've started seeing that part of me in Ainsley.  Her struggle to get out the door to activities, her clinginess to my thigh when dropping her off at playschool and preference for home over just about every other place in the world.  When I first saw it in her I was frightened.  I don't want her to have those same struggles that I've had.

Then Ian and I went downtown for my birthday.  As we speed walked through freezing downtown to our delicious steak dinner we talked.  We talked about how great it is that the girls have us both.  Ian to take them downtown, on adventures and outings that would simply never cross my mind, challenge their minds with new ideas and music.  Me to teach them how to create and cook, be active and lour and still and simple all at once.  When they say opposites attract they really must have had us in mind.  We're perfect counterparts of each other and totally in sync with the stuff that really matters.  Us three girls in this family have it pretty good.

So yesterday I had a day off.  I spent the first half feeling awful and guilty about it.  Then with naptime and a bit of quiet to reflect I changed course.  If this is who I am, and a bit who Ainsley is (and sweet Louise is still happy to do just about whatever we choose) we're going to do it.  We spread a big blanket on the floor and romped around in our jammies.  Singing songs and reading books and not caring that there's a whole bustling world right out our front door.  The world can wait until we're ready.  We have all we need in these four walls for today.

I can't hide this part of myself from myself, from my girls, certainly not from Ian.  They see all of me.  That can be really hard sometimes, especially when all I want is to be strong and perfect for them, for me too.  But I'm only human like us all.  And all I can really hope is to teach my girls to be true to themselves, to not be ashamed of their weaknesses but to ride with them and turn them into something unique and wonderful.  To try their best when they can and when they can't?  Throw a big blanket on the floor, keep your jammies on til dinner and relish in the warmth and love that's surrounding them, always.

This week I indulged Ainsley's desire to mix REAL food.  This child is FOREVER pouring her milk or water into her meal and mixing mixing.  It drives me INSANE.  She has a whole kitchen full of play food which she is completely uninterested in.    So I took out a 1/4 bag of old flour, a measuring cup, some water, a spoon, celery talks and her waffle knife and green food coloring and let her at it.  Oh boy.  It was like Christmas and her birthday had come all at once.

 ::Louise had a pretty good time too::

We're still enjoying this snowless winter.  Although the freezing temps of late have caught us off guard, we're still bundling and enjoying our outdoor time.  Recently I dusted off the push trike for Louise and she is quite the fan, even if her little toes can't quite reach the pedals.  We biked for a full hour the other day.  What fun we're going to have this spring!

 ::and yes, we DO have helmets for them both and after this inaugural ride they were dusted off and resized and the helmets always on bikes rule has been re-established::

The conservatory continues to be our haven on those "oh what to do" mornings.  When I'm having a "man I hate living here!" day I always think of the conservatory and how much I'd miss it if we weren't a mere 3 blocks away.
::the scavenger hunt is Ainsley's favorite::

 ::the plastic partitions between rooms is Louise's::

 ::and my favorite?  watching my sweet girls learning and exploring together, without much direction or intervention at all from mama, they're growing so those two::

With our big southwest Florida trip mere weeks away we're gearing up!  I've had to pull out clothes numerous times to check their fit on my growing girls.  Ainsley has grown out of just about everything and don't even get me started on the sandals!  I'll have to test my sewing skills come spring to keep those two bodies cute and covered!
::good thing sunglasses ALWAYS fit::

 ::Louise put on Ian's hat and those glasses all by herself, she was pretty proud and definitely stylin'::

I had a whole post written about my birthday that I may still post with some photos from Ian's phone, but here's the short version.  It was great.
::my little licker helper::

 The girls helped me make a delicious chocolate cake.  I found the recipe in Under the Chinaberry Tree.  It's entitled Possibly the World's Best Chocolate Cake and we've concurred that it is indeed the BEST.

2 c. flour
1.5 c. sugar
1 c. water
3/4 c. sour cream
4 oz. melted unsweetened chocolate
1/4 c. melted butter
1 t salt
1.25 t. baking soda
1 t vanilla
2 eggs

Mix.  Pour in greased and floured 9x13 glass pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes.  Top with the best chocolate frosting recipe EVER.

1/4 c soft butter
2 c powdered sugar
2 oz melted unsweetened chocolate cooled
1/2 c sour cream
1 t vanilla

cream butter and sugar.  Add other ingredients and mix.  This is a soft DELICIOUS frosting.

Seriously.  Both Ian and I think it's the best chocolate cake we've tasted.  Not too sweet, incredibly moist and SO easy, for a homemade cake that is.

::the girls of course helped me blow out the candles that Ainsley so painstakingly arranged::

 ::post cake drawing, Ainsley's been working SO hard on her pencil grip, I'm pretty proud::

We've been thoroughly enjoying the package of montessori goodies we got at the end of last week.  Ainsley's perfectly sized pitcher and tiny glasses are the big hit.  She can pour her own drinks easily and LOVES the independence it gives her.  Mommy and daddy like it too!

 The cleaning supplies have been wonderful.  The little hand held carpet sweeper is my favorite.  A GREAT substitute for a dust buster for little quick clean ups and the dusters and microfiber mits are great for tables, window ledges and baseboards.  Mainly I love that my little ones are so eager and able to help.

As my littlest one is so content to just color color color and my oldest is VERY into her new whiteboard and writing real big girls letters our crafting has gone a bit by the wayside.  However today I was inspired to try a little wax paper crayon craft.  Oh boy, SO easy and super cute.  Simply shave some of those extra crayons you have lying around with a box grater, let your little ones sprinkle the shards all over a piece of wax paper, place another sheet of wax paper on top and iron away.  Let them cool, cut into cute shapes, tape to a window and WHALLA!

Ainsley loved the cutting and they both loved taping them up.  We saved one sheet to use as the backdrop to a shoebox theater we're going to try out.

Remember how I said earlier that there are three lucky girls in this house?  Well, here are two of them.  The other one was tearing up on the other side of the camera.

 Is there anything better than ending your day to a happy dancing daddy?  Nope.

So nearly 48 hours after the funk entered our lives it has swiftly left.  Perspective and time, a little age and wisdom.  Turns out these are all good things.

::On those hard days when I feel at a loss I find it helps to fast forward and think of what memories the girls will have of me, their childhood, and these early years at home.  I hope they remember the fun.  The laughter and the play, the rough housing and the good smells from the kitchen and the messes, OH the messes.  I hope they remember how hard I tried, even when I failed, and I know for certain that they will remember love.  Because goodness, I love those girls, I love my boy, and that's one thing I know I've done oh so right.::

Happy Hump Day out there!  And sorry for such a long post.  Goodness I had lots to say today.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Giving In

Today I woke up grumpy.  You know those days, when for no apparent reason the day seems cruel and long and hard before it's even begun?

I fear I have far too many days like today.  Days that may start off just fine and good but something small and silly changes the course drastically and makes it so hard to regain a positive trajectory.

This morning it was an embroidery needle.  I couldn't find one.  ANY one.  Even though I know I have at least 10 in this house somewhere.  Then it spiraled.  "This house is so messy, I can't find anything ever."  "No Louise don't mess with all that stuff I just took out of the drawer."  "No Ainsley you can't have gum.  Ainsley put the gum back. AINSLEY!!!"

Before I even know what's happened I am totally lost in madness and frustration.  I am flustered and lost and have no means to get myself back on track because I am so needed every minute.

I'm trying to remember how I used to get out of funks, you know, before children and this crazy full time job.  I would run usually.  Lace up my shoes extra tight and blast my favorite songs, push my lungs and quads until I thought both would explode, troubles and worries melting away on the pavement behind me.  Or I would talk with a friend.  I would meet John for coffee or Bil or Sara for a glass of wine.  We'd mull for a while until I'd forget what was even bugging me and we'd flow into laughter and fun.  Or I'd paint.  I'd go into a quiet studio and lock myself away for hours.  Furiously mixing colors and trying new strokes and marks.

But now in this new life?  I have none of those options.  My running shoes sit still and quiet, my friends are far too far away, my paints sit patiently in a box downstairs, waiting for a time to shine again.

My new conclusion? I have to give in.  I've had to learn to allow myself to be a grump, let the mood ride itself out, trust in my auto pilot mama mode and the knowledge that tomorrow (or hopefully later this morning) the sun will shine again.

Today I am thankful for playschool and toddler mardi gras parties.  Despite my funk Ainsley maintained a giddy excitement about her donut holes she got to bring to school today.  I am thankful for Louise's morning nap, to allow me this precious forgotten hour to myself so that I may sit here and work through this mood with an extra cup of coffee and a piece of chocolate birthday cake.  Today I am hopeful that the clouds will lift and that I will feel the light I lack right now.  Until then I'm giving in and feeling it because today that's all I've got.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Food Block

One of the things that I was most excited about when choosing to be a stay at home mom was cooking.  I LOVE to cook.

When I was younger cooking was such a novelty.  Every once in a while I would beg my mom to let me be in charge of dinner.  I'd spend ALL day planning, making lists, shopping for ingredients, chopping and simmering.  I used every bowl, knife and spoon my mom had and never cleaned up.  It was kind of glorious.

When Ian and I were newly married I jumped right on the chef wagon.  I made salmon almost weekly, lots of beef and comfort food.  I totally indulged, both in the type and quantity of food that we ate.

Then we had Ainsley and life changed a bit.  Suddenly it was really hard to cook dinner.  I have lots of memories of trying to simmer something with Ainsley in the sling, turning my body awkwardly away from the heat of the gas stove, determined that having a baby wouldn't affect my home made meals.

Now I have two little helpers under foot and dinner prep time falls right in the heat of the bewitching hour.  That lovely time of night that every parent knows, when your kids and you are simply done, with each other and the day and there's not much else to do but survive until daddy walks in the back door.

Then there's money.  For a while I did really well on a tight food budget.  Then I watched Food Inc and my life kind of changed.  I'd rather eat vegetarian than buy meat from most of the grocery stores around here, but Ian is a meat boy and I feel bad serving meatless things too often.  I was feeling bad that I was finding it nearly impossible to stick to our $100 a week food budget until I read a recent article on CNN that asked a reporter to stick to the same budget for a family of four and she declared that it couldn't be done.  The average food budget for a family of four these days?  $240 a week.  Or so they say.  It made me feel better and frustrated all the same that food costs SO much.  Even the mediocre quality food.

So here I sit trying to menu plan for yet another week and it's happened, that food slump I vowed would never take me over has settled in.  I find myself caring so little about what we eat and having even less zeal for preparing it.  Ian asked me what I want for my birthday dinner tomorrow night and my only thought? Can you just decide?

Really can you?  Please just plan a weeks worth of  meals, breakfast lunch and dinner, keep it under $150 if you could and make sure it appeals to my two picky eaters and my one carnivore.  I'd pay you, but that's not in the budget.


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Hump Day Nuggets:: Settling

For a girl so opposed to change I've grown quite accustomed to it.  

It's the nature of life, certainly THIS time of life with little ones and budding careers and ambitions, to be constantly in flux.  To cope I've had to jump in with both feet, hands and head too.  I abandoned a whole lot when we married and moved, and as our family has grown, quite out of necessity.  If I clung to too much from my childhood, from home and all that meant, it was just too hard.

Perhaps it's a bit too that I never was a rebellious kid.  If anything I was annoyingly compliant. So now in these middle adult years of mine I've been searching voraciously for my own voice.  Turns out?  That voice of mine is very deeply rooted in home and family and all those things that I've tried not to miss so dearly.

After having a half weeks worth of meal planning go down the drain thanks to family wide stomach flu, I had a bit of an "ah ha" moment.  Why do I make cooking so HARD?  I plan these ridiculously elaborate meals on weeknights, spend way too much on groceries and at the end of most days all I really want to do is heat something up for the girls and sip wine with my boy once they're in bed.  So I've revisited my recipe box.  The one my mom filled with hand written family favorites as a wedding-now-your-all-grown-up gift.  I've been so focused on finding my own new favorites in the kitchen that I've forgotten about all of my old favorites.  Plus there's something pretty magical about cooking from a recipe written by a familiar comforting hand.

And it's not just the recipes, this new sewing fettish has brought me back as well.  To my days as an 8 year old making doll dresses with my patient mama.  Really mom, how did you find time to do that with JUST me with three other kids underfoot?  I remember being in awe of her, how she just made stuff and it was beautiful and perfect.  It felt ridiculous that I could ever be like her.  Now I'm proud to say that I feel very much like my mom most days.

Mostly?  I'm finding a way to live here and there.  To allow myself to feel sad about being far away, and thankful for this home we've found, all at once. This week it feels really good to be in two places, finally finding a balance between old and new.  Really settling, in every sense of the word.

Louise has started showing interest in the big girl pot.  No true successes yet, but seeing as she's been terrified whenever I've tried sitting her on it I'm pretty pleased.  And really?  could those thighs look any cuter on that white porcelain?

After quarantining ourselves for the three day incubation period our flu had we were DESPERATE to get out.  I tagged along to the big conservatory, a regular daddy daughter date spot, and we had a great time.

Life has gotten (dare I say it?) much easier with Ainsley.  I know a lot of people say 3 is worse than 2, but so far I am LOVING 3.  Ainsley is mostly so sweet and helpful and can articulate herself wonderfully.  She's shed so much of her baby-ness and who I see emerging is a sensitive, imaginative, active, sweet child and I'm really really proud to call her mine.

::family kinect they were running to first base, 
and let me tell you, there's nothing much cuter than seeing Louise run in place:

Valentine's Day was wonderful.  I don't see it so much as a day of romance, but an excuse, a reminder to do something a little special for those in our lives that we may take for granted.  So I made heart shaped chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast, gave the girls matching appliqued shirts and oodles of new books.  We read the morning away and Ainsley delighted in handing out her homemade Valentines at playschool.  We had a friend Valentine's party in the afternoon and came home to a vase full of beautiful red flowers from Ian (10 for me, 1 for Louise and Ainsley each).  I made salmon for dinner and flourless chocolate cake for dessert.  Auntie Sonya joined us.  It was really such an effortless wonderful day.  I'm blessed to have so many Valentine's in my life.

 ::the girls helped me make some treats for their friends::

::the brood!::

 ::sugar coma commencing::

:: family shot with dessert::

 ::my littlest Valentines::

 ::I prompted "cheese!" and they both said cheese and did the Wallace and Grommit hand motion for cheese, can you tell what we watched while down with the flu? :o)::

I feel so blessed to have all this love and joy in my life.  We have such fun us 4 and while moments are hard and lonely I am thankful for this time just us to settle into who we are.  I'm a lucky girl, that's for sure.

This week I'm enjoying the tasks of sorting through summer clothes for our Florida trip next month, making simple favorites in the kitchen and continuing to craft every chance that I get, because goodness how else is it going to all get done!

Happy Hump Day!