outdoor dining.

A very happy happy birthday to my little sister, Becky, also known on this blog as Zuma or Zumie.  My sister is a special girl through and through. She’s thoughtful, sensitive, and always thinks about the well being of others.  She’s got a servant’s heart times 10.  Even if she doesn’t want to do something, there’s something wired in her blood that lays her will down for the sake of the other person — sadly not something I can say I fully have, but her example to me has really shown me how it’s supposed to be done.

She’s also grown into such a classy lady.  There was a day when she would run to my closet for an outfit, but now I go to hers!  It’s neat to see how our tastes are alot more in line as we get older — I’d like to take some credit for rubbing off on her in someway or another over the years.  : )

Her dedication and devotion to Jesus this past year has also grown in such a beautiful way.  It’s a wonderful thing to see someone actually lean on Jesus.  Not just in words, but also in action and deed.

In honor of her birthday this year, I rummaged through the home goods section of my belongings in my parent’s basement (yes, I put up signs in my parent’s basement) and chose some special linens and an array of vintage dishes for a quaint backyard dinner surrounded by 8 of her closest girlfriends.  With the help of a couple friends, I cooked up a meal of spinach strawberry salad, stuffed mushrooms, bread, grilled chicken tandoori tacos, spring vegetables, a vegan dessert mousse, banana dream cake (and it was a dream!), and lastly a Whole Foods strawberry shortcake (thanks Gifty!).  Supper was scheduled to be served after sunset.  After the sun set, the outdoor lights were turned on, the candelabra lit, I donned my apron, and the table set for a cozy dinner surrounded by the cool night air.

There is surely something romantic and cozy about outdoor dining.  It’s something Greg and I hope to do lots of when we move to our own place.  I’d love a backyard patio adorned with twinkly lights, hanging vines, wildflowers, and an outdoor farmhouse table always set for a meal to share.  I love bringing out the good dishes when I plan a meal.  Sure there are tons to wash afterwards, but it makes dinner all the more special.  The way I see it, planning a meal takes thoughtfulness and creativity — the whole process of bringing people together around a table to break bread is special and totally worth all the effort and time put into it.

birthday weekend.

I can’t believe I’m 30.  A part of me doesn’t want to be 30 — I really enjoy the 20’s, but I guess I’m just going to have to wait and see what the 30’s are all about.

A few of my cousins and I celebrated birthdays this month, so we decided to take a group trip to the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania and rent a house together.  It’s amazing to see all the little kiddos between all of us — and with three more on the way!  We pretty much relaxed, played games (pictionary + mafia), drank lots of chai (thanks gigin!), gave gifts, had a cozy dinner, the boys went skiing while the gals chatted it up back at the house.  It was nice to see lots of snow since we haven’t seen any this year in Maryland.  Plus, it was the first time ever that Dhara got to play in the snow — she naturally loved it!  It was definitely a hoot trying to get all the kids together for a picture in the snow.

dhara and lucas bubble bathing

a cozy dinner of chili, cornbread and roasted potatoes at a long farmhouse table

the gang

december recap, part III: dhara’s 2nd birthday.

Dhara’s second birthday party was a little shindig I planned for her with family on Christmas Eve.  She was so happy to be dolled up in a little green salvar adorned with sequins and jewels from her “Beane Aunty”, and delicate gold sandals on her small feet.  She was as cute as can be.  In addition to some catered food, my sister and I cooked up some tasties — we had singapore noodles, beef stir fry, a baked ham, homemade mac + cheese, samosas, broccoli salad, spinach balls, homemade spinach artichoke dip in a bread bowl, and homemade holiday bread.  For her birthday cake, we made Paula Dean’s Grandmother Paul’s Red Velvet Cake with coconut cream cheese frosting — I looove cakes from bakeries, but I’m really starting to love homemade birthday cakes because you can add your own special homely touches, like this (scroll up).

For Dhara’s birthday/Christmas gift, both of her grandmothers gifted her with a fantastic Montessori styled kitchen set from Palumba — if you haven’t checked out their site, it’s awesome!  It really would be my dream kitchen if I were Dhara’s age. It’s made of all natural, beautiful materials — no plastics!  And I love how it fosters an appreciation for the simple and beautiful, rather than the disposable and common.

We surprised her by having it ready to go — fully equipped with metal dinnerware from my mom’s trip to India (small cups, bowls, spoons), wooden food from all food groups (steak, banana, milk, bread, etc.), and a wooden cake from Grandma Smith. Dhara walked into the kitchen in the morning as we all relaxed on the couch waiting in anticipation to see her reaction to the kitchen set, but she walked right by it not seeing it at all!  We all laughed, and tried to get her attention on it, but it took her 5 whole minutes before she noticed the little wooden kitchen tucked under the bar. Her reaction was priceless — pure joy.

she walked into the kitchen with her morning face and ran straight for my lap

she finally sees the itty bitty kitchen

we all sing happy birthday to her, and she sings too as she holds a wooden cake

so happy!

helping zumie make her homemade red velvet birthday cake

the spread

exuberantly singing happy birthday with everyone!

not sure why she’s holding a pin cushion?

all three kids are ready to blow! hilarious.

(right) isaiah is highly pleased with his blow

after singing happy birthday, inspired by her daddy, dhara says to all her visitors, “thank you all for coming! love you!” and then indulges in a sweet piece of red velvet

isabel, dani, and dhara

dhara, seylah, and isaiah

opening gifts at midnight

2 years old.

I’m so glad I get to be her mom.  She’s fun, vibrant, soft, lovely, smiley, huggable, and oh so sweet — just to name a few.  My little girl turned two years old on Christmas Day.  These past two years have really flown by.  When Greg and I reflect on it, we just smile, because she really truly just brings a smile to our faces whenever we think of her.

The last time I officially photographed her, she was 18 months old.  Wow, has she changed in a short 6 months span.  It was so much easier to take her picture this time around.  She sat silently as I adjusted my camera.  She waited patiently and did what I asked her to do.  My, my, my — she really is becoming this mature little person whom I love and cherish.

And she talks SOOO much now.  She asks questions, and gives smart little answers.  Last week I asked her to hand me a doll that she was holding onto — it was one of those irritating kinda toys that you just want to hide.  And Dhara responded with a, “Can I please leave it in my hand?”  Another time, Greg got hurt, and she walked up to him, put her hand on his leg, closed her eyes, and prayed, “Bless Daddy who got the bonkey.”  [A “bonkey” being an ouchy].  Another time, we were at family prayer, and we asked her what song she would like to sing, and she responded with, “Old MacDonald.”

For Christmas this year, Greg’s mom presented Dhara with an ID bracelet that was given to baby Greg by his grandfather who was living in Saudi Arabia at the time.  Here is Dhara admiring the petite gold bracelet handed down to her from her great-grandfather Jack.

baby/toddler indie headscarves can be purchased via the Susie Mey shop.


I would just like to say that my husband is lovely.  Quite lovely, in fact.  And I don’t mean in the pretty eyes sense.  Yes, he’s got beautiful green eyes, long eyelashes, and awesome hair, but that’s not what I’m referring to.  He’s lovely in a “sit-together-on-a-couch-and-sip-coffee-and-chat” way, or the “me-interrupting-his-quiet-time-in-a-closet-and-us-cuddling” way, or the whole “showing-college-students-the-road-to-Jesus” way, or how about the “explore-a-run-down-old-barn” way.  Let me tell you, what I’m trying to say is at the end of the day, I usually sit back and think, “man, he’s lovely.”

Happy thirty-first birthday to my sweet, adventurous, honorable, upstanding, courageous, and godly husband.  I love his heart + who Christ is making him to be.  I love his desire to serve his family, and his desire to live righteously — it really is a breath of fresh air in a world of compromise and self. I woke up today feeling super blessed to have him in my life.  Love you babes!

(This morning, in elementary school style, I sent Greg off to work with a plate of delectable creamy lemon crumb squares for his birthday to share with his workmates.  He’s so cute with his backpack and plate of lemon squares.)  🙂