Holidays, Events & Parties

The 4th of July and Me

July 4, 2016

Blueberries, veeterzy at Unsplash

It’s Independence Day here in the US of A, which means it’s a holiday, with cookouts and fireworks and flags flying everywhere.

More than any other US holiday, this one brings out the national pride. At times, the rhetoric around American patriotism can get a little…I don’t know… much. But 20 years of living in this country has afforded me the chance to understand it better from the inside out, and to love it. Until I spent time in a developing country, though, I didn’t really appreciate the life I have here — the life I’ve always had as a North American. Not because this country (or my native home) is so perfect — heaven knows, that’s not the case — but because there are so many places in the world that are harder to live in; so many places where it’s still very difficult to be a woman, to succeed, to obtain enough food or adequate medicine; so many places that are in the midst of war, or recovering from war; that have no rule of law or fairly elected government.

It was in Ethiopia that I realized how spoiled I am because I’m used to toilets and toilet paper and electricity being on all the time, and access to things, and all kinds of little luxuries and conveniences that make life easier. I love experiencing other cultures and lands and peoples, but at the end of the day, I get to come back to a place that, at least for now, is safe and comfortable, and affords me a life where I have many, many freedoms to be and do what I choose. This really should never be taken for granted because things can change and we never know the future. But despite a rather frightening election coming up, and all the problems I see around me, I can, with sincerity, wave a flag today in appreciation of the many great things this country stands for, and what is has afforded me over the course of my life.

I’ll blame my reflective mood on the gray skies and drizzle outside. No doubt a juicy burger and one of my brother’s martinis later this afternoon will make everything seem bright and sunny. Happy 4th of July!

Image: veeterzy at unsplash

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image: veeterzy at unsplash

 

 

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O Canada Day

July 1, 2016

Happy Canada Day to all my Canadian readers!

Here’s a little entertainment if you get tired of the cookouts and fireworks:

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And Now They Are 8!

June 27, 2016

Pastries at the farmers market

My beautiful girls turned 8 years-old on Sunday. Eight! It’s hard for this mama to believe. I should perhaps say that we celebrated them turning 8 because as anyone who’s adopted a child from Ethiopia knows, birthdays are rarely accurate. They don’t record birth dates in Ethiopia and don’t tend to celebrate birthdays. Add to that the fact that children relinquished for adoption are often assigned younger ages to make them more “adoptable” and you rarely come home with a true birth date.

Most people don’t do anything about it — unless the discrepancy is vast and it causes issues with school, health, or developmental issues. Changing it on all of the documents that come with adoption would be a paperwork nightmare in my books. So, June 26 it is in our house!

Last year, S and H didn’t want a party so we had just family and godparents over for cake and did something together as a family instead. This year the request was different: they wanted a party with friends. Since it was a busy week after getting back from Kentucky, we kept it simple: Snacks, drinks, cake, and ice cream in our courtyard for about 20 people. Then most of the group headed down to the carousel and water fountains at the harbor, close to our house. Thankfully, the weather was perfect. Then it was gift-opening when we got home. The girls proclaimed it “the best birthday ever,” which is always a good thing.

8th birthday

I didn’t have time to make two cakes like I did last year. Instead, the girls picked out what they wanted at our local WholeFoods bakery. I did, however, make gluten-free cupcakes since as one of our little guest needed it. The vanilla cupcakes themselves turned out really well, which was edifying since I made some substitutions such as coconut palm sugar instead of white sugar. But the frosting was another story…

The plan was to whip up a topping using coconut cream (from a can of coconut milk) and flavor it with vanilla and honey. But when I went to re-whip it, just before the guests arrived, the consistency changed and more or less curdled. No idea why. (Chemistry was never my strong-suit, which is probably why I’m such an  inconsistent cook.) It still tasted good, though, so I went with it, hoping to disguise the mistake with some colored sprinkles on the top (dye-free, of course). But 10 minutes after I put the sprinkles box on the counter, I couldn’t find them anywhere. The whole family ended up getting into the hunt for the box of sprinkles, with no success; they had disappeared into thin air. So, I stuck some dark chocolate chips on top instead.

I had to laugh, though: after all that, the little guy I made them for didn’t like them! All the adults did, though, and the other kids, too, so the cupcakes still got gobbled up. (Oh, and I found the sprinkles later hiding under our Japanese wood cutting board. Turns out, the little box fit perfectly underneath the board, and rather than lift the board up, we kept simply pushing it around the counter in our search. Good grief.)

Anyway, back to the birthday girls… They are growing and changing so quickly and I’m trying to be present to the everyday moments, knowing they pass all too fast. I don’t want to be a mom who’s always upset that my kids are getting older — and in my girls’ case, they need encouragement as they are sometimes unsure they want to get any older — but I can’t help feeling a little wistful to see their younger selves transforming before my eyes. Just a part of motherhood, right?

Images: Zoe Saint-Paul

 

 

 

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Good Friday

March 25, 2016

Lukas Budimaier

Image: Lukas Budimaier at Unsplash

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Pull Up A Chair

February 12, 2016

Greg Rakozy for Unsplash

A few unrelated things to cap off the week…

First, I want to share this flourless chocolate cake recipe from Nigella Lawson that the girls and I made Tuesday in place of a king cake. (I just couldn’t make the traditional Mardi Gras treat happen this year. Plus, somehow the the plastic baby got lost somewhere. So that was that.) All the women in this house love chocolate so it seemed like a no brainer for the day before Lent.

Since I typically don’t keep white sugar or white flour in the house, I dug up this recipe and was reminded why it’s the perfect go-to chocolate cake. I used coconut palm sugar (stuck it in the Vitamix to make it superfine) and everything else was the same, except for adding dark chocolate chips to make it extra chocolatey. The three of us ate the whole thing in a day. And I still felt good afterwards, which is what happens when you fake your body out with a yummy chocolate cake that actually has no flour, dairy, or refined sugar!

Speaking of sweet things, Valentine’s Day is Sunday. Any plans? I’ve grown to like the celebration a bit more since having kids, but I’m still mostly a humbug about it. Maybe the girls and I will make some decorations, or I’ll surprise them with a treat. Lent and Valentine’s Day don’t really go together in the treats department, but at least it’s on a Sunday.

In honor of love day, and especially on this very cold winter weekend, I’m thinking this broiled grapefruit daiquiri may do the trick. I gave up alcohol for Lent, but virtual imbibing doesn’t count, and I think you’re going to love this one. (Can you tell I’m on a grapefruit kick of late?)

What’s on your docket this February weekend? Hope you stay warm and I’ll see you back here next week!

Image: Greg Rakozy at Unsplash

 

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Lent 2016

February 10, 2016

Lukas Budimaier for Unsplash

Lent has arrived super early this year! I don’t think I’m alone among those who observe Lent who would say that I have a love-hate relationship with this season. Mostly love, though, as I find the themes and practices edifying, even if sometimes challenging. If Easter is all about light and new life, Lent is the winter twilight. I don’t know what it’s like to celebrate Lent where it’s still summer, like they do in the southern hemisphere; but it seems to lend itself so well to the cold, dark days of winter.

Today I’m making a simple lentil stew for dinner and bidding a temporary farewell to my glasses of wine with dinner and regular dark chocolate indulgences. I have a couple of spiritual books I’ll be reading, and I’ve stocked up on healthy snack bars and bottled water to give to the homeless when the girls and I are out and about. I’m also doing something I just heard of, which is to take a calendar and write someone’s name down on each of the 40 days of Lent — family, friends, acquaintances, colleagues, neighbors, etc. and then each day I’ll be praying for that person and his or her needs.

There are a few other ways I’ll be marking this season, but I try not to make it too much about doing and more about the spirit of the whole thing. It’s also another opportunity to teach my children about the Lenten themes of sacrifice, simplicity, humility, faith, and generosity. By the way, S and H have decided they’re giving up candy for Lent. Not going to be hard when they ever actually eat candy. Ha.

Do you observe Lent? If so, do you have any common practices?

 

Image: Lukas Budimaier at Unsplash

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My Favorite MLK Jr. Quotes

January 18, 2016

MLK Jr at Pixabay

Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day here in the United States. Here are some of my favorite quotes by him:

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.
Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.
I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.
Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.
Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into friend.
Image: Pixabay

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Welcome 2016!

January 4, 2016

Bubbles/Pixabay

Happy new year, friends! Ready to take on 2016?

I took a semi-tech break last week. Frankly, I don’t know where the time went, but I guess it had something to do with recovering from illness, my mother-in-law heading back home mid-week, New Year’s Eve and day, and some visiting here and there, not to mention being back to work.

How’s 2016 treating you so far? Have you made any resolutions? If you’ve been reading SlowMama for some time, you know I’m a fan of making resolutions, or some variation of it. (Mags wrote about making “non-resolutions” last year.)

This time, I didn’t enter the year with a well-defined list. I think it’s going to be a full one, and I was feeling a bit overwhelmed last week just thinking about it, so I decided to not put a lot of extras on my plate.

A few things are calling to me, though: First, getting better organized. I’m starting a new system of sorts and I look forward to telling you more about it soon. I also want to work on my fitness. That’s been a goal I’ve failed in miserably for the past two years because I can’t seem to prioritize it in my schedule. But I’ve got a couple new ideas to help make it happen. I’m not putting too much pressure on, but it’s nagging at me.

I’ve also got a couple spiritual practices I want to focus on, and I want to be more deliberate about some family plans I want to see happen this year. When I get it all sorted in my mind a bit more, I may write about it.

I’d also like to make some changes to this blog. I wanted to do it in 2015, but a combination of being undecided about what exactly I want to do and my life as a working home-schooling mom knocked it down on my priority list. Right now, I’m not sure if 2016 will be a big year of change for SlowMama or not, but I’ll definitely keep you posted.

How about you? Any goals or plans? Any themes you want this new year to be guided by?

I wish you and yours a healthy, peaceful, meaningful 2016!

Image: Misku at Pixabay

 

 

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Merry Christmas!

December 25, 2015

IMG_4295

I’ve always loved Christmas, but S and H have taken it to a whole new level. They’re just so much fun. Their big gifts from us this year were guitars. H has been asking for a pink guitar since she could speak English, and S was equally interested so she got a blue one. They both love music and seem to have a gift for it. B plays so he can get them started and if their interest continues, we’ll get them some lessons.

I’m under the weather today, unfortunately, so I’m laying low and hope to be back to normal soon since my mother-in-law is here and I’m a little useless at the moment. But we’ll be trying to keep the spirit of Christmas alive for the 12 days of Christmas around here.

From our home to yours, Merry Christmas and happiest of holidays!

Oh, and also, this:

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Happy Christmas Eve!

December 24, 2015

Star Clusters/Pixabay

It’s Christmas Eve! I’m finally (mostly) recovered from a virus I came down with last week and I might just be ready for Christmas tomorrow after all. My mother-in-law landed in rainy, warm Baltimore yesterday and I even managed to clean the bathroom before she arrived. Miracles never cease!

I do love Christmas Eve and this year is a little different because we’re celebrating it Spanish-style with my brother and his family. My sister-in-law hails from southern Spain and Christmas Eve is a big deal there — most families eat their main Christmas meal with relatives on Christmas Eve before attending Midnight Mass. Depending on the region you’re from, dinner may be seafood or even turkey stuffed with truffles (not the chocolate kind), or some kind of pork. In our case, my sister-in-law is roasting lamb, and she’s a fabulous cook so I know it will be delicious. We’ll start with tapas, of course, and Spanish wine. I’m taking one liberty — I’m bringing a dessert from our side of the family — a traditional gingerbread cake with lemon sauce that my French grandmother used to make for Christmas every year. (In fact, posted in last year on SlowMama so be sure to check it out — a gift that keeps on giving.)

Enjoy your day and evening, friends.

Image: Pixabay

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