Showing posts with label family. Show all posts
Showing posts with label family. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Pure Michigan Tradition

August in Northern Michigan is the perfect bookend to summer.  The tradition of gathering at the lake each summer with our extended family was made even more special this summer as Thomas was introduced to the bunch.
Of the many things we enjoy about Northern Michigan, there is a beach close to our family's home that has been the highlight of family memories for decades. I have been taking a picture of James Robert in the same spot every year since he was born; I was so sentimental about taking both boys there for the first year of pictures with two! 

To get a toddler and a baby to look at the camera was challenging, but boy will I treasure these pictures as the first in the series of both of my babies.

As soon as I snapped about 10 photos of the two of them, James Robert bounded down the beach to run in the water and throw rocks. I sat nursing Thomas and took did my best to soak in the memories.

P.S. It's so fun to look back at the other pictures in this series over on our family blog, here,  here

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

A Bunny To Love

Do you remember the first stuffed animal your child was drawn to?  James Robert has two: his angel dear lovie and a stuffed duck that he picked out around 6 months old.  Those two have been his trusty side kicks even as other stuffed animals have made it in the mix.  It’s been so endearing to watch! 

Much to my surprise and delight, Thomas recently showed his first interest in any toy and it is the little stuffed bunny that I picked out for him while in Paris earlier this year.  You never know if a child will react to a toy the way you hope.  So when Thomas has been responding with coos and smiles to this bunny every time I show it to him, I am thrilled.  I can't wait to see how he will grow with it. 

Trousselier makes beautiful children’s toys that are available mostly in Europe. It would be a great baby gift to give and get, except that I can’t find it state side… Maybe it’s the next Sophie?  Something about the French and their baby toys— they just seem to be favorites!

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Morale Boost

One of the surest ways to happily entertain a toddler boy is a trip to the marina to look at boats.  That was James Robert's requested activity on his day off of school this week.  

This was one of the best mornings out with both of the boys I've had so far.  It is hard to get us all out the door and keep them happy in tandem, but I'm working on the assumption that we'll all get better at it the more we practice.  

Getting into a new groove is definitely a work in progress!  But blue sunny skies, puffy summer clouds and a smile like this did wonders for the soul.  I think I needed this morale boost as much as they did. 

It is the type of deliciously ordinary day that feels extraordinary in the context of all of the other things going on. 
If you don't regularly visit Aspiring Kennedy, I highly recommend adding it to your perusal list. I immediately connected with Lauren's sentiment in her recent post about blogging.  Sometimes I miss the days before blogging became so commercial; I fell in love with this platform as a way to connect and catch a glimpse into peoples lives that felt genuine.  
And I'll continue to post as such; sharing tid bits and pretty pictures about normal life that isn't sponsored or part of a series or written with SEO in mind, but perhaps just the morale boost that we all need.  Finding a bit of blue sky and savoring it for the joy it brings your children.  Or the smile that you'll remember long after the baby teeth are gone.  If those things don't deserve a post, then what does?

P.S. Thanks for hanging in there with me as a get back in the swing of posting regularly.  xx

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Blueberry and Lemon Breakfast Cake and Other Spring Happenings

To welcome the official start to spring this past weekend, I made a blueberry and lemon breakfast cake.  The combination of lemon and blueberries just seems to scream springtime!  Even the ingredient's make the kitchen cheery. 

While Canada does it's best to catch up on warmer temps, we've been doing our best to seek out spring in other ways.  A visit to a local tropical greenhouse full of blooming bulbs,  walks by the lake in the cold sunshine and making an Easter tree! 

We've been enjoying the blueberry and lemon breakfast cake all week and since it would also be a perfect addition to an Easter brunch or potluck, I wanted to share the recipe here.

I adapted this recipe from a favorite I found on pinterest ages ago (follow me here) from Alexandra Cooks.    I think buttermilk really is the key ingredient in this recipe; I have used both store bought and made my own and both work beautifully for this cake.

Blueberry and Lemon Breakfast Cake:
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature
zest from 1 large lemon
3/4 cup of sugar + 2 tbs for topping
1 egg, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups of flour (set aside 1/4 cup to toss with blueberries)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups fresh blueberries
1/2 cup of buttermilk (to make homemake check out this link)

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
2) Cream together the butter, sugar and lemon zest until fluffy
3) Add egg and vanilla until well combine
4) In a separate bowl, toss the blueberries with 1/4 cup flour.  Then in another bowl, whisk together the rest of the flour, baking powder and salt
5) Add the flour mixture to the batter a little by little alternating with the buttermilk.  At the end, gently fold in the blueberries
6) Grease a 9" baking pan (I use a glass pie plate) with butter or coconut oil.  Spread batter in the pan and top with additional sugar
7) Bake for 35-45 minutes until toothpick is clean

Monday, March 14, 2016

Love Letter to The South

When I returned to Charlotte earlier this month, I was flooded with an awareness of just how much I love the South.  The years of my life lived below the Mason-Dixon may be relatively few in the grand scheme, but they are impactful.  
My longing for the south began decades before I lived there- it began in my youth, fifth grade to be exact. That’s when on one cold and snowy Midwestern winter, I took part in a unique social studies experiment in which the South won the civil war.  Our class was divided into groups representing the North and South.  The assignment was to research and present social, economic and cultural information that would that would allow us to win points for our side.  
Being assigned to the Southern states, my teacher unwittingly introduced me to a world and a dream that I would chase for years.  
My petite frame heaved the heavy old books off the shelf at the library to liberally dissect southern architecture and culture.  My eyes locked on the sweeping beauty of live oak trees lining a long dirt road to an antebellum house and I felt a longing to travel that I didn’t know existed.  I don’t claim to be the reason for my classroom’s Southern victory, but my superfluous research and enthusiastic extra projects had a big part in tipping the scales to the South’s favour
Fast forward 20 years when Mat and I moved to Charlotte, NC and bought our first home.  A prominent and stately magnolia tree in the front yard was one of my favorite reasons for purchasing the property.  Even today, if I close my eyes and listen really closely, sometimes I can still hear the sound of a rolling train that echoed faintly in the darkened hours of that house where I used to live.  The old fashion sound mingles with my fondest memories of living in the South, where nostalgia is quintessential. I loved that house and the community we were part of.
Our neighbors for 6 years were a couple from Tennessee that used to leave us fresh batches of cocktails and homemade banana pudding on the back porch.  We were the loving recipients of garden-fresh tomatoes and the bounty of their quail hunting.  
It was around their cozy fire place, a requisite bourbon in hand, that I found delight in their honey-dipped words telling decades of stories.  From Clay and Mary Ellen, I discovered the living embodiment of what I now associate with Southern hospitality.  Talking with them is like being covered in a warm blanket.  Luckily, the warmth permeates long after leaving. When we moved away from Charlotte, it was heartbreaking to leave our neighbors. But they infused me with a southern experience so tender that I’m forever grateful. 
Upon our recent return, I learned how much I miss and love the South within hours of our flight touching down.  One of my first stops was back to a favorite local shop, where I had to rest my elbow on the counter as a prop for my chin- as if an involuntary reflex required me to soak in the lilted southern greeting of the sales person.  I didn’t know I missed this auditory cue so badly until rencountered it.
I recognized countless other subtle differences in culture from where we live now.  Colourful clothing is embraced, children are dressed in monograms and seersucker.  Y’all is an ebullient invitation of familiarity. Even the tree-draped, non-flat landscape felt deeply reviving- we snuck away to Charleston for a day and it was as if the palmetto trees and spanish moss shouted “welcome back”.
Within a week of being back in the South, I had more doors opened for me than the previous year of being away- Southern gentlemen of all ages proudly proclaim that civility is alive and well. I had more conversations and well wishes from complete strangers than I had in months.  Salutations hang in the air as if plucked ripely and genuinely.  Ma’am may be unwelcome by some, but I find the term endearing and highly respectful in comparison to an exchange void of any salutation. It’s not that people in Canada aren’t friendly- they are!  But the South provides a special type of cultural warmth, beyond the weather.
The older I get, the more sure I have become that Southern sunshine is my antidote.   I feel called to the South.   It’s a romantic, seducing beaconing, in a way that defies logic.   I can’t pinpoint the reasons why I feel so comforted by azaleas or why the biscuits feel more natural than toast.  I can only do my best to appreciate the joys of this area and be sure to store up the memories until I return.

I think my heart strings will always be pulled to the Southeast.   I’ll always long for the smell of jasmine in a sticky humid summer evening.  I will forever romanticize the old magnolia that stood in our yard bursting into white splendorous blooms. But it’s the intangible that I am most fond of.  It’s the feeling I had long ago, as a fifth grader only dreaming of the sights and sounds I found in a book.  The South may not be everyone’s cup of sweet tea, but it is most certainly mine.  Until next time, I take it with me. 
Charleston Charm
Trucks and fishing for trouble.  
Mary Ellen's Deviled Eggs 
Family and friends that are like family
Green and White in the Southern Sunshine

Friday, December 18, 2015

Friday Favorites: Children's Christmas Books

Some of the best family traditions are the most simple. I waited impatiently until after Thanksgiving to take our collection of Christmas books out of their box.  I may have forgotten to pack all our ornaments (they are all in storage, whoops) but the books made the move! Every year, I so look forward to cozy tales of Christmas and it's so nostalgic to read James Robert some of the books I read as a child.
Christmas Books
Reading holiday books and doing activities based on the stories has really added to the magic of the season. We also look forward to adding a few new favorites to the collection each year and it's a tradition I can't wait to grow with us.

To my surprise, he remembered quite a few books from last year and was equally excited which made this year particularly fun.
In case you're looking to add to your collection this year, I've rounded up some of our very favorites below.  I'd love to know what your family enjoys reading at this time of year- please leave your comment below!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Big Brother

Since last Friday, James Robert has kissed my belly approximately 1000 times.  He wants to talk to the baby, kiss the baby and give the baby pats.  These are all unprompted behaviors--pure instinct of a deeply affectionate little boy. 

For weeks we have been keeping my pregnancy a secret from James Robert.  With hopeful anticipation, we waited until our 12 week ultrasound went well to tell him the happy news.  I wasn’t sure that his two year old brain would soak in the information, but he latched on immediatly and is so proud to tell people that he is going to be a big brother (even strangers are greeted with the jubilant proclamation).

This baby is an answer to so many prayers and watching James Robert be excited about the news had made it that much sweeter. 

As an older sibling, I can appreciate the excitement of welcoming a baby into the family; I also anticipate that there will be intense adjustment for James Robert.   I pray constantly that this transition will be a (mostly) sweet one for him.   And I’m so very conscious to relish the one-on-one time we have now. 

This time around, I am also very aware that this may be my last pregnancy and I want to savor the experience.  I am SO excited to be on this journey and so very thankful for a growing family.  

So, I know, started blogging again, and then have had a hard time posting regularly.  But now that I'm starting to feel better, I hope to be back on track! Stay tuned for what I hope will be some fun pregnancy related posts—because let’s be honest, the 9 month marathon is always more enjoyable when connecting with other moms. 


Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Toronto Christmas Market

Visiting the Toronto Christmas Market was the perfect way to get into the holiday spirit.  We went on a Saturday afternoon, just in time to see the lights go on.  The market was packed with people and so much cheer.
The Christmas market takes place in the city's Distillery District.  It's a fun destination at any time of year, but especially for the holidays.  Walking along the cobblestone alleys admiring all the lights, decorations and holiday shops was particularly memorable.

We enjoyed some excellent sipping chocolate (for me),  some candy canes (James Robert's first-- note the joy on his face) and Mat found a vendor sampling Hendricks hot tea which just may be the perfect way to warm a winter night!   If we were to go back, there are countless other vendors selling food and wares that would be fun to try.  Think gourmet grilled cheese and fresh donut stalls!

James Robert couldn't wait to ride the carousel.  Watching him and Mat go round and round while Christmas music blared, I  looked around and saw that there was a smile plastered on the other onlookers faces that matched my own.   It was a treat to enjoy something so quintessential about the Toronto holidays!
Christmas Market

Friday, November 13, 2015

Family Photos!

We hadn't taken any professional family photos since James Robert was a baby.  To commemorate our time in Canada, we thought it would be special to have some pictures of our family here, at one of our favorite parks, to remember the experience.

It was a cold morning after a very rainy day, so we were thankful to be able to sneak in our shoot. We worked with Jeff and Diane photography, a husband and wife team, who couldn't be more kind. They wrote us a very sweet handwritten note and baked us cookies as a thank you! I couldn't recommend them more if you're in the area.

Between a toddler and a hyper dog, things were chaotic, but Jeff and Diane were miracle workers!  I am so thankful to have these memories captured. 


Monday, October 26, 2015

Teal Pumpkin Project

Teal Pumpkin Project
our front door getting ready for Halloween; this is the sign we will display this year

My father tells the story of one fateful Halloween that he took a bite of a PayDay candy bar and ended up being rushed to the ER- he was allergic to peanuts.  I didn't comprehend the true terror of this story until becoming a mother and learning that James Robert has the same allergy.

This will be the first Halloween that we take him trick-or-treating and I do so with some trepidation. Being an allergy mom means trying to think 10 steps ahead and being prepared as best as possible. That's why I'm thrilled that today, unlike when my father was little, there is more awareness.  In fact, there is a movement to make trick-or-treating more allergy friendly.

This year, our family has pledged to take part in the Teal Pumpkin Project--yours can too!  The food allergy research and education foundation (FARE) created the Teal Pumpkin project as a way to raise awareness of food allergies (not just peanut allergies) and promote inclusion in trick-or-treating.

Whether your child has a food allergy or not, odds are that you know another child who does.  This is the simplest way to make your house friendly for all children who want to go out this weekend and make fun and safe memories.

Our Neighborhood is ready for Halloween!
1) Display a teal pumpkin and/or free printable at your home.
2) Provide non-candy treats (some ideas below)
3) Sign up here  (this is optional)

It's important to note that the idea isn't to take candy out of Halloween, in fact, at our house, we're going to be offering candy and non-food items.  

When choosing candy, I found an assortment that were peanut free.  When children and parents come to the door, we will ask if they have a food allergy and provide choices. I'll be keeping the candy separate from the non food items.
these are some of the food items we will be handing out
What to give:
Kids, especially the little ones, will enjoy non-food items as much as candy.  Here are some of my favorite ideas:
  • stickers
  • temporary tattoos
  • bubbles
  • spider rings
  • novelty toys
  • glow sticks/ bracelets
  • bouncy balls

Where to shop:
I'm planning on hitting up my local dollar store or party supply store.  If you're going to do your shopping on amazon prime, consider using AmazonSmile.  If you click here, your shopping will donate .5% of eligible purchases to the Food Allergy Research & Education charity!

For more information and FAQ's, click here. 

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Hutchinson Farm

Autumn puts on quite a show up here!  The colors have exploded in the past week and despite a cold snap, we endeavored to get out to enjoy them last weekend.  Head 30 minutes west from where we live and you're in beautiful rolling hills. There are numerous farms and pumpkin patches to visit; this year we explored Hutchinson Farm and it was such a treat.

What I loved most about this pumpkin patch was that we had it to ourselves.  It felt quintessentially festive!  We got there at just the right time;  we avoided crowds and the commercial feel.   It was one of those childhood moments that you can just see being etched into his memory.  James Robert ran through the field springing from pumpkin to pumpkin with total glee.

We also loved that Hutchinson Farm had so many varieties of pumpkins. We picked 3 different kinds of pumpkins and have grand plans for all types of pumpkin seed baking (mine with old bay seasoning and his with cinnamon and sugar).  We'll definitely be back next year!