Holidays, Events & Parties

Veteran’s Day

November 11, 2014

Greatest Generation

I always want to post something profound on days like Veteran’s Day, but then I get writer’s block. I’ll make a confession, though: It wasn’t until about five years ago that I realized the difference between Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day. I’ll blame that on the fact that most of my childhood was not spent in the United States and November 11 in Canada is Remembrance day, when the fallen are remembered and honored.

In case you’re still in the dark, Veteran’s Day in the U.S. is when we honor everyone who has served his or her country — living and dead. Whereas on Memorial Day, we remember those who have died in service only.

Even though I hate war and violence, as a full-fledged scaredy cat I’m always moved when I think of those who risk their lives for their country. I’m also aware of the trauma experienced by those who see combat and the scars they carry from it. And their loved ones… how tough is it to have a husband, wife, son, daughter, brother, sister in the military? Families sacrifice so much.

Peace and thank you to all of our veterans today — those who never came back; those in active duty right now; and those who are safe at home.

Image: greatestgenerationtumblr.com

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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

 

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Party Planning as a Mom

September 22, 2014

R's Bridal Shower
I used to run black tie galas in Washington, D.C., managing staff and volunteers and all the details from start to finish, but for some reason I still haven’t figured out how to throw a party of my own as efficiently now that I have kids. Makes sense, I guess: When I used to plan an event, there were a few days beforehand when nothing else got done — meals, laundry, grocery shopping. But now it’s a different story.

R's Bridal Shower
This past Saturday, I hosted a bridal shower for my dear friend, and as it seems to happen whenever I’m planning a party at home, I was still wondering the day before how I was going to pull it off. The courtyard needed to be cleaned and set up, the house needed to be tidied and at least partially cleaned, gluten-free desserts had to be baked, cocktails had to be mixed, food prepped, cards written, glasses and cutlery washed, tablecloths ironed, flowers put in vases, decorations made and put up, a last-minute grocery run made — and, of course, the usual dilemma of what to wear. And then there was the regular Friday stuff that already takes up my whole day: homeschooling, meals, snacks, six-year-old needs, bedtime routines, etc.

Bridal Shower Cocktail
Luckily, I have a husband who can take over for a while and leave me to entertain my guests, which he did, and a couple friends came over early to help with last-minute details. It all came together, and everyone had fun; even I enjoyed myself, which isn’t always possible when you host an event.

My best advice when your mama brain is overwhelmed and you’re not sure how things are going to go: Serve a strong cocktail when everyone arrives — then no one cares what happens after that! (Kidding.) (Sort of.)

Hopefully in time I’ll get better at juggling party planning and family life, but at least for now I think it appears that I can manage it all. I’d love to hear your tips for how you plan and host parties with kids underfoot!

Images: Zoe Saint-Paul

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What Do You Pair with Rose?

September 16, 2014

Portrait of Rose
I’m throwing a bridal shower this weekend and planned a simple wine tasting for the main event. I’ve chosen rosé, which may sound strange, since it’s sometimes thought of as the ugly stepsister in the wine cupboard, but it’s more interesting than people realize. There are many varieties, it can be very versatile, and it’s just so pretty — perfect for a group of women celebrating a bride-to-be on a warm September afternoon.

I prefer trying wine with food, since it can make all the difference in the way a wine tastes. I want to have a few different food pairings to sample with each wine, but I’m still undecided. With Spanish rosés, anything seems to go, but I’ve also got two French rosés, so I’m not sure what the ideal pairings would be. Cheese seems a no-brainer, and charcuterie, too. Maybe shrimp? I’ve got to go gluten-free, too, so I need to keep that in mind.

Are you a fan of rosé? What do you love to pair it with? If you’ve got any favorite go-to sites I should check out to help me make some decisions, I’m all ears!

Image: Ana-Rosa Tumblr

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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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 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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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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Bulldogs
Baltimore is known for its quirkiness, and the American Visionary Art Museum‘s Annual Fourth of July Pet Parade is the perfect embodiment of quirk. We’ve rarely missed one since we moved here. (It helps that the museum is right around the corner from our home.)

AVAM Pet Parade Poster
This is no ordinary parade, and these are no ordinary pets. Their humans — many dressed up in Independence Day–themed costumes — dress them up and “parade” them in front of an admiring crowd, vying for wacky awards and honorable mentions. Most of the entrants are dogs, but over the years we’ve seen turtles and other reptiles, birds, a firefly in a mason jar, and a piglet. This year we spotted some goats.

AVAM Dog

AVAM Goat

AVAM Cat

AVAM Dog
The human contestants are called on stage one by one to share their pets’ names and any fun facts, tricks, or quirks about their furry/scaly/feathered friends. A small dog wearing some googly eyes was peeking out of the basket in the photo below; behind, you can see Fifi, the AVAM’s giant pink poodle “kinetic sculpture,” who makes regular appearances in local parades.

AVAM Pet Parade Stage
There was a Cuban food truck on hand serving the crowd. It might not be hot dogs and apple pie, but ethnic food always seems pretty American to me.

AVAM Pet Parade
In spite of the fact that our girls are still pretty wary of dogs, they handled being in a crowd of festive-looking canines quite well.

AVAM Monkey on Dog's Back
AVAM’s Pet Parade always makes us smile and gives us another chance to say “only in Baltimore.”

What did you get up to this past weekend? Are there any “signature” events in your neck of the woods at this time of year?

This post was inspired by Design Mom‘s newly resurrected series, “Love the Place You Live.” Be sure to check out the link-up at her site for more posts where readers explore fun places and events close to home; if you’re a blogger, too, I hope you’ll join in!

Images: Zoe Saint-Paul

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Pull Up a Chair

July 4, 2014

4th of July

Happy Friday, friends — and happy Fourth of July to my American readers! Hope it’s a safe and happy day wherever you are. We have plans with family this weekend and otherwise are laying low, since B was down with a terrible case of food poisoning last weekend (and the earlier part of this week) and we could use a few days to catch up on some things and just be.

Today definitely calls for an celebratory drink, though, so join me and grab a 4th of July Wine Sparkler from The Kitchn. Don’t they look light, refreshing, and fun? As for my high and low this week:

Low: Although he’s finally on the mend, B’s illness seemed to last a long time. I’ve been sleeping with the girls a lot, which rarely provides a sound and restful sleep. I also usually get a couple of short breaks on the weekends, but since B was out of commission, it wasn’t possible — plus I was trying to take care of him as I could, which, on the heels of the girls’ birthday festivities, felt like a lot. (Whenever I solo parent for a while I think of all the single parents out there — how do they do it??)

High: Luckily, I had no where much to be this past week — some play dates, errands to run, visits with family members — but otherwise, it was pretty low key. I’m totally digging the summer schedule with no homeschooling activities, lessons, or other regular appointments to keep up with. Can’t it be summer break all the time?

Bonus question: Are you watching the World Cup? If so, who are your teams? I’m not watching — I’ve never been much of a sports watcher, except for the Olympics — but I think I could get into it. I heard the U.S.-Belgium game was such a nail-biter! Also, I had to laugh: Last Sunday the girls and I joined a few friends at a small Ethiopian restaurant for lunch, where it was our small group and about 25 Ethiopian men glued to the the TV screens, yelling and cheering for the game. Ethiopia wasn’t even playing! It does seem like the World Cup is becoming a bigger and bigger deal in the U.S., though.

Alright, friends: If you’re not out at the pool or grilling burgers right now, grab a Sparkler above and tell me how you’re doing! I hope it’s a safe and happy weekend for you and yours. I’ll see you back here on Monday.

Image: Zoe Saint-Paul

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by Margaret Cabaniss

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.

If you prefer your lemonade sans gas, try Ann’s basil variety — still one of my favorite summer drinks.

Boiled Peanuts

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…

Panzanella

panzanella2
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

ceviche2
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

Quinoa
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


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

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