1.31.2011

Snow


I was on the phone with my sister, and she mentioned that the weather where she lives is really nice and that they went on a family bike ride.  In response, I attempted to describe to her how much snow we have at our house.  She used to live in Boston, so she's familiar with the snow, but this Winter has been anything but typical.   We got no snow until the end of December, which is pretty late, but since then we've had huge storm after huge storm, dumping a foot at a time.  It has also stayed cold, so it just keeps piling up!  The picture above shows my son on top of the snow in our yard - notice that he's the same height as the top of our lamppost.

The good news is that my boys love playing in the snow, so it doesn't deter us from playing outside.  (The bad news is that there's actually too much snow to sled!)  I also feel more prepared than I ever have for a New England Winter.  Gone are the days of sliding around in my tiny little Honda Civic and arriving at work with wet shoes.  I have four-wheel drive, an automatic car starter, good boots, and a husband who is excellent with a shovel.  (I do my share as well, but I wouldn't want to do it alone.) 

It's crazy, but so far I've been able to stay pretty positive despite the weather.  We'll see how long I can make it last.  We're supposed to get another 6-12 inches tomorrow...

1.28.2011

Katie Herzig - Songbird


This week's music pick is Katie Herzig.  She's a singer-songwriter from Colorado, and she plays a lovely blend of folk/rock/bluegrass/pop.  Mostly on the folk-rock side I think, although I always struggle to label music that way.  Her voice is unique, which always appeals to me, and as always, I love the guitar.
via last.fm 

1.27.2011

Cranky


Can I be honest with you?  I've been cranky this week.  I can't think of a specific cause I can blame.  Perhaps the Winter is catching up to me, although I honestly don't think that's it.  Truth be told, I've actually enjoyed all these snowstorms.  Shoveling is a good excuse to get outside, and it's good exercise - my arms always feel strong after some time with a shovel.  The boys have fun in the snow.  I am fortunate enough to be able to work from home when necessary, so I've been able to eliminate that dreaded commute.  And the trees look so peaceful and contemplative all covered in snow.  So I don't think it's Winter.  I just got caught with an attitude of not wanting to do anything I had to do.

This lack of motivation then extended into a lack of patience with my boys.  The morning routine got me down, the evening routine got me down.  How many times can I say "please put your shoes on" or "don't throw your food" without screaming?  Some days - most days, in fact - I am very good at being patient with them, but not this week for some reason.

One thing that always helps my mood is having plans to look forward to.  We have lots of plans for this year - long weekends and big trips - but nothing is booked yet.  I am sure my mood will improve once some of these plans are solidified.  Uncertainty bugs me.

The other night, I was reading a bedtime story to my big boy.  It was a book about moods, and at the end of the book, there is a big face where you get to choose the eyes and mouth to reflect your mood of that day.  He asked me how I felt that day, and I said "cranky".  He started to put on the cranky mouth, and then he said, "Well Mom, but that's not good!  Here, I'm making you silly, okay?"  If only it were always that easy...

Pins of the Week



*Croissants - Croissants, jam, and a cafe au lait.  Quite possibly the perfect breakfast.


*Another Entryway - Yes, I might be a bit obsessed with entryways at the moment.  How come it's so easy to find pretty pictures but so difficult to find the real thing?  


*Mila Kunis - Natalie is getting all of the attention, but Mila was pretty great in Black Swan as well.  She's so gorgeous.  


*Use it up... - I keep chanting this in my head, as I go through drawers and closets, piling up for the next donations pick-up.  Where does all this stuff come from? 

These are just a few of the photos I've recently pinned on my pinboards at Pinterest Mary Loves

1.26.2011

Chocolate-Covered Blueberries, Good Hand Lotion, and Tulips

This week's Three Beautiful Things:

1.  Dark chocolate-covered blueberries.  Yes, blueberries are nature's candy, and they don't need the chocolate to be delicious, but wow it is an unexpected and beautiful pairing.  Perhaps a little too addictive to have such a large bag in my kitchen.

2.  My hands have been dry and cracked since the start of the Winter, as they always are this time of year, despite my efforts to keep them moisturized.  I put on some new lotion that I received in my Christmas stocking, and lo!  The cracks went away!  I couldn't believe it.  So thank you thank you Em for giving me this cream!

3.  Bright pink tulips on my dining room table.  It's time to start keeping flowers in the house, to remind me that one day in the not-too-distant future, flowers will appear in the ground again.  It's an important reminder to have when the ground still has three feet of snow on it, with another foot expected today.

Kitchen Inspiration

via katyelliott
Not particularly a huge fan of all the earth tones, and definitely not a fan of the floor, but I do like the overall feel of the room.  The cabinets, sink, old-school stove...  I adore that curved lower cabinet in particular.   

1.25.2011

Menu of the Week


Here's a look at what we've been eating lately...

Almond-Stuffed Chicken, Mashed Potatoes, Green Beans
This is an easy way to dress up a boring chicken dinner.  My four-year-old didn't even ask for honey or ketchup in which to dip his chicken!  Small victories...

Goat Cheese and Roasted Corn Quesadillas, Saffron Rice, Black Beans
This is an easy, veggie dinner that comes together quickly.  Perfect for a crazy weeknight, as long as I put on the rice immediately upon entering the house.  Both boys do well with these.

Happy Pasta, Sauteed Shrimp
Another simple vegetarian (or not) meal that my family enjoys.  I added zucchini this time and decided to saute some shrimp to give it a little variety. 

Chicken Tenders with Creamy Honey Mustard, Sweet Potato Fries, Corn
Super easy way to get your little ones excited about dinner.  Chicken fingers are always a favorite, and this way you get to keep them healthy.  I used panko breadcrumbs instead of the cereal, and they were great. 

Basic Beef Stew with Carrots and Mushrooms, Bread
As the title suggests, this is an easy and basic stew recipe.  However, don't let that make you think it's bland.  It's my favorite stew recipe not just because it's easy, but because it's good!  That said, I will admit that it wasn't a huge hit with the kids. 

1.24.2011

Weekend Recap and Random Thoughts


We saw Black Swan on Saturday night, and all I can say is holy crap.  Natalie deserves every award coming to her. 

The rest of the weekend wasn't too exciting, but it was a perfectly fine weekend at home.  Playing with the boys and getting things done.  There was a spot on my bedroom wall that was painted the wrong color, and I'm so excited to say that it is all the same color now!  More organizing projects, and a couple shopping errands...these are the thrilling activities that filled our weekend.  But it was good.  Actually, balancing the fun with the necessary often makes the best weekend. 


It is cold here.  I mean bone-chilling cold.  The type of cold that hurts the instant you walk outside.  It was 0 degrees on the way to work this morning.  Yes that's right....0.  And there's supposedly more snow headed our way tomorrow.  So while I look like the above picture, all bundled up with a warm drink, I will dream of a scene like this one...
That is exactly why I was inspired to buy her desk calendar this year.  The sea is always inspiring, even in the middle of winter. 

My husband told someone about my blog, and their response was that I needed to get a hobby.  Hmph.  I won't deny that there are times that I question why I keep this little site going, but most of the time I am confident that it brightens my outlook.  There's certainly nothing wrong with that.

1.21.2011

Things I Love...

 via
...about my sister, Dawn.

- She can walk into any social situation and be completely at ease.  She is a master at the art of conversation
- She is always looking for ways to better herself - to become more informed, learn a new skill, or broaden her perspective in some way
- She is a world traveler.  She has been to places like Zimbabwe and Finland during college, she went to Thailand on her honeymoon, and she currently lives in Barcelona
- We are very compatible travel companions.  She went with me on my first trip to Europe - London and Paris when I was 23.  My favorite trip so far, though, was to Prague and Budapest with our husbands.  We're currently planning Italy for this August.  
- She has a ridiculously cute little boy who is on his way to becoming trilingual (English, Spanish, Catalan)
- She has a wonderful husband who fit into the family immediately
- She is amazing with kids and thankfully found her calling as a teacher
- She is willing to try just about anything
- She loves finding good books, movies, art...
- She has really cool green eyes
- She is the kind of cook that can throw together some ingredients - whatever she happens to have - and make something yummy.
- She lets me vent to her when I need to let it out
- She is always very thoughtful, putting a lot of effort into finding just the right gifts

Happy Birthday, Dawn!

1.20.2011

Pins of the Week

*Stunning - Isn't she?  I adore the long, healthy gray hair, and I can only hope I look this good as I get older.  Judging by how my mom is doing, I'd say I have a very good shot. 
*Cool Music Genre Posters - These are fun.  I like several of the others, but this is definitely the one I would choose.
*Entryway - I love this space.  The bench, the big stack of firewood, the plants...it's all very welcoming.
*Handbag - Okay, I think I found the one I want.  Now I just need to save up for it.  Basic black, but cute, right?
These are just a few of the photos I've recently pinned on my pinboards at Pinterest Mary Loves
I hope this always remains true...

1.19.2011

Friends, Love, and Cellos

This week's Three Beautiful Things:

1.  Friends.  Life is so much sweeter with good friends. 

2. My big boy said to me the other night: "Mom, I still love you even though you don't feel good.  And I still love you when you have to go."  My heart melts over and over again...

3.  I've had a CD of cello music in our alarm clock for a while now, but I usually hit 'snooze' or 'off' pretty quickly, sometimes even before the music starts.  I let it play for a while this morning, and it was a really nice way to ease into the day.  Think I need to do that more often.

Definitely my all-time favorite episode - via mellowseas tumblr

Weekend Recap

 My boys...watching the snow plows together.
It's funny how I miss my blog when I am away from it for a few days.  We had a nice long weekend, away from home, and I'm still trying to get caught up.  Wouldn't life be so much better if every week had a three-day weekend?  It certainly seems like it would be easier to balance.  I guess I'll take the ones I can get.

We went to New York this weekend to visit some very good friends.  They are the kind of friends that are so easy to be with.  We have a lot in common, and we're in the same stage of life, so we connect and understand each other perfectly.  They also have two little kids, and they are all starting to get to the age where they can go play on their own a bit.  That is very fun to watch, and it's also a nice break.  My boys had a blast taking a trip and playing in a new environment.  We took them all out sledding, but mostly spent the days playing and relaxing inside. 

Yesterday brought us more snow and then rain on top of that - bleh!  Rain!  I'll take more snow over rain any day.  So the place is a big slushy mess at the moment, and suddenly everyone is grumpy and done with Winter.  It seems to happen like that each year - one ugly storm sends everybody over the edge.  I can usually hold out until later in February before it starts getting to me.  We'll see how I do this year, but I'm hanging in there so far.   I see lots of people dreaming of flowers in blogland, so I know a lot of you out there are already wishing for Spring.  I'm going to try to appreciate all things Winter first.  More sledding!  More forts!  Snowmen!  I can try, anyway.

1.14.2011

Noah and the Whale - Blue Skies


This week's music pick is Noah and the Whale. This song is from the album First Days of Spring. They have a new album coming out in March, and I've read that it's supposed to be a bit more upbeat. I'm looking forward to hearing it.

1.13.2011

Holiday Sweets

In addition to the fabulous meals we enjoyed during the holidays, I made quite a few yummy sweets.  I already mentioned the one stinker - the almond torte, which was very disappointing, especially given the amount of effort that went into it.  So let's just focus on the winners...

Dark Chocolate Almond Crackles - My family didn't get to enjoy these, but I hope my neighbors did.  My husband and I certainly did, since we saved half of the batch for ourselves.  They are excellent.
Lemon Wreath Cookies - I probably doubled the lemon zest in these, because I enjoy a good strong lemon flavor, and I used Meyer lemon juice for the icing to make it extra sweet.  These were really good.  I also ended up making most of them as simple round cookies, because quite frankly making the wreaths takes a bit of time and effort.  The shape doesn't impact the taste, so it didn't bother me!
Peppermint Bark - I made several batches of bark, and now that I know how easy it is, I have no doubt it will be an annual tradition.  I started with this recipe, but I branched out a little with my last batch.  I made a layered batch, with dark chocolate on the bottom and white chocolate on top.  Oh my goodness yum! 
Thumbprint Cookies - I adore thumbprint cookies.  They're probably my favorites.  I started with a very basic recipe - not the one I linked to, but very close I think.  I used raspberry and blueberry jam, and I also added a touch of almond extract.
Chocolate Gingerbread Bars -  I love gingerbread, but I love chocolate gingerbread even more.  I was careful not to overcook them, and I think I actually took them out a few minutes early.  This is a really easy recipe, and I'd imagine it would be easy to double, since this only makes a small 8X8 pan.  I loved these. 

I am definitely saving all of these recipes!

1.12.2011

Manners, To-Do Lists, and Clementines

This week's Three Beautiful Things:

1. "Yes, please" and "No, Thank You" - With all the people and excitement of the holidays, my big boy's manners got a little rusty.  It's so nice when he asks for things nicely on his own, and I don't have to nag.  I hate being a nag. 
2. Marking things off the to-do list.  I love to-do lists, and crossing something off is such a great feeling, especially when it's been on there for a while.
3. Clementines.  We've been enjoying these since Thanksgiving.  Cute little low-maintenance balls of sweetness. 

We're supposed to get over a foot of snow today.  I wonder if that's the way Winter is going to go this year - we just get snow a foot at a time.  So I'm not sure what's in store for us today - I may be at home with my boys, which would be just fine.  We're all battling the beginnings of colds, so perhaps a day at home is what we need anyway.
 Winter in Finland - via absolutely white

1.11.2011

A Clean Start

I do not love a lot about January.  That post-holiday letdown can be hard, especially when you live in a dark and cold place like Boston.  One thing I do enjoy about January, though, is that it brings extra motivation to clean and organize.

I've mentioned before that I detest clutter, but this is a constant battle.  I currently have quite a few drawers whose contents are entirely unrecognizable upon opening.  I try to keep up with things throughout the year, but I always feel the urge to tackle these organizing projects in January, and this year is no different.  For the past week, I've been in the process of putting things back where they were before our holiday entertaining.  I'm also collecting yet another load of items to donate - a necessary task, given the amount of stuff that my son's birthday and Christmas shopping brought to the household. 

I spent a good portion of the weekend tackling my recipe binder.  This involved going through all my magazines, clipping the recipes I want to save, and recycling the rest of the magazine.  (I do not like having stacks of magazines around.)  Then I had to review all the recipes in my binder to remove the ones I either haven't tried or didn't like.  I also updated my recipe box for non-magazine recipes - the ones I had printed out from a blog or written down from a friend that were folded up and jammed inside.  (Thanks Mom for the new recipe cards - they've been put to good use!)  This project isn't quite complete, but I'm well on my way and should get back into maintenance mode soon. Whew! 
Here are some of the other organizing tasks I plan to address in these winter months.  Sometimes just the act of writing them down helps motivate me to get them done.
- clean out/organize my kitchen junk drawer
- clean out the car (swap out toys/books for the boys)
- organize bathroom drawers
- go through the boys' clothes (put current size in the drawers, too small in storage/donations bag, too big in closet)
- continue to go through my husband's work papers he's been storing at the house
- freecycle, give to friends or donate any unused baby items still hanging around (I've been pretty good about keeping up with this, and I actually got rid of a couple things this weekend, but it seems like there's always something, and I can think of a few other things we no longer need.)
- continue to play with my blog design.  Feel free to voice your opinion along the way, as I tinker and play and experiment with it. 

Do you feel a similar urge to clean and organize in January?
via mary ruffle

1.10.2011

Menu of the Week

I wanted to capture some of the recipes I tried over the holidays.  We had one loser - this almond torte, which will forever be referred to as "burn-mush".  It wasn't completely inedible, but it was close.  Everything else, however, was really really good.  I already told you about our Christmas Eve/Day meals, and they were great.  Here's a look at what we ate the week after Christmas.

Before my guests arrived, I spent a day cooking a few make-ahead items, and I was so happy that I did.  It made several meals completely stress-free, and it helped me prepare the big Christmas feast as well. 

Butternut Bisque - This was one I made ahead and had in portions in the freezer.  We started off our first day enjoying this soup for lunch.  It is very good - the red pepper gives it a little kick, and serving with a dollop of sour cream is the perfect balance.
Vegetable Enchiladas - Another one I made ahead and froze.  I don't think the recipe makes quite enough sauce, so I added a can of enchilada sauce to it.  Next time I'll double the sauce.  These are really really good.
Baked Ziti - A good-old standby.  Mini-penne, mushrooms, onions, garlic, cottage cheese, mozzarella, and sauce.  Topped with a layer of cheese, cooked until bubbly, served with a salad, good crusty bread, and a couple bottles of wine.  Perfect.  
Turkey Reubens - This is always a favorite, and it was a special request made by my sister, who can't get rye bread in Spain.
Roasted Chicken, Asparagus, and Potatoes - No, asparagus is not in season, but it's one of the few green vegetables my son will eat in any real quantity, so we eat it quite a bit. 
New Year's Eve menu:  Lamb chops, arugula/mint salad, mashed sweet potatoes, and a good bottle of Italian wine. Yum, yum, yum, and yum. 

Expect a separate post on this year's desserts.

Now that the holidays are over, I'm back to cooking for my boys.  I must tell you, they are definitely less fun to cook for, but I'm always on the hunt for healthy food they'll enjoy.  It's an effort, but I'll keep working at it. 

*I will definitely update my favorite recipes list with some of these!

1.07.2011

Karen Elson - The Ghost Who Walks


This week's music pick is Karen Elson.  She's perhaps more well-known for being a model and wife of Jack White, but I'm kinda digging her debut album.  It's dark, perhaps gothic at times, but the music is interesting and cool.  Hard to put a label on it, which just makes me like it more.

The King's Speech

During our vacation, my sister and I enjoyed an afternoon to ourselves.  We decided to go see a movie, which is something we don't get to do very often these days, having little ones at home.  We saw "The King's Speech", with Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, and Helena Bonham Carter.  It was wonderful.  The acting is tremendous, and the story is interesting and uplifting.  If you don't know about it yet, you will - it looks like it's going to do very well during awards season.  

Colin Firth plays the Duke of York, who goes on to become King George VI, after his older brother abdicates the throne to him.  It takes place in the 30s and early 40s, in the buildup to World War II.  The King has a speech impediment - he stammers - so he engages a speech therapist, played by Geoffrey Rush.  The movie is essentially about the relationship between these two men.  Again, it's wonderful.  Highly recommend it.  Here's the review by the NY Times if you want to read more.
images via NYTimes

1.06.2011

Moving Forward

I know that many people feel the need to identify resolutions as they head into the new year.  Looking back, I even had a post last year declaring my own.  It's funny, but I don't really feel the urge to do it this year.  When I look at how I did against those resolutions, I find that I did really well in some areas, and others, not so much.  I'm sure that would be the case again if I were to write them down, and honestly, I think my resolutions would be pretty much the same.  So instead, I'm going to look forward and continue on my current path, always searching for opportunities to better myself and enjoy life.

Here's what I said last year (and how I did):
  • Sleep more (more, yes.  enough?  not even close.)
  • Don't ever complain about having to play with my sons (can't remember complaining once about having to play - they are my joy.)
  • Entertain more and nurture my local friendships (pretty good - i keep trying, anyway.)
  • Write more letters to friends and family and nurture my long-distance relationships (Facebook is fun, but it doesn't count). Perhaps even pick up the phone every now and then (sigh - this will always be a challenge for me - i hate talking on the phone, but i'll keep trying.)
  • Spend lots of time snuggling with my baby boy, who is rapidly outgrowing the snuggly phase (lots and lots of snuggling.  he's getting big, but he's still pretty snuggly.)
  • Find a time to exercise each week, even if it's just once (some good weeks, some bad weeks - won't that always be the case?)
  • Hire our neighbor to babysit and begin more regular date nights - at least monthly (good!  i actually even saw a few movies this year.  this reminds me - i need to plan one for January...)
  • Read at least a book a month (very good - i was in a reading groove this year and read quite a few great ones)
  • Do whatever it takes to make life easier so I can focus on what's truly important to me - my boys, my husband, my friends, my family, myself (this will always be on the list too of course.  the juggle is tough, but my priorities are usually right.)
    via flickr

1.05.2011

Quiet Evenings, a Clean Table, and New Perfume


Last week was completely packed with beautiful things.  It's a little harder this week, but that's why I try. 

This week's Three Beautiful Things:

1.  Quiet evenings.  I'm going to enjoy picking up my books again.  I didn't read much in December.
2.  A clean dining room table.  It helps relax me when that table is clear when I walk in the door.  
3.  New perfume.  It's a lovely, clean, fresh scent, and it makes me happy.

1.04.2011

Holiday Recap

It's nice to be back, although I must admit, it was also really nice to unplug for a while.  My family and I had a fabulous vacation at home.  We did all the things I wanted to do - played games, went sledding, danced, cooked/ate great food, talked, watched movies, snuggled, and played some more.  I finally purchased Apples to Apples as a family gift, and it was a lot of fun.  We finally got snow too.  After all my complaining about the lack of snow, a wonderful snowstorm arrived and brought us a foot and a half!  It was great.  It canceled my sister's flight, so she had to stay an extra two days (yay!); and it gave us great entertainment for the kids, who loved sledding and climbing snow mountains. 

All my planning efforts paid off, and I was truly able to relax and enjoy the moments.  Christmas morning was magical, watching my big boy's face as he saw the new train set Santa brought him.  Even more fun was watching his face beam with pride as we opened his handmade gifts.  We spent New Year's Eve enjoying a late dinner, after the kids went to bed, so we could actually enjoy our food and adult conversation (what a luxury!).  Other highlights:  visiting the neighbors on New Year's Day, playing scrabble and losing to my mom three times in the same day, enjoying rare peaceful moments during afternoon naptime, always having sweets within reach....truly the entire time was wonderful.

Now, we're all trying to get back into our normal routine.  The tree and decorations are all down, and the house is slowly being put back together.  We'll have to get used to the lack of lights and cookies.  And now my focus will shift forward again, as we plan all the fun to be had in 2011...
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