Category: Crafts



December is always busy with get-togethers, shopping, and just trying to stay on top of the daily. We had a brief overnight in DC Friday to Saturday to attend Evan’s holiday party. I hadn’t been able to attend the previous two years and was very much looking forward to getting together with some old friends and, frankly, getting a night off. The celebration was lovely and well worth the three and a half hour drive there.

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In addition to wining and dining in the DC area, we also hosted my nephew for a sleepover and were all sad to see him head home. He’s thirteen now—young enough to play and bond with little cousins and yet is old enough to have great conversation with Evan and me.

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Saturday night at our house almost always involves a leisurely homemade meal. On the occasion of Alex’s sleepover I made crispy chicken tenders, butternut squash fettuccine alfredo, and steamed green beans. We spent the time together crafting, playing legos, building forts, and just being silly. The kids (all three of them watched) My Neighbor Totoro  for the first time. What a splendid time together.

This flawless and pretty much effortless weekend has been a long time in the making. Relationships, even those of cousins, have to be cultivated and involve not just the cousins but everyone around them. It isn’t always easy to make time, to host at home when the kids are little and you’re tired, but in the end it is so, so worth. Just see for yourself.

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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.

Evan and I did manage to have an evening out. A friend of ours from college was getting married and we were excited to share the day with him and his beautiful bride.

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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.

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“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.

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There is nothing much else to share from our weekend other than an overabundance of grilling on our small Japanese charcoal grill, some time with a baby cousin, and plenty of R&R.

Finally, there may have been ricotta donuts stuffed with Nutella. Maybe. Let’s just say maybe so that you don’t feel so bad that you didn’t make any. 

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A true artist I am not, but that doesn’t always stop me from trying especially for a good cause/occasion such as Mother’s Day. Faced with the dilemma of choosing a gift, I realized that the Mothers in our lives didn’t really want for anything in particular and of material value.

I headed to Sophia and Eliza’s favorite neighborhood arts and crafts store and picked up a few supplies for a small art project that the girls (with some help from me) could make for the occasion. A few minutes later I left with handmade cotton paper, a #2 thin black marker, and two color stamp pads.

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IMG_3806The idea was simple enough: use the girls fingerprints for to create animals and bugs that would, when arranged just so, make a small artwork. I used the thin black marker to draw the outlines of the creatures and write a sweet message underneath.

IMG_3793We wrote messages from the girls on the inside along with our own wishes and thanks and put the notes in the mail. These should make lovely keepsakes since they capture Sophia and Eliza’s fingerprints just as they are now. We spent the rest of the weekend busy celebrating birthdays and enjoying Mother’s Day as it should be—relaxing.

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What long weekend? We spent ours cooking, cleaning, packing, packing, unpacking, packing, unpacking, and … packing. We saw family and stayed mostly indoors trying to cope with the frigid temperatures.

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This picture reinforces that there is no need for cupboards full of toys to keep children entertained. All or most of what they require is in their heads and their curiosity provides the best entertainment of all. We have downsized our toys by 75% and couldn’t be happier.

It snowed again on President’s Day and we decided to turn a dreary, snowy afternoon into an impromptu science lesson. While no longer frigid, it was still cold and so we brought the snow inside and observed its properties under a variety of conditions. We touched it, scrunched it, melted it, and even licked it.
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The girls spent Saturday at my parents’ house. Sophia also spent time crafting with my sister and Eliza got a special visit from Alex that afternoon. I truly believe that just like a PhD or Esquire, aunt, uncle, are titles and must similarly be earned and maintained to be relevant and applicable.

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Lastly, but most deliciously, I am trying out weekend meal-prep for the workweek. We made raisin and turkish apricot kugel, cauliflower and walnut salad with a lemon and parsley dressing, seared lime shrimp tacos, pico de gallo, guacamole, shrimp cocktail, beef stew, and chocolate brownie cookies. It was quite a lot of work to accomplish but we’re reaping the rewards of that labor all week long.

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Not really cold, no, but colder than it was a week ago when we were all courted by mother nature and her 69+* temperatures. In any event, we here were not impressed by the sudden drop in temperatures and decided to stay in for the weekend. One of the girls was under the weather, too.

Preceding the rest of the weekend, we had a busy enough Friday where my in-laws babysat for us so that we could go to a holiday party. In addition to letting us have a few hours to interact with other adults, they brought over delicious cookies and bars (homemade, of course). I’ll have to try and get my mother in-law’s recipe for the date-nut bars. They were unbelievably good… I’ve been like a bee to honey near them.

Occupying two kids under 5 in a 1200 sq. ft. space can get a little overwhelming but desperation served well to inspire us; Sophia is a fan of arts and crafts and Eliza loves to construct things. We paired the two together and asked Sophia to arrange flowers using this set and draw the results. Wanting to keep up with her sister, Eliza jumped in and drew as best she could as well. So proud of their artwork they were that we affixed their prized possessions to our fridge for Baba and Deda to admire when they stopped in to visit with us and stayed for Sunday dinner.



Evan cooked beef meatballs and mashed potatoes using half the butter called for in this recipe and the results were stupendous. Thinking we ought to up the green quotient, we paired everything with trees or steamed broccoli. Saving the best for last, we shared the chocolate brownie cookies Sophia and Evan made together earlier today. It was that sort of a weekend where we stayed in, spent time as a family, and enjoyed good food and time with grandparents.

By-the-bye, that is the mantra for the next few weeks for us—family time. And as for the inspiration for the old expression? Charlotte Bronte whose works I have been consumed by while cheating on my other love, Outlander. So much to read, so little time.

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Hanukkah swept through our house like an exhilarating whirlwind taking the first half of December with it. I have never known such high highs as I did when watching Sophia and Eliza embrace the festivities in earnest lighting candles and learning how to say the appropriate blessings. They loved opening and playing with their new presents, but they enjoyed “writing” thank you cards just as much if not more. Everyone in our family who remembered the girls on this holiday is about to get a little note, but shhh…, don’t tell Sophia and Eliza I gave you an early heads up!

There are too many presents to recap here, but we did have some absolute favorites (aside from the ones that were handmade):

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This book has beautiful illustrations and helps children who feel like they are missing out by not celebrating Christmas understand that they’re not alone and that they have also have many festive days.

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The unbelievable illustrations in this book without words let the reader tell a story they see, not read. The book teaches children to let their imagination take them to the most amazing places.

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Much like Magna Tiles or Legos, these colorful blocks let children build unique contraptions. Once built, you can drop little metal balls into the contraption and watch how they traverse your structure. It is fun to watch, but more than that, it teaches children about programming and the basics of decision trees.

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I must admit that I have not played this game before a few days ago. Evan said it was a childhood favorite. Evan and Sophia played a few rounds and it has become an evening staple at our house. Without trying to make it so, this has become an unofficial gift guide for great gifts for 2-5 year olds.

Aside from opening presents, lighting candles, and eating latkes, we also planted a small terrarium, worked on lots and lots of arts and crafts projects, enjoyed the amazing weather, and participated in a craft bazaar. Like I said, it has been an incredibly busy eight days and our household can now shift gears by focusing on baking cookies, making hot chocolate, and writing down New Year’s resolutions.

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The much anticipated Pope’s visit has come to an end and in a few short hours life will be back to normal. 

  
Admittedly, we did not know what to expect in choosing to stay in the city and shuttering ourselves in. I was concerned about crowds, but my worries turned out to be unsubstantiated.

We did work from home on Friday and took it easy the rest of the weekend. There was laundry, cooking, and fall cleaning. Missing what has become a weekly delicious delivery service from my parents which usually consists of things like blintzes and a full dinner (often sustaining us for more than 1 night), I got down to business and made … blintzes.

Evan made japanese meatballs with home-made teriyaki sauce and now I won’t ever try store bought. Not even from fancy gourmet brands. Besides all of the daily household chores, there was old fashioned family time without any external distractions or incentives to go and do something. Old-school family time. We didn’t rush anywhere, not even the park or playground in the mornings. Lazy, coffee-laden breakfasts morphed into play, into snacks, lunches and spontaneous movie nights.    

As I folded the 6th load of kids’ clothes, having pruned both the girls’ closets and readied them for the coming cooler months, I realized that I have, gradually, embraced the business of the typical weekend, just as I have the changes to my life after becoming a mom. 

The beauty of it all became suddenly obvious. I don’t miss labor and delivery or the first few weeks at home with a newborn, mastitis, colicky babies, changing (and paying for) 12+ diapers a day, blowouts, and what my mother-in-law charmingly calls the bewitching hour. I miss the little things like sibling kisses, baby hugs, and first tall castles out of wood blocks. Rather, I don’t miss them just yet, but I know that I will, miss them, one day when they’re not so readily available. This weekend? This weekend I missed my mom’s blintzes and her birthday. Happy Birthday, Mama! 

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Mother’s day is not just a celebration of the mothers in our life but of all the people who help care for our children. This year, I wanted to show our sincere gratitude to someone who helps us very much. In thinking of what would be the most appropriate gift, I realized that taking care of kids is a labor of love and the only way to show our gratitude is to gift something that is also a labor of love. And so, the idea for a textured shawl was born. Hours, hours and endless hours of work went into this piece and I am very pleased with how it came out. The yarn was beautiful and lent an unbelievable texture and color.

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Sometimes, the best gifts are from the heart, the ones that are made with your very own hands.

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