weekend journal

I can’t believe we are less than two weeks away from Thanksgiving.  We just sat down and did half of our Christmas shopping from the sofa…. Thank you, internet.  I can’t wait to see someone’s smile on Christmas morning.  We are already indulging in things in a typical holiday way around here. Scott received some promising work news on Friday, and we celebrated with a sushi night where I ordered Jude his own little kid’s plate which still cracks me up every time we do it.   He shoveled the teriyaki chicken and rice to his mouth faster than either of us could finish the colorful sushi rolls in front of us.  My little pig.

He’s such a mama’s boy lately.  Clinging to my leg or whine-whine-whining that I pick him up.  Loading the dishwasher took close to an hour this morning as I’d only get in maybe three pieces and couldn’t stand the whining anymore so I’d pick him up to shush or to play or to read for a minute before trying again to accomplish the same simple task.  But these days are short, I tell myself.  Mama’s boy won’t be whining and clinging when he turns 16, so for now I’ll take it and drink it in for what its worth.  Which is a lot actually.

Saturday was the Georgia / Auburn game which is quite the rivalry around here with graduates of both in the family, so we carried on the usual festivities. Scott’s family brought the barbecue and dessert, and I might have gotten a little carried away with the side dishes around here. Roasted onion, mashed potatoes, peas, yeast rolls, collards, and homemade macaroni and cheese.

Grandmother's beautiful, home-canned peas

It’s so easy for my kitchen endeavors to get out of control.  I don’t always love being from the south, but in the kitchen I do. This book is my Bible, by the way.  I challenge you to not take a second bite of any recipe in here.  Gorgeous photos, delicious food.


In the midst of meal planning and simmering and mashing and baking, we rediscovered the playground in my neighborhood on Saturday morning. I’ve lived here for over three years, and I completely neglected to realize that my boy was old enough to enjoy it.  We packed the baby in his little fleece sleeper and enjoyed the mild fall weather.  Something tells me we will be back here.  Often.

For the record, I believe “we” lost the game. But I didn’t really care. My women’s college self has absolutely no interest in football.  I know someone else who didn’t care either.

Loving every minute of this clingy, clumsy, smiley stage of new things and places to discover.  Happy boy, happy mama.  Happy Sunday!


Carnival Birthday Party: Food and Tablescape

So yesterday I wrote about what I learned throwing my first kids’ party, and today I’ll get specific on some of the details.  The most important detail, of course: FOOD.

I wanted to keep things simple, and the party was held at four in the afternoon so I wasn’t exactly responsible for feeding people dinner or anything.  Keeping with the carnival theme, we served all finger foods. I didn’t even have flatware on the table!  Here was the menu we decided on for Jude’s Big Top Circus Birthday Extravaganza:

  • hot dogs (We chose kosher, all-beef since that’s kind of where we are on our “food journey.”)
  • corn dogs (So not healthy or kosher, but I bought them from our warehouse store here and they were fast and easy in the oven.)
  • sandwiches – chicken salad; sunbutter & jelly (for 2 peanut allergy kids who were there)
  • Martha Stewart’s Pumpkin Whoopie Pies(First time I tried them and they were delicious!)
  • fruit sticks (just bites of melon, grapes, and pineapple on a skewer)
  • chocolate-covered pretzels (I used store-bought chocolate candy coating.)
  • cupcakes! (more on those later)
  • various classic and colorful candies to go with the circus theme

So for the general tablescape and basic look of things, I wanted to go bright and celebratory. I was also careful to use varying heights on the table with the cupcakes, pretzels, and the lollipops.  The cupcake stand is this basic one by Wilton, and I love it!  I can reuse it again and again for any birthday parties or showers I host and just redecorate it each time.  To decorate it, I used scrapbook paper I found on clearance at Hobby Lobby and simple blue grossgrain ribbon.  I had a hard time getting the ribbon to stick at first, but when I decided to use Elmer’s traditional school glue, it worked easily and washed right off.

table details

Food labels are necessary for me, and I know that allergy mamas especially appreciate them.  I hate being at a function and not so sure about what you are putting in your mouth.  I found a circus font online and downloaded it for free, and I used it on the invitations and all of the signs and food labels at the party.  There are a ton of free simple graphics and fonts if you look for them online.

table details

For the added color and backdrop to my table scape, I used bright red wrapping paper from the dollar store  and topped it with a blue tablecloth from the dollar store as well.  We folded that tablecloth like a runner and topped all of that with $1 confetti and voila!  Three whole dollars and the table is done.

the spread

We also had a candy corner because what carnival doesn’t have sweets?  I bought all of the glass containers from (you guessed it…) the dollar store, and I racked up on candy there as well.  I chose candy that was either colorful or nostalgic or both – Mary Janes and Sugar Daddies for retro flair; gumballs, jolly ranchers, and ring pops for color.  The oversized lollipops I found at Oriental Trading Company for pretty cheap. I set out a few treat bags I had from a shower I hosted once and encouraged guests to take some home.  Luckily, almost all of it disappeared and I am only left with about 10 lollipops, but I’m thiking I can use them to adorn birthday packages this year.

table details

table details

Lastly, the cupcakes!  I went back and forth SO MANY times about what kind to make because I wanted something different and a variety.  Because we took a trip to the apple orchards a couple of weeks ago and because nothing says fall like apple cinnamon, I finally settled on apple cupcakes with cream cheese icing.  For variety, I also baked Ina Garten’s chocolate cupcakes (my old reliable favorite!) and topped them with homemade buttercream frosting.  I baked them all the night before and iced them in about 15  minutes shortly before the party.  It honestly took the same amount of time as calling to order a cake and going to pick it up.  So simple.

table details

I also found some awesome toppers on Etsy that added a special touch.  Some of them even had his name!


Did you know that even a simple grocery store cake is something like $40?  All together, I would estimate the cupcakes and toppers were something like $20, and they were cute, tasty, and personable.  At the end of the day, we fed a crowd of about 35 people on less than $100 including tableware!  An accomplishment in frugality for sure.

Tomorrow I’ll post on details and decorations – my favorite part of the party!


For other posts about this carnival birthday party, see my archives here, here, or here.

Write this down.

Today was one of those days.  The rare perfect, or almost-perfect ones.  The ones that never seem to happen, or if they do, we tend to forget them by somehow focusing on the ones that are most imperfect instead.

I am finally beginning to respond to the question, “What do you do?” with a confident answer that I stay home with my son. For a long time, I felt the need to qualify this with a “well I taught for five years” or “I tutor a few nights a week” or “for now at least.”  I know my days are full of laundry and picking dried yogurt off the kitchen floor.  And scrubbing the sink to turn around and dirty it up again with the remnants of the turkey sandwich I really don’t want to eat because I had that for the last 3 days in a row.  And answering the door bra-less and embarrassed as my landscaper or UPS man or neighbor or whatever sees me and probably thinks I have been eating bon-bons all morning and oh-my-god-does-she-ever-shower?  [What is a bon-bon anyway?]


But today, my friends, today was perfection.  Our nighttime sleep is gradually improving around here, or not really but I am at peace with it, and Jude only woke up once last night at 3am.  When he woke up for real, he was smiling and happy and greeting the day in a way that made me overlook the fact that it was dark out and not yet 6:30.  We came downstairs where he played and the dogs lazily awoke and I made myself a homemade latte and a bagel and listened to morning news so that I remembered there’s a big world outside of this house.  Away from me and my little family and my mounds of chores and lack of sleep.

After playing and eating, he went down for a long morning nap when I showered and straightened up and, wait for it….. scrubbed every bathroom in this house until it shined.  He woke up happily again, and we set off to Target to get exciting things like trash bags and a new mop head since our current one is covered in dog hair.  After this, we went to my favorite little lunch spot and met up with a graduate school friend of mine and her 3 month old, and I found myself asking if Jude was ever that tiny, that quiet.  I almost don’t remember it.  We had a nice lunch despite Jude’s pile of food on the floor I cleaned up before we left, and it felt so good to talk to another mama, especially one you knew before either of you were anywhere close to motherhood.

When we got home, Jude napped again, peacefully, and the rest of the afternoon was a combination of playtime, wearing him around the house to finish a thing here or there and generally enjoying these little moments.  At one point, we swayed and danced to my new favorite song and Jude smiled and hummed along, his new favorite talent.  Dinner was Martha’s Tofu & Broccoli, and even Jude loved it and will eat the leftovers tomorrow I’m sure.

And when bathtime came, he splashed and giggled and moved that naked booty all over the bathroom as I dried him off and he crawled around.  When I laid him down awake, he put himself right to sleep.  And afterwards, my friends, I indulged in a cold beer and hot bath, and I even shaved my legs.  Somehow, I cleaned the kitchen, and somehow I found the space and energy in my day to light a fall-scented candle, look forward  to the weeks ahead, and think about how lucky I am.  And write about it here for you.  And mostly for me.


Is it all roses all the time?  No.

I could comment on how I made it halfway up my stairs with the vacuum and Jude awoke from his afternoon nap, so the top half of the stairs remain covered in dog hair.  I could tell you that I haven’t had a full night of sleep in I dunno how long.  I could confess that you cannot see the surface of my dining room table because it’s been littered with half-finished craft projects for the past month with no end in sight.  I could tell you that I still haven’t made that dentist appointment I have sworn for weeks I would get around to eventually.  I could explain that I have no idea what lesson I will do for tomorrow’s tutoring session, and I will most likely throw it together at the last possible moment.  I could complain that my husband is far away yet again this week, and I am so so so tired of a quiet, empty house eight days a month.


But to focus on any of that and miss the beauty of a perfect day like this one?  Pointless.  Because at the end of it all… at the end of the tiring nights, the bathroom scrubbing, the whining, the never-ending pile of papers that never gets attended to, the “to-be-put-away” laundry pile that always remains…. there’s some joy underneath.  A lot of joy actually.  And a lot of beauty in some small moments.

“We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.” — Thornton Wilder
**This post included in Finer Things Friday.**

Photo Heavy Post: Father’s Day Weekend and Summer Goodness

I hope everyone had a lovely Father’s Day weekend.  Summer is in full-swing here in Georgia, meaning it is H-O-T.  Hot, hot, hot.  As a native Georgian, I can handle the heat and rarely complain, but it’s getting to me this week.  How did I make it last summer pregnant?

Despite the brutal temperatures, we are surviving around here and enjoying the season.  Jude is becoming more active everyday, and his mobility has led to a newfound curiosity.  It’s hard to snap a picture of him lately with his wiggly little movements all the time.  We’ve been eating lots of fresh food thanks to my grandparents and their AMAZING garden.

Jude and his Great-Grandaddy....Reaching for those tomato cages.

Squash, onions, peas, peaches, potatoes… we can’t get enough and neither can Jude.  I am so blessed to have such a good little eater on my hands.  He might squinch his face at the first bite of something new like onions, chives, or garlic, but after that, he welcomes the rest by opening wide up.  As much as I love making purees for him, I think we are soon going to be simplifying so that he just eats what we eat.  It’s a great feeling sitting down at the table to share a rounded meal with the baby.

no baby food here, dude. refried beans and sliced avocado on Mexican night. yum yum.

So on to Father’s Day.  There was lots of summering and celebrating around here, and we started the weekend with a Saturday morning trip to a local farmer’s market.  Next time I plan on getting there a lot earlier to get the good stuff, but we did get some juicy blueberries, and we loved trying out the new Ergo.

Saturday’s lunch was at Dad’s favorite new deli where we dined on shawarma and falafel and fed Jude tiny bites of french fries.  I might be having a little too much fun with the color pop camera feature in this photo, but with those blue eyes, I just couldn’t help it. It’s a new restaurant, so we were some of the only people in there, but the food is great, and we’ll definitely be back.

There was also cooking involved with some lime-glazed cookies for a Saturday BBQ we attended …..

and Sunday brunch included Ina’s Cheese Danish……

You know we love food around here, but most importantly, the weekend was about celebrating dads and one very special Dad in particular.  Seeing Scott with Jude is a joy for sure.  They both light up when the other one walks in the room, and they have the same kinda-sweet, kinda-mischievous little grin.  I can’t wait to see the trouble these two get in to in the years to come.  Jude picked out some cufflinks especially for his Daddy so he can wear them to work when he travels and remember someone’s sweet face.  Scott’s nickname for Jude is “little monkey,” so we were excited to find the perfect card.  It was such a great day to celebrate our little family.

I love Etsy. You can find these at Analiese Designs.

I feel like there’s a lot of focus on how motherhood changes you.   There are blogs, books, mommy groups, magazines…..but no one really discusses how fatherhood changes your perspective.  The truth is I don’t know the answer to that one, not being in that role.  But I will say that these two guys are never happier than when they are together.

Table for One, Please

One of the things on my long list of summer self-improvement is to eat better when my husband is gone on business.  In efforts to do this, I ordered The Pleasures of Cooking for One by Judith Jones who, if you don’t know, worked with Julia Child for many years and has now written a cookbook full of recipes she has learned as a result of her new life as a widow.  While that, of course, is not my situation, I do eat alone about 4-7 times a month, and Trader Joe’s stir-fry is good but gets old.  This book has so many promising ideas from a single, stuffed Portobello mushroom to beef bourguingnon for one. I find myself looking at solitary dinnertime with excitement rather than lonely maybe-I-should-just-have-cereal-tonight desperation.

A couple of weeks ago, I ventured to make a steak for myself and use the leftovers 2 nights later in a gratin which was yummy.  My latest try from Jones’s book, however, blew that away.  This was so incredibly good that I think I’ll want to double it and make it when Scott is around as well.  A bonus that makes the dish even better is that it is nourishing, fun to make, and composed of real, wholesome ingredients.  I’ve never thought to eat eggs for dinner before, but she has a whole chapter on the usefulness of eggs for the single cook, and I think I just opened a whole new door that I never knew existed.  The final result of this particular recipe is so decadent and so French.  I seriously felt like I was back in Paris, sitting in a street-side table along the Seine.  Sigh.


Baked Egg with Vegetables

First grate a single, small zucchini.  Place the shreds in a colander and salt them.  Wait about 30 minutes for the zucchini to drain.  (You’ll be surprised at how much water comes out, and you don’t want your final result soupy.)  Next melt a tablespoon of butter in a saute pan, add diced onions (she specifies shallots) and sliced mushrooms.  Cook for about 3 minutes.  Now squeeze the grated zucchini so that most of the excess water comes out.  Throw the zucchini in the pan and saute with the onions and mushrooms for about 3 minutes.  Next add 2 tablespoons of heavy cream. (DIVINE.  Makes everything better.)  Stir and cook for one minute.  Judith Jones also says you can throw in any other leafy green vegetables you have.  I threw in Swiss Chard from earlier this week, and it was delicious.

Now spoon the vegetables in to a small gratin dish and make a small well in the middle.  Crack one egg on top.  Add a dash of salt and pepper.  Pour 2 more tablespoons of heavy cream on top and sprinkle some parmesan cheese if you have it and want it.  Cook in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes or until the egg is set.  It comes out looking like this and smelling incredible.

There’s something about sitting down to eat a perfectly proportioned one-person meal in a little individual dish.  Heaven.

Weekend Wrap-Up

Jude’s sleeping which means I should be working on grading those essays I brought home with me, but I’m blogging instead.  I guess those papers won’t grade themselves, but I really, really wish they would.

When it comes to life as a teacher, the only thing better than summer is spring break, and it’s a week most of us start looking forward to in January.  All of my students have been asking me what I was going to be doing or where I planned to go, and my response was just that I wanted to catch my breath.  I feel like the past 3+ months have been a blur.  Five days a week of alarm at 5:15, race to get out the door in the morning, drop Jude off, race to school, teach, lunch, teach, race to get Jude, head home, sit down for a minute and play with the baby while Scott drives home, make dinner, bathe Jude, put him to bed, clean, relax for an hour, pack lunch and breast pump, sleep.  Repeat.

Doesn’t that sound fun?

So I really just wanted time to unwind and relax this week, and that’s primarily all I’ve done.  I always say things like “I just want to relax,” but in reality, I get totally disappointed if certain things (or no things at all) get accomplished.  So I woke up this morning feeling like here I was heading back to work, and I didn’t really get anything accomplished all week.  Then when I really thought about it and reflected on the week, I guess I did do a little here and there.  I’m such a listy person, and sometimes I think it feels so good, instead of making a to-do list before you do things, to make one after.  It makes me feel a little more productive…or fools me in to thinking I was productive.  Whatever.  It feels good.  So things I managed to accomplish over the past week?

  • I cleaned out my closet and switched my spring/summer wardrobe in while I packed away my heavy sweaters.  I also managed to set aside a large goodwill donation bag in this process.
  • I got a much-needed haircut, pedicure, and an eyebrow wax. I was quite behind in the personal maintenance department, and I didn’t even let a surprise flat tire get in my way on that one.
  • I met my teacher-friend and her adorable baby at the park on Tuesday for a luxurious middle-of-the-day, middle-of-the-week playdate.  We thought our two babies (born within a month of each other) were destined to be married, but they seriously cannot both stay awake at the same time.  It’s too funny; if he’s awake, she sleeps; if she’s awake, he sleeps.  My friend did manage to take this shot though.

  • We had Jude’s 6-month photo session earlier today.  This time we used Andrew Thomas Lee to do the session.  He was so nice and comfortable, and Jude loved him!  He hung out here at our house for about two hours and got a lot of great photos of Little Man.  Even when he was done, he hung around for a while and talked cameras and aperture and lenses and a bunch of other stuff I don’t understand with Scott.  I can’t wait to see the pictures!  [In related news, I have a 6 month old?  How did that happen?]
  • I cleaned out my pantry.
  • I cleaned out my freezer.
  • I made 26 ounces of apple babyfood.
  • I’m currently roasting sweet potatoes for more babyfood as I write this.
  • I did who-knows-how-many loads of laundry.  Does it ever go away?
  • I had the carpet steam cleaned.  It needed it so badly with our two muddy, rowdy dogs.
  • I’m trying out a new fish tacos recipe tonight.  We always order them when we go out but have never made them here.  I love trying new stuff in the kitchen, and finishing spring break with fish tacos and a beer on the porch sounds perfect.

Whew.  When I look at all of this in a list, I feel a little bit better.  So my resume didn’t get updated as I intended to do.  So I didn’t get those Shakespeare essays graded.  Oh well.  I did get something done, I guess.  What about you?  Make a list.  It’ll make you feel better.

[Edited to add:  While I was finishing this post, Jude woke up.  He was in that I-wanna-sleep, but-I-don’t-wanna-sleep state, so I lied down with him on the sofa to get him back down.  He cuddled that perfect baby-cuddle where they bury their head in your neck so you can smell their baby hair and feel their chubby cheeks at your collar-bone.  I fell asleep too, and we napped for a while.  I’ll add that one to my list of spring break accomplishments.  The top of the list actually.]