Spinach Clementine Curry Salad

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We’ve been eating some variation of this salad lately, and I think it’s so delicious, I couldn’t wait to share it with you! We’re growing spinach in our garden again this year, so I think the next month or so (before it gets too hot) we’ll be eating plenty of it. With this salad in particular, there’s a wonderful citrusy brightness that accompanies the curry, the crunch of pepitas (pumpkin seeds) and toasted coconut… it’s so unexpected! And while I used a few already-prepared foods (the salad dressing and the pepitas with coconut), all of the ingredients are very basic and nutritious.

Baby Spinach Salad with Clementines and Curry Dressing

  • About 4 cups baby spinach (or spinach/arugula blend)
  • 2 clementines, peeled, segmented, and segments cut in half
  • 1 sweet potato, cut into small cubes
  • Pepitas (roasted pumpkin seeds)
  • Toasted coconut
  • Salad Girl Curry & Fig Salad Dressing* (sold at Whole Foods)

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*If you cannot find this salad dressing, I encourage you to try to create it yourself! I’ve had good luck recreating dressings when I know the ingredients. Heck, yours might turn out even better! The ingredients for the curry & fig dressing: safflower oil, rice vinegar, figs, orange juice, mustard, honey, and spices (I’m guessing if you use curry powder and onion powder, you’ll have it covered!). 

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This is the brand of pepitas & coconut we used. A little bit goes a long way — plus, it’s a wonderful snack on its own!

Preheat oven to 400. Toss sweet potato cubes with 2 Tbsp melted butter and a sprinkling of brown sugar, then roast in an ovenproof pan for 15 minutes, or until the sweet potatoes are soft and starting to lightly brown on the outside (stir once halfway through to promote even cooking). Set aside to cool.

Assemble salad: to the spinach leaves, add the mandarin oranges, then the cooled sweet potatoes. Dress with the salad dressing (I only add 2 Tbsp or less for the whole salad, you can always add more, but you can’t take it off if you put too much on!). Top with the crunchy pepitas and coconut, and serve immediately. Enjoy!

Also, we’ve had this salad without the sweet potatoes and with more clementines and it is just as good. Have a wonderful weekend!

Montessori-Inspired

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I borrowed this picture from Emil’s school Facebook page — not sure who took it, but isn’t it beautiful?! While Emil does many other lessons in the classroom (like sandpaper letters, which help him to develop his fine motor skills for writing, and bank game, which gives him number sense, along with the map of North America, the cylinder blocks and constructive triangles), this past school year Emil was most involved in caring for his environment at school. The practical life lessons he seems to enjoy most are dish washing, cloth washing, and plant care. These lessons are integral to a child’s natural development and allows for the integration of their personalities. As his directress writes, “As he becomes one of the older role models of the community, these lessons will become tasks and responsibilities to care for his environment, where he applies his skills to lend a helping hand to others.”

He is, to be frank, often the only one who cleans up after himself at home.

The beauty of this sense of responsibility is not lost on us. We have the unique experience of having two older children who joined Montessori rather late; Milo was 7 and Oliver 5. They missed the earliest lessons, and I’ll be completely honest, it shows. The sense of responsibility for cleaning up one’s environment is solidified with Emil, but something both Milo and Oliver still struggle with. I say this not to put them down in any way (they are fantastic, helpful, and wonderful children!), just to note that there is truly something special that happens when a child is taught this way from the very beginning. If I had it to do over, I would have started all of them in Montessori from the start!

The Perfect Summer Sandal

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If you’re from my generation, you’re probably familiar with Teva brand sandals. I had a pair of their original canvas and rubber sandals (something like this? Are you with me? I can still picture them!) and they lasted me forever. They were the perfect adventure sandal — comfortable, snug, flexible, and waterproof. But I grew out of the style…

Until now!!!

I just came across these leather Tevas, still the original fit and design, only very very pretty and grown up! Obviously not waterproof, but the perfect sandal for the woman who walks everywhere. I still really like my Madewell sandals, but I’ll be honest, they don’t hold up more than one season because of how much walking I do in this city (not to mention the number of impromptu surprise hikes I end up on, ha ha!). I just ordered these and I am simply giddy with anticipation of their arrival.

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I truly trust this brand, and for the style, I love the tan color — and I love the little pop of color on the thread at the back of the sandal in blue, green, and white. I have a feeling I’ll be wearing these babies for years to come.

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P.s. — The light blue color is really pretty too!

P.p.s. — They have children’s sizes too, and when my boys aren’t barefoot, they love this style. It’s Oliver’s go-to shoe, and he is very picky, so I know they are comfortable for him. 

Dress That Mama: Sort of Sloppy?

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Do you know how wrinkly my clothes are? This skirt, ah, I give up.

I’ve loved this linen skirt for so many years and not once have I worried about its wrinkles. It’s often what I throw on when I’m doing stuff around the house all day: cleaning, blogging, writing, gardening (my hair was up earlier in the day from gardening, hence the craziness), doing dishes, baking. DSC_0230

Plus, there’s not a much cooler fabric out there than linen. It’s been flat out hot here! Dressy, no. Sloppy? Maybe. Comfortable? Yes!

P.s. — The shoes are Pons Avarcas, and very very comfortable. Though if you order them, consider sizing down, because they stretch out quite a bit. 

Morel Mushrooms… In Our Yard!

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This past week, our neighbor came over, panting and out of breath from a recent run, and stuck his head over the back fence. “You have to come see this!” he exclaimed, wide-eyed. “We have hit the morel jackpot!

He lead me, carefully stepping through the grass under our apple tree, to a patch of beautiful morel mushrooms growing all over the place across our property line. They were quite fairly and equally distributed between our two yards, as though they knew we would want to share. We examined, researched, painstakingly searched for pictures of poisonous lookalikes online, and reassured ourselves with the obvious: they were growing under an apple tree, a favorite place of morels, they were completely hollow all the way down through the stem, they appeared in the springtime, which is when morels appear, and they looked identical to the photos we poured over.

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Now… did we eat them? Would you eat them? Heck yes! I was encouraged when I happened to notice dried morels in the grocery store that was running $20 for a small bag. I hated the thought of these beautiful, prized wild mushrooms going to waste, and when I researched them further, I could not ignore how lucky we were; thousands of people forage the fields and forests of North America in search of morels, the king of mushrooms, every spring, and here they are right outside our front door. The sad news is that the reason they are there, under our prized apple tree, is likely because our tree is dying. Morels are often found in old apple orchards for a reason — they tend to feed off of the root system breaking down, as it provides readily available nutrients for the morels. The good news? The morels are more likely to come back to the same spot if the conditions are right.

I looked for many recipes and found my mouth watering looking at these, so I decided to keep it simple and allow the morels to be the stars of the show. The smell of the raw mushrooms was amazing — a smoky and sweet fragrance that was unlike any other mushroom I’ve had. I made the mistake of washing the first couple of morels before realizing that they were impossible to dry off; the water became trapped inside the folds of the morel caps. Soaking morels is not necessary, even though many say they soak them in salt water to get rid of any bugs. I wanted these morels to brown, and was aware that the more water they retained, the less likely they would be to brown in the pan. I brushed the rest off with a pastry brush (they really weren’t that dirty once I cut the bottoms off) and checked for worms or bugs (if you see silky threads on the caps, that is a sign of worms, so look closely). They were surprisingly clean.

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Once I cleaned them, I quartered them and set them aside. I melted 1 Tbsp (maybe a bit more?) of salted butter in a cast iron skillet and tossed those beauties in!

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The butter soaked into the folds of the mushroom caps as they cooked and the smell was amazing!

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Another plant we lucked out on? Our sage, which was the first to come back this year. I am no stranger to the delicacies of sage leaves in browned butter (think roasted green beans, ravioli, etc.) so I grabbed a few to add to the morels.

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Here is what the morels looked like after a few minutes of cooking on medium-high heat. I kept an eye on them and stirred them occasionally until they were nicely browned. The sage turned out crispy, a savory delicate crunch alongside the mushrooms.

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Andrew and I smothered them on top of a ribeye steak we split in half alongside a big green salad. It was such a delicious treat and we savored every bite. Thank you, magic morel spores, for finding our little yard this spring!

Weekend Shenanigans

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Thank you, thank you, thank you for your responses to last week’s posts. I loved reading the comments and emails and was so touched by you sharing pieces of your life and thoughts with me. Thank you! You are all awesome!

Andrew and I spent our 9th anniversary well. The night before, I snuck around the house after Andrew had already gone upstairs and hid 9 little gifts (mostly inside jokes) along with clues leading to the next gift. It was a lot of fun to do and even more fun the next morning hearing him (he wakes up at 4:30 every morning, that crazy guy!) quietly tiptoeing around the house finding the gifts. That night, he took me out to dinner at Cielo at the Four Seasons in downtown St. Louis. I requested fancy, and man was it fancy! Plus, the view of the city was gorgeous. So romantic!

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The food was amazing. A real treat. We capped the night off by binge watching The Office on Netflix, ha ha! But really, it took us back to the days before kids so we reminisced in such a sweet way.

And speaking of sweet… these two in a rare loving embrace: DSC_0131DSC_0138

… not to be overshadowed by this ham, who now jumps in front of the camera whenever he gets the chance.

Saturday morning we rewarded Emil’s good behavior with a new babysitter (yes, we had to reward good babysitter behavior… obviously a funny story behind that one) with a trip to the fire station! He was completely star struck. Now he really has the firefighter bug!DSC_0148DSC_0151

It was a beautiful, special weekend, and made me so look forward to more beautiful warm days. This summer is going to be amazing!

Happy Earth Day!

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Today is Earth Day (it also happens to be Andrew and my 9th wedding anniversary — no surprise to those of you who were there at our very hippy-dippy wedding so many years ago)! To celebrate the importance and joy of getting out into nature, I happily accepted the task of writing a cover story for The Washington Post about the topic. It’s not my typical writing style, and certainly gave me a new appreciation for how much hard work goes into a piece like this. Thank you, Mari-Jane, for taking a chance on me!

I hope you have a great weekend. Go outside!

An Outdoor Play Space

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I’ve mentioned before how much I love bulk trash pick-up in our neighborhood — it’s a time when people pile up large items they no longer want in their front yards near the street and people drive around and load them up before the city trucks come to take them away for good. We have people driving up and down our street all day long sifting through the junk. We also do the same. One year I found a kid’s water table, several chairs, and a big storage basket. This year, I found a kid’s tool bench and a wooden crate I thought would be perfect for some outdoor shelving along our back fence (which we need to replace soon anyway).

I worked to clear and weed the area while the boys were at school and nailed the crate to the fence, then I picked up some extra sand for the sandbox and a big bag of smooth stones of varying sizes, remembering the “loose parts” play I’ve been reading about.

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“Loose parts” play refers to an idea by architect Simon Nicholson, who believed that the loose parts in our environment empower creativity. Loose parts are those things that can be moved, carried, transported, combined, redesigned, lined up, taken apart, and put together in various ways. For example, loose parts can be sticks, logs, stones, log “slices,” sand, mud, or dirt if you are sticking with natural materials, but people have also used recyclables such as old tires, boards, ropes, and other items children can do any number of things with. If you’re curious, just use google images to search “loose parts play” and  you’ll be fascinated by the wide range of materials that fit this description.

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Sand feels good underfoot. Socks not needed!

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I was excited to see what Emil would do when he saw the set-up. I had a feeling he would go straight for the stones, and he did! The first thing he did was count off 20 as he tossed them into the sandbox (he is very number-minded right now). He then picked them all out and recounted, just to be sure.

He buried some, then dug them up, then transferred them from container to container, then loaded up the wheelbarrow with them. He played for an hour while I made dinner inside and his brothers jumped on the trampoline. I think he was very pleased to have his own space!

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When he called me outside, I found that he had set the table. He said he had been working hard making pizzas and hot chocolate with marshmallows and would I like to join him for dinner? Of course, I said yes.

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It was such a good reminder that all the toys and crap we think our kids need to play nicely on their own is baloney. He wanted to play pizza-maker, so he found a way to use the loose parts to play the game. Imagination is a beautiful thing.

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I can’t wait to add more to this area — I’m thinking of a pile of various-sized sticks and some two-by-four boards. Oh, if you decide to do this, expect a mess. I fully embrace that there will be sand, white stones, and whatever else all over our yard. It’s only a few years that they get to play this way. We have the rest of our lives to make beautiful grown-up spaces! For now, I’ll embrace what makes my kids happy and healthy.

Dress That Mama: Poppy Red

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What lovely spring weather we’ve been having this past week! All I want to wear are dresses that flow in the breeze. Here is what I wore last weekend to my friend Janelle’s baby girl’s first birthday party. It was a low key outdoor event in Tower Grove Park and we couldn’t have had better weather. And speaking of birthdays, happy birthday to my lovely, creative, hilarious big sister today! I love you, Krista!

Dress: Loup Sea Dress

Sandals: Isabel Marant Étoile Alexia Sandal

Chia Coconut Pudding (and Random Ramblings about Community)

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First, thank you to those of you who commented on yesterday’s post. The whole weekend, possibly longer, I went about life with a small shard of glass in the back of my left hand. I have no idea how it got there, but it started to nag at me and hurt, begging me to take a closer look, to pay attention. Finally, on Monday, I looked closer. I inspected the bump that had turned an angry red, and discovered that what I ignored had grown into something sore and obvious. Something about blogging had started to feel like that overlooked splinter.

The feeling of putting myself and my family and my inner thoughts out there into the blogosphere (Hello, here I am! How are you?), not knowing who was reading, just that about 14,000 of you come here, 14,000 individual people drop by each month and yet, sometimes it feels like a ghost town. It shouldn’t bother me; I know that commenting is a thing of the past — now people drop by, read, move on. I do it to blogs I love on a daily basis!  But part of the reason I do this is to feel connected to others, and the community aspect of blogging from the good old days is… well, a thing of the past? Although I wasn’t consciously looking for validation, I guess I wanted to know… is anyone out there?!! How are you? Who are you? Right here, I’m an open book, I guess. So thank you for saying hello and sharing a piece of yourself with me. It means so much to me, it really does.

Whew! Now moving on…

I discovered this recipe on the package of chia seeds I picked up a week ago and had to share it with you! After reading up on all the health benefits of chia seeds (they are highly nutrient-rich, a whole grain, and loaded with fiber, protein, Omega-3 fatty acids, and many micronutrients: they are good for your skin, your digestive tract, heart health, and metabolism). The best way to get all the benefits from chia seeds is to soak them, or sprout them, in water or, as I learned, coconut milk. This makes them easier for our bodies to digest, plus, the seeds will not absorb water from you during digestion if they go in already soaked. Interesting!

I’ve been enjoying mine this way, as a breakfast pudding. I just mix 1/4 cup of chia seeds and about a cup (or a cup and a half) of coconut milk, 1/4 cup water, plus 2 Tbsp. pure maple syrup, and stir well, then refrigerate. Let sit for 30 minutes or even overnight, and you will find a thick pudding-like mixture. I eat about a half cup for breakfast, with fresh fruit on top — bananas or strawberries are great with the coconut. It’s refreshing, sweet and savory, healthy, and filling. Give it a try and let me know what you think! Or better yet, if you enjoy chia seeds, share how you like them best in the comments section (but even if you don’t comment, I know you’re out there, ha ha!)  :) Have a wonderful day.