Posts in At Home
Diamonds for Doodle

Knitting was a skill I learned on a whim in college and now, 16 years later (oh my god), it’s one of my favorite activities. I love that it’s both creative and methodical. I love that it can be as simple or complex as I want or need. I find it incredible to look at a finished product and think about how the whole thing is just one long piece of string arranged in a special way to create something new.

I’ve really started to love making kids sweaters. They’re a great way to practice new techniques without a huge time commitment, and the girls always need new sweaters. This December I volunteered to be a test knitter for Big Red Balloon’s new design, String of Diamonds. They are one of my go-to designers for kids sweaters. Hailing from Iceland, Big Red Balloon’s designs are full of the warmth and texture befitting a nordic winter. This design features a doubled-up collar and a single cable panel for extra warmth and squish. The pattern was released on Sunday (January 9) and is available in her Ravelry store.

If you’ve been wanting to try knitting a sweater, this is a great pattern to start with. The structure is relatively simple, and the cable adds a lovely detail that also helps create a flattering fit. Shelter by Brooklyn Tweed is a nice starchy new wool that really showcases structural details and finishes very nicely. I especially love the earthy quality of their fibers and colors.

Doodle loves her “new purple sweater” and has barely taken it off since it came off the needles. Now, if only I could get her to stand still for a photo…

Deck the Halls: Magnolia Garland

For Bernie, dry magnolia prompts memories of hours spent raking the yard of his childhood home in Metairie (but I’d be willing to bet a bit of sentimental nostalgia as well). To me, the sweet leathery leaves bring with them an understated elegance alongside wild imaginings of Garden District grandeur. Our home is cozy and perfectly suited for the tartan and greens that come with the holidays - preferably enjoyed with a fire in the hearth and old fashioned in hand.

As much as I’ve enjoyed the carryover decorations we’ve had over the years, I’ve always wanted to put a more handmade touch on my hall decking. At the top of the list is a magnolia garland for our mantle. This year I was thrilled to find reasonably priced branches at the PopShop Market. I layered magnolia with evergreen and red berry branches, then wove through copper-wire fairy lights and gold pinecones. The end result is a full, fragrant, handmade garland that brings our home comfort, joy and maybe even a touch of that southern grandeur I love so much.

[Throwback: Last year’s holiday memories]

Focus on the Fungi

When I take a walk through the woods, I tend to keep my eyes down toward the ground and a few feet in front of me. When things feel a little to big, I like to bring my focus way in. Taking in the patterns and the colors, finding inspiration in the details that go unnoticed when I'm not paying attention.

I'm going to be honest. Some days I am so tired that making breakfast feels like climbing a mountain. Some days I'm left with the cries of two small children ringing in my ears. Some days that's all part of the ballgame and I'm a shortstop on fire. Some days it feels like too much. And, some days, all I need is some bracket fungi and a pup by my side to right the ship.

Watermelon & Gin Granita

Last week we saw temperatures in the upper 90s with 80% humidity (and no rain!). This week I've noticed the cicadas are out already, which is hands-down the earliest I've heard them in years. All signs point to a hot, hot summer, so we're looking for ways to stay cool. The kiddie-pool is full and our drinks are on ice.

When Bernie brought home a watermelon, my first thought was to use it in some kind of gin drink. We have basil, rosemary, and mint in abundance, and gin is our go-to as soon as the weather gets warm. But even a watermelon cocktail didn't seem cool enough to help us beat that heat. So, why not an adult frozen dessert? Something brisk and light (even more so than a gin and tonic!) to sub in for our usual aperitif? I can say with 100% certainty: Nothing brings the temperature down like this deliciously refreshing watermelon and gin granita.

Watermelon & Gin Granita

1/4 Small Seedless Watermelon, Chunked
1 cup Water
1/3 cup Sugar
2 tbsp Lime Juice
1 bunch Fresh Basil or Mint
3/4 cup Gin

1. In a small sauce pan, combine water, sugar, lime juice, and basil and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer just long enough to dissolve the sugar. Strain and set aside to cool.

2. In a food processor or blender, puree the watermelon chunks. Once liquified, add the sugar-water and gin. Pulse to blend.

3. Pour the mixture into a small casserole dish or shallow Tupperware. Freeze for 1 hour.

4. Using a fork, mix every 30 minutes until the granita takes on a slushy consistency.

5. Serve in small bowls with a sprig of mint or basil to garnish.

Dinner Tricks with a Side of Corn

Finding a groove with two munchkins in the house was (and is) not easy. One of the things that I noticed pretty quickly was that if I don't have a plan for dinner, we end up eating terribly. Too many attempts to "wing it" means too many days of pizza and Chinese take-out. Don't get me wrong, pizza and Hong Kong Garden have their time and place, but at one point I realized we were eating takeout or some variation of meat + pasta + cheese way too often. Unfortunately I had this realization because I started to just not feel good. I wasn't being mindful of our day-to-day. I've always put a high value on eating well, including eating fresh, balanced meals, and I paid the price when I lost track. Fortunately, I was able to turn the situation around pretty quickly with a few tricks.

1. Meal planning is a must. Ever get so frazzled trying to figure out what to cook for dinner that you end up just ordering pizza? Having a game plan for the week helps keep that from happening and removes the stress of trying to make magic at the last minute. Fun Fact: My meal plan includes a 'gimme' for takeout if we have a real hankering one night.

2. Stock the fridge. I get hungry. Really hungry. Like, grab-anything-in-sight to feed the beast levels of hungry. This goes hand-in-hand with being a breastfeeding mom. Nobody tells you that you should expect to be absolutely starving all the time if you chose to breastfeed. Great. It helps to have healthy options readily available so the "anything" I grab doesn't end up being the ice cream Bernie stashes in the freezer. Stocking the fridge with healthy options means I'm grabbing carrots and hummus, or throwing quinoa into a quick salad instead of sticking a spoon into a Ben & Jerry's container.

3. Another trick I have up my sleeve is that I piece together dinner throughout the day. Maybe I start the chicken marinating in the morning, or throw together the salad sans dressing during naps, so when dinner comes around all I have to do is throw the chicken on the grill and the dressing on the salad. This is way easier (and less stressful) than trying to pull everything together at once. For moms who work a 9-5, a lot of this prep could also be done in the morning or even days in advance.

4. Keep it simple. These days I have become the queen of easy recipes that pack a punch, and I'm looking forward to sharing those here, starting with...

Mexican-Style Street Corn

5 Ears of Corn, halved
1 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 Tbsp Mayonnaise
1 Lime, cut into wedges
1/3 cup Cilantro, chopped
1 tbsp Ancho Chile Powder
1/4 cup Cojita Cheese
Salt & Pepper to taste

1. Brush the corn with olive oil and cook over high heat on a grill, turning every 3-5 minutes until the corn is cooked.

2. Lightly brush the ears of corn with mayonnaise.

3. Top with salt, pepper, chile powder, cilantro and cojita cheese. 

4. Serve with lime wedges.

Street corn takes a whole ten minutes to throw together, chopping included, and never fails to impress adults and children alike. Even my 2-year-old goes to town.

About Charley

I can't believe that it has been three months since we welcomed Charlotte Florence. It wasn't easy for me to set everything aside so that I could focus on the end of my pregnancy and the beginning of Charley's life. I am so grateful to have been able to do so, as these past months have been a gift.

When I had Doodle, I was still working 9-5. It was a new position for me, so I didn't qualify for FMLA. Fortunately, the organization I was working for had a modest maternity leave policy and so I was still able to take some time. Six short weeks. When I went back to work I was still physically healing, none of us were sleeping, we were still struggling to breastfeed, and she was just so... tiny.

I remember so vividly when I dropped her off at daycare on my first day back at work. She looked like a doll in her carseat. Her arms were stiff and movements rigid. Her fists were clenched into tight little fists as she slept, still startled and fighting her entry to the world. She wasn't even smiling yet. She could hardly see. She was still so fresh.

With Charley, I wanted to make sure I had time to heal. I also wanted to make sure that we had our time together in those precious early weeks. I wanted to be the one there to feed her, to comfort her, to ease her gently into life with us. Almost three months later, I couldn't be more grateful. There have been challenges, of course, but they have been so overcome by even the smallest triumphs. What a privilege it has been to be able to just sit and observe.

Charlotte's smile is warm, her eyes bright and eager. Doodle was always a goofball - willing to do anything for a laugh, even as an infant. Charley is just happy to be happy. Sometimes I'll be feeding her or holding her while I'm talking, only to look down and find her smiling from ear to ear. Her trick is to grin at you until you notice and return the gesture. She's more laid back than Doodle, who always wanted to be in the middle of everything all the time. Charley's content to just hang out and see what she sees. A friend joked that she arrived late because she's a Pisces. Going with the flow is in her nature. 

And now I'm ready - ready to write, to shoot, to be on the mat. I never did sit still well, but that's okay. It's all for them anyway. Let's see what's in store.

Cassie's Pork Fried Rice

Last year, I made a huge pot of pork fried rice and we ate that for dinner. And then I ate it for lunch the next day, and also dinner, and also for lunch and dinner the day after that. I put a fried egg on top of it and had it for “brunch”. I stuffed a zucchini with it… you get the idea. I ate that pork fried rice for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for five days straight. Bernie mused that we’d been together for five years and I rarely made Chinese food for him, let alone multiple dishes over the course of a week. About a week later I took a pregnancy test, and the rest is history.

You can read the story and get the recipe over on my "everything else" blog, The Damn Yankee.

Eggscellent

In our house, we love eggs - we easily go through a dozen per week. So we know what we're talking about when we say that nothing beats eggs that come straight from the farm. The diversity in tone, hue, and size make farm eggs exceptionally beautiful. Chickens that eat and live the way chickens are supposed to eat and live make farm eggs exceptionally delicious. Keep your Eggland's Best - I'm heading up the road to the farm.

Thanks to John and Jo for these beautiful eggs!