Something Worth Sharing

Here she is, our new precious little one. She joined our family on June 26th, after what my husband describes as a “fast and furious” labor and delivery (she was born less than 1 hour after I checked into the hospital). We are thrilled with our new family member. brand new

Well, at first, some of us weren’t so sure.

fia and bella meet elenaBut I think we’re all adjusting pretty well, and this little one is getting lots of well deserved love and attention. sleeping

three seriousHave a wonderful day!

Three Big B’s

For Babka, Baby, and Blog. First the babka. 2 mini loaves happy girl slice 2 slice

Thank goodness this unholy concoction, containing over a pound of butter and sugar, each, and nearly 2 and 1/2 pounds of chocolate (!!) can be frozen, because I could only justify making this recipe by promising that I would freeze two of the three loaves to have when my husband is here to enjoy it. The impetus for this dessert is innocent enough. My mother-in-law shared a loaf of sweet bread studded with chocolate chips, and I thought to myself, hmm, these people are onto something. So I did a quick search at my favorite food blog and came up with chocolate babka. And at first glance, it looked simple enough, a sweet bread dough swirled with chocolate filling and topped with streusel. Closely examining the ingredient list, however, gave me reason to pause. Did I really want to sink that amount of indulgent ingredients into one baking endeavor? The craving won out, however, and it’s not until you’re standing there, looking at two bowls on the counter, one containing your risen dough, and one containing your chocolate/butter/sugar/cinnamon mixture and finding, in alarm, that one is unexpectedly more full than the other, that you realize you may have, perhaps, made a slight error in judgement. Thank goodness it’s too late to turn back at that point, because this babka, oh this babka, it is just that good. With all that said, however, I don’t see myself making it again any time soon. But you should. At least once; it’s one of those things. And after living months without access to an oven, it felt good to have a really, really good excuse to turn on the oven.

Speaking of cravings and ovens, I suppose that now is as good a time as any to announce that I am having a baby. Next month! As in, approximately five weeks from now we’ll be a family of 5. Sorry I haven’t mentioned it before, it’s just that living on the island and being pregnant without having access to good medical care has made me nervous, and I didn’t need anyone else’s well-meant comments or advice making me more nervous. I know I have really wonderful, lovely readers, but the internet is a crazy big place, and I know things like that still happen. So now that I am safely back to the United States, having survived 27-hours plane travel and layovers at 7 months pregnant taking care of two little girls all by myself, I feel comfortable sharing the exciting news. We’re having another little girl, and we are completely thrilled. It is a little bittersweet, because with the baby came the decision that we couldn’t responsibly raise small children on the Galapagos. There are just too many risks involved, mostly from poor-quality water and lack of adequate medical care, that would make it hard to have a new baby there. So we decided to leave our job and home on the Galapagos and move back to the United States.babiesSee, I’m not making this up. This was taken on our last day in Galapagos, when I was 32 weeks (3 weeks ago). My husband is currently finishing up his last month of work and then will come up before (fingers crossed) the baby comes.

The third B is for blog. I realize I’ve been a terribly negligent blogger lately (as in, the last year or so) but that is the trouble with living without internet access. It makes it rather difficult to do things on the internet. Ha. Seriously though, I’ve found that over the year, I’ve kind of lost my taste for the internet. I’ve found many worthwhile things to fill in the time, and frankly, I’m a little disgusted with myself when I get into a rut of looking at pinterest or other social media things for any extended length of time. Not that those things are bad, (and I am in no way casting judgement on people who do enjoy passing the time in this way), it’s just not really my thing, anymore. So, I’m still trying to figure out where I fit in with my blog. I do like sharing, and I love getting feedback from you, especially when there is something I can help you with. And now that I do have access to the internet on a regular basis, I will try to be a more dutiful blog and e-mail correspondent (of course, after the baby comes, all bets are off). But I don’t think I’ll be picking up the pace with posting any time soon. I hope you understand, dear readers.

Have a wonderful afternoon.

Six Years

wedding

Six years ago, today, I married a wonderful, sweet, incredible man. I am so lucky to have him. Today we’re celebrating on separate continents, though, so it’s a little rough. I figured I could just let the day pass by without thinking about it, I could spend it blubbering into a loaf of chocolate babka, or I could celebrate. I decided to go with the third, though it will certainly be a simple celebration, and it will still involve some babka (more on that later). I’m celebrating because I am seriously just so happy to be married to this guy and I love the little family we’ve made together.

joel

family pictureAnd no matter how many years go by, I still look at it as a miracle that two people, growing up in separate hemispheres and virtually worlds apart somehow found each other and made a happy family together. I know there are so many other people I have to thank for this miracle, and that’s why I’m celebrating today, because I am so grateful that this miracle happened. Thanks for everyone who made it happen, and thanks especially to my husband. You are an amazing husband and father. Thank you for all you do. I hope you have a wonderful day too, on your side of the world.

(Almost) 28 Self Portraits

So, remember how I said a while back that I was going to draw a self portrait every day for month? And now it’s been more than a month and I haven’t mentioned it at all. Well, I haven’t been trekking to my local internet joint as often, and this has resulted in less blogging, but guess what, I actually did do those drawings. Almost a full month (I decided to go for 4 weeks, and I missed a day because I was violently ill).

faces 3

faces 4

faces5So here they are, all 27 portraits. I started out doing one week of pen and ink, then one week of charcoal, then two weeks of pencil. Can you guess which day I was violently ill (my little girl helped supply the missing drawing).

all facesHere’s a closer look at the first (uck) and last picture in the series. I’m glad there was some improvement.

first and last

And here are few portraits that I think were more successful.

favoritesWhat do you think? There’s something to be said for doing something consistently over a period of time. I think it helped me get focused again on what I really love doing. So that’s great.faces 2Here’s to more drawing in the future.

Oregon

green and red
green 3
green moss
green 2

So, I didn’t talk to much about my time in Oregon, but I just wanted to say what a wonderful time I had. It was strange being there after being out of the States for a year, but it was good. The first couple stores I went to were pretty overwhelming, and I was especially appreciative of conveniences like clean, drinkable water, access to pretty much any thing you can imagine (food, clothing, craft supply, you name it, and the public library system.

I also enjoyed taking in the complete difference between my family’s home in Oregon and our home in Galapagos. There is so much lush, rich green in Oregon. I love it.

Have you ever experienced coming home after an extended absence? I’d love to hear.

Have a wonderful day!

Taking it Slow

fia at sunset fia smile isa goggles isa playing pepe stroller

It’s been a little over a week since we got back to the island, and the time has flown by. Each day feels very full of life, but I don’t have very many significant activities to report. Most of my accomplishments fall into a list like “cut husbands hair, organized two drawers in studio desk, went through kids clothes and removed all the clothes that don’t fit.” Silly little things, but it feels good to get them done. Each afternoon we’ve gone to the beach or the park. Sometimes we buy some fresh-baked bread from the panadería (bread store) to snack on. I really enjoy the slow pace of things here. Besides Joel’s work, we really have no other time commitments besides the ones we make for ourselves. We walk everywhere. We can get up early and go to the beach at sunrise or stop by the giant tortoise in residence at the visitor’s center down the street from Joel’s work. We can let the girls go swimming at sunset.

I’m most excited about starting up my reading program again with my four-year-old. She’s learned a bunch of individual words, and is moving to sentences and soon books! So excited about this for her. I’m also really excited to get deep into some projects I’ve been wanting to work on for a while, and I can’t wait to share those with you. Plus, did I mention that I recently took a couture dress making class online over our Christmas vacation (thank you, high-speed internet)? It’s got me all revved up and ready to try some clothing construction. Maybe, if I can clear off my desk enough to get to my sewing machine.

Anyways, the bottom line is, life is good here, and I have good things in store for the blog. Thanks for stopping by. Have a great weekend!

Christmas Cookies

Here’s something fun to do this weekend with your kids (or friends, someone special, etc.) to get you into the Christmas spirit. Decorate Christmas cookies. Oh yes, as cliché as it might sound, this really is a lovely way to bring some holiday fun into your home.

cookies 2

And it does not have to be complicated. Or fancy. Or perfect (remember this last one especially if you decide to do this with little kids). It is just meant to be fun.

Making sugar cookies with my little girls was a new experience for me. I’ve always loved doing sugar cookies, especially for Christmas, but I wasn’t ready to try letting the little ones help until just recently. As with practically any activity, letting little kids help with something usually doubles the amount of time it takes, but if you can just accept that and allow yourself to ignore the messes and little mistakes tiny fingers make, you’ll find real joy sharing a new activity with your kids. And why not start with sugar cookies? A very good place to begin, if you ask me.

isa looking at cookies

Here’s the recipe I used for the cookies. I have never settled into a really great sugar cookie recipe. In fact, I think I try a new one every time I make sugar cookies, but I have to say, this is a pretty good standard one. Nothing fancy like cream cheese or sour cream, but nice and flavorful.

isabella mixing

The instructions a fairly straightforward, and I decided to let my almost 4-year-old help with the dough.

mixing 2

mixingIt went pretty well, except that part of the way through I went to get something and came back to find my little sweetie spooning unknown quantities of flour into the bowl that I had already carefully measured my flour into. I had to start over there, but it wasn’t a big deal, and she is so eager to learn, which makes it fun for me, too.

dough

Now, I have to be completely honest and say rolling and cutting out the cookies was the hardest part. Probably because I was not quite ready to give up control in this area. My two-year old was especially hard to control during that step in the process, but I should have known. She is two after all. The girls did not want to wait until the dough reached the right thickness, and the didn’t want to hear anything about trying to place the cut outs as close to each other as possible to keep the dough from having to be rolled out multiple times. No siree. I’d go to put a nicely cut cookie on the pan only to find several false starts from some anxious cookie cutters in the center of the rolled out dough, marring the whole project. It got a little tense. But after the cookies were made and the little bakers got to sample their fine work, the rest was just, well, icing on the cookies.

Here’s the recipe I used for the frosting. I halved the recipe and still had lots left over, so if you’re not a frosting0phile like me, you might want to take this approach, too.

So here’s the thing I wanted to tell you about especially. Decorating cookies does not require any special tools or skill sets. Now, I do not mean decorating cookies for Martha Stewart Magazine or some fancy cookie boutique in New York doesn’t require tools and skills. It does. Whole lists of them. But decorating cookies with your kids does not. You can even go a little fancy, if you want.

cookies close up 2

Here’s what I did to spell out a little message with just a plastic bag, some frosting, and some sprinkles.

First, fill a plastic sandwich bag with some frosting, about 1 cup to spell out Merry Christmas. Push it to one corner, then seal and twist the top so frosting won’t squeeze out that end. Snip the corner that has the frosting in it off  so you have about a 1/2 inch opening. Then take some sugar cookies in whatever shape you want (I recommend circles, squares, or shapes with at least one big area; save the snowflakes for the kids to decorate) and spell out your message one letter per cookie. After you have completed a letter, dump a generous helping of sprinkles over the whole frosted letter. You may want to gently press the sprinkles a bit to make sure they stick to the frosting. Wait 10 seconds. Then turn the cookie upside down and gently shake it to remove the excess sprinkles.

cookies

I recommend doing this over a piece of wax paper so you can gather up the falling sprinkles for use on another cookie. This went pretty well for me, especially for a first time go at it.

close up cookiesMy letters turned out a little shaggy since I had big sprinkles, but I would love to see how some sparkly sugar sprinkles or nonpareils would look.

frosting

While I did the cookies this way, I let my little girl decorate as many cookies as she wanted. I didn’t expect much (she’s not even four yet) but I was amazed at how carefully she frosted each one. She was sparing with the frosting and sprinkles, and she kept telling me how careful she was being with the knife (it was a butter knife, but she associates any knife with danger).

decorating It was definitely the best part of the whole process.

eating(Well, besides eating the cookies, of course.) And my two-year old? She was perfectly happy to let me help frost and sprinkle a cookie with her, and then she spent the rest of the time picking off each sprinkle, licking the cookie clean, and then devouring the plain cookie.

eating cookies 2 isa eating cookie merry christmas
Have a wonderful weekend and enjoy some time with the ones you love!

A Typical Saturday

This post could have also been titled “what I look like before 7 AM,” but you get the idea.

First things first, we head to the market.  On the way there, we pass by a beautiful house, with a fun garden that includes poinsettia trees (did you know those little plants you buy at Christmas grow up to be trees?) and pineapples.

Here’s the market. It’s a quaint little crumbling, dilapidated spot in the center of town, and it’s where we buy 80% of our food each week.

I buy most of my food from this lady. She’s like the “no soup for you” guy (I’m not really into Seinfeld, but I do know that reference), but she’s straightforward, and I don’t feel like I’m being gutted. The prices are the same for everyone, even a gringa like me.

I love my little girl’s face in these next three pictures. She’s so good at posing for pictures.

This man was chopping up some freshly slaughtered goats. His friends were making fun of him while I was taking the pictures, saying that he never knew how to do anything, but now he has a woman so he had to learn to butcher goats.

He works outside of the butcher place though. Here’s what the legit butcher shop looks like (it’s really just a corner of the market, too.

This was the first women I bought anything from at the market. She seemed the most approachable, and since my Spanish isn’t great, I was a little nervous about the whole thing. She is sweet and always has a handful of grapes for my girls when we come.

That’s it for the market. Now we’re headed for a real store.

This is one of the bigger “grocery” stores on the island. It’s a little smaller than your standard 7-Eleven.

It’s one of those magical places where you can find nutella, canned beans, maraschino cherries, and baby food all in one place.

After grabbing a few nonperishable, include several liters of milk in a box (that you don’t have to refrigerate until it is opened, is that pasteurized) it’s time to head for home. All of this happens before 8 am, every Saturday. It’s a fun little ritual that we’ve gotten used to.

Have a great weekend!

Felt Frames, Embroidery Patterns, and Christmas Fun

Hey everyone, sorry I’ve been away so long. I didn’t mean for it to happen, but things just seem to get away from me sometimes. I have been busy with lots and lots of little things off-screen, and that, combined with really limited internet time, makes for a bad blogger, at least for me.

But, I do have something to share. It’s just a little thing for now, with more to come later. I’ve started actually making things for my Etsy shop. Really. I’ve re-listed my two embroidery patterns, the Nativity Set and the Car Set, if you’re interested. Also, I’ll be adding some hand-made items a few at a time. The first is this set of three wool felt pictures frames.

So check it out if you’re interested. I hope to have more to share by the end of the week.

Have you started Christmas crafting? I’ve been in the thick of it for a while now, but I love it. I probably won’t be showing much ’til after Christmas, since the people I craft for read this blog, but I’m excited. What projects are you working on? Do you have any must-make kids projects (not that I need to add more to my list)?

Thanks for sticking with me. Have a great evening!

 

Now For Something Lighter

Thanks for the kind words about yesterday’s post; it was just what I needed. Fortunately, life isn’t all bad. In fact, it’s mostly full of wonderful magical things, if you take the time to look.

Here’s a little of that sort of stuff. My little girl learning to draw and write.

Here’s papi. “He doesn’t have hair because you just cut it, mami.”

Here’s the letter S, which my toddler informs me is for her sister’s name (she’s right).

And this is what visa paperwork looks like, according to my three year old. Pretty close to the real thing.

She’s always on the go. I love to hear her little feet padding on the tile here.

“Look mami, I’m selling things like the people at the beach!” (At the beach here, people walk around hawking hammocks, sunglasses, hair braiding, and the like.)

And this made me chuckle. I found this at the store and showed my little girl and asked her what it looked like. She giggled and said, “Like a bum, mami.”

Which made me think of this, which I’d seen a while ago (can’t guarantee the rest of the content of this site is friendly).

Ah, it’s good to laugh sometimes. Have a wonderful weekend.