This past weekend in Portland was obscenely, perfectly Spring-like, and the weekend was one of those where we did everything, but nothing in particular, and it felt so nice. Mundane things, like a magically uncrowded grocery store trip, like cleaning up the kitchen, like putting out the recycling when it’s been a while. And then there were beautiful things, too, like seeing the first green buds on the lilac tree, and clipping back the roses where they’ve just about taken over the bedroom window, and brunch and a stroll through the antique mall, and making a beautiful and simple cake to share with family:

On Sunday we always have dinner with family, and though I’m trying my best not to eat sugar these days, I couldn’t resist this apple cake in Heirloom Baking with the Brass Sisters. This book is just packed with beautiful vintage recipes, many of which you can toss together using just what you have in the cupboards. (During the memorable Christmas snow storm this year, crazed with cabin fever and running out of nearly everything, I turned to this book and made Maple Syrup cookies with lemon cream filling.)

I love baking for my family and trying new recipes (especially ones that don’t contain chocolate, to appease a certain picky sibling), so off we went. I made this using my mother’s vintage tin pie plate, since it had mysteriously migrated over to our house and was long due to be returned. It’s meant to be done in a 9″ cake pan, but nobody really cares about that when we’re just going to eat it right out the dish anyway!

Verdict: tasty with a bit of ice cream or whipped cream. Heavenly when warm, too. It’s basically a coffee cake with three sliced apples shoved into the batter haphazardly, instead of a crumble topping. We all agreed it needed a little something extra in the batter, though. Next time I am going to make a bit of brown sugar/cinnamon/butter and mix it into the batter, so it has a ribbon of sweetness inside the dough. But if you don’t like your baked goods bursting with sugar (I do, but only when it’s just right), this recipe is perfect as is. You can find a great version of it in the Lemon Almond archives, where it’s been adapted into muffins. I love the idea of chopping the apples, though I love using our apple peeler, too, which gave us perfect 1/4″ slices to put in the batter.

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Meanwhile, when we’re not playing in the kitchen and haphazardly trimming back the blooming yard from encroaching on our rental house, my husband and I have been dreaming of our new house. We are another week or so away from setting the closing date, but we can practically taste it. This will be our very first real house, a house we own instead of rent, even though it’s a townhouse and doesn’t have its own yard. It’s a special thing to think of owning the four walls, the roof, the doors and the countertops. We can’t wait to make it our own. Sometimes we just randomly turn to each other and say excitedly, “New house!” It’s the expression of so many wonderful things for us. A place where our family will start. A place that’s bright and spacious and new (compared to our little cave of a rental). A place where our baby will join us in the bright wonderful world, too.

So of course I’ve been thinking a lot about the nursery, because I’m conflicted. We made a compromise with this house, choosing to buy a thriftier two-bedroom rather than the three-bedroom we would have preferred. With the baby on the way, part of me would love to throw myself headlong into making the baby’s room perfect and lovely, but part of me is thinking practically about things like, say, guests. Where do guests stay if the second bedroom is dedicated to babyland? And if we plan to have the baby sleep in our room, and in our bed with us, do we really need to buy a crib?

I can’t decide if it’s silly or practical to not buy a crib. We will have the bassinet that my mother slept in as a baby. We will have tons of pillows to create a baby-buffer for times when the baby sleeps on our bed without us during the day (I am sure I will be snoozing right alongside a lot of the time, too!). So is a crib important? I’m starting to think not.

Here’s my alternate scenario: in the baby’s room will be the heirloom family rocking chair, and a dresser with a changing table pad on top. In place of a crib, there will be a daybed, where guests can sleep (while the baby is in our room) and where we can also crash as an alternate napping space. But no crib, unless we suddenly decide we need one. Why go to the expense if it will just be a piece of scenery?

I’m especially thinking about this because my wonderful mother in law is coming to stay with us for a time, hopefully right after the birth. I would love for her to have a room to sleep in, rather than a spot on our couch. But it’s not just that I want to give her a place to sleep, it’s that I  don’t see much point in preparing a fancy nursery that won’t actually get used for quite some time. I wonder if other mamas have faced this issue, and how they’ve handled it?

So that’s me, lately. Dreamy about spring, dreamy about the baby (we’re at 16 weeks now), dreamy about a new house and how to make it all work best for us.

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