Way before her baby brother Holt was born, Tiffani Thiessen’s five-year-old daughter Harper would ask her mom, ‘Is there a baby in your belly?’ Convinced a baby grew overnight, she was disappointed when her mom’s stomach remained flat. “She put more pressure on me than anyone!” says Tiffani with a laugh. “Every day, she begged me to have a baby. She was so ready to be a big sister.”
Now, the family of four — dad and husband is actor Brady Smith — are enjoying life at home in Los Angeles. An avid cook, Tiffani has turned the family’s Cape Cod-style home into a food producing haven, with an ambitious vegetable garden and a chicken coop for eggs. Tiffani’s passion for food has even turned into a successful show — Cooking Channel’s Dinner At Tiffani’s.
Ulrica: I remember when Harper was four weeks old, and now she’s five!
Tiffani: She was the kind of baby that would never fall asleep! I would be nursing her, and she’d be wide awake. All these other mothers would tell me their kids would fall asleep the minute they started nursing them, but that wasn’t my kid!
Ulrica: What’s she like now? Does she still have the same personality?
Tiffani: She’s a very high spirited girl. She doesn’t stop until she’s completely worn out. She’s a very active little girl. She knows what she wants, and that can be challenging at times. But I don’t ever want to quash her spirit or change the fact that she’s a strong-willed little kid. We have boundaries and we have rules, but we’re not crazy strict. We want our kids to grow up to be both respectful and happy people.
Tiffani with a freshly hatched egg from her chicken coop.
Ulrica: She just turned five. How is that stage?
Tiffani: There are so many amazing things about a five-year-old. There’s no baby left. She’s full on kid. You can have complete conversations with her. She understands everything you say. We can enjoy a lot of the same things. But it’s also an interesting age, because there’s a lot of pull back and forth. One minute she wants to be a big kid and the next she wants her mommy. That can be challenging. But I enjoy her company so much, no matter what stage she is in. Someone said to me, ‘The days are long but the years go by so fast.’ It’s so true. I don’t want to miss out on anything.
Tiffani and Harper play peek-a-boo at home in Los Angeles. The radishes and herbs are from their own garden, where they also grow cucumbers, peppers, squash, lettuces and tomatoes.
Ulrica: What are some of the rules you stick to no matter what?
Tiffani: I’m pretty strict with bedtimes. She’s a happier kid when she’s had a good night’s sleep, so I’m not a parent who is okay with her staying up late. And we’re big on manners. She’s a really good kid when it comes to manners and it’s become second nature to her to say please and thank you. I also think it’s important to teach your child to look people in the eye. She’s easily distracted, but I think it’s really important to teach your child to look people in the eye and say hello and thank you and good morning.
Ulrica: She’s in school now. Was it scary to let her go, or are you okay with it?
Tiffani: I’ve loved so much that I’ve been able to spend basically every day with her. Even when I’ve been working, she’s come to work with me. So I’m torn! She’s at school until 3 pm, and that’s a long time for me to be away from her. I suspect I’ll pull her out once in a while.
Ulrica: Harper is best friends with (The Guncles) Bill Horn and Scout Masterson’s daughter Simone.
Tiffani: They’re too cute! They are in the same class, and they’re so into each other we had to separate them this year. They’re born seven days apart and are both strong little girls. They fight like sisters. One minute they love each other and the next they want to tear each other’s hair out. It’s very funny!
UIrica: You turned 40 last year. What did that feel like? Did you have the obligatory freak out?
Tiffani: I did but I didn’t! Honestly, I felt happy, I really did. I’m in a great marriage. I have a great family. I’m working. I couldn’t be more grateful for what I have. So I felt good. I was more excited about trying to figure out a great way to celebrate.
Ulrica: How did you celebrate?
Tiffani: I went to Mexico with my friends and family. We had a long weekend filled with awesome food and cocktails on the beach. I didn’t want to throw a big party, I just wanted to lay by the pool and laugh and giggle. And that’s what I did. It felt great!
Ulrica: You’re an amazing cook! What’s your secret?
Tiffani: My mom, my aunt and my grandmother are all great cooks. My mom used to do so much cooking! I grew up with them in the kitchen, so I had to learn. It’s never something I thought was a special talent. I love food and my appetite for great food has grown as I’ve gotten older. I’ve been traveling the world since I was 16, so I’m always curious about food from different places. And I love what food does to people when you’re sitting at a table together. You connect over food, and I love that.
Tiffani on her living room couch, getting ideas for new recipes.
Ulrica: What makes for a great dinner party?
Tiffani: Great friends, great food and no phones! There are no phones and no texting allowed unless it’s an absolute emergency. Instead of picking up your phone, pick up your fork!
Ulrica: Harper seems to have an obsession with dresses and shoes…
Tiffani: And princess dresses! She’s such an outside kid, much more than an inside kid. She can get dirty all day if she wants to, and she does! She’ll be covered in mud in her princess dress. I love that she has both sides to her. She loves to wear a princess dress while climbing the tallest rock in our yard.
Harper in her mom’s shoe closet, trying on a pair of Manolo Blahnik heels.
The family’s kitchen is the heart of the home.
Tiffani with her only remaining hen Ruby after one was taken by a hawk, another died and a third was taken by a coyote two weeks ago. They also have three chickens named Anna, Elsa and Mable, a cat named Savannah and two dogs named Buck and Pearl.
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