Holidays, Events & Parties

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

 

 

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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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Sugar Is Not My Friend

April 8, 2015

Easter Basket I’ve written here before about how my daughters don’t have a lot of refined sugar in their diet. They get honey on certain things, maple syrup with pancakes, and I bake with coconut palm sugar, but white sugar, candy, and conventional sweets don’t make it past our threshold very often.

I make exceptions, of course: stops for ice cream, special treats on Sundays or when visiting other people’s homes, birthdays, and holidays like Christmas and Easter.

Yes, Easter. Let’s talk about that. So, we kept the Easter baskets pretty small (it doesn’t take much to make S and H feel like they’ve hit the candy lottery): They received a chocolate bunny, chocolate eggs, a fun giant lollipop, jelly beans, and some other sweet things. Plus, we had more baked goods around, desserts, etc.

And then, like clockwork, just before heading out the door for Easter dinner with family, the meltdowns began. Every day since, after gorging on their candy and other sweets, we’ve had unusual fighting, fits of anger, sadness, long bouts of crying, grumpiness, and meanness.

All these things are a normal part of life at times, of course, and my girls are no exception — but not like what I’ve seen the past four days. Nothing else is different this week for them, except for the sustained sugar consumption.

Most studies about sugar’s effects on kids are about the connection sugar may have to hyperactivity, poor concentration, and decreased immune function. I haven’t seen much about its effects on mood, but it would be hard to convince me that sugar doesn’t affect children’s emotional states, especially after this week.

It’s a bummer because my girls get so excited about their sweets (because the poor things are deprived, of course). And when I do buy them, I try to get the best quality — no food dyes, no chemicals. But it hurts my mother’s heart to see them dealing with such extreme emotions this week and not to know how to help them except to take away the candy, which would only add to the tears. (Did I mention that a sweet neighbor lady gave them another chocolate bunny the other day as an Easter gift?)

Perhaps if they had sugar in their diet regularly they wouldn’t be reacting so strongly — or maybe they’d be like this all the time, and we’d assume it was “just the way they are.” (And we’d have to start hitting the whiskey every night to decompress.) Even B, who doesn’t always buy all my crazy health theories, is convinced about this one. He’s been here to witness it all with his own eyes — and ears.

Sugar is bad, people! At least it doesn’t seem to like this particular family.

Have you experienced these kind of sugar highs and lows with your kids? Yourself? How do you handle sweets and candy in your home?

Image: picjumbo

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Good Friday

April 3, 2015

cold spring

As we attend Good Friday services here, I want to wish all my readers a very joyful Easter and Passover weekend. If you celebrate neither, I hope you are at least planning to get out and enjoy the early signs of spring.

This is a significant weekend for us and we are looking forward not just to the sacred moments, but also to a festive Easter Sunday, complete with a delicious brunch, egg hunt, and dinner with family. Can’t wait.

Hope it’s a wonderful, hope-filled weekend where ever you are. See you back here next week!

Image: picography

 

 

 

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Seasons for Teaching

February 18, 2015

Sam Ciurdar Photo
It’s Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Christian season of Lent. These days, Lent in my life is not so much about giving up sweets or chocolate — though I do cut out treats and extras as a discipline — but addressing interior things like my attitudes, dispositions, etc. I also try to make more time for prayer and am more deliberate about giving to others. It never quite goes as planned, but I like the chance to focus on transformation.

Now that we have kids, though, what I love most about the various seasons — whether they be religious, civic, or natural — is the opportunities they give us with our daughters. Symbols, rituals, foods, and practices — things they can touch, taste, smell, see, hear — are the best ways for children to absorb different concepts and ideas.

Yesterday, for example, I made a traditional Mardi Gras king cake. My attempts at a gluten-free version completely flopped, but it was at least edible! I hid the plastic baby in the cake, and one of my daughters found it and got to wear the paper crown. It gave us a chance to talk about the tradition of the king cake, the baby Jesus, the difference between feasting and fasting, and what the season of Lent is about. I kept it simple, but it’s always neat to see them getting into it, asking questions, and sharing thoughts about what they’re experiencing.

What special seasons or traditions do you celebrate in your house? Do you use them as springboards for teaching your kids?

Image: sam ciurdar/samciurdar.com. Used with permission via Snapwire Snaps

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Panna Cotta for Fat Tuesday

February 17, 2015

Panna Cotta
I made my first panna cotta yesterday! Ever since my friend Carrie shared her favorite recipe with me, I’ve been looking for an occasion to try it. With Lent starting this week, my brother and his family stopping by for a visit, and my favorite cream in the fridge, I decided it was the perfect time. The stars were aligned!

Panna cotta, an Italian cream-based dessert, always seemed intimidating to me, so I couldn’t believe how easy it was. It took no time at all. The color of mine turned out light tan, instead of a creamy white, because I had no white sugar on hand (I used honey and coconut palm sugar instead). Except for the color difference, though, you never would have known — and given I was using white dessert bowls (with smaller, clear jars for the kids), I liked the color contrast.

The only disappointment was that I didn’t have bourbon to put in it, which is what my friend Carrie uses and it blows everyone away. I did have a little Cointreau on hand, though, which did the trick just fine.

I’m sure Carrie wouldn’t mind my sharing the recipe she gave me, so here it is — a decadent dessert for Fat Tuesday/Mardi Gras:

Panna Cotta 

The original recipe can be found in What’s Cooking America

  • 1 envelope of unflavored gelatin (approx. 2 teaspoons)
  • 1/2 cup milk or half and half
  • 2 1/2 cups heavy cream*
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 to 1 1/2 T of bourbon or liqueur you like (optional)

In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over 1/2 cup milk and let stand until the gelatin is softened. In a large saucepan, combine the heavy cream and sugar and add vanilla extract. Bring the cream just to a simmer (don’t let it boil), whisking occasionally until sugar has completely dissolved. Remove from the heat. Add the softened gelatin mixture and whisk to completely dissolve the gelatin. (The original recipe suggests straining the hot cream mixture, but I didn’t, and Carrie never does either.)

Pour into ramekins, teacups, wine glasses, Mason jars, whatever suits the occasion. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours, or overnight. Top with shaved chocolate, a coffee bean, some fresh fruit, or whatever you like. Makes 4 to 6 servings (depending on size of the serving cups).

Many thanks to my friend Carrie for inspiring me to finally make this tasty dessert!

Image: Zoe Saint-Paul 

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Friday Inspiration

February 13, 2015

I love us
Valentine’s Day always felt too commercial and sappy to warrant much of a celebration from me; about the best B and I have ever mustered up as couple was to order take out and watch a movie. There were a couple of years when we headed to a bookstore together to pick out something we thought the other would like, but it never became a tradition — probably because we’re both too fussy about what we want to read.

Ever since becoming a mom, though, I enjoy having any reason to celebrate with my kids. I’ve decided to make Valentine’s Day a time to celebrate love: the love we have for each other, for our family and friends, and God’s love for us. It’s a day that gives us another chance to talk about love: what it is, what it isn’t, being grateful for the people on our lives, what it means that God is love, etc.

The image above says exactly want I particularly want to celebrate this weekend: the love I have for my quirky, funny, slightly unconventional little family. I really do love us!

Also, since Valentine’s Day lends itself to things my girly-girls tend to love — pink and red and hearts and treats and general cuteness — I’m going to go with it a little bit for their sake. I helped S and H make some adorable little Valentine’s cards for their homeschool co-op class (they turned out so cute!), and I even made homemade chocolates for them to take to their party. (Well, they were vegan and made with raw organic cacao and coconut palm sugar, but the girls loved them, so yay!)

I guess you could say I’ve made my peace with Valentine’s Day, too.

What about you? Do you love Valentine’s Day? Hate it? Are you somewhere in between? Whether you celebrate or not, I hope you have a lovely (and love-filled) weekend!

Image: Lovely Little Snippets

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by Margaret Cabaniss

sparkling_wine_tasting_2
Got any plans for Saturday night? I may have made my peace with Valentine’s Day, but the fancy evenings out still don’t really appeal to me — and the maitre d’s of the world back me up on this one: The crowds are insane, the food is overpriced, the service is rushed and snappy…just what you want for a romantic dinner with your one and only.

But Valentine’s Day is also my sister’s birthday, so we couldn’t let it go uncelebrated; instead, we’re inviting some friends over for a sparkling wine tasting! It seemed like the perfect fit for a joint holiday-birthday party: Sparkling wine just feels celebratory, so it instantly fancies up any party, but a low-key tasting at home means none of the hassle or expense of going out. Plus the theme works equally well for Valentine’s enthusiasts or “down with love”-types: Coupled or single, champagne is always delicious.

sparkling_wine_tasting_3
Our plan is pretty simple: We went to the local wine shop and asked for their recommendations for various sparkling wines at different price points, and they were happy to oblige. (If you’re looking to keep costs down, you can always ask each guest to contribute a bottle to the mix.) To make it interesting, we’ll divide people into pairs for a blind tasting and see who can tell the difference between a $6 and $60 bottle. Throw in some chocolate, and you have the makings of an excellent evening — whether you’re celebrating Valentine’s Day, a birthday, or nothing at all.

Not sure where to start? The Kitchn has some helpful tips on navigating champagne styles, different sparkling wines for every budget, and even how to open a bottle. I’ll be raising a glass to every last one of you.

PS — More Valentine’s Day ideas: an adorable bunting, chocolate truffles, no-candy Valentines, and a last-minute gift idea.

Images: Margaret Cabaniss

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Spiked Eggnog
Today is B’s birthday, and every time it rolls around I feel like I get off easy. He likes to go out to dinner as a family — which we did Saturday evening — and he’ll dig into a special birthday dessert I make and blow out some candles for the girls’ sake, but that’s about the extent of it. He hates it when I tell the restaurant staff it’s his birthday (and expressly asked me not to this time, because I usually can’t help myself). About the worst thing I could do for this guy would be to throw him a surprise party. My name would be mud.

I, on the other hand, not only like to celebrate my birthday in grand fashion, but the event usually extends itself over the course of days: I’ve got to do something with my family, and then local friends usually plan something, and then — because someone inevitably can’t make it, because its so close to Christmas — there might be a couple of one-on-one get-togethers a few days later. This past birthday, I think I had three separate birthday events spanning an eight-day period; it was essentially a birthday octave. I’ve been known to tell strangers that it’s my birthday — not because I want them to acknowledge it, but because I’m kind of like a kid about it and can’t keep my mouth shut.

B doesn’t get this at all, but at least he finds it funny.

The difference in how we celebrate birthdays definitely speaks to our personality types: I’m extroverted and social and love any excuse for a party. (I’ve also never quite left the stage behind.) B, on the other hand, is an introvert, not at all a social butterfly, and doesn’t like to draw attention to himself. He’s not quite a “bah humbug”-er, but he comes pretty close.

I’ve learned over the years to plan his birthdays the way he wants, and not the way I‘d want. It took me some time to learn that lesson, but I think I’ve got the hang of it now. Like I said, it’s certainly a lot less work, and more importantly, it makes him happy.

Tonight I’m making his favorite pie (he’s not a big cake fan), and we’ll stick a few candles in it and give him some cards and a small gift. (In another post, I’ll have to tell you about a bigger birthday gift he decided on — it’s a fun one!) As of bedtime tonight, B’s 2015 birthday will officially be wrapped up and we’ll get on with our week.

By the way, did I mention that I love the guy? I hope it’s his best year yet!

How do you celebrate birthdays? Is it different than the way your significant other or loved ones like to celebrate?

Image: Zoe Saint-Paul

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Merry Christmas!

December 25, 2014

 

Saint Pauls at Park 2
Since this is the only half-decent shot taken of our family over the past few months, I’m hoping the bunny and kitten ears will distract you from how pooped B and I look. It’s been that kind of year — a good one, but a tiring one!

A heartfelt Merry Christmas to all of you celebrating over the next few days (and hopefully for at least 12 days)! I also hope my Jewish readers had a very beautiful Hanukkah (which ended last night at sundown). If you’re traveling, may it be uneventful, and if the holidays are a sad time for you, I hope you will experience the joy and peace of this season in some way.

We’re rolling with the punches here, since illness and canceled flights led to some change in plans with relatives, but everything today should fall right into place. My mother-in-law is finally here, my brother’s household is on the mend, and my girls seem to enjoy Christmas more each year, which makes it tons of fun.

It will be quiet here for the next few days as we celebrate the holiday as a family, but I’ll be back next week. Have a safe and joyful Christmas holiday, friends! xoxo

Image: JWR

 

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