Friday, June 29, 2012

On Building a Home

I think often about how to build the perfect home for my daughters to grow in. I want it to be a mixture of beautiful and baby friendly. Beautiful, because I love to be surrounded by pretty things. And I think everyone enjoys that. And baby friendly, because (a) I don't want to rip my hair out with worry that someone or something is going to get hurt and (b) I want my children to know that they were cherished and of primary importance. In other words, I never want my children to think I cared about something more than I cared about them.

What does this mean? It means we do not have white couches. Even though I think they look cool, I wanted to have couches that could be spilled on occasionally (and they have been). It means all our bookshelves and dressers are securely bolted to the walls (earthquake-proof style) to prevent them from toppling over on babies. And it means all our built-in shelves are filled with things they can mess with. Nothing is going to break or really hurt them in any way. This allows me to let them play, read, explore and adventure without constantly worrying. It lets them have control of their environment, instead of the other way around.
Gabrielle of Design Mom said in an interview about how she designs her home for her children:

"Where your babies begin is where their dreams do, too. A well-designed and carefully-edited space is the fresh piece of paper on which big dreams can be drawn."

As my children grow I hope to incorporate this idea even more. I want to provide them with a clean, beautiful place to call home. One that encourages them to dream and become whoever they are going to be.

And speaking of fresh slates for building dreams on, Regina Sirois said in an interview about her home:

"I tell my children that the more things we have, the less we love our things."

I like this idea of living clutter-free. I can't stand clutter, as you may know from my banishment projects. I'd like to keep it from accumulating over time by keeping this in mind. More things = less things to love. (Plus, you have to spend so much extra time cleaning up the things you don't even like that much.)

And in the meantime, I need to get better about putting art on the walls. That would be a good thing to do.

What about you? Why do you think is the most important aspect of building a home?

Prairie Home by Katie Daisy.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The One With My Favorite Summer Sandwich

Just thought I'd pop in to tell you I'm a big fan of sandwiches. They're so tasty. So easy. And so summery. Seriously... I love delis because of their sandwiches. And their cookies. Cookies are good, too.

But back to sandwiches. My sister and I had an a-mazing sandwich from Bridge City Cafe a few days ago, and it was so good we had to replicate it ourselves. You should, too. You'll be happy you did.
Favorite Summer Sandwich
Serves 1
  • Artisan Bread (I like sourdough)
  • Mayonaise
  • Pesto
  • 1/6 pound sliced deli turkey
  • 1/2 cucumber
  • Roma tomato
  • 1 leaf romaine lettuce
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
Begin with spreading a little mayonaise and pesto on both slices of your bread. Peel the cucumber and slice it lengthwise. Slice the tomato as well. Layer the lettuce, cucumber and tomato on your bread, topping with turkey and sprinkling with salt and pepper.

Enjoy with a tall glass of lemonade. It is summer, after all (or at least it's trying to be)!

P.S. The original Turkey Bacon sandwich from Bridge City Cafe had bacon, obviously. We were too lazy to have some of our own, but it was good. So if you like bacon, feel free to add some of that as well.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Friday, June 22, 2012

On Being Remembered

Design Mom posts a lot of interesting discussions that I enjoy reading and thinking about. One such discussion a few weeks ago was about being remembered. She asked:

If you could be remembered for just one thing, what would you hope that one thing would be?

The thing I would most like to be remembered for is being generous. Not generous in the sense of money or possessions, but in the sense of being very thoughtful and considerate in order to give someone what they need at the moment. Maybe that's dropping off dinner or just listening to someone talk about something that's bothering them. Perhaps it's rearranging my schedule to accommodate someone else's. Doing the dishes for whoever cooked the meal. Sending a gift or a card when someone is having a bad day. Generosity isn't just about physical things, but it is also about time, friendship, service.

I want to be generous because I feel so blessed to have had many generous people in my own life. Even now, I regularly benefit from my friends accommodating the fact that I have kids - and so we do things that are kid friendly, even if non-kid friendly activities might be more fun. Or recently a friend vaccumed out my car (which I've been complaining about forever) when she borrowed it. Little things like this mean the world to me, and I want to be the person who is able to give those kinds of things back.

The main skill necessary for this life goal is listening.  So I'm practicing my listening. And then taking the opportunity to give when it arises.

What about you? What would you want to be remembered for?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The One With the Summer Vacation

Hello all!
I will be very sporadic about posting for the next few weeks. I'm leaving tomorrow to go to Idaho to see my sister for her (21st!) birthday and then I'll be bringing back another sister and my brother to spend the week with us. The following week we'll be headed to southern Idaho to spend the 4th with my grandparents on Cascade Lake. It will be simply marvelous and I'm so excited. But, I won't be posting too much.

Except that I've laid out a few "Musings" to throw at you over the next little bit. And maybe some references to other cool things I've seen around blog land.

Don't forget about me, though! I won't forget about you!

xo, Michelle

Monday, June 18, 2012

The One With Sweet Genevieve

This little lady is a sweet little bundle of joy. I was thrilled to take her newborn portraits. She was just a little snuggle bug the whole time.
I've thought long and hard about how to capture newborn portraits. They are so important, and the newborn-ness just fades away so quickly. I read somewhere a photographer talking about capturing the things that are what you want to remember about the newborn phase. Sure, putting them in a tiny little bowl to show how small they are is fun. Or dressing them up in gigantic bows is cool, too.

But what is really great about newborn babies, I think, is the insta-curl. How they just curl themselves up into a little ball to be warm and cozy. And their wary, one-eyed looks around at the world for a second before they close their eyes and go back to sleep. And the way they don't quite know what to do with their limbs, so they just get stuck in odd positions sometimes. And their heads. Their glorious, clean smelling, teensy little heads.

And in Genevieve's case, those amazing lips. I could just die over those lips. They are the best ever. Very fitting for a girl named Genevieve.

Friday, June 15, 2012

The One WIth Liam's First Year Photo Shoot

This little kiddo, my nephew Liam, is such fun. He's grown quite a bit since last year. He's such a baby. And such a boy. And by that, I mean that he has perfected baby things. Like leg rolls. And giddy smiles. And enthusiasm for regular things. And eating sticks. Especially eating sticks.

He's such a little cutie pie.
His big brother Cyril also wanted some camera time. He was being such a ham. 
And Cyril and Ellie found a wagon and pulled it all around in the mud. Why? Because that's what kids do best. See the thing adults wouldn't do and do it all-out for no reason.
We kept trying to take pictures outside when it wasn't raining, but as luck would have it, it started raining just about the second we got outside. Fortunately the babies were all troopers and did pretty well getting muddy and rained on. And Emily was pretty awesome and carried that chair out in the mud (and then back in the rain). It was a fun day. 

On Inspiration

You know something? Sometimes I feel incredibly shallow writing this blog. Like I'm just another girl out there striving to have something of mine be repinned 1,000 times on Pinterest. Or set a world record for comments on a blog post. (Have no qualms, I'm not anywhere close to any of these things.) And then I come the parenthetical realization and worry that I'm not important at all and so, why bother? (Getting a little cynical... hang tight! I'm going somewhere here!)

So I sit back and think for a bit about why I'm writing this blog at all. It started as a fun way to categorize projects. It has morphed into mostly a recipe compiler and a (partial) journal of our lives. It keeps me busy, and looking for newness. New recipes to try, new photo techniques to experiment with, new things to teach and learn. And this is perhaps why I stick with it. I like to be challenged. I want to feel like I've done something at the end of the day. I'd like to look back in five years and have a small memento of my time as a stay-at-home-mommy and feel somewhat accomplished. Watching kids grow is a slow process, and I like to have a little daily thing I can set goals toward and accomplish.

But more than that, I'd like to have something to give my children. Maybe for graduation I could have this printed and bound and say, "Here are all the recipes we made when you were growing up. I know you'll want some of them. And here are my memories and thoughts of your childhood and how much you meant to me." I'd like to say that I worked on something a little bit everyday in hopes that I would have something to pass on.

And then I think that these aren't the only things I want to pass on. I don't just want my girls to think I was a great cook or maker of desserts. (Because, let's face it, I'm probably only fair at either of those things. Well, I do make some pretty awesome desserts. But that's just because I've stumbled upon great recipes. And they usually involve chocolate. You just can't go wrong with chocolate.) I do want them to look back and think that I loved them almost to the point of bursting. That I enjoyed every little quirk and silly thing they did. That we had good days and bad days and I wouldn't trade that for anything in the world. That I thought long and hard about how to mother them. About how to love them. About how to demonstrate my love. About how to teach them. And how to let them be whoever they were going to be. About how to instill for them a love for life, in it's newness, it's mundaneness, it's everything. (No, mundaneness is not a word. I'm channeling a little GWB here.)

These thoughts lead me to think of the amazing women I have had the great fortune of knowing throughout my life. Women who have inspired me. Who have taught me. Who have laughed and cried with me. Who have vented with me and advised me and listened to me. I want to be like them. I want to be a good friend. A good listener. Someone who opens others up to all the possibillities of this life.

Until now, I have shied away from writing anything beyond recipes and personal memories because I don't want to sound preachy. I don't want to sound like I have it all figured out and you should take everything I say to be pure genius. So, I'm not going to write about things like that. I know I'm opinionated and I can get over-zealous about certain things. But I also believe that everyone has a story. And the best way we can live is with a respect for that story. It's similarities. It's differences. It's flaws and perfections, hopes and dreams.

This is just my way of saying that I'm introducing a new category here. I think I'll call it Musings. Because that's all it is. Musings on life. Thoughts for myself and how I want to live. Thoughts for my children and my hopes for them. Quotes from great books. Thoughts from other people who inspire me to be a better woman, a better wife, a better friend, a better mother. A better human being.

To end this first musing, I'd like to share a quote from Jonathan Safran Foer's Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. It's a beautiful book. You should read it.

"I probably fell asleep, but I don't remember. I cried so much that everything blurred into everything else. At some point she was carrying me to my room. Then I was in bed. She was looking over me. I don't believe in God, but I believe that things are extremely complicated, and her looking over me was as complicated as anything could ever be. But it was also incredibly simple. In my only life, she was my mom, and I was her son.

I told her, 'It's OK if you fall in love again.'"

I do believe in God, and I believe that's part of the beauty of the complication. But what struck me about this quote is the almost last part, "... it was also incredibly simple. In my only life, she was my mom, and I was her son."

In the end, that's what it boils down to. I've got only this one life. There are things I can change and things I can't. But if this is my only life, I want to live well. I want to be well.  (I'm talking ser not estar, for any of you Spanish speakers out there. English doesn't always have enough words.)

Steve and I are always having the conversation, "How do we want to live? Are we living that way? If not, why not? What's stopping us?"

This is just a little musing on those questions. And a few thoughts on how to be the person I want to be.

Image via

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The One With the Homemade Pizza Dough

Sometimes, even after I post a recipe, I decide that it needs to be improved upon. Or as I make it a couple more times I make adjustments that prove to be worthwhile. Normally, I just edit the original post. But this one seemed like it deserved a re-post.

In the original post, Mama Style Homemade Pizza, I used pre-made Pillsbury Pizza Dough. Although it is extremely convenient if you don't have a Kitchen Aid with a dough hook or a bread maker, it is also a bit difficult to work with and pricey. So when I got my Kitchen Aid, I was crazy excited to make my own dough. (And when I say "crazy excited," really, you have no idea. I literally mean "crazy.")

Anyway, I found this incredibly easy recipe for homemade pizza dough. It's much more maneagable and just about free considering everything it requires is likely in your cupboard. If you like making pizza or bread a lot, I would recommend buying jars instead of packets of yeast. It's much more cost effective.

And because I've also perfected the pizza toppings, I'll give you the updated recipe for that, too. Make away!
Homemade Pizza
(Makes one medium pizza / 4 servings)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Dough from Scratch
  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast (or one 1/4 ounce packet)
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
In a small bowl, sprinkle the yeast on top of the warm water. Set aside for ten minutes, until foamy.
Using a dough hook (or a bread maker, according to manufacturer's directions), combine water/yeast mixture with flour, olive oil, salt and sugar. Stir to thoroughly combine. Set aside to rise for 30 minutes, until doubled in size.

Meanwhile, prepare your pizza toppings

  • 1/3 - 1/2 pound Mozzarella cheese, sliced
  • 1 1/2 (14 ounce) cans petite diced tomatoes
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • Pepperoni, sliced
  • 1/2 Tablespoon basil
  • 1/2 Tablespoon oregano
  • Olives, diced
  • Parmesan cheese, shredded
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
Once your dough is ready, pour a small amount of olive oil into your palm and rub it all over your clean hands. This will make the dough easier to handle. Mound your dough into a ball and drop it onto your prepared pizza pan or stone (some require oil, some corn starch, etc.). Work the dough out into a pizza shape, using the heel of your hand to make it as flat and thin as possible. Once you have a circle, use your fingers to roll a crust.

Starting on the outside and working your way towards the center of the dough, arrange your Mozzarella cheese in a tile-like placement until the dough is covered. Drain the tomatoes and then sprinkle them on top. Sprinkle the minced garlic evenly over the tomatoes. Arrange the pepperonis in a circular fashion. Sprinkle the basil and oregano over the pepporoni. Top with olives and Parmesan cheese. Finally, drizzle with olive oil.

Place in preheated oven and cook for about 20-25 minutes, until cheese is melted and crust is golden brown. You can even use a spatula to lift the pizza slightly and check the underside for done-ness.

Allow to cool for a few minutes, slice up and serve. :-) Maybe you should make some root beer floats featuring Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Ice Cream for you dessert...

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The One With the Instagram Weekend Recap

Sorry it's been a little quiet here over the past few days. We've had a busy week full of photoshoots and adventures. Pretty soon I'll be able to share some pictures with you, but for now, an instagram recap of our weekend.

It began Friday when we went to Steve's hometown to take pictures of my nephew, Liam. He'll be turning one soon, so we had a photoshoot for his birthday party invitations. I also dropped Ellie and Olivia off at their grandparents for the weekend. I was sad to leave them, but it was nice to have some hubby time where we could literally do anything we wanted. We ate in peace, went to a late movie, walked around in the rain.

Saturday morning we left to go camping with our friends, Jon and Katy, at South Beach near Newport, Oregon. It was perfectly lovely weather and we built a bonfire on the beach and everything. It would have been perfect if we hadn't left the chocolate in the cooler and ended up s'more-less.

On our way out of town on Sunday we went to the Oregon Coast Museum. It was pretty cool. Did you know that sea otters are the only sea mammals that don't have a thick layer of blubber (like whales and sea lions)? Instead, they have an incredibly thick coat of fur. They have about 1 million hairs per square inch. Humans, by comparison, have about 100,000 hairs over their entire bodies. Sea lions spend about a third of their lives grooming their coats to keep them in top shape. So there's your fun fact of the day.

Perhaps the best part of the weekend was when we finally got back to the girls. Ellie ran up saying, "Yay! Mommy! Mommy! Yay! Yay!" It made me feel very loved and missed.

And on Monday I did a newborn portrait session of baby Genevieve. She's the sweetest ever. I can't wait to show you the pictures!
How was your weekend?

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Speechless Sunday

We've been camping this weekend with friends. Just me and Steve. No babies. It's been fun. Not maybe quite as cute as the above, but very fun indeed. But now I'm ready to get my babies back for a fun week of playdates. Tomorrow we're going to see baby Genevieve again and take some pictures. I can't wait to show them to you!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The One With Baby Genevieve

My dear friend Betsy gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, Genevieve, last week. She was gracious enough to let me come visit them in the hospital and snap a few photos.

Genevieve is one lucky girl. Not only does she have a beautiful name, but she's also very genetically fortunate, and she has a wonderful family, too (her big brother Jake is Ellie's BFF). Next week I'll be taking some newborn portraits of her. I'm so excited! She's just the cutest, sweetest thing.

O yes. Everything is right in the world when there are newborn babies to snuggle.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The One With the Pistachio Ice Cream

I've been at it again. Trying out new crazy things with my ice cream maker. Maybe someday I'll create the newest flavor for Salt and Straw.

It came to me in the middle of the night last night that it might be fun to try making a pistachio ice cream using pistachio flavored pudding mix. I figured it couldn't hurt to try and I really like the result.
Pistachio Ice Cream
(Makes 1 quart)
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 2 cups half and half
  • 2 (4.5 oz) packages of pistachio flavored pudding mix (I used Jell-O)
  • Chocolate chips, for garnish
Pour the whipping cream and half and half into your ice cream maker. Add the pistachio pudding mix and begin to freeze/stir immediately. Mix in your ice cream maker according to manufacturer's directions for 15-20 minutes.

Add chocolate chips for garnish when you are ready to serve.

One thing I like about this is that the jello actually give the ice cream a slightly different texture than regular ice cream. I thought maybe this gelatinous quality made it like gelato, but it turns out gelato has no cream or gelatin in it, so it's really just a twist on regular ice cream. Nonetheless, the gelatin helps the ice cream to set up (so you can omit the eggs necessary in many ice cream recipes), making this is a really easy and simple, so I'm happy.

I think this would be just delicious served in some pretzel crust bowls. If I had any pretzels or didn't hate going grocery shopping I would have made some. Maybe next time...

Check out my "Linked and Featured" tab to see where I linked this recipe up!

Monday, June 4, 2012

The One With the Pancakes and Nectarine Syrup

I've been a little wordy lately, so I'm going to cut to the chase. This is really simple and really good. You should try it. Especially if you've got some nectarines that are on their last leg. Just grill up some pancakes and drizzle them with this and some freshly whipped cream and you're good to go.
Nectarine Syrup
  • Nectarines (I used two and it served 4)
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons of sugar per nectarine
Remove pit and dice nectarines medium. In blender, puree nectarines and add sugar. Blend for several minutes, until completely liquid.
My nectarines were past ripe, so they made a great syrup very easily. If you are using fresher nectarines, you may need to heat your puree in the microwave for 1-2 minutes to help it break down.

Freshly Whipped Cream
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup sugar
Whip your whipping cream on high until it begins to stiffen. Add sugar. Continue to whip until stiff peaks form when you remove your beaters.
This is such a yummy twist on breakfast. It tastes so summery and fresh.  Even Ellie devoured it. And she's my toughest critic.
Check out my "Linked and Featured" tab to see where I linked this recipe up! 

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Speechless Sunday

Don't worry. I'm not. There's very little sunshine around even threatening to spoil the rain. 

Friday, June 1, 2012

The One With the Things I Love About Olivia (15 months)

Today little Livvy Bug is 15 months old. Can you believe it? And she is just the sweetest thing. She is walking all the time now. And always an adventurer. She loves to try new foods and attempt new tasks. If you show her how to do something she pays close attention and then mimics you very well.

And there are so many other things she's doing that I love. Shall I count them all?
1. I love that she is obsessed with tiny things. She's always bringing me tiny pieces of lint or whatever has fallen on the floor. "Here go!" she says. And she will not do anything else until you have taken her gracious gift.

2. I love that she loves to make sure everything is left undone. As soon as I fold a basket of laundry she scooches right over and hurriedly rips everything out of the basket, flaying it as far as she can, which, due to the smallness of her arms, is just a pile that completes surrounds her.

3. I love that she is also surprisingly fastidious. Whenever the baby locks on the cupboards are undone, even if they've only been undone for about 5 seconds (i.e. I'm currently getting something out of the cupboard), she comes right on over and tries to put the lock back together. She needs everything to be in it's place. 

4. I love her "uh oh"s when she's found something she's not supposed to. And "woah" every time she teeters a little bit and gets close to falling.

5. I love that she is "The Tank". She eats so much. Yet she is invariably teensy tiny. I don't know how she does it. She eats Ellie under the table at every meal.

6. I love that she makes yummy noises while consuming these vast amounts of food. She's always saying, "Mmmm..."
7. I'm not sure I love it... but she's already learned the word, "Mine!" I guess that's what big sisters are for. Teaching you the important things in life.

8. I love that whenever she wants anything, food or otherwise, she calls out with a wide open "AAAHHH!" And if you don't give her what she wants, you'll be in for a fit.

9. I love that she is learning Twinkle Twinkle Little Star from her sister. Whenever Ellie starts singing she chimes in with 5 or 6 notes, usually on "Up above the world so high" but just "bap bap bap bap bap bap bah." Sometimes I hear her trying to work it out in her crib when she's supposed to be sleeping.

10. I love that she gets in snuggly moods. Normally she's just going non-stop. But every once in a while she'll come and want to be picked up and then she'll just recline into your arms, stick her fingers in her mouth and hang out for a while. I take the opportunity to squeeze her little feet before they get too big and smell her baby smell and wish I could spend forever right there.

11. But mostly I love her wide-open-mouth kisses. All you have to do is say, "Can I have..." and she'll interrupt you with a slobbery wet one right on the mouth.
Yep. She's pretty much the greatest ever.
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