Blueberries for (Everyone But) Sal

I heard a rumor recently - or really, I read a bunch of reviews, blog posts, and other various online recommendations - that declared that Cider Hill Farm had the best cider donuts in the realm. While it isn't even close to apple season yet, cider donuts don't require fresh apples, and coupled with the idea of picking our own blueberries (which ARE in season), we decided we needed to check it out for ourselves. 

It's 20 minutes from us, and so once we'd gotten ourselves ready for the day, we hopped in the car this morning and headed over. I would never have guessed there were several farms up there, since the exit ramp specifically says "Beaches," but turns out there were several, many of which had their own farm stands, complete with the requisite wickedly expensive farm to table eggs, fruit, veggies, etc. We passed them all, naturally. Farm-Mecca was still beckoning. 

We arrived! It was...warm, but not so toasty that we feared melting. Upon picking up two empty picking buckets, we were directed to the blueberry bushes on the right. And so we started over, but not before saying hello to the resident chickens and goats. Elise made a new friend. 

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As a side note: I'm quite in love with her little curls on the back of her head. I hope they stay forever.

Once Elise had had enough of the animals, we continued on to the blueberry section. Fortunately for our sweat glands, the blueberries were close to the entrance. However, the farm also has strawberries and raspberries available for picking at the moment. Later in the summer, we'll also be able to find peaches, apples, and pumpkins, and I'm already really looking forward to going back. Maybe for each of those things, in fact...

Anyway! I'm distracting myself. We were there today for blueberries!

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We picked and picked until we filled our two small containers to bring home. The berries were plentiful and the company was the best I could have asked for. Elise had a ball, and got the hang of picking the berries off the bushes and dropping them into the containers pretty fast. Fortunately, she's not all that into eating fresh fruit, so we didn't have to worry about her eating more than we took home. In regular life, this fact is rather more unfortunate than fortunate, but I prefer to look on the bright side whenever possible.

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By the end, we were very satisfied with our haul and had more than enough for at least one batch of blueberry muffins (come on over tomorrow afternoon if you want one hot out of the oven!), and Elise looked like she had been ready for a nap half an hour ago. This is the most enthusiastic picture I got with her. 

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I promise that she actually did have fun. Evidently she just had more fun when she was with Chaz than with me. 

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We ended our trip with a family selfie (because #millenials) and a quick jaunt through their farm stand/store, because we could not leave without a donut. That was half the point of going, remember? And OH MAN. They lived up to their reputation. RUN THERE NOW. You need these donuts in your life. 

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The farm shop had a ton of cute wares that I wish we'd had more time to investigate, but with the napping hour having approached, knocked, waved, and played Ding Dong Ditch an hour prior, we kept the perusing to a skim rather than a dive. But we'll be back! They won't be able to keep us away! If I weren't already pumped about fall, this trip would have tipped the scale in that direction all by itself.

Too soon? 

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A Morning at the Beach

Our "local" splash pad, it seems, has it out for me. I put local in quotes thanks to the fact that it's actually a 15 minute drive from our house, but when you choose to live in a slightly more rural location, a 15 minute drive is about as local as it gets when it comes to amenities like that. 

I've now tried to bring Elise there twice, and both times I have been supremely thwarted. The first time, I got Elise all ready to go, and we hopped in the car with my mom. Elise fell asleep on the way there - no big deal, since it was a short drive - and when we arrived we found a line of cars in front of a closed gate. It turned out that everyone in each of the surrounding towns had the same idea, and the splash pad was "full." The gates wouldn't open for another 45 minutes, and there was no way I was going to sit in a car with a napping baby on hot asphalt for that long. We turned around and went home.

The second time was this morning. Elise woke up early, and so I figured we'd go straight there after getting ready for the day. That part worked! We got in the car before 9:00, and drove merrily along until we were nearly there. At the very last turn, we came across a police man in a nice yellow vest directing traffic in front of a sign: "ROAD CLOSED." 

"Well," I thought to myself, "a road has two ends; I bet the other end is open!" We took a detour to the other end. Can you guess what we found? If you guessed another road closure sign, you'd be right. Thwarted again! Who closes an entire road for what I can only assume was a small patch of construction? And what about the people that live on said road? 

I'm not over it, apparently.

Nevertheless, I was determined to get Elise to some fun water, and we were closer to the nicest beach in the area than we would have been at home, so we did a quick about face and headed that way instead.

While the entry fee to the beach was a little steeper than I anticipated, it was a glorious day, and since we had gotten an earlier start, not many people had arrived yet. We set down our bag, slapped on the sunscreen, and I let Elise roam...while staying approximately 2 inches behind her every time she ran in the direction of the water. She absolutely loved it, and if you asked her, she might even say that it was more fun than the splash pad. That said, she's never been to the splash pad. Maybe the third time will be the charm.

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Monday Meandering

Monday, man. What a day of the week. Our Monday has thus far included both a nap and a doctor visit involving a baby (ahem: mine) who managed to pee on the mat at the door in the exam room, so I'll give it a solid C. Could be worse, could be better. Upon arriving at home, the vaccine aftermath wasn't so bad either:

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Thanks for the quasi-emo high quality photo, light-blocking shades. 

We'll follow that up with an epsom salt bath later and I suspect all with be right with the world.

In other news, the Bachelorette is on tonight and I'm more than a little ashamed to admit I will probably be watching. Chaz has meetings on Monday nights, and so I need SOMETHING to do. It would undoubtedly be much more productive and/or enriching to pursue a creative enterprise during that time, but sometimes a good brainless show is just the ticket to think about nothing for awhile. Please tell me that I'm not alone so that I can assuage my guilt.

I'm going to end this rather pointless, rambly post while we're ahead behind and finish up with a picture of Elise wearing my glasses. I needed an extra dose of it in my life, so perhaps you did too.

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Scattered Things

Hello there! I guess I haven't had much noteworthy material to discuss in great detail lately, since I often get to the end of the day and think, "You know, I should blog. But I can't think of anything, so I guess I'll just watch a documentary on the British royal family instead." The documentary might also have been another show (Jessica Jones season 2, anyone?), or perhaps a baking project, or maybe some sewing, but I often end up only doing one leisure activity per night, and blogging, I suppose, hasn't come in first place on the leisure activity hierarchy within the past couple of weeks.

So here we are. And this isn't even a real post, since it's more of a series of hot takes. Feel free to take it or leave it.

Item 1: I think Elise needs at least one more pair of pajamas. She has four pairs at the moment, and because they somehow need washing after a single wear every single night, I need to get some more. Or maybe I just need to get off Lazy Island and do laundry more than once every four days. Actually, that's probably the real answer, because when I do have to do laundry, it's the size of Mount Doom and it takes an age and a half to fold. Or perhaps the REAL real answer is that I should get in the habit of actually putting her in her bib before she eats yogurt for breakfast...

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Item 2: I'm finding that I'm missing my job a little more this summer than last summer, mostly because of all the travel it entailed over those months. I didn't think about it too much last summer since I was in the throes of postpartum recovery and taking care of a newborn, but now that we've gotten into a good groove and Elise is a little more independent, I wish it was easier to hop on a plane once (or more) times per month and check out a new spot. Of course, I say that while I'm happily playing with an almost-toddler, idealistically forgetting how exhausted I was at the end of a corporately-focused summer when I never wanted to hear the word "economy seat" ever again. This is probably a great time for me to recall that great parenting refrain: everything is a phase. There will be more high frequency traveling seasons in the future, I'm sure. In the meantime, I'll also remind myself that we literally just traveled and should be grateful for that.

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Item 3: Now that the weather is FINALLY warmer, we've been enjoying more time outside lately! Since Elise learned to sit during the winter months, she had never been in a swing outside until now. Turns out she loves it, and I expect we'll be doing a lot of it this summer. 

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Item 4: My hot chocolate obsession began just before Paris and it has continued since our arrival back home, and I actually have a shocking number of pictures of mugs of it on my phone. Evidently I only break from my constant stream of photos of Elise when I'm presented with a steaming cup of cocoa topped with a mountain of whipped cream:

 The pinnacle of all hot chocolate I've tried, from the Musée D'Orsay.

The pinnacle of all hot chocolate I've tried, from the Musée D'Orsay.

 The first tasty mug of hot chocolate in Basel, Switzerland.

The first tasty mug of hot chocolate in Basel, Switzerland.

 The second tasty mug from Basel. Hard to say which was better.

The second tasty mug from Basel. Hard to say which was better.

 Decent hot chocolate with an attractive backdrop in Portsmouth, NH.

Decent hot chocolate with an attractive backdrop in Portsmouth, NH.

 Another decent one in Beverly, MA. I seem to use the same angle for almost all of these shots...

Another decent one in Beverly, MA. I seem to use the same angle for almost all of these shots...

 Homemade, with a dash of peppermint extract.

Homemade, with a dash of peppermint extract.

In case anyone is curious, almost every mug of chocolate I've encountered in the US is sub par, including the ones I've made with a host of mixes. However, just this week I discovered the most European-style hot chocolate since returning from the motherland itself. If you too are a MA-based hot chocolate connoisseur, look no further than Tartine in Beverly. It will not disappoint! While not quite as thick as the hot chocolate in France, the flavor was about the same. Not too sweet, no sugar sludge at the bottom. Of course I took a picture. That's a question that didn't even need asking. 

 I didn't even miss the whipped cream.  Item 5: My parents are in the process of moving (closer to us! yay!), and in doing so they've given us some of the things that I had when I was small. The most recent of those things was my rocking horse, and Elise was p.u.m.p.e.d.

I didn't even miss the whipped cream.

Item 5: My parents are in the process of moving (closer to us! yay!), and in doing so they've given us some of the things that I had when I was small. The most recent of those things was my rocking horse, and Elise was p.u.m.p.e.d.

 Item 6: This is perhaps the most random of all the things in this post. My hands are always dry in the winter, and we're talking the cracked and bleeding variety. This year, it was much worse than usual, and it continued until this past week, which is far later than usual. I attribute that to more frequent hand washing thanks to changing diapers. It had gotten so bad that I would dread washing my hands every time, because it felt like getting a thousand small paper cuts as soon as my hands hit the water. Not a good thing! I crowd sourced some recommendations on a Facebook group, and lo and behold, I have a new miracle product.  This stuff  has completely changed the game, and it's like my hands were never dry at all! And it only took one use! 

Item 6: This is perhaps the most random of all the things in this post. My hands are always dry in the winter, and we're talking the cracked and bleeding variety. This year, it was much worse than usual, and it continued until this past week, which is far later than usual. I attribute that to more frequent hand washing thanks to changing diapers. It had gotten so bad that I would dread washing my hands every time, because it felt like getting a thousand small paper cuts as soon as my hands hit the water. Not a good thing! I crowd sourced some recommendations on a Facebook group, and lo and behold, I have a new miracle product. This stuff has completely changed the game, and it's like my hands were never dry at all! And it only took one use! 

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It also rates really well in the Skin Deep database, so I feel pretty good about using it. Just thought I should pass on the discovery, because a magical hand cream is worth its weight in gold. 

I could add more, but we're heading to a party with cupcakes and we definitely don't want to miss out on that. 

Apple Picking and the Start of a Tradition

When I was little, one of the key indicators that fall had arrived was going apple picking. Chapin Orchard was a couple towns over, and we'd visit the animals, take a hayride, and of course...pick apples. I don't actually remember what we did with the apples we picked, but they definitely all got eaten one way or another!

By the time I got to college, the yearly outing was treasured enough (and similarly loved by friends) that we made it a priority to go to a nearby orchard in the fall to continue the tradition despite being away from home. We added on apple cider donuts to the animal visiting, hayride, and apple picking, and that became as important as the other aspects. Perhaps more so, if I'm being honest!

I don't know if I really thought about it as a tradition until lately though. But this year, with a tiny human with whom we'd like to establish some annual traditions, it suddenly felt more important. So when my friend Meghanne suggested apple picking with our respective families, the idea was irresistible. 

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So we loaded up our babies and met at the farm, and headed out to the orchard to gather our apples. 

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Elise is still a little too small to get excited about the picking process at this point, but she did enjoy spending time in the wrap while Chaz and I did all the gathering work!

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We stopped picking long enough to take a few family pictures, which is great since I have precious few photos of all three of us together. I mean, 99% of the pictures I take these days are of Elise and Elise alone, so it's nice to mix it up every once in awhile. 

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We got some good ones of Meghanne's family as well! 

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We each gathered a half a bushel of Cortland and Red Delicious apples, making sure to only grab the good ones. That turned out to be harder than expected, because many of the apples looked like they'd been afflicted with some sort of apple-y disease, but we managed to find some spot-free ones without too much trouble. Several of the good ones were high up, so Meghanne and I stood back and let the taller ones among us grab those. 

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And before we left the orchard area, we made sure to get a group photo, because it didn't happen if it wasn't documented, right? Right.

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As we walked back to the farm center, we found one of those...cut out things where you can poke your head through a hole. I'm sure there's a name for those, but I'm not educated enough to know what it is. So Wooden Hole Thing is the official term for now. Obviously, more pictures were in order, because when a Wooden Hole Thing is available and babies are present, such an opportunity should not be missed. Behold, a series of photos: 

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 Elise wasn't too sure about it. 

Elise wasn't too sure about it. 

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All the modeling tired Elise out, I suppose, since she cuddled right up and proceeded to fall asleep. 

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We ended our adventure with apple cider donuts, since we had already established that the donuts were the secondary goal of apple picking. This farm did not disappoint - I'm pretty sure they were the best apple cider donuts I've ever had, and I've eaten quite a few in my day. 

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In short, we had a grand old time. Elise definitely won't be old enough to remember this trip, but it's something I hope to repeat year after year so that we can start establishing traditions of our own. 

I love fall - I mean really, who doesn't - but it isn't just because of the pretty colors on the trees, the crispness in the air, or the sumptuous food that ends up on our tables with the change of season. Instead, it's the gathering in, to pull an idea from The Lifegiving Home (frequently mentioned here of late). I love the feeling of the pull homeward, the desire for warmth and stocking up, preparing for winter, and making things cozy. And so I made 11 jars of applesauce with our apples while Elise slept this afternoon. I took a little break when she cried a bit in her sleep, taking more time than usual to snuggle with her and breathe in her freshly-bathed baby smell before settling her back in her crib to snooze the afternoon away. Gathering in doesn't just have to be about stocking a home pantry. I gathered Elise in my arms, knowing that she won't be small enough to gather this way forever. I gathered memories of our apple adventure, storing them away for years to come. We're slowly gathering traditions throughout Elise's first year, hopefully giving her an anchor in life as she grows.

We're already planning on doing an apple picking trip next year, because traditions are important. They gives us the peculiar opportunity to gather both memories and hopes all at once. 

Levain Bakery Follow Up: The Homemade Version

If you recall, when we went to New York, I tried the famous Levain Bakery cookies and decided they were alright, but not hands down the greatest cookies of all time. Remember? I even made a preposterous claim that I liked my own cookie recipe better. 

As a result, I decided that I needed to turn the flavor of my cookies into the size, shape, and texture of the Levain cookies, and set to work. My two biggest peeves with the Levain cookies were a) the walnuts and b) the (lack of) a good dough flavor, so that's what I set out to "fix." 

There are a number of food bloggers on the interwebs that have already undertaken replica Levain recipes, so I started there. This one looked good, but a friend had already tried making this one and declared it was amazing, so that's the one I ended up using as my base recipe. That one turned out to be a good one, since the baker had already done the hard work of figuring out how much flour and chocolate chips were required to make up for the removed walnuts. And so I got to work. Here's what I did:

Ingredients: 

  • 1 cup frozen salted butter (grated on a cheese grater)
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 cups chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the grated butter and the two kinds of sugar until smooth.
  3. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until fully incorporated into the butter and sugar mixture.
  4. Add the vanilla and almond extracts and mix until smooth.
  5. In a separate bowl, combine the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  6. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until smooth. (I do this step in three batches.)
  7. Once all the ingredients are fully mixed, remove the bowl from the mixer and stir in the chocolate chips. (There are a lot of chocolate chips, so don't be alarmed.)
  8. Scoop the dough into baseball-sized dough balls and place them on a cookie sheet lined with either a baking mat or parchment paper. There should be no more than four per sheet. Do not flatten the dough balls.
  9. Bake the cookies for 11 minutes, or until the tops of the cookies are the perfect shade of golden brown.
  10. Remove the cookies from the oven and let them sit on the cookie sheet for 15 minutes to finish the baking process.
  11. EAT THOSE COOKIES.

And oh. my. goodness. These were actually the best cookies I've ever had. My husband said, "I don't know how anyone could finish one of those in one sitting. I had a half of a half and I'm full!"

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Well, folks, I'm here to say that I CAN finish one in one sitting, although I will also say that I probably wouldn't want to eat anything else until the next day, so if you make this recipe, eat at your own (delicious) risk. My friend Rachael and I sat down and consumed them alongside a glass of wine and the finale of The Bachelorette. They were, as she posted to Snapchat...

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The Great Mouse Hunt of 2017

Can something still be called great if it took place over the course of less than 12 hours? I say yes, but based on the following account, let me know if you agree.*

For the past several days I had been hearing scurrying noises in the walls. I'm not one to freak out too much about the prospect of rodents in my house, as long as they don't STAY in my house, so I didn't think too much of it. I told myself I should probably buy some mouse traps soon, but I wasn't sure where to put them since I didn't know how a mouse, chipmunk, or other small creature could have invaded the premises. 

Yesterday started passed mostly uneventfully. I heard the scratching/scurrying again while sitting (and nursing, as I do on the daily several times), and then forgot about it. I am well aware that a normal person would not forget about such a thing, so I suppose that makes me abnormal. 

That all changed when I saw a pair of my shorts that I needed to put away. I grabbed them from the chair upon which they sat, turned around, and started climbing the stairs, and that's when I saw him. THE MOUSE. He was sitting at the top of the stairs, apparently playing dead, since he wasn't moving. 

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Again, a normal person might have had a normal reaction, like a gasp or a flight down the stairs. I did not. I said to myself, "I must get rid of this mouse RIGHT NOW." So I crept back down the stairs, headed for the kitchen cabinets, and grabbed a mixing bowl from the lazy susan where all our bowls are stored. Armed with a capturing implement, I headed back up the stairs to find that the mouse had moseyed its way along the baseboard on the landing and waltzed into Elise's room. Please note that Elise was sleeping in her room, which added a niiiiiiice layer of complication.

I got as close as I could, but before I could get the bowl over him, he scampered behind her bookshelf and was out of reach. He proceeded to disappear as I tried to access him from the other side. And so I declared a truce for the night and went to bed, vowing to myself to buy mouse traps in the morning.

HOWEVER.

The next morning arrived, and while Elise swung in her swing and I ate my Corn Flakes (don't judge - they're tasty), the mouse reappeared just beside our living room chair. "Aha!" I thought. "MOUSE, YOU ARE MINE." 

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I grabbed the same bowl from the previous night, tiptoed my way over to the chair (approaching from the other side, of course), climbed onto the seat, leaned over the side, and quickly set the bowl upside down over the mouse, trapping him underneath. 

I swear he must have been the world's dumbest mouse, because I'm pretty sure normal mouse behavior would have him running away from humans as fast as possible. The mouse and I are evidently compatriots in abnormality. Let's just hope it's on different scales. 

Since I still had to dispose of the (live) mouse, I took a flattened cardboard box from our recycling bin and slid it under the bowl. The mouse was now transportable. I lifted the whole contraption up, took it to our screen door, and went outside.  

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Once outside, I took a very quick jaunt down the rail trail behind our house, set the cardboard-plus-bowl on the ground, and flipped the bowl off the box. 

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He was temporarily paralyzed by fear and stayed stock still, but quickly recovered after I tipped the box to get him to move (and to get myself back inside the house). 

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Zoom lens. Don't think I'd get that close without one.

After taking one more mouse portrait, I bade him farewell and headed back inside. Please, dear mouse, STAY AWAY FROM MY RESIDENCE FOREVERMORE. 

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*Other potential titles included Mousepocalypse and MouseGate.

Tea Time with Friends

Well, I blinked and two weeks went by. Just call me Rip Van Winkle already, ok? It feels like a lot of things are going on but at the same time not much is happening. Part of it might be because I'm used to feeling somewhat stressed at this time of year due to the busy season at work, and that is only something I'm hearing about (rather than experiencing personally) this year. In a way, I feel a little guilty getting together with friends during the work day since I know that so many of my coworkers are under the summer pressure, but that's when I try to remember that I have a tiny human depending on me to stay alive 24/7. I guess that's its own kind of stress, but decidedly of a different sort.

Speaking of friends, a couple of my best ones and I decided to get afternoon tea along with our small offspring. A daunting thought, to be sure, but made easier by the fact that two of the three babes aren't mobile yet and are fairly content to sit in our laps, and the third is still in the womb for the next 11 weeks or so. It all sounded rather proper and lovely, and so we decided to risk the possibility that the babies could lose it while there and went anyway.

Fortunately, both babies were well behaved (though mine required a snack toward the end) and we had a grand old time. Initially we were headed to the Wenham Tea House, but we realized at the last minute that they weren't open every day and had to change our plans. Instead, we hightailed it to Salem and tried Jolie Tea Company, and it was well worth the extra couple of miles to get there. They offered over 80 kinds of looseleaf tea on their menu, and had a variety of either individual pastries or small combinations of pastries and pots of tea at very reasonable prices. For example, all three of us chose to get "La Petite Tea," which came with a pot of any kind of tea on the menu, along with a scone, a madeleine cookie, and a French macaron for $9.95. Considering some of the teas were around $7 a pot, I consider that a pretty good deal.

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It was so nice that we all declared we wished we could do it once a week. While that isn't really feasible, we'll definitely make it a regular event, and it inspired me to try to make time for creating that type of thing at my own home. Especially as Elise gets older, I think it would be fun for her to have a real, delightful tea party every once in awhile!

It also reinforced how grateful I am for this group of friends. What a blessing it is to have seen each other through the college years, first jobs, boyfriends, engagements, weddings, and now babies. They say it takes a village to raise a child, and they're a big part of mine!

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These Days

Ahhh, that was a great Christmas break, wasn't it? It's good to be back in the saddle...a month later.

This month has been a quiet one, in a way. No traveling (at least for me), lots of evenings at home, lots of friends, lots of crafting. I tend to think that's how the long winter months should be spent, since the cold outside prevents most other things. We don't have enough snow outside to do the typical outside winter activities, but you won't hear me complaining! Remember last year?

Also: all hail the power of the snow blower. If I had to spend one more winter shoveling the amount of snow we shoveled last year, I might just decide that it was worth staying inside until it all melted, however many months that might take. 

Honestly, that's really the latest from around here. Just a small account of the quiet, happy, sometimes boring joy of the everyday. 

On a tangent: would you host a Super Bowl party if your main team AND your backup team are both out of the running? 

Thursday Vignettes, Vol. 3

It's been awhile since I did one of these, so the time has come again! 

1. We had our final Star Wars movie night last night - we finished Episode VI just in time for Episode VII to "hit the theaters," as they say. We made our traditional movie night dinner (nachos) and our somewhat new dessert tradition (ice cream), and it was great.

I also found a Star Wars t-shirt at Target the other day, and since this new movie coming out is such a phenomenon, I bought it. I mean...it was six dollars. I plan to wear it to the theater when we go see the movie in Washington next week. Nerd alert.

2. I have a dreadful addiction to the cards and invitations section at Target. I went in the other day to pick up something random for the house - a soap dispenser, maybe? - and I almost left with two new sets of thank you notes just because I might need them sometime. I stopped myself (I really have no need for an extra 150 thank you cards, since I still have leftovers from my wedding 1.5 years ago), but it was hard.

3. Ever since we ordered all the things we need for the guest bed, we've been getting packages almost daily. One of them arrived other other night from Ikea, containing a rolled up mattress pad. At first I was confused as to what it was, though, because the box looked like it could have housed something about five feet long. Nope...turns out Ikea just has strange ideas about packaging non-breakable items.

4. I can't really say that I have a gift for words when it comes to expressing profound thoughts, which is why I stick to the more light hearted stuff over on this blog. But if you do feel like you want some deeper thoughts to sink your teeth into, a friend from home in Vermont has been writing a wonderful blog. It's currently focused on Advent, so check it out!

5. Since, according to the social media world, Thursdays are now dedicated to throwbacks (or has that trend sorta stopped?), I'm going to throw it back to the last Thursday I was in Puerto Rico. I had heard from the last coworker who had been there that supposedly iguanas were everywhere. I believed him until I got there, because for three full days and almost a fourth full day, I had seen none. It may have been frivolous, but apart from working well, seeing an iguana was the primary goal to complete before leaving. And lo and behold, as I was leaving the school campus on the very last day, THERE HE WAS. Those things are huge, and they move faster than lightning. I posted a zoomed in picture on Instagram when it happened, but I took another picture out my rental car window because the iguana was sitting behind a parked car. Having him there gave a nice reference point for how big he was, so...enjoy.

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Thursday Vignettes, Vol. 2

I decided I like the short list of random occurrences thing, so I declare that it's now a series. If you find them dreadfully boring, I'm sorry. I like having this blog as a stockpile of memories, and while these may not be important in the grand scheme of things, I like to have a record of everyday things too!

1. Gas prices at the best location of all time (Costco...duh) dropped way down to $1.89, so naturally the gas lines are really long. Most cars, including ours, have gas caps on the left side of the car, so the lines were the longest for pumps on that side, and Costco only allows one-way traffic through the pumps. We, however, thwarted the system.

2. Yesterday I walked into the bathroom to start getting ready for the day, and I immediately had "one of these things is not like the other..." running through my head.

3. Like we do on most Wednesdays, we had movie night last night to kick off a six-week series of watching Episode 1 through Episode 6 of Star Wars before the release of Episode 7. (Nerd alert: you've been warned.) Anyway, we had waffles and bacon for dinner, and we decided to do bacon in the oven since making it on the stove would take awhile for four people. Despite the fact that nothing was burning and the vent was on, the fire alarm went off and wouldn't stop until we waved a towel under it. We thought that was the end of it, but last night at 3am it went off again, which woke us up with a start. It beeped three times, and then stopped. Mysterious.

4. When we moved into our house, our realtor gave us a lovely planter of a variety of succulents. They were small, and I put them in the sunniest location I could so that they got plenty of light. Apparently the conditions weren't quite right for them though, because they've grown into monsters. 

That's all for now...happy Thursday!

 

Vignettes

1. This past Monday - since it was a holiday - we finally took the time to dig out the fire pit that the previous house owners had claimed was present in our backyard. There was indeed something that looked like a pile of rocks topped with a pile of dead wood covered by overgrown bushes back there, but until we dug it all out, I hadn't really believed there would be anything functional present. Lo and behold...it's entirely functional, and it's entirely awesome. Fall campfires with s'mores will no doubt be in our future. The near future...it's getting chilly.

2. Every week we try to do a movie night with some of our friends from work. We make dinner and then eat it while watching our movie. Last night we made spaghetti and meatballs and watched Mad Max: Fury Road. Have you seen it? It's...weird.

3. Also last night, I lost one of my earrings forever. I was washing my face as I got ready for bed, and somehow the washcloth caught my earring and shot it forward into the sink. We don't have a drain cover on that sink, and so it fell with a plop right down the drain, never to be recovered. Fortunately, I had made that particular pair, so if push comes to shove, I can make another one...next time I'm in Washington.

4. Speaking of Washington, we're going out there for Christmas. We're leaving in 62 days, and I'm clearly counting down already. Mostly because a vacation is much-needed, and that's the first one in sight (apart from Thanksgiving, of course!). 

5. The brother made it to Sacramento. Hooray!

6. On Tuesday, we drove into the parking lot at work only to find that it was covered in Canadian geese. I thought I had gotten rid of those guys when graduating from Gordon, but apparently they followed me to the office, those accursed beasts. In any case, we got the last available spot. The rest were claimed by the geese as their own.

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That's all, folks.

Home Alone: A Tale of Momentary Terror

As you are well aware, Chaz was away for 10 days last week and the week before. For the first seven days, I was fine being by myself at home. We live in a small town away from anywhere remotely dangerous, so I had nothing to worry about. However. That all changed on the seventh day. The Sabbath of Chazlessness, you might say. 

I spent the morning Skyping with Chaz, cleaning the house, and getting ready for the day. Friends were coming over for dinner in the evening, so I was rushing around getting everything ready for that. Eventually, I had to leave the house to go to a baby's first birthday party (loads of fun! good apple crisp! wonderful people!) and I departed through the door that goes out to our garage. Important note: I left this door unlocked, since it required going through the garage, which had its own locked door. See? Unlocked - the lock in the middle is sideways:

I came home after the birthday part full to the brim of apple crisp and joy, because that's what birthday parties do to people. I came in through the garage, grabbed the doorknob, turned it, and....nothing happened. It wouldn't turn, and I was locked out. Had I locked it on my way out, this wouldn't have been anything. But I had purposefully left it unlocked, because I knew I was going to come back in this way. Ergo...someone else must have locked it, and NO ONE ELSE WAS HERE. Cue internal panic.

I raced around to the front door and opened it cautiously, assuming I was about to see my house ransacked. But when I opened the door, everything was in its place and the whole house felt eerily silent. I started creeping around looking for any sign of the Someone in the house, but I left the front door wiiiiiide open in case I needed to make a quick getaway. In retrospect, it would have been smart to have grabbed a weapon of some sort (shovel? garden hoe? cast iron frying pan?) from the garage, but I guess I wasn't thinking that clearly. The door was indeed locked (the lock in the middle is upright):

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Eventually, I determined there was no one downstairs, so I tiptoed up the staircase and froze immediately. 

See that black thing through the doorway? I believe my exact thoughts were, "I'm going to die. That is the leg of a well-dressed bandit wearing black slacks, and he is about to murder me." At this point I was shaking a little too much for my own good, and as I silently made my way back down the stairs to the open door, I suddenly remembered I had hung a dark hoodie on the doorknob of the bathroom closet, and that there was not, in fact, a hell-bent marauder hiding in my bathroom.

I subsequently searched the rest of the house, and after convincing myself that no one was actually there, I finally went and shut the front door. The friends came over later and told the story with a laugh or three, but that night I locked my bedroom door and spent the entire night like this:

We'll see how long it takes me to recover my initial home-alone confidence....and I never did determine how that door locked itself in the first place.

A Random Assortment

I inadvertently took three days off from blogging. Life got in the way and I lost track of how fast days were passing. But that's not to say that I didn't have things going on! For one thing, there was a supermoon lunar eclipse, which I of course stayed awake for. 

I think it ranks up there as the coolest astronomical phenomenon I've seen to date. The only thing that might have ranked above it would have been seeing northern lights when I was about 11. My parents ran outside with my brother (the other one stayed asleep) and they tried to get me to come out too, but I had a migraine and elected to stay in bed. Now, 16 years later, I wish I had sucked it up and gone to see the northern lights, because who knows when that will happen again in my lifetime + in my range of vision? As a result, this eclipse wins the award. 

In other news, Chaz made it back from India all in once piece! Here's an old, unrelated picture of us in case you forgot what he looked like since he was gone for so long.

I started the scooter while he was gone, which is why that picture is even remotely relevant. 

In more unrelated news, I finished all of Parenthood. I am simultaneously devastated that it's over and very satisfied with how it ended. 

I could also mention making pumpkin ice cream and/or taking a business trip and realizing that I had forgotten my wallet at home, but I'll save that for another time. That's all for now!

Home Alone

As I mentioned in at least one (if not multiple) previous post(s), Chaz is currently traveling for a usually extended period of time. 10 days? No good. He's in India, so it's not just a quick phone call away. 9.5 hours time difference is a beast, I tell ya. So here I present to you a most definitive* guide: Five Ways to Occupy Yourself While Your Husband is on a Business Trip!

*Definitive if and only if you're me. 

1. Fill the House with People

So far, since Chaz has left, my family has visited and I've hosted a movie night. Tomorrow night I have choir rehearsal, then Friday night I'll have dinner with a friend, then Saturday contains two separate social gatherings. This schedule makes me sound like I just have this overwhelming social calendar and can't you tell I'm just so popular?! I promise you this is not the case, and I don't think I've had this many social events in a single week since...oh, college. But that would just be called "life in a dorm." 

 Dominoes with my brother. So social!

Dominoes with my brother. So social!

2. Costco

I could devote a whole post to Costco. Next week! Look for it! Costco might just be the best non-human thing to emerge from Washington (state). The best human is Chaz, but that is not what we're talking about here. Costco is a magical land where you can find everything from a giant package of toilet paper to the world's best muffins to a 100000000-inch TV (false - just a huge one) to fresh flowers to mattresses to a hot dog and drink combo for $1.50. They also have samples. It is the ultimate place for people of all ages, and we got there at least once a week. Usually after church on Sunday. Yesterday, I went there for bacon. Because bacon.

3. Parenthood

No, not parenting. Parenthood the show. Ok, ok, I know I'm several years late to this party, but honestly, there's no better time to binge watch a show than when you're home by yourself. And season five? SAD. I do not cry at movies. I do not cry at shows. I do not cry almost ever...EXCEPT for during pretty much every episode focused on Julia and Joel with legitimate tears. This is a whole new world for me. Anyone else want to 'fess up to doing the same?

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4. Cook

It's not that I don't cook when Chaz is at home. But experimentation is so much easier when you're the only person that has to deal with slash eat the consequences. And we already know how that turned out.

5. Practicing a long-neglected instrument

It's true. The oboe made an appearance, and it wasn't horrible. A little Brahms, a little Tchaikovsky, a little Bach...it's making a comeback. Heck, if it can happen to a blog, it can happen to an oboe, right?

 The overly-dramatic instrument shot. It's a classic.

The overly-dramatic instrument shot. It's a classic.

So there you have it: the guide to what I've been up to for the past four days. What else should I add to my routine? Knitting? Parkour? Shape Note singing? Skydiving? This is my chance to live large, obviously. Can't let that go to waste...

Siblings: the Key to your Inner Child

This weekend, two important things happened:

  1. Chaz left for India for an infernally long time. We left for the airport at 5:45 am on Saturday and he will return until 1:30 pm on September 30th. The level of detail included there was for no other purpose than to emphasize that it's a long time to have the queen-sized bed to myself figure out what to do with myself when he's not here.

  2. My family came to visit for the weekend during his absence, which gives me a chance to stop acting like a responsible adult.

Here's the fam's next album cover, pre-Photoshop:

I don't know how I managed to avoid getting my toes in that picture. Miracles DO happen, I say. 

During the course of their visit, I have done the following:

  1. Sung along with a Brahms symphony at top volume to prove that the melody was singable.
  2. Climbed a tree.
  3. Eaten far too much chocolate.
  4. Played dress-up in a store.
  5. Bought a bouncy ball out of those machines that you think hold not-so-buried treasure as a child.

Siblings bring out the weirdest side of you imaginable. It was glorious. And I know for a fact that we inspired a child, because a dad and his three-year-old were walking by as I cranked the magical wheel, and five seconds later she had her dad digging a quarter out of his pocket.

So if you ever feel like setting your burdens and cares aside for a few hours, call me up. I'll lend you either of my brothers, because as the oldest, I clearly own them. They'll teach you all sorts of useful things, like how to play video games until 4am and not fall asleep, or how to dress like a trendy pre-college fashion icon (key point: wear a "mid-thigh or higher skirt," according to the one pictured above). Due to their advice, I even became a world-class hipster for the duration of the three takes it took to get this photo to an acceptable state.

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If they really think you're cool, they might go so far as to dress up for you. At least one of them knows how to tie a bow tie.

I guarantee that they'll make your day. And heck...you might even find yourself smiling like a kid on Christmas morning while hoisting yourself into a tree.

Happy Monday, y'all.