Michelle Smiles

Teaching my children to question authority, except mine.

Happy 4th birthday Tessa


I can’t believe my baby is 4 today. The day she was born remains the highest traffic day in my blog’s history.

Tessa is going to be interesting and challenging to raise. She is a lot like me in all of the best and worst ways. She makes me laugh and think. She is joyful and cranky – often within seconds of each other. She is smart, funny, difficult, and beautiful. She marches to her own beat. She rarely follows a direction the first time it is given. She is fiercely independent but also the baby of the family. She gives the best hugs and cuddles. I am terrified and excited to see what the years ahead will bring.

posted under family | 7 Comments »

Asheville aka what I did on my summer vacation


We decided to change the venue of our usual annual vacation with Steve’s side of the family. We normally head to Corolla in the Outer Banks but the traffic last year made everyone vote to try somewhere new. After much googling and discussion, we settled on Asheville, NC. We found a house at the top of a mountain that suited our needs and had a swimming pool for the kiddos to enjoy.

Steve and I were ridiculously excited to only have a 6 hour drive versus the 14+ hr to Corolla. We took the scenic route and enjoyed the sights through the Cherokee National Forest. We were pleased to find the vacation house was truly off the beaten path and at the top of a mountain. The views were AMAZING. I plopped myself in an adirondack chair on the deck and declared I wasn’t moving all week. (Spoiler alert: I did move. For 2 reasons: it rained and the bugs were horrible.) I loved the view from the deck. I spent a good bit of time out there until by the end of the week I couldn’t stand to add another bug bite to my growing collection. I loved watching the changing view. In the morning, the clouds were heavy and the city was obscured. By late morning it would burn off and we could see the city again.

Steve and I fell in love with Asheville. The people, the weather, the food, the laid back vibe, the artists, the mountains, the green-ness of the city – everything suited us. If we didn’t own a house and I didn’t shudder at the thought of moving again, we could happily live there. Since we won’t be residents, we hope to be frequent visitors.

 Proof my children aren’t orphans. Making an effort to be on the other side of the camera now and then.

I’m not sure the rest of the family love the city as much as we did. The weather certainly put a damper on the kids’ plans. They, of course, planned to spend most of the week in the pool. But the weather at the top of the mountain was so cool that they didn’t get much pool time. (Much warmer down in the city.) The grownups loved the cool breezes but the kids were getting bored by the end of the week since they couldn’t be fish. And the bugs were horrendous. Most of us left with dozens of bites all over us.

Steve and I took a walking food tour of downtown. It was very yummy and we would definitely recommend it to anyone who is visiting the city. We spent our days wandering around, eating good food, hanging out with family. It wasn’t the most relaxing vacation (on the go more than a beach trip) we’ve ever taken but it was very enjoyable. My mother in law and I went to an arts and craft show – lots of talented folks in and around Asheville.

Thanks to recommendations of friends we wandered into several places we probably wouldn’t have otherwise. Highly recommend the shrimp and grits and the fried green tomatoes at Tupelo Honey Cafe. Mast General Store is worth a stop – the barrels of candy brought back childhood memories. And the Woolworth lunch counter (old Woolworth building…now a place for artists to sell their wares…skip the downstairs that is where they stick the bad art) is very nostalgic.

 The girls and I at Tupelo Honey Cafe

 Woolworth lunch counter

We skipped the Biltmore. The girls wouldn’t have liked it and the admission was pretty steep ($59 per adult and I didn’t even look at kids admission). I would like to visit it some time – but there just wasn’t time this trip.

 Me on the other side of the camera again

 My sister in law, the photographer, took a family photo. Thanks Krista!

posted under family, travel | 4 Comments »

Another CSA update


CSA pick up is Wednesday mornings and I get so excited. It is so fun to see what the box contains each week. I try to snap a photo of it all before I put it away.

I’ve not been updating the CSA thing regularly. Mostly because I don’t have anything interesting to say. I’ve made some yummy things and a few more average things. I roast a lot of veggies because I’ve found just about everything tastes decent when tossed with a little olive oil and roasted for 20-25 minutes at 425*. I’ve been eating a lot of vegetables that I’ve never been a huge fan of but if roasted or cooked in ways that involve cheese, I’ll eat it. For those who are thinking about doing one and like seeing what might be in their box every week, this might be interesting. For everyone else? Snooze fest.  I’ve been documenting for my own information as well as for some people who talked about being curious if they would like doing it themselves.

A large purple cabbage, sugar snap peas, beets, green onions, patty pan squash, blackberries, 1/2 dozen eggs, 2 packages of bratwurst, and pork chops.

I didn’t use the whole cabbage – I made a slaw type thing with 1/2 of it but it is harder to eat raw than some other cabbage (harder to shred and chew). I don’t tend to like cooked cabbage so I wasn’t sure what to do with it. The blackberries didn’t make it through the day. The brats are yummy. The chops were good but a little fatty. Roasted the beets (for Steve – blech) and the squash (which I always thought were just decorative gourds for Thanksgiving – oops). The snap peas I threw in something along the way.

Cherry tomatoes, corn on the cob, eggplant, patty pan squash, onion, eggs, dragon tongue beans, white cucumber, 2 packs of chicken breast, and italian sausage.

The dragon tongue beans were so pretty before they were cooked – whitish with purple streaks. The streaks fade when cooked and they taste a lot like green beans. We LOVE the italian sausage – so good. The chicken was good – we grilled it. The corn was fine (let’s not discuss the huge worm that I cooked in one – the world of no pesticides – eeekkk) but just isn’t as sweet as the corn up north. Sadly through a calamity of errors (aka life), the eggplant didn’t get eaten. Steve brought home a huge zucchini from someone at work and I did with it what I intended to do with the eggplant. I sliced it, breaded it with mix of 1/2 breadcrumbs and 1/2 parmesan cheese, then baked it. (Then our a/c went out in the middle of the heat wave and I didn’t cook for 4 days because it was too stinking hot so the eggplant got too soft.)

 Dragon tongue beans

2 packs of chicken quarters (with the legs attached), green beans, napa cabbage, tomato, that yellow thing is a little melon, rutabaga, red potatoes, eggs.

The chicken is in the freezer. I ate the napa cabbage as a salad with some oil and vinegar (really a fan). The tomato went into some sauce. The melon was okay but nothing to rave about. The beans and potatoes were side dishes on different nights.

Cherry tomatoes, green beans, tomatoes, dill, ground beef, onion, chuck roast, patty pan squash, red potatoes, white cucumbers, and eggs.

The roast was yummy in the crock pot. The usual treatment for everything else. The ground beef – 1 pound is in the freezer, the other went into spaghetti sauce as did the 2 big tomatoes.

We don’t eat raw tomatoes much so I was at a loss as to what to do with all of the cherry tomatoes. Then I decided to make a simple spaghetti sauce. I halved them, put in a whole bulb of garlic with the top cut off, tossed with some olive oil and some salt then put them, covered, in the oven at 400*.  Cook for 40 minutes. Remove the bulb of garlic and allow to get cool enough that you can squeeze the cloves out and into the tomatoes. Throw in some basil, red wine, a little bit of brown sugar, a dash of cayenne, some salt and pepper. Use your immersion blender (or you could throw it into food processor/blender) to smooth it into a sauce and let simmer for 10 or 15 minutes more. Steve and I decided it would be perfect with a little pancetta thrown in but it made a really nice sauce.  I didn’t take an after photo. Oops. This is before it went into the oven.

That is all of my CSA news. I forgot to take a photo of today’s box. It was more of the same with some grapes as the surprise. I will say it takes more time in the kitchen to cook with so many fresh ingredients (a lot of washing and chopping and roasting and stirring) but I’m enjoying it for the most part.

posted under csa, food | 3 Comments »

On Potty Training


See that pony? It might have been the secret to our success. Or not.

Sabrina potty trained herself at age 2. We tried once and failed. Then we tried again a couple of months later and she has had less than a handful of accidents since that day. (Not counting night time – that is a whole other ball of wax.)  Tessa? Heh. She hasn’t been easy in any way, shape, or form. Potty training is not the exception.

Tessa will be 4 this month. We have tried countless times to start the potty training process. And each time I have cried “UNCLE!” She has had zero interest. We tried just about everything. We set the timers. We rewarded with M&Ms. We put her in panties. We let her sit in wet diapers/pullups/panties. We let her go naked. We rewarded her sister for going hoping it would egg her on. Nothing. She would go in the potty once or twice and then nothing. One time, after sitting her on the potty for 5 minutes, she promptly came out and squatted and peed on my fireplace hearth.  Finally, in a fit of irritation one day, I threatened if she didn’t start going potty I was going to make her go poop in the yard with the dog. She got fairly upset about that and started going potty. Huh. Then after some success and then a stomach flu that derailed us, we were back to nothing. So I made her go outside without pants (we have a 6 ft fence – and I had to follow through with my threat) and she proceeded to poop in the yard. She was quite proud of herself. Backfired. I told Steve I was done. I hate potty training. 2 years of trying to get this kid to go potty had broken me. I didn’t care anymore – she could go to college in Depends for all I cared.

Steve then told Tessa that we didn’t care anymore. She could go potty or not. She could wear diapers or pull ups or panties – whatever she wanted. She could go in the potty or her pull up – completely her choice. She had to change herself (she is able to do that) but we would help wipe if there was a mess. Otherwise, she was on her. And you want to know what happened the next morning? The little shit put on panties and started going potty. At the same time, I also offered the bribe of a new My Little Pony each day that she spent completely dry. I put them up high where she could see them. So it was either the choice or the ponies. Or both.  She earned 5 ponies in 6 days.  We are not accident free by any means but she is doing great. It has been 3 weeks and most days than not she is completely successful. Tessa does everything in her own time on her own terms. We are in so much trouble.

posted under parenting | 9 Comments »