Our tiny little lady turned nine months old last week on the same day her big brother turned 14 so I snagged these photos of them one evening when the light was just perfect to mark the occasion. Nine months old! I’m not sure how we got here already, but I am loving this age. This crawl-everywhere-put-everything-in-her-mouth age. Because it has been a couple of months I thought I’d share a quick little update, plus a quick round-up of the baby toys and baby gear we’re using the most at the moment. This is the first stage where I’ve really had to go out and buy things that weren’t gifted to us at some point, which has been interesting as you suddenly realize your kid has very few toys that are right for them developmentally. I’ve found myself asking around and reading online to try and figure out the best things to get for her right now, so I thought I’d share the things we’re ranking as essentials right now.
Summer feels like it is winding down this week as everyone around us is preparing for the start of school next week. The intense heat we’ve had all season is starting to edge off a bit and the mornings are feeling cooler. Don’t hate me for saying it, but I am officially starting to get excited for fall! That said, I’m done with you yet, summer. We still have a handful of summer gatherings and parties to come before I’m officially ready to embrace sweater weather, which inspired today’s round up of seriously delicious sangria recipes. These ones in particular are perfect for fall, but will also serve quite nicely for your last big summer hoorah!
1. Rosé sangria [above]
14. Rainbow sangria
15. Mimosa sangria
[Photo from The Fresh Exchange.]
Earlier this summer a day like any other passed quietly and without fanfare. Only, it wasn’t really a day like any other. It was the day that five years ago, my now ex-husband and I began the very difficult conversation about how we were going to get divorced. If you haven’t been reading that long, yes, I am divorced. I don’t speak about it at all necessarily as this isn’t a blog about divorce. But if you didn’t know already, I thought maybe you should know. I was married at 26. I was separated at 28. I was divorced at 29. Those three statements have played a huge role in shaping who I am today, and what motivates me as a woman, a blogger and a mother. I don’t wear a t-shirt that says, “Hi, I’m divorced!” (Although somedays I think I should.) I had no idea what was about to happen on that day five years ago. On a day like any other, I hit a wall. I won’t discuss that wall in any particular detail, because those details don’t belong to me alone and I’m not of any unfounded belief that this story is fully mine to share. Out of respect to others and their privacy, in particular my ex-husband who is very much a real, live person, I’m going to gloss over those things. Details aside, the wall I hit had been inches from my face for a really long time and I had been carefully turning a blind eye to it without even realizing I was doing so. When it was no longer avoidable, I smashed into that wall with such force that it literally rocked my entire existence off its foundation and the whole house of cards came crumbling down overnight. For a very long time I wasn’t fully sure of who I was after that or where I was going. But I knew one thing. Without any doubt, I had made the exact right decision and for the most part I never wavered in my understanding that I was doing the only thing I could to save myself.
Oh. P.S. This is going to be a long one.
We head out tomorrow on our big annual camping trip and I could not be more excited. We are in serious need of a little getaway! If you’ve been reading along for any length of time, you’ll know that a huge group of extended family and loads of friends take up residence on an island for three days each year in late August. It’s accessible only by boat so once we’re there, we’re there. It’s like summer camp for grown ups…with 20 or so kids in our midst that run around swimming and playing Manhunt until all hours of the night. Prepping food and planning for meals is essential since we don’t return to mainland until the end of the weekend, and over the last five years of camping adventures we’ve been known to throw down some serious campground eats. Today (as I’ll be chopping, mixing and prepping over here), I’m sharing 12 seriously delicious camping recipes to inspire your own camp feasts. My personal advice? Anything and everything wrapped in foil and cooked over the fire is the way to go!
1. Potato and green bean foil packets [above]
2. S’mores bars
Bob’s birthday was yesterday so over the weekend we decided to host an impromptu gathering. I love hosting a birthday party, but we’ve been so busy lately that I hadn’t had a ton of time to organize anything too far in advance so a last minute party it was! On the menu? A make your own sub bar! Honestly, when it comes to last minute entertaining I find a menu featuring a main dish that is interactive in some way is the perfect way to go. It provides food and entertainment in one swoop, plus you don’t have to spend hours prepping food in advance. Presentation is everything when it comes to this! (Which is why I always preach about having a stash of mismatched white serving pieces and lots of good cutting boards to use at a moment’s notice.) Today I’ve got a few tips for you for creating a make your own sub bar that your friends and family will love. Football season is on the way, friends, and this one would be a hit on game day, too!
Variety is what makes a spread like this impressive. As a general rule of thumb, you’ll want three to five kinds of meats and three to five kinds of cheese. In this spread I have turkey, ham, capicola, salami and pepperoni on the meat side of things. For cheeses I went with provolone, mozzarella, pepper jack and cheddar. I also had white sub rolls and wheat sub rolls so everyone could pick their favorite. People get excited by choices so give them plenty! Depending on the size of your crowd, a half pound of each meat should be plenty, scaled up or down accordingly.
For condiments, I actually think you can keep it simple. Mayonnaise, of course, and a couple of kinds of mustard should do the trick. If you’re feeling frisky, you could add Russian and/or hummus to the mix. For presentation purposes I like to transfer condiments from their original bottles to little glass jam jars. Doing so makes things look a bit more special and elevated, which to me is what entertaining is about! Make it easy on yourself, but make your guests feel special. Plastic mustard bottles don’t make anyone feel special.
For toppings, make sure to do the usuals like lettuce, tomato and onion, but throw in a couple of extra things to take things up a notch. We’re huge lovers of sprouts around here so sprouts were a must for our spread, plus I roasted a few red, orange and yellow peppers and had fresh roasted peppers in the mix. They were a huge hit! (I make mine on the grill, which I shared on Snapchat a week or so ago. Let me know if I should do a blog post, too!)
And that’s it, friends! It’s super simple, as promised. Just plate things so they look pretty and you can have everything ready with plenty of time to sneak in a glass of wine before everyone shows up. Nothing to keep the right temperature. No watching the stove or the oven. AKA my very favorite type of entertaining.
[Photos by Cyd Converse for The Sweetest Occasion.]