Holidays, Events & Parties

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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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


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





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/ Used with permission via Snapwire Snaps


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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