October 30, 2012

Sandy Update

Dinner by candlelight

We got the fun part of the hurricane.  A couple days without school, a brief (4-5 hours) power outage, and fun hanging out with my boys.  The yard is a little messy, but I have no complaints.  The storm even moved through in time for Halloween.  Tomorrow's trick-or-treating should be a go - perhaps a little wet, but nothing that would prevent me from taking out my pirate and train engineer for some treats.  Yay!

I am still shocked at some of the pictures coming out of New York and New Jersey, though.  I hope they are able to complete the cleanup quickly and get the city up and running again soon.

Having fun with slow shutter speeds

Who needs power when you have Superman and Batman?

It's Time for Squash (and Kale)

I've been meaning to post a "Menu of the Week" for a while but haven't managed to make it happen.  I haven't really been making too many new dishes anyway, but rather sticking to old favorites.  We've made the transition into cool-weather comfort foods - think roast chicken, meat loaf, baked ziti...

One new recipe that I simply must share, though, is my new favorite way to prepare kale.  Seriously, I could not get enough of it.  Aaron even ate a little bit and said it was good!  It's more than good.  It's awesome.  It's also a perfect side dish for any of these squash dishes.

We've had a lot of butternut squash this season.  I managed to grow a few in our garden this year, and my mother-in-law brought me a couple from hers as well.  I thought I'd share a few of our favorite squash recipes here.

Corn and Butternut Squash Chowder - This is probably our favorite squash chowder recipe.  We've had it twice already this Fall.  The curry gives it an interesting flavor, and the corn keeps it sweet.  Both of my boys do really well with it.  (Although they prefer it to be pureed all the way through.  I usually puree most of it, but I enjoy the chunks, so I save some for me.)

Macaroni and Cheese with Butternut Squash - We've made this one a couple times as well.  The first time I substituted cream cheese for the ricotta, and it was great.  The second time I used the ricotta as specified, and it was great too!  Some reviewers noted that it was dry.  I used less pasta than it called for (about 12 oz), and I watched the clock carefully.  It didn't need to cook as long as the recipe indicates.  All my boys love this one too!

Butternut Squash Risotto - This is a favorite of mine, but alas, I haven't made it in years.  My little boys still won't eat risotto.  There's something about the texture they just do not like.  It's a great dish, though, and I will look forward to making it again as the boys get older.

Winter Squash Soup with Gruyere Croutons - This is a soup that highlights the squash, and I love the addition of the thyme and sage (I tend to favor the sage).  I can rarely find creme fraiche, so I sometimes top with a little sour cream, and some chopped apples for texture.

*Photos 1 and 2 via MarthaStewart.com.  3 and 4 by Stephmodo.

October 29, 2012

A Few Thoughts While We Wait for Sandy...

*These might be our best jack-o-lanterns yet.  I'm pretty psyched at how well Spiderman turned out.  The boys are very excited. 

*Our weekend was productive, with a little fun mixed in.  We spent a few hours on Saturday afternoon at a furniture store.  Bleh!  But we are closer to picking out some furniture for our empty living room, and that will be exciting.  Saturday night, I went with a friend to see Milo Greene in concert.  They were AWESOME!  Really really fun band to see live, especially in a small club setting.  Sunday consisted of a brunch out, several hours putting together the new Murphy Bed (only to realize afterwards that we will have to take it completely apart again in order to paint it...ugh), baking pumpkin cookies (YUM!), carving pumpkins, and watching It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.  The bed part was not fun, but the rest of the day was!

*School is canceled, so the boys and I are hunkered down at home, watching the windy rain through the windows.  The power has already gone out once this morning.  Let's hope that's it for us.  My thoughts are with my friends and family who live closer to the direct path of the hurricane.  

*I'm hoping Sandy hurries up and blasts through here quickly so that Halloween isn't ruined.  I can handle a little rain, but if everyone's power is out, there won't be trick-or-treating.  And I will have a devastated train engineer and  a very sad pirate on my hands.  Fingers crossed...

image via Associated Press/Weather Underground

October 26, 2012

Milo Greene - 1957

I'm headed to a concert tomorrow night - Milo Greene.  Their entire album - the self-titled Milo Greene - is great.  I'm going to enjoy seeing them live.

Happy weekend!

October 25, 2012

Finding a Rhythm...

Now that the school year is underway, the boys are comfortable with their new routine, and the major house construction is complete, I feel like I am able to come up for air.  It has been almost three months since I left my job, so I can compare the working life from this life at home.  I have a new perspective, which is a nice thing.  

When I was working full-time, every week, every day, every hour almost was scheduled in advance.  Laundry had to be done on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays.  We had to leave the house by a specific time in order for me to make it into the office to attend meetings.  The same thing in reverse at the end of the day, when I had to be in my car by a certain time or I was doomed to be stuck in traffic, late getting the kids, with no hope of having any time at all to make dinner.  Speaking of, dinners had to be planned and usually prepped in advance.  Weekends often filled up with chores and errands, but we also tried to fit in fun activities to do as a family - those often needed to be planned and scheduled in advance in order to make time for them.  And then there were all the other little things that cropped up - car repairs, dentist/doctor appointments, sick days...  We made it work.  It was exhausting, but I spent time every day making it work.  

It was the only way I had ever known.  I'd worked full-time since I left college 16 years ago.  After Aaron was born, we talked about my moving to part-time.  It lasted only a few months, at which time I was offered a new job and promotion, but it required me to be full-time.  I took it, recognizing that it was an opportunity I shouldn't pass up, and also recognizing that part-time wasn't really working anyway - I was simply trying to squeeze a full-time job into fewer hours and getting paid less.  So for five and a half years, I balanced the kids with the full-time job.  It was hard.  

Now I find that I have the luxury of time, and it is a strange feeling.  I find it almost unnatural.  I'm used to having a structure, a routine, and without one I find it more difficult to stay organized and on top of everything.  There is still much to do, and I do need a system.  I'm getting the house in order, and the organization is coming.  Knowing what my week looks like in advance is still helpful, even when it's full of school events, dentist appointments, and playdates.  

I also think about the future.  I do not plan on staying home forever.  Once both boys are in school, I will want to go back to work.  I will be very clear on what I want, though.  I will want a job from which I gain some satisfaction, and one that allows me the flexibility to prioritize my family first.  That shouldn't be so hard to find, right? 

In the meantime, I am cherishing these days at home.  I was able to volunteer to chaperone a nature walk with Aaron's kindergarten class yesterday.  The smile and look of pride on his face while I was there is something I will not soon forget.  It was important for me to be there, and I am so happy that I was able to be.  I'm going to continue to soak in these days while the boys are young.  I know they won't last forever.

October 22, 2012

Weekend Recap

I love The Head of the Charles.  It's a gorgeous event for spectators, with all the boats gracefully racing down The Charles River.  It's also an awesome reason to go into Cambridge on a beautiful Fall weekend.  The boys love seeing the boats, choosing what to have for lunch from the many vendor options lined up along the river, kicking a ball or throwing a frisbee, walking through Cambridge, people-watching in Harvard Square...  This year it was so warm we even stopped for ice cream!  (Typically we are trying to warm up with hot apple cider.)  It's a fun tradition to have, and it's getting fun to look back at previous years and think about how the boys have grown.  

Sunday was mostly spent hanging out at home, raking, cleaning, playing, picking out stools...  Oh and dropping Aaron off at a birthday party.  (We have entered a new phase - being able to drop him off is kind of nice!)

A few little goals for the week:

1.  Sort through the giant pile of house-related paperwork on the desk.  
2.  Get together with a friend.  
3.  Plank and pigeon poses.
4.  Water.
5.  Check out an online to-do list application.  I haven't figured out a system yet, and I need something.

October 17, 2012

Autumn Beauty

This tree made me happy today.

The Playroom

I want to make every room in our house comfortable, uncluttered, and beautiful.  That's a nice goal, isn't it?  Sometimes rooms come together easily, and other times it is more of a challenge.  Actually, it's usually a challenge for me since I have no talent for decorating or design.  The playroom/guest room is definitely a challenge spot.

It's a nice room, with a huge vaulted ceiling and a really cool light.  The walls are a nice shade of gray.  The rug is a fabulous shade of yellow, I adore it, and it's perfect for a guest bedroom.  For a playroom, however, the rug is not as big or as comfortable as it needs to be.  As we moved the train table and other toys in, I also realized that we could really use a set of shelves or something to help organize the space.  We have started to notice that although the boys do play in there at times, they more often go in to get toys and then bring them out to the family room or kitchen.  I have to figure out how to make the room more conducive to playing.  I'm hoping a comfy rug and a set of shelves will do the trick.  

The walls are in good shape at least.  I got this awesome Michelle Armas print, and we recently hung an art cable so that we have somewhere to hang some of the many fabulous pieces of art that the boys create.  We also got a large laminated map, so we can point out that Turkey is, in fact, a country as well as an animal, and we can better illustrate the size of the ocean that separates us from Cousin Zach.  

The big missing piece, and the piece that enables this room as a guest room, is the Murphy Bed.  It is scheduled to be delivered next month, and then comes the simple chore of painting it.  Ugh.  Little by little...

October 16, 2012

Recently Read

Here's a look at the last three books I read.  I can wholeheartedly recommend each of them.  They are very different, but all very engaging and entertaining.

Mission to Paris, by Alan Furst - It is the late summer of 1938, Europe is about to explode, the Hollywood film star Fredric Stahl is on his way to Paris to make a movie for Paramount France. The Nazis know he’s coming—a secret bureau within the Reich Foreign Ministry has for years been waging political warfare against France, using bribery, intimidation, and corrupt newspapers to weaken French morale and degrade France’s will to defend herself.  
This is the first novel I've ready by this author, but I will probably check out his other books at the library.  Very different from my typical read - I don't know that I've even read any other spy novels, although I'm starting to realize that maybe I don't have a "typical".  It's not especially fast-paced, but I thought it was unique, I liked the style of writing, the backdrop of Paris in this era was beautiful, and the ending was satisfying.

The Marriage Plot, by Jeffrey Eugenides - Overall, I really enjoyed this book and cared for the three main characters.  At least, after a while I did.  They do take some time to warm up to.  The book is pretentious at times, but I actually found the subjects interesting (victorian literature, philosophy, religion...), so I didn't mind the author's tangents.  The ending was satisfying - not in an obvious happy-ending kind of way, but in a more realistic and thoughtful way.

Just Kids, by Patti Smith - Wonderful.  Absolutely beautiful.  I haven't been a huge Patti Smith fan - not because I'm not a fan of her work, but simply because I'm a child of a different generation and hadn't been exposed to her very much.  She was born the same year as my mother.  But Patti is an extremely talented writer, and she has created a gorgeous tribute to her life as well as that of her dear friend, a talented artist himself, Robert Mapplethorpe.  It was fascinating to get a glimpse of their life in New York City in the 1970s, as they struggled to make their way in the world and determine what kind of artists they would become.  Seriously...LOVED this one.

October 15, 2012

Weekend Recap and Goals

It was a lovely October weekend here in New England.  Well, actually, it was a lovely Saturday here in New England.  We submitted Aaron's passport renewal application (yes it's worth mentioning, because it is such an arduous process that it feels like such a relief to have it complete!).  We went to the farmer's market and played with friends.  We raked the leaves and the boys had fun playing in the leaf piles.  We watched football.  All good stuff.  

Saturday night was date night, and Kevin and I went to see Argo.  It was a very good, suspenseful film.  It was also the first time in a really long time that I sat in a full theater, where everyone clapped at the end and stayed to watch the credits.  We both really enjoyed it.  We then went out for dessert and drinks.  A great night!


Sunday was less lovely, but it was still fun.  It was a gray, dreary, and wet day.  My mother-in-law came.  We got a few things done around the house.  We went out to brunch.  We enjoyed a rather lazy afternoon, managing to get outside a bit later in the day.  

Goals for this week:
1.  Pick out something else for the house.  (We still have a lot of decorating to do.  The list includes kitchen stools, a mirror, pictures and artwork, floor lamp, small end table, bedroom chair, oh and living room furniture... Needless to say, it's going to take us a while to complete this list, so we're just prioritizing and trying to at least start picking things out.)
2.  Yoga
3.  Get a desk calendar and fill it up
4.  Write a full week's menu so I can stay away from the grocery store for at least a week (I seem to be going every few days lately).
5.  Deep breaths

October 12, 2012

Tift Merritt - Traveling Alone

I recently went on a bit of a music binge.  September was a pretty big month for good releases.  I'm very much enjoying the new albums by The Avett Brothers and Mumford & Sons, and I will share more from some of the other artists with new releases.  Mumford is a great after-dinner album - there's enough fast banjo for me and Nathan to dance around ridiculously.

My choice for post-bedtime or any time I'm alone and can really listen to the music, though, is Tift Merritt.  I've been a fan for a long time, and she just released a new album, entitled Traveling Alone.  It's wonderful.  

October 11, 2012

Books, A Clean Closet, and Apple Pie

1.  Aaron is reading stacks of books every night, and although he has a full bookshelf and we go to the library almost every week, he still complains that we don't have enough books.  I was so excited to go to an estate sale on Saturday morning - they had two boxes of books for 25 cents each.  Each boy selected an armful to bring home.  A few dollars very well spent!

2.  The office closet is neat.  Who knows how long it will last, but right now it's organized.  Let's focus on the right now.

3.  Apple pie and a cup of coffee...for breakfast.  

October 10, 2012

Kitchen Update

My favorite spot!

We continue to make progress on the house.  This latest reveal focuses on the kitchen dining nook.  Honestly, I will have a hard time expressing how much I adore this little corner.  It wasn't even in the original plans, because we weren't sure we would have room for it.  I am SO happy we figured out how to fit it in.  It is now my favorite part of the new space!  

For those of you who have followed my kitchen inspiration pictures over the years (hi family!), you know that I always said I wanted a white kitchen, but not a boring or stuffy-looking one.  I wanted a cheerful one with colorful accents.  After looking at the main part of the kitchen, you might've thought, "Well where's the color?" Here it is!  We chose red cushions and put together a collage of some of our favorite works of art created by the boys.

The table was custom made with salvaged wood by a place in Vermont.  The corner is rather tight, and most of the trestle tables I looked at were simply too big.  We got a custom one made for about the same price as a new one.   Yay!

And finally, a lesson learned.  If I could do it again, I'd spend more to have them build a back for the bench.  My boys are still young, and they are very hard on the house.  The wall behind the bench is already pretty beat.  For now, my little guy sits in the chair.  In a couple years - when he has a little more self-control - I'll let him move over to the bench.  

What do you think?

Yes I did go straighten out all the pictures after taking this shot.

I wish I knew how to take better interior pictures!


October 9, 2012

Weekend Recap

We had an awesome Fall weekend.  Our very good friends came to visit, and we always have the best time with them, regardless of the itinerary.  Our kids have fun playing together, too, and since they left, Aaron has been asking when they're coming back and why they can't live closer to us.

The weekend consisted mostly of playing and hanging out, but we also ventured up to the farm on Sunday to take a hay ride, look at animals, play on the playground, and pick apples.  It was a long weekend for us, and it truly did feel like a holiday.  Sunday brought cooler, more seasonable weather.  It got colder as the day progressed, and none of us minded.  We took those apples home, and I made a pie.  Then I put a chicken in to roast, filling the house with yummy smells.  We watched football in front of a fire, and the kids built a fort and giant lego towers.  

After our friends left on Monday, we spent the day organizing and cleaning and continuing the process of putting our house back together.  We are SO close to being done!   (With the work, anyway - the process of buying furniture and decorating will continue on for quite a while.)  I will share more pictures soon.  

Goals for this week:
1.  Buy our tickets to Spain for the holidays!  
2.  Apply for Aaron's new passport (they sure do not make that an easy process)
3.  Organize, clean, organize
4.  Bring the guitar back downstairs and pick it up again (it has been too long!)
5.  Start looking forward to the holidays (no, it's not too early!)


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