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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. img_7438.jpg

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. 
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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.

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Thanksgiving was just as we liked it — fairly small, warm, and delicious. It was a real treat to just kick back and relax.

img_7448.jpgIn 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.

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Labor Day is always bittersweet. It is the summer’s last hurrah providing families and friends with a sun-filled opportunity to spend time together before the start of the school year. We made the most of the three-day weekend starting with Ladies’ Night on Friday. Evan was meeting a friend of his for dinner/drinks and so the girls and I took Old City by force on a beautiful First Friday. They loved visiting the galleries and felt so sophisticated sporting their purses that Baba bought them in Budapest. 

Saturday was just as action packed with a visit to my in-laws for a bit of time in the country, followed by a double birthday celebration for our cousins who turned six and seven. I loved that my family gets together for kids’ birthdays and spends time together just being while the kids play. The rest of the weekend was decidedly lower-key and craft filled. The girls spent most of the day on Monday at their Baba and Deda’s house and the highlight of the day was their visit with my sister. I am so grateful that she made time for her nieces and they were over the moon from all the attention.

We did continue decorating and setting up Sophia’s room with goodies we find in our basement from our previous residences. I originally picked this rug out for Sophia’s nursery but we ended up putting it away in our house in Maryland after she started walking. It really fits into her space now and makes for a cozy play corner with her doll-house and a sitting pillow. We’re not ready for the school year and for fall in general but we did enjoy the weekend.

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Long ago, I dreamed about birthday celebrations with balloons, a colorful cake, and a carousel. I don’t remember what my own birthday celebrations were like when I was young, but the dream I had for myself, Evan and I made a reality for Eliza. Our friends and family came together to celebrate Eliza’s big 2 and enjoy the glorious day that was Saturday. Until recently, Eliza had been very nervous about sitting on a pony while riding a carousel preferring to sit on a bench. That all changed on Saturday probably after she saw how much fun her cousins were having riding the different animals on the carousel.

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Some details about the party: we held it at 10 AM to try and beat the heat. We served breakfast and cake/desserts choosing to sing Happy Birthday earlier on so as to not ruin anyone’s appetite for lunch. The venue had a carousel and mini golf providing ample entertainment for kids of all ages. Since the venue was so close to Philadelphia’s chinatown, we served fortune cookies with a custom fortune as our favors and the kids got those and a few other trinkets in a asian take-out container.

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Eliza loved her party and Sophia carried off the role of the birthday sister with aplomb. In fact, Sophia has been a supportive birthday sister for a whole week as small celebrations and birthday presents trickled in for Eliza.

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We spent the afternoon of the birthday party decompressing from all the festivities with a cold beverage and plenty of presents in hand.

It was hard to beat the excitement and fun of Saturday but we came close with a trip to a local farm tractor ride and all. We picked blueberries, peaches, and even some apricots. The girls loved the outdoors and we’re looking forward to making peach cobbler.

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Despite having moved a little over three months ago, we still have a basement full of boxes. On occasion, like this past Saturday, we carry out special ops-level missions where we try to locate something we need like our favorite Japanese earthenware charcoal grill or the art for the kids’ rooms.

Saturday should have been relaxing as the girls visited with their Baba and Deda but ended up hectic what with all the unpacking and cooking. On Sunday, we hosted Evan’s parents and grandmothers. His Bubbie and Grandmom hadn’t seen our house yet. Grandmom is celebrating a birthday this week and we couldn’t think of a better reason to host an instimate brunch.

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This right here is Pizza Rustica from a cookbook my sister gifted me for Mother’s day. I was pleased with the way it turned out both in the way of looks and taste. This was, I am ashamed to admit, the first time I had done a pie with a lattice top. I felt very fancy about it. A vanilla-bean pudding with chocolate chips and a fiesta salad rounded out the brunch menu. Eliza and I walked to our neighborhood florist for this gorgeous arrangement featuring the most vibrant yellow ranunculus. I like yellow against grays, creamy whites, and sandy colors.

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The highlight of the day was, of course, my mother-in-law’s chocolate cake. We lit the candles up twice because, for little ones, blowing out candles is all the rage.

IMG_3869There was also plenty of games, books, and puzzles.

IMG_3859And in between all that, we sprinkled some face (or hand) painting and …
IMG_3855topped that off with nail polishing. There is something incredibly endearing about a grandfather polishing his little granddaughter’s nails. He tried his best, but my advice would be to continue practicing law.

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We had a wonderful time hosting our family and wishing Grandmom a very, very Happy Birthday in person. It was the best Sunday.

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Full disclosure—we are actually homebodies. You may not think so once you hear about our weekend, but we can always rest and lounge later when the winter finally arrives and the snow starts.

Starting our Saturday in the most perfect way, we hosted friends of ours for a breakfast/brunch/lunch. I made sticky buns with a honey caramel and toasted pecans which were quite good and Evan whipped up an onion and red-pepper omelette. Freshly-made buttermilk pancakes and a butternut squash soup rounded out the menu. I can’t say this was entirely effortless, despite seeming like an easy menu but something about Eliza deciding that she needed to be cooking with me slowed me down. On the upside, I had the sweetest little helper.

Sophia and Eliza loved playing with our friends’ little girls who are three and 6 months. Eliza especially couldn’t get enough of the baby. She talked about the baby for the rest of the day. There was, despite the small quarters, plenty of hide and seek, puzzles, crafts and books. We rounded out Saturday with an evening walk to Franklin Square to see their holiday music and light show. Sunday brought Sophia’s dance class and a dinner out with some friends. Sophia and our friends’ son colored and practiced their spelling while we caught up over Mexican fare. It was a lovely night.

Between time spent with friends, we cooked, relaxed, lounged, knitted, hosted pretend tea-parties and practiced “reading”. See for yourselves!
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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

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

IMG_3315The 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.

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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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What weekend? We aren’t complaining since our weekends seem to fly because we’re having a good time. Sophia started school this past Wednesday and we’re getting into the swing of things with drop-offs, pick-ups, snacks, and learning to be punctual. Summer’s definitely over but the warm weather persists and there is no better place we’d rather be than in the city on a warm weekend day.

STEAM or Science Technology Engineering ART & Math is something we’re enjoying as of late. Sophia threw clay for the first time ever. She loved it. I loved it, more; I loved seeing her trying and learning something new.

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Here is a video of her actually doing it.

After throwing the clay, she painted her bowl which will then be glazed, cured, and fired.

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We can pick it up in a few weeks. The studio which sponsored this amazing event (where Sophia also contributed to the community sculpture) is also hosting several Family Days which we’re planning to take advantage of.

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We treated the girls to a breakfast out which, for them, is a special treat. Eliza has never been to a restaurant for breakfast before and thoroughly enjoyed herself. We walked home through Independence Park and, for the first time ever, Sophia asked us to read the placards describing the history of each site.
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And after all that, we made time to stop by a children’s toy store so well curated that I wanted to be a kid again just so I could play there.FullSizeRender 8Alas, all good things and great weekends must come to an end. Ours didn’t end without ringing in the Jewish New Year with my family and our family friends. Home-made mouth-watering brisket, mashed potatoes, three cakes, and more sides than I dare brag about mention made for a delicious meal but more than that, it was (as it always is) about the quality time with people whom I love.

FullSizeRender 3The sun may set on our weekend and this (Jewish) year, but it shines bright on new beginnings.

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