31 December, 2014

THE HOLIDAYS & FIVE YEARS

Happy Christmas! Happy Hogmanay! Happy New Year!

Our week has been f u l l in the sweetest way possible. 

Christmas Eve we flew to London and after a fairly restful night's sleep at the beautiful Novotel Hotel we boarded a trans-atlantic flight for Detroit, where we spent Christmas and my birthday with my parents, all eight of my siblings, my brother's girlfriend, my brother-in-law, and my two nephews and newly-adopted niece.

It was the first time we had all been together since Philippa and my sister's youngest son were born. Basically, it had been several years, and it was s w e e t.

After a few days in Detroit we drove to Ann Arbor to meet up with good friends we've known from St Andrews since before Philippa was born. In St Andrews John and Debby treated us and our children as their own and have been pouring richness and wisdom into our lives ever since. We will treasure them forever.

From the University of Michigan campus we drove to Pittsburgh to surprise Peter's mom and siblings. We were hesitant the surprise would work as we'd purchased plane tickets months ago and had to lie through our teeth to keep them in the dark, but the mission was successful.



And today is our wedding anniversary! Five whole years with my love. How richly blessed I feel, to have done nothing to deserve such a kindness from the Lord. My cup runs over. 

Happy 2015! Every anniversary Peter and I draw up a detailed list of the ups and downs of our year. It turns out 2014 has been a good one with struggles, sadness, and the loss of my dear friend, but also gorgeous travels, provision in ways we couldn't imagine, friendships grown and new friends made. Life is a treasure. Here's to a fresh start and new adventures in 2015. Much love, all.

24 December, 2014

MEETING SANTA || THE COCOA TREE, PITTENWEEM



Saturday we boarded a bus bound for Pittenweem with some of our best friends-- Eric, Stephanie, and their daughter, and our littles' best bud, Charlotte. Stephanie's been like my sister in Scotland and I'm so thankful for our late night walks, phone calls and dozens of daily exchanged text messages. Conveniently, she lives not ten houses down the path from us.  Basically she's been the friend I had prayed I would make in St Andrews; our husbands laugh at how long we spend chatting to each other but we argue time just ticks doubly fast when we are together.

Anyway, she had received word that Father Christmas was due to visit The Cocoa Tree Cafe.

Most of us inhaled peppermint oil the bumpy, winding, thirty-three-minute ride (bless public transportation) but we found Santa. The children's responses were varying-- most cloaked in at least a bit of uncertainty. Philippa said he was gross and graced us with the typical terrified-toddler-on-Santa's-lap shot. Sebastian carried on an in-depth conversation with the man, and Katharina asked for a second photo with him before we left, but cautiously watched him our whole time at the Cafe.

Once warmed up, we wandered the darling streets of Pittenweem before catching our return bus. If you're ever in the East Neuk looking for a place to stop, this coastal town is worth a visit. We loved their chocolate drops and hazelnut hot cocoa.

Happy Christmas Eve, all! We are so excited for what tomorrow holds! xo

19 December, 2014

SNOWBALL COOKIES



The first on our list of Christmas baking this year: these delicious Snowball Cookies, or simply, just Snowballs as Sebastian calls them.

I'd never made these before but have had them at various parties and cookie exchanges throughout the years was thinking about them recently, wondering what went into them. Turns out they're ridiculously simple! And even Peter's eyes widened when he bit into them. Find the recipe below. And MERRY CHRISTMAS! I love Christmastime.

 

Snowball Cookies

1 cup softened butter
1 1/4 cup powdered sugar (divided into 3/4 cup and 1/2 cup)
1 cup pecans, ground coarse
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour

Cream together butter, 3/4 cup powdered sugar, and vanilla. A stand mixer would be easiest but I just used a wooden spoon and elbow grease.

Grind up pecans in a food processor or blender.

Add flour to butter mixture 1/2 cup at a time, and when all is incorporated, add in pecans.

Roll into balls and bake at 350ºF/190ºC for about ten minutes or until cookies are beginning to brown.

Allow to cool for one minute and roll in remaining 1/2 cup powdered sugar.



You can find the original recipe right here.

12 December, 2014

49/52

The weather here has been colder than I remember in past winters, though I doubt it actually is; I must say that every year just after I exclaim I am a fair weather girl and permanently belong on a beach. Nevertheless we wear wool and light the fire and drink Scottish honey in hot lemon water and suddenly, Winter is lovely. Even romantic.

We stayed home all of today and painted through the morning, topped the paint off with glitter, and hung our posters throughout the house. Voila, it sparkles and it's magical.

Philippa properly looks like a toddler now, and I have nothing more to say about that because she was supposed to stay our baby. Sebastian is still gunning to read and will often scream for us from his bed at night, and once we've hurried in there to see what on earth could be the matter, he calmly asks, "Does Christof begin with 'c'?"

Katharina has this new smile that melts my heart (below). Her end-of-term dance recital is tomorrow and we can't wait to see what she's been up to in class! She and I are also planning a date for Wednesday, because it's been a while since we went out, just the two of us. She's asked for a scone and maybe tea, but if the place she hopes to go to doesn't sell tea, she's "pretty sure they probably sell water." And I told her, darling, we live in Great Britain. You'll get your tea.

Happy Friday! We're looking forward to finishing up Christmas shopping this weekend, hand-delivering some Christmas presents, and getting over coughs so we can start baking an overabundance of Christmas cookies!

xo, Angela





Sebastian Grey// got new Cars boxers today and exclaimed that he likes them so much he is going to wear the Francesco Bernoulli pair to his wedding!
Katharina McCallum// the new smile, it kills me.
Philippa Byrde// ever since I got back from London will occasionally cry, "I'm soo saaaad!" When asked why, "Becaussse I just want my Paaapa."

07 December, 2014

47/52 & 48/52

Playing catch-up on portraits this week! Life has been truly sweet, and I haven't done well at photographing it, but as my husband says, "some [most] moments are just meant to be enjoyed by those present."

Peter has eight days left in this semester and as always, we can hardly wait. This year has flown by and we're a bit uneasy about how fast next (and last) semester will go. But all is well here.

It's December! my favourite time of year. And we've started saying Merry Christmas to people on the street. Next year I'm looking forward to new photo projects, but won't be returning this one. Do you have any fun suggestions for photo challenges?

These three darlings light up our lives and we're feeling a particularly deep reward in this season of parenting them.  Merry Christmas, all. 'Tis the season. xx


Sebastian//  after months of praying for one multiple times a day, a toy motorcycle showed up in his underwear drawer this week.
Katharina//  was gifted a Belle dress and crown today and has been walking around the house saying, "Oh, now I'm a real princess." We're a bit amazed at just how girly she's become.
Philippa//  munching on a rambutan. Have you tried them? You should-- they're strange, but new favourites here!



Sebastian//  has announced that since he knows all the letter sounds and how to write most of them, he's ready to start reading "so I can read in my bed at night with my lamp on." Steady, boy!
Katharina//  never not reading. Or dancing or singing.
Philippa//  was up ten times through the night with a stuffy nose, which was worse than she ever was as a newborn or three-month-old or one-year-old. Lots of snuggles and naps here today. . .

p.s. have you checked out my nephews' portraits lately? They're darling!

29 November, 2014

LONDON WEEKEND



London was a wonderful experience and I'm convinced I was introduced to the City by the best person for the job. Ana and I ate ungodly amounts of bread, walked till we thought we'd worn holes in our boots, stayed up too late, slept too late, and laughed far too hard.

Our days were spent shopping (Oxford Street! Like nothing else...) and sightseeing and in the evenings we mostly hopped cocktail bars, one evening saw a play and another, visited the German Market in Hyde Park.

London food was good for my soul, and naturally I ate a lot of it. Anything you can dream, within a one-block radius (unless you're in Chinatown).

Friday night we had Swiss fondue at St Moritz and later went to one of London's top cocktail bars, Sketch.

One of my favourite meals was brunch Saturday at Le Pain Quotidien-- organic croissants and baguettes with farm fresh organic eggs, green drinks, and house jams and chocolate spread floating between tables.

In Trafalgar Square we stumbled upon teens advertising free hugs and a man twisting wire into rings and threading beads and stones through them with a sign "Free Rings -- everyone will be happy!" I had him custom make one for Katharina, and she's worn it every day since I gave it to her. Later, we enjoyed wine during a stunning and hilarious performance of Shakespeare in Love at Noël Coward and very late dinner at Côte.

Sunday we had High Tea at the impressive Laduree in Harrods, which was admittedly more cake than two little ladies could consume. But not to fear, they gorgeously packaged it up for us to take away. After plenty of sightseeing and popping into the impressive Victoria & Albert Museum (I loved the pool in the back courtyard-- open for wading, but clothes must stay on- ha!), we visited the Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park for mulled wine, wurst, and a bit of Christmas shopping. 

The weekend was packed full of great times but the fastest we ever hustled was through the tube stations. We really enjoyed sitting back and savouring each thing we did; if it's possible to be slow-paced in London, I think we did it.

I thoroughly enjoyed tasting the busy life of a Londoner, but was happy to get back to The Bubble and my family! Speaking of, I arrived home late Monday afternoon to a sparkling house and four sweet faces hiding in the kitchen. Peter had deep cleaned the whole house and reorganised the kids' dressers, cleaned the bathroom, washed, dried and put away all the laundry, meal planned, grocery shopped, and took our babes on long adventures. He's such a keeper.

That's all! Next time I visit I'll be house hunting-- hooray!

20 November, 2014

GLUTEN & REFINED SUGAR-FREE PUMPKIN BREAD

Hello! I'm frantically packing my bag, waxing my eyebrows, and trying to catch up on household things before travelling to London tomorrow, but wanted to share this recipe the littles and I made several weeks back.

I'm really thankful to my husband for making this trip to happen, because I know I need it. It's the first time in a year I will have spent nights away from the children, and the first time since becoming a mama that I've left them without taking Peter with me.

I've packed my big girl camera and am clearing my camera roll (which has on it photos from two summers ago in America!) so watch my Instagram this weekend for fruity cocktail photos! And London of course.




And now the bread:

The littles and I love this pumpkin bread or anything pumpkin really, especially in the cold months when we bake at least twice a week. I'm sorry to say we didn't do well in terms of saving even one slice for Peter, so I can't share his review. But we enjoyed it: it's soft and oh, so dense. With the bean flour and assorted add-ins, it is filling too!

Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free Pumpkin Bread

1 15 ounce can pumpkin puree
1/3 cup olive oil (or other cooking oil)
2/3 cup maple syrup (or another liquid sweetener)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
dash of sea salt
2 cups all purpose gluten-free flour (we used Bob's Red Mill)
2 tablespoons coconut flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powered
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon guar gum
1 cup add-ins of choice (we used chopped dark chocolate, dried cranberries, pumpkin seeds, and pistachios)
extra pumpkin seeds for garnish 

Preheat oven to 175ºC/350ºF. Line a bread pan with parchment paper and set aside.

Add pumpkin, oil, sweetener, vanilla, spices and salt to a large mixing bowl. Blend using an immersion blender (or in your blender).

Add amm remaining ingredients, except for add-ins and pumpkin seeds for topping. Mix well using a wooden spoon. Gently fold in add-ins.

Transfer batter to prepared bread pan and smooth out. Tap it on the counter several times to remove air bubbles. Sprinkle with pumpkin seeds.

Bake about 1 hour, and transfer to cooling rack to continue cooking in hot pan 10 minutes. Serve warm with a pat of butter and cup of tea.




(Find the original recipe here)

19 November, 2014

46/52

This Friday I'm off to visit a good friend in London, so I'll be back with a scrumptious gluten-free pumpkin bread recipe before then, then that'll be it until I'm back.

Happy midweek, everyone!

xx




Sebastian// during a full-family sword fight, "I just died, so I need True Love's kiss."
Katharina// after reading Proverbs 15 one evening, "So, if Sebastian takes a toy from me then I will say [softly], 'No, Sebastian, that wasn't kind.' because that turns away wrath."
Philippa//  on her first day of potty training: potty: 1, leggings: 4. Day two has been exponentially better. . .

13 November, 2014

FEVERS, EAR INFECTIONS & GARLIC-INFUSED EAR DROPS

These garlic-infused drops are the bomb for kicking ear infections. We had our first ever bout of ear aches several months back, and these drops worked miracles. The rate at which garlic can destroy an infection blows my mind.

I've said it before: did you know garlic is nature's best antibiotic? And a beautiful thing about garlic is that resistance can't be built up, so its an effective and safe antibiotic. According to this study, garlic is one-hundred times more effective at beating infection than the two leading antibiotic brands.

At our house we don't panic over a fever, because fevers are a good thing.  A fever is our body's way of raising it's temperature to kill viruses and bacteria. (Just as when our body temperature dips, some viruses and bacteria die). Our bodies shift their temperature to move outside the virus or bacteria's line of defence. How amazing is that?

When we attempt to lower a fever, bacteria and viruses are able to survive, and continue to multiply, making the sickness more difficult to fight off, which can lead to further illness, often requiring medication, which compromises the immune system and prohibits it from functioning as it should.




So in a generally healthy person, fevers shouldn't be concerning because temperature control is a weapon of the human body.

Then what do we do? Seek to reduce the discomfort and speed up the healing. Let the fever run its course and keep them as comfortable as possible. For Sebastian this usually means sleeping flat on our chests between episodes of Looney Tunes. And a few other things:

Like water. Loads of water and loads of sleep. If you struggle to get water down your sick child, electrolyte-packed coconut water is a great option, especially when dehydration is more possible.

I appreciate this post by a Loyola pediatrician on when a fever should begin to concern you. If the person is slow, unresponsive, or has had a fever for more than three days, or if they are immune-compromised, seeing a naturopathic doctor or someone you trust, may be needed.


Before the garlic drops recipe, a few tricks we use for achy ears:

  • Garlic in general is great to consume, even if the earache is only viral. You can roast garlic but you're losing the therapeutic properties. The best way to consume it is raw. I like to chop a few cloves and swallow them in a bit of water or raw apple cider vinegar. For the littles, chopping a clove and mixing it in a teaspoon of honey goes down well.
  • Massage lavender (neat) to soothe and Thieves (diluted in coconut oil) for anti-bacterial & anti-viral properties, around the base of ears for relief.
  • Rub magnesium oil on chest and stomach to stimulate immune response.
  • Double-dose on fermented cod liver oil. This blog has interesting facts on Vitamin A deficiency and the ear's ability to function, as well as the damage fever reducers can cause.
  • Hot towel compress  or "rice bag" - one of the biggest socks we can find, filled two-thirds of the way with rice, and knotted. This is one of the few situations where I feel okay with using the microwave-- stick the filled sock in the microwave for 30-second intervals until it is very warm but not hot. Hold on sore ear until cool.



Garlic-Infused Ear Drops

1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons coconut oil (it's anti-viral!)
2-3 cloves organic garlic, crushed

In saucepan over a larger pot filled with water (or a double boiler), melt coconut oil, then add olive oil and warm until just hot to the touch. Add garlic to oils and allow to sit over heat, being careful not to cook the garlic. The water beneath the pan will keep the oil hot for quite a while, but once it cools to body temperature,  carefully strain out garlic using a cheesecloth and pour oil into a glass bottle with dropper.


For an added soothing effect, heat oil by placing the jar in a sauce pan of water on the stove until oil is warmed to body temperature. Use generously. Drop 2-3 drops into ear canal every hour or as needed. Massage a few drops on the bottom of each foot and around each ear. For best results, lie on your side for 30 minutes after applying in ear. Should be used 4-6 times daily, but preferably 8-10 or until infection has cleared.

(This recipe is adapted from here).

11 November, 2014

BYRDIE'S CAKE



I wanted to share a few photos from the little party we threw for Philippa on Saturday. We invited some of her best toddler and adult friends over and let her choose the food-- "choc-at cake" and "pee-nk i-creem" it was! We also invited a few party animals. . .

Philippa's chocolate cake was the same I made for Sebastian's third birthday, and the party animals we easily created by gluing homemade party hats on some inexpensive safari animals (plus a camel?).

As each of Philippa's guests arrived she met them at the door and upon seeing they had a present in hand would exclaim, "Oh! my peh-sents!?" and proceed to carry it to the place she was accumulating them.

She thought each candle represented a verse of Happy Birthday to You, so after she blew out her first candle and no one sang, she repeated the song solo.  The girl definitely milked her day and it was a blast celebrating her second birthday (yet again!).






(Thanks, Sarah, for photos four & five!).