July 29, 2011

Random Thoughts...

photo credit:  katy elliott

I'm listening to the Newport Folk Festival Mix as I type, and I'm having too much fun to figure out what to say.  Actually, I've found it difficult lately to quiet my mind in general.  Maybe I should turn off the music!  And my computer and my TV and my phone.  I feel the strongest need to unplug and be still.  Oh, vacation cannot come fast enough!  Just a couple more weeks.  I don't think it will allow me to be still - I am bringing my boys with me, after all - but I will definitely unplug.  
via the lovely Louise at Lou Boos and Shoes

I am very plugged in this week.  I've been working a lot, and I've been listening to a lot of news.  Not exactly sure why, but there's something fascinating about watching our government fumble around and trip all over itself.  It's like watching a car wreck.  There's nothing I can do - I've already written, emailed, and tweeted my congressman and senator - but I continue to listen and watch, resulting in ever-increasing frustration.   I have always prided myself in being able to listen to and respect both sides of an argument, and I'd like to think I'd be able to make compromises when necessary.  It does take an effort sometimes to keep an open mind, and I actually put in effort to spend time listening to people whose opinions are different than my own.  I truly do not understand why my elected officials are not able to do the same.  Actually, I don't understand why a lot of people are not able to do the same.

It's been an okay week, despite the busyness and an illness for my big boy.  He got to spend a couple days at home with his mom, which of course just increased the chaos for me.  He seems to be on the mend, although he collapsed in bed tonight like he needed to sleep for a few days.  Hopefully another long sleep will set him right.  I love the snuggles, but I love watching him gallop around and squeal and play a thousand times more.  In the midst of the craziness, I actually managed to exercise every day this week.  I am sore and I feel good.  I did an especially satisfying yoga session last night, and although I didn't look quite like this picture, my body appreciated the effort.

So now we arrive at the weekend.  We are going to a cookout with friends on Sunday afternoon, but we are otherwise wide open.  This is always okay by me.  I'm sure we'll do the usual stop by the farmer's market, run some errands, and the typical Summer activities like eating popsicles and running through the sprinkler.  (Speaking of popsicles, I think I've made the best flavor yet!  More to come on that...)  Since I happen to have some feta, and the guy at the market always talks me into an extra cucumber or two, I'm thinking we'll be enjoying these tomorrow as well...

Okay, I need to turn the music up loud now and pour myself another drink.  To the weekend!

Newport Folk Festival

Photo credit:  Shantel Mitchell /NPR

This is where I want to be this weekend.  The Newport Folk Festival.  Alas, it was not meant to be this year.  I've been listening to the music mix on NPR all day, though, and plan to listen to the festival live all weekend.  Even if I can't be there, I can still listen to the music.  

Artists appearing at Newport this year include:  Gillian Welch, Emmylou Harris, Tegan and Sara, The Decemberists, Pokey LaFarge, Typhoon, Amos Lee, The Civil Wars, M. Ward, and so many more!  

July 25, 2011

Weekend Recap

It was a relatively quiet Summer weekend.  Lots of family time.  Saturday was full of little outings - to the farmer's market, the library, and the fire station in the morning.  Then the big boy and I decided to take a break from the heat, so we headed to the movie theater.  We saw Cars 2, which I would not really recommend.  I tried to convince him to see Winnie the Pooh, which looks really cute, but he had to see Cars.  He loved it, but it gave me a headache.  I adore Pixar, but this had to be their worst effort to date.  But like I said, he loved it, and I did love having a daytime date with my little man.  He held my hand walking in, and he cuddled up with me about halfway through the movie.  We enjoyed popcorn and chocolate-covered raisins.  Not a bad way to spend an afternoon.  All four of us went out to dinner that evening. 

Sunday was quieter.  Pancakes, time at the playground, making cookies, painting, riding bikes, and running through the sprinkler.  Life's little pleasures.  By Sunday late afternoon, it was much cooler and there was a nice breeze.  Perfect weather for eating dinner outside.  One of my favorite moments was setting the salad on the table while getting the rest of dinner ready.  Both boys raided it - eating lots of cherry tomatoes, and even some carrots and cucumbers.  I feel good when I put spinach in their morning smoothies, but I feel even better when I see them voluntarily eating and enjoying veggies. 

So now we're off to start another week.  My piece of advice:  start each week with some Stevie Wonder
You'll feel happy that you did. 

July 22, 2011

Popsicles and Staying Cool

Okay, these are my favorite popsicles so far.  Emily, forget about blueberry - those are good (not sure what happened to yours), but they are my least favorite flavor.  Strawberry-yogurt is high on the list, but this new addition has become a fast favorite:  Creamy Lemon-Raspberry Popsicles.  Oh my goodness.  Divine.

Here's what I used:

Creamy Lemon Popsicles
1/2 cup sugar*
2 tbsp grated lemon peel
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup plain greek yogurt
1 cup milk

Whisk until well blended or just pour it all in a blender and puree for a couple seconds.  Pour into popsicle molds, cover, and freeze until firm.  I always wait overnight to make sure they're good and frozen.

*Note:  I went light on the sugar and heavy on the lemon juice.  I was probably a bit more even in my proportions, because I like mine lemony.  Dip your finger in the mix and play with the proportions until you get it how you like it.

The Creamy Lemon popsicles are fabulous on their own, but I thought I'd have a little fun and mix it up a bit.  I poured half of the molds only half full with the lemon mixture, and then I added:

Raspberry Popsicles
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup raspberries
squeeze fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp plain greek yogurt

Honestly, I'm not really sure of the measurements on this one, because I didn't measure anything.  I just put some raspberries and a little sugar together in a pan.  Simmered them for 5 mins with a splash of water.  Then I put them in the blender and pureed for a couple seconds.  Squeezed a bit of lemon juice, and then I mixed in a big spoonful of yogurt.

Again, I think these would be great on their own too, but the combination is awesome.  You'll have to put in one layer, let it almost freeze (but not all the way or you may have trouble with the sticks), then add the second layer.

Enjoy!  For those of you in the eastern US, I hope you're finding ways to keep cool in these dog days of summer.  My thermometer says 102 degrees right now.  Yikes!

July 20, 2011

Chapel Hill, Family, and Time to Read

1.  This week's business trip brought me back to my university town.  I hadn't been back in over a decade, and it was very fun to take a drive through campus, relishing in the memories that came flooding back. 

2.  The trip also afforded me the opportunity to have dinner with my aunt, uncle, and cousin who happen to live in town now.  It was so great to catch up and have a fun dinner with three very cool people.

3.  I enjoyed having the opportunity to read on the flight.  It's not often that I get a solid two-hour block of time to devote to a book.  I'm reading the last book in the Stieg Larsson trilogy - The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest - and while I still maintain they aren't my favorite books (too violent), they are wildly addictive.  I am hooked. 

July 18, 2011

Weekend Recap

I love Summer.  Have I mentioned that before?  My big boy recently told me that he couldn't wait for Winter.  While I hid my shock, I asked why.  He said he loved climbing on snow mountains.  Well, that is a pretty fun thing to do, but I think I'm going to continue to cherish every warm and sunny day we have until the snow begins to fall again.

This weekend was full of wonderful Summer things.  The boys ate their weight in raspberries.  The berries are plentiful, the tomatoes are sweet, and the earliest peaches and apples and corn and plums have arrived.  We then decided to go on a walk through a nearby wildlife sanctuary.  An inspired idea.  The sun was hot, but it was lovely to walk in the shade of the trees.  The boys had fun searching for frogs in the ponds, and although they didn't find any, we did see plenty of turtles and ducks and bugs. 

On Sunday, we spent the morning at Walden Pond.  The big boy had a blast swimming, and the little boy had a blast digging and splashing.  I had a blast doing these things with them.  It was a fabulous place to spend a glorious Summer morning.  It was just getting hot and crowded by the time we left, and with a stop at the ice cream truck on our way out, we made it home in time for naptime.  Perfect. 

I hope your weekends were wonderful as well.  No specific goals this week.  I'm going on my first business trip in a couple years - I think I've forgotten how to do it.  To think that I used to get on a plane every week!  Bleh.  This is a short one, though, and to a fun place I'm happy to visit.  I'm also going to fit in a dinner with some family who happen to live in the area.  So my goals are to have a safe, productive and happy trip. 

Have a great week!

July 15, 2011

Trent Dabbs - Leave to See

This week's music pick is Trent Dabbs.  I've enjoyed getting to know his latest album, Southerner.

image via last.fm

July 14, 2011

Menu of the Week

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

Yogurt-Basil Chicken Kabobs, Rosemary-Feta Potatoes, Salad - This simple marinade makes the chicken very moist and flavorful.  These are still my favorite potatoes.  And I love how easy salads are when you can just throw together whatever you picked up at the market that morning.

Burgers/Barbecue Chicken, Corn on the Cob, Salad - My boys will eat corn on the cob all day long.

Southwestern Salad - This recipe from Stephmodo continues to be a family favorite.  I leave the lettuce out for the boys, but they otherwise do really well with this.  It's very flexible, too, so you can use whatever you have on hand.  It's a great recipe for when you're trying to use things up.  I didn't have any tomatoes this time, but I added red peppers.  And I agree with Stephanie - the more avocado, the better...

Pasta with Asparagus and Zucchini, Wheat Bread, Salad - I am a recipe girl.  I simply don't have the talent or imagination required to create dishes on my own.  I knew I had enough ingredients for a good dish, but I wasn't quite sure what to make.  I googled recipes and included the ingredients I had - this is what came up.  It was a little tart, but I'm pretty certain that's what my boys liked about it.  Very fresh and lemony. 

Salmon, Mashed Sweet Potatoes, Broccoli with Cheese - Another Monday night, easy-as-possible-but-still-healthy meal.  I glazed the salmon with a mix of mustard, maple syrup, and balsamic vinegar.  Roasted for about 10 minutes.  Cooked the sweet potatoes in the microwave until tender - peeled, mashed, and added just a little butter, milk, and a sprinkle of brown sugar on top.  And to my dismay, I passed by the gorgeous fresh broccoli at the farmer's market this week.  I cooked a box of frozen chopped broccoli and melted a little cheddar cheese on top.  It took me a while, but I figured out that this is the best way to get my boys to eat their broccoli.  For now, anyway.  They loved this meal. 

Berry cupcakes - Vanilla cupcakes, filled with raspberry jam, topped with cream cheese frosting and fresh berries. 
Strawberry-yogurt popsicles

July 13, 2011

Compliments, Burritos, and Quiet

This week's Three Beautiful Things:

1.  My little boy spilled some of his smoothie on my dress.  "Oh no!", said my big boy, "Will the people at work still think you're pretty? ...  Because I do."  Who cares if about a little spilled smoothie when I receive compliments like this?

2.  Made-to-order burritos at the office cafeteria.  Monterey jack, rice, beans, corn, onions...  If I have to eat lunch at my desk while on a conference call, it's nice when I get to eat something yummy. 

3.  After the boys went to sleep, I gave myself ten minutes to sit and be still.  I didn't jump on the computer or start doing dishes or packing lunches or...at least not right away.  I sat on the living room floor (oddly more comfortable than the couch), and forced myself to do nothing.  It took several minutes to stop thinking of all the things I had to do when my time was up, but then I did.  I was able to shut off my thoughts and enjoy a few minutes of blissful peace.  I highly recommend it.

July 12, 2011

Kitchen Inspiration

photo credit:  Porchlight Interiors

Some design proposals are being drawn up, and we'll have our first meeting to review them next month.  Ah!  It will start to feel more real when I can see the actual plans.  Not as real as when the first sledgehammer starts knocking things down, but I'm going to try to enjoy every step of the process.  A new kitchen will be mine.  

I love this kitchen, and I'm liking this oven.  I've started looking at stoves, and you wouldn't believe how many there are to choose from.  It's kind of ridiculous.  My head is already spinning with the choices.  I am going to have to find some time to go talk to someone that knows something about them.  It's the only major appliance we need, which is good, but there will obviously be a hundred other decisions that need to be made - faucet, lighting, cabinet pulls, windows, drawers... - so it would be nice to get a major decision made early.  Wish me luck!


Oh my goodness is this true.  I have two of them, and they are loud and filthy.  Off the Wall Expression Etsy Shop - Spotted via Pinterest

My loud, dirty, and fabulous boys

July 11, 2011

Weekend Recap

I was by myself with the boys this weekend.  Previously the thought of that sent me into panic mode, and I'd spend time planning out activities to keep us all entertained (and sane).  Little by little, though, I feel things getting easier.  Shifting, anyway - I know parenting will never be easy.  My 4-year-old is now just a cool little kid I have the awesome pleasure of hanging out with - he's also a pretty good helper to me most of the time.  My 2-year-old is turning into a 2-year-old, I'm afraid, but he's getting lower-maintenance in a lot of ways as well.  It's nice.  We had a fun time together this weekend.  

Highlights from the weekend:
1.  The farmer's market is gorgeous right now.  I bought each boy their own half-pint of raspberries, and they were gone before we left.  I had to go buy some more. 
2.  We spent an amazing afternoon at a friend's house, swimming in their pool, enjoying dinner, and riding bikes.  The big guy swam on his own (life vest on) for the first time - he hasn't had much experience in pools, so this was huge and very exciting.  He had a blast.  He spent two hours in the pool and had to be dragged out for dinner.  
3.  I finally watched "True Grit".  As expected, it was very good.  
4.  When I asked my big boy what we should do while the little guy was napping, he said, "I think we should sit on the front porch, read some books, and eat blueberries."  It would have been impossible for me to come up with a more perfect suggestion, so that's exactly what we did.  
5.  Blueberry bran muffins.  It initially seemed wrong to turn on the oven on such a gorgeous summer day, but I am glad I did. 

Goals for this week:
1.  Go to bed earlier.  My mind needs the peace and quiet of those after-bedtime hours, but my body needs more sleep.  I need to find a better balance of the two.
2.  Plan next week's work trip.  I haven't traveled for work in a couple years - I think I've forgotten how to do it. 
3.  Moisturize.
4.  Pencil in some fun weekend plans for the remainder of the July weekends. 
5.  Sing.

July 8, 2011

A Few Things...

As you may or may not have noticed, I haven't been posting as regularly.  It's summertime, and I'm inclined to be outside as much as possible these days.  But I still do feel the urge to write, and inspiration is everywhere in these gorgeous hot summer days.  These things could all be individual posts of their own, but I thought I'd throw them all out together.  Enjoy and have a happy weekend!

Just a few things I'm loving today...

photo via gimme some oven

Popsicles.  I just made a batch of blueberry-yogurt popsicles for the weekend, but this fabulous post has me inspired to try some new flavors.  These creamy lemon popsicles are next on the list.  Peaches and cream sounds great too.  I don't know if I'd ever do it, but the adult versions sound awesome too - watermelon mojito?  Yes please.  

Street music.   Music always makes my list.  Loving The Low Anthem, and this fun video of a cool song.  

source unknown via from flabby to fit

Exercise.  I'm back in my groove.  I had a good week of fitting in some exercise each day.  Actually, I'm sweaty right now as I type.  It feels good.  

image from Stan Moeller

Stan Moeller.  Spotted via Pretty Stuff by Patterson Maker.  His paintings are stunning, especially the ones with water.  It's amazing how he's able to capture the light and movement of the water.  Awesome.
Kid's Artwork.  I throw tons away, and I still have tons.  It's getting better too.  I love this creative idea for displaying some of your kid's artwork. 

Sprinklers.  Hot summer days.  All you need is some cool water for instant fun.  My big boy can squeal and run through the water for hours. 
Friends.  Another one that always makes the list.  This of course includes local friends and those that are far away.  Friends that I've known my whole life and those I met last week.  Family members who happen to be friends as well.  And friends like some of you who I've never even met!  Keep Fresh.  Stay Rad.  A good reminder for us all as we enter our weekend.  

July 6, 2011

Storytime, Salads, and Flowers

- Susan Sontag quote via anothersomething.org

1.  My big boy and I finished Charlotte's Web.  It was fun, and we both loved the book; but I honestly thought he'd want to wait a bit before jumping into another chapter book.  He got frustrated at times by the lack of pictures.  I was wrong.  We started James and the Giant Peach this week.  He loves the occasional picture, but I can see him forming his own images in his head too.  He giggles at the thought of a group of giant insects that can talk.  I am loving storytime right now.

2. My dad's macaroni salad.  Tastes like summer to me.  I made a big batch over the weekend and have been enjoying it for lunch.  A trio of salads - macaroni, fruit, and garden.  Perfect.

3.  This happy bouquet of flowers on my dining room table.  I splurged on a bunch at the farmer's market this week.  Next week, I should be able to make my own from the garden, which is starting to explode with color now.  

July 5, 2011

Weekend Recap - 4th of July

I am loving all these long weekends!  This one was full of more fun summer activities. 

Highlights from the weekend:
1. We had good friends come to visit, along with their little ones, who are similar ages as ours.  My big boy was so excited to have a sleepover.
2. The kids had a blast running and jumping into the kiddie pool. 
3. Sangria Saturday.  Again.  :-)
4. My little boy is 2!  He loved his cupcakes and balloons and a few new things.  May he be the exception to the "terrible twos". 
5. We took an impromptu trip into the city to ride the swan boats in the Public Garden and go out to lunch. 
6.  Our town held a great 4th of July parade.  Loud firetrucks, silly clowns, and a frozen treat.  The boys loved it. 

Goals for the week:

1.  Exercise.  Gotta get back into a groove. 
2.  Get caught up.
3.  Plan fun weekends.  June and August are busy, but the rest of July seems to be wide open.  I need to fill the month with fun.  Starting with this coming weekend, when I will be on my own with the kids.
4.  Start making lists and final preparations for Italy.  It's only a month away! 
5.  Spend some quality time with my camera. 

July 1, 2011

Random Thoughts...

Sometimes it's nice to dump out the contents of my head in a blog post...

- My little boy is 2 today.  My baby!  I had no party plans, but I guess he was destined for one anyway.  We're having friends come visit for the weekend, along with their little ones, and my mother-in-law and sister-in-law may make an appearance as well.  I am thinking berry cupcakes, a new tunnel for the train set, and a couple new matchbox cars.

- Washing sheets and making beds is such a pain, but it is so nice to climb into a clean bed at the end of the day.

- The new Harry Potter movie comes out soon.  I don't need to be first in line or anything, but I will admit I'm looking forward to seeing it.  It's the end of an era.  I definitely need to line up a babysitter.  I also want to see 'Bridesmaids', and 'Super 8', and I've heard great things about 'Tree of Life' (even though I wasn't so sure based solely on the trailer).  What movies have you seen and loved recently? 

- This performance by Gillian Welch on Conan made me happy.  I am loving her long-awaited new album.

- The lavender in our garden is in full bloom.  It is so fragrant and attracts butterflies, dragonflies and bees in great numbers.  I love it.  

- As I mentioned, I have friends coming to visit.  Since we just got back from a trip, I haven't had much time to prepare.  Trying to figure out meals.  So far all I've decided on is a couple double batches of sangria for Sangria Saturday.  I figure I'll get a bunch of stuff to put on the grill.  Sangria, cupcakes, fresh veggies, good friends....what else do we need?  


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