February 27, 2013

Pick Up Sticks

When I learned that we were having a boy *the first time around... we still have a week before we find out about the new little one!*, I got warning after warning that I was in for a shock. They're wild, they hang off things and jump without checking for a place to land. They're full of crazy energy and it will be exhausting. Little Smith is not that boy. Yes, he loves balls and anything with wheels, he runs in circles begging to be chased and can throw further than I can... but he's meticulous, careful, cautious, and more sensitive to his environment than most of his playmates, girls included. 

This temperament comes with its own challenges; trying to pry him off me and get him to explore a new place on his own, calming crazy fits when his projects are interrupted or he can't have something 'just so'. There are also perks though, I don't know another two year old who (in the right mood!) can entertain himself as happily. He spends long stretches of time focused on a task or reading a stack of books to himself. If I set him up with a project, I can often count on an hour of quiet time, of course interrupted with various questions and announcements. There are rough weeks, when he wasn't feeling well for example, when this won't work at all. I'll think that maybe the stage has passed, but then he goes right back to his old habits. I'm curious to see if his focus lasts and how it will evolve as he grows older. He's a funny kid, so intense and he knows what he wants. It's definitely fun to watch!

*these pictures are all from last night. i was teaching and pop had the clever idea to occupy Little Smith with his pen collection. it's a hit... and this is exactly what he's been reenacting this morning as i write this post. silly monkey.

February 25, 2013

Five Small Joys of Winter

* getting a late start

watching the flakes fall from a warm couch

catching up

* a steamy tub

* a cup of cocoa with extra extra marshmallows (vegan if you please!)

Now that spring is within striking distance and I am feeling healthy, I'm finally settling in and having fun this winter. We usually spend these cold months enjoying the outdoors; skiing, snowshoeing, sledding. This year we've had to slow way down (poor James, if he doesn't get a few more days on the mountain in before the thaw there may be big boy tears). 

For the last few months, being cooped up inside and reeling with dizzies all day had me heading towards a mild bout of depression, not exactly the way I had envisioned celebrating this new addition to our family. This week-end finally, FINALLY, all three of us Smith's were feeling good and able to just relax and enjoy being together. We had some friends over, James and Little Smith played outside a bit, we ate dinner out and slept in late, we made good food and cookies (and ate them all)... we did a whole lot of nothing, but with good spirits and warm socks. I couldn't have asked for a better last week-end of February.

March should bring buds on trees, more light, and a few warm days, but for now I am really soaking in the smell of fresh snow and the weight of a good blanket. Winter is a long and the days are short, but as a life long New England-er, I truly feel privileged to know and enjoy the opportunities that come with each of our seasons, and the rhythm as we shift from one set of rituals to the next. 

February 23, 2013


a portrait of my child once a week, every week, in 2013

A delicate boy. He was very busy building a structure out of lincoln logs and I surprised him, this is the only way to take his photo lately... and I only get one shot!

I guess it's obvious by now that I am taking 'portrait' very literally in this series. I felt as though I already capture the nuances of Little Smith's personality throughout this journal, and specifically with this boy, so I wanted to challenge myself to describe him using just his face. It's tough and I may eventually branch out, but luckily I'm pretty smitten with those two eyes, nose and mouth...  and don't even get me going on the cheeks! 

inspired by Jodi's beautiful series.

February 22, 2013

Planning A Shared Room

Now that we have another baby on the way, I have started obsessing over solving the puzzle that is our tiny space. I actually like being in a small but efficient space, I lived in a one bedroom cottage with my mother until I was ten years old and it couldn't have been more perfect. It does require some planning and creativity, but that's a challenge I can embrace. 

We're working with two modest bedrooms plus Little Smith's nursery, which really is more of a closet. Of course it's all relative and there are many families that are far larger fitting nicely into smaller apartments. In our case we have lots of hobbies (gardening and cooking and canning, skiing and snowboarding, painting and photography... ), it all adds up to tons of stuff so we aren't quite as compact a family as I'd really like. 

Our plan is to squeeze our office/ studio (currently in the second bedroom) into Little Smith's closet sized nursery and the kids will share a room. I know that sharing a room, especially between babies and toddlers, can be a headache- but having been an only child, I'm clinging to delusions of happy evening babbles... and there really isn't much choice! We will co-sleep for a while, and depending on the temperament of our new little one, (s)he can sleep in a travel bed in the old nursery turned office until night wakings are less frequent. 

I'm sure it won't work out just as I've planned it, but the planning calms me down and gives me the illusion of some control- I like that :) I'm excited thinking about this new shared space for my babies, I wish that we had the budget and time for built-in's because I have so many ideas... but we're going to have to settle for paint and well placed furniture, plus a couple of DIY projects I have up my sleeve.

Now if only there was a decent closet or I didn't hate the look of all clothing storage. Toys and books are so much more fun, do kids really need clothes? If anyone has any fun ideas for clothing storage in tight spaces send them my way... along with stories of kids blissfully sharing rooms and never disrupting one another's sleep. A girl's got to dream!

February 20, 2013

Just Me

My morning has been simple and sweet. Wednesdays are usually brutal; I get home from teaching Tuesday night around 11PM, and then, because I am a serious insomniac, I have to 'unwind' with food, television or music, magazines... it's a late night and I always wake up the next morning feeling hung over from sleep deprivation. 

Today I opened my my tired eyes to the familiar cries of 'where'd mama go?', but I felt centered and clear headed. This sickness filled pregnancy has put everything into perspective and just standing up without making a dizzy sprint for the bathroom has me full of gratitude. I've always been a healthy and strong person, and not being able to count on my own body the past few months has been a frustrating but valuable learning experience. 

Breakfast was sweet potato pancakes and fruit, and not even the little dictator could complain about that. We spent the morning making some towers with blocks and played with cars and before I knew it, lunch time had arrived. I cooked soba noodles with carrots, tofu, and ginger... amazingly Little Smith ate that too, happily. I announced it was nap time and he scooped up all of his monkeys and headed to his room... it doesn't get much easier.

So I am celebrating this quiet time to myself, feeling healthier than I have in months and thinking about this new baby growing in my belly. I am feeling movement already, and at just 16 weeks today that really surprised me. Last time the placenta was in a funny place and I didn't feel anything until it was more somersaults than flutters. I have butterflies dancing in there now. I don't get much time to focus on being pregnant, but I'm so happy to be adding this new mysterious person to our little family.

And now it's time for my afternoon shift, I hope it's as easy as the morning.

February 18, 2013

Details B2.02

cat loves her grass a little too much playmates greens in winter 15 weeks family brunch cherub valentine if i told you why he was laughing, this would be way less cute :)

Aaack, I am so behind on everything. This is a little of last week and a little of our long weekend, always a treat. The tail end of last week was beautiful, mid-forties and sunny. Little Smith did (and still does) have a cold, but it was just too nice not to spend as much time as we could outdoors. We visited our favorite farm and did naps during a couple of long strolls. Luckily our stroller is a beast, because we were off-roading in snow drifts (and in-the-middle-of-the-roading) most of the time.

The week-end brought more snow, beautiful but too cold and wet for a boy with a cough and a runny nose. We spent a lot of time by the fire, and a lot of time dealing with insane melt-downs. Little Smith is suddenly full on terrible two's. I think his might be even more terrible than average... he's just so frustrated and bossy. Meal times, which have generally been a joy, have become a total nightmare. The second he sees the food he bursts into tears, screaming 'no', turning away from his plate, and demanding doughnuts (his name for muffins) or cake. I'm not giving in, but I have to say there is a part of me that just wants to give him a piece of cake and be done with it!

I'm hoping some of his poor attitude has to do with being sick, really hoping. It's an exhausting switch from my sweet boy to this unhappy dictator, James and I keep alternating between worry and just laughing at the drama. We're trying to remain calm, it will pass. Plus he still has plenty of very bright giggly moments mixed in there... the dark ones are just so much louder.

Tonight I'll be scrambling to meet a few deadlines. James and I are working side by side in front of the fire, so that's not too shabby. I'm feeling better, stronger, only the occasional passing bout of nausea instead of an all day fog. Now if only I could sleep! Hopefully I'll get some of that tonight too.

February 16, 2013


a portrait of my child once a week, every week, in 2013

Playing with pop's sunglasses. Yes, James is the guy that wears these creepy orange shades when it's overcast... to protect his eyes from the 'wind'. It's okay, we still think he's pretty cool :)

.... this one just cracks me up...

... but it's so out of focus. Battling that fading afternoon light is tough work with a wiggly boy, another reason to root for spring to arrive!

February 14, 2013

A Little Love

happy valentine's day 2013

Little Smith is battling some sniffles and there wasn't much sleep for the weary last night, but we woke up to this giant heart shaped balloon and kisses from pop and everything just seemed a little brighter. We have to skip our usual Thursday toddler class due to the cold, so our plans for the day include making some Valentine's, baking something sweet, and maybe a trip to the pet store, Little Smith thinks it's the 'fishy zoo' (ishy ooo). 

I'm crossing my fingers for a romantic dinner at home tonight, I do love this holiday! Go give your Valentine a squeeze, and if you don't have a Valentine then give yourself a squeeze- I've found that cats work well in a pinch :)

February 12, 2013

Gnocchi with Roasted Beets and Gorgonzola

Red beets always remind me of Valentine's Day, I mean they just look like sweet little hearts, don't they? I decided to get back in the kitchen and whip up a pre-love day dinner, pairing beets with rich cheese, and potato gnocchi, the only pasta I've ever actually attempted to make.

Gnocchi is one of my favorite pasta dishes, although I suppose technically it's more of a potato dumpling. I had the most amazing version in Venice a few years ago with a gorgonzola sauce and wilted arugula... I've been trying to replicate that dish ever since but I've never totally nailed it. Although my versions fall short of the Italian masters, they're still pretty tasty. The sauce is based on a recommendation from a good friend of mine who's mother is Italian (and a chef!). She instructed me to try equal parts gorgonzola and cream cheese with a little cream and butter... so I did just that, except swapping milk for cream since it's what I generally have on hand. It's far faster than making a true white sauce and so good. Perfectly decadent for a Valentine dinner.

Simple Roasted Beets: 
  • 6 small or 3 large beets
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Tim the greens off the beets and wash. Wrap the cleaned beets in aluminum foil, if they are very small you can do two at a time, otherwise wrap each one individually. Place them on a baking tray to collect juices and roast (anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours depending on size, mine took 45 minutes and they were fairly small).

Slip the skins off the beets with a paper towel (watch out for those red hands). Slice them into bight size pieces, I halved them and then cut them into 1/8" slices... which just happen to look like half hearts :) Set aside.

Potato Gnocchi: this recipe is from Mark Bittman, "How to Cook Everything". I recommend getting the book and reading the original, I cut some corners, he goes into more detail and has illustrations showing the rolling on the fork (although that part is pretty easy!)
  • 1 lb baking potatoes (russet or idaho), whole with skins
  • 1 c flour plus more for counter
  • salt and pepper to taste
Put the potatoes in a large pot and cover with salted water. Boil until they are tender, 30-45 minutes.

Lift the potatoes out of the water with a fork and transfer to a bowl. Slip the skins off while they are hot and mash with a fork or potato masher. Salt and pepper to taste.

Add half of the flour and mix to combine. Turn the mixture out on a floured surface and add more flour, kneading after each addition. Bittman says not to add too much flour, but I always end up using the full cup. It does depend on your potatoes, and maybe I'm compromising the flavor- but it's never workable for me without that full cup!

Knead the dough until it is a workable consistency, then divide it and roll the pieces into long 1/2" thick ropes. Slice the ropes into 1 inch pieces and roll between your thumb and the tines of a fork to get the grooves.The underside will have a little dent from your thumb.

Set the finished gnocchi on a lightly floured baking sheet. Bittman recommends cooking them right that instant, but I generally make mine in the morning and cook them at night. If your kitchen is hot, store them in a cool room.

When you are ready to cook the gnocchi, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and carefully transfer the dumplings a few at a time onto the boiling water. When they bob to the surface wait about 30-60 seconds, then fish them out with a slotted spoon and place them in a shallow bowl until the sauce is ready.

Gorgonzola and Cream Cheese Sauce: adapted from recommendations from Dana's mom!
  • 4 oz (half a box) cream cheese (whole fat)
  • 4 oz gorgonzola
  • 1/4 c - 1/2c milk (whole fat)
  • 2 tbs unsalted butter
  • a dash of nutmeg
  • salt and pepper to taste
Chop the cheeses so that they will melt more easily. Melt the butter over low heat in a medium sauce pan. Add 1/4 c milk, cheeses, nutmeg, and stir to prevent burning until the sauce is creamy. If the sauce seems too thick, add more milk as necessary. The sauce should be smooth, but small lumps of gorgonzola is okay. Salt and pepper to taste.

Toss the cooked gnocchi with the sauce, reserving just a little sauce to drizzle over the finished dish. Plate the pasta and dot with the sliced roasted beets, or if you want the whole dish to turn bright pink you can also mix it all together. Drizzle the reserved sauce over each dish and top with cracked pepper and grated parmesan cheese.

I think this meal just looks like a little Valentine, and personally I like watching the whole thing go tie-dyed as those potent beets work their pink magic. We served our's with a side of the beet greens, just sauteed in some oil and sliced garlic. If your beets are stored for the winter without their greens, it would also be great with a bunch of arugula mixed in to wilt (I'm still dreaming of that dish I had in Italy!) or a simple salad. Enjoy.

And if you want another truly technicolor beet dish for this holiday, try this risotto. You won't forget that pink!

February 11, 2013

A Blizzard

We settling in on Friday night and waited for this blizzard to hit. There was a ban on driving (something I've never experienced before), so it was a very quiet night with just the snow falling and an occasional parade of plows. 

By Saturday morning there were mountains of snow and lots of neighbors busy shoveling out cars and clearing sidewalks. James was giddy (he really loves extreme winter weather) and couldn't wait to drag Little Smith out there. It was so windy at first that our little guy struggled just to stand up, the drifts were many feet higher than his head! 

My boys spent most of the day outside, shoveling and playing and sledding. I ran out to snap a few photos every once in a while and then ran back in to let my hands thaw (I wish I could figure out how to use a camera with gloves!).

Sunday was all blue skies and thirty degree temperatures (we think that's warm), so we  bundled up and walked to the store, squeezing between mountains of snow on narrow sidewalks and avoiding the lakes of slush- the worst part of snow is that slush!

I am still rooting for an early spring, but this storm was actually some great winter fun. I think we've finally had a breakthrough in raising our little snow lover too, he's switched from 'no outside mama' to 'me go outside-cooold'... that's some kind of victory!