Weekending: Exploring the City & Corn Chowder

Philadelphia has changed so much so that I at times feel like a tourist in my own hometown. Sure the corner convenience store is still there as are the dry cleaners but our old gym (we used to go to the gym before we had kids) is now an art gallery displaying woodworking masterpieces that have me salivating every time I walk by. We ventured out into old city on a mini-date without our very own mini dates. Our first stop was at this new (at least to us) restaurant which features a pretty awesome beer garden. The beer garden overlooks the enclosed liberty bell and is entirely outdoors flanked by industrial pillars that are canopied by all manner of lush, country-style greenery. Patrons sit on wooden stumps and mismatched chairs at small tables playing Jenga with a beverage in hand while nestling their feet into pebbles. Small lights that dot the canopy and music complete the tranquil space. If you didn’t try to peer through the greenery or hear the occasional duck boat, you’d never think you were in the city or much less in a tourist-laden part of the city.

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Having thoroughly enjoyed the sun, peace and quiet, I returned home and decided that something sunny and yet warming was in order. What better to make than a fall corn chowder.

Fall Corn Chowder

Ingredients:

3 slices of thick-cut bacon

1 medium onion, minced

2 garlic cloves

1/3 cup flour

3 1-lb bags of frozen corn

3.5 cups of low-sodium chicken broth

2 cups milk

12 oz yukon gold potatoes cut into 1 cm cubes

3 sprigs of thyme, taken off the stem and minced

1 cup heavy cream

Cooking Instructions:

Cut the bacon into small pieces and place into a large pot. Turn the heat to low-medium and cook until the bacon is completely rendered and crispy. Remove the bacon onto a paper-towel lined plate and set aside. Add the onion to the pot along with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and cook until softened or about 8 minutes. Add the garlic, cook for 1 minute until fragrant and add flour. Mix well and continue cooking until the flour is no longer visible or 1-2 minutes. Add 2.5 cups of chicken broth, the milk, reserved bacon and bring to a simmer.

Meanwhile take 1/3 of the frozen corn and pulse in blender with 1 cup of broth until the corn is chopped fine but not a paste. Dice the potatoes and add those, the pulsed corn and the remainder of the corn along with the thyme to the pot. Simmer until the potatoes are almost cooked through (10-15 minutes). Add the heavy cream and cook a 5 more minutes until the corn and potatoes are just cooked through. Add salt to taste and serve.

 

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Feeding Our Savvy Eaters

Cooking, feeding and introducing our little eaters to a variety of foods is a topic that is close to our hearts. Our culinary chronicles and the recipes that I post attest to our ardent desire to raise children who are enthusiastic eaters with a large palate and willingness to try just about anything. I was reminded about children’s finicky eating habits at the weekend celebration when a family member was very surprised to see Sophia eating a bagel with cream cheese and lox. Why wouldn’t Sophia be eating a bagel with lox? Lox is salted fish and I know for a fact that our families grew up eating smoked and pickled fish since early childhood.

Sophia is not a huge eater, her slim build attests to that, but she has a huge range of foods that she eats including smoked and salted fish. I shouldn’t sound smug and know-it-all about introducing kids to new foods since we have yet to see if Eliza will be as big of a culinary enthusiast. And so I can only share my philosophy on raising a savvy eater. Both Evan and I are adventurous eaters though at least in his case, that was not always true. He has over the last twelve years significantly expanded his palate and now even I strive to keep up with his adventurous nature (trying pickled pork ear is not always an easy feat for a very pregnant woman but I’ve done it and it was quite good).

We both believe that attitude plays a huge role in any undertaking and that includes cooking and eating. We love to cook and almost never look at it as a chore instead choosing to welcome ingredients and new recipes into our kitchen involving Sophia to partake in prep. work and cooking. We try, even though she is still very young, to have conversations during dinner asking each other about our days and what we are going to do the next day or over the weekend. I won’t lie and say that cartoons have made a permanent exit from our dinner table but they are not as significant of a presence at every meal as they used to be.

We started involving Sophia into our cooking about a year ago and before that, we involved her in menu planning and growing our ingredients in our little garden in Maryland. Nowadays, Sophia readily offers to help us cook and routinely tries the things we chop and dice while watching pasta boil or meat brown on the stove. I try to talk to her about what happens when we are cooking. Yesterday we talked about our eyes watering when we cut onions. Evan didn’t simplify the answer much chiming in with “a sulfuric compound escapes the onion when its cut into and makes our eyes watery”.

Our cooking approach extends to our eating approach whereby we don’t make a huge deal out of new foods and I will often offer her something new without announcing it and sometimes more or less incognito. We also do not subscribe to the “diner” philosophy and try to cook dishes we can all eat as a family instead of succumbing to making several dishes to please every family member. But after all is said and done, Sophia is still a child and she does have her own preferences. She doesn’t like melted cheese and would gladly eat dark chocolate at every meal as her main course. She likes pomegranates and all things sour and tangy. Sophia will usually choose a salty pretzel over ice cream. Her favorite condiment is furikake (shaved bonito fish flakes, seaweed, and sesame seeds). We like to ensure she eats a healthy serving of fruits and vegetables often resorting to the first this and then chocolate tactic which has so far worked.

Having moved back to Philadelphia will hopefully have a more positive impact on our cooking and eating bringing our friends and family to our dinner table more often. We are starting a new tradition of enjoying Sunday Dinners with anyone and everyone who wishes to participate. The only requirement is that anyone who joins in must host a sunday dinner of their own. Our first such dinner was fittingly, last Sunday after enjoying Old City Fest with my sister, brother-in-law and nephew. I served homey chicken stew with root vegetables and peas.

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Take a Photo Tuesday

A dear friend of my in-laws gifted the girls these Big Sister/Little Sister shirts. We thought we’d get back into taking more pictures of the girls at various ages starting with this. LittleSisterBigSister

Celebrations: For the Girls

We recently celebrated Sophia’s 3rd birthday and Eliza’s Brit Bat. This evening I sit back with a warm cup of tea looking at life I chose almost 4 years ago. A warmth spreads in my heart knowing that I couldn’t have been more fortunate in welcoming our not-so-little, little girl named Sophia. She’s our bashert. I am awestruck by how mother nature works to make a beautiful little person from two people and how every time I look into her eyes I see my husbands looks and my own mischievous nature gleaming back at me. And just when I couldn’t imagine making space in my life and heart for anyone else, along came Eliza. She’s so different from Sophia and yet she too, is our bashert.

Every time I try to think of what it is I wish for the girls besides rainbows, balloons and cake, I find myself at a loss for words. I wish for them to be surrounded by as many family and friends as we were on this joyous occasion, to be loved and to find love, to know that life’s riches are what you find within your heart.

And now the details about the party. We decided to celebrate Sophia’s 3rd birthday together with Eliza’s naming. Sophia didn’t and Eliza hadn’t expressed any negative thoughts about the matter, so why not? Our family has three kids’ birthdays in October so we have to share our weekends with our cousins’ celebrations. The party had a Curious George theme because Sophia absolutely loves that show and this is probably the last year I could have had such a theme before embarking on years of birthdays with princess themes. My in-laws hosted the event and Evan and I contributed the cake and cupcakes. The party was called for 10 am and we served traditional brunch affair (bagels, lox, whitefish, kugel, etc.,). My sister made a delicious kugel and my mom made her famous potato salad which I swore off at parties.

The cake and cupcakes were made by Sweet Elizabeth’s Elizabeth’s Cakes in Manayunk. The cake, a two tiered confection, had a chocolate cake on the bottom and a chocolate chip cake on the top. Curious George, The Man in the Yellow Hat, Hundley and Gnocchi are featured on the cake in fitting with the theme. The cupcakes were chocolate with peanut butter and Oreo buttercream, red velvet, and chocolate chip with salted caramel buttercream decorated with sprinkles and glitter.

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The real starts of the party were not the desserts but the family and friends who came out to celebrate. The house was filled with children of all ages making new friends and playing. We couldn’t have asked for a better celebration.

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Amazing Grace

Anyone who has visited this space regularly will know that we are fortunate to be surrounded by an amazing family (here, here, herehere and here) who go out of their way to help. I have however, until this very day, held back one amazing post. Not because it was not deserved but rather because I was afraid that if I had shared, she and the magic she wields would somehow disappear. But I cannot any longer and in good conscience be quiet about the amazing grace of my mother-in-law. In all our adventures as parents and even before then, my mother-in-law has lent a helping hand. She has been instrumental in this move, both in instigating and making it come to fruition, by helping to sort, pack, take care of the kids and generally offer support.

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Tiara and magic wand courtesy of Grammie

 

Judi came into the city to lend a helping hand with Sophia and Eliza yesterday since Evan was on a long day trip. Sophia was already asking if Grammie is coming back again this evening. That is the ultimate validation. Through the years (the many, many years) that we have known each other, I have time and again witnessed the amazing grace of my mother-in-law and it is time I shouted from my rooftop just how grateful I am for her.

All The Franklins In One Day

Doing something you have been wanting to do for a long time is always so thrilling, so satisfying. I have been wanting to walk around our neighborhood for so long—dreaming about the day I can just walk out of my house and find myself in the hustle and bustle of city life. I finally got the chance on Monday.

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What’s more is that I had Sophia for a trusty companion. Together we explored Old City and walked straight up Race street toward Franklin Square stopping by a new coffee shop on our block that also happens to be a clothing boutique. Mmm… enjoying a coffee while browsing trendy pieces—what can be better?

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Here is Sophia bundled up for the unexpectedly cool fall morning browsing the wares while I am waiting for my decaffeinated fix. Franklin Square was magical enchanting Sophia with its fountains and carousel though she didn’t want to ride it, just look at it go round and round.

Later in the evening and together with Evan we took a walk to Franklin Fountain—a much loved ice cream shop where we may have convinced Sophia that ice cream is not too cold.

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Weekending: Here

The weekend has flown by and rightfully so; We were busy unpacking Wednesday and thereafter and then there was Yom Kippur and, without a doubt, more unpacking. There are still plenty of boxes around our place but I am happy to report that the kitchen is unpacked/restocked and our closets are filled with clothes—something that was high on my priority list. We are busy not just unpacking but enjoying all that the city and its immediate surroundings have to offer. Sophia has already visited the Aquarium and we are making plans to go to the Please Touch Museum and the Academy of Natural Sciences.

We were rushing to settle in the city as soon as possible because the seasons are changing and Philadelphia is most glorious in the fall. This past Friday was First Friday and we took the girls on a walk around Olde City to enjoy the art exhibitions at the galleries and street vendors. Sophia loved all the sights and Eliza was a dutiful companion letting us explore and enjoy the neighborhood we love and have missed so much.

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That’s Sophia rushing to get to the art Galleries… she didn’t want her picture taken because she needed to get to the art first!

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We told her that the galleries were going to be open for a long, long time! She finally agreed to have her picture taken in the scenic Elfreth’s Alley which happens to be literally next door to our new place. Sophia was mesmerized by the cobble stones in the street!

Our move and the process of settling here has already had and will surely have more challenges but we are delighted to be close to family in the city we love. Stay tuned for adventures in our neighborhood, enjoying the city life with kids and more.

 

Letting Go… Changes

Until recently, I often found myself wishing the girls were older and more independent. I realize now that their childhoods, dependence and even the sleepless nights are fleeting and one day, they too, shall pass. As soon as I realized it, I wanted it at all back because looking at Eliza, I know now that once she is out of the baby stage, I won’t have a baby at home but rather two little girls. A sudden pang of sadness overcame me recently because I realized that I will never have to change another diaper for Sophia or that in a matter of weeks if not days, I will cuddle next to her for her very last nap. The sadness is because sometimes, we don’t even realize when we do something for the last time.

These changes ride along with what has been incredibly busy months of August and September. I promised to share some big things we’re working on and this post is as fitting as any to do so. We have moved from the D.C. suburbs to Philadelphia. I have transferred to our New Jersey office and our house is going on the market in a matter of days. Not only did we move, but we did so immediately following Evan’s sister’s wedding; When the kids and I left to attend the wedding, we left our Maryland home for the very last time.

A move is almost always a huge deal, but it is incredibly stressful when doing it with a toddler and an infant. Not only are we switching houses, we are switching nannies. Our nanny in Maryland is loved not just by the children but by our entire family. Our goodbye on Sunday was tearful even though it wasn’t a goodbye so much as a farewell because Ingrid will always be in our lives and our children’s lives. She even came and helped with the children at the wedding which was such a relief.

And so we had to add a nanny search to our list of tasks as part of the move and that is a huge headache and responsibility. We are officially living in our beloved city of Philadelphia, temporarily maintaing two households, and hopefully looking forward to settling into a permanent residence in a few months once and if our house sells.

To say that the last few months have been stressful is an understatement but I think we handled the move gracefully and admittedly not without help from our family. Changes, for me, are always difficult but there I get no greater pleasure than knowing that I succeeded in achieving a goal I set for myself. I can’t wait to start this new chapter in our lives and see where it leads.