15 August 2016

meet our new bestie for the restie

don't you garden in sandals? really letting you guys glimpse real life here. 


It’s summer and I’m pretty sure my floors have never been messier. We discovered that the popcorn ceilings in our living and dining room had asbestos, so for the last three weeks, they’ve been scraped and refinished and painted. I was actually thrilled to find out because we could get them removed without my husband telling me “they’re fine” in all their yellowy dinginess. While all the dangerous stuff is gone, there is still dust from the repairs. I also decided (brilliantly) that we should simultaneously bulldoze the front yard. So, as we slowly give the yard a makeover, I track dirt into the house about seventeen times a day. 

Oh, and Eloise just started crawling. 

When my oldest was my only, I swept at least twice a day. Not a stray crumb in sight. The irony is that there wasn’t even anyone around to make a mess. As we’ve added to our family, and are now six kids deep, I don’t have as much time for sweeping. And even if I did, I would probably have to clean my floors eleven times a day to keep up with seven sets of feet and snack crumbs being trailed all over. I am not kidding, I’ve considered getting a dog just to clean under my table three times a day. 

But then, as timing aligned perfectly with the repairs and the yard makeover and the crawling baby, we got a bObsweep PetHair vacuum cleaner. It’s my kids new best friend - they are seriously obsessed. Can we talk about how this is the perfect invention for our family? It cleans the floors (we don't actually have a pet, but this model vacuums AND mops and sanitizes, you guys), it can be automatic or you can control it by remote. So, I can set up a timer for it to clean while we’re gone, or I can “let” one of my kids control it and my floors are so clean, ready for the baby, and I did NOTHING. And my boys have just occupied themselves for 20 minutes. Another bonus: it’s not very loud, so my two year old doesn’t flee the room and hide with her ears covered, she actually thinks Bob is kinda cute. I am pretty sure this little gift was sent to me straight from Heaven. 

The boys keep correcting me. 
“You can’t call it ‘the vacuum’, Mom.” 
“Don’t say ‘it’! His name is Bob.”
He really is becoming part of the family. In fact, at this rate, he might be my favorite. 

There are a few different versions of bob available on Amazon - check him out here and here. And of course, you can get all the details from the bObsweep store!

09 August 2016

when the summer gets crazy, girls night in

The last couple of weeks have been kind of crazy around here. We're having some work done on our house and a five day project is now on day fifteen. We're all hanging out in two little rooms with most of the furniture we own most of the day and it's starting to wear my patience a little thin. Add in my kids' desire to reenact all the Olympic gymnastics they've been watching, and... help me.

So, my friend and I decided we needed a girls night in last week. After all the kids were in bed (we have ten between us), she came over and we went out on the back patio and had a couple of drinks and some snacks and sat under the twinkly lights and had a normal conversation without being interrupted 98 times. Complete thoughts with other adults is a treat these days.

I was excited to mix things up (literally) with some delicious cocktail mixers from Stolen Fruit. I have to say, I wish I'd had these when I was pregnant. They are seriously delicious, and have no alcohol in them, so they would be the perfect way to drink something a little more exciting than sparkling water when you're hanging with your girls. But, neither of us our pregnant, so ours were... enhanced. The possibilities are endless with these, and they are all natural, and made from grapes right in California wine country. You don't need to add much to create something amazing, so you'll immediately impress with your mixologist ways. I am already dreaming up what to use them in next! I'm thinking Blood Orange Sangria.

Here's what we had for girls night:

Blackberry Hibiscus Margaritas
serves 2
3 ounces silver tequila
2 ounces Stolen Fruit Hibiscus Grenache
1/2 cup fresh blackberries
sparkling water
fresh mint (optional)

Divide ingredients between two glasses. Swirl, serve, enjoy!

Grab a couple of girlfriends, a bottle of Stolen Fruit, and your favorite enhancements, and take a break. You deserve it!

02 August 2016

the thing about summer

This is a repost from the summer of 2014, because it still rings true today, and I hope it brings some encouragement to you!

Here we are in the throes of summer break. The free schedules, lazy afternoons, late bedtimes, otter pop hangover mornings. The warm air wraps itself around your shoulders, noses covered in newfound freckles, the smell of sunscreen and sunshine and play lingering on your skin as you slip under the sheets and fall into summer sleep. It's dreamlike at times.

But also, I'm going a tiny bit crazy. 

I feel a little like a pendulum, waving between the bliss of abundant family time, a whatever the day may hold wonder and an oh my goodness if these children ask me for one more snack I will die attitude. 

I love my kids. So so so much. I would die a thousand deaths for them. I would walk through fire, jump in front of a moving vehicle, swim every ocean, and whatever.
I look at each individual little face and I nearly cry over my love for them. 
But together? My three boys are either in a murderous rage toward one another, huffing around because of some brotherly injustice, or crying as though someone has just run over their dog approximately every hour of every day. There are small snippets of time where they are playing harmoniously, exploring some corner of the yard, quietly building their legos, riding their bikes around our quiet street. Snippets, people, snippets.
I have asked them 47 times in the last 12 minutes to please stop asking me for snacks and shows and treats. I just want to eat my second meal of the day at 2pm without having to jump up and do something for someone else. I promise it will only take me ninety seconds to eat if you just let me sit down and eat.

I waiver between feeling sad that there are only 33 days of summer left and seriously contemplating making a countdown chart to the first day of school. And then feeling really guilty that there are moments during the day that I am not reveling in the joys of my children's presence, but rather praying for the grace to not tear my own hair out as I clench my teeth at the sound of yet another battle. 

Here's the thing. You are still a good mom if you feel spent. If you feel like you've run out of patience and you need a break, and you don't enjoy every minute of the day, you're still a good mom. I really believe that this motherhood business is the most sanctifying thing that could happen to a person. It is hard. Some days it is damn hard, and that's just reality. It's beautiful and messy and terrible and amazing and glorious and awful and every single gamut of emotions you can possibly experience in a 24 hour period. Heartbreaking and mind boggling and completely fulfilling and not at all fulfilling and guilt inducing and full of love. It doesn't even make sense, so maybe don't try to make it.

What I want is for us to collectively let go of the guilt. Because the thing is, that guilt just shows that you care. You are pouring your life out. I'm pouring my life out. And sometimes it's hard. But it's also all I could ask for. When I sneak in their rooms at night and watch them sleep and they are soul crushingly peaceful and cute and I can't even deal with the amount of love in my heart. Or I see Ivah jumping up and down with joy when I get her in the morning, or when George sings to me, or Frances spontaneously wants to snuggle, or Eddie asks to sit on my lap after dinner, or Lute wants to tell me every detail of the story he just read. Those little moments are the ones that remind me that at the end of the day, we've really got it good. 

So, settle into that. Let go of guilt, and pray for grace in the moments that you need it.

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!