Pull Up a Chair

August 1, 2014

S with Styled Hair
When we arrived at camp last week, hair braiding was offered for the kids. Both S and H wanted to do it, though I wasn’t quite sure how it would go, as their hair is still pretty short. Both of them sat for a long time, taking the pain like pros, as the stylists combed their hair out; eventually, though, I spotted the face of my tender-headed little S and knew she’d had enough. As I approached to ask if she was okay, her bottom lip began to tremble and she burst into tears in my arms. Not the way I wanted her to start camp! I pulled her out of there, Daddy gave her a lot of love, and she recovered.

I made a point to watch what the stylist was doing with H’s hair, and later I asked S if she wanted me to try styling her hair. She did, and it ended up pretty cute, if I do say so myself. Not as professional looking as H’s, but at least S felt like she had fun hair, too. H’s style lasted three days — I just spruced up her loose locks in the back each morning. The hair bands bothered S when she laid down to sleep, so I took them out and she wore colorful headbands for the rest of camp, which she was very happy with.

H's Hair Style
Of course, then there was my hair, which I have never been good at doing much with; my new fall-back is to throw a hair band on it to distract from the fact that I haven’t showered for a while. At camp one day, I peppered my scalp with a little lavender body powder for a sort of dry shampoo, but that made it look like I have more gray than I do. Oops.

S and H
Here’s S (on the left) and H, sporting their new ‘dos. Too cute, huh?

For our Friday happy-hour chat, I’m offering an enlightened mud slide; the name made me smile when I saw it on Tasting Table. Grab one and tell me about your high and low of the week! Here’s mine:

Low: Re-entry day on Monday, after our family time away, was hard on everyone. We also had some sickness in the house this week. And, as I wrote about Wednesday, so much tragic news.

High: Hmmm, not sure… I got to see Margaret’s lovely face one day while she was in town; I had success using my new dutch oven; I had some sweet moments with my favorite girls.

Bonus question: Do you spend a lot of time on your hair or your child’s hair? Got any favorite styles or tutorials online that you love? 

Enjoy your weekend, friends, and I’ll see you back here on Monday!

Image: Zoe Saint-Paul

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by Margaret Cabaniss

Last week I took my own advice and went on a little road-tripping adventure; today I’m recovering from all that fun, so I thought I’d bring another post out of the SlowMama vault. I ended up picking pounds of blueberries and blackberries while on vacation, which reminded me of this glorious pie I blogged about last summer. There’s nothing better you can make with all those berries, trust me.

Summer Berries
I don’t even care that it’s a million degrees out this week; summer berries are in, and I am happy. I’ve already picked my weight in blueberries at the farm down the road, and whenever I get the chance, you can find me skulking around my sister’s garden, filching from her cultivated blackberry and raspberry canes, or hunting around the edges of her yard for the wild black raspberries and wineberries growing there.

Summer Berries
I keep thinking that I should do something with all these berries — bake a cake, make some jam, something — but mostly I end up eating them before I can reach any kind of critical mass for a recipe. Frankly, I think that’s the best way to enjoy them: There is nothing more delicious than perfectly ripe, just-picked berries — particularly if you find them growing wild, in which case it just feels like Mother Nature is giving you the most perfect “sorry for the heat” present ever.

But.

Triple Berry Pie
This mixed-berry pie recipe might be the one exception to the no-bake rule. Though in fact, it’s not baked at all, which is what gives it its really astonishing fresh flavor: Rather than cooking all the berries down into some indistinct pie filling, it starts with a graham cracker crust that you fill with a custard-y base of sweet berry puree, then the whole thing gets topped off with a mountain of glossy fresh berries — more like a berry tart than a pie, and all the better for it. It is one of the more delicious things I have put in my face all summer.

And it’s definitely a make-it-now kind of thing: Buying these amounts of berries any time other than when they’re in season would be prohibitively expensive — not to mention not nearly as tasty. If you can’t find all three types of berries, you can make it with blueberries and raspberries only; just increase the amounts accordingly.

Serve it with some blackberry lemon verbena soda, or maybe a blackberry gin fizz — or just a handful of fresh berries on the side. You really can’t have too many.

Summer Berry Pie
via Baking Illustrated

Mixed Berry Pie
For the crust:

  • 9 graham crackers (5 oz), broken into pieces
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and warm

Preheat the oven to 325. Process the graham crackers in a food processor (or pound in a Ziploc bag on the counter) until evenly fine. Add the sugar and pulse a couple of times to combine. Continue to pulse as you slowly add the melted butter, processing until the mixture looks like wet sand.

Pour the crumbs into a 9-inch pie plate, then carefully press into the bottom and sides of the pan to form your crust. Bake 15-18 minutes, or until the crust is fragrant and beginning to brown. Set it aside to cool completely.

Mixed Berry Pie
For the filling:

  • 2 cups raspberries (~9 oz)
  • 2 cups blackberries (~11 oz)
  • 2 cups blueberries (~10 oz)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons red currant jelly (apple jelly will also work)

Carefully rinse your berries, then spread them out on a paper-towel lined baking sheet and gently pat dry. Transfer 2 1/2 cups of berries to your food processor and blend until smooth and completely pureed, about a minute. (Don’t skimp on time here; the longer you process, the more juice you’ll extract.) Strain the puree through a fine mesh strainer, scraping the seeds and pressing as you go; you should have about 1 1/4–1 1/2 cups of puree when you’re finished.

In a separate bowl, whisk the sugar, cornstarch, and salt to combine, then whisk that mixture into the berry puree. Heat the puree in a nonreactive saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. When it just reaches a boil and is about the consistency of pudding, remove from the heat and add the lemon juice, stirring to combine. Set it aside to cool slightly.

Mixed Berry Pie
Place the remaining whole berries in a bowl. In a separate small saucepan, melt the red currant jelly over low heat until completely liquefied, then pour the mixture over the berries and gently toss to coat.

To assemble the pie: Pour the berry puree into the crust, smoothing the top with a spatula, then carefully add the berries, pressing down slightly to set them in place. Loosely cover the pie with saran wrap and allow to set in the fridge, at least 3 hours and up to one day. Serve with whipped cream.

Mixed Berry Pie
Images: Margaret Cabaniss

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Water Off A Rock
There are always terrible things going on in the world, but some weeks the bad news really weighs on me. I’m feeling it these days: Planes shot down, rising tensions with Russia, elevated violence between Israel and Palestine, Ebola virus spreading (and sickening or killing those trying to help), over half a million Iraqi Christians murdered or driven out of their homes as we speak.

Then there’s the stuff closer to home: A pregnant young mother of four (an alumna of a university I attended) just died of an aneurism following complications from a wasp attack. Our saintly pastor has stage four lung cancer. And this, while not tragic, is unsettling all the same: A family I know picking up their new children in China was stuck there for six days because of a worldwide computer meltdown affecting the U.S. embassy’s ability to issue visas. It all boggles the mind.

I know I don’t usually write about heavy subjects here, but I’m sure I’m not alone in wondering how much I should immerse myself in bad news, and how much I should focus on good news — or at least just my own life. There’s a balance to be had, and it can be hard to find in a 24-7 internet media world. Here’s what I tend to do when I encounter tragic or overwhelming news:

First, I ask myself if there’s anything I can actually do to change or help the situation, practically speaking. Most times there isn’t; sometimes I can send money, sign a petition, write a letter, or bring awareness by sharing it with others. Oftentimes, the only thing I can do is pray.

If I feel like I’m starting to get obsessed with bad news, I’ll decrease my consumption of media, including social media: I take a break from the news for a day or a couple of days, or simply don’t read every article about an event. Staying away from Facebook for a while helps, too!

I focus on my personal responsibilities. There are people who need me, people who depend on me; I try to give my attention to situations in my inner circles where I can actually make a difference — friends, family, work, church, neighborhood, city, the organizations I support, etc.

Most of all, I make an extra effort to be grateful, live in the moment, and cherish my loved ones. Every day is a gift; nothing is guaranteed, I know. I have first-world problems. When I remember this, it helps center me and live the best I can, which is all any of us can do in this beautiful and sometimes tragic world.

What do you do when you feel overwhelmed by bad news?

Image: Zoe Saint-Paul

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 Me and My Girls
Ethiopian Heritage and Culture Camp was great — beautiful location, well run, lots of fun…a truly edifying experience. I expected it to be all that, but I was surprised at how emotional and thought-provoking it was, too. While the children were in activities, the adults attended workshops, talks, and panel discussions of our own. B and I took cooking and music classes; had the opportunity to listen to an artist and author talk about their experiences in Ethiopia; and heard many interesting perspectives on transracial adoption, race issues in America, culture, traveling to meet birth/first families, and more.

I’m still processing it all, but I thought I’d share some of the takeaways that are foremost in my mind at the moment. Many of these aren’t new thoughts or ideas, but they were solidified or affirmed for me this weekend.

1. We are all Ethiopian now.

When we adopted our girls, we adopted everything about them — including their birth culture and relatives. My own country of origin, cultural influences, and heritage — as well as B’s — are now part of our daughters’ story, and theirs is part of ours. Even our extended family members are now linked to Ethiopia because their grandchildren/nieces/cousins are Ethiopian. I knew this on a certain level before, but it wasn’t until this weekend that I understood more deeply what that means. (Now if only I could arrange to inherit my daughters’ eyelashes.)

At Heritage Camp
2. Best to get comfortable being uncomfortable.

As a number of speakers pointed out, adopting transracially and transculturally is bold. Society doesn’t understand it (and in many cases doesn’t support it). Issues like race, discrimination, adoption, identity, and cultural integration are hard enough to talk about let alone having these issues intimately affect your parenting. Families like ours can help create change, but we also need to be prepared for the discrimination, prejudice, and misunderstandings that we — especially our children — may face.

3. I’m very grateful that my parents were (and are) countercultural.

I’ve appreciated this for a long time, but this weekend it struck me again that the way I was raised gives me confidence in my parenting. The issues were different for my family of origin, but there are parallels to draw: We stuck out; we were different; my mother was often the Lone Ranger, going against the grain, voicing unpopular views, or challenging the status quo. I developed a strong sense of confidence and self-awareness without having to be like everyone else; I hope my daughters can do the same. My own family, my daughters, don’t have to follow any path but our own.

Music & Dancing at Heritage Camp
4. I can’t fix everything for my kids, and I can’t prepare for everything, either. 

I know this intellectually, but I’m a fixer and a planner. Hearing other parents’ stories at camp, I was reminded that, as much as we’d all take bullets for our kids, we can’t always fix their pain, erase the hard parts of their past, or anticipate everything that will come their way. Being a warrior for my kids and accepting that I can’t make everything okay is a delicate dance. All parents contend with this, but adoption adds its own layers.

5. My instincts are good.

I could tell myself this before, but I guess I doubted it sometimes. Every parent does, right? The camp challenged me and gave me some new things to think about, but I left feeling like I’ve got a decent grasp of what we’re doing well and where we can improve.

At Heritage Camp with Friends
6. Ethiopians are the loveliest people. 

This camp is run by Ethiopians, directed by a dynamic woman and staffed by volunteers, many of whom were young Ethiopian women who are great role models for our daughters. As a past event planner, I was impressed by how well-organized the program was, while still feeling very laid back and relaxed. Most big events have a hard time finding that balance, and it struck me as part of the Ethiopian touch. As diverse as they are, Ethiopians are generally kind, gentle, dignified, humble, strong, resilient, and determined. They value family and children, faith, tradition, community, education, and celebration. It was meaningful to connect with wonderful Ethiopian Americans who want to enrich the lives of children, talk about hard issues, and celebrate adoption and family. (And they are gorgeous people to boot.)

7. B is better at traditional Ethiopian dancing than I thought. 

Just hoping that the adult dance competition segment from Saturday night doesn’t end up on YouTube. Enough said.

******

Anything you’d like to know about culture camp? Ask away!

Images: Zoe Saint-Paul and B

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Internet Menagerie

July 28, 2014

Ethiopian Heritage & Culture Camp
I’m still unpacking from a terrific four days at culture camp, but I wanted to share some of my internet finds from the past few weeks. If you’ve spotted anything interesting, inspiring, or just plain fun, do leave it in the comments!

  • Hard to believe this gorgeous home is outfitted largely with Craigslist finds. (Design Mom)
  • Slightly sweetened, dairy-free fudgsicles. (Elana’s Pantry)

Image: Zoe Saint-Paul

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Pull Up a Chair

July 25, 2014

Coffe Ceremony in Addis Restaurant
Today I’m in the beautiful state of Virginia with B and the girls at a four-day Ethiopian Heritage and Culture Camp. The girls have been so excited for it! The camp is in its sixth year and brings together families raising Ethiopian-American children for activities, workshops, and cultural experiences. I’ve heard about it for years — long before the girls came home — and always wanted to go.

Despite the name, we won’t actually be camping; the on-site accommodations were booked by the time we registered, so we’ll be roughing it in a nearby hotel. But it has a pool and gives us a place for some down time, which my introverted husband will no doubt appreciate. I also left my computer at home so I could take a brief technology break; I’ll have my smart phone and might post a few shots on Instagram, but otherwise I want to focus on being with my family and experiencing all the camp has to offer.

In honor of my daughters’ birth culture, this week I’m offering a virtual glass of tej — a honey wine drunk in Ethiopia (and sometimes Eritrea) that’s brewed with powdered leaves and twigs and a hops-like agent. (I even found a winery in California that makes and sells it called ENAT.) My high and low this week are pretty straightforward:

High: Coming to heritage camp! (It sure is pretty down here.)

Low: An extra rough day on the parenting front this week. Ugh.

Bonus question: What’s left on your summer bucket list? Well, the one thing on my list this summer — getting home to Nova Scotia — is not happening, so there’s nothing else in particular on my list except to make sure we mix lots of fun stuff in with the projects and preparations I need to tackle in August. What about you?

Enjoy your weekend, friends, and I’ll see you back here on Monday!

Image: Zoe Saint-Paul

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Summer Road Trips

July 24, 2014

by Margaret Cabaniss

Summer Road Trip
It’s officially high summer, which means it must be time for me to start daydreaming about road trips. I get a tiny bit obsessed just about this time every year; it seems all my favorite travel memories involve some amount of time on the road. I still remember lying in the trunk of my parents’ AC-free station wagon (because there weren’t enough actual seats to go around), driving all the way from Woodstock, NY, to the Florida panhandle in the high-summer heat when we were little; it was sweaty, crowded, long, and glorious.

With those trips in mind, I may have been perusing a few “best road trip” articles this evening, just to see what’s out there…

Richard Barnes/Otto
Outside 
Magazine offers up their 10 All-American Summer Road Trips, complete with scenic stops and adventures along the way. It’s funny to me that the most exotic trip — the “Road to Nowhere” on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula — is the only one on their list I’ve actually done. Definitely the summer trip of a lifetime.

Summer Road Trips
A little closer to home, my favorite drive, hands down, is the Blue Ridge Parkway. I still can’t believe that something so beautiful is so easy to get to (well, for us East Coasters, at least).

Summer Road Trips
Garden and Gun
helpfully lays out a few must-see Southern pit stops — including such gems as Graceland Too and the grave of Stonewall Jackson’s arm. God bless America.

Summer Road Trips
This is the kind of pilgrimage that’s going on my bucket list: driving North Carolina’s historic barbecue trail. (Or maybe the Tennessee barbecue trail; I’m not picky.) You always seem to find the best food on the road… Better start training now!

What about you: Any favorite road trip routes or memories? Driving anywhere fun this summer?

PS — Some summer road trip music (and yet more music), and the best apps for planning a road trip.

Images: 1, Margaret Cabaniss; 2, Richard Barnes/Otto; 3, Unknown; 4, See Rock City; 5, Peden + Munk

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If you could take your family away from the hustle and bustle and experience a different lifestyle together, would you do it? City-dweller Dana Fitzpatrick (a blogger at Pip & Posy) and her husband Matt decided to take a year-long sabbatical from their busy lives and do something to bring them closer to each other and connect more deeply to their values. I hope you enjoy this next installment of Parenting Against the Grain!

Fitzgerald Family
Welcome, Dana! Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your family. 

Until recently, my husband Matt and I were living in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where I was a healthcare consultant and he was a physician. We have four children:  James, 4 1/2, our sensitive, sweet boy; Deirdre (Daisy), 2 1/2 , our spunky, confident captain; Simon, our latest joy, who joined our family through international adoption as a one-year-old last summer; and sweet Moira who is brand new — just born on July 6.

I grew up in Minnesota, and although I spent time traveling internationally with a job as well as studying abroad during graduate school, I really hadn’t lived anywhere else — but always wanted to. Matt grew up moving frequently and has lived in Africa, Jerusalem, Sweden, and various places in the United States. His parents settled in Minnesota when he was in college, so he decided to attend the University of Minnesota for medical school, which is where we met. Matt is a med/peds hospitalist, which means he practices in internal medicine and pediatrics, but only in a hospital setting.  He also has a public health degree with interest in tropical diseases and international healthcare.

Dana with New Baby
You and Matt decided to take a “sabbatical” year as a family to Ketchikan, Alaska. What does this sabbatical mean — are you still working? Have you kept your house in the Twin Cities? What made you decide to embark on this adventure?

Looking back, our life was insane. We started our family while Matt was still a resident, working long, long hours, while I needed to work to support the family. Once we were used to that pace, we never really questioned why we were living that way; it simply became the status quo. Although people would joke with us about the craziness, we still thought all families had both parents working sixty hours a week. It never struck us that we could have a different life.

Annually, on the anniversary of the day we met, we would return to the same restaurant, share a meal, and reflect on our relationship. This past year, the conversation brought us to a realization: As a couple with a newly adopted child, we had been talking more and more about how we wanted to raise our children. We married each other because of a shared love for experience, travel, adventure, and bringing joy to our daily routine. We didn’t feel like the life we were leading reflected those values anymore; there just wasn’t time. So we asked ourselves: What’s the point of having these values if we’re not practicing them? That’s when we decided to hit pause.

We think of our move to Alaska as a “sabbatical” because of the intention it implies. For us, it’s a time of reflection, quiet, and progress. My husband has a schedule where he works seven days straight and then has seven days off, which gives us 26 weeks a year where we can both be home with our kids. I work about ten hours a week now, but with our goal of bringing more time to our family life, I work less during the weeks Matt is home so we can do the things that we didn’t have time for when we both worked full-time — like making awesome waffles on a Wednesday morning!

Ketchikan, Alaska
We kept our house in Minneapolis and intend to return or move on after a year or so. We have found the best things in our life seem to happen when we’re flexible, so I know plans can change. In the spirit of this sabbatical, we have looked at this as a defined period so that we can really focus on our specific goal of bringing time and love to our family unit.

What made you choose Ketchikan?

Alaska was really secondary to the decision. Once we made up our minds to do this, we looked at programs or areas that were of interest: valuable medical experience for Matt, family bonding opportunities, access to outdoor activities, and a strong arts community for me. In the past we had talked at length about spending an extended time in Africa, but with our student loans it would have been difficult to swing. Matt has friends who spent time in Alaska, and one in particular spoke highly of Ketchikan. The nature of the community here and small-town living suits us well.

Ketchikan
Tell us a little about your life in Ketchikan. What’s it like to now live in the woods on an island and experience daylight at 3:30 a.m.?

It’s been really interesting. When we got here, we had to adjust to many things after living in a big city with a lot of amenities. First of all, we chose to live on the ocean in a cottage. Being far from town meant planning our meals more intentionally so we could purchase groceries on a weekly basis, watching our water supply since it was collected from the roof, and generally living life in a quieter way.

The weather is very different than Minneapolis — far more temperate, but very rainy.  The community embraces the rain and has a lot of opportunities for kids — library reading groups, art projects, athletics, etc. And yes, the sun has been interesting: In the winter, the low sun seems to start setting at 10:00 a.m., which made me feel like the days were always slipping away before I’d even had my cup of joe. And now the sun goes down at 11:00 p.m. and rises at 3:00 a.m. Thankfully, with an infant, I have an easier time sleeping when I need to, so it’s worked out fine.

How have your three young children responded to the move and the changes? What do you hope they’ll take away from this experience?

In general, they’ve done well. We were most concerned about Simon since we worked so hard at attachment and stability; we didn’t know how it would feel for him to be uprooted so quickly after joining our family. We’ve tried to still be very intentional about our family unit — just as we were during the initial bonding period.

Simon

You just gave birth to your fourth child and made this move while pregnant. Were you nervous about being far from family and friends, familiar pre-natal care, etc.? Have you been able to find support as a newcomer in Ketchikan?

Absolutely. Living in community is a big value of mine, and leaving friends and family was a difficult choice.  Ultimately, we decided that this opportunity may not present itself again and, despite the risks, we’d make it together.

Dana Pregnant
Two gifts have emerged through the pregnancy. One is the incredible people here in Ketchikan. As an island, it’s very self-sufficient, and there’s an incredible network of women who support and love each other here. It’s extraordinarily welcoming. The other gift has been the relationship with my husband: Going through pregnancy or adoption is a wonderful time for reflection and introspection, and I’ve been able to share thoughts with him on a more regular basis. Growing a family together is fabulous marital therapy!

What do you hope this sabbatical will do for your family life, and how intentional are you being about what you’re doing (and not doing) during this time?

We try to reflect every morning on what the day will bring — a practice we never had when we both worked. Our values exist much closer to the surface of our minds now. Naturally, there’s still daily living to be done — paying electricity bills, enrolling kids in school programs, running errands — but we try to wrap those tasks around our greater priorities. Not that we call hiking or play time a “to-do,” but we have an easier time pausing during our tasks to make sure we are living the value of time each and every day.

Matt and I have both gravitated to activities and experiences that couldn’t be achieved when we worked 60 hours a week: I’m interested in completing my first triathlon this year, and learning to play the ukulele; Matt has been learning about salmon fishing and has even started having some success! Given that our primary goal was creating and using time better in order to bring our family closer, we try and use our time for meaningful experiences.

Fishing in Alaska
So far, how has your time in Ketchikan affected you and your husband as parents? Has it brought out different qualities or given you new perspectives?

We both notice greater patience. Having two toddlers and a pre-schooler can certainly wear on your nerves, but slowing down our lifestyle has given us more time to laugh. I feel less fried and like a better parent when I’m not swearing in the morning because I need to get three kids into a car in less than five minutes while juggling a to-go mug of coffee and three five-point harness car seats.

What have been the greatest challenges of taking this year away from your “regular” life?

It’s been challenging not to creep into old habits. Because I’m a consultant now, I sometimes struggle not to be the first to raise my hand in the spirit of being a “team player” and thus over-committing myself. In the past, I could slip into a workaholic mode pretty easily, and I’ve struggled to un-learn this practice so I can maintain balance and protect my family time.

In Alaska
So, do you really think this will be one year, or do you think your time in Ketchikan could stretch into something much longer?

We’ve had discussions about this. We’ve met several people who are on year five of their six-month Alaskan stint. We really like what this lifestyle has brought us and could see staying for longer. I do think at some point our goals may change. There are times when I miss my career and can see myself wanting to do more professionally, but we will cross that path when it feels right.

What would you tell another family who is attracted to the idea of taking a sabbatical year like this? What steps would you suggest they take to get there?

My best piece of advice is to create specific intentions for a defined period so that there’s something concrete to focus on. We thought about this as a sabbatical – not a permanent move, which made it easier to create lifestyle changes in the short term. Also, jump in, but give yourself just enough time to prepare. There are a lot of details to think about (especially with kids) — schools, housing, healthcare. Give time to get through the logistics, but not so much that the spirit of the adventure wanes. Lastly, ignore the Naysayers!

****

A big thanks to Dana for sharing their sabbatical adventure with us. (I was amazed she had the time to respond to my questions in the midst of attending to a brand new baby!) I love this idea of giving the gift of time to each other as a family; it’s so key to bonding and making memories together, don’t you think? If you’re interested in reading more about Dana’s adventure, be sure to check out her blog.

I’m curious: Does this idea of a family sabbatical appeal to you? If so, where would you go?

PS — If you enjoyed this interview, be sure to check out Going Furniture-Free and The Modern Nomads.

Images: Dana Fitzpatrick

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Ben and Holly's Little Kingdom Image
We keep TV time to a minimum around here (in fact, we don’t even have a television: We download and stream things on our iMac), but when S and H arrived, we noticed that watching programs helped them to learn English more quickly and was (still is!) a lifesaver for me when I was trying to get dinner on the table.

It didn’t take long for B and me to realize that the best kids shows are the ones that don’t make the adults want to commit harakiri. (It’s no fun to have the Strawberry Shortcake theme song playing in your head over and over again when you’re trying to fall asleep, believe me.) Thankfully, there are a few shows that our daughters have loved that we’d be tempted to watch all on our own.

The first one that comes to mind is Peppa Pig, a British animated series for preschoolers that is created, directed, and produced by Astley Baker Davies. Each episode is about five minutes long and features a young female pig named Peppa and her family and friends — but the writers clearly throw a lot of bones to the grown-ups they know are watching. This is one of the very first shows our daughters watched, which would explain why they still call Santa Claus “Father Christmas.” (If you watch it, keep your eyes out for Miss Rabbit, voiced by Sarah Ann Kennedy. Her inflection is a work of comedic art – indescribable, really; it has to be heard.) Here’s a favorite episode:

Next up is Ben & Holly’s Little Kingdom. This is B’s all-time favorite. Another British animated series created for preschool-aged children, it’s set in a magical kingdom of fairies, elves, and insects. The characters are sweet, the art design is charming, and the humor works both for kids and — at a different level — for adults. One of the highlights is the hysterical rivalry between the rationally minded Wise Old Elf and the air-headed fairy Nanny Plum (whose is also voiced by Sarah Ann Kennedy). So many quotable lines in this show… Here’s a fun episode:

Last but not least is Doc McStuffins. A Disney Channel program produced by Brown Bag Films and created (and executive produced) by Humanitas Prize and Emmy Award–winner Chris Nee, it chronicles the adventures of a six-year-old girl named Dottie “Doc” McStuffins who wants to be a doctor like her mother. She sets up a clinic to fix broken toys and dolls, who come to life when she puts on her stethoscope. With help from her best stuffed animal friends — Lambie, Hallie, Stuffy, and Chilly — Doc helps toys get better by giving them check ups, diagnosing their illnesses, and fixing their boo-boos. Each episode is 11 minutes.

The characters and story lines in Doc McStuffins are cute, but our favorite part of this show is its original songs, which are super catchy (check out Everybody Gets Hurt Sometimes). Doc McStuffins now has lots of spin-off products (and yes, we have a few), but it’s screaming for a musical; you can easily imagine many of these songs in a Broadway show.

The other reason we love Doc is that she’s a brown-skinned girl, and we’re always looking for good shows with main characters who look more like our daughters. Here’s an episode, in case you’ve never seen it:

Any kids’ shows that you secretly (or not so secretly) enjoy?

Image: Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom via uk.eonefilms

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Pull Up a Chair

July 18, 2014

Organic Cabbage
We decided to participate in a CSA this year, and so far it’s been great. In case the acronym is unfamiliar, CSA stands for “Community Supported Agriculture”: You pay up front for a share of the produce a farm grows during its season, and once a week you get a delivery of whatever is ready to be picked. Our CSA farm grows organic produce and delivers to our neighborhood; their stuff is top notch and well worth the cost — less expensive than buying high-quality vegetables at the grocery store each week.

We did a CSA a few years back, but we were deluged with so many greens I didn’t know what to do (given there were only two of us, including my picky vegetable eater of a husband, and one very small freezer). Now, however, I’ve got two kids and a VitaMix, so I felt equipped to jump back on the CSA train and try again.

I love planning meals around what’s in season (and in my fridge), but it can be hard to track down recipes this way. (If you know any great sites that organize recipes based on ingredients, do tell!) I’ve had beautiful cabbages recently, and while I love the idea of cabbage, I’m often at a loss as to what to do with them. Sautéing it wasn’t much of a hit in my house, and traditional cole slaw gets a little dull. But I’m grateful to an Instagram follower who recommended this Thai crunch salad from Against All Grain. I made it last night and it was a big hit. I didn’t include the snap peas (hubby’s not a fan) or the cucumber (girls don’t like them), but I did everything else pretty much verbatim (except for the coconut amines in the dressing — who has those lying around?). Anyway, yum!

Also, I made raw broccoli salad for the first time this week. We eat a lot of broccoli in our house, usually steamed, and I’ve been getting bored with it lately. The raw salad was simple: three cups of raw broccoli shredded in the food processor, toasted cumin seeds, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper, raisins, and sliced almonds. Sadly, the rest of the family didn’t end up being fans, but I really liked it (and felt vindicated when my sister-in-law tried a spoonful and asked for the recipe).

Anyway, I’m not sure what’s on the menu this weekend, but I do have a fun girls’ night planned tomorrow to celebrate my sister-in-law’s birthday. (Have I mentioned how great it is to have family in the hood now? I’m loving it!) Since Noemi is from Spain, I’m offering some Spanish red wine today in her honor. Grab a glass and tell me about your week! Here’s my high and low:

Low: This past week I was very sad about the loss of a friend’s baby in childbirth. And I can’t stop reading the news about the recent jumbo jet disaster — so awful! My thoughts and prayers are with all those mourning the loss of loved ones this week.

High: Sometimes I stop and marvel at just how far our girls have come since they arrived not even two years ago. It’s easy to forget, but I like to really let it sink in every now and then. I’ll have to post an update soon on how everybody’s doing around here.

Have a lovely weekend, wherever you are, and I’ll see you back here on Monday!

Image: Zoe Saint-Paul

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