10 Current Favorite Books for Babies & Toddlers


Wednesday, April 27, 2016

1. Peter Rabbit Set: This set is precious and was a gift for John Shea before he was born. Thank you, Sadie!! His favorite book of all time up until recently was Tom Kitten. Gracie loves them all - they're little enough for her to hold and carry and look through, and some of my favorite to read aloud.

2. Bedtime Prayers: Sweetest illustrations with a verse and prayer. We love this one.

3. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe: This is a very short version with beautiful illustrations.

4. Cappy Tails: This along with The White House Mouse and Marshall, the Courthouse Mouse were gifts from our friend Peter Barnes who authored these with his wife. These are really cute books that are a fun way to teach about the US Government.

5. The Beginner's Bible. We have a few children's bibles but this one is our favorite. It was a gift for Gracie on her baptism from our Pastor in Monterey. I try to read one little chapter in the morning with the kids for their devotional time. Psalm 23 (the Lord is my Shepherd) has especially precious illustrations.

6, 7. Baby Touch & Feel Animals and Baby Faces. These were gifts from Nana Beth and are Gracie's absolute favorites!! They are the only books she will sit still for the entirety, over and over again. She laughs so hard at each baby face and loves to feel the textures on the animals. John Shea usually steals these and "reads" them himself.

8. Playtown: Grandma Emina sent this one and both of my kids love to flip through it and open all of the little windows and doors in each part of the town, though John Shea especially likes to hear about the trucks page.

9. The Dangerous Book for Boys. This is going to be perfect for John Shea when he's a little older and in the meantime, it reminds me to let go a bit as his Mom. This description sums the book up perfectly: In this digital age there is still a place for knots, skimming stones and stories of incredible courage. This book recaptures Sunday afternoons, stimulates curiosity, and makes for great father-son activities. The brothers Conn and Hal have put together a wonderful collection of all things that make being young or young at heart fun—building go-carts and electromagnets, identifying insects and spiders, and flying the world's best paper airplanes.

10. The Value of Courage: The Story of Jackie Robinson. Cam grew up reading all of the books in The Value of Series but this one was his favorite and it's fun now for him to read it to John Shea.

We have about 100 other books we all enjoy, but these are a few of the most read at the moment. I'd love to hear your favorite children's books!

What's For Breakfast (or Lunch!), Part I


Monday, April 25, 2016

I've been meaning to start a breakfast/lunch series for months (also to kick myself out of making the same things over and over!), with easy go-to ideas and others that take a little more love to prepare. This one is very simple but we always feel refreshed after it. Breakfast is our favorite meal of the day, though I put together these oatmeal bowls and green smoothies most often for lunch during the week when my kids are hungry and getting tired and cranky. If you don't have a lot of time in the morning or around lunchtime, this is a nice way to recharge. And -- if you don't like oatmeal, just switch it out for greek yogurt but keep the cinnamon and honey!

Good morning from Zagreb and I hope you had a great weekend!

Cinnamon & Honey Oatmeal Bowl

1/2 C old fashioned quick oats
1 C milk (or water) 
1/2 teasp cinnamon
good squeeze of honey
fresh blueberries
banana, sliced
fresh strawberries
1 plum, sliced

Cook the oatmeal according to its directions with the milk (or water), cinnamon and honey mixed in. My kids like it when I mix in more milk afterwards to cool it down. Top with the fresh fruit.

John Shea & Gracie's Favorite Green Smoothie

1-2 C frozen wild berries 
1/2 banana 
1 C whole fat, plain greek yogurt
2 large handfuls of fresh spinach, collard greens or kale
1/2 apple, cut into chunks
fresh parsley
1 C + fresh apple juice

Add all of the ingredients to a blender. I usually pick a small handful of parsley from our herb garden because it adds another element of flavor and parsley is really good for you! Blend and add more apple juice as needed. Enjoy!

Backyard Chickens!


Thursday, April 21, 2016

There's a tradition on the Dalmatian Coast to gift little children with a baby chick or duckling for Easter, which we had planned to do, but then decided to wait until our neighbors' chicks became young hens. They just sent us home with two this weekend! Watching our kids' faces light up when we surprised them was so much fun. Each morning since, they hear them outside and immediately want to go out and see them, let them out of the coop and look for the fresh eggs. John Shea can't understand why they're usually afraid to get near him and briskly run for their lives? I don't know, but chasing them at full speed while screaming and laughing hysterically miiiiight have something to do with it.

Sweet boy sharing his snacks.

We love having backyard chickens so far! The kids get to name them so it may be a little while until we find out what those are ;) Cam is almost done building the mobile coop and it's of course beautiful. I'll share photos once he's done.

Spring Eggs with Baby Salata + Sweet Peas in Creamy Vinaigrette


Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Before moving to Zagreb, Cam and I watched an episode of No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain in Croatia. He went to Hotel BoŇ°kinac on the island of Pag (off the Dalmatian Coast) and was in shock from all of the good wine and food.  One of the things he was most blown away by is a plate of eggs with wild asparagus and a spring salad. It wasn't on the menu when we went to Hotel BoŇ°kinac during Easter week, but the owner kindly made it for us anyways, and inspired me to make something similar when we got home.

This is about as simple as simple gets, but makes a quick, healthy and delicious meal for any time of the day if you start with fresh ingredients!

Spring Eggs with Baby Salata + Sweet Peas in Creamy Vinaigrette

For the Vinaigrette:
1 C extra virgin olive oil
1 C white wine vinegar
1/4 C honey or raw sugar
1 garlic clove, minced
dash of fine sea salt

3-4 C baby salata
1 C fresh sweet peas
1/4 C parmesan or pecorino, shaved

extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
4 eggs
salt for taste

Add all of the ingredients for the vinaigrette in a lidded mason jar, shake until combined. Or add ingredients to a bowl and whisk. Taste; add in more honey or sugar if it's too tart for your taste.

I like to taste the peas as I'm shelling them to make sure they're good (sweet!) ones. The local sweet peas here in Zagreb are so yummy my kids have been eating them raw! Toss the baby salad and sweet peas with as much vinaigrette as you'd like. Set aside.

Heat a large saute pan over medium high heat. Cover the bottom with olive oil. Once it is shimmering and hot, add in the onion slices. The original dish used wild asparagus, but they are too bitter for my taste! Onions add great flavor and texture and make a nice substitution.  While the onions are cooking, whisk the eggs in a bowl. Once the onions have lightly browned, turn the heat up to high and drizzle in a bit more olive oil to keep the eggs from sticking. Once the oil is hot and shimmering, pour in the eggs. Everyone I know scrambles eggs in their own way, we like to use a wooden spatula to mix them around. They cook fast so you should have just enough time to sprinkle on 1/2 teaspoon of salt for taste (or more if you prefer!) and mix again. Remove the pan from the heat before they have totally finished cooking - the pan is hot enough that it will continue to cook them as you move the eggs to a plate. You want them to be cooked through but still soft and creamy.

Serve immediately with the salad (roasted carrots also goes well with this!) and a white wine. Sparkling is great, too! Enjoy!

Weekend on the Farm


Monday, April 18, 2016

Our next door neighbors (who don't speak a single word of English) have a farmhouse in the region of Zagorje, just outside of Zagreb, and we love when they invite us out there. This is a region that is so far off the tourist path in Croatia, yet might be one of the most beautiful. It's a hidden gem. Between the forests, meadows, wild flowers, orchards, vineyards, rolling hills, little farms and valleys, it feels like surely! fairytales must have originated from here. I picked bunches of wildflowers, we walked their land, drank their wine, visited their flock of 50 chickens and new piglets and hunted for wild asparagus. I think our family was made for the country.

John Shea covered in dirt from head to toe exploring with his best friend in Croatia, Rex the German Shepherd.

Sunday lunch is a huge meal that always begins with soup. They made us chicken peka, which is a very traditional Croatian dish, slow cooked in a lidded pot in their outdoor fireplace under hot coals and ash. Everything we ate (and drank) came from their farm!

Walking through their vineyards and orchards to our friend's "wine shed" to stop for a drink of his vino. He won the silver medal for his Malvasia white wine, and this is the view from the porch:

Our neighbors always generously send us home with at least two dozen eggs from their free-range chickens, leftovers and fresh bread. They are neighbors to us in the truest sense of the word! They've also opened up the culture and language to us right over our fence.

I hope you had a great weekend!
I'm excited to show soon what else they sent us home with...

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