11.30.2011

At This Moment...


...My head is swirling.  I need to make a list of the things I want to do this month and plan them out.  Right now they're just a big beautiful jumble in my head.  Cookies and crafts and party games and gifts...
...The tree is up and sparkling in all its colorful glory.  Colored lights can be just as cozy and peaceful as white lights.
...I'm listening to She & Him Christmas, the latest addition to my holiday music collection.  I love that they can sound old-school and fresh at the same time.
...We (and by we, I mean those two little boys) have broken two ornaments so far, in the three days we've had the tree up.  Wonder how many more we'll lose...
...The house is a disaster.  The dining room table is yet again filled with stuff.  Christmas cards, scraps of paper from tonight's paper-chain-making, the mail, my purse...it's a bad scene.  I haven't cleaned up the kitchen from dinner yet either.
...I'm eating a Dove dark chocolate.  I gave up ice cream for the cold season, but I still need a little bit of sweet at night.  Sometimes just a little piece of chocolate is enough.
...I'm exhausted.  Managing two little boys through dinner and bedtime saps every ounce of energy out of me.  I'm tired of talking about how I'm tired, though.  
...Ooh, now Sufjan Stevens is on.  Very cool Christmas album.  (I like the traditional stuff too - Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra and the Boston Pops are all represented.)
...My little boy is shaking his door latch.  He recently moved into a bed, and it did not take him long to learn how to get out of it.  He now refuses to stay in bed.  What can I do to convince him how utterly divine sleep really is?  I think I hear him in the hall now.  I guess I should go put him back to bed...

See?  Colored lights can be cozy too...

11.29.2011

Make an Entrance


We need something in our front entryway.  It is a very small space right inside the front door, but it needs something.  A bench for sure.  And a coat rack of some sort.  Right now all we have is a pile of shoes against the wall, and coats often end up on the dining room chairs.  (Rapidly climbing my list of all-time biggest pet peeves.) 

Here are a few pictures I've pinned recently.  I'm becoming inspired and more and more motivated to find something to complete this space.  Anybody know where I can get a cool bench like the one above? 

designed by Miles Redd via Two Ellie



11.28.2011

Thanksgiving Recap and Goals

This year's version of the soup can turkey.  His name is Tommy.

What a nice long holiday weekend.  I adore Thanksgiving.  It's the only holiday with no cards or gifts or expectations outside of spending time with family, eating good food, and being thankful.  Awesome. 

A few highlights:
*I love family traditions.  The soup can turkey (see above).  Inspired by Sara, I think next year we'll either do a gratitude tree; or if we stick with the turkey, perhaps we'll have everyone write what they're thankful for on the turkey feathers.  Love it!
*Food.  My favorites:  cheese plate, celery sticks with chive cream cheese, bread bowl with veggie dip, honey-glazed carrots, fresh cranberry sauce, and leftover turkey sandwiches.  My big boy eats them the same way I do:  cold turkey, wheat bread, mayo, salt/pepper, dipped in cranberry sauce.  Yum.  (Shh...don't tell anybody, but I didn't eat any turkey on Thanksgiving Day - I waited for the leftovers.)
*Great weather.  It allowed us to get outside to take walks and ride bikes a lot.
*The family bake-off!  I made a chocolate-pistachio torte, and my sister-in-law made a spicy pumpkin cake with cream cheese and coconut frosting.  She won.  I'm still not sure how, because I personally preferred my own, but I must concede that she got more votes.  I think it was the frosting.  I will say, though, that mine was just as good on day 4.
*A night out.  We left the kids home with Grandma and went out with my husband's sisters and spouses.  We went to quite possibly the best burger place I've ever been to.  It definitely was the best veggie burger I've ever had.  K's burger had gorgonzola, bacon, and arugula.  Oh, and the fries had this dipping sauce that must have some addictive drug in it, because I found myself wanting to lick the container it came in.  We went out for dinner and drinks, and we had a fun night.  It's very rare that we all get to go out like that, and it made the weekend extra special.

And now the countdown to Christmas has begun.  We decorated the tree yesterday, and my big boy has begun his daily requests for candy canes.  Before Christmas, though, we have a 5th birthday to celebrate!  There is much to be done. 

A few goals for the week:
1.  Extend the feeling of gratitude that Thanksgiving brings and carry it throughout the season.
2.  Buy pinata fillings.  Find a good recipe for yellow cake with chocolate frosting.  And other birthday party preparations.
3.  Exercise.  Remove some of the jiggle I added last week. 
4.  Start the holiday cards. 
5.  Pick out cookie recipe contenders.  Do you have a favorite? 

11.23.2011

Happy!



I'm off to spend a few days with family, cooking and eating turkey and drinking wine and playing games and talking and having fun.  I will spend some time reflecting on all the things that I have in my life - there is so much for which to be grateful.  Happy Thanksgiving!

11.22.2011

Overheard...


My big boy:  "Dad, what is your favorite color?"
pause.
My big boy:  "Is it white?"
K:  "No, it's not white."
My big boy:  "Well then why do you want to have white lights on the Christmas tree?"


HA!  As predicted, my husband is learning to deal with the fact that we will be having colored lights on the tree for a while.  A long while, I predict.

My husband is a white-lights person, and I am a colored-lights person.  Before kids, we alternated years as a compromise.  But the kids are solidly on my side now.

11.21.2011

Weekend Recap and Goals


This was one of those weekends that flew by (of course don't they all?), and now looking back, I can't really remember what we did.  I'm sure there was some playing outside.  I seem to recall kicking the soccer ball and throwing a frisbee.  What else?  Hmmm...

*Hair cuts.  For my handsome boys.  I, on the other hand, still need one.
*Birthday party with my big boy.  Twenty-five kids jumping on bouncy houses and mazes and going down the tallest inflatable slide ever.  My big boy had a blast.
*We watched Crazy Stupid Love, which is cute.  I think that completes my year of Ryan Gosling. Once again I must say:  he's a badass.  
*I made oatmeal cookies with my big boy.  Chocolate chips in half for the boys, raisins in the other half for me.  I haven't made good old-fashioned oatmeal raisin cookies in a long time.  They are goooooood.
*Strategized about Christmas.  Picked out Santa's gifts and talked about what to get others.  I feel really behind on this, but just a few clicks of the mouse will get me caught up.  Hooray, online shopping!

A few goals for the week:
1.  Get started on that gift shopping. 
2.  Enjoy a happy Thanksgiving with family and remember all that I have to be thankful for.
3.  Make a scrumptious dessert for this year's bake-off and beat my sister-in-law!
4.  Do a long yoga session tomorrow in preparation for the excess that will follow.
5.  Set up my Christmas card station - to begin next week!

11.18.2011

Blitzen Trapper - Love The Way You Walk Away


This week's music comes from Blitzen Trapper.  I first started listening to this band a few years ago, with the album Furr.  I actually posted the title track here.  I liked them immediately, but I didn't fall in love.  Furr seemed inconsistent to me, and while I really liked about half of the album, it didn't feel like the complete package.  They have only gotten better and better since then.  Destroyer of the Void was one of my favorite albums last year, and their latest, called American Goldwing, has gotten a lot of play since it came out a couple months ago.  Check them out!


11.16.2011

Family, Raking Leaves, and Good-Night Kisses


Yesterday I was stunned and heartbroken to learn that my cousin's little girl - not quite two years old - was diagnosed with leukemia.  I hugged my little guy extra tight last night and kept my cousin and his family in my thoughts, where they will remain until we receive the news that their little girl has fully recovered.  


1.  My family.  Upon hearing the horrible news, the entire family network sprung into action.  I can feel the love and support being sent to that little girl in Chicago, so I'm confident that she can feel it too.  

Anything else pales in comparison, but let us not forget to focus on the everyday beauty in our lives and not take anything for granted...

2.  The simple pleasure of raking leaves.  For me, it's the resulting sore arms and clean yard that provide satisfaction, as well as spending the day outside in the crisp Fall air.  For my boys, it's the fun of running through and jumping into leaf piles. 

3.  I went in to check on the boys before heading to bed, as I always do.  When I kissed my little one on his forehead, he opened his eyes and said, "Wait!  Mama, I forgot to give you a kiss!"  Then he sat up and gave me a wet one right on the lips.  It was 10:30 and he had been in bed and asleep for three hours. After planting a kiss on me, he smiled and fell face down back onto his pillow.  

Do me a favor, will you?  Send some positive thoughts out into the universe toward this little cutie...

11.15.2011

Menu of the Week

first three pictures from Cooking Light; the fourth is from Martha Stewart

I've been getting lazy in the meal-planning department.  Last week, I went to the grocery store without a list and had to go back the next day when I realized that I couldn't come up with anything to make for dinner!  Pitiful.  I get extra lazy when the husband is out of town, which has been most weeks this year, so I need a bit more motivation to put a plan together.  Having to go to the grocery store twice in one week should do it. 

I can't really call this a menu of the week, but here are a few of the dishes we've enjoyed over the last two weeks, with several of these dinners mixed in.

Spicy Chicken Cakes with Horseradish Aioli, Mashed Sweet Potatoes, Roasted Asparagus

Goat Cheese and Roasted Corn Quesadillas, Black Beans, Yellow Rice

Maple-Dijon Salmon, Brown Rice, Green Beans

Roasted Chicken Thighs Provencal

Penne with Creamy Pumpkin Sauce, Salad (Arugula, Walnuts, Pear, Balsamic Fig dressing)

Rainy or Cold Afternoon?


Here's an easy one to keep your kid occupied.  Inspired by a picture I saw on Pinterest, we put this together on Sunday.  I think the picture is pretty self-explanatory.  We kept ours very simple, using paper towel rolls glued onto a flat piece of cardboard.    We tested out lots of different things - balls, cars, trains - but the balls (bouncy or otherwise) worked the best.  We did have to make a few modifications - added a couple guardrails, etc - but I think that was the best part.  The trial and error, figuring out how to make it work better.  A fun and super easy activity!

11.14.2011

Weekend Recap



I love the chokeberry bush in front of our house.  My husband and I have made many mistakes choosing plants and bushes for our yard, but this was one of the best choices we (and by we, I mean he) made.  It's the perfect shape for its spot, and it turns the most brilliant red in the Fall.  I love it.

How was your weekend?  Friday was a holiday here, so we got a long weekend.  I love love love long weekends.  Here are a few highlights:

*Kevin and I went out on Friday night.  We went to dinner and watched the Carolina basketball game, then went to a club to watch a couple bands.  The headliner was The Wooden Sky, which was really good.  It was a fun night, but we didn't get to bed until after 2AM.  I may be getting too old for that. 

*We finally got the bed for our little guy!  The mattress I ordered was the wrong one, so we ended up spending Saturday morning purchasing and picking up a mattress.  It was worth it to get it done.  He loves his bed.  I am a little misty at the thought of no longer having a crib in the house - the baby years are behind me now - but I am mostly excited at moving on to the next phase.

*We watched the last Harry Potter movie on Saturday night.  As expected, it was great.  I can't believe the entire series is over.  I am looking forward to reading the books again in a few years with my boys.

*Sunday involved mostly raking and cleaning up the yard.  The weather was beautiful, and the boys had fun playing outside while we worked.  They actually helped for a while.  The leaves are now mostly gone, and Thanksgiving is right around the corner.

I need to get a lot done this week to prepare for next week's holiday and the official start to the festive season.  Birthday party invitations, pinata fillings, menus, gifts....so much to do, but it's all very fun.  Have a great week!

11.13.2011

The Wooden Sky



This week's pick is from the band we went to see Friday night.  They are from Toronto, and they're called The Wooden Sky.  We saw them in a really small and intimate venue, and they put on a good show.  Enjoy!

11.12.2011

Go Heels!


Obviously I was watching the game and rooting for my Heels, but I couldn't help watching the sky as well.  What an absolutely stunning backdrop for a basketball game.  Even President Obama enjoyed it.  I did too, especially since Carolina won!

11.10.2011

Recently Read - Cutting for Stone


Summary: Marion and Shiva Stone are twin brothers born of a secret union between a beautiful Indian nun and a brash British surgeon. Orphaned by their mother’s death and their father’s disappearance, bound together by a preternatural connection and a shared fascination with medicine, the twins come of age as Ethiopia hovers on the brink of revolution.

Moving from Addis Ababa to New York City and back again, Cutting for Stone is an unforgettable story of love and betrayal, medicine and ordinary miracles—and two brothers whose fates are forever intertwined. -- Vintage

I loved this book.  It is a fat novel that requires some effort to get through, but it is totally worth it.  It is an ambitious and complex narrative, and the writing is beautiful.  My only critique is that while the medicine is an essential part to the story, there are a few parts that are told in an excruciating and seemingly unnecessary level of detail.  I found them to be a bit distracting and wanted to get back to the story.  It's a small criticism, though.  In other places, the medical details are a fascinating part of the book.    Overall, the book is beautiful, and I truly cared about all of the characters.  I highly recommend.

What To Make for Dinner...

photos via here, here, here, and here

...when you don't know what to make for dinner.  I'm sure we all have a list of these.  Stand-by meals.  The ones we always have the ingredients for, the ones we make when we're feeling lazy or just don't have the energy to pull something new together.  Here is what's on my list:
  • Quesadillas - I always have tortillas, black beans, and cheese (I keep shredded cheese in the freezer) on hand.  I add to that whatever I might need to use up - half a red pepper, cilantro, corn... 
  • Pasta - This is on everyone's list, right?  There's nothing easier than pasta and sauce.  When I make sauce, I try to freeze half.  Also another easy dish in which to throw any extra veggies.
  • Soup and Grilled Cheese - I always freeze half of my homemade soups, so I often have soup I can pull out to enjoy, but I am certainly not above opening a can of Progresso either.  Tomato Basil is a favorite of my boys.
  • Breakfast - My husband is not a fan of breakfast for dinner, but my boys and I often enjoy eggs or pancakes when he's traveling. 
  • Pizza - I always used to make my own pizzas, but I've chosen to enjoy ordering pizza as an easy way of taking a night off of cooking dinner for the family.  We do this once or twice a month.  Although...I've also recently enjoyed making mini-pizzas on whole wheat english muffins.  Top with a little sauce, fresh mozzarella, and any veggies you might need to use up.  
  • Paninis - Hot sandwiches (ham/turkey and cheese, tuna melt...) are another easy option.  I've made these more often since I got a nice big grill pan.  Serve with fresh fruit or soup.
  • Pierogies - I often have a box of these in the freezer.  I typically serve with cinnamon apples, so I usually choose this when I have a few apples that need to be used up.  And peas, which brings me to vegetables...
It is easy to keep lots of fresh veggies in the house in the summertime, but I find it to be more difficult in the colder months.  I always have potatoes, onions, and carrots; and the three veggies I always keep in my freezer are corn, peas, and chopped broccoli.  They are super easy to microwave and add to any of these quick meals.  They are also vegetables that my boys will eat.

So now I'm curious...What's on your dinner stand-by list?

11.09.2011

Singing, Classic Reruns, and Rosemary


This week's Three Beautiful Things:

1.  My little boy has a cough.  It woke him up extra early this morning, so I brought him into bed with me to cuddle and hopefully sleep a little more.  As he rested on my chest, I started to hear him whispering.  It slowly grew in volume until he was singing out loud.  "No more monkeys jumping on the bed!"  Even when he's not feeling well, he still starts every day with a song.

2.  A 'Friends' rerun came on the other night.  'The One Where Everybody Finds Out' about Monica and Chandler.  "But they don't know that we know that they know."  One of my favorites.  I giggled through the whole thing and was then astonished to reflect on the fact that it originally aired 12 years ago!  Still a classic.

3.  I brought some rosemary from my herb barrel inside.  I have a bunch in a vase in my kitchen.  After washing my hands or dishes, I can't resist rubbing a couple leaves to release that wonderful smell.

11.07.2011

Weekend Recap

I love this time of year.  Everything is quiet.  The calm before the storm, perhaps, as the busy holiday season approaches.  We occupy ourselves with organizing and cleaning, planting bulbs for the Spring, putting all the Summer toys and furniture and clothes away for the Winter. 

I've decided to focus on the beauty of these simple tasks.  There is such a satisfaction that results from the seasonal preparations.  I'm able to evaluate the things we own, take stock and be grateful.  I find that there is little that I want and even less that I need. 

A few highlights from the weekend:
*A trip to the library.   My big boy is on the verge of reading on his own.  He can read individual words but lacks the confidence to tackle sentences just yet.  However, with each word successfully read, I can feel his confidence and excitement growing.  My excitement is at its peak, as I watch him discover the magic of reading.

*Date night!  This was the first time we left while both boys were still awake.  Thankfully, they were both happy and did not put up a fuss when we left.   Thank you, "Peter Pan".   K and I enjoyed dinner, drinks, and a late movie.  I had planned on seeing "Moneyball" but somehow got the movie times mixed up.  Bummer.  We ended up seeing "Ides of March".  Great acting - Ryan Gosling is a badass; I am a big fan of Philip Seymour Hoffman, Marisa Tomei, and Paul Giamatti; and one can never have too much George Clooney.  It was a good movie. 

*My big boy and I made these pumpkin cookies.  Yum.

*Sunday morning, we paid another visit to Cambridge.  I feel so fortunate to live where we do.  We went to The Museum of Natural History.  After reading a book that featured dinosaurs last month, I had promised my big boy that we could go to see some real dinosaur bones.  He's been eagerly anticipating this trip, and it did not disappoint.  Afterwards, we asked him what his favorite part was, and he said, "I loved every single thing there".  Well.  We followed up our museum visit with a walk through Harvard Yard and brunch in Harvard Square. 

So now begins another week.  I find my mind shifting towards thoughts of holiday planning.  Menus, gifts, activities...  I will strive to prepare so that I am fully able to appreciate the beauty of the season. 



11.04.2011

The Black Keys - Lonely Boy


The second one is just because I couldn't not share it.  The Black Keys' new album arrives next month.   I've already pre-ordered it.  In the meantime, take a look at this video and smile with me.  Happy Friday!


The Devil Whale - Indian



I couldn't decide what music to share this week.  There is so much good stuff out there!  I had my iPod on shuffle this morning and realized I haven't shared a lot of my favorites for this year.  Being able to buy music online is really bad for my budget, but it sure is a lot of fun.

So I'm sharing two today.  First up:  The Devil Whale.  Based in Salt Lake City, they have been touring all year, including quite a few with The Head and the Heart, who I have also gotten to know this year.  Their latest album is called Teeth.  The video above includes some interview, so if you want to just hear the song, skip ahead about a minute.  

via

11.03.2011

Kitchen Inspiration and House Update

photo by Susan Gilmore

I've been trying to find an example of a kitchen with a wood island top and stone countertops....and voila!  Here is a beautiful one.  Love it.  Not sure if I can have the range in a wood island, although I'm being assured that can work.  

Here's my kitchen question for the day:  Have you ever noticed that none of these beautiful kitchens have dish racks?  Do you have one?  What kind?  I think I've tried all kinds at this point - wooden, metal, plastic - and they're all ugly and impossible to keep clean.  I have a dishwasher, but I still have a dish rack for those items that are not dishwasher-safe, including my pots and pans.  Please don't tell me you're all disciplined enough to wash, dry, and put away your dishes right away.  How do you handle this?

A quick update on Renovation 2012:  I've met with three other contractors, and I'm now much more confident that we'll be able to find someone that can get the job done within our budget.  Now I'm just waiting on those other estimates to roll in so we can make a call and start to move forward.  

11.02.2011

Cooperative Weather, Candy, and Silly Faces



1.  I'm grateful that we were able to have trick-or-treating on October 31st.  A lot of towns had to postpone or cancel Halloween!  We still had a bit of snow on the ground, but it was a clear and cool night.  Perfect for collecting candy with my superheroes.

2.  Almond Joys are my candy of choice out of this year's loot.  Yum.

3.  Sometimes making a silly face is the only way to get a picture of my boys.  And sometimes they join in.  I love this one of me and my big boy.  Capturing a moment.

11.01.2011

Halloween 2011



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