9.30.2011

The Blind Pilot - Keep You Right



Blind Pilot's new album, We Are The Tide, has been played pretty much nonstop at my house since it came out a couple weeks ago.  It's awesome.  Just a solid album top to bottom - it will definitely be one of my favorites of the year.



9.29.2011

Kitchen Inspiration



images by Meaghan Taylor via Made By Girl
My friend Sara sent me a link to this great post highlighting a kitchen renovation.  It's a great kitchen that incorporates a lot of the same design elements we'll be using.  I like the mix of open and closed cabinets, and the way they handled the corner cabinets.  I just wish I had space to put my oven in a wall somewhere!  

I especially loved being able to see the "before" pictures, which are not unlike my own.  Part of the fun of home renovation is being able to celebrate just how far you've come.  I love looking back at our own "before" pictures, like our kid's bath, master bathliving roomofficefront porch, and even the yard.  I will still complain about my kitchen until I am able to use my new one, but at least I can remind myself and appreciate how far this house has come.   

9.28.2011

Falling Leaves, Pink Lips, and Dance Parties

picture by Katy Elliott

Can I be honest?  Of course I can - it's my blog, after all, and you are all such gracious readers.  Well, let me just say that there are some weeks when it can be more difficult than you'd think to come up with these beautiful things.  It shouldn't be - there is such beauty everywhere, but sometimes it's harder to see.  Like this week.  I'm not feeling well...like I'm walking around in a daze.  As I've said before, though, these are the weeks when it helps me the most.

This week's Three Beautiful Things:

1.  I am standing at the kitchen sink, and I see leaves gracefully falling from the maple trees into the yard.  There is a clear blue sky in the background, and I can just see the river across the street.  The foliage is not in full effect yet, but the smaller trees are turning yellow.  The forecast indicates a break in the weather, and it looks like we're in store for a more Fall-like chilly weekend.  Have I mentioned my love of Fall?

2.  I pass by a mirror (why? they're unavoidable sometimes) and notice I'm looking a bit bleak.  I put on some Burt's Bee's tinted lip moisturizer.  I love that smell and the color.  I look up at myself again.  Yes - much better.

3.  Last night, after dinner, the boys are quietly playing when I notice a dispute about to begin (one of them wants the other one's airplane).  I turn up the music and start dancing.  They both stop what they're doing, jump up and join me.  An impromptu dance party that leaves me breathless and laughing.

9.27.2011

The Chaos Theory

image via pinterest

I had a bit of a breakthrough last week.  It was a hard week.  Work is particularly busy and stressful right now, my husband was out of town, I haven't been sleeping well, and my kids decided to flip out on me a bit.  Let's just say there was some screaming and things flying through the air.  I couldn't figure out why they were so much harder to deal with than usual.  On the occasions when this happens, I typically chalk it up to them being tired, or perhaps reacting to dad being gone.  I'm sure those are factors sometimes.  What I realized, though, was this:

It's me.

When I'm stressed out, I tend to handle my boys with less patience, and my reactions are harsher than they usually are (harsher than they need to be).  As a result, a typically short-lived situation escalates out of control.  This makes me more stressed, the kids act out more, and the downward spiral continues.  

The other thing I realized - or perhaps reminded myself of - is that when I'm having a particularly busy week, the things that tend not to happen are the very things that need to happen to keep me on an even keel:  sleep, exercise, those ten peaceful minutes at the end of the day...  Without them, a hard week gets even harder.  

It really was an "a-ha" moment for me.   I know this is common sense stuff, and of course I already knew that kids get stressed out when they see mom stressed, but for some reason, I hadn't really applied it to myself in this way.  This week, I've been much more conscious of the way I react to the typical brotherly situations (you know the ones I mean...when they steal toys from each other, whine about not wanting to get dressed, throw toys at each other's heads...).  By reacting in a firm but calm way, the situation gets diffused so much more easily, and I remain in control.  I know I will still have to deal with stress, and I will definitely lose my cool from time to time; but I have to remember that I not only have to take care of me for me, I have to take care of me so that I can do a good job of taking care of them...

9.26.2011

Weekend Recap and Goals


Hot and sticky.  Certainly not what you'd expect from a September weekend in New England, and yet that's what it was.  Kind of gross, actually, but at least we were able to get outside and play.  We didn't have any plans, so it was pretty low-key.  Just the way I like it.  A few highlights...

*Puddle-stomping - I've grown to accept it. 
*We watched Bridesmaids on Saturday night.  After so many recommendations by friends and positive reviews about it being the "funniest movie of the year", I was a little worried that it wouldn't meet expectations, especially when it started off a little slow.  Thankfully, it delivered.  Giggling now just thinking about it...
*We went out to dinner on Saturday.  The boys were well-behaved, enough to garner a compliment from the lady at the table next to us.  "Well done", she said to me.  So nice. 
*I love watching my boys ride bikes (well, my big boy riding his bike - my little one still enjoys being pushed). 
*While my husband and son attended a birthday party on Sunday afternoon, I enjoyed some quiet time.  I was doing laundry and dishes and cooking, so it wasn't exactly relaxed, but it's a lot easier to get things done when I'm on my own.  Then my little boy woke up and we played. 

And now some goals:
1.  More sleep.  I haven't been sleeping well, and I think I may be getting a cold or fighting allergies or something.  My body needs some rest.
2.  Decide on my halloween costume and get the necessary supplies.  I'm narrowing it down, but I'm still nervous about it.  Gah!  I hate the pressure!
3.  Start my new book.
4.  Organize a closet.  Every single one of my closets needs some attention.  Let's see how long it takes for me to tackle one.
5.  Take those ten minutes every day to quiet my mind.

Have a great week!

9.23.2011

Pearl Jam 20

Photo by Danny Clinch via NPR

Has it really been twenty years?  I still remember listening to Pearl Jam's "Ten" when it first came out.  One of my guy friends had it on nonstop at his apartment.  If there was a soundtrack to my senior year of high school, this album would feature prominently, along with Red Hot Chili Peppers ("Blood Sugar Sex Magik" - I still remember my mom's reaction to that album title), and Nirvana's "Nevermind".  Before that, I had been in a Depeche Mode/The Cure/The Smiths (pretty depressing Brit-pop/rock) phase.  I was happy to be broken out of it.

Pearl Jam has remained one of my favorite bands, I look forward to each new album, and I love to see them live.  I've been flipping through the new book this week, and I'm very much looking forward to seeing Cameron Crowe's documentary, celebrating their twentieth anniversary.

Here's a little glimpse of the movie:


And this post just wouldn't do without a little music.  So hard to choose....but here's a cool one.  An acoustic version of "Thumbing My Way".  


So now I'm curious...what were you listening to your senior year of high school?

9.21.2011

Zinnias, Corn Chowder, and Sun Salutations

image via Sarah Tucker's pinterest - original source unknown


This week's Three Beautiful Things:

1.  Happy pink and orange zinnias are currently gracing my dining room.  I picked them from outside my back door.  Amazing how such a little thing can light up a room and lift my mood.

2.  A hot corn chowder is exactly what I wanted to have for lunch on a cool and rainy Fall afternoon.  It totally hit the spot.

3.  I managed to climb out of bed a little early.  It gave me enough time to do some yoga before having to shower and get ready for work.  I wish I could manage to do this every morning.  It is such a wonderful way to start the day.

9.20.2011

Eat Your Veggies...

image from smitten kitchen

Don't you just love zucchini?  It's such a versatile vegetable.  Neither of my boys will eat zucchini on its own, and they've even taken to picking it out of pasta and other dishes, so I've had to get a little sneakier with it.  Luckily, it's pretty easy to do.  Here are a few recipes I made last week to use up several zucchini I picked up at the market.  My boys ate a bunch of the green stuff!

Zucchini, Banana, and Flax Seed Muffins - My big boy helped me make these.  He loves peeling and smashing bananas, and measuring out all the ingredients.  We subbed in a little whole wheat flour to make them even healthier, and I increased the banana as well.  These were so tasty, and we enjoyed them for breakfast.  My little boy could not get enough of them.

Spaghetti and Meatballs - This is my old standby meatball recipe, but I now only use 1/2 lb turkey, along with grated zucchini and/or carrot.  I only used zucchini this time, so they were a bit green, but once they were covered in sauce, nobody was the wiser.  They went down just as fast (and made just as big a mess) as they always do.

Goat Cheese and Roasted Corn Quesadillas - My boys love these quesadillas, so I thought I'd take a chance by dicing up some zucchini and cooking it along with the corn.  It worked, and they were really good too!

9.19.2011

Weekend Recap and Goals

Ah...another gorgeous Fall weekend in New England.  It's not even technically Fall yet, but it certainly feels like it.  We actually had to turn our heat on this weekend!  It's getting down to "brrrr" temperatures at night now, and the days are getting very noticeably shorter, but the days are still beautiful.  Warm, happy sun.

Highlights from the weekend:
*We met friends at the farmer's market, and the boys ran around with their friends while we bought veggies.  *The friends joined us at home for lunch and more playtime.  
*Saturday night Date Night!  We enjoyed a long, leisurely dinner.  It had been too long, so we ordered drinks, appetizers, dinner, and desserts...relishing an intimate, kid-free dinner.  Oh, and I had lobster gnocchi with truffle oil, and it was divine.  
*We went to a 10 o'clock movie - can't remember the last time we did that either.  And we both stayed awake! 
*We got a lot done around the house.  Boring stuff, but stuff that feels good to have done.  Meanwhile, the boys played and enjoyed the outdoors.
*I stayed up way too late watching the Emmys.  Why do I do this?  I always regret it the next day when I have to get out of bed, and yet I can't resist award shows.  I love seeing my favorites get recognized for being awesome.  I was so happy for Kyle Chandler (I've always loved him, and really loved Friday Night Lights), and Modern Family, and Kate Winslet (Is it wrong to admit that I might be just a tad in love with her?), and those comedic actresses (They had me crying tears of laughter when they all went up on stage).  Do you get sucked into award shows too?

Goals for this week:
1.  More kickboxing.  Kickboxing has been my exercise of choice lately, with a side dose of yoga.  I love how sore my butt is as a result.  
2.  Get my car fixed.  Did I mention I was rear-ended the day after returning from vacation?  Welcome back to reality.  Bleh.
3.  Line up another date-night.  Really, it had been too long, and I was reminded how important they are.
4.  Figure out what to be for Halloween.  We were invited to a Halloween party this year - costumes required.  I love the joy of Halloween for kids, but I loathe the pressure of Halloween for adults, and I hate dressing up.  So if you have any ideas for what my husband and I can dress up as, suggestions are greatly appreciated.
5.  Start looking at holiday cards.  It feels early, but it always creeps up on me, and I'd rather not wait until the last minute. 

9.16.2011

Laura Marling - Sophia


I've only had a couple days with Laura Marling's latest album, entitled A Creature I Don't Know, but I already love it.  Love watching her fingers move across the guitar in the video, too.  Enjoy, and have a fabulous weekend!

9.15.2011

Recently Read: Bright's Passage, by Josh Ritter


Josh Ritter is an amazing songwriter, and I'm a big fan of his music; so when I heard he had written a novel, I knew I had to check it out.  Many of his songs contain stories themselves, and I was interested to see how his writing would come across in a book.

At first, I will admit that I found some of the writing a little...clunky.  But then he hit his stride, and this quirky little story pulled me in.  My husband was lured as well - he happened to pick up the book while we were on vacation and ended up continuing to pull it away from me to read more.

Bright's Passage is about a man named Henry Bright, who has recently returned from World War I, and the angel who has followed him home.  The chapters alternate between his time in the war and present day, which finds him back in West Virginia and alone with his newborn son.  He is being hunted by his wife's father, a creepy old man who calls himself 'The Colonel', and idiot brothers.

It is an entertaining read throughout, but I will admit that the ending is rather unsatisfying.  I agree with some of the reviews I've read, indicating that there are many obvious flaws with the book, reflecting the fact that this is the author's first attempt at a novel.  That said, I'd still recommend it, and I am looking forward to Josh's second attempt.

Here's a link to the NY Times Book Review.

9.14.2011

Wedding Memories, Golden Delicious Apples, and Bedtime


This week's Three Beautiful Things:

1.  My wedding day was nine years ago today.  It was a glorious September day.  All my friends and family gathered, we enjoyed a very quick ceremony, and then the celebration began.  We danced and drank and laughed and cried and hugged and kissed and danced some more.  It was a very good day.

2.  We picked apples at the farm last weekend.  Several varieties were ripe, but we chose golden delicious.  My big boy loves them and keeps asking, "Mom, can I have another delicious apple?" 

3.  Lately, my boys have been sitting together on a chair while I read stories at bedtime.  Sometimes quietly, often not.  Still, it's one of those moments I want to freeze in my mind.  Then when I put my little guy in his crib, Aaron climbs up the side and asks, "Can I give you a hug and a kiss night-night?"  Nathan stands up and they hug and kiss, and my cheeks hurt from smiling.

9.13.2011

Kitchen Inspiration and House Update


Well, we had another design meeting about our future renovation.  It was all fun and excitement until we started talking money.  Then my head started to hurt.  Later that morning, I found myself looking at houses online, because surely it would make more sense to buy a new house instead of spending so much to fix up this one?  Alas, I reconfirmed an irrefutable fact:  Houses are really freaking expensive here.  Once the initial shock wore off, I told them they had to simplify the plans a bit in order to reduce the cost.  We're meeting again at the end of the month.

The cost sucks, but I'm trying to remain focused on the fact that we want to make this old house a home. A place we will love to be.  So putting the cost aside, the plans are very exciting.  We have a lot of decisions to make.  For example, the current plans have a traditional island in the middle of the kitchen.  Due to lack of real estate, the stove will be in the island.  The other alternative, though, is to go with a u-shaped layout, similar to the one above, except the stove would be facing the seating area and the refrigerator would be on the other side.  I'm thinking we'll stick with the original plans, but now I'm considering...

Other things I like about this kitchen:  the stools (definitely going with something like these), and the microwave cabinet.  Where do you have your microwave?  I want to get mine off the countertop, but I'm running out of cabinet space!

Much, much more to come in the adventures of House Renovation 2012...

9.12.2011

Settling Down...


joy williams, photo credit: allister ann

Since coming back from vacation, I've found it very difficult to get back into our normal routine.  I guess the routine sorts itself out, but personally I haven't felt settled.  Our vacation was less relaxation and more adventure, the travel itself was exhausting, and because we were delayed coming home, we had to jump head first back into work/school without any time for reentry.  The next weekend was a quick and fun trip to Maine, but it again thwarted real time to decompress.  Only now, a week and a half later, am I starting to feel the pieces come back together.  We're not quite there yet, though.  I still have piles of stuff throughout the house that need to be sorted, and my mind seems to be churning too fast to be still.

I've also been getting sucked into the vast internet black hole.  I love my blog, and pinterest, and facebook, but it can be a bit too consuming at times.  I have to remind myself to limit my online time and make sure I'm using it in a fulfilling way.  There is lots of inspiration out here in the blogosphere, so I don't mind spending time reading here, but again, it needs to be limited.  After this post back in the Spring, I did a "reader cleanup", and the result was wonderful.  The number of blogs started creeping back up, so I just went out and cleaned it up again - perhaps it's one of those things I'll need to do a couple times a year.  Now, what I find in my reader is beautiful - inspiring, entertaining, full of content, like-minded people...  

Good reminders...via Dear Inspiration


Thankfully, the weekend was a quiet one.  Just me and my boys, at home.  We did venture out - to a town festival on Saturday and apple-picking at the farm down the road on Sunday.  But those are small events, easy enough to leave the mind uncluttered with planning and preparing.  Otherwise, we just hung out and played.  The usual bubbles, bikes, and balls.  The weather was typical September gorgeousness - clear blue skies, warm in the sun, cool in the shade.  Perfection.  I felt us all soak in the quiet, the routine, even the sleep; and as a result, we were all in the most pleasant moods.   Let's hope we can all carry them into the coming week.

photo by Sarah Maingot, via 

9.09.2011

Paris!


Due to delays in Florence, and a little hurricane back home, we were forced to spend a few extra days in Europe.  In order to get back a few days earlier, we chose to fly to Paris and spend a couple days there before heading home.  It was an expensive little detour, my kids were exhausted, and I was down to my last diaper.  But a couple days in Paris?  I'll take it.



9.08.2011

Radda/Lecchi


I promise I'll stop posting about my vacation soon.  Really.  I am having a lot of fun going through the pictures and thinking about the fun we had (and I'm already able to laugh at the hard parts).

Our villa was about ten minutes from a town called Radda.  We hadn't heard anything about Radda and therefore had no expectations of it, other than we knew it had a grocery store and a recommended pizza place.  Turns out, it's a really gorgeous town with a lot to offer!  Lecchi was a village even closer by, and it had a cute pub, market, and an awesome restaurant.

Just a few highlights to remember:
  • There was a great playground - especially towards the end of our week, it was great to limit the driving and stay closer to the house.  The boys loved the playground, and we got a chance to walk around the town a bit.
  • The best pizza we had was in Radda at a place appropriately called "Pizza Pie".  Seriously, seriously good pizza.  
  • The best meal we had was in Lecchi.  The restaurant had garden seating, and it was right next to a little park, so when the boys were finished and got restless, they were able to go run around while we finished our meal and enjoyed our wine.  Really amazing food, great wine, and just a nice time.  





9.07.2011

Siena


Are you tiring of all my pictures yet?  A few more to go - they're all so beautiful!

Mostly pictures this time.  Our main highlight from the day in Siena was lunch.  We decided to pick up sandwiches, chips, and fruit, and we ate in the shade of a castle courtyard.  Not a bad way to enjoy a meal.  



9.06.2011

Weekend Recap


Ah, September.  How I do adore September.  The beginning of warm days and cool nights, crisp air and clear blue skies.  We decided to celebrate the beginning of this glorious month by heading back up to Maine for a couple days.  Yes, I know we just got home from a big trip, and we were all still very tired, but it was still very worth doing.  Nothing compares to the joy I see on my boys' faces when they are playing at the beach. 

I was so grateful for that extra day this weekend.  We came home on Sunday, which allowed us to have a full day of being at home.  No plans, except several more loads of laundry.  We all needed it, and we all appreciated being able to hang out.  The boys rode their bikes, played with bubbles, threw frisbees....they just played.  I played with them, and I also continued to put our house back in order.  Suitcases away for a while. 

Now that we're home, my mind has shifted its focus towards the upcoming fall and winter seasons.  I am deciding on Halloween costumes, thinking about holiday plans, and looking forward to a homemade apple pie sometime very soon. 

San Gimignano


Let's start by saying that I've already blocked out the ride to this adorable town.  And now that I'm sitting in a nice cool house, I can imagine it wasn't quite as scorching hot as it was.  San Gimignano is a very quaint old village, containing 14 large towers like the ones you see above.  Centuries ago, at its peak, there were 72 towers!  Can you imagine?  How intimidating it must have been to look up the hill at all those towers.  

The gelato was especially appreciated on such a hot day.  We walked through the village, seeking out the shade whenever possible.  We perused the shops and purchased new wallets, as well as little toy motorcycles for each of the boys.  Those proved to be very popular for the rest of the trip.  Later that week, we discovered that the white wine in our fridge was made here! 






9.02.2011

Casanuova di Ama


After a few lovely days in Firenze, we picked up our gigantic van and ventured out to the tuscan countryside.  I reaffirmed my hatred of GPS, but we eventually did make it to our villa.  It had lots of rooms, a large patio with table and grill, beautiful views, and a refreshing pool. 

One of my favorite things about this trip was getting to see my boys playing with their cousin.  They are still very young, so the concepts of sharing and playing gently are lessons still being learned.  However, they are getting to be old enough to really interact and get to know one another, and I love that they love each other.  My sister lives an ocean away, and we don't get to see each other as often as I'd like; so I'm very happy and grateful that our families were able to take such a big trip together. 

Other highlights:
  • Have I mentioned that it was HOT in Italy?  Thank goodness for that awesome pool.  It felt so good to get cool and swim, and the boys had a blast.
  • After our road adventures, my little guy has begun to exclaim "We made it!" at every stop.
  • My little guy called the pool the "cool".  As in, "Mom, let's go to the cool."  Love. 
  • The husbands took charge of grilling, and we ate some fabulous meals.  I discovered that grilled eggplant is incredibly yummy.  I never make it at home, because had been under the impression that my husband didn't like it.  Evidently, that is not the case, so I expect to see lots of eggplant on our grill next summer.
  • Casanuova di Ama is a tiny hamlet with 12 houses, including a couple vineyards and olive oil producers.  I spent time one afternoon with my little one, watching a man unload a crate of wine bottles.
  • We kept missing the sunsets but finally managed to enjoy a spectacular one while the boys jumped on the beds. 




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