We took Ella on a plane to go see Mimi and Papa last month, and in researching tips about how to fly with a baby, I was pointed to a very helpful blog with notes on how to tackle all parts of the trip.

One great tip that has applications far beyond washing baby bottles in an airplane lavatory (though that is a great idea) is this: before you go, get a new sponge all lathered up with dish-soap, and let it dry out completely. Then cut it up into pieces, toss in a ziplock, and keep in the car, diaper bag, wherever you might need a wash.

A few more useful tips for kids and airplanes gleaned from flyingwithchildren:

  • Order a Kosher meal; all the parts are individually wrapped and so easy to save for later.
  • Remove the batteries from toys or other things you’re checking- apparently Security doesn’t like mystery noises coming from baggage if the thing accidentally turns on…
  • Take a quick picture of your kids and bags at the airport – if anyone or anything gets lost, you’ll be able to show security exactly what you’re missing.

IMPORTANT UPDATE!! (or, why I’m posting on a Saturday)

The most amazing thing happened this morning while we were eating our chocolate chip pancakes!

I suppose I should start by explaining yesterday’s post. I don’t usually post a picture without an explanation; I had thought that the story was more in the silly sign than the sad story. But with today’s events, I’d better explain:

About a month ago, Hubbs was in the backyard flying piloting his remote control helicopter before dinner. A sudden gust of wind came out of nowhere and swept up the little helicopter, taking it over the neighbor’s tall redwood trees and far into the distance. Hubbs, Dad, and my brother-in-law rushed out to the street to see where it had dropped, but the sun was going down and they had a hunch that the dark, overgrown creek nearby may have been its final landing spot.

Hubbs was SO sad when he came back inside – his lifelong love of aviation only has one outlet these days, and in one terrible moment, that was gone. He hung his head and cleaned up the wrapper from newly replaced landing gear, and sadly packed up the useless controller.

Well what else could I do but make some signs – because if anyone did happen to find it in their backyard, even if they wanted to they wouldn’t be able to return it unless they knew someone was looking. (That’s what you saw yesterday, though they were hung up last month, the day after the incident.) We copied the signs, packed Elle up in the baby carrier, and the three of us walked around to the neighbor’s houses, trying to look friendly enough to be allowed into their backyards to search for the lost helicopter. Eight houses and one creek-walk later, no helicopter.

AND THEN, as we sat eating our chocolate chip pancakes this morning, a knock at the door.

A kind neighbor had let the dog out in her backyard after last night’s storm, and he ran right over to sniff a tangled, dirty, plastic thing that the rain had knocked out of the tree. Remembering our signs (and probably our sad faces when we came to her door) she brought the helicopter back.

And so one month later, what once was lost, now is found. Hubbs is in the other room as we speak with a blow dryer to see if his little helicopter will fly once the mud and rain are cleaned off. Isn’t God kind – who knows each bird that falls, and cares to return even silly things like lost helicopters.



Hunting for Eggs

You just have to indulge me. Its been 5 months since the chickens have really laid anything, and even then, after the incident with the dog, and then with the raccoons, and then with the one being a rooster, we were down to just the three Old Maids who were actually laying anything. And then winter came, and then they molted, and so we’ve maybe been getting one egg a day for the last while. Then all of a sudden, I find a half dozen eggs of all shapes and sizes scattered around the coop each morning when I let them out.

I know I’ve already told you about the chickens once this week, but I just had to show you this.

Make a Pretty Napkin Stack

Instead of putting out a messy pile of paper napkins on your nicely decorated party table, try this easy catering trick to turn them into a neatly twisted stack.


1. Remove any rings you might be wearing, then place a stack of paper napkins on a non-slip surface like a tablecloth or place-mat; any size napkin will work.

2. Place your fist on the the stack of napkins, and pressing down firmly, turn your fist 90 degrees. Lift your fist up, place it back on the napkin stack right where you started, and do it again. As you repeat this pushing down and turning, you’ll see the whole stack slowly start to spiral around.


3. The top part of the stack will spiral quicker than the bottom, so depending on the height of the napkin-stack, you might take the top couple inches off once it has a nice twist, and carefully set that aside, stacking “mini-spirals” on top of each other as they are formed. Keep going until you have a spiral that continues down the whole stack (it looks sloppy if the top half is nicely twisted and the bottom half isn’t.)

4. Remove the top napkin that your fist has wrinkled up, smooth things out with your hands, and there you have a fancy napkin stack! These stacks stay like this pretty well, so you can make them in advance and put them out when you need them. Of course they also come together pretty quickly, so its an easy last-minute addition to the table.

Kate’s Babe

Sister had a baby, and to celebrate, of course I hosted a shower for her. The theme of her bachelorette party was Tiffanys (her first favorite store) and so what else could I have done but plan baby’s shower around her second favorite store, Kate Spade.

The Food

The shower was for 50 people, at 2:30 – not quite lunch and not quite dinner. I was looking for classy, tasty shower food that was, well, reasonable: reasonable effort to prepare, reasonably neat to eat on your lap, reasonable cost, and reasonable “heaviness” since it was for an in-between time – I knew not everyone would come super hungry.

Here’s the menu I came up with:

Salad Bar: with chicken, candied walnuts, mandarin oranges, cranberries, and honey mustard or cherry balsamic vinagerette.

Sandwiches: turkey with apple butter and brie, or roasted vegetable with herbed cream cheese. (Served in tamale bags cut to size with pinking shears)

Chopped romaine lettuce was served in plastic take-out containers from the restaurant supply store – this was done in advance and provided an easy container to eat from. Guests would take the lid off and add toppings and dressing, and could put the lid back on to toss it all up. To make them look catered (not so that guests would think that we had it catered, but so that the plastic containers looked less out of place) I designed a little label that we stuck on the side. (Babe’s Gotta Eat is the catering division of Kate’s Babe, of course)

For dessert, I also wanted something fancy but not super fussy. My friend Bex recommended macaroons, and assured me that they were easy. She was right! SO delicious, and WAYY less work than I expected. And since they are purchased for $2.00 a pop at bakeries, making them was the only way to go. Here’s the recipes – we made guava and raspberry butter-cream to go inside.

Pictures moving clockwise: Pink Guava macaroons,  Guava Gelées (also easy, like little gumdops) Cream Puffs with lemon and guava butter-cream. Trader Joe’s Meringues were a great addition too – very pretty on the plates and tasty as well!

The Decorations

I designed little signs to put in Ikea Frames and hang on the walls from ribbons. Also found Sixlets (candy) that looked like little pink and white pearls and filled fancy bowls and purses with them.

The Activities

Hubbs gave me a remote shutter for my camera, which was perfect for a photo booth. I set up the camera on a tripod, and attached the remote to the chair in the photo booth. Guests could write a piece of advice to baby, grab a prop, and click the remote to take a self-portrait. This way, no-one needed to spend the whole time taking photos. (you can see the remote in her hand in the picture)

We also played Name that Tune, featuring songs with “Baby” in the title. Since it was a multi-generational shower, we used songs that spanned the decades, from Frank Sinatra to Mariah Carey to Justin Bieber.

Well there’s more, but I think this post is long enough. Thank you SO much to my Mom, Bex, Bex’s Mom, and everyone else who helped out. It couldn’t have happened without you! For Sure.

Back in Business

The days are getting longer and the chickens are getting older – which means, after a couple month lull, we’re back in the egg business. And with a big surprise.

As is turns out, Turbo (who did make it past Thanksgiving, fyi) is a lady Turkey. We know this because the past few days she has laid us the biggest speckled eggs we’ve ever seen! So she’s started pulling her weight (finally!) which is a good thing – we didn’t really know what we were going to do with this 30 pound bird who eats more food than all the chickens combined, plops herself at my feet asking for back-rubs when I go outside, and in the evenings collapses dramatically onto the grass like a dying swan so she has to be carried back to the coop. Yes, our turkey is high-maintenance.

From top to bottom, see 1. Baby E meeting Della 2. A hidden nest in the weeds 3. A mini-Monet on the hen-house roof, compliments of the plum tree, the sprinklers, and the March breeze 4. Egg sampler, from turkey eggs on the left to chicken eggs on the right.



The Third Wheel

Yesterday I hosted a friend’s baby shower. The new mom and dad are avid cyclists – their wedding theme was “a bicycle built for two,” so what could be more fitting for their baby shower than tricycles?

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The Invitations

I used to send the invitations,because I wanted to use my own graphic and evite wouldn’t let me. You’ve got to try it. It has so many useful tools for event management, and the whole thing is very intuitive. Favorite feature? If you know that Great Aunt Sue doesn’t use email and won’t get the digital invite, pingg will print and mail her the invitation. For a fee, of course, but what a helpful tool!

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The Food

Lunch was Trader Joes Red Pepper soup in lidded-bowls (I didn’t want ladies at a shower ladling out sloppy red soup.) and toppings: meatballs, cheese, rice and sour cream. The white balls on the right are rice, scooped out with a cookie scoop into neat little portions.

We also had peppermint bark (red, white, and black – perfect!), a veggie tray and cuties (for those who made New Year’s Resolutions) and popcorn balls.

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The Hot Drinks

We had a hot chocolate bar (thanks Kelly for providing it!) on this warm January day. You can see what we did for the cups: we took a set of glasses, dipped the rim in melted chocolate chips and then sugar sprinkles. (Hubbs and I did a trial run to make sure that this wouldn’t cause melty chocolate to get all over your face. It doesn’t.) Then we took paper coffee sleeves which were slightly too big, cut them open and hot-glued them to the glass.

This seems like it would take a long time, but mom and I sat down and did all thirty cups in about a half-hour. So really not too bad, considering how fun and sparkly they turned out.

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The Decorations

Dad’s new red wagon was up front to put the gifts in. I got a few feet of astroturf from the hardware store to use as table runners over the white tablecloths. And then I pulled out all the red, white, and black that I had and put it out all over the place: japanese lanterns hanging from the ceiling, red cranberries in the water, red glasses with tea-lights in them, black rocks in vases with white candles.

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The Favors

Little cello bags with red and white candies, sealed with matching stickers.

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And there you go! A tricycle baby shower. I’m hosting another shower in a few weeks for my sister, so the fun continues.

One Bowl at a Time

When my sister and I were little, my mom signed us up for these local children’s cooking classes with cookbook author Marion Cunningham. We’d go to Marion’s house each week and learn about ingredients (like butter samples that had just arrived from France) test out typewritten recipes for her children’s cookbook, taste whatever cooking project she had been experimenting with that week, and then play with her dog Rover while she and my mom chatted in the kitchen.

One thing that I remember Marion teaching us was that jam didn’t have to be a big complicated project – in fact, it could be made just a bowlful at a time.

If there’s fruit that’s a little mushy and on the verge of turning, don’t let it go to waste. Cut it up, put it on the stove with a little bit of water and a few tablespoons of sugar, and cook it up until its thick and syrupy. Then put it in a covered bowl in the refrigerator and you’ve got a jammy fruit spread to enjoy for the next few days. Its ten times (at least!) more pleasant to see jam than moldy strawberries in the fridge.

At the top you can see yesterday’s breakfast — strawberry jam on a leftover popover. {sigh} if only breakfast could be like that every day…


Put numbers on your make-up (with stickers, paint pen, sharpie, whatever) in the order that you apply it. Then its easy to grab and lay everything out in the right order before you begin. I also lay out my brushes, so I can work right down the line and apply the right thing in the right order with the right brush. No more fumbling around in the make-up bag trying to figure out what’s what or what comes next when I’m sleepy and distracted in the morning. One less thing to think about!

note: this system was begun after a recent unfortunate incident with the blush as I was rushing to get ready to go… Hope it helps you avoid similar disasters!