Friday, November 29, 2013

Meat Muffins

We hope you and your family had an awesome Thanksgiving! I didn't have the meal at my house, but I'll have some holiday food posts for you in the coming weeks -- so stay tuned! But, on with this week's Foodie Friday...

Hee hee. I can't stop giggling over that post title. But, yeah, I made some muffins...made of meat. Meat muffins.


I've made meatloaf and mini-meatloaves plenty, but realized that I hadn't shared a recipe. Yet, every time I make a loaf, I find a new recipe to try. I finally decided to get on the muffin tin mini-meatloaf bandwagon. While it was generally the same amount of work, it was easier to just shove the mixture into an oiled muffin tin rather than trying to get a loaf to hold its shape on a sheet pan, or split it up into mini-loaves -- yeck, math 'n stuff. ;-)

This is also the first time I threw in a carrot and celery...just because.

Mini Meatloaf Muffins

1 lb. ground meat (beef, in this case, but use whatchya got; this was grassfed from, of all places, Australia)
1 egg
1/2 c. oatmeal, uncooked

1/2 - 1 onion, diced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 celery, trimmed and diced
Salt and pepper
Thyme and/or parsley
Worcestershire sauce

Topping (any measurements you like):
Maple syrup (or brown sugar)

Place a few tablespoons of oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Once you can see ripples, add your diced onion, carrot and celery. Season with a bit of salt and allow to soften, 5-7 minutes.

While veggies cook, place meat, oats, egg, seasonings, a squirt of ketchup and Worcestershire sauce in a bowl. Separately, mix topping together.

Add veggies to meat mixture and combine. Don't overmix.

Fill muffin cups about 2/3 full (no need to smooth in your hands first, unless you want to). Use a spoon to spread topping on each "muffin."

Bake at 375 for about 20 minutes (more if needed).

Serve with veggies and mashed potatoes (if you're in a comfort food mood, which we were) or a nice light salad. Add a squirt of fresh ketchup if you like.

These are GREAT for little ones. Hadley adores his for lunch...or anytime, really. If your toddler or child isn't a fan of veggies, this is a great way to get them to eat some carrots (and the rest of it) since they tend not to notice. But, we're lucky, and Hadley likes veggies...he just prefers them wrapped in meat better. ;-)

What's YOUR favorite comfort food? A nice, meaty meal? A soup, stew or chili? Or is it all about the dessert?

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Whoomp, Hair It Is

I don't do this. I don't look in a mirror much. Once my makeup's faded for the day, I tend not to reapply. The second I get home, I make a dash for the shower (alone time!!! Well, except for the cats) and sweatpants. (Don't worry; I don't wear them in public.) And I hadn't gotten a professional haircut in about a year.

My mom trimmed it for me a couple of times when I asked her, but she's not a hairdresser anymore and I'm sure she wanted me to go to someone who could do something beyond trimming the split ends.

So, I finally took the challenge (okay, I waited a few weeks before finally getting up the nerve) and called one of the few hair places I feel totally comfortable going.

Side tangent: Is it just me, or do beauticians seem to need to have built-in professionalism classes in their training? I've been anything from completely ignored, talked over, texted over, sneered at, and any number of other unpleasant things. My girl this time was great and tried to converse, which was lovely. Maybe I'm just a poor socializer these days, but if I'm not talking about the local bar scene (and I clearly don't spray tan like you, ladies), I don't exist.

Blah. *shakes it off* Okay, all done.

So, yeah, I got it cut. Here are some just fantastic...grade A...couldn't-be-better iPhone pics of what I looked like before...

...and after.

I know, they're both poorly lit selfies that are hard to see. Let's just say that I had fallen victim to the dreaded hair-tie. And when I make a ponytail or bun, it isn't instantly cute in a messy, sweet little way. I tend to have a wayward bump (cowlick much?) or my bun comes out too tight (Why, yes, I am a librarian...why do you ask?) or so loose it falls out. And, no, the other accessories out there made for these particular purposes don't work. My hair rejects anything non-hair-tie.

So, before was a ponytail. SUPER long and uneven and just bad. Draggin' down my game, I guess.

After, it wasn't styled per se (it was more of a cut and blow-out), but felt way lighter, had some funky layers (but not too funky; I recall saying, "I'd like some layers, but not, like, Joan Jett layers." And I now realize that she graduated two years ago and probably has no clue who that is. D'oh.), and I can definitely work with it. Winning!

And the best part? Just like post-haircut last year, Hadley was the first to notice. He came right over and, while I was untying his boot, he started running his hand through my shorter front layers.

So. Sweet.

I may have to do this more often. ;-) Oh, and it only cost 20 bucks (plus tip), so it easily came out of my "cash allotment."

Monday, November 25, 2013

Gettin' It Together

We're on a tiny bit of a pre-holidays organizing kick. It's kind of funny, though -- this is usually the time when we have to resign ourselves (well, I do; Dave's never okay with clutter) to the idea that "with holidays comes great messiness." It is what it is.

However, this year I've already told myself that the downstairs of our house is not allowed to get cluttered beyond the norm. (We usually have an odd box of diapers or kid/kitty toys strewn haphazardly around, but it's a quick pick-up.) Last year, I used the dining room as the dump-all for shopping bags full of gifts, wrapping accoutrements, and so forth. This year, with an active toddler about, something's gotta give.

So, while I'm working on getting our office clean enough to then get messy (doesn't make 100% sense to me, either, but we'll get there) and *finally* working on our coat closet (at least I didn't have to switch from summer over to winter...ahem....), we realized that we'd already had enough of another mess-related issue in our house -- the kitchen cabinets.

Namely, our lower ones. We never put the safety things on 'em because we're okay with Hadley playing with certain harmless items (namely anything plastic and storage containers). The under-sink ones DO have safety thingamabobbers on them, but those that have all of my kitchen prep and baking items have been open season. He's pretty good about leaving them alone, but the one thing he's consistently being told not to go after is...dun dun duuuuuun, the blender unit. The glass pitcher isn't an issue, but the buttons and long cord are too much for him; he won't take "no" (and I mean NO) for an answer.

So, instead of giving him a constant reason to be scolded, we emptied the three main cabinets (the fourth is pretty much all well as it can be) and did the "what do we need/what do we use" analysis. There is a lot of psychology involved in organization, after all.

Here's the offending blender cabinet...

 And the mess as a whole...

Yes, they look nasty. They're clean, I promise. I'm hoping to give them a coat of paint this winter. :-) My strategy this time was to use the back space to place serving plates and muffin tins, and the lower back space for appliances (popcorn popper, blender, mini chopper) so that Hadley will *hopefully* find something else much safer in the front to pique his interest before reaching anything with a cord. Only time will tell whether this was a genius solution or if it will send us back to the drawing board.

And here's the crap we were left with. How do we end up with so many plastic storage lids...and no matching containers?? Oh, and that insulated lunch bag is so thin it's borderline useless in our household. I'm a lover of glass storage containers, and they won't sit flat in there. I'm sure we'll put it aside to use some day (or replace it with another much more user-friendly version).

On to the always-hated office clean-up! I've got a couple of ideas that may help with our wrapping craziness, if I can execute them. That makes the filing worth it in the end...right? RIGHT?? What are you gettin' together this holiday season? Or are you just throwing your hands up until the dust (or, snow, as it were) settles? 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Green Child 2013 Holiday Edition

Taking a week off from Foodie Friday. I've been cooking, but only basics (y' keep the ol' family alive while in the midst of a raging book fair at work), but hope to do some baking or holiday sides to share.

It's here again! The latest issue of Green Child Magazine (which I'm proud to be a little ol' contributor to) is out, and it's awesome. It's the perfect breather from the hustle and bustle that takes over this time of year, with eco gift ideas, thought-provoking (and relaxing) articles, and tips up the wazoo. And there, on pages 55-59, sit I. :-)

I am in LOVE the simplification ideas. That's really all I want for Christmas -- less stuff, more memories and coziness and joy together. And those soup recipes? Get out. ;-) No, don't really.

Honestly, there isn't a single piece I didn't beam while poring over; they were all just that good.

If you need a break from the crazy, check it out (and, nope, I'm not perked for writing this). I'm currently an unpaid contributor, and I'd be a fan regardless of whether I write for them. :-) Enjoy!!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Reminiscent Smells

Thanks to some insanely gorgeous weather over the weekend, I got to paint our back deck. Unfortunately, I need to slap another coat on the floor boards and do the trellis (which will undoubtedly take another several hours) if weather permits, but that's not what this post is about. ;-)

While hunched over, rolling paint and letting my mind half wander, I was suddenly struck by a distinct odor. It wasn't at all a bad smell, or a wonderful smell, but it was pleasant and warm and so darn familiar. And it had little to do with the paint.

I've always had a super sensitive nose (especially versus my average to below-average sight and hearing) and, as many do, I've always attached memories to the smells.

One of my first memories were of my dad's beard. Sure, I remember how scruffy and downright painful it felt when he hugged me close with the stubble rubbing on my soft little face. Mostly, though, I recall his sweet-smelling Old Spice cologne -- not too much, not too little -- after a shave. Those memories are all I have of him anymore, and I cherish it. That being said, I HATE the smell of Old Spice now. It's just too bitter a smell. (Not literally.)

I remember what our favorite dog, Brie, smelled like. When you stuffed your face in her super-soft black fur and fell into a nap. So fresh yet earthy, with dry flakes of white skin dotting the black. Then, the distinctly goopy smell that accompanied her in-need-of-a-cleaning ears. Ick. Poor thing.

But, the most important smells that I hold closest to my heart were those that wafted from my mom's parents' house. After Dad passed, we spent a hell of a lot of time there, whether as a family unit or one-on-one. It was like stepping back in time to a simpler place, where the structure of certain known rules and uncomplicated fun had a major calming effect.

The house itself gave forth scents that I've never again experienced anywhere else, excepting for those rare, brief "is there a ghost about?" moments. Grandpa's basement workshop (and the room with the bar and pool table that we played on, under, and around) wreaked of dusty sweet sawdust and musty coolness. Grandma's pantry hit you in the face with pungent spices far stronger than any at our house of some long-since-spilled herb or spice; maybe nutmeg? Clove? I always thought about it when we discussed the spice trade in Social Studies. I loved sticking my head in that cupboard.

Of course, there was also the ever-present smell of smoke, which somehow didn't seem to overtake the house. Grandma was known for her unfiltered Camel addiction, which she gave up only after being permanently hospitalized after a heart operation. (She famously said that her doctor told her it would be BAD for her to quit. Scared, we tended to believe her.) Being both bulldog and nurturer, she would notoriously blow it in your direction when you started winning at gin rummy; I think she was hoping it would burn our eyes and lower our game. Tricks she undoubtedly learned in the Marines on Parris Island.

Grandpa went through his bouts with tobacco, as well. He had long since quit smoking (and quite easily, which I admired), but at times would sneak chewing tobacco (which he hid under the driver's side seat of his car and told us "not to tell Grandma") and, others, openly smoke a pipe. I so loved the bittersweet smell of a pipe that I smoked one for about a semester in college. Yes, seriously. It was the smell of the thing, and the memory soothed me.

Their breezeway, too, contained a distinct, nice smell which led to an earthy, wet garage and second work area for Grandpa. He built a kennel with a little pass-through (which we kids used as much as our beloved border collie, Bri...said "Br-EYE" ;-)) with an abrasively sweet-smelling, ever-present leaf pile -- one of my all-time favorite smells.

I still recall vividly the imaginative games my sister and I would play in their massive backyard. We would collect pine cones and acorns, pretending that we lived in the wilderness, sitting on the soft bed of pine needles under perfectly-sized trees. That same timeless smell would get kicked about when we took "nature walks" with Grandpa behind our nearby elementary school (always so much more special to visit there with him than with any classmates or teacher). It was what I imagined it to be like when the "Indians" lived there, long before us, running amongst the birch. I'm not sure if the locals referred to that hill as "Mount Suribach" (a slightly altered reference to Mt. Suribachi, the Japanese hill the Marines famously took) or if it was just my grandfather's nickname for it, but it was a glimpse into his past. It feels like we were born knowing about his involvement in the war, without actually knowing.

I could talk about the smells of the molasses cookies we helped to bake or the laundry detergent we helped to pour, but it all just leads down the same road. It was a home away from home that was harder to leave behind when it was sold just last year than our true childhood home (which was sold shortly after my graduation from high school, with all of its ghosts still haunting us and all the music we filled it with still ringing softly).

And that smell -- the smell of THEM -- hit me like a slap as I rolled and slathered that blue-gray paint into those wood crevices. My first thought, as with any time the smell finds me, is whether Grandpa is okay. There's no point in worrying. We know that his time will come sooner rather than later (he's doing okay in his assisted living facility, but the dementia is setting in and he's by far not the vibrant character that once protected and guided me). But the concern still arises.

Then, I wonder if it's Grandma, or any number of past loved ones, reaching out to me in a moment of solitude. I was recently reminded that it's the 5th anniversary of her passing, so this could very well be the case.

All I know is that I'm grateful to be reminded, at the most mundane of moments, by the simplest of smells, that I was a lucky, lucky child.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Another Boobie Update

I've talked about it time and time and time and time again (probably more times than that, but those are my main rants). But I realized a few days ago that we're nearing our end, so I'd better get my thoughts out (just in case anyone else is dealing with the ups and downs of breastfeeding and happen to be following my little journey).

When I say "nearing our end" on breastfeeding, that's actually an with most things in life. He's just over 16 months old and still nurses (albeit for a shorter amount of time) early in the morning and just before bed. I pump once at work now -- sometimes I add it to his cow's milk to drink at the sitter's, and other times I test to see if he'll just eat the cow's milk. Unfortunately, he's become a sporadic milk drinker, so he doesn't always drink it very well. Other times, he downs it like a champ.

But, when I do pump, I'm to the point of getting -- get this -- only about an ounce to 1 1/2 ounces. ONCE a day.


I'm reminded of a year ago when I used to get over 28 ounces a day, plus feeding throughout the night. Consider this cow one hay bale short of being put out to pasture.

Then there are those random times in the middle of a Saturday where he comes to me and gestures to his chest -- his little "sign" that he's hungry -- and we nurse for a minute or two. I don't know if he's REALLY hungry, or if he just wants some snuggle time (since he really doesn't snuggle unless you get silly and tickle him; he loves to laugh), but I'll take it. I'm sure I don't "give" him as much as he may want since demand begets supply, but he doesn't fuss, so it's all good.

I'm sure I'll do one final update when he finally kicks the habit, but for now, this is how life seems to be going. And, on a terribly personal side note, I think this up and down of breastfeeding is throwing my hormones (hence my "cycle") totally out of whack. So not cool. :-P

And now you can go about your day knowing a tad too much about me. You're welcome.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Pouch Disappointment

Yep, it's a Friday Foodie post, but of a different ilk. (I love that word. Ilk. Ever since I heard Dave Foley say it on "The Kids in the Hall" back in the day, I thought, "That's a word for me." Dork, thy name is Megan.)

I got an email the other day from my hubby directing me to this site. I then went directly to the horse's mouth, and eventually discovered that we had three of the aforementioned recalled pouches in our collection. Actually, I was kind of relieved that it was only three, but it's always a little disconcerting when you look at the rest of the pouches you do have and think, "Hmm...should we be using them??"

Since he was clearly on a roll, Dave then shot me a link to this video. Be forewarned: There are bugs (or baby bugs, as it were). Gross. We admit that there's a chance (conspiracy theorists that we are) that it's someone trying to debunk organic foods, for whatever sinister reason...but it's just too questionable to ignore. I couldn't stand the thought of Hadley sucking on one of those things, unknowingly eating larvae or some other such nonsense.  

See, we'd gotten out of the habit of making baby food since, well, he's hardly a baby anymore. *sniffles* He eats mostly adult food, cut down to size, which helps a lot since we no longer have to literally spoon feed him, plus it's great for his coordination and pincer skills. Win, win.

However, this kid is a bit of a pig. I recall my big brothers eating constantly as teenagers, and I can't help but think he's going to be a tall glass of water just like them. He'd eat all day if you let him. Seriously.

So, to round things out, we throw him a pouch or two each day. My mother always comments that they're not worth the money considering that he sucks them down in about fifteen seconds flat, but I know they tide him over and we always ensure that they're organic and not full of sugars and additives. They just help.

After seeing this, though, I'm wary. We have some pouches on hand that I know I'll keep using. But, it looks like I'll be using them sparingly...then returning to making baby food. I guess it's Baby Food 201 (vs. 101...get it? Like college? *ahem*).

And in the interest of full disclosure, when I looked at these links, I became distraught at the thought of not only figuring out what to give him for regular food everyday, but to put the time back into grinding down food into a thick liquid for him to slurp down in no time at all.

Yet, I let it mull in the back of my head and put aside my stubbornness (very challenging, I might add), and immediately set off to make a few servings.

Here's how I roll...

Firstly, for storing foods for Hadley, we use a combination of mason jars (the tiny ones are getting to be a tad TOO tiny, but I still throw some applesauce or yogurt into them as a snack) and our smallest BPA-free glass-and-plastic/silocon-topped storage containers. It works for most things, but those pouches were just so damn easy, it's hard to ignore the fact.

Warning: Highly technical description ahead. A friend of ours gave us an awesome gift that included pouches that you set into a plastic thingamabobber where you could shmush the baby food down a tube and into the pouch. Um. Easier said than done. (And it wasn't that easy to describe, LOL.) As Hadley's food got thicker, the wateriest part of the baby food would leak out and create quite the swear-fest from our kitchen. I'm going to revisit those pouches to see if there's a way to just use a funnel and be done with it; it would suck to waste those, especially since the pouches look almost exactly like the Earth's Best and Plum's ones we currently purchase.

But, awhile back (before he was even on mush/solids), I got a package of green goodies to review for Green Child Magazine. One of the items was a pouch with a heavy duty zip top that you could easily funnel food into called the Little Green Pouch. So, I broke that bad boy out (after a bit of hunting) and tested it for realsies (I used them back in the day, but Hadley wasn't at that "suck independently from a pouch" stage yet).

Here's a quick recipe I threw together:

Sweet Potato Apple Pouch Provisions

1 Sweet Potato, peeled and diced/chopped (the smaller, the less time it takes to cook)
1-2 Apples, peeled and diced/chopped
1-2 c. Liquid (water, apple juice, etc; we used apple cider, but use whatchya got, and depending on how thick you want it, use more or less liquid)
a few dashes of seasoning like cinnamon or cumin (optional; I didn't use anything and it was friggin' delicious...good enough for an adult to take for lunch as soup, I kid you not!)

Throw everything into a pot and bring to a boil, then put a lid on it (ha!) and reduce the heat. Allow to boil until the sweet potato is super soft. Stir occasionally. (We cooked dinner, ate it, did dishes all while this cooked, so it was awhile but it's not like you have to stare at the thing while it cooks.) There will still be liquid, but you want it.

Take it off the heat and use an immersion blender (mine was a Christmas gift last year, but you can find them under $20 and they're WELL worth it!) to puree. I did this for a few minutes to ensure that it was all wicked smooth. Add more liquid if needed. Allow to cool for a few minutes.

Then, I opened up the zipper and used a funnel and a spoon to fill that sucker up. It's sitting in our fridge, along with the leftovers (I can refill the pouch with it as needed; this makes 3-4 servings of 5-6 ounces, depending on how big your sweet potato is).

By the way, this was a small batch because I had to use up the sweet potato and I had that brain drain goin' on that happens to us all post-5pm (okay, some days it's post 5am). So, multiply it as needed. ;-)

These bags are freezable, too, so if you're using this type of system be sure to leave a little head room. I also make sure that I let it cool completely before shoving it in the freezer, just because I suck at science and am never sure if something's going to explode in there. #aintnobodygottimeforthat #thatnevergetsold

So, we'll see what time I can find to make some more of these up. It's pretty obvious that I'm going to look into purchasing some more "Little Green Pouches", too. I'm not sure what other veggies will work (it feels like forever since I've had to make baby food, although I could count it in months) -- green beans can get a tad stringy and not break down all the way, but peas are perfect. I've got a squash just begging to be used, to hopefully he still likes that flavor. Just take some time to experiment! At least we know there won't be maggots or any other unthinkable crap in it. Just my cookin'. ;-) 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Our Hero

I know I've gushed about what a super awesome husband I have a few dozen times before. It's not bragging; I'm not in the habit of that. After all, he's certainly not perfect all of the time (that's my job...ha...ha...hmm). But, dude. He's pretty great.

That being said, I thought I'd share a link to a video of his recent trip to a Massachusetts talk show called "Mass Appeal" to talk about tips on surviving your first year as a daddy. He had several talking points (which we discussed in length before he sent them his list) but they ended up discussing just a few of my favorites.
Didn't he do great?? It's kind of funny because I received a text from him talking about how he wasn't feeling great (heavy breathing) when he got there, wondering if it was nerves. This is crazy considering he used to do regular on-air news reporting and anchoring in front of many thousands of people a day, and has performed as an actor to pretty big venues. I totally got it, though; it was a completely different environment, he didn't know how big his audience was, he hardly knew the hosts (one he had befriended awhile back; the other he was meeting for the first time), and a bunch of other maybe/maybe not irrational reasons.

Knowing that he was nervous, I think he knocked it out of the park. He was relaxed, he sounded relatively intelligent (of course, he is!), and, well, sounded just like our dorky daddy!

Watching this, it was hard not to reminisce about the past 16 months and his growth as a papa. He used to be terrified and held him in an extremely awkward manner. Heck, I left for a few hours several months in and I came back with Dave having slid down the couch, holding Hadley in the exact same position, unable to even reach the remote. (He couldn't figure out how to get up.)

But, with time came confidence and one of the sweetest relationships I've ever seen developed between my two boys. I have only a very little, fuzzy memory or two of my dad, so seeing them play and watching Hadman run into Dave's arms (and the look of sheer joy on Dave's face) brings a tear to my eye and a smile to my face...and heart.

Anyhoo, enough gushing. Let me know whatchya think! And be sure to check out Dave's blog at It's good stuff!

Monday, November 11, 2013

TJ to the Maxx

First of all, let me give you a quick update on how our debt diet is going. In a word, great. I actually have been experiencing overlap in the incidental area (which is okay with the holidays coming up; I'm sure it'll get used!) since I've pretty much only purchased "needs" lately. It'll be a learning process for me to actually allow myself to occasionally do or get something for myself. Like...y'know...a haircut. That, I need.

I was out and about in Utica for a day of developin' my profession recently, and I stopped for a few necessities at Price Chopper and Pet Smart (yes, cat food is a necessity! Don't want Kitty Protective Services coming for a visit!). While in the area, I found myself glancing at TJ Maxx. A lot.

This, like eying Target, can prove fatal. It's SO easy to spend a kazillion dollars on all the loveliness these places dole out. Must. Stay. Sttrrrrrong.

So, I decided that I'd allow myself to go in, but not buy anything unless it was a Christmas present (which I've got money budgeted for). There are some AWESOME gift ideas at a TJ Maxx, folks, just give it a chance. But, guess what. I didn't leave with one darn thing...and it felt pretty good.

I did, however, lurk around corners waiting for people to clear an aisle for me to take pictures of stuff that I liked. That way, I could chat about what I like without actually taking the stuff home. If I find myself dreaming about something and envisioning where it should live, MAYBE I'll bring my cash allotment in for a visit. Maybe.

So, here's some of the stuff I found myself drooling over...
I have far too  much glass storage ware cluttering our kitchen shelves...but if you're on the lookout for some, check out the Maxx. Oh, and The Christmastree Shoppe is good for this, too. ;-)  

  SILVER!!! And for a closer look...
I was SO close to buying one or two of these (look at that PRICE!) but realized I didn't have an immediate place for it. Wop wop.
The same goes for this round, adorably-patterned box. No purpose, not gonna get it.

I almost got this awesome blue container/vase (especially considering its size at $10) but eventually decided to walk away. #juststepaway

  And my weakness? Pillows. So proud that I walked away with NADA.

I always enjoy checking out the furniture they have in hopes of one day replacing my eyesore of an armchair (still didn't get the Target chair; the quality wasn't enough for my everyday sittin'). They didn't have a lot this day, though. This chair came the closest.

Need baskets?? We've got baskets!! And at incredible prices. Needless to say, I didn't need any...this time.

 I know it's not a homegood, but I was shocked to find some pretty well-priced Melissa and Doug toys. Hadley's not quite old enough for these yet, but I can't WAIT to build him a play kitchen (real men cook) in a little while...and fill it with some of these things. (Although that "Fruit cocktail in light syrup" is questionable.)

Speaking of toys...CHRISTMAS!!!
Loving on that deer...and even the huge bronze turkey next door to Mr. Reindeer.  
 ...and wreaths!!! I'm kind of surprised at how real (and well-priced) these looked while standing there. I'm considering heading back to see what they have left. Look at that jingle bell one on the right, and the snow-dappled pine cone one!

Vintage Santa art!! I totally should've gotten one of these to surprise Dave with. He's all about the vintage these days. However, I couldn't figure out where I'd put 'em. Isn't that always the key?

But, yeah. Mr. Red-and-White may come home, if he's still there.

  Check out the array of trees! Rustic wood, sparkly winterland, and seashell...whuh?? And the pokey shells on those deer? Holy crap. So cool. Way too cool for me. ;-)

Last but not least...look at the awesome guy gifts! Dave got himself a couple of these when he got his new job (with his own office) and I've been in awe of them ever since. Awesome for the holidays, folks. I'm hoping Santa will bring him one or two more.

I also find boxed work shirts for Dave here, as well as the occasional pair of jeggings (okay, just the one pair) or, for me, not Dave. But, on this particular day I finally left after getting a contact high when a fellow patron walked by. WHOA. This is one classy joint, folks. **Side note: The first TJ Maxx I ever went to was down in Westchester County, so needless to say, they're not all like this.** **Side note #2: I want a Home Goods. And an IKEA. And a Whole Foods. Is that too much to ask?**

So, what about you? Do you do the Maxx? (I will NOT refer to myself as know what they call TJ Maxx shoppers on their commercials. Yeah. I'm not one of those.) By the way, I wasn't perked by their company to write about this. It's just an anecdote by a person they don't know exists. :-) Or do you have a different place that you like visit to drool all over stuff then leave? Or is that just me?

Friday, November 8, 2013

For Those Times When Facebook Gets You Down

Sorry, no "Foodie Friday" here today. I worked some basic magic with apples, but it wasn't anything special enough to chat about. Otherwise, life's full of musicals and family and Christmas shopping and all the other wonderful things that this time of year brings. So, my post can staaaaaart....NOW!

I have what I like to call a lukewarm like-hate relationship with Facebook. I've talked about my attempts to cut down (or *gasp* even cut out) my use, to no avail. After all, it's the best way I have to let people know that this blog even exists. It is what it is.

It's easy to hate the thing. It has become a place of hatred...a means to bully...a way to say the most scathingly cruel comment in relative anonymity. It's a spiteful place full of leftists and Tea Partiers who care not whose brain they make explode with their unreliably-sourced opinions. I could clearly go on...



Today. (It's Halloween, as I type this.) Today, I was made aware of the uplifting side of Facebook. The side that makes you despise people a little less. The side that makes you grateful (yes, grateful) for the chance to connect to these people I probably wouldn't be able to communicate with...ever. Sure, some of my "friends" I actually get to see regularly. Still fewer I get to see on a rare treat of an occasion. But, then there are those that, without Facebook, I literally wouldn't know existed anymore.

Colleagues from jobs past. Teachers who touched my life in an inexplicably real, unforgettable way. Long-lost relatives whom I'm glad to know -- for real, KNOW -- just by seeing their regular day-to-day thoughts. Those friends from high school and college who were FAMILY (not "like" family, but FAMILY -- we knew everything about each other, even if we didn't hang out as besties). Those dear family friends whom I had thought melted into the recesses of my bittersweet memories. Again, I could clearly go on...

It was a simple moment. I had posted a collage of Hadley's Charlie Brown "costume" (a yellow polo shirt with the Charlie Brown zig-zag and black pants and sneakers, and a Snoopy stuffed animal; I wanted to make the shirt, but it was impossible to find a plain yellow one!), and one by one, the "likes" started slowly coming in.

Sure, I've had plenty of "likes" on posts before, especially Hadley ones and profile pic changes. Heck, when he was born, he got TONS of FB love. But, for some reason, it hit me hard how many people think my son is as great as we think he is. (I know he's not perfect, but he IS freaking awesome.)

Awesome former students...who still remember me as much as I remember them.

Friends of my husband's who have since become MY friends, even vicariously.

Parents of friends.


My SISTER'S co-workers.

My 9th (or was it 8th?) grade math teacher. The one who got me the 91 on the Regents.

Cousins. Aunts. My sister's in-laws. Students-who-were-like-daughters.

Friends who started as farmers' market buddies.

People who remember me as the annoying little sister following around the bigger kids in marching band.

Friends I've had since 2nd grade.

People I met through every job I've ever had, who are still kind enough to keep up on my goings-on.

Dave's former co-workers.

My kindergarten teacher. Oh, the awesome memories with her! Those were the days.

My brother, whose "like" on ANYTHING sends my heart soaring. He's a busy guy, and doesn't dole out "likes" for just any old thing.

My godmother, who moved away to Florida when I was in junior high. She was like another (cooler) mother, and her son was like a best friend and brother rolled into one.

People I acted with onstage YEARS ago who have since moved far, far away.

The list just keeps on comin'. I realized that these people are a part of my history in one way or another. Some, I don't speak with today, but past negative experiences have washed away to a simple, "Oh, it's nice to see that she's a happy mom of some beautiful kids today." Others, it's awesome and uplifting to reconnect with.

All I know is that it filled me with some happiness. For once, Facebook was able to provide me with some positive perspective rather than the general, "What's wrong with the world?" thoughts that usually pop up.

I still try to limit how much time I give to Facebook, because that's what it is -- handing time over that I'll never get back which, for the most part, consists of anger or hurt or rudeness.

Except when it involves George Takei. Or a little boy's Charlie Brown costume.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Blood, Sweat and Tears

Innocent. Unassuming. Even strangely invisible. But this damn toilet paper holder brought blood, sweat and tears for my poor husband.

See, our walls kind of...suck. For the longest time, it took a couple of hours to hang ANYTHING involving anchors. They don't appear to be plaster, but they're super hard, so odds are they probably are. We needed to get a more heavy-duty drill to handle what they were dishing. Seriously. Hate. These. Walls.

That's probably why it's taken us so long to add the floating shelves, towel hooks and this TP holder to the bathroom. Those finishing touches that should be relatively simple could end up breaking us. Add the fact that there's HARD AS A ROCK tile (along with what seems to be the hardest mastic ever known to man used behind it; my stepdad, who has worked on countless bathrooms, has never seen such a hard wall) behind the bead board and you're just asking for a headache. We've known it. We've procrastinated.

But, one Sunday night, Dave decided it was time to check at least this one project off our list. Maybe he was sick of reaching around to grab the roll off the back of the toilet. For whatever reason, it was TOUGH.

There was a burned hand (from the torque of the drill, I kid you not). There were two calls to my stepdad. There was major swearing (he NEVER swears, folks! That's my job). And, finally, there was disappointment that it was crooked. He felt defeated. Yes, there were almost tears (I think he started to well up, but I didn't see let's just say he kept it together).

I suggested he put the roll on to see how crooked it really was. When he did, we noticed...

Nothing. It looked perfectly fine. Considering how much general crookedness we have in our house, it fits right in and even looks good. Phew.

So, my friends, you have heard the story of how Dave won the Battle of the Bathroom, Round 1. Let's hope we survive the next couple of rounds to call this thing, finally, DONE! At least it's coming together. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

First Family Trip

Over the Columbus Day weekend (yes, I'm that behind on things), we finally tested the waters and took our first overnight family trip with Mr. Hadley, now 15 months old. We took a trip to Massachusetts over the summer, but this was the first just-the-three-of-us "let's see if we can have fun far away from home" trip. On a scale of 1 to 10, I'd say it was an 9...depending on how optimistic I'm feeling. ;-)

The best part (and what made it, I thought, easier) was that we returned to Vermont -- where we had our honeymoon and first anniversary trips. We stayed at the familiar Middlebury Inn. We walked around familiar Middlebury and drove the familiar roads that took us to familiar antiques shops. We stopped for a familiar romp around the Bennington Monument (although we'd never ran circles around the green before...thank you, toddler energy!).

But, it wasn't a boring trip, by any means. Everything is so new through the eyes of a toddler, and the surreality of being places that we once casually spent hours eating at or were able to peruse without tiny, jutting hands grabbing things from was kinda neat. And a little nerve-wracking. But, we accepted that this was how the trip would be, and we admittedly loved every minute of it.

Since it was Parents' Weekend at Middlebury College, we could only book the Sunday into Monday (fine by us). We arrived in VT early after a pretty uneventful trip (hooray for naptime!), let the folks at the Inn know that we were early, then sauntered over to one of our favorite places on Earth: the Middlebury Co-Op. We've been there a few times and love it more each time. There's cast-off (perfectly fine) soap from a local natural soap company that we stock up on (literally purchase pounds of the stuff in varying scents). Dave ogles the grind-it-yourself coffee. I love finding a vast selection of items I've only heard about online, often shouting with unabashed excitement to Dave two rows over. And, for it being one of his least favorite activities, Hadley did pretty well being carted through the aisles. (Key here: Constant motion.)

We purchased a lunch from the place (they have prepared food, too...woohoo!) at which time the antsy-pants took command, so we pretty much took turns watching him. Dave also walked the half-block to the car to store our treasures; Hadley made his acquaintance with several strangers sitting at the picnic tables outside the store, which made me realize that his social streak causes Dave and I to be far friendlier and more outgoing than we normally might be. Y'know, comparable to a puppy.

We then checked in for realsies, rode a "real live OLD SCHOOL elevator" with a teen to operate it, dropped off our stuff, (had the Pack 'n Play delivered and set up since it had been forgotten; the only small glitch), and headed to the lobby for Dave's favorite -- afternoon tea.

They also have yummy pastries and cookies, so we loaded up a plate and brought our tea (and Hadley's sippy cup o' juice) to the "veranda" to watch the quaint traffic and enjoy a moment. Dave was in his glory, as my mother would say, and Hadley was a very good boy...since he was getting tastes of chocolate or lemon cookies, a huge treat.

Dave's look during tea? Pensive. Pensive. And pensive. (He DOES enjoy it VERY much...believe me!)

We then went for a stroll around town. Unfortunately, since it was Sunday and heading for after 4, most of the stores were closed, but we still enjoyed our walk. I had hoped that Hadley would sleep for a little while in the stroller, to no avail. We then headed back to the Inn to get ready for our 5:30 reservation. Dave was already talking about the cheese plate, which we always order (for whatever reason). I was preparing myself mentally for a hadn't-napped-sized meltdown from the munchkin.

I was pleased that our timing seemed to avoid any big rush (you never know when people will eat dinner, do you?) so that we'd be disturbing minimal guests with our noisy boy. He ate pouches, and tastes of my pork and the most delicious braised cabbage and whipped sweet potatoes I'd ever tasted. He ate cheese of his own while we feasted on our cheese plate (all goat this time, strangely; usually there's at least one Cabot since the factory is on the outskirts of town). He played and hammered his hands and utensils on the table and caused a general ruckus, much to our disappointment, but the other guests seemed very forgiving and our hostess kept assuring us that he was very well-behaved and sweet and "nobody minds a bit, he's so cute!"

We finally decided that, while dinner had been nice, it was time for Hadman to have a bath and get ready for bed (even if it was a bit earlier than usual), so Dave stayed to pay the bill (and get a couple of creme brulees to bring up to our room -- I married a keeper, ladies!).

(Looked horrific dumped into a to-go container, but tasted lovely!)

We usually bathe Hadley in the kitchen sink, so this was his second tub experience. I let him play to his heart's content, then run around the connected rooms (we had our own separate bedroom attached to a kind of living room, where his Pack 'n Play was set up) before finally calming down, reading a book, and settling down for the night. Dave and I watched crappy cable and read magazines and books, and talked about how much we missed the cats. It was awesome.

The baby awoke far too early the next morning, but we weren't ready to get up yet, so I brought him in the fluffy bed with us -- where he immediately conked out. He has a weakness for comfy pillows, I suppose.

I got ready early and played with the munchkin (and got him ready) while Dave took a shower. We packed up and Dave loaded up the car while Hadley and I tore through the large lobby. (Okay, I didn't tear through it, but he did...and I came tumbling after.) I finally realized there were a butt load of Morgan horse pictures (they were first bred here! And my niece's name is Morgan, so what's better than that?) adorning the walls, so we went from one to the next, pointing and "oofing." (All animals say "oof"...or is that just what the cool kids are doing?) Daddy came back and we found a short line waiting for the Inn's delicious breakfast -- which made our nerves immediately spike.

With just two or three other tables of folks the night before, we were confident. With an entire dining room full this morning, we felt dead in the water. "Will. He. BEHAVE?!" we both silently wondered. Luckily, they were gracious enough to seat us at a HUGE table in the corner (near windows, though -- we didn't feel relegated to the dungeon) so Hadley could discover his table manners in relative privacy. The huge room, however, was eerily silent (what, were people whispering or just not talking to their spouses?! C'mon, can't SOMEONE have a public spat??), so every little noise he made echoed. Eh, ya win some, ya lose some.

I had been dreaming of the couldn't-be-more-perfect waffles for years (they're the reason I bought a Belgian waffle maker...and still haven't been able to find the "taste," so quit trying), so I made a plate with extras for the munchkin of waffles, bacon (just a bit), eggs (which he loves), and some yogurt. Man, those waffles were as awesome as I remembered. We filled our stomachs and the baby let us know that he was ready to go. Off into the perfectly drizzly autumn day for some driving and antique stops.

We only stopped at two antique shops along the way -- one run by a kind older man with a friendly pup who follows you around the store, and the other (Branford House Antiques) where we had befriended the owners and purchased a sidebar on our honeymoon. BOTH had "For Sale" signs plopped unapologetically on their front lawns. *pout* I suppose this is the end of an era.

Purchases were kept at a minimum: I grabbed a $10 wooden crate (wicked price, whether it's an antique or not) and Dave bought an Art Deco lighter to adorn his office at work. Relatively cheap, and no regrets of over-purchasing. Win-win!

We DID over-buy at The Chocolate Barn in Shaftsbury. Maple candy, people! And handmade chocolates!! Great for gifts, and for a lil' treat. Needless to say, ours were gone in under a week. I think that's a new record.

And, finally, we stopped in Bennington. It was past our usual lunch by this point (we gave the baby an organic pouch at one stop, but he's a ravenous lunatic when he hasn't his mama), so we were incredibly lucky to find a little cafe with awesome local food and drinks still open. A sandwich that was killed by how much spicy mustard it contained and more butternut squash soup for me (I'd had some at the Inn the night before that tasted like the best soup I'd ever had...ever), a grilled cheese sandwich for the monkey, and I can't for the life of me remember what Dave got...maybe panini. Or something. Definitely coffee.

After our late lunch, we went to the Bennington Monument that we've been visiting since well before we got engaged and took some new pictures next to our buddies -- a statue and a random plywood militia man. Hadley also socialized with anyone he could get close enough to and ran around like a fool. It was awesome.

Yeah. I know. Too awesome for words.

Here we have the last leg of our trip: a stop by Camelot Village (just outside Bennington). This is where things went a tad South. Hadley could've easily taken more outside energy-using activity, but instead we brought him into a huge venue full of breakable antiques. Stupid grown-ups. He wanted to touch EVERYTHING and started (predictably) whining and screaming when we picked him up. The stroller wouldn't have fit through the aisles, either, so he was "on the loose" (I wish I had brought my Ergo, but I'm not sure he would've been contained). So, we went to the surrounding areas only to discover that things had changed (for the worse), finally deciding that I'd stay in the car with the monkey while Dave perused the antiques quickly. When he was done (and the baby was asleep), I took a quick walk through. Neither of us found anything worthwhile (or priced well enough to want), so we left empty-handed and happy to be heading home.

The rest of the trip took a couple of hours, so we got home in time to feed the annoyed, ravenous, yet strangely happy cats -- it was clear that they had missed their boy, and it warms my heart to think of how affectionate they were when they saw us. They're usually quite friendly little creatures, but the love that poured out for Hadley was just so darn evident.

While we headed back to work and normalcy the next day, I remain very glad that we took the leap into travel with our little man. We once made a list, while heading home from our honeymoon, of goals to maintain in our relationship and life. One that has stuck out stronger than any others was this: "When we one day have children, we will accept them into our lives, not completely change to suit the children."

Of course, we knew that LIFE would change with a child (and we expected that when we wrote it), but what we meant -- that we still wanted to have adventures, that we wanted to keep searching local, organic and healthier eating options, that we still wanted to go antiquing and history-hunting and the dozens of other things that we like to do -- was ultimately that we want to share all those things with our young ones. We also want to acclimate them to a change in routine, the idea that the world does not revolve around their beautiful little noggins (well, the one noggin, for now - ha!), that certain behavior is expected in certain places, and, mostly, that there's a great big world out there for them to discover, enjoy, and take advantage of.

And I think we're on our way.