Puerto Rican Latte (aka Cafe Con Leche)

A couple of months ago, we took our first bonafide family vacation together. The kind of vacation that you save up money for, book plane tickets for, count down the days for and relish every moment of. We've traveled to beaches in the past~ always on family visits to the grandparents.
Someday soon I will share pictures from our 10 days in Puerto Rico.
Words cannot describe the R&R that was discovered there for our family. Hopefully pictures will do it justice.
While there, the mister and I drank copious amounts of café con leche. Usually from little road side stands. And usually served in white Styrofoam cups...the milk foam brimming to the top with a dark sunken spot where the brown large crystals of sugar had fallen.
 
Now home, I'm still drinking my café con leche.
(Yeah...he's that great.)
He's always been a collector of little stove top coffee makers. And although we have both an espresso machine and coffee pot, he prefers the slow method of frothing and boiling every time. I don't complain. The first sip transports me back to visions of boys frolicking on the beach every time. 
 





 









Photobucket

Kouign-Amman; A boy and his culinary journey



Seeing your child excel at something is a proud moment for a parent. Watching them as they cultivate an inner passion is the ultimate.
Today he worked on his skills. He's had it leafed in his cookbook to try Kouign-Amman for a bit now. Today, on this snowy Saturday~ with his favorite Jazz standards playing on Spotify and his brothers Rainbow looming in the dining room, he started the arduous 12+ hour process of making this difficult pastry.
Tomorrow we'll reap the benefits. Hello Sunday brunch.

 

Kouign-Amann by Megan Smith on Exposure

Crispy Lima Bean Frizzle....and How Childhood Visits to a Historic Village Shaped My Life.

Not too long ago, I took myself on a little overnight R&R trip to the city I called home for the first 18 years of life.
I love those hours I am treated to a couple of times a year and love that my husband pushes me out the door; away from my duties as CEO, wife and mom for just a bit.

I didn't have plans when I pulled out of the driveway. Just a hotel booked and an overnight bag.
The day couldn't have been more perfect for a road trip.

I stopped at the bookstore and bought a How To Learn French CD (two notes here: 1. No, it never dawned on me that podcasts are created for such things until my husband told me. 2. Yes, I took French in high school and only remember "if fait froid" and "il fait chaud" thanks to a high school French teacher that was a little obsessive about the weather.)
With my French CD and a few new magazines (is it really possible to get out of a bookstore with just one item), I got on a long stretch of highway and thought about what would be next. There was a 7pm minor league baseball game that night....which was sold out when I called for tickets. Bummer.

I considered going to a movie, shopping, art museums....all indoors and a terrible way to spend a gorgeous Saturday afternoon.

Then I remembered one of my favorite childhood places. A historic village, replicating life in our State back in the 1800's. Bingo. I felt a tinge of guilt going someplace that I knew the kids would love. Still I forged ahead with my solo-date.

Let me just say....a lot changes over time, doesn't it? Those places that we have our fondest memories of~ when visited later in life, are dreadfully disappointing.  Thankfully this wasn't the case when I stepped through the welcome gates at the historic village and literally transported....not back to the 1800's but back to my most cherished memories.

I have an interesting sort of childhood. Good and bad...don't we all? Although the older I get, the more I learn that some of my 'bads' might have been a bit badder than some. And that's OK. I've never been one for crutches or excuses~ life is what you make of it.

At any rate, this day, while peaking into the schoolhouse, the pharmacy, the blacksmith's shop, the millinery store.....I had the most awakening experience I've had in quite a long time. It actually sort of blew my mind.

As I walked through this replica town that gave me some of my most beautiful, exciting memories as a young girl, I discovered.....I discovered that I had imbedded those feelings and images of comfort and happiness that this place gave me and I carried them through to my life as an adult.

And I never realized it until that very moment.

Curried Turkey Meatballs and The Choice to Always Be a Homemaker

Autumn is here in our sleepy town of Oakwood. I'm sitting in my sunny upstairs bedroom with windows on both sides opened, listening to the neighbors crunch the fallen leaves as they take their morning walk to town for a cuppa and a scone at the best little English tea shop. 







































These mornings are usually only ones for the weekends~ as I am rushing out the door alongside the boys and Mike to get to the studio (3 blocks away) for work during the week.
Today is a luxury~ Issue seven just headed to print yesterday and so I will savor this mug of coffee and bowl of overnight oats with pumpkin a little more slowly.
I am often asked if life is still 'normal' for us. And by that I know what they mean. What they want to know is, 'are you too busy to do homemaking anymore?" My answer is always "no".

Can you ever really leave behind a passion that is written on your heart?
I surely hope not.
In my case it is impossible.

Creating home is my ethos. Simplicity with purpose makes sense to me. Candlelit family dinners around our farm table are a foundational practice for our family. Baking with my boys brings me greater joy than any issue hot off the press ever will. And curling up for Masterpiece Mystery with Mr. Handsome will always give me butterflies.
























The magazine is a beautiful addition to my already full life.

A few weeks ago I was tucking Ezra under the covers for sleep. He looked up in a moment of seriousness (rare for this giggle box of an 8 year old boy) and asked, "Do you think you'll do the magazine forever?" Immediately mom-guilt set in. "Poor boy", I thought, "he misses having me home. My travel schedule must really be getting to him finally...... (my mind did several laps around this sort of thinking in a matter of seconds.)
My question back to him was, "do you miss having mommy home?" His response took me back. And it filled my heart with gratitude for such an amazing set of men I get to have in my life everyday. His response was this- " I hope you always do the magazine mom. It's so cool and it makes everyone who reads it really happy."

Woah. How's that for affirmation?

The Breakdown (and Rebuilding) of a Marriage


Ok...I really didn't airbrush this. It uploaded with a haziness (weird.) Mike says he's excited about no wrinkles ;)
 
Over the course of 8 years writing this blog, I haven’t steered clear of heavy topics.
I love blogs for their realness. Yet often they take us, the reader, out of reality with their overly whimsical view of someone’s supposed daily life. My life is quite whimsical (to me) but also quite real. Like nitty-gritty real….no one escapes nitty-gritty real, right?
The purpose of my blog has always been to document life here at The Smith Homestead….because I have a fantastically bad memory. The blog has been my source of memory-lane-walking over the years, a wonderful gift I’ve given to myself to keep it maintained and alive.
Mixed into this life of food and family and home renovations and backyard parties and crafts and entrepreneurial ideas…all of which are REAL stuff….is the other real stuff. The layoffs, the financial struggles, the failures and missteps, the spiritual questions and heavy life issues that weigh heavily at points in the journey.
Recently I’ve briefly shared about, but I want to dive in a bit deeper today, into something that hit our little homestead hard over the past 3 years.
The discovery of rock bottom in our 15 year marriage.
My brief mentioning’s have flooded my inbox and my FB messenger with notes from friends and readers who find that they too, are at their own rock bottom with their partner.
So this post is a bit of a journey through what I have learned over the past year in particular and a bit of wisdom I’ve stumbled upon that just might resonate with another struggling at this same point in the journey. I’m not going to dive super deep into details…because blogs aren’t the place for that. But if you want to grab a cup of coffee and sit down for a chat, let me know. I had an amazing friend that walked this journey with me and I am eternally indebted to her and happy to pay it forward.
Let me first say, I am learning more and more as I open up with others about this topic that this is really, really common. That isn’t to say it’s a good thing. But if you do find yourself in a place like I did….like we did… don’t ignore it. Don’t feel guilty about it. Don’t feel like a failure or wonder ‘what’s wrong with me?’.  Don’t run to the doctor for your first prescription of Zoloft and don’t start making drinks with friends after work the new norm.
Instead...


Raw Carrot Cake Love




I remember a few years ago when the idea of 'raw' food really started trending. Did any of you ever pick up a copy of this? I had one on my bookshelf.
Never made a single thing out of it.

As much as I'd love to fit into my jeans from senior year, have glowing skin for another three decades and a memory like a vault, I'm just not willing to say goodbye to all 'bad' foods. The thought of pizza not making an appearance in my life each week...well no words can describe the horrors.

And along with pizza, cake plays a rather large role in my culinary life. Heck, I even figured out a way to weave its presence into a business magazine. Genius, right?

Carrot cake is one of my favorites. The small British tea shop across the street from my office makes one of the best I've ever had. And my recipe, found in this Southern Living cookbook, isn't so shabby either.

So why go and mess with a good thing by going 'raw' with it?
Because.
Because this cake is pretty remarkable.
No sugar, no flour, no vegetable oil, eggs or butter.

The ingredients are simple.
Carrots, dates, almonds, cashews, a splash of maple syrup.
Oh-my-good.

I literally crave this cake. Its my go-to quick breakfast (oatmeal is on hiatus until the first frost). And its my late night dessert.



While snapping a few pictures last night at sundown, Otto showed up in the kitchen. Never before has he walked over to something I'm photographing and started digging in. But that's exactly what he did. My first instinct was to jump in..."Otto, mommy is photographing this. You need to wait, please." But I didn't. Instead I smiled as he loudly stated "Cake! It's my birthday!" (not true...rarely what he says lives in reality).



Rosemary Buttermilk Biscuits



Despite being sans traditional kitchen set up right now, baking hasn't fallen too far to the wayside. Fingers in dough is a form of stress relieving therapy for me. Even before we bought a little counter top convection oven I was grilling pita bread and pizza dough as often as I could.
This weekend we took brunch to a family across the street with a sweet little baby girl welcomed into their fold of two older sisters. Thinking of what to feed a total of 9 mouths with my grill and counter top convection oven proved to be a fun challenge. In the end, I settled for homemade granola with yogurt and berries and grilled sausage patties on flaky rosemary cheddar biscuits. Easily made, easily transportable.
The recipe is adapted from who knows where. I've kept a 3-ring binder now for 15 years of odds and end recipes with my notes in the margins. Newspaper and magazine clippings, handwritten recipes from those light bulb/improv-in-the-kitchen moments, recipes passed down from friends and family…it’s a huge hodgepodge of crazy and its one of my most treasured bits of goodness.
I have added chopped rosemary from my kitchen window herb garden, to the recipe along with a few tweaks here and there to make these a bit more billowy and flaky. They are super, super simple. I often mix the dry ingredients the night before, chop my butter and keep it wrapped in the fridge and then in the morning~ between groggy eyed sips of coffee I simply assemble, roll out, cut and bake.



Rosemary Buttermilk Biscuits ~ Yields 12-14 biscuits

4 cups AP flour (I use White Lily for biscuits)
4 Tbsp. chopped dried or fresh rosemary
4 tsp. baking powder
4 tsp. sugar
1.5 tsp baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1.5 sticks unsalted butter, chopped into small pieces
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar
1.5 cups cold buttermilk

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Whisk together the dry ingredients except for the chopped rosemary. Blend in the butter with a pastry cutter or your fingers until the dry ingredients resemble clumped sand. Stir in the grated cheese and then dump the buttermilk into the bowl. Mix with a wooden spoon until incorporated and a dough ball begins to form.
At this point, dump the dough onto a floured surface and knead gently a dozen times or so until it a cohesive dough ball but absolutely DO NOT over knead or else your beautiful little balls of butter will start to melt from the heat of your hands. That’s a no no.
Pat the dough (or gently roll) until it is around 1.5” in thickness. Cut the biscuits with a cutter (I use a square cutter from King Arthur Flour.)
Arrange them about 1 inch apart on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake until golden brown and the biscuits are cooked through, about 15 minutes.

Remove from the oven, split and fill with any goodies your groggy-eyed-self desires. And don’t forget to share with the neighbors….

Photobucket

Unpacking and Rediscovering Home

I had forgotten how long it takes for a new city, a new street…a new house to feel like home. For some, it may happen as soon as the first box reveals something familiar to place on a shelf. For me...it takes a bit more. In fact, we lived in Lexington nearly a decade and it wasn't until our last couple of years that everything finally ‘clicked.’ Relationships flourished, our favorite dinner spots had been deemed, I knew what racks to hit at the shops for the best sales, my secret parking spot downtown was always open for me, school days and soccer schedules felt routine… things became…should I dare say, easy?

But change is good, right?
Right.

And my life is always FULL of change thanks to this daily bit of goodness. And because of that, home is one thing I’ve come to rely on for my ‘ease’ factor in life…when all else is in beautiful chaos and unpredictability.
But we said goodbye to Lexington nearly 6 months ago. Goodbye to those routines and parking spots and great sale finds, weekly outings with girlfriends I didn't want to say goodbye to and to our favorite take-out Chinese spot, Pete's Wok.
And we headed off for a new city, a new street, a new house.


Ezra's rooster painting..one of my favorite things. 

























From Concrete Jungle to Canvas Yurt

It was on the flight home from NYC that I called Mike on a whim and asked him to book the boys and I a three night stay in a yurt.
Meetings at Tory Burch's headquarters, fancy dinners near Union Square and turnaround trips to Connecticut via train are totally up my alley. Just as much as dirt under my fingernails, smoke laden hair and curling up in a damp sleeping bag is.
I'm a Gemini after all ;)

The plane flight home...as many  have been recently...was delayed. And after three days of meetings (upwards of 6 a day) and 23 days of consecutive work (not something I make a practice of), my soul was letting me know that it was time for a break. Plus, my eyelashes needed to come up for air after a marathon of mascara smothering and my feet needed reprieve from wedge heels.

Sitting on the runway, I texted Mike. It was 4:45 on a Friday. 15 minutes left in the week to call a state park to book a camping spot for Monday morning.

The boys and I (sometimes with Mike, sometimes without~ depending on his work schedule) love to camp. Always in a tent. But since my time in Mongolia 14 years ago, I've wanted to stay again in a yurt (pronounced "ger" when in Mongolia.) The state parks here in Ohio have a few for rent...and lucky us, one within an hour's drive.

Mr. Johnny-on-the-spot (Mike, that is) booked it before the EOD and by Sunday evening we were all moving our graham crackers and Hershey's, board games and crafts, sweatshirts and bug spray and flashlights and books into our yurt for a few days in the woods.



We had dad there for night one. A treat for us all. And then the boys and I settled in for what would become a camping trip of epic proportions.


Promptly after this series of pictures, my camera battery died. And I had limited phone reception...which was
perfectly fine with me. Unplugged few days. Memory...just don't fail me.



There was rain. Loads of it.

Hence there was Monopoly playing. Loads of that too thanks to the rain pattering on our canvas roof.

We savored the moments of sun and breeze while making felted animals from wool, painting,  hiking and writing letters to friends and family around the country.




There was Otto. Who never ceases to be totally over the top. OVER THE TOP! (sidenote...today he called Mike in Nordstrom Rack with my phone and started the conversation, " Forget about it (insert Bronx accent). You're forticulous." (his word for ridiculous.)



There was Ezra. Our amazing fire builder.



And there was Canaan. Our always on-site safety expert and order keeper.



All three of these boys drove me absolutely batty at times over the course of those three days. And all three made my heart swell with pride at the men they are becoming and the friendship we all share.

Our little yurt....which Canaan squealed upon arrival with "ITS PERFECT!!!" ...was just what we Smith's needed.







Just what this Gemini needed.

Photobucket

Giving Myself Permission.


It’s a muggy one in NYC today where I write my first post in months from a little table at Le Pain Quotidien at 44th and 3rd.
I feel like I should start this post out with apologies…followed by explanations…followed by recounts and updates on life as I now know it that has ultimately kept me away from moments here on my treasured piece of blogland.
But I think I’ll actually forgo the apologies and explanations. Because I think you understand.
Life has ebb and flow and seasons and moments in the journey that require us to sometimes do a 180 degree turn in another direction and give our all to something else. That’s where I’ve been. Giving my all to something wonderful, knowing that this little space of mine in blogsphere hasn’t left….its waiting for my return and I’m feeling its tug for reconnection to its simplicity and its grounding more everyday.
I said I wouldn’t do apologies and explanations…BUT what I will do is give an update on life as I now know it:
The Smith Homestead has taken up roots and moved to Ohio. I’m back to the motherland after nearly 15 years away. That little idea of a magazine I had a couple of years ago called CAKE&WHISKEY is growing…thriving! I get giddy thinking about it and humbled by it. Its mission is something that at its very core impacts lives and moves people to a place of authenticity and connectivity to others and themselves in a world of disconnect and falsity.
Canaan is now 11. Ezra is 8. Otto is 4. They are more handsome everyday.
Never has another child made me laugh more than Otto. I don’t want him to grow up. Seriously. Its so tough watching that happen. I think he should be cloned as he is the most perfectly maddening and irresistible child imaginable.  
Ezra, with his sweet freckles and soccer ball constantly at his feet, gives me the full dose of ‘all boy’. He broke his arm over Easter. Surgery and the whole bit. Tough stuff for a little guy who ended up having to miss soccer season entirely. When I start in on a mom lecture with Ezra, his eyes glaze over and he starts saying, almost mantra style “uh huh, uh huh…” It makes me smile. And reminds me that sometimes a kid just wants the cliff notes version and to be on with the day. (Canaan ALWAYS preferred the 1 hour back and forth lecture/discussion.)
Our relationship with Canaan is making that subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) transition from simply ‘child who follows the rules’ to ‘independent thinker who has a valuable opinion that we should take into account’. I actually love this stage much more than I thought I would. It’s rewarding as a parent to give him more freedom, watch him both flourish and stumble and recover and still rely on the anchor and safety and unconditional love of home.
Mike and I celebrated our 15 year anniversary in January. And to keep it all brief but honest…over the past 2 years, Mike and I discovered the depths of marital un-bliss (that hyphenated word is the biggest understatement of this blogs life, for the record). We hear this isn’t uncommon at this stage in the journey…but  oh, my. That’s the stuff that’ll make or break you as a person and a family. And thankfully, it did end up making us and continues to makes us better than that initial marital bliss of the early years. So….if you are wading through the thick of it. I’ve been there. Drop me a line. We can chat it out over a shared slice of cake across the table or across the miles.
We have bought a 1920’s home in a small sleepy town in Ohio. And its becoming a bit more than we bargained for. So likely, as I dive back into the land of Art of Homemaking here and there, you’ll get a glimpse into the happenings at our own version of This Old House.
Speaking of that domestic goodness that fills my creative bucket…
On the cooking front...when not in NYC or DC you'll find my nose in a cookbook or whipping up something in our makeshift summer kitchen.  My true kitchen is torn down to the studs, so cooking or baking nowadays usually involves a griddle or grill. And I have a seriously uh-ma-zing recipe to share soon…maybe I’ll tackle that this week. Hold me to it!
I haven’t sewn in a few (many few) months. But there’s some crafting action about to start up again…my fingertips are missing needle pricks.
We spend loads of time outdoors right now. Tennis, hiking, picnicking, kayaking, frolicking on lakefronts and exploring our new town.
And I do travel away from home more… NYC mostly. And although four years ago I couldn’t have dreamed up a scenario in which I was sitting, having coffee and oats by Grand Central Terminal alone after 3 grueling days of meetings, it really IS dreamy to be here in this moment. Yes, I miss those kiddos desperately and Mike even more so. Choosing whether to venture from the hotel for dinner at 9pm or just sleep because rest seems more necessary than meeting the calorie consumption I missed by only eating a beet and arugula salad at a lunch meeting… that feels a far cry from sewing marathons at the kitchen table with a pie baking in the oven and the kids playing Uno in the next room over.
But in reality, I do still get those times. Just less frequent than before. But that’s not a bad thing. Pie everyday isn’t so good for the blood sugar levels, anyhow.
My phone goes off on the weekends (I’m not ignoring your texts, friends and family!) and I keep an office away from home now so the Smith Homestead has once again become simply, home.
Any entrepreneur knows the demands of time and focus that creating something requires in the early stages. I can see how easy it would be to slip into that pattern long term…I’ve been tempted to dip my toe into that high productivity, all-else-takes-a-backseat world.
But I said 'no' to the temptation. And I'm so proud of myself for giving myself permission to do that.
Today I’ll head home after a glorious week doing the work I love.
Next week spend some time camping with those three amazing boys.  
The days are long but the years are short.
Photobucket