7.31.2008

Grilled Goat Cheese Sandwiches with Fig and Honey


I have a few recipes in my recipe binder that I've never made, and yet I can't bear to get rid of them. They look so good! So why haven't I made them? Not sure, really. Here's an example:


I love everything about this recipe - raisin bread (yum), goat cheese (yum), fig preserves (super yum), honey (mmmm), with a little basil and lemon. What's not to love? I guess I haven't made it, because it's not a traditional dinner item, and I don't often host brunches. But I really want to try it, so I am going to make it this weekend. Sunday breakfast - with a fruit salad, coffee and juice. Can't wait!



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Recycle Those Old Cell Phones

How many old cell phones do you have lying around? Are you ultra-organized and efficient and have therefore turned your old one in every time you got a new one? If so, then congratulations and you can stop reading now. But if you're like me, you might have a few kicking around. In my efforts to reduce some of our office clutter, I discovered seven old cell phones. SEVEN! That's between me and my husband, but that's just sad. So I gathered them up and shipped them off to be refurbished and used in domestic abuse shelters or to be recycled (my husband's very first Startec I'm sure fits the latter category).

Here's the EPA site that lists info on how to recycle your old electronic equipment - cell phones, computers, printers, etc.

7.30.2008

Dress-Up

Another reminder for a playtime activity that doesn't require toys. Dress-up! (Yes, boys do this too.) I know this is obvious and everybody knows this, but sometimes I write these things as reminders for myself.

The little boy loves trying my shoes on, and his fireman's hat is his favorite thing ever. Save all your old Halloween accessories - we had a stethoscope, cat ears, and chef's hat all in storage - and make them accessible to your little ones. Throw in any odds and ends as they surface over time - hats, scarves, tiaras... - and you'll end up with a basket of fun! A is not even 2 yet, so I can imagine this will only get more fun as he gets older.


*The little boy had a blast in this beret and a scarf. Channeling his inner Parisian!

7.29.2008

What We Can Learn from Toddlers

Toddlers are fascinating people, and I think there are some things we can learn from them. Sure, it's probably not a good idea to throw things or bite people when you're mad at them, and having a screaming meltdown probably isn't the best approach to getting something you want, but there's also something refreshing about how good toddlers are at expressing their emotions. Here are just a few of the things I think we can learn from them:

1. Hug. When toddlers meet people, they hug to say hello. Now, they have to be similar size or smaller - too much bigger is too intimidating - and sometimes it takes a minute to size each other up, but when A meets a new infant/toddler or sees one of his friends, he hugs. What a nice way to greet someone.

2. Show empathy. This seems to come so naturally to the little ones. When they see someone struggling, they go to help. When someone else gets hurt or is upset, they give them a hug or tell them it's okay. The other morning, A heard a little girl crying when we got to day care. He went right up to her, gave her a hug, and then kept patting her back, saying "otay, otay....it's otay". I think we all start out with this inclination to comfort those around us.

3. Be helpful. Most toddlers I know have a desire to help. A loves helping me unload the dishwasher, put items in the recycling bin, or put clothes in the washer. Let's see how long we can hold onto this trait.

4. Express your feelings. Okay, so toddlers may not have all the words to express themselves verbally, but they sure are clear about what they want and what they don't want! They have strong opinions, and they share them. How great is that?
5. Be Adventurous. Toddlers haven't learned boundaries yet, so they color outside the lines, they sing and dance with abandon, they run around naked without inhibitions. Boundaries are good, of course, but I think we could all hold on to a little recklessness.

*He's not throwing things in this picture (I don't get those moments on film), but he most definitely loves knocking things down.

7.28.2008

Five Senses Weekend

See:
- Friends and family at three barbecues
- The little boy lift up one of his legs to mimic a flamingo

Hear:
- Huge claps of thunder during another summer thunderstorm
- Laughter and loud talking as people mingle at the parties
- My two boys singing and laughing in the back seat as I drive us home

Touch:
- Lots of hugs from friends and family
- The smooth heaviness of a bocce ball
Taste:
- S'mores. Marshmallows cooked over a fire, graham crackers, and chocolate. Super yum.
- Stuffed mushrooms, sweet potatoes in a blanket, and cannollis (some of the tasty highlights at my sister-in-law's engagement party)

Smell:
- We sat around a fire pit at a barbecue Saturday night, enjoying a clear night, conversation, and the smell of smoke
- Fresh orange smell as I prepare a batch of sangria
- The clean fresh smell of the little boy's hair after his bath

Etsy Find: chrispiascik

Another fun Etsy shop, this one from my current hometown!

7.27.2008

Savor the Good Moments

The other night, I went out to dinner with a girlfriend. That's right - out to dinner. I was so excited that as soon as K got home, I gave him a kiss and left. I ended up getting to the restaurant early, so I sat at the bar and had a glass of wine. Having a few quiet minutes to myself felt so nice. I took long deep breaths, watched the people around me, and enjoyed the solitude. Then my friend showed up, and we had a lovely dinner. No kids, not even husbands. Just a one-on-one conversation, which was fabulous. (Thanks S!) A reminder that we should savor the happy moments in every day.

I'm Still Working on the Fridge

Here's where it stood a month ago. I'm getting closer. I finished cleaning the entire refrigerator, and now only the freezer remains. There must be an easier way to clean out the freezer, aside from taking everything out, turning off the power to let everything melt out, scrubbing it, and then putting all your mushy formerly-frozen items back in. But I don't know what it is. So to start, I'm just organizing it and trying to peel off the icky stuff that is frozen into the bottom. It's frozen, so it's not like it'll start smelling, right?

It really is nice to have a clean and organized refrigerator, though! It's so much easier to find things, and nothing sticks to the shelves, at least for now. We'll see how long it lasts.

7.25.2008

Chocolatey Goodness

Do you have Nutella in your pantry? Well you should!! If you like chocolate, (and seriously who doesn't like chocolate?) then put this on your grocery list. Nutella is found at your local grocery store - usually by the peanut butter and jelly. It might be hidden away on the top shelf, but it's there.

My sister got me hooked on this stuff, and now I can't have toast without it! Nutella is great to spread on toast, english muffins, waffles, and the list goes on. Turn your croissants into pan au chocolat! Add sliced banana and make a sandwich! Ooooo, I'm hungry. My toast is ready, so I'm going to enjoy a couple slices with my favorite spread and a cup of coffee. Yum.

Joni Mitchell - For Free

Of all the gifts my family gave me, one that I am most grateful for is a strong appreciation and love of music. My mom plays piano, my dad sang in a barbershop quartet, and our family reunions are never complete without several hours of singing around a campfire (special thanks to several talented guitar-playing cousins). I am very thankful to have a lot of music in my life.


I love Joni Mitchell. My mom loves Joni, and she passed down this love to me. Several of her songs, especially the piano songs, still take me back to listening to my mom play them when I was little. This is an example of one of those songs. It's beautiful and sweet. Take a few minutes and give her a listen.

7.24.2008

J. Crew Sale

Okay, so I just told you not to go shopping, and then I turn around and tell you to go to J. Crew. I know, I'm a hypocrite. I do try not to go shopping, and I most likely won't buy anything now either, but if there is anything you might need, why not get it on sale? The prices are already significantly marked down, and you get an extra 20% off at checkout - hurry, though, it ends tomorrow!

Here are a couple of items that caught my eye (I am really loving orange right now, can you tell?):

*This dress marked down from $98 to $29.99!

Quote of the Day

"Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others."
— Cicero

7.23.2008

Thunderstorms, Acting Like a Kid, and Broccoli

This week's Three Beautiful Things:

1. We watched a thunderstorm from the front porch. The lightning and thunder didn't scare the boy - he was fascinated. (He didn't like getting splashed by the rain, though.) After a super muggy and hot weekend, it was nice to see the rain.

2. My sister and I bought some wiffle-ball bats and practiced in the little league field. We all enjoyed pop-ice popsicles. There are certain things that make you feel like a little kid again. We should do them as often as possible.

3. The little boy ate two bites of broccoli with dinner, and even said "mmm". Broccoli! He was done after two bites, but I was impressed nonetheless. He ate a huge meal: salmon, sweet potato fries, and when he was done with the broccoli, he switched to peas and carrots. It's amazing how triumphant you can feel when your little one eats a full healthy meal.

7.22.2008

This Week's Menu

I normally only post my menus when I'm planning on using some specific recipes throughout the week. Every second or third week, particularly when our groceries are running low, our menu consists mostly of freezer and pantry items. But I know that the good part of seeing other people's menus is simply to get ideas, so here's what we're doing this week.

Chicken kebabs (Chicken and whatever veggies you have on hand - we used portobello, onion, peppers, and zucchini. Put on skewers, marinate and throw on the grill. Here's a recipe idea if you want one.)
Rice
Tomato, Fresh Mozzarella, and Basil salad (*I love my herb barrel!)

Turkey kielbasa
Pierogies with peppers and onions

Pork Chops
Cooked Cinnamon Apples
Salad

Ravioli
Salad
Breadsticks

Strawberry-Almond Cream Tart

7.21.2008

How to make it through a Monday


It's Monday. And all day, it felt like a Monday. I struggled more than usual to get through it. So I'm going to brainstorm a bit to come up with some ideas to make future Mondays just a little happier.

1. Spend a few minutes getting ready Sunday night. I am usually good at doing this, but I didn't do a great job this week. Generally, I prepare lunches, gather the boy's necessities for day care (blanket, diapers, etc.), prepare items for breakfast, and set my laptop/purse/shoes by the door.

2. Get out of bed 10 minutes early. This might seem counter-intuitive, but I think I need a few extra minutes on a Monday morning. I would like to use this extra 10 minutes to do some stretching or maybe a few sun salutations before starting my morning routine.

3. Music! Music does wonders to set my mood for the day. I've learned that I can't start the week by listening to NPR or classical. I need loud and energetic music that I can sing or even scream with. I won't be able to create a new playlist for each week, but I could create a Monday playlist, and I can make sure I have some CDs that fit this description in my car.

4. Prepare my to-do list first thing. I usually start my work day by writing my to-do list, but it is especially important on a Monday. It will help set the tone for the week if I start out organized and if I know what I have in front of me.

5. Have lunch away from my desk. I have one of those jobs that requires me to sit in a cubicle all day, and I often end up eating lunch at my desk. It's worse since my work day has been shortened, so I rarely get away from my desk. Having actual human interaction has such a huge impact on my mood. I do try to schedule at least a couple lunches a month, and I'm going to try to do this on Mondays. It'll help start the week on a positive note.

6. Schedule an easy dinner. I am always tired on Mondays, so I try to plan a dinner that's simple to pull together. Tonight, for example, is leftovers. The easiest option of all!
What other ideas do you have for surviving the Monday blahs?

Weekend Guests

It's nice when you have visitors for a weekend. It's like being on vacation, despite being at home. It helps me conquer that constant feeling that I need to be doing something productive.


My sister and her boyfriend were visiting this past weekend, and I truly felt like I was on vacation. We did vacation-type stuff like play bocce ball in the yard, drink sangria, and take naps. We also went out - we went to the Sam Adams brewery, our favorite burrito place, and we got a babysitter for Saturday night so we could really go out. We went back to our old neighborhood, and we went to our favorite local restaurant, and then on to our favorite pub. It was a lot of fun.


Thanks, E and D! We had a great time! We'll see you at Thanksgiving.

7.18.2008

Howie Day - She Says

This week's music selection is a song I enjoy trying to play on guitar. Enjoy and have a happy weekend!

Great at being Mary

My mom says I've been a little too self-deprecating on my blog lately, saying "I'm not a great cook", and "I'm not a gardener", etc. Well, I'm not going to retract those statements, but perhaps a little explanation is in order.

When I say "I'm not a great cook", I simply mean that I'm not the type of cook that has the creativity to come up with their own dishes. I can't just "wing it" in the kitchen, throw together whatever's in my fridge, and come up with something tasty. I've tried, and it isn't pretty. That said, I am pretty good at finding simple and tasty recipes, keeping an organized recipe file/binder, and preparing healthy home-cooked meals for my family every night. And I know that's saying a lot!

When I say "I'm not a gardener", I mean that I know very little about gardening. I don't know the names of plants, and I don't know who needs full sun or lots of water or which plants are going to spread out or even which ones are annuals vs. perennials. I'm learning a little, though. And I'm having fun trying. I give myself a lot of credit for working with my husband to create a pretty yard full of bushes, trees, and flowers. I like my current routine of watering the tomatoes with the little boy every evening. Perhaps one day I'll know enough to call myself a gardener.

So if I say "I'm not..." something, I am not putting myself down. Actually, I'm praising my abilities to continue to learn and try new things!
*NOTE: It was unbelievably hard to find somewhat recent pictures of myself. We have 10 million of the boy, but very few of just me or K. We'll have to remind ourselves to point the camera at each other more often.

7.17.2008

Everyday Italian

I am not a great cook. I require recipes, and I require recipes that are easy, detailed, and include ingredients that I can find in the grocery store. Pictures are a bonus.

I received this cookbook as a gift (thanks A!), and I love it. I've tried a number of the recipes so far, and they are all great. I just discovered that all of these recipes are available online as well, so if you're interested, check them out: Giada's Recipe Collection

Here are a few of the ones I've tried and enjoyed thus far:

Lemon Spaghetti - Super simple and easy, very yummy. We typically serve with seared scallops, but it serves well on its own.
Pork Loin with Fig and Port Sauce - Impressive enough for company and/or a special occasion. I love this sauce, and any extras are good with chicken as well. Roast some potatoes with it, and serve with a nice bottle of pinot noir.
Penne with Vodka Sauce - Another super easy weeknight dinner. (Lesson Learned: If you choose bottled marinara, just make sure you choose one without chunks - or process it to be smooth. If you have chunky tomatoes, they soak up the vodka, and your sauce may turn out pretty strong.)
Farfalle with Turkey Sausage, Peas, and Mushrooms - Good enough for company. Great flavors and not hard to pull together.
Crunchy Parmesan Chicken Tenders - Kids will love them, too.
Turkey Bolognese - If you don't already have a standard bolognese recipe in your file, give this one a try.

Quote of the Day

"The moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself." — Henry Miller

An oldie but goodie - being a Winter baby, this was the first time the little boy got to see a real flower.

He still loves flowers, and we pick some almost every day to examine.

7.16.2008

Who needs toys?

None of his is new or rocket science. I am writing this because I need to remind myself that our little boy doesn't need toys or other playthings. First of all, he has plenty. Second of all, there are so many other ways of having fun. When I think of my favorite things from when I was a kid, there are a few things that stand out: Erector Set, Strawberry Shortcake paper dolls, Mousetrap, and some small amusements such as Simon and Rubik's Cube. But the things I spent most of my time doing included making forts (lawn chairs and towels outside, cushions/pillows/blankets inside), picking fruits and enjoying them in our tree house, swimming, and exploring. No toys required. I am sure the lack of toys can help stimulate creativity as well, so I do want to be careful not to overdo it.

The little boy does have a few stand-out items so far. Legos are a must-have, his Learn 'n Groove musical table inspires all sorts of fun wiggles and giggles, he can put wooden puzzles together in no time and knows all the sounds now too, and I absolutely recommend a push-toy such as our John Deere tractor, especially as they're having fun learning to walk. That said, I recently gave the boy a paint brush and a bucket of water, and he was very happily occupied for over an hour, "painting" the rocks/picnic table/chairs/flowers in the yard. Then he had fun picking flowers and putting them in mommy's hair. A great reminder that fun and inspiration can be found anywhere.

Other non-toy fun for the little ones:
- Salad Spinner and a couple items to put inside and spin around
- Spices make great rattles (cinnamon sticks, crushed red pepper, etc.)
- Boxes, of course
- Laundry basket - they can help sort items, or hand them to you to fold, and then crawl inside and laugh their heads off. At least, that's what Aaron does. :-)
- A couple baking pans, a wooden spoon and a whisk make a great drum set

Breathing, "bye-bye"s, and Lavender Showers

This week's Three Beautiful Things:

1. After 5 days of sniffling and grunting, I am now able to breathe through my nose. This may not sound beautiful, but you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone. Being able to breathe through my nose is beautiful.

2. When I dropped the little boy at day care, he sat down with a book, waved to me, and said "bye-bye" with a smile.

3. I rediscovered my Lavender Sea Spa, took an extra-long shower, and exfoliated while enjoying the yummy smell.

7.15.2008

Summer foliage

I've said it many times, but let me say it again: I am not a gardener. I have no green thumb. That said, I am proof that even the most unknowledgable person can have some flowers and plants - even vegetables - in their garden. It is still growing, but we have some nice color and pretty flowers now. A few rabbit-damaged but still alive tomato plants, a couple bird-ravaged blueberry bushes, a couple pumpkin plants (can't wait for October!), yummy-smelling lavender, and lots of bushes and flowers whose names I will never know. (Sorry Mom!) The bottom line, though, is that it makes our yard a nice place to be. I even picked a couple flowers to bring inside so we can enjoy them in the house as well.

I don't mind pulling weeds and watering plants, especially when I have such a handsome helper.

Before...and After in the yard

Sometimes it is so good to remind ourselves of how far we've come. Here's what our back yard looked like when we moved in:

The first thing Kevin did - before unpacking a box - was tear down this fence. Countless hours later, here's what the same spot looks like now:

A nice improvement, don't you think?

7.14.2008

Etsy shop - Nella Designs

Check out this cute shop on Etsy: Nella Designs. It has cute note cards, invitations, mailing labels, and other prints. My sister is always complaining about the lack of decent cards in Spain, so I hooked her up with this cute variety pack to get her through the year. It looks like it's sold out now, but there are lots of other fun options available.

7.11.2008

Five Senses Friday

I got the inspiration for this post on this lovely blog. There are so many ways to focus on the positive and wonderful things in life. This is just one more. Why not try them all?

Touch
- a refreshing breeze coming through the windows to cool down the house at night
- the scratchy grass on my bare feet
Hear
- the little boy talking to himself as he flips through a book in his crib in the morning
- K turning on the shower, which is my cue to get out of bed
Taste
- sweet oreo gelato from the farm
- ice-cold refreshing lemonade on a hot day
Smell
- mint from my herb barrel (sometimes I just pick a leaf to smell the yumminess)
- dryer sheets
See
- little boys playing baseball in the little league field in our back yard
- an airplane flying high in the sky (and the little boy looking up and pointing)
- orange lilies blooming in the yard

What do you touch/hear/taste/smell/see today?

Business Time




My sister sent me a link to this a while back, and I watched it while I was trying to make dinner. Multi-tasking. Ugh. I wasn't in the right frame of mind, and I just thought - I don't have time for this. Thankfully, my husband watched it later, and then proceeded to share it with everyone he could. So I got to see it again when I was more relaxed and in the mood. It cracks me up!

So if you have a few minutes and the right frame of mind, give this a listen and enjoy a little laughter.

7.10.2008

Crate & Barrel Best Buys


I flipped through my Crate & Barrel Best Buys catalog the other day, and I started making my Christmas list. Is it too early for that? I don't really need these things, but some of them are just too darn cute! Here are some of the items that caught my eye:

Two-tiered fruit basket
Cute little vases*
*not shown above

7.09.2008

Dancing!

I read this article in the NY Times and discovered this youtube video (you need to make sure you watch it in higher quality). It is so silly and simple and yet for some reason it made me smile and even cry a little. I guess it's a reminder of how small the world is and how the same human spirit exists everywhere. It's also really amazing how beautiful the locations are. Check it out!

Parades, Somersaults, and Strawberry Shortcake


This week's Three Beautiful Things:

1. The little boy is exploding with words. We took him to the 4th of July parade in town, and it was so much fun to watch him point and name everything. Tie tuck (fire truck), doggie, neigh (horses), baby, lots of colors (yeyow is still his favorite, but he likes purple too)... And then the dancing!

2. The boy and I did somersaults in the back yard. I was dizzy afterwards, but it felt so good to roll around in the grass for a while.

3. We bought fresh strawberries and biscuits from the farm and enjoyed super yummy strawberry shortcake.

Love


Last night after dinner, the little boy and I wrestled on the kitchen floor. Basically he kept trying to climb me, and I'd tickle him down. We laughed and laughed. During moments like these I am truly overwhelmed by how much I love him.

7.08.2008

Funky Family Shot

A friend of ours took this picture with his new Mac. It's spontaneous, colorful, and fun. I love it, and I think it captures the happiness in our little family.

Time-Saving Tips on Keeping a Clean House

I don't really believe that a clean house is a wasted life. Actually, I very much enjoy coming home to a clean house, and it absolutely affects my mood if there is too much dirt or clutter around. I can relax more in a clean house. That said, I also prioritize some cleaning tasks further down on my perpetual to-do list, so if you come over to my house and see dust on the TV or a cobweb in the corner, don't take it personally. I just decided that playing with my son or spending quality time with my husband or reading a book or any number of things were more important than taking care of those things.

I am a little different than my husband. He is fine with clutter but likes things clean. Things like under the toaster oven and behind the refrigerator - when he cleans, he cleans. When I clean, I tidy. I usually don't have time (or don't choose to spend the time) to truly clean. He has suggested that perhaps we should get a cleaning service to come once or twice a month to do the heavy cleaning - bathrooms, etc. Perhaps it shouldn't, but this bothers me. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's that I feel like I should be able to do it all myself, and it's a little bit about not wanting to spend money on it, but I think it's primarily that I want to be able to do it myself. I don't want somebody else in my house, cleaning my toilets and dusting my shelves.

So I'm going to keep doing my best to keep the house as clean as possible. Here are a few time-saving tips I've run across to help manage this within a busy schedule:

1. Declutter! Simplify! The less stuff you have, the less to put away, the less to keep clean. A never-ending process. Go through your house with a trash bag every now and then and see how quickly it fills up!
2. Go through your mail the second you bring it inside. 95% goes right in the recycling bin - the bills go on the desk or file cabinet.
3. When you swap out towels in your bathroom, use one to quickly wipe down the countertop, the toilet, or the dust that collects on the edge of the bathtub.
4. Have a schedule for laundry. This will depend on your family's needs and schedule. For us, it means three loads of laundry on Fridays and one on Sunday. Doing it at consistent times helps me keep up.
5. Keep cleaning supplies handy. I don't do this now, but I'm going to add a toilet brush to every bathroom. Having only one means that it's far away from a couple bathrooms. Keeping the cleaners handy is a little tougher with a toddler, but I'm going to figure that out, too. If the supplies are there, they'll get used more.
6. Have Mom visit more often.
7. Clean as you cook. When I can, I am cleaning or organizing the kitchen as things cook.
8. When you go upstairs, take something with you.
9. I try to take 10 minutes at the end of the day to straighten up - put toys in bins, fold throw blankets, in general put things back where they belong. If it can't be clean, hopefully it can be tidy.

Here's a post on Unclutterer that discusses this, including many comments that say that hiring a cleaner is worth it. Maybe one day, but for now I'm going to do the best I can myself.

7.07.2008

Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough!

Stop what you're doing, play this video and dance around the room. Now!
(Wasn't Michael cute back then? I had a poster of him above my bed in elementary school. I remember so clearly the night that the Thriller video premiered. I fell out of love with him as he changed over the years, but it is fun going back in time. He did create some pretty fantastic music back in the day.)

Cloud Atlas

I like reading all types of books. I like fun chick-lit like "Bridget Jones Diary" or "In Her Shoes". I like more serious books, especially those that help you learn about another time or another place, such as "Atonement" or "The Kite Runner". I like period books such as "Pride and Prejudice" or "March". I like classics like "East of Eden". I like baseball books and history books and even some non-fiction occasionally. I am not ashamed to admit that I love Harry Potter and was so sad to read the last book. A few of my other favorites are listed on the right-hand column.

I recently finished a book entitled "Cloud Atlas", by David Mitchell, and I would definitely recommend it. It starts out slowly, and it can be difficult to read at times, but hang in there, because it is fascinating. I sometimes read books that, while entertaining, I feel like I probably could've written. Simple, even predictable. And I enjoy that sometimes. But sometimes I like to be challenged, and I love reading a book that I know I never could've come up with in a million years. David Mitchell is a creative genius, and I love getting to read something that is this imaginative.

I am not sure if I can try to describe the plot. It is actually made up of six nested stories, each linked to the next, and each story is a completely different genre. Here's a review from The Washington Post that can provide a summary and description. It might not make much sense, though. But if you're looking for a book that is thought-provoking, interesting, imaginative, and entertaining, look no further.

"Souls cross the skies o' time. . . like clouds crossin' skies o' the world."

7.06.2008

Tomato Update and Herbs

Look! My first tomatoes! The rabbits did a bit of damage, but they haven't destroyed the entire crop. I still have 7 plants surviving. And my first cute little green tomatoes! So exciting.

We also bought a half-barrel planter to grow fresh herbs. The picture below shows what I now have right outside my side door. My tex-mex pasta salad had fresh cilantro, I threw a few mint leaves into my lemonade, and I'm going to use some of the basil on a pizza tonight. What a treat!

7.04.2008

Happy 4th of July!

Boston is absolutely the best place to be on the 4th of July. The Boston Pops concert and fireworks on the Esplanade is amazing and so much fun. It might be a few years before we decide the little boy is old enough to handle the crowds, the excitement, and the long day. In the meantime, we'll celebrate at home and watch the local fireworks. Maybe put the Pops on the TV. Hope you all have a happy long weekend!

7.03.2008

Survive the Evening Routine

I've come to terms with the fact that life with kids is a series of evolving routines. From the very beginning days with a baby, the evening timeframe can be a challenge, and it doesn't really get easier as they get older (at least it hasn't for me!). My little one is only a year and a half, so I know I have many more challenges ahead of me.

Here are some of the things I do to survive.

1. Leave work early. I'm thankful that I have the flexibility to do this. I am able to pick up my son from day care and get home early enough to allow for some play-time before dinner. Which leads to #2.
2. Ease into it. I can't come home and jump straight into the work of making dinner and completing my other nightly chores. Having some time to get into some play-clothes and play with the boy for a bit helps complete my transition out of work and into home.
3. Focus. I am getting better at not multi-tasking, at least in some cases. I know that quality-time with the boy is way more important than getting my chores done, so I make sure to focus on one thing at a time and not try to do everything at once. In particular, I must have play-time with the boy and plenty of time where I am completely focused on him.
4. Plan ahead. I've posted about this several times now. I write out my weekly menu over the weekend, so during the week, I don't have to think about what I'm making for dinner that night. That takes out so much of the stress for me.
5. Be consistent. We've always been pretty consistent with the boy's nighttime routine, so he doesn't put up any fuss with bathtime or bedtime. (He's only 18 months old, so I know this can change at any moment.) This is not only less stressful for him, but for me too! Knowing my evening routine helps me manage my time. And since the little boy goes to bed so easily, the rest of my evening is low-stress as well. I have plenty of quiet time at the end of the day.

Here's what my current evening routine looks like (all of the times are "ish"):
5-5:15PM: Get home with the boy. Play! Outside if it's nice.
5:45PM: Prepare and serve dinner for the boy.
6:15PM: More play-time. Try to do more low-key things like puzzles and books, but sometimes the boy just has to dance.
6:45PM: Bathtime, Pajama-time, Storytime.
7:15PM: The Boy's bedtime.
7:45PM: K and I eat dinner.
8:30PM: Clean the kitchen, prepare lunches, check email, other various chores.
9:00PM: Eat ice cream and watch a little TV. Head to bed to read. (Ratio of TV to reading often depends on whether or not there's anything on TV I want to watch - I've been reading a lot lately.)
10:00-10:30PM: Lights out.

*Here is the post on Real Simple that inspired the format of this post.

7.02.2008

BBQ!

"Wishing to be friends is quick work, but friendship is a slow ripening fruit."
--Aristotle

One of my resolutions this year was to focus on nurturing my existing friendships and making new ones. It's common knowledge that people with larger and more active social networks are happier people. I haven't typically been the social butterfly or the one to initiate gatherings, so I've vowed to make it a priority. In particular, I want to expand my local circle of friends.

I am going to have a barbeque. Nothing fancy - burgers and lemonade and an excuse to get people together. I'm putting this out here so that I feel obligated to follow-up on it. It would be too easy to just let the summer pass by without making the effort. Sometimes just saying your goal out loud to someone else helps motivate you to follow through. So there it is - next month - cookout at my house. Details and results to be posted later.

Travel Tray, Float

This travel tray is my latest recommended kid item. We had a relatively long stint in the car on our latest vacation, so I purchased this tray to facilitate some play-time in the car, and it was so worth it! The little boy was able to "read" a stack of books, put together a puzzle, and keep his snack/drink accessible.

It's not perfect - I think it should have a barrier preventing things from falling back towards the car seat - but it's the best out there, I like that it's soft, and the boy loved it! It will definitely be used on any longer car trips going forward.



If you're in the market for something to use with your baby in the pool, this float is great! Very easy, sturdy, gives a little extra protection from the sun, has space to put a couple toys or bowls... Most importantly, the little boy loved it!
(Age: 9-24 months.)

7.01.2008

Pictures Say It All

Vacations are oh so great. Hard to call the time relaxing with the little ones, but we could definitely call it lots of fun. This picture says it all:
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