Of course, if you ask her how old she is, she says, “Cake!”
Caitlin is a sweet and determined little girl. She always knows what she wants and what she doesn’t! It has been so fun watching her learn over this past year: just when I think she might take forever to figure something out, she takes off running (literally. at 13½ months. walking is for chumps). She studies everything around her, speaks in complete sentences, and stands up for herself. She loves hugs and being outside and picture books. She loves shoes and farm animals and helping with chores. Her favorite foods are peanut butter and grapes.
Caitlin loves nothing better than sitting in our laps and reading books, so we threw her a storybook party to celebrate her second year of life!
Ireland is gorgeous, in case you were wondering. Wildflowers are absolutely everywhere, peeking through the cracks in ancient stone walls and clumping along the sides of the roads. There are rock-bordered, green fields for miles, thanks to the soft, misty rain that falls almost every day.
We loved exploring traditional Irish farms and learning about the simplicity and resourcefulness of country life 100 years ago. We loved trying to pronounce the Irish language signs posted all around. We loved that a typical playground in Ireland has ziplines for kids and exercise equipment for parents. We loved the stunning, hazy mountains and cliffs that loomed over the Atlantic ocean. And don’t even get me started on how cool it is to find crumbling stone ruins everywhere you look.
Traveling with two preschoolers was basically the worst, and that’s all I’ll say about that. (Check out my oldest throwing a tantrum instead of looking at the camera. This is literally the best family photo from the whole trip. Just so you get a clear idea. I’m not exaggerating.) But if you are ever going to travel abroad with preschoolers, you should definitely do it in Ireland, because the people there are so kind and understanding and friendly. They actually love kids. And they do not give you irritated, patronizing looks when yours are screaming and losing their minds in public places.
Another great thing about Irish people is that they are unflinchingly generous. For example, when we were staying in Killarney, they served this rhubarb jam with breakfast, and Dave basically ate a pint of it over four days. (He must have genetically inherited his love of rhubarb, because rhubarb desserts were on almost every menu and in every bakery in Ireland. He tried all of them.) When I asked for the recipe, the kind proprietors of the inn immediately wrote down a copy for me!
So here we are. Thank you, Ireland, for your kindness and generosity, and thank you for the rhubarb jam.
I was a ripe 13-year-old when I first took a formal German class. Middle schoolers are delighted by the idea of pretending to be someone they are not, so it probably comes as no surprise that I thoroughly enjoyed picking out a German name to go by. (I’m still a little sad that this tradition is falling by the wayside. P.S., my “German” name was Andrea.)
Before I share the next tidbit from my early German career, let me first apologize to everyone named Günter, and all German women and German people in general. Because, you see, as my equally pimpled friends and I perused the list of German names in our textbooks, we were struck by how funny they sounded. For some reason, our mirth centered on the name Günter, as we pictured a ruddy and rotund, aproned German mother calling for her son out the front door while stirring a very large bowl of dough.
We, unfortunately, spent the rest of the year pretending to stir invisible bowls of dough and giggling.
This image popped back into my head as Sarah and I were wrestling with the bowl of spaetzle dough.
And, by the way: it’s pronounced “sh-paytes-luh.” Don’t let me hear you calling it “spatsl.”
When Dave and I were on our honeymoon, we visited the town of Gruyères. We toured the cheese factory (!) and ate a very winey pot of fondue. Simple and delicious. We went to the castle and admired all of the artwork and the gardens and the ancient armor. And then we wandered down the cobbled streets and decided we needed even more fondue.
Let’s pause to acknowledge the fact that I speak German pretty fluently and French…barely at all. And Gruyères is definitely part of French-speaking Switzerland. Where no one speaks German and very few people speak English.
So. Dave and I found a place to eat, and we were so excited for our dinner! We ordered this interesting-sounding fondue called raclette.
Haha. Guess what? Racler means “to scrape” in French. And raclette turned out to be a block of cheese under a heat lamp, which we scraped off as it melted and spread it on potatoes. (Dave wishes me to inform you that it was a whole bucket full of new potatoes. A bucketful.) After we conferred very awkwardly with our waitress (language barriers are real!), we laughed it off and ate the simplest meal in the history of our relationship together. Not exactly fondue, but definitely an amusing (and, um, expensive) story!
But my take-away? Gruyères is a simple place for real people. Makes sense that the most amazing cheese in the world is best served simply! Like in this easy and delicious Spring tart.
Have I mentioned my obsession with open-face sandwiches?
This broccolini melt is so amazing on so many levels. Not only is it full of bright green goodness, for which your body thanks you, but it is savory and cheesy and garlicky and a little lemony…in short, it is delicious. All delis should throw out their tuna melts and serve this instead.
Have I mentioned to you that my brother is working in Africa for the summer? This has nothing whatsoever to do with gribiche or purple potatoes, except that in his absence, his excellent girlfriend decided to get to know the family better (!).
So last week, she came armed with books to read to Jake and very graciously and happily entertained him while my mom cuddled Caitlin and I made lunch.
I fretted quite a bit over what to serve her: it had to be something simple but interesting (because someone mentioned that I was a good cook…thus knocking PB&J out of the running…), and of course it had to be wheat- and dairy-free for my mom! For days I pondered what to make, hemming and hawing until I thought I would have to serve grocery-store-salad-bar salad, and then I whipped out my copy of Super Natural Every Day and I was saved by the first recipe I saw!
This simple dish of roasted veggies and eggy dressing was delicious! It is a full meal all on the same plate, with protein, carbs, and veggies all mixed together. We basically licked the serving plate clean. I know I will be making this salad again and again.
(And lest you think I am an overachiever for trying a new recipe especially to impress, let me just admit that I served five kinds of random leftovers for dinner, so I am not really earning any A’s for Effort here….)