Friday, June 29, 2012

Random Friday: L.I.V.I.N.

I realize I've been MIA here lately, and I have no other excuse except that I've been busy out  there livin'.  My sister has been visiting from California, the weather has been warm and luscious, and I've been spending more time at the beach or on the porch than in front of the computer.  My soul needs this.  I admire bloggers who are able to capture and share every element of a trip or dinner without fail, but sometimes I need to just unplug, put the camera down, and step away from the computer for a bit. It feels good.  This Friday, here's a little snapshot of what I have been up to out in the world...
Visiting my friend Laura's farm.
Black Kettle Farm in Lyman, Maine is amazing, and so is Laura.  So proud of you, chica!
Reffing driveway soccer.
Grilling peaches...
...for this Grilled Peach, Onion and Bacon Salad with Buttermilk Dressing that was off the charts delicious.  
The dressing was flecked with fresh mint, chives, and parsley, and the whole dish was just a flavor explosion.
Definitely a must-try for your next barbecue.
Celebrating my sister's birthday with that "salad" awesomeness + The Best Cake Ever.
It doesn't get much better than that.
Getting some extra sleep while the boys spend the morning fishing.  The little man has caught fishing fever from the big man, and one thing I love about our new hometown is the prolific number of fishing spots available for a dawn expedition.  And I'm so grateful for the extra zzz's, as I already seem to be at the stage of pregnancy where I crave sleep more than ice cream.  Sweet, sweet sleep.  
Wishing you a lovely weekend full of rest and time to unplug.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Fancy Times

The husband is in the wedding of a dear friend in Vermont in late July.  I'll be 27 weeks pregnant by then, and most definitely large and in charge.  The setting will be gorgeous, the groom's family rather stylish, and the husband looking dashing in groomsman attire.  While I don't expect to look or feel in my most top form, I'm hoping I can channel some of that "you're glowing!" energy and feel at least a bit lovely and like some good arm candy that evening.  I'm starting to think about what to wear, and since my last pregnancy took place in the dead of winter, there is nothing in my maternity closet to recycle.  Also, since this is shaping up to be virtually the only dressy occasion we're invited to for the duration of my pregnancy, I don't want to spend a ton on something that will likely only be worn once (by me, at least... hopefully I can share the love and pass a great dress on to a friend with a summer pregnancy!).  Old Navy and Gap probably won't fit the bill on this one, so I checked out the site ASOS, which I've seen all over the interwebs lately.  In fact, Cup of Jo is offering a 20% off coupon code for ASOS through this Monday, which lights a fire under me to want to order some options to try, especially since the site offers free two-way shipping (love that!).  I'm on the hunt for something appropriate for an evening, outdoor wedding (so no white, and maybe no black, since that always seems somber for a wedding, and especially a garden wedding), with as much style as possible for someone rounding the bend to the third trimester.  This is the best of what ASOS has to offer...
I love this red Grecian Drape dress ($58).  The jersey fabric would be cool and comfortable on a July evening, and it could be dressed up with jewelry.  

Love the gorgeous blue of this Belted Scoop Neck dress ($49), but worry it could be a tad cutesy on thanks to the bow at waist and flutter sleeves (I'm 35, not 5, ya know).

This flirty, fun Sweetheart Neck dress ($36) probably has the most flattering cut, but the crisp cotton might be way too casual.

Finally, I think this Chiffon Swing dress ($66) is really fun, but the white is a no-no, the black is probably too severe, and what does one do about bra straps with that cut out situation?  This one's probably a no go, but still adorable. 

And p.s., this Sparkle Dress ($75) is also really fun, but not really a contender, due to a casual look, and my fear of wearing that many sparkles while already closely resembling a disco ball.
Which one do you like?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


Hi!  I'm back from a stellar vacation in gorgeous South Carolina, and am just in the process of collecting myself and getting in the swing of things back in our new home.  
I'm planning to get back in a regular posting schedule soon.  
In the meantime, enjoy this post... because nothing says Tuesday morning like cocktails!
I love cocktails, and summer is high cocktail season.  Some of my favorite hot weather concoctions:
1) A classic, very cold gin and tonic, preferably prepared by my dad who always gets the proportions just right, and whose signature touch of rubbing the rim of the glass with meyer lemon before adding a squeeze of it to the drink puts the whole thing over the top.  Yum.
2) A classic margarita. Rocks. Salt.
3) A hibiscus margarita.  Rocks.  No salt.  (I love to create these by making Heidi Swanson's Agua de Jamaica recipe and adding a healthy portion of silver anejo tequila.  So damn good).
4) Icy cold Vinho Verde or Sauvignon Blanc.
5) White Sangria.

I could really go on and on, but will stop now, as this summer will be cocktail-free in my world and I'm merely torturing myself with this list!  Truthfully, giving up booze is no biggie, and on your average night when everyone is having a beer or two, I'm pretty happy sipping lemonade or coconut water and enjoying the non-hangover factor the next day.  However, every once and awhile when friends are stirring up something special, it is a bummer to be left out of the fun, and here is where the faux cocktail (aka mocktail) can make total sobriety just a little sweeter. While pregnant with the little man, I'd drink pomegranate juice and sparkling water out of wine glasses and one of my girlfriends completely made my day when she had us over for dinner and had bought a delicious Italian blood orange soda for me, served in a special glass.  This pregnancy, I'd like to continue to dial it up a notch in the alcohol-free bevvie department, and so I decided to call the experts for help.

One of my favorite podcasts is called The Table Set.  Three fabulous gentlemen with a flair for entertaining host the show, each episode focuses around planning a particular type of party or gathering, and they discuss everything from innovative food to perfect music to delicious drinks.  Nathan, the host with mixology expertise, always seems to be infusing something into gin, or finding a new type of bitters, or muddling a little berry into some sort of herb to make the most delicious sounding concoctions.  During one of my first trimester runs I was listening to a Table Set podcast where Nathan described his new creation called a Sonoran Sunset, inspired by the Arizonan desert after a rain storm: pepper and jalapeño infused tequila shaken with fresh lime and tangerine juices, Cointreau, and homemade Prickly Pear syrup, served in a glass rimmed with raw sugar, kosher salt and pepper, and garnished with a lime wedge.  I mean, come on.  A simple beer is easy to take a pass on, but something this brilliant makes me long for my return to cocktailing.

I decided that if anyone could upgrade the mere mocktail into something beyond pomegranate juice in a wine glass, it would be Nathan and his sidekicks Greg and Andy, so I did what any rational pregnant woman would do and called the show, leaving a message on their call-in line to request recipes for alcohol-free cocktails every bit as drool-worthy as the Sonoran Sunset.  The boys get quite a few requests, I know, so I didn't necessarily expect a reply. You can imagine that my jaw completely hit the floor/running path a couple weeks later when I was casually running around the pond, listening to their newest podcast on Southern-inspired garden parties, and I heard my very own name get a shout out!

Not only did the boys answer my question, they made it their week's homework to come up with three brand new, highly imaginative and completely delicious "pregatinis" (they despise the word "mocktail").  Each of them came up with something incredible: a Green Leaf, a No Gin Martini with Juniper and Ginger, and a New Old-Fashioned.  Amazing!  Check out the fruits of their mixing labors:

I was so flattered and excited to have these drinks custom-invented, each complete with their own lovely photo recipe card.  Nathan, Andy and Greg truly outdid themselves, and I'm grateful and a little starstruck!  I think that any one of these drinks would be the perfect thing to serve at a baby shower, or any gathering where a number of guests will be abstaining from alcohol for any reason.  The No Gin Martini is especially playful, served in an up glass for festive clinking. It is so lovely to be offered something above and beyond water or juice when you are off the sauce.  Of course these drinks are a bit involved, so with the chaos around the move and traveling, I haven't had a chance to concoct them myself, but that's at the top of my list now that summer is truly underway.  In the meantime, if you decide to stir one up at home, please report back!
What's your favorite "mocktail"?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Sweet Summer Find: Sanuk Yoga Sprees

Five years ago, the husband worked for Timberland as a summer intern.  He scored me a fantastic pair of leather flip flops that year which were cute and supportive, and always got a lot of compliments.  So wonderful were these kicks that they became my go-to summer shoe for five full seasons, until this year, when they finally bit the dust.  Five years is an incredible amount of service for any flip flop to put in, and with a flapping heel and general look of exhaustion, these had to be put to rest.  RIP lovely Timby flops, and thanks for all the memories.

Thus began my quest to find a perfect summer shoe replacement.  Sure, there are the sexy sandals and strappy heels that you keep on hand for weddings and nights on the town, and thanks to my recent stint of bridesmaid duty, I have a couple of these on standby in my closet.  What I needed was the every day, kick around town, go to the farmers market, chase the little man at the playground, and head to the pizza joint for dinner flip flop of my dreams.  A step up from the stinky $15 foam numbers that can double as shower shoes, and a large step down from the uber-preppy Jack Rogers Navajo I wore at my sister's wedding.  I wanted leather straps to achieve the "no, I don't plan to shower in these shoes" look, and for a summer of pregnancy, I wanted something cushy, comfy, and not at all restrictive, as if what happened to my feet last time around is any indication, I'm going to be sporting two heinous sausages attached to my ankles come August.

After plenty of time searching Zappos and Piperlime, I finally found what sounded like the perfect summer flip flop; the Sanuk Yoga Spree.  Sanuk is a California shoe company, inspired by surfing and yoga style, and with a focus on laid-back and functional footwear.  Sanuk is the Thai word for "fun", and all of the designs have some element of whimsy to them.  All of the Sanuk Yoga shoes are made from actual yoga mats, and the footbed is designed to have that squishy, cushioned feeling that you get when you step onto your yoga mat for practice.  The customer reviews on the sites that the sell the Yoga Sprees all featured a faction of pregnant customers who swore by the enduring comfort of these flops.  Pregnant feet are the pickiest feet around, so if preggos around the country were sporting these for a long summer day and loving them, I knew they were an ideal candidate for my perfect summer shoe.

The Yoga Sprees have the thinest strap of the whole Yoga collection, and come in six colors, including some metallics, so that you can dress them up for wear off of the beach.  I also loved the look of the faux leather strap.  The best part, these sandals sell for $26-30, which is something of a steal in the world of quality footwear.  I ordered a pair of silver Yoga Sprees from Zappos (because I appreciate their speedy delivery and free two-way shipping), going a size up after reading that these shoes can run small and in anticipation of my third trimester sausage feet.
I LOVE THESE SHOES.  I've been wearing them all day for a few days now, and can't believe how cute they are and, more importantly, how incredibly comfortable they feel.  I've never had a shoe experience like this where you literally feel like you are getting a foot massage all day long.  I always love that first exhaling feeling you get after arriving at a yoga class and stepping onto your mat, and the Yoga Sprees really give you that feeling with every step.  I loved all the available colors but felt like the silver ones would dress up easily, and these are totally a pair I'd wear to dinner with a cute sundress, as well as all over town all day with the little guy.  I'm a huge fan.
With the summer getting underway, I can't recommend these shoes enough.  Unlike many popular brands, they're easy to find in every size and color, and if you are hard on your feet (a runner, a dancer, a babysitter or mom...), your tootsies deserve to wear these all summer and bask in the yoga cushiness.  Even when fall arrives, I can see myself padding around the house in these as my due date looms, gaining a little bit of needed comfort with each step.  If you're on the hunt for a perfect kicking around summer shoe... search no more!  Order now, thank me later.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Random Friday: Inspiration

We leave tomorrow on a long-planned family trip, and this vacation comes not a moment too soon!  Knowing that we were going away just two weeks after our move-in date, the husband and I have really pushed ourselves to the brink to get completely settled in before our departure.  The upside of this is that when we return, it will be to a home and not a pile of boxes and projects, and we can really start our summer and our life here on a fresh foot.  The downside of the effort is that we are both at a bit of a physical breaking point, and I am personally a bit mentally fried as well.  I know a week of beach time and family time is going to be the perfect remedy for us, but in the meantime, with a day of cleaning, packing and organizing ahead, I woke up feeling a little overwhelmed.  I then proceeded to have a major throwdown with the little man, who is exercising his ability to push boundaries with me this week, complete with rampant use of the word "NO!" and lots of very physical wrangling.  

We're experimenting with letting little J hang on our back porch "unsupervised".  One of us is on the other side of the open window into our kitchen, and as long as he stays on the porch reading in his rocking chair or blowing bubbles, we can see and hear him and all is good.  However this morning he made a break for it, and before I knew it, I spied my son, wearing a floppy sun hat, striped pajamas and fireman boots, running across my neighbors' yard.  I broke out the door in hot pursuit, also still in my pajamas, and man we were a sight to see.  The more pregnant I am, the harder it is to wrestle with my very stubborn, wiley and muscular three-year-old, and it wasn't even 7:30am before I felt physically maxed out.  Combine this pre-caffeine chase with a physical inability to keep him in a time out for nearly giving me a heart attack, and I felt a complete mom-failure.  Then, see: lack of caffeine for my inability to succinctly articulate my frustration and feeling of inadequacy to my husband who, late for a meeting and trying to get in the car and go, was a bit flummoxed as to why his entire family was in tears prior to the 8 o'clock hour.  All in all, just not a good scene here at Casa SMJ this morning.

A bit later, while trying to collect myself with some much needed coffee and the little man happily listening to music in his room, I saw the quote/image above posted by a friend on Pinterest. So timely. I know this poster was meant as athletic inspiration, but for me at this point it just applies to all areas of my life: physical, emotional, athletic, maternal, marital and beyond. When you're feeling defeated, salvation comes not in thinking that there will ever be a time in life without challenges, but in knowing that you'll continue to gain the wisdom and skills to rise to the challenges and meet them head on.  Every failed time out brings strategies for how to handle discipline better the next time around.  Every tongue-tied moment in spousal communication brings an opportunity to walk away, exhale, get down to what is really bothering you, and learn how to say it straight and calmly the next time around.  Every bit of patience lost is a chance to gain it back and figure out how to keep your cool in the future.  I just have to believe that I'm going to keep on getting better at this.  Right?

Here's to facing down our challenges with bravery and humility and to the power of positive thinking.  And here's to vacation!  Bring it on.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Beach Gear

Last summer we went to the beach exactly twice.  So sad, but so true.  From our place in Boston, the beach was about a forty-five minute drive away and required advanced maneuvering to be an appealing option with a two-year-old.  The weather had to be great, the timing had to be right, and we needed to be a packed-in-advance, ready-to-deploy machine to make a successful beach day happen.  It was doable, but challenging, and so our days in the sand were limited.

This summer, it's a whole new world!  Not only is the little man older and more beach-ready; in our new home, the world's greatest kid beach, complete with soft, digable sand, gently lapping surf, prolific tidepools, and an adjacent playground/picnic/bathroom complex is just ten minutes from our house.  It's a whole new world!  We can dash over there after breakfast, return home for nap time, and close out the afternoon there as well.  We can go on an overcast or even rainy day, just bundling up for a short trip and returning quickly.  I'm guessing we'll be at the beach most days this summer, and our first couple maiden voyages there have made me realize that I need to up my game to be a pro beach mama. Summer is coming late to a lot of the country, so if you are also just slowly switching mental gears from rain boots to beach days, I hope my Beach Preparedness Thought Process can help you as well.
Here's what I'm thinking I need to gather to turn us into professional beach bums this season:

1) An enormous, durable bag that is not our diaper bag and can essentially live in the car.  I've been hauling our diaper bag with me on our beach runs, and not only is it ill-equipped for the beach in terms of content and structure, it also inevitably sheds sand everywhere when I bring it inside to restock it.  Not cool.  I love this massive straw bag from Roxy, which is designed for the beach, and is cute without being over the top girly or kiddo-centric.

2) A small first aid kit.  My beach trips used to involve a simple combination of lying out, swimming and reading, and sunscreen was adequate protection for all.  A beach day with a little boy is an entirely different story.  Rocks are scaled and slice into little feet.  Crabs are captured and pinch on little hands.  Bugs bite.  Rashes are procured.  I'm thinking I at least need a basic sack of band-aids, antibiotic ointment, sting-soothing goop and alcohol prep pads to probably accompany us everywhere we go from now until high school graduation.  This needs to be assembled and added to the car-dwelling beach bag.

3) Non-toxic, as-organic-as-possible, yet affordable sunscreen.  You know I'm always after great organic skincare products, and I don't mind splurging a little on a moisturizer I'll use an eighth of a teaspoon of each day, but sunscreen is entirely another matter.  I love the California Baby line of children's skincare, and their 30+ sunscreen rocks, but a six ounce bottle of it costs $40!  Last year I went through one tube for the whole summer, slathering on a bit when we happened to be at a playground during the heat of the day, but this year that is not a sustainable plan, considering I need to use at least a double shot glass full to get us geared up for each beach trip.  Splurge on California Baby all summer, and we'll have to give up, I don't know, food?  So, I went on a hunt for a more cost effective but equally non-toxic solution.  I ended up with Coppertone Water Babies Pure and Simple, which gets a good rating from the Environmental Working Group Skin Deep site, and costs about $7 for an 8 oz. bottle at Target. Boom.  Both sun protection and groceries are once again within our reach.
4) Nothing says summer like warm, slightly sandy PB&Js, so I'm not about to haul a huge cooler to the beach.  However, to keep us properly hydrated, tepid drinks won't do.  I need a wee cooler bag big enough for a water bottle a piece, to be tucked into the epic beach bag, and I'm digging this collapsible one from Packit, which is colorful, affordable, and eco-friendly.  It also lies flat in the freezer to cool down, which is perfect for our new place, where freezer space is limited.

5) A water and sand-proof iPhone case, as things are already getting ugly on that front.

6) Summer means iced coffee, and hitting the beach early means I'm still sippin' it.  I think I need one of these, as my Mason jars are cumbersome and not so beach friendly.

7) Last but not least, we totally need a hand-vac for our mudroom, which becomes instantly covered in sand every time we return home from a beach excursion.  I've been lugging the big vacuum over each evening to mitigate the problem, but I think if this little bad boy was hanging on the wall in there and I could just shwoop-shwoop the sand away right as we arrive, it would be a pleasure.  I could also use it on our now sand-covered carseat, as seen here...
I have a toddler and a dog.  I should be sponsored by a hand vac.
These are the items topping my beach list at the moment, but I'm sure more are about to surface as the summer truly gets underway.  I'll be reporting back from our continued beach adventures with any tips and tricks I gain, and I'd be indebted if you'd share your beach go-to items.
Hooray for summer and long days at the beach!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Beautiful Food

Slowly but surely life, and my palate along with it, is getting back to normal. 

You may recall that I used to post recipes on this blog.  Food and cooking are usually cornerstones of our life as a family, central to our day-to-day existence, and therefore featured here as one of my favorite things to gab about.  But for the last few months, we've been in a total cooking rut and serious dry spell.  The reasons for this?

1) Gut churning, evil, carsickness-like, twenty-four-hour-a-day morning sickness for the better part of February, March and April.  Food was merely a necessity and something to dabble in as an antiemetic.  I had not much more to share in the culinary realm than plates of buttered toast, bowls of ice cold cereal, and a dangerous relationship with the frozen pizza section of Whole Foods.

2) The husband has been on a work travel bender for the last couple months.  I wish I was the kind of woman who took solo evenings as an occasion to lightly sear a salmon filet and gently serve it on a bed of greens to be enjoyed outside while thinking deep thoughts, but in this particular stage of my life, especially with the aforementioned nausea situation, I am not. Currently, when the cat is away, this mouse says hello, Bravo TV and hello frozen pizza section of Whole Foods.

3) Moving is not conducive to great food.  Moving is conducive to exhaustion induced take-out orders, eating a can of pinto beans for dinner because you refuse to pack it, and to frequenting the frozen pizza section of Whole Foods.
It has been a pizza-fueled slog.

Now we're here.  Now I'm in my second trimester and feeling not quite so green.  And now we have a beautiful kitchen to enjoy and a brief lull in the husband's travel.  Now I am ready to get my cook on!  But.  I am feeling a bit out of practice, and somewhat uninspired.  The farmers market isn't going off quiet yet to spark my creativity with its bounty, and my palette has been on this carb-and-dairy spree for so long, it doesn't quite know how to regain its footing.  Also, a new season, new kitchen, and new life call for new recipes.  I'm ready to say hasta to tofu tikka masala and the rest of my usual repertoire for awhile and turn a new page into some new cuisines.

For me, the best way to ignite a spark of inspiration and get out of one of these cooking ruts is to look to beautiful food authors and artists and see what they're into: an episode of the Barefoot Contessa, an afternoon sipping tea and pouring through cookbooks, or a journey through the food blog world usually does the trick.  With that in mind, I wanted to share one food blog gem I recently found through a feature on Momfilter. Mimi Thorisson's blog, Manger, chronicles her life raising six children on a farm in the French countryside.  She grew up in Hong Kong, Singapore and Paris before landing in Médoc, France, and her husband is Icelandic, so needless to say, their family menus are rather eclectic.  The richness and simplicity of the French dishes appeal to my current preggo palette, and an Asian twist always goes over well in this house.  This isn't a blog I had stumbled upon in the mainstream food blog world before... it's a bit of a hidden jewel, so I hope you'll check it out and be as inspired as I was!  Here are some faves I've bookmarked from the beautiful blog Manger...

Yum.  Consider me inspired.
What's inspiring you in the kitchen these days?

ps -- Check out Mimi herself...we should all be so chic at the market this summer...
How do those French ladies do it?