recipe // persimmon cake-ish

the other day i found myself at trader joes, go figure.  it was sunday and i had just gotten done meal planning for the week ahead.  as i was roaming the aisles, there was a festive looking bin brimming with beautiful autumn produce.  little persimmon fruit, these deep orange jewels, were near the top and being that i had never cooked with a persimmon, i tucked a few away in my cart before checking out.  the last time i had persimmon was in a cinnamon roll at one of our favorite local restaurants here in kansas city.  the baker told us that he whipped the pulp in a food processor and mixed it with the cinnamon filling before rolling the pastry dough and baking into rolls.  they were divine.  other than that, i really didn't know what to do with them, so when i got home i gave pinterest a good looking over and landed on a recipe that looked pretty simple.  alas, persimmon cake.  although, i must admit, it is nothing like a cake.  it's more of a "pie", actually.  or perhaps even a "pudding" as a recipe title would suffice.  regardless of what one should or should not call it, it's the perfect autumn dessert.  enjoy!


1 cup of very ripe persimmon pulp (i used our vitamix and pureed it till kingdom come)
1/3 cup sugar
3 eggs, beaten
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup milk (i used whole)
1/4 lb or about a half cup of melted unsalted butter

to prepare, combine the sugar with the persimmon pulp.  beat in the eggs, mix in the milk, then butter.  sift the dry ingredients and mix with the persimmon mixture.  pour batter into a well-greased baking pan and bake in a 315 degree oven for about an hour and twenty minutes, or until the cake is set and if you insert a knife it comes out clean.  i served this with warmed sugary black berries, but the addition of homemade whipped cream would really be something.


homestead // storing & managing toys

toys! kids! utter chaos, amiright?!  those without kids give the old eye roll and tend to snicker when it comes to this topic, but reality with small children is as such.  it's pretty nuts, the toy situation, and it can get out of control fast if you let it.  with the arrival of little ones comes the constant trickling in of all their little things, and then a whole bunch of stuff on top that.  oy.  i just cleaned the couch out and found an entire outfit to dress a barbie and enough legos to build a rocket ship.  you see, i know a thing or two about all of this, and if you have a kid or two or five i am betting you do too.

i have found that it takes all of about a few hours for one's home to become a giant storage container for toys and games and all things kiddo.  if you're anything like us, your baby had more stuff than you before they were even born.  probably because a list said you needed it.  and you obliged.  i've been there.  thanks, target.  but now you've realized you really don't need a bottle warmer or five plastic music makers and forty stuffed animals just isn't really necessary.  just a few nice things will do and perhaps, just a few quality toys will even make playtime better.

and because christmas is coming up, let's talk about this.  so how does one maintain a simple, joyful, decluttered home and not have toys scattered in a mess everywhere, yet keep one's home a place that invites creativity and imagination and playtime?  this is a question i get a lot as it's something we take the time and work to tend to on a regular basis doing our best to prevent our home from becoming cluttered and thoroughly disorganized.  andrew and i have learned it takes a bit of strategy and discipline to manage this as to not become so overwhelmed with all the stuff.  hopefully this post will help break down how we do what we do when it comes to storing toys (and their other tiny things) in our home for our three children.  simple is calming and we like it that way.

to start, it's worth mentioning that we moved to our current home from a less than eight hundred square foot condo where storage was majorly lacking.  tiny closets and close to no built-ins resulted in us getting very creative with how we stored everything, toys included.  in addition to storing creativly, we also grew to be fairly ruthless when it came to what we even allowed up those steep three flights of stairs.  if we loved it, if it brought us joy (or sparked joy if you follow marie kondo), if we need to use it, up it came.  everything else got the boot, more or less.  this mindset helped us pair down to the essentials, and then some, when nesting and in keeping of our small tree house home.

we've used the same intentional approaches here in this home, despite it being much larger and more accommodating to a family of five.  in addition to this essentialist discipline, we approach gifting a bit differently than most as well.  instead of getting the kids dozens of toys for birthdays and holidays etc., we get them just a few thoughtful gifts along with some practical items, with a much larger emphasis on experiences and fun things to do out and about in this city, like ballet lessons or an art class or tickets to a play.  this makes for less stuff on those all to familiar toy-crazed occasions.  i am working on a post about gifting where i will address more of the specific on this, so stay tuned for that.

now let's chat about what to do after your kids have received their toys.  where do they go?  how does one thoughtfully store them?  and it is worth keeping organized?  i'll answer that one right off the bat for ya, YES.  it will make your home so much more calming and peaceful.  to address the other questions, i have one beautiful word for you: baskets.  i feel if you're going to be am item and will be looking at it everyday, why not make it pretty, right?  over the years i have accumulated quite the basket collection, each of them a bit different but all made from lovely natural fibers.  some are tightly woven, others a folding over of gorgeous textures.  we have them all over our home and in just about every room, each basket home to something most always kid related.  you see that basket on top of our hutch?  bet you wouldn't guess there are legos in there, but there are.  by using natural fibers, you are bringing something beautiful into your home, giving it warmth and charm, while also creating a pretty and practical storage solution.  i love baskets with handles for things such like wooden blocks so the kids can pull it to where they want to build.  we use smaller baskets for small toys and keep those up on a shelf, easy to reach when wanting to play but tucked away and off the floor.  for large toys, we like woven toy bins because of the magical fact it can be closed, giving the look of a polished room when the kids are not playing.

also important to note, we are careful not to keep too many baskets in one room, for this seems to present the issue of too many toys in one space, ultimately overwhelming the kids with what they can play with.  if you keep to just one or two baskets per room, it makes both playtime and clean up go much more smoothly.  so keeping all the toys in one space is not something that has worked for us.  ultimately, they all get dumped out on the floor and one gigantic mess results with little to no playing.  perhaps you've experienced differently, and hopefully so, but this is why we choose to spread them about our home instead.

what do we do for art/crafting supplies?  yes you guessed it, more baskets, but also clear mason jars too, for practicality's sake.  we store things to draw with in one place, construction paper in a big bin, and then random bits like pastels and paints and brushes in jars with lids.  we keep these things well hidden in our dining room storage so it's easily accessible since we do crafts just about everyday, but also out of sight because there's nothing like a disarray of art supplies to make a room look cluttered.  i like to keep these supplies within reach for stella so she can use them whenever she wants, but our of sight to keep with our simple aesthetic.  it works for us.  those doors at the bottom of our hutch is where we keep all of these things.

and then there's the old recycling toys trick, and boy this is a good one.  here's my proposal to you, take all of your kids toys and bring them into one room, say a large space like your living room.  dump all of them out onto the floor, taking half of that large pile and donating them to a good home.  you heard me correctly, get rid of half.  just be ruthless and edit that pile.  you can do it, i believe in you.  i recommend not doing this when your kids are around or they will freak out when they see you getting rid of their things, even if they have not paid attention to those specific toys in years.  i speak from experience, stella was not a happy camper when she saw me doing this as she said, "stop mom, i am freaking out." so i just waited until she was asleep, and you know what?  she did not even bat an eye at all the toys that were missing.  you should know just by being around your babes what they love and play with, so the sorting should go fairly fast.

after getting rid of half of your preexisting toy pile, cut that smaller pile you have labeled as "the keepers" in half as well.  put those carefully selected items in a storage bin down in the basement or somewhere where your little ones will not find it.  a few times a year you can do a swap and recycle the toys from the storage bin with those upstairs.  it's like christmas in july!  or whenever you decide to do it.  the kids love this and are so much more engaged with their toys as opposed to having a hundred choices surrounding them, ultimately leaving them dissatisfied and "bored".  if you follow this trick, you'll end up having one fourth of your existing child's toys on display around your home, helping tremendously in terms of living more simply and mindfully with regard to your child's toys.

where do i find my baskets and storage bins?

thrift stores
loom goods
the container store 
home goods
brookfarm general store (all their storage is dreamy!)

okay, that was a lot about toys and organizing.  what other questions do you have?  happy organizing!


recipe // cauliflower sheperd's pie

what a pleasant few weeks this has been.  after about a month or so of hosting we have had a solid string of days just to ourselves to rest and nest and really savor autumn.  we badly needed a reprieve from all things social and just time as a family to be together, doing things that ground us and makes thing flow smoothly, like family suppers and books before bedtime.  with all this time on my hands, i've been cooking up a storm and tried my hand at some new recipes.  during sunday meal planning awhile back i came across a recipe for shepherd's pie and it looked so tasty.  since we are trying to eat a little healthier, i decided to use gruyere cauliflower puree in lieu of mashed potatoes and it was a worthy substitution.  everyone licked their plates and i have since added this to my arsenal of healthy go-to meals.  one could easily make this vegetarian by substituting the meat for lentils or other legumes, which i think would turn out really well.

and on a side note, we had been having a difficult time getting theodore to sit still during meals and to want to eat everyone else was having for supper.  unlike stella, he became very attached to his bottle after i stopped nursing him, thereby making meal time sometimes stressful.  we decided to push through and not make him a separate meal, although sometimes that seemed like the far better option when we were at our wits end and pleading with him to fill his belly with something other than milk.  but the last three or so weeks have proven that our hard work is paying off.  he has been sitting with us for supper like he always has, but this time is trying everything on his plate, requesting more, and even handing me his dirty dishes at the sink when he's done.  even stella will now say, "look mama, he's eating everything now like me!" what helped?  i think a combination of things.  sneaking veggies in foods he lives, having him help stella and i when preparing our meals by doing simple things like stirring and throwing scraps in the compost, but mostly, pure diligence.  in the past he would pick at his food and requested his "ba ba" almost incessantly.  so we kept snacking to a minimum and tried to make supper fairly consistent by eating at the table roughly at the same time each evening as to build it into our routine.  our theodore now joins in and it is really wonderful.  for those who are struggling with picky eaters, keep on keepin' on!  stay consistent!  you got this! onto the recipe which, by the way, makes around four portions.  just double it if serving to a larger crowd.

for the savory pie filling: 

1 lb ground lamb or ground lamb
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
five to six large carrots, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup portabello mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup english peas
1/2 cup sweet corn 
1/2 cup red wine, i used syrah and had myself a glass 
1-2 tbsp tomato paste 
palmful of fresh thyme, rosemary, and parsley chopped
olive oil
season with salt and pepper each layer as you go  

cauliflower topping: 

1/2 head of cauliflower 
1 clove garlic, minced 
1/4 cup heavy cream 
1 cup gruyere cheese
2 tbsp butter
pinch of sea salt and pepper
small palmful of parsley to top

to prepare the pie filling, saute the onions, carrots, mushrooms and garlic in olive oil until soft and caramelized, starting with the onions and ending with the garlic. make sure to season with salt and pepper as you go.  when veggies are done, deglaze your pot with red wine and add tomato paste, cooking for a few more minutes to cook off the alcohol.  off the burner and add peas and corn, and transfer filling to a big bowl and mixing well.  add your grounded meat and brown in the same pot you used to cook your veggies.  you can do this step first, just make sure to drain the oil and discard before proceeding.  chop and add your fresh herbs to the meat once it is done browning and cook it for a few seconds, releasing the aromatics.  mix the meat and vegetables together and put into a baking dish.   preheat the oven to 375.

to make the cauliflower topping, start by chopping up the florets and boiling them until tender.  when done, strain them and add everything along with the cauliflower into a food processor.  pulse until smooth.  you can always improvise here and add any cheese of your choice.  we happened to have gruyere on hand so i threw in a cupful of that.  i think parmesan would fair nicely.  smooth the puree over your meat and vegetable mixture in your baking dish, top with additional cheese and parsley.  bake at 375 until the cheese melts, so for about twenty or thirty minutes.  you can broil the top to make the cheese extra yummy if you have a broiler on your oven.  i recommend doing so because burnt cheese, oh yes.

and as promised, crock pot meals post coming up.  i've got some goodies to share.

here are a few other meals we've been loving:

jamie oliver's chicken in milk
ina's minestrone soup 
perfect pork chop
just a taste falafel with tahini sauce 


a little film of us as five

our good friends amanda and nate put together a little film together capturing this season of our lives as a family of five. all the happy tears as we watched together over and over on our big cream couch the day they sent it over.  you guys, it's like christmas wrapped in one giant hug, watching this film.  it shows our endless cuddles, tree swing swaying, couch wrestling, nursing in bed, pepper picking, dress twirling, belly laughs, brunch at our neighborhood bakery, soccer ball kicking, babies dragging blankies, and ear to ear smiles in our old blue velvet chairs, just all the things that are a part of our lives right now with three little ones in this light-filled home of ours.  these two did such a beautiful and genuine job capturing us.  we are forever grateful for having this sweet video to cherish and watch as the years trickle on and the grey hairs start popping in.  my goodness, what a gift.  what a blessing.  this is home.

for more images head here. thank you howards, you are truly amazing. and here is our last family video, if you care to watch.


what we're reading

reading has always been one of my favorite pastimes.  it seems like i've always got a few books going at once, varied in genre, always inspiring.  sometimes i'll take the hour before the kids get up to thumb through a few pages, highlighting quotes and starring paragraphs as the kettle starts to boil.  other times i'll go a week just reading a tiny bits here and there, nothing more than a chapter under my belt.  and on other occasions, because of slow afternoons or early bed times or just plain ol' quiet gaps within the string of our day, i'll have the grand opportunity to curl up and really sink my teeth into a book.  times that i get to do this are gold, and with three little ones, quite rare.  so i have been pretty deliberate with my time throughout the past month or so, making sure i get a chance to do what i love, and that is read.  throughout the course of my literary adventures, i'm going to share with you what we're reading.  now i say "we're" but really it's just me.  andrew just happens to be reading about beer making, his current hobby, so i threw that pronoun in there for good measure.  but if he happens to be in the middle of good book, i'll gladly share it, too!

1. the way of the happy woman by sarah avant stover // a delightful book for woman about how to live the best year of their lives by living intentionally and and gentle curiosity.   throughout the course of the past year, i have had friends and acquaintances recommend this read to me, and it has quickly become one of the most interesting and best books i've picked up in a long time.  it is seasonally organized, thus fitting in well with our midwestern weather patterns, which i quite like.  chalk full of ideas and inspiration, this book is one that i'll have near me for many months to come. i have just finished the section of autumn, and am doing my best to apply ideas from this book to parts of my life i feel need a good polishing.  

2. kitchens of the great midwest by j. ryan stradal // i literally cracked this one open for the first time last night after pulling our fluffy duvet up and sinking into bed around nine.  bedtime before ten is a dream, no?  i have been reading so much nonfiction these days, my thirst for a delicious novel had been needing a good quench.  this one is about, well you guessed it, food, a vibrant theme coursing through many of the books on our shelfs.  i have so many beautiful food memories from time spent growing up in the midwest, meatloaf suppers and apple pie desserts made by my grandma mary jeanne.  my hope is that this charming book will take me back to those special places in my memories, and further my knowledge of midwestern culture through stories about what happens in the kitchen. 

3. rising strong by brene brown // so i underlined the whole book.  really, i did.  i cannot recommend this one enough, for it has given me so many tools as a wife, mother, friend and daughter, to be my best self and a better communicator.  it is about the getting up after a hard fall, and then some.  you owe it to yourself to read this one, and believe me, you'll fly through it and come out with a big smile as if brene has given you a hug herself.  brene for president.

4. big magic by elizabeth gilbert // so apparently liz and brene are besties?  instagram has taught me this. liz's book is about creating beyond fear and bringing forth the treasures that live inside us.  it's written in a conversational tone, which i wholeheartedly love and appreciate, and has been a pleasant read from the start.  i am still in the middle of this one, and per usual, my ink pen has been scribbling away in the margins, starring and circling and arrowing like a fiend.  

5. the complete joy of home brewing fourth ed. by charlie papazian // andrew is on a homebrew kick and is learning the art of making his own beer, which currently, lives in two big glass kegs in our basement.  he is teaching himself and learning as he goes, with hopes to have some yummy ale for us to drink on thanksgiving.  most nights before bed he'll read over a few pages, and so far, he has told me that this book has done a great job covering the basics and then some.  i am excited because i do love a good pale ale, especially during football season.

what are you reading these day? any good recs?

and because alfie goes everywhere i go, his deliciously chubby baby legs made it into a few shots. your welcome! :)