Kindergarten Blues

Our Miss A is typically a joy (with the occasional difficult moment or two). Last year her preschool teacher called her a “sprite.” She flits around, happy as can be and is typically always singing, dancing or doing gymnastics. She’s the type of person that you want around when you’re having a bad day because inevitably she’ll lift you up. She exudes warmth and happiness….that is until these last few weeks. The kindergarten blues have officially kicked in – full force.

Now, it’s not what you might think. She loves school. She’s making friends, loving her lessons. She’s even practicing reading and writing almost constantly all of her own volition. So it’s not school per say, but rather the amount of time schooling consumes. She’s gone from having most of her day to play, mornings to sleep-in, and plenty of mom and dad’s attention – particularly when Mr.N was at school – to an entirely different way of life. It’s the school way of life. Mr. N went through it too. It was inevitable. It’s one of the growing-up transitions I like the least.

The difficult part about this transition is age. She’s only five. She can’t quite put into words what she’s feeling all the time – and most of the time it’s hard to recognize. As an adult I can see that her world has drastically changed, not to mention the rigors of sitting in a classroom all day, and the fast pace at which they have to learn. It’s a lot – a big change – even if you love everything about school. So if it’s difficult to find words and understand the magnitude of the change in your life, you can imagine that the result is not pretty. Let’s just say we’re having many more of the “up-turned plate” kind of moments, epic meltdowns and increasing sibling rivalry. The one good thing – she’s our second child, so I know it’s a phase. No need to pull out the “what-am-I-doing-wrong” and “what-happened-to-my-sweet-baby” books this time around. She’ll come back to us….now it’s just our turn to lift her up (and of course provide a bit of boundaries lest we create a monster).

So for our next Indian cooking adventure, some comfort was in order. Until this recipe, I’ve not had much experience with curries and I hadn’t even been to an Indian restaurant (that has since changed!). What I did know, was that curries are considered one of the ultimate comfort foods, making this was a no-brainer. I also wanted a way to tie in some flavors of the season, so for this dish we went with a Pumpkin Lentil Curry. lentil curry

We started by heating the oil, onions, garlic and ginger in a pot along with a bonanza of spices for the curry. For the curry powder we mixed turmeric, cayenne, cumin, coriander, bay leaves, cinnamon, salt and pepper. We let everything cook for about 4 to 5 minutes and splashed a bit of water in the mix to keep it from sticking to the pan. pumpkin curry mix

Next it was time to toss in the lentils. We went with the green variety. green lentils

Then we added the pumpkin puree and water. We brought the mixture up to a boil and then reduced to a simmer for about 35 minutes (until the water had absorbed and the lentils were tender). lentil curry

Finally, we removed the bay leaves and tossed in some chopped apples. We let the apples cook in the curry for about five minutes, then we added a bit of lemon juice and were good to go. green apple

Can I just tell you how warm and fall-like the kitchen smelled. It was delightful. The aroma just brought a sense of calmness to the house (at least for me) and a definite sense of hunger. We were all ready to sit down for this one – well, most of us. pumpkin lentil curry

Miss A, however, was less than pleased with the meal sat before her on this particular evening. It didn’t look familiar and she wasn’t having any of it. Now on some nights I’ll make the kids something other than what Mike and I will eat. I have to pick my battles. But on other nights, what’s set before you is what you get. This was one of those nights. lentil curry for fall

Now Miss A knows the rules. You have to eat some of your dinner before you can ask for a snack (which inevitably follows dinner by an hour or so), so she wasn’t arguing. That said, she was in definite pout mode – big eyes, puffed out lips, crossed arms. At least I thought she had crossed arms. As I turned back from grabbing something off the counter I saw her take her little tube of yogurt and squirt it at Mr. N! As I gasped, she then looked at me and squirted it all over the floor. (Yes, this was a school night.) curried pumpkin

While I do empathize with her situation and know that she’s exhausted both emotionally and physically, we still have to make sure certain behaviors are not condoned. So I picked her up out of her chair and set her on the floor. Then I said she had to go to her room for a time out and when she came back she could clean up her mess and join us for dinner. As you can imagine, this was not what she wanted to hear. The tears started, the collapse to the floor happened and the flailing of arms and legs ensued. She was “too confused” to walk to her room. Her legs “wouldn’t work.” I was the “meanest mom” in the world. And clearly “no one” loves her. Twenty minutes later she was eating her dinner and telling us about her day, and 40 minutes later she was flipping at gymnastics with a smile on her face. pumpkin lentil curry

So you may now be wondering how the curry was received by our little Jekyll and Hyde. Well, she didn’t love it, but she did eat it. It was a 2 spoon vote for her. As for the rest of us, I thought it was the perfect fall dish and gave it 4 spoons. I still find myself craving it. Mike and Mr. N also enjoyed the flavor combinations and gave it 3 spoons each. They don’t crave it like I do, but they would happily eat it again. It was warming, very flavorful and definitely filling.

Print this recipe: Pumpkin Lentil Curry

As for Miss A, well, we’ve been down this road before so I can look at it from a wiser perspective. I can often even find humor in the situation (after I’m out of her line of sight that is), especially since the juxtaposition between her happy-self and melt-down-self is quite drastic. That said, it is getting to be a bit trying as it continues to drag on. I miss my happy girl. I think we’re at the point of an intervention now. For Mr. N it was little jars that he could fill each day – one with M&Ms for good things that happened, and one with black liquorice for bad things that happened. We also had a little chart of things he had to accomplish each day – brush teeth, get dressed, homework, etc. – that he could track himself. He quickly learned that the good things in his day out-weighed the bad, and he enjoyed the sense of accomplishment with his little chart. Problem solved, kindergarten blues banished. It’s time to put my thinking cap on for Miss A now – she’s a different personality than Mr. N and requires a different parenting style. The chart with some twists might work. We shall see. It’s time to banish these blues.

We’ll be back soon with an Amazonian dish to share and then one of us will be picking a new country for the next adventure. I hope for all those celebrating holidays this season that they are off to a wonderful start. May your days be happy and tantrum free.

Some Like It Hot

Can you believe that Thanksgiving here in the U.S. is only a week away! How did that happen? I swear we were just setting the kids off to school after summer break only yesterday. Well, even though I am nowhere near ready for the holidays, I am ready to welcome them. I’ve been feeling very holiday-ish for weeks now. Perhaps its the unseasonably cool temperatures we’ve been having? Burr!

But before I can turn my attention to holiday cooking, I figured I had better post some of our Indian recipes I’ve been mentioning. India was my choice for our cooking around the world adventure. I’ve been participating in lifestyle and teacher training program at my yoga studio since August, and one of our recent adventures was to spend an afternoon with the wife of one of our instructors learning how to cook home-style Indian cuisine. It was the perfect fit for our blog!
Cauliflower

We learned how to make dosas, curried cauliflower and a delicious chickpea stew. The instruction was hands-on and our teacher was very informative and helpful. She brought her most used equipment from home, her pressure cooker and spice tin. She said that the traditional gift for a new Indian bride is a pressure cooker – she couldn’t get by without hers. And her spice tin was a circular container (it reminded me of a Christmas cookie tin my grandmother used to have) with individual compartments for her most used spices. It was such a clever container and a far site more organized than my crazy spice drawer (which is now over-flowing with spices and herbs from around the world).

My favorite recipe from the day was the curried cauliflower, which I’m sharing with you today. It’s simple. It’s healthy. It brings the heat! But I think the best part about it was learning how to prepare my own curry. I had no idea that curry powder is a spice blend. I always figured it was its own spice, when in fact it is a blend of spices that was said to have been created by an Indian cook for a British soldier who was returning to England and wanted to take the flavors of India home with him. Our instructor prepared her curry with cumin, cayenne, coriander and turmeric which is the version I plan to share today.
cutting cauliflower

Mr. N joined me in the kitchen to make the cauliflower. He had a sample from my class and was eager to learn how to make it. The great thing about this recipe is that it’s fast and easy, so perfect for Mr. N to learn how to make for himself (with oven supervision of course). We started by cleaning the cauliflower and then slicing it into quarters. The trick to slicing it is to make a deep cross-cut into the stem of the head and then pull the quarters apart. This makes it easy to break the cauliflower into bite size florets.
cauliflower florets

After rinsing the cauliflower clean, we added it to a Ziplock bag. Mr. N then measured out and added a bit of olive oil and our spices to the bag.
curry spice mix

After giving the bag a good shake to coat the cauliflower, we then placed it onto a parchment lined baking sheet and roasted the cauliflower at 450F for 15 to 20 minutes.
shake and bake

While the cauliflower was baking, Mike and Miss A called us out to the yard where they had been raking up leaves. They just had to share their amazing find…a rather large praying mantis!
praying mantis

The kids were just enthralled (as was I). She was a real beauty. She sat perfectly still, well all but her eyes were still. Her eyes tracked our every movement. You can see how the praying mantis makes such a great hunter! Had she been on a plant, we likely never would have noticed her. praying mantis close-up

Back in the kitchen the cauliflower had finished roasting, so Mr. N and I returned to the kitchen to get a first taste of our healthy snack. We had toned down the cayenne and increased the cumin from my instructor’s version and were hopeful that it would be as good. We still wanted it hot – just not need-a-fire-extinguisher-hot. oven roasted cauliflower

The verdict – we have a winner! This dish might hold a special place in my heart – it’s a vegetable, which I have never really been partial to, in fact, I typically can’t stand cauliflower – and I love this recipe! I could hardly stop snacking on these little gems. Mr. N too, he kept coming back for more, and then a few more. And how fun that it’s a snack we don’t have to worry about overeating! curry cauliflower

I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but it earned 4 spoons from both Mr. N and I – a vegetable nonetheless! Mike also enjoyed the cauliflower. This ranked at a 3 spoon vote for him. Surprisingly, the heat was a bit too much for him (the man that literally douses things in srichacha). oven roasted curried cauliflower

And I’m guessing that you can imagine Miss A’s reaction. Yes, this was a 1 spoon dish for her. She did take a few bites offered by her brother, but after several moments she went charging to the sink to pour water into her mouth. A bit of an over-reaction? Perhaps. Drama does tend to run in the family. ;)
our budding actor

Print this recipe: Oven Roasted Curried Cauliflower

Long story short, if you like it hot, give this one a try. It’s a fast, healthy recipe that makes a great side dish or snack. Just ask Mr. N, he’s requested this as part of his weekly school lunches. cauliflower curried

All-in-all, I’d say our first Indian cooking adventure was a success. We’ll have one more Indian dish to share after Thanksgiving as well. Until then, I hope you all enjoy the holiday. As we count our blessings for the Thanksgiving holiday, all of our wonderful readers, commenters, friends and family will make the list. Like this recipe, you all hold a special place in our hearts. Cheers!

Miss A’s Favorite Bread

Miss A and I are visiting my mom and dad this beautiful fall Sunday. We’re cooking our usual weekly staples from their house quite simply because I missed them and needed out of the house. Even though I’m still rolling through my cooking, I have company and I don’t have to look at all the chores stacking up around my own house. There is just no time to get to them this week. Out of sight, out of mind.

So while Miss A and I are visiting, Mike is working on his portfolio for work. He’s up for tenure this year and it’s review time. And Mr. N is at rehearsal. He has another show next weekend, so today is the beginning of tech week, rehearsals for four hours a day until opening night. So aside from our prepared lunches and snacks, we won’t be cooking too much this week. It’s going to be one of those grab and go times. Fortunately, we did have the chance to cook quite a few new recipes for the blog last weekend and we’ll have some delicious Indian dishes on the way soon. First, we thought we’d share Miss A’s favorite bread recipe and a few pictures from our annual fall trip to Winona, Minnesota. white bread dough

As you may recall, Miss A wasn’t such a big fan of the kefir bread. She prefers a regular white or wheat bread taste to a sourdough bread taste. Now for those of you that have been following our blog for a while now, you also know that I am not a bread baker. Yeast and I tend to not get along so well, unlike Miss A and yeast-based breads. She has it down to a science. rising dough

So when Charles at Five Euro Food posted his recipe for No-knead bread in two hours, I knew I had to give this a try. It seemed fool-proof. The recipe truly couldn’t have been easier. I followed Charles’ instructions to a “t” and it didn’t disappoint. The bread rose beautifully as you can see. rising yeast bread

And then it baked just as well; although I left it in a smidge too long. No matter, it looked like real bread and I counted this as a true success. A breakthrough! white bread

Of course, the true test came when I sliced a piece. I still had a fear that it would have turned out too dense, like my typical bread baking results. Not this time though! It even looked like real bread; and Miss A’s 4 spoon rating was the icing on the cake. white bread slices

In fact, it got a 4 spoon rating from each one of us. I can’t begin to tell you how excited I was to have finally, and successfully, pulled off a yeast bread recipe. Miss A enjoyed many a lunch sandwich on the bread. It also went perfectly with wine and cheese. Thank you Charles!

For the recipe: Charles’ No-knead Bread

Now, here are a few pictures from our recent annual trip with Friend Sue and Richard to Winona. We ate fantastic food, tasted good wines, drove to historic sites and saw old friends. It was the perfect fall getaway, and a much needed respite. And even though the weather wasn’t 100% cooperative, it did lend for a beautiful rainbow that stretched over the entire town. Unfortunately, by the time we drove to a good overlook and I got my camera ready, it had faded to just one end of town. The full rainbow was a stunning sight. rainbow over Winona

While in Winona, we also had the chance to see the largest steamboat ever built. The American Queen was built in 1995 and is a replica of a classic Mississippi River steamboat from the 1800’s. The American Queen docked for a day at Levee Park while on its nine-day journey on the Mississippi River from St. Paul, Minnesota to Memphis, Tennessee. It was an impressive ship and one that invokes thoughts of Mark Twain and early life on the Mississippi. levee park
American Queen1
American Queen 2
American Queen 3
American Queen 4
American Queen 5
American Queen 6
American Queen 7
American Queen 8

And just so you know that we’re alive and well, despite our infrequent posts and comments, here are a few of the family shots from our weekend. family at American Queen
Miss A

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Happy fall everyone! Next time we’ll be back with vegetable dish that actually garnered a 4 spoon rating from one of the kids! Cheers.

The Proof is in the Pudding

Hi all! It’s been a while, I know. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve sat down to put this post up, but something else comes up. And I do apologize for not visiting as many blogs as usual these past few weeks as well. I will pop in as I can, I promise. We are just down right consumed by life (in good ways) right now, and the few moments that we’re not, I’m relishing in the kids.

We’re still doing most of our planning and cooking on the weekends, and we have some plans to get back to more regular posting soon. In fact tomorrow, I’m going to be learning how to cook authentic Indian food. You can bet we’ll be bringing some of that goodness to the blog!

So before we return to our international cooking adventures, we wanted to share a treat we made while in Michigan this past summer. I realize that peaches are well past their prime in the Northern hemisphere, but it’s one worth saving until next summer (or whipping up if you have any peaches stocked in the freezer). It’s also a great use for the kefir bread we shared in our last post. Really though it’s just further proof that we’ve been darn busy and I haven’t photographed any new meals lately!

Miss A and I made this recipe one morning at the farmhouse. It was a delightful morning – just the two of us chatting and cooking away. We started with our fresh peaches (as we had an entire basket of them). basket of peaches

Miss A then cracked some eggs for me. cracking eggs

Then we whisked them with butter, vanilla, cinnamon, almond milk and sugar. egg batter

Next we sliced and cut a loaf of our kefir bread into cubes, kefir bread cubes

and Miss A added our fresh peaches. peaches and bread

Finally, we poured the egg batter over the bread and peaches. We refrigerated the mixture for 30 minutes before pouring it into the baking dish. bread pudding

The pudding baked for an hour at 325F. We then let it cool slightly while we prepared a basic vanilla pudding sauce. bread pudding

We served the peach bread pudding warm with a drizzle of the sauce. As this was our last hoorah for the summer, we ate this for breakfast. While not exactly a breakfast of champions, it was vacation and well, we were living it up a bit. peach bread pudding

Needless to say, this dessert was a big hit. Even Miss A who wasn’t so crazy about the kefir bread loved it. It was a 4 spoon dish for her – me too. peach pudding

Mike and Mr. N ranked it a smidge lower at 3 spoons, still there wasn’t a bit left in anyone’s bowl. michigan peaches

It was sweet, it was comforting and oh yes, it was filling (to say the least!). peaches in bread pudding

Print this recipe: Peach Bread Pudding

Fortunately, this is just a sometimes food for us though. I don’t think our health would hold up too well if we ate like this regularly, but it was a delicious way to end the summer. breakfast or dessert

Now, I’m off to tuck the kiddos into bed. I hear them belly laughing upstairs as Mike is telling them one of his bedtime stories. (He is incredible at making up stories that get the kids rolling on the floor! I love that about him. And if I haven’t said this before, Mr. N’s laugh – his authentic laugh – is my favorite sound in the world. Hands down.) Then I’m popping a few loaves of kefir bread into the oven before joining Mike for a late dinner. It’s one of our rare quiet nights and I’m going to soak up every minute of it.

We’ll be back next time with some new Indian recipes…perhaps in a week – or maybe two. ;)

Staples

Well, we’re in our fourth week of school and so far so good. Miss A has adjusted to school with ease and Mr. N is right back in the swing of things. While I’m quickly adjusting to not having to juggle sitters and schedules during the day, our evenings are another story. Between homework (for both kids), gymnastics for Miss A, acting and swimming for Mr. N, reading time, play time and of course snuggle time, we’re still trying to find a groove. We also have mom and dad’s work schedules and the much-needed “decompression” time, and oh yes, we need to eat dinner in there too. Sigh. I know this is the same scenario in many homes across the world, and everyone has their strategies to make it through.

One of the strategies that we’ve found works best for us is a little planning ahead – something that we seem to refine each year. This year it works best if Mike and I sit down on Friday to make our meal plan for the next week, taking schedules into consideration. Then Saturday one of us will do the shopping while the other is carting the kids around to activities, and then on Sunday morning we all cook together. We were talking this weekend about how we never would have guessed that a few of the recipes from our blog would have become such staples in our diet. We really do eat a lot differently than we used to – and a lot better than we used to (also thanks to many of your food blogs!).

We also found that we have a few staples that we make weekly. We start Sunday morning with two batches of Kauai Granola. This provides Mike and I with an easy and delicious breakfast that lasts through the week. It’s also perfect with almond milk. I’ve never been one to drink the milk at the end of my cereal, but the almond milk takes on the flavors of the granola and it’s delish! There’s not a drop left in my bowl. Kauai Granola

We then also make a batch of quinoa and make a salad of varying flavors. One of our favorites is a play off of our Southwest Farro Salad, but using quinoa in place of the farro. I’m surprised that quinoa has become such a staple, but we have a lot of fun playing with different international flavor combinations and quinoa provides the perfect canvas from which to create something new each time. Southwest Farro Salad

And much to our surprise we also find ourselves making this vegan taco quite often. The sweet and spicy combination is fantastic and it makes for a ton of leftovers which is super helpful through the week. It’s fast become a family favorite. vegan tacos

And that brings us to one of our newest staples. You may remember we enjoyed a wonderful visit to Miss C’s farmy back in May. While there, Celi generously sent me home with some kefir grains. Kefir Grains

You can read more about Kefir here, but basically the grains are a live combination of bacteria and yeast which are fed daily with milk. Each day I drain the fermented milk from the grains and add new milk. The fermented milk (kefir milk) can be used for many, many things, but our favorite way to use them is to make fresh bread. Celi has her kefir bread making down to a science and I knew we had to give it a whirl. Kefir Milk

For those of you that have followed the blog for a while know, I am not a bread baker. I’m terrible at it. I kill yeast regularly and I won’t even mention how my sourdough starter came to its gruesome demise, but that’s all changed thanks to Miss C. Kefir bread is wonderfully forgiving. In fact, we have now completely given up buying store-bought bread in place of this wonderful recipe. As I mentioned, each day I strain my kefir and separate the grains and milk. After about five days we have three cups of kefir milk. We combine this milk with three cups of unbleached all-purpose flour. flour

Once the milk and flour are combined, the mixture appears sticky and thick. sticky dough

We then cover the dough with plastic wrap and a dark towel and leave it sit for 12-36 hours. The longer the mixture sits, the more sour the dough will become – kefir bread tastes remarkably like sourdough bread. As you can see from the image below, after the dough sits it appears bubbly and a bit more soupy. fermented dough

After the dough sits and ferments a bit more, it’s time to bake the bread. There are only a few ingredients to this version – honey, salt, olive oil and flour. Incidentally, we have forgotten the olive oil on two occasions and the bread turns out just as well. honey

The honey, olive oil and salt are added to the dough and mixed together. honey bread

Next we add about three more cups of flour and mix the dough until its sticky and stretchy. sticky dough

Then we toss some flour on the counter, divide the dough into two and begin kneading one piece at a time. kneading dough

This is where kefir bread is most forgiving. The dough uses at least another 1 to 2 more cups of flour on the counter as it’s super sticky, but it softens and becomes smooth very quickly. Typically we knead the dough lightly for only a couple of minutes. kneading

Next we shape the dough. We made this particular batch while we were at the country house in Michigan, so we went with traditional bread pans. shaping bread dough

We score the loaves and then cover them and let them sit until the dough doubles. rising dough

The timing on the rise varies. Sometimes it takes only an hour, other times it’s taken two. bread rising

Once it’s doubled, or close to doubled in size, it’s time for baking. We bake our bread for 30-40 minutes at 350F and we end up with a nice golden brown crust. golden brown crust

We let the bread cool (and always make sure to pick off a piece from the back because let’s face it – there’s nothing better than fresh bread straight from the oven!) before serving or freezing. loaves of bread

We typically eat one of the fresh loaves through the week and either share or freeze the remaining loaf. fresh bread

We use the bread for a side with pasta or cheese, as a sandwich bread, in French toast, for caprese salad, toast, a platter for white bean puree…you name it. It’s a versatile bread. kefir bread

As I mentioned, the taste is remarkably similar to a sourdough bread. It’s got that sourdough tang to it and it’s delicious. This bread is easily a 4 spoon recipe for Mike and I. bread and cheese

Mr. N is also a big fan of the kefir bread and gives it 4 spoons. He’ll eat it with anything and everything, and he loves being around when it comes out of the oven for that first taste of the loaf. kefir milk bread

Miss A is our lone dissenter on this one. She doesn’t like the sour taste of the bread, but she’ll surprisingly drink the kefir milk straight up. Talk about sour tang! Still, she prefers regular bread to sour bread and only gives this 2 spoons. Not to worry though, I have a recipe for her coming up soon as well as a sweet use for our sour bread (which Miss A did eat right up!). bread staples

Print this recipe: Kefir Bread

So that’s a glimpse into a few of our regular staples. We also have a few other recipes that have made their way to our table more than once including Mike’s lentil burgers, Bermuda French toast, peach ricotta pancakes, cous cous with cumin, baklawa, mussels in white wine cream sauce, pork, apple and wild rice hot dish, grandma’s cobbler, Maine blueberry pie, rosemary peach lemonade, oatmeal cookies and of course, the maple bacon biscuits.

We’ll be back soon with a tasty and sweet use for the kefir bread. And if you notice we aren’t on a regular schedule anymore, you’re right. We find with both kids in school all day, our evenings and weekends are all the more precious to us. Evenings and weekends are the only time we can all be together (and even that depends on the day). So we’ll likely post once a week or once every 10 days or so, but we’re still here. And we’re still cooking. We’re just opting to go off the grid a bit more too. :) Cheers all and if you come across kefir grains – grab some up. They are easy to keep, forgiving to cook with and they make for some tasty fresh homemade bread.

Happy Endings

Well, is it just me or did this past summer just fly by? Every year they get faster and faster. Well, as you know we ended our summer with a little country getaway. We rented a farm-house in Michigan for a week with the kids and just spent some quality time with absolutely no distractions (except for a few bee stings – poor Mike!). farm house

Thankfully Mike is not allergic to bees and recovered just fine; albeit rather annoyed. Aside from those two little incidents, the trip was utterly blissful. The kids were happy the whole time (no meltdowns or plate turnings) and they were inseparable. From morning until night, they were attached at the hip, playing and laughing. campfire

We did lots of cooking, ate every meal outside, read books, made crafts and even got to pick our own peaches. peach orchard

I’m not joking when I say that Miss A ate at least five peaches while we were in the orchard. peach picking

Somehow we still ended up taking home one whole bucket of fresh Michigan peaches. So as you can imagine, our next few recipes will be down right peachy. peach wagons

The farm house was exactly what we needed. It was peaceful and felt like home the second we walked through the doors. country home

It wasn’t extravagant by any means, but it was homey, clean, private and surrounded by grape vines. grape vines

And it was only a short 30-minute drive to sunsets on the beach. beach sunset

As simple as it was, we all agreed that it was one of our best family vacations. We all felt happy, connected and most of all rested. sunflowers

There’s not a whole lot to report back other than we spent a lot of quiet mornings in our upstairs sitting room overlooking the countryside. Then we’d make our way down to the kitchen area where the kids and Mike would read and craft while I cooked something up. I don’t think we were ever dressed or out of the house before noon! quiet mornings

Our days were lazy and spontaneous and then we’d head for some quiet nights either on the beach…sunset beach time

sunset girl

or back at the farm. country sunset

One evening, we sat around the campfire. Mr. N and Miss A were roasting marshmallows and Mike and I were sipping wine. The discussion turned to what a great trip it had been and that we should definitely visit the farm again. Then Miss A, usually not one for serious conversations, sighed and said, “Yes. This was like a happy ending for summer.”

Indeed it was. It was then just a few days later that I was snapping the first day of school pictures. Mr. N school day

It’s always the first day of school pictures that reflect back to me how much they are growing up and changing. First day of school

While the end of summer is always bittersweet for the kids, it was especially so for us parents too. Miss A is now a kindergartener, which means a full day of school five days a week. In other words, our house is suddenly very, very quiet. Since this was the first day of “real” school for Miss A, we weren’t sure how she would handle the separation. She had cried a few days beforehand, but otherwise was staying her tough little self. As the bus approached, we said our goodbyes and gave out our hugs. I was using every ounce of self-control to keep those tears locked away behind my sunglasses. I was standing behind Miss A, when she looked at Mike slightly panicked and said, “Where’s mommy?”

Just then, Mr. N walked up alongside of his little sister, took her by the hand and happily said, “Come on, Miss A.” boarding the bus

She looked up at her big brother and smiled. They boarded the bus and didn’t look back until they were in their seats, smiling and waving. As the bus turned away, the dam burst and my tears were flowing. Fortunately, I’m in good company and several of us moms were able to cry, laugh and hug our way through the walk home.

Miss A was right – that vacation was definitely a happy ending, but I also think that this is a new happy beginning. It’s definitely a new stage of life for us. For the past nine years, Mike and I have juggled our schedules both working from home and our offices. We’ve managed through the chaos and the stress to be stay-at-home parents as much as possible. Mike would stay home some days, I would stay home others, we’d work nights and sometimes weekends, trading off work and at home time, while trying to find a balance for quality family time when we could all be together. It wasn’t easy. And it’s the strangest feeling to look up, nine years later and think that those days are behind us. happy endings

While I very much miss my little buddies, I can’t help but think about all the possibilities and opportunities that lie ahead for all of us – and I’m excited. Even with only one week of this new life under our belts, I can already see that this next stage, might be just as fun as the last – particularly if this vacation was any indication. sunny side up

So since I’m feeling all happy and sunny, I figured we’d kick off our Michigan recipe series with some bright and sunny foods. This first recipe, is hardly a recipe at all. We obviously had a lot of peaches on-hand, so we used what we had in our little kitchen to whip up a fresh Peach Salsa. peach salsa

We used peaches, tomatoes, jalapeno, onion, honey, cherry balsamic vinegar and salt for seasoning. We first served our salsa as a side with tortilla chips. Miss A was not a big fan of the salsa due to the jalapeno. This was only a 2 spooner for her. Mike enjoyed the fresh peaches with his chips. It was a good blend of salty and sweet. salty and sweet

Mr. N and I enjoyed our peach salsa with the chips, but our favorite way to serve it was with a sunny side up egg on toast. peach salsa and eggs

Mike, Mr. N and I all gave the salsa 3 spoons. It was fast, fresh and was a simple balance of sweet and spicy. Print this recipe: Peach Salsa

Thank you all for your wonderful comments. We read them while we were away and always enjoy them. We read many of them to the kids and they enjoy following along as well. They know many of you by name, and will often ask which one of you provided the new recipe at our table (as many of your recipes are served at various meals). I promise I’ll get back to commenting soon, I just have a few projects that I’ve been sitting on for quite some time that I’m ready to move forward on; and of course, we’re still working out our new school time routines. Please know that I’m hovering in the background printing many of your recipes and that I’ll be popping in and out as I can as we try to find our new balance.

We’ll be back soon with a few bread recipes. Yes – I’ve actually made some bread! And the best part, it’s edible! Until then, here’s a flashback that happens to be another great use for peaches. We made this in Michigan too, and needless to say, Miss A devoured this one. :)Georgia peach cobbler