Thursday, February 28, 2013

Crush-worthy Duds

Boden Swishy Jersey Skirt

I've talked about this before, but I love Boden. They have this laid back style that is so chic and so, well, me. If I had to pick one brand to wear forever, they would be it. Unfortunately, their prices don't always please (think full price J. Crew and up). Yet every month a new catalog shows up in my mailbox and my love is renewed. 

The latest edition was no exception. Beautiful cuts and prints...even their pj's called to me. I favor more casual looks at this point in my life, but I am constantly ripping out pages and tucking them away for career wear inspiration.

There was just something about this catalog. It made me crave spring. I also felt a little less like wearing elastic waist pants and Uggs every day after flipping through it. Needless to say, I will be staking out the sale section in the months to come. 


I, too, want to live in this magical Boden world full of sock buns, cobblestone streets, and lattes.

Everyday A-Line Skirt

As always, linking up for Loves on a Thursday!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Slow Cooker Chicken and Dumplings


I am having a serious love affair with my new Crock Pot. I came home last night to find that some lovely person has made me dinner after a looong day. Only I am that lovely person. But I like to pretend I have a little dinner fairy on my side.

This recipe comes from my Better Homes & Gardens Ultimate Slow Cooker Cookbook. I must admit that I was intimidated by the long list of ingredients when I first saw it. I need not be. Monday night, I chopped a few veggies and some chicken and threw it into the pot. Tuesday morning I fired her up. When I got home, it was just a matter of adding a bit of cornstarch for thickening (you could easily skip this if you don't mind it being more soup-like) and whipping up the cornbread dumplings (which takes all of 5 minutes). I threw the dumplings in and reset the timer for 25 minutes.

It was really good! In fact, Kiddo ate two whole bowls. Unheard of. Recipes like this remind me why meal planning/slow cooker-usage should be a regular part of my life.

The only thing I would do differently is to taste it prior to dropping in the dumplings. That's a good point to add in more salt and pepper. We salted it a tad after it was bowled up, which was fine, but I'll do it differently next time. Also, since Jared was partaking, I made it dairy-free (as usual). I substituted soy milk and Earth Balance for the milk and butter and omitted the 1/2 cup of grated cheddar cheese that usually goes in the dumpling mix. For you cheese-loving, allergy-free folks, use the real thing you lucky ducks!

Ingredients: 
2 cups carrots, chopped
2 cups potatoes, chopped
1 large onion, diced roughly
4 garlic cloves, crushed
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon sage
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 lbs chicken thighs, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 (14 ounce) can chicken broth
1 (10 3/4 ounce) can condensed cream of chicken soup
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons milk
2 tablespoons butter, melted

Directions:
1. In a 4 or 5 quart slow cooker combine the carrots, potatoes, onions, garlic, bay leaves, sage and pepper and stir to combine.
2. Place chicken on top of the vegetables.
3. In a medium bowl, gradually whisk broth into soup and pour this mixture over the chicken.
4. Cover; cook on low heat for 8-10 hours or on high heat for 4-5 hour (I did 9 hours on low because we were going to be home late).
5. Turn slow cooker to high heat. Remove and discard bay leaves. Combine water and cornstarch and stir into stew until combined.
6. In a medium bowl combine flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt. In a small bowl combine egg, milk and melted butter (+ cheese, if you're using it). Add egg mixture to flour mixture. Stir with a fork until just moistened.
7. Use 2 spoons to drop dough directly on top of stew. Cover and cook for 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into a dumpling comes out clean. Do not lift the cover while the dumplings are cooking.


When I think of comfort food, chicken and dumplings is at the top of my list. This recipe definitely fit the bill. 

Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Monday, February 25, 2013

If Everyday is a Gift...

I'd like to know where I can return Mondays.


This was a whirlwind kind of weekend where a lot happened, but I have little to show for it. So today, I will setting up camp, while Kiddo is actually at camp, and study until my brain is brimming with microbiology goodness.

New England has a funky school schedule. The public schools have the traditional Christmas/New Years break, but also week-long breaks in February ("Winter Break") and April ("Spring Break"). This is all very well and good, except that the college doesn't believe in such things.

So this week Jared is going to day camp at a local non-profit farm. It's a lovely place that he has been going to for years, and his days will be spent taking care of the llamas, sheep, and cows. As we drove up this morning, the countryside was a picture of white...snow fell yesterday but a lack of breeze left everything looking sprayed with marshmallow fluff. Then I realized I forgot my camera.

Actually, I'm a little sparse on photos overall thanks to my misbehaving Eye-fi, which didn't upload yesterday's photos. After my big exam tomorrow, I'll feel a little less guilty taking an hour to photograph the farm, so I'll have to do another this-and-that post later in the week.

Mario came home Friday night, over three hours later than expected, thanks to delayed flights. He flew out of Hartford, CT Saturday night, so despite threats of a snow storm, we all drove down to spend the day together before his departure. Hartford spent years building an amazing science center in the middle of downtown, and we finally got around to visiting. This place is incredible.

We had a really great time. I never get tired of watching Jared learn. The open-mouthed, totally engrossed stare a kiddo gets when they are taking something in is pretty cool. Afterward, he scored a lava lamp from the gift shop. Every kid should have a lava lamp at some point. That is one of the photos lost in the vortex between my camera and my computer.

In related news: I, too, have a new lamp. Earth-shattering news, I know. 
P.S. My bedside table is only this clean when I'm photographing it.

After the science museum we headed over to an amazing sushi place called Feng. Mario only had an hour before he needed to head to the airport, so time was of the essence. Tell that to a picky eater with a 5-page menu in front of him. Thank goodness for our waitress. She recommended some items that weren't on the menu and even got him to try 3 new dipping sauces. Seriously a miracle worker, that one. In case you were wondering, on a scale of one to ten, eel sauce is apparently a ten. Every time Jared discovers a new food he likes, angels sing and Mario and I weep tears of joy.

The lighting was all red, all the time, so my photos are a little psychedelic. Also, does anyone else love the crazy look of a Spider Roll?

Mario took off and Jared and I stayed until he was finished eating. Twenty hours at home is simply not enough. This was a tough one. 

The weather was holding out, so Kiddo and I stopped at Whole Foods on the way home to pick up some things and snag some dairy-free dessert. Then he played navigator after I took not one, but two, wrong turns. I've only taken this route home about 100 times. I blame a worn-out mind. 


Sunday was a chill day. I watched two episodes of Downton Abbey (one episode left of the first season...I'm expecting something exciting). We ate way too many Pumpkin Spice muffins, Jared played in the snow, and the house got tidied. That's good enough for me. 

 I did zero studying, nor did I get ahead on blog posts, in favor of hanging out. I'm paying for that today, as my nose will not be leaving my book once this post is finished. A smarter person might have forgone this post all together.

Hope everyone is having a great Monday!

Linking up:
 Much Ado Monday at This Little Light

stillbeingmolly

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Time to clean up

I had zero prompts done as of yesterday morning. I hit a mental snag with this one...but it was a great set of prompts. It didn't help that I'd hardly had time to devote to photography last week. Luckily, Saturday, and a trip to the Hartford Science Center, got me back on track.

Time to Eat

We went to one of my favorite sushi places last night and, of course, I brought along my camera. The entire building is lit solely by red lights, so my pictures are rather crazy-looking. On the bright side, I will be strengthening my editing skills as I attempt to fix them. I left this one slightly red because I like the in the moment feel of it. Jared was absolutely determined to eat his entire meal with chopsticks. Including his rice. I've never seen someone concentrate more during a meal. It was really cute to watch.

Getting Ready

Mario made this bowl in his glassblowing class last year. I love it so much that I claimed it as my own. I keep all my morning essentials in it rather than letting them clutter up the surface of my dresser (well, that still happens sometimes). This is definitely my getting ready bowl.

Playtime

This photo was taken yesterday at the Science Center. As you play with the different instruments, you get to watch the music you are creating in wavelengths on a screen. He was so engrossed. To see your kiddo really fascinated by something is pretty amazing...which is why these types of photos hold a special place in my heart. I'm not sure he even knew I was there.

Sweet Dreams

Mario left last night, so I had the bed to myself. Or so I thought. I woke up to this sleepyhead laying on the pillow next to me. In a rather human-like way, actually.

Scrub-a-dub (dub)

Jared has a whole bucket of rubber ducks in varying sizes and styles that were collected throughout his younger years. Occasionally he will take them out to the hot tub and soak surrounded by duckies.

Happy Sunday!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

There are only two ways to live your life.

One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.

Albert Einstein


Although not particularly interested in what Lance Armstrong had to say in his Oprah interview (I am rather indifferent, really), I decided to see what all the fuss was about. What interested me more than his admissions were the commercials for Oprah's upcoming interview with Drew Barrymore. I decided to DVR it and got around to watching it recently.

I am not one to get starstruck. I rarely swoon. Hollywood is an enigma to me, and the all nonsense that goes along with that culture is of little interest for the most part. I'm a realist, you see, and I tend not to believe the hype. Stars are humans like the rest of us. They fight with their husbands and their kiddos make them crazy. They have fat days and struggle with fulfillment. The public just happens to watch them go through it. I love a good movie, and can get lost in it, but I realize it for what it is: fiction. The actors are just acting and even nonfiction has it's embellishments. This is not to say that I do not enjoy the occasional episode of Fashion Police or The Soup. I can also admire a star's talent, hair, makeup, clothing, etc. I'm not a robot.

Drew Barrymore, despite being in that world since infancy, seems to share that sense of realism. I found myself liking her immediately. She is an imperfect soul. She is totally and completely human and I could relate to her in unexpected ways.

I tend not to talk too personally on this blog. But what makes me, well, me is my life. Our pasts shape us and mine is no exception. I have always been of the opinion that more people should talk about life. And by life, I mean real life. One of my issues with the blogosphere is that, like Hollywood, it can be polarizing. That mom with beautifully dressed children, thousands of followers, and a seemingly perfect life? Not perfect. Because perfection isn't real. We only see what others want us to see, and on a bad day it can be really easy to get sucked into that world. To let our perception of another person's life determine how we feel about ourselves. It has taken years of self discovery and introspection to realize that skinny, fashionable, talented, wealthy, and popular are not synonymous with happy.

I may be stalling. I started this post because that interview spoke to me. Her honesty. Her realistic view of life. I decided that it was time for me to do the same. To break down those walls and talk in a realistic and unbiased fashion about what things often look like when the curtains are pulled back.

My mom wasn't at my wedding. In fact, I have not seen nor spoken my mother in almost ten years. And as sad as this may seem, it has been to the benefit of my well being. She has not seen my son since he was a baby. Although I know this is the healthiest situation, and have long since come to terms with it, I still feel a twinge of heartache when I see a movie where a family gathers for Christmas or I read about the amazing influence someone's mother has on their life. My son doesn't visit Grandma. Would it be nice to have that? Yes. But I also know a parental relationship cannot, and would not, ever be fulfilling in my case.

My childhood, which I often refer to here as '"hodge podge", was rather rough. Although I had glimpses into what 'normal' families are like, ours was anything but average. My mom suffers from bipolar disorder, and more importantly, and mean, spiteful spirit. She was unable to celebrate our successes or encourage our talents because she feared they may overshadow her own. She was hurtful and relished our heartache. There will be no family Christmases, and I have a relationship with only one of my three siblings. We all handled the cards we were dealt in different ways, and meaningful relationships are not always possible. There's is no anger...merely acceptance.

Out of the ashes of a troublesome childhood came a fairly well adjusted woman. Eventually. I am a work in progress. I suffer from the same self doubt as everyone else, sure, but I'm also more self-aware than I could ever have hoped to become. Therapy and a whole lot of soul searching certainly got me to where I am at. I struggle with the impossibly high standards I set for myself, and over time learn how to use them to my benefit rather than my detriment. I have also learned that it is not fair to impose those impossible expectations on those close to me. My empathy for others knows no bounds and my patience for giving up is nonexistent. I have made mistakes, big and small, and numerous bad decisions. I have dusted myself off more times than I can count, and it wasn't always pretty, but I always, always got back up. Sometimes I didn't want to.

I love my son with a fierceness I didn't know possible. I take every hard moment and use it as a tool to be the best parent I can be. My son will grow up with a healthy perspective and a cheerleader in his mom. He will never know the foster system or emotional abuse. I will never stop trying to teach him and he will never hear that his talents have limits. Because they do not. He will always have a safe place to come home to and parents who will love him for who exactly who he is. Even if it's a dose of tough love. Mario and I will stop at nothing to see that his dreams are realized.

I appreciate my husband and his kind soul more than he will ever know. He is living proof that there is a perfect match out there for everyone. I'll eat you up, I love you so.

I took away something else from that interview: Revealing personal information should be a choice. Drew had a right to keep her relationship with her mother private, as did I. She had a right to announce (or not) her pregnancy. She has a right to walk down the street and feel that her child is safe. I enjoy the occasional weekly rag in the doctor's office waiting room, but in doing so, I am fueling an unhealthy culture. The voyeuristic society we live in serves only to our detriment.  When I am bored and avoiding homework, Us Weekly should never be my go-to website. Let's be clear: I do not judge those who do. I have plenty of times. I am simply realizing that it is not healthy for me personally. Nor is it congruent with the type of environment I am choosing for myself at this point in my life. The thought of having a stranger put a camera in my son's face while shouting about personal matters in order to get a rise out of me while I walk down the street makes me feel panicky. I don't think we often see it from that perspective, and it is a culture I am removing myself from. Red carpets are one thing, accosting families at Whole Foods because of their pay grade is another.

For me, this is a year of change. Living simply. Reaching the end of an arduous 4+ year journey. Planning our future. Opening up as an individual. Changing the way I see things. This is me stepping out of my comfort zone and discussing something that has shaped me as an individual. Tomorrow I will probably go back to recipes, photography and motherhood. But now, in this moment, I am choosing to reveal something that may or may not speak to others in the way that an unassuming Oprah interview did to me.

*Note: It took four weeks to press the 'publish' button on this post. In that time, I haven't opened a gossip magazine or their website. And I feel better. I have since noticed that I used them as a tool for avoidance rather than tackling that homework assignment, going to bed, etc. For most, it's simply fun, light reading. For me, it was a diversion for an already overworked mind. I'm working to unclutter my brain, my life, and to live a more meaningful existence. This was simply another step in the right direction. As was the honesty contained within this post.*

Friday, February 22, 2013

As of late

It's 6p and I am just getting around to writing my "High Five for Friday" post. I guess it is still Friday...better late than never I always say. 
I actually never say that.

So instead of my traditional collage containing five fabulous things from the week, I'm going to use this post to highlight what my life has looked like lately. The good, the bad, and the carb loading.

Bagels,

You call to me. You are all I want lately. But, unfortunately, our love must come to an end. Even you, whole wheat bagel with light cream cheese. Four times in 8 days is just too much lovin'.

Sarah


Warm, comforting caffeine. I'm taking it easy with decaf and tea, but that little touch of the wake-up juice is getting me through some long days and short nights. 

I had every intention of studying while Kiddo was in ski lessons. Honestly. But the internet was down so it simply couldn't be helped. Naturally, nachos and hard cider were in order.


I wanted to give a shout out to Mommy's furry little helper. I finally got around to assembling that new shelf and he didn't leave my side for a second. When I needed someone to sit on the directions? There. When a riveting game of soccer with the parts was in order? He didn't let me down. It took about a half hour longer than it should have, and I have Mr. V to thank for it. Such a giver, that one. I can never say no to that face.

The camera strap cover I ordered arrived yesterday! I love it! It is bright and cute and has so much more character than the standard black Nikon one. I have already lost a lens cap, so the two little pockets will be a lifesaver. You can find the same "Splendid Dot" slipcover, or choose from a ton of darling patterns, at The Poppy Shop. The quality is so good, I just had to give her a plug.

Happy Friday evening, folks! We have another Nor'easter heading our way, so whether or not I am willing to brave the blizzard for a day trip to Hartford, Connecticut is still up in the air. There is an huge science museum for Jared and an amazing sushi place we visit too infrequently. With my recent hankering for all things carbohydrate, I may be gracing Hartford with my presence despite a potentially unpleasant drive home tomorrow evening. Also, it will allow us to milk every second of Mario's mere 20 hours home before he flies off again.

We shall see...

Thursday, February 21, 2013

They call me mellow yellow.


My anxious anticipation for the spring season. The need for a little brightening. A newly painted buttery yellow room. Seeing the sun before 7:30a for the first time in months.

Already a fan of yellow (it is my all around favorite color), I find myself gravitating toward this sunny hue more than usual lately. Actively seeking it out, really. While I'm not exactly sure why, the reasons listed above are sure possibilities.

So it is only natural that my loves, on this fine Thursday, are all about yellow. Just try not to feel cheerier. I double dog dare you.

Even if Blogger decides you have not earned the right to center your Pinterest sources today.

 1. Not only do I love the color, I love the flavor. No, not banana. Least favorite food next to liver. Oh my. What I meant to say is that I could eat anything and everything lemon flavored. These lemon blueberry cupcakes are going to make an appearance at my house this weekend. [recipe courtesy of Annie's Eats2. This animal print comforter comes in queen size! I don't even care that it is from a children's company. Love. It. [Animales Graficos bedding, The Land of Nod3. These buttery yellow dishes are sure to brighten up any meal [Emma dinnerware, Pottery Barn4. The array of textures and cheery color sold me on this hoodie immediately [Channing hoodie, Sundance Catalog

 5. I love yellow pants. In theory. Unfortunately, I find most to be unflattering, the wrong shade, or too sheer (i.e. good thing I tried them on while wearing black underwear...otherwise I might have really embarrassed myself). These are jeans and the perfect shade of yellow...I would wear them in a second. [Red Engine Cayenne Skinny Jeans in Buttercup, Garnet Hill6. I immediately fell for the cute delicacy and lemony color of these shoes. I would wear them now, if there wasn't a real threat of my toes falling off. [Lemon Crochet Women's Classics, Toms7. I love my trusty black KitchenAid mixer. But I might love it more if it was yellow. [KitchenAid stand mixer in Magestic Yellow, Target].  8. Sometimes just a touch of yellow can make all the difference. [Colorful Times Watch, Sundance Catalog]

And because my love of yellow knows no bounds, I had to check out "yellow kitchens" on Pinterest. You would, too. I wouldn't turn down a single one of these.

Source: bhg.com via Sarah on Pinterest




I'm pretty sure, upon closer examination, that the last one is a laundry/craft room. I'll take it! I am perhaps more awed by their level of organization.

Be sure to stop by The Daily Tay and enter to win some awesome prizes. I don't advertise much anymore, but her blog is the exception.

Happy Thursday! 
Hope it's sunny where you are! 


As always, linking up for:
Loves on a Thursday


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

One should not attend even the end of the world...

without a good breakfast.

Robert A. Heinlein, Friday

Last Friday was Ski Day at Jared's school. It was our first, but every year grades 1-8 head to a local ski mountain and spend the day bonding over snow sports. After skiing for 6 hours straight, Kiddo was probably more than a little tired.

Not to be deterred, we continued with our plans to get away for the night. Friday night, after checking into the hotel, Jared became restless, achy, and overtired. We got him a bag of ice for his sore muscles and turned out the lights...much later than his usual bedtime.

Needless to say, we were not shocked when he woke up in the worst mood. We almost abandoned our breakfast plans several times in favor of the hotel restaurant because we simply could not get him functioning. Thank goodness we didn't.


According to Yelp, the best breakfast place in Hull, Massachusetts is Toast. Thanks to the off season, we walked in and were immediately seated. It is a small place, and we were currently avoiding eye contact with The Beast, so we were grateful there was no wait.


Our waitress, an angel on earth, immediately brought coffee. I didn't even bother with decaf. It was 10a and I was already exhausted...I needed the real thing. They even brought some extra brew in a cute little carafe.


After two kind attempts from the waitress to elicit an order from Jared, he finally settled on nothing and instead ordered half the menu. Mario and I didn't say a peep. Eat up, Grouchy Pants. I opted for the Smoked Salmon Benedict and Husband went for corned beef hash (his favorite) and some side orders of this this and that.


While we waited for our food, Mario and I chatted, I snapped a few photos, and Jared read. At one point I thought I saw the owner give me the stink-eye, but the waitress and I chatted about photography and she gave me the thumbs up, so I felt more comfortable. I began to realize the owner has long since mastered the snooty look, so I doubt it was just me.

Still, it was a good time. Kiddo was quiet, and it is one of those places where you could spend all day looking at all the nick knacks, signs, and vintage cookware.


Can I just tell you how insane the food was? Everything was amazing and the hash browns were off the hook. Jared ate most of the 12 things he ordered, including all but a few bites of these strawberry pancakes.

 
This wasn't any ordinary breakfast. Ohhh no. Not only was the food incredible, it also possessed the magical ability to turn Kiddo's mood around. A complete 180. By the time he dug into those pancakes, he had apologized (without prompting) for his mood, joined the conversation, and was back to making up knock-knock jokes. Also, for the first time ever, he ordered grapefruit juice. He hardly ever tries anything new. I wanted to bottle whatever was in the air.


 If you're ever in the Boston area and up for a little adventure and some great food, this place is a must-try.