May 31, 2012

Soundtrack of My Life

Have you ever thought of the songs that make up the soundtrack of your life?  Not necessarily your favorite songs, but the ones that take you back to specific points in time.  I've thought of attempting to make a list several times in the past, but I found it too daunting a task.  However, I've seen a couple others do it and decided I should give it a shot.

It would be too difficult to explain the story or explanation behind each song, although maybe I'll do that at some point.  For example, when I hear 'Borderline', I am suddenly 9 years old, swimming in the pool at the apartment complex we lived in at that time.  It reminds me of ice cold Mountain Dew.  Every song on this list brings back specific memories like that.

For now, let's just stick to the playlist.

Early Childhood
1.  Borderline - Madonna
2.  Thriller - Michael Jackson
3.  Hungry Like The Wolf - Duran Duran
4.  Ladies of the Canyon - Joni Mitchell
5.  Tide is High - Blondie
6.  Blister in the Sun - Violent Femmes

High School
7.   Is It Really So Strange? - The Smiths
8.   Just Like Heaven - The Cure
9.   Personal Jesus - Depeche Mode
10. The Joker - Steve Miller Band
11. Vienna - Billy Joel
12. Born to Lose - Social Distortion
13. Hunger Strike - Temple of the Dog
14. Give it Away - Red Hot Chili Peppers

15. Carolina in my Mind - James Taylor
16. Betterman - Pearl Jam
17. Jimi Thing - Dave Matthews Band
18. The Wood Song - Indigo Girls
19. Counting Backwards - Throwing Muses
20. Hand in my Pocket - Alanis Morissette
21. One in a Million - Pet Shop Boys
22. Judas My Heart - Belly
23. When I Come Around - Green Day
24. Here & Now - Letters to Cleo
25. Live in Tomorrow - Juliana Hatfield
26. Little Plastic Castle - Ani DiFranco
27. Omaha - Counting Crows
28. This Time of Year - Better Than Ezra

My 20s
29. Blue - The Jayhawks
30. If I had $1,000,000 - Barenaked Ladies
31. Inside - Patti Rothberg
32. Between The Bars - Elliott Smith
33. His Lamest Flame - Mary Lou Lord
34. Summertime - The Sundays
35. Elevation - U2

Early 30s
36. Hey Ya! - Outkast
37. Times Like These - Foo Fighters
38. Making Pies - Patty Griffin
39. Somewhere - K's Choice
40. Car Wheels on a Gravel Road - Lucinda Williams
41. Alone - Susan Tedeschi
42. You're The First, The Last, My Everything - Barry White

Married with Children
43. This is the Life - Amy MacDonald
44. Barton Hollow - The Civil Wars
45. I and Love and You - The Avett Brothers
46. Pumped Up Kicks - Foster the People
47. Boom - Wild Flag
48. Helplessness Blues - Fleet Foxes
49. Rhthm and Soul - Spoon
50. Lonely Boy - The Black Keys

I can't believe what an eclectic mix this is, or that I wrote Throwing Muses next to Alanis Morisette.  This was a really fun exercise, though.  Not so fun was cutting songs to keep the list to 50!  My life, it seems, is very full of music.  It was also hard to steer clear of my personal favorites and focus on the songs that bring back memories - those are often very different.

What are the songs that leap to mind as you think about what would be on your own life soundtrack?

May 30, 2012

Grilled Asparagus, Dancing, and Progress

Aren't these words so true?  If you get past how you think things are supposed to be and learn to take life as it happens and make it what you want to be, it's so much easier to appreciate and enjoy your life.  

1.  Grilled asparagus.  Ridiculously easy, healthy, and so very yummy.  

2.  Our after-dinner dance parties have resumed.  The other night, I caught Aaron grooving to the music on his own.  When he caught me looking, he started to stop and get mad; but then I started dancing with him, so he giggled and kept on dancing.

3.  We placed an order for the bathroom sink, faucet, lights...  It feels good to check things off the list.  (It'll feel even better when they're installed and ready to use, but I can appreciate progress.)

And just because it's pretty...
Michelle Armas - Love, love, love her paintings

May 29, 2012

Weekend Recap

Highlights from the weekend:
*Trip to the farmer's market.  I love asparagus season.
*Lots of playing outside.  Little boys squealing on their scooters, playing with water, practicing hitting baseballs.
*Visit to Grandma's house, and an evening out for me and Kevin.  We attended a friend's wedding, which was held outside on a gorgeous (hot, but gorgeous) day at the spot pictured above.  It was a beautiful event and a fun party.  I love that I married a man who isn't afraid to dance.
*Grilling.  Of course.  I prepared two meals at once in order to prepare for the week.  
*Getting stuff done.  Ordering lights and a sink and a towel bar and...  

Goals for the week:
1.  Make some summer plans.  Summer has begun, and our calendar needs more fun packed in.  I don't want to get to the end of the summer and have nothing but construction to look back on.
2.  Make anniversary plans.  My husband was in San Francisco for work last week, and it inspired him to suggest that we spend our tenth anniversary there.  It is the city where we began dating and fell in love.  It is a genius idea, so I'm off to make it happen.
3.  Buy presents.  We've been to a couple weddings so far this year, and we're behind on the gift-giving.  
4.  Take some more pictures of the work-in-progress that is our house.  I was getting frustrated that progress has slowed down a bit, but it's still important to celebrate each step.  We have windows!
5.  Fold laundry.  I have four clean loads piled up and spilling over everywhere.  Something must be done.

May 23, 2012

Neighbors, Lattes, and Decisions

1.  Our neighbors.  They don't mind that our boys have claimed the entire street as their own.  The boys are particularly drawn to our next door neighbor, who is often out working in her yard.  They love riding their scooters down her driveway, and then stopping to chat and asking about the work she's doing.  I am so grateful that she seems to enjoy the company. 

2.  Medium decaf latte.  That's my usual morning order when I arrive at the office.  I'm savoring the small pleasures I get from going to an office each week, as I start to count down the days until I take a break from office time.  

3.  Decisions made.  There is so much stress in completing a home renovation.  So many decisions that must be made, second-guessed, and made again.  But with each one that we make, I know we're one step closer to completion.  

May 22, 2012

Menu of the Week (The Kitchen-free Edition)

How our dining room usually looks

I took the picture below, thinking it would be a much more dramatic difference from the way our dining room usually looks.  But when I look at them next to each other, it's actually not as striking a contrast as I thought.  Granted, the buffet you see above is on the side wall that you don't see in the below picture, and the office next door is filled with a bookshelf "pantry" and pots and pants and kitchen supplies.  It does feel a whole lot more crowded.  But then I look at these pictures and think, "Maybe it's not so bad." 

We've been managing pretty well without a kitchen.  After a couple weeks, here are some of the meals we've been enjoying:

Grilled Chicken/Portobello Mushroom Sandwiches with Cheddar Cheese, Tomato, and Pesto - A summertime standard.  I just planted my basil, so I'll be able to make my own pesto later in the summer. 

Turkey Burgers with Zucchini and Carrots - I like this recipe, because it cuts down on the meat and increases the veggies.  I also like that my boys like these.  However, it makes very soft burgers that aren't really suited for the grill.  I used my grill pan on top of my grill, and they were great!

Grilled Eggplant with Tomato and Feta - Oh my goodness is this good.  Of course the key is to "generously sprinkle with feta".  I didn't bother using a blender - I just finely chopped my basil and mixed everything together.  I bet it would be awesome with zucchini as well.  I served the boys some grilled chicken, but this was my main course, served with rice and salad.  (I cooked a pot of rice on the grill burner, so I have leftovers available for at least another meal during the week.) 

Seafood Chowder - I picked this up at the farmer's market.  Aaron ate two huge bowls of it and wanted it in his lunchbox the next day!  I probably wouldn't have bought it if I wasn't on the hunt for easy meals, so here's to a fun and yummy discovery.

Quesadillas - I cooked a little corn and onion in a pan on our grill burner and grilled a red pepper.  I mixed with black beans and cheddar.  I then cooked the quesadillas on my grill pan on the grill, although I've cooked them one by one in the toaster oven before too. 

Pasta with Sauce - I cooked a pot of pasta on Sunday night, using the burner on our grill.  I then dressed up some bottled sauce with grilled veggies for a mid-week meal. 

For a girl without a kitchen, that's not bad, right?  We did have sandwiches one night, and I'm thinking one night this week will be "snack tray" night (cheese, crackers, fruit, olives...).  We've ordered pizza once so far.  It is going to get old fast, and I'm already exhausted from having to go upstairs every time I need to rinse fruit or get water, but we're doing okay. 
How our dining room currently looks

May 21, 2012

Weekend Recap

me and my boys

Weekends are simply too fast.  We didn't get any time to sleep in at all this weekend, either, so I don't feel especially refreshed today.  That said, it was a nice short weekend.  Saturday included a trip to my sister-in-law's MBA graduation and celebration cookout.  Lots of family and friends and sangria and sunshine.  Sunday was the trip back home, followed by a nice and lazy afternoon.  Just me and my little boys, enjoying the sunny day.  I dragged the coffee table out to the front porch so we could eat dinner outside.  (Our yard is still full of lumber and ladders and a dumpster, so we don't have any outdoor seating at the moment.) 

Here's to warm and sunny days, new grill recipes, and muddy boys!

May 18, 2012

Trampled by Turtles - Alone

Trampled by Turtles.  From the album "Stars And Satellites". (only $5 on Amazon!)

Photo via 

May 17, 2012

A Few Interesting Reads...

Yes, all my tulips are gone now, but I just love these happy yellow ones.  I should go take some pictures of my azaleas now...

I like sharing some of the interesting posts or articles that I happen across.  Here are a few that I read this week and resonated with me for one reason or another.

You are what you read.  I totally get this.  I often get to the end of a really good book and feel like I'm seeing things through the eyes of the main character for a while.  I like the idea of being able to inherit the traits of our literary heroes.  What kind of characters are you drawn to?

Carolina, and Marriage, in my Mind.  I'm sure many of you have heard or read about the recent passage of an amendment to the North Carolina state constitution regarding gay marriage and civil unions.  I grew up and went to college in North Carolina and still have many friends and family members there.  This article does a wonderful job of capturing my feelings regarding this topic.  (Interestingly...the author is from my hometown and graduated from my high school.)

On Roommates, and Not Having Them.  Have you lived alone?  I had roommates all through college and for the first few years after, but I eventually was able to afford an apartment of my own.  I loved living by myself.  I was excited to start my life together with Kevin when that time came, but I'm so grateful for the years I had living on my own.

15 Powerful Things Happy People Do Differently.  Most of these won't surprise anyone, but they're all good reminders.  I find there are many things I need to continue to remind myself of on a regular basis.

May 16, 2012

Bike Riding, Cuteness, and Front Porches

This week's Three Beautiful Things:

1.  All Aaron wanted to do this weekend was ride his bike.  Every now and then he'd switch to his scooter - "to get more energy, Mom" - but then he'd be back up on the bike.  We went to a nearby nature preserve/park where there is space for him to ride around in circles, and he did the same in our little road.  I'm so happy it stopped raining for a couple days to allow us to play outside all weekend.

2.  "Nathan, you are absolutely the cutest 2-year-old on the planet."  "'re the cutest 38-year-old on the planet!"  As if I was insulting him. 

3.  Sitting on the front porch, enjoying a cold drink on a warm day, the boys happily playing together in the yard. 

May 15, 2012

Bedroom Inspiration

image via Rejuvenation

I talk a lot about the kitchen, but we're adding quite a lot in this big renovation, including a room that will double as a guest bedroom and playroom.  One change that cropped up in our design plans was to the roof lines, and as a result, this room is going to end up with a rather tall vaulted ceiling.  I'm thinking it might be fun to get a big and cool light for that space.  I'm liking this one.  What do you think?

May 14, 2012

The Little Things...

Well, I guess if it has to rain, I'm glad it's happening primarily during the week.  We had a glorious weekend.  We went outside after breakfast and didn't go back in until bedtime.  The boys mostly wanted to ride their bikes and scooters, so that's what we did. 

The house is in such a state of disarray, but we're managing pretty well so far.  I keep my focus on the little areas of the house that are actually in my control, keeping them as tidy as possible.  I also find myself feeling grateful for so many of the things we have.  We've been selling and giving a lot away over the last couple weeks - how lucky we are to be in a position to do that.  I hope these things are useful and provide value to their new owners. 

I've chosen a few pictures of some of the things making me happy around the house this week. mother's day gifts.  I can't wait to put that aloe plant in my new kitchen! 

Below...our new bench for our entryway.  We searched for a really long time for this bench, and I'm so happy we finally found this one.  It's perfect for the space and really helps keep the area more organized. 
My new pillow! My mom bought me this for my birthday. It is a handmade knit sham, and it is super soft. I wanted one throw pillow for our bed and searched for a long time for something just right. I'm so happy I found it! Thanks Mom!
And last but not least...I received a gift in the mail from one of my lovely blogger friends - Louise from Lou, Boos, and Shoes.  Lou developed a line of handmade facial oils, and she recently decided to open up her own internet shop!  It has been so inspiring and fun to watch her idea grow and flourish.  I was excited to give the oil a try, and I adore it.  You might be thinking something like what my husband said when he saw it, which is "Isn't it counterintuitive to put oil on your face?"  But trust me - it's awesome!  It sinks in immediately and doesn't leave a greasy feeling at all, and the smell is amazing.  You really should go check it out - the shop is called L'Apothecary.  Thank you so much, Lou!

May 11, 2012

Rat Girl - by Kristin Hersh

I first heard Throwing Muses in college.  It was my freshman year, and "Counting Backwards" came on the radio.  (Oh how I love college radio.)  I remember being drawn in immediately, because their sound was so unique.  I walked to the record store that day and bought "The Real Ramona".  I've been a fan ever since.  

The mixture of the band's sound, Kristin Hersh's voice, and her lyrics, is compelling and beautiful.  I confess I don't understand a lot of her lyrics at all, and yet I still love the songs.  ( I type that, I seem to recall my mother saying the same thing about Joni Mitchell.)  Similar to an abstract painting, you may not know what the artist was feeling or thinking as s/he created it, but you can still evaluate it based on its beauty and the way it makes you feel.  

Kristin has written several books, one of which is entitled "Rat Girl".  This book describes one year of her life, during which she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, recorded Throwing Muses' first album, and had her first son at the age of 19.  It is fascinating, touching, inspiring, and surprisingly really funny.  I feel like I'm now able to listen to that first album through an entirely different lens.  I also loved getting a little glimpse into the beautiful bond that exists between the band members.  Even if you have never heard of Throwing Muses or don't like their music, I'd still highly recommend this book.  

Here's a link to the New York Times book review.

Update:  If you do like the Muses, also check out this playlist Kristin created to accompany the reading of the book.  I love hearing the stories behind some of her lyrics.  

The first four minutes include a reading from the book.  Skip to 4:10 if you want to hear a song.

May 10, 2012

The Juggling Act...

The sun did shine for a bit on Sunday afternoon.  I'm looking forward to its return.

It's been a crazy week.  Everything seems to be moving at a hectic pace, and I am simply unable to keep up.  Work is incredibly stressful at the moment, and as I've mentioned, my house is a complete disaster.  I have no kitchen, and as the walls come down, of course surprises are found and decisions must be made.  We're using a lot of paper plates (my apologies to Mother Earth), and I'm washing our real dishes in the upstairs bathroom sink. 

The kids are great, but they are 2 and 5; so while they're completely awesome, they still require a great deal of my energy.  I find myself rushing around all day, tending to whatever I can, and at the end of the day, I fret about all the items I neglected to get done.  Oh, and the rain!  Have I mentioned the rain?  May sunshine came in April, so I guess we're catching up on the April rains now. 

Instead of thinking of all the things I didn't get done, I know I should focus on all I did get done.  The fact that my bed is made and that we all have clean clothes is an accomplishment!  I did get that door order in (a day late, but still...), and I even took 20 minutes to exercise yesterday.  (I'm sore today, which is pitiful.)  So far I've even managed to come up with dinners without a kitchen.  Work goes on, and I do what I can.  That's a lot. 

While I'm doing my best to keep up the juggle, I will look forward to: 
  • sunny days
  • more lilacs on my dining room table
  • fast progress on the house
  • starting the countdown at work (end of July!)
  • celebrations with family and friends
  • my little boy's 3rd birthday (!)
  • stolen quiet moments
  • Sangria Saturdays

May 8, 2012

Menu of the Week

This was my last weekend with a kitchen.  They are gutting my kitchen today, so I will be without a stove/oven/sink for the next few months.  Holy hell this is going to be hard.  In preparation, I decided that everything I made for dinner for the week leading up to the demo should make good use of the stove.  These are meals we won't be able to enjoy quite as easily for a while.  I also baked some brownies, just because. 

I'll post another "menu of the week" a few weeks down the road, so you can see how I'm managing to feed my family without a kitchen.  If any of you have good recipes that require only the use of a grill and/or microwave, please do pass them along. 

Vegetable Enchiladas, Yellow Rice
The boys still weren't fans of this.  As a result, I don't think I'll be making enchiladas again for a while.  Kevin and I enjoyed it, though, and I do love being able to pull a homemade meal out of the freezer.

Roasted Chicken with Potatoes, Onions, and Mushrooms, Asparagus
Always a favorite, and it makes the house smell so good.

Pesto Orecchiette with Chicken Sausage, Salad
This one was ridiculously easy and well-liked by everyone.  Success!  With a burner on the grill, I could actually make this type of meal this summer too. 

Thai Vegetable Curry, Brown Rice
I used this recipe as an outline, but curry is one of those things that you make up based on what you have available.  I had green curry, and bottled ginger, and the veggies I used were carrots, green beans, button mushrooms, and zucchini.  I also decreased the broth quite a bit and served it with brown rice.  I made it pretty mild in an effort to get my kids to try it - Nathan wouldn't, but Aaron liked the sauce and ate a ton of mushrooms with his rice and leftover chicken.  I loved it, and I'm looking forward to leftovers for lunch.

May 7, 2012

Kitchen Inspiration and House Update

source unknown - please let me know if you know!

I want a nice wood cutting board for my new kitchen.  This year's Christmas list is going to be entirely made up of kitchen items.  I wish I was bold enough to go for colored cabinets - these blue ones are very cool, and I've seen red ones that I love too.  I just don't have the guts for it.  I love the white subway tile, and the glass-front cabinets too. 

Progress is being made quickly, which is a very good thing of course, but it also increases my stress.  We've planned and talked for so long, but when the work is actually done, it's easy to freak out and think, "Wait!  Is that the way we wanted that?  Did we talk about this?"  There's no turning back now...

As I said, things are moving pretty fast, and I haven't been taking any pictures! We were on vacation, and then it rained every single day last week. Well, I finally took a few shots over the weekend, so I can fill you in on where we stand. When I last posted, the demolition had just begun. Just a few weeks later, and the framing is almost complete! Look - we have walls!

This little spot will be a seating area on one side of the kitchen.  Can you picture a built-in bench below that window?  We're on the hunt for a light to hang down from that high ceiling over a table.  We'll also be on the hunt for a table, but one step at a time. 

May 2, 2012

Babies, Kid's Table, and Memories

1.  I met my baby niece.  She has the best chubby little thighs ever.  She smiles at everybody, and she has insanely gorgeous blue eyes.  My brown-eyed sister now has two blue-eyed little girls.  

2.  During dinners, we were able to put the kids together at their own little table.  They're getting old enough to be able to sit on their own and eat.

3.  I asked my boys what their favorite part of vacation was.  Aaron:  "Going to the beach, eating ice cream, and riding in airplanes."  Nathan:  "Chocolate."  I reminded them that they also got to visit family. Aaron revised his list to add them in.  Nathan kept his at "chocolate".

May 1, 2012

Vacation Recap

Friends, let me tell you:  This trip was a good one.  My husband is still in-between jobs, so there was no pull of the blackberry to distract him.  The weather mostly cooperated, providing us with cool mornings and warm sunny afternoons to enjoy.  We filled every precious day with fun and quality time with family.  Some highlights:

*We spent every evening at my sister's house.  Relaxing, talking, playing, eating...  It was so much fun to see our kids playing well together, making memories.  I loved giving my sister and brother-in-law an excuse to ignore their usual weekend to-do lists.
*Celebrating the completion of my sister's dissertation.  My little sister, now a doctor.  Sheesh.
*Also celebrating Kevin's birthday.  A double party, requiring cake and champagne!
*A visit to the train museum.  A fun stop for the boys to a place I had never been in my own hometown. 
*Lunch outside on the river.  A family brunch.  Cookouts and pizza and chili.  Spending time together while eating good food.
*A couple days at the beach.  The first one was a bit windy, but the second was long and relaxed and perfect.  The boys were in heaven.
*Ice cream every day.  I think my kids are starting to expect that we'll eat ice cream every day when we're on vacation.  I have decided I am okay with this.

The lowlights (let's keep it real, shall we?):
*I picked up a nasty cold my second day of the trip (along with my mom and sister), and I've been trying to fight it (ignore it) since then.  Bleh.  But I didn't let it stop me from enjoying myself!


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