Vintage Samsonite
For the past six months I’ve been looking for something I can use to store the growing collection of my daughters’ hair care products. Herbal tonic sprays, hair milks, detanglers, brushes, and hair bands end up all over our house, and I’d like one place to store them downstairs, which is where I tend to remember (just as we’re going out of the house, of course) that I need to get some kind of product on those adorable heads or I will be that mom.

Inside Vintage Samsonite Bag
Then last weekend I took my brother and sister-in-law to a favorite second-hand furniture store in town, and while I was wandering around, I stumbled on some vintage Samsonite luggage. One small piece was so cute that I immediately began devising a plan to justify the purchase, when it occurred to me that it might be a perfect short-term solution to the homeless hair care products problem. And so I became the proud new owner of a vintage red bag. I love the color.

Vintage Name Tag

Samsonite Initial
This is like something my grandmother would have traveled with as a carry-on bag. Although well-used, it’s in great shape, and I love that the original owner’s name is still on the tag, and her initials are on the silver fasteners. It’s fun to think about who this woman is (or was), and where she might have traveled with this bag.

Storing Hair Care Products
Have you ever used luggage for something other than travel? Would you ever buy a piece like this just for fun?

(Oh, and if you’ve got any tips for a hair-care product carrier, do spill the beans! Ultimately, I’d like a portable carry-all type bag, not too deep, with a little structure to it, and one main area with additional pockets and compartments.)

Images: Zoe Saint-Paul


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.




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


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


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

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

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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Beachside Reading
Summertime calls for a stack of good reads, whether it’s the latest bestseller at your bedside, e-books in the kitchen, novels at the beach, or browsing favorite magazines while waiting in airports. My contributors and I love to read and wanted to share what’s on our own book lists right now as we look forward to a little R&R this summer:

Zoe’s List

Cutting for Stone, by Abraham Verghese

I’ll feel like less of a loser if you haven’t read this book, since it was beginning to feel like I was the only person on the planet who hadn’t. It’s a national bestseller and a gazillion people recommended it to me, but for some reason it took me forever to get around to it. Anyway, I’m so glad I did. The book focuses on twin brothers born of a strange and secret union between a British doctor and an Indian nun; the boys are orphaned and raised by two Indian doctors in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, before one comes to the United States. While I stumbled a bit on the brief romantic and sexual parts of the book (they were a bit stilted and not equal to the rest of Verghese’s prose), I loved the historical and cultural context of the story as well as the creativity of the plot. This is a perfect beach or vacation novel — an easy read, compelling story, and full of interesting characters.  If your book club hasn’t done this one yet, stick it on the list! (Paperback edition; Kindle edition.)

Humans of New York, by Brandon Stanton

You may already be familiar with Stanton’s work from his hugely popular website Humans of New York (HONY), and last year he (smartly) put together a coffee table book of some his photos. B picked up a copy for me, and every night we’d look at a few pages together, mesmerized by the images Stanton has captured. I love the short descriptions with each photograph almost as much as the photographs themselves. This book brings home what makes New York City a one-of-a-kind place, and what makes people so unique while at the same time so similar. If you giving this book as a gift to someone who loves photography, NYC, or people-watching, it will definitely up your cool factor. (Hardback edition.)

The Telling Room, by Michael Paterniti

This is an unusual story about a larger-than-life Spaniard, a family legacy, a betrayal, an obsession, and a piece of cheese. It’s also about the writer — a journalist who, after eating a sandwich in Ann Arbor, Michigan, wound up in Spain living among the people and mystery he was intent on investigating. Given its best-seller status, I’m far from the only one who’s grateful that the talented Paterniti finished his book (though it took him many years). If you’re drawn to travel and food stories, crazy characters, and great writing, this one’s for you. (Paperback editionKindle edition.)

Cooked, by Michael Pollan

I finally started this book (got it last Christmas), so I can’t say with certitude what I really think just yet, but so far, I’m a fan. I’ll pretty much read anything by Michael Pollan: His work is always engaging and informative — and hey, it’s always about food. This one is no exception: In Cooked, Pollan explores the four classical elements of fire, water, air, and earth and how each has been used to transform “the stuff of nature” into delicious food and drink over the centuries. Pollan travels the country learning about grilling, fermenting, and baking from some of the best cooks, and he has a lot to thoughtful things to say about how food is the pinnacle of culture. (Paperback editionKindle edition.)

The Telling Room and Cooked

Ann Waterman’s List

All the Money in the World, by Laura Vanderkam

Unlike most books about money, this one focuses on spending money, not just saving it. Money is a tool, Vanderkam explains, and spent intentionally, it can help to bring us happiness. What does “intentional” mean here? Well, Vanderkam encourages us to think about what makes us happy: For instance, would you rather have a large wedding with all the bells and whistles, or would some of that money be better spent on things like a housecleaner or regular evenings out with your husband later in your marriage? Neither choice is necessarily good or bad in itself; Vanderkam’s point is that you should think hard about what your money can be used for and whether it’s bringing you closer to what truly makes you happy. (Paperback edition; Kindle edition.)

The Spaghetti Shots, by Courtney Westlake

Do you have an SLR camera and keep telling yourself you’ll read the manual one day and really learn how to use it? Forget the manual and download this e-book that explains your camera’s functions and settings in the simplest of terms and helps you catch those everyday moments that really capture your family’s life. I promise you’ll be taking better pictures in no time! (Kindle edition only.)

Manage Your Day-To-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind (The 99U Book Series)

Do you have a hobby, passion, or side business that you never seem to have time for? This collection of essays is a quick read and shows you how to organize your day to make the best use of your time and maximize your creativity by finding ways to make it a priority. After implementing a few ideas, not only did I have more time for one of my favorite creative outlets (writing), but I was more productive in general. The best part about this book? You can borrow it for free on your Kindle device. (Kindle editionpaperback edition.)

Margaret Cabaniss’s List

The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt

The backlash has begun against this Pulitzer Prize winner, but I’m sticking with my initial impression: It’s gorgeous and I loved it. (I even did the “read something else halfway through to drag out the ending” trick.) The story follows the life of Theo Decker, beginning with the moment that he suffers a sudden, violent loss as a 13-year-old, and through his many wanderings (literal and otherwise) in the years that follow. It’s sprawling and messy but undeniably powerful in the way it describes love and loss, beauty and suffering, and (most of all) our desire for meaning and transcendence in the face of…well, life. My favorite thing I’ve read so far this year; highly recommended. (Paperback editionKindle edition.)

However: If you’re not up for an 800-page doorstop this summer, try Tartt’s first novel, The Secret History, instead: A sort of Gothic “murder mystery in reverse,” it was the first time I encountered Tartt’s writing and knew she’d be one to follow — and it’s a much quicker read.

Beautiful Ruins, by Jess Walter

I’ll admit, I had to pull up some reviews of this one to remind me of bits of the plot (in my defense, I read it last summer) — but its portrait of a crumbling Italian port town in the 1960s, and the sweet love story that blooms there, definitely stayed with me. Of course, in between the gorgeous flashbacks are smash cuts to the modern-day reality-TV world…links that I promise make more sense in the context of the book. There are too many characters and places and even eras to recall them all here, but through them all, Walter does an excellent job weaving the touching with the hilarious. The perfect thing to read at the beach while pretending you’re on a beach in Italy. (Paperback editionKindle edition.)

Bonus selection: Walter’s The Financial Lives of Poets — a “you have to laugh, otherwise you’ll cry” take on the 2008 financial crisis — isn’t so picturesque as Beautiful Ruins, but it’s every bit as funny, and might have even stayed with me longer. For a story about one man’s misbegotten plans to develop a website that delivers the financial news in free verse, it’s surprisingly moving.

The Remedy: Robert Koch, Arthur Conan Doyle, and the Quest to Cure Tuberculosis, by Thomas Goetz

I recently saw this recommended somewhere else and decided I had to add it to my reading list for this summer. While I’m only a few pages in so far, I have high hopes, since it’s got everything I love: pop history, Conan Doyle, infectious diseases… The combination of Sherlock Holmesian suspense and mystery surrounding the birth of modern germ theory just sounded too intriguing to pass up. I hope to have a full report soon – but if you’ve read it, tell me about it in the comments! (Paperback edition; Kindle edition.)


Well, friends, there you have it! We’d love to hear what you’re reading (or hoping to read!) this summer; leave us all some suggestions in the comments!

(I am an Amazon affiliate, so if you purchase one of the above books using the links provided, you are helping to support this blog. Thank you!)

Image via Pinterest


by Ann Waterman


No matter how much care you take trying to find the perfect watermelon — knocking it, feeling its heft, checking for field spots — sometimes you end up with a lemon: It’s flavorless or pulpy, and then you’re just stuck with a lot of fruit. It used to get me down, but since I’ve discovered granita — a semi-frozen dessert that’s refreshing, cool, and perfect for summer — I’m almost excited when I land a less-than-perfect watermelon, since it gives me an excuse to make this delightful dessert.


This recipe for granita (adapted from Epicurious) couldn’t be simpler. While some versions call for straining out any pulp, this is a quick and dirty version that can be made in minutes (not including freeze time). Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 4 cups seedless watermelon, cut into chunks
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbsp lime juice
  • 2 Tbsp finely chopped mint

Place all ingredients in a blender (an immersion blender would probably work in a pinch) and puree until smooth. Pour the mixture into 9×13 baking pan and cover with plastic wrap (or a lid, if you have a pan like this). Place pan in freezer, keeping it as level as possible. After an hour, stir the mixture, breaking up the frozen chunks. Place pan back in the freezer.


The granita will be ready to eat in two more hours, but you can keep it in the freezer for up to 3 days — perfect if you’re having guests and looking to get some of the prep out of the way. To serve, scrape granita with a fork or metal spoon to create ice flakes. Garnish with a spring of mint, if you want to get fancy. It’s endlessly adaptable, so feel free to play with the amounts of sugar and lime if it’s too sweet for your liking.


Still have more watermelon to use up? Check out my friend’s recipe for watermelon margaritas, which are sure to become a summertime favorite.

Images: Ann Waterman


Modern Communal Living

June 30, 2014

Villa Van Vijven
Last week, Margaret sent me an article in Dwell magazine about a group of five families in the Netherlands who banded together and hired an architect to create a modern commune of sorts — one building with five different units and shared (as well as private) garden spaces. I’m always fascinated by ideas like this and love to see the designs people come up with.

What strikes me about this place is that even though the residents commissioned, financed, and agreed to the housing project – no easy feat! — and they share gardening and landscaping, they lead pretty independent, private lives, claiming they don’t see each other every day and are good neighbors more than friends. In this sense, it’s not really a commune, nor even a community with a shared life. But it’s definitely a group of people who share certain values about design, lifestyle, and living space who came together to make it happen.

Van Vijven Private Gardens
I must admit I could totally go for something like this – though my first inclination would be to do it with some of my siblings’ families (and possibly a few friends) whom I’d love to have as neighbors. Of course, I’d have to institute Sunday potluck brunches or dinners, and maybe family movie nights on the lawn. Frankly, it doesn’t seem all that different from how we live now — in a small row house, attached to other row houses, with a gated green space shared by 11 families — except this one in the Netherlands is much grander, intentional, rural, and modern. (Okay, so maybe a little different than what we have now, but some of the concepts are the same at least!)

If a group of people can successfully build a house together that they’re really happy with (imagine the patience of the architects!), it seems to me they could pretty much do anything together after that. Still, issues can always come up: residents not pulling their weight around the property, personality conflicts, and personal issues messing things up (divorce, death, illness, relocation). But some of those things probably get written into whatever agreements are drawn up.

Even with the potential pitfalls, I’m still a big fan of the idea. The balance of independence and community, as well as an intentionally designed space you love, seems like a great combination.

Does this idea of modern communal living appeal to you? What would be your ideal number of residents and your ideal house design? And, of course, who would you choose to share the place with — family? friends? strangers? And where?

Images: Dean Kaufman for Dwell 


Pull Up a Chair

June 27, 2014

Birthday Girls
Let’s start with my high of the week: My girls’ birthday yesterday. They turned six! I can hardly believe it. They were just four when they came home… I know that’s how time works, but still, how can this be happening?

We had the best day: A morning playdate with two other families at a beautiful local park on the water (complete with perfect weather); a mom-and-daughters lunch at a gourmet food market (at the girls’ request), where we had a trio of salmon and homemade soup with handmade raw chocolates for dessert and then walked out with a bottle of kimchi and butterfly lime kombucha (are they my girls, or what?); a stop at a floral shop to pick out a flower to honor the girls’ first mother (and they picked out pink gerbera daisies for themselves); a fun afternoon manicure (a gift from their aunt and uncle); dinner made by Daddy, who came home early (their request: his special chopped salad); and a cake party with friends (I made two gluten-free cakes — successfully!) followed by gifts, which included m-cro kickboard scooters that they couldn’t be more thrilled about.

Jinji Chocolates!
I’m writing this in a bit of a tired haze after such a full day, but I can’t believe I get to have so much fun with such awesome little girls. Did I mention they are now six? Sniff, sniff.

As for a low, that’s probably it right there: This time really does go so incredibly fast, and I need to remind myself of this when we’re having hard episodes. (We had one of those this past week, but luckily the birthday bliss is blocking it out.)

As for a drink today, I’m pouring elderberry lemonade, which we served at the cake party last night.  A great alternative to wine when you want something special for adults and kids alike.

H Turns Six
Anything exciting on your docket this weekend? The birthday celebrations here aren’t quite finished yet: Tomorrow we’re planning a short hike and a picnic with some playmates of the girls’, and we’ll be helping my brother and sister-in-law unpack in their new place. Looking forward to it all!

Hope you and yours have a lovely weekend, whatever you’re up to, and I’ll see you back here on Monday.

Images: Zoe Saint-Paul and JWR


by Margaret Cabaniss

Kitchen Nightmares and Homemade Pizza
Way back when, Kathleen shared on the blog that her Achilles heel in the kitchen was poultry. I can completely relate, having my own Thanksgiving disaster stories under my belt, but for the longest time, not even those massive turkeys could scare me as much as one thing: homemade pizza.

It is totally ridiculous, I know — but the closest I ever came to a full-on panic attack in the kitchen was in the middle of trying to make pizza from scratch. I’ve blocked out most of the details now, but I remember sweating away in my tiny kitchen, trying to scrape a misshapen pie off the counter and onto a ripping-hot pizza stone, only to watch helplessly as the thing slowly folded over on itself and landed topping-side down, where it proceeded to cook up in a soggy mess of failure and tears. Just…not pretty.

It took me a long (long) time to get back on the horse after that — but I was finally coaxed into it after spotting Smitten Kitchen’s recipe for shaved asparagus pizza. It looked too delicious not to try, and Deb swore up and down that it was really just so easy, so I fortified myself with a few drinks and went for it — and was rewarded with one of the most delicious (if slightly misshapen) pizzas I’ve ever put in my face. After that, I’ve never looked back.

Kitchen Nightmares and Homemade Pizza
That asparagus pizza is still one of my faves — but I’ve since discovered a recipe for the dough that I like even better, via Cook’s Illustrated. It comes together in a snap in the food processor, rises for 90 minutes, and bakes up into the most perfect crunchy-chewy crust I’ve ever tried at home. And that (along with a little practice, and a few tricks I’m sharing below) is how I came to be a pizza-making machine, to the point where I recently cranked out pie after pie all night at a party to rave reviews, with nary a tear in sight. Hooray for happy endings!

Cook’s Illustrated’s recipe is (sadly) behind a paywall, but let me just take this opportunity to plug their online subscription service. Totally worth the money, in my mind — or just pick up their baking cookbook or their 20th anniversary book, which both have the recipe inside. (They even have a gluten-free version!) And now that I’ve gotten the plug out of the way, I’ll also just point out that you can find a free version of the complete recipe (with alternate mixing instructions, if you don’t have a food processor) here. Make of that what you will.

People have lots of different pizza-making methods, but here’s what works for me:

  • Put a pizza stone on the lowest rack of your oven and preheat to 500 degrees at least half an hour before you want to bake.
  • Roll (well, really, pat and stretch) out your dough on parchment paper. Some people swear that all you need is a good dusting of cornmeal to transfer your pie from the counter to a pizza peel to the oven, but…yeah, no. Parchment is the only thing that works for me every single time. I slide the paper and all onto the back of a cookie sheet to transfer everything into the oven and back out again; the paper will get a little crispy around the edges at 500 degrees, but it’ll hold up fine for the baking.
  • Load it up (but not too much!) with your toppings, then bake for 8-10 minutes. Enjoy the sweet, sweet taste of victory.

Do you make pizza at home, or are you afraid of it, too? What are your favorite methods/recipes/toppings?

Images: Margaret Cabaniss


Bedtime Routines

June 25, 2014

For the past year or so, my daughters’ pre-sleep ritual has been more or less the same: After a little bedtime chime goes off, which reminds us all that it’s time to head upstairs, there’s teeth-brushing, flossing, toilet, and washing face and hands — not always in that order. (We never do bath or shower time right before bed.)

Then it’s time for a story book, and the girls take turns choosing each night. The girl who picks the book sleeps on the edge of the bed that night (our solution to the fact that they both prefer to sleep on the wall side and were always fighting about it). Then they get some water, B or I crawl into bed with them, and it’s lights out. Following that is a round of short made-up stories, some spontaneous prayers, and occasionally a few songs. If they’re not quite sleepy yet, there’s inevitably some pillow talk – often my favorite part of the evening — and then, hopefully, they succumb to dreamland.

As for myself, while I know adults who have pretty elaborate bedtime routines — like leisurely candlelit baths and long face care rituals — my own is pretty simple. And while it’s fluctuated a bit over the years, some things remain consistent: I always brush my teeth and floss, rinse my face, and moisturize. And I almost always read for a bit in bed — even if it’s super late or I’m dead tired. All my life I’ve had a hard time falling asleep and reading helps a lot, even if it’s just for five or ten minutes.

What are the bedtime routines like in your house? Is there anything you do that, if you suddenly stopped, would really throw you off? If you have children, are their bedtime rituals elaborate and drawn out or short and sweet?

Image via Pinterest

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