Little Fish

One thing I learned last week was that you really can live without a fridge for seven days. But it throws everything off. What’s a responsible mother to do? Eats what she can, gives the rest away, and take a long road trip with the family…

We’re now in Kentucky hanging out with my mother-in-law (which was planned long before the fridge decided to quit). The patient woman has been waiting for over three years to have her only grandchildren visit. Since S and H came home, she has always come to us, but it was high time for us to make the trek to her. Now that we’re on our summer schedule (with a more relazed academic schedule for the next few months), the time was right.

So, I think this weekend calls for a Kentucky Mule, made with bourbon, ginger beer and splash of lime juice — a bourbon-based riff on a Dark ‘n’ Stormy. I think it will do the trick while I help my mother-in-law plan an open-house gathering for relatives to come see us and meet the girls on Sunday. We’re keeping things easy and casual, but I can’t help but bake. I’ve got these chocolate chip cookies on the brain and may also make this flourless chocolate cake — apparently there are a lot of chocolate lovers among the guests. Plus we’ll do something pretty with strawberries.

The girls have been having a blast — a cute little dog helps! I’ve been posting a few photos on Instagram if you want to follow along. Happy weekend, friends!

Image: Zoe Saint-Paul

 

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Tavarua Island

June 8, 2016

Surfing by deli de la Rua

Do you ever wish you could escape to a beautiful island where the people are warm and hospitable, the water is a perfect shade of blue, and there’s nothing to do but relax, unwind, and enjoy the wonders of nature? Well, my sister and her family lived that dream a few months ago when they spent 10 days on the island of Tavarua in Fiji. It doesn’t even look big enough for an airplane to be able to land so I keep forgetting to ask them how they even got the actual island. Maybe by whale?

They were there over Easter (my nieces’ spring break) and during an egg hunt one of them found the ‘golden egg’ in a palm tree. Naturally! The highlight for my sister was when staff woke them up before sunrise on Easter morning singing hymns outside their hut.

They also took a boat out to see “Cloud Break” — a world famous wave that people come from all around the world to surf. It’s huge and dangerous and scary to even look at — and that’s coming from my sister who’s not afraid of much (unlike yours truly). She said the snorkeling was gorgeous, the coral colorful, and the seafood delicious. They loved the fruit bats and even saw the poisonous sea snakes which are very tame (though they kept their distance).

Anyway, while they were there, a film company was shooting a promotional video for visitors and my beautiful nieces and brother-in-law are featured in it. I wanted to post it above but privacy settings won’t let me. Still, you can see it here on vimeo. My nieces are running through the trees at the beginning, as well as snorkeling and surfing, and my brother-in-law is the guy looking proud about the big 45+ lbs yellow fin tuna he caught.

When you can’t go to a place like Tavarua yourself, you can always live vicariously through others, right?

Image: delfi de la Rua at unsplash

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Kentucky Sign

We made it to Kentucky after a two day trek. On the first day we had some crazy weather in the West Virginia mountains. We’d come around a bend and hit torrential rain with almost no visibility; then 15 minutes later we’d come over another mountain and it would be so bright and sunny we’d need our sunglasses. And it went on like that. Thankfully, we seemed to skirt the worst of it and now we’re safely ensconced at my mother-in-law’s. It’s the first time S and H have made the trek to their Nana’s house.

I was so busy last week that I didn’t put much thought into how to pace the trip for them, but they did well — except for the last two hours when they were ready to be there already and exasperated with sitting.

We had already decided to break the drive up into two days. The girls aren’t used to a lot of car time and a 10 hour drive straight would have been too long. So we stopped half way at a hotel with a pool. Beforehand, I tried to prepare them psychologically for the fact that it was going to take a long time to get to Nana’s. I also helped them stock their backpacks with art supplies, a couple of small toys, a few favorite stuffed animals, water — and we brought snacks, of course. B downloaded the audio books for a number of The Magic Treehouse stories, which H and S like — and that helped get us all through the last bit of the trip.

Although this will probably be our only long road trip this summer, it makes me wonder about how parents keep their kids occupied when they make long treks. I’d love to hear what’s worked for you!

Image: Zoe Saint-Paul

 

 

 

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The 6 Hour Work Day?

May 25, 2016

Anthony Delanoix

Here’s an interesting experiment: A nursing home in Sweden (predictably!) was selected for a study about work hours. Researchers wanted to see what would change if employees worked a six-hour day instead of eight hours — for the same pay. After one year, the program “had sharply reduced absenteeism, and improved productivity and worker health.”

Sweden is already home to many businesses that allow flexible work hours and liberal parental leave policies, but it seems to me that this is a worthwhile conversation for other places to have. Is the “8 hour work day” ideal for every kind of business and employee? And if not, should we change it?

When I began working from home, I noticed that despite its challenges, I got a lot more done in far less time than I did in an office. That’s because in the average work place there’s a lot of time spent on things that aren’t directly task-related — such as casual conversations, coffee breaks, dilly-dallying, and unproductive meeting time. People are often more efficient when they have less time. (This is one reason why busy moms get so much done!)

The same can be said of school. The time children spend at school actually doing academics is far less than the hours spent there. Of course, education is not just academics — and this goes for the work environment, too. Many employees enjoy chit-chatting around the water cooler, and spending time that they’re not “on task.” But with only 24 hours in a day, is that more important than having more time for family at home, for the outdoors or exercising, for making healthy meals, for being involved with your community or church, for learning something?

Of course, it’s necessarily the case that six-hour work days are best. There are probably businesses and professions that it doesn’t and wouldn’t work for. But maybe this isn’t a one-size fits all approach. Truth it, we don’t even have a eight-hour work day so much anymore — it’s more like nine or 10 hours, at least when I look around at the kind of time the average person spends at his or her work place.

Would you welcome a 6 hour work day? Do you think it would be make you more more or less efficient?

Image: Anthony Delanoix at unsplash

 

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Monday Morning Buns

May 23, 2016

Olga's Tatatine Morning Buns

I can’t think of a better way to begin a Monday morning than with something from my sister Olga’s kitchen. Unfortunately, unless you live on the north shore of Nova Scotia, these morning buns are for your eyes only, and not your belly. I don’t even eat these kinds of things, but when Olga sends me photos of her latest culinary creations, I wish I could beam myself into her kitchen for a long, leisurely visit.

When Olga recently made her first trip to San Francisco, high on her list was stop at Tartine. The morning buns above use the Tartine croissant dough recipe from their cookbook, and the full morning bun recipe came from a blog called butterbaking.com, which she found when googling “Tartine’s morning bun recipe.” Just thought I better share all that in case you can’t help make this a reality for yourself.

Homemade baked goods remind me of home and I let myself indulge a bit when I’m there, but in my day-to-day life, I rarely eat them. One of these would totally hit the spot, though, with a cup of tea or coffee. Instead I’ll probably be predicable and whip up one of my signature green monster smoothies.

What’s your favorite way to get Monday morning started?

Image: Olga 

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Van Gogh in Action

May 18, 2016

I thought this art installation reportedly by students from the Institute of Fine Arts in Beirut, Lebanon, was super cool. It really does look like a moving painting, doesn’t it?

Are you a van Gogh fan? Vermeer? Who are some of your favorite artists from days gone by?

 

 

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Rosan Harmens pic unsplash

I’ve been thinking about the great women I’ve known, especially those who’ve passed on.

On Friday, I learned about the death of my friend, Susie Hurley DeConcini. Susie and I met when we were on the board of a Washington, D.C. non-profit that promoted the welfare of women and children. Thirty years my senior, Susie was  always kind of ageless because she had so much energy, enthusiasm, and passion for life. She was at once a dignified lady who knew all the appropriate social graces because she’d been married to a US senator, while at the same time she was completely down to earth, hospitable, and always up for an adventure.

Hailing from a long line of strong women (her grandmother had been a suffragist) Susie’s life was about service and she affected a lot of change in her circles of influence and beyond — including bringing childcare to the US Senate and advocating for troubled youth. Susie was full of stories and would frequently share them at our board meetings, or whenever I had the good fortune of being with her.

I’ll never forget one board meeting trip to New Orleans where Susie invited the late Ambassador Lindy Boggs to join us for dinner at Antoine’s where the two regaled us younger women with great stories, after which we all walked down Bourbon Street to Boggs’ amazing historic home for more visiting. (I wrote about that here when Boggs passed away.)

I didn’t know Lady Lindy Boggs, but she seemed to me a lot like Susie, who embodied so much of what it means to be a great woman: Kind, strong, brave, loving, wise, dedicated to her children and loved ones, faith-filled, successful, a life-long learner, humble, confident, unafraid to be herself.

One of the many things I loved about Susie was that she had plain old common sense — a rarity these days. I’m sure that played a role in how she dealt with her cancer diagnosis. When she learned of it, she decided against surgeries and drugs that might prolong her life but not cure her, and chose to go through the dying process as naturally as possible, spending her remaining time with close family and friends, and checking things off her bucket list.

The last time I saw Susie was at the shower friends threw for us right before H and S came home. Susie was so supportive and interested in our decision to adopt — she herself had one or two adopted grandchildren. My life has been so intense since then and we never got together again. But Susie recently came to mind very intensely for a couple of days and I now know that’s when she died.

The person Susie was, and the way she lived her life, makes me think about my own legacy: What difference will I have made? What kind of woman do I want to be? Great women like Susie inspires such questions. I know she’d be the first to tell me that I’m doing great, and she’d encourage me to keep living my life to the full as best I can.

Rest in peace, dear Susie. Thanks for all that you brought to the world.

 

Image: Rosan Harmens at unsplash

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Pull Up A Chair

May 13, 2016

Erol Ahmed cactus photo

So let’s get the weekend started with a lemon lavender gin rickey from Food52. I always want to try whatever I see in my Instagram feed from that recipe site!

I have so many random things in my brain at the moment…

  • Next week is our last at our homeschool academy for this academic year. I love having it two days a week — it  provides structure for our homeschooling and has been great for the girls on many levels. But it will also be nice to have a break from having to get the kids out the door early in the morning and make lunches and deal with homework for their classes there. Gosh, what would I do if they went to “regular” school every day? It would be so excessive. Haha
  • You know you’re busy when a delivery of Frye boots shows up at your door and you’re too busy to even open the boxes for days. Also, picking our boots online is hard! There’s a long story behind these boots. Back when we had our TV trip to North Carolina, a friend gifted me with a pair of Fryes. The problem was, they had a major defect and there wasn’t time to return them. The customer service folks at Frye said they were okay with me wearing them for the show and sending them back afterwards for credit. Which I did, hoping to get another pair just like them. But they were out of stock and weren’t going to be back in for months. So, I waited, and then kind of forgot about them, and then realized my credit was going to run out so I better hop to it! But then I wasn’t sure I wanted the same pair; maybe I should try some other styles just to complicate things? So, I did. And now I’m going back and forth between two colors of these Phillip Harness boots. I wanted the camel color and they’re out so it’s between the cognac and the black. I like the former slightly better, but the latter is more practical with my current wardrobe. I’m not good at these kinds of decisions. They’re just boots, but I don’t get Fryes everyday and I want to get it right!
  • We’ve had so much rain and many cloudy days. But I find it strangely comforting because it reminds me of home. Nova Scotia gets a lot of clouds and rain — a lot like the northwest of the US. So, speaking of boots, I’ve been wearing my Hunters a lot. I love throwing on rubber boots to head out the door.
  • My husband got me hooked on a show called Peaky Blinders. Heard of it? It’s a gangster drama located in the streets of post-war Birmingham, England, on the verge of the 1920s. B liked it right away; I was like, meh… And then it kind of sucked me in. Great performances. And I like that it’s not too violent, at least compared to so many other shows and what you’d expect from a show about gangsters.
  • Did I mention I had a lovely Mother’s Day? Low key and relaxing. The girls made me awesome homemade cards. Those are like pearls to me. And we went out for a special brunch where I had the best Bloody Mary ever. The girls tried to be on their best behavior all day. Sometimes I still can’t believe I have the privilege of being their mom. It’s a gift never lost on me.

Well, there’s more, but that’s enough. How was your week, friends? Hope it was a good one, and hope you have a terrific May weekend. See you back here next week.

Image: Erol Ahmed at unsplash

 

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Jiu jitsu warrior princesses

My girlie-girls who love all things pink, fluffy, and cute are three weeks into Brazilian jiu-jitsu classes and loving every minute of it. I must admit I’m a little surprised they dig it so much. Then again, these girls are always surprising me with their super coolness.

They attend a Gracie Academy school which we found right in our neighborhood, run by a guy trained in and passionate about Brazilian jiu-jitsu. In 1925, a Brazilian family by the last name of “Gracie,” began developing a new kind of jiu jitsu (based on the traditional Japanese martial art) for small or weaker people to defend themselves effectively. Many members of the Gracie Family have since dedicated their lives to developing what they — and many others — consider to be the most effective system of self-defense in the world. (You can read more about its interesting history here.) It’s a grappling art — there’s no punching or kicking involved.

B has always been a fan of martial arts; I, on the other hand, haven’t known much about them and shy away from anything that resembles fighting. At the same time, as a petite woman, I’ve often wished I was well-versed in self-defense. I think it’s a great thing for anyone, especially a woman, to know.

I really like the Gracie kids’ program because it’s not so much focused on teaching kids to fight, but on helping them gain the confidence to diffuse situations, learn to be safe, and only defend themselves physically if necessary. Then it teaches them the skills to do that. What I also love is that they spend at least 10 minutes at the beginning of every class talking about character development. Right now, it’s responsibility. My kids have never been better about doing chores without even being asked — a parent’s dream, right?

Besides helping the girls burn off energy and be physically active, it’s giving them more confidence and a sense of accomplishment. They love their teacher and it’s a positive environment and diverse group of kids. Not only that, S and H seem to be naturals. Who knew?

Look out world, there will be two jiu jitsu warrior princesses on the loose before you know it, and you won’t want to mess with them.

Would you ever want your kids to take a martial art, or have they? What about you?

Image: Zoe Saint-Paul 

 

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Pull Up A Chair

May 6, 2016

Erol Ahmed flowers photo

Whew, it was one of those weeks! So many moving parts, and me running to catch up. How does one be a “slow” mama in the midst of days and weeks like this one, which happen so often?

I’m always trying to figure that out, but I think one secret is to be conscious of the present moment as much as possible and in those moments to pause and breathe deeply, be more present to what’s going on, and be grateful. Sure, there are things we could all do to slow our lives down more, and we should consider those things, but the fact is, life is full and busy and some seasons of life are especially this way. Being present to the moment is the only way to live fully in the time we have, no matter what’s going on.

This week, I did manage to get out with a good friend who was in town for the evening. I’m still thinking of the vodka mule I had — vodka plus fresh lime juice and ginger beer. Feel free to grab one and tell me about your week!

And how about your weekend? It’s Mother’s Day — any exciting plans? I know Mother’s Day is not all roses and sunshine for many women, and I get that. Every mother’s day, we bring flowers to a church and place them in front of a statue of Mary, in honor of S and H’s first mother. It’s a way for S and H to do something concrete that acknowledges and celebrates her, and for me to share that day with her in some way and offer a prayer.

In addition to the ways my little family will spoil me, we have a full weekend, including dinner with my brother and his family before they take a trip overseas, and a couple of other events we’re attending. Hope it’s a good one for you, friends, and I’ll see you back here next week!

Image: Erol Ahmed at unsplash

 

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