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.
An ice cream sundae isn’t particularly difficult to pull off if you’re not churning your own. We start churning our own once strawberries hit the farmer’s market. As such, this is store bought vanilla and chocolate with homemade hot fudge and whip cream, and a cherry on top. iSi canisters are the bomb! The kids (big and small) loved decorating their bowl with what seemed like endless whipped cream.
Sunday suppers with friends and family is something we feel we finally accomplish more or less gracefully. We hosted our very first one this Sunday and everyone helped; Sophia and Eliza assisted in capturing the menu on brown paper really enjoying drawing the pictures for every dish. I cooked the main, and Evan cooked the sides. The dinner menu was Mexican-themed complete with a tangy salad, guacamole, enchiladas verdes and, of course, arroz con pollo. I tend to gravitate toward dishes that have a lot of vegetables and color. They always look so appetizing esp. when presented on white serving ware.
My sister and I are, despite having a near 10 year age difference, dessert twins. She didn’t skip a beat and read the menu from the bottom up wanting to know exactly how we plan to finish the meal. I asked everyone to hold culinary and hostess gifts since we prefer to keep things casual so the girls were showered with goodies instead. Aunt Anna is single-handedly ensuring that Eliza and Sophia’s library of books rivals this one. I haven’t met a book Anna bought for my girls that they didn’t like including this, this, and many, many others.
And after dinner, most kids (some bigger and older than others, ehem) retired to the living area for a few rounds of party games. Sunday supper was just perfect. We’ll be keeping this tradition.
A long holiday weekend started with a major, MAJOR, M-A-J-O-R spring clean. By the early afternoon, the house sparkled and smelled of fresh lemon and pine. There must be something terribly wrong with me because I love to clean, do dishes, and fold laundry, too. I love a clean house even more. Showered and dolled up by 4 PM on Friday, I was ready and excited to meet up with friends. We visited the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts for their open house where a friend of ours is a resident artist. We also saw a copper pour which was spectacular and reminded me that art can be physically demanding in addition to requiring incredible creativity.
The girls were back on Saturday and we resumed our family-oriented weekend visiting Smith Memorial Playground on a beautiful warm winter’s day. It is nice to see that Eliza is finally catching up to Sophia in her playground skills and our role as parents is less and less physically involved. The girls initially wanted to go to the zoo but our family was not the only with such aspirations and traffic was awful getting there which meant that the zoo grounds would be crowded. Everyone was very happy with the playground and a whole lot of fresh air.
Eliza and Sophia visited Baba and Deda where Sophia learned how to make varenyky (pierogies) and they both caught up with their cousin. This picture above is timeless and transcends many generations in my family; I have memories of the very same braids, wearing an apron with a little rolling pin in hand, ready to make something in the kitchen. And before me, my sister, and before her, my mom, and her mom before that. These three — there are no words only knowledge that this bond is solid and made for life.
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.
This past weekend was supposed to be amazing. I had grand plans for the three days at home catching up on rest and relaxation. Except that just as Sophia was getting over a stomach bug, Eliza came down with it and Sophia somehow, somewhere picked up the common cold.
In the end, we did enjoy some of the weekend despite all the time spent nursing the girls to health.
My sister hosted a beautiful dinner to celebrate the Fourth of July and we baked a Danish dream cake to accompany our singing her a very Happy Birthday. I took the girls to a woodworking gallery where we ogled chairs which cost $10,000.
Evan and I cooked; we made ice cream, lamb chops, burgers, chicken cutlets, kugel, and a peach and blueberry crumble, too.
And although we would have done just fine, we appreciated all the help my parents lent us this weekend. My Dad came in on Sunday to spend a bit of 1×1 time with Sophia and then, the girls both spent the better part of the day at their house on Monday.
More than the hands-on help or the blintzes and chicken soup, what we got was just what we needed—support. When you’re up in the middle of the night with a baby who is so warm that you’re sweating holding her and are not sure if you should head to the ER, it’s nice to know that you’re not alone.
All the reasons we moved back to Philadelphia and our decisions to uproot our life in Maryland are justified each time we see our family.
Too pretty to eat? Almost. Evan and I went out on a dinner date to celebrate my birthday this Saturday. I didn’t want anything for my birthday except for a leisurely dinner and maybe drinks. We went to a restaurant that is a BYOB (Bring Your Own Bottle) and Evan surprised me by bringing wines from our travels past. He brought a white from the Landmark Vineyards which we visited when we took a not-even-two-year-old Sophia to Napa and Sonoma. Evan also brought a wine we bought in Alentejo in 2003 when we drove all across Portugal and visited Evora. Spectacular as those wines were, my dinner companion, and reminiscing about our travels made this birthday celebration very special.
The girls, meanwhile, did not sulk at home—they had Grammie and Pop to entertain them. There is something unbelievably charming about grandfathers and granddaughters and especially this lovely pair right here. Beautiful as his artwork was, I found the fact that my father-in-law embraced face painting with Sophia so very endearing. I love seeing how much he loves and dotes on his granddaughters.
To round out the weekend, Evan, the girls, and I entertained at home for the first time in this house. These friends are very special for us and we were looking forward to showcasing some Azerbaijani and Russian dishes. Putting on a dinner party isn’t always easy, and even more difficult when you’ve got a clingy, hip-hugging, almost-two year old companion toddling around. We made stuffed cabbage, an Azerbaijani eggplant chicken stew, a fish baked in an agrodolce sauce, and chermoula eggplant with bulgur and yogurt. There were also homemade blintzes with a fresh fruit compote.
The kids played so beautifully together, the adults were able to socialize, and enjoy wine (from proper wine glasses). I suppose committing to unpack a box or two a week really does have its benefits. It felt great to host, to entertain, and to share food with friends. Happy Monday!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Halloween has never been a huge part of our lives but this holiday is becoming much more fun now that we have little ones running around. Sophia requested to be a bee this year and we dutifully obliged. Old City and Society Hill were teaming with kids in costumes heading toward their schools at the end of last week. The kids, the costumes, the brightly colored trees all made for quite the magical atmosphere.
The weekend, despite the kids both getting head-colds, was spectacular. My parents took the girls on Saturday. Chicken noodle soup (homemade) and plenty of tea and other amazing eats helped Eliza and Sophia get better in no time. Meanwhile, Evan and I balanced chores, cooking, and even some quality time together. Too lazy and impatient to order take-in, I took matters into my own hands and made Singapore noodles from scratch in 15 minutes. Truly, it was done faster than I imagined, tasted super delicious despite not having made the whole thing in a wok, and I made it with a new curry blend I recently picked up. Evan made sous and we watched Star Wars with the volume set to normal not fearing that it will wake the kids up. The latter… with the volume on, for the first time in four years. Heaven. And if I must admit to other things that I have been able to return to, I’ll mention that I can now blow dry my hair in the morning. Also for the first time in four years. #parenthood
Having gotten a bit of a break on Saturday, we embraced quality time with the kids on Sunday spending the better part of the morning in pajamas. The girls received calls from Baba and Deda checking on how they were feeling and even managed to entice my parents for a short visit that evening. Sometimes, when you’re not feeling well, a call—just a call, can lift your spirits. It shows that you’re thought of, cared for, and loved. Life lessons my kids are learning firsthand.
Sophia and I also baked an upside down cranberry cake. She was fascinated about me calling it upside down and couldn’t wait to help and turn it over onto a platter after it baked. Cranberries are rich in Vitamin C, so it was obviously a decision with healthfulness in mind.
And just like that, the weekend is over, the week begins and I can once again enjoy the city’s beauty during the peak of fall foliage. Whoever said that Philadelphia is a concrete jungle, clearly doesn’t know the city well. Can you guess where this was taken?
Sophia turned four. Four is a big deal! Almost like a recipe — a party, a good party requires a few key ingredients. Good food. Check. It also requires good cakes, several cakes. Check. Some drinks — juices for the kids and beer/wine for the adults. Check, check. Last, but absolutely critical, a good party requires friends and family.
We started planning Sophia’s party a few months ago because we like to take our time working out the menu, guests, and the theme. She was set on a Lego theme and no amount of persuasion helped convince her to change her theme. Evan and I had our hearts on a Totoro theme. We’re hopeful she’ll want to have that as her theme next year and if not, there’ll always be one of Eliza’s parties. We invited our close family and a select few friends. We would have invited more but space was limited and we wanted to leave plenty of room for the kids to enjoy catching up. As it was, there were over thirty people and lots of cousins and friends.
We made all of the food ourselves, save for a salad, a side and a kugel. There was the sausage and peppers, chicken baked in an asian broth dressed with scallions and sesame seeds, rice, a corn and edamame succotash, grilled cheese two ways, an apricot kugel, a fiesta and a quinoa salads, and stewed eggplant. I baked two cakes–a lemon layer cake and a chocolate cake. The lemon cake was a rich pound cake base with a home-made lemon curd and iced with a lemon-cream cheese frosting. The chocolate cake was death by chocolate a triple layer chocolate cake filled and iced with chocolate ganache. Lastly, and because we enjoy cooking together, Sophia and I made chocolate balls which were a rich chocolate cake mixed with ethereally light vanilla buttercream frosting and dipped in bittersweet chocolate. They were such fun to make and a huge hit at the party.
The adults socialized, the kids played, we sang happy birthday, blew out candles, ate cake, and opened presents. Sophia was thrilled that her friends and family made the time to join us in celebrating her birthday. She loved her presents. This birthday was for Sophia but it was a family party where we came together with people we love and spent time catching up.
The picture is a bit fuzzy… it is the best one I have until my sister and brother-in-law look through their pictures. They hosted the party opening their house to our guests and helped enormously. Their selfless generosity is the very definition of family. This is what families, real, close-knit families do–make time, open their home, their hearts, and enjoy the pitter patter and laughter of tiny guests. I couldn’t be happier that Sophia and Eliza are learning by example. And thank you Anna, David and Alex for your open home and open hearts. Truly.