In celebration of my favorite month, and a holiday I'm rather fond of, the boys and I headed excitedly over to our friend Angy's house this last Saturday. She's an awesome chick. No bones about it. She runs carpool and balances more children than I have with significantly more grace. She usually sparkles. Literally and figuratively. 

Her family lives in the quaintest of log homes which was, of course, decorated perfectly. Seriously. Martha Stewart's got nothing on her. We're talking handmade ghosts hanging from branches as you drove down her street. Adorned walkways... the whole shebang. It was the most awesome of nights filled with tasty treats and great conversation. This post's for you, Angy. 

You can find the recipe for this dip here. The paprika jack 'o lantern features were an impromptu but festive addition.

May your jack 'o lantern bucket runneth over on this finest of days.

Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

When they wake up in the morning, that's as good as they're going to feel all day.

Frank Sinatra

I was clearly not a college coed. Because, my friends, I had my first foray into Jello shots this past weekend. Both the manufacturing and consumption. How is this possible?

Our family was heading to a Halloween party and we wanted to bring something new and exciting. Well, we found it. Answer: Jello shots. They were a hit overall, and the few remaining were enjoyed by Mario this morning. For breakfast. That's my boy.

Halloween Jello Shots

3oz package Jello
1/2 cup of flavored liqueur (we used 99 Apples... you could also use Pucker, etc.)
1/2 cup vodka (we used Ketel One)
Gummy candies (we used eyeballs and worms)
Plastic Solo cups with lids

Place the candy of your choice in the bottom of the Solo cups placed on a cookie sheet; set aside. Add 1 cup boiling water to Jello and stir. Once dissolved, add in liquors. Pour Jello mixture over candies and refrigerate for 3-4 hours. Enjoy!

Note: The above recipe made about 13 shots. We bought a variety of flavors and made several batches since we were taking them to a party. We also made some kid-friendly versions by replacing the cup of liquor with an additional cup of water.

I feel bad for people who don't drink.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

and you're just a reflection of him?

Bill Watterson

My usual Friday post has been a bit neglected over the last few weeks. Fridays, as of late, have simply not lent themselves to writing. Too little time, too much distraction, I suppose. This week, however, I wanted to make sure I carved out a few moments to reflect on life since Monday. Because I realized, through the process of writing week-in-review posts, that doing a bit of a self-check is a good thing. A way to recenter and evaluate what went well, so I can celebrate it; and what wasn't so great, so I may better understand why it stuck out as a less-than-awesome event. While I still do a mental check on the weeks that slip by without a post, I find that I miss the actual documentation process.

1// As I mentioned the other day, I'm really trying to enjoy the little moments that present themselves. Walking down Main Street, for instance, on my way to the lab, latte and veggie breakfast sandwich in hand. Instead of rushing along, I work to take it all in in a more deliberate way. The smell of coffee beans roasting down the street, businesses opening for the day, friendlier dispositions. 2// This was a rough week in the Box. Oof. I was sick and therefore only made it one day last week. It's amazing how fighting a bug and missing a couple of session can affect my body. Wednesday's WOD (above) was tough, for sure, but I've fought my way through worse. I've never come so close to throwing in the towel. My body and mind were not in sync, and I knew 2 burpees in I was in trouble. Awful. Thursday and Friday were better, but not great. After some huge breakthroughs a couple weeks ago, I was discouraged. Instead of beating myself up, I'm focusing on the little victories. I survived! And truth be told, I'm better for fighting my way through this crappy CrossFit week. The fact that I keep coming back, despite wanting to quit too many times to count, is evidence that I've changed. The mental game is the hardest, after all. 3// In The Happiness Project, she talks about splurging on something meaningful and ultimately chooses a collector's set of all 15 Oz books. While getting our house ready to put on the market, and in an attempt to downsize, Kiddo and I filtered through his books; keeping the ones that had meaning and donating the rest to his class library. The Harry Potter books carry a lot of memories for our family. We read them as a family at bedtime, and have listened to the complete set on audiobook from beginning to end twice during the course of many road trips over many years. We listened to them as we drove overnight from St. Louis to Bozeman, Montana to say goodbye to Mario's grandpa. I can associate a HP book to almost every stage of Kiddo's life.  Inspired by the story about the Oz books, I decided to eliminate our mostly paperback hodge podge Harry Potter collection and start over. With first editions. In the course of a week I snagged two... each for just $3. The monetary value of first editions has nothing to do with it. I like the idea of having a beautiful original set to look at from the bookshelf, but ultimately the sentimental value is forefront in my mind. 4// This dude caught the red-eye home from San Diego yesterday... and will be home for a whole month! I'm not sure this has ever happened in the 9+ years that he's worked at his company. Bliss. 5// Blogging. Oh, blogging. I've struggled to connect with my writing space lately. I have oodles to say, then sit down to write and words evade me. I feel like my mental block is finally lifting and words are flowing more organically. But I've also learned to stop pushing it. One well thought out post in a week is better than 5 duds any day.

We have spent our lovely, lazy Saturday thus far preparing for a Halloween party at our dear friend Angy's house. There is always great conversation, good food, and a bonfire... pretty much perfection. I think inviting himself hanging out at her abode is one of Mario's favorite things in the whole world. I am going costume-less, but I'm hoping some good food will make up for my lack of adventure. Happy weekend!

Did you ever wonder if the person in the puddle is real,

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Then do not squander time, for that's the stuff life is made of.

Benjamin Franklin

This fall has felt quite fleeting. I attribute that, in part, to my lack of time management. I am great at planning meals, navigating after school activities, and managing mornings and bedtimes. What I'm less adept at is managing my time. I've been gifted with this one-class semester, yet I've flailed around like a ninny. I admit that my time is in weird chunks with an hour here and two hours there between obligations, but I've not used those hours wisely. A friend of mine said, "you don't know what to do with yourself" and I realize she hit the nail on the head. How does a girl who went, went, went for years learn how to sit still for a moment?

Now, as the weather shifts (70s the week before last, 60s last week, 50s this week...), I am carefully considering my headspace. I'm sorry that I didn't harness those valuable minutes before, instead often letting them slip through my fingers. Perhaps it's the increasing number of bare trees, leaves having lost their grip on the branches, that have made me more aware. Aware that my walk to and from class will soon be more rushed: huddled, coat wrapped around me, arms crossed for warmth, eyes cast downward from the cold wind. I won't be stopping, as I did many times yesterday, to snap photos of newly noticed sights and changing foliage. 

On Tuesday I set about doing something with my snippets of time. After dropping Kiddo off at school, I turned around and went back home. I made myself a cup of coffee and sat down to finish the last two chapters of the book I was reading. (It was good. Heartbreaking and lovely and so well written. I highly recommend it.) I paid the bills we budgeted for (including the final payment on a credit card... our snowball is officially rolling!). I cleaned up the kitchen. Because I didn't shoehorn my time, these tasks felt less chore-like and more leisurely. I wasn't frantically wiping breadcrumbs off the island before running out for the day. When the time came to leave for CrossFit, I opted out (and more importantly, let myself off the hook). It meant going yesterday instead, but I valued that unbroken time too much to let it pass unappreciated. I've also relaxed a bit when it comes to our house. Although on the market, I've come to the conclusion that it doesn't have to be perfect. If someone decides not to buy it because the bed isn't perfectly made, well, they probably were looking for a reason not to like it and wouldn't have gone through with it anyway. What a freeing notion! While I enjoy keeping the coffee table clear and the rug vacuumed, I'm not going to stress over every speck of dust and pet hair tumbleweed. (I am by no means a neat freak, but I have discovered over the years that a cluttered house does lead to a cluttered mind in my case.)

I swore off diets a long time ago. I swear. But I'm busting my butt at CrossFit day after day, and the food component stands between me and my goals. I want to be able to see those hard earned muscles! Plus, what's the point of undoing all that hard work with food that falls into the meh category on the health-o-meter? I will continue to have sushi lunch dates with my husband, because I simply cannot resist him (or sushi), but the rest of the time I need to be more cognizant of what goes down the shoot. Over the years I've examined my relationship with food, my body, and what I need to do about both. Having tackled the emotional and behavioral aspects, now is the time to stick to something that will take the high I feel after a hard workout and extend it. When my CrossFit box decided to offer a 30-day Paleo challenge, I thought why not? Honestly, going completely grain-free is not realistic right now. I cohabitate with two other people, and I assure you they will be having none of that. But I'm eating with intention and have worked to cut back. The dairy-free diet I really need to adhere to for food sensitivity reasons? It includes avoiding cheese and cream-based soups, Sarah. That's one of the appeals of Paleo, as it teaches you to live without such things. I will say that yesterday, after a particularly brutal workout, I needed carbs. (Seriously. I almost called it quits midway. That has yet to happen in the months I've been doing this.) I need them in a I could steal an Oreo from a small child kind of way. (We did hear this week that rats chose Oreos over heroine, right?) Anywho, I stopped by my local co-op before class and grabbed some soup (boy, that was goood) and a gluten-free scone. I figured it was better than a real scone, anyway. I ate half and haven't had a craving since. (I acknowledge that this paragraph about food is 1. going on and on, and 2. has a lot of parentheses. Welcome to the inside of my head.)

I mentioned that I got Gwyneth Paltrow's new book for my birthday. On Monday I made my first recipe from it: Ginger-Scallion Broth with buckwheat soba noodles. It tastes just like miso soup, Mom! said Kiddo as he consumed a bowl of it. Score.

Last weekend, during a trip to Costco, I spied Against All Grains and proceeded to flip through it. Regardless of its status as a Paleo cookbook, I wanted to try most of the recipes. Therefore I grabbed some dough from our slush money envelope and it made the journey to my house. Notice all the recipes I flagged. Tonight I'm making a stir fry with zucchini noodles (whaaaa?). You can probably tell, just by looking, how my first foray into her Thai salad dressing went (note green oily blob above). The flavor was great, but I wanted to barf over the consistency. Fail. Still, my resolve is unwavering.

Look. Here's the bottom line. I'm going to post cookie recipes. I'm going to continue to eat said cookies. But in moderation. Because, quite frankly, a world without cookies and sushi and clam chowder simply isn't worth living. But something's got to give. And thus my attempt at awareness. Perhaps I'm writing this post so I can go back and remind myself why. Why I need to say no more often to things like croutons and buttered toast. What I need is a lifestyle, not a diet. This seems as good a place as any to start. Partially because its a challenge and there is the potential for prizes. Partially because I'd really like to land on a pant size, not the in-between I'm at right now. That is all.

I started this post by reminding myself that the ongoing goal is to slow down. And to appreciate what should be a more low-key period in my life. To recognize that it is a fleeting moment in time and should therefore be enjoyed with my whole heart and soul. Yesterday afternoon, after leaving class, I grabbed a salad and my book and camped out on a bench in Central Square while I waited for Kiddo to walk down to meet me for our weekly date. As I sat, across from a store called The Knitting Nook, an idea began to form. Kiddo's teacher has been teaching the kids to knit. I love her for it. Jared has been struggling to learn (and cannot cast on to save his life... whatever "casting on" means), so I thought it'd be a great adventure to teach him what little I know about crochet (I know what I know thanks to a mother-in-law that blows my mind in that department... she's amazing). Upon his arrival I took him into the store and let him pick out a hook and a skein of yarn. Then we sat down at our favorite coffee shop (Mayan hot chocolate for him, cider for me) and I taught him the basics. You could charge for crochet lessons, Mom! said he. Why shouldn't I pick this up again? though I. And there you have it. I scored a couple skeins of sale yarn to make an infinity scarf (it's very elaborate in my head, you see). We are also investigating knitting classes for Kiddo and I to take together. Because I desperately want to fill my house with knit bunnies. I can't take the cuteness.

And there you have it.

Dost thou love life?

Thursday, October 24, 2013

 and have it all to myself, than be crowded on a velvet cushion.

 Henry David Thoreau

When I think back, Pumpkin Fest likely had a lot to do with our final decision to move to this region. Upon receiving the news that Mario's company was offering him the New England territory, we pulled out our trusty U.S. atlas and set about exploring the region. Keene is centrally located, and therefore caught our immediate attention. We are researchers, by nature, so we learned all there was to know about the area. (Well, what was electronically available, anyway. Coming to understand the nuances of a region through a computer screen is unlikely.) Unintentionally, our first visit fell during Pumpkin Fest. The idyllic downtown, the sense of community... the wonder of it all. We knew, deep down, that this was the place we'd say we once lived.

Every year Keene, New Hampshire competes to regain a title last held in 2004: Guinness Book of World Records holder for most lit jack 'o lanterns at one time. Who thought up such things? But the magic is indescribable. Locals often carry disdain for this day: thousands of non-locals trying to navigate traffic circles, blocked streets, disrupted business... it is quite the to-do. Perhaps we have not had a chance to become so jaded. After six years, I still get excited. I hardly blinked at the idea of an otherwise 20 minute commute taking an hour, just so we could participate in the revelry. I sat in the car and sang along to 90s music with the boys. It was all good.

This year was bittersweet, knowing it would be our last. It's simply time to move on. Living here has come with a lot of trials. It has been the hardest and most rewarding six years of my life. The page must be turned, but being out there, surrounded by the glow of all those gourds, I felt a certain sadness. As we made our way toward Central Square, they began the obligatory speeches from the platform of the gazebo. Our local political representatives, the mayor, and officials from Guinness World Records. Then an unexpected occurrence: We. Won. In our final year, with 30,581 lit jack 'o lanterns, we triumphed. 

In that moment I felt ready to say goodbye. 

Keene's status as a record holder will be cemented in our minds from this day forth... because we witnessed the climb to the top. It's as if the world was trying to tell me it's time. Time to let go of the safe (but uncomfortable) existence we've had for the last few years. To let go and start anew. This all seems a bit deep for a festival that also includes copious amounts of college drunkenness, but I feel like we've come full circle. We started here, at Pumpkin Fest, and we leave having reached a pinnacle. Personally and as community members.

P.S. Night photography is a skill I have yet to master. Husband helped me adjust the camera settings and I snapped away. There were some blurry messes, but also some that I will treasure forever. As an ode to my desire to photograph more organically, I left these pictures untouched. No filtering or adjusting. The above photos are simply me attempting something outside my comfort zone; something I've been trying to do more of lately.

I would rather sit on a pumpkin,

Tuesday, October 22, 2013