12.31.2010

Happy New Year's!

Happy New Year  everyone!  I hope you are all enjoying fun and relaxing time with family and friends.  I'm sure I am.  Tonight will include a yummy dinner, chocolate fondue, and champagne.  Plus the spanish tradition of eating 12 grapes at the stroke of midnight.  There's nothing like saying "happy new year!" with a mouth full of grapes.

What are you all doing to celebrate?  Looking forward to catching up in the new year...
images via prettystuff

12.23.2010

Unplugged...

via etsy - I love this and think I really must have it.
We're almost there.  My family arrives tonight, and I think I'm ready for them.  I've even impressed myself by my planning and have made it through the month with minimal stress and maximum fun.  Hopefully this means that I'll be able to relax a bit over the next week or so.  Saturday will include spending a lot of the day in the kitchen, but as long as my sister is with me with a bottle (or two) of wine, I'll be perfectly happy.  The week will hopefully involve lots of games, music, talking, playing, sledding (need a little more snow please!), and eating of course.  It will be especially magical for the little ones - we'll have four kids between the ages of 1 and 4.

I hope you are able to find a little relaxation and peace over the coming week as well.  I won't be posting here much so that I can focus on spending good quality time with my family.  I'll be back in 2011.

Happy New Year!

12.22.2010

Hark!

my husband took this photo of the chokeberry bush in front of our house - it's one of my favorites, and hangs in our dining room
The title of this post is for my sisters, who love to throw a good "hark!" in the middle of a conversation.  I'm busy today food shopping and cooking, but I thought I'd pop in here to say hi and share some of my favorite holiday and winter images I've seen recently.  I am especially drawn to those that are simple and peaceful.  

For me, an essential part of this season is the celebration of winter and the solstice - how magical that we had an eclipse this year on the shortest day of the year.  So now the celebrations can start, as the days begin to get longer again.  I hope you're all able to enjoy some joyful time with family and friends during this holiday season.  
colombian christmas tree via flickr

12.21.2010

Weekend Recap

My boys

We had another wonderful weekend, full of happy holiday fun.  We took Aaron to see the Boston Pops on Saturday, and it was so great.  He was so excited to go on an outing with just Mom and Dad - Nathan stayed at home with a sitter.  He liked the music and seeing the instruments, but he especially loved the lights and effects in the gorgeous Symphony Hall.  He was excited to see Santa make an appearance, and he enjoyed the performance of How the Grinch Stole Christmas.  Unfortunately, we followed the rules and did not bring our camera, so I don't have any pictures to share, but after seeing hundreds of cameras at the show, I think we'll bring one along next year.

On Sunday, we made another batch of cookies and then packaged them up to deliver to our neighbors.  Aaron had fun going to each neighbor's house and delivering the gifts.  (So many different kinds of cookie recipes I want to try!  I went with homemade peppermint bark (who knew it was SO easy!), dark chocolate-almond crackle cookies, and sugar cookies that we had a blast decorating.

The rest of the time was spent playing, reading, and watching Home Alone.  I've never enjoyed that movie so much as I did snuggled up with my boys, next to the tree with a fire in the fireplace, eating popcorn.  Fa la la la la...
 My gorgeous little boy, wishing he could take a swing at the tree
My gorgeous big boy, having fun building and playing with a lego set with Dad

12.20.2010

Christmas Menu

My son asks every morning now, "How many days left until Christmas, Mom?"  I think the end of his birthday is when the Christmas excitement really kicked in.  There are only a few days left, and then the family arrives and the festivities begin!  As my Mom reminded me, December 25th should really be just the beginning of the celebration, and since they will be with us through New Year's, we'll have plenty of time to relax and make merry.  (Isn't that a fun expression - "to make merry"?  I watched "A Christmas Carol" a few days ago, and I decided that I need to use it more often.)

My husband and I reviewed the menu plans, and it's starting to take shape.  We do have a couple gaps to fill, though.  We not only want to plan for Christmas Eve and Day dinners, but also for the rest of the week that we'll have visitors.  Planning in advance helps me relax a bit - I truly think the deciding is the hardest part.  Here's what the big meals look like so far...

Christmas Eve
Lobster Mac 'N Cheese
Mixed greens with pecans, sweetened cranberries, pears, and balsamic fig dressing

Christmas Day
Appetizers
Stuffed Mushrooms with Spinach
Lots of really good cheese
Good chorizo or sausage
Olives with herbs and/or stuffed with garlic or cheese
Celery with chive cream cheese

Dinner
Horseradish and Mustard-Crusted Beef Tenderloin
Classic Parmesan Scalloped Potatoes
Sherried Green Beans and Mushrooms
Parmesan Scallion Pastry Pinwheels
*Update:  Winter Squash with Caramelized Onions
(*I can make this one ahead of time.  By the way, a second oven is going on my future kitchen wish list.)

Desserts
Almond Torte
Some other selection that we purchase - perhaps a blueberry pie or cheesecake or whatever else strikes our fancy
Lots of cookies - I want to try these Lemon-Wreath Cookies.  I made these Dark Chocolate-Almond Crackles this weekend, and they are awesome.  I may need to make another batch.

12.17.2010

BNL and the Boston Pops

We're headed to the Holiday Pops concert tomorrow, and I'm so looking forward to it.  We're taking the big boy for the first time, and he's really excited too.  I am so incredibly grateful to live in a city with such an amazing symphony orchestra. 

12.16.2010

Pins of the Week


*Cookies - I've designated Sunday my cookie-baking day.  I still haven't figured out which ones to make, but I'm sure they won't be quite this gorgeous.  
*Sequined Tee - I wish I had an occasion to wear this.  I almost feel like I should get it just to wear at home on New Year's Eve.  
*Boots - For as long as I've lived in Boston, I've complained every winter about my lack of snow boots.  I don't know why, but I could never quite find what I was looking for.  I finally got a pair, and I am loving them.  Simple, warm, and they fit under my jeans and still look good.  
*Handbag - The search is still on for a new bag.  I really like this one, but I don't know where to find it.  I think perhaps it's not coming out until the Spring.  I really like it though.  Did I already say that?
These are just a few of the photos I've recently pinned on my pinboards at Pinterest Mary Loves
When the holidays are over, we're all going to need a day on our calendar that looks like this:
via 

12.15.2010

Inception


Have you seen Inception yet?  Wow it's good.  I was really bummed not to be able to see it in the theater, because the effects are really cool, and I think it's probably a movie that is best seen on the large screen.  That said, it was still extremely cool seen from my living room.  All of the actors are perfect - Ellen Page, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Cillian Murphy, Ken Watanabe...and of course Marion Cotillard and Leo.  I really enjoyed it, and because of its complexity, I know it's a movie I'd enjoy seeing again.  

Back to the Holidays

via bliss

In a way, it felt like the big boy's birthday forced us to step out of the holiday season for a few days.  My focus shifted from choosing cookie recipes to party planning.  Instead of working on our paper chain for the tree, we celebrated our gorgeous boy turning 4.  Now that the party is over and the presents are all opened, I feel like I can shift back into holiday mode.  I'm continuing to focus on making that 'holiday mode' as relaxed as possible, but I will admit that I also want to maximize the fun, which requires a bit of work.  It's funny to think about how holidays used to be, when there weren't little kids and I wasn't the one in charge.

That said, I am thoroughly enjoying the season and have so far been able to stay chill about it all.  I've had to let a few things go in order to do this, but that's okay.   My only complaint is the lack of snow.  It seems that everybody everywhere has already had their fill of the white stuff - even south of us - but our grass remains green.  It is bitter cold outside, and yet still no snow.  I keep checking the forecast, waiting for some sign of a storm.  Ah well.  I'll look at the bright side - it'll make everyone's travels easier.  I also know that we will get plenty of snow before the winter is over, and it'll stay a lot longer than I'd like, so I'll try to appreciate the clear sidewalks for now.

Only one more week of work before being able to take a break and enjoy the end of the year at home with family.  I hope you've been able to maintain a peaceful outlook on this busy season.  Here are a few peaceful images to help you on your way...
Aren't these the prettiest snowflakes?  Winter - and the holiday season in particular - is magical...
via flickr
Somehow this image reminds me to focus on keeping things simple in this crazy time...
And if you can't keep things simple, then plan to spend some time here...

Or take a few minutes to turn down the rest of the lights to sit by the tree and snuggle with a loved one, a cup of hot cocoa, a warm blanket... 

12.14.2010

Five Senses Weekend - Birthday Party


Well, the birthday party was a definite success!  Aaron was so proud to have his friends at his home, and he had a ton of fun, which was of course the goal.  I let him lead the way, so everything was as he wanted.  He chose the colors and snacks.  He helped me make a mix of his favorite music to play.  He picked out the stickers everybody used to decorate their goody bags.  He was proud of the results, and he had a great time.

The weekend also included a trip to the library, where the boys got to see Santa, so in the words of my big boy, "It was an awesome awesome weekend!"

See
-  Little kids clung to their moms' legs as they walked in
-  Aaron wanted rainbow colors, so that's what he got:  balloons in every color, rainbow sprinkles on the cupcakes, rainbow goldfish, rainbow candies and toys in his rainbow pinata...
- Aaron got a hug from one of his girl friends before she left.  There is nothing cuter. 
Hear
- All the kids squealed as the rainbow pinata spilled its contents (finally!)
- Aaron's favorite songs provided the soundtrack to playtime
- Everybody sang "Happy Birthday" to my almost 4-year-old, as he hid behind his hands and wished they'd all stop looking at him
Touch
- The pinata did not want to open, but I made it!
- I got lots of hugs and cuddles from Aaron, who wanted to stay close to me most of the time
Smell
- Hot apple cider, simmering on the stove
- Rain - it was a dreary wet day, but the atmosphere inside was sunny and colorful!
Taste
- Homemade yellow cupcakes with vanilla or chocolate frosting (with rainbow sprinkles of course!)
- Root beer and other sodas for the adults, juices for the kids
- Popcorn, goldfish, and fruit salad - Nobody ate much, though.  They just wanted to play!

12.12.2010

Love is...


My end to this sentence today...
"Love is throwing a birthday party for your son and a bunch of his friends.  Making homemade cupcakes.  Not caring at all when nobody wanted to play pin the tail on the donkey or when they made it look like a hurricane hit the house."
"Love is when your son runs around the house yelling "yeah! that was fun!  thanks mom!" after the party.  Love is the way he holds onto me after I read stories at bedtime...he doesn't want to let go."  
"Love is 'lub', 'louw', 'low', according to my little guy, but the message is perfectly clear.  Love is the beaming smile I see every time he sees me."
"Love is being a gracious host and hanging a pinata and buying balloons and taking coats and watching your little boy during a party when you feel like crap and really just want to lie on the couch."  
"Love is handling dinner, bath, and bedtime so your sick husband can lie on the couch and go to bed early."
I live in a house full of love.  

12.10.2010

My Favorite Music of 2010

I thought I'd do a roundup of some my favorite music from this year.  This list contains the CDs that have been in heavy rotation and sung loudly during my commute.  Some even captured the attention of my boys.  The big boy is now officially a fan of Spoon, The Black Keys, Phoenix, and Arcade Fire.  His music has to have interesting sounds and a good beat.  No folk music for him just yet.  

Let me know if you like some of these too or if you think I missed something this year that I absolutely must check out.  I'm always up for discovering new music.

Laura Marling - I Speak Because I Can
MGMT - Congratulations
Basia Bulat - Heart of My Own
Arcade Fire - The Suburbs

Spoon - Transference
Sarah Harmer - Oh Little Fire
Kathryn Calder - Are You My Mother
Blitzen Trapper - Destroyer of the Void

Kristen Hersh - Crooked
Juliana Hatfield - Peace and Love
Frazey Ford - Obadiah
Broken Bells - Broken Bells

The Black Keys - Brothers
Band of Horses - Infinite Arms
Crooked Still - Some Strange Country
Horse Feathers - Thistled Spring

Vampire Weekend - Contra
Josh Ritter - So Runs the World Away
Jakob Dylan - Women and Country
Mumford & Sons - Sigh No More

Honorable Mentions (some came out in 2009, but I loved them in 2010):
Avett Brothers - I and Love and You
Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
Laura Veirs - July Flame
Tift Merritt - See You On the Moon

12.09.2010

Pins of the Week


*Ornaments - I really need to organize my ornament storage this year.  Keeping them all in their original individual boxes isn't really working for me, but I don't want to have to buy something new.  I need to get creative.  
*Corner - We have this coat rack, and yet we still haven't found a place to use it.  This little corner is inspiring to me.  Perhaps there is a way we can find a happy spot for it. 
*Chocolate Guinness Goodness - My husband is insisting we add this to our holiday menu.  Chocolate Guinness pudding.  Hmmm....I can't really argue with that.  
*Booties - I am loving my pair of booties.  A great cold-weather heel for work.  

These are just a few of the photos I've recently pinned on my pinboards at Pinterest Mary Loves
This is how I'd like to be described...
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