Friday Inspiration

October 24, 2014

Love is friendship set on fire.
This quote reminds me of my relationship with B. We met as colleagues, became close friends and confidantes, and then one day it dawned on us that something more was going on. It was a surprise to both of us; on paper, at least, we really weren’t each others’ “type.” But love is a crazy thing.

Romantic relationships and marriages come into being in all kinds of ways. Most begin with attraction, and then, over time, a friendship develops. But there are some cases, like ours, when it begins with a friendship, and that leads to an attraction you can no longer ignore.

The best marriages, in my view, are those rooted in friendship. Through the joys, sorrows, struggles, and peaks, it’s what grounds and sustains you as life partners. Of course, keeping the fire burning is important, and you need to put energy there, but it’s the bonds of deep, romantic friendship that get you through the good times and the bad.

Speaking of love, I’ll be witnessing and celebrating the marriage of one of my closest friends today! My job is to be a helpful matron of honor and try not to get too weepy. I was up too late last night thinking about my toast. I’ve got the champagne packed and the bride’s favorite chocolate,  and I look forward to dancing the night away with B and the girls. (I definitely hope to Instagram some of the fun over the weekend!)

So here’s to love and loving friendship. Have a great weekend, and I’ll see you back here on Monday!

Image via Pinterest

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Pumpkin Bread Pudding

October 23, 2014

by Margaret Cabaniss

Just about this time last year, I posted a roundup of every pumpkin-related recipe that had ever appeared on SlowMama — and even a few that hadn’t. There was one recipe missing from that list, though — one of my fall-time favorites — and the fact that I left it out has been nagging me ever since. So this fall I decided it deserved its own post: pumpkin bread pudding.

I came around to bread pudding pretty late in life: It had always struck me leaden and dense and generally unappealing (plus it usually had raisins in it, to which I am morally opposed). I have no idea if this recipe is like other bread puddings, but this bread pudding is like heaven: It’s custardy but not too heavy, really more like a pumpkin-flavored version of baked French toast — which means that this dessert is totally approved for breakfast use. You’re welcome.

Best of all, it’s dead easy to make: Mix the wet ingredients, pour it over cubed bread, and bake. I use this recipe from Gourmet magazine, but usually with Deb’s tweaks at Smitten Kitchen (she uses less cream but adds bourbon, which is why I love her).

But the trick to taking this recipe right over the top, I think, is serving it with a salted caramel sauce. Again, I like Deb’s recipe, and it’s hardly more work than the bread pudding itself — something you can whip up while dessert (or breakfast!) is in the oven. By a stroke of luck, I happen to have a jar of caramel sauce ready in the fridge; now all I need is the bread pudding. I think I’ll be making it this weekend to properly ring in the season.

What fall-time baking have you been up to lately? Any recipes that officially kick off the season for you?

Image: Romulo Yanes for Gourmet

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Do You Juice?

October 22, 2014

It’s no secret that I love my Vitamix and the smoothies we make with it, but my first love was juicing. We juice a lot as a family: Our trusty Omega Juicer above is a mere 17 years old — my husband splurged for it long before we met, and it still works great. (I think we’ve only had to replace the blade once.)

I make whole food juices in the Vitamix every day for myself and the girls. I usually don’t follow recipes and just make things up as I go, depending on what I’ve got on hand. I use bananas a lot as a base, and avocados are a great thickener. I find pineapple and mango add a lot of sweetness, and when I use frozen fruit and berries I don’t need to add any ice. I’m always looking for ways to sneak more greens into my girls’ diet, so I often throw in a small handful of spinach or kale; if the juice is sweet enough, they never know the difference. (Except when it turns a green or brownish color, and then my secret is out.)

Carrots are another common base, and I love adding beets since their juice is so sweet, and they’re known to improve blood pressure – plus it turns juice such an amazing color! You can never go wrong with adding apples, either, which sweeten any recipe. I like to toss in a little ginger, too, which helps with digestion before or after a meal.

S and H generally enjoy the same juices we do, though predictably they prefer sweeter drinks rather than savory ones. On a warm day recently, B made a super simple juice that the girls loved:

The Best Lemonade

  • juice of 3 apples
  • 1 full lemon

Told you it was simple! This is the freshest and yummiest lemonade, and with no added sugar — win-win.

Juicing is a great way to add extra nutrients to your family’s diet, and I’ve found it particularly helpful during periods of fasting, as well as for various kinds of cleanses. For maximum benefit, it’s best to drink any fresh juice immediately after making it — that way you get the live enzymes — but it can still taste good a few hours later, or even the next day, depending on the juice. (I find whole-food juices don’t keep as well overnight.)

For newbies, I always recommend starting with very simple recipes; it doesn’t take much to make a delicious fresh juice. Plus, these days there are so many juice bars where you can sample different combinations and then experiment  at home. I’ve done that on many occasions.

I’d love to know: Do you juice? Any favorite recipes to share? And do you have a preference when it comes to a juicer or blender? Since our Omega still works so well and we have a Vitamix, we haven’t researched the latest equipment, but I know there are some pretty amazing juicers out there these days — these juicers at Williams-Sonoma, for example, are pretty drool-worthy.

Image: Zoe Saint-Paul


Hiring a Babysitter

October 21, 2014

My Girls
In the two years that S and H have been home, we’ve never left them with a babysitter — except with a friend from church who used to come occasionally on Friday afternoons last spring so I could go upstairs for two hours and get some paid work done. The girls already knew and liked her, though, so it was never a big deal.

During our first year home, I made sure no one else took care of the girls but B and me, but as we began to emerge from our attachment-focused cocoon, I started to leave the girls for an hour or two with close friends here and there, or with my mother-in-law when she was visiting. A stranger was out of the question, though, and I’d still be uncomfortable leaving them with someone I didn’t know.

Still, there will come a day when we’ll need to find and hire a babysitter for one reason or another, and I’ve often thought about the best way to go about it. The toughest part always seems to be locating potentially great people — and then there’s the screening process. Joanna Goddard at Cup of Jo posted eight questions she asks potential babysitters, and I think it’s a handy guide, whether you’re seeking someone to help for an occasional night out or hiring for a full-time nanny position. The best advice, of course, is always to follow your gut: Just like with dating or friendship, you and your kids should ultimately click with your sitter.

How have you handled babysitters in your family? Have you found great people you trust? Do your kids spend a lot of time with babysitters, or none at all? And what’s your favorite question to ask a potential sitter?

Image: Zoe Saint-Paul


Friday Inspiration

October 17, 2014

Quote about Positive Thoughts

I had high hopes that motherhood would turn me into a morning person, but alas. Which means, many mornings I hit the ground running, already feeling behind. I don’t like starting the day feeling rushed and stressed so I try to pause, even for just a few moments, to pray and breathe and think about my attitude towards the day. Even when I’m running late, taking that little bit of time gives me greater calm as I rise to meet the tasks that await me.

It would be great to have 20 or 30 minutes in the morning to do this — and occasionally, I manage it – but many of us just don’t get that much time. I liked this quote for that reason; it’s a reminder that something as simple as one positive thought can brighten your entire day.

Do you take time in the morning for meditation, prayer, journaling, or some kind of intention-setting? Do you find it makes a difference in your day?

Happy weekend, friends! I’ll see you back here early next week.

Image: Huffington Post


We’ve talked here before about “helicopter” parenting, and this week I spotted the first article that claims it’s actually not just an American phenomenon but prevalent  in many other western societies who have a robust middle class.

Pamela Druckerman, who wrote Bringing Up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting, calls it “hyper-parenting” and says in her New York Times piece that the best cure is not to eradicate it but to “reign in its excesses and keep it from getting worse,” proposing 11 tips for modern parents to try. I agree with most of them, though take issue with her advice to not be concerned about over-scheduling: With all the studies out there now about the importance of unstructured time for children’s creativity and well-being, I’m surprised at her take on that.

Mostly, though, I wish she had written more about why she thinks hyper-parenting is so common these days, beyond the fact that many of us marry and have children later in life, making us “richer and more grateful.” To me, the reasons seem complex. A big one in my book is that we have fewer children today in the West — and that changes parenting dramatically. You can’t hyper- or helicopter parent when you’ve got more than a few kids. (Just ask my mother.)

It also seems to me that, for all the books written and information out there, most of us are still pretty clueless about child development. Even though I had a graduate degree in counseling psychology, it wasn’t until I was preparing to adopt that I really came to understand a lot more about healthy child development, including what’s “appropriate” at various stages and what can interfere with or enhance a child’s development. I’m far from an expert, but I wince when I hear parents say that their toddlers need more “socialization,” for example, or any of a number of other tips from the “experts” that don’t take these issues into account.

I’m not really bashing modern parenting, though. I think there’s a lot to be said for the concerns and dedication of today’s parents: They care, and they take parenting very seriously. The answer may be to keep that focus on the well-being of our kids but work on parenting them in a way that fosters their development first, rather than operating from a place of fear. That requires some self-examination and courage, because we all have fears as parents and want the very best for our children.

Any thoughts about what causes hyper-parenting and how to put the brakes on it?

Image via etsy


DIY: How to Make Lip Balm

October 15, 2014

by Kate Newton

Lip Balm Favors
When I hosted my last brunch for a group of my girlfriends, I decided to make grapefruit lip balms as a party favor. I first saw these lip balms on SouleMama last year. I decided to use her directions but tweaked them a bit, leaving out the lipstick and using less essential oil. I chose grapefruit essential oil (instead of peppermint) since I was throwing a citrus themed brunch, but a slew of different oils could work.

These were a cinch to make – except for the tins; those were hard to track down. But I now know there are many bath and body care online companies that deliver quickly: Mountain Rose Herbs is a great place to start for U.S. residents, and for Canucks like me, I recommend Voyageur Soap and Candle. They’re super helpful and carry a wide selection of products.

Just thinking about all the possible flavors and scents here make me tempted to do another batch. I still have all the ingredients; just need to order more of those darn tins!

Lip Balm Ingredients

So here’s what you’ll need and how to do it:


  • Double boiler or saucepan and heatproof bowl
  • Large bowl
  • Spatula
  • ½ oz tins
  • Round stickers to fit tins


  • 8 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 3 Tbsp beeswax *
  • 1.5 Tbsp raw honey
  • 25-30 drops of desired essential oil

*I’m going to admit something embarrassing here: I made a little mistake with my first attempt at these: I thought I could switch up paraffin wax with beeswax. Don’t do this! You’ll waste a whole batch of lip balm when you realize that beeswax and paraffin wax are two totally different substances. Live and learn.


First, set up your tins (lids off) on some paper towel close to your stove for easy access.

Lip Balm Containers
Using a double boiler or a small saucepan and heatproof bowl, stir the oil, beeswax, and honey over low heat until completely melted. I found chopping the beeswax into smaller pieces helped it melt faster. This entire step will take about 5-10 minutes. (Side note: I bought a large heatproof bowl for a dollar at the local Salvation Army because I didn’t want to use my regular kitchen bowls. I figured I’d use it again for more making other body care products — which I already have — so it was a dollar well spent, I think.)

Making Lip Balm
While the ingredients are melting, fill another large bowl with cold water (I put in some ice to make sure it was really cold) and set it aside. Once all of your ingredients are melted, take your bowl off the stove and mix in the essential oil. Set this bowl into the large bowl of cold water and stir quickly but gently, until the mixture thickens up a bit (about 30 seconds). Working quickly but carefully – you don’t want to spill any of your precious mixture! – fill all of your empty tins.

Filling Lip Balm Containers
Fill them right to the top of the tin. I didn’t do this for all of them at first, and once the lip balm sets, you can’t correct it. They look much better if they’re filled to the brim.

Put the lip balms aside to set for at least an hour, then put on the lids. Top with your label stickers, and voila! You’ve made some yummy, natural lip balm.

Finished Lip Balm
This stuff feels great on the lips — and I think my brunch guests all agreed. They would be perfect for little holiday gifts or for a fall or winter party coming up!

Images: Kate Newton 

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Two Years!

October 13, 2014

Saint-Paul Girls
Yesterday marked two years home together as a family. We all remember that looong flight home, touching down in Washington, D.C., and walking through our front door to start a new chapter in our lives.

We decided last year that we’d celebrate the day we came home, since it marked the end of a long journey and the beginning of a new one — for all of us. We call it “Family Day,” or “Coming Home Day.” Every adoptive family makes their own decisions about whether and how to mark those early events: Some celebrate the day they met, for instance, or when they went to court in Ethiopia. But even though those were unforgettable days, and we talk about them a lot together, celebrating the day we got home felt right for us.

Daddy & Girls
And so we did: We spent lots of great family time yesterday, and we went out for Ethiopian food for dinner with B’s mom, my brother and sister-in-law, and our nephew.

Ethiopian Food
As for an update on how things are going, things are pretty much the same as they were at 18 months, except that everything has just deepened and solidified. S and H are flourishing — happy, healthy, and growing like weeds. B and I have a hard time imagining life without them; we continue to feel so blessed that we get to be their parents.

Special family time continues today, since my mother-in-law is in town for a couple more days and B took the day off. It’s also Canadian Thanksgiving Day so I’m baking a pumpkin pie and we’ll open some delicious ice wine from a Nova Scotia vineyard to celebrate the occasion. (I still maintain that October is the superior month to celebrate Thanksgiving, instead of November.) Happy Thanksgiving to all my Canadian readers!

Images: B and yours truly



Friday Inspiration

October 10, 2014

If Only Our Eyes Saw Souls
When I spotted this quote recently on Facebook it gave me pause. I thought about beauty — what it is exactly, and who I find most beautiful. Like anyone else, I’m drawn to and distracted by physical beauty, and more preoccupied with my own looks than I’d like to be. But the most beautiful people I’ve met have always possessed something much deeper than physical attractiveness. Pretty is skin-deep, but beauty is much more.

I remember hosting a conference many years ago where a particular guest speaker captured my attention. She wore a simple blue dress and didn’t have on a stitch of makeup. What struck me most about her was that she seemed ageless: She could have been 19 or 59, it was hard to tell — perhaps because I couldn’t see her hair. When she spoke, her voice was gentle, but there was a confidence and boldness in how she spoke and moved. She had a particular intelligence, an air of grace, and the ability to be completely present to whomever she was speaking. She was loveliness personified — like she came from another place. And it turns out, she kind of did: She was a cloistered nun. To this day, when I think of beauty, I think of her.

It would be life-changing if we could see souls — though we can catch glimpses through another’s eyes and gestures and presence – but it would be equally great if we could focus as much on our own inner beauty as we do on our physical attractiveness. Now that the signs of aging are upon me, I think about this often; I know that I’ll be much happier at 50, 60, 70 years old the more I do.

What is beauty to you?

Image: Luna Belle 


by Margaret Cabaniss

Capsule wardrobe, conscious closet…whatever you call it, it seems like everyone’s doing it. Something about the changing seasons apparently makes everyone want to throw out all their clothes and start over with a smaller but more versatile, well-chosen wardrobe.

And I am definitely one of those people: I realized when I was (over)packing for a trip recently that the reason I brought way too much stuff was because I didn’t really love any of the clothes I had, so I could never be sure I’d want to wear anything I’d packed (or that it would go with anything else), and therefore I had to bring a ton of options — and on and on it goes. But for all those choices, I end up wearing the same five things anyway, so why not just clear out the clutter and stick to what I actually like? It would mean less waste — of money, time, and rarely worn or cheaply made clothes — less laundry, less clutter…it’s kind of hard to see the downside here.

Anyway, it’s a project I’ve been meaning to take on for a while, but as it’s suddenly popular on every blog I read these days, I’ve found lots of handy guides to help me think through the whole process — not just what to get rid of, but what (if anything) to replace it with when I’m done.

This post at Everygirl is a great way to start thinking through the closet-cleaning part. Going down the list of questions to ask yourself about every item — does it fit? Is it damaged, and will you repair it? — makes me realize that there are lots of pieces in my own wardrobe that wouldn’t pass the keeper test. (A pilled and stretched-out t-shirt I bought on sale five years ago? Why do I still even have this?) If you’re not quite ready to get rid of something for good, try boxing it up and putting it away for a few months. If you don’t pull it out before the end of the season, you didn’t need it or love it anyway.

(If this looks like your closet, you might have a problem, is all I’m saying.)

Once you’ve cleared out the mess, how do you keep it from growing back? That’s where the idea of a capsule wardrobe comes in: limiting yourself to 30 (or 40 or 50) pieces — pants, tops, dresses, everything — that you wear throughout a whole season, and nothing else. Frankly, I’m not sure I currently own 50 pieces to rotate through, but the important part is to pick a number that makes sense for you and then try to work within it.

Caroline at Un-Fancy has a free wardrobe planner to help you think about your own style, your daily activities, the colors you’re drawn to, etc. — at which point you can figure out what’s still missing from your basic wardrobe and how much money you have to fill the holes. But then, once you’re done shopping, you’re done. (Honestly, the “no more shopping” thing might actually be my favorite part of all.)

Looking for some more ideas? I like some of the wardrobe essentials laid out over at Say Yes and In Honor of Design — but your mileage may vary. And, of course, there’s always Pinterest… But before disappearing down that rabbit hole, I try to remind myself: The goal, as Caroline puts it, is to “be really happy with a lot less.” I can get behind that.

Have you done something like this before? I want to hear all your tips! Anyone interested in trying it out with me?

Images: Vintage pipe clothing rack via Pinterest. The fancy, open display means you have to keep it organized. Wall o’ jeans via Pinterest, too.