When Plans Change

May 21, 2015

Cinema Usher by Dave Meier I consider myself to be very flexible — and I don’t mean doing the full lotus position, although I’m holding my own there. What I mean is, I can go with the flow, change things up, adjust. (One of the benefits of growing up in a large family, for sure.)

But the truth is, I don’t always like when I’ve made plans to zig and then am forced to zag. It can take me a little while to reorient myself to something new, and I’m not always a happy camper about it — at least at first.

Case in point: We had plans to travel to Kentucky at the end of this month to see family. I had already planned a few work commitments around it, cancelled some other things, started to think about packing, and was generally looking forward to it. But for a number of reasons, the dates no longer work for everyone so we’ve post-poned the visit until fall.

At first, I was annoyed that the plan had changed. But I quickly saw the silver lining: Now I can actually tackle a number of small house projects; I’ll be around when one of my closest friends has her new baby; and B and I will have more time for car shopping (yes, we’re in the market for a new vehicle).

My flexibility in the face of changing plans was put into perspective when I read the latest post from one of my favorite bloggers, Christine Gilbert. After many years of traveling, she and her husband Drew decided to settle in Barcelona for a while and get their son ready to start school there in 2016, but Drew just came back from screening his new documentary in the U.S., a changed man with a plan: He wants to get fit, live in the mountains, and get out of big cities for a while. After seven years of traveling together and following Christine’s agenda all the time, he now has his own request — and Christine is happy to accommodate:

I love Barcelona. But I love Drew more. We spun the globe and picked a spot. Peru. Neither of us had been before. Great food. Good base to launch out to other parts of South America. He can do big adventures in Patagonia. I can take cooking classes. One year in Peru, the year before my baby, my first baby anyway, turns an age that feels like a hard-line. He’s going to get fit. Climb mountains. Grow an epic beard.

Then, in a year, we return. I think. Although, as you can see, life has a way of changing even the best laid plans.

Yes, plans are great, but they often change, either because we (or our loved ones) shift priorities, or things out of our control happen that direct our path in a new way.

How do you deal with shifting plans? Do you consider yourself flexible or do you have a tough time when you have to change course?

Image: Dave Meier at picography


Just had to post this little video of a peculiar experiment: A young couple, about to get married, agrees to be altered by professional makeup artists to see what they will look like in their 50s, 70s, and 90s. I must admit I got a little teary watching it. His alterations looked a little strange, but their reactions to seeing themselves and each other were so genuine and lovely.

If you could see yourself in different phases of aging, would you? And would you welcome seeing your significant other this way?




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Friday Inspiration

May 15, 2015

Adam Harteau photo
I live vicariously through others sometimes, and frankly, it’s one of my secrets to a satisfying life. I can’t be and do everything, and there are so many “alternate” lives I’d love to experience; the only way I can do it is to enter other peoples’ universes the best I can and encounter other places, cultures, events, and ideas though them. This connects me with friends and strangers alike, and it relieves me of the pressure to do many things I’m not able or willing to do, while still getting a taste of them on some level.

Hereto family on the road
I’ve been following the adventures of the Harteau family ever since I interviewed Emily Harteau here on SlowMama. (Be sure to read that interview if you haven’t already!) The Harteaus’ life kind of blows me away: Emily and her husband, Adam, live full-time on the road from their van with their two young daughters — one of whom Emily gave birth to in South America recently. And they do it all while looking like they stepped out of a Patagonia catalogue.

Recently the family reached a goal of making it to the southernmost region in the Americas, and their photos from Tierra del Fuego, part of an archipelago off the tip of the South American mainland, are absolutely stunning.

Adam Harteau Photo
I’m inspired by the Harteaus’ photos, their free spirits, their ability to make their dreams as a family come true, and their creative talents that allow them to share a slice of what they experience with people like me.

What’s inspiring you this week? Do you enjoy living vicariously through others?

Images: Adam Harteau of Our Open Road

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JORD box
I’ve been eager to tell you about an accessory I took on our TV shoot trip: a super cool handmade wooden watch.

A  U.S.-based company called JORD reached out last month to ask if I’d be interested in reviewing one of their watches. One look at them and I was on board. The watch showed up in some of the loveliest packaging I’ve ever seen: wrapped around a hand-sewn cushion in a hand-carved wooden box with a beautiful wooden tag attached to it. It was impressive. JORD packaging
Of course, gorgeous packaging is one thing; what about the watch itself? Of the styles available to me, I chose the simple Ely version in the light maple. It’s one of the more petite styles, which I thought would work best since I’m a small person, but since I like chunkier jewelry I’m happy the watch has some substance to it. It’s a fabulous combination of elegance and natural simplicity. I love it!

Ely wooden watch by JORD in maple
JORD — a Swedish word for “earth, soil, and land” — is a small company of artists, designers, and seasoned watchsmiths based in Missouri. Their style is guided by a deep appreciation of natural elements and modern design, which you can see in every detail of their gorgeous watches.

With our smart phones on hand to check the time, watches aren’t as common these days, but there are two reasons I still love to wear them: For one, they can be great style pieces. You can choose to wear it the way you’d wear any other piece of jewelry, depending on your outfit or the occasion.

I also really like the the idea of a simple turn of the wrist to check the time, rather than digging around for my smart phone. It’s one less reason to be staring at a screen, especially in public.

Wearing Ely watch
With graduations, Father’s Day, and summer birthdays on the horizon, a wooden watch would be a beautiful surprise. I only write about and endorse products I can stand behind, and I’m pleased to say my lovely JORD watch is one of them. I’ve worn it constantly since it arrived two weeks ago!

Do you wear a watch? What do you think of wearing one as a fashion statement? And which JORD watch style is your favorite?

Images: Zoe Saint-Paul

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Back to Civilization

May 11, 2015

B & Girls in NC
We arrived home safe and sound from our off-the-grid adventure in North Carolina, and I’m happy to report that the trip was a blast!

We worked with a terrific television crew who were laid back and fun to hang out with. The weather was pretty much perfect the whole time, the setting and scenery were gorgeous, and we enjoyed some delicious food (no dried food rations or foraging for berries, it turns out!).

The biggest take-aways, though, were the things we learned — about ourselves and our abilities, about what “off-grid” can actually mean, and about what we may want for our family moving forward.

B and I are still processing the trip and comparing notes. I was amazed at how this husband of mine — who’s never lived rurally and is so urban in many ways — jumped right into everything and didn’t want to leave. I was surprised he said yes to this in the first place, and he’s even happier now that he did.

The girls impressed us, as they always do. They had their moments (they’re still kids, after all), but considering the long and unpredictable days, late nights, and completely new and changing environments, they embraced it all with gusto.

Zoe & the girls in NC
As for me, I tried to channel my inner adventurer, which wasn’t always easy during the more stressful moments. And I’m still not very good at packing up the whole family, since this is only our second trip since the girls came home. But overall, I think I did pretty well (apart from downing mini bottles of vodka in orange juice in front of my daughters on the plane).

As for the show itself, I’m not allowed to say much about it, and I have no idea when it will air. It’s hard to imagine what the episode will end up looking like in the end; we said and did a few things that I seriously hope get left on the editing floor! But hopefully we won’t cringe too much at the final product.

Some friends and family — and possibly some of you here at SlowMama — may wonder why we’d ever agree to do a reality-type television show. The short answer is that, after making sure it wasn’t exploitative or sensationalistic in nature, and being confident that our kids could handle it, we thought it was an opportunity we shouldn’t pass up. It was a chance to do something outside of our comfort zones, make some memories, and learn some new things. It’s edifying to be able to say we accomplished all that!

How have you been? Is there anything about off-grid living that you’re curious about?

Images: Zoe Saint-Paul


by Margaret Cabaniss

Mothers Day 2014
Mother’s Day is this Sunday! If this is coming as a surprise to you right about now, never fear: I’ve rounded up some classic SlowMama gifts, treats, and recipes that you can easily tackle in the next three days and make this Mother’s Day one for the books.

St-Germain cocktails
To Eat

If you’re the breakfast-in-bed type, try Ann’s family recipe for pancakes — or, if you want a heartier option, Zoe’s easy quiche or this make-ahead breakfast casserole. Serve with a St. Germain cocktail for an appropriately festive touch.

How to Make Silhouettes
To Make

Homemade bath products come together quickly and make lovely gifts — like these lip balms or scented shower scrubs. If you’re up for some (beginner) sewing, try a set of placemats, mitred napkins, or a sweet tea towel apron. These paper silhouettes are slightly old-fashioned and totally adorable — or, for a more kid-friendly project, go with this cheery wax heart garland for the kitchen. All that said, I still have yet to top this box of letters to my mother.

The Stella Cake
A Special Treat

There are just too many of these. Make her favorite pie, or this slightly more ambitious but totally stunning and delicious Stella cake. For something quicker but no less impressive, go for these chocolate truffles or coconut macaroons.

What are your favorite gifts to give (and get) on Mother’s Day? Any special traditions in your home?

Images: Zoe and her sweet girls from last Mother’s Day; everything else by Z and me.

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Internet Menagerie

May 5, 2015

Leeroy pic
As I mentioned, I’m in North Carolina this week. While I’m gone, I hope you find something interesting, informative, or inspiring on this list! Please add your own in the comments.

Image: Leeroy at lifeofpix


Off Grid Adventure

May 1, 2015

Bokeh bark Tomorrow, our family is off to North Carolina for a week to film an episode for an upcoming series about off-grid living. I can’t say much about the show, being sworn to secrecy and all, but I expect we’ll learn a few things and hopefully make some fun family memories in the process. If the back-story filming done at our home last month is any indication, we should prove to be amusing subjects for the show.

I’m excited but also a little nervous, not knowing quite what to expect, and hoping the girls do well and we all stay healthy, etc. Plus, I have to do one of my least favorite things before we even start: fly. But I’m trying to have a spirit of adventure about it all.

Because I’ll largely be offline next week, posting will be a lighter than normal around here. I’ll have one of my monthly links post earlier in the week and Mags will be here on Thursday. I look forward to telling you more about our experience, though I won’t be able to give many details until the show airs. I’ll also try and post some shots on Instagram, if I can, so you can catch a few glimpses there. Wish us well!

Hope you have a peaceful weekend and terrific week ahead.

P.S. I’m happy to report that things are a little calmer here in Baltimore. It sure was a wild sight to see the streets and businesses I frequent lined with National Guardsmen and state police all week. Here’s hoping the protests happening today and this weekend are peaceful and it all leads to reforms, change, and healing that is long overdue.

Image: Dave Meier at picography


by Margaret Cabaniss

What follows is one of the first recipes I ever posted on this site, and it’s still the best julep I’ve ever had. Make you one this weekend. 

This weekend is the running of the Kentucky Derby, traditionally an important date in the Cabaniss household. As my mom was born and raised in Louisville, our family watched the Derby religiously growing up: We did the whole crazy hat thing; we placed side bets on our horses; we rolled our eyes as mom nostalgically crooned along to “My Old Kentucky Home.” It was good family fun.

When I moved to Baltimore, I invited some friends over for a little Derby party of my own — complete with the official food and drink of the event, mint juleps and Derby pie. Of course, that year also happened to be the race where one of the horses shattered its leg crossing the finish line and had to be put down — right there on the track, on live TV. You know, just the thing to get your guests in the party spirit.

So my traumatized friends may not have been completely sold on the idea of the Kentucky Derby — but happily, juleps aren’t just for Derby day. By their very nature, they are the ideal slow drink: meant to be savored over a period of hours, preferably on a front porch in the sunshine. In fact, because juleps can pack a deceptive punch, trying to drink them any faster can quickly knock you sideways. This is strictly a sippin’ beverage.

With the weather warming up, now is the perfect time to host a Derby julep party of your own. I’d even say they would be just the thing for Zoe’s graduation party next weekend… if she didn’t happen to dislike bourbon. (It’s a character flaw that I am willing to overlook for the sake of our friendship.)

I’ve tried lots of different julep formulas (er, for research purposes), and they range from the sublime to the gag-inducing. (A general rule of thumb: Steer clear of anything labeled simply, “Mint Julep Mix.”) The best I’ve tasted was, oddly enough, a recipe from Southern novelist Walker Percy, found in his essay “Bourbon, Neat.” We followed his instructions more or less precisely at a julep party held in my sister’s backyard, and they were revelatory — ice cold, not too sweet, with just a breath of fresh mint, all mellowing what Percy aptly describes as “the little explosion of Kentucky U.S.A. sunshine in the cavity of the nasopharynx.” That’s a drink.

His instructions are quoted below, with photo illustrations as a guide. (No horses were injured in the making of these beverages.)

“You need excellent bourbon whiskey; rye or Scotch will not do. Put half an inch of sugar in the bottom of the glass and merely dampen it with water.” We added a few leaves of mint here, muddling them in the sugar and water to release their oils.

“Next, very quickly—and here is the trick in the procedure—crush your ice, actually powder it—preferably in a towel with a wooden mallet” — yes, the towel trick really does work! — “so quickly that it remains dry, and, slipping two sprigs of fresh mint against the inside of the glass, cram the ice in right to the brim, packing it with your hand.”

“Finally, fill the glass, which apparently has no room left for anything else, with bourbon, the older the better.” Using a long spoon to stir up from the bottom helps the sugar dissolve and disperse a little better.

“The glass will frost immediately. Then settle back in your chair for half an hour of cumulative bliss.” We served ours with cucumber sandwiches and fresh berry shortcakes and proceeded to have a glorious spring afternoon. I highly recommend it.

Images: Margaret Cabaniss



April 28, 2015


I had plans to write about something else, but can’t ignore the obvious: Our city is a frightening mess! As I write, there are fires burning, businesses being destroyed, and a state of emergency has been declared. What a sad time for Baltimore.

We live downtown and have been on guard, watching local news, trying to ascertain our safety and keep on top of what’s going on. I don’t know what today will bring. At least we have gas in the car.

I’m trying to get our family ready for a week-long trip on Saturday — which I plan to tell you more about soon. But it’s hard enough getting out for the basics right now, let alone anything else. In the meantime, I’m thinking a lot about those who must be out, especially at night — first responders, fire fighters, ER docs, nurses, etc. It’s really something to see the National Guard lining the streets with their weapons and shields as I made my way to the grocery store earlier today.

There are so many issues to consider and deal with when it comes to these terrible events, but right now our focus is on staying safe, praying for peace, and taking one day at a time.

Image: Breno Machedo at Unsplash