first plane ride.

She experienced her first plane ride en route to Texas.  We gave her a bottle going up so that her ears wouldn’t pop.  She slept a good 1.5 hours during the 3 hour flight, she laughed and played with strangers, read her favorite book, and ate some baby food during the flight.  She didn’t take a bottle going down, so she had some ear poppage which made her a little fussy.

Overall, she was a happy and pleasant baby during the whole experience and loved the grown-up feel of being at the airport in the early morning (6 AM), and being on a plane surrounded by so many new faces and new things to look at.

wearing her “going to market blouse.”  also, take notice of her new teeth.

brown bear, brown bear, what do you see?” by bill martin jr. + eric carle and a bottle of baby food (organic apples) from roots market.  she loves the book, and hates the baby food in a jar.  the look on her face after her first bite, “what is this stuff, old people food or something?”

berry picking.

Last week, myself, my baby, and Aunty Zuma went berry picking.  I knew I wanted fresh fruit for blueberry lemonade, custard fruit tarts and black raspberry pie for Dhara’s garden party, so off we went to a farm a couple miles away called, Larriland.  Next time I’d like to ride my bicycle there with Greg — just me and him, to pick fruits and veggies.  I was pretty bummed that I missed strawberry season this year.  It came and went just like that!  I remember last year this time when I went strawberry picking with the Juan kids and Oilyn at Blueberry Hill in southern Illinois — what fun it was.

My sister and I picked blueberries at Larriland until the afternoon sun became to warm for the baby.  While they cooled off, I went and picked some black raspberries and beets in the shade.  The beets are for Dhara.  She’s getting used to her real food.

I just love the fact that we can go to the local farms in our area for seasonal fruits and veggies.  It’s so much fun to pick your own.  Peaches will be popping up in the next few weeks.  I found a great recipe for a pecan peach cobbler that I’d love to bake.

Picking berries with a baby ain’t that bad.

Dhara playing under a blueberry bush as mama and Aunt Zuma pick blueberries.

black raspberries.

black raspberry fields.

beets for Dhara.

blueberries for us.

a summer garden party for dhara.

[As I begin to type, the loveliest summer rain is coming down on the rooftop of me and my household.  And a much needed rain it is.] Oh lordy, did I have the busiest week ever!  At least in a long, long while.  So much I wanted to post about this past week, but couldn’t — Father’s Day, my parent’s 30th anniversary, berry picking at a nearby farm for blueberry lemonade and fruit tarts and a blackberry pie for the garden party (and beets for Dhara’s dinner), sewing 30 feet of colorful bunting (absolutely loved this!), and a fun trip to the well-known Georgetown Cupcake for a couple dozen lovely cupcakes.  All are half written posts saved for a later date.  Hopefully I can catch up with photos and posts later this week.

But the garden party!  Ohhh, the wonderful garden party!  It was a beautiful time.  It really was.  Planning a detailed party is no small feat.  I should have remembered this after planning our wedding a couple years ago.  Dhara’s half birthday turned out splendidly.  It took place in the woods behind our home.  We used our own furniture to create a room of sorts in the woods.  It felt cozy and enclosed as we celebrated in a cove surrounded by trees.

It also turned out to be a beautiful sunny morning with a cool breeze and not an ounce of humidity — our prayers were faithfully answered by a Faithful Father who always knows the desires of our hearts.  (Who would have wanted to sit outside in 100 degree weather like it was the entire week leading up to the party?)  Enough said, here is the summer garden party we had for Dhara’s half [6 month] birthday through an array of photographs…

Greg sitting in the background enjoying his handiwork before the party begins.

Lovely flowers — creamy whites, the palest pinks, lots of greens, and some purple.

Setting up.

Place settings made up of a hodgepodge of whimsical cloth napkins, wooden utensils, vintage-styled paper straws, and potted plants with small handmade flags that had each girlie’s name written across the back.

Greg constructed a couple of these floral stakes with a strong branch, a glass milk bottle, and some twine.  I love them!

I just might make another one of these bunting flags just for the heck of it!  I enjoyed how precise of a project it was.  I used a different fabric piece for each side of each flag.  There is something so homey about using different scraps — kind of like a scrappy quilt.

Let the party begin…

Rachel and Dhara.  Also, seventeen different flavors of Georgetown Cupcakes!  Sooo good!

Hannah, Aparna and Macy.

Sue and Zoey Madison.

Cucumber Mint Cilantro Tea Sandwiches (thanks to Rohini for the tasty recipe!) + Ham and Cheese Tea Sandwiches.

My sewing supply table topped with red velvet cupcakes in a jar favors with handmade sewn tags and a strawberry cake.

Aparna and Lakshmi.

My sweet Dhara in a vintage white voile dress.  I love my little girl in voile.

Freshly squeezed lemonade made by my husband and freshly brewed sweet tea.

My sister, Rebecca, and Dhara.

My aunt, Rachel, and Dhara.

Sonia and Kristen.

Grandma playing with Dhara.

Carrie and Macy.

Diana and Shreya.

Dhara’s Aunt Beth and Grandma Sandy.

Dhara’s Ammachi having a grand ol’ time.

Darling little Shreya.

Kristen, the little pixie.

To end the afternoon, everyone gathered around the high chair as we gave Dhara a cupcake to do with what she pleased.  We all watched as this little munchkin explored her cupcake, making a fun mess in the process.  She dissected it layer by layer, all the while not knowing that she could eat it until the very end when most of the cupcake was on the ground and she finally stuck her finger in her mouth and tasted the creamy frosting.

I can’t believe she’s 6 months old.  [Sigh.]

Our morning brunch was such a pleasant and fun experience, I can’t wait to do it again next year!  Although I know I can be more organized next time.  I shouldn’t have been sewing bunting the night before the party!  Or only getting two hours of sleep because there were still so many details that I needed perfected.  Or the fact that I forgot to put my sugared blueberries in the “blueberry lemonade!”  : )

Oh well, we still had a beautiful time together chatting and eating lots of tasty food on pretty plates.  [I told Greg that I decided that I never want to have disposable plates, cups, utensils, or napkins in our home, because the real ones are so much more fun to use!]  Our menu consisted of desserts and finger foods.  We had a petite mint green double layered cake, a large strawberry double layered cake topped with fresh strawberries, soft chocolate chip walnut cookies, fruit tarts, my mother-in-law’s delish chocolate fingers, red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting, Georgetown Cupcakes, basil parmesan chicken meatballs, cucumber mint + cilantro tea sandwiches, ham + cheese tea sandwiches, tuna + potato cutlets, a watermelon + blueberry + blackberry fruit bowl, and oven warmed brie with wheat crackers.

A special thanks to all the mamas and daughters who came out on Saturday to make our garden party a memorable one.  Even though Dhara may not remember a lick of her first summer garden party, she will certainly look back at these captured memories and wish remembered at least one — even if it was just a hazy one.

children + toys, part II.

Before the birth of my baby, I thought and wrote a little about the world of children + their toys.  But now that I have a 5.5 month old, I am thinking about this topic more and more often.  I think about it whenever I hand her a toy to play or chew on.  I think about it whenever she receives a gift from someone — I debate in my mind whether to keep the gift or not.

I’m currently reading a book called, The Creative Family by Amanda Blake Soule.  I can’t help but love what she says in an interview I posted in a previous update: “I think my one piece of advice for that would be to choose carefully the toys you bring into your home.  For lots of reasons, ‘less’ is more.  It’s better for children’s imaginations, better for creating a peaceful family environment, and it’s much easier on the space in a house.  I also think ‘beauty’ is an important factor to consider when bringing a toy into your home.  Shouldn’t children’s toys and surroundings be beautiful, too?  I think so.”

I just love this idea of a peaceful and beautiful, yet real and comfortable home — one that fosters an appreciation for beauty in a completely natural way.  I truly feel that the run-of-the-mill plastic attention grabber toys, plethora of stuffed animals, beanie babies and barbies, television, and video games take beauty away from the home and what it symbolizes.  It also takes away the beauty of being a simple, curious kid.

One of my favorite things to do on weekdays is take my daughter outside to our garden and let her touch each plant as I go on to tell her the name of each one, “dill…cilantro…rosemary…squash…cucumbers…lettuce…broccoli.”  We usually walk back in the house with the smell of dill or rosemary on our fingertips.  I also let her feel the fabric I’m using during a sewing project, and explain to her what mama is going to make this time.  I can’t wait until I can teach her the sweet simple things in life.  (Like baking cupcakes.)

As for toys, I hope to weed out the consumer bad and keep the good — educational, natural fibers, simple.  (Like our neighbors who gave her a cloth toy veterinarian’s medical bag filled with cloth medical equipment.  Love it!)  Below are some of the toys my baby plays with these days.  She loves to chew on her cloth animals and doll.  I actually purchased these cloth toys five years ago when I was in college.  I guess you could call me a “think for the future kinda gal” — purchasing cloth toys, a small library of children’s books and simple cotton clothing for my future kids.  I wasn’t even married at the time.  ; )

The following are a couple wooden rattles I picked up a couple months ago from a darling Etsy shop located in Columbus, Ohio, called, Little Alouette.  Love these, and so does my baby girl.  Maybe she’ll love them so much that they’ll inspire her to be a woodworker when she grows up.  : )

As a parent or a lover of children’s goods (like I was), what are some toys/books/goods you recommend?

lil + elle.

The cousins celebrated two birthdays last month.  Littles, Lilia + Elisabet, turned over another chapter of their lives as they respectively turned 3 and 1 years old.  A group of us headed to New Jersey for a fun weekend.  Some photos to highlight the weekend.

our baby story.

I decided to document our baby story because I feel like it’s a special one.  The following story involves a wife’s desire to have a baby, a husband’s desire for one too, a medical condition that made it hard, and a great great God who supernaturally granted the desires of His children’s hearts.


Back in August of 2008, my endocrinologist diagnosed me with a quite common condition found in women these days.  The condition makes it harder to have children — not impossible — but harder.  At the time, I was really discouraged, but Greg was not.  He believed by faith that nothing is impossible for God, and he encouraged me to do the same.  By faith, God would give us children. 

When given my diagnosis, my brain went straight to, “I’ll never have kids.”  It was something I thought about often.  I didn’t share this with Greg, because I didn’t want him to know I cared so much.  It meant being really vulnerable, and I wasn’t ready to go there yet concerning this womanly desire that dates back to when the world started going round.  It’s one of woman’s deepest longings.   

It remained a fear in my heart as we moved to Illinois for a 10 month internship in campus ministry.  We always said we’d try for our first child during the internship, so that by the time the internship was over, I’d be 9 months pregnant and ready for the next season of our lives.  It’s funny how our plans don’t always work the way we want them to, because 8 months into our internship, I still wasn’t pregnant.  And the thought, “I’m never going to have children”, kept playing over and over in my head.  I continued to keep this fear from Greg.  He believed in faith for our children, but I only believed in what I could see. 

I remember the time when Greg and I were sitting in our small living room — Greg on the couch, and me on the floor — and he said, “I want a baby.”  I nodded my head in agreement, thinking, “ohh, God knows I want one too, babe.”  One thing I really admire about my husband is that he always chooses to pray when he doesn’t know what to do next.  So that’s what we did that very moment.  We began praying.

That same month there was a couple that visited our church.  They came and were a part of our bible study that weekend.  Somehow the topic came up, and they shared how the wife could not conceive because she had an inverted uterus.  Their story was amazing because even though children seemed unlikely for them, they decided to stand on the promises of God, and believe that God was God of the impossible.  All three of their children were at the bible study with them.  I was so moved by their story that I whispered in Greg’s ear, “I want them to pray over us.”  He agreed.  They gladly prayed over us, and I could sense that they believed what they prayed for and who they prayed to. 

A few weeks later, Greg and I went to a conference in northern Illinois.  During one of the breaks, we were sitting in a Starbuck’s, and I don’t know what came over me, but I began telling Greg all my fears.  I’m usually a private person when it comes to sharing my fears, so I was surprised by my openness.  Greg was surprised by my fears because I never shared them, but he never made me feel stupid.  He encouraged me like a husband should encourage and love his wife.  He led me to Psalm 16:5, “The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot.”  After feeling somewhat comforted, I continued to read my daily readings for that day, and for that day was God’s rhema word to me in Acts 2:39: “For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to Himself.”  Also, in Psalms 6:8-9, “Depart from me, all you workers of evil, for the Lord has heard the sound of my weeping.  The Lord has heard my plea; the Lord accepts my prayer.”

I stopped in excitement once I read these passages.  I couldn’t believe that God was speaking right to my fear.  It wasn’t a passage I looked for, rather, it was part of my scheduled reading for that day.  I was completely moved by the Word of the Lord.  I felt so uplifted and safe knowing that God heard me and He knew my fears.  That same day at an altar call, our pastor, without knowing our situation, prayed children over us.  As we were kneeling, side by side, at the head of the church, Greg and I looked at each other with surprise because neither of us told him our desire for children — and it was something we talked about just a few hours earlier!

The very next week, at church, our pastor announced that a couple in the church was expecting a baby.  After church that day, a woman in the church came over to us and patted my belly congratulating me on the pregnancy.  She thought we were the couple expecting.  I corrected her and said that it was not us.  She quickly apologized, but then retracted her apology, saying, “No, I think you are pregnant!  Are you sure you aren’t pregnant?”  I shook my head and told her she was mistaken.  Then with a glimmer in her eye, she spoke faith over me, and said that I too would soon be pregnant if I wasn’t already.

A week later, I was sitting in church during a sermon, and I quietly heard the words, “you’re pregnant”, in my head.  I quickly shook those words away thinking it was my mind playing tricks on me, because it tended to do that alot.

A week later, Greg and I were at home on a quiet Saturday morning.  He was making cinnamon pancakes for breakfast, and I was putting the finishing touches on a baby quilt for a friend.  I casually mentioned to him that my menstrual period for that month was late — this being a common occurrence for me because of my medical condition — so it didn’t surprise me that I was late.  He said I should take a pregnancy test.  I disagreed because it was probably like all the other months of being late.  He requested that I just try and see what happens.  I said no.  That morning Greg went to the grocery store.  As soon as he left, I quickly ran to the bathroom, took out my dollar store pregnancy test, and took the test.  The results didn’t look very promising after the first minute.  I knew it — it was just like all the other months.  As I was about to throw the stick away, I noticed that there was a very faint “positive” line.  It was so faint, I was almost sure I was seeing the “positive” strip through the stick.  So I took another test.  The same thing happened.  So I took a third test.  The same thing happened again!  (Hey, these were dollar store tests, so I didn’t feel as bad taking three!). 

When Greg came back from the grocery store, knowing me so well, he asked me if I took the test.  I told him to go to the bathroom and tell me what he thought.  He took one look at the faint lines on all three tests and told me I was pregnant.  We both just looked at each other and smiled.     


Many would say, “coincidence.”  I say, God works miracles.  I know how I felt during those many months of desiring and wanting, and not getting.  I know how it felt to not know what to do, and cry out to God because there was nothing I could do.  And then to have supernatural appointments like God speaking to me through his Word or people praying my desires without them even knowing my desires, and lastly, getting pregnant immediately afterwards!  God makes Himself known.  We have to decide whether we believe by faith in Him, or not.  “When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles.  The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”  Psalms 34:17-18       

I sit here today, holding my cozy sleeping baby in the crook of my left arm, and thanking Jesus for hearing our prayers, for holding my tears in a bottle, for speaking directly to me through others, for using other people to prophetically speak children over Greg and I, and lastly, for the gift of our Dhara dear.  She sure is a precious soul.  Thank you, Jesus.

“If I am faithless, You remain faithful.  You cannot deny Yourself.”

sarah jane studios.

Greg and I were up last night in our new room hanging photographs and tapestries and preparing for baby.  My parents have been so gracious to let us have their 1st floor guest room for the unseen future — photos of that to come once I’m done nesting.  : )  Anyway, it’s a great sized room for this next season of our lives.  

For a couple months now, I’ve been on the search for a piece of artwork to place over the baby’s crib.  Something just for her.  I really love local artwork and always prefer that over the artwork found in department stores or store chains.  I was looking for something whimsical, nostalgic, girly and even childish.  I came across Sarah Jane Studios, and was delighted to see her sweet vintage designs for children.  She pretty much has a print for every season or month.  So, I chose December’s print, “Winter Cheer”, since baby will be a winter baby.

What Sarah Jane says about this print, “I remember as a girl sitting at my kitchen window at the snowy forest behind our house so calmed by the misty grey that winter brings.  I really love the magic in the winter forest…so delicate and quiet.  But then the Cardinal would come and draw my complete attention.  He was like a sign of hope.  My heart would race, and I would beg him to stay a while.”

It’s kind of neat too, because the crib faces our backyard window, which is a backyard of woods with cardinals and blue jays swooping in and out of the trees.  It will be a good reminder of living at grandma’s house for a time in her life. 

Coming in at a close second was Kiki + Polly’s, “Scooter” acrylic print by Oregon based artist, Lisa Golighty.  (Both Sarah Jane and Lisa Golighty have sweet blogs too!)   

[“Winter Cheer” print, from Sarah Jane Studios + “Scooter” print, from Kiki + Polly.]

confessions of a home-schooler.


Here’s an interesting article I came across on home-schooling.  I found it encouraging.  Some points I loved about it:

“Call us crackpots, but our kids spend their days at beaches and museums, not in school.”

“They have never heard of “Transformers”, and we’re OK with that.”

“If you grew up in the school system, you can’t imagine how totally different this looks,” says Alicia Bayer, who home-schools her four kids in Westbrook, Minn., a small town about 160 miles southwest of Minneapolis.  “I didn’t go buy desks.  We don’t sit in rows.  We don’t spend an hour on one subject and then move on to another.”

Bayer tells me she began her “grand adventure” by teaching her eldest daughter to read at age 4.  When she first met another home-schooler online, she began to understand how different it was in practice from what she had envisioned.  “She told me that one of her daughters was asleep at noon, because she’d been up all night studying the constellations,” Bayer remembers.  “Another one was across the street taking soil samples from a vacant lot that she was convinced was contaminated with toxic waste, and a third one was someplace in the house curled up with a book.  It sounded like what I was doing, and what I wanted to do.”

The author’s wife also has a blog entitled, “Do-It-Yourself Preschool”.  (As a caveat, I appreciate this method for preschool ONLY — not for further grades.)  Her little intro goes a little something fabulous like this:

“Relax:  You don’t need a curriculum.  You don’t need special training.  And you certainly don’t need flash cards, special software, or any of the dopey rote-learning toys that are passed off as “educational” these days.  Welcome to DIY Preschool, the adventurous parent’s alternative to structured schooling.”

On the flip-side, I was not encouraged by an article entitled, “Unschooling.”  The school of “Unschooling” is a completely unstructured environment which allows a child to do whatever piques their interest and whenever they want — a form of learning as you go mentality.  Give me a break Joanne Rendell.  I’d call this irresponsible.  I believe in kids needing structure even in a homeschooled environment, especially when it comes to their education.  I don’t think it requires the structure found in typical schools, but structure nevertheless is necessary.

children + toys.


Amanda Blake Soule, author of the wonderful, “Handmade Home: Simple Ways to Repurpose Old Materials into New Family Treasures”, was interviewed by Indie Fixx.  I love what Amanda says about children + toys.  She was asked:

“Your home is so lovely and yet still kid-friendly.  I love how you make spaces that both appeal to kids and adults.  Do you have any advice for people wanting to do the same in their own homes?”

Amanda’s response:

“Thank you!  I think my one piece of advice for that would be to choose carefully the toys you bring into your home.  For lots of reasons, ‘less’ is more.  It’s better for children’s imaginations, better for creating a peaceful family environment, and it’s much easier on the space in a house.  I also think ‘beauty’ is an important factor to consider when bringing a toy into your home.  Shouldn’t children’s toys and surroundings be beautiful, too?  I think so.”