Holidays, Events & Parties

Happy American Thanksgiving!

November 26, 2015


There are lovely smells wafting from my oven right now. And rightly so —  there’s a 15 lb turkey in there. Only wanted a 12-pounder, but the farmer said the turkeys are big this year so… lots of leftovers! Later I’ll make  a cornbread and herb dressing as well as bourbon maple sweet potatoes (in addition to other sides), and last night I baked this nutmeg maple-cream pie. It was calling my name this year. Then there are the delicious contributions my sister-in-law will be bringing for dinner. And there will be wine, of course. Plenty of wine.

The menu this year is a bit of an ode to north and south — appropriate since we live in Maryland. Next year I want to shake it up a bit more, though, by bringing more international dishes into the mix, especially Ethiopian and Spanish (my sister-in-law’s home country).

What’s cooking at your house today?

Today is, above all, about slowing down enough to consciously ponder all the gifts in my life. It’s easy to take my health, family, friends, good food, safety, clean water, comfortable home, work, opportunities — and so much more — for granted. The world is full of tragedy and pain which reminds me to, in each moment, be grateful for what I have, especially those things I did absolutely nothing to merit.

So, a very happy Thanksgiving to my American readers! And to everyone else, I hope you’re having a lovely day and week. I’m truly grateful you show up here to read my words; it sure makes writing a lot more fun!

Image: Zoe Saint-Paul



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Pull Up A Chair

October 30, 2015


Seriously, friends, how did it get to be late October?

We’ve had some warm days this week, but fall has definitely arrived so here’s something to celebrate the end of the week while you’re putting those last touches on Halloween costumes and carving pumpkins — a Szarlotka (also know as Polish Apple Pie Cocktail). Chamomile-infused vodka? Sounds extra relaxing. And such a simple drink to make! (If you can find that vodka, of course.)

So while I lift my glass, I want to tell you that I finally got around to selling one of our cars, but the process ended up a getting a bit complicated. After money was exchanged and the car was gone, I discovered there was a title issue and I needed a lien release letter before the new owners could register the car in their names — and that was going to take five-to-seven days. So I prayed the couple would keep it parked off the street, as they said they would, because essentially it was still my car. Then I got a distress call the next day from them saying they tried to move the car and it was completely dead and it seemed to be an electrical problem. They wanted their money back. The car was still in my name and on my insurance — and I really didn’t want these people to end up with a total junk heap — so I agreed to refund their money and made plans to have the car towed to our mechanic.

Long story short, the new owners trouble-shooted the problem further before that all happened and discovered a simple fix to the problem. And they still wanted the car. So I’m happy to report that as of yesterday, the car is no longer ours. Now it’s time to figure out what to do with our other car and get to the business of buying a new one. Baby steps.

But enough about cars, on the roster today are happier things like an All Saints’ Day party at the girls’ homeschool academy, pumpkin carving, and getting ready for a little boy’s birthday party tomorrow as well as trick-or-treating. We keep it simple here, taking the girls to a handful of houses in the neighborhood and giving out treats from our front step. The big excitement for S and H is getting dressed up and my super talented mother-in-law made their costumes again this year, out-doing herself yet again. Can’t wait to snap a couple of pics and show them to you!

What are you up to this weekend? Hope it’s a wonderful one at your house, whatever you’re doing. I’ll see you back here next week.

Image:  Zoe Saint-Paul




Serving Ethiopian Food in Ethiopia First, a big hello to anyone here who is stopping by after hearing my interview with Jennifer Fulwiler on her Sirius XM show yesterday! Jen really talked up SlowMama and while things have been a little quieter around here of late, I hope you’ll poke around and find something worth reading. Please come on by anytime.

September 11th has become both a day of remembrance as well as a day of celebration in our home. I can never forget being in downtown D.C. on 9-11. What to even say about that tragedy 14 years later? Words still fail.

But the day also happens to mark Enkutatash, the beginning of a new year in Ethiopia, which follows a different calendar. So it’s 2008 there as of today. This is one of the biggest celebrations for Ethiopians and to help keep our daughters connected to their birth culture, we celebrate it. Tomorrow we’ll be joining a large group of Ethiopian adoptive families at a local restaurant (Ethiopian, of course) to toast being seven years younger! Ha.

I’m still thinking about the beautiful services for our pastor this past week. As expected, the downtown basilica was packed and there wasn’t a dry eye in the place. I’m not used to seeing archbishops cry. It was all very fitting for a holy man who touched so many lives and is already deeply missed. It’s a gift to have people in our lives who come along and show us what it means to live and love well.

A few people recently mentioned that they miss my Friday “Pull Up A Chair” posts, so I might get back to those, maybe a couple times each month. Always fun to find those delicious drinks to end a week!

I hope this weekend is restful and lovely where ever you are. See you back here next week.

Image: Ethiopian food being served in Ethiopia, Zoe Saint-Paul




A Holiday of Rest

September 7, 2015

Sunflowers at picography

Happy Labor Day to my North American readers! I hope this finds you enjoying some R&R. Of course, if you’re a mom, the day will still be filled with the usual busyness of family life; and if you’re a contract worker like me, there are no official holidays, so you may still be putting in some work time.

Thankfully, mine is a much lighter day work-wise, today, and not without some fun: We’ll be celebrating my local brother’s birthday a day early and I’m making his birthday dessert. I like baking and it’s always more fun when it’s something special for someone I love!

Speaking of rest from labors, our beloved pastor died this weekend after a very long and heroic battle with cancer. Msgr. Art Valenzano was one of the most humble, kind, and joyful people I’ve ever known. Even when he was suffering and in pain from various kinds of treatments over the years, he was still full of gratitude for life, praise for God, and love for others. He will be deeply missed by many people.

Eternal rest grant to him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. 

I’ve always loved that line of prayer and it makes me think about all those who have found — and still do — this earthly life to be overwhelming and exhausting.

Where ever you are today, I hope you are getting some rest and rejuvenation!

Image: Life of Pix


by Margaret Cabaniss

I was about to go looking through the archives for some good July 4 recipes when I stumbled across this post from last year; apparently I had the same idea then, too. Definitely breaking out a few of these this weekend…

SlowMama's Summer Recipes
It’s been a while since we’ve had a good recipe round-up around these parts, but the Fourth of July — a.k.a., America’s High Holy Day of Summer — seemed like as good a time as any. The SlowMama archives are positively busting with great summer dishes; here are some of my favorites that seemed particularly grill-worthy:

Homemade Sodas

Homemade Sodas
You’re so fancy. (And if you prefer your lemonade sans gas, try Ann’s basil variety — still one of my favorite summer drinks.)

Boiled Peanuts

Make them for the nostalgia factor, make them because they’re best eaten when it’s a million degrees out — just make them. (Or, if you prefer your peanuts Thai-inspired, go with these chili lime peanuts instead.)

Guacamole Salad

Recipe: Guacamole Salad
I make this side dish every chance I get in the summer. Would go great with some grilled chicken and corn on the cob…


Another tomato-based side, but a little more Italian-y. If you’re lucky enough to be seeing fresh tomatoes at the market or in your garden already, make this one immediately.

Summer Ceviche

A little something different from your traditional burgers and dogs. This would be amazing as a starter.

Quinoa Salad with Corn, Tomatoes, and Roasted Pepitas

Ann’s technique for making perfect quinoa is the secret to this dish’s awesomeness. A great change of pace for a summer potluck.

Curried Chicken Salad

chicken salad plate
I just made this one last weekend, and it felt like it was gone five minutes later; it’s a total crowd-pleaser. Throw a couple extra chicken breasts on the grill, and you can pull it together in no time.

Triple Berry Pie

Triple Berry Pie
Still my favorite summer pie, hands down — and we’re just about entering peak berry season, when it really shines. (And look how patriotic it is!) If you prefer something a little more traditional, though, try Zoe’s recipe for basic pie crust — and don’t forget the dairy-free coconut whipped cream!

Chocolate Mint Pudding Popsicles

Pudding Popsicles
I completely forgot about these! This is definitely happening.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

cookie plate
Can’t have a cookout without ’em.

I feel like there were so many other recipes I could have added here — the watermelon granita Ann posted just this week, for one, or a Pimm’s cup, or even this peach crisp… Got any particular favorites? What’s on your July 4 menu?

Images: SlowMama


H and S in tea collection
Yesterday we took my mother-in-law out for a very belated Mother’s Day brunch, since she’s visiting for a week. I made a reservation at one of Baltimore’s signature restaurants called Gertrude’s, located in the Baltimore Museum of Art. While you could certainly drop by casually, I consider it a bit of a special occasion restaurant: You usually need a reservation, there are linens on the tables, and there’s live background music to add to the ambiance.

The place was full and lively; we had a fantastic meal and the girls, as usual, enjoyed themselves. I broke the “low-wheat/gluten” rule I’m trying to enforce at home and let them have buttermilk waffles. (I might as well have told them it was Christmas.)

As we were leaving the restaurant, one of the musicians, who was on the other side of the room from where we had been sitting, got up, came over to B, and said:

“We see a lot of children in here and your children are the happiest we’ve ever seen. I just want to tell you that whatever you’re doing, you should write a damn book.”

While sharing this feels a little like bragging, I think parents — perhaps especially adoptive parents — should celebrate those moments when we feel validated in how we’re doing as a family.

To be honest, I take little credit for our daughters’ joy and joie de vivre. They’ve always been happy girls by nature; they just also happen to have had grief and the effects of trauma to contend with. What I hope we provide for them is a safe place to be fully themselves, to heal, to learn, to feel unconditionally loved and wanted, and to flourish.

Of course, maybe that man says things like that to all the parents who dine there to make them want to come back. Regardless, little did he know that he was actually speaking to a couple of writers, so maybe one of these days we will write a damn book.

Image: Zoe Saint-Paul


S&H with Dog

These precious girls turn 7 today! It doesn’t seem possible. Recently I was looking at photos from our time in Ethiopia and when we all arrived back in the US and they seemed so little. So many changes since then!

We’ve established a tradition on their birthday of going out for a girls’ lunch together. Luckily, they have good taste and chose a Greek-Mediterranean place we haven’t been to in a while that has lots of healthy choices that make mom happy.

Later today, B’s mother is flying in for a week’s visit and after dinner (they’ve requested crab cakes) we’ll have a few family members and close friends for cake. I’ve made two, of course: a coconut cake with lemon curd and two layers of this chocolate cake with cream, and fresh blueberries. (They picked them out with a little advice from yours truly.) Never mind that I was up until all hours last night because I forgot to put the oil in one of them. Sigh.

Tomorrow we’re going duck-pin bowling — at the girls’ request. For some reason, they love bowling, and duck-pin is better for little ones’s hands.

So, in between putting in some work time and picking up the house so my mother-in-law won’t trip and fall in her first few hours here, I’ll be enjoying a very happy birthday today with my favorite little girls in the whole world. Yay for 7!

Enjoy your weekend, friends.

Images: Zoe Saint-Paul






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Here’s to Great Dads

June 19, 2015

B and Girls This is one of my favorite photos of B with the girls and it seemed appropriate to post it again for Father’s Day weekend.

Today, I’m thinking about all the great dads out there like B — and my brothers, and my own father, and numerous male friends of mine. A good dad shouldn’t be taken for granted and sometimes, when compared to mothers at least, I feel like they get the short end of the stick.

Not that motherhood and fatherhood can be compared. We have a pretty egalitarian household here, but B and I offer different things in our roles as mom and dad, and I’m grateful our daughters have both. (This in no way is to denigrate single parents — who I admire tremendously — or anyone else raising children with love and dedication.)

From the age of 12 onwards, I grew up without my father in the home because my parents separated (and later divorced). As an adult, I understand these things from an adult perspective. But I’m also a daughter who knows what it is to miss having a father around. Fathers matter. Whether you’re a child of divorce, or you have a terrible relationship with your dad, or you never knew your dad, or even if he has already passed, something is missing when a loving father isn’t there.

This post is actually supposed to be an uplifting one, though! I write it with appreciation and gratitude for fatherhood and all that good fathers are and do. Mostly, I’m thankful to be parenting my daughters with a man who couldn’t be more committed to his role as father–and as husband. Happy Father’s Day, B! And to my own terrific father, and all the great fathers out there who make a difference in their families and communities.

Image: Zoe Saint-Paul



Feels Like Summer

May 26, 2015

Weekend fun I know the first day of summer doesn’t arrive until June 21st, but Memorial Day weekend always feel like the beginning of the season. The weather here was perfect this past weekend — sunny, a light breeze, between 70-85 degrees. My kind of weather! I only wish it would hang around longer.

H Riding Our daughters rode horses for the first time on Saturday (and guess what they want now??) and we spent some time at a private turtle and reptile sanctuary and hung out with some goats.

B and goat We even got to touch some beautiful snakes — who knew that they’re really satiny smooth and not slimy at all?

Snake B and I also got out for a 90 minute lunch together — still a rare occurrence — and we spent a lot of time outside this weekend as a family walking along the water and hanging out in parks. (We didn’t attend any parades or special events yesterday, but we did talk with S and H about the meaning of the holiday.)

The girls recently finished their homeschool tutorial program and we’re beginning to plan our vacation for July. So, yes, it’s beginning to feel a lot like summer around here and I have to say, after such a long winter, it feels pretty good.

How about you? Anything you’re looking forward to this summer?

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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