littlest beagle

On Wednesday, I went to  visit my parents in Ohio. From the minute the plane touched down until Saturday evening when I flew back, we had such an excellent visit together. It is so sad to have my parents far away. But, I am just so appreciative of them, our visit, and all they continue to do in my life. From long walks along the lake to shopping to laughing as their new puppy, Daisy, ran around the house after their dog, Blaise, we soaked up each minute we had together. And, the latest addition to the family, a miniature beagle named Daisy, is just the sweetest littlest pup.  She and I bonded a good deal. I would wake up early to play with her and Blaise outside before the house stirred and we would cuddle at night as she fell asleep. If I could, I would have snuck her home to Boston in my purse (because she would have fit!). Oh well, I will just have to get in my puppy cuddles with those two on my next visit for sure!

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curried kale with toasted coconut

our friends Laura and Eric are staying at our house while their new house is renovated (I probably mentioned this before). One of the perks of having them here is that at dinner time, we share the prep, cooking, and clean-up.  Laura was the master chef last night as she whipped up this recipe and I was happy to photograph her kale dish and mark it down for my own repertoire. I have to admit, it was quite delicious!

IMG_4283Start by sprinkling some coconut flakes on to a baking dish. Bake in the oven at 350 for 3-4minutes or until the coconut is fragrant and just barely starting to get a toasted brown color

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Cut up two onions and 3 cloves of garlicIMG_4285

Saute the onions in a deep-sided pot with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Once they are translucent, add in the garlic for another 2-3 minutes.
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Add in 4 teaspoons of curry powder and mix well. Simmer here for 2-3 minutesIMG_4287

Add in the kale (that has been cleaned and deveined). Along with 3/4 cup of water to help the kale cook down. (If you need to you can add more water, but you don’t want it to get to watered down try to limit the water to no more that 1 1/4 cup).  Cover the pot with a lid and simmer for 2-3 minutes. IMG_4288

The kale should begin to wilt down.  Continue to add more kale until a complete two bunches have been used. IMG_4291

Set the table perhaps? (I just thought ours looked really pretty and casual that night)IMG_4292

Once the kale is cooked, transfer into a serving bowlIMG_4293

Sprinkle the kale with the toasted coconut and serve. Enjoy!

post 1. the great wall.

This wall is a monster. When we bought our first home we were totally in love with it.  It was built the year we met and immediately I felt a connection to this mound of wood and plaster. It must have been built for us, no?  Everything inside is brand new and gleaming with that “never been used before” sparkle. Everything we do to the house will be a first. It is the perfect little nest for our young love.

Except for one thing…the backyard is a bit small. When we first spotted the home and fell head over heels for her flashy looks and sexy personality, we neglected to thoroughly price out the cost of redesigning the yard.  Our realtor seemed to suggest so nonchalantly that to build the retaining wall we would need to turn our sloping hill into more reclaimed flat surface was a piece of cake. Looking around the neighborhoods of New England these field stone retaining walls are everywhere.  How much could it really cost?  Well, the number was staggering. We spent our first year in a sparsely furnished home while we saved, saved, and saved for this wall. I worked extra hours, took on more classes, and even tutored three times a week on top of providing Pilates in the afternoon program at school.  And, after 10 months of this horrendous schedule that left us exhausted and without friends (because when you work like this, you see your friends very little) we had the money to build the Great Wall.

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We hired a contractor/mason we got through a friend’s recommendation (however, I do not hold any grudge or responsibility for this nightmare over my friend). The mason is a nice guy.  A bit chatty but then why not make a friend of the guy who is going to build you a 75ft long x 4ft high stone wall?  Well, he is a slippery one. Everyone always says beware of contractors. And now I know why.  The project timeline is 3 weeks. We are currently at 2 weeks in. The mason has only worked a total of 3 days of those 2 weeks but still demands to be paid according to our original project plan (How do we handle this!?).  It is nuts!  He likes to text and so he usual texts at night with some great line like: “Just wait until tomorrow. I will arrive at 6am work all day and then through the weekend.  You two will get so tired of my face by the end of this.”  Tired of his face? I would love to see his face!  What does he look like anymore??  I have kept my temper in check which is hard for an orignal Long Islander. I have never once raised my voice or acted out in aggression.  But, I am getting close to my breaking point. All I want to do is see him work like he promised he would so that this wall can be done in a reasonable amount of time. Currently, the front of our beautiful house looks like a disaster zone.  Trees tossed about, rocks and sand and boulders piled sky high and mud everywhere. Geez.  Being a homeowner when a MAJOR project is underway is quite difficult.

Today, I was about to lose my cool.  He promised to arrive at our house bright and early and no sign of him as per usual. I texted David at work and our conversation was as followed:

Me: I am going to go bat suit crazy on this guy should he ever show up.

David: Bat suit crazy sounds awesome!

Me: hahaha!  That’s right.  That is how crazy I am. I am putting on a freaking bat suit!!

David: Haha

By noon the mason finally arrived. At 1:10 he was off to Home Depot.  Back at 1:40 and then lunched for 20  minutes at 2:30. I have now decided to have myself a glass of wine and to seclude myself in my room.  Being home for the summer with this project going on is going to be interesting. To be continued….

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happy birthday mom

The birthday celebrations that cram into the first week of June end with my mom’s birthday today. It has unfortunately fallen on my school’s graduation the past 4 years and I have not been able to celebrate with her personally. Hopefully, though she knows how much I love her and how much I wish I could be there to celebrate her birthday with her today.  At least this year, in just four days, we will see each other for a mini-Florida vacation. Growing up, my mom worked tirelessly to ensure that Bryan and I were not only basically well fed and sheltered, but truly loved, challenged, and thriving. She focused on our education and helped us hone our writing, reading, and critical thinking skills. Each day after school, we would make camp at the kitchen table while she prepared dinner and we worked on our homework.  There we munched on snacks, chatted about the days events, and struggled with Spanish, grammar and, of course, math. In between sautéing vegetables, she would quiz us for our upcoming assessments, help us create a variety of projects from scratch, and go over our work with us making sure we asked questions but more importantly that we could explain why we had the answers to her questions. I believe I am teacher today because she was always a present teacher in my daily life. She balanced this strength and determination though with a soft side and I can recall many times snuggling on the couch with her and talking about her own childhood memories. My mom was my partner in crime. Many afternoons we would sneak out to the mall together and shop for dresses for school dances. While we sometimes argued in the fitting room over the style of dress (I always aimed for something a little too mature and she for something a little more immature), we designed a veto system to turn these tiffs into productive discussions in which we explained why a particular outfit was unappealing to one of us. By the time, it came to buying my wedding dress, we had mastered our veto system and the experience of being just with my mom on the day we found “the dress” is a memory I will always cherish. My brother and I were so lucky to have our mother home with us each day. She modeled unconditional love, patience, support, and she always believed in the beauty of our dreams. I hope today my lovely mother has a truly lovely day.

730 days

Today, David and I have been married for 730 days (2 years). So much has happened in that time and I am so grateful to have met, fallen in love, and committed to this amazing man. He is my best friend, truest confidant, and love.

Here is a link to our photographer’s blog that day (includes a cute little slideshow): Lanierstar

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summer to do

Lists make me happy. Each day, I write myself a “to-do” list and revel in crossing off items, highlighting items, and adding new tasks. In an odd way, I feel like a superstar when I complete the list. Praise is showered down “you did it,” “look how organized you are,” and “wow, how did you ever get all of that done in a single day.”  While this is a little crazy, it is innately a part of me. Each morning, I arrive to my classroom and start a new fresh list for a new fresh day. So to feel a little less stressed about the end of the school year, I have decided to focus on the summer and all of the stuff I plan/hope to get accomplished:

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  1. Organize the Basement (go through the last of the moving boxes and make some shelving so items can be more easily located).
  2. Finally bring the last boxes to the recycling center
  3. Paint front door, I am thinking dark gray
  4. Paint the bulkhead
  5. Refinish the back porch stairs
  6. Visit with friends and family as much as possible
  7. Work on my blogging
  8. Attend teacher conferences
  9. Work on curriculum development
  10. Read Read Read
  11. Cook and BBQ
  12. Re-budget our finances
  13. Garden and tend the lawn
  14. odds and ends of cleaning and keep our home b-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l
  15. Freshen up my Italian language skills (might be visiting a bestie in Rome)
  16. Power-wash house
  17. Steam carpets
  18. Exercise and take it seriously (as in drop these pesky 10 pounds I have hugging my body)
  19. Have the retaining wall and fence built in our backyard (just hired the contractor last night!!)

Ah….while this list is long, it feels so much better to have it written down and not floating aimlessly in my head. It is daunting but quite exciting to think that my daily school lists are almost on hiatus for the next three months of summer vacation and I can shift my attention to health, family, and home more consistently.  Summer, here I come (with my list in hand!!).

new year’s resolutions

New Year’s Resolutions are a funny thing.  Each year we make a series of promises to ourselves.  It is a quirky tradition that I eagerly embrace as though the opportunity to remake oneself only comes once a year. There is something magical about being able to thaw out the “good side” of yourself just in time for the new year and just in time for that “good side” to finally end its hibernation.  Good bye to the “bad side.”  The side that snacks at night, the side that gossips, the side that chooses to be selfish can finally be overcome this time of year by the strength of one’s resolutions.  Of course, I am not naive and know that resolutions can also become empty promises and that habits are the hardest to change.  Yet, I believe today is the day make and believe in my the promises, to remind myself of the magic of New Year’s Eve, and to finally thaw out my inner potential that will help make 2013 another great year.

2012 was a spectacular year: Obama was re-elected, we moved out of our tiny apartment and we bought our first home, my nephew was born (and added himself to an already amazing family of brother, sister-in-law, and little niece), my best friend got married, I went to Costa Rica, made new friends, enjoyed “old” friends, spent much needed time with family, celebrated my one year anniversary with David, and so much more.  It will be bittersweet to say goodnight and goodbye to such a good year, but I am looking forward to all that 2013 will hold! ;)

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the resolutions:

1. Veggie Belly: Since taking the vegan pledge about one month ago, I have felt more lively. It is not as hard to be a veggie belly as I thought.  While I took a few days over the Christmas week to “treat” myself to holiday traditions, I am renewing my pledge to focus on veggies, my health, and my spirit. Only by balancing these alongside the day-to-day will everything else settle into place.

2. Appreciate and Foster Relationships: Having a birthday the day after Christmas teaches me a great deal about friendships.  The 26th is the nation’s post-holidays “coma” day. A day when most people can finally take the breath they have needed since Thanksgiving. Some friends call to wish me a Happy Birthday.  Each year, I am always SO surprised by this and happy to receive calls from loved ones.  This year in particular I want to make sure I honor each relationship in my life and foster them more with the gift of some TLC.

3. Save Money: Ah…this one is important. While David and I are blessed with our life together, it is always a good practice to save for a “rainy” day.  Therefore, it will be my prerogative this year to begin saving money in a conscious and consistent way.

4. Be Crafty: Nothing is better than homemade from food to a wooly hat. My friend, Skye, and her friend, Ashley, are crafting divas.  They knit, sew, cut, paste, dream, and create.  And, they have a ton of fun doing it. There is a kernel deep inside of me that wants to participate in these hobbies and crafts and therefore I am going to let this kernel grow and see what becomes of it.  Get ready world…I am going crafty!

I hope you have a wonderful New Year and that your resolutions help you stay focused, happy, and healthy in 2013.

it’s a merry norovirus christmas!

Going to Ohio has become synonymous with Christmas. Saturday morning David and I wake up early and pack the car for the 11 hours drive from Boston to my parents’ house. The dogs spread out in the back seat and sleep all the way while David and I drive in 3 to 4 hour shifts. Making minimal spots, we arrive typically around dinner time to celebrate David’s birthday again!

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Once there, everything was going according to plan. We woke up late in the mornings and spent most of the day lounging in our pjs and catching up. In the afternoons, we treated ourselves to lunch out and splurged on desserts. In the evenings, we went to the movie theater to watch this year’s academy award winning hopefuls. Each day followed this general pattern.

Things changed however this year when my brother and sister-in-law arrived with their two littles. We were so excited to celebrate Christmas this year with the littles. We had spent too many years having an adult Christmas, that the littles would return a sense of magic and awe to what was otherwise a typical holiday season. Excitedly we picked them up from the airport and met them at the gate.  We soaked them in, hugging and kissing them from head to toe!  Christmas could finally begin was all I thought about as we drove from the airport and arrived home. The Christmas presents lay beneath the tree waiting to be torn into and following our planned Christmas feast we would do just that.

Within the first few moments it became clear that this Christmas would be VERY different.  Avery was unfortunately ill with the norovirus.  Perhaps she caught it from her cousins, the airport, or touching some contaminated surface but upon arrival she became ill.  We ate a haphazard meal as we swallowed down beef tenderloin and juggled baby Smith and helping Jessie clean Avery up.  We tore through our presents but it was clear that not only were the new arrivals so tired from their travels but also under the weather.

One by one, we all succumbed to the virus. One minute we would be happily playing board games, laughing, drinking wine and making merry and the next minute another one fell ill.  It was an odd waiting game as the numbers of those afflicted increased and those immune decreased. By the end of the visit, no one had been spared. It was definitely not the Christmas present we had expected!  Yet, on the flip side of this disaster, despite the constant trips to the bathroom, the upset bellies, and the queasiness, we enjoyed each other’s company.  We used few of our packed clothes and opted for pajama day after day, we  cuddled, we cared for one another, we laughed and shared the stories of our “battle wounds.” We might have planned to take Avery to the aquarium, to have gotten all of the ladies nails done, and to have given Bryan and Jessie a date night during this trip, but as the old adage goes, “You make plans and God laughs.” It was still a very Merry Christmas and truly relaxing once we had all weathered the storm. And next year we will surely not invite the norovirus again….

etsy holiday giveaway!

Today, I am excited to be hosting my first giveaway! Last year, my husband and I got married and while we were planning, we wanted to have a quirky way of setting up the seating cards. After scanning through etsy.com we stumbled across BasilicusJones. We found his work to be unique, playful, and just the right fit for the feel we were envisioning.  We special ordered this for the BIG day: fork seating holder. After buying our house in April, we reached out to BasilicusJones again.  This time, we were in the market for unique tie-backs for our curtains in the dining room.  Again, we special ordered serving spoons and BasilicusJones was not only helpful during the design process, but prompt, professional, and deeply passionate and enthusiastic about his work. I have loved working with this shop and all of the items we have received!!  In light of the holiday gift-giving season, I woud like to offer a set of two spoon hooks as a free giveaway to a special reader. To enter to win, please visit BasilicusJones shop on etsy.com. Then come back here and comment below on your favorite item in his shop. One winner will be drawn and announced at random at the end of the week!

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The prize

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The curtain tiebacks we recently purchased

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The wedding forks