I had wanted to write a full race report and share how great our weekend in Charlotte was. I completed my first half marathon! Right at my target pace! And I got to see my 3 boys smiling and waving at the finish line! Phew, what an incredible feeling.
The race itself was pleasantly uneventful. It was staffed with chipper and efficient aid station volunteers, perfectly placed mile markers, and an extensive police and traffic control presence. The morning was perfectly cool, the sky was an incredible shade of blue. I choked back tears, as I always do on race day, right around the half mile mark.
But as I sat down to write, I heard about Boston.
You see, road races are something really, really special. A collection of individuals gathered together with the very best intentions for the next few minutes or hours. A group who have trained and prepared and worried and rehearsed over and over and over for this very day, eager to test their mental and physical abilities on the course. Weeks and months of scheduling and fundraising have culminated. Friends, family, and complete strangers gather with signs and smiles and cow bells. The emotion and adrenaline and positivity of it all are intoxicating.
As I reflect on my race Saturday morning and the Boston Marathon on Monday, I feel gratitude towards all the people who participate in these events whether as athletes, spectators, volunteers, or staff members. I’ll choose to keep the positive energy I felt on my race morning at the forefront of my interactions this week while I pray for the city of Boston and the all the people who raced and participated in the event that day.
Over the weekend, I got a chance to snap some pictures for this little man in his grandparents backyard for his big 3rd birthday!
We’d had to reschedule this shoot a couple of times due to rain, cool temperatures, and illness, and I’m so glad we waited. We had a glorious weekend here and by Sunday evening the temperature was perfect for portraits.
This sweet little guy was such a delight to photograph. Well dressed and lots of big smiles!
Can you even get over that bow-tie!?
It was such a pleasure to be out taking pictures again. I’ve been on a little hiatus since the fall and my creative juices are definitely flowing again. I can’t wait to get my own guys out in this warm weather and take some updated portrait style photos of them!
My heart is so incredibly happy today. I’ve had nervous excited butterflies in my stomach for the last day or so and have found my mind wandering every few minutes to images of the open road and steep ragged cliffs jetting out into the blue green sea. To sunshine and sandy beaches and new adventures. To paved running paths and dusty gravel hiking trails. To beach cruisers and cold beers and flip flops all year long.
My sister is moving from Seattle to San Diego today. A dream she’s been working on since September and one she’s given countless hours of thought, planning, and persistance to. She’s landed herself a new job, a new apartment, and I’m sure a new beach cruiser isn’t far off. Her bags and life in Seattle are packed up and on a moving truck headed south and today she’ll follow starting her very own adventure.
I’m not sure what is most impressive to me about the whole situation. Her dedication to finding a job she’s perfectly and uniquely qualified for in a tough economic market, her insistance on finding that job and ensuring she’s well positioned before making the move (I’d surely have moved down months ago and found myself broke and living on the beach), or her courage at leaving all her friends and family for this new adventure. I’m a very firm believer that big risks reap big rewards and I’ve got no doubt that this move is going to totally change the course of her life from this point forward. And I’m so excited to watch it unfold.
So Kiki. On this moving day I hope you know that first and foremost I’m so very happy for you. I’d say I’m proud, but I’ve had no hand in making any of this happen, so that doesn’t seem appropriate. I wish you sunny skies and spicy tacos and lots of laughing love. You’re my very best sister and I love you so much.
I’ve been slowly gathering items for my little guys’ spring and summer wardrobes and I have to say I’m loving all the bright colors and patterns this spring! I may have even jumped on the mixed patterns trend. Whoa baby! Lucky for me, I’ve got access to some of the cutest fabrics and kids clothing designs around. Mom’s of sweet little girls, look out!
Don’t worry, she’s got adorable designs for boys as well. My guys will be sporting these pirate shorts this summer!
Spring! It’s here! Or, so the calendar says. We’ve had a few previews here in North Carolina. A few days with unseasonable warmth and gentle breezes that don’t send a shiver up your spine. With the days getting longer and Easter drawing near, I’d say that even though we haven’t quite arrived, we’ve got to be getting close!
It can’t come soon enough for this house. Little Zoom has perfected his walking and is just itching to get out and explore the grass and birds and trees. Big Zoom is going at about a mile a minute and he and I have both had about enough showings of Toy Story (1,2,&3) and Cars to last until cooler days. Park play dates, swimming lessons, and maybe even soccer class are in our future.
To all of you in cooler climes and especially to my family in Seattle and Dublin, where spring won’t arrive until the week before summer starts in August, hang in there! Get outside when the weather allows and go buy yourself a pair of kelly green skinny jeans. You deserve it.
St. Patricks Day and Thanksgiving are my favorite holidays. No expectations of gifts and stress about wrapping. No obligations for services or thank you notes to write. Just family and good food and celebrations. We celebrated St. Patrick’s Day all week with kelly green and corned beef soda bread. We played with friends and did silly crafts and watched the parade. By Sunday we were just about Irish’d out and spent the day shopping and eating Chicken Taco Chili. But we had a great weekend. Some snaps of time spent with friends and at the parade follow.
Until next year friends. Erin go bragh!
I’m not a terribly crafty person.
Big Zoom is very slowly phasing himself out of an afternoon nap. We’re down a nap every third or fourth day but still need to be home so that Little Zoom can get some afternoon rest.
I’ve loved my nearly 3 years of afternoon quiet time, but I can see it slowly coming to an end. In an effort to avoid watching yet another showing of Cars, I figured Big Zoom and I would try out a craft yesterday afternoon.
His teachers tell me he loves craft time at school, and when I brought out the new art supplies (the glue and cotton balls), he was seriously excited. He quickly identified my drawing as a rainbow (who the heck taught him that?!?) and was very excited about pressing down, and tasting, the fruit loops.
I found the idea for this on Pinterest and am going to make an effort to pin and plan more crafts for Big Zoom and I to do while the little guy sleeps. I’m not sure where rainbows fit in with St. Patrick’s Day (Mr. Zoom shook his head when I told him that we were doing a rainbow craft in relation to the holiday), but it sure was colorful and fun!
If you’ve got the supplies, give this one a try this week! It’s a great way to brighten up a rainy day!
Soda Bread, historically, is a quick table bread made from buttermilk, salt, bread soda and flour. The flour can be white (for a more special occasion) or wholemeal, which would be more typical. Some of my favorite and most memorable meals in Ireland included the brown variety, steamy warm and slathered in butter. It’s typically served alongside a thick soup or salad and can even accompany the famed “Irish breakfast”.
Of course we in the States have to gussy things up a bit. Here in America, you’ll find this traditional bread made with white flour, studded with raisins or seeds, and fattened up with butter, sugar, and eggs.
I’ve got to be honest here. I’ve made several recipes over the last few weeks. Some more “gussied” than others and I have to say, that bit of sugar and knob of butter aren’t going to hurt anyone. I like my Soda Bread the exotic foreign way (though I won’t go as far as adding seeds or raisins).
This tried and true recipe is my Nanny’s. It’s really really good and really really worth it. If you’re thinking of whipping up a “traditional” soda bread for St. Patricks Day, give this one a shot. I promise you won’t regret it.
This bread comes together in so easily and you needn’t be too concerned with measurements or aesthetics. Simply add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Give them a quick mash together, turn it all out onto a greased cookie sheet (or parchment if you’re fancy) and pop the whole thing in the oven.
Smells will start to eminate. Neighbors will knock. Kids and husbands will smile.
It’s so worth it.
Nanny’s Irish Soda Bread
Makes 1 loaf
3 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
2 Tablespoons melted butter
1 egg lightly beaten + 1 teaspoon milk (egg wash)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Prepare a cookie sheet (grease or lay parchment). Sift all dry ingredients together in a bowl. Combine eggs, buttermilk, and butter. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix with hands until just moistened. Dough will be sticky and pretty dry. Brush top of dough with egg wash.
Turn dough onto prepared cookie sheet and bake 45-55 minutes. Check often for a lightly golden bread crust. This is a dense bread. You’ll know it’s done when an inserted fork removes cleanly.
Serve warm and spread with softened butter and a seedy jam.
My love affair with Ireland started at a young age with my Dad’s mother, my Nanny. She was one of the kindest and most gentle people I’ve ever known. My memories of her include fresh squeezed orange juice, her long white hair neatly tucked into a low bun, her sparkly golden necklaces and the most delicious turkey sandwiches on soft white bread with plump Jersey tomatoes she’d make for us at the shore. She was a great storyteller and a wonderful playmate for us when we were young.
And boy was she ever Irish. Born in New York to an immigrant couple, she was pure shamrock. She’d sing Irish songs, cross-stitch Irish blessings, and send St. Patrick’s Day cards. And, I never remember a time when I didn’t know that I too was Irish.
We do this funny thing in America when asked about our heritage. We spout off the countries of our distant ancestors and identify with the cultures we come from. Mr. Zoom thinks this is quite bizarre. You see to him, and the rest of the world, we’re American. When I first moved to Ireland, I’d proudly tell anyone who’d listen that I too was Irish. Exactly 37.5% and darn proud of it. These proclamations resulted in everything from blank stares to roaring laughter. Still, even now that I’m married to a real live Irishman, I claim myself to be Irish.
This insistance no doubt, comes from my Nanny. However distant it was by the time it reached me, I’ve always identified with my Irish heritage. While living in Salzburg during my junior year of college, I visited Dublin and Cork on a long weekend and fell in love with the cobblestones, shades of green, and red-faced old men eager to educate me about the “troubles” over a pint of beer in a country pub. Two years after I graduated college, I agreed to fundraise $3000 and run a marathon through a local charity as a way to get back to Dublin. I finished that marathon (walking) with the help and encouragement of a little old farmer’s wife who’d been walking marathon distances her whole life and figured “why not make it official”. That 60 year old woman and I walked together for 6 hours sharing family and travel stories. She was incredible.
It was on that trip that I knew I wanted to live in Ireland. The visa and working restrictions were going to make that dream difficult and I started to toss around the idea of going back to school in order to get myself over there. And then Mr. Zoom happened. A gift from my grandmother, I’m quite sure.
Living in Dublin for 3 years with Mr. Zoom was the most fantastic kind of wonderful. Though the constant dreary drizzle and gale force winds definitely wore on my nerves, the experience was easily one of the best of my life. And now I’ve got a real live leprechaun as my husband and some wee Irish lads to chase around the garden. So so so very blessed we are.
A couple of weeks ago I made a homemade beer bread. It was INSANE. I mean, like so wheaty and dense and buttery and delicious. The whole loaf went really quickly, like less than 12 hours quickly, and the whole family loved it. I may or may not have sent Big Zoom to preschool with a touch of alcohol in his system. Hey, he’s half European isn’t he?
No but seriously, this bread is delicious. It’s not boozy, per se, but it does have a hit of hoppiness to it. Side note: our dog is named Barley (like after one of the main ingredients in beer) and we’ve always said that if we got another dog (which we most certainly won’t right now) we’d name it Hopps. How cute! Barley and Hopps! Get it? I digress.
I’ll go ahead and claim to be the beer officiando in the family. While Mr. Zoom consumes MUCH more of the stuff than I do, he prefers something light and from a can and well, cheap. And, me? I’d take a tall dark microbrew over a cocktail or glass of wine ANY DAY OF THE WEEK.
Truth be told, I don’t really drink much at all. And, I mean that. I developed some sort of allergy (gasp) to the sulfates in wine after college (or at least my mind cleared enough to realize it was an allergy after college) and anytime I have more than 2 glasses of the stuff I get sick like a schoolgirl after a bootle of Boones Farm. We don’t really keep liquor in the house, and the kind of beer I like doesn’t lend well to trimming the waistline. So I stick to 2 or 3 bottles a week, mostly on the weekend, and it works for me. I’m not 21 anymore and a hangover + two screaming toddlers + plus an inevitable 7am wake up call just isn’t worth it.
But beer, wine, or liquor in my cooking….FAIR GAME. I’ve become obsessed with cooking with beer. In fact as we speak I’m trying to figure out how I can top a Guinness beef pie with some sort of beer bread topping. What? It’s almost St. Patricks Day! Wine in a cream sauce? Sure thing. Vodka in a marinara? Yes please. There’s something about a hint of alcohol that brings a whole new layer of flavor to a dish. It’s one I really really like.
The first thing I thought of after making a batch of this delicious beer bread was what else I could do with it. Naturally my mind immediately wandered to a Crockpot Beer BBQ Chicken recipe that I absolutely adore by How Sweet Eats. I make it once a month. At least. We eat it over rice with black beans, open-faced on soft doughy buns, in soft flour tortillas with red onions and avocado, on top of homemade pizza…I mean I could go on. So I thought, why not give the Beer BBQ Chicken a go over the buttery beer bread.
You guys. It was SPOT ON. So delicious and just different enough to make me ready for to whip up the next loaf of this bread as soon as I can. I’m thinking of dropping spoonfuls of this dough into some sort of chili like soup as dumplings. Who’s with me?
Homemade Beer Bread
Makes 1 loaf
3 cups all purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
1, 12 oz bottle of beer (something you like!)
1 stick of melted butter
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray or grease 1 loaf pan. Measure dry ingredients into a medium bowl. Pour beer onto dry ingredients and mix until combined. This dough is SUPER sticky and not batter like at all. Turn dough out into loaf pan and spread it around so it’s even. Pour the entire stick (!!) of melted butter over the top. Bake at 375 for 1 hour. Your house will smell hoppy and yeasty and buttery and delicious. Remove from oven and immediately transfer to a cooling rack to avoid a burning the bottom of the loaf.
Slather with butter, cheese, smashed avocado, sliced beef….my mind is getting ahead of itself.