October 30, 2013

Menu of the Week

photos via Cooking Light and Martha Stewart

We've had a lot going on lately, so we've had more meals out than usual.  So this group is less a "menu of the week" and more a few of the recipes I made the last couple weeks.  I still like posting these every now and then, because the menu creation and planning is honestly the hardest part about putting food on the table every night.

Macaroni & Cheese with Butternut Squash, Green Beans
One of my favorite Fall recipes, because I love butternut squash, and because the boys both eat this with gusto.  

Potato, Corn and Leek Chowder, Whole Wheat Baguette
A family favorite.  Again....because it's healthy and the boys love it.  

Spaghetti & Meatballs, Salad
We hadn't had this one in a while.  Always a winner.

Chicken Stir-Fry Wraps, Sauteed Bok Choy and Broccoli
My sister reminded me that I hadn't tried too many new recipes from a cookbook she got for me, Everyday Food: Great Food Fast.  It's a great book, and I love that it's organized by season.  I do try to eat what's in season, especially now that the boys are a little older and are more willing to eat different foods.  So this is one of the Fall recipes I chose.  I ate them with the lettuce wraps, but I served it over rice for the boys.  They weren't keen on bok choy but ate the broccoli, and I served raw red peppers for them as well.  Those kinds of minor tweaks are ones I'm totally fine making, if it means they eat more veggies.

Tortilla and Black Bean Pie
Holy cow, this is good.  This is absolutely going to be in the regular rotation from now on.  Everybody ate tons of this, and it's just as good the next day.  So yummy!

October 29, 2013

Thinking About...

The weather.  What a gorgeous Fall we have had.  This time of year is always amazing here in New England, but it has been especially brilliant.  Stunning colors, crisp air...  And I'm generally not one to lament the coming of winter, so the chilly mornings are okay by me.

Interior decorating.  I want to give my house that cozy and homey feeling.  The look that is beautiful but still shows that a family lives here.  When I walk into someone else's house that has that feeling, I immediately look around to try to figure out how they got it.  It's the details - books, plants, mementos from travels, art... But the trick is only displaying those things that have real meaning.  And waiting to collect those things takes patience.  Sigh.  

Family pictures.  It is ridiculously hard to get a decent picture of all four of us.  We are even generally pretty good about bringing our good camera with us, but still... Those family shots always seem to be impossible.  Last year, my cousin Erin took pictures for us, and I was so excited to see the results!  Nice pictures!  Where we're dressed, and Kevin's clean-shaven, and the boys aren't covered in mud or food or something.  Unfortunately, Erin lives in Chicago, so we had to find someone else this year, but we did, and with many bribes of lollipops, we all survived the shoot this past weekend.  Now I'm in waiting mode, and I can't wait to see the results!

Pearl Jam.  We saw them in concert last Friday night, and my heart is still smiling.  They really are something special.  After this many years and songs, they don't have an opening band.  It was just Pearl Jam, rocking hard for over three hours.  Eddie Vedder drank three bottles of wine and danced and swung across the stage, and his voice was still amazing.  I figure if these guys, who are all about ten years older than I am, can still rock that hard, then we're all doing alright.  

The Red Sox.  They are one win away from winning the World Series.  All the games are one so late, though, and I've been watching them all, staying up past midnight most nights.  It's fun, but I'm pooped!  Fingers crossed they win tomorrow night so I can get a decent night's sleep.  

Thanksgiving.  It's decided - Thanksgiving will be at our house this year.  So I'm in full menu-planning mode.  I need another green veggie, and I need to decide on desserts and appetizers.  Fun!

But before Thanksgiving...Halloween!  The costumes are ready to go, but we haven't carved our pumpkins yet!  I think that may have to happen today. 

Blogging and the internet.  I went through my blog reader again this week, removing the blogs that don't inspire me any more, or just aren't important to me.  No offense to those blogs, but there's only so much time!  And I've been better at limiting time on the other social media sites - twitter, facebook, instagram.  They're fun, but it's a balancing act to make sure I don't feel the pull to stay connected all day long.  

October 24, 2013

Chris Thile - Bach Sonata No. 1 in G Minor

Chris Thile performed at Carnegie Hall this week, playing a set of Bach sonatas that were written for a solo violin.  I'm not sure what's more impressive - watching him play this gorgeous music on a mandolin, or the fact that he knows it by heart.  Amazing and so beautiful.

Chris Thile – Photo by Jennifer Taylor via Grass Clippings

October 21, 2013

Just Because...

Because no Fall season would be complete without two little boys jumping and hiding in a giant leaf pile.

Because we had a lovely weekend, celebrating my sister-in-law with lots of family and friends on Saturday, and getting a lot of work done around the house on Sunday.  (The shed is done!)

Because it's gorgeous outside, and I know the truly cold weather is coming.  

Because I want to appreciate every single day.  

Because there are so many moments worth capturing, but I remind myself that to be in the moment, I have to put the phone and the camera down.  I have to step away from the computer.  

Because our yard - our grass, specifically - has never looked so good.  My husband is happy and proud, and I want him to know I see it too.  (Dude is kinda crazy about his grass.)

Because I like checking in here, even when I have nothing in particular to say. 

October 18, 2013

Little Things...

I'm growing tired of house projects.  They feel so good when complete, but the before and during parts can be so miserable.  We are done with the big stuff, but of course a house is never "done".  We need a new front door and need a couple new interior doors.  With an old house, we've opted to use real solid wood, salvaged doors.  We also want to undo some of the fixes that were made to the house over the years to restore it to its original look and feel.  It can be really difficult to find people who can work on old houses, so this project has been hanging over my head for months and I just want it to be done.  I'm frustrated.

In the meantime, though, I'm enjoying the gorgeous Fall weather and the anticipation of the holiday season.  It starts with Halloween, and I'm actually going with homemade costumes this year.  Wish me luck.  I'm psyched the boys wanted to do the same thing.  Once Halloween is behind us, then the real planning begins.  Meal planning, collecting gift ideas, party invitations...  Now those are fun projects.

I have also been reminded that I've been slacking on documenting my gratitude here lately.  Perhaps I need to get back into a weekly rhythm.  A few things for which I am very grateful...

* Seasons.  One of the many reason I love living where I do.  We get four seasons, in all their glory.  I'm especially grateful for that this time of year, during the best season of all.  The season of pumpkins, mums, squash chowder, apple pie, leaf piles, blue skies, crisp air, and the World Series.

* Bookstores.  The family participated in a reading contest - reading bingo - through the library over the summer.  We won the grand prize!  Included in a big gift bag was a gift certificate to a bookstore I had never been to before.  I went by myself last week, and I spent almost two hours perusing the aisles. I forgot how much fun that is.  I used to do that all the time, finding a comfy chair in a corner to read for a while.  I didn't stay to read, but I did walk out with a new and fun stack of books.

* Discovering a song I can play on the guitar.  I am not a very good guitar player, but I do love it.  And I especially love when I find songs that I can play and sing.  A couple days ago, Brandi Carlile came on in the car, singing "Keep Your Heart Young".  It sounded simple enough, so I tried it out when I got home.  I'm having fun singing it and getting the callouses on my fingers thick again.

I'm also very grateful for weekends and the fun that they often bring.  Tomorrow includes a baby shower for my sister-in-law.  I'm excited to see her growing belly and to see everyone's collective joy as we celebrate her.

Happy weekend!

October 17, 2013

A Few Things...

source unknown

I feel like I haven't had much to write about lately.  It's been a quiet time, settling into Fall and shorter days and cooler weather.  I've found myself doing more reading than writing.  Taking things in rather than letting them out.  I thought I'd share a few interesting things I've read recently.

Is Music the Key to Success?  A very interesting article discussing the link between music training and success in other fields.  I'm going to practice some piano today.

Six Words You Should Say Today.  Like the author of this blog post, I had recently read the article discussing what makes good sports parents, and I was similarly affected.  I am so happy I read this at the right time - just as my kids are starting to get involved in activities.  I have found myself saying "I love listening to you play piano", "I love watching you run", "I love watching you read."  And it's obvious that it's what they want to hear.  I will continue to remind myself of this as they progress in sports and music and other activities.

What does your favorite yoga post say about you?  My favorite is the pigeon pose.  I love the feel of stretching my hips, those spots that rarely get stretched outside of a good yoga session.  "Working the edges", as they say in the article.  What's your favorite?

I'm not ambitious, and that's okay.  I very much related to the author of this article.  It's nice to hear from someone more in line with myself.  Someone who's honestly not interested in being at the top.

15 Recipes Every Parent Should Know.  A good post by my favorite food blog.

Interview with Malala Yousafzai.  I just wanted to make sure you all saw this.  Hopefully you know who Malala Yousafzai is, but even if you don't, check out this interview.  You'll be astonished this teenage girl is as poised and articulate and compassionate and mature as she so obviously is.

October 15, 2013

Weekend Recap

We had a wonderful weekend.  Our friends came to visit, and we had a wonderful time hanging out with them.  We went out, to dinner at one of my favorite restaurants, and then to see Kingsley Flood in concert.  It was a great meal and an awesome show and just an overall good time.  

On Sunday, we went apple-picking.  One of our favorite Fall activities, although I must admit that the poison ivy crawling up the base of every apple tree did add a little more stress than usual.  I was happy to oblige the boys' desires to use the poles to pick apples from the higher branches.  We came home with many pounds of tasty apples and promptly made a pie.  We finished it that night, so now I need to line up some other apple recipes.  Cinnamon-apple crumb cake, apple tart, applesauce...  Aaron's eating two or three a day, though, so I think we'll go through them pretty quickly.  

On Monday, we played a little baseball in the morning, and then after our friends had to leave, we enjoyed an afternoon walk through a wildlife sanctuary.  It was a gorgeous day. 

Monday was Columbus Day here in the U.S., so it was a long weekend for us.  It actually felt like it, too.  Speaking of Columbus Day...it is such a strange holiday.  I've always viewed it as just an extra day in the Fall for us to get out and see the pretty trees - this weekend is almost always the peak of foliage season.  But now I have kids.  Aaron wanted to know what it was all about, so I explained who Christopher Columbus was; but then I also added that there were native people who lived in the Americas long before he arrived.  So it's really odd that he would have a holiday, and it still seems strange that they teach the story of Columbus in the same way.  I'll be happy when Aaron's old enough to read some Howard Zinn.

I love that it's already Tuesday, even though my weeks are filled with days to be enjoyed, not to be survived.  It's still nice to have a short week every now and then.  It feels like the pace is downshifted just a bit.  I started out the short week by attending a breakfast and coffee get-together with a group of mothers from Nathan's preschool.  As expected, it was a nice time, and I think I actually remembered everyone's names.  Yay!  The new Pearl Jam and The Head and the Heart and The Avett Brothers albums are all out today, so I have a lot to listen to as I get started on the housecleaning.  Off I go...

October 11, 2013

What's Going On...

Picture via Better Homes and Gardens

I've reached the end of another week.  After a gloomy and, let's be honest, kinda grumpy weekend, I was able to pull myself back together to enjoy a good week.  I'm now pretty settled into my life at home, and I've determined that I have to have that "to-do" list ready for the week.  Checking items off the weekly list, along with the regular tasks of exercising every morning, packing lunches, helping with homework, attending swim/piano classes, reading every night...this is how I continue to have the feeling of accomplishment at the end of every day.  I think about trying to balance it all with working and I feel my blood pressure rise.  I am so grateful for this time to focus on life at home and with my boys, and I never take it for granted.

via Pinterest - source unknown

We're transitioning to cooler weather, and although I enjoy the process of pulling out my sweaters and wearing jeans every day, my boys have a harder time with it.  They don't want to let go of their shorts and sandals.  Aaron finally caved and decided to wear pants on a particularly chilly morning, but Nathan is clinging to his shorts and refuses to acknowledge the fact that Summer is over.  I figure he'll complain once he really gets cold.  Maybe with the first snow?  Anyway, I think there are more important things to fight about.  

In the meantime, the boys ask me at least a couple times a week when we are going skiing.  I think I need to help them appreciate the beauty of Fall.  Apple-picking (and pie!) is on the agenda for the weekend.

We're still working on details, but now that the living room has come together, we're shifting our focus to the family room.  We moved our old sofa and chair into this room, and we've realized that our current furniture doesn't quite work.   We're going to sell them and get a sectional, replace the old wobbly coffee table we've had for 13 years, and maybe get one more thing for the walls.  It's a fun project to have.

via Pinterest - source unknown

We have friends coming to visit for the weekend, and I can't wait.  They are good for my soul.  We are even going out tomorrow night, leaving four kids with a sitter.  Woo!  

The Red Sox are in the championship series!  

Speaking of baseball, Aaron had requested a baseball party for his birthday.  Then he realized that most of his friends are girls, and he's thinking they might not like a baseball party.  What's a boy (and his mom!) to do...  

Half of my to-do list consists of organizing and cleaning tasks around the house.  Not the everyday stuff, but things like taking everything out of the linen closet, folding, cleaning, and putting it all back.  I am oddly happy doing these kinds of activities and so incredibly satisfied when they're done.

We attended a charity walk last night in Boston with my husband's company.  It was to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  We brought the boys with us and enjoyed the walk around the Boston Common.  I also enjoyed the thoughtful questions posed and comments made by Aaron, including, "What is cancer?  Do kids get cancer too?  What are they going to do with the money we raise tonight?"  His last comment was a little painful..."I hope I never get cancer."  Well me too, little man, me too.  

I am starting to think about holiday menus.  I need a fabulous dessert recipe for the bake-off.  Got any ideas for me?

I have a coffee get-together with a group of the moms from Nathan's preschool next week.  I know at least a few of the women now, and yet I'm still dreading it.  I will go, though, and it will be good.  I know this and yet...

via Pinterest - source unknown

October 10, 2013


Oh my goodness there's a lot of great music out right now.  I'm finding songs that I want to play over and over and over again...so I do.  And then I check out another new album and fall in love again.  It's so much fun.  So I thought I'd share a little of the new music I've been loving lately.

October 15th is a big release day.  First....Pearl Jam.  Forever a favorite, and a huge part of the soundtrack of my life.  Check out their latest single from the new album above.  Long live Eddie Vedder.

Next up:  The new Avett Brother's album, Magpie And The Dandelion, releases on October 15th as well, but you can stream it on NPR.  And it's totally worth doing.  I love it already.

The Head and the Heart has a new album coming out next week, too, called Let's Be Still.  I was already looking forward to it, but listening to this song has made me even more excited.

I'm not sure Dr. Dog's latest album is the classic that Be the Void was, but maybe I just haven't listened to the whole thing enough yet.  (Too much music, not enough time!)  But I do know I love this track...

I don't love every song on Neko Case's new album , but the ones I love, I love a lot.  My favorite is a bonus track that is actually a new version of an older song of hers, called Magpie to the Morning.  This is the original, but you must check out the new one - it's mesmerizing.

October 9, 2013


I've learned to be a pretty positive person.  That is, when everything is going according to plan.  I am not spontaneous.  I don't "go with the flow".  I plan.  I prepare.  And as a result, things generally go smoothly.  However, sometimes life doesn't go according to plan.  Sometimes in big ways, but more often in the little daily events that cause us to shift gears.  An illness, an accident, a scheduling mistake, a rainy day...  

I want to be more patient in these times.  I want to be able to keep things in perspective, always.  I want to show my boys how to look at the positives in every situation.  

Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I don't.  But I will always keep trying.

October 4, 2013

Basia Bulat - Tall Tall Shadow

Loving Basia Bulat's new album, Tall Tall Shadow.  

Happy Friday!

October 3, 2013

Recently Read - Jeannette Walls

The Glass Castle
I read The Glass Castle several years ago and loved and was astounded by it along with everyone else. It's an amazing story.

Half Broke Horses
I read this one a few months ago.  It's another family story.  This time, the subject is Jeanette Walls' grandmother.  She starts out living in a dirt dugout in West Texas, and it's a winding road of adventure from there.  She's a fascinating character, made all the more compelling knowing she actually lived.  It's not quite as riveting as The Glass Castle, but I enjoyed it just the same.  It does help to learn more of the history of the family to start to comprehend how they live the way they do.

The Silver Star
I finished this one just a few weeks ago.  This is the author's first attempt at publishing a work of real fiction.  There are similar themes between it and her nonfiction work, though.  The protagonist is a young girl, with a troubled and irresponsible mother.  She is extremely strong-willed and resilient.  The writing as well as the characters and story felt as though it was targeted at a younger audience.  The main conflict in the book ended up feeling a little too contrived and predictable to me, although I still enjoyed the story overall.

October 2, 2013

Menu of the Week

photos via Martha Stewart, Cooking Light, and Real Simple

Turkey Burgers, Sweet Potato Fries, Peas
Simple and quick, and everyone liked everything.  Sometimes I have to go for the low-maintenance option.

Panko-Crusted Fish Sticks, Rice, Sauteed Zucchini
A family favorite.  Takes a little longer to prepare, but it's easy, and I often have fish in the freezer, so this is a meal I can pull out quickly, even when we're running low on food.

Broccoli-Leek Soup, Cheddar Cheese Toasts
Well, they can't all be winners.  I really wanted to like this soup - I was hoping to find a broccoli soup that wasn't so full of cheese.  It wasn't bad, and the boys ate it up with no complaints; but the flavor was pretty onion-y, and let's just say that the flavor stayed with me for a long time.  My system wasn't so happy about this one.

Ravioli with Kale Pesto and Roasted Carrots
I wanted to find something new to do with all the kale still coming from the garden, and I thought this recipe had a shot of introducing more of the kale to the boys.  It worked!  Aaron, who hates carrots, had cherry tomatoes on his instead.  I actually think the dish could use more carrots, because their sweetness helps balance out the more tart flavor of this pesto.  I really enjoyed this one, though, and will make it again.

Pulled Chicken Sandwiches, Tomatoes, Potatoes & Onions, Corn on the Cob
I am not a huge fan of chicken any more.  Ever since I was pregnant with Nathan, I've had a slight aversion to it.  However...there are certain ways that I still enjoy it, and this recipe is one.  The flavors in the sauce are awesome.  It was also fun to have the opportunity to light up the grill and enjoy corn on the cob again before the colder part of Fall arrives.

October 1, 2013

Thoughts of Fall...

photo by la porte rouge

October is here, and with it come the chilly mornings and apples every single day.  I'm not quite sure what to wear, because the afternoon sun is still warm; but by the end of this gorgeous month, it won't be a question.  It's time to pull my box of sweaters out of storage and put my shorts away.  The leaves are turning, and our menu is featuring lots of apples and pumpkins and squash.  The kale still isn't quite done yet either.

We've been back to school for a month now, so we've gotten settled in the new routine.  It's a busy one, but the boys are doing well and having fun, and I am too.  I'm making more lists and setting goals.  Checking them off is fun, and although I am currently without my office job, I end each day with a feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment.

I definitely lost steam by the end of the Blogtember Challenge, didn't I?  Let's see if I can sum up my thoughts on those last few topics:

Day 18 - Go to a coffee shop.  Order your favorite drink.  Write about what makes you happy and what makes you sad.  I really wanted to do this one, but I honestly didn't have time to go hang out at a coffee shop last week.  Alas.  But I love the idea, and I will do this one at some point.

Day 19 - An anonymous letter to your Facebook friends.  Well, for the most part, my Facebook feed is pretty pleasant.  I have a relatively small group of friends, and I've hidden or unfriended the truly irritating people.  For the most part, I enjoy or find interesting a lot of the articles that my friends share.  But everybody still has the occasional annoyances.  I'd love to remind some of my friends that their friends already know if they're a Republican, or that they homeschool, or are avid breastfeeding supporters, or vegetarian, or super Catholic, or love the President and support everything he does, or hate the President and everything he does, or...  We already know it.  And you're not going to change any minds by posting about these things all the freakin' time.  If you want to have a conversation or debate about it, do it in person.  Phew.  That actually felt good to say.  Not that it'll change anything, though.

Day 20 - Share a photo of something old.  Tell us about it and why it's special.  I did think about this one.  I don't own many old things, with the rather large exception being my house.  I thought about sharing a picture of a couple special blankets.  The first is my own baby blanket - it's crocheted, and it's a pinkish-gray color.  I slept with it until I was a teenager, and I brought it with me to college.  (Don't judge.  It was soft and cozy, and I liked cuddling with it.)  I still own it, although I didn't use it with my boys.  I'm honestly not sure what to do with it now, but I'll never get rid of it.  The second is an afghan my dad made.  It has every color of the rainbow in it, and it's thick and heavy and warm.  We use it on top of our covers on the coldest winter days, and it always reminds me of him.


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