July 31, 2012

Recently Read

A few of the books I've recently read:

Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn.  You've probably heard of it by now - I think it's at or near the top of bestsellers at the moment.  I can understand why.  It is totally engaging, and it will keep you guessing along the way.  I will admit that the ending was a little lackluster in my opinion, and you should also know up front that this is not a story about characters you will like in any way.  That said, I enjoyed the book and would recommend it.  A great Summer read.

The Kid from Tomkinsville, by John R. Tunis.  I like to read at least one or two baseball books in the Summer.  I read The Art of Fielding earlier in the year, but I thought I'd pick up another quick one.  Set in the 1940s, the story describes the journey of Roy Tucker, a young kid from Connecticut who gets drafted by the Brooklyn Dodgers as a pitcher.  He excels as a pitcher but then suffers a freak accident and cracks his pitching elbow.  He works to come back to baseball as an outfielder.  I enjoyed this book a lot, and I think my sons will too when they get a little older.

These Days Are Ours, by Michelle Haimoff.  It's about a group of twenty-somethings in New York City.  Privileged children struggling to come into their own in a post-9/11 NYC.  I couldn't relate to their lifestyle, but their struggles, and particularly the struggles of the main character, Hailey, were very relatable.  Searching for a job and a boyfriend, coming to terms with divorce and family issues, and fighting loneliness.  The writing is wonderful, and the dialogue is particularly written well.  Despite the serious topics, it's downright funny at times, and it took me back to that time in my own life.  Highly recommend.

July 30, 2012

Weekend Recap

I was so nervous heading into the weekend.  I had been looking forward to going to the Newport Folk Festival all Summer, and I was afraid that it was not going to go well at all.  I attended a local concert last week with the boys, and all Nathan wanted to do was run around and act like a crazy person.  It was not at all enjoyable.  Also, the forecast was calling for thunderstorms.  Ah!  So I was nervous and set my expectations accordingly.  

Thankfully, I am happy to report that the day was awesome.  We got up and out early Saturday morning, and we made it there right before the gates opened.  We had no problems with traffic, or parking, or finding a good spot to set up our stuff.  The day started out sunny, and it was really hot, so we were all thankful when the clouds moved in.  We had time in the morning to run around, throw a football, visit the Kids' Tent, get lemon slushies, buy a t-shirt and poster...  Then the music started, and it was all amazing.  Of course there are too many acts performing at once to see everyone, but this is the lineup of who we watched:  Brown Bird, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Alabama Shakes, First Aid Kit, Blind Pilot, and Patty Griffin.  

The highlights I want to remember include dancing in the aisle with Aaron on my shoulders while Alabama Shakes performed "Hang Loose", seeing the smiles on the boys' faces as First Aid Kit started "Emmylou", watching Conor Oberst jump on stage with First Aid Kit to sing the last verse of "King of the World", standing 15 feet from the stage for Blind Pilot, and hearing Patty Griffin sing "Making Pies".  

During Patty Griffin's set, Nathan began his transformation into a wild animal, so we decided to leave before the last concert.  I am so thankful we did!  Towards the end of the My Morning Jacket concert, the skies opened up!  By then we were safely eating our dinner at a pub in Newport.  It really all worked out so well.   We had planned on spending Sunday at the beach, but the rain continued into Sunday, so after a swim in the hotel pool, we headed home early.  

I already can't wait to go back in 2013!

July 26, 2012

House Update

I was really excited to post a house update this week, because this was going to be a big week.  The cabinets arrived last Friday, and they are so pretty!  This week, we were supposed to see the cabinets completely installed and good progress on painting.  However...

The other night, a guy came to the house to create the template for the countertops.  In order to do this, he needed to put the sink in its place.  Now let me stop here and tell you that our sink is a gorgeous porcelain farmhouse style apron sink.  It is one of the most expensive things we purchased for the renovation, and the kitchen sink and faucet will be a focal point of the room.  I loooove it.  So the guy did his thing and left.  Later that evening, I went to take a few pictures to share here, and I noticed a big chip in the front of the sink!  I almost started crying.  The only reason I didn't was because I was too angry.  And worried.  I wasn't sure how my contractor would respond - would he do the right thing, or would he fight us on it?  After pacing around the kitchen with Kevin, we then noticed that there was a big chunk taken out of the wall, and a piece of wood that was broken off.  Clearly the stone guy had dropped the sink.  I am actually thankful for this additional evidence, because it made it very clear what had happened.  I was still worried about how our contractor would respond, though, and I was also worried about the delay this would cause.

Thankfully, our GC responded exactly the way he should have.  He apologized for having the stone people come after hours, he acknowledged he should've had them come when his foreman was on site to supervise, and he immediately said, "Don't worry - we'll take care of it.  We'll get you a new sink."  Whew. 

Then there's the matter of timing.  It will be a little delay, but hopefully not too significant.  The new sink should arrive today.  These sinks can vary just a little in size, so we have to make sure that the new one works in the cabinet and that the template for the countertop still fits.  There have also been several issues with the cabinets themselves (some understandable, since our kitchen space is pretty crooked, and others not really).  Those need to be resolved as well.  And the painters didn't even show up yesterday!  So several rooms are primed, but the painters have a long way to go. 

How's that for an update?  Just when we think the finish line is in sight, it moves a little further out.  But I guess with a project this big, a few setbacks are to be expected.  The cabinets really are pretty, though. 

July 25, 2012

Baseball, Chocolate-Covered Pretzels, and Favorite Songs

1.  I've spent the last few nights after dinner playing baseball with the boys.  Looking forward to many more years of playing with them.  I hope my pitching skills improve.  

2.  I managed to refrain from ice cream for about a week, and chocolate-covered pretzels were the reason.  I need just a little something sweet at night.  Of course, this week I have the pretzels and the ice cream, so I guess it's one step forward, two steps back, but that's alright.

3.  For the past week or two, we've been listening to a mix of bands/singers that we will see this weekend in Newport.  When First Aid Kit began singing "Emmylou", Aaron declared it his favorite song, and we listened to it three times in a row.  I loved sneaking glances at him learning the words and singing along.  I hope we get to hear some of their favorite songs performed live this weekend!

July 24, 2012

Menu of the Week

photo by Sophie at The Littlest Things

It has been several long months without a kitchen.  I've done okay, but I will admit that we've eaten at restaurants or ordered pizza more than we typically would.  We've also gotten into a bit of a rut, sticking to the easiest options, and as a result, my little guy is getting pickier about what he'll eat.  I needed to break the routine and start mixing things up again, so I tried to put together a menu like the old days (you know....when I had a kitchen).  We still had pizza, hot dogs, and ate out at a restaurant over the weekend, but I'm doing the best I can.  Here's a look at a few of the recipes we've been enjoying recently:

Zucchini Patty Sandwiches, Apple Slices
I keep trying to find more veggie meals that my family will eat.  This is a good one, because it's somewhat less conspicuously green.  They are patties, and my kids like pita bread.  However, they didn't love it.   Aaron summed it up nicely when he said, "It tastes kinda good, but it's kinda mushy so I'm not sure if I like it or not."  He liked the mint, though, and he did eat more than half of his sandwich.  I liked it, but I will admit I added a bunch of lettuce and cucumbers to add more texture to it.  

Pasta with Zucchini, Tomatoes, Bacon, and Feta (via Real Simple August 2012)
This was a definite hit.  Aaron ate two bowls, and even decided that zucchini can sometimes taste good.  Woo!  Obviously this could be made vegetarian by leaving the bacon out and cooking with olive oil instead.  

Summer Squash and Corn Chowder
This is a favorite of mine, and Aaron does well with it too.  Nathan doesn't generally eat any soup except tomato, but we'll keep trying.  The bacon can easily be left out of this one as well.   Update:  Nathan ate his whole bowl!

Salad Nicoise
All I really want to eat on these hot days, especially not having a kitchen, is a great big salad.  My boys, however, require something else.  This salad is a good compromise, because they can pick out what they like.  Aaron likes tuna, olives, tomatoes, potatoes.  Nathan loves green beans.  I like it all!

Dessert:  Peach-Blueberry Tart
I am incredibly proud of the fact that I managed to make a dessert last week.   I loved this idea that Sophie posted, and it looked pretty simple, so I decided to give it a shot.  I baked it in the toaster oven, and it turned out great!  The hardest part was actually preparing the puff pastry, because I have no idea where my supplies are!  (No flour, no rolling pin...)  But I managed, and I was happy to use some of our hand-picked peaches to make something extra yummy.

July 23, 2012

Weekend Recap

I love this picture.  Aaron's just kicking back, lounging in the pool with a smile on his face.  This is pure Summer joy.  We ended up spending Sunday afternoon and into the evening in this pool, surrounded by existing friends, new friends, and their kids.  It was an incredibly enjoyable time.  The perfect way to cap off another excellent Summer weekend. 

The rest of the weekend included hair cuts, farmer's market goods, a nice lunch outside at a restaurant, ice cream, bike riding, cherry tomatoes, and getting stuff done. 

My one goal for the week is to prepare for next weekend - we're going to Newport!

I am entering my last week at work, and even now, I don't think I've fully begun to process how my life is going to change.  It feels like the week before a vacation.  I wonder how long it will take to sink in...

July 20, 2012

Brandi Carlile

I'm sure you've heard Brandi Carlile, even if you don't know it.  Despite being told how good she is by others, I hadn't really listened to more of her music for some reason.  Probably because of her radio hits - I can sometimes be skeptical of commercial success, and it's easy to judge an artist based on the first song you hear.  ("The Story" is a great song, but I somehow had it in my head that she was a pop singer.)  Anyway...I began seeing her again due to her latest album release - Bear Creek, and this time I listened.  Now I'm in.  Sometimes it happens that way, doesn't it?  Give her a listen and see if you feel the same way.  

In pulling this video, I also happened to notice that she is performing a concert in Boston in two weeks!  On a Saturday night!  With Josh Ritter!  And there are still tickets available!  Okay, gotta go see if I can get a sitter lined up...

July 18, 2012

Magicians, Homegrown Lettuce, and Changes

1.  The boys and I ventured up to one of our local farms over the weekend to pick peaches.  We also took a break from the heat to eat gelato and watch a silly magician.  It was a fun diversion.  

2.  My neighbor was gracious enough to share her garden beds with us this year.  She has also been sharing her enormous yield of lettuce, so we've been enjoying extremely fresh salads this summer.   

3.  The countdown has begun, and I am eager and excited to start the next phase.  Only seven more work days left.  The next couple months will bring more change - the end of my job, the start of new schools for both boys, and moving into the new part of our house.  Bring it on!

July 16, 2012

Weekend Recap

There are typically only a handful of days a year when it is painful not to have air conditioning.  We're going through them now.  It's still not too bad, though, and there are typically plenty of ways to beat the heat, so I won't complain.

The weekend started off with the usual stop at the farmer's market, where we met up with friends, watched the boys run around, listened to music, and bought a large bag of goodies.  That afternoon, I took the boys up to the farm, where we played on the playground, ate gelato, watched a magician, and picked peaches.  Sunday morning, we headed back to Walden Pond.  It's such a great place to have nearby - so pretty, and perfect for the kids to play in the sand and swim until their fingers wrinkle like raisins.  A nice place to escape the heat for sure.

We also managed to get some things done around the house, and we rounded out the weekend with runs through sprinklers and popsicles.  I'm only a couple weeks away from starting my new phase, and that fact is really sinking in now.  My goal for the week is to clean out my desk and really start getting excited about the change.  It's going to be good for all of us.

July 13, 2012

House Update

Since my house actually looks mostly pretty from the outside now, I thought I'd stick to personal shots this time.  The exterior is done!  That includes a fresh coat of paint on the entire house, and I must say, it looks sharp.  It is especially nice to walk on the nice and clean front porch.  The shot below is the top of the new side entrance.  It is almost complete, but it is missing the railings.  

Inside, we have doors!  We have salvaged antique wood doors throughout the house, and our current contractor was a bit intimidated by them.  They are all unique, and old, and require dipping to get all paint off, sanding, and woodworking to get them to be the right size and to match as much as possible.  In the end, they still sometimes end up just a tiny bit crooked.  They're beautiful, though, and they add so much character to the house.  They are totally worth the extra effort/cost.  

Up next:  Finishing the interior trim, and the kitchen cabinets arrive next week!

Cool doors - and also notice the little sneak peek of the lovely floors, and paint samples on the wall

Jack White - Blunderbuss

It's official - I'm a Jack White fan.  His first solo album, Blunderbuss, is getting a lot of play this Summer.  

July 12, 2012

A Few Notes...

photo by natasha at beautifully, suddenly

Dear Summer...you never fail to delight and amaze me.  Your warmth is always appreciated, and your long days make it easier to fit everything in.  Especially fun.  Don't be in a rush to go away.

Dear Autumn...I love you too, and I will be excited upon your arrival.  Let me fully enjoy my time with Summer, and then I will appreciate everything that is wonderful about you.

Dear squirrel or deer or whatever it is that is eating my tomatoes... Please stop.  Just because we haven't made the time to build a fence around our garden does not mean it's yours for the taking.  I've already given up on the blueberries, but the tomatoes are mine!

Dear Kevin...Thank you for being so focused on the details.  Although there are times when I fight against your perfectionist tendencies, I do recognize that I often benefit from them.  These details that you fight for are a huge part of the reason our house is starting to feel like a home.

Dear legs...I am grateful that you take me where I need to go, without much complaint.

Dear Jack White, The Lumineers, Alabama Shakes, Good Old War, and Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros...  Thank you for providing me with a soundtrack for my Summer.

Dear friends... I am sorry that I suck at keeping in touch.  It's not personal - I just hate talking on the phone.  I will try to do better.

July 11, 2012

Picnics, Original Songs, and Blueberries

This week's Three Beautiful Things:

1.  My favorite part of Sunday?  The five minutes we all rested on the grass together.  I could've used about an hour more of relaxing, but I'll take what I can get.  Those five minutes were bliss. 

2.  Nathan was humming and singing to himself.  I asked him what song he was singing.  He responded:  "I can make up my own songs, Mom!"

3.  It's blueberry season.  I've been picking up pints of huge gorgeous berries at the farmer's market, and Aaron and I enjoy them in our cereal every morning.

July 9, 2012

Weekend Recap

Another awesome Summer weekend.  Kevin passed a certification exam he had to take at work (yay!), so he was completely free this weekend.  He felt like he missed out the last few weeks, so he wanted to make sure we did some fun things together as a family.  Boy did we!

On Saturday, we made our usual stop at the farmer's market, where we bought vegetables, ate raspberries and bagels, and kicked a ball.  We decided to walk to a local record store to flip through old albums, and we popped in the library to replenish our book supply.  After lunch, we ventured out to rent a canoe and take it for a ride on The Charles.  We felt a little silly having to drive somewhere to do this, since we live on the river.  I think there will be a canoe and/or kayaks in our future so we can do this on our own whenever we want.  We topped off the afternoon with ice cream.  Hello, awesome day! 

And it wasn't even over!  It was Date Night!  The boys got to watch Cars 2 (again!) with their sitter while Kevin and I went out.  We went to our favorite local restaurant and then to the movies.  We saw "Moonrise Kingdom", which I loved.  I am not a huge Wes Anderson fan - I've liked some of his movies, but not all.  His style is definitely unique and can take some time to adjust to.  This one I really liked, though.  Silly and sweet.

On Sunday, we went into Boston.  We set out blankets in The Common, and watched the boys splash around on Frog Pond.  They splashed, ate lunch, played on the playground, and rode the carousel.  It also happened to be a picture-perfect day. 

The only negative to this fabulous weekend was that I didn't get enough sleep.  I am just not up for late movies these days.  As a result, I got a little impatient by the end of the weekend.  I was in bed before nine o'clock last night.  My single goal for the week is to do that again and again so that I can replenish my body and my mind with sleep.  There is a lot of fun to be had, and I want to make sure I have the energy to do it!

Our perfect little picnic spot in the shade

July 6, 2012

Philharmonic Flashmob

Watch this whole thing.  You'll find yourself smiling just like I did.  

July 5, 2012

Rain, Parades, and Relaxing

Those fire truck sirens were LOUD!

This week's Three Beautiful Things:

1.  July 4th started off with rain.  My garden appreciated the drink (those tomatoes are almost as tall as I am now!), and I appreciated the fact that the dark morning helped my boys sleep late.  8AM!  Woohoo! 

2.  The rain ended, and the sun came out in time for the parade.  The crowds were smaller due to the weather (although it ended up being beautiful), so we got to sit right on the curb for front-row viewing.  Aaron's favorite part was the candy thrown at us, and Nathan's favorites were the fire trucks (even though he had to cover his ears the entire time).

3.  While the boys ran around the yard and played, I relaxed and read my book for a while.  I didn't wash dishes, or fold laundry, or pull weeds, or... Okay I did all of those things, but for an hour or so I stopped, read my book, and relaxed

July 3, 2012

Recently Read

Wildwood illustration by Carson Ellis

I've been reading a lot, but I realize I haven't posted about any books lately.  Here's a little round-up of a few of the books I recently finished.

Wildwood - Colin Meloy
This is a fun and unique fantasy book.  I am a big fan of The Decemberists (the author, Colin Meloy, is the lead singer), which is mostly why I picked this up.  I love his lyrics, and he has such a lovely way of using words.  It is different from what I typically read, and I think the target audience is probably made up of pre-teens.  It is not an instant classic, but I enjoyed it.

See a Little Light: The Trail of Rage and Melody - Bob Mould
I've been on a bit of a music biography kick lately.  I definitely enjoyed this one by Bob Mould, of Husker Du and Sugar fame.  I became a fan of his music in 1992, with the release of Sugar's Copper Blue (a great album, by the way), and I then spent time getting to know his other work.  The book is written chronologically, and the style is as if you are simply listening to him talk about his life.  It's extremely honest, and I love it for that.

The Paperboy - Pete Dexter
A friend of mine recommended this one to me.  I liked the writing, but appreciating the style of writing isn't enough for me to recommend the book.  It kept me interested along the way, but it's a dark story with an unsatisfying resolution.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) - Mindy Kaling
Hilarious.  If you are headed to the beach and want a book you can finish in one afternoon, chuckling all the way, bring this one.  Funny, entertaining, and interesting to get a little sneak peek into The Office.

The Memory Keeper's Daughter - Kim Edwards
This is another one that was recommended to me.  The premise of the book sounded interesting, and it is.  However, it goes on for far too long, and none of the characters appealed to me.  After a while, I just wanted it to end.  A lot of people loved this book, but although I did finish it, I can't say I enjoyed it.

I have a nice big stack on my nightstand, and I'm excited to dig in.  What have you read recently?

July 2, 2012

Striving...and a Weekend

We're going on a frog hunt!

Although I've mostly been keeping up with the regular postings here on the blog - my weekend recaps, my three beautiful things, my music picks... - I feel like I haven't really said too much lately.  I have been totally preoccupied with the renovation and a big project at work, and those things have sucked the energy out of me.  I have found that I have a hard time giving my mind and body time to be still, to think.  I am reminded that balance in life is an elusive thing, one that I must continuously strive for; and when I realize that I am out of whack, I need to make the necessary adjustments.

This week's goals were identified with that in mind:
*Take a day off
*Cut back on alcohol a bit (summer sangria or crisp hefeweizen can sometimes be just a little too tempting)
*I have actually been doing well at fitting in exercise, but I'm going to add a longer core workout to my current routine
*More water!
*Hide my iPhone from myself so I can be more in the moment

All that said, we did have a really nice weekend.  My boys and I spent Saturday morning stocking up at the farmer's market (raspberries! blueberries! and the biggest cucumbers I've ever seen), and then we went to a nearby wildlife sanctuary.  It was a hot day, so it was nice to take a long shady walk in the woods.  For the boys, it was a hunt for animals and a chance to climb on big rocks.  For me, it was time to enjoy the quiet and the shade.  

Sunday was Nathan's third birthday.  We celebrated our little man with family and cupcakes and presents.  I feel like the baby years are very suddenly behind me.  I can get a bit nostalgic, but mostly I am very excited about moving to the next phase, watching the boys grow.  They run out the door to play, and can (just about) do everything "all by themselves!".  I have to admit that I love this.  It allows me to sit back and marvel at the people they are becoming.

As we enter a new week, I am excited that there is another day off in the middle of the week.  I am hopeful this will allow me to maintain a slower pace.  I am excited to realize that I only have eighteen workdays left before taking a nice long, and yes let's say it, well-deserved break.  I am also excited that the house is being painted today.  After this week, we should be able to start reclaiming our yard.  Little by little...  We're getting there.  


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