Currently – Sept. 19th

Howdy, folks! How’re things? They’re peachy here. No, really. They are! This week has been a mix of fast and slow, busy and bored, frantic and calm. And it’s been good.

While I’m not usually a “talk on the phone” person (my 13-year-old self is dying laughing at me right now. DYING. How badly did I want my own phone line?), I’m hoping to start calling friends and family for a little chat here and there. My brother’s birthday is tomorrow, so I hope to shoot him a line. I’ve got a long-time friend I want to touch base with. Otherwise, for some strange reason, autumn is the “let’s have people over! Let’s go DO something with someone we love!” time of the year, so we’ll be checking our schedules to see who wants to have some play dates and grown-up get-togethers. Fun!

Is anyone else loving the new Ken Burns’ doc on the Roosevelts? I know I’m not the only one, given how much buzz it’s getting. I just wish I could focus more on it. It comes on right as we’re putting Hadman down for the night (which entails him talking or calling for us for a good hours thereafter), and, of course, I’m immediately exhausted and have a handful of other duties I’d like to perform at the same time. Like Internety stuff. But, I’m still getting lots out of it. Our family has a couple of Roosevelt run-ins (on both sides of the family, egad!), so I tend to perk up for them. Yay, Progressives!

It’s fall, right? So, eating excessive amounts of baked goods and comfort foods is totally acceptable, right? RIGHT?? I’ve made ham and potato soup, banana blueberry muffins, a tenderloin, and more…during a busy workweek. And I haven’t written a single post about any of them. #bloggerfail

While I had hoped that we would be found riding around the countryside doing Fall activities, stocking up on farmers’ market goodies, and generally enjoying family life, the weather looks impeccable and unusually warm. This, of course, means that we’ll be taking advantage of it to do some paint touch-ups, weeding, pulling up of the failed garden, and possibly planting some mums (generally Fall-ification). Y’know, a responsible, not-too-fun, adult weekend. ๐Ÿ˜›

Given the “fun” ahead this weekend, can you tell that I’m wishing and hoping for a few wonderful family-oriented experiences over the following few weeks? You know it. Hopefully getting some of the un-fun chore stuff done soon will make doing that awesome stuff even nicer. Plus, some of it goes hand-in-hand. Like, this weekend I’ll pull up the weeds and get stuff ready, then when we’re oot and aboot, I’ll grab mums, pumpkins, and other autumny goodness to decorate with to finish it up.

Thanks to the ladies at Harvesting Kale and Ot & Et for hosting Currently!ย 

Gotta Stay on Top of My Life, Gotta Stay on Top of My Life

Is it just me, or is September kind of like January’s nerdy kid brother? Given all the back-to-school craziness and a return to “normalcy,” I tend to be confronted with the fact that I clearly didn’t do enough of a productive nature over the summer (even if I actually got a ton done). I flounder and stare face-to-face at a necessity to get my life in order. And I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one. Teachers, parents…hey, even single or retired folks. Something about that chill in the air, am I right?

January’s the cool kids’ turn to pick some resolutions in an attempt to kick start some positive change. I see September as a quieter, yet tad more frenzied time to do the same. All those lists that people consider on January 1st are just as relevant on September 1st. Perhaps because they’re not under a microscope as much, they may not be as intimidating…maybe?

So, obviously I’m taking a few steps to “stay on top of my life.” (If you don’t know the Kids in the Hall already, I beg of you — check out the video. If you’re not into a bit of bloody violence or quirky humor, please, for the love of God, don’t click. Oh, and this was a huge part of my adolescence. Explains lots.) For a simpler take on this, I provide you with this hilarious (or, if you’re not in the know, ridiculously random and stupid) take…

Yeah. I made that. Ahem.

Back to the point. Given that September is equivalent to January, I thought I’d share a little list of the “resolutions” I’ve already started working on. Some are relevant to being back at school and having more structured time (which means focusing on using my time more wisely) and others are just good ol’ self improvement things.

For the record, I hate the word “resolutions”, too.

Bed by 10pm (on school nights). Dang nabbit, I’m doing this. Depending on the night, falling asleep by 10 is easier than…coming up with an analogy. Other nights, my energy level is higher and I’ll force myself to lay down, sans TV/cell phone/any screens whatsoever and read. It’s helped me get to the conclusion of the book I’ve been reading ALL SUMMER, so that in itself is pretty rad. It also makes me far less grumpy come 6am. Um. Generally.

Getting in some exercise. I’m not taking on the PXButtKickandLiftChallengeXXI or whatever, but I’m hoping that by incorporating variations of cardio/Pilates/yoga/core strengthening, I’ll be gaining some much-needed extra energy as well as *hopefully* toning up some of the squishy bits. I’ve already mentioned it, but Spark People is a great free site that provides a variety of videos at various levels (hello, beginner!) and numerous lengths. I’ll probably move on to other sites if these ones aren’t cutting it anymore, but for now they’re perfect.

I think one of my issues in the past is that when I get it in my head to do something — anything — I go gung-ho initially and have a hard time following through at ANY pace. Apparently it’s something my father did in areas of his life. When it comes to exercise, I’ve done this but also burnt out thanks to overdoing it from the start. So, I’ve started out by doing one medium-length or two shorter videos at a time, breaking a good sweat but leaving myself feeling energized rather than totally zonked. I’ll build on.

Oh, and I’m doing this 3-4 days during the week and 1 day on weekends, while keeping track a) the exercise(s) and b) duration of workout on our family calendar, partly for motivation and partly because I have the memory of a…of a…I don’t even know what.

Setting boundaries. This. Is. Hard. I fall into this trend of not leaving school until after 4:30 (our contract says we can leave at 3:30). And it’s not like I’m doing anything super important. I’m just fiddling here and there with stuff that can totally wait ’til the next day. So, I’m trying to leave by 4 (and earlier on Fridays, can you imagine…). This helps with the aforementioned exercise goal (fitting in the exercise, a shower, and getting dinner underway before the guys get home) and will help me stay focused during the day on what needs to get done instead of putting stuff off ’til the end of the day.

“Money money money mooonnnneeyy. MONEY.” (That stupid song that’s used for “The Apprentice.” Gah.) I’ve mentioned this lately, but I’m going to be paying close attention to my spending, writing down my purchases, analyzing where my cash is flowin’ and why, and researching some ways to keep it under tabs.

For those in the balcony seats, let me project: I’M NOT GREAT WITH MONEY. It’s tough to admit that, as an otherwise generally responsible adult who thus far HAS been fine with moolah. (And I don’t have massive student loans as an excuse like my awesomely-getting-on-top-of-it husband.) But, yeah. We’re looking at some pretty big goals as a family and if I don’t focus on this area of life, it’ll be my fault. Not cool.

Thank goodness for cool, approachable sites like Our Freaking Budget. We also glean some good advice from Dave Ramsey, so you don’t have to leave any “Dave Ramsey is a GOD; we got rid of $1 million in debt and now have $1 million in savings thanks to him!” spiels in the comments…unless you want to brag. In which case, go on with your bad self.

Oh, and I’m even considering taking part in one of those “zero spend” challenges. Maybe. We’ll see. I’m gonna go cry now.

Planning meals. This one will help with finances but I’m also highly interested in seeing if meal planning truly does help me a) cut back on food waste, b) save ka-ching at the super and farmers’ market, and c) make life easier. I’ll check back if it does and let y’all know. And I’m on the hunt for real food cook-ahead and slow-cooker meals. SO hard to find slow-cooker recipes without a can or bottle of something super processed to bring it all together (and undoubtedly make it yummy).

Simplify, as always. This is kind of a life goal that sits on my shoulder everyday. I’m pretty lucky, though. It’s more like the cartoon angel version on the right side rather than the naughty/devilish kid on the left side. So, there’s that. But, yeah. PURGE is the name of the game. A lot of our house is looking more and more like “us”, and I love that, but we still have storage spaces (and, heck, out-in-the-open spaces like the toy explosion storage in our living room) that need another once-over. The basement is also in dire need of straightening and hoeing out (who you callin’…) AND painting, so there’s that.

The thing that sucks for me is that, well, again…I’ve got my dad’s gene of needing the motivation before getting up and DOING something. Takes me forever to finish a project, but once it’s done, it’s done pretty darn well. So, I can’t say on Monday that I’ll plan on working on the basement Saturday. I may wake up Saturday feeling motivated to do something else that’s equally important. Or play with Hadley all day. Or sit on my tush watching the world whiz by (while the laundry’s going…because at least then I’ll feel like I did SOMETHING). Whatevs.

But, I think the only way to break this is to just DO. Like, we wouldn’t have gotten our recent front porch project completed if Dave hadn’t said, “Okay, I’m going to start this.” (Once he started, I had to finish, so I didn’t want to let his hard work be overshadowed by my laziness.) And, believe me. I did NOT feel like doing it, but when it was done…well, awesomeness ensued.

Live in the moment. Observing the changes in Hadley. Enjoying the humor that my students pump into random lessons. Looking for moments of simple joy and lucky experiences. Contacting friends to hang out or come over for meals or meet up for coffee. In general, remembering to savor the good and hold onto the bad momentarily.ย 

Hey, look! Seven things in my list. Whatchya know? So, what about you guys? Do you feel like this time of year is a bit like New Year’s with its feeling of “let’s start this season on a new foot”?

Or are you just psyched for pumpkin spice everything? Really, though. Who can blame you?

Falling for Fall

Hey, folks who read stuff online! Today’s frickin’ September 1st. SEPTEMBER, dudes and dudettes. So, while I’m by NO means looking forward to heading back to school (not whining but stating a fact: I am fraught with all sorts of anxiety at the thought of returning; I’ll man-up soon after getting back into the swing of things), the paradox is kinda weird. That’s because I super heart fall.

As long as I can remember, I’ve most loved the sweet but somber smell of decaying leaves, the necessity to throw a denim jacket on while enjoying a walk on the first crisp night, and cranking up the oven to help Mom whip up perfect apple pies or Grandma’s famous soft molasses cookies. It’s a thing of beauty, my friends.

So, of course I’m excited to continue my love affair with autumn, and to spread the love with my family. (Shh. Don’t tell Dave. He thinks autumn and I are “just good friends”, so let’s keep it that way. Although, it’s his fave, too, which is why we got married in October. Huh.)

As Hadman grows, EVERYTHING has become more of a fun, at times unpredictable adventure. Even the experiences he had last year for the first time (the year before, he was a brand new infant) that we all enjoyed giving him will be like new this year.

Here was his first autumn ever…

Here were a couple of experiences last year…

What’s better than Vermont and an apple orchard in the fall? I mean, really. Nothing that I can think of.

And, thanks to Pinterest, here are a few of the goals of mine this year. I like to use these as guidelines and reminders of the things we love about the seasons, hopefully reducing the guilt factor when I don’t check off every last one. Although, if I did, it wouldn’t suck.

Most of these are self explanatory, but a couple need a bit of elaboration. Or maybe you don’t care. But, just in case, here goes:

– I very rarely do lattes or purchased flavored stuff, so when I say pumpkin latte, I mean just one will do the trick. Just one pumpkin spice-flavored cup of caffeine, thanks.
– Pumpkin muffins. Pumpkin pancakes. Pumpkin cookies. Whatev. I’m not picky.
– Fly Creek Cider Mill near Cooperstown is a family tradition for me as long as I can remember. It’s an awesome leaf-peeping trip in itself, but grabbing some overpriced cider and feeding their resident ducks complete the season. Totally.
– Vermont started as our honeymoon spot, but has turned into a fall family road trip. Fun!!
– Okay, a locavore date entails saving up, getting a sitter, and going to one of the few pricy-but-worth-it restaurants that serve locally-sourced gourmet food. We don’t get many dates, so these are super special ones. Plus, fall flavors are incredible, am I right? You know I’m right. Pumpkin risotto? Get out.

Oh, and because I believe strongly in surrounding oneself with the cozy reminders of what makes us happiest, I’m a believer in seasonal decor. If you’re into country kitsch, do it up. Antiques? Go for it. Since I’m the antiques-with-a-modern-twist girl, I’m working on finding a happy medium. Check out a couple of ideas (that still stand true) from last year:

The Fall Inspirations I Totally Heart
What I Attempted Last Year
A Fall Tableau (With Really Crappy Pictures)

What about you guys? What’s your favorite season? Do you go all out? Or do you live it up every day of the year?

A Quick Trip and Summer Check-In

So, we got away for a quick day trip to Old Forge last Friday! And, of course, the weather sucked. I mean, felt like a drizzly, cold autumn day. Luckily, we both love the fall, so it wasn’t a huge downer. Just a little road bump.

Here’s a quick recap of the day. Let’s see. We left a bit later than I had expected, but since I knew it wouldn’t be a super full day, it totally didn’t matter. And, unfortunately, Hadman wasn’t great in the car to OR from Old Forge. Eh. Ya win some, ya lose some.

We drove into town and found a parking spot. Since it wasn’t quite lunch time and the farmers’ market wasn’t open for business yet, we decided to make a stop at the Old Forge Hardware Store. It’s not really a hardware store as much as a general store, including tons of kitchen items and toys and books. Of course, we left with a book for the little guy.

Then, it was time for lunch. We hit up the Adirondack Cafe, and considering it’s hard to navigate this place without a stroller, it was great to be welcomed to the place. (Walt’s Diner was embarrassingly not great about it.) Tough when it’s a touristy town.

Anyhoo, we had a great meal, then walked through a fine mist over the infamous bridge down by the lake to see Hadman’s favorite — duckies! They were, luckily, loving the weather.

Then, we decided to try the beach area nearby. Sure, it wasn’t warm enough to ENJOY it, but we had fun walking around and collecting things. And, of course, some more ducks came by to say “hi” again. I even stuck my feet in the sand (although it doesn’t really count on my summer list…not really what I meant).

We walked to the farmers’ market, but it started raining heavier and there wasn’t tons to choose from. We did leave with some wine from the Montezuma Winery (a super sweet Fat Frog Red and delicious Canvasback Red) and some raw honey for Dave.

After the market, we decided to drive the back roads near the ski slopes (you can actually ride the ski lift to get a great view, but with a wriggly 2-year-old and on-and-off rain, it wasn’t happenin’) and saw at least half a dozen random deer, a family of turkies, and a fox. Fun, fun!!

All the while, Dave and I realized we were both craving a donut. Just a cup of coffee and a donut. For some reason, we continued our drive in the opposite direction and happened upon this joint…

Bingo! It was like a place you would’ve found in the ’40s. They only had coffee and two kinds of donuts. Just two tables for outdoor seating. It was perfect. And, yes, I wore a sweater and scarf. ‘Twas chilly! Just the right kind of day for a homemade donut and a big, super hot cup of coffee.

So, it wasn’t the greatest day ever, but we had a good time. It also makes me want to hit up a farmers’ market with more locally-grown produce, and that’s labeled for it. Just saying.

Oh, and what better time than now (not that summer’s over — it’s not!!!!) to check in with my summer fun list:

A couple of them weren’t done as much as I like (like family walks, and the garden had a major issue I’ll get into later), but they were done. I’m also hoping to putter a bit more, get a WARM sandy day, and I’m thisclose to finishing two books. TWO! That’s humongous, folks.

How’s your summer going? And don’t tell me about your kids returning to school already. Our neck of the woods, the kids don’t go back (meaning I don’t return to work) until after Labor Day. Let me have this!!! ๐Ÿ˜‰ Just kidding, you can tell me about it, but I’ll be plugging my ears and singing “la la la” the whole time.

Summer Update #1

Hey, guys! Now that summer’s well under way (can anyone else not believe that July 4th has come and gone?!), I thought it’d be nice to grab a reminder of some of the fun we hope to undertake this year.

So, there’s some stuff I’m super excited to have crossed off, and some stuff that we’ve got in the works. Let’s chat, shall we? First, what’s complete.

#6 – My sister decided to have a garage sale earlier in June, so I happily offered to help out if I could bring stuff to sell. We didn’t make a ton, but it was more than we would’ve made by donating everything. Plus, we dropped everything off at the Salvation Army right after the sale so that we didn’t have that “dump the stuff in the cellar/garage and forget about it” moment. That’s never a good moment when you discover all the crap stuff months later. So, to have the extra space in our basement and to have the garage cleaned? Priceless.

#7 – As you know, I’m working on our garden. Since it’s planted and we’re to the “tend to it” phase, I’m calling this one done. I may move around the strawberries/herbs or try some new ones to see if I can get them going a little better. Otherwise, our netting seems to be working to keep the kitties out, and our lettuce is going great (and, considering it was all planted at once, it’s awesomesauce that it’s growing to varying heights — they’re not all ready at once!). Actually, I finally “harvested” some lettuce recently, so yay!ย 

Now, for the stuff we’ve got in the works!ย 

#2 – Man, if I don’t have stuff underway for buddy’s second birthday, I’d be in trouble! It IS this Sunday, after all. So, our closest family members received their invitations (it’s going to be a small, fun shindig this year; like 17ish people), and I’ve got a menu drawn up.ย 

It’s a mid-afternoon get-together, so we’re just doing snacks and cake. We already bought water, soda, and organic juice boxes, as well as bags of pretzels and two kinds of non-GMO popcorn. A little later this week I’ll pick up some fruit and veggies to cut up and the makings for some dip (any “real food” fruit or veg dip recipes are welcome! Pinterest has been a pain on this search). Oh, and of course there’s the cake. Thinking of doing a lemon cake (again, suggestions for a fluffy, non-box mix recipe are welcome! They all sound too dense), maybe with organic cream cheese frosting. ๐Ÿ˜€ย 

Now, if only the weather would cooperate…

#3 – Okay. This is one reason my post is a day late. My sis and I had planned on taking our munchkins to our zoo, but (again) the weather had other ideas. Luckily, she knew of a newer indoor play place for all ages of kids (it was, indeed, a blast! And super clean, whew). It just means we’ll have to plan another trip there sometime this summer. We’ll probably take a quick family trip there when the weather looks nice again, too, so I have high hopes!

#4 – Yay! We have our trip booked! I’ll just be sharing the location here; we’re not keen on letting folks know when our house will be unoccupied. So, I’m sure some of you guessed it, but we’ll be swinging back to Massachusetts — starting in the east near Concord and winding our way back to spend more time with some friends, with some other adventures along the way. Can’t wait to go, and can’t wait to share how we handle keeping a toddler and two grown-ups happy along the way!

I’m in the earlier processes of a couple of other list items (like puttering), so I hope to be back with another update soon…and it BETTER say “we went to the zoo!” in it. ๐Ÿ˜‰

How’s your summer going? Any great plans or list-checking?

Pops All Around

Alrighty, time to vote! (And this time, there’s no mud-slinging coming from either side. Lord, I hope not.)

We’ve had some wicked hot weather the past couple of weeks, and I’m thinking we’re in need of a treat or two. Aaaaaand, of course…I can’t make up my mind about it all. Of course. Do y’all know me? ๐Ÿ˜‰ Nice to meet you, I’m Mrs. Indecisive.

I’m having a hard time figuring out which style of popsicle makers would suit our needs best. I’ve seen a million awesome popsicle recipes lately and I’m dying to get in on the action (and hoping and praying that our monkey’s into super cold treats).

At the same time, I’m trying not to get too hung up on the “what will look best photographed and shared on the blog” part (which is hard for me…I’m an aesthetic person) and to focus more on the “what will make the least mess when used by a toddler” area.

So, meet our contenders…ย 

(Side note: How badly I wanted to call this the “Ice Pop Maker Fight to the Death” or some such thing using the word “hell”, but adding “AKA Pops for Tots” in the graphic. But I refrained. Aren’t I a lady?)

I’ve heard about these silicone ice pop molds for awhile now. One of my favorite blogs/Facebook pages shares them frequently, and how well they work to put, frozen, into her little ones’ lunch bags (and they have a slushy smoothie type of snack by lunchtime). Clearly, we’d use them in frozen form, but they’d be neat to have for the future if we’re into that type of snack.

They seem like they’d be easy enough for him to push up and would give the right amount of popsicle-y goodness as he needed it…vs. having an entire popsicle melt all over him since he can’t eat it fast enough. So, there’s the big “pro”, but I’m not convinced. Like, there’s a point to making a popsicle a POPSICLE, y’know?

I’ve also kinda fallen in love with this option. I’m still not sure whether I’d select the “classic” option or the round option (they’re both super cute). They’ve got drip guards (but would that really matter?) and both the above option and these have about the same 3+ ounce capacity. While these don’t look as awesome as the traditional ones with wooden sticks that you see all over Pinterest, they’d probably meet our toddler-y needs the best, y’know?

Either way, these pops all remind me of when my mom used to pour plain ol’ orange juice into freezer trays with plastic wrap and toothpicks in them when the summers got super hot. Yeah, she was a rad mama, and always made do with what we had. Let’s just say I’m super lucky that I have the luxury of selecting such a specialized little item to make my little guy (and the dorky daddy…okay, and me) happy.

Anyhoo, feel free to vote and leave opinions and comments below! Thanks, in advance, for your help.

Which type of ice pop maker should Meg get?
The tube-style maker
The Zoku mould-with-sticks-style maker
ย ย free pollsย 

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. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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! ๐Ÿ˜‰

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:ย 

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.ย 

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.ย 

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.ย 

Summer Eats

Am I the only one who gets a bit of a jolt when one season melds into the next? Don’t get me wrong, my favorite thing about living where we “feel” four seasons is that new transition into the next one; the new smells and sights and feelings of temperature changes. What hits me a little harder, aside from figuring out what the heck to wear, is what to eat.

I always seem to forget what “got us by” the previous year. Plus, now that we’ve got a little guy who eats dinners right alongside us, it’s a tad more challenging to come up with meals that he’ll partake in, as well. There was a time that Dave and I could live on salads almost every night for dinner, but that won’t cut it with the munchkin and his super-human appetite along for the ride.

So, here are a few ideas. Feel free to add more in the comments!

Grilled stuff. Grilled chicken, grilled veggies, grilled pizza…grilled freakin’ siding from the house. Seriously, almost anything? Grill it. It’s the new “put a bird on it.” (Hadley is hit-or-miss on this. If it’s, say, a grilled cheeseburger, he’ll generally eat it. Grilled chicken is a 75/25 chance [75% of the time he doesn’t eat it]. It is what it is. Gotta keep trying!)

– Low-key sandwiches. In the winter, it’s a quasi-weekly “soup and sandwich” night (which my husband inevitably turns into a “salad and soup” or “salad and sandwich” night…); in the summer, it’s a “sandwich night” (with something as normal-yet-unhealthy as chips on the side, or something healthier like carrots or cooked veggies — which is more for the toddler than anything). This is also what my mom used to call a smorgasbord night. Just grab some hoagie/sub/whateveryouwannacallthem rolls, set up a station of veggies, meat, cheese, and condiments, and go wild. Hey, it’s better than Subway!

– Another variation on the “smorgasbord” is the “let’s see what’s in the fridge” meal (probably closer to what a smorgasbord really is). BTW, I feel like the Swedish chef every time I say “smorgasbord.” K. So, this is something my sister and I used to do when we ate “picnics” on a blanket on the living room floor. It entails finding cold cuts, cheese to cut up, pickles, olives (if you’re into those; I am, but Dave isn’t, so it’s useless buying them), crackers, carrot sticks (any veggies, really) and dip, granola bars, apples with peanut butter…seriously, anything in the pantry or fridge that could be considered a finger food. It’s not necessarily the healthiest thing ever (well, actually, it CAN be, depending on what you have), but it’ll work for those “so hot my brain won’t work” nights.

Paninis. Sure, this is a variation on “grilled” (especially if you put something grilled on it) AND “low-key sandwiches”, but they’re still kind of their own thing. You make the sandwich (including SOME sort of cheese…it’s gotta get melty!), then throw it on the grill pan (less messy and less work than a regular grill, honestly), and you’re done. You can use no-nitrate cold cuts (or don’t, no judging) or leftover grilled chicken; whatev. If you’ve got a picky eater on your hands (like, I doubt Hadman would eat a balsamic carmelized onion mushroom panini…just a hunch), just make him a grilled cheese and call it a day. Don’t stress, guys.

Pasta. I know it sounds heavy, but seriously — (lightly cooked) veggies + pasta + pasta water + grated cheeseย + lemon juice (optional) and seasoning = dinner. Bam.

Wraps, like sandwiches, are a great light option for those sweltering evenings. They can turn a boring sandwich into more of a restaurant-like experience. Just think of what you’d like to order and see if you can recreate it at home! And don’t worry if you don’t wrap it up perfectly; it’s the taste that counts. (And toothpicks help!)

Stir-fry. Again, it sounds heavy, but when you don’t go heavy (like teriyaki) and aim more for veggies (and maybe chicken) on some rice, you’d be surprised. Especially if you keep it bright and light with some citrus. Yum…I think I’ll make that tonight. ๐Ÿ™‚ I did. Don’t forget to use soy sauce…instead of Worcestershire.

Quesadillas. You can make this as complicated, traditional, or simple as you’d like. Here’s a recipe for a black bean quesadilla I made awhile back, but you could easily just make a simple chicken or beef quesadilla, or push the envelope with something more “daring” (as daring as food can be, I guess) like a breakfast version with sausage or a buffalo chicken version — which my husband would go nuts over. Oh, and you can probably tell that if there’s melted cheese on something, it ups the chance of our little guy’s eating it. Clearly.

– Speaking of breakfast, this is a go-to anytime of the year for me: breakfast for dinner. Whether it’s pancakes, french toast, omelets or simply eggs/toast/hash browns, this is a quick, relatively light way to get some food down your family’s gullet.

And if all else fails, make a couple of grown-up salads will grilled meat and give your munchkin some of his own grilled meat, some heated-up frozen veggies, and a cheese stick (or, our son’s latest FAVORITE, pineapple) and call it a day. It’s hot, after all. Don’t knock yourself out.

Summer Plans

Howdy! Now that the snow has sufficiently melted and we’re experiencing an honest-to-goodness springtime, I feel it’s safe to let my mind wander to the wonder that is S-U-M-M-E-R! Last year, I laid out a whole plan of what I hoped to accomplish and a few little “first timer” milestones I hoped to have fun with Hadley with. This year is really no different, although a lot of the stuff we’ll do isn’t a milestone; just “for fun.”

The biggest difference this year is Hadley. He’s so different, guys, it’s crazy. Last year, he was afraid of grass, wasn’t walking (hardly mobile at all, comparatively speaking), and couldn’t communicate. This year, he’s got a couple dozen (probably more) words and several gestures he uses to get his point across, walks/runs/trips/falls down/gets up/runs again, and enjoys dirt and grass and picking flowers (ie picking the heads of flowers off) and generally discovering the world around him with zeal. It’s exhaustingly fun.

So, you’ll notice some repeats from last year’s list. However, I think the actual experiences will be insanely different — for us AND for Hadman. Should be fun!

A touch more streamlined than last year, but still with a bit of an explanation (I’ll try to keep it concise):

1. We’ve all (adults, that is) got a lil’ family winter pudge going on. I need to be less vampirey/anti-social. Hadley loves bugs and dogs and dirt and saying “hi!!!” to big kids and attempting to run into the road. All ideal reasons to walk. A hike or two would be awesome, too.

2. T-2 1/2 months and counting until the monkey turns 2 years old (sniff, sniff). It looks like we’ve landed on a theme, which I’ll share soon. Our ultimate goal is to keep it low-key yet fun (I can’t NOT decorate, and I can’t NOT have a theme…it’s just not me. And he’s just too darn special.) It’s important for me to remember that we’ll have varied ages, and only a couple of little ones, so it’s not like we need much entertainment or giveaways or games. If you’re interested in seeing what I’m thinking, check out my Pinterest board for what I’m thinking. (Some are from last year, too. Speaking of which, here’s a link to how last year’s turned out!)

3. We went last year, and it was a blast. This year, Hadley recognizes animals, can point them out, makes tons of cool noises, and is generally a funner version of Hadley 1.0, so unless a crazy meltdown occurs, this should be awesomesauce.

4. Vague, no? We’re nailing it down, but Mama gets the itch to move every now and again. This could be one place far away. It could be several close-to-home trips. Who knows?

5. I’ve started bringing home some books for Hadley from my school library lately, but I thought it’d be fun to see if there are some family-related library events at our local book haven. If not, it’s cool. I’d just like to get there with him more often so he realizes there’s more than the overstuffed bookshelf in his bedroom. Plus, Mama can do a little more reading, too.

6. The sooner, the better! Maybe two!!

7. To simplify things, we’re not growing from seed this year. I’ve already made a garden plan, so at least I know what we need to go and buy. The Easter Bunny DID get the munchkin a little kit to grow one’s own basil plant, along with a cool little metal watering can and a mini trowel and cultivator, so he’ll hopefully be digging around, too. Yay, wormies! Oh, and I live in upstate NY, so it’s not really advisable to plant much pre-Memorial Day.

8. I’m not making any grandiose “I’m going to finish this monstrous project!!!” statements. Instead, I’m going to take a few of Hadley’s naptimes a week to get outside (or in the basement) to work on some organizing…and cleaning…and maybe painting…and stuff. My grandpa was a putterer, so it’s important to me to try to connect with that and have a hand in the care of the house.

9. Grilling, yes. Setting up and USING the outside table to eat, yes. Getting away from the TV set (regardless of how awesome Dick Van Dyke reruns may be), yes. I’m also hoping that our gate will fit at the top of our deck, so munchkin can eat up there with us and it’ll be a low-stress environment for all involved. Oh, and I’d also love to have a picnic. With pickles. ‘Cuz monkey loves a good pickle.

10. Don’t care where, this just must happen. We may have a picnicking day at a state park with my sis and her little one, so that may be our chance.

11. Last year, I mentioned writing a children’s book. I’ve got the ideas behind several simmering (and even outlined), but getting any of it on paper has remained elusive. This summer, I hope to change that. All I need is the focus…um, and an incredible artist to illustrate it. (I’m also mulling over chapter book. Loves me a good historical fiction.)

What’re you looking forward to most about summertime, summertime, sum sum summertime, summertime? Am I jumping the gun thinking about summer when it’s not even June yet? I think this school year has blown by so quickly (and Hadley has grown so much, so fast) that I’d rather take all the time that we can to hold on!

Falling Table

I love our dining room table. Every time I look at it, I’m reminded of that July 4th. That week+ before Hadley was born, overdue, when we tried anything and everything to get labor started (ineffectively). That’s when we finally put the table and chairs together, after sitting in a box which the cats thoroughly enjoyed scratching since the prior January.

I get another feeling when I glance at the table set, too, though. A twinge of anxiety because it’s usually piled with mail, with magazines, with gifts I’ve yet to wrap or cards I’ve yet to address or any other number of very random items. This is actually a relatively calm pile compared to the usual.

But, since we’re into the throes of fall decorating, I figured I’d jump on the bandwagon and grab any excuse to de-clutter a bit. (Picture Dave doing a happy dance…if he were the type of guy to do a happy dance. I wish he’d get in touch with his inner-David Venable, but gosh darn it, I love him as he is.) So, unlike all the other posts, you get a cluttery before picture of my dining room table…then, a neater, fallified vignette. Now, if only we could keep it (and enjoy it) that way….

I went with neutrals and monochromatic-yet-cozy accents. For a runner, I just used one of my favorite gauzy scarves, then plopped down an antique box filled with raffia, an antique bottle or two, varying-sized candles, a gourd and a mini-pumpkin (which appears taller because it’s sitting atop an over-turned votive candle holder; use whatchya got!) in the middle of the table. Oh, and the raffia is 100% out of the way of any flames, I promise.

I then added some asymmetry by using a square glass cake stand with a couple of antique bottles (one of which is a pint milk bottle from Homestead Farms — my family’s dairy farm from generations back, where my dad grew up) and a not-too-big white pumpkin. I figured the transparency of most of the items took away from the possible weightiness of the asymmetry. Finally, I strewn varying light or neutrally-colored candles in pairs or threes throughout the table. To add to the laid-back whimsy I used a variety of holders for the votives: a creamy antique teacup, a bubbly mercury glass holder, a creamer.

By the way, our dinners are usually spent at our taller, smaller kitchen table and occasionally in the living room, always with the baby’s “high chair” (dining room chair with his space-saving seat safely attached) pulled up alongside me. We used to feed the monkey in the dining room, and I’m positive we’ll revert someday, but currently this is the most convenient for our needs. We’re not keen on living room eating, so it only happens once a week or less. It is what it is.

And pay no attention to the hideous red walls (and crappy iPhone pictures). It’s my dream to tone them down. This WILL come true. Oh, yes, it will.

So, how did you decorate for fall? Subdued? Crazy, over-the-top themey (skulls ‘n witches galore)? ๐Ÿ™‚