How Does Your Garden Grow?

We’re at just over a month since we planted the veggie garden, so I thought I’d give you an update on the situation out there.

Truth be told, this set of pictures was actually taken last week, and they’ve grown an incredible amount even since then. We’ve got some serious growth goin’ on. The squash has bloomed, several tomatoes and peppers have flowered, the lettuce is doing great, and nothing seems to have died. Sooo, we’ve got that goin’ for us (she says as if she wishes Bill Murray would crash HER bachelor party).

On the “are you KIDDING me?!” front, however, our love of animals has bitten us in the heiny. Dave has taken to putting food out for some of the neighborhood cats (I know, I know…but…), and while they’ve never been an issue with the garden in the past, they decided to get down and dirty this year. I’m talkin’ potty.

So, of course after attempting to dig out the problem *ahem, ahem* and hope and pray that we don’t end up dead-by-cat, we tried a couple of things.

Straight vinegar sprayed around the perimeter.


We discussed a plethora of options, from sticking a million plastic forks in (um…no) to sprinkling hot pepper around (I read that it’s toxic; I don’t want to hurt/kill them, for crying out loud), and finally, one that we’re testing now…


Dave’s mom gave it to us, and I can’t believe he used ALL of it. I haven’t grabbed any shots, but just envision white netting and barely being able to envision a garden underneath.

I guess it doesn’t really matter, since a) it seems to be working (it didn’t even collapse when one of the kittens decided to attack what I’m hoping was just a butterfly that had landed atop it), b) it’s the best way to still allow light and water in without allowing, y’know, the nastiness in, and c) the garden ain’t there to be purdy. Well. I mean, I enjoy looking at it, but ultimately, it’s not the point.

Harvest time should be interesting, though. 😉 Of course, we will keep you posted!

Oh, and speaking of gardens, I’m finally getting to work in the front foundation bed. I know it’s late in the season, but I’ve been super sick of the look of weeds, spent tulips, and general depressed landscaping. Besides, in our area, a hardy plant will last well into fall (barring any early frosts).

I’m kind of thinking that, in the fall, I’d like to divide and transplant the insanely huge hosta (I’ve never been able to keep one on the other side of the house to give it some symmetry, this one just gets too much sun) to the side other side of our front porch, near a boxwood bush. That way, that area’s pretty much “planted”…for keeps. No matter what I do (well…except for tomato plants…ahem), it always seems sparse over there, so this’ll kill feed two birds with one stone hamburger. One, get the obnoxious hosta out of the way. Two, fill in this tricky spot.

Look at that brain. Always a-clickin’.

Then, I can plant some ornamental grass and other lower-growing stuff in the front. Picture me Googling and pinning a buttloat of “small foundation garden” ideas. Truth be told, not finding much, but there’s time.

So, what’re you growing this summer? Anything good? Or are you hitting up the farmers’ markets? I can’t wait for the veggies to start coming in. With the new cholesterol fighting game we’re playing, the organic store veg is starting to break the bank!

Getting Oily

If you’re into holistic lifestyles (or the concept that the current health care system ain’t cuttin’ it), you’ve probably heard about essential oils. These are highly concentrated oils from plants, herbs, flowers, and fruits that, when applied to parts one’s body, taken in capsule or beverage form, or diffused into the air, can have tremendous healing powers. The more I read, the more I realized how beneficial they could be to try out. Headaches, illnesses, stress reduction, even for cleaning around the house — there seems to be an almost endless list for their uses.

The skeptic in me kept searching, not for whether to try the stuff or not, but picking from which company to purchase essential oils. I’m part of an awesome Facebook group that had some great suggestions, and, upon searching further, I found a blogger that wrote tons of articles comparing popular brands and discussing whether cheaper really was better. At the end of her series, she posted this article announcing “Native American Nutritionals” as the winner for quality (and for “not too good to be true” value). Check out the post to see her reasoning.

Her reasons (and invaluable research) were compelling enough for me to consider purchasing their basic kit. It was priced, at the time, at $154.35 (10% off as a kit). See why I’m hitting myself over the head trying to select the right brand? This $&#% is expensive (and rightfully so)! Oh, and quality matters big-time since there are some sleazy people out there trying to pass crap off as the real thing. Also, I didn’t want to get into the other companies’ “buy this much a month, get this much free” stuff because a) I was still skeptical as to its validity (if it would work for our family) and b) I’m not good at the pressure of purchase. (You know, like if I get a 30% off coupon for Kohl’s, the pressure that I should go use it because goodness knows when they’ll send a 30% off coupon again. Hate that. It makes me cry in aisles, I kid you not.)

But I kept hearing of Young Living and doTerra as people’s favorites. This article helped me to whittle it down to YL (which most of my FB buddies recommend, anyway). Still, I searched further (gotta love in-depth comparisons where folks do days and days worth if work for you. Apparently I’m lazy). Finally, the these links (here and here) are the two-part analysis that gave me a result that was clear. I’d be plunking down $154.35 (plus S&H…or is it S&P?) to try NAN.

I *FINALLY* ordered earlier this week, so I was kinda shocked when they arrived on Wednesday. I’ve used them a couple of times on our pillows (lavender one night, a blend called “tranquility” last night) and they were wicked relaxing – but that’s all so far. 

This is clearly the start of something, so I’ll be sure to share my findings. If I find a need to switch to another brand in the future (namely the highly recommended YL), you’ll hear about it. If I find that EO are the greatest thing since sliced bread, you’ll know. For now, I’m just ecstatic to finally get going!

Currently – June 26

Howdy, folks! Back for this week’s “Currently”, and guess what that means! Yep, I’m done. One more year of inventory’s in the books. It’s not perfect, and I’ve gotta work on some areas during the school year to organize better and weed, but it’s D-O-N-E enough for me. Whew.

Time to check in with the ol’ “Currently” list of the week…

The learning that’s been going on in our little monkey’s head lately is awe-inspiring. It seems like every day he “gets” a new word or concept. Sure, he needs to practice some of these (er, all of them) to mastery, but for now the fact that he can communicate with us and does so in such an at-times hilarious, sweet way makes me want to cry. Yup. There I go.

On the nights when the energy hits me, I’ve been working on making the Hadman’s little felt food birthday present. I’ve got two slices of tomatoes, a slice of cheese (easiest. thing. ever.) done, and am working on a bunch of strawberries (very time consuming), and a bunch of other stuff. I even thought ahead enough to put aside a small plastic container that looks like it holds strawberries for him to put them in. (The edges aren’t sharp or anything! Check this mama out, bein’ all cautious.) My husbands says that it’s the absolute PERFECT gift since the little man’s been really into “mixing” and making “soup” lately. Like, it’s one of the only playful activities I can get him to do, for real.

I’m loving a lot right now. Loving the fact that I get to be home with our monkey all summer. Loving that we got a season pass to the zoo, so we can hit that joint up whenever we want. Loving that we’re planning our vacation, and I’m super excited to hit the road! Loving that I get to celebrate my nephew’s awesomeness at his graduation party this weekend. Just. Loving. Everything. Oh, and my cats are pretty rad, too.

I haven’t been reading a lot beyond magazines lately, but since school has come to an end I’ll get to turn my attention back to a few already-started books piled up next to the bed. I tend towards non-fiction, so I’ve got a couple of history and biographical works (one on Audrey Hepburn that’s awesome so far), but I might push the boundaries and see if anyone has a FUN fiction suggestion for me. (No downers…no mysteries…all fun!) I only know what’s on the kiddies’ best seller lists lately.

I love smelling stuff. Is that weird? Maybe it’s a tad less weird if I explain that I enjoy smelling GOOD stuff. Like the summer breeze. And a freshly-bathed baby. And my cats. (They smell good, I assure you. They’re OCD clean. Aren’t most cats?) Not less weird? Eh. It’s my thing, I guess. I also hope to FINALLY be smelling some flowers outside!! I got my veggie garden planted, but the foundation plantings I usually get done around Memorial Day…well…didn’t happen. I was waiting to paint the foundation itself, but I think I’m just gonna get on it. The house looks depressing without some fun pops of color…and I need something new to stick my nose in.

How are you guys doing this week?? Enjoying the awesomeness that is summer? Yeah.

Linking to Harvesting Kale and Ot & Et. (Thanks for the linky party, ladies!)

Cuckoo for Cholesterol

As in “even the word cholesterol lately is driving me a tad cuckoo.” I’m not talking about my own (actually, I need to get it checked; it’s always been okay, though); I’m talking about Dave’s. And if he’s got a problem to deal with, there’s no other way but than to tackle it as a team. That’s how we roll. So, most of the dietary changes we’re making apply to both of us.

And since I’m the solitary meal-maker 98% of the time, I feel to blame. I shouldn’t, he says, since he’s actually had issues since he was quite young (heredity, you’re a…bad word), but it’s hard not to feel more than a twinge of guilt and responsibility for the issue.

The toughest part of the whole thing is that, when we got the letter, we had just stocked up on stuff that his new doctor wants him OFF, immediately. We both appreciate the fact that she’s against statins (his last doc wanted him on them and, um, yeah…he left the guy; not because of the diagnosis, but because statins do crazy things to people). So, it’s finally time to buckle down.

The thing is, we’re real food eaters now. Always will be. But a handful of thoughts in the real food world totally contradict what the “traditional” medical community dictates for lowering one’s cholesterol.

Like whole milk and butter. Yes, they’re full-fat. There are studies that say, however, that individuals who consume year products (vs. lower fat versions) are actually less overweight with fewer cases of health issues than those who consume the low fat stuff. It’s perplexing, to say the least, and tough when you know it’s as much heredity as it is the milk on your Cheerios.

I’m also unclear as to how to wrap my head around the reduction in sugar in the diet. Like. Okay, does this just mean anything with refined sugar (like in coffee, which he doesn’t use) or processed products with hidden sugar (we try to limit this, too, and Dave’s actually better at this than I am)? Or does it mean ALL sugars; even the natural, known-to-provide-good-things sugars like maple syrup and raw honey? Dude loves his teensy bit of raw honey in his tea.

To an extent, the rest of the diet restrictions (cross through) changes I can get behind. 

Our biggest issue is how carb-based out diet is. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard of a need to reduce carbs when trying to lower one’s cholesterol, but she requested that he do it for now. Pasta is usually a once-a-week occurrence for us, as is an all natural pizza. The occasional side of organic macaroni and cheese, or panini sandwich for dinner add up to lots of carb-based food intake. Blah. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the roadblocks that change sets before us, huh?

But, I take a deep breath and look to my old friend, Real Food, for answers. What aren’t we doing enough of that we can adjust without totally turning our backs on our fundamental food philosophies? What are we doing “right” already that we can piggyback on? Here are a few thoughts…

Less processed, more fruit n’ veg. I’m the first to admit that pasta and sandwiches and a dozen other meals I’m forgetting right now, no matter how organic and minimal the ingredients, aren’t necessarily “healthy.” We don’t sit down with a stack of carrot sticks (that picture’s taunting me) for a snack. I only bring apples to work (hence my consumption of them over the summer lessens). There are many days that I’m making lunches and have grown to ask Dave if he needs an apple; the reply is often, “Nope. I’ve got one from yesterday that I didn’t eat.” So, yeah. There’s the first step right there. Make fruit and veggies a) more available (ie buy a crapload more of them; I had found my “right weekly amount” to finally know that I wouldn’t be throwing any out, so I’ll have to change my thinking) and b) a bigger part of our eating experience.

Nuts to you! Speaking of snacks, nuts have the “healthy” types of omega-3 oils and fiber that help the body rid itself of the bad cholesterol. So, I’ll have to stock up on the right kinds.

Salads, salads, salads. Side note: Dave’s a salad guy. He’d eat it every night, so we’ve got that goin’ for us. I know a lot of people will say “but oils!” when it comes to salad. Since we only ever use oil and vinegar (or the occasional homemade vinaigrette), it’s not like we’d be dousing the thing in thick, super fatty, super unhealthy dressings. Plus, the extra virgin olive oil (high quality) is actually helpful for your good cholesterol. Remember: Our bodies don’t work without SOME fats. It’s also not like we’re chugging the stuff; portion control. I recently grabbed a bottle with a little pour spout and I tell ya that thing’s lasted twice as long as a usual bottle. 

Prep is the key. What makes packaged convenience foods (chips, granola bars — not always bad, but y’know, sugar — cereals, etc.) the thing that we ALWAYS turn to? Other than the tastiness…convenience, of course. It’s there. Ready. Waiting. So, taking time to prep the veggies ONCE (rather than when you’re already hangry and not willing to take the time) to provide yourself with several days worth of snacks is a good idea. Same goes with a fruit platter for the fridge (pineapple, cantaloupe, watermelon, etc.), air-popped popcorn in an air-tight container or baggies, and any healthier alternatives that might make stuff more palatable (can you say “greek yogurt dip”?).

Consider your meat intake. We’re not HUGE meat-eaters, but we’ve been known to eat a burger or *gasp* nitrate-free hotdog from time to time. And it’s summer, so I don’t see not cutting it out 100% (see below). But, by trying to find some more vegetarian recipes that the THREE of us can eat (I’m not one for making 3 separate meals, folks), or finding new ways to incorporate less meat, more veg into our diets, I think it’ll benefit all of us. Plus, I hope to stock up on all-natural (if not organic…that’s one place Hannaford falls short) boneless, skinless chicken breasts and more fresh fish (ALWAYS checking for sourcing) options. 

As with all diets, it’s key to not beat yourself up. For example, since I haven’t been shopping yet and Dave didn’t have any alternatives, AND he had done an awesome job on his first cholesterol-attacking weekend (even when we went to a BBQ joint with his parents for a meal, he made super wise selections AND didn’t even haphazardly eat the dinner roll), he guiltily asked if I thought a small bowl of ice cream would be alright. We pondered it and discussed it, and I told him to set a limit for himself. Like, if he wants a treat from time to time, allow it, but say that “a small bowl of ice cream is okay once a week.” It feels far less like a black hole of deprivation (you know what I’m talkin’ about!) that way. Plus, now I know that he might benefit from some frozen greek yogurt treats in the freezer that will help him feel a tad less naughty.

Do you guys have any experience with a quasi-limited diet? Got any good advice? What are your eating habits, restrictions or not? As I talk to other people who deal with this, I find myself often saying, “Yup, we already do that. Hey, we hardly eat that, cool!” so it’s not as if we have super unhealthy habits to begin with. It’s just finally time to turn the focus back to ourselves. Oh, and you better know there’s gonna be more walking and exercising up in here. 😉 Apparently you can change your own genetic makeup by breaking a sweat. Who knew?    

Toddler Travel Essentials

We recently revealed some of the ideas we’ve had for our summer vacation, and no matter what we choose, we’ll clearly be hitting the open road for our little adventure. Since this undertaking will involve traveling for an extended period of time with an active 2-year-old, it’s going to take some planning and strategic packing to make it all work smoothly. Well, as smoothly as anything can when a toddler’s involved. Am I right? #littlewrenchthrowers 

Let’s just say figuring out what to bring on a road trip with a little one involved can be a bit of a challenge.

So, I thought it would be fun to share a handful of items that I consider must-haves (or at least “they-help-the-cause” haves) to make a road trip way less stressful on mommy and daddy…and doesn’t that make the trip more fun, as a whole? Feel free to add them to your packing list if you think they’ll work for you!

1  /  2  /  3  /  4  /  5  /  6  /  7  /  8  /  9

1. This one’s as much for the parents as it is for the kids. An iPhone is a life-saver, especially if you’ve got unlimited access to the interwebs. We like to use ours to customize our listening experience with Pandora, but I’ll admit publicly that I tend to let Hadman use the PBS Kids app to watch whatever shows he wants for a few minutes. Yes. I’m that mom. The guilt overwhelms me. Kinda. Oh, and I’m including this cell phone cover because mine’s chipped and in need of replacing…and don’t you just love the hip arrow design and ability to insert a picture of your little monkey? *swoon*

2. An adorable fleece blankie. What’s more versatile than that? Use it to snuggle up if you’re leaving on one of those chilly summer mornings (they exist here in the northeast, at least), if your little one is in the need of some comfort, for a quick picnic lunch along the way, or as an easy-to-shake-out beach blanket. I adore how you can personalize this nautical design to suit your own family’s needs.

3. Have you ever noticed that you can get just as bad a sunburn while riding in a car as you can while sitting outside? Only it’s super uneven and not fun to look at. I’m a sunscreen obsessed mama, so I’m all about slathering it on before a big trip (and throughout). Badger is a trusted eco-friendly brand that not only WORKS, but that’s all natural and free of nasty stuff. I like this combo-pack that includes bug spray because my little guy just happens to be a magnet for bugs since he doesn’t know how to swat them yet.

4. Honestly, this is an everyday “must” for me. I don’t go anywhere without my stainless steel water bottle. It’s just my thing. So, needless to say, I’d much rather fill this up with our filtered water (and add more along the way) than buy bottled water — or less healthy options — on the trip. Oh, and this one can hold cold OR hot liquids, so feel free to fill it with your java if you need a caffeine kick.

5. This is another product that we use everyday, but it’s particularly suited for travel. This set includes two little cups with silicone tops. Sounds simple, but the tops have ingenious slits in them that make it *harder* for the food inside to fall out. (Notice I said *harder*; our little monkey has a tendency to grab a huge fistful, so stuff’s bound to escape, but it’s better than having him dump the entire contents in the backseat.) So, go ahead! Fill ‘er up with puffies or organic toasted O’s cereal (you know what I’m talkin’ about), and hand it over, carefree. I do.

6. My #1 tip for any overnight trip with a toddler is packing a cooler full of your usual (healthy-ish) already-prepped foods, snacks and beverages. Then, use it to fill a smaller lunch bag like this one with snacks or meals when you reach different stops. This also helps when you decide to stop at a restaurant; packing at least one healthy fruit or veg will help offset the inevitable unhealthy toddler fare they’ll be offering. #macncheese #chickenfingersandfries #nothinggreen?

7. I got to review these Tegu magnetic wooden blocks last year before Hadman was really old enough to enjoy them. I’ve gotta say, though, I’m so happy to have them now because they’re PERFECT for keeping the munchkin occupied while traveling. Why? They’re magnetic, so there are no pieces falling all over the car and getting lost under the passenger seat. They’re not too big or too small, so there are no choking worries. Plus, they’re compact, with their own cute carrying case.

8. For our little guy, books are the best thing on earth. So, for the car, board books are great. They’re durable, smaller than the usual picture book, and often fun and interactive. In this case, he can independently look for words that he knows (or “oof oofs” and “nanas”), or I can turn around in my seat and ask him to look for different items.  

9. We don’t have this yet, but I want it SO badly. Crayons and coloring books aren’t ideal travel materials for toddlers. THIS, however, is ideal. I remember getting a Magna Doodle when I had my tonsils out as a kid and loved it. This one is even simpler (no choking hazards with those little shape stamper things) and perfect for little doodling hands. 

So, what are YOUR must-haves for a road trip (especially with little ones along)? Any suggestions for what work for your family that I might have missed?

***Full disclosure: I am not sponsoring the aforementioned brands, and chose them based on personal choice. I was not monetarily compensated or provided with free products for my feelings. As always, all thoughts are completely, 100% my own.***

Currently – June 20th

Holy crap. There’s less than a week left of school.

I feel like I’ve been as busy as a bee lately, with inventory (which I told y’all about last week) and a poor little teething toddler-monkey and getting some stuff together for my sister’s tag sale this weekend. It’s weird because it feels like I’ve hardly gotten anything done; at least, nothing of note, nothing you can SEE necessarily done. But, I have.

So, anyhoo, here’s what is “currently” going on…

1. Watching our almost-nightly episodes of the Dick Van Dyke show help to give us a mental break and a quick escape into what seems to have been a fun time to live. I actually bought Dave this book for Father’s Day (let’s just say I can’t wait to read it, too). We love that Rob Petrie treats his wife pretty equally by the day’s standards, and when he mentions that he’s “changed our son plenty” brings to mind today’s active dads. It’s no secret that I want my own Millie, too. Hoping one moves in nearby! 😉 I’m also in love with any casual pant outfit Laura wears. Adorbs!

Also watching lots of new-to-us Winnie-the-Pooh, Donald Duck, Sesame Street, and Mr. Rogers episodes, thanks to our recent discovery of a USB port on our DVD player. The hubs just hopped on YouTube, hunted for what we’ve been hoping to show the little guy, then popping it on his flash drive. He also threw in a couple of documentaries for me. Just call me one lucky lady!

Oh, and in a more “existential” way…We’re watching Hadley constantly coming up with new words or funny inflections that just make us think, “My God. He’s almost two years old. He’s such a big boy!” Where HAS the time gone? *sniff, sniff*

2. Wearing capris everyday. Between a sudden bout of summery weather (with a rip-roaring storm Tuesday) and inventory, it’s just the comfortable thing to do. I also have a white pair of Clark’s sandals that spend 50% of the time on the library floor. Let’s just hope I’ll be wearing a smile come next Friday, our first official day of vacation (if I don’t need to come in to finish my work!). 

3. Wanting inventory to be done. Sorry, I don’t mean to complain; it’s just where my thoughts are lately. This year, I’m not just “inventorying” but weeding AND getting rid of lots of “stuff” from the back storage room (that has been there for decades). So, factor in over 15,000 books to organize…zero helpers…still holding library classes…and deleting tons of pre-1960 books from the computer, and it’s been busy! (Next year, I’m hitting all the 60’s, 70’s, and possibly 80’s!)

I guess the “let’s get rid of crap we don’t use” bug has bitten, because I’ll be helping my sister out at her yard sale this weekend and bringing along stuff that’s cluttered up the basement…closets…heck, everything for awhile. I wish I could’ve found the time to go through our baby clothes (we’ve got 6-7 BIG totes in the basement…we could have twins and I’m pretty sure we’d still have stuff leftover at each age) — maybe tonight, last-minute. Either way, I’m excited to hang out and chat with her all day Saturday!!

4. Waiting until school’s over to try potty-training the monkey. He’s getting SO close on his own, asking to use the potty at his grandma’s house during the day, that I just need to keep the momentum going, then make the jump to big boy undies. *sigh* Our little man’s growing up!!!

5. With inventory and grading hanging over my head, I don’t really feel like I’m winning at much in life. I take stress in stride and it doesn’t usually show outwardly, but I do beat myself up internally more than I’d like to admit. I guess the most “winningest” part of life lately is the small things: getting the kiddo to eat dinner, take a bath, and to bed without much drama; getting grades done; remembering to, say, brush my hair.

Actually, I’m doing well at remembering to just enjoy the time that I’m not working, and I’m really not stressing too much while at work. Just keep pluggin’ away. Just keep pluggin’.

So, what have YOU been WATCHING / WEARING / WANTING / WAITING / WINNING lately? Seriously, when I post next week’s “Currently”, I’ll be D-O-N-E with school for the year! I’m probably a tad more excited than our students about that!!

Happy to be linking up at Harvesting Kale and Ot & Et.

Bad Grocery Juju

Why, oh why do I stray from the norm? Seriously, Meg: stick to Hannaford, the occasional Aldi stop, and go nuts with farmers’ market trips.

I was in the need of a handful of stuff. You know. Not a “stock the cupboards” type of trip; more of a “just the necessities that we’re out of” thing. So, I thought naively, why not give the new local Price Chopper a go? And bring the guys along?

Ugh. So. Dumb. *points to self*

Mistake #1: Assuming that this new, snazzy Price Chopper was going to be equal in options to, say, the same branch about half and hour away, or even (goodness forbid) our local Hannaford. *buzzer*

Totally different. Not much room to maneuver, especially the areas we needed (namely produce). And HARDLY ANY NATURAL/ORGANIC OPTIONS!!! Hannaford wins, hands-down, in that department just be, um, HAVING “that department.” I walked through a ton of aisles just to see what options they had mixed on the shelves. ONE organic cereal, and it was Kashi (which we don’t buy thanks to some unsavory practices…say, being owned by Kellogg).

Lesson: Stick to what you know. Locally, Hannaford is our best bet. It just is. Prices were generally comparable, there are occasional sales at both places on the organic produce so it’s hit-or-miss, and there’s just SUCH a selection at Hannaford, hands-down. 

Mistake #2: Assuming that bringing the guys along would be a pleasant experience for all involved. I should’ve known better on this one, honestly. It’s completely my fault.

Considering I had seen in advance on their new flyers that an ex from college is apparently in management at the place…that created one awkward environment. I can’t be the only person to whom this type of ridiculousness happens, right? Normally, I’m cool talking to people from my past, but this guy clearly wasn’t over…well, anything. Just…awkward and stupid.

Lesson: Shouldn’t I know better by now? Don’t subject family to potentially awkward situations if at all possible. (smacks forehead)

Then, the “toddler itch” kicked in. Oh, yes. The grab items (a non-organic Granny Smith apple which he proceeded to chomp down on…eh, at least it kept him quiet for awhile. “Go ahead, sweetie. Eat the sticker.”), squirming to get down, fine-poor-daddy-will-walk-you-all-over-the-store itch. We later figured out that the little guy’s teething up a storm, so I feel a tad less upset about this whole part. Not to mention it was a very big “I told you so” moment since Dave has a crystal ball and realized the place wouldn’t be as well-stocked as Price Chopper. :-\ Eh. He’s right, what can I say? When the man’s right, he’s right.

Lesson: Well…I kinda wish Dave had voiced his concern beforehand, but I’m stubborn and not sure I would’ve listened. However, I have already learned that a) a shopping trip with Dave and Hadley along always has a different level of “excitement” (and takes longer). I should’ve just gone on my own and been done with it. Not to mention, Hadley wouldn’t nap when we got him home, so that made for a crazy visit at my parents’ later in the evening.

FINAL THOUGHTS (I’m Jerry Springer!): If you aren’t looking for natural options, this new Price Chopper would be a fine choice. If you’re not dragging a brood along (seriously, it’s tough to maneuver those aisles!), it’s a fine choice. If you haven’t dated any of their employees who have clearly not yet dealt with their issues, it’s a fine choice.

If you WANT good organic and natural choices, if you WANT everything on your shopping list, if you WANT a pleasant environment, if you WANT to have a fun grocery shopping trip with your entire family…maybe not the best choice.
By the way, your situation may be completely different, and this could be an isolated thing. It’s entirely possible.

Vacation, All I Ever Wanted…

We’re currently deep in the throes of researching summer vacation options. Our goals are to keep things within a reasonable budget, but mostly to find spots that will occupy an active two-year-old (and two history- and culture-loving adults, if possible, at least once).

So, needless to say, Disney isn’t on our short list. 😉

Oh, and while I enjoy sticking my feet in sand at least once a year, my vacation doesn’t have to revolve around it. The sheer number of people hitting up Cabo San Lucas or some such place, like, annually makes my head spin. Yeah, no. Not for us. I can take a day trip to hit up a local sandy-beached lake and be recharged, easy.

I happened upon a pretty cool list that helped us focus a bit better on what Hadley’s level of interest might be. (Unfortunately, I totally forgot to save the link — I’ll post it if/when I stumble upon it!) I’m able to search for activities like outdoor play and children museums. His age would probably entail more animal-based outdoor things like petting zoos and farms, and environments that are more subdued and calm. Goodness knows he’s active enough without adding a chaotic environment! 😉

Here are some of our ideas beyond our local zoo (although we’ll be sure to hit that up plenty) — you know, travel-worthy endeavors.

Philadelphia seems to have lots of activities to meet our needs: 

The Please Touch Museum (though admittedly steeply-priced, sigh – $17 each, including Hadley — $1.50 off if I decide to renew my AAA membership, but is it really worth it?) is beyond perfect, with tactile, educational, and super fun pretend play activities designed for the under-7 set. 

The Adventure Aquarium or Philadelphia Zoo might be good options for animal viewing. The aquarium is in New Jersey, but is one to keep in mind since it has tons of Hadley-age touch-and-feel activities. The zoo is another not-cheap joint, but the petting zoo sounds insanely cool, and considering the munchkin’s love of animals, it’s worth remembering.

– Plus, I’ve been to Philadelphia and Dave hasn’t. I loved the cultural and historical activities; even just walking around the historical district would be doable for Dave and I, while towing a little guy.

And, then, there’s Rochester, NY. I know, I know. From a big joint like Philadelphia to a piddly spot like Rochester? But hear me out! After all, Dave brought it up, so I have to consider it! And I can see some of the positives.

See, I’ve spent a bit of time in Ra-cha-cha since my two brothers attended college there and my sister-in-law is from just outside the city. But, I haven’t been there in a long time, and I know my experiences there were quite isolated. So, maybe it’s time to look at the city through grown-up, wife-and-mommy eyes.

– Their zoo, for example. It seems larger than our local one (gotta look into this, it might not be) and the price is cheaper for ALL THREE of us to get in compared to the Philadelphia Zoo. No kidding, whenever a kid is free, I sit up and notice. Plus, I think we may get a further discount from purchasing our Utica Zoo pass. #kaching

– Reason #1 for our gang to think about hitting up Rochester: THE NATIONAL MUSEUM OF PLAY. Sorry for screaming, but yeah. It’s like The Please Touch Museum only slightly cheaper (still a fee for Hadley, humph), but closer to home, JUST as cool, and (huge bonus) it has a Sesame Street exhibit (although traveling through Pennsylvania, I’m pretty sure there’s a Sesame Place). Plus, if we want to shell out a few more bucks, we could check out their butterfly conservatory…that is, if we’re not too exhausted by the dozen or so other activities. Side note: LOVE that they have designated spots for quiet time, partly because I know *someone* may need a nap but also because I know the need for the learning disabled kiddos who visit to have that cool-down, low excitement type of environment. Extra points, in my book, that they thought things through to this extent.

– We’ve got a couple of friends in the city, so we could plan to meet up. Also, I’d like to explore the city a bit, just to know what’s happenin’ on the western side of the state.

We’re also huge Massachusetts fans. I love the history in eastern Mass (we wouldn’t do Boston until Hadman’s a bit older, but Lexington and Concord are my jam), and we’ve got some dear friends in western Mass. So, of course we could revolve our plans around an entire weekend devoted to both.

– Um, yeah, in this case hitting up the local haunts near our friends and catching up with them is kind of the main idea of the thing. We’d turn it into a weekend-long (or extended weekend) thing by planning to travel east to get my historical fix. If you haven’t been, Concord not only is one of the historically significant locales regarding the start of the Revolution, but is overflowing with a wealth of other history. Several of my favorite authors lived there (shout-out, Louisa May Alcott!), and the fact that the transcendentalist movement was centered there gets me hopping with excitement. There’s also a small beach that you can visit on Walden Pond (yes, THAT Walden Pond…if you don’t know what I mean, we can’t be friends. Kidding. Sorta.) and a nearby replica of Henry David Thoreau’s tiny cabin THAT YOU CAN WALK AROUND. So. Damn. Cool. 

I don’t get out much. Clearly. I mean…look at the last time I was there (I think this was the summer before we got pregnant).

I’m just awesome, aren’t I? (I think I was admiring the wide-plank floor. Maybe.) Glaring super white. (Wear sunscreen, people.) Slouchy. Style for miles. Anyhoo, there’s also some cute antique shops in Concord (hellooooo, Thoreauly Antiques!), as well as some neat historical spots in Lexington. Plus, knowing how much a toddler loves to run endlessly in no particular direction, Lexington Green (Lexington “Common”) is perfect for that. Yep. The place where the first shots were fired in the Revolutionary War is a great place to run around, or chill with a picnic, or whatevs.

– Heading toward the Concord area, we could stop in at the Children’s Discovery Museum along the way. Further westward, there’s also the Children’s Museum at Holyoke and the Amelia Park Children’s Museum to try out. Of course, we’d check in with our friends in the area to see what their opinions are of the places and if they’re worth our time and effort first. Our local children’s museum is having lots of issues currently (I believe they’ve even closed their doors for the time being), so we’d warn our friends.

– Plus, we could stock up on some stuff for the second half of our trip at Trader Joe’s (and review it, finally!) in western Mass…and there’s outlet shopping nearby. Not that it’s a must.

So, that’s the short list. No matter where we go, I’m hoping to map out a handful of stops along the way, particularly at wide-open parks or play grounds. I’d like to find a nature walk (a super simple “hike”) at a state park some place. Hopefully it’ll be a relatively short one, since our guy’s a collector…as in, eyes constantly down searching for a rock or a piece of bark or a leaf. We’ll have to take a jar or bag, ‘cuz I’m clearly an enabler.

Whatchya think? Anything we should add to our lists? Do you vote for one over the others? (We do have veto power, but it’s nice to hear opinions. Might just sway us one way or another.) Oh, and while we don’t eat 100% organic/natural while traveling (or ever, really…we aim for the 80/20 thing), of course we’ll stop at some local eateries. However, I hope to do some research to see if there are any “local local” joints that are kid friendly and don’t just serve mac ‘n cheese. Plus, a cooler of food. Definitely.

What’re you planning for the summer? Any fun getaways? We’re also hoping to get to a local sandy spot or two, but otherwise picture me laying in a kiddie pool while Hadley stands precariously, splashing me.

Ahhhh. Summer. 

Currently – June 13th

Every once in awhile — just for fun — I decide to take part in the link-up shindig, “Currently.” It’s hosted by Harvesting Kale (isn’t that an insanely awesome blog name?) and Ot & Et, although I always happen upon it through Christine at Nekaro. I’m thinking I may take part a tad more over the summer, when my brain tends to shut down from the heat and day-in-day-out of chasing a hyperactive monkey around.

1. This week, it feels like we’ve been hearing nothing but the dappled sound of rain. My husband loves it. I don’t HATE it, but the fact that the weather’s a touch spastic — humid, yet chilly at times, plus the rain. I’m not a weather complainer, really. Bonus: I’m also hearing a constant rotation of Aladdin songs (they were incredibly well-written, weren’t they? Didn’t appreciate that as a kid) and Winnie the Pooh. Aladdin, because my 4th graders are watching it while I do inventory; Pooh because it’s Hadley’s new fave.

2. There’s a complete and utter lack of hinting going on around here. We’re an indecisive lot, for the most part, so when I’ve posed the daily question to Dave as to what he’d like to do for Father’s Day (with vague suggestions that he can even pick from), I get nothin’. Looks like we’ll be spending it with family, which isn’t bad, but I wish I could make it more of a special day for him. He does just so much for us, and while I’ve got some gifts, I’d like to fit in some sort of surprise. My creativity is draaaaaaiiiiined.

3. Work has been nuts lately with our annual inventory, hunting down books and organizing and, this year, weeding. The shelves in our elementary library (where I’m housed 99% of the time) haven’t been, shall we say, “lightened” in…well, many, many decades. Many. While I’d like to get rid of absolutely every book pre-1980 (or later!), I haven’t got the space to put the weeded books. I put them out for teachers and kids to take for free, and I don’t blame them for not being super excited about an obscure poetry book from 1958. So, each time I pull off a book I know hasn’t been taken out since the ’70s, is in rough shape, is inaccurate/irrelevant now (I’m talking about you, Pluto book), or is full of offensive stuff, a feeling of extreme excitement mixed with a pull of guilt and restraint comes over me.

I finally had to give myself a cut-off; anything from the 1950s and earlier, or that is in crappy shape, goes. Next year, I’m thinking of sticking to a Weeding Wednesdays schedule. For busier days, finding 10 minutes to weed a handful would be doable, whereas other Wednesdays an hour would get a lot done.

(See why I don’t discuss library business? Only interesting to myself. ;-)) 

4. I’m hankering to be done grading 5th and 6th grade research papers. I’m just gonna leave it there to avoid saying anything I’ll regret. The only thing of note I’d like to remember for next year: don’t save the papers ’til the end of the year. (They weren’t supposed to overlap into inventory, but that’s another topic.)

5. Lately, I’ve been hoping to finally get some more work done on Hadley’s birthday party. It’s officially one month from today (I love Friday the Thirteenth! We welcomed Monkey into the world on one. Luckiest day of my life.), and need to get to work on his felt food toys. When I had the energy and excitement to work on them, I found myself needing to grade papers or read chapters for the next day. Now that those assignments have died down a bit, I haven’t the energy. Eh, ’tis life. Either way, we’ll have to make some final decisions about where to have the party and who’s invited, then send out the invitations. Luckily, once that’s done, I’ll have at least a couple of weeks after work gets out to devote to decorations and meal planning.

One thing at a time.  

Linking up here and here.

…And We’re Just Monkeyin’ Around

Couldn’t help but make a Monkees reference. It KILLS me that I can’t make it to any of their concerts for this tour, but I’ll just be content in my secret Monkee fandom. Er, not so secret.

Anyhoo, we took our first zoo trip of the season! Yay!! We dragged Hadley along last year, but there’s a huge difference between a one-year-old baby and a two-year-old toddler. He knows most of the animal sounds and lit UP when we came upon the gibbons (and their screeching calls). We could hear them from the car, and at first he thought they were in trouble — “Uh oh!! Uh oh!!”

Besides the awesome monkeys, we witnessed the lions (the guys were lazing about while the female was full-on stalking a rabbit who had wandered into the wrong area — spoiler alert: the bunny got away, thank goodness), a red panda, arctic foxes who just happened to be having a game of tag, an ostrich, zebras (Hadley’s favorite last year), a camel, DUCKS (he only focused on one mallard, so while there were a bunch of them, he kept pointing his finger – “one duck!”), and some reptiles.

Oh, and when we hit the children’s zoo area, we met the stars — their famous sea lions. Seriously, we could’ve stood watching them ALL DAY. Then, there were some farm and petting zoo-type animals…along with a skinned knee. Yep. First skinned knee ever (and a pretty deep cut, actually). All boy, that one.

Since it was kind of a last-minute decision to go, I only packed a lunch for the Hadman. I’m super glad I did since Dave stood in line for over 30 minutes to get our lunch (before they even waited on him). The place is a branch of a local institution, Voss’, but their service lacked sorely. The food was okay, but given the price and PITA factor, we’ll just pack a cooler next time. Bam, done. (And cheaper.)

{He didn’t seem to mind the fact that he got healthy stuff and we got pulled pork BBQ.
Give the kid fruit and he’ll eat all day long.}

The Utica Zoo, itself, is neat for a few reasons. Firstly, it’s the zoo that Dave and I frequented as kids (along with practically every other kid in a 30 mile radius). Secondly, we recently found out that most of the animals in captivity have actually been rescued or are housed here because they wouldn’t survive in the wild. They’re about environmental stewardship and conservation, which makes me feel far better about attending. Not to mention, it has a pretty rad theme song that’s definitely an earworm. You’ve been warned.

We decided to purchase a family pass for the season, so I’m sure there will be lots of trips this summer. It’s kind of cool to think that we can pack a lunch and just hit up the zoo for a random afternoon, or meet up with Dave for a half day on a work day, without thinking “it’s not worth $7.75 per person to hit up the zoo for just a few hours.” It also means that I can hook up with my sister and her little one to have a field trip. Needless to say, I’m ecstatic that we have such an open invitation to our very own hang-out place.

Fresh air + wild animals = perfect day for our own little monkey.