the month of love and...a giveaway!!!

Valentine's Day.  I have vivid memories of the holiday in my elementary school years.  Painstakingly decorating a paper mailbox for my desk (always a class project), selecting just the right character themed valentines for my classmates, deciding which of my friends would get the coveted larger cards in the box and then the fun of tearing open all of the sticker seals or tiny envelopes handed out that special day and deciding which were the favorites. And, of course, conversation hearts!

Then the angst of middle and high school Valentine's Days.  The anticipation of wondering whether a crush would reveal himself by passing along a card, candy or the most meaningful single red rose.  In young adult years and in longer relationships, the day was about nice dinners out, and the tightrope mushy cards that communicated that we cared but, not quite saying "I love you."

Now, Valentine's Day is a fun excuse to send a sweet sentiment to loved ones and friends. My husband and I exchange cards but, skip gifts and overpriced restaurant dinners.  We don't need this one assigned day to express our love for one another when we do it all through the year. February is our month anyway with the emphasis on our February 28th wedding anniversary!

Having George sets the Valentine timeline in motion again.  The next few years will just be fun for us, dressing him a cute outfit and taking sweet photos to share.  But, before we know it, we'll be taking him to shop for paper valentines. This year, I'm planning to send out some holiday cards to a few of our nearest and dearest - a very fun excuse to share how big our boy is getting. We ordered our Christmas cards from Shutterfly and were so thrilled with their selection and results that I have brand loyalty but, which design?  I'm loving both of these.  Which I choose will depend on the orientation of the final photo :)

So darling!!!  If cards aren't your thing, I've also ordered photo gifts and mugs from Shutterfly and have been very pleased. 

Okay, you've read this far so here is the GIVEAWAY!  Shutterfly is generously offering 25 FREE Valentine's Day photo cards to one of my readers (s&h is not included).  Want to win? 

Here's how to enter:
1) Leave a comment on this post telling me and Shutterfly what Valentine's Day means to you this year (Mandatory entry).  Make sure you enter your e-mail when commenting so that I can reach you in the event you are the winner.
2) Share a link to this blog post on Facebook AND leave a separate comment telling me you've shared (one extra entry)
3) Tweet a link to this blog post AND leave a separate comment telling me you've shared (one extra entry)

I will draw a random winner after 5:00 pm EST on Thursday, February 3rd.  Good luck!!!

*Standard disclaimer: Shutterfly is providing me with 25 cards, as well as the giveaway, in return for this post.  However, I only accept giveaways from companies that I trust and have used in the past with excellent quality results.  The end.


organic eats: point of health or pointless?

Organic food was never really on my radar.  I would shop occasionally at Whole Foods and pick up foods to try here and there because I liked to try new things, not because I was in support of a certain type of farming or food processing.  Then, I got pregnant with G.  Knowing that I would be in charge of the health and upbringing of this little person made me look at the issue a bit more.  I will be the first to tell you, we are not an organic household.  Like many of you, we have a budget and don't have a ton of expendable income to fund a complete organic kitchen.  But, as I read more about the important points, two things of importance kept coming up. 

1) Buy organic for certain fruits and veggies.  Try to avoid the "dirty dozen".  The 12 on the left are far more likely to be saturated with pesticides for either the thin skin or growing practices.
2) Organic milk is better, especially for a little one consuming 24+ ounces each day. It's higher in vitamins and Omega-3 fatty acids and contains no synthetic hormones or pesticides.
So the budget issue.  Yes, organic produce and milk are more expensive but, for me, the cost is worth the benefits in these two areas.  Organic milk is about $1.00 more per gallon than regular.  Right now, it seems like a decent hit to our grocery budget but, G won't always be drinking this much milk.  This is a justifiable expense in the short term.  Organic milk also has a longer fridge life than regular so, none goes to waste. 

Starting on Christmas, G discovered his love of whole apples and now eats one apple every.single.day.  Organic apples by the pound are very pricey.  But, our grocery store also sells bags of apples.  The organic bags contain 10 apples and are only $1.00 more than the equivalent size bag of regular.  For 10 cents more a piece, it's not a huge cost factor but, could be making a difference in the health of my rapidly growing, apple-loving toddler. 
And, really, isn't this happy face worth a buck every 10 days?  I think so!  I don't know if these small changes will yield a huge benefit in the long run but, it certainly won't do any harm. 

Please share - what are your thoughts on organic eating? 


back to school...

Since I first picked up my beloved Canon dSLR, thoughts of classes and really learning to use my camera swirled in my mind.  Having a bitty baby arrive just two weeks after receiving your dream photography equipment makes for a wonderful captive subject but, not so much time to really learn.  I've been browsing around for online classes for months.  Looking for someone whose work I greatly admired and who seemed to have a teaching style that would work for me.  I found Willette, bookmarked her site and visited often, salivating over the class offerings. The timing just hasn't been right between my responsibilities at home and work.

Then, I got a newsletter in December announcing a brand new class would be starting in February.  It would be a mini class and it would be...seriously, is this too good to be true?!?!...free.  Really.  The e-mail reminder that class will be starting in just two days arrived in my inbox this morning with the badge, Flickr group link and homework assignments. 
I am so thrilled to be taking on a learning process, to exercise my very beginner skills shooting in manual and to be guided along in photographing the people I love the most over the next month.  I'm hoping that I will end up with images that will resonate for a long time to come.  Thank you Willette!

If you are interested in taking the journey, here is the link to join: The Joy of Love

gotta love a bargain...

Thursday was an unexpected snow day from work.  New York City had nearly 20" of snow, no buses were running, schools were closed and the mayor had declared a snow emergency by 5:00 am.  Still, by the time I needed to leave for work at 8:00 there was still no word about my offices closing.  That notice came in the way of a phone call at 8:40 am: CLOSED...as I was about 5 minutes from work. 

After circling block after block and finding that every parking lot was closed due to the depth of the snow, I headed back for the highway and thought about what I could do with a bit of surprise time to myself.  G was safely at home with his sitter and surely I could come up with some errands to run.  I started off by finding (on the third attempt) an open Starbucks for a leisurely caramel macchiato and bit of reading on my Kindle. Then, made my way toward home stopping for a sorely overdue oil change. 

As I was sitting waiting for my car to finish, I remembered the incredible deals I had gotten on clothes for G earlier in the week at the Old Navy clearance sale (with an extra 50% off all clearance prices).  I had picked up 4 long sleeve tees, 2 long sleeve polos, 1 Steelers jersey, 1 fleece sweatshirt and 1 fleece jacket plus a playground ball for George, several in size 2T for next fall/winter, all for $19.  That day, he was getting impatient and there was no chance of looking for anything for myself.  But, with this free time?  A quick trip to the mall was in order. 

There was so much inventory that it was a bit overwhelming to look though and try to find sizing but, I was able to walk out with two pieces that I really like and for a steal:
This embellished tank came to $2.97.
And this black, button down tuxedo shirt was $3.45.  Can't beat that!  Moral of the story, always make time to take advantage of end of season clearance sales.


what do you do all day?

It is the question routinely posed to stay-at-home moms.  What could you possibly do to fill your time? How do you stay busy (ha!)? How do you keep a schedule? Why isn't your house immaculate since you have all that free time on your hands (double HA!)?

Although I do work outside of the home, it's a part-time, three day schedule.  Meaning, I'm a SAHM more than not. That Mr. Boom and I are able to swing this schedule is something I'm grateful for every day. 

The days I am home, I am Mama.  My days consist of toddler meals, dishes, playtime, cleaning, singing silly songs, running errands, picking up toys, reading board books, a shower for me during Sesame Street, naps (hopefully!), organic while milk, washing sippies and bottles, dinner preparation and more playtime. Today is no exception.  We are semi-housebound this morning as our plow crew loads up and carts away the massive snow banks from our condo driveway. 

G has had breakfast, a bottle, nap resistance, morning snacktime and just engaged me in a play session with his Mega Bloks which went something like this: Mama builds a structure, G tears it down. And, repeat.

This one captures him so perfectly right now and was an instant favorite.  I've been trying to catch that pursed lip look of determination and finally got it (a bit blurred but, caught). Coming right at me as if to say, "I'm gonna get 'cha!" 
I love my stay at home days with this little man.

P.S. - The pics were all shot in manual.  I'm practicing and making progress a little bit at a time!


{nearly} wordless wednesday: 1st carousel ride...

G and I took a little road trip yesterday to meet my cousin and her girls at the mall. We chose that spot because of it's various play spaces and it ended up being a smart move.  As we were on our way to lunch, there was no avoiding passing the carousel and so, the promise was made that we would go for a ride after our meal.  And, ride we did. G liked it for the first few spins and then, well, nosomuch (excuse the p&s pic + flash).  I got dizzy and a bit green and I suspect he felt the same.  So much for spinny rides!

WFD: What's for Dinner Wednesday

Bored of cooking the same things and especially tiring of chicken, I went through the tagged recipes in my Google Reader this morning before heading out to the grocery store.  When I read the name of this recipe, I knew I had to give it a try.  Even better, it is healthy and quick.  Upon arriving at the pork section of the meat aisle I was happy to see that the pork chops I needed happened to be on sale for only $1.99 a pound!  I grabbed a 6 pack - four for tonight's recipe and two to freeze for later.  Love a good stock up sale.  So this is what's happening for dinner here. 

The chops after the intial sear and the apple and onion mix getting happy in the pan.
Pork Chops with Warm Apple Slaw
adapted from Ellie Krieger, The Food You Crave (Click for my source)

4 tsp. chopped fresh sage or 1 1/2 tsp. dried
2large cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. salt, divided
freshly-ground black pepper
4 (3/4-in.) bone-in pork loin chops (about 8 oz. each)
1 large red onion
2 medium Granny Smith apples, cored
1 bag slaw mix
2 tsp. olive oil, divided
1/4 c. cider vinegar
3/4 c. low-sodium chicken broth


1. Combine three tsp. fresh sage or or 1 tsp. dried, garlic, a half tsp. of salt, and pepper. Rub into the pork chops and let sit at room temperature for ten minutes.

2. Meanwhile, thinly slice the onion, apple and cabbage (if necessary). Shred or julienne the carrots.

3. Heat one tsp. of the oil in a large nonstick saute pan until hot but not smoking. Add the chops and brown on both sides, one to two minutes per side. Remove and set aside.

4. Heat the remaining teaspoon oil over moderate heat and add the onion, apples, and remaining sage. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is soft and golden brown, four to five minutes.

5. Add the cabbage, carrots, vinegar and remaining 1/2 tsp. salt. Cook until the cabbage and carrots begin to soften, about five minutes. Add the broth and return the pork chops to the pan burying them in the vegetable mixture. Cover and cook five to seven minutes longer.

6. To serve, arrange the warm slaw on individual plates and top with a pork chop and pan juices.

REVIEW: The recipe was easy and didn't need a lot of pot-watching.  The flavors were okay but, much more mild than I had anticipated.  I will probably make it again since it was fairly simple, healthy and different than the usual but will likely try to figure out a way to add more flavor.  Maybe using apple cider at the end rather than chicken broth.


an apple a day...

This boy loves apples.  The obsession started on Christmas day. While visiting family, G was crawling around the house and discovered a fruit bowl on the floor in the front hall.  I'm guessing it was probably moved there temporarily to make more room in the kitchen for holiday fare but, in any case, G plucked out an apple and started gnawing on it as he crab-crawled through the house. 
In my not so infinite wisdom, I tried taking it from him to cut it in pieces. Oh the howls!  He snatched it right back out of my hand and took turns sitting with me, his daddy and his grandma for the next hour as he devoured his way through that apple. 

Now, it's his favorite afternoon snack.  And, I've found a surefire way to have a peaceful grocery shopping trip even with an active toddler...hand him a piece of fruit!  I'll take it :)


to love it all...

One year, three weeks and four days of being a Mama.  The monthly letters I write are not just for George, not simply for a scrapbook but, a celebration of the little moments, milestones and obstacles of that fleeting four week period of time. Being a mother is so much more than I ever imagined.  It fills my heart with more love, more laughter, more patience and my life with a lot less sleep. 

My sweet, funny, smart as a whip toddler is not sleeping though the night.  Okay, I have to give him a little credit.  Last week he slept through twice. But, now back to not and worse then that, waking for the day before 4:00 am.  I am a firm believer that certain hours are only meant to be seen by people catching an early flight for a blissful vacation or parents of wee newborns.  I fit neither category at this time so, 4:00 am? Not.loving.it.

There are times when I wake to rock him back to sleep and after several failed attempts at placing him back in his crib I think that I simply can't do it another minute.  I can't continue not to see straight.  I can't continue with the exhaustion.  I can't wake my husband yet again for relief.  Our child is so, so, so good during the day that the bad nights sometimes feel like punishment for the bliss of our days.  It would be easy to wish that time away, to hope for him to be old enough to figure it out and sleep through on his own. 

And then I look down at the gentle curl of those long eyelashes against his flushed cheek.  The soft rise and fall of his tiny chest as he dozes.  The weight of his sweet body in my arms. With certainty, I know that moment will never be mine again.  That he is little for such a short time.  That far too soon, I won't be able to hold his weight and rock him to sleep.  And, I thank God and everything good I must have done in my life that gave me the privilege of calling this child mine. 

I came across a beautiful mantra today that I am adopting:
be still, do not wish away, love it all, even those challenging moments you think you can not conquer.”
The sleepless nights will not last forever and he is this little for just a moment in time.
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