June 29, 2011

Tan Lines, Family, and Sunsets

I'm back.  Did you realize I was gone?  We went to my family's cottages on Lake Ontario in New York.  It was a mini family reunion, with about 40-50 aunts, uncles, sisters, and cousins.  We had a wonderful time catching up with family and enjoying the awesomeness of being at the lake.  My big boy was in heaven.  He couldn't come up with a favorite part.  When I asked him, he started rattling off all the things he liked about being there:  catching fireflies, watching sunsets, swinging, playing with cousins, eating ice pops, throwing rocks in the water, picking strawberries...  It is a magical place.

After our amazing trip, I could come up with a thousand beautiful things.  Here are three...

This week's Three Beautiful Things:

1.  The tan lines made by my flip-flops remind me of sitting and playing in the sun.

2.  Being surrounded by family.  I generally only see my cousins once a year, but every time it is as if no time has passed at all.  We all just pick up where we left off.  My family is full of the most amazing, generous, and loving people.  I am so grateful to be a part of it.

3.  A classic lake sunset.  I love the feeling of peace I get when I'm able to sit and soak in the beauty.

June 23, 2011

Caleb's Crossing - Geraldine Brooks

Yes, another book recommendation already.  I seem to be on a roll.  This time it's "Caleb's Crossing", by Geraldine Brooks.  I really like her other books, including Year of Wonders , People of the Book, and especially March.

The author takes a few historical facts and builds a fascinating and beautiful story to relay them to us.  This inspiration starts with Caleb Cheeshahteaumauck, the first Native American to graduate from Harvard.  He lived on the island now known as Martha's Vineyard, was tutored by an English family, and went on to graduate Harvard in 1665.  Brooks tells the story through the eyes of a fictional Bethia Mayfield, the daughter of a Calvinist minister.  It takes place in the late 1600s, first on the island, and then later in Cambridge at Harvard College.  Bethia befriends Caleb as a child, then watches as her father takes him on as a student, helping him achieve enrollment at Harvard. 

It's a beautiful story, and I am particularly drawn to stories that draw on history from this area.  My own town is even mentioned in the book, and I find it intriguing to be transported to a different time, especially in places that are familiar to me.  Brooks is a wonderful writer, and I really enjoyed listening to Bethia's story. 

Here's a link to the NY Times Book Review

Handsome in Pink

It was "pink day" at preschool today, and my boy was happy to participate.  He looked so handsome in his bright pink polo that his aunt lovingly bought him for his birthday.  She got it after he had lamented the fact that there are no clothes for boys that are pink.  He really likes the color pink.  One day at school, he mentioned this to a group of friends, and one of the girls chided him, saying "Boys can't like pink....only girls like pink."  He was upset and confused by this, and then he was relieved when I assured him that she was being ridiculous.  Of course boys can like pink and purple, and girls can like blue and green and black.  There are no rules.  "Phew!", his face seemed to say, after we had this conversation. 

Just look at that smile now! 

June 22, 2011

Dirty Fingernails, Spring Smells, and Guitars

This week's Three Beautiful Things:

1.  I spent some time weeding in the yard.  It's a tedious chore, and yet I love the satisfaction of a clean flower bed.  I appreciate having dirt under my fingernails and a sore back.

2.  The kitchen smells faintly of strawberries and basil.

3.  I managed to get a few new strings on my guitar.  It sounds better, it feels better, and I'm excited to play for a while today.  I've finally tested the theory that the boys can't hear me if I close the doors and turn up their sound machines, so I can practice after they go to bed.

June 21, 2011

A Few Menu Ideas

Oh, I just love summer food.  My son said to me the other day that he wished he was me.  I asked him why, and he said, "I wish I loved vegetables as much as you do."  I assured him that if he kept trying them, he'd grow up to love them too.  He already does really well, so I am confident in saying this.

We've been eating a lot of seafood lately.  It's just so easy to buy something from the farmer's market - fresh fish straight from the harbor.  It's so good, healthy, simple to prepare; and my big boy may not love all his vegetables, but he does love seafood. 

Here's a look at a few of the meals we've enjoyed lately:

Grilled Haddock with Mango Salsa, Brown Rice - Mangos were on sale last week, which was a great excuse to make this salsa.  Both of the boys gobbled this up!  And...they both really liked the brown rice too.

 Chicken and Summer Vegetable Tostadas, Black Beans - I generally like to keep my Mexican-themed meals vegetarian, but this recipe looked so good that I wanted to try it.  I like incorporating different vegetables, and I loved the combo of zucchini, corn, and monterey jack.  You could make them vegetarian, but I think they would need another veggie - red peppers, perhaps? 

Mussels, Lemon Spaghetti, Salad (speckled romaine, cherry tomatoes, marinated feta) - Enjoying the bounty from the farmer's market.  I love that my 4-year-old does not hesitate to pop mussels into his mouth and declare them yummy.

Grilled Chicken/Portobello Sandwiches with Cheddar and Pesto, Salad, Corn on the Cob - My little boy and I enjoyed the portobello while the rest had chicken.  We cooked the corn on the grill - wrapped in foil with olive oil, salt/pepper, and parmesan.  Yum!

Mustard-Maple Salmon, Peas, Brown Rice - A good Monday night meal.  Salmon from the market, frozen peas, and instant brown rice.  Easy peasy. 

Pasta with Pesto, Potatoes, and Green Beans, Salad, Fruit - Love this easy dish, and more importantly, my boys do too!

June 20, 2011

Weekend and Goals

Hello.  Did you all have a glorious weekend?  Ours was good.  Now I just have four days of work to get through before an extra-long weekend with family.  I can't wait!

Highlights from the weekend:
1.  Are you sick of me telling you what I got at the farmer's market each week?  Well, sorry.  I just love fresh food.  And the boys really love running into friends at the town center.  This week we got spinach, lettuce, cherry tomatoes, granola, mussels, salmon, and marinated feta.  We had a feast of mussels on Saturday night, along with lemon spaghetti, and a very nice salad made from the lettuce, cherry tomatoes and feta. 
2.  My sister-in-law and mother-in-law came for a visit.  The boys adore them and love having visitors.  (We do too!)
3.  Sangria Saturday.
4.  We visited the "big farm" on Sunday, hoping to do some strawberry-picking.  The strawberries were gone after only one weekend!  That was a bummer, but we had fun riding the trains and playing on the playground at the farm, and we managed to score some fresh berries from another farm stand on the way home.  So I still got my strawberry shortcake!
5.  Perfect weather.  Warm enough for playing in the pool and sprinkler, and just being outside all day long. 

Goals for the week:
1.  I finished another good book, and I'm reluctant to start another one until I catch up on sleep.  Here's hoping for early bedtimes...
2.  Water, water, water.
3.  Reenergize myself at work.  My little boy asked me the other day if I liked going to work, and I really wanted to say yes.  I need to find ways of filling my work days with more motivation and satisfaction.
4.  Plan details for our upcoming trip.  I'll be flying solo again with my boys, so I must figure out how to make it as easy as possible.
5.  Exercise.  I was doing so well, but last week I think I only got one workout in. 
Happy Father's Day!

June 17, 2011

Dawes - A Little Bit of Everything

This week's music pick is Dawes.  They are a California band that falls into my usual love of folk/indie/roots/americana music.  This is from their recent CD, Nothing is Wrong , and I've heard great things about their debut release, North Hills - I may have to go back and check that out as well.  The video I've included showcases Taylor Goldsmith, but most of the songs on the album include gorgeous harmonies with the other members of the band.

June 16, 2011

The Spark

How do you light a spark? How do you make something true? How does art happen?

The Spark is a monthly radio show hosted by Tift Merritt.  I am a huge fan of Tift's music, which is how I discovered her radio show.  She hosts radio chats with fellow artists, and she talks with them about what inspires them, how they live, and how they create their art.  If you want to feel uplifted and inspired, give these sessions a listen.  I started with the musicians, but I've also listened to her conversations with authors and poets and artists.  After each one (which is the perfect length to fill my commute, by the way), the result has been pure joy and inspiration.  Listening to people who live their lives with purpose and creativity is wonderful.  I may never have the talent to create art like these amazing people, but I can certainly appreciate them in addition to their art, and I can learn from them by understanding the way they approach life.  I am so grateful to everyone who creates art and fills our world with beauty and understanding.

Thank you, Tift!

Here's the link to her podcasts in iTunes, or you can view the archives on the Spark website.
photo credit:  Tony Nelson

June 15, 2011

Boston, Catching Up, and Art

This week's Three Beautiful Things:

1.  I love the view of Boston as I drive into town during the week.  I pass by the Charles River, and as long as the water isn't frozen, there are almost always rowers in the water.  I pass Fenway Park, Berklee College of Music, and other landmarks as I make my way through town.  I love this city.

2.  I gave my sister a "quick call" the other night, and we ended up talking for over an hour.  I guess it had been too long.  It was good to catch up.

3.  The latest piece of artwork on my fridge.  Shown below, it is entitled "zucchini and carrots".  Love.

"zucchini and carrots"

June 13, 2011

Weekend and Goals

From highs of 97 degrees to 57 degrees, all in the same week.  This is Spring in New England.  This weekend was chilly and rainy, but we made the best of it. 

Highlights from the weekend:
1.  The rain paused for a bit on Saturday morning, so I was able to get the boys outside.  They were doing a good job of avoiding the puddles, but I could tell they really wanted to jump in.  Especially my little guy.  I finally let go and said, "Alright guys, go for it."  They looked at me like I was crazy for a split second but then ran through the nearest puddle before I had a chance to change my mind.  They had a blast jumping and splashing and getting disgusting.  Needless to say, a bath was in order when we went inside.
2.  After the bath, the little guy wanted to put on his pajamas.  No matter that it was eleven o'clock in the morning.  That's the routine he's used to - bathtime is followed by pajamas.  So he wore pjs the rest of the day.
3.  I decided to read a chapter book with my big guy for the first time.  We started Charlotte's Web, and we're both loving it. 
4.  Brunch with friends on Sunday morning.  Yummy pancakes and fruit and mimosas.  They have two little boys too, so it was a house full of running and giggling and playing and sometimes not sharing and other times sharing really well.  It was great to see them. 
5.  I actually enjoy an occasional cool and dreary Sunday afternoon.  It's a good excuse to cook and prepare for the week.  My big boy painted at the kitchen table while I baked a cranberry-nut bread and prepped for the next few dinners. 
6.  Oh how could I forget!?  I also splurged on a pedicure.  I brought my book to the spa and enjoyed a blissful hour all to myself.  More proof that I really am trying to take care of me

Goals for the week:
1.  Check some things off the to-do list.  I've had this feeling in my gut for about a week, like I'm forgetting something or behind on something.  I'm not sure I am, but I know that getting ahead of my list will make me feel better.
2.  Get excited for next weekend (strawberry-picking!) and the weekend after that (trip to the lake!) and the weekend after that (little guy's b-day and best friends coming to visit!)....there is so much good stuff to look forward to.
3.  Look people in the eyes when I talk to them.  I notice that I often don't look up at the people behind the counter when I'm paying for something. 
4.  Keep the TV off.  The boys have spent the last few weeks without it, and now that my DVR is empty, I think I could take some time off as well.  I have another good book, and maybe I'll manage to get a bit more sleep. 
5.  Drink more water. 

June 10, 2011

Sarah Jarosz - My Muse

Sarah Jarosz is a ridiculously talented young woman.   She is twenty years old, and she just released her second album.  She has already received Grammy and other award nominations.  She plays many instruments, including the octave mandolin, which is what's shown in the above video.  I love its sound.  She's a gifted musician, singer, and songwriter.  I admire her choice to delay hitting the road as a professional musician - she is continuing to perform, and she obviously has made time to create a new album, but she is also attending the New England Conservatory here in Boston, studying contemporary improvisation.

I love her latest album, entitled Follow Me Down.  The song above is great, and if you like it, check out this one as well (Annabelle Lee).  

2010 - Telluride Bluegrass Festival w. Mumford and Sons, Jerry Douglas, and Cadillac Sky 
- photos by Erika Goldring

2010 - Newport Folk Festival - photos by Ryan Mastro

June 9, 2011

The Lacuna - Barbara Kingsolver

I just finished reading The Lacuna, by Barbara Kingsolver.  I have long been a fan of Kingsolver's, and this novel did not disappoint.  Historical fiction is my favorite genre, because in addition to entertaining and inspiring me, it also provides an opportunity for me to learn and to gain a different perspective on a piece of history. 

In this case, the novel takes place in the 1930s in Mexico and 1940s/50s in the US.  The novel is told through a series of journal entries, letters, and articles (some real, some created).  The main character, Harrison Shepherd, is born to a Mexican mother and American father.  He moves to Mexico with his mother as a boy, and he eventually works for Diego Rivera, befriends Rivera's wife, Frida Khalo, and serves as a typist/secretary to Leon (Lev) Trotsky.  Through his eyes we get to know these real-life characters and witness the assassination of Trotsky.  Harrison then moves to the US, where he settles down in the small town of Asheville, North Carolina.  He becomes an author, and the introduction of his stenographer enlivens the book.  During this time we get to see life in the US during the second World War, and the events leading up to the search for Communists and spies via the House Un-American Activities Committee. 

It's an interesting book set in interesting times, and I very much enjoyed it.  Kingsolver is a beautiful storyteller, and I enjoy her writing.  Here is the NY Times review if you're interested in reading more. 
Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, Mexico 1933 -by Martin Munk√°cs

Check Out This Awesome House

Sara's house is featured today on Stephmodo!  Go check it out.  I've posted about her house before, but it is worth looking at again.  Her home is amazingly cool.  I love how perfectly it reflects her fun personality.  The house looks warm, inviting, and comfortable.  I still can't wait until the day I get to check out that guest house in person!  (One day, Sara...it will happen.) 
 images by Portland-based Heather Keeling Photography

June 8, 2011

Cheerfulness, Brother Hugs, and Mom Arms

This week's Three Beautiful Things:

1.  The weather has been spectacular, and you can see it reflected in everyone's moods.  I got into an elevator and noticed everyone was smiling.  "Good morning", "Please, you first", "Gorgeous day, isn't it?" This is Boston, so it's noticeable to see so many happy and friendly strangers.

2.  My boys give each other a hug and kiss at bedtime.  Quite simply the sweetest thing I have ever seen. 

3.  Mom arms.  Carrying around little boys and a little extra focus on fitting in some exercise throughout the week has resulted in strong arms.

June 7, 2011

I am a Great Mom.


Summer Food

Summer food is so satisfying, isn't it?  It doesn't take much to make really good meals when you have fresh ingredients.  Now that the farmer's market has more to offer, and we have our herb barrel filled with our favorites, it is easy to pull together simple, healthy, and tasty meals.  Here's a little of what we enjoyed over the weekend:

Cheeseburgers (local, grass-fed beef really does taste better), Watermelon Feta and Arugula Salad, Maple-Glazed Sweet Potato Wedges

Strawberry-Yogurt Popsicles - I've been able to cut down the sugar a bit, and I added pureed spinach.  My big boy still thinks they are the best things ever.  I want to play more with flavors this year.  I think I need to find a pineapple-coconut recipe, because how good do pina colada popsicles sound? 

June 6, 2011

Weekend and Goals

Ah, Summer.  My mood is greatly improved by the sun.  We didn't have any real plans this weekend, so we spent much of it puttering around the yard.  I spent a good amount of time weeding and working in the yard on Saturday, and I also cleared out more stuff from the house.  Where does it all come from?  I mostly relaxed on Sunday, playing with the boys and enjoying the perfect weather.  I hope yours was great as well.

Highlights from the weekend:
1.  The farmer's market continues to grow.  This week we came home with arugula, spinach, cherry tomatoes, granola, basil, and ground beef (the cow lived a happy life, eating grass on a farm only a few miles away).
2.  I did a better job of letting go and relaxing - perhaps because I had more time to do so.  I got a lot of work done, and it was therefore easier to allow myself some time to rest.  I spent an hour on Sunday afternoon reading in the sun.  The tops of my thighs are pink, and I have a few extra freckles on my nose. 
3.  Saturday evening resulted in another impromptu cocktail hour with the neighbors.  Enjoying a beer and good conversation while by the boys played.
4.  I watched "Blue Valentine".  It's very sad, but it's an incredibly good movie.  Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams are amazing.
5.  Really good food, mostly cooked on the grill.  I'll share some details in a separate post. 

Goals for this week:
1.  Eat less sugar.  After reading this article, I am increasingly aware of how much sugar we eat.  I don't plan on giving up ice cream or sangria any time soon, and I think we do pretty well in general; but I'm wondering if there are ways to cut down the added sugar in other items we eat.  I was surprised by the facts about high-fructose corn syrup as compared to sugar in particular. 
2.  Wake up early to do some yoga before work.  It's such a nice way to start the day.
3.  Finish my book.  So I can tell you about it. 
4.  Get some big things done at work.  I have a milestone coming up in my current project, and I'd like to complete it and move on to the next phase as organized as possible. 
5.  Smile more. 

*All photos taken by my iPhone using Instagram, my new favorite iPhone app!


June 3, 2011

Ben Harper - Don't Give Up On Me Now

Ben Harper's single from his latest album, "Give Till It's Gone".  I'm not sure it's classic Ben Harper, but it has some good tracks.  My favorite is probably "Waiting on a Sign" - it has a good groove.

image via last.fm

June 1, 2011

What Have I Done for Me Today?

I go through most days feeling pulled in a hundred directions.  Not just metaphorically, but literally, physically, pulled.  At any given moment, I feel like there are ten things I should be doing, so I sometimes struggle with focusing on the thing that I am doing.  I actually do a good job of shutting off work when I am at home; but even at home, there are so many things to juggle.  

I was sitting outside on Monday afternoon, enjoying a gorgeous day, watching my big boy run through the sprinkler, and yet I had a hard time getting rid of that feeling that I should be doing something.  Cleaning the kitchen, getting ready for dinner, putting a load of laundry in, taking on any number of small household projects that need to be completed...  I had to force myself to take a few deep breaths and stay in the moment.  Does this happen to you?

I was venting to a friend - actually, I have vented to several friends recently - about how tough these last couple months have been, and her response contained the following question:  "Are you taking care of you?"  The answer is..."I'm trying".  At the beginning of every day, I think about how I can make the day as happy as possible.  This blog is actually part of the way I reinforce this thinking.  At the end of most days, I evaluate how I did.  What are the things that make me happy?  I'm not talking big things here, and obviously my three boys are the biggest sources of joy in my life.  I will always try to maximize time spent with them.  I'm talking about the small, everyday things.  The little things that often end up in my 'three beautiful things' posts.  Things like reading an interesting book, exercising, learning something new, completing a project, listening to good music, talking to a friend, watching the sky, and eating tasty food.  

So what did I do today to take care of me?  I exercised, I listened to good music, I ate a plate of yummy salads for lunch, I got rid of more stuff, I spent 10 minutes with my guitar, and I sat on the porch with the boys this evening, watching a thunderstorm roll through.   Oh, and I found a few minutes to write here.  Now I'm going to bed to cozy up with my good book.  I'm not always successful, but I work very hard at squeezing in as much good stuff as I possibly can.  I'm doing okay.
photo by Alicia Bock


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