May 29, 2014

What's Going On...

Nathan had his preschool graduation earlier this week.  He was so happy and proud, and I had such a fun time watching him sing songs and get his diploma.  He was especially happy that his grandma got to come too.  Kindergarten here he comes!

My baby is also riding a bike!  We decided to get his birthday present a little early, and he is ridiculously excited about it.  We took the training wheels off as soon as we got home, and he was riding it on his own the first day!  (Love love love balance bikes for making this process so easy.)

I'm having a pretty low-key week, hanging out with Nathan and trying to get some things done here and there.  Aaron's still in school, and baseball and piano are still on the schedule, so it's mostly the same routine through June.  But we're almost there!

In the meantime:  birthday parties, field day, teacher gifts, school celebrations...

I'm back in my dinner-making groove.  Expect a mammoth recipe list soon.

My job search will get into full swing next week.  Wish me luck!  I only want to find a fulfilling job I enjoy that will allow me to stay flexible so I can take care of myself and my family too.  That shouldn't be so hard to find, right?

In the meantime:  appreciating all the little moments, like midday bike riding, prepping dinner in the morning, leisurely leftover lunches...

May 23, 2014

Conor Oberst - Time Forgot


Conor Oberst has always fascinated me.  His lyrics are so intricate and thoughtful, and I will spend time with one song for hours, trying to figure out what it means.  His latest album, Upside Down Mountain, is probably my favorite to date.

I haven't chosen a favorite song yet, and I couldn't choose a video to include here, so I just picked the first two songs off the album.  Enjoy and happy Friday!

May 22, 2014

Little Things...

I got a new pair of sneakers, and they are purple.  I am a little shocked every time I look down.  

We finally adjusted these shelves to be able to accommodate more records.  We added a box full of albums given to us by Kevin's uncle.  Our collection is really coming along!  

It's lilac season.  The yard smells amazing, and the purple and white blooms are so pretty.

May 21, 2014

Muscle Shoals

Since I had the opportunity to fly by myself last weekend, I decided to rent a couple movies to bring with me.  The first was "About Time", which was sweet and lovely and the message is important - live every day, every moment.  

The movie I watched on the way home was Muscle Shoals, a documentary about the music industry in a tiny town in Alabama.  Some of the biggest hit songs ever were recorded here.  It's absolutely wonderful.  The stories, the people, and of course the music.  I highly recommend it.

May 20, 2014

Friends and Priorities...

I'm not sure how it happened.  Julie lives outside Atlanta, and of course I live near Boston.  Once I moved north, it became difficult to see each other.  But we managed.  I worked in Atlanta for a couple years, and seeing Julie was a nice benefit of having to fly every week.  We were in each other's weddings.  We went to Disneyworld for our 30th birthdays.  When I got pregnant the first time, she flew up to visit, bringing me a suitcase full of maternity clothes.  We emailed and called.  And then...

Eight years flew by!  We were both shocked when we realized how long it had been since we had seen each other.  Kids and jobs and school and money and having to travel to visit long-distance family somehow meant that traveling to visit friends became a lower priority.  Every now and then we'd start a conversation about how we needed to plan a trip, and for one reason or another, it didn't happen.  The conversation started back up again in the Fall, as we approached our fortieth birthdays.  We had celebrated 16 together, and 21, and 30...we should really do something for 40.  The conversation wasn't going anywhere, and I finally just said, I'm coming to you!  I am so happy I did.

Julie is my best friend from high school.  I met her in geometry class our freshman year.  Let's just say I helped her through it.  ;-)  We became fast friends and have stayed that way ever since.  There's something so special about friends you make early in life.  Julie knows my family, she knows how I did in school, we worked at the same ice cream shop, we talked about all the big events (first kiss, first loves, first...), we skipped school and went to the beach, we got in trouble together, and we helped each other make it through the hell that high school can be.  We went to different colleges but visited and kept in touch.  A couple years after college, I was her maid of honor.  A few years after that, she was mine.

We spent this past weekend talking.  And talking.  About everything.  Kids, marriage, jobs, home, family, friends...  It was as if no time had passed.  But of course it had, and I don't want to let that much time go by again.  We let the distance between us and the busyness of life keep us apart, and I am determined not to let that happen again.  Friends are the best stuff of life, and it's so important to cherish them.  

Me and Julie at twenty-one...

...and here we are at forty.

May 16, 2014

Nikki Lane - Love's on Fire

I've had this song on repeat all week.  Love it.  It's a duet with Dan Auerbach from The Black Keys.  That shift at the 1:10 mark - gets me every time.  The rest of the album is pretty damn awesome too, although I keep hitting repeat on this song.  I should just let the whole thing play more.  Check it out!

photo by Chuck Grant via Rolling Stone

May 14, 2014

Recently Read

1Q84, by Haruki Marakami.  This is a fascinating book, and it kept me engaged, but at the end I wasn't satisfied.  It is extremely long, and the payoff just wasn't there for me.   It is thoughtful, and the images are painted masterfully, and again, I actually did enjoy reading it, if only to attempt to understand the point behind creating such an intricate and complex world.  At the end, though, I didn't feel like I was walking away with any newfound knowledge or understanding - I was mostly glad it was over.

Eleanor & Park, by Rainbow Rowell.  Wonderful book.  My sister had been telling me to read this for a while, and she finally just brought it to me!  It's a love story about two teenagers, with the same target audience as The Fault in Our Stars.  The story takes place in Omaha.  Eleanor is the new girl in school.  She's a chubby, poor, awkward redhead, with an unhappy home life (putting it mildly).  Park is half-Korean, quiet, likes comic books and alternative (good) music and feels different from everyone else, especially his father.  They connect.  And the ending will make you cry and feel happy at the same time.

You Are Not Special: ... And Other Encouragements, by David McCullough, Jr.  Remember that commencement speech I linked to a couple years ago?  No?  Well, if you don't, here it is again.  Link through for the full transcript or check out the video on YouTube - it's worth reading or watching.  His speech was aimed at his graduating students at Wellesley High School, here in Massachusetts.  Wellesley is an affluent town, and the students are therefore raised with the knowledge that they are privileged.  Expectations are high.  Ivy league colleges are often the goal.  His statement - "you are not special" - was meant to alleviate some of that pressure.  He expanded on the themes of his speech in this book.  It's a very valuable message, and I definitely agree.  He conveys his thoughts on achievement, parental involvement, club and travel sports, gender/race/class divides...  At times he goes on tangents, but there are many passages that resonated with me, especially those around "learning for learning's sake" as opposed to getting the grade.  I'd definitely recommend this book.

May 12, 2014

Weekend Accomplishments

I ran a 5K.  Yes, we must start with this one, because who would believe it?  I have long professed my hatred of running, and I'm still not exactly sure how I got talked into doing this.  A friend of mine was running a Mother's Day race with a few other girlfriends and invited me to join them.  What compelled me to say yes, I do not know.  I think I just wanted to see if I could do it.  It was not easy, especially since I did nothing to prepare for it and stayed up too late the night before drinking wine.  But despite this, I jogged the entire time and finished the dang thing.  Slowly, of course, but I did it.  Maybe there's a little runner in me after all.

I planted the garden.  It was a gorgeous weekend, and we spent the entire time outside, loving every second of it.  This year, I planted tomatoes, kale, broccoli, lettuce, green beans, zucchini, butternut squash, and cucumbers.  In addition to our usual herb barrel containing cilantro, rosemary, scallions, and basil.

We worked in the yard.  Besides preparing the garden, I weeded and planted some flowers.  Kevin mowed and seeded and watered and cleaned the shed and edged and did what he does.

We stopped working to play catch and soccer with the boys.  The boys had a great time playing outside together, but sometimes they wanted us to join in.  We played two-on-two soccer and had fun trying to see how long we could keep a catching streak going.

We entertained friends.  Some friends and their two boys came over to hang out in our yard with us.  The boys ran around playing while we got to talk and catch up.  They live about two miles away in the same town, and yet we only see each other every few months.  It was fun to get together.  We let the boys stay up way too late so we could extend our visit, and I hope we get to do it again soon.

I prepared myself a Mother's Day brunch.  Pancakes, fruit, bacon, and mimosas, enjoyed on our patio in the warm sunshine.  Me and my boys.  Does it get any better than that?  No, no it doesn't.

May 9, 2014

Menu of the Week

photos via Martha Stewart

Every now and then, I complain about the energy it takes to decide what to have for dinner every night.  I hate eating the same things all the time, and I want to continue to find healthy meals that both the kids and I enjoy; so I like trying new recipes.  At the same time, I've been doing this for years now, so I do have a pretty good collection of tried and true recipes.  The problem is, they are all over the place.  I have a binder where I keep recipes clipped from magazines.  I also have plenty of cookbooks, a recipe box containing some family favorites, and I obviously also look to blogs and pinterest for inspiration.  My favorite strategy is searching this blog to see what we ate in the same month a year ago.  I'll probably still do that at times, but I'd love to pull our favorites offline.  Clearly I have plenty of ideas - my problem is figuring out a new strategy for organizing them.  Or at least...organizing the recipes that are already in my rotation.

When deciding on a week's menu, I typically choose a poultry dish, seafood, pasta, a meatless dish or two (such as soup, stir fry, eggs...), and Friday nights are almost always either Mexican (burritos, quesadillas) or pizza.  I typically plan five meals, counting on leftovers at least one night, and one night of going out or a "quick and easy" dinner (fish sticks, mac & cheese, grilled cheese...), especially if Kevin's not home for dinner.  It changes, because our schedule changes.  Baseball nights require something fast, Kevin goes out of town or has work dinners, etc.  So I need to organize our recipes into those categories so I can strategize before each week.  I'm thinking a new binder.

In the meantime, here's a peek at what we've been eating this week...

Marinated Chicken, Rice, Grilled Asparagus
Grilling season is here!  The patio table is out, and we had our first night of dinner outside.  It was awesome.

Penne with Shrimp, Peas, and Pesto, Salad, Baguette
Sometimes categories mix, like this pasta with shrimp - which category would you put it in?  Hm.  Both boys love this and ate every single bite.  I'm thinking that makes it a 'pasta', which are often sure things.  

Cream of Broccoli Soup, Grilled Cheese
My love of veggie soups continues.  The boys did well with this, although it's not a favorite.  I want to try this one next time.  

Vegetable Frittata with Roasted Potatoes and Garlic
I actually didn't have green beans, so I used asparagus instead.  I also cooked this in the afternoon so it was ready to go for our early before-baseball dinner.  It was still good for Kevin's after-baseball dinner.  

Homemade Pizza, Salad

May 7, 2014

Soaking it in...

You can pretty much count on me posting pictures of flowers during the month of May.  Spring flowers are such a lovely reward for slogging through the mud of April.

So what's going on?  Well, Aaron's baseball season has kicked off, so the next couple months are full of games and practices.  I love it, especially once the temperatures rise a bit.  Last night was his first game, and it was so much fun!  I just love watching him learn and play.

Once we enter May, it seems that the end of the school year will be upon us so quickly.  I can already feel the shift in routine, even though it hasn't actually happened yet and won't really until the end of June.  But as I talk about Nathan's preschool graduation and make travel plans and fill out camp forms, summer is clearly on my mind.

For me personally, I'm transitioning as well.  I'm starting the job search, reaching out to old colleagues, sending emails, setting up lunch, researching companies...  As I look at what my friends and colleagues have been doing with their careers, I have feelings that I can't quite express.  Comparison is the thief of joy, as they say, so I do try to avoid it.  I'm also trying to wrap my head around what next Fall may look like for us.  I'm not there yet, and I suppose I won't be until we are actually there, but the process of preparation has begun.  I think that's why I haven't been online or sharing here more.  My brain is occupied.

I also realized that it's not that I'm uninspired as it relates to dinner, it's just that I am unorganized!  How did this happen?  I am determined to remedy this.  I continue to have days where I feel accomplished and effective, and I balance those with days when I look back and can't remember exactly what it is that I did!  Those endless tasks like laundry and dishes and sweeping are easily forgotten.

In the meantime, I'm appreciating the little things.  I just returned from an awesome yoga class, I'm cooking, organizing, trying to take care of some big house tasks that have been on the list for forever and really better be done before this season is over... I am thoroughly enjoying the new '24' - seeing Jack makes me happy and reminds me of what life was like over a decade ago when I first saw the show.  2001?  I wasn't even married yet!  I was in my 20s, working hard, having fun, traveling all the time.  I had no view of what life would be like at 40.  Now I'm here... in our old house that's almost fixed up, with a hallway full of shoes, baseballs and legos strewn about, tulips lining the front porch.  All I can do is try to soak it all in.

May 2, 2014

Nickel Creek - 21st of May

I am loving Nickel Creek's new album.  I have been a fan during their solo projects and other bands, but there is something special about this combination of three extraordinary musicians.  I am excited that they will be performing at this year's Newport Folk Festival, too.  


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