two years...

Two years ago today I had the privilege of marrying my best friend and the man of my dreams. 
The two best years of my life.
Two years with so many more to look forward to.
To grow closer.
To grow our family.
To love.
I thank God everyday for finding a way to put us in the same place at the same time and the instant connection we found that summer Saturday night in 2006.

I love you, my sweet husband!


dreaming of decor...

Last weekend, Mr. Boom and I had HGTV on in the background as we played with George and did some things around the house.  As a Cash and Cari marathon came on, I casually mentioned that I would like to find and refinish a few pieces of furniture once we are find a larger space. I have an itch to take old discard pieces with good bones, sand them off, paint them interesting colors and give them home and function once again.

I want to walk into our home and see things that we have done together, created, made our own.  Just a few of numerous pieces that inspire:
I've been collecting images on Pinterest (not on Pinterest yet?  You need to be!) for the future, looking at blogs of crafty, talented refinishers and reading how-to articles on stripping paint, sanding and painting techniques.  Enamoured.


friday faves: work, destinations and words...

Dream job: What would I truly love to be when I grow up?  A photographer.  Specifically, maternity and newborn photography.  I love capturing the bloom of pregnancy and then a brand new life.  I
have a very long way to go toward this goal with so, so much to learn but I love to dream on this. Here are a few of my favorites shots from shoots I have done for friends and family:
Favorite vacation: I love to travel. No, I LOVE to travel.  Put me on a plane to anywhere, get me in a new destination and give me time to explore and immerse myself in someplace else and I am a happy girl.  From the moment I stepped off the Britih Airways jet at Heathrow airport to begin my study abroad experience years ago, I was hit with wanderlust.  Choosing a favorite vacation spot is likie asking me to choose a favorite book (oh wait, I need to do that next, hmm...). Nearly impossible.  The California mountains, several gorgeous spots in Mexico and the untouched perfection that is Alaska.  But, in the end, I am one of the luckiest that I have the privilege to go back to one of the most amazing places on earth time and time again.  Greece.  
Favorite book: I have likely read thousand of books in my lifetime. My parents instilled me with a love of reading at a very young age and I was never denied a new book.  I lose myself in books, tuning out the world around me and not recognizing when the sun has fallen and a room has gone dark.  Many evenings my mother or father would walk in my room to find me engrossed in a book and rouse me from the pages saying, "Don't you want a light?  You're going to strain your eyes in the dark."  So caught up in the plot, I hadn't noticed squinting in the twilight. 

That happened as I joined Anne Shirley on her many adventures and more times than I could possibly recount here.  So, I'll share a couple of my more recent favorites:
I could not get enough of either of these novels and was so disappointed when they ended.  Turning to the last page was like saying goodbye to a close friend after a particularly wonderful visit. Do yourself a favor, read them soon.


home hunt, vol. 2: when open houses slam shut...

Getting much more serious in our search for a larger home, Mr. Boom and I attended our first Open House together last weekend.  Not too far north and that, by realtor description, seemed as if it could be a good match for us.  With George in the carrier, we walked our way through the two stories of a charming 4 bedroom, 2 bath center hall colonial.
Cute, right?  There were beautifully refinished original hardwood floors throughout and a h.u.g.e. master bedroom (just estimating, it was about 40' long by 15' wide) with his and hers closets.  The two other upstairs bedrooms were good size, both with full closets and architectural ceilings due to dormers.  This house had a TON of storage.  Closets everywhere, pull-down access to a sizable attic, crawl spaces in the bedrooms and an attic garage.  The full basement contained a laundry room with updated high efficiency appliances, another room that would serve as a great workshop and that rest of the basement was all set to be finished off. 

BUT...(here's hoping there won't always be a "but")...

#1 - The kitchen was impossibly small.  As in, smaller and with less cabintry and counter space than we have in our condo right now. The cabinets were tiny, original and not in good shape.  The countrertops?  Old woodgrain formica.  Original 1960's stove. Poor layout. and, did I mention tiny?  Not good.  Not functional.  The only good thing about this kitchen was the brand-new french door, bottom freezer refrigerator.  But, that could not nearly make up for the rest.  Moral of this Open house?  Beware relator listing lacking a kitchen photo.  Sad, so sad.

#2 - The living space on the first floor was very chopped up adn the exact opposite of an open floor plan.  The family room was so long and narrow that we weren't sure how we would even go about furnishing it beyond the staged teeny loveseat and miniscule ottoman/stools.  There just wasn't a good flow to this downstairs and we would have had to gate every single doorway in order to keep George in sight.  Not practical. 

Still, it was a good begining to knowing what is out there, what we do want and what will actually be liveable for our family. Stay tuned for more updates as we move forward...


{nearly} wordless wednesday: a glimpse of spring...

Last Friday we had a sudden and brief burst of beautiful spring weather.  Nearly 70 degrees, sunny and perfect for a long stroll through town.  Of course, George snacked on his ever-present apple as we met a friend for coffee...
 The doors of one of our local churches flung wide open to let in the warmth...
And, his adoring reaction as he saw his Pappou approaching...
I love this kid. 
I am grateful being home on Fridays with him. 
adore our beautiful town.

Thank you Mother Nature for this day of sun and a day of respite from the cold and snow. 

recipe: peanut butter oatmeal chip cookies

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from: Stephanie Cooks, Cathy's Kitchen Journey

1 cup butter
1 cup white sugar
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 cup peanut butter (smooth or crunchy will both work)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 egg
2 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup milk chocolate chips
1 cup white chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350° F (175° C).

2. In a medium bowl, cream together the butter, white sugar and brown sugar until smooth. Stir in the peanut butter, vanilla and egg until well blended. Combine the flour, baking soda and salt; stir into the batter just until moistened. Mix in the oats and chocolate chips until evenly distributed. Drop by teaspoonfuls on to lightly greased cookie sheets. (Flatten the cookies because these don’t spread.)

3. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes in the preheated oven, until the edges start to brown. Cool on cookie sheets for about 5 minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

Notes:  I doubled the original recipe because I knew I would be sharing and sending off some of the cookies.  The measurements above reflect the doubling.  The original recipe called for semisweet chips but, I had white and milk chips on hand so used those - use what you like!  Lastly, heaping tablespoonful measures had been recommended.  I tried that for the first pan and the cookies were enormous!  Teaspoonfuls still make for a decent sized cookie and, therefore, far less guilt if you end up eating two or three or...  The baking time remained the same.


home hunt, vol. 1: must-haves and would-likes...

Since last week I mentioned that we are starting to look for a larger home, I thought I'd share a bit more of our experience in the process and document the journey as we move forward.  I have been calling it a house hunt, depersonalizing the process but it's so much more than that.  Looking through online listings, a little voice is always asking, "Could we call this place home?" or "Would this be a comfortable place to begin traditions, have family meals, raise our child(ren)?"  It's a HOME hunt.

Disclaimer: I have never shopped for real estate in the past.  Mr. Boom purchased our current home the year before we met and I moved in after we were engaged. While I have some idea of how the process works after asking many questions and seeing family and friends take the plunge over the years, the reality is eye-opening and I clearly still have so much to learn. My task is to not be overly idealistic in this search.
One of the on-going conversations in our house has been around what we actually require of a home and what would be nice to have.  These are two very different things and more so due to the limitations of our search area (the need to have a reasonable commute to New York City) and budget (largely due to the inflated taxes in this region). Out of many talks, what we really need are these key things:
  1. 3 bedrooms, minimum
  2. 2 full baths
  3. garage (attached or detached)
  4. good storage space
  5. basement - finished or able to be finished
  6. a usable yard
  7. a kitchen that is in decent shape, a good size and with ample cupboard space
If we could have it all, I would like:
  1. 4 bedrooms
  2. 2 car garage
  3. an updated kitchen
  4. pantry
  5. laundry room
  6. easy access to main roads and highways
  7. neighborhood with sidewalks, ability to walk to shops and services
  8. or, at least, the ability to safely take walks around the neighborhood
The kitchen is a big sticking point.  Many of the listings we are seeing have kitchens that appear to be original to the house and look something along the line of this (*shudder*):
The stuff of nightmares that could only be helped with a complete gut.  We cannot will not buy a home that will require an immediate investment of that magnitude.  Cosmetic changes?  Yes. Replacement appliances? Okay.  Change of countertop? Sure. 

We are not looking for a 100k showpiece kitchen, not by a long shot, but it needs to have be a good size, have good bones and a decent layout.  I like to cook, I love to bake and I spend a large amount of time in our kitchen.  I hope to spend even more time in the next and further expand my skills. So the kitchen has a separate and detailed list of needs:
  1. good cabinet space - enough to store all of the basics, our everyday dishes and wedding china and all of my pots and pans.  No more storing pans inside the oven (dinner will become much more iontereasting with a readily available oven!).  Basic wood is fine and color/finish isn't a dealbreaker. Cabinets that are in good condition and plentiful can be transformed with a paint job and new hardware.  HGTV tells me so ;-)
  2. counterspace and lots of it.  The type of counter isn't so much of an issue.  A solid surface would be great but, we can put in what we really want.
  3. a good layout for cooking
  4. an island or the space to add one.  I really like the look of a "furniture" type piece as an island with a differend color and finish than the rest fo the cabinets so just the space to add this would be fine with me.
  5. pantry space with easy kitchen access (*wish list item)
Later this week, I'll be writing about our first Open House experience. The good, the bad and the kitchen that was, well, not what we had in mind.


friday favorites: tv, shopping and food...

Favorite TV Show: Even deciding to stick with my favorites in the current television line-up, I couldn't choose just one.  In the end, it was that these two shows always  leave me wanting  more, get me singing and often laughing out loud.  What more can you ask for from prime time entertainment?
Modern Family is the funniest comedy I have watched since the advent of Friends and had me hooked from the pilot episode.  The motley crew of this family and excellent comedic acting have me in hysterics every Wednesday night.  And, Glee?  If a show can get me to sing along and not only keep me riveted to the t.v. every Tuesday night but also fill my iPhone playlist it's a sure winner.  I'm a Gleek :)

Favorite Store: While I could have categorized this one there is really one above all favorite.  Some weeks it seems I might be better off just direct depositing my paycheck to a giftcard since it as close as I get to one-stop-shopping.  Oh Target, how I love thee... For great deals on food, toys, clothes, baby needs and just about everything else I could ever want.  You are the it store for me.

Favorite Recipe: The toughest choice of this round. I have gotten to the point where I enjoy cooking.  I love, love, love baking.  There are so many recipes that have made it into regular rotations and on the favorites list in this house.  But, I'm going back to a very happy discovery that never fails to impress and is even a special request from my father-in-law. 

About seven years ago, I joined Weight Watchers and made the commitment to lose weight and change the way I was eating.  At the same time, I wanted to eat food that really tasted good and didn't leave me wanting.  A tall order.  Then, at a meeting one night, I flipped through a new WW cookbook "Turnaround" and found the recipe that I would come to love, that would be my new comfort food and that would simmer on my stove for many years to come.  Bolognese Sauce.  I posted this recipe when this blog was in it's very early days and it's time for a comeback.  This time I'm sharing the doubled version that I now use because, really, a single batch just isn't enough!

Bolognese Sauce
Source: Adapted from the WW Turnaround Cookbook

2.5 lbs ground lean turkey
2 onions, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 carrots, chopped
5 cups fresh sliced mushrooms (I use two packages of pre-sliced white or baby bellas)
3 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 small can tomato paste
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 c fat free milk
½ tsp salt
½ tsp ground pepper
3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 pound whole wheat spaghetti
fresh basil leaves for garnish, if desired

1) Spray a large pot with cooking spray and set over med-high heat. Add the ground turkey and cook, stirring frequently to break up, until browned, 5-8 minutes.

2) Add the onion and garlic; cook, stirring occasionally until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the carrot and cook about 2 minutes. Stir in the mushrooms, tomatoes, tomato paste, basil and oregano; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, 10 minutes. Add the milk and cook, uncovered, until the sauce is thickened, about 15 minutes longer. Stir in the salt and pepper. Stir in balsamic vinegar, let simmer 5 minutes.

3) Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti according to package directions. Drain, divide among plates and top with sauce.

Serving size: 1 cup pasta, 3/4 cup sauce. (WW: 8 points per serving)


recipe: chewy oatmeal chocolate chip cookies

Not having baked since the holidays, I was missing my right, red mixer and the satisfaction of pulling a delicious baked good hot out of my oven.  While I don't believe there needs to be a real occasion to bake, I also didn't want to have a full batch of dessert hanging around our house. 

Last Friday I was invited to a dinner party of sorts, gathering a number of old friends and colleagues together for an evening. I knew dinner would be covered and decided to bring a homemade dessert.  Cookies seemed like the way to go for the large group who were sure to be moving and mingling about.  A search through the "Cookies" tag in my Google Reader turned up this recipe which seemed like a good bet.

They turned out light, not too sweet and, as promised, chewy in the center.  I don't know if these will end up a go-to cookie recipe but, they were delicious and very easy to put together.  In fact, I whipped up the batch at about 7:45 in the morning as G sat next to me in his high chair eating breakfast. By the time he had finished eating, the third tray was in the oven.
 Chewy Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
(Source: Adapted from Allrecipes.com)

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp cinnamon (my addition)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups quick-cooking oats
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional; I omitted)
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (I used half semi-sweet and half white chips)

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).

2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, and white sugar until smooth. Beat in eggs one at a time, then stir in vanilla. Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt; stir into the creamed mixture until just blended. Mix in the quick oats, walnuts, and chocolate chips. Drop by heaping teaspoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheets.

3. Bake for 12 minutes in the preheated oven. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.  Yield: 5 dozen.

After a dozen had completely cooled, I was setting up for a photo when a dimple handed cookie monster snuck into my frame.  Caught!
Not even the littlest person can resist the scent of cookies fresh out of the oven :)


wordless wednesday: hello clementine...

working mommy wednesday: he said, she said...

The prompts for this week were a choice of #1: He said/ She said... things you and your spouse just don't see eye-to-eye on, or  #2: Show us your life (work, house, family, etc in pictures.).  I'm going with the first today because it's relevant to a rather large issue Mr. Boom and I are facing right now. 

We are searching for a larger house. 

Sort of

The "sort of" is the source of our on-going discussions and assertions of differing viewpoints.  Right now, we own a cozy two bedroom condo right in the heart of a bustling river town.  We have walking access to just about everything we could need.  Out of infant Tylenol?  Need a gallon of milk?  Have a craving for an ice cream cone or a gourmet coffee drink?  We need only walk a few blocks and we have a grocery store, drug store, dozens of excellent restaurants, a wine shop (mmm...ChocoVine!), a fantastic library, several parks and playgrounds, schools, the express train to New York City...well, you get the idea. We are in a major hub.  Ideally, we would purchase a larger home in this or one of the neighboring towns with a similar composition.  If it were not for the taxes.  We can afford a nice home with everything we are looking for.  But, the taxes?  Notsomuch. Not where we would really like to live. 

And, there is where we don't see eye to eye.

Most of my childhood was spent living in a rural setting. I remember well needing to get in the car to go anywhere.  It's just something you get used to.  My husband has always lived where we are right now. The need to drive to a park or to a place to safely take a walk is foreign to him.  I adore our town, our condo and the just-out-the-front-door access to everything we could want.  What I'm not so fond of is the lack of space and the price we pay for such conveniences. While I will certainly miss the walkability, I'm willing to make the move out of town to have what we do not right now: much more space inside and green space outside.

We're trying to figure out how to make a compromise.  It is not easy.

So, for now, we look at online listings.  When we see something that looks like it could be of interest, we'll do a drive-by to see if we like the property, the neighborhood.  And repeat.  Eventually we will make a real decision about a town and compromises we are willing to make.  Right now, we talk and look and wait.


in the still of the night...

It seems I have lost the ability to relax. 

Thursday night, my husband went out to spend some time with an old friend who was back in town for a few days. The babe was sleeping peacefully in his room.  I had basically the whole house to myself.  Alone.  Can you comprehend the enormity of this situation for the mom of a toddler?  Apparently, I couldn't either. 

I could have scrapbooked.  But, that would have required planning ahead.  All of my on-hand supplies are neatly organized in George's closet.  To risk waking him for the love of my hobby?  Not a chance.

I could have sat with a glass of wine and watched HGTV or whatever else I wanted.  Well, okay, I did indulge in a very delicious glass of chocolate wine.  The television plan didn't work out so well.  Since we had programmed the DVR to record two shows at once, it was either watch one or turn off the tube.  It got turned off.

So, what did I do with all that precious alone time?  I washed dishes, straightened up some things in our bedroom, made a grocery list and looked through recipes to make  a meal plan for the week ahead. Oh, and I spent a good amount of time online trying to figure out how to get my hair in one of those artfully messy buns (like Christina on Parenthood).  Because I am so hopeless at doing my own hair, always have been, and need some kind of course on what is likely the easiest hair trick going.  For my effort, I came way with this:

Me time = FAIL

Being still and taking time for myself used to be a given.  Now, it is such a foreign concept that I'm hard pressed to do the smallest thing for myself. Is this a new mom thing?  Is it just a normal part of taking on so many different roles?  Or, am I an anomaly? 


joy of love: day 14 - wedding bands/jewelry

Valentine's Day was day 14 of the Joy of Love class.  In the interest of transparency, I have to admit that I have not been keeping up with the lessons.  Instead, glancing at each one in the morning and filing the e-mails away in a separate folder until I have time to print the .pdfs and play catch-up.  My variable work schedule, the cold and lack of light in the evenings just threw a kink in my best intentions. 

Today, Mr. Boom surprised me by taking the day off work so that our family could spend the holiday together.  Better than any flowers or chocolates could ever be. By George's bedtime I realized that I had not taken out my camera once during the day.  As he and Daddy snuggled on the couch, winding down after a wonderful day, I knew I had to capture the sweetness of that moment.  As I moved around taking a few shots, I noticed his left hand holding up George's chubby little feet and snapped...
Joy of Love: Day 14 - wedding band/jewelry
Settings: f/2.8, ss 1/30, iso 1600

While the iso was bumped up to compensate for the lack of light and the photo was taken under an incandescent lamp, it was perfect for today's assignment and tugged at my heart.  My guys.

happy valentine's day...

George would like to give you all a virtual Valentine!
This is the Shutterfly card I ended up selecting to send to our family.  Not at all traditional but, if you can't have a little fun and whimsy with this holiday, when can you? This design was perfect for that cheeky, dimpled smiling face. And, he looks good in orange.


friday favorites...

Favorite piece of clothing:  This changes all the time but, right now, I am loving the two-toned grey wool/cashmere cardigan that I picked up at Banana Republic on sale last fall.  It's snuggly and warm, goes with just about everything and is just a bit fitted so it doesn't add any bulk (I really, really don't need any added bulk right now!)

Favorite Superhero: Any successful working-out-of-home mom.  Okay, so it's not the stuff of comic books but a job out of the house, parenting, being a good spouse and keeping up a home is not easy.  I admire moms who manage to juggle it all successfully and gracefully. If they can manage a minimum degree of guilt while they are at it?  An added bonus.
Favorite Movie: My Big, Fat, Greek Wedding.  Yes, really. Slumdog Millionaire, The Blind Side and pretty much any Julia Roberts movie (I know, I know) are also on my list.  Except Closer.  Because, eww...horribly, terribly, traumatizingly awful.


on kindness and compassion...

One day last week George and I made a Target run.  The closest to our home is in a multi-level center that also includes a movie theater, grocery store and a Barnes and Noble. The nice thing is that you can access all stores and levels through the interior elevators - perfect for this frigid winter. I've been taking G to this particular B&N since he started cruising because they have a large Thomas the Train table in the children's book section and (usually) have trains for children of shoppers to play on the tracks.
This day when we arrived at the table, George seemed to remember and made a run for it, bending down to say "hi" to the train faces on the sides of the table and running his chubby little fingers along the tracks.  But, there were no trains to be had.  Another little boy, a three year old, was playing with trains he had brought from home.  George occupied himself following the boy around, chattering and interested in every little movement.  The boy's nanny introduced herself and pulled a matchbox car from her pocket, offering it for George to borrow.  He saw the shiny little sedan and squealed with delight as he took it from the woman's outstretched hand and proceeded to the table.

That's when it happened.

The other boy saw George playing with his car, turned the most unnatural shade of deep red and began to scream.  Screamed so loud, so long and so frighteningly that other shoppers started to gather. 

George stood, rooted to his place, looking at the boy with a startled expression while I moved to stand at his side.  The boy's caretaker was able to soothe him after a couple of minutes (not moments, minutes).  As he gave my baby the side-eye and went back to playing with his trains, G approached him.  One step from the boy, George stretched out his little hand with the car in his palm, returning the toy.

In awe of my tiny son at that moment, I wondered how he knew to practice kindness and compassion at such a tender age. He knew the right thing to do in that moment, without suggestion, without coaxing.  I do believe that people start out innately good and this one moment restored my faith in that belief.  Reflecting on this today, I remembered this passage referring to "the Golden Rule":
"But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you." Luke 6:27-31
I live in hope that I am a positive role model and that my husband and I will raise George to be a good, kind man. What I know for sure is that, right now, he is the sweetest boy a Mama could dream.

what's for dinner: creamy baked ziti

For several years now, I have been a subscriber of Kraft Food & Family magazine.  It started out free and now it is inexpensive enough that it's still worth keeping (published quarterly).  While many of the meal suggestions are not all that creative, every once in a while I make one that ends up being a keeper.  If you are looking for a traditional Italian version of this classic recipe, you've come to the wrong post my friends. 

This is a cheater.  A riff on the real thing that is still delicious and a whole lot less expensive (have you seen the cost of cheese lately?!?!).  If you are not an ethnic food purist, please do give this a try.  It was a huge hit here!
Creamy Baked Ziti
Adapted from Kraft Food & Family
4 cups ziti pasta, uncooked
1 jar  (26 oz.) marinara sauce
1 can (14-1/2 oz.) diced fire-roasted tomatoes, undrained
6 oz.  (3/4 of 8-oz. pkg.) reduced fat cream cheese, cubed
3/4 cup light sour cream
1 pkg.  (8 oz.) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
1. Preheat oven to 375.

2. Cook pasta in large saucepan as directed on package, omitting salt. Remove from pan; drain. Meanwhile, add marinara sauce, tomatoes and cream cheese to same pan; cook on medium heat 5 min. or until cream cheese is melted and mixture is well blended, stirring frequently. Return pasta to pan; mix well.

3) Layer half the pasta mixture in 13x9-inch baking dish; cover with layers of sour cream, 1 cup mozzarella and remaining pasta mixture. Top with remaining mozzarella and parmesan.

4) Bake 20 min. or until heated through.


working mom wednesday: good and bad...

This week’s Working Mommy Wednesday prompts are:

#1) I'm not good at... OR #2) I'm very good at...
Funny story: I walked around Target on my lunch hour yesterday and was thinking about what I would write for this post.  Shopping alone is a rarity and it's hard to just stay present in the moment. I end up strolling through aisles trying to plan in advance for birthdays, cards to send, toiletries we may soon need and to be alert for sales.  Not quite as restful as it used to be.  But, those rare trips are also used for thinking.  Mulling over ideas and occasionally being hit with a mild stroke of inspiration.  As I looked around for a birthday gift to send to my cousin's daughter, it struck me.  I knew exactly what I would write for what I'm good at and not.
Then, I sat down at the computer to type it out and *poof
I am very clearly not good at remembering things unless they are written down. 
What I am good at is making lists.  I never take a trip to the grocery store anymore without a very detailed list in hand.  I have post-it notes stuck around my computer monitor labeled with dates and to-do items.  When an occasion arises to send out cards, I have a list ready to check off.
True, I've always been a list person.  Writing is one of the ways I learn and absorb information.  I used to make lists and just that process alone was enough to help me remember, not having to refer back very often.  Now, with Mommy brain, lists rule my life, keep me going, provide a semblance of organization.
My name is Jen. 
I make lists.
For sanity's sake.


it starts with a goal...

Always inspired by my cousin and her success at this project in January, I decided to give 3 in 30 a try for myself.  It's a simple concept.  Instead of setting lofty and complicated resolutions, choose three manageable goals at the beginning of each month and work toward finishing them in 30 days.  Or, a mere 28 days this month ;)
Three goals in a month?  I can do that.  Narrowing down the list of what I feel needs to be accomplished might be the toughest task.  So, I'm just mentally pointing to three.  Forget dwelling on prioritizing, just need to make it happen:
  1. Scrapbook ONE layout/Get going on Project Life 2010 album:  I will not continue to allow my son's photos and memories to live on a hard drive.  They need to be printed, stuck on a page and the story written out.  One a month I can handle.  And, one paves the way for two...
  2. Clean off the dresser top in our bedroom:  Our bedroom is not baby proofed and, as such, not much used and becomes a virtual dumping ground for mail piles and other things we don't have room for in our main living areas. I dread walking through the door at times because it isn't a restful place right now.  Really romantic.  Last week I purged my closet.  This month the dresser top need to be cleaned off.  And it needs to stay that way.
  3. Purge the bathroom shelves: We have a tall, narrow shelving unit in our bath that is over-run with toiletries (samples, old stuff, half-full pots and bottles, new).  If it isn't being used, it needs to go. We will eventually be selling this condo and creating the illusion of more space is key.
    I'd like to get that piece out of the bath completely and send it to the cub for large trash pick-up but, the purging must happen first. 
Since I am posting this a full week into the month, here a few pics of my progress to this point.  Yesterday I took out my long neglected PL '10 album (all contained in one bag so it's easy to grab) and sat down for an hour putting the first few pages together.  There are placeholder spots for photos I need to find and I haven't done too much personalization yet but, it is started. And, away we go...

Call me crazy but, there is something nice about putting this together in retrospect.  Look how tiny my little boy was!  It's a perfect excuse to go back over all of those tired, sweet new moments :) 


keeping it together...

When you have a toddler in the house, despite all best efforts, there will be a crazy boatload lot of toys.  Big toys, little toys.  Toys that are (blessedly) silent and those the beep, whirl, sing, whizz and blink.  Try as you might, the toys will come and they will appear to multiply at an alarming rate.  I often ask myself how one tiny little person, only 1/5th of my size could possible need so much stuff?  But, he uses it all.  Sometimes one little piece at a time.  Sometimes appearing to orchestrate the whole lot to make noise at once.

A couple of months ago, our living room was a wreckage of primary colors, board books and noise.  The madness needed to be contained in some manner.  It was just a matter of time before G's first birthday and Christmas arrived back-to-back and those two occasions would (and did) inevitably bring even more stuff.  I informally polled mom friends, looked at solutions online and finally, just browsed around my local Target and our existing containers to find the combination that might help and wouldn't break the bank.  Remember, we are in a cozy (read: tiny) condo and space is at a premium.  This is what we came up with for the living room. 

Cloth storage bins (REstyle, sold in a 2-pack at Target) and a recycled, lined basket sit in the corner between our tv cabinet and couch.  One bin is full (FULL) of board books.  The other bin and basket hold small toys, pop beads, cars, small stuffed animals and things that can easily be tossed in after a play session or at bedtime:
For the large items, we decided to sacrifice the wall under our living room window.  Foam alphabet squares (from the One Step Ahead catalog, a gift from my mom) are arranged on the floor - 2 tiles deep, 6 long - and toys sit on top.  When he's playing they get moved all over the condo but, after playtime, they get moved back here:
Any toys that aren't holding his interest anymore or are aged-out go into bins in the large Ikea Expedit storage unit in the nursery and will eventually (when we move) be packed away for future babes.  It's not a perfect system but, it is easy, functional and the little man seems to like it just fine :)
If you'll forgive my bragging for a moment, I also have to say that I am so, so proud of G.  In the past few weeks he has begun responding to a lot more direction/requests in both English and Greek.  He isn't saying a whole lot yet (very typical for bi-lingual babes) but, he understands a great deal. Love it.


friday favorites and giveaway winner...

Favorite Song: "Scenes from an Italian Restaurant" by the master songwriter, Billy Joel.  The storytelling, the emotion, the change in tempo and style all in one beautifully crafted masterpiece that I could listen to on a loop forever.  If I had to choose just one song to live on my iPhone, this would be it. 

An extremely close runner-up would be "American Pie" by Don McLean. Iconic, full of symbolism and even the full eight minute and twenty-seven second version always ends too soon for me.  This song conjures up so many memories of road trips of my childhood and happy times.

Favorite Food: Thai.  No, Italian.  No, it's Greek.  I am a self professed foodie. To choose one is just ridiculous. 

Favorite day of the week: Friday. Three weeks a month, my weekends (all blissful four days of them) begin when I wake up on Friday morning and get to spend the day with George.  Yes, it has to be Friday!

Now, for what several of you have been waiting for. The winner of the 25 Shutterfly.com photo card giveaway is comment #12...
Congratulations Brian!!!  I'm sure you will find the perfect Valentine card to compliment Julia and Grace's sweet smiles.  Enjoy!


what's for dinner: turkey and black bean chili

Just a reminder: My giveaway for 25 free Shutterfly photo cards is open until 5:00 pm EST today!  All the details and entry requirements can be found in the original post HERE.  Good luck :)

1 TBSP olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-1 1/4 lb. ground turkey
2 TBSP chili powder
3 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. freshly-ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
1 can chicken broth
1 (14.5 oz.) cans black beans, drained
1 (14.5 oz.) can dark red kidney beans, drained
2 (14.5 oz.) cans diced tomatoes, one drained (I like to use fire-roasted)
1 (16 oz.) bag frozen corn

1. Preheat a heavy stock pot over medium-high heat. Add olive oil, onion, garlic, and turkey. Heat, stirring frequently, until turkey is cooked completely through.
2. Add chili powder, cumin, oregano, black pepper, and salt and cook, stirring frequently, for five minutes.
3. Add chicken broth, beans, tomatoes, and corn. When mixture begins to boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes, until chili reaches a deep reddish-brown color.
4. Serve with corn chips, corn bread, cheese, sour cream, onion, salsa, or any other desired accompaniment. Serves six to eight.

Recipe source: Apple a Day

P.S. You might notice in the photo that *someone* accidentally left the red kidney beans out of the recipe this round.  Oops!  So, do as I say, not as I do ;)


wordless wednesday: basket case...

{also, notice the ever present remote  control in his vice grip...ha!}

And a reminder...my GIVEAWAY for 25 Shutterfly.com photo cards is still open!  Yesterday's post has all of the entry details :)
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