Savored Grace

I am pleased to announce that Smells Like Brownies is moving to a new home! (In fact, it has already moved!)

Welcome to Savored Grace.

JOHN1.16

When I concluded that the name Smells Like Brownies had run its course, I almost simultaneously gulped with fear.

Do you know how hard it is to name a blog?

It’s really hard.

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A Little Soul Searching

Snapseed(1991cropped)
photo © Natalie Zhou of Nana Floral

You may have noticed that there have been six months of silence around these parts.

I took a vacation.

I needed a break from self-imposed deadlines, from taking more pictures of plates than of gap-toothed smiles, from the chore of writing about everything I cook and never cooking the same thing more than twice.

The truth is, blogging is quite a lot of work. That’s why most people who do it successfully consider it to be their job! I do not really consider myself “successful” at this “job” because I have another career that is pretty consuming: mom-ing. In order to live up to that calling well, I have long sacrificed large parts of the blogger job description, parts like posting on social media and following friends faithfully in order to grow my audience here.

But last Fall, I realized that I wasn’t doing my mom job particularly well, either. Every time I sat down to do something on my computer, my scope of attention shrank to a small, glowing rectangle 12” from my face, and my patience with children’s shenanigans and demands disappeared entirely.

Around that time, I started asking myself some hard questions. Questions like: why have I been spending so much time thinking about food, trying new dishes, and taking pictures of everything I eat? Why do I like writing about food? What do I hope to offer or gain by doing this? Is writing a food blog the best use of my time as a mother of two preschoolers (and do I even enjoy it)?

The truth is, I found myself longing for the freedom to throw myself into other projects and ignore what’s for dinner.

IMG_7766I needed to simplify. I needed to find a lighter balance. I needed to blink and look away from Pinterest, Facebook, Tastespotting, and everything else. I needed to spend time with my gap-toothed smilers. You know. The ones who absolutely refuse to stand still next to each other for a two-second photo. #alwaysblurry

I spent a lot of time worrying about whether I should take a break from blogging, even though I knew I really needed to reorganize my priorities. But while I was fretting, before I knew it, a month had passed. And then two.

And I have to tell you, what started as a break from having my attention constantly divided turned into so much more.

Spoiler (in case you haven’t figured this out yet…): This is definitely a long-winded, reflective post. And there will not be a recipe at the end. I am so glad to have someplace to collect my thoughts, but I will not be offended if you decide to abandon this post, and just wait to see if it takes me another six months to show up again.

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Baby Caitlin

Baby Caitlin

Life has just gotten more beautiful!

Our new little daughter, Caitlin, is such a charmer. She is definitely keeping us on our toes, but every time she flashes that ear-to-ear smile (yes, I know it’s a reflex, but it’s just so cute!) she melts our hearts.

Life as a family of four has been very sweet so far! We feel so blessed as we get to know our newest little one!

Happy Family

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Chocolate Prune Smash Cake + Curious George Party

Chocolate Prune Smash Cake

My baby is 1!!

How did that even happen?

In keeping with my goal to one day turn into Annie of Annie’s Eats, I planned the heck out of a birthday party for him. I landed on a Curious George theme (from the books, not the show), because my kid looooves to investigate anything he sees or gets his hands on. And he gets into everything. It seemed fitting.

Mantle and Gift Table I spent days and days cutting cardstock into circles and stripes and triangles to make favor tags and birthday signs.

Curious George GuestbookI framed pictures scanned from the Curious George books to accent the whole house (gift table, cake stand, activities for kids, you name it!).

Piano DecoI put monkeys and photos all over the house. (And you can’t see it, but on the far wall there is a giant slideshow of Jake over the last year!)

I blew up balloons and tried to redecorate the entire house into primary colors (um, yes, I did tack yellow vinyl tablecloths to the walls. I don’t want to talk about it). It took a lot of effort. I got very little sleep. But in the end, I was so happy with how Jake’s party turned out!

Fist Full of CakeHe seemed to have fun, too.

Especially with the cake (he is, after all, my son)! He grabbed a fistful of cake and shoved it into his mouth and ate/smeared/shared happily for 20 minutes. (P.S., I spent the entire birthday song choking back tears…how did my little bundle turn into a toddler already!?)

I am so proud of this smash cake! I wanted to make something that wouldn’t overload him with sugar out the gate, since we have been very diligent with his diet up til now: the only sweetness he’s ever had has been from actual fruits, and I’m not talking about juices or concentrates. I decided that I wanted to give Jake chocolate cake because it’s clearly the best, but I also wanted it to be vaguely familiar to him, with minimal added sugar. So I decided to include fruits, which would lend flavor, texture, and sweetness, without being overpowering. Hence, chocolate prune cake!

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Resolutions, v2013

Cookbook Shelf

So…round about this time last year I was making all these wonderful resolutions…several of them to do with eating healthier and exercising more. Did I succeed in accomplishing all of my goals? Like most years, my answer is no…but at least this year there was a very cute and cuddly reason I didn’t lose those 10 lbs or eat kale for lunch every day!

Jake Bats at Toys2012 was both wonderful and stressful. Stressful because the plumbing in our house revolted twice, very expensively. But it really was the best year I’ve ever had—all year long I was able to look forward to becoming a mom, and then in October we welcomed our beautiful baby boy, Jake, into our family! Honestly, what could top that?

I neglected you pretty thoroughly, though. Let’s just agree that it was more important for me to feed my baby than it was to feed you. Sorry!

But this brings me to my first resolution of the year: to share at least two recipes with you every week.

This ties in pretty closely with my second resolution, which is to actually prepare dinner twice a week. Maybe you will have a hard time believing this, but cooking dinner is really not my strong suit. Yes, I love to cook, but I often find myself at dinner time standing in front of the open and completely full fridge thinking, “Geez, we don’t have anything to eat! Maybe we should order pizza…” Or else I spend all of my cooking energies making bread and brownies. But now with a little one who will soon to be able to sit at the table with us, it’s time to focus on healthier eating habits and family meals!

And finally, my third resolution: to eat a salad every day. As long as we can agree that my egg salad wrap counted for today. (Um…sometimes you have to follow the letter of the law rather than the spirit of the law, right?…)

Of course, I have about a dozen other non-food related resolutions…because lists are great, and what list is completely rounded out with just three items on it!?

So what made it onto your list of New Year’s resolutions for 2013? I can’t wait to find out!

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Baby Jake

Guess what!?

I’m a MOMMY!

Little Jake couldn’t possibly be more adorable if he tried.

Dave and I are busy adjusting to life as parents…and let me just say it has been an adventure so far! Our little guy is so amazing, and we are so happy that he has *finally* joined us!

 

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Cookie Cutter Giveaway

It’s Christmas. The season of giving! And in honor of that, I want to give you a cute set of cookie cutters.

Maybe you enjoy the task of rolling out sugar cookies and stamping elves and angels into them. Maybe you can work wonders with a set of nesting cookie cutters. I am thinking linzer cookies. I am thinking cookie decorating shindigs with adults and with small children and lots of sticky, colored frostings and sugar sprinkles. I am thinking you are going to work some cookie cutter magic, here.

So how can you get your hands on cookie magic, you wonder? Simple. Answer a question that is near and dear to my heart: what is your favorite Christmas/holiday cookie, and why?

You have until Sunday, December 11 at midnight to comment. I will read the answers and select my favorite (ahem…I like charming baking stories). And because, as I suspected, a grand total of two people took me up on my cookie cutter offer, both Stephanie and SmartyHarley are winners!

In the meantime, I will tell you about my favorite (and least favorite) Christmas cookie: candy canes.

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Better late than never

When I was about to graduate college a few years ago, I realized two things with great dismay: 1) although I claimed to be an excellent cook/baker, the only recipe I really knew was for chocolate chip cookies; and 2) I was about to move out of my parents’ house, away from my mother’s stash of cookbooks and easy access to all my childhood favorites. How would I get cookie dough truffles once I lived hours away from my mother? How would I ever figure out the secret to making a clump-less roux?

So I set about collecting all of the recipes I knew I couldn’t live without, the things I knew I would one day need to make for my own children. I gathered together my favorite chicken recipes, the recipes for a dozen or more church potluck bar cookies…and I set out on my own.

But did I bother to bake/roast/sauté anything in my newly minted recipe binder?

I’ll give you three guesses.

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