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We have worked with Jennifer Adams, the author of the wildly popular BabyLit Board Books in the past, and we were thrilled to have the opportunity to work with her again. We are big fans of her BabyLit Board Books which include Jungle Book, The Wizard of Oz, Moby-Dick, Sense and Sensibility, Anna Karenina, Don Quixote, Frankenstein, A Christmas Carol, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Sherlock Holmes, Jabberwocky, Dracula, The Secret Garden, Wuthering Heights, Romeo and Juliet, and my personal favorite, Pride and Prejudice. We’ve collected most of them and I give them as gifts all the time.

Any book that helps bring the classics to kids and gets them started early on a love of reading is a really incredible thing! The illustrations, by Alison Oliver, are vibrant and layered and both of the girls keep going back to these books. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a Les Misérables Board Book since Gigi is completely obsessed… it would be lighter for her to carry around than her 1,232 page copy! Along with the amazing board books, BabyLit also makes four wonderful playsets: Moby-Dick, Alice in Wonderland, Pride and Prejudice, and Jungle Book (each playset also includes a copy of the book)!

Over the coming weeks I’ll be sharing the fun ways we’ve introduced these playsets into our home preschool “program”, and along with each post I’ll be giving away a matching playset!

We started off with Alice in Wonderland because Gigi has been all about tea parties lately, and you know I love any opportunity to bake a cake! I took a lot of time to set up a sweet little tea party while she napped, I even got out real china! We had spent the morning making a letter E cake since that was the letter we were focusing on that week, and I pulled down my own annotated copy of Alice in Wonderland, and this wonderful book called The Other Alice, Gigi had a fabulous handed-down Alice costume, so once she woke up she slipped it on, and we had tea and cake and worked together to set up her new playset. Then, while she played with it, I read to her from my copy of Alice in Wonderland. She was only half-listneing as she played and ate, which was the whole point. It was so fun to watch her use her rich imagination to bring the characters to life while she listened to Lewis Carroll’s wonderful story.ALICE IN WONDERLAND BABYLIT BOARD BOOKPINALICE IN WONDERLAND BABYLIT BOARD BOOKPINALICE IN WONDERLAND BABYLIT BOARD BOOKPINALICE IN WONDERLAND BABYLIT BOARD BOOKPINALICE IN WONDERLAND BABYLIT BOARD BOOKPINALICE IN WONDERLAND BABYLIT BOARD BOOKPINALICE IN WONDERLAND BABYLIT BOARD BOOKPINALICE IN WONDERLAND BABYLIT BOARD BOOKPINALICE IN WONDERLAND BABYLIT BOARD BOOKPINALICE IN WONDERLAND BABYLIT BOARD BOOKPINALICE IN WONDERLAND BABYLIT BOARD BOOKPINTo enter the giveaway and win an Alice in Wonderland playset leave a comment! I’ll announce the winner when I share our Jungle Book Playset “Pirate Party” next week! You can also enter on Instagram! Good luck!

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  • kayleigh larkins - Love BabyLit Books. My toddler loves the stories and my infant loves the colors and I think they are awesome too!ReplyCancel

  • Jenny - These are great! Can’t wait to get my hands on some of these. Thanks for sharing!ReplyCancel

  • Katie - Super cute! And all about imagination, love that!ReplyCancel

  • Twila O. - Babylit books are awesome!ReplyCancel

  • Twila O. - Thanks for the opportunity! We love babylit!ReplyCancel

We are slowly puttering about our days: trips to the library, getting the garden prepped for planting, setting out plans for a big road trip, cooking simple meals, welcoming company into town over the weekends, reading books, fighting colds, and sipping wine with friends.

All of our little activities have somehow added up to make life feel busy and full, not to mention that Lulu has a high fever again and is teething up a storm. Basically, what I’m saying is, please forgive me if my writing is a bit muddled and sleepy-sounding. It is a direct reflection of my thought process these days.

We spend hours each day at parks and have lunch picnics in the backyard, and at night we fall asleep listening to the spring rain on our windows. The garden weeds are going wild and I am itching to grab the trowel and my gloves and work in the dirt. Kyle has been busy building two new raised beds, one of which will host a cold frame that he built. I’ll post a tutorial for the raised beds soon! The girls are fully appreciating extra time in the garden. They’re favorite task is watering things: weeds, the patio, rocks, each other. We are fully embracing the transition from winter to spring; it is one of my favorite times of the year.

gardenPIN

As spring settles in, and I prepare to welcome asparagus, garlic scapes, and rhubarb back into the kitchen, I am also preparing to kiss my favorite winter citrus fruits goodbye. There’s still a bit of time to find them at the grocery store and as long as they are there I will be picking them up and putting them into our cart… or rather handing them to Lulu so she can bite through the peels before spitting it out and throwing them into the back of the cart.

A little while back I shared a recipe for Candied Meyer Lemons and Blood Oranges and I thought I’d share a quick cocktail recipe I worked up using the lemons! I opted to use vodka from a local distillery for this spin on a French 75, but you could use gin if you prefer. I love the slight tangerine flavor that Meyer lemons give this drink, but if you can’t find them you could use regular lemons in their place. This cocktail is really simple and was a bit hit with our friends.

CANDIED MEYER LEMON FRENCH 75PINCANDIED MEYER LEMON FRENCH 75PIN

CANDIED MEYER LEMON FRENCH 75

Ingredients.
1 slice candied Meyer lemon
1 tsp Meyer lemon juice
6 oz chilled champagne
1/2 oz chilled vodka
1 tsp Meyer lemon juice

Directions.
Drop lemon slice into a champagne flute, add lemon juice, vodka, and top with champagne! Stir gently and enjoy immediately.

PRINTABLE RECIPE
CANDIED MEYER LEMON FRENCH 75

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  • Rebeka - I love this twist on the French 75. I’ll definitely pick up a Meyer lemon or two next time I see some just to try out this drink. Love the inclusion of some local vodka too :) Camp 1805 is an awesome spot.ReplyCancel

I am an amazing one-handed cook. Seriously, you should see me in the kitchen. Lulu’s favorite place to be is perched on my left hip; especially between the hours of 4-6pm. So, I’ve adapted to one handed cooking. The kids have been fighting the flu/terrible virus/croup/bubonic plague so I’ve had lots of time to work on my set of one-handed skills; I’m getting pretty good at one-handed typing.

I’ve learned a couple of things this past week: Popsicles in the bath can be a great distraction for grumpy, feverish kids; you won’t turn into a vampire if you don’t leave the house for 10 days (and counting); you will let sick kids get away with atrocious table manners if it means they are consuming calories; it’s possible to watch three Disney movies a day for 10 days straight and not lose your mind (completely); when your baby loses their voice from coughing it’s both sad and cute.

FAMILY PHOTOGRAPHYPINFAMILY PHOTOGRAPHYPIN

With all of the mental and physical demands of caring for sick kids over the past week, I found myself gravitating towards, and thinking a lot about, comfort food. The moment the kids’ temperatures spiked I called Kyle to pick up the ingredients for chicken noodle soup, crackers, and popsicles. I also made a quick run to the library to pick up a copy of my favorite comfort book. I’ve read Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver a dozen times and for some reason I had to have it this past week. I gave my well-loved copy away a couple of years ago but thankfully the library had it’s own well-loved copy for me to borrow.

The comfort food I turn to most is toast. I’ve been making a lot of toast. Cinnamon sugar toast for snacks, which is what my mom used to make for my siblings and myself and something I crave almost immediately when I’m feeling under the weather. I ate cinnamon sugar toast almost every single day when I was pregnant with Gigi. That, and warm milk with honey. So that’s what I make for the girls when they aren’t feeling good.

I also love to make avocado toast. I use Kyle’s freshly baked sourdough bread, smear it with a bit of mayonnaise or Vegenaise, smash some avocado on top, and hit it with sprinkles of Togarashi, also sometimes called Shichimi Togarashi  (a mix of Japanese chili peppers), flaky salt, and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. I could eat that every day… and often do.

AVOCADO TOASTS WITH TOGARASHIPINAVOCADO TOASTS WITH TOGARASHIPINAVOCADO TOASTS WITH TOGARASHIPIN

I think (hope) that we are on the upswing from this illness. We are planning to spend the next few days getting more rest, sipping water spiked with Elderberry Syrup, reading favorite books, little walks around the neighborhood for fresh air, and nibbling lots more toast.

AVOCADO TOASTS WITH TOGARASHIPIN

AVOCADO TOASTS WITH TOGARASHI

Ingredients.
1 ripe avocado, cut in half, pit discarded
4 slices of rustic French bread
flake salt
1-2 slices of lemon
Togarashi – Japanese chili pepper blend
mayonnaise or Vegenaise
extra virgin olive oil

Directions.
Place the slices of bread on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Pop them under the broiler until golden and crisp.

Allow the toast to cool for a moment. In a small bowl smash up the avocado flesh with a fork.

Smear the toast with a bit of mayonnaise or Vegenaise. Scoop the avocado onto the toast and spread it with a fork until it covers the surface of the toast.

Sprinkle a bit of flake salt and Togarashi onto top, finish with a squeeze of lemon juice and a little drizzle of olive oil. Enjoy immediately.

Serves 2.



PRINTABLE RECIPE.
AVOCADO TOASTS WITH TOGARASHI

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It’s early in the morning right now. I woke up around 5am and couldn’t fall back asleep. I’m a person who needs lots of processing time in order to keep track of everything, and with busy days and busy kids I don’t get that time as often as I would like. Every once in a while, I wake up early and can’t get back to sleep, so I get up and make the best of the quiet, dark hours. Kyle gets up early almost every single morning, and on these rare days when I wake up before everyone else I can see why he does. It’s still and silent and it’s nice to sip a cup of coffee from beginning to end without interruption. Not that I’ll be making a routine out of this. You know what I love more than silence and coffee? Sleeping until the last possible moment before I have to get up.

Last week was productive and busy. I got to celebrate my birthday quite a few times with my girlfriends, and my friend Marion ditched her family in order to spend some time with mine. It meant so much to me to have her here, and the girls adore her. Kyle and I also got to go celebrate both on my birthday and Valentine’s Day! I was completely spoiled the last week.

FAMILY PHOTOGRAPHYPIN

In between celebrating we’ve been taking advantage of the amazing weather to get outside for little hikes, playing in the backyard and dreaming about what we will plant in the garden. We’ve also been working on turning the garage into a usable space for Kyle, and I’ve been turning our house upside down in an effort to organize the kids’ toys, costumes, and books. How in the world do children accumulate so many things? Even though I’m diligent about keeping the flow of stuff to the donation center steady, the toy bins seem to slowly fill with random trinkets and dolls! As the weather is decidedly spring-like, I guess you could say we’ve been spring cleaning. A program we plan to continue on with this weekend.

With all the meals out and madness of taking on huge projects, I’ve been cooking very simple, inexpensive, one dish meals. This salad of Orzo Pasta with Sausage, Spinach, Feta, and Dried Cranberries has become a staple around here. It’s my go to lunch on weekends.

ORZO PASTA WITH SAUSAGE, SPINACH, FETA, AND DRIED CRANBERRIESPIN

ORZO PASTA WITH SAUSAGE, SPINACH, FETA, AND DRIED CRANBERRIES

Ingredients.
16 oz box orzo pasta
4 cups baby spinach
4 fully cooked chicken sausages, sliced 1/4” thick on the bias
1/3 cup crumbled feta
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/8 cup champagne vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons finely minced shallot
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
small handful fresh parsley, coarsely chopped

Directions.
In a very large bowl whisk together the champagne vinegar, mustard, and shallot. Continuing to whisk, slowly drizzle in the olive oil. Season the dressing to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat and cook the sliced sausages until golden on both sides. Transfer to a plate and allow to cool a bit.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, cook the orzo until al dente. Drain, and rinse with cold water until cool. Transfer to the large bowl with the dressing and toss to coat.

Add the sausage, spinach, feta, parsley, and dried cranberries into the bowl with the pasta. Toss gently to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

Serves 4 adults.


PRINTABLE RECIPE.
ORZO PASTA WITH SAUSAGE, SPINACH, FETA, AND DRIED CRANBERRIES

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I met Ashley and her family about a year and a half ago, when they were visiting our town. We’ve become fast friends and I’m so glad to know her. If you read Ashley’s blog, Not Without Salt, you understand why. Ashley is genuine in her writing, creative in her approach to food, and inspiring in her photography.

Ashley Rodriguez date night inPINScreen Shot 2015-02-06 at 10.27.40 AMPINScreen Shot 2015-02-06 at 10.27.56 AMPIN

She’s the kind of food blogger who you dream might invite you over for dinner; which is exactly what she did on our following trip up to Seattle. The forecast called for chilly temperatures and rain so Ashley had cooked up a fabulous, rich vegetarian stew. Her three kids and our two quickly slipped off to play and the four of us, Ashley, Gabe, Kyle, and I sat outside in t-shirts sipping cold beer and eating our delicious wintery stew and laughing about the unpredictable nature of Seattle weather.

For Christmas my friend Ashley handed me a copy of her first cookbook, Date Night In, along with some other goodies. I sat down and read it cover to cover as quickly as I could. Date Night In is full of the kind of recipes you’d expect from Ashley: inventive, appealing, accessible, delicious… and full of beautifully written essays on the journey of love, marriage, and relationships. Ashley writes openly about her marriage to Gabe; their struggles, triumphs, and the “every days” in-between. If you’re looking for a special Valentine’s Day gift for someone you love who loves to cook, Date Night In would be at the top of my list.

DATE NIGHT IN BY ASHLEY RODRIGUEZPIN

Having date nights in is not a new concept around our house. When Gigi was about the age Lulu is now, we declared that Wednesdays would be date nights. For us that meant that I made something special for dinner and we would cozy up to play a board game or watch a movie together after the kid(s) were in bed. Until I read Ashley’s book it never occurred to me to stuff the kids full of pasta and share a special meal with just Kyle; like an actual date!

I’ve cooked so much from her book already. It’s speckled here and there with splatters of olive oil, flour, and frosting; a mark of a favorite. For Gigi’s birthday she chose an impressive, made-from-scratch Rainbow Chip Cake from Ashley’s book. Gigi chipped in (no pun intended), making the rainbow chips, and the cakes, combining the frosting, and assembling the cake. She, and I, were so proud of the final result, and since her birthday falls of New Year’s Eve we enjoyed a slice at home before taking the rest of the cake across the street to share with neighbors. You might want to make a note that the cake goes very well with champagne.

RAINBOW CHIP CAKEPINRAINBOW CHIP CAKEPIN

Next up was Ashley’s Fried Chicken Sandwiches on Black Pepper Biscuits which you’ll find on page 173. I was drawn to this recipe for obvious reasons: perfect fried chicken, fluffy black pepper biscuits, grainy mustard, bright dill pickles, sweet honey! They turned out so well that I made them two days in a row and our neighbors came over two days in a row to eat with us. They declared that these sandwiches resulted in the “best meal they’d had in a long time!”

BLACK PEPPER BISCUITSPINBLACK PEPPER BISCUITSPINFRIED CHICKEN SANDWICHES ON BLACK PEPPER BISCUITSPINFRIED CHICKEN SANDWICHES ON BLACK PEPPER BISCUITSPIN

Finally, my most often made thing from Date Night In: Hot Dates with Olive Oil and Sea Salt. These dates are so addictive. I find myself buying Medjool dates in bulk and making a few almost every afternoon while the girls nap. You simply sauté the dense, sweet dates in fruity olive oil for a few minutes, transfer them to a plate and sprinkle with flake salt. That’s it! They’re so simple, yet somehow complex and delicious and just the thing I need mid-day. I love to make these and a cup of black tea and zone out for a few minutes while eating them with my fingers. Trust me, you need to try these.

HOT DATES WITH OLIVE OIL AND SEA SALTPINHOT DATES WITH OLIVE OIL AND SEA SALTPIN

HOT DATES WITH OLIVE OIL AND SEA SALT

Ingredients.
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
4-6 Medjool dates
flake salt (such as Maldon)

Directions.
Add the olive oil to a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the dates and stir to coat. Keep the dates moving so that they don’t scorch but rather get warm and soft and blister slightly. After 3 to 4 minutes in the pan, place the hot dates on a plate and drizzle with the olive oil from the pan. Add a bit more olive oil if you’d like. Sprinkle with a pinch of flake salt. Serve immediately.

Serves 2.


PRINTABLE RECIPE.
HOT DATES WITH OLIVE OIL AND SEA SALT

 

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  • Ashley - My daughter still takes at least two naps. I exercise and get things done for two naps and the other I drink tea and dates and zone out too. Good to know I’m not the only one. ReplyCancel

  • Rebeka - I made these the other day and they are so, so good. I love me some warm dates, especially if they’re served with something salty (you know, like salt haha).ReplyCancel