June 23, 2015

What a Weekend...

Nathan had been looking forward to his birthday party for months. Months of planning and anticipating. Thankfully, the big day did not disappoint. We settled on the Star Wars theme, rented a bounce house, made light sabres out of pool noodles, decided on an R2-D2 craft, and chose the flavors of ice cream in the ice cream cake. Aside from a little cake drama in the morning (they told me they didn't have it, leading us to scramble and stress as we tried to figure out an alternative before they called to tell me they found it in the back of the freezer...gah!), everything went great. The weather was clear, and the boys had a blast. 

All the boys wanted to check out the softball game taking place in the field behind our house.

Adorable R2-D2s

And because we had the bounce house all day, we decided to take full advantage of it. We invited some friends over with their kids to enjoy an "after-party". We had dinner together, and the kids played on the bounce house and tried out Nathan's birthday presents. It was one of those days when life seems too good, too happy, and I almost feel a little guilty for it. We'll keep trying to have as many of those days as possible.

Playing with Nathan's wubble bubble ball

June 18, 2015

Menu of the Week

I haven't done a menu post in quite a while. This is largely due to the fact that I haven't tried many new recipes this year. I'm starting to get my groove back, though, and while I will continue to rely on our standard go-to meals, I like incorporating a new dish every now and then as well. 

Here are a few of the recipes we've enjoyed recently. Most are ones we've tried before, with a new one thrown in for good measure.

Pasta and Grilled Vegetables with Goat Cheese - I left the radicchio out of this, because who really likes radicchio? I also forgot the artichoke hearts, which I'm sure would've made a nice addition. I added a yellow squash and more pepper, and it was good. This is more of an "inspiration" recipe, though - not really one I'd ever follow to the letter. But grilled vegetables (whatever you have), pasta, and goat cheese will always be a good combination.

Tortilla and Black Bean Pie - This is one of my favorites. The boys always complain when I tell them what's for dinner, and then they clean their plates. It happens that way sometimes. The only negative about this dish is that it requires my handling a jalapeno, and apparently I can't do that without getting it on my fingers and then rubbing my eyes and going blind for a while. Still, totally worth it.

Arugula Salad with Grilled Chicken, Corn, Tomatoes, and Blue Cheese - Another summer favorite. I enjoy without chicken, and we leave the arugula out for the boys. Sometimes dinners must be deconstructed to each diner's tastes, and I'm okay with this if it means I can still eat big salads for dinner. *NOTE:  This is what I put on the menu, but for some reason, I didn't make it happen. I opted for "that chicken" from Dinner: A Love Story, corn on the cob, and sauteed kale. I had all that corn, and I could tell the boys wanted to have it on the cob this time.

Shrimp Kebabs with Lemon and Cilantro, Rice, Green Beans - Super easy and fast. A perfect weeknight dinner, especially when Kevin is out of town and can't complain about having shrimp for dinner. 

Corn Chowder with Zucchini and Orzo - This is the new recipe of the week.  There are good news and bad news here. The bad news is that it was somewhat messy to make and rather bland. Perhaps I didn't quite get enough corn off my cobs, but it turned out pretty thin. I replaced half of the water with vegetable broth, and yet I still had to add a good amount of salt and pepper. The good news? It's healthy, and the boys inhaled it, cleaning their bowls without a fuss. I probably won't make it again, but it was worth it this time!

Masterpiece Wall...

I know - I should've taken the picture on a sunny day, but I'm impatient!

When we renovated our kitchen, we put in a little eating area, and the wall above the table is reserved for handmade art. As we reach the end of the school year, we've had the opportunity to bring home all the boys' work and art. One of my favorite things to do is go through their portfolios and pick out a few favorites to display on our art wall.  This year's collection is so fabulous.

Here's what it looked like the first year. I love looking back at it. I had forgotten about the Arc de Triomphe - one of my all-time favorites and a beautiful memento from a visit to Paris. One entitled "Yellow". And that pirate ship! Classic. This year's display includes a wonderful sunflower drawing by Nathan, a desert scene by Aaron, and other gorgeous pieces. They love the end product almost as much as I do.  

June 15, 2015

Wide Open Weekend...

We looked towards a weekend with nothing planned. Soccer Saturday morning, but that was it. I was looking forward to it, but I was also feeling that I should be doing more to make plans. This is what ended up happening...

After working Friday morning, I spent a couple hours at end of year parties at school. Then my husband texted and said that we could use his company's Red Sox tickets for that night. They are great seats, and we had talked before about how cool it would be to be able to take the boys one day. That day had come, and we jumped at the chance. We went early to have dinner and watch batting practice, and the boys were actually sad to leave before the game ended. It was a late night for them, but it was totally worth it.

Saturday morning included Nathan's last day of soccer, and I think we are all a little sad that the season has ended so soon. He had so much fun with it. Out to a cafe for breakfast, a visit to the farmer's market, lunch and hanging out at home, including more soccer in the yard. I wore myself out after about 45 minutes and wondered how they can run constantly for so long. I decided my toes needed to be dressed up before our upcoming beach trip, so I popped out for a pedicure - why not? Saturday night was movie night - we watched "Wild", which I really liked. 

Sunday...We all slept in! I was originally hoping to join free yoga on the common that morning, but when the boys didn't get out of bed until 9:30 (!), I decided a lazy Sunday morning was more in order. We lounged and ate pancakes. Our outing of the day was to a local farm for strawberry-picking. As we arrived home, the boys were hot and complaining about wanting to go somewhere they could swim, and I could feel the "I'm bored!" comments coming. Instead, they asked to fill up our little kiddie pool and proceeded to spend the rest of the afternoon playing various yard games and not complaining at all! (Well, there may have been a few "he stole my ball!" and "he pushed me!" moments, but all in all, it was a pretty peaceful afternoon.) We ate dinner outside while the little leaguers played beside us.

It was a lovely, fun, and full go-with-the-flow weekend. I'm happy for it. I've been feeling a little guilty about the fact that the boys will be in camp for so much of the summer. I want them to feel those wide open and carefree days of Summer. So maybe it's good to leave some of that unstructured time for the weekends, and we can all refresh and relax together. 

June 8, 2015

A New Site Design and a Weekend...

Hi! Well, I finally got around to updating the blog design. Thanks to Danielle for making it ridiculously easy, and of course now I'm wondering why I didn't do it sooner. It's clean and simple, I love it, and it has made this space even more of a happy place for me. What do you think?

We had a nice weekend at home. Soccer, yard work, date night (we went out for tapas and saw Pitch Perfect 2 - not quite as good as the first, but still funny and great), sleeping in (the boys slept until after 9 on Sunday!), cleaning, and a canoe ride. Our neighbors were nice enough to let us borrow their canoe on Sunday. It was the perfect day for a ride on the river, and now I have the satisfaction of having sore biceps. Good stuff all around.

June 5, 2015

Brandi Carlile - Wherever Is Your Heart

A little music for your Friday. Brandi Carlile is so incredibly talented, and I love her music. I'm very much looking forward to seeing her in Newport next month. If you like, check out this performance with The Avett Brothers on Dave Letterman - it made me smile huge. And if you like all that, here's a live performance on KEXP - seriously, she's so freakin' good. 

June 4, 2015

A Few Things...

My fabulous cousin Tiffany gave a Ted talk, and it's finally online! Check it out and be inspired. She's amazing.

Oh my gosh this episode of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee cracked me up!

I'm bookmarking this for future gift ideas. How fun would it be to get an assortment of awesome gelato delivered to your door?

This might be the longest post ever, but the pictures are awesome, and it was like visiting Amsterdam all over again.

The Problem with Kindergarten.  As my youngest is finishing his first year of school, I am so grateful to his wonderful teacher for shielding him as much as possible from the many ways that kindergarten has changed over the years. It makes me sad to think of 5 and 6-year-olds feeling bad about not being able to read yet or not liking school. Our awesome teacher is retiring this year, partially because she has become more and more frustrated by the increased standards given to kindergarteners. I'm so happy that both of my boys got to learn from her.

This is a long but thought-provoking article, written by one of my favorites, Dr. Atul Gawande. No matter what you do for a living, it's worth thinking about how to be the very best at it.

A great interview with Cameron Crowe.  Some of his movies are among my favorites of all-time, and I love how he incorporates music into his stories. I'm disappointed to see generally negative reviews about his new movie, Aloha, since I had been looking forward to it. (Of course I'll still see it anyway.) Regardless, I did enjoy this interview.

This post by Sheryl Sanberg made me cry. I'm inspired by her strength and ability to share her feelings so eloquently with the world.

June 3, 2015

Recently Read

The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins. This is just as suspenseful and engaging as you've no doubt already heard. It definitely has a "Gone Girl" vibe. Very unlikable characters, but I was still hooked. I loved it, and Kevin did as well.

Leading the Life You Want: Skills for Integrating Work and Life, by Stewart Friedman.  Friedman analyzes six highly successful people - including Michelle Obama, Julie Foudy, and Bruce Springsteen - and identifies some of their key traits and the strategies they utilize in their lives. The book was only okay overall, but a few of the overall points did sink in. Largely, the idea of integrating your life and not trying to segregate "work" from "life". Since having kids, I've always tried to keep a very firm dividing line between work and home. Living that way, I realize that it only magnifies the feeling that I'm somehow wasting the time I spend at work. It's not good. Instead, if you approach work as being part of your life, and working to get the important things out of it, it becomes so much more rewarding. For example, I want to volunteer more. Instead of viewing this as something outside of work that I need to make time for, I now work for a company that offers many opportunities to volunteer in the community. It's a bonus at work and in life.

The Bone Clocks, by David Mitchell.  David Mitchell is a fascinating author. I am never sure how to summarize his books, because they are so incredibly complex, but I love them. The Bone Clocks was no exception. It is somewhat similar in structure to Cloud Atlas, in that it is divided into six stories, each told from a different character's point of view. It has an element of the supernatural included, which is interesting and serves to support the theme of mortality, although the climax of that part of the book was the least satisfying for me. The overriding story arch follows the life of one woman, and it was her story that was the most interesting to me.

June 2, 2015

Fun Photos and My First Giveaway!

I'm not one who has a ton of family pictures on the walls. I have a gallery wall up our staircase, and we have a handful of special family photos framed here and there. I see my kids and my husband every day, so I don't feel the need to display pictures everywhere.

That said, I always appreciate walking through people's houses and looking at all their pictures. Not just the big occasions, like weddings, but also the everyday moments and milestones. I also love flipping through the images on my phone from time to time, and very often I'd think - what am I going to do with all these? I still make and print out an annual family photo album, and I am not afraid to incorporate instagram pictures as well as those from our nice camera, but I started to love the idea of finding a way of capturing those everyday moments in some tangible way.

Enter CanvasPop! I used their site to create a collage of my favorite Instagram pictures over the past year, and I love it. It was so easy to make, and now I have this fun collection of memories to keep on display. I'm still deciding where to put it, but I'm already thinking I may have to do this again next year. It's such a fun way of seeing those fun everyday-but-still-so-special moments and keeping them fresh in my memory. 

Would you love one too? CanvasPop has graciously offered one of my readers a 16X20 print with a .75 inch frame and free shipping! (And since there aren't a ton of you out there, your chances are really good!) To enter, simply leave a comment on this post - easy peasy! I'll pick a winner by June 10th, 2015. Shipping is limited to US and Canada.

If you don't win, or you want to do your own thing, they're giving all my fabulous readers a very generous 35% off one order with the code MARYLOVES35 from now through July 30th, 2015*.

Isn't that cool? It's a really good reason to look through all those photos stuck on your phone and decide to do something with them already!

*valid for orders shipping within the US and Canada; cannot be combined with other discounts or promo codes.


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