3.11.2016

Baby-Friendly Puree Pancakes


At 9-1/2 months old, Willa has been going gangbusters on solid foods. I've been making purees with a stovetop steamer basket, our food processor, and this freezer tray using whatever mix of fruits and veggies we have on hand, and thankfully she has gobbled up all of them.

However, sometimes a girl just wants to feed herself. Since she only just got her third tooth this week, I've found it a bit challenging to give her a variety of finger foods that a) she can actually mash up with her gums and b) fill her up. So I came up with the idea to turn some of her purees into pancakes that I can cut into bits for her to feed herself, smoosh into her hair, etc.

Most recipes I found on Pinterest had added sugar or other things I didn't want to include, so after combining a few recipes and futzing with the ratios, this is the basic formula I thought had the best consistency and health profile. The tough part is finding that sweet spot of using enough flour to hold them together so a baby can pick up pieces, but not so much that they are dry.

I thought some of you might want to try them for your kids -- and maybe yourself, because they really aren't half bad! So without further ado...


Baby-Friendly Puree Pancakes

2 eggs
1/2 cup puree of your choice OR 1 mashed banana
1/4 cup applesauce
1/2 cup whole wheat flour or pancake mix (I like to use less if I can, depending on the consistency of the puree)

Optional, if your puree lends itself to it: 
1 tsp vanilla (great for fruity purees but not so much spinachy ones...)
1/2 tsp cinnamon (awesome with pureed squash or pumpkin)

Directions: Whisk everything together and cook on a buttered skillet. That's it, that's all.

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Another perennial favorite, which I got from Oh Joy! when Johnnie was a baby, is simply 1 mashed banana, 1 T peanut butter, 1 egg and 1 T whole wheat flour or pancake mix. This makes a mushier (and messier) pancake, but they are so tasty!

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Did you make them? What did you think? Any variations you'd recommend?

2.25.2016

HEY LOOK - A POST!

It's been six months since my last post, but if you follow me on Instagram you probably know what we've been up to for the most part. But in case you're interested, here's a quick roundup of life these days:

1. We LOVE our new home. For really real. We love the coziness of this space, we love our little yard, and we've yet to feel any discomfort from downsizing. I think we're entering a sort of "phase 2" of settling in, where we've been here long enough (7 months!) to figure out what our needs are so we can make adjustments to fully optimize every nook and cranny. The neighborhood is everything we wanted -- friendly, diverse, convenient, clean, close to everything. Walking Johnnie to and from school is one of my favorite parts of the day, and the sense of community here is wonderful. During the January blizzard, for example, the whole neighborhood was outside working together, drinking hot chocolate (or beer, I suppose) as we shoveled out, and when we were done everyone shuffled over to the school, where there's a great hill for sledding. Also, we have OrderUp service here, so we can have almost anything we're craving delivered right to our door -- dangerous but wonderful when you want sushi or Peruvian or Fractured Prune donuts when the kids are already asleep... As for the transition from our old house and neighborhood, Johnnie misses her grandparents a lot, but we make an effort to see them weekly. Regarding the old house, the new owners (hi guys!) really seem to love it and have continued to make improvements to it, and that makes me happy.

2. I quit my job. Yes really. It was one of the hardest, most tear-filled decisions I've made in years, but in October I gave my notice and officially left my post in mid-January. Juggling deadlines, conference calls and two kids' daily schedules at the same time turned out to be too stressful in the end, as some of you may have anticipated. I was so scared to make the leap, but it was the right decision. I have been able to spend more time playing with the girls, cooking, cleaning, writing for myself, exercising, reading, and being a better wife/mom/person than I was before. Being a stay-at-home-mom is no joke, though; I definitely fit as much into a day as I did before, and kids have a way of wearing you down, but I feel better physically and mentally than I have in quite awhile. That said, I've just signed back on with my old employer as a consultant, so I'm working a couple hours a week primarily on writing and editing projects. I just couldn't let it go of my work life completely; I love what I do, I feel like I need pursue something of my own outside of my family life, and I want to keep my resume active. Plus, I love my coworkers and my company, and it seems like the feeling is mutual, so this was a good compromise for everyone. I have more control of my time, and I'm doing what I love on my own terms. There's no prestige and little income when you do it this way, but this feels more like "having it all" than any other career/motherhood arrangement I've tried so far. Special thanks to Ez for being incredibly supportive of my dreams and decisions.

3. We went to Iceland. We took a 5-day trip in January and fit as much into every day as we possibly could. I'll write more about it later, I promise, but in a nutshell it was awesome and not very expensive at all, and you should definitely go. Seriously -- go now and look for flights! On a personal note, it was my first time away from Willa, and I had to pump like crazy for weeks before the trip and the entire time we were there, but it was worth every ounce (teehee) of inconvenience. I was even able to transport my "brjóstamjólk" back in a little cooler, so nothing was wasted. Yay! (TMI, but nursing moms care about these things...)

When I started writing this post, I had a few more things I intended to share, but Willa has woken up from her nap and if I don't click "publish" now, it'll never happen. :)

Hope you're all doing well!



8.27.2015

FULL SPEED AHEAD


The calendar tells me Johnnie is now four years old. I find that hard to believe, but who can argue with time? We celebrated over the weekend with a family party in our new backyard, and the highlights of the day were a giant inflatable slip'n slide bouncy house and a cake shaped like a princess (the birthday girl's express request). FOUR YEARS. I cannot believe it. I really just hope we haven't screwed her up too much yet, and that she knows how much we love her.

The calendar also tells me our sweet Willa Emmylou is almost three and a half months old and it's my third week back at work already. I've officially decided to cut back to 15-20 hours a week so I can spend more time at home (well, more like at the playground and the library) with my girls. I only have to go into the office one day a week, which is especially great since we live an hour away now, and I squeeze the rest of my hours into nap times and other in-between spaces. (Thanks, Willa, for being a generally great sleeper.) Johnnie starts preschool in two weeks, and that'll give me a better chance to get into a work routine. I think? I guess we'll see. Working part-time from home sounds like "having it all," but I know by now that all forms of "having it all" require extreme juggling skills and selectively neglecting various things while you attend to others. As long as the neglected things aren't my husband or kids, I feel like it'll be okay. (I think this type of arrangement only works if you're a glutton for punishment, which I am of course.) It's been a little challenging, but so far we're doing okay. It really is nice to contribute to something in the wider world, though, and to be among adults thinking about adult-like things. If for some reason or another I end up "retiring" and staying home for awhile, I will most definitely miss that. A lot. In fact, it kind of scares me.

So we're just taking things one day and one week at a time. Baltimore County schools started back this week, and suddenly the weather is cooling a bit and there are kids carrying lacrosse sticks everywhere. This has been a great summer (yay maternity leave!), and I hate to see it go... but there's so much to look forward to. A new routine to create, new milestones for Willa, new friends for Johnnie. I'm trying not to blink.


8.04.2015

SETTLING IN

Our new house on moving day.
We officially moved into our new home on July 6, a full month ago already. I'm sincerely sorry for the lack of updates during the process of getting settled. This month has been full of adjustment--unpacking, exploring our new neighborhood, continuing to learn how to be a mom of two, etc. (We also managed to take a week of vacation in there as well!) I'm now in my final week of maternity leave, so yet another new chapter is about to begin. There have (of course) been a few small hiccups here and there, but all these back-to-back life transitions have gone so well so far that I'm feeling strong and ready to face what's next.

I have to give Willa a lot of credit for this, because she has been sleeping through the night for more than two weeks now! Go Willa! (Johnnie was like eight months old before we got a full night of sleep.)

Anyway, I expected moving day -- which was also settlement day -- to be an emotional one, but all I felt was eagerness to get into the new house and start unpacking. Our buyers were so beyond excited to move in that thirtyeight20 had already begun to feel like their house; and as soon as our stuff was plopped inside the door, our new home was truly home. I'm very grateful for that. The moral of this blog is that seven years of renovating is a very long time, but in the end it's just a house.

I think we all knew that all along.

As I mentioned, we bought our new house from friends (hi, M+E!) who had very much loved and taken care of it during their nine years here. While there are a few things we'll update in time -- some paint here, a new light fixture there -- this house really needs nothing right now. Even simple details like the awesome shower heads and the thoughtful placement of the attic light switch have felt like little gifts. The kitchen cabinets aren't beautiful (they're builder grade oak), but the layout is so great I want to leave them as is. I may paint them one day for kicks, but no rush.

I guess what I'm saying is that it's wonderful to look around and not see Projects everywhere.

The one thing we've had to do is buy some new furniture since we sold a lot of it along with the house. So far I've bought new chairs for the dining room and front porch, as well as a new dresser for me since my beloved Ikea PAX had to stay behind. Ez is building another dining table, and I'm looking at a couple new pieces for the living room. Though I've been dealing with back-order issues and things arriving in wrong colors, this is way more fun than puzzling over where HVAC ducts should go! :)

I still haven't figured out my exact plan for this blog going forward, but I don't think I can let it go quite yet. I think blogging was actually my favorite part of the whole renovation -- which, despite everything, was a really rewarding experience.

Now if you'll excuse me, the girls are about to wake up from their naps and I think we'll walk to the ice cream shop, just because we can.

6.01.2015

MASTER BEDROOM

The bed isn't made very nicely, but since I have a newborn even this is a miracle.
Whenever people ask whether we'll miss our house when we move, I invariably say I will miss certain things about it, particularly the master bedroom. I love the high ceilings, the exposed logs and beams, and the 150-year-old brick chimney -- all the best elements of this house tucked into one space. This room is just calm and peaceful, and I will surely miss waking up in here in the mornings.

I took this picture the day before I gave birth -- hence the slightly swollen feet. :)
It helps that the only furniture in this room is the bed, the nightstand shelves, and a small white dresser that we brought in for changing the baby. (Willa's Rock and Play Sleeper is easily folded up and stowed under our bed when necessary, so I don't count that as furniture.) Since our clothes are stored in other rooms, there's really nowhere for clutter to accumulate, and though I sometimes wish we had a TV, it has a much better vibe without one. Personal preference confirmed: sparse is good in a bedroom.

We've been sleeping in this room for about 15 months, and the novelty has not worn off for me. I'd say that's a sign we did it right.

5.28.2015

A WEEK OF BLESSINGS


Last time I gave birth, the big event was sandwiched between an earthquake and a hurricane. This time was equally eventful, though a bit less natural disaster-oriented.

We welcomed sweet Willa Emmylou into our family on Saturday, May 16 at 2:01pm -- a week ahead of schedule. She was 7lb. 12oz. and 20-1/4 inches long. She has one dimple and is, so far, the chillest member of our household.

Okay so she has her moments, but pretty much only when she's hungry or when you mess with her when she's trying to sleep. :) 
Our house was on the market less than 48 hours when I started feeling contractions. Ez was working on a handful of final details early Saturday in preparation for our first showing that afternoon when I told him there was going to be a change of plans. The contractions were irregular but definitely the real deal, so we decided to head to the hospital right away, given a) how fast Johnnie was born and b) that I was Group B Strep positive and needed a round of antibiotics in my system before delivery in order to protect the baby from potentially getting sick. (Though this is really common, I took it seriously because we have a friend whose baby passed away from GBS infection.)

So we made our way calmly to the hospital, very unlike the mad rush of the late-night, going-through-transition-in-the-car experience we had 3 years ago. We checked in around 9:45am and got the IV started around 11. By 1pm the antibiotics were in so my beloved doctor, who by some miracle was on call that day, broke my water to move things along. Contractions immediately ramped up, and within an hour we were holding our perfect baby girl. Again I missed the window for the epidural, but the worst of things only lasted about 10-15 minutes. I didn't even have to push -- Willa was coming and all I had to do was get out of her way! It went so smoothly that within a few minutes afterward I felt better than I had in weeks. Again, very unlike my first go-round. 

Meanwhile, the house was getting a lot of attention. We had a couple more showings during our first days home (not recommended with a newborn, but we managed), and by Friday we found ourselves in the middle of a bidding war. Coincidentally we closed on our new house that morning, our six-day-old baby in tow, and that evening we signed a contract to sell this old log house -- eight days after it officially went up for sale. The new buyers love the house so much they even want to buy the majority of our furniture. Over the weekend they came by to chat and show the house to their kids, and they were so excited they wondered if everything was too good to be true.

The outside finally looking legit and ready for a new family.
We know the feeling, and we remain in a state of thankful shock. What a week! We knew someone would love this place, but we weren't so confident they'd be house hunting at just the right time. Of course something could still fall through between now and closing, but we could not have imagined a better outcome. In addition to deep gratitude, I have so many mixed emotions right now: sadness to say goodbye to the house where we lived and toiled for almost seven years... excitement for our new house, neighborhood and lifestyle... concern for Johnnie as she deals with all these enormous changes in her little life... elation at seeing our hard work pay off... anxiousness about moving farther from family... and loads of love for my husband and girls. All those postpartum hormones probably aren't helping with this truly crazy swirl of emotions. 


So if you need me, I'll just be hanging out for the next few weeks -- snuggling with Willa, coloring with Johnnie, soaking up my favorite parts of this finally-finished house, and marveling over all these blessings with Ez.


5.15.2015

RUSTIC INDUSTRIAL KITCHEN


There's something about this kitchen. For a long time, I wasn't sure it was going to work out. Early on we discovered half the room had no foundation, and then there was the fireplace fiasco, and we seemed to hit a dozen other speed bumps along the way. And now somehow, in the blur of the past 6 years, we're done and everything is legit! 

We still need to install the pulls on the cabinet doors under and flanking the range top, but for now I'm just thrilled that all the tools and dust are finally gone. (The kitchen has been our makeshift workshop--again--for about 6 months now.) 

In addition to having floor drains, which allow for easy cleanup, we also have a ceiling outlet hanging over the island. It's not the prettiest thing, but so very useful!

I made the little sink skirt out of a canvas drop cloth last week. I'm still undecided about whether I like it or not, but I thought some prospective buyers might not like seeing exposed plumbing. It does add some softness to the room, which is kind of nice in relation to all the concrete and stainless steel. 


I didn't do the stained stair runner as planned, because I didn't know if that would be universally liked, but I still love how this staircase and pantry corner turned out.


I know it's not everyone's style by any means, but I'm really happy with how it turned out overall! What do you think?

5.14.2015

THE BIG REVEAL: MASTER BATHROOM

Ez has decided his favorite room in our house is the master bathroom. It's a tough space for me to photograph with my limited skills and the lack of natural light (this room's biggest drawback), but I think you can get the idea...



 Some fun facts:

  • The bathtub was a craigslist score for $125. (Thanks for picking it up for us, dad!) It was originally painted bright yellow. 
  • The swing arm light above the tub is from Restoration Hardware.
  • The mirror was a free hand-me-down from Ez's aunt. I had looked high and low for a mirror for that oddly shaped space, and nothing seemed to fit right. Then I yanked this one out of the guest room a whim. Perfect! 
  • The marble countertop is a remnant from the bar at the new Petit Louis restaurant in Columbia, Maryland. Ez's dad did the plumbing for the restaurant and bought the leftover piece from the tile guys. 
  • All the rustic wood trim was salvaged from various parts of our house.



If we were staying in this house, I'd hang a pretty piece of art in an antique frame above the tub and get an interesting rug for the floor, because I recognize that it's seriously lacking in color and personality at the moment. And I'd continue asking for the skylight I had really wanted in here. (We couldn't add any new windows because our log guy said it would compromise the house's structural integrity.)





I really love getting ready in here every morning! Our new home's bathroom is cute and retro with original black and white tile, but it's a tiny space. This is one room I'll definitely miss when we move, and one we're really proud of. It's been a very long time coming, and I'm thrilled to share it with you!

And, as a reminder of how far we've come, here are the few pictures I have from "before":

There used to be a staircase going from what is currently the dining room up to this room. We took out the stairs and closed up the hole, and that area is now the bathroom sink and shelving. 

This is my mother-in-law, and the wall behind her is where the bathtub is now. The 6' ceilings had to go. 


Not the best angles for comparison, but then again there's no comparison! 

5.13.2015

SETTLING AND UPROOTING


Remember how I said we were settling on our new house in July? Well, scratch that. We just confirmed that we're settling on May 22 -- just 3 days before my due date. (If we've learned nothing else from our adventures in this house, it's that, in true gluttons-for-punishment fashion, we tend to bite off way more than we can chew.)

Our house will officially be on the market tomorrow! The realtor and photographer came yesterday, and we've been in a tizzy lately trying to get camera ready. I did what I could to purge, declutter, stage, and deep clean a little bit every day over the course of the past few weeks. Whenever I overdo it, I pay for it with a sleepless night of hip pain, so it's been a long process just to accomplish little things, but thankfully this final push has coincided nicely with my nesting urges. Ez was still finishing up installing the master bathtub when the realtor pulled in the driveway, but we made it! The effort has been worth it though, and the house is finally looking the way I've been envisioning it all along.

Though we still have some tiny details here and there, we can officially call this house DONE. Can you believe it? I'll try to post lots more photos over the next few days, because the vibe in here is just so good.

Lately I've been trying to find last minute "staging" items like lamps and mirrors that will both cozy up our rooms for showings and that we know we'll use in the new house as well. Last weekend I did manage to score this beat-up old mirror at an antique store for $18 for our entry.



I'd been all over town -- Target, HomeGoods, Pier 1, etc. -- and hated everything I saw. (How can things that cost as much as $250 still look so cheap? And when did I become such a lamp snob?) As a last-ditch effort, I popped into the local antique barn and tried to home in on any mirrors I saw, ignoring all the other cool stuff I would normally look at. (So hard!) I found this at the end of the first row, 10 minutes after walking in the door. Mission accomplished, even if it reflects a slightly hazy and distorted reality -- which is really why I like it anyway.

As predicted, the dining room remains one of my favorite spots in the house. Though a little controversial at the time, I maintain that the planked walls were a good idea. (It helps that Joanna Gaines sings the praises of shiplap on every episode of Fixer Upper!)


It's weird to finally be at the settling in and decorating phase of this project, knowing that we'll be packing it all up in settling in somewhere else in a matter of weeks. It's simultaneously feeling more and more yet less and less like home.

3.26.2015

COOL

This old blog has been growing some moss lately, but I got an email today letting me know it was featured on Porch.com, a home network partnered with Lowe's, as one of "The 10 Blogs Every Old House Lover Should Follow."




They even called us charming!

Thanks, Porch people!