Monday, October 31, 2011

No Halloween??

Some local towns are canceling trick or treating tonight! I heard one city that is going to postpone it until Thursday. But, excuse me, Thursday is November 3, not October 31.
As it is, we are not doing it up for Halloween like we normally do. It's truly my favorite holiday. When else do you get to scare children and eat candy in the name of celebration and it's socially acceptable? At my parents house, we usually decorate to the hilt. Growing up, we even had a coffin we put on the front lawn. There are strobe lights and grave stones and Harvey, a dress form with a stuffed body, cape and mask, who scares my father for at least a full week while he stands in the front  hallway, waiting to be put away in the attic again. (It's also really fun to call and order pizza and have Harvey in the hallway behind you when you answer the door). Alas, with snow on the ground it would be really hard to rake leaves into body shaped piles and to stick the gravestones into the dirt. And without power, the Halloween sounds CD can't play. So it will be a mellow night for kids in that neighborhood if they do get to go out to collect candy.
I just have some feelings about postponing it. On one hand, most of the younger kids won't know or care if it's today or three days from now that they get to don their outfits and pig out. On the other hand, it's just not right to do it on a night that isn't legit. What do you guys think? To trick or treat or not to trick or treat?

Saturday, October 29, 2011


I was going to name the post "Snotober" but realized it would read more like the word snot than the word snow. Good save.
They weren't kidding about this snow. I'm glad I put my ice scraper/brush back in my car before going to work tonight because I certainly needed to clear off my car before I could drive. Actually, by the time I was done cleaning one side, the other side was already snowy again. And the wind! Oh my did it like whipping wet snow and sharp coldness at my face!
So after driving only major roads home so I could have the safest travels possible, I am happily hunkered down on the couch. I think my favorite thing about bad weather is that it forces us all to slow down. Church as already been canceled for tomorrow. This is great on two levels: 1. I adore that my church cancels like school. Getting that call is like seeing your town's name on the news for school closings. It's not that going is so awful; it's just the waking up. This brings me to #2. I get to sleep in tomorrow. All my friends in warm locales can't brag about that, now can they? :)
Pictures to be taken in daylight.....

Friday, October 28, 2011

Snow in October

Really not ok


Do you ever have days when you are just vacant? I'm sure you do. We all do. I'm having one of those hard-to-focus, want-to-to-nothing kinds of days. Actually, I wouldn't mind napping. Or watching a movie. Or even reading. But as far as accomplishing things, today would not be my day.

Maybe it's because it's not even Halloween and it snowed last night and they are predicting a Nor'easter for tomorrow night when I should be dressing up and going to a party. It's generally shocking when it snows a dusting before Thanksgiving but this....this is just ridiculous weather. It's extra silly that just two weekends ago we broke records for being in the 80's. I didn't realize until I started blogging just how much I talk about the weather but there's no denying that what you see outside your window impacts your state of mind.

Or maybe it's because we had a big work event last night and I didn't get home until like 11:30. I usually go to bed between 12:30-1:00 so it's not that being up that late was a problem. But part of the reason I go to bed so late is because when I get home, which is still typically later like 9ish, I need a little time to just unwind. For me that most often means I need to watch some tv and zone out a bit. So when you get home at 11:30 and still need time to zone, it gets late fast.

I'm also working a little part time job on the side now. It would be embarrassing if it wasn't so much fun. Even though it's only 1-2 nights a week, it makes my weeks feel even more full. Now every night of the week has an assignment. One night for the gym, one for the pt job, one for date night, one working at my ft job and the weekends are more variable. It's increasingly challenging to find the balance between work time, time with hubby, time with friends and family and time just for me. Add the basics like cleaning, grocery shopping and laundry to the mix. Now sprinkle in some much needed exercise and trying to attend church services. And, of course, keeping up with all the reality tv shows I need to stay grounded. And occasionally reading. Or writing this blog.

Now with all of this, when life throws a legit curve ball and offers up something into the universe that genuinely warrants my stress levels increasing, it's kind of like walking through a white carpeted room with a glass of tropical punch Kool Aid at a fast clip.

So, I guess a vacant day is warranted. And I assume you will understand why the blog doesn't always get the love it deserves. Or why sometimes I stray from my topics of focus. Or why this post has almost no complete sentences. I am not thinking in complete sentences today. Cheers to the weekend!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Etsy Mania and a Collage Wall

I love Etsy. I am frequently shocked that more people don't know about it when I mention it. Basically, it's a website that is filled with individual "stores" but all the items are hand made crafts. There is a huge variety available and the range of talent out there is astounding! This would be a great place to both plug a friend and give an example: One of my friends I have trained for triathlons with creates gorgeous jewelry and sells it on Etsy at
In the throws of one of my Etsy binges, I decided to take a cue from my favorite home design blog, Young House Love, and assemble a collage wall.
As you can see, on my wall I included some prints and other items from Etsy, featured below, as well as some funky patterns in the same color scheme to frame personal pictures. There's a shout out to each of the cats up there because if other people can put baby pictures of their kids on a wall, why can't I put baby pictures of my cats up? I also found a picture from one of my favorite performers, Michael Franti, on facebook and ordered through Kodak Gallery. One of my favorite additions is a set of mini silver frames that has pictures of my hubby as a kid, representing different holidays: him in a pumpkin patch, him in a pilgrim hat, him dressed as a wise man=precious! And finally, I tossed in a few couple shots, one printed in black and white and one in color. Combined, this wall feels both personal and artistic in a fun presentation.

See the Sassy Side Table hanging out in the corner?????? For my collage wall, I stuck with a mostly black and white or silver frame theme. Because the accent color in the room is such a bright color, turquoise, I didn't want to overwhelm the wall with too much color, too. You see splashes of the accent color along with the patterned black and white frames. However, collage walls are a great way to infuse color into an otherwise neutral room, too. Just choose photos, cd jackets, fabric, and other items that have big pops of color to liven things up.

This print comes from I love this quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson, a New Englander who, in my mind, was thinking of my favorite beachy spots in Maine when he came up with this gem.

This clock hails from The shop owner uses plates to create clocks and a lot of funky colors and patterns.

I actually snagged this at a flea market in Vermont a few years ago for $5. People don't think of it often but most couples portrayed whether in art or even on greeting cards are the same race. Being married to someone with a different skin tone makes it hard to find visual representations of our coupledom. I liked this piece of art because the couple are racially ambiguous; I mean neither of us are yellow and orange so it all works out!

Finally, this piece is actually another $5 find. I got this at the Christmas Tree Shoppe and it's a wood canvas. The room has a sub theme of birds and trees or birds IN trees so this fell in line with that.  

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

To Cruise or Not to Cruise?

I read a number of other blogs and often stumble on things other people have written that, instead of putting my own spin on it, I feel compelled to share with my blog in their original form. I have shied away from doing this much in the past but because I can't really say why, I am going to begin passing along the gems that either I really relate to or ones that make me think differently.

Today I read a blog by George Hobica, founder of
In it, he talks about the benefits of cruising. I have cruised four times, including my most recent trip from Boston to Bermuda. While cruising is not for everyone, I think there are a lot of misconceptions out there about cruising and more people might try it if they understood more. Last night I met with some women from church who were asking my mother, a first time cruiser, about her experience and was surprised that it wasn't widely known what a great value cruising is; you can often find fares under $500 for a week, which includes food, lodging, and entertainment. Many people fear the motion of the boat but I assure you that you are rarely aware of any rocking. Finally, this article makes a good distinction: the cruise industry has created some specialization so you can choose the cruise line that suites your personality or interests in a more predictable way than you can select just-the-right airline for you or just-the-right hotel for you.

Check out  this post. Have you ever cruised? Would you consider it? What holds you back?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A day in Times Square

Rockefeller Center skating rink
Times Square

Sing with me now, "On Broadway....."

While Boston is only a few hours away from NYC, getting there and especially parking there can feel overwhelming to me so I must admit that I am not as familiar with my neighboring metropolis as I should be. The nice thing about it's proximity, though, is that bus trips abound! For my mother's birthday, I bought us tickets to join a bus trip leaving from a local school that was part of their continuing education offerings. Along with the transportation, there was a guide on the bus who specialized in Broadway shows and told us what was showing, what the shows were about, what people were saying about them, and how to score cheap tickets. When the bus unloads, you hurry to the ticket booth in the middle of Times Square and get discounted tickets for whatever shows still have seats. We went and saw an amazing production of Mary Poppins in a gorgeous theater.

I had to take a picture of this lady because she was just too much. Check out her outfit.

Admittedly, I still miss Michael Jackson pretty much every day and am a sucker for people who honor him. This guy was a great simulation of the Thriller days.

That's the ball that drops on New Year's Eve. It changes colors every few seconds.

Even if you don't buy tickets for Madame Toussard's (how do you spell that anyway??) wax museum, you can pose with a few of the figures that are in the lobby. Do you think The Rock is really that much bigger than me????

It's pretty awesome that even the streets in New York City are famous.

Monday, October 17, 2011

What's more domestic than making apple pie?

Nothing says "I'm domestic" more than preparing apple pie from scratch. It conjures up every image of a 50's house wife wearing an apron with perfectly curled hair in a suburban subdivision that I can think of. In reality, I would run away from fitting into such an image and have a severe lack of domestic intuition but I'm trying to become more "at home" in the kitchen and when I have a success, I am quite proud of myself.
Lucky for me, a woman from church volunteered to be my apple-pie-making-coach. She is an expert in my book, having grown up with a fruit farming father and a pie making mother, so I really couldn't ask for a more ideal leader. I had never even cored an apple so my coach truly had her work cut out for her!
The pictures ended up out of order but I will walk you through it......
STEP 7: Bake. We made a second pie more of the Dutch Apple persuasion for Hubby's enjoyment. I took it home, tossed it in the oven for about an hour and we both had a late night apple delight before the first episode of the new season of The Walking Dead. Amazing show, and, if I do say so myself, AMAZING PIE!!!!! Hubby really liked it and he's picky so I was extra proud. And I thought it was pretty scrumptious, too. Or maybe I could just taste all the heart I put into it:)

STEP 5: Sugar and butter!!!

STEP 4: Pie crust rolled out and placed in pie tin, apples and crust meet for the first time.I was ridiculously awful at using the rolling pin on the crust. I did, however, use my rolling pin like a foam roller on my hamstrings on Friday night and it was really helpful:)

STEP 3: Cut your apples. Again, having never even cored an apple, I felt a bit arthritic at the end of peeling about four of them. Thank goodness for the help or I might have thrown in the towel at this point.

STEP 1: Wash your apples

STEP 2: Dough. We used a "miracle dough" recipe that included vinegar and I was told this was extra hearty and forgiving. Putting the Crisco in was pretty revolting but 1 3/4 cups spread over 5 pie crusts eases the pain a little, I guess.

STEP 6: Pie crust on top, fluting on edges (tougher than it looks) and knife hole decor on top and viola!! I actually bagged this one to stick in the freezer. How much apple pie can a family of two really consume at once?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011 shall hear my wrath

I feel a little bad being so negative but, as a consumer, I care about other people's experiences with services and, therefore, feel like I have to share my experience with
In the Spring of 2009, I used their services to book a single night in the DC area. We went to visit some friends who were house sitting for family there and stayed with them for a few days. The final night, we needed a hotel so we could be closer to the airport and catch our flight. Long story short, when we got to the hotel, they didn't have our reservation. After a long day of train rides and frustration to get there, the last thing I was in the mood for was 2 hours in a hotel lobby. I had to spend a long time on the phone with multiple customer service reps to get things cleared up. They offered me a measly peace offering but it was just not enough to balance the trouble they had caused. I was able to talk them up to something that felt like a better reimbursement.
They sent me out a voucher for "hotel bucks" for a future stay. I didn't realize it had an expiration date but, luckily, I found it before it expired. I called customer service and asked if they could extend it or apply it toward a hotel I was booking the following month. At that time, I received some excellent customer service by a woman named Fatima. If she is out there or if anyone else linked with reads this and somehow in the very large company knows this employee, I want her/them to know that she is exceptional, in the true sense of the word; she is an exception to the rest of the experience I have had with the company. She made the phone call and the process easy and a pleasant experience.
The new voucher was set to arrive within 4-5 weeks. Fast forward 3 months and my patience has run out. So I called to see what the hold up was all about. The first woman I spoke to was at least capable. She understood my dilemma and was communicating with the appropriate department on my behalf. She put me on hold and I waited. And waited. And then, after 15 minutes or so invested in this process, the phone disconnected me! They had my number, as I had just reiterated it to them, so they could have called me back but they didn't. I called them back and got a new customer service rep. Thank goodness I don't know her name or I would publicly rally for her to never be employed working with people again. She could not grasp what I was explaining AT ALL. She kept referring to my reservation number, even though I kept telling her it wasn't about a reservation and that I had a "case id number" instead. She referenced my most recent hotel booking with them even though I made it clear this had zero to do with that. Finally, at my wit's end, I asked if I could just speak with a manager so I could get this resolved once and for all. She was not very pleased about that but grudgingly put me on hold. For 23 minutes of silence. Literally 23 minutes. Who knows how much longer it might have gone on because after 23 minutes, I had another commitment I had to attend to. The whole process took nearly an hour and I still have no resolution. Actually, I have to call again today!
It's extremely unjust and poor service if the olive branch they extended I fought for to make up for mistake #1 turns into mistake #2 and when I call to remedy that, results in mistakes #3 and #4! No one should have to spend this kind of time fixing someone else's problem (and I fix problems for a living!).
Oh, and in the midst of all this it became clear that the hotel bucks, should they ever be figured out, actually won't cover the hotel stay I booked through them explicitly to use them up. There's some distinction about prepaid rooms. Point being, I am going to have to use them again to redeem the reimbursement they owe me.
This is ludicrous in my book. I have had positive experiences with Travelocity and will keep my business there and, while I don't recommend any particular travel assistance site for you, I do caution you that if you have a problem with, it will be a headache to get it resolved. Good luck and good day.

Iceland: Off the Beaten Path

We had the unique opportunity while in Iceland to actually connect with a friend of a friend who lives there. Overall, my experience was that the people of Iceland were extremely welcoming and glad to have you visit their stunning country. This guy, though, went above and beyond. He visited our hotel before we even arrived and left us a note along with local treats (which we appreciated even more once we realized how much food and drinks cost there!). Then, he offered to pick us up on our final day in the city and drive us to the airport, stopping to show us some less seen sights along the way. It was so gracious but also an amazing opportunity to see the Iceland that the tours don't show you: the raw natural landscape, hidden gems and daily life of it's citizens unfolding.

There are geysers or hot spring activity spots along the more touristy routes, as well, but it's very cool that they are actually everywhere! These pictures are just from a spot along the side of the road in the middle of nowhere.

Outdoor swimming is actually one of the most popular recreational activities in this cold spot. Pretty much every community has a local pool that is fed with the geothermal, naturally heated waters. Going to these spots is an absolute MUST DO on your trip to Iceland. They are shockingly cheap to access, as well. I liked this one because of it's elaborate slide, of course.

I thought it was adorable that our guide brought us to this beach; it is a hotspot for them because it is their only white sand beach! While this is the norm for most of us, black volcanic sand is the norm for them so this is a rare beauty that he wanted to show off.

Monday, October 10, 2011

the best souvenir? traveling with a friend and liking her more at the end

I am really lucky because I have a lot of longtime friends who still live close to me. I am also very lucky that my husband is so flexible about me traveling with friends. One more area of luck? I have a full handful of friends that I have traveled with in the past and come back liking them even more!

There are plenty of articles out there about choosing your traveling companions wisely and I could not agree more. On one of  my recent trips, tension mounted consistently with one member of the travel posse and things literally came to blows. The rest of felt like we had to keep her safe as she drank a lot and wandered off on her own. That's not the kind of environment you ask for time off from work for! I have also had the experience of going away with someone and needing a good amount of space from them thereafter. Let's face it: some friends are great to meet for dinner but you couldn't spend a week with them.

Nothing brings out your friends flaws and annoying habits quicker than a week in confined quarters. Or, frankly, your own flaws and habits that other people have to deal with. Traveling helps you to learn about yourself but you also have to have some degree of insight about yourself before traveling with others. With one of my friends, we had a pre-travel meeting and talked about our fears of being together in a foreign country for two weeks. It helped us open the lines of communication to make a plan for how we would deal with certain situations if they came up. Most of the fears never came to fruition but it was a helpful and rather enlightening conversation, which I would recommend to others who are planning to head off on a journey together.

Despite the bad experiences, I have had  many more positive ones. That was actually the point of this post! One of the girls I went to Spain with has been my friend since nursery school (amazing, right?). We haven't always been priorities in one anothers lives but we have been connected for that long and as life has evolved, we have grown closer and closer. Prior to Spain, we had only done a brief road trip and weekends away together so there was a lot to be determined during two weeks far away from home and unable to escape one another. It ended up being a great experience that only strengthened our friendship. We already have tickets to Costa Rica for November together! And we email almost daily (and while that isn't much different than before we traveled together, it's a huge testament to our appreciation for one another afterwards!).

So don't worry if you will run out of things to talk about; you won't. While all of the bad traits are amplified, so are all of the great traits. I think traveling with your friends is one of the healthiest, most fun things you can do for yourself and all of your relationships. Bon Voyage!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Beautiful Bermuda

This is Jobsom's Cove. If you go to Bermuda and want to go to the southern beaches, famous for their pink sand, I highly recommend this spot. The rest of the beaches had crazy waves and super strong undertow; I was running for my life, clutching my bathing suit bottoms, more than once at Horseshoe Bay, the most popular beach in that region. Jobsom's Cove, however, has this cropping of rocks that create a calm swimming hole. (It's easily accessible by public bus, too, although you should hold on tight if you ride the bus. And don't expect friendly service)

Many of the beaches felt like a scene out of the opening of Grease, where Sandy and Danny were on the beach frolicking.

This was our ship, the Norwegian Dawn. I will have a whole separate post about my thoughts comparing and contrasting NCL to Carnival but the sneak peak morale of the story is that one is clearly superior to the other. I think you might be surprised by the answer...

What would a post about a cruise be without showcasing one of the towel animals the cabin steward leaves while you eat dinner? Cruises boast lots of perks and cheesy additives but towels folded into shapes and given eyes are a topic of conversation every time!

This guy is rocking the Bermuda look: All the guys wear their Bermuda shorts with hiked up socks. I don't get it. Doesn't that negate the purpose of the shorts??

I love the colorful architecture, although this shot is from Hamilton, the capitol city. I have to say that I was not wowed by this city. If I had to do it again, I would skip Hamilton altogether and instead head to the more historic St. George and/or the Crystal Caves.

I took a whole series of photographs of the sun setting. This is the last one where the sun is still visible. It's really overwhelming in the most positive sense of the word, to be on the vast open water and see nature at it's finest.

Home Sweet Home!

The sign from landing in Boston was going to be the last photo but I thought I should personalize this one. This is officially the first photo of myself on this blog. This is me and my mom, on her first trip out of the country. It kind of felt like roles were reversed as I was so happy to see her joy at experiencing everything for the first time. Our group of 8 all agreed that no one on the ship had a better time than my mother:)

Sunday, October 2, 2011

A Crappy Story with a Happy Ending

I haven't written in far too long and I have lots of great excuses.
On Saturday September 17th, I had fun plans. I woke up and was getting ready for the lovely day ahead when I smelled something funky. The hunt to locate the cause began. My nose led me to the basement where I stepped onto the carpet. But it was wet. Not damp. Wet. (Pic 2)
My first thought was to blame it on a cat but another step revealed a wet spot much larger than a domestic house cat could produce. A few more steps, heading toward the laundry room, and I found a small pond. Stream might be a better word for it because, as my brother came over and showed me, it actually was running water, bubbling from the place where the wall and the floor met. Super.
Long story of a hard day made briefer, the town had to come out and shut off water to my whole building. The condo maintenance man had to ask neighbors if he could connect our building to their water sources. Fast forward to Monday. The rug is now getting really stinky. Men had to come back into my house to jackhammer a hole in the cement next to my washing machine. This began at 7:30 am, by the way. What a great start to the week.
I think I have neglected, to this point, to mention that this week was already very chaotic because work has been blowing up AND I had plans to go out of the country on Friday.
So I spent the week trying to call my home owner's insurance, the condo association, and an assessor to come figure out the mess, what to do with it and who would pay for it.
At the same time, mind you, I was trying to wrap up my cases at work to be away for a week and to launch a new cycle of support groups to start in my absence. That involves calling over 50 people, coordinating facilitators and helping to figure out childcare.
Oh, and I had to try to do laundry in the crazy yucky basement so I could pack for a week away. And we had to clear the basement of all its belongings: a couch, a tv, etc, as well as my entire food storage collection.
On the day I left on my trip, one person came in to rip out the carpet (top pic). Other people came to set up huge fans. On the day I got back, I finally met with the assessor, though it will take another week and half to get a quote of how much they will cover.
So now my job is to find a contractor to come look at my walls and give me an estimate of how much it will cost to fix them. I also have to price out new carpeting for the finished basement. Will they cover the stairs, too? Or will I be cursed with red stairs and tan carpet on the floor?
Here's the good news.....I went on a cruise to Bermuda with my hubby, my mother and father and a couple of my dad's friends. It was my first time in Bermuda and it was my parent's first cruise. Actually, it was my mother's first time out of the country. She had never even been to Florida. When we got off the boat, she was excited to see her first palm tree.

I will post more pictures of Bermuda, the cruise and all the other good stuff but the happy ending to the crappy story is that despite all the drama that kept me away from blogging and brought me to tears a couple times, I realized how spoiled I am. I have seen and experienced so much. More even than my parents have had the opportunity to see and do. Isn't that what parenthood is all about? Making sure your children have better options than you had? I'm so lucky that I have had the resources to go on the trips and do the home improvements and other fun things that I am able to write about in my blog. And I'm grateful that you read about all of it!!