Letters to My Daughter: June

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My sweet girl, you are TWO! I would say "where did the time go?" but it's been a long year filled with lots of changes, so this milestone feels fitting. Most days you actually seem well beyond your two years...

It seems like every time we're out at the park or the pool, someone comments on how fearless you are... and to see you climb the playground equipment or how comfortable you are in the water, even I have to remind myself that you're only 2. Confident, curious, and brave, yet somehow (miraculously) not reckless, I find myself filled with such admiration for you. The enthusiasm you have for new adventures - be it a book, a park, or even just an art project or helping me in the kitchen - is so infectious, and the courage you display when you fall or things don't work out as you would have liked makes me so proud. If there's one thing my dad did for me that I hope to do for you, it's to make sure you know not just how much I love you, but how much I genuinely like you as a person. You really are the sweetest, funniest, smartest kid that I'm certain has ever existed, and I feel so crazy lucky that I get to be your mama.

Watching you grow and change into this amazing little girl has been such a privilege, and I'm so excited to see what this next year brings for you - especially as you figure out your new role as a big sister. I love you so very very much.

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I am joined in this “Letters to our Children” blog circle by an amazing group of photographers and moms. Together, we’ll be writing these letters every month in honor of our love for our sons and daughters. I encourage you to head over to Christine’s blog to read her letter, and then continue on around the circle!

Happy 2nd Birthday, Emma!

Emmas2ndbirthdayOur sweet Emma is TWO! I can hardly believe it. I'm way more emotional than I thought I'd be about all this, and I have a ton of sappy mama stuff I want to say to her, but I'll save all that for this month's letter post in a couple of days. For now I'll just leave you with this look back... Emmasbdaytimeline

Lucky me. :)

GONE FISHIN'

It's official, our girl LOVES the outdoors. We were up at our friends' cabin in PA for the weekend, and it was all we could do to get Emma to come inside to eat. 2013-06-04_0016

She especially loved her new fishing pole. I figured she'd play with it for 5 minutes and give up when it inevitably wound up in a tangled mess, but I seriously underestimated her. She got it right away - dropping her line in the water then reeling it back in... over and over and over and over again. She must have done that for 45 minutes straight, which is like 5 hours in toddler time.

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She also loved playing with her friend, Shane, and their cuteness was off the charts...

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It's pretty much guaranteed that if you give Emma a big open space to play, she will run around like a mad woman until she tires out. She loves to say "Goodbye! Adios!!" then run away until we shout "come back!" and she runs at lighting speed back toward us saying "Hello! Hola!" Even better if there's a hill involved.

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I knew we had an outdoorsy girl on our hands when not even the cold mucky pond water phased her...

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She finally started to tucker out our last morning there...

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...of course, that was until we stumbled upon this awesome roadside playground on the way home. :)

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I'll be honest... being pregnant at the cabin in 90 degree heat is no picnic, but seeing how much fun our little girl was having made it all worth it, and I can't wait to get back there next month.

Emma and Elmo have a tea party

I'm currently taking yet another amazing Clickin Mom's class called "Lifestyle Photography with Kids" and thought I'd share one of my first assignments. I've been wanting to take this class ever since I first joined CM, and I'm pinching myself that not only did I get into this sold out session, but I'm taking it with a bunch of my photographer friends from my very first intro class. The idea behind lifestyle photography is to tell the story of people as they are, as opposed to posing them in a contrived setting. It's similar to documentary photography, but you have the freedom to control your environment a bit by moving things into good light and removing distractions. This style of photography works particularly well for small children as it's nearly impossible to get them to do anything except whatever it is they want to be doing at that moment, anyway. :) For my first story telling assignment, I decided to throw a little tea party for Emma and her BFF, Elmo. Notice how my idea of this tea party was a kettle, two cups, and a sugar bowl. Emma quickly had other ideas...

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Within about 2 minutes all the cups, a pan, utensils, a yogurt container, and a balance ball pump had joined in on the fun. We only bring out the balance ball pump for our fanciest tea parties. ;)

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"Drink your damn tea, Elmo!" :)

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Uh oh, I think she poisoned Elmo.

I have sooo much shooting to do this weekend for the next assignment, but I'm really looking forward to it... so many fun new techniques to try out! Also, if you haven't gotten on the CM bandwagon, I can't recommend their classes more highly. This is my 3rd workshop in 7 months, and I have another one starting at the end of April. I might be addicted. :)

Have a great weekend, everyone!!

Letters to My Daughter: January

Hello, sweet girl. I haven't written to you since you were a few weeks old, when I was still so overwhelmed with the joy of your arrival (and with figuring out this whole parenting thing!) I held you in my arms and couldn't imagine life getting any better. But it has... in the past year and a half I've watched you grow into this amazingly smart, silly, and ever-curious little girl, and I find myself in a state of perpetual awe.

You bring so much joy and laughter to my life every single day... and since we don't get to spend that much time together during the week, I pretty much live for the weekends. I love our morning cuddles, having breakfast together in our PJs, going to the park, throwing the ball for Rocco... your excitement to play and learn and find new adventures is so infectious. I love watching you "read" your books aloud, in words I can't quite make out, wondering what story you're making up in your head to go along with the pictures. And I love how determined and focused you get during your independent play... it amazes me how creative you are with your toys, and how quickly you learn to use and manipulate them.

Mostly I love how completely and utterly silly you are. You're constantly singing and making up sounds, or dancing to whatever music we have on with the most ridiculous dance moves I've ever seen. Even after you've gone to bed, your dad and I find ourselves still laughing about something you did during the day, or because when we check the monitor we find you in your signature sleeping position - on your back with your arms folded behind your head like you're lounging poolside. We find you endlessly entertaining, and your love of life endlessly inspiring. I feel so immensely blessed - not just that I get to be a mama - but that I get to be your mama. So thank you... thank you for being you and for bringing me so much more happiness than I ever thought possible.

I am joined in this “Letters to our Children” blog circle by an amazing group of photographers and moms. Together, we'll be writing these letters every month in honor of our love for our sons and daughters. I encourage you to head over to Davina's blog to read her letter, and then continue on around the circle!

gift guide 2012: toddler edition

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Every Wednesday until Christmas I'll be posting a gift guide with shopping ideas for all of your favorite people. I'm starting off with a guide designed for my favorite little gal.

We try to keep Emma's play space clean and uncluttered so we decided not to get her any toys this year. (We realized this is probably the last year we'll get away with that, so might as well take advantage of it while we still can!) We asked family members for board books (we loooove the Pigeon books) and art supplies for her, and we're giving her the Learning Tower (#1) and made her a personalized mini book of names & faces (#3).

What are you getting for the toddler in your life this Christmas?

activity blanket tutorial

activity blanket tutorial

Emma has been obsessed with clips and zippers lately, so I thought I'd make her a little activity blanket so she could clip and unzip to her heart's content. (I can't even tell you how good it felt to bust out my sewing machine for the first time in months.) And, it was so simple to make that I actually made it during naptime on Sunday afternoon. Plus I used scrap fabric, and I love any project that puts even a little dent in my stash.

If you're just learning how to sew, this is a great beginner project because aside from the button holes it's just a bunch of straight stitches. And there's no need to be intimidated by button holes... most newer machines do all the work for you!

Here's what you'll need to make your own:

Materials:

  • Two 15.5 x 15.5 in. squares of fabric
  • Two 15.5 in. pieces of grosgrain (or similar thick ribbon)
  • Four 6 in. pieces of nylon webbing (or similar thick webbing, ribbon, straps, etc.)
  • Two 14 in. zippers
  • Two plastic buckles/clips
  • Buttons (at least 6)
  • Lighter (yes, you read that right!)
  • Coordinating thread

Directions:

Create your clip "activities" by sewing your 6 in. pieces of nylon webbing to each end of the buckle. Now here's the fun part - use a lighter to seal the cut ends of the webbing. Yes, it's a little sad that the most badass my life gets these days is taking a lighter to some frayed edges, but I take what I can get. :) Besides, it really is the best and quickest way to make sure your ends don't fray.

Next, lay out your "activities" on your front fabric to get the spacing right. I just eyeballed mine, leaving about an inch and a half between activities.

Pin only the zippers in place and remove the rest of the activities.

Sew your zippers into place.

Set the blanket aside for now and grab the ribbon for your button activities. Mark the spots for your button holes at 4", 7.5", and 11".

Sew your button holes. I used 1" buttons for this, and wouldn't go any smaller. (Note, if you use grosgrain and have some fraying when you open your button holes, use your trusty lighter to carefully seal the edges.)

Next, lay your activities out on the front fabric again, pin and baste into place.

Then, grab your back fabric and pin it to the front fabric, right sides together. Sew together using a 1/2" seam, leaving a 4-5" opening at the bottom.

Press your seams open, then turn the blanket right side out and sew a 1/4" topstitch around the perimeter.

Last but not least, sew on your buttons. I chose to sew mine on at the very end because I'm paranoid about Emma being able to get them off, creating a potential choking hazard. I figured two layers of fabric would be a sturdier hold.

And once all the buttons attached, you're done!

Emma is loving it so far, and I'm excited to see how her interest in it changes as she becomes better at manipulating each activity.

Let me know if you make one, and leave a comment if you have any questions!

{made for dinner} broccoli and pesto pasta

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We have a ton of cookbooks, but because of our handy binder system, we rarely ever look at them. But every now and then we get into a dinner rut and end up combing our cookbooks in desperation. One of our favorites is Jamie's Food Revolution by Jamie Oliver. It's full of simple recipes with fresh ingredients, and we have yet to find a dud. We discovered this one last week, and everyone loved it. The original calls for tagliatelle but we used gemelli to make it more toddler friendly. We also added garlic, because - well - pasta without garlic should be a crime.

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium potato
  • 1 head of broccoli
  • a large bunch of fresh basil
  • sea salt
  • 1 lb of gemelli pasta
  • 1/4 cup green pesto
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 tbsp of olive oil
  • 3 ounces Parmesan cheese

Directions:

To prepare your pasta:

  1. Wash and peel the potato and cut it into very thin shavings using a speed peeler
  2. Slice the end off the broccoli stalk
  3. Cut little broccoli florets off the head and put them to one side
  4. Halve the thick stalk lengthways, then slice thinly
  5. Pick the basil leaves and discard the stalks
  6. Grate the Parmesan
  7. Mince the garlic

To cook your pasta

  1. Bring a large pan of salted water to a boil
  2. Add the pasta and broccoli stalks and cook according to the instructions on the box
  3. Meanwhile, saute the garlic in the olive oil
  4. 2 minutes before the pasta is cooked, add the broccoli florets and potato slices
  5. Drain everything in a colander over a large bowl, reserving some of the cooking water, and return to the pan
  6. Roughly chop half of your basil leaves and add to the pan with the pesto, garlic, and half the Parmesan
  7. Give it all a good stir and if the sauce is too thick for your, add a splash of the cooking water to thin it out a bit

To serve your pasta:

  1. Divide the pasta between your serving bowls
  2. Sprinkle over the rest of the Parmesan and the remaining basil leaves
  3. Serve with a lovely big bowl of salad, and enjoy!

Recipe adapted from Jamie Oliver's cookbook, Jamie's Food Revolution