Tuesday, July 1, 2014
It takes me a long time to find just the right items for my house. I'm not one of those people that buys things just to fill the spot. For example, it took me 5 years to commit to curtains in most of my house. In the end, I found fabric that I loved and my cousin Karen came up from Florida for a week to make all of them. I had an image in my head of the table I wanted on my deck but since I couldn't find it, we really spent no time eating or hanging out on the deck. Cooking on the grill, yes. Eating out there, no. What I really wanted was a ridiculously expensive teak set that was just not in my near future. Then I decided I wanted a picnic table, but not a traditional one. I didn't want the attached benches or a traditional bulky table. What I wanted was a picnic table just like Tim's parents. They had inherited it with the property they bought about 20 years ago. It was a 6 feet long table with disconnected benches and X shaped table legs. We asked where they bought it and turns out they were ready to get rid of it. We were very excited but the only challenge was that it was stained red. I spent a weekend painting it with Binz and then 3 layers of paint the same tan as our house color. Then Tim put a hole in the middle for our umbrella and we were good to go! The funny thing, is that this table has become a catalyst for many unexpected things. First, it makes the deck seem like a new room in our house. You can see the deck from the living room and it is a nice extension of the space. Secondly, we finally have our outdoor eating space and we use it almost every night. I like nothing more than eating out there while the sun is beginning to make its ascent. It is an absolutely beautiful time of the night. By spending more time outside, we realized we have a nature wonderland going on under our noses. Apparently, we have a family of bunnies that live in the yard - a mother and tiny little baby. They come out to eat at dusk...right in our line of vision so we get to watch them eat and run around the yard. Then there is the family of birds living in our bird house. We have this adorable bird house on the playhouse that has now become our shed and there is a family of very sqwaky birds living in there. The mother literally is feeding them every 10 minutes. Their little heads and beaks poke out as she comes close with worms and whatnot. It's so cute. Perhaps the most unusual dining experience we have had was on Father's Day when we were enjoying a nice relaxing meal..until the chipmunks invaded my bird feeder. That's when I heard Tim say "Kids...grab your guns!" Let's just stop right there. I am anti-gun, anti-killing of animals, and anti-kids having guns to kill animals. Suddenly, Mimi has her pink bb gun in her arms and Jack is firing up his air soft uzi. Seriously, the fact that my kids have "guns" ...and just to be clear...they are air soft guns...but it's not something I would have thought would ever happen. A few chipmunks got the message to stay away from the bird food...but to be clear, it was just gentle pings, not life threatening impact. I worked out on my deck all day last Friday, under my umbrella. There is nothing like working while listening to the birds chirp. I was so productive yet also was so relaxed by the end of the day. I think all work spaces should have outdoor space. But, one of the best things about the picnic table is that the kids will play outside before and after dinner. I call them in from the yard for dinner just like my mother used to do. Remember when you played outside all day and just went home when you heard the call of lunch or dinner? I miss those simple times. After dinner, both the kids race to the backyard and play soccer, chase the bunnies, or play basketball. Being outside reminds them to spend time outside. In my opinion, kids should be outside as much as possible with their free time. They should be out hunting frogs, playing together, and just exploring. Somehow in our society, we have really lost the ability for kids to be kids. Our picnic table is bringing it back. Silly little table that is having an amazing impact on all aspects of our lives. Never underestimate the power of the little things.
Thursday, May 15, 2014
Last year my parents asked myself and my sister if they could take our kids away to Aruba for April vacation...without us. We were specifically not invited. I was initially reluctant. April is typically our maiden camping voyage of the season and that would mean we would have to forego that. As it turns out, the kids are less interested in camping these days (which just kills me) so it was more of an issue that Tim and I had to deal with. Secondly, although the kids are all great together and my parents are more than capable, the reality was my parents, who are 65 and 70, were still taking care of five kids ages 10-15 for a week. My own two kids can exhaust me alone....nevermind five kids in a foreign country with my parents. Finally, where was my trip to Aruba when I was 14 or 15??!! I felt jipped! After I got over pouting, I realized that this was a trip of a lifetime. It was one of those special moments in time that all of them would remember for the rest of their lives. So, off they went to Aruba for April vacation. That left Tim and I to decide what we would do with our time. I had big dreams. I always wanted to go to Iceland so that was my first choice. Why not, right?! The kids would be away...it's not a far trip...it would be a blast. Tim's first choice was Truro...because he loves the comfort of going to our favorite place. My second choice was New Foundland. I've never been but it looks like fun. Granted, a little cold in April, but still tons of fun with little pubs and beautiful scenery. Tim's second choice? To clean the basement. The basement that is filled with his crap-eesh. Uhm. No. We were in vastly different places and had a pretty good "discussion" about how I feel he is too practical and he feels I'm not practical enough. Both valid points, but of course, I felt my points were more valid. I'm just sayin'... I did initially acquiesce to going to Truro. I do love it there and we could still get in our camping trip but as we looked at the weather, it wasn't looking promising. And I knew once we dropped the kids at the airport I had to go to NY for work and would be there for the majority of the week. The reality of us getting the camper ready in one night was dwindling. In the end I kind of gave up and figured Tim would be cleaning the basement and I would do a bunch of things by myself that I've been wanting to do for awhile like trying new restaurants, shopping, going to movies, etc. And I had absolutely no problem with that. As an aside, that week I can't tell you how many random references of Iceland came up. During my work trip, we were talking about places to visit on our bucket lists. Before I could mention Iceland, a co-worker said it was on the top of their list. My friend went on a trip to Europe and sent me a poster of Iceland from the airport. I literally had steam coming out of my ears towards the end of the week. As it turns out, Tim texted me the day before I got back from NY and said he had an idea...what about Western Mass? We have always wanted to camp there and check that area out so why not now? We wouldn't be able to camp but Tim found an Inn for us to stay at. Western Mass is no Iceland but it was definitely worth checking out...and better than cleaning the basement. I immediately went into research mode and found a place to have dinner and made a list of things to do. I got home Thursday and by Friday morning, we were on our way. We figured we would take our time and check out the towns from Florida (where Tim has done off-roading Jeep trips before) to West Stockbridge where our Inn was. Our kids would have HATED this trip. We loved it. We literally drove in the car all day....driving through small towns....stopping when things interested us. We literally had no agenda. We just knew we had dinner reservations at 7 pm. We stopped at the Bridge of Flowers in Shelburne Falls and even though most of the flowers were not in bloom, you could tell it was a beautiful place to come back to when it was. Then we stopped at a pub I had found on Trip Advisor called Public. We had gotten breakfast on the road and weren't very hungry when we stopped at 11:30 so we just decided to try one of their craft beers and then move along. 3 beers and a yummy lunch later, we were off for more exploring. We finally arrived at our Inn in the late afternoon. It was one of those large inns that had 2 restaurants, a heated year-round outdoor pool & hot tub, and a pub. Giddy up. We found ourselves watching the sunset as we sat in rocking chairs on the deck having a cocktail. I found myself saying "Your parents would love this place" and then we looked around and it was pretty clear that this was an "older population" Inn. At once we felt very old, and yet very young at the same time. Still, it didn't deter us. We were determined to make the best of our little trip to Western Iceland Mass...as I like to call it. We headed off to dinner at Table Six at the Kemble Inn. The service was fantastic and they whisked us away to the library for a drink before dinner. It was decorated in a very eclectic manner - green velvet couches, big leather comfy chairs, giant posters of the Queen Mum, and busts of horse heads. Great coffee table books and kitschy posters. We decided we should start drinking a signature drink...I chose champagne and Tim had some sort of mixed drink that involved Cape Codder ingredients, of course. We then moved into the dining room and the food, and our server, were fantastic. We felt very well taken care of. In hindsight, we may have felt more at home at this Inn, but that was until we went back to our Inn...The Red Lion...which we affectionately had named The Old Lion Inn. We decided to hit The Lion's Den for a drink when we got back...it was the Inn's "underground" bar. We expected a few regulars at a tiny bard but instead we found a packed bar, a folk singing duo, and two empty bar stools. We bellied up to the bar and had a great time people watching, listening to the music that was actually quite good and enjoyed a few non signature cocktails called wine and beer. We decided to head back to the room and play Rummy, one of our favorite card games. At this point you are saying, Yeah....you kind of belong at the Old Lion Inn....and that might be true but when we got back to the room we realized we had an hour left of the heated pool. Giddy up...cannoball! Let me remind you it was April and as you know, in the Northeast this year, it was as cold as balls for more than half of the year. April was no different. I think it was in the mid-30's that night. When I imagine a heated pool, I imagine at least 80 degrees, with the hot tub close to 100. Well, here's how this played out. We were the only ones at the pool. We brought our room's water/juice glasses filled with red wine and immediately hit the hot tub...or hot soup as we like to call it. We couldn't figure out where the button was to turn it on so it was like sitting in a steaming hot bowl of still soup. Literally so hot it was burning our first layer of skin off. Lucky for us the pool was actually "cold"...probably 60 degrees. We kept having to jump into the pool to cool off our burned layers of molten skin. Then a "couple" showed up. The guy immediately walked over to the button on the wall and turned on the hot soup tub. How did we miss that?! We asked where they were from...what brought them here...Tim was so busy cooling his third degree burns that he didn't quite catch the story. Turns out the dude was there from Florida for a conference and the girl was there checking out colleges (although I'm assuming it was for her masters because she wasn't super young). They had met a little earlier in the bar and were now in the hot tub wishing we weren't there. So, we took our red wine juice glasses and burned skin and fled the scene. But imagine this. We had easily found our way out of the Inn near our room wearing just our bathing suits, carrying our towels and jelly juice glass wines, but for whatever reason, we couldn't find our way back that easily. Instead we ended up WALKING THROUGH THE PUB. Tim had put his towel around his waist and I had a towel around me like I had just gotten out of the shower. It was as if we had taken a wrong turn out of our bathroom and stumbled into the bar in nothing but our towels. Oh. My God. And that's how you spice up The Old Lion Inn in Iceland, people. Sometimes having plans that aren't plans at all can end up being the best times.
Thursday, February 27, 2014
So much for my New Year's resolution of blogging more.... I can't believe it's the end of February already. I'm not sure where the time has gone. We started out January ready to go into the New Year. On MLK weekend, we have a tradition where Tim's parents take us, his brother, and sister's family away to Bretton Woods for a long weekend to ski and reconnect. We look forward to it every year. Amazingly, we (the siblings) all live in the same town but we hardly ever see each other. The kids are all different ages and we are all so busy but this is the one weekend a year when we know we will reconnect and have fun. The kids absolutely love it as well. We have so many traditions on this weekend. We eat the same meals on the same nights throughout the weekend. Friday we are on our own because everyone gets up to the condo at different times. Saturday night is pasta and homemade meatballs. Sunday is beef stew night. For skiing each day, everyone packs a picnic lunch and eats it at the mountain. Mimi and I don't downhill ski so we have our own traditions. One day, we always go either snowshoeing or cross country skiing and bring our own picnic lunch to the Nordic center where we eat lunch in front of the fire. On the other day, we walk to the Mount Washington hotel spa and get our nails and/or toes done. Afterwards, we go the lobby to get a glass of wine/hot chocolate and play cards. Eventually Mimi talks me into sharing some sort of chocolately goodness dessert. There is usually a wedding going on so we stay to watch that likes it's a tv show and then slowly make our way back. We could easily stay all afternoon. This year, Tim's sister came up on Friday night and just before they arrived they realized they had forgotten all of their ski boots, hats, and gloves. They were going to drive home and come back the next day but we convinced them that even though we had our traditions, we could easily make new ones. And we did! Instead of skiing first thing on Saturday morning, we all slept in and then enjoyed a nice breakfast together. This was a perfect year for this as the kids are entering "tween-dome" and enjoy the extra sleep. Then we spent the afternoon at the Mount Washington Hotel. While Mimi and I went to our spa appointment, everyone else went to the pool. The kids met up in the arcade while the adults met up in the Cave bar and enjoyed a drink together. We ended up staying to play games and enjoy each other's company. It was then that we decided that since had such a great time, that we would make an effort to get together each month for a monthly sibling/cousin dinner at home. Traditions are awesome. And this year we learned, sometimes, it's okay to stray from traditions and make new ones. I will say, when Mimi and I were at the spa the ladies were asking us why we were there. We shared our story that we have been doing this for the past 14 years, that we eat the same things during the weekend, and that she and I go to the spa together each year. By the end of our visit people we coming up to us telling us how great it was that our family did this and the loved hearing our stories. I hope we inspired some people to start new traditions! Every year we also always play games together. I'll admit it...I might have forced people to play games in the beginning...but now everyone likes it. We have gone from paper airplane contests to Bingo to Bunco to Boggle and double solitaire (thank you Auntie Libby!). Each year we try something new and have a blast. We always make sure it's something kids and adults can do and we always have fun. It's also Tim's Dad's birthday on this weekend and we celebrate his birthday with cake and presents. For the first few years, his Mom always had a cake made but for the last several years Mimi has designed and made the cake or cupcakes. One year, it was a cake decorated with trees and skiers. This year his cake resembled a Jeep grill...now we know where Tim's Jeep obsession comes from. On Monday, we have traditionally cleaned up, packed up, and then gone tubing before we leave the mountain. On the way home, all the siblings/kids have lunch. Because the ski conditions weren't great we all just headed home on our own and it was okay. We all did our own thing and it worked. For us, we stopped at the LL Bean outlet and got the kids some boots. When you have teenagers, they grow at crazy rates so my kids have blown through multiple shoe sizes over the last year. We didn't have any boots for Jack but luckily he and his grandfather now wear the same shoe size (what?!) so he was able to borrow some for the weekend. But we stopped on the way home to get him his own pair. Mimi and I now wear the same size (what?!) so we buy one pair of shoes for the both of us and it's considered a bargain. Well, to us anyways :) We also found a great restaurant on the way home and said "This will be great for the group next year". Love old traditions and also when life happens and new traditions emerge.
Thursday, January 16, 2014
I love quotes. I'm the one at bookgroup that writes down my favorite quotes from the book we just finished. I have started a quote book for each of my kids to give as a graduation gift. Things like "Live the life you want to live. Be the person you want to remember. Make decisions, make mistakes. If you fail, at least you tried." and "Never regret anything because at one time it was exactly what you wanted." I feel like I come across little quotes like these at exactly the time when I need them most. I love when I read something and it just makes me stop in my tracks and think. I also love it when they make me just laugh out loud. I have a few funny ones that are my personal favs that I'd like to share. If nothing else, I hope one of them makes you laugh: "You and I are more than friends. We are like a small gang." "I don't run. And if you ever see me running, you should run too because something is probably chasing me." "We should open a store called Forever 39. We can sell wine and yoga pants." Amen, sister. "I'm afraid I can't go. I've already taken off my bra so I'm in for the night." And one of my favorites "Roses are dead, violets are fine, this day sucks balls, I really love wine." What's your favorite funny quote?
Saturday, January 4, 2014
A few nights ago a friend of mine texted and said "Come meet us out for drinks!" Usually we hop at the chance but this was a tough sell. I've been home since Dec 20th - mostly off from work but working for the first few days of the year. I have been "going" since then with party after party, then Christmas, then I took my sister's kids for a few days. I feel like even though I have been off from work, I have been extremely busy...up until New Year's. Here's what I've discovered tho...having two weeks away from work have not been good for me. On one hand, I feel like I've gotten a lot of house projects done. On my list was cleaning out both my personal and work email. Check! I wanted to clean the fridge...instead I just swabbed it down. Sort of check. I wanted to reorganize my newly reorganized pantry. Check! I wanted the kids to thoroughly clean their rooms...nightstand drawers, closets, general room cleaning....that didn't happen at all. No check. I didn't plan to organize the basement. Well, I continuously have "reorganize the basement" on my list but it is never a priority for me. Except that Jack got a weight bench and rather than the weights falling through my dining room ceiling, we decided they belonged in the basement so we cleaned out a space for him. Once we got that going, we were inspired to reorganize the rest. Today I spent 4 hours down there...in gloves, boots, and a hat...but I have to admit, it looks great! Surprise, check! Sounds like I was productive but I wouldn't go that far. I was sick for most of the two weeks with a bad cold and crazy cough that still hasn't gone away. I didn't work out on the treadmill for about 1 1/2 weeks because I felt horrible. Then it was so hard to motivate to get back into the swing of things. But today, I finally got back into the swing of things and realized how much I missed it. It just takes one step to get moving. Much like when my friend Ann texted me. I said to Tim "what do you think?" as I sat on the couch in my yoga pants after eating a sub. He said "We should do it." I thought for a minute and then said "I don't know if I can motivate." I had worked from 8-6, granted from my couch in my yoga pants but that night I had planned to get working on my 2014 trip presentation that is "due" next weekend. He looked at me and said "You need to get off the couch." Ouch. So, I brushed my air dried hair, put on some makeup, and threw on some jeans. I was exhausted, sadly. Yet, so happy to see our friends. Within 10 minutes of arriving this was our conversation: Me: It was so hard to motivate but so glad you texted. Ann: I know...having time off from work makes it so hard to get off the couch. Me: I'll be honest...the shirt I'm wearing (I pointed to the shirt under my sweater)...I wore yesterday too. Ann: See this shirt? (She pointed to the shirt under her sweater)...I wore it to bed last night and all day today. And I'll probably wear it to bed again tonight. We laughed. Me: Look at my hair...I just dried my bangs and let the rest air dry. Ann: You can't even tell! Ann: I swear to God I was addicted to sugar in the last two weeks. I had to wean myself off. I was being mean to my family. Me: On New Year's Day, I decided to have a bowl of cheese curls and diet coke for lunch. Tim threatened to take a picture of me...with my bed head, my glasses...and big bowl of cheese curls. It was a frightening moment. But I've said it before and I'll say it again, cheese curls are my kryptonite. It's best if eat them and get them out of the house. Ann: I just showered yesterday for the first time in 2 days. Me: the socks I have on (under my boots)...I've had on for 3 days. They are so cute...I got them for Christmas. Ann: I did laundry yesterday and barely had any for myself. I realized it's because I've been wearing the same clothes all week. And I don't think that's good! Me: I thought the same thing today!! A few things to note here. I love when you realize you are in the same boat with your friends and can totally relate. I love the honesty of the conversation. That's the sign of a good friend. And I am sharing because I'm pretty sure it's not just Ann and I that are in the same boat. I love the time at the end of the year to regroup, reorganize, and get myself reoriented for the next year. It's like September for me. I love filling out my new agenda calendar, I love organizing, and I love starting fresh for the new year. I also love taking a break, sitting around in my yoga pants, and not feeling the pressure to be "on" all the time. I hope you had the chance to recharge your batteries, do some organizing...if you wanted to, and are ready for the new year. Time to get out of those yoga pants and get moving again, Ladies!
Friday, January 3, 2014
It hit me last night when I was trying to fall asleep what my other resolution was from last year that I couldn't remember...to have more game nights. Yep...didn't do it. The kids didn't seem to be around much, with their growing social lives, and we just seemed so busy that there was always something else to do. Well, at least I remembered what it was! And by documenting my 2014 resolutions here, at least I'll be able to look back and see what they were when I forget again this year. First, here is my approach to resolutions. Don't make too many or you are never going to do them. Or in my case, you might not even remember what they are. So, this year I have but two resolutions. One is to paint more. When I had a year off in between jobs I did a lot of painting and even took a watercolor class. I loved it! But, I had more time back then. I haven't painted in over a year. My goal is to get back to it this year. The other is to blog more. There were times when I had a lot to say and other times when I really struggled to come up with ideas. I realized that I lost my original intent for blogging which was to just share things that happened rather than trying to come up with specific things to say. To do that successfully, I just have to be more present and mindful about things going on around me...and not get wrapped up in the busy-ness of life. I have to be mindful of the little things...the things that make me laugh, make me think, and make me take notice. Getting caught up in the hectic pace of life doesn't allow you to notice the little things. So, I guess my resolution is to really slow down and be more mindful and the outcome, hopefully, will be that I blog more. Wish me luck! What are your resolutions?
Thursday, January 2, 2014
It's time to close out another year and start a fresh one! Lots to be thankful for this year, lots of lessons learned, and lots to look forward to in 2014. Have you made your resolutions yet? Some people say resolutions are self defeating and don't bother making any. I make them because they are a form of a list that keeps me on track with the things I promised myself I would focus on. I did pretty good with my resolutions last year. I wanted to eat healthier and lost weight. I worked on changing my diet and although I wouldn't call myself a vegetarian, I found that I know eat less meat, lots more beans/protein, and a lot of salads. In the end, I lost 10 pounds over the last 8 months. I discovered that in the end, it wasn't about the number I got to on the scale but rather the way I felt about myself and the way my clothes fit. Since I am just 5'3" gaining 1-2 pounds is really noticeable to me because there aren't many places for the weight to hide. Damn you, tall girls! I feel like this year gave me good clarity on what I need to do to maintain the weight that makes me feel my best. Now I just need to make sure I maintain...as though that's a piece of cake or something! I also committed to using the sitting area in my bedroom more. We have a fireplace in our bedroom...that has never been used. My closet is right by the fireplace and I don't want my clothes so smell like a campfire every day. Ironic, since I enjoy camping so much. By the fireplace, we have a nice seating area and a big screen tv...that we never sit in. We tend to hang out as a family in the living room so the sitting area just doesn't get used. I did try to accomplish this resolution but wasn't able to work it out. I need to work on finding a way to use the nice, relaxing area more but I need to balance it with the desire to spend time with the family, considering we have such a short amount of time together each night. And quite frankly, I can't think of what my third resolution was but I know I had another one. I'm going to guess I didn't do well on that one. Just being honest with ya....do you remember all of your resolutions?? Maybe it's just me. Each New Year's Eve we do something a little different - whether it's host friends here, go to a friend's house, or celebrate together. I was happy to spend the night with the four of us this year as I know it might be one of the last with the kid's growing social lives. We started the day by going into Providence. We had lunch and then the boys went to the Providence Friars basketball game while "us girls" went shopping at the mall. Now, let's just say that Mimi and I love a good trip to the mall. We started out with a few returns that we had and then we did a little shopping but for whatever reason, we didn't have our shopping mojo on and were ready to go home 2 hours later. However, the basketball game went into double overtime. I don't think Mimi and I have ever uttered the words "Hopefully we can leave the mall soon" but that's what we found ourselves saying. When we got home we had planned to do one thing per hour until midnight to keep ourselves busy...and awake. First up, ping pong tournament! I had got the kids one of those portable nets for Christmas thinking they would use it a few times on the island but somehow our dining room table has become a full scale ping pong table! We played 3 rounds, Jack winning each time. The next hour was spent making and eating some very yummy appetizers and watching a movie. We love "appetizer night". We usually do it when there is a Patriots game on in the late afternoon or sometimes on a Sunday night we combine apps with a movie night. Whenever we stay home on New Year's Eve, it's what we do. The next hour was spent discussing where we want to go for our trips in 2014. Apparently Tim and I were still thinking about camping trips and the kids were not. We worked it out...meaning, we are still camping and the kids are coming to terms with it. But we each shared our lists of where we want to go, then we narrowed it down to a top 3 for each person. Now we have 2 weeks to do our research and come back to share what we found out. Then we'll do a family vote and go from there! Thanks to my friend Pinterest, I started 2 new traditions last year. One, was the Jar of Good Memories. I have a jar that I keep on the counter with plain paper and a pen inside so there are no excuses that you couldn't find a piece of paper or something to write with. Each time one of us has a great memory from the year, we write it down and put it in the jar. Then we spent an hour going through them on New Year's Eve. It was really fun to see what people had written, to read about things we had forgotten about, and to see what everyone else had put in there. There were things like "I had a great summer vacation" to "We spent our 16th wedding anniversary in Beverly Hills!" to "Making the baseball team" to "Had a great time paddling in Wilmington, NC!" If you don't do this, I highly encourage you to do this. It was one of our favorite things to do that night! The other thing I started that we are just now reaping the benefits from was to start a perpetual calendar. I have a little vintage berry basket that I keep index cards in. Each one has the date on it and then each year I write the day of the week and the year. Then I just jot down 1 or 2 things that happened that day. For instance, on New Year's eve this year, it was already New Year's day in 2013 and we all went and took a walk in the afternoon. Honestly, some days I have nothing to jot down, so I'll just note the weather. We are only a few days in but already it is fun to look back on what happened this day a year ago. Again, do this one too!! Finally, we finished out the night by watching the New Year's eve special on tv, getting our toasting drinks ready, and ringing in the year with noisemakers and hats. We had a great night and I know that time with the kids is becoming limited since they will soon be off to school so this was a special night for me that I know I will remember for many years. Actually, I'll remember it for as long as I keep up my perpetual calendar :) Happy New Year to you!!!