Friday, December 27, 2013

2013 Homemade Christmas

As soon as we see friends and family on Christmas and soon thereafter, one of the first questions they ask is "Did you guys do homemade gifts this year?!" Yes - we did it again although for the first time ever I was making things on Christmas Eve day. December has been really busy for all of us and it just felt like there was never enough time in the day to get everything done. And as usual, I had to remind Jack about 5 times that he needed to get making his gifts...and I ended up having to give him one of my ideas because he couldn't think of anything. Hence the reason I was making things on Christmas Eve. But I refuse to give up this tradition because the gifts are always amazing and thoughtful. Here's the rundown on what we gave each other: I have my own personal candy stash in a "secret" location that everyone knows about. But everyone knows to never eat my candy. I just like a little bite of chocolate each day. Not a full size candy bar or anything but just a morsel of chocolate so I keep my treats in my own spot so no one eats them. Jack made me a candy stash box, that he painted pink and green, and filled with my favorite candy. And for a kid that loves candy, this must have been torture for him to make :) Each week I make a menu of what we are going to have and then I make the grocery list based on that. Then I have to remember not to throw out the grocery list when I get home because the menu is on there. So, Tim made me a grocery notebook with pre-perforated sections that I can write my menu on and then a section that I can write my list on and rip out. Then I can look back at the menus so I can get ideas on what to have each week. You know I love my lists and notebooks so this was great! Mimi has been taking a ceramics class this semester and she had told me that one of her pieces had been put on display at school but it never came home. Well, it did for Christmas and let me tell you, it is definitely worthy of its showcase status. It is an oval navy blue platter with a white lace type pattern imprinted in the center. It's absolutely beautiful! Mimi has one brown accent wall in her room and the other walls are pink. Jack spray glued her light switch and put brown glitter on it. It turned out great...although I have to put some spray poly on it because we were all wearing glitter by the end of opening our gifts. It is going to look amazing on her wall! Mimi is very artistic and loves to draw fashion outfits. She gets inspired by magazines and cuts outfits out and then makes up her own. This means that there are magazine clippings constantly falling off her desk and littering her floor. Tim made her a fashion sketchbook by getting her a big sketchbook and attaching a large see through envelope for all her clippings. On the front, he used some craft paper, in pink and green of course, and wrote "Mimi's Fashion Book". She loves it and we will love that all those little clippings have a home now. Since I had given Jack my idea of the glitter light switch, I was struggling what to make a the last minute. Then it hit me that she had some leftover flannel fabric that was pink with white whales from a sewing project she had never gotten to. I whipped up 2 pillowcases for her room and I have to say, they were super easy and absolutely adorable! Now I want to make some for the camper. Jack is 2 years away from college (how is that possible?!) and is constantly doing research on different schools. So, I created "Jack's College Notebook". I did research on his favorite schools so far and typed up on the info along with the school logo for each one. The information includes size of school, cost, average GPA, and some information on majors he might be interested in. Then I left empty note pages for him to add his own info on each school, as well as add new ones. Each year Jack and my mother enter a football league and my father does it with my nephew. They compete to see how well they do not only against everyone in the pool but against each other. Each Sunday morning my mother calls Jack for his picks and they go back and forth until they agree on what they are going to put in. And every Sunday morning you can hear Jack yelling "Where is my football sheet?!" So, Mimi made him a Football Pick Organization System which is a red folder that says Football Picks. Inside there are two pockets - one is to hold his football pick sheet and the other is for the articles he cuts out during the week to help him make his decisions. Then there is a notebook for notes. It was a perfect gift for him! Not only is Jack 2 years away from college but he is about 7 months away from getting his driver's permit. Tim made him a box that said "Save or Walk" and it had pictures of the Jeep Cherokee that he wants on it. Inside is a spot for his savings account register so he knows how much money he has saved so far for his car. The gift is very practical and necessary but also hysterical with the "Save or Walk" slogan. Of course both of our kids will have a jeep for their first car because of Tim's love/obsession for Jeeps. A few months ago he went on a Jeep trail in Western, Mass with his father, brother, and a few friends. Jack framed a picture of Tim, his father, and brother from that trip that showed all the Jeeps lined up in the back. It was a great picture and a great idea! Now that the kids are older and have busier lives, we find ourselves with more free time. So, I made Tim a date night box. There is one card for each month in an envelope. On the first of each month, he can open his card to see what we are doing and then he can decide when we'll go. They are silly simple things, like going out in the summer on a jeep cruise to get ice cream. It will be interesting to see how many of these we can fit in. I'll keep you posted. And finally, Mimi also made Tim something in ceramics class. Keeping with the Jeep theme she made him a green mug that has the imprint of a Jeep grill on the front and it is splattered with brown paint like mud. It's perfect for him. I'm happy to say that this year we inspired Tim's sister and her family to also start making homemade gifts and it sounds like it went great! My niece Lily is obsessed with horses and actually rides several times a week. I rode from 4th grade to my senior year in high school and when I was little I used to make horse jumps all over my house and spend hours "riding" over them. Lily does the exact same thing and so her brothers made her a horse jump painted with flowers all over it and her name...with the instructions "For outdoor use only". Apparently they don't want her jumping inside anymore. So clever!! Even though we are typically going to the craft store 2 days before Christmas I still love this tradition. I suspect it will come to an end at some point in the near future as the kids go off to college but I hope we can keep it going for as long as we can. I absolutely love the creativity and ideas that everyone comes up with. You should consider doing it too!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Things I am Thankful for...

I can't believe it's been a month since I last blogged. It's not like I've had nothing to say in the last month. If you know me, you know I have plenty to say. But I have no good reason for why I haven't blogged. But rather than dwell on it, let's move on. Since we just had Thanksgiving, I'd like to share some things I am thankful for. I'm kinda obsessed with my new treadmill and Parenthood. I love walking and I hate when it gets cold and dark because it gets harder and harder to motivate myself to get outside. At the end of the winter last year, my treadmill died. I literally wore the tread out. I was very thankful for two things. One, that my treadmill waited to die until it was light in the morning again and two, that the belt didn't bust in two while I was walking on it. I can only imagine what that would have been like. I can see the bubble over your head. You are imagining what that would be like, aren't you? In my horror film, the belt snaps, I go shooting off backwards like a rocket, but at the last minute my shoelace gets stuck in the motor and I get a tread burn from the belt repeatedly grating against my leg...as I frantically try to pull the kill switch. It's the same every time...no matter how I try to imagine it differently. I digress. So, after walking only on the weekends, and only when I motivated myself to walk in the cold on those weekends, I hit Craig's List and found myself a "barely used" and extremely heavy to move treadmill. This brings me to the next two things I'm thankful for. One, is the dolly that we used to move the treadmill with and two, is the playroom because that is where my new treadmill is living. And that's because it was the closest place to the front door that we could put it. My last treadmill lived in the office, up 2 flights of stairs, and there was no way Tim, Jack, and I could get it up the stairs. After my friend's recommendation to start watching Parenthood, and quite frankly, a lot of nagging... "You haven't started watching it yet?! Why?!"...I decided I would watch an episode each time I walked. I am thankful for both the recommendation and for my new friends, The Bravermans. I literally feel like they are my friends and I can't wait to see what happens next. I know, I sound crazy. That's ok. I like it that much. If you haven't watched it, you should start. After two episodes I asked my friend, "Is it normal to cry during every episode?" Apparently it is. I tried watching it on the train last week and I had to shut it down. I draw the line at boo-hoo'ing on the train over a tv show. I'm not THAT crazy. Speaking of crazy, we went out the night before Thanksgiving, with the rest of the world and everyone was asking each other "What are you doing for Thanksgiving?" I happily replied that we were hanging at home, just the four of us. People typically had two reactions. One was "Ohh...that's nice"...aka, that's sad you have no where to go. The other was "I'm so jealous"...aka, I wish we could do that. We cycle through one of three options every few years. We go to my sister's house, we get together with friends, or we hang at home. We love all of the options. And every few years we decide not to be stressed about cleaning the house, or rushing off to someone's house, or fighting the crowds on the road. And we just do whatever we want. This year we had a WII tournament...we literally haven't played WII in a year. We played games. We lit a fire. We watched a movie. We cooked and ate lots of food. And we do what we always do when we celebrate at home. We moved the kitchen table in front of the fire, turned out the lights, and ate by firelight and candlelight. Okay, to be honest, that lasted about two minutes before the kids said "This seems weird. Why are we eating in the dark?" So...we turned the lights back on. I am thankful my "weird" teenagers let me sit by firelight for two minutes. We also did our favorite thing...which is to dress up on the top and wear pj's or sweats on the bottom. I want us to look good at the table, but be comfortable. And let's be honest...It's what we all want to wear on Thanksgiving....elastic waist pants. Inevitably, we all unbutton, loosen our zipper, and dream we were in our pj's right after we eat so we just go right there. No need to wait. One year, Jack's idea of "fancy" was to douse himself in a bottle of cologne. This year, he "wore" a tie with his long sleeve white tshirt....except he hasn't quite got the tying part down...so he just tied it in a knot around his neck. It was quite a look. I am thankful for our crazy little traditions when we stay home for Thanksgiving. I think everyone should do the same every once in awhile. I can't tell you how many people told me they wished they could do the same but they "have" to get together with their family. You know what? You are your own little family and you are an adult who can do whatever you want. Give yourself permission every once in awhile to do your own thing...to not have plans...to enjoy your own little family unit...and to wear elastic waist pants from the get go. Trust me. You'll be thankful.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Observations from the Week

This week I saw and heard some funny things that I thought I would share. These were things that made me chuckle or shake my head and I thought you might enjoy them. First, one of the train regulars wore a major fashion don't. I wish I had a picture to show you but I think I was so in shock at the sight that I totally forget to snap a pic. So, this guy is very grey and vanilla. Meaning, his coloring is blah...grey hair, always wears a grey suit, no color to his face. He drives a Honda mini van, and not that there is anything wrong with that, but he just screams boring to me. He typically doesn't wear a coat over his suit but the other day he showed up with one alright...it was like an oversized suit jacket...it was black leather...one button by his navel....lapels with stitching....and you could tell he thought he looked like the cat's ass in it. I mean, I don't know what else to say. Well, what I wanted to say was "Hey Honda Guy, 1970 called and they want their leather "jacket" back". I wanted to take his fashion card, his man card, and his train pass. He shouldn't be allowed to travel with us in that thing...gives us all a bad rap. The next day he wore his trench coat. I'm pretty sure someone made fun of him at work. So, on Tuesday, I'm walking the one block it takes me to get from the train to work and this ALL happened in the span of 5 minutes. I'm walking by two "worker guys" who are taking a break on the side of the road. Dude 1: So, which one is your chick? Dude 2: She is the really short one Dude 1: Ohhh, that one?! She is cute but yeah, man, she is sooo short! Dude 2: I know...she is cute right? But yeah, really short too. I so wanted to ask to see a picture of her. Just as that convo wraps up I hear a bunch of screaming and yelling back in the direction I just came from. I look and there is a cab driver and bicyclist screaming at each other. The cabbie leans out to yell at the bike guy and the bike guy hauls off and punches him in the face through the window. It was crazy!! Then he took off in a one way direction so the cab driver couldn't pursue him. Ballsy move. Then as I'm rounding the corner to my building a meter maid walks past me at the same time 2 guys in a van are driving past me. The passenger rolls down his window: Dude: Hey you...can I ask you something? Meter Maid: ignores him Dude: Did you hear me...hey, I have a question Meter Maid: she turns around and says "What's that?" Dude: You are cute, you know Meter Maid: Shut the F* up! Alrighty, I guess she is taken and not interested.... But perhaps one of the funniest conversations that offered a lot of insight to me as a parent was this one. Guy/kid (like mid 20's)on the train behind me....his phone rings and it's his friend. My ears perked up at: Guy: Yeah, I didn't get that job dude because I had too much shit in my system...yeah, the test came back showing all kinds of shit. Guy: Yeah, I didn't go to rehab or anything. I just stopped cold turkey. I had to clean my life up. Guy: Well, my Dad told me I had to grow up and get a job...they aren't going to cover me anymore. So, yeah, I'm sleeping on Joey's couch right now and working with him at night. Guy: Well, I'll tell you about it later but all this crap happened with Cassie and she broke up with me...so I moved back in with my parents but this time they didn't help me out....so I had no choice but to grow up. Guy: It's all good tho....I needed it. See, I never cared about anything or tried hard because I knew no matter what happened my parents would be there and cover me so it didn't matter if I screwed up. But they aren't doing that anymore so I have no choice but to get my shit together. Guy: it's all good though. My Dad said he would cover my first month's rent and then that's it..and I can't move back in with them again so I'm trying to find a job. You can only enable your children so long, people.... I think the fact that he had that conversation on the train in front of everyone is hysterical...totally oblivious to everyone around him. Uhm...and now I'm writing a blog about him...some conversations you might want to have in private. It was funny energy this week...lots of craziness...but it got me through a stressful, busy week. What's the funniest/craziest thing you heard this week??

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Best Laid Plans

This is the first time in about 6-7 years we haven't gone camping for Columbus Day weekend. It has traditionally been our last camping weekend of the season and for most of those years, we have camped in Lake George. I love it there. Even though it is a completely different atmosphere, it reminds me of Old Cape Cod. It's like time stood still there. Old lake motels, not over developed. Just a nice, simple lake village where people can just enjoy the beauty of Lake George and the mountains. Our camping weekends have typically consisted of cold mornings, long hikes, soups in the crockpot, and watching Red Sox play offs at the Adirondack Brewery. Insert sigh here. Missing all of that right now. Since the kids are less interested in camping this year we decided to skip camping this year and stay home. Lord knows there is plenty of work that needs to be done around here. But we can't work all weekend. Well, Tim and I could but it's not fair to the kids on a long weekend to just work all the time. So, at the beginning of the week, we all picked something fun that we wanted to do....in addition to all of us helping with the yard work. Tim picked kayaking. I couldn't be happier. His uncle has a bunch of kayaks and we can put them in the trailer and drive to the local lake. I picked hiking. Plenty of places to hike nearby. Mimi picked watching a movie and Jack wants to have appetizers and watch the Patriots/Saints in the living room on Sunday. Oh, and we all decided to have game night too. We love the games! On tap for Friday night was movie night. Turns out Jack ended up making plans to stay at a friend's house for the night and Mimi was exhausted from the week and her field hockey game. So we had dinner and played a game instead. Night one...we still had plenty of time to fit it all in. On Saturday, I got a last minute hair appointment, Jack was at his sleepover til mid morning, and we scored amazing seats at the Red Sox game Saturday night. Oh, and I have such bad poison ivy that I had to go to critical care at my doctor's office to get a prescription. Plans were been thrown out the window for Saturday. Out of the 30 things I had on my to-do list I got about 5 done. We didn't kayak, hike, or watch a movie. But we did have an amazing night at the Red Sox together and everyone was happy to not have to do much yard work...well, except Tim. On Sunday, we had high hopes. Tim and I got up early and I hit the grocery while he started on the thatching, aerating, and whatever else the lawn needed. I have to admit...I have no interest in the lawn other than I want it to be green and look good. Apparently you have to put some work into it. It didn't even make my list. Funny tho...about 2 hours into the lawn work, I heard Tim' dirt bike rev up and Mimi and I watched him zip around the yard about 5 times. It was like he was 10 again. I cleaned the house for about 3 hours...which stinks....but in the end it looked good. Then I moved on to cooking some stuff for the week and to freeze - I made butternut squash risotto, homemade sauce & homemade meatballs, I cut up a veggie platter for snacks during the week, I made pumpkin sugar cookies (so good!), and finally, Jack had picked appetizers for dinner while we watched the Saints vs. Patriots (Jack's two favorite teams) so I made 4 different apps. Again, felt like I had wasted my whole day but I have a clean house and a lot of food to show for it so that certainly isn't a waste. Tomorrow is the holiday...we'll see how we do on the list. I am adamant we should go for a hike but looking at the long list, I'm not sure we are going to get it in. We'll see though! I either need to put less things on my to do list, work faster and harder, or lower my expectations. Maybe all three...

Friday, October 11, 2013

Tips for My House Hunter Friends

I admit...I like House Hunters. I like to see all the different houses that are available and I love to see how people decorate. But, I'll also admit, I hate many of the people who are looking for houses. They come up with the list of things they "must have" that you realize over time, really aren't that important. Let's rewind to 11 years ago when we were building our house and we "had to have" a shower with 10 shower heads that pulsated, massaged, and basically promised to wash away all your stress. I also had to have an enormous whirlpool tub. I think we've used the fancy shower twice. Turns out, the water heater is far away from our master bath and by the time it heats up and travels all the way to our bathroom and pours out of 10 shower heads, it runs out of heat in about 2 minutes. Pretty soon you find yourself pelted with cold water and believe me, it's not the spa shower experience you had in mind. I used to take a lot of baths. Pre-kids. But who has time for a bath once you have kids?? One of my favorite baths of all time...and yes, I remember...is when I was in India traveling for business about 6 or 7 years ago. At the end of our trip, we stayed at a luxurious hotel just outside of the Taj Mahal. Every room had a view of this amazing structure. I got back from dinner and while I was in the bathroom brushing my teeth I looked out the arched window to see an amazing view of the Taj Mahal, all light up at night. I decided to take a bath, have a glass of wine, and just soak in the view, so to speak. When was I EVER going to experience this again? It was quite an amazing view and I felt very lucky to have the opportunity. One of the worst, yet most needed bath experiences of my life happened 3 years ago. I did the Jimmy Fund walk, which is walking the Boston Marathon route, 26.2 miles. Walking it. It took 8 hours. After about 6 hours, it was extremely painful to even lift my foot 3 inches to step up on a curb. When I got home, well, I should say, when I fell out of the car, the kids told me they had poured a nice hot bath for me. It took me 10 minutes to literally crawl up the stairs, and yes, I was whimpering, to find a nice hot bubble bath waiting for me. I was just about to get in but the problem was, I couldn't lift my legs over the waist high side in order to get in. I literally started to cry. I wanted to soak in the tub so bad but I couldn't get in it. Eventually, I was able to hurl myself in but it was as painful getting out as it was getting in. Fast forward to this week. I was in need of another bath. Not for relaxation but rather for medicinal purposes. Tim and I did 11 hours of yard work last weekend...5 of those hours in the pouring rain. We completely redid the front of our house. The trees and shrubs we planted 10 years ago were overgrown and overcrowded. So, we dug them out, and literally hauled them out using the jeep to pull them out of their holes...they were that heavy and big. In the end, we were so impressed with ourselves and the results. I was a little less impressed with all the poison ivy I ended up with. Listen, I'm allergic to it. I know what it looks like. I have had it pretty bad in the past. I wore long sleeves. I wore gloves. I was so careful. Yet still, I ended up with an extremely bad case of it on my arms that has now expanded to my mid section. Not sure how but that's how poison ivy works. After trying a bunch of different things that didn't work very well, I decided to soak in a bath filled with Epsom salts. As I was soaking in the tub, and I'm not going to lie, tingling with little awkward pain/soothing feeling, I wondered why I don't take baths more often. Which lead me to wonder "When was the last time I took a bath?" Turns out, it was the Jimmy Fund Walk Tub...3 years ago. Seriously? I have not taken a bath in 3 years? Don't worry...I do shower on a daily basis though. And, here's where my tips come in for my House Hunter friends. Fist, don't get the 10 jet shower. You'll never use it. Spend that money on something else you think you can't afford. And think twice about the jet powered soaking tub. Honestly, I have only used the thing a handful of times...which means that it collects a lot of dust. In order to take this relaxing bath, I had to spend 30 minutes cleaning the dust out of tub...while scratching at my oozing ivy spots. It was pure torture. So close but yet so far. But once I got in I remembered that baths are awesome. Add some bubbles, a book, and a glass of wine, and I'll be in there for about 2 hours. Why don't we do that more often?? Why don't we take time? It is super relaxing, a nice time to reflect, and more importantly, a time to spend just by yourself with no interruptions, no kids, no one asking you to do anything for them. Why don't we hide there more often? I say we start a bath revolution. Everyone get in their tubs! Soak for an hour. Lock the door. Hide out! I encourage you to stow away in your tub on a weekly basis. And start now!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Glamour Don'ts

I have a tendency to take pictures of people on the train and send them to my friend Cori. They are all of fashion infractions, with the exception of the picture I sent of the bald man with a piece of yarn stuck to the back of his head. Sorry bald guy, but it was funny. Last week, I saw quite a doozey. I'm not going to post the actual picture because I want to protect the innocent but let me see if I can describe the visual accurately. It's about 8 am and an Asian woman gets on. I can only see her from the waist up but I was immediately sure, from what I saw, that she was just coming home from the night before. The first thing that caught my eye was the sequined shirt. Bedazzled really. The sequins were the size of quarters and were blinding. Her face was covered in white powder. Either she didn't know how to apply make up or she was going for the Geisha look. She had long straight hair with a little girl's plastic clip holding her bangs back. WHAT?! I couldn't stop staring...and as luck would have it, she said across the aisle from me. Rather than watch her like a t.v. show, I decided to take a picture and stare at my phone instead. Now, Cori, can't understand how I can take a picture of someone and not have them catch me. Let's just say I have skills in this area. First, I make sure my phone is on silent. Then I do a test photo and take a picture of my backpack, very innocently. Then I very innocently and yet intently pretend I am doing something on my phone while lining up my subject and then just snap the photo. Works like a charm every time. At least so far. So, I snap the photo and then zoom in. So, this is what I saw. In addition to the pale face powder, she has ringed her eyes, raccoon style, with black eyeliner and then topped that off with gold eye shadow. And when I say gold, I mean sparkly bling. Nice, dainty look for daytime. She has paired the bedazzled top with a pair of wrinkled khakis. I know....I wanted to take away her Lady Card the minute I saw it. What are you doing, I wanted to shout!! She had a cream cardigan on that was a bit ill fitting too. Then I scrolled down and before my eyes, appeared little pink ruffle socks...like a little girl wears with Mary Janes...and black flats. It was at this point that I had to look up to make sure what I saw was real. Annnnddd...that's when I realized she was eating a Tupperware container of cold ravioli. The smell was almost too much. Did this girl not have any friends? No one in her life that would say "Don't pair that top with those pants" or "Hey, you overdid it on the powder and you look like a mime" or even "You might have gone a little far with the eyeliner"? Look, I'm not saying I'm a fashion "do" every day, but that whole look was cause for concern. The kicker was when I got off the train, I was behind a man in high-waisted jean shorts who was wearing white socks and sandals. It was apparently Bad Fashion Thursday.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

ACW - Adult Camping Weekend

Last weekend was our 5th Adult Camping Weekend. This is an annual event when we get together with two other couples and go camping in Truro. For our first year, we didn’t let the boys in the camper to sleep...they had to stay outside in tents. Our camper was smaller then and well, boys will be boys. Gradually we got a bigger camper and they were allowed to stay in with us…although they still can’t use the bathroom. Girls only for obvious reasons. Point in fact, this year, one of the boys forgot the rule, used the bathroom and left the toilet seat up. I sat down and literally almost fell in the toilet. This is why we need these rules. Last year we almost got shut down by the Campground Po-Po when we had a dance party inside the camper at 1 am. 6 of us dancing like fools in a little camper. What can I say, we thought no one could hear the music. Two years ago we were there for less than 24 hours "thanks" to Hurricane Irene. I'll tell ya though...we packed a weekend's worth of activity into that 24 hours. We know how to have fun. This year, we went to a yard sale and our friend Scott bought a shovel. As he was about to put it in the car, Tim called his name and he swung around with the shovel...accidentally hitting an Asian man pedaling by on his bike. Yes, I did just say that. He hit a man riding by on his bike. What are the chances??!! Scott turned around and yelled "My bad!" Ah, damn straight it was your bad! We almost wet our pants for the first time by 9:30 in the morning. Each year we have made improvements….to the menu, what we each bring, the stuff we bring to the beach, etc. This year, we all felt we really perfected our weekend agenda. We used to go on my birthday weekend so we always went out to dinner to celebrate….and that was typically after “celebrating” on the beach for hours beforehand. Once I ordered fish tacos for dinner and I don’t even eat fish. ‘Nuff said. This year we all agreed we would just keep it low key and simple….meaning we would spend time doing what we all come for…relaxing on the beach. In fact, Ann said this year “This would be hard if one of us didn’t like doing what everyone else likes….which is literally doing nothing.” Of course “nothing” consists of us setting up our beach area, complete with a coffee table and magazines that look like they belong in a doctor’s office. We lounge, laugh, read, talk, sleep, laugh some more, swim, eat, drink, laugh a lot, dance, and sing. Sometimes if the boys get “itchy” they might toss a football or fish (although they have no clue what they are doing), but for the most part we just “hang out”. This year, our “nothing” consisted of going to the beach at noon and leaving at midnight…with all that stuff above in between. There was no leaving to shower to go out to dinner. In fact, we didn’t even eat dinner…we just grazed all day. Truth be told, none of us showered all weekend either. There may have been an illegal beach fire….although technically it could have been termed a “cooking fire” because we did attempt to heat up some chicken in there…until the fire singed the hair off our arms. There may have been some singing into a shovel…and we may, at one point, have convinced ourselves that we were as good as any famous singer out there today. Look out T.Swizzle...that's all I'm sayin'. This year we added a beach potty, which might have been the single best improvement we have made over the years. Typically we trudge up to the dunes to be one with nature...or go in nature's giant toilet, the ocean...for those that don't have performance anxiety in the water. It happens, ok? Anyways, I bought this fold up tent that folds down to a circle and when opened it magically pops up to a changing type shelter. There is no bottom on it but it does have a door that zips closed and a little window. We staked it down, used a shovel to dig a hole, and it became the girl's potty. It's important to remember later in the evening that the walls are paper then and not meant to help you get your balance...because then you AND the potty will fall over. The entire weekend was a blast, as always. There is nothing better than spending time with your good friends, especially on the beach. And you know they are good friends when, no matter where you go, you have a great time. But, I will say, when you camp, it only magnifies the fun tenfold. You should try it sometime!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Tupperware Containers are Like Rabbits

I have had a love hate relationship with my Tupperware drawer for years. Seems I would find a solution that seemed perfect, my Tupperware would multiply like rabbits and get unruly, and then I would hate my Tupperware organization. Are you with me on this? I know I'm not alone. A few years ago I bought a "system" which was a lazy Susan type rack system that fit lids in one section and Tupperware in the other. It seemed perfect...and would have been if 1)I had the time to gently put the Tupperware in their slots and 2)if I didn't have a bunch of other Tupperware containers. Tupperware containers are like socks. Half of the tops and bottoms are missing their mates. And there are many pieces of Tupperware that should just be thrown out because they are old. Yet we keep them around. About a year ago I found an idea on Pinterest that I thought was great. I bought a 3-drawer Tupperware shelf/bin and used the drawers for lids and water bottle tops. Then I bought a big clear bin and organized all the Tupperware inside. The 1,000 water bottles we have went on the shelf above. This seemed to work pretty good until the Tupperware began to reproduce on a daily basis and we all got too lazy to put the lids in the drawers so they began to take up residence in the large bin. I was once again, back to my old Tupperware situation. Sigh. Since September makes me nest, I decided to tackle the Tupperware drawer once again. Truth be told, my bakeware drawer wasn't working out either. My bowls, corning ware, pie plates, and platters didn't really fit into the pull out drawers on my island. But it felt like that should be their home because it was a nice pullout drawer. One morning at 7 am I decided to just change it all up. Out came all my cookware. Then all the Tupperware. And then the water bottles. I sorted through everything and threw out Tupperware without tops, old Tupperware, and water bottles we really don't use but got free someplace and felt compelled to keep. My bakeware now works out good in the cabinet and is much easier to stack and store. My Tupperware drawer is awesome. All similar Tupperware is stacked together - salad size bowls, little bitty cups, and medium size containers. All of the lids are stored in a basket. On the second pull out shelf I have all our water bottles with the tops in a little basket. Then I have a few other miscellaneous items that worked well there, like my apple cutter and paper plates. I have to say, I am so happy with my new system. I guess because everything is so organized and its own spot, that it is easy to maintain. I'm hoping this works for the long haul. Or at least until next September when I start reorganizing everything again.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

How Not to Clean the Kitchen

Listen up spouses, significant others, and children who "help out" by cleaning the kitchen after dinner. Let's be honest...when I say "help out" that usually means one of us has snapped and is sick of doing the dishes and after ranting that "no one ever helps around here", you decide to do the dishes for us. Here is what doing the dishes DOESN'T mean.... It does not mean that you should leave pots on the stove. Those also need to be washed. Just because they aren't right in front of your face, doesn't mean they should be left behind. It does not mean that you should leave giant pools of water everywhere...on counters, dripping down the sink and counters, on the floor. Believe it or not, those puddles need to be wiped up as well. It does not mean that you should leave cabinets open. Why are you even opening cabinets?? You aren't emptying the dishwasher...you are loading it. It scares me to think you may have gotten confused and put dirty dishes away in the cabinets. It does not mean that you leave the dishwasher wide open when you are "done". The dishwasher can not shut its own door. It needs help. In fact, it also needs dishwasher detergent...and for you to turn it on. Please also do not leave the dishwasher door open so that when I turn around to walk away I take my shins out. Walking in my kitchen should not be a hazard to my health. It does not mean that the counters aren't included. When I have ever cleaned the kitchen and left food and sticky things on the counters? Never. So what gave you the idea that this is a sign of a clean kitchen? It also does not mean let's leave salad dressing, glasses, and various other assorted things on the kitchen table. These things will not walk to the sink or fridge. They also need help. I'm also on to you. You think that by doing a bad job cleaning the kitchen, I won't "ask" again? Oh, believe me...I will. I will ask you to do it even more if I think you need more practice so I suggest you do a good job the first time around. I'm just sayin'....

Saturday, September 7, 2013

And the Results Are In!

Last we left off, I told you we were going to run a 5K today ....without really having run in months...or really ever. Here's how it went. Jack came in 55th out of almost 600 people....he ran it in 22 minutes. The first two spots went to kids on his cross country team. Impressive. Tim and I finished. That was impressive as well. We did not run all the way but we did run most of the way...but more importantly, we finished. Tim, who has only ran once in his life and has literally not put sneakers on in two years, beat me by a minute. He was at 32 minutes and I was at 33 minutes. I'm cool with that. I was not cool with the fast walking guy who passed me or the 4 year old kid on the bike with training wheels who passed me...going uphill. And yes, I was running in both of those situations...I'll admit it. But let's not focus on those crazy little details. Instead, let's focus on how it went overall. Many members of the family had organized the event and were working throughout the event. Then, there was a group of us that all started running together. And when I say started, I mean when we lined up we were perilously close to the Walker line. I'm not sure what about us made the girl carrying the Walker sign feel it was necessary to line up right behind us, but she did. Whateves. The first mile was great. We were all on a high, excited to be running together. Everywhere we turned there were family and friends cheering us on along the route. The weather was perfectly gorgeous. And the route was flat. What could be wrong with this picture? Nothing...until we started approaching the long, slow hill. As we approached, I began to slow and Tim's cousin Kelly said "Just imagine the cheetah...you can do it!" I will say, that helped a lot. I made it up the hill and then around the next corner where there was another slow hill that was my demise. This is where the fast walker and small child on the bike passed me. I saw Tim waiting off to the side and that was all I needed to give myself permission to stop. We walked for a little bit but that was my downfall. It was hard to get back into running again from there. And it was hot. If only I had someone to run behind me with a parasol to shade me from the heat...and then occasionally carry me...that would have been great. Fantasies aside, I walked for about 1/2 mile. Tim tried to get me going with him before that but I just couldn't do it. Finally, with a mile to go, I started up again. I told myself "I can do almost anything for a mile..." so although I wasn't very fast, I ran the rest of the way. I will say that I was afraid to look behind me...I was almost certain I was the last runner, but that wasn't the case at all. We came around the corner to the final section, and my spirits soared. I knew I could do it...until I realized the route had changed. I should note that I hate what is called the "loop road" at our school. It is about 1 mile long and it seems like every corner you go around you are almost done, but that isn't the case. It's just your mind wishing you were done. Today, when I realized that we had to run part of the loop road I almost cried. Literally. I kept seeing my sister in law in front of me...she would be walking and just as I was about to reach her, she would start running again. I thought maybe it was a joke but she didn't even know I was behind her. In the end she was my carrot...tempting me along until the finish line. At the finish line Jack and Tim were waiting for me. It felt really good to cross, I'll be honest. I didn't even care about my time...the fact that I ran most of the way, and was running when I went over the finish line, is impressive for me. I felt good! There is nothing better than the end of a race. Everyone is congratulating each other and in a great mood. There is water, food, music, and lots of happy people. It is in these moments when you find yourself saying "Let's do another 5K!" Before you say that you should wait a few hours...like after you sit for a bit...then try and get up out of your car...and you find yourself making guttural noises just to hoist your body up. Yeah...let's see who says "Let's race again" after that. Not too many people. As I was talking to people at the finish I ran into a friend who used to babysit our kids. She has her own little cuties now and is in a different stage in her life. She said "I love eating and drinking my wine too much to give it up to be in shape. I just run these things to equal out all the eating and drinking I do." A.Men. Sister! I hear ya! I love people who are real and admit the truth. I was very impressed with Jack Nealon, Tim's cousin, who was one of the main organizers of this event. It was for his best friend that had passed away. His siblings, parents, and countless friends and volunteers did an amazing job with the entire day. Evan, was no doubt looking down very proud today. Thanks to Tim for never saying no to running with me, even if he isn't a runner. Thanks to Jack and Mimi for running and walking with us today. Tim's family is an amazing group and it was so fun to run with them and be encouraged by them today. Thanks to Lib, Pete, Lyn, Kelley, Matt, Dave, and cousin Kathleen who came all the way from Connecticut today! And congrats to the kids Lily, Eleanor, Will, and Pierce for running and walking today. And although I am sore and tired tonight, it was an absolute blast and I wouldn't have traded it for anything!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Is This a Good Idea?

I have a love hate relationship with running. Mostly hate really. A few years ago a friend of mine roped me into running a 5K. Living at the start of the Boston Marathon I have always had visions of myself someday running the marathon. Actually, the visions are of me just crossing the finishing line in triumph. I don't have any visions of training, through the rain/sleet/snow, or running for hours. But the finish line seems fun. So, when she said "Let's take this Couch to 5K class" I said "Sounds like fun!" Define fun. I'll tell you what fun isn't. It's not getting up at 5:00 in the dark to drive to a meeting spot and then run up and down hills with a trainer yelling at you not to stop. I know I wrote about this before but on the first day of our class someone actually puked in the bushes. I should have thrown in the towel at that point but I kept going and eventually ran the 5K and finished in pretty good time...for me. I was very proud of my accomplishment and then promptly stopped running...until the next year when we decided to do it all again. I beat my time from the previous year, which was my goal. I do love the feeling of accomplishment I get from running and I do feel great afterwards. But the actual running part? Yeah, that pretty much sucks. Some people say they can just clear their head when they run and they actually lose track of the fact that they are running. I spend the entire time thinking "Oh my God...when is this going to be over?!" So, here we are they day before a 5K in our town that is being organized by Tim's cousin Jack who started the LiveForEvan.org foundation with some friends after their good friend Evan Girardi, passed away in his senior year of college. Proceeds will go to fund the Evan Girardi Memorial Scholarships for Hopkinton High School, college-bound seniors and the 2013 LiveForEvan beneficiary, the Boston Cardiac Foundation, a non-profit that brings cardiac medical technologies and services to less developed countries around the world www.bostoncardiacfoundation.org. Not only is it a cause near and dear to the hearts of the Nealon family, but it is a great cause in general. So, I just signed Tim and myself up. A few things to note. The kids signed up earlier this week. Mimi is walking with some friends and Jack is running....he basically runs about 20 miles a week with his cross country team so this will be a piece of cake. In fact, he didn't run all summer and then went to his first practice and ran 5 miles, without puking in the bushes or even looking that winded. God love him. And yet, ya gotta hate him for just a second. I say that with love, of course. I have run 3 times this summer, and not very far. I tend to walk my usual route and then run back home because it is all downhill and it makes me feel like a cheetah. If you ever see me running home, as I'm cruising down the hill, you can be sure the bubble over my head is a picture of me, all cheetah-like, crossing the Boston Marathon finish line. Tim, ran once 2 years ago. I signed us all up for a 1 mile run in the dunes in the Outerbanks while we were on vacation. It was a "glow run"...so we ran with glow sticks around our neck and wrists as the sun was setting. At that point, I had just come off my 5K and warned everyone that I basically would blow their doors off out of the gate. The course basically consisted of us running up and down sand dunes as high as ten story buildings. I'm not kidding. Have you ever been to Kill Devil's Hills in the Outerbanks. Google it. They are stoopid high. Jack took off like a puppy who had just been let off his leash, and came in 10th out of about 250 people. Tim and Mimi ran together and finished about 10 minutes before me. I ran for about a minute before the quick sand sucked at my feet. All I could hear was myself gasping for air. Just a reminder...it was only a mile. Fast forward to vacation this year where I was waiting with the kids at the entrance to the beach for Tim to put the parking ticket in the car and walk back to us. All I hear is "What is Dad doing??!!" I look up and he is jogging back to meet us. I said "He's running" and the kids said "He runs?! This seems weird! What's wrong?!" Now to be fair, Tim is in great shape but he doesn't ever feel the need to run. Ever. He has embraced the idea that he is never going to take up running. I should probably do this. But instead, I hemmed and hawed all week thinking that we should run to support the cause and be with Tim's family. Of course, we could just support the cause with a donation and support the family at the finish line but this morning I decided, "We are going to run!" Tim's response "I'll have to get up at 5 just to stretch enough." To be fair, we don't have any plans of being able to run the whole thing but we'll give it our best shot. Tune in tomorrow to see how it went....

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Back to Touching Lunch Meat in the Morning....

Ever since the kids were little, I have made a special First Day of School Breakfast. This usually involves me making some sort of animal out of food. Not sure why it has evolved this way but it has. One year I made a butterfly out of fruits and waffles. Another year I made inchworms out of grapes and other assorted fruit. Another year I crafted pigs out of English muffins. To be honest, these breakfast crafts usually involve me swearing under my breath as I try to carve small details out of fruit that doesn’t want to be made into things like pig tails and flowers. I love doing it though. One year, I even went so far as to let the kids have cupcakes for breakfast…but that was for the Last Day of School. Full on, sugary, icing loaded cupcakes. Why not? They weren’t doing anything on the last day anyways….and the day was only 2 ½ hours long. They were actually afraid to eat them and kept saying “Really? We can eat these NOW?” as though it were a cruel April Fool’s joke. For a few days, I was the coolest Mom in town. I’ll take it when I can get it. Even though my kids are in high school now, I still broke out my animal sculpting culinary skills this morning for the first day back to school and whipped up some turtles out of waffles, bananas, and chocolate chips. They were pretty cute if I do say so myself. Of course I got the idea on Pinterest: http://littlenummies.net/2013/07/splashy-kids-breakfast-sea-turtle-waffle/. I’m not going to lie…this is a breakfast for small children, I get that. But my kids still got a kick out of it. In fact, Mimi actually ate breakfast this morning…all of it…I’m lucky if I can get her to take a sip of water before she goes out the door. It’s just too early for her to deal with eating. I thought the kids would roll their eyes and say things like “We aren’t five anymore, Mom!” but they smiled and happily ate their turtles. Then the usual school year craziness ensued....figuring out what to wear, brushing teeth, looking for last minute items that we thought we had covered the night before, and making lunches - ugh. Time to run out for the bus came up so quickly. But before they left, they posed for their annual Back to School photo on the mudroom stairs, each wearing their new backpacks. This year, Jack is towering over Mimi by at least a foot and she was all dolled up for her first day of high school. Sigh. How did they get so old so quick?! I actually thought to myself this morning that I only have a few more years to make First Day of School Animal Breakfasts…and then I’ll be making them anyways and texting pictures to the kids while they are at college…and then making Tim eat Piggy English Muffins and Turtle Waffles.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Happy Birthday Day To Me!

If you know me well, you know I love my birthday. Beyond love....It's like a national holiday for me. And my good friends know this. For the past 3 years, this has been Adult Camping Weekend (ACW)...when we camp with 2 of our couple friends in Truro. We go out to dinner, go the beach a lot, have some cake, dance on the beach, and just relax in general. Unfortunately for us, our friends' kids are older and this year, they had to chose between ACW and bringing their kids to college. And they chose college. Whatever. Not to be deterred, Tim and I decided to camp this weekend anyways. It was my birthday afterall. We asked the kids to come and after rounds of "Do you want us to go?" and "Do we have to go?" we decided it would be best to part ways and spend the weekend apart. Do I want you complaining the whole time and asking when we can go home? Uhm...no. Feel free to choose your grandparents over me. I'm cool with that. On Friday, we met my Mom and dropped off Mimi who had just made the JUNIOR VARSITY field hockey team! She was just happy that the 9th grade was a no-cut team and then she made the JV team. I'm a little proud...I'll admit it! So, we dropped her off and headed off to Truro. We got down around 7, set up, and then enjoyed a relaxing night in the camper. We had dinner - that I made and just heated up - had some wine, and chatted for a few hours. The next morning it was up at 7 to start the day! We had planned on taking a walk to the beach but instead we had breakfast and hit a few yard sales. Each time we go down, we try to drive around and explore the town because our ultimate goal is to buy a cottage down there some day. Some day. And some day we will come across a cottage for sale for $5. I'm pretty sure that's going to happen. It was an absolutely gorgeous weekend and we just literally sat and read for hours. Ok....we might have napped, we might have had lunch, we might have had happy hour, but all in all we had such a great day. I even saw a whale! It breached right off the beach. Amazing! On Saturday night, we went out for dinner. We thought we would hop around to a few places for some after dinner drinks but honestly after dinner we were ready for our pj's. Of course we ended up playing Rummy til midnight (I'm pretty sure Timmy cheats...) and just hanging out. Very relaxing night. On Sunday, we got up early for our beach walk and then headed back to pack up the camper. Then it was off to pick up the kids and head home. Everyone, from my kids to my parents, were sad to see the summer coming to a close. We still have next weekend but this weekend, it started to hit home. Speaking of home, when I got home, I was greeted with a birthday dinner with my good friends Ann & Adam and Cori & Scott...our ACW friends. They asked what restaurant I wanted to go to and I said I just wanted to hang out at someone's pool and relax. It took them awhile to realize I really meant that but honestly, I just love to hang out with my friends, I don't care where, and laugh and enjoy each other's company. And that is just what we did! Ann has a beautiful pool and she set up a table alongside the pool with candles for dinner. SO adorable! And we had my favorite dinner...pizza and Annie's chopped salad. Perhaps the best thing was that Adam, Ann's husband and Tim's childhood friend, made me a homemade crown to wear during dinner. I'm going to be honest...I love a good crown. But one that my great friend made with markers and duct tape? Even better! I wore it proudly. There is something to be said about being loved on your birthday. The idea that people think about you, that they are excited to be amongst the first to wish you happy birthday, and the idea of a day in time dedicated to you. I love everything about it. Tim gave me presents from Friday night to Sunday morning. My friends texted and called me. Annie hosted a poolside, beautiful dinner, and I got a homemade crown. Oh yeah....I'll take the attention and love it. And I'll give it back to you on your birthday, believe me. Adam asked me tonight if I will get tired of my birthday when I'm older and just want to pass the time quietly. It was one of those moments when you hear the tires squeal to a stop. Stop loving my birthday?! Stop wishing that everyone fawned over me for a whole day?! Never!! I don't care how old I am....keeping loving me on my birthday, please! Thanks to everyone for their birthday wishes! I loved every single second of my birthday today! You made it a great day for me!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Four Wheelin' with Princesses

Last week was Mimi's 14th birthday. Gasp! I seriously don't know how fourteen years have gone by. It seems like just yesterday she was hopping and skipping alongside me with her little page boy hair cut. Sigh. Somehow at work the other day we got on the subject of kid's birthdays and the parents with younger kids were lamenting how out of control parties have become. Parents are spending $500-$1000 on 3-year old birthday parties. Whoever you are, stop doing that. You are CRAY-ZEE. Growing up, my birthday, every year, consisted of me and my 2 boy cousins celebrating together. We all had birthdays 5 days apart so we got one cake with our 3 names on it. We always had a family bbq at my cousin Karen's house and many times we ended with a family wiffle ball game. I always remember it being very fun, and I never remember feeling like I was being short changed. Times have changed though and even when my kids were growing up, parents were already out of control. I have always loved planning and having the kids birthdays at our house. I'm a party planner at heart so their birthdays have always been so fun. One year for Jack's birthday...he must have been 5 or 6, we had just moved into our house and we had a mound of dirt in the front yard, because we had no money to put in a lawn. Well, the mound was a boy's dream and Jack was out there every day playing with his trucks on it. I decided to embrace the mound and we had a four-wheeling birthday party. Everyone brought their motorized little four-wheel drive/cars and we had extras for those that didn't have them. We spray painted a course in orange in the dirt, turned on the hose to make some mud puddles, and put a few giant plastic alligators in the "lakes". It was a huge hit but let's just say that the Mom's that had their little girls in white dresses...it wasn't as much of a hit...for the Mom's. I made a homemade, imperfect chocolate cake covered in oreo crumbs for dirt and I topped it with matchbox cars. Jackie loved it! Mimi wanted a princess party for her 5th birthday, of course. So, we found a giant box and spray painted it silver and spent a weekend making a castle. I laid out a red long tablecloth for the runner and as the "princesses" arrived, they walked the red carpet, through the castle doors, and promptly went upstairs for their make overs. We did their hair, nails, and due to Mimi's extensive princess costume collection, everyone got dressed in a princess gown. Meanwhile the boys got swords and knight helmets and then with the adults gathered around each Prince & Princess came down the stairs for their grand entrance. We even played pin the tail on the toad. It was so cute! One year for Mimi we had a tea party on the town common and all the girls wore old lady hats that I found at a thrift shop and the boys got top hats. Another year for Jack we used the local baseball field and had a wiffle ball game and instead of a cake I had the ice cream man come. Silly little fun things that don't cost a lot but the kids still remember to this day. The kids are too old for parties now...I stopped them when they turned double digits (10), but they still get to do something with a friend or two. This year Mimi decided she wanted to share her favorite place, Cape Cod, with a few friends. My in-laws were so nice to let us use their house, especially considering it was 6 14-year olds and they weren't even going to be home for most of it. I picked them all up early in the morning and we drove to the Cape where Tim's parents were waiting for us at the marina to give us a boat ride down Bass River. This happens to be one of my favorite things to do each year so I was happy too. My mother in law had made a fruit platter for the girls and they munched on that while they cruised along looking at the houses and waving to everyone that went by. After that it was back to my in-laws where the girls had "chopped salads". They had put their order in the night before so I had an individual salad waiting for everyone. Then they swam and played on the beach for awhile, before deciding to play a few games on the deck. In the afternoon, I took them all out mini golfing and for ice cream. Then it was back to hang out and get ready for our "fancy" dinner. I guess they all thought it was fancy because I used a table cloth and they had candles and flowers? They all had Mimi's favorite meal - steak and twice baked potatoes. Later we had cake - Mimi had requested a ombre cake. I had no idea what that even was but apparently each layer of the cake is a slightly different shade of the same or different colors. Of course hers was 2 shades of green and 2 shades of pink, with white frosting in between. Thanks Pinterest! Later in the evening the munchies hit and I was ready with sour patch worms, Swedish fish, m&m's, and various other sugary treats. I thought I was in for a late night but they all went to bed at 11:30. Impressive. The next day we had to go back home early because Mimi & I had to turn around and go back to the Cape for a family party. Not fun, especially on Saturday which is the Cape's main changeover day for rentals. For breakfast I went out and got munchkins but set them up all cute on the table with waters and flowers...again I heard "What a fancy breakfast!" Yep....made 'em myself. I love when I don't have to work too hard to impress. I wish they were still having their little kid birthday parties, but I'll take what I can get, even if it is putting munchkins out with flowers.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Ride Home

Well, I only have a few things to say about the ride home. First, I saw a Grammy bottle feeding her granddaughters bottles of milk at a rest area bathroom. She was holding the bottles high and away from her. The girls were doing their best to reach them. I'm not kidding...it was like she was feeding orphaned goats or calves. Did I mention they were teenagers? Kidding....but they could have been...they were WAY too old to be drinking bottles. I'm guessing they were about 4&6. I was dumbfounded and unable to hide my poker face. I literally caught myself with my mouth hanging open and staring. I just didn't get it. I was so close to sitting down and asking Grammy a few questions but I could feel my kids silently praying "Please don't say anything....please..." The only other thing worthy to note is that our AC decided not to work on the way home....from the hot South. well, let me be fair....it did work great in the back for the kids...and it did work great on our feet...so great in fact that I'm nursing hypothermia on my feet...and heat stroke on the top. I suffered from a temperature mullet. The kids were so cold that they had blankets on....so I had to turn it off...but then the smell of their stinky teenage bodies that hadn't showered since Friday was too much to bear. It was not pretty in our car. We finally got home around 1:00 pm today...and then proceeded to unpack the car and the camper for 2 hours. Then it was off to the grocery, do laundry (and it's 10 pm and the laundry is still going), then make dinner, clean up, and finally at 8 pm we sat down. Thanks to Pinterest, we started a "2013 Jar" where we write down highlights from the year and put it in a jar. Then on New Years Eve we are going to read all our favorite things that happened throughout the year. After dinner, we all wrote down our favorite memories from the week and sealed them up in the jar. Can't wait to read what everyone wrote although I'm pretty sure paddle boarding ranked the highest for most. We talked about what everyone was most looking forward to when they got home. The kids both said sleeping in their own beds. They are teenagers....they love to sleep. I was most excited to see the kitties. Tim was most excited to shower in his own bathroom. Admittedly, we were all looking forward to showering. And then I said I missed camping already and Tim agreed. The kids....not so much. And the Jack said (like a drone) " But when we get older we will appreciate these trips..." Yes, you will. I know it's hard to believe now. We told them our idea for next year, which we came up with on the 18-hour trek home...a 2-week trip with multiple stops along the way....to Key West. I could see the travel glint in their eyes...or maybe they were tears of fear...?

Saturday, August 3, 2013

SUP'in With Gators

On our last day of vacation, we usually reserve it for doing all the things again that we liked during the week. That was true for our last day yesterday but we also had one thing left to do on our list that we hadn't gotten to yet - stand up paddle boarding (SUP). we have all been wanting to try it, me especially, that is until I saw a baby alligator floating in the river by a place that we had lunch. This was the second time we had encountered alligators or warnings to stay away from water because of them while on our trip. I immediately had fears of falling off my paddle board and being drowned in a death roll by a gigantic alligator. Not a pretty way to end vacation...or my life. So, truth be told I was kinda putting it off hoping the kids wouldn't ask about it again...but it just made them ask "When can we go?" even more. I finally made the call for a reservation on Thursday...got all the info...and then I ended with "I know this may seem like a crazy question but I'm not from around here...are there any alligators in the water we will be paddle boarding in?" The guy didn't even skip a beat or laugh...he just said "I understand....no one wants to be eaten by a giant lizard on vacation....but no, this is salt water and our winters are too cold to attract salt water crocodiles." Uhm...what about your summers?? Are they warm enough? But I didn't push it. So, off we went yesterday bright and early to the Intracoastal Waterway in Wrightsville Beach, NC. They said it was best to go early in the day before the winds pick up and your body acts as a giant sail. Oh great. Before we got going, the guy that got us going gave us a few pointers like, "These boards are fiberglass so try not to hit any pilings or docks with them." We were in an area with a lot of docks and boats so this seemed like good advice. off we went! Tim and Mimi took right off across the water to explore the marsh and Jack and I immediately ran into the dock and some pilings. Right before we took off, the guy said "if you start to panic for any reason, just sit down and paddle." so, just before I hit the piling I sat down and was able to just gently nudge into it. two seconds in and I was panicking. Then I realized I was in knee height water and I could just stand up and restart myself. So embarrassing. My biggest fear with this, other than getting eaten by alligators, was not being able to balance on the board and constantly falling off. Turns out that wasn't an issue at all...it was trying to steer in the current. By this point, Jack had been able to get himself going and was halfway across the water with Tim and Mimi. I could not get myself turned around for the life of me and was headed in a completely different location. I panicked for a few minutes and then decided the kids were fine with Tim and I would just do my own thing. It was actually just survival at this point so I went with it. I was getting the hang of it, staying fairly close to the marina when all of a sudden, what appeared to be a giant fish head appeared next to me. I'll admit it....I squealed a bit and then said out loud to myself "What is that.," it was not a fish but rather a sea turtle coming by to say hi! It was awesome! He literally looked at me,swam next to me for a few seconds, and then went back down. It totally made my day and the whole experience worth it. But then a speeding boat had to go by and ruin all that. Imagine the wake a boat makes as it goes by. Now imagine being on a paddle board, trying to stand up, while that wake goes by. I almost went down but didn't. Instead I steered into the space between two docks because it was easier than getting knocked over. I ended up back on the beach and had to paddle back out. That's when I saw a water ski boat out by Tim and the kids. I figured it wouldn't be pretty for them but they just took a break and sat on their boards til it moved on. Smart. By this time I was making my way back to the starting place, assuming our hour was almost up. When I reached the shore the woman at the desk said "Done already?" I asked "How long did I last?" she said "You did good! About 35 minutes" It was at that point I got the sense they all had bet how long I would last out there. I decided to just call it a day and wait for everyone to come back in. While I was waiting a group of 5 "young" people went out....and two of the guys couldn't stay on the boards to save their lives. On one hand, I was like "I totally feel for you" and on the other hand I was so grateful I hadn't done that. It's a great activity and I would totally do it again....on glassine water with no boats, but it is a little harder than you think. The rest of our day was filled with the beach, the pool, getting ready for our trek back starting this morning, and just enjoying our last night together by playing a few games and having some laughs. Wish us no traffic jams!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

It's Been a Busy Few Days!

We have done so much in the last few days! I can't believe tomorrow is Thursday already. I always get anxious that we won't fit in everything we want to do. I had a conversation with someone recently who said when their family goes on vacation they literally do nothing. They just sit at their resort, don't do any research, and even if they are in a historical area, they don't bother to see the sights...when they are on vacation, they truly do nothing. Uhm...what?? I don't understand. Of course everyone is entitled to their own choice of what they want to do but I don't get it. The whole intent of us traveling is to see and explore each new place so I can't imagine doing nothing. Although I say that but on day one I wished for one day of rain so we could just hang out and do nothing. I got my wish on Monday. But before we get there, let me fill you in on Sunday - Jack's birthday. It was his choice to do whatever he wanted. The day started with his favorite breakfast - chocolate chip pancakes, bacon, and milk. A growing boy's dream. Then the day was filled with a trip to the NC Aquarium where we surprised him with a behind the scenes tour. We have done these before at SeaWorld and the New England Aquarium....where it was feeding day for the anacondas...apparently they hadn't been fed in a month and outside their exhibit was a bucket of half frozen chickens and rats (complete with tails hanging over the rim of the buckets). So, when they opened the exhibits, it was like a snake charmers basket...it took 3 Aquarium workers to contain them...it was frightening to say the least. This tour was pretty tame but still very interesting. After visiting the rest of the aquarium, we headed out for lunch and then it was off to the driving range, mini golf, go-karts, and the pool. It was a very busy day. The next day was sunny so we decided to head to Wrightsville Beach, which we hadn't been to yet. It was amazing. Beautiful houses sandwiched between the intercoastal waterway and the ocean. We found a great spot with great waves and spent most of the day there...until the black clouds rolled in. We got everything packed in the car before it started to rain and on the way home it turned pitch black, like it was 10 at night...but it was only 3 pm. There was crazy lightening like I have never seen before and the thunder was so loud it was deafening. We hunkered down for the afternoon and had our "lazy day". The kids read, I took a nap, and Tim took a nap and then read. I never nap. I always have so much to do that the idea of taking a nap just doesn't make sense. But, I had nothing else to do so I ended up taking a 2 hour nap. It was awesome. When was the last time you napped?!The storm came and went pretty quickly so we were still able to grill and then that night we played a few games before heading to bed. p Tuesday brought us pouring rain in the early morning so we ended up sleeping in...again, no complaints from anyone on that. Finally it cleared and we headed into Wilmington which we had all been anticipating. First up, a self guided tour of UNCW. For the last few years we have tried to mix in visiting college campuses with our trips so the kids can get a sense for what they like. Jack had id'd this school as a potential interest last year when he was interested in marine biology but since that is no longer an interest (as of 1 week before our trip...and a main reason we came down here), we decided to visit it anyways to get an idea for scale and type of campus. It was nice...and a good size...but certainly doesn't have the character of campuses we are familiar with in New England. Next, we headed into downtown Wilmington and immediately jumped on a trolley tour of the city....interesting but not much to see really. Some historic homes but still seems like lots of renovation needs to happen downtown. We did learn that Wilmington is the third largest producer of hollywood tv & movies behind NY and LA. Mimi really wanted to do the Hollywood Walk where they show you were famous movies were made. Don't do it, if you ever come to this area. A few red flags..."90 min walking tour" in the 90 degree heat of the day at 2 pm...the only time offered. It ended up being almost 2 hours, it was so hot we could have passed out, and unless you are Dawson's Creek or One Tree Hill fan, it wasn't worth it. Always interesting to try and do different things but I don't recommend it. We were so hot after the tour that we immediately came back and jumped in the pool, swimming for an hour. Then we had dinner and played games again. I don't know about you, but we generally don't play games when we are at home. We all fall into our routines. That's one of the things I love about camping...we are in a small space, can't spread out as much, and end up interacting much more than we do at home. Today, we hit the beach in Wrightsville our favorite new spot. It was great...it was overcast but warm so it was comfortable on the beach. The waves were great...but then they got a little crazy. Tim went to go in the water with the kids and a local woman came over to say she had seen 2 rip currents right in front of us and she suggested we didn't go in...that the area can get pretty crazy and dangerous. Of course, I ended up being the bad guy with the kids when I said they couldn't go in. Finally Tim took them over to the life guards and they said you really had to be cautious...so of course the boys went out...when not another sole was out there. Whatever. Then we left and headed back to the camper to change for part 2 of our day which was to explore the USS North Carolina Battleship. So enormous...and such a great experience. We walked up and down through 9 tiny alleyways of the ship...it took 1 1/2 hours...and we weren't reading all the info. Pretty amazing to see. Then it was off to dinner and now everyone is slumbering. A very busy, exhausting few days...just how we like it. I should mention that when we had lunch in Wilmington at a restaurant on the Cape Fear River, the waitress brought us our check and said "Oh, before you go, you should check out the baby alligator that has been hanging out under our dock." WHAT? Sure enough, there was this baby alligator....like the size of a large iguana, floating by their dock, hanging out. I can't live someplace where there are dangerous or poisonous animals that I might encounter. Which leads me to the one thing that the kids want to do before we go, and that I wanted to do until this alligator encounter, which is stand up paddle boarding. The best place for us beginners to do it is in the inter coastal waterway but there is NO WAY I am paddleboarding in a place where I might get stuck in a death roll with a gator. No. Way. I have to call tomorrow...so that people can lie to me and say "No, we have never seen a gator in the water while paddleboarding". Yeah, right. We have 2 full days left and here is the list of things left to do: Stand Up Paddle board with gators, driving range (again), river cruise (meh), and shelling at Fort Fisher. And of course the beach again. The week has gone by so fast...it makes me sad but yet we have done so much and I have a new favorite place to come back to...if we ever lift the ban on going to the same place twice.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Just Jack

15 years ago today I woke up to labor pains at 5:20 am. The little being inside of me was 11 days overdue and I had taken extreme measures to shake him/her from their slumber. First, I shoveled 6 yards of bark mulch by myself in the July heat. Then, I went in and did some deep knee bends hoping to break my water and get the party started. That didn't work. So, then I had an extra large meatball sub and a beer....my first in 8 months. I was determined not to carry that child until they were college age. Sure enough, one of those things worked and birth was underway on July 28, 1998. Everyone was happy to dispense all kinds of advice beforehand but the one constant thing I heard was "Don't go to the hospital too early." Apparently, you could get sent home, or you would languish in there for a day and feel like you were never going to come out with a baby. So, I was prepared to stick it out at home for a bit. I took a shower and dressed in a "cute" black shirt with flowers on it (looking back it was hideous) and I wore that on top of a white skort. Yep, I said white. And skort. In the same sentence. It was my first child, ok? I wanted to look cute. Let's just say...that outfit didn't make it home with me in the end. I had called work to say I wouldn't be in...I worked right up until the end so I could have more time with the baby on the back end. As I lay in the fetal position in a chair in the living room I kept telling myself that the pain wasn't that bad until my friend and co-worker Kelly called. I didn't pick up...I just heard her on the answering machine saying "You're in labor aren't you?? How bad is it?? Does it feel like a shot gun blast to the belly??!" I hated her at that moment. Meanwhile Tim was washing and rewashing clean dishes to stay busy. He was whistling like one of the Seven Dwarfs. If I could have gotten up I would have seriously hurt him. We did call the hospital twice. The first time they talked to me and said since I could have a conversation I was fine and should just continue to stay at home. The second time when I made some sort of animal sound when they asked how I was doing they said "You should come right in." It took another half an hour before I could physically get out of the chair and walk down a flight of stairs to the car. When we finally arrived at the hospital, there were no wheelchairs available and "conveniently" the maternity ward is on the 3rd floor...in the back of the hospital. When I finally made it up there, I told the nurse at the desk "I'm pretty sure this baby is coming out" and she said "Okay, just have a seat and we'll get to you eventually." She did not believe me. About 20 minutes later they ushered me to a room and told me to "hop up" on the bed. First, I threw up, to which the nurse said in a very annoyed tone "Okay, you just need to relax..." I'll just note that I did it very cleanly in a wastebasket and I was sure to spare my white skort. Then, when I couldn't hop up she told me "You need to try a little harder, honey." But I think the kicker was when she did the exam and the baby's head was coming out, she finally said "Oh! Okay...the baby IS coming out." You think I was just saying that for shits and giggles?! Get me a doctor! Tim had left me trying to "hop up" on the bed when he went to move the car from the front of the emergency room, only to come back with his baby pretty much being born. First he wouldn't come out and then he wouldn't slow down. That pretty much sums Jack up...he is either moving at the speed of a turtle or lightening. There is no in between. Now, I'm a big baby when it comes to pain. Major baby. So, the fact that I didn't get to have an epidural and that I delivered naturally came as the biggest shock to my system. I just got myself into a zone of no return and to this day, I don't look back on it as painful, yet I know it couldn't have been pretty. In the end, this kinda big baby boy popped out...Jack Timothy Nealon, after 12 hours of labor, weighing in at 7 lbs. 12 oz, 21 1/2 inches long. I really thought he was a girl so a boy was surprising. But, man, was he cute! And loud! The beauty of boys! Later, I called my brother to tell him about his new nephew and this was the conversation: Me: Hey, we just had the baby...it's a boy! Bro: Congratulations! What did you name him? Me: Jack Bro: Silence. Bro: What's his real name? Me: Jack....Jack Timothy Bro: No, I mean, his real name...John? Me: Nope, Just Jack Bro: How are you spelling that? Me: Silence Me: J-A-C-K Bro: Huh. Just Jack? Ok.... And that is how Just Jack was born. Fifteen years ago. Honestly, it feels like just yesterday that he was loving his "Foofy" (pacifier), saying his first word "Fan!" (he had a ceiling fan obsession for months), loving elephants, then crocodiles, then frogs, then turtles. Loving trucks, pulling out girl's pony tail holders at every turn (he liked to "collect them"...the pony tail holders, not the girls), and running everywhere he went. There have been countless frog funerals and an unknown number of trips to the emergency room. There have been many obsessions - turtles, Red Sox, baseball, basketball, and now golf. There have been many times I thought he might have a hearing problem, a forgetfulness issue, or the inability to do anything at a pace slower than a sprint. He went through glasses, braces....twice, contacts, and retainers. Suddenly he has emerged as this funny, handsome, athletic, studious, semi-responsible (he's a teenager...), young man who is ready to find the next challenge around the corner. I'm not quite sure how we got here or how we survived but I can't believe it's been 15 years already!

Happy Birthday, Just Jack!!

Day 1 - Kamping in Karolina Beach

We didn't get to bed last night til 11:00 and I think everyone was asleep before their heads even hit the pillows. Usually on our camping trips I have most days planned, with us doing things from morning til night. The kids start each day asking "What's on the itinerary today? We like to take advantage of all the things new places have to offer. This year, I didn't have as much time to plan so I left it open to what we would do each day. Instead, I just noted the key events that were happening in each town and figured that would guide our activities. The one exception being Sunday, Jack's 15th birthday. He gets to pick what he wants to do and eat all day so we have a sense for what we are doing that day. Today we all slept in, with Jack and I getting up first around 9 am. We ended up having to wake Mimi up at 9:30. We started the day with a smorgasbord breakfast - muffins, sweetie pies, lemon blueberry bread, and fruit salad. Then we all got in our suits and headed to Carolina Beach, a nearby town about 30 minutes away. We hit the farmers market first - the only thing I had hoped to do that day. It was on a lake, filled with turtles, so Jack was entertained. Apparently there were also alligator, as the signs warned, although we didn't see any. Apparently last week a Husky went swimming in the water and an alligator went after it. Yikes. As Jack trolled the edge of the water I had images of a gator snatching him away into a death roll. Luckily, we left there with both our kids intact, 3 tomatoes, and a sea glass bracelet that I treated myself to for my birthday (in a month). We left there in search of a place to park so we could hit the beach but we couldn't find a spot. Driving along we all agreed this area reminds us of the Outerbanks and Virginia Beach. There is a narrow road that runs alongside a row of houses right on the beach and the ocean is so close you could touch it. Carolina Beach is like the West Yarmouth of this area and Kure Beach is like the Chatham, if you are familiar with the Cape. We ended up just driving into Kure and finding a spot. The road is lined with pastel houses on stilts that overlook the beach and the ocean. Yellow, turquoise, brilliant blue, hot pink - the houses are just adorable. I say this about almost every place we visit, but I could live here. It's quiet, relaxing, and on the ocean. People drive their golf carts to the beach, to the store, and just to take a drive. I would like to live someplace where I could drive around in a golf cart all day in my bathing suit. We finally got to the crowded beach around 1:00 and were not disappointed. The waves were great and the water was warm but not like bath water. You know it is a good beach when the kids say "Even Mom went in". We spent the day reading books, eating a picnic lunch,body surfing, checking out the fishing pier, and swimming some more. Oh...and "watching tv"....and by that I mean, getting completely absorbed in the people next to us. There are times when Tim and I will go out to dinner and he'll say "Hey, this isn't a tv show", because there I am with my mouth hanging open, completely absorbed in the couple next to us, like I'm watching them on TV. The same thing happened today...there was a group of about 15 people...5 couples and their kids. It was like watching a new tv show, trying to figure out who was married to whom, which women liked each other, and who was causing all the drama. More than once Timmy had to tell me to stop staring. Around 4:00 we decided to pack up and head back, because the pool at the campground was calling our name....and my tv show friends were starting to pack up too. After a brief stop at the grocery store, I put the food away while Tim and the kids hit the pool. I have to stop here and say this is our first time at a KOA campground. I have resisted them up until this point for one reason....they misuse the letter K. My pet peeve is companies that use the K as a C. "Katie's Hair Kuttery"..."Kute Kids Preschool"...K's are not C's. I have an affinity for K's since my name starts with one. I would never call myself Celly. It's just not right. When the KOA's started using K's for Kabin's, I was immediately turned off. But, it was the only highly rated Kampground in the areas so I had to give it a shot. I have to admit, I'm impressed. The place is very klean. They have, not just a dog park, but a dog agility park. We are across from the stage area and tonight they are playing Angels in the Outfield on the big screen so the kids have the side of Jack's pop out zipped down and they are laying on his bed watching it like they are at the drive in. While the kids were at the pool, I took advantage of the quiet and took a shower...my first one in 2 days. Man, it felt good! It also feels good not to have to do my hair or wear make up. After my shower I found I even had time to read my book. Aaahh....so nice to have a little time to myself. When everyone got back we started dinner - a first for us this go around - I made meatball sliders. Before we left I made my special meatballs and then I put them in little slider rolls with cheese, covered them in foil, and heated them on the grill. Stupid good. For dessert we had some astronaut ice cream that Mimi had got in DC on her class trip there in June. If you haven't had it, let's just say it is interesting. We "supplemented" that with our homemade chocolate chip cookies that Mimi made. Everyone is just taking it easy and getting ready for bed. Big day ahead of us tomorrow....Jack's birthday! I'm sure it will be filled with animals, bbq, candy, and his new obsession - golf.

Friday, July 26, 2013

The Drive

When we take these long trips we try to break it up and get a few hours in at night, which is exactly what we did this trip. We left about 7pm on Thursday night and made it to New Jersey in 4 1/2 hours. At 11:30 we camped out in our usual rest area spot for a few hours of sleep. It's a good thing we are small people or this would never work. Jack sleeps on the floor with tons of pillows and blankets ant then Tim, Mimi, and myself hunker down on the kitchen table that turns into a bed. They go in one direction and I go in the other. It's not a pretty night's sleep but it does the job. This morning we woke up at 5:45 and were heading out by 6:15. The kids went back to sleep until about 10 so Tim and I enjoyed our Sweetie Pies in nice solitude. By 12:00 the car was hot, smelled like teenage bodies without showers, and I was basically lulled into a coma. It didn't help that we had sat in traffic for an hour. At about 1:00, after reaching our traffic tolerance level, we pulled over for a picnic lunch. It was great to get out of the car for a bit. I won't bore you with the details of the ride other than to say it involved hours of traffic that caused us to arrive to the campground almost 4 hours later than expected. At one point I think Tim was delirious. We saw a coyote on the side of the road and he swore it was a bobcat. We ended the day with sentiments like "I hate Virginia" and "so far this trip is not what I expected". But we all agreed we had great food on the trip down. Let's see what tomorrow brings!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

2013 Camping Trip #2 - Wilmington, NC

Over the years I have been amazed at people who don't use up all their vacation time. They say things like "I didn't have time to take vacation". What the what??!! Honestly, it's like a foreign language to me. I assume the people that say these things think 1) they are too important to take vacation - the working world won't be able to continue without them or 2) they don't know how to relax.

It's 10:00 the night before I leave for vacation and I must have said three times today "Why is it so hard to take a vacation?" Perhaps some of these people have a point. A very small number...but some people.

I have to admit, I may be a bit ambitious in my planning. First, let me tell you what we are doing. We are going camping - to Wilmington, NC beach area....Carolina Beach, Kure Beach, Cape Fear....right on the SC border. We chose the location because, as Jack gets closer to going to college, we try to visit nearby colleges so he can get a sense for the type of school he might like. He has always been interested in Marine Biology and identified UNC - Wilmington as a school he was interested in. So, I planned for months and just 2 weeks ago, after he said camping wasn't for him anymore, he also dropped the bombshell "I realized marine biology isn't for me. I don't really like math or science...I just like turtles." Uhm, ok....glad you realized that now rather than in your junior year of college....but 2 weeks before the vacation to go see a school you are interested in? Little tough to swallow. Luckily, the area has tons to offer so it's not a big deal. I will admit...the "I realized I just like turtles" will go down as one of his infamous lines. So cute and so funny.

I literally have been planning this vacation for months. First, there is the research of the area - is there enough to do around there? Where are the great campgrounds? Do they have availability?

Then comes the menu planning. Years ago, when we bought our first pop up for $175 on the way home from a soccer game, the woman who owned it filled me in on a little tip. Make as much as you can ahead of time and freeze it. Then pull out and defrost as you need it. I have been doing this for years and it has been great.

First, I sit down with my friend Pinterest and look over all the potential recipes. Since we will be driving for 16 hours, I need breakfast, lunch, and snacks for the road, and then those meals for the first few days. Then there is dinner....I found that if I don't make/prep things ahead of time, we end up eating out half the time...which really isn't camping at all. I'm also of the school of thought that when you camp, you don't need to eat typical camp fare. I cook as though I'm at home. This is what gets me in trouble.

Add on top of all of this that we typically go away this week and it's Jack's birthday. Last year I made a camo cake and transported it to the Outer Banks. Stupid? Yes. Worth it? Yes. He loved it. But there I was slaving over the stove at midnight the night before we left making 3 different colored cake batters, swirling them to look like camouflage, frosting the layers, and then finding a spot in the car where it wouldn't fall apart.

So, what's on tap for the menu this vacation? Well, for our "car breakfast" Friday morning, we'll be having The Pioneer Woman's Good Morning Muffins (made 2 weeks ago and froze), Sweetie Pies (which are little raspberry filled, heart shaped pies sprinkled with cinnamon sugar - they are a standard of our car trips), and fruit salad. For lunch, we'll have sandwiches that we'll make on the road that will be accompanied by my friend Ann's excellent broccoli salad. Dinner will be out...we always need a break at that point.

During our vacation we'll have (all homemade): lemon blueberry bread, breakfast quesadillas, birthday chocolate chip pancakes (topped with whipped cream and sprinkles), egg "mcmuffin" sandwiches, corn salsa, black bean burgers, steak, ribs, meatball parm sliders, grilled pizza, chocolate chip cookies, and strawberry shortcake. 

Add to all this cooking.... working at my full time job and packing... clothes and camper supplies (sheets, towels, pots & pans, dishes, games, you name it). Yeah, I know....it's my own fault and I don't have the right to complain that it is too hard to take vacation. I choose to camp and I choose to treat it like an Iron Chef Competition with myself. But it's all worth it when the kids say, at the end of each trip, that it was even better than the last.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Holy Heat Wave

God, I love a 95 degree humid day! You don't hear that often do you? You know why? Because they are stoopid. Totally, totally stoooopid.

I have never been a central AC kind of gal. I really like to open the windows and let the breeze in. There is something unnatural about the fake air. And I feel closed in with all those windows closed up. When we built our house we opted not to put it in because of this belief of mine.

The last few years we have had a few heat waves that have caused us to sit in our underpants in front of fans and pant like dogs. But it's been over pretty quickly and life goes on.

Last year it seemed a bit worse...but then this year... I was about ready to hurt someone to be allowed just 5 minutes in central AC. Well, I'd hurt someone if I had the energy to move but I didn't so you don't have to worry. This year we did get some AC units for our bedrooms and that has helped. I feel like if I break down and get central AC we'll never really need it and then I'll be mad for spending the money on it. Although I know the longer I don't get it, the longer the heat waves will last.

I thought I might share my Top 10 List of Things That I "Love" About Heat Waves:

10. Boy do I love the ants that for some reason want to seek shelter in my house only during heat waves. I hate them.
9. I love when the commuter rail doesn't have any AC and you are stuck like a hobo on a freight train on a 1,000 degree day.
8. I love when your feet blow up from the heat like you are a bloated pig.
7. I love when you feel that little breeze and you think "oh, here it comes!" and then it quickly dies and you are sitting in the dead hot air again.
6. I love when you stick to your seat when you go to get out of the car.
5. I love when your sunglasses slide down your nose because of all the sweat. It's a good look. Both sweat and the sliding of the glasses.
4. I love when you get out of the shower and are already dripping in sweat by the time you get your clothes on.
3. I love when you try an outfit on and it's not doing it for you so you attempt to take it off but you can't because your clothes are stuck to you. Guess I'll wear this then...
2. I love when you attempt to put make up on but your face is "glistening" so much that it slides right off.
1. I love when you get up in the morning and it's as hot as when you went to bed and you know your make up is going to slide off your face and you know you will be soaked with sweat by the time you get to work. Good times.

Happy Sweating!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Climbing Elephants

In previous posts, I have expressed how much I love getting together with my girlfriends. Last week, I got together with two friends I haven't seen in some time. My friend Kristal introduced me to my first Droid when we were traveling to Park City Utah for work. I think she was the 2nd person to purchase one and I was immediately mesmerized by it's abilities. We've spent time traveling together, dealing with stressful situations, and dealing with work people that normally we would never choose to hang out with. She is smart, very talented, and one of the funniest people I have ever met. And the deadpan kind of funny....my favorite.

My friend Katie and I worked together for years. She was like my little sister that I worked with. She once said to me in the bathroom "Can I tell something as a friend?" and I had visions of her telling me she was pregnant since she was newly married. Instead she told me I had a crazy old lady whisker coming out of my chin. Oh. My. God. Horrible moment of recognition of getting old. But great moment of a friend being completely honest and looking out for your best interests. There was no way she was letting me go to the café with that rip van winkle hair. I'm just going to say, that those little hairs don't come out easily. Try to pull them out and they curl like Shirley Temple's hair.

Once Katie and I went to a conference together and one thing led to another...we had a few glasses of wine, and on the way back to our rooms we noticed the hotel staff cleaning a very large (life size) elephant in the lobby. They were up on a lift cleaning the top of it. So many questions should have come to mind for us. Why an elephant in the lobby? Why are you cleaning it? But no, instead the only question that came to mind was "How can we get on that thing?!" Katie used her adorable charm and soon enough she was up on the lift with the cleaning crew attempting to scale the elephant. It was then that we had a sudden epiphany that if she ever fell off and hurt herself it would be very difficult to explain what she was doing up there in the first place.

Katie and I definitely are mischievous when we get together. And Kristal would just say "Go ahead.." and watch us with a smirk. When we got together last week, Katie and I both agreed, we had to behave and not have "an elephant kind of night."

So, the three amigos got together and literally we could have spent all night together. We talked about old co-workers, our new work places, kids, pets, and of course, Pinterest. Why is it that time passes so quickly and before you realize it you haven't seen your friends in person in 2 1/2 years?. It's just not right. We talk through email and text but often its hard to find the time to get together when you live in all different directions and have very busy lives.

It was such a great night and now Kristal is moving into Boston so we'll all be a little closer together. We promised to get together more often by trying restaurants in Kristal's new neighborhood. I love friends, I love to eat, I love to laugh...I'm in! I can't wait....and I hope there aren't any elephants in her new hood.



Wednesday, July 10, 2013

First Camping of the 2013 Season

Typically, our first camping trip each year is on April vacation but we had decided to go away for February vacation this year and then did a staycation in April. Our next camping weekend is typically Memorial Day weekend but this year my company took us to Mexico to celebrate our 10th anniversary. Our next trip is typically 4th of July...which was our first camping trip this year. It has been 9 months since we camped - hard to believe. Needless to say, I was excited to get back into preppy camper action.

I forgot how much work it is to initially get ready for the first time. Everything needs to go back in for the season - dishes, silverware, beach towels, shampoos, conditioners, blankets, pillows, clothes, lanterns, and food galore. Oh the food! I spend days thinking through a menu, then go grocery shopping the weekend before, and then make whatever I can ahead of time. It just makes it easier. We typically spend all day at the beach and by the time we get home and showered, the last thing we feel like doing is making a gourmet meal, but we do love to eat well.

And eat we do! I made "good morning" muffins - a recipe from the Pioneer Woman, fruit salad, tacos, I marinated chicken, made sweet corn salsa, black bean burgers, and strawberry shortcake. Let's just say we didn't go hungry.

We started our adventure on Wednesday. By the time we got set up, we were 30 minutes away from the office closing to get our annual beach pass so we drove there as fast as we could. Then we took our first ride out into the dunes. The green of the grass against the turquoise blue sky with the sandy dunes is just spectacular. Ahhh....it makes me feel home each time I see it. To be honest, just crossing the bridge and smelling the salt air makes me feel at home..but I truly feel the most comfortable on the Outer Cape. If you have never been, you need to go. Call me and we'll arrange a trip. Once on the beach, we hung out for about an hour - playing wiffle ball and searching for beach treasures. Then it was back to our camper for dinner - grilled chicken, roasted potatoes, and salad.

Sounds idyllic, doesn't it. Insert sound of screeching tires here. I should just mention that on the way down I asked Jack why he had an attitude. First, welcome to the teenage years. Sigh. But beyond that, it was obvious he was not as interested in camping. And that's just what he told me. He told me that he didn't want to ruin things for me because he knew I was looking forward to the weekend but that he had "outgrown" camping and wasn't what he wanted to be doing. I get it...he's about to turn 15 and it doesn't hold the same appeal anymore. We had an honest conversation about it, with the end result being that we understood how he felt but we were going to continue to camp and if he wanted to bring a friend along for one of our trips to make it more fun he could do that. Insert my crushed heart here. I knew this was going to happen some day...and no matter when it came, I knew I would never be ready. And I was right. I'm not ready to stop camping, at least not yet. I also know that he does have fun in the end.

On Thursday Tim and I woke up early and went for a walk. We checked out the view from Highland Light (amazing) and then walked halfway to Coast Guard Beach in Truro. We then hustled back to get ready to meet Tim's cousin Kelley and her adorable family at the Wellfleet 4th of July parade. It was crazy hot, but always a fun time. After that we went back and had lunch and then packed up for the beach. I had been spearheading an effort of getting a bunch of family together since many people either live, were vacationing, or visiting the area. We used Thursday to scope out a good place to set up with about 30 people the next day. We found a great spot and spent the day there. We played wiffle ball, corn hole, paddle ball, swam, read, soaked in the sun, and rested in the shade. All in all, it was a very relaxing day. I asked Jack that night, wasn't that fun? Yeah....I guess. Huh? How could all this be bad, I wondered?

Then it was back to the camper for some rest - most of us read...and some of us, who are teenagers, had their noses in their phones....they almost got taken away. I'll be honest, the constant connection with Facebook, Instagram, and texting is just out of hand in general with kids. I know it is different than when I was growing up but I had to draw a few boundaries with the electronics.

We had our taco dinner and strawberry shortcake and then played BS and Crazy Eights. As usual, Jack was the first to turn in, then me, and then the card sharks eventually turn in after staying up late trying to beat each other in whatever card game they are playing.

Friday morning arrived and I started the day with a walk to the beach. It took 20 minutes each way but was totally worth it. The sun was coming up and there were tons of seals swimming along the beach. They made my day...those darn seals are so cute. When I got back we all started packing for the big get together. We were all really looking forward to it. Hanging with cousins, aunts & uncles, grandparents, and friends...what could be better? Some people got dune permits and drove out in their Jeeps and then those people shuttled everyone else out. Let me just say that 18 adults and 15 kids bring a lot of stuff to the beach! Corn hole, volleyball, wiffle ball, beach chairs, a beach potty (essential and also my contribution), towels, diapers, coolers, grills, and enough food to fill a small grocery store. I'm pretty sure we could have survived a week on the beach with all that we had.

The best part of the day was just seeing all the cousins playing together. From toddlers to teenagers, everyone played together and had a blast. And I got my baby/little kid fix with all the little ones. From little Amelia who just wanted Mimi and I to hold her in the water and play, to my skipping stone buddy Lucy, to listening to Ryan's knock knock jokes, it couldn't have been any cuter. And the adult cousins and family had a chance to catch up, which was great. With everyone being so busy with their families its often hard to find time to connect. For me, the night ended too quickly. There were so many more things to talk about, so many more memories to make.

At the end of the night Tim's parents came back to the camper with us to spend the night. We shared the rest of the strawberry shortcake and then hung outside reliving memories of when they used to camp. It was such a great night...and Jack even said he had a great time.

The good news is that the weather throughout the weekend was fantastic. The downside was that it was so hot that everyone needed a break from the sun. So, on Saturday, everyone got to sleep in and we took our time getting out the door. Jack's choice was to play mini golf at Arnold's in Eastham. Afterwards we went back to the camper for a late lunch of appetizers and just hung out a bit. Then we headed off to the beach around 3 just for a little bit to say our temporary good byes to the National Seashore since it will be awhile before we will get back down there. When we got back, the boys had burgers and the girls had black bean burgers with leftover sweet corn salsa. You must try this recipe: http://www.simplyscratch.com/2013/06/grilled-sweet-corn-salsa.html! Dessert was bomb pops and the game of choice was Crazy Eights once again.

Sunday dawned - another sunny day - but it was time to pack up. We let the kids sleep while we started packing up. Then we took off to the Wellfleet book sale - apparently the ENTIRE town comes out for this - we got a bunch of great books tho.  When we got back we finished packing up and then began our trek home. And what a long trek it was....it's been a long time since it took us 4 hours to get home from the Cape.

Reflecting on the weekend, I was so happy to be camping again. And even though Jack's interest in camping is waning, I know he had a good weekend and we always enjoy our camping time with the kids. Someday I really do think he will look fondly back on these times and maybe he'll even want to share the same kind of adventures with his family. Insert crossed fingers here.

I told the kids that when they go to college, Tim and I will spend the nice weekends in the fall enjoying the dunes of the Outer Cape. They were more concerned with who would be feeding the cats. But that is likely the place we will spend our retirement....and we'll bring the cats with us.

I know a lot of you talk about going camping but keep putting it off. GO camping TODAY! You won't regret it.