March 31, 2013

This Green Smoothie Challenge Thing.

Diets are so dismal (although there was that one time I lost nearly 30 lbs. on Weight Watchers). And I will never, ever do a fast or cleanse again. Those things make me just so miserable, as I can't find the will to get out of bed in the mornings if my near future doesn't include a cup of coffee with ribbons of half and half stirred in. But anyway I heard about this "30-Day Green Smoothie Challenge" last week and felt inspired to join it. I think it popped up in my Facebook feed; there are more than 20,000 people signed up to do the challenge, so chances are good you've heard about this, too?

I'm starting tomorrow, although we've already made a couple of the recipes. They're not yucky at all. I would venture to say they're definitely more yummy than yucky. I'm excited.

It's so simple. You just commit to drinking at least one green smoothie a day; every smoothie has either spinach, kale, or baby bok choy in it, plus heaps of fruit and sometimes almond milk. You can augment the rest of your diet to be healthier if you want, but you don't have to. I'm not going to change much else other than adding this smoothie in. Since I'm nursing and am always hungry, I have become a snack-a-holic, and I snack on atrocious things like peanut butter and crackers. I plan on swapping one of my snacks every day for one of these smoothies.

There are a ton of reasons I am doing this. Mostly, I need to get more produce in my life. Since I've been sleep-deprived, I have been eating whatever's easy and eating for comfort. That means lots of carbs like cereal and sandwiches and pizza. Also, speaking of pizza, the authors of this challenge promise clearer skin, which would be convenient because I've been breaking out for the first time since I had the baby. Then there are these seven extra baby pounds that are glued to my abdomen. I need to lose them so I can fit back into more than two pairs of pants. I refuse to buy a bigger size. Suffice to say, I am not feeling or looking especially lovely these days. Maybe this will help? Oh, and one more thing: I'm hoping it might help out with my milk supply, which I am paranoid is starting not to satiate hungry little Lou.

Are any of you guys into green smoothies?

March 30, 2013

This Blog, 400 Posts In.

Changes: This is a picture of Tessa from November 2010, the same month I started this blog. She was 8 months old.

This marks my 400th blog post here. The majority of my posts were written in the first year and a half or so of the blog. I was resurfacing then from brand-new motherhood, which had just changed me profoundly and yet left me--I was relieved to find--the same old me that I ever was. I thought I had some things to say about it. I think I also had some extra time on my hands; that's not so much the case now. I began here in earnest, trying to blog once a day and filling the space with a flurry of "What I Wore" and "DIY" posts. I had only really been reading blogs for about six months prior to that; I was late to this game, but I wanted in. And I've loved blogging from the very beginning.

I pride myself on keeping it real, but one thing I haven't done much of is make fun of this blog and some of its missteps. The time is right. Let's review:

My DIY posts back in the day were a big hit. They still rank among my posts with the highest traffic. People eat DIY posts up with a spoon, even when the person writing them has no business writing them. Me, for instance. Most of the "DIYs" I did here have since either broken, gotten relegated to the back of the closet, or taken to Goodwill. This necklace, for instance, broke the second time I wore it. This necklace looked ridiculous on. So did this one. I wore this skirt once before I took it to Goodwill. And these shoes. Hideous. I don't even think Goodwill got them. I think the trash can did. And although I do actually wear this shower wrap pretty often, I cringe to think I took a picture of myself wearing it in my dining room and posted it on the world wide web. I could go on and on ...

Regarding the "Stuff I Wore" posts. Oh, gosh. They, too, also got a lot of clicks, but not a lot of comments. I can take this to mean that a) people love to see a person make a fool of herself and b) they were too nice to say so. I probably did these kind of posts because I was, at the time, following a lot of fashion blogs that featured everyday people and I felt inspired and thought that if they could do it so could I. I had fun with them, even though they never stopped feeling ridiculous to do. (There was that one time I wore a mumu.) But at the end of the day, I don't have an especially unique or valuable style perspective to offer and though I love clothes, I'm not particularly fashionable. (Especially not now, two babies in. Now, I'm too often in hoodies and Minnetonka moccasins and this one pair of jeans I have with a stretchy waistband.) I don't even have time to go thrifting anymore. But when I do find the time and a few extra dollars, I'll tell you that clothes shopping remains one of my most blissful pursuits.

These days when it comes to blogging I'm more about quality than quantity (although I do try to stick to a goal of blogging at least twice a week). I usually wait until I feel like I have something on my heart to say or a project to share that's really got me thrilled. I'd say that now my blog is 1/3 posts about how life-affirming and unbelievably beautiful motherhood is, 1/3 posts about how fucking terrible motherhood is, and 1/3 posts about things I've painted around the house. I like what it's become. And I actually like what it used to be, even though so much of it seems silly to me now. Just like so many things in my life, I look back and think, Oh, Lord, what was I thinking? It's been a process. I've changed so much, but still I'm the same. I continue to love coming here to write and share the things and people and moments I love. Cheers to another 400 posts. Thanks for reading still.

March 26, 2013

4 Months Old.


Livvy is four months old today!

This past month, she ...

1) Fell off a bed while I was in the other room brushing my teeth. Totally my fault. Completely horrifying, but she ended up being just fine.
2) Started rolling over. (This happened about the same time she fell off the bed.)
3) Stopped getting swaddled at night and started sleeping on her tummy.  
4) Started sleeping erratically--some nights waking only once to eat and other nights waking up more times than I can count.
5) Stopped spitting up so darn much.  
6) Became super obsessed with her Exersaucer and her doorway bouncy thing and less so with her old trusty playmat. 
7) Grew even more into her nickname, "LuLu," often shortened to just "Lou." (I have a feeling this one is going to have the same staying power as "Tessabean.")  
8) More coos, more laughs, more little chats with me.

Oh, and I finally figured out what her breath smells like:

Cake batter. 

Buttery, creamy, utterly sweet, and completely addicting.

March 24, 2013

The Best Strawberry Cake Recipe.

For her birthday, Tessa requested a pink cake with pink icing and pink ice cream. 

So, I went searching for a really great strawberry cake recipe and found this one for a Strawberry Layer Cake with Whipped Strawberry Frosting on the Sweetapolita blog. This blog seems to be crammed with really great cake recipes and certainly with lots of finger-lickin' cake pictures. 

I've made quite a few cakes in my day because I have sweet tooth that aches constantly and because I try to make up for my disinterest in cooking for my family with my commitment to baking for my family. Anyway, I wanted to bookmark this cake on my own blog, just like I bookmarked this carrot cake several years ago, because it's so especially delicious that it has to be made again and again. 

It was a big fat hit with this pink-loving birthday girl. 

Strawberry Layer Cake with Whipped Strawberry Frosting 
from Sweetapolita

Yield: One 3-layer, 8-inch round cake

Ingredients for the Cake:

1-3/4 cups (350 g) granulated sugar
1 (85 g) package strawberry flavored gelatin (such as Jell-O)
1 cup (227 g) unsalted butter, softened
4 eggs (room temperature)
3 cups (300 g) sifted cake & pastry flour
1 tablespoon (15 g) baking powder
3/4 teaspoon (5 g) salt
1 cup (240 ml) whole milk, room temperature
1 tablespoon (15 ml) pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup (60 ml) strawberry puree made from frozen strawberries (puree itself should be closer to room temp, not frozen or icy)

Ingredients for the Frosting:

3 sticks + 2 tablespoons (375 g) unsalted butter, softened and cut into cubes
4 cups sifted (500 g) confectioners' sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon (15 ml) milk
1-1/2 teaspoon (7.5 ml) pure vanilla extract
pinch of salt
3 tablespoons (45 ml) strawberry puree made from frozen strawberries

Instructions for the Cake: 

If you're making your own strawberry puree, remove frozen strawberries (about 2 handfuls) from freezer and place in a single layer in a flat dish to thaw slightly. Place into food processor and puree the strawberries until smooth. Stir to ensure it is nice and smooth and not icy. Measure out 1/4 cup for cake and 3 tablespoons for frosting, and freeze the remaining puree for another use. Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter, line with parchment, and flour three round 8-inch pans, tapping out the excess. Set aside. In a medium bowl or measuring cup, combine and stir the milk, strawberry puree, and the vanilla. Set aside. Sift and whisk dry ingredients together in a medium bowl, and set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the sugar, gelatin, and butter on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one by one, mixing well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl with spatula. Add the wet & dry ingredients to the creamed mixture by alternating--beginning and ending with dry ingredients and mixing just enough after each addition to incorporate, but not over-mix. Divide the batter in three, spreading it evenly with a small offset palette knife. If you have a kitchen scale, weigh each pan filled with batter, to ensure 3 even layers. Bake 25-30 minutes or until a cake tester comes clean when inserted into the center. Be so careful to not over-bake. Check cakes at 20 minutes, but not before, and once you feel it's almost ready, set the timer for 2 minute intervals. Let cool on racks for 10 minutes before loosening the sides with a small metal spatula, and invert onto greased wire racks. Gently turn cakes back up, so the tops are up and cool completely.

Instruction for the Frosting:

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip butter for 8 minutes on medium speed (I use "4" on my KitchenAid). Butter will become very pale & creamy. Add remaining ingredients, except strawberry puree, and mix on low speed for 1 minute, then on medium speed for 6 minutes. Frosting will be very light, creamy and fluffy. Add strawberry puree (can be cool, but not frozen or icy) and mix until incorporated. Assembly of the Strawberry Layer Cake with Whipped Strawberry Frosting: Place a cake layer face-up on cake plate or 8" round thin cake board. Place 1 cup of frosting on top, and spread evenly with a small offset palette knife. Repeat until you come to final layer and place final layer, face-down. Place a generous scoop of frosting on top, spreading evenly with a small offset palette knife and working your way down the sides until you have a thin layer of frosting over the entire cake. Use a bench scraper to achieve very smooth sides. Chill until set, about 30 minutes. Remove from refrigerator and cover with a final layer of frosting. Finish with any decorations of choice, or frosting borders.

March 23, 2013

Tessa Turns Three.

Three years ago today the doctor placed Tessa Jean into my arms. She was so darn pretty, and she looked so bewildered squinting into the overhead lights, trying to make me out, that I burst into tears. And still she takes my breath away. I am crazy proud to call Tessa my daughter. She is incredibly tender and sensitive and so sassy and silly (all eyebrows and pouty lips and crossed arms) that I can hardly reprimand her without laughing. She can make me laugh until I cry, and she has the best memory and is more observant than anyone I know. I'm not the first mom to have a kid who she thinks is special, but I'm the first mom to ever have this kid. And this kid is my heart. 

This past year has been my best yet with Tessa. We've had some killer conversations and made some major changes (moving her from crib to big-girl bed, weaning her from the pacifier, potty-training her, giving her a new room across the house from us, and putting her in a mother's-day-out program four days a week. Most life-changing: Introducing her to her baby sister). In other words, she's done a lot of growing up. She won my heart even more by being remarkably empathetic when I was going through months of morning sickness and when the stress of life and work and having two girls to care for has momentarily gutted me. I don't like that she's had to go as many times as she has to fetch me a tissue and wipe my tears away, but I love that she feels compelled to. "Everything's going to be OK, mommy," she says. "Don't cry. I will cheer you up. Watch me dance." And, of course, seeing her become a generous and loving older sister has been so endearing. This year has also brought the joy of watching her develop very real friendships with girls her age; not only is it painfully adorable to overhear them talk to one another like tiny adults, but it makes me see how full of love she is and how extroverted. 

I know y'all know, but ... I love her. 

Photos from her last three birthday parties...

From her first birthday party:

From her second birthday party:

From her third birthday party:

March 19, 2013

My Porch Has Been Striped.

On Sunday morning our porch still looked like this, with the peeling brick red paint that's bugged us for the entire six years (as of this month) that we've lived here:

By the time the day was over, it looked like this. The day was really over by the time it looked like this, by the way. I knew it was going to rain on Monday so I finished up this project after the kids were asleep, working by porch light in the freezing cold, wearing my moccasins and drinking a beer and being kind of compulsive the way I am when I get really excited about a home project.

Before I opened any cans of paint, I swept off the porch, mixed a bucket of OxiClean and hot water and poured it all over the porch, and scrubbed it with a hard-bristled brush. After I hosed it off and the porch dried, I sanded the especially crappy places (like below) and scraped off any places where the paint was peeling off badly. Then I caulked the big cracks and painted the entire porch Sherwin Williams's "Perfect Greige" using SW's Porch & Floor Enamel. This was the easy part.

The harder part was getting these stripes all measured and taped off. I made 12-inch wide stripes (just like the blogger from Our Vintage Home Love, who 100 percent inspired this whole project) and taped them off and painted the white stripes on (Sherwin Williams's "Antique White") one at a time. When I tried to tape off more than one stripe, I got confused, so I just took it slow and steady.

Worth the effort.

The porch has been a work in progress for awhile now. I painted the front door last August, and more recently spray painted these cafe chairs white. (They used to be red.)

And I found these outdoor pillows at Costco last week. Two for $24, I think. 


So ... I love my "new porch." And I love that paint can make anything feel all new ... and for cheap. There's still more to do--like put up that privacy wall I want, and most importantly, new landscaping (we tore our old, dejected landscaping out at the end of the fall)--but all in all I feel like this is a huge improvement and way more us than what was there before. 

March 12, 2013

Tessabean, Almost 3.

My Tessabean will turn three in a week and a half. Life with this kid has been making me smile so, so hard lately. I'm sure I'm damning myself to a terrible tantrum by writing that on the Internet. She has a way of making me eat my words, as we have the very best of times and the very worst of times with her. But, mostly, she is so funny and smart and affectionate and confident and sassy that I can't believe my luck that she's mine. I sometimes feel like she's a present that I get to unwrap every day all over again (the days when she's not throwing a humiliating fit in a quiet coffee shop).

Over the weekend, Tessa got to go to her friend Polly's house for the first time for Polly's third birthday. This was one of the best days of Tessa's short life thus far, as there were plenty of dress-up costumes and pink things and cupcakes, and, of course, Polly, who she loves. Polly's dad, Rich Kalonick, takes pictures for a living, and I am so grateful that he captured these shots of Tessa and Polly and their fellow princess-loving friends.

March 8, 2013

Dresden Plate Quilts, Pastels, and My Inner Granny.

I'm a big kid with a potty mouth, but I just so happen to have the home decor preferences of a 75-year-old. Especially when it comes to textiles. I like chenille bedspreads and funky patterned sheets, and most of all: quilts. Last week I gave the granny inside of me the thrill of her lifetime and bid on and won two quilts on eBay, one a Dresden Plate pattern and one with appliqué butterflies. Both are purportedly from the 1930s or '40s and seem meant for snuggles and picnics and photo backdrops for years to come. I was crossing my fingers that they were as lovely as they looked in the pictures, and they so are. They arrived in the mail this week, all perfectly faded and well-cared-for, pieced together by hand with scraps of fabric that have my heart. My imagination goes bananas when I look at these quilts. Who made them and for whom? Was it a wedding present or a personal project, and were the fabrics sourced from outgrown baby pinafores and handkerchiefs or from painstakingly collected feed sacks?

I laundered the quilts immediately with lavender soap and my trusty Bounce Bar and then showed them their new home. I knew that I wouldn't be able to find a vintage quilt big enough to fit our king-sized bed, as the king-sized bed wasn't introduced until the mid-1950s. (I had to go look that up.) So it's just draped over the top of our bed. Today the sun is spilling across it, and baby Livvy looks especially pretty napping against the old-fashioned Dresden plates.

I swear I've slept better the last two nights under this beautiful old quilt. Good nights make my days better. That and the sunshine, which has elbowed its way into every corner of the house. Today I made the beds and wandered around taking photos of some of my favorite spots here. I am so grateful for this old bungalow and for a husband who lets me granny up the place.

I put the butterfly quilt on the back of our couch. Even though Tessa is mad about that. She wants it on her bed.


I also found this adorable old Dresden plate pillowcase on eBay for 10 bucks.

And then there was this quilt top that I got for $30! I cut it in in half and turned it into a curtain to cover up the ever-present mess in our little laundry room. I am so happy with it.

A lot of what I've been working toward with the house is better flow and more color consistency. I've blogged about this before, but our house was previously all over the map in terms of color and even decor styles. I like eclectic homes, but I also like direction. I'm trying to hone in on certain colors for our house, colors that can be found again and again--like mint and ocean blue. Really, I'm trying to hone in on what colors make me happiest, and I'm drifting toward pastels. Not sure if it's just because spring is almost here. (Hurry, hurry!) Here a couple more of my favorite new spots in our house:

This lampshade is from this darling little shop in East Nashville called Eclectic. The shade was made by a local company called Sisters of Nature. I literally couldn't live without it.

And this is the bench in our hall upstairs. I painted it Benjamin Moore's "Wyeth Blue" a few months ago (same as our front door and the mantle in our bathroom), and we like to keep our rain boots lined up here--a modern day Papa Bear, Mama Bear, and Baby Bear. Livvy needs rain boots, too. For now, her hot pink Coverse are here.