I’ve been watching The Great British Baking Show. As a result, I’ve been in a bit of a baking craze and made these cinnamon buns and now the carrot cupcakes with maple cream cheese buttercream. I had great helpers.
Both Eliza and Sophia were great pipers much to my surprise. I like baking with the girls as it provides a welcome reprieve from their typical play. They get to be creative and we learn about science (e.g., what does baking soda do in a batter and what is the difference between baking soda and baking powder). Besides that, we visited Bartram’s Garden which was just lovely. The weather was beautiful and the girls enjoyed exploring. It is difficult to believe that such peace and solitude can be found in the city.
Mere minutes until bath and bed time and these two are hard at work on a new coloring book. They had both decided that the fish on the left is Dory and insisted on looking up the picture of the promo poster so that they could color it just so. That was Saturday and followed a busy morning where we made dough for Punitions and attended The Little Red Riding hood.
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Baba and Dedushka invited the girls over on Sunday as they do most every weekend and who, pray tell, would turn down an invitation from the grandparents for a day of fun? Both Eliza and Sophia told me they didn’t want to leave and this is all good news come summer and a temporary relief from school before the start of camp season. I would say the last weekend of Winter 2017 was well-spent.
Our friends came for brunch on Sunday and brought an amazing rendition of snickerdoodle pie. Baking cinnamon-infused cookie dough into crispy pie crust really is a no brainer. I saved the recipe and shall have to learn how to make it very, very well by practicing often. Brunch was a simple affair and, in addition to the snickerdoodle pie, included buttermilk pancakes, turkey meatballs that the girls have dubbed amazeballs, and vanilla-bean cheesecake (all homemade). The kids played together and the adults conversed and tried to keep up with the continuous pancake, juice, and meatball requests.
That was Sunday which we kept in line with the long weekend’s theme keeping things low-key and focusing on spending time with Sophia and Eliza. Saturday we took the girls out for chocolate croissants and
coffee steamed milks, saw the Comcast Center’s Holiday Spectacular, made sour cherry hand-pies, and made a super comforting roast chicken dinner.
Friday, for a real treat, we took the girls to the Please Touch Museum for a morning of play and discovery. We were there shortly after the museum opened and the girls didn’t skip a beat heading downstairs to the grocery store and hospital exhibits.
Before Friday, there was Thanksgiving which we spent with my family in Wilmington, Delaware having contributed a home-made cranberry pie with a streusel topping. The pie featured a home-made crust of which I am very proud of having gone as far as to blind bake it.
I had plenty of little fingers to help me measure out all the ingredients, stir the cranberries in the pot, and decorate the top with streusel.
Thanksgiving was just as we liked it — fairly small, warm, and delicious. It was a real treat to just kick back and relax.
In the end, even after all the other pictures featuring mouthwatering pies and glossy berries, this one (see above) is my favorite. It was taken using my phone and isn’t particularly well-framed but it conveys the very essence what our daily life is about — developing and nurturing a bond between Sophia and Eliza. Here is Sophia helping Eliza zip up her coat. She did this without us prompting simply because she wanted to help and to be the big sister. This Thanksgiving break was epic.
Two. Eliza turned two yesterday. These past two years have been a whirlwind—a happy, chaotic, tumultuous whirlwind. Eliza is truly a little piece of sunshine. She has captured our hearts and souls and we love her to the moon and back, twice over.
This year, I opted for a strawberry cream cake which was a chiffon cake with macerated strawberries and a cream/cream cheese frosting. It was incredibly light, not too-sweet and tasted of June, of strawberries, and of family celebrations. Eliza, much like both of her parents, liked the frosting and the strawberries over the cake itself.
Kids now-a-days have so many toys that most parents, including us, have a difficult time finding ample storage and managing the inevitable clutter. The best possible entertainment, I find, are activities that we make ourselves and not ones that are specifically for the kids anyway. We involve the girls in our everyday life encouraging and expecting that they participate in our family life. One such example was the making of a Vanilla Bean Raspberry Swirl cheesecake which both Sophia and Eliza helped me make. Eliza helped weigh out the graham crackers and Sophia crushed them and mixed the melted butter into the crumb mixture. Sophia also helped swirl the unbelievably good raspberry sauce before we put the cake into the oven. She loved being so creative with the swirling. The cheesecake turned out out of this world and a recipe is forthcoming.Speaking of homemade or handmade or made at home and by hand is this beautiful quilt. My sister Anna has taken two years to make it and it was worth the wait. It is so special because it is made especially for Eliza. The design is bright and airy—it isn’t too girly because of its geometrical pattern structure but hints of femininity with its bright pinks and reds. Without trying, the quilt has brought the rest of the elements in her small nursery together. Eliza loves to cover herself with ” ‘da blaket ‘dat Anya made!”This weekend was mostly about spending time as a family. We followed what has become a bit of a routine—a visit to a coffee shop, a trip to the farmer’s market, a dance class, and lots and lots of time outside.
The wedding was held outdoors overlooking Independence Hall and the beautiful park grounds of Old City. I never tire of this view and never take it for granted. Sophia and Eliza helped make a wedding card and we think it turned out rather cute.
“Babushka said I could be an eye doctor, but I don’t want to be an eye doctor, Mama. I don’t want to be anything when I grow up; I just want to be people” said Sophia to me the other day.
There is so much sincerity in that statement. I don’t think it is fair to try and shape children into professionals; children have to be children. Their job is to play, to discover, and to be loved. That is exactly what happened over this glorious, sunny, warm Memorial Day weekend.
Relief ricocheted off of me as if I were a prisoner destined for the guillotine and somehow, magically, granted a last-minute stay. We made the most of the sunny weather and the days off; a bit of time at Rittenhouse Square, a bit of time in Fairmount Park, and last but not least, plenty of time at the farmer’s market getting excited over the season’s first strawberries.
The brisket at my parents was stunning this year as was the apple cake at Evan’s Bubbie’s Passover celebration. I refuse to believe the apple cake was kosher for passover because it was that good. Traveling to see family is arduous when your kids don’t nap and your commute is traffic laden. This year’s Passover celebrations were back-to-back which, despite not having to cook ourselves, was a serious undertaking on our part.
In addition to celebrating with family, Sophia had a birthday party to attend and we decided to sneak a quick trip to a coffee shop, too. I love the energy that coffee shops have on weekend mornings. They’re bursting with people who are optimistic and hopeful about their days off. The adults are looking forward to that ever-important first cup of coffee while the kids (both human and canine) explore their surroundings and indulge in baked goods. Our neighborhood has no fewer than 6 coffee shops in a three block radius. Coffee is a big deal in Olde City.
I wish I could regale you with stories of grand culinary undertakings but truthfully, we were too busy spending time with the kids, attending their social events, and visiting our extended families to really have the time. One thing we did make was ice cream. And not just one batch but three. It was a snowball effect, really. I made french vanilla and then Sophia asked for chocolate, so we made a batch of that. Vanilla and chocolate seemed too luxurious and fairly unhealthy so I made a batch of strawberry to balance it all out. That’s my story and I am sticking to it.
When it comes to celebrations anyway. This Saturday marked my third and final birthday celebration. Fitting it was, too, since this year I turned the double three or 33. Evan, the girls, and I hosted my parents, my in-laws and my sister and her family for brunch. We didn’t try to do anything fancy. Just bagels and lox, a vanilla-bean & rum bread pudding, my mom’s zucchini babka, and assemble-your-own granola parfaits. We presented everything on the island and decorated the spread with some very open tulips.
You could say the whole thing was casual and effortless which is exactly how we prefer it. There wasn’t, however, anything effortless about the three birthday cakes everyone enjoyed afterwards. My mother-in-law brought her famous chocolate cake and my sister brought two home-made cakes. The first one was a farmer’s cheesecake laced with apples and topped with just barely toasted meringue and the second one was a multi-layered chocolate cake with mousseline topped with handmade truffles.
So good were these that there are no leftovers anymore. It was the best, low-key celebration and I enjoyed seeing everyone catch up and spend time together. The weather outside had also turned glorious after weeks of cold and rainy days.
The only thing that topped the celebration was an invitation from Baba and Deda to have Eliza and Sophia help plant their vegetable and flower gardens. The girls spent their Sunday in Wilmington, most of it outdoors, picnic-style. The weekend was perfect, and for once, we are all ready and excited for the work/school week.