Stop. And. Breathe.

I'm not going to lie. Life at the Smith Homestead is uncharacteristically manic right now. Canaan, the eldest, has gone and made mama and papa proud by landing a big role in the community children's theater play. Not an easy feat. And now he is immersed in upwards of 20 hours a week of practice leading up to three weeks of performances.

So there's that.

Ezra is on track to become David Beckham (even wearing his cologne...yes, it exists). He's honed in on some pretty fancy footwork for an 8-year-old playing on a 10-year-old league. I never thought I would be a soccer mom. And I can't believe I'm saying this but I seriously L.O.V.E. being a soccer mom. Otto's following suit and has donned the cleats and shin guards for his first season as well.

The magazine keeps me challenged every single day. And Mr. Handsome is making his own mark right now in his industry. Proud partner I am.

But even with nightly schedules to keep, remarkably we are really, really.....chill. We've found a workable flow and it feels incredible. There's still nightly dinners around the farm table (albeit a bit more rushed than usual) and there's cuddles on the couch, dance parties, date nights, baking, painting, laughing and goodness at every turn.

And then there's this.

Our beloved Othniel Rockland (Otto) has become a bonafide photographer. Yep. That unpredictable third child who just turned 5 in February swiped my Nikon D60 (not the newest thing on the block, but its still worthy of a good shot now and again) and started taking pictures a couple of months ago. I attribute it to a Curious George episode he watched ad nauseam.
At first, I was uneasy about the whole idea. "Otto, go put the camera down. You might bang it and mess up the lens." He put it down, but the next day had it in hand again - I could hear the click of the shutter in the next room.

I decided to bend on my own knee-jerk rule. I let him take a handful of pictures.

Over the past few weeks, he'll pick up the camera as he sees it laying on a reachable shelf and he'll start photographing. The pictures run the gamut. And lets just be clear before I start bragging on this little genius, 99.8% of his pictures are waaaaaaaaaaaay blurry. Like unidentifiable objects blurry.

I finally sat down and emptied off the card. A memory card filled with Otto's pictures. I was blazing through them at lightening speed, stopping every so often to appreciate a good angle, have a laugh at a funny face his brothers amused him with or simply squinting to make out where in the heck he was at the time of that photo shoot.





And then I was stopped dead in my tracks at the set here. Mike had told me that Otto was eating breakfast and said aloud, "the light on these flowers is so pretty! I need to take a picture!"
I got a bit choked up seeing these. I don't really know why but I think it goes back to that manic/peaceful thing we're experiencing right now. These images confirm that we still are carving out times for slowness and beauty and creativity. We are teaching our children to appreciate...not just run through life, head down. Usually I might say something like, "its a good reminder to me to do the same..." but you know what? I actually am. And I am totally high fiving myself on that one.











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NYC - A food tour with my first born

I am in New York City often nowadays for CAKE&WHISKEY work. Each time I pack my little rolling suitcase, board the plane and step off two hours later with the skyline of the most bustling city in the US greeting me....I get butterflies of giddiness.
NYC was where I asked to go for my high school graduation gift. I have no idea what my parents got me for graduation, but it definitely wasn't a first trip to NYC. It wasn't until two years ago that I went for the first time and I was struck with some Big Apple fever that has never waned since.

But, NYC for me has never been a trip I've taken as a tourist. I've never been to the Statue of Liberty, a Broadway show or the Empire State Building. Instead, I see NYC through the back of a taxi, rushing from meeting to meeting and hoping for a break between to grab a bite to eat and respond to emails if there's free internet at the cafe I've ducked into.

But not too long ago I took Canaan on one of my work trips. And NYC opened up to me in a whole new way. My first born, as you likely know already, is the definition of 'foodie'. He came out of the womb with a whisk and a Le Creuset.























Our three day trip was monumentally memorable. I did have meetings, but I made time for play. And play we did. Finding little spice shops and eateries, walking to restaurants he had researched ahead of time and asking locals for recommendations. Our bellies stayed full and our feet stayed tired as we canvased most all of NYC on foot and by subway. The last customers for late night cannolis in Little Italy, the warm nutella waffles while walking around Central Park, Jazz at Dizzy's Coca Cola Club, buying him his first Swatch watch in Times Square, horchata at Otto's Tacos and getting utterly lost in Brooklyn......best times ever.

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Almond Raspberry Frangipane Tart



I keep a three ring binder of pages sporting short hand scribbles, butter smudges and tomato paste drops. These are my recipes. Recipes I've developed over the years; some by happenstance and others with much forethought. 
Yesterday, as the negative temperature wind whipped powdery snow down the streets of Midwest America and my three boys on yet another snow day played (far too much) Wii,  I baked. More importantly, I invented. And it felt spectacular to be at it again.



Of course, invention in baking isn't all that doable. Nothing new under the sun, right? Unless you are doing molecular gastronomy or something, I suppose. 

I have been super duper addicted to The Great British Bake-Off on TV. And after my trip last year to the coast of England and living in a small town with a bonafide British tea shop...lets just say, I have British baked goods fever. Bad. Real bad. 

This is my take on the British Bakewell tart...with a bit of Frangipane-esque and Pop-Tart-ness in there too. Whatever its origin or name, I'm staking claim to this nutty, fruit-filled little gem. It was intended for dessert. But was consumed by 3pm. I think it actually would make a perfect breakfast. For the record, it is gluten free and low-carb too. 

I have made the almond flour in my Vitamix with raw almonds. I waited 10 years to finally get a Vitamix (those puppies aren't cheap) but my, they are so worth it. At any rate, you can purchase almond meal at most grocery stores in the healthy food section or online. 




I had intended on making homemade jam for this, but time got away and instead I went a Sandra Lee route and did a semi-homemade jam~ which was gorgeous and full of the right flavor and consistency.






 

Almond Raspberry Frangipane Tart

Crust:
1 1/2 cup Almond meal
1/4 cup sugar (you could substitute any other granulated sweetener)
1/4 tsp salt
2 Tbsp butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
1 egg white

Jam:
1/2 jar store bought (or homemade) all-fruit jam (no sugar)
1 small package of fresh raspberries
splash of sweet red wine or water

Filling:
3/4 cup almond meal
1/4 cup softened butter (I used Kerrygold) 
1/4 cup sugar (again, you could substitute other sweetener option)
1 egg
1 egg yolk (left over from your crust)

Topping:
Honey 
Slivered almonds (optional)

Instructions
1. Preheat the oven to 325F. Lightly grease 4 small tart shells or one large 9" one
2. In a bowl combine almond flour, sugar and salt. Sprinkle the chopped butter into the bowl and use your fingers to break up the chunks and incorporate into the flour until it resembles sand. (Alternatively you could use the food processor for this step.)
3. Stir in the egg white until the dough comes together. Divide evenly among the tart shells and press into the bottom and up the sides evenly with your fingers.
4. Place tart pans in the freezer for 15 minutes. 
5. Remove from the freezer and prick the bottom of the shells with a fork. Bake 10 minutes. Remove and let cool 15 minutes on a wire rack. 
6. If the shells have puffed, use the rounded part of a spoon the gently press the tart shell to let air out. 
7. While the tarts bake, simmer jam, berries and liquid in a saucepan until bubbly and the berries have begun breaking down. Remove from the heat and set aside.
8. In a food processor or bowl, combine the filling ingredients; almond meal, butter, sugar, egg and yolk. Mix or process until smooth and creamy (this will be thick). 
8. Spread a dollop of jam along the bottom of each tart shell. This should be thin, but not sparse. 
9. Top the jam with a thick layer of filling, making sure to not go past the brim of the tart shell but staying just inside. 
10. Sprinkle with additional slivered almonds, if desired.
11. Bake for 30 minutes or until puffed and set. 
12. Remove from the oven and immediately, using a pastry brush, brush a thin coat of slightly warmed honey over the top. Let cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes before removing the tart pan. 
13. Serve at room temperature or chilled. A dollop of whipped cream wouldn't be too shabby either. 

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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. 
 





 









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