September 30, 2010

I Need a Break

I am exhausted and still not feeling 100%.  I'm also having one of those weeks where every new task on my to-do list, regardless of its size, completely overwhelms me.  Why am I spending some of my free minutes writing here?  Well, I thought about taking a break from the blog, and I may do it less over the coming months, but I still contend that it helps me focus on the positives and even stay organized a bit more than I otherwise would.

I just need to go somewhere to relax, watch the leaves turn, take a bath, and finish my book.  And oh perfect timing!  This weekend I get to do exactly that.  The husband and I are taking a day off and resuming our annual anniversary tradition by heading to an inn in Vermont for a little rest and relaxation.  Also some browsing through antique stores, drinking yummy Vermont beer, discovering all kinds of goodies at a huge craft fair, outlet shopping, and eating fantastic local food.

Thanks in advance to my mom for hanging out with the kiddos.  (Thanks Mom!)  No doubt she'll be exhausted upon our return, but I'm sure she'll have fun too, getting quality time with the grandsons.  I'll miss them, but a couple days away is a good thing for all of us.  I will just look forward to the huge hugs I'll get when we return.

**These pictures are from our last trip to Vermont, two years ago.  I'll share a couple from this year's trip upon my return.**

September 29, 2010

Isn't This Gorgeous?

This is how my mom chose to spend her ##th birthday (she's not old, and this is impressive at any age)... camping and hiking in the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina.  A week of camping by herself, with only her little beagle for company.  She had a great time, hiking for miles every day, visiting old friends for ice cream and dancing at an orchard, making a new friend in the park ranger...good stuff.

I am so happy I have these good genes in me and hope I have the energy to be this adventurous as I get older!

Great Things about 1 and 3 (almost 4)

My little boys are 1 and almost 4, and I am loving the stage we're in at the moment.  Every phase has its positives and negatives of course, but let's focus on the positives, shall we?  It seems to be pretty easy to do right now.

The little guy:
- Sleeps!  We're in the transition of two naps down to one, which can be challenging; but in general, the little guy sleeps predictably and very well.
- Eats most food that we eat, and can feed himself finger foods.  Almost done with the purees.
- Walks around on his own
- Plays happily by himself when I need to get something done, and is easily entertained when we play together.  A stack of blocks, a pan to bang, some music to dance to....that's all it takes
- Cuddles and snuggles.  Storytime is still in a rocker on my lap, and he still loves our snuggle-time.
- My two current favorite things he does:  1)  When I get him out of the bath, he holds on tight and burrows his face into my neck, and 2)  He gets a book, brings it over to me, turns around and backs up to sit on my lap.  He doesn't have many words, but he communicates so clearly.

The big guy:
- Sleeps!  (Still worth celebrating.)  He's not napping any more, but he goes to bed at night without complaint and sleeps well.
- Is beyond the super-picky phase and will at least try everything on his plate.  He's still not a big eater, but if he eats all his asparagus, I'm happy.
- Rarely has tantrums.  There is still the occasional meltdown when I say no to something he wants, but he is in much greater control of his emotions than he was a year ago.  He is able to listen and understand rules and compromises.  (He is also a master negotiator, which can be a good or bad thing!)
- Learns so quickly!  It's amazing to watch him.   He knows all his letters and numbers, and now he's learning to write them.  He is working on his puzzle skills.  He understands basic math concepts.  Every day brings something new.  The questions are getting harder, but they're still fun to answer.
- He still snuggles, and he loves stories at bedtime.  He still gives lots of hugs and kisses and "I love you"s.
- My current favorite things he does:  I love that he plays with and attempts to teach his little brother, raising his voice into a high-pitched mommy-tone.   I love when he repeats lessons learned back to me, to prove that he has been listening.  I love the pride in his face and voice when he shows me something he can do.

September 28, 2010

Menu of the Week

images via Cooking Light

Here's a little peek at what I've been cooking.  Can you tell I'm a big fan of Cooking Light?  

Sausage and Peppers - I left some of the peppers out to serve raw with dressing for the big boy.  He hates cooked peppers but seems to like them just fine raw.  This is an old standby recipe.

Roasted Haddock with Tomatoes and Olives, Rice - I used this recipe, but obviously used haddock instead of tilapia.  Super-fresh haddock from the farmer's market, cherry tomatoes from the neighbor, and I got to use up the last of the olives.  Nice.

Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Artichokes, Lemon, and Goat Cheese, Rice, Green Beans - I love this one.  It's been in my recipe binder for years now, and I love it every time.  Super easy but feels special and a little different.

Loaded Potato Soup - Super fast, easy, and good.  I used vegetable broth, and you could use veggie bacon or leave it out altogether to make this a vegetarian dish.

Kitchen Inspiration

I can't imagine owning this many white dishes.  And then storing them on open shelves where they would inevitably be covered in dust or grease from the nearby stove.  I will have some open shelves, but they will be by the window and absolutely not by the stove.  I think the reasons this picture jumped out at me were the white cabinets, the white subway tiles and the pops of red via the mixer and towels. Also the super fun chandelier.  

September 27, 2010

Weekend Recap

Our weekend was another quiet one at home.  Swings, farmer's market, bikes, and lounging.  Well, at least as much lounging as one can do with two little boys who never seem to get tired.  Saturday was unseasonably warm, so I decided to dress the boys in their bathing suits, fill up a water table, and turn on the sprinkler.  It's amazing how much fun can be had with a few toys and water.   

My sister-in-law came on Sunday, which was seasonably cool.  My sisters and K's other sister all graciously accept the fact that Amber is the big boy's favorite aunt.  He loves all of them of course, but he has a special bond with this one.  She's young and energetic and has fun playing with her nieces and nephews.  So it came as no surprise that the first thing the big boy said to me on Sunday morning, after running into my bedroom, was "Is Amber here?"  When she finally did arrive, he squealed and raced towards her car with such excitement, and he had a blast playing with her all day.

After reading my previous post, my mom, sounding very worried, asked "Are you alright?".  I guess my choice of picture (the woman holding her hand on her chest) along with the vague words about a decision needing to be made caused her to think the worst.  I did not mean to worry anyone, of course.  It can be a little hard to be completely transparent on a blog.  So no worries.  And by the way...the decision is made.  Communications haven't happened yet - that will happen this week - and then we can look forward once again.  Of course, we may have to deal with those pesky "what if"s, but that's okay.  We'll deal with them and move on.  

It's raining today, and it looks like it's going to rain quite a bit this week.  I wish I felt like the picture above - ready to go out and dance in it.  Instead, I feel like crawling into bed.  I am hydrating right now but plan to spend some quality time in bed today, fighting off a strange illness before it progresses.  We have our trip to Vermont next weekend, and I need to be 100% by then.  Wish me luck. 

September 24, 2010

Random Thoughts...

I'm tired.  It's been a long week, work-wise, although when I think back on it, all I see are the boys.  I do love my ability to push my job out of my mind as soon as the computer turns off.  This weekend I need to get a little extra sleep.  No idea how I plan to accomplish this, but there it is.

I'm continuing to love my favorite month.  The trees are starting to turn, and the big boy delights in seeing the orange and red and yellow leaves.  "Look Mom!  The leaves are falling!  That means it must be Fall, right?"  This weekend will be another one at home.  Lots of swinging.  A stop by the farmer's market.  The usual.  My sister-in-law is planning to visit on Sunday, which is always fun for the boys (and us too!).  The weather continues to be spectacular.  
via opomme
Things remain unsettled at home, with a decision yet to be made.  I'm looking forward to it being behind us - either way - so we can focus on the future.  When I think about the coming years, I start getting really excited.  Lots of milestones and happy events - big wedding anniversaries (we just celebrated our 8th), the big boy starting school, house renovations, family trips...

Speaking of family vacations, I think perhaps we got a little too ambitious in deciding on Croatia for next summer's vacation.  Our research is telling us that it might not be the best place to go with little kids.  (Three kids between 2 and 4 years old.)  We haven't ruled it out, but we're now expanding our search.  Do any of you have suggestions on a little-kid-friendly spot in Europe?  We will want to rent a house/villa large enough to accommodate two families.  We'll be traveling from Boston, and my sister's family will be joining us from Barcelona.  I am starting to get a bit overwhelmed by all the possibilities now.
And I'm not sure I ever told you, but I really like you.  My readers.  I know most of you are family, and of course I love you.  But there are a few other blog friends out there who are reading my little site, and I love thinking about who you are, where you live, and why you decided to stop by today.  Fun to think about. Whoever and wherever you are, thanks.  It's more fun to blog when you know somebody else is out there.  Have an awesome weekend!

September 23, 2010

Pins of the Week

Here are a few things I've spotted and loved this week (clockwise from top left):

*Green Dress - This picture makes me smile.  Especially because it's green, and green is my color.  Not my color to wear.  Just the color that I love the most.  
*Bedroom collage - I think I'd like to hang a little collage above our bed.  Need to start collecting items to display.
*Johnny Depp - He has a new movie coming out.  He looks scruffy and has an odd haircut, but I swear the man is always sexy, even when he's acting like a pirate.   Finding Neverland and Chocolat are probably my faves, though.  What's your favorite Depp movie?  
*Stunning orange - Not too many people could pull off this color.   I love it.
*Appetizers - Honestly, I'd be happy with this as my dinner.  Cheese, olives, good mustard, crusty bread or crackers, some apples or pears...and wine of course.  
*Truth - ...and while you're figuring it out, try to enjoy where you are.  We've been having lots of long discussions lately.  About work, and passions, and priorities, and family.  If you're not totally happy where you are, should you change simply for change's sake?  Or are there ways you could be happier where you are?  Hard questions.  

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

September 22, 2010

Dancing Boys, Washable Couches, and Skipping

This week's Three Beautiful Things:

1.  My boys' dance moves.  They are timeless and classic, and I hope they continue to use them throughout their entire lives. 

2.  Washable couch covers.  I am so glad that when we purchased our couch - over 8 years ago now - we somehow anticipated the days of having two little boys with jelly-covered hands.

3.  The big boy has discovered the joys of skipping.  We've been doing a lot of it lately, and the tops of my calves are really sore as a result.  It's a good feeling.

Autumn Love

Ah, Fall.  How I adore thee!

Isn't Fall the best?  Here in New England, it really is the very best time of year.  For me, September has always felt like the start of a new year.  This is the time of year when I feel motivated to propose new resolutions, start projects, think about ways to better myself and my life.  The crispness in the air and the gorgeous blue skies provide such inspiration.  At the beginning, I find myself wanting to be outside all the time, just to soak it all in.  Then, when the cold winds really start blowing, I seek the warmer comfort inside.  I get in the mood to bake things.  To organize.  Clean house.  

Some of the 'new year' resolutions I'm committing to include:
- Being better informed.  Jon Stewart really shouldn't be my only source of news.  Time to turn on NPR during my morning commute.  Maybe even renew a weekend paper subscription.  Perhaps check out a news site or two and cut down the blogging.  (Nah, not that!)  
- Exercising.  This is always on the list, right?  Well, I managed to get up early three times last week to fit in some exercise.  I've learned that it is possible, and - no surprise - I do have more energy and it is totally worth it.  Let's see if I can keep it up.  
- Getting our calendar in order.  I need to spend some quality time with the calendar.  Make doctor appointments for me and the boys.  Sign the big boy up for swim lessons.  Plan weekend get-togethers with friends.  Determine holiday plans.  
- Menu planning.  I get really lazy when my husband is out of town.  Time to renew the efforts.  Should be easier to be inspired now that we're moving to a new season and cold-weather meals.  Chili, roast chicken, chowder...

It has felt like Fall for a few weeks now, and I suppose it will feel like Winter before it's done, but since this is the first official day, I thought I'd take this opportunity to share some beautiful Autumn thoughts and images. 

Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.
- George Eliot
Everyone must take time to sit and watch the leaves turn.
- Elizabeth Lawrence

Pierre-Auguste Renoir...'bouquet of chrysanthemums'
I've never known anyone yet who doesn't suffer a certain restlessness when autumn rolls around... We're all eight years old again and anything is possible.
- Sue Grafton
I cannot endure to waste anything as precious as autumn sunshine by staying in the house. So I spend almost all the daylight hours in the open air.

- Nathaniel Hawthorne

Those last few pictures were my own, except the Renoir of course.  Click the *** link to see the sources for all others.

September 21, 2010

Things I've Learned

Here's another set of Things I've Learned.  Some of these I continue to learn the hard way.

1.  Don't buy mixed-flavor Jelly Belly jelly beans.  As good as most of them are, it's just not worth accidentally putting a "buttered popcorn" bean in your mouth.  Bleh.
2.  It's worth it to buy good sheets.  You can get them on sale - I love TJMaxx/Marshall's for sheets, but get the highest thread-count you can afford. 
3.  You should delete any email you write when angry or frustrated.  Take a walk, come back, and try again.
4.  It's okay to bend the rules about treats when the ice cream truck is on your street.
5.  It's always better to be overdressed than underdressed.  You never want to be "that guy/girl".  You know, the one in jeans and flannel at a fancy restaurant.  Don't let that be you. 
6.  This is more of a vow than a lesson learned, although it has proved to be worthwhile so far.  I promise not to answer my kids' questions with "because I said so".  I will do my best to answer honestly and thoughtfully.  I believe that if they understand the why behind a rule, they'll be more likely to follow it. 
7.  It's okay to buy the generic versions of the following items:  medications, sugar/baking supplies, baby wipes, organic foods (if your store carries its own organic line)
8.  It's worth it to buy the name-brand versions of other things, such as:  toilet paper, diapers, spaghetti sauce
9.  If you plan to bake something, make sure you take the butter out of the fridge as soon as you wake up.  Give it time to soften to room temperature.  If you forget, don't think you can just stick it in the microwave for a few seconds.  You'll always put it in a little too long and end up with melted butter. 
10. Check all the pockets before putting clothes in the washer.  Especially if you have a husband and sons.


Menu of the Week

images via Cooking Light

I haven't posted one of these in a while.  That's because I've been lazy.  I tend to make rather boring dinners when my husband's out of town, and he's been out of town a lot lately.  He's out of town this week too, but I did manage to cook a bit while he was home.  Nothing new - just some family favorites.  Perhaps I'll get inspired to try something new in the coming weeks.  In the meantime, I have lots of leftovers to feed us through the week!

We started making the transition from warm-weather dishes to cool-weather favorites, although I'm not quite done with my tomatoes and basil yet.  Here's a look at what we've been having:

Turkey Mini Meat Loaves, green beans, potatoes, fresh tomatoes
Easy weeknight dinner.  Added shredded carrot to the meat and nobody noticed.  Both boys ate the green beans with their hands - probably not a habit I want them to maintain, but if it makes eating green beans fun, I'm kind of okay with it.

Chunky Vegetarian Chili, cornbread
One of our cold-weather favorites.  Perfect for a cold and dreary day, like it was here last Friday.  After shunning it completely last year, the big boy ate a decent bowl of it and declared it "really good Mom!".  Love that I have enough for leftovers this week and still froze half of it for another time.

Roast chicken, corn on the cob, mashed potatoes
This sugar corn was probably the best we've had all year.  So sweet and tasty.  The day was cool enough to have the oven on, but nice and sunny enough to enjoy picking up fresh produce at the farmer's market. 

Scallops, linguini, roasted asparagus, fresh tomatoes
Scallops are absolutely the easiest thing to make now that I'm not intimidated by them.  Just make sure your pan is very hot, and use the biggest one you have so you can keep the scallops spaced apart.  Sprinkle with a little sea salt.  2-3 minutes on each side and they're done!  For the linguini, I just used some olive oil, salt and pepper, parmesan, and fresh basil.  Perfect paired with the scallops.  Asparagus:  spread on a cookie sheet, sprinkle with sea salt/pepper, drizzle with a little olive oil, and bake on 400 for 10 mins.  The big boy ate it like it was candy!  Kept asking for more.  And the tomatoes were fresh from my mother-in-law's garden.  Oh, I am not quite ready for the cold.

September 20, 2010

Weekend Recap

Another weekend come and gone.  After so many busy and full weekends, it was nice to have an open calendar.  I think the boys appreciated it too.  When I asked Aaron what he wanted to do this weekend, he responded:  "I want to swing.  A lot."  Well, that's easy enough, isn't it?  I'm happy to report that he did in fact, swing a lot.  We got some necessary chores done as well, which aren't so fun but nice to have accomplished. 

We had a date night too.  My husband and I went out for drinks and desserts at one of our favorite local restaurants, and we then went to see the movie The Town, which was very good.  It doesn't feel especially original - it's a cross between Good Will Hunting, Heat, and The Departed.  But if you liked any of those movies, you'll like this one.  Good directing, great acting, beautiful aerial shots of Boston, and lots of action.  Oh, and Ben Affleck's abs.  We enjoyed it, and Kev has finally accepted the fact that Ben is the actor who would play him in a movie.

September 17, 2010

The Weepies - Be My Thrill

From the new Weepies album, "Be My Thrill".  Very upbeat song by The Weepies to start your weekend off right!  Happy Friday!

September 16, 2010

Pins of the Week

Here are a few things I've spotted and loved this week (clockwise from top left):

*The Lovely Anne Hathaway - Well, it's confirmed.  They are making 'One Day' into a movie, with Anne as one of the two main characters.  It'll be a heart-wrencher - looking forward to it!
*This is officially my dream vacation home.
*Bookshelves - I just never grow tired of them.  
*Racing Club print - More inspiration for the little guy's room.  I've officially declared his colors:  blue, yellow, green, and black.  
*Bedroom Routine - If only it were always this easy, right?  We've actually been in a pretty good place lately with our evening activities.  Balancing the two little ones seems to be getting easier.   
*Apple and Cheddar Sandwich - I ran out of tomatoes yesterday, so it was time to transition from my favorite summer lunch (tomato and mayo on wheat) to my favorite fall lunch (apple and cheddar on wheat, with just a touch of honey mustard).  Mmm.  

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

Quote of the Day

This has always been one of my favorites.

September 15, 2010

Kitchen Inspiration

More beautiful kitchen dreams.  White with fun pops of color.  I like the rug and the flowers in the window sill.

First Words, Horses, and Crickets

This week's Three Beautiful Things:

1.  The little guy's first word:  "hi", spoken while waving a silly little sideways wave.  So stinking cute.  He's also attempting to say "truck" - he points at every one that passes by, but it doesn't quite sound like truck yet.  "tuh", perhaps.
2.  I pass by a farm every morning, and I adore seeing the horses grazing in the fields, especially when they are close to the wooden fence lining the road.  Such majestic creatures.
3.  The sound of crickets and the twinkle of fireflies in the cool September evenings.  Sometimes I love spending a few minutes on the porch after the boys go to bed just to enjoy the noisy silence.

September 14, 2010

Letters to Dead People

I recently ran across a fun tumblr site entitled "Letters to Dead People".  In some cases, the letters are not quite what I would write to the person, but in many cases they are spot on, and in all cases they are interesting and fun to read.  

Want to Take a Trip?

Well, then head on over to Fairy Tales are True, where I'm appearing in my very first guest post, writing about my awesome city of Boston.  It was fun writing a post all about the city I love - hope you enjoy!  Thanks so much Sarah for having me!

September 13, 2010

One Day

I started reading The Thousand Autumns of Jacob DeZoet, by David Mitchell.  I put it down after the first 100 pages and decided that I needed to take a break and read one last summery book before embarking on such an undertaking.  David Mitchell is brilliant, but his books are not easy.  So I picked up One Day, by David Nicholls.  It had been recommended by several friends and had also been sitting on my nightstand for a while.

I found myself staying up way too late, and I finished it in three days.  It is easy to read and addictive, and since I am of a similar age as the characters (a few years younger!), I found it to be easy to relate to and interesting, thinking back on the culture and social climate of each year.  It was fun to think back on my life in my early 20s in the 90s, for example.  Being one of the last people I knew to own a cell phone.

I assume you've heard of it, but just in case....each chapter describes the two main characters on the same day - July 15 - for twenty years.  It's a beautiful and often frustrating love story, and you can definitely compare it to "When Harry Met Sally".  It is easy to picture the movie they are bound to make from it as well.

Here's the review from the Times if you want to read more.

Okay, now back to 1799 Japan...

Weekend Recap

It's hard to believe how many hours of entertainment can be had with just one free balloon!

I was by myself with the boys this weekend, and as usual, I'm pooped.  These little guys just sap every last ounce of energy I have.  I wouldn't trade it for a second, though.  We had tons of fun.  There was a town festival on Saturday morning, which meant face painting, a moon bounce, quality time with the fire trucks, popcorn and ice cream.  Then an afternoon playdate with a friend who has little ones of the same ages.  Sunday was cloudy, but we ventured up to the farm to play, pet some animals, and pick some apples.  The cloudy and cool afternoon provided a good excuse to bake something - one of our favorites, this garden harvest cake.  (Note:  I added bran and used whole-wheat flour.  Can replace raisins for walnuts, if you so desire, or add both!  So yummy, and the kids love it.)  Then lots more playing outside - swinging, biking, chasing, pushing, running, throwing - until it was time for dinner.  And so another weekend draws to a close.  I hope yours was wonderful as well!

September 10, 2010

Blitzen Trapper - Dragon's Song

Song from Blitzen Trapper's latest album, Destroyer of the Void.  They are a cool folk-rock band based in Portland, Oregon.  Enjoy!

Croatia - August 2011

It's September now.  Is it too early to start planning for next August?  Judging by villa availability, I'd say not.  Besides, sometimes the best part of a vacation is the anticipation of it.  Okay, so hopefully the actual vacation is more fabulous than the anticipation, but it sure is sweet, isn't it? 

I've begun planning our next big trip.  We're planning to travel with family to Croatia next August.  We will be bringing little ones, so we have a lot to consider, and our itinerary will probably look different than if we were traveling sans kids.  I just started doing some research, and I'm already so excited to go.  Isn't it gorgeous?  I just want to take a walk through a little village, buy some fresh fish and produce, bring it back to our villa to grill up an afternoon meal, and dangle my feet in some clear green water. 

How about you?  Any exciting trips planned?

*all images via lonely planet


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