Siblings, Sunsets, & SoCal

How do I get back to SoCal? Seriously, though if I could pack up the family, blink my eyes, and find myself permanently resettled in Southern California my dreams might have come true. First, the people draw us in. My brother, sister-in-law, niece, and nephew spend their sunny, warm days in a truly beautiful setting. These people are the salt of the earth type. If they weren’t already family, I would probably stalk them into a friendship! From the minute our airplane’s wheels touched down, they took great care of us. Being with them, exploring with them, lounging with them, playing with them, and enjoying them made the weekend. Henry had the time of his life with his little cousins and cuddling with his Auntie and Uncle. The goal of the weekend was to share some quality family time and keep those moments out-of-doors. After our brutal New England winter, David and I feel like apocalypse survivors: Are there other humans out there? Is it safe? What is that bright yellow globe in the sky?  From backyard cookouts to long strolls along the water, to watching beachy sunsets, to visiting petting zoos and all things kid friendly, we truly soaked up the best of being with our family and the SoCal weather.

The flights to Cali were long. While we may feel like “seasoned” family travelers this trip still proved we are bit of a novice team not quite ready to win the Amazing Race. Inbound we were focused, playful, and in control of the situation. Henry played, laughed, and overall did well getting over to the West Coast. Interestingly the most well-behaved, adorable little boy sat behind us and let Henry read some of his books and play with some of his toys. It was kind of this weird idyllic co-parenting experience between rows 30 and 31 on that airbus. The way back…not so much. A weather delay followed by a mechanical delay made our flight two and a half hours longer than expected.  H was not a happy camper. Before the wheels lifted on our connection back to Boston, he was DONE. A constant nagging sound emanated from his throat and filled the cabin around us. He could not be distracted nor was he interested in sleeping. Ironically in front of us, a family of 3 also struggled to keep the peace and quiet.  Our kids had decided to make a pact of discontent!  Rows 30 and 31 were the epicenter of every other passenger’s worst nightmare. But, hey we all made it safely home and isn’t that really all the matters in the end?

Enough about the crazy travel. That was a mere blip on the screen of this epic weekend. How all of this happened in one weekend is shocking! Isn’t it crazy how three full and warm days can trick your body and soul into thinking it was on a two week hiatus? After we landed, we were immediately greeted by the many embraces of our family. We settled right in with one another and adventured throughout the afternoon catching good food and glimpses of the beach through the early afternoon. We ended the evening at home in the yard while the kids played and we sipped wine and chatted about all sorts of things. Henry slept like a champion despite the time change and this allowed for all of us to be at our best. We were rested and refreshed for our second day. It started with some great playtime. The California littles were SO good a playing with their baby cousin. They included him in everything, shared with him, and taught him along the way. Watching my child play with my brother’s children was a gift. I could not help but project into future playdates and visits.

On top of all this fun, we also drove down to San Diego to be a part of my dear friend, Sarah’s wedding. Gosh what a beautiful ceremony, cocktail party, and dinner scene! I was not surprised in the least that these nuptials were the most fun and romantic ever! Sarah and Jesse are some of the coolest, most genuine people I know and their wedding was a true testament to their awesomeness. They married in their botanical Garden of Eden backyard and shared their home, good food, and happy chickens with all of their guests. No exaggeration, their vows were some of the most beautiful promises I have ever heard exchanged at a wedding and it was SO fun to be witness to their love. They deserve simply the best!

So what did we learn while on our California dreaming weekend? A lot.

Southern California is a utopia of beautiful people, beautiful weather, beautiful food.

Neighborhoods are manicured resort towns that beg visitors to pitch their tent permanently.

I miss my brother, sister-in-law, and littles SOOOOOOOOOOO much. Seriously, it KILLED my heart to say to goodbye.

Henry is crazy for animals particularly of the petting zoo variety. Let’s just say he tried to lick one too many chickens out there.

Henry & the littles are going to be fast friends while growing up and I cannot wait to watch it!

My bro and sis-in-law are really cool people, whom I love as family and friend.

Cheeseburgers, fries, and special sauce are all you need to eat every day.

There is nothing wrong with 3 or 4 cups of coffee in one day when shared among good company.

Projecting movies and watching them 4-across in bed is a hilarious way to spend time together #bestideaever

I am obsessed with Costco fig bars…must get Costco membership stat!

Henry is a wild man at weddings, tearing off clothes & dancing, waving, and shouting at guests. He will inevitability be a wedding crasher we presume.

You can never have enough Disney princesses or clip-on earrings or dresses.

Savor every second because these visits are short and truly are the very best of times.

the funny thing about STTN

Every parent waits for the day that the baby sleeps through the night. And I have to admit there were so many times in the wee hours of the morning while I nursed Henry and my head bobbed and weaved from sleep that I would have given anything for one perfect night of uninterrupted sleep. My fantasies since motherhood have all included this dream of perfect sleep. There I am in my pajamas pulling back the covers, getting in under the snugly sheets, closing my eyes, and the next frame of this fantasy is me waking up on my own with just a hint of sunlight streaming in on my face! AH! The beauty of a full night of sleep was tantalizing and taunting. I knew what it was. I had been to that promised land of sleep prior to the days of Henry. Would I ever get there again? The days of motherhood are very short but the nights can be so long. Really I should not complain, Henry has been a very good sleeper for a baby. For the first four months of his life, he was capable of stretches of 2, 3, 4, and sometimes even 5 hours of sleep. Technically 5 hours of sleep is sleeping through the night. But from 6PM-11PM wasn’t ideal for my sleeping. Then there was the dark time of unswaddling that left us with 2 hour stretches on a good night. This was a temporary blip and we settled into a nice pattern of sleep for the next few months of bedtime at 6:30PM, a nursing snack at 10PM and then again 4AM and a wake up around 6:30AM. This was sustainable and pleasant and even though I still pined for my uninterrupted night, this was doable. At 9 months on the dot the 10PM feeding faded away. Left with only my 4AM wake-up, I was sleep drunk most mornings and started to panic. Oh no, what will I do when Henry no longer nurses at night? Despite the “hardship” of waking up, once I am in his nursery, settled into our glider, holding my baby in my arms, and caressing his face while he nurses, I am on the moon. The sweetness nourishes me and I feel more like a mother in this moment then in any other of the day. I was not ready to lose this. But I was not the one to decide. Henry is now (fingers crossed) sleeping through the night entirely. From 7PM to 7AM, his rest in undisturbed. And don’t get me wrong, it is amazing to sleep. I love being reacquainted with my bed, sheets, and slumber. But, but, but I miss our quiet moments at night, our little snuggles that belonged only to us. I miss this part of mommyhood at the same time that I am ready for the next phase.  Sleeping through the night (STTN) is beautiful but it also means Henry is growing up and there is no stopping that!

the great pancake challenge: complete


It did not take long. Following our trip to Amsterdam, David took a hold of the great pancake challenge and decided that maybe our problem was the provenance of our pancake. Our attempts at the traditional, American pancake were mediocre at best. Regardless of the TLC we applied at the stove, they always turned out uninspired. Then the Dutch pancake, or pannekoeken, entered our lives! Holy moly is this a delicious pancake. It is reminiscent of a French crepe but its crispy sweetness is entirely its own. From the first batch, David had me hooked. Fluffy delightfulness is the best way to describe these pancakes. I have begged him at times to whip up a batch after dinner for “dessert.” Thankfully he is equally addicted to these treats. And unlike the American pancake, these can more readily adopt a sweet or savory variety. While I enjoy mine topped with homemade whipped cream and sliced strawberries, David has topped his with slices of cheddar cheese and caramelized ham. Either sweet or savory, these are undeniably our great pancake champions! That’s right when we make pancakes here, we make the pannekoeken.

Ingredients for 4 pancakes:

250 g flour

500 ml milk

2 eggs

pinch of salt

a few vanilla bean seeds

Mix together. Heat a skillet on medium heat, melt a 1/2 tablespoon of butter, pour batter until it coats the bottom of the skillet. Allow to cook for 2 minutes or until edges appear crisp, flip and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Plate, top with your favorite add-ons, and enjoy!

the

beef and noodle stir fry

What!?!?! Two recipes one day, the madness!  Clearly, we are a bit backlogged here. As previously noted, life has been a bit hectic here. “Work-Life Balance” is a difficult one to strike but I finally feel like I am not just treading water and keeping my head afloat. There is actually 5 minutes today in which I am not racing and can sit momentarily to post this. The promise-land is on the horizon! Summer vacation seems tangible and a much needed break from the race is just a little bit further! It is a good thing I love all parts of this hectic time despite the frenzy and maybe because of it. Anyway….here is a recent favorite!

Ingredients

  • 10 Ounces Chuck Tender Beef, thinly sliced
  • Broccoli, chopped
  • 3 Scallions, chopped
  • 2 Cloves Garlic, diced
  • Sesame Oil
  • 2 Teaspoons Light Brown Sugar
  • Piece Ginger, diced
  • 1 Carrot, diced
  • Chili Flakes
  •  Vermicelli Noodles
  •  Soy Sauce

Thinly slice the beef against the grain and place in a bowl with the brown sugar, sesame oil and as much of the chili flakes as you like. Bring a pot of water to boil. Once the water is boiling, add the vermicelli and cook 6 to 8 minutes, or until tender. Drain thoroughly and rinse under cold water. Heat a pan with 1 tablespoon of oil. Add the marinated beef and season with salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, 2 to 3 minutes, or until just cooked through. dd the carrot and broccoli and season with salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, 2 to 4 minutes, or until slightly softened. Add the garlic, ginger and white parts of the scallions. Cook 1 to 2 minutes, or until slightly softened and fragrant. Add the rinsed noodles to the pan and as much soy sauce as you like. Garnish with scallions and enjoy!

chicken and sausage jambalaya

I just realized that I have not posted a recipe in a LONG time. Don’t worry I promise we are eating: well and often! It has just been such a busy time of year. The snow is melting, my seniors students are preparing to leave campus, and life is getting in the way of life. Recently though we had a delicious jambalaya. It was a super simple recipe, very flavorful, and easy to throw together. Even Henry enjoyed it but there was a little to much of a “kick” to it for him. Perhaps is a few more months. For those of you not afraid of a little spice, try it!

Ingredients:

  • 10 Ounces Chopped Chicken Thighs
  • 8 Ounces Andouille-Style Chicken Sausage
  • 2 Cups Pearled Barley
  • 1 15-Ounce Can Diced Tomatoes
  • 3 Cloves Garlic
  • 3 Scallions
  • 2 Stalks Celery
  • 1 Red Bell Pepper
  • 1 Yellow Onion
  • To taste (I am heavy handed!) Smoked Paprika, Ground Yellow Mustard, Dried Onion Powder, Garlic Powder, Dried Oregano, Dried Thyme & Cayenne Pepper

In a large pan, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil on medium-high until hot. Add the sausage and cook, stirring occasionally and breaking the meat apart with a spoon, 2 to 4 minutes, or until browned. Add the chicken and spices and cook thoroughly. Add the garlic, white bottoms of the scallions, celery, bell pepper, onion and as much of the remaining spice blend as you’d like, depending on how spicy you’d like the dish to be. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, 3 to 5 minutes, or until the vegetables have softened. Add the barley, diced tomatoes, cooked sausage and chicken and 6 cups of water; season with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and cook 23 to 26 minutes, or until the barley is tender. Garnish with the green tops of the scallions and enjoy!