01 July 2016

kids and food and cooking shows

My kids love food. Not that they aren't picky, because they are. But they, the boys especially, love trying new foods and experimenting and talking about recipes. My second oldest turned seven yesterday and requested "a vanilla cake with layers of strawberry ice cream and actual strawberries, and like, kinda frozen." Birthdays are my favorite and I welcome whatever cake challenge they want to throw at me. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't, but it's always kind of fun.

This summer, my friend and I are teaching our kids to cook and doing crafts once a week to beat the summer boredom and hopefully gain some useful skills. Also on the list is teaching them to brew a proper pot of coffee, but that's another lesson all its own that hopefully their wives will thank me for later in life.

I credit their culinary curiosity to some of the cooking shows we've watched together. I applaud the parents and grandparents who can sit through Curious George and Wild Kratts and enjoy them, but I am not that mom. The day my kids started to appreciate the Food Network and cooking competitions was a day I will cherish forever. Truly, most reality cooking shows are a little too PG-13 for my crew, but we have found some that we all enjoy and spark a lot of interest in getting in the kitchen to create. My husband can have the endless baseball games (seriously, every night. why?), I'll take a kids' cooking competition any day of the week. 

Want to bond with your own little baker or future chef? A few of our favorites are on Netflix now! The Kids Baking Championship is super fun and inspiring. The first season of Beat Bobby Flay is a family favorite. It's not a kids show per se, but my boys love choosing who they're going to root for and planning what they'd make if they went up against him. They also love watching the crazy combinations and ridiculous amounts of food Adam Richman attempts in Man V. Food. And not on Netflix, but probably streaming somewhere: Chopped Junior, MasterChef Junior, and Rachael Ray's Kids Cook Off.

George has already promised me that he is going to become a chef and live with me and cook for me for the rest of my life, so I think it's all paying off. And if that doesn't work out, at least they have a deeper appreciation and a little bit more of an adventurous spirit when it comes to eating! 

26 June 2016

iced lemon poppy seed shortbread is amazing

Did you know it's National Dairy Month? If there has ever been a better excuse for baking up some buttery goodness, I don't know what it is. We are definitely a dairy loving family - butter and cheese and milk is always on hand and eaten every day around here. When I had the chance to bake with butter from Finlandia Cheese this week, we all got a little excited.

One of my favorite new recipes is for lemon poppy seed shortbread - it's the perfect combination of tangy and sweet and is so bright, it's perfect for summer baking! My boys have been outside nearly every day, playing catch or three man baseball. Inevitably, balls end up over the fence in our neighbor's yard multiple times a day, and he is always very gracious when three little boys come sheepishly knock on his door once again to collect their ball. So a box of freshly baked shortbread was in order as a very small token for all our trips through the gate.

I almost always use generic butter. I honestly didn't think it really made a difference... but oh my goodness. Finlandia is all natural and they've been producing dairy products for over a century. And let me tell you, this shortbread ended up so light and airy and crisp this time around - I have no doubt they're the reason. 

Whip up a batch of these to surprise someone special, or to enjoy as an afternoon treat! 

Iced Lemon Poppy Seed Shortbread
makes about 3 dozen
7 ounces (14 tablespoons) Finlandia unsalted butter, softened
1 scant cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons lemon zest (from about two large lemons)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (about half a lemon)
2 tablespoons poppy seeds (my store has them in bulk, which is WAY cheaper!)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup powdered sugar
5 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

In a stand mixer, whip butter and powdered sugar together until light and fluffy. Add in lemon zest, lemon juice, and vanilla and mix well. Add in flour, salt and poppy seeds and mix until just combined. Gently scrape all sides with a spatula to ensure everything is mixed evenly.

At this point, the dough is pretty sticky. Empty your bowl onto a sheet of wax paper and form into a log, wrap evenly and freeze for about an hour, until the dough is firm.

Preheat the oven to 300 F, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Slice the dough into 1/4" rounds and place them on the baking sheet, leaving a little space for spreading. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the edges are golden brown. (I check mine frequently because my oven desperately needs calibrating.)

Refrigerate unused dough between batches.

Cool shortbread on a wire rack. Meanwhile, mix up your icing. You want it to be thin enough to drizzle, but thick enough to maintain that bright white and not slip right off the shortbread. 1 cup of powdered sugar and 4-5 teaspoons of fresh lemon juice did the trick!
Drizzle cooled shortbread using a fork. Let set, serve, and enjoy!

24 June 2016

my most heartfelt advice on parenting

Recently, I was talking to someone who is about to have her third baby.
"You have six kids," she said, "what's your best advice for someone that's about to add another baby to their family?" 

Because most days are filled with craziness, and because when she asked, I was surrounded by all six kids, and because it's summer and my kids eat constantly, and they were all asking for food at that exact moment, I was a little frazzled.

In the midst of our conversation, I gave her some thoughts on laundry. Obviously very practical, and truthfully, I could talk about laundry at length. I know, you guys, I am very exciting. But I walked away from our conversation wishing I could've shared what I would have, had I taken two seconds to think it through. So, I circled back with her and told her this:

Give yourself abundant grace. Ten percent of parenting is knowing what you're doing, and ninety percent is winging it. Nobody has it all figured out, we just try our best to do the right thing and raise these little people into adults who love God and love others well. It's hard and messy and you will spend too much time second guessing yourself. Have fun, give yourself a lot of grace and understanding - the same you'd extend to your dearest friend - and remember, God loves those babies even more than you do. He can carry and sustain you when you need it most. All that, and lots of coffee.

I kind of laugh whenever we go in for a baby check up and our pediatrician asks me if I have any questions. Not that I have it all figured out, but babies are pretty manageable to me. I do have a million questions about fourth graders, though. Navigating through eye rolling and hurt feelings on the playground and not getting picked to pitch in a little league game. I have questions about first grade boys, too, even though this is my second and third time around. Like, why do they think that poop is so hilarious? How can I protect their hearts while also letting them experience real life a little? How can I explain to them why some kids aren't that nice or don't get why our family looks a little different? Is there a cure for the drama that is being three years old? How have my kids so acutely developed the ability to filter out my voice but can hear snacks being consumed two rooms away? Kids are a mystery to me.

I admit wholeheartedly that most of the time I feel like I don't know what I am doing. I don't feel like I am getting the things done that need to be done. I don't have any secret formulas for getting certain results because all of my kids are so vastly different from one another. You think we'd see some kind of pattern with six of them, but that hasn't happened yet.

But here's what I know: we really are trying our best. We fail a lot, no doubt about it. I pray that I can somehow be a reflection of His love in their lives, that in all the craziness and messiness and imperfection, they see Him. And that they know we love them.

You'll never have it all figured out. There won't be a moment that clicks and you think, "NOW I get it!" (And if there is, surely you will realize five minutes later that you actually do not.) Just do your best, give yourself lots of grace, know that He's got your back, try to have some fun along the way, and surround yourself with people (or even just one person) who get it. I am so grateful for the friends in my life who are walking through these things with me, who struggle and wrestle with the desire to love their kids well. A little community of support as you live this role as a parent is invaluable.

Parenthood changes you and challenges you, and stretches your heart to love beyond capacity.

It's awesome.

10 May 2016

let's change the world together

pictured: modern leather tote   velocity necklace   rarity cuff   bazaar bangles
Two years ago I started my journey as a Noonday ambassador. It was a way for my heart to connect with the world in ways that it wasn't able to before. A way to stand with arms linked with women and families from Uganda and Ethiopia and India and Vietnam, sharing their stories. Women who need access to medicine and health care, the means to send their kids to school, to work in a safe, dignified environment. By doing my small part in sharing their stories and creating a marketplace for their beautiful handiwork in my own community, I can make an impact in their communities. And in turn, it's given me purpose and a worldwide sisterhood that I'd never even dreamed of.

I'm turning 38 next month and I have decided to set a pretty big goal - one that I can't accomplish without you! I want our impact to grow so that more women and men and children can have sustainable jobs, receive fair wages, and create change in their communities. Here's my hope: I'd love to get 38 orders by my 38th birthday. Every single purchase broadens our reach and impacts a community. Will you be a part of it?

Teachers gifts, birthday presents, a treat for yourself? Something beautiful that changes the world? It doesn't get much better. Those Sharma earrings in the picture above just went on sale and are made of gorgeous gold and fuchsia leather! They're some of my favorites.

And to make things even more fun: Every order made before June 7 will be eligible for a gift from me as a way of saying thank you for making such a big difference. I will randomly select one person to choose between the following (how will you decide?!):

kathmandu bag
very versatile bracelet
Will you be a part of the story? Help me celebrate two years with Noonday and my upcoming birthday by changing the world with your purchase! And while you're there, click on the impact tab and read the stories of the amazing people who make every single piece. You'll leave encouraged and hopeful, and ready to make a difference.

shop through the noonday tab on my sidebar or click here.

Thank you!

03 May 2016

road trip adventures

A few weeks ago we packed up our van, loaded up our six kids, and headed to the beach. We'd been planning it for months, to go back to the Oregon coast, to stay at the house we'd stayed at the year before, with its perfect view, and its short little walk to the beach. The kids had been looking forward to it for weeks, and we'd all been giddy to get there and get settled and start our adventure.

Except that I thought we were checking in on Sunday, and we were actually checking in on Monday, and I only just realized it as we were driving to the gas station to fill up for our four-plus hour trek to the sea. Whoops. My husband, being the amazing, light hearted man that he is, said we should just make an adventure of it and so we did. We decided to surprise the kids with a night in a hotel close to the Tillamook Cheese Factory, our ice cream destination, and let them splash around in the hotel pool and order room service (grilled cheese from the diner) and extend our vacation an extra day. It ended up being perfect.

We spent the next four days exploring candy shops, eating salt water taffy, walking along the beach, playing card games, cozying up during the rainstorms, sampling salmon jerky, and soaking up lots of family time. The weather was sunny two of the days, and rainy the other two. There is something so magical and cozy and wonderful about being at the beach during a storm. Just like last year, we made a little treat buffet of caramel apples and candy and kettle corn and had a movie night with the boys. We scrolled through Netflix and came upon the Prince of Egypt, which I remember loving and then quickly realized it was way too intense for our kindergartners (again, whoops). So we switched to Robin Hood, which Nick had just read through with them, and we laughed and snacked and they were over the moon over a special late night with mom and dad. Nick and I also had our own movie night as we watched Chef (so good!) and drooled over the food and dreamt of having a family food truck.

It was the perfect little vacation - no huge agenda, just our family spending time together, mesmerized by the Pacific, eating plenty of sugar, drinking cappuccinos (grown ups only because my kids need caffeine, like, never) and feeling grateful for all the good things we've been given in each other. We'll miss you, Oregon Coast, and can't wait for our next adventure!