Storybook Birthday Party

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One month ago, my darling baby Caitlin turned 2!

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!

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A Little Soul Searching

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photo © Natalie Zhou of Nana Floral

You may have noticed that there have been six months of silence around these parts.

I took a vacation.

I needed a break from self-imposed deadlines, from taking more pictures of plates than of gap-toothed smiles, from the chore of writing about everything I cook and never cooking the same thing more than twice.

The truth is, blogging is quite a lot of work. That’s why most people who do it successfully consider it to be their job! I do not really consider myself “successful” at this “job” because I have another career that is pretty consuming: mom-ing. In order to live up to that calling well, I have long sacrificed large parts of the blogger job description, parts like posting on social media and following friends faithfully in order to grow my audience here.

But last Fall, I realized that I wasn’t doing my mom job particularly well, either. Every time I sat down to do something on my computer, my scope of attention shrank to a small, glowing rectangle 12” from my face, and my patience with children’s shenanigans and demands disappeared entirely.

Around that time, I started asking myself some hard questions. Questions like: why have I been spending so much time thinking about food, trying new dishes, and taking pictures of everything I eat? Why do I like writing about food? What do I hope to offer or gain by doing this? Is writing a food blog the best use of my time as a mother of two preschoolers (and do I even enjoy it)?

The truth is, I found myself longing for the freedom to throw myself into other projects and ignore what’s for dinner.

IMG_7766I needed to simplify. I needed to find a lighter balance. I needed to blink and look away from Pinterest, Facebook, Tastespotting, and everything else. I needed to spend time with my gap-toothed smilers. You know. The ones who absolutely refuse to stand still next to each other for a two-second photo. #alwaysblurry

I spent a lot of time worrying about whether I should take a break from blogging, even though I knew I really needed to reorganize my priorities. But while I was fretting, before I knew it, a month had passed. And then two.

And I have to tell you, what started as a break from having my attention constantly divided turned into so much more.

Spoiler (in case you haven’t figured this out yet…): This is definitely a long-winded, reflective post. And there will not be a recipe at the end. I am so glad to have someplace to collect my thoughts, but I will not be offended if you decide to abandon this post, and just wait to see if it takes me another six months to show up again.

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Candyland Birthday Party

Jake and Cake

My crazy little man is 4 years old!

Jake definitely gave me a run for my money this year. He is rambunctious and giddy and willful and very invested in understanding every single thing.

This year we celebrated Jake’s birthday in the most fitting way I could imagine: with a mountain of candy and a giant board game. Jake’s sweet tooth rivals mine, and he has spent the last year in a quest to become a board game geek like his daddy. (It should be noted here that his favorite game is called Just Desserts, which is a game where you feed pretend customers all their favorite sugary treats, and that when we play Candyland, he cherishes the pink dessert cards so much that I have a hard time convincing him to keep them in the stack.)

Happy fourth birthday, Jake! I can’t believe how big you are, and I can’t wait to see how you grow over the next year!

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First Birthday Bubble Bash

Caitlin's Cake

Somehow a whole year has flown by, and my baby girl turned 1!

In some ways, it doesn’t even seem real: she still has no teeth and she’s not walking on her own quite yet. Although she loves to enthusiastically yell, “Hi!” on the phone, she still seems to think blowing raspberries is the best form of communication. She’s still my baby—she can’t possibly be a whole year old!

Caitlin has a smile that lights up her whole face. She throws back her head when she grins, and it’s like her entire body quivers with joy. She loves her brother, she loves to explore, she loves hugs, she loves books and ripping paper (not the best combination), and she loves to put every small thing into her mouth. She certainly keeps us on our toes, and we are so glad to know her!

Bubble SmilesFor Caitlin’s first birthday, we threw a bubble bash. I bought bubble machines and wands and set out a bunch of food and we invited friends and family to come celebrate!

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“Should I Share My Ice Cream?” Party

Jake Licks Batter

My son is smart and wily and creative. He is thoughtful and determined and energetic.

And he is 3 years old!

It's My Birthday!This year for Jake’s birthday, I really wanted to keep it simple. I wanted to spend less time worrying and preparing, and more time marveling at how my tiny baby turned into this enormous, articulate preschooler, a little boy with a strong will and a contagious smile!

Jake never hesitates when you ask him what his favorite foods are: ice cream and pizza. (Clearly I have been teaching him everything I know…) So this year we decided to have an ice cream party to celebrate what an awesome kid Jake is!

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Baby Caitlin

Baby Caitlin

Life has just gotten more beautiful!

Our new little daughter, Caitlin, is such a charmer. She is definitely keeping us on our toes, but every time she flashes that ear-to-ear smile (yes, I know it’s a reflex, but it’s just so cute!) she melts our hearts.

Life as a family of four has been very sweet so far! We feel so blessed as we get to know our newest little one!

Happy Family

How to Bake with a Toddler: Red Velvet Crinkle Cookies

Red Velvet Crinkle Cookies

Before Jake was born, several of my well-meaning friends told me to say goodbye to homemade cookies and from-scratch dinners. Wish my kitchen well and move on.

I both scoffed and worried about that advice. Was it really true that I wouldn’t be able to spend time cooking and baking the way I really like to?

While it’s certainly true that having a kid turned my world upside-down, I have discovered that we can do almost anything together if I am patient. Including baking!

Here’s the thing: baking/cooking together is not only a great way to build culinary confidence into a toddler, and a great way to make a fun activity out of something you were going to do anyway, but it also has a lot of developmental benefits for a little tyke! From early math (let’s count the eggs as we add them to the bowl!) to dumping in the ingredients into the bowl, baking is full of magical learning for little kids. (And guess what, folks!? Toddlers are super capable! I even let Jake help me make this wedding cake I’ve been going on and on about, and it turned out just grand.)

This Christmas season, during a time when family and togetherness are at the forefront of everyone’s minds, I thought I would share with you a few tips that may encourage you to spend time in the kitchen with even your littlest ones. Jake and I have been baking together since he was old enough to stand on his own—he can’t wait to help or watch with even the most mundane kitchen tasks, like making coffee! And it is my sincere hope that he will grow into a confident chef as we continue to cook together!

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