Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Buying Less and Loving More

I have been thinking a lot lately about trying to be more frugal in several areas in my life. I am not sure what has brought this on; perhaps it is the "are we or aren't we in a recession" debate; it could be that we will have a newborn here in August and will be spending more than we are now; or it could be related to my ongoing desire to cut down on trash and just generally reduce/reuse/recycle more.

Let me be clear in the fact that we aren't suffering for cash over here (not that there is much extra at the end of the month); we both have great jobs; but lately I know we both have felt that our spending and overall purchasing has been somewhat wasteful, and so we are trying to be smarter.

I was reading a new blog last night called (yes, I found it because I was doing a Google search on feeding a family on a budget and spending less than $75 a week on groceries). I was struck by a post that Lynnae had put up about Minimalism. It really struck a chord with me.

Minimalism Means Less Clutter

Chris and I have always liked to have a lot of open space wherever we are living--be that in our first apartment, the 900 square foot house we rented in Connecticut, or our current 2,700 square foot house. We have tried not to fill up our space just because we have more of it to fill.

That has proven to be a challenge with James--of course he needs toys and such, but pretty much all of his toys fit in a great organized little space that Gini helped me to put together. I am mindful of not buying him a new toy on every outing (although Chris struggles with this a bit more than I do.) I read somewhere that toddlers really only need a few toys to keep them occupied, or else they become overwhelmed. I think that seems to be the case for James. I pull out a basket filled with cars, blocks, trains or books in the morning, and then switch it with another box after his first nap, and then another in the evening. He is pretty much content with that system so far, and I don't need to have a toy room or playroom to store all of his things in.

There is other types of clutter in our home, including my incessant need to buy books--but we are working on it. For some reason, counters free of clutter make me happy and sane

Minimalism Means Less Waste

"If I bring less stuff home, I don’t have as much opportunity to waste," as Lynnae says on her blog. I think that Chris and I used to shop as a form of entertainment. But about a year ago, we had a talk about that and have stopped doing it for the most part. Instead we spend time together in the backyard, or playing with James, or going for a walk. I cull the paper online every week to see what sorts of activities are gong on, like car shows, parades, craft shows, etc., to make fun outings for us to attend that don't cost much money.

Does that mean that we don't buy anything? Well, no, but we do try to keep it to essentials, or things that will enrich our lives in some way.

We have been buying less groceries and recycling more, and I know that has meant less trash waste. Our garbage pickup is twice a week. We used to have a huge barrel full or garbage, and I mean STUFFED with probably 6 or 8 bags twice a week. Now we maybe have three bags twice a week. We have a lot less food waste, because we are trying to smart about menu planning and shopping, as well as using our pantry the way it is meant to be used--for stockpiling essentials, not, candy (eh hem, Skittles, Starburst, cookies and the like--which has been difficult as of late).

While our garbage has been reduced, our recycling has definitely increased. Recycle pick-up is only twice a month--that is so BACKWARDS, don't you think? If anything, we could use one trash pick up and one recycle pick up a week.

Minimalism Means Learning to be Content

I think that there is a tendency to have more, want more, buy more. I remember my first really great full-time job as a Marketing Associate in a regional theatre. I was so excited to be making $22,000 a year! It seemed like so much more than the $16,000 I had made at a smaller theater the year prior. My boss had said "Now, remember, when you make more money, you spend more money." She was right. Every new job I have had, I should have banked the extra--but do we ever do that? No, we buy the new car, get a nicer apartment, make clothes shopping a habit, eat out more, you name it. I don't regret that I did all of that fun stuff, but how much of it have I really needed?

I like to look at it this way--if I never made another dollar to spend on entertainment and extras, would I still be happy? ABSOLUTELY! I have my husband and my boy, the rest of my family and my close friends, and that is all I need. Would I miss Old Navy and sushi and mindless shopping at Target? Yup. But does that stuff put a smile on my face? Maybe for the moment--but not for the long term.

Minimalism Means Really Loving What I Have

By embracing Minimalism, I cut out everything but what I really love. Lynnae talks about the Laura Ingalls Wilder book series, and how Laura only had one doll and that was her most precious thing. I wonder, is there any one item I have that is totally precious to me? (Other than my family and my animals?) I might be hard pressed to pick one thing. AND THAT IS BECAUSE I HAVE SO MANY THINGS.

This stuff has been on my mind for a while (can you tell??) Here are a few more things I am thinking about:
  • Turning off my TV for a week. We definitely watch too much. I asked Chris last night, after the news, after Idol, and after Jeopardy, did we really see anything that left a lasting impression on us, or enriched us in someway? (Other than David Cook's yet again amazing performance on Idol, the answer was no.) We need to read more books, play more games, take more walks and just BE together more. My fellow Blogger Stephanie is on day 4 of her own TV-less trial (you can read about that here.)
  • Make my own bread. I have a bread machine and for a while I was making tons of homemade bread. How hard is it really, when you aren't doing the mixing, kneading or baking? And I know how much Chris loves the smell of homemade bread when he walks in the door after work.
  • Take more walks outside, not on the treadmill. When I am on the treadmill, I mindlessly watch the View or some other crap like that. When I am outside and James is in the jogging stroller, we talk (well, talk between huffing and puffing) I point out birds, he counts trees, you get the idea.
  • Finish my new book. I begged Chris to change our bedroom lamps to a taller kind that would actually cast light on whatever you were reading. I wanted to read before bed every night. I did it for about a week, and then I relapsed into watching the news in bed before falling asleep. There's nothing like filling your head with the latest meth bust, child shot while walking to school or three-car pile-up right before laying your head on your pillow.
I'll start with that little list first, and see how far I get.

I added a few new blogs in my blogroll, including "No Impact Man," "Crunchy Chicken," and "More Deliberate Every Day." These are blogs being written by individuals who have taken the three R's to a new level, and I am inspired and amazed by how they are incorporating "living deliberately" into their own lifestyles.

And one final note--I said to Chris the other day that I am somewhat amazed at how the term "green" is popping up everywhere. I am totally conscious of big business turning green. It can only have some perceived potential profit impact for them to be doing so--I can't imagine that Exxon Mobil has had a sudden change of heart. It makes me suspicious, like when major cigarette companies started running "smoking is harmful" ad campaigns a few years ago. I also think that recent comments by Al Gore related to this "green washing" effect are right on the money. However--if it helps the environment even a little bit, I am here to support it.

If you made it all the way to the end, thanks for reading!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Did I mention in yesterday's post that James LOVES his new kitty?

Sunday, April 27, 2008

A Weekend Mish Mosh of Photos

I grew up having New England Fish Fry at my house at least once a week. I have been dying to do it lately, but I don't have a fryer, and have been afraid of doing it in an open pan. Chris and I were watching Tyler Florence this morning, and he did it in an open Crueset pan on the stove, so we went for it!

Here I am taking the first batch of onion rings out.

Can you say DELICIOUS???

Here is the finished platter of shrimp, onion rings and catfish. OMG the shrimp were awesome!!!

Here is James contemplating his first bite of fried shrimp. (One must hold food item at arm's length to fully contemplate it.)

OK, next item, my garden!!! I can't believe it, but I HAVE TOMATOES!!!

Plant #1:

Plant #2:

Plant #3:

Plant #4:

While I was admiring my tomatoes today, James was running up and down the lawn.

Next topic, Henry. He sleeps a lot. A LOT!

He tries to play with the dogs, but they are so crazy to smell him that they tremble all over and can't even think straight. See Gino??

Here's Rocco thinking "OMG OMG OMG he is so FREAKING CLOSE I am GOING TO FAINT!!!!"

Ummm, Rocco??? BACK AWAY from the kitty!!! Henry doesn't look worried, does he??

James loves his little Henry. He says goodnight and kisses him when he goes to bed.

And one more, amazing, wonderful, scrumptious photo of James.

The weekend is just hours away from being over. We had a great one. Hope you did too!!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Hello Baby!

Well, there's no doubt about it, I'm definitely showing!

I am feeling good (although overcome by a constant need to nap) and have been enjoying feeling the baby girl move. According to my baby book, she is just about 11 inches long and weighs a little over a pound. I am up 11 pounds and feel like it is all in my belly this time.

And for those of you love smoothies like I do, I will share my new favorite recipe for one. We'll call it the "Ella Special."

  • 6 frozen strawberries
  • 1 banana
  • 2 TB peanut butter
  • 1/2 up skim milk
  • 6 ice cubes
Blend until nice and smooth. As Rachael Ray would annoyingly say, "YUM-O!"

(Hey, at least my current craving is strawberry smoothies. It's better than Skittles!)

Oh, and a note for all of you who hate the word verification function for commenting, I am turning it off for a while. OK MOM???!!!! Start commenting!! We miss you!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Friday Fun

Thanks to everyone who voted in the "Name Our Kitty" poll!

Today I asked James to repeat the names on the poll to see which he could say. He had the easiest time with "Henry," and the way he says it makes my heart just melt. I was pulling for Giuseppe, or Oliver, but I am good with it.


Chris feels strongly that everyone in the family should be named after a right-off the-boat Italian family, so he is probably disappointed. (And Bill, you can call him "Pork" if you want to.) Funny, one of the sweetest cats I have ever had is at home with my parents in Maine right now, a grey tiger named Porky. I do not kid. That is the truth!

Many, many thanks to Chris' co-worker Marie for Henry! We know you grew attached to him and it was hard for you and his Mommy to say goodbye. Just know that we will love him like CRAZY.

If anyone is looking for a kitten, I think there were something crazy like 9 in the litter. Marie took in a
stray cat that ended up being pregnant. Remember folks, spay or neuter your pets!

On a separate note, here is James eating his breakfast. Although I think
Garrin has been eating cereal with milk since he was 6 weeks old, James has struggled a bit with the whole spoon thing. Today he got it!

Have a great weekend everyone!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Meet the New Baby

We have a new addition to the family! He is 7 weeks old. James is thrilled. I am tired (he climbed all over my face all night in bed.) Gino is beside himself with trembling excitement. Bean is PISSED.

Help us pick a name. Vote at right.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Giving Myself a Break

I have been feeling a little s t r e t c h e d lately. (And I don't just mean my growing baby belly.) See pic at right for a good laugh . . .

It all started a few months back when I was repeatedly turning down get-to-gethers at the playgroup. My weekends are sacred to me, and I was having a hard time fitting playgroup into the fact that my regular stay-at-home job was slipping over into the weekends.

Buh-bye playgroup.

We recently had a colleague at work leave for personal reasons. This has meant that each of us is picking up different areas of extra work; plus, this time of year is extremely busy for us anyhow. That has meant that I need to get up earlier and work later.

Buh-bye treadmill time.

I have wanted for a long time to find a place to sell my little crafty-hobby-type things online, and when I found, I got very excited. However, to consistently get your stuff in front of Etsy viewers, you need to work on that every day. Did I mention that I already have a full-time job?


I have been reading the same book for the last month. I was able to start and finish the last one in March when I flew back and forth to DC for a speaking engagement for work. Looks like that is the only real time I have for reading anymore. (Ok, I could fit it in if I stopped watching Medium, American Idol, Top Chef and Criminal Minds . . .)

Buh-bye reading.

James has been fascinated with fish lately. Chris and I went to the pet store to buy him a goldfish (you know, to put in a gold fish bowl, like on Sesame Street?) Aaaaahhhh, no. According to the pet people, you can't do that with anything but a Betta. So, we bought him a 5 gallon aquarium setup and were going to get him the fish yesterday. As I was putting it together, I was thinking "What am I, nuts??? He's not even TWO!!!"

Buh-bye guppies.

So. I know this has seemed to be a very "woe is me" type of post. However, I am actually feeling good about it, because, I am still making my priorities happen.

I still have dinner with my family around the table 6 out of 7 nights a week.

I still read James stories every night.

I still kiss my husband first thing in the morning and the last thing at night.

I still get great mental pleasure out of my job, and flexing my brain to do it.

I still have time for my gardening, cooking, baking and blogging.

I think sometimes it is important for me to realize when I am over-extended, and to re-prioritize things, and not take on so much guilt.

So James might end up watching more than two hours of TV a day. As long as it's not the garbage that I am watching, I think he'll be just fine.

So I go from wearing complete eye shadow, eye liner, mascara, lip gloss, blush and bronzer to just wearing mascara and lip gloss. Is Stacey London going to suddenly appear and tell me that I am a candidate for her show? I don't think so.

So I don't hit the treadmill every day. As long as I can get outside with James and Chris on the weekend, I don't think my body will fall apart.

What is important is that my family and I are happy and healthy. Everything else can just fall into place. If it needs getting done, it will. If it can wait, so be it.

BTW, Chris, if you are reading this, I don't think I'll have time to make a six-course meal for dinner tonight--how does Chipotle sound to you???

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Movie Mania!

Here are some movies for y'all!

James says "no" in just the to-die-for CUTEST little voice ever!

Kissing cousins.

The next American Idol!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

A Great Weekend Is . . .

Sleeping with the bedroom windows open on Friday night so that you wake up to the birds singing on Saturday morning.

Going to a local parade and car show on Saturday morning and watching James point out all of the neat floats/horses/bands/hot rods and saying "Wow!"

Watching your beautiful, sleepy boy fall asleep after too much parade excitement and sun.

Having prosciutto and provolone sandwiches from La Puma bakery for lunch.

Taking an afternoon nap.

Grilling, drinking wine and sitting on the patio with friends.

Watching James run up and down mowing the lawn with the bubble mower.

Eating a way-too-big potion of strawberry shortcake with ripe berries, homemade shortcakes and homemade whipped cream.

Falling into bed before 9pm because you are happy and exhausted.

Sleeping in on Sunday morning.

Making the best pot of coffee you have had all week.

Playing trains with James and hearing him say "Uh-oh" and "Oh no!" when the train goes off the track.

Taking James for a four mile walk in the baby jogger and soaking up the sun and the blue sky.

Buying a real fish tank for James to fill with guppies because he is just so excited about fish right now.

Taking an afternoon nap.

Having hot dogs, grilled veggie salad, potato salad and homemade banana splits for dinner/dessert.

Reading as many bedtime stories as James wants before you put him to bed.

Watching a movie together (unless we fall asleep and go to bed before 9pm!)

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Baby Update and James' Version of "Babies"

Ok family and friends, a little update on the baby girl:

We had a nervous weekend, because late Friday afternoon we got a call that I needed to call in to the Triage nurse at my OBGYN about a "matter concerning my pregnancy." Let's just say that the fact that my OBGYN's office was closed and there are no patient services on the weekend scared the crap outta me.

On Monday I called in, and they told me they wanted to go for a Level II ultrasound because they "didn't get a clear enough look at the baby" on the original ultrasound. Ok, no biggie, I thought. But then they said they wanted to schedule me ASAP with a perinatal specialist and then I got a little freaked out.

We went for the level II yesterday, and turns out they wanted to see me because there was a bight spot on the baby's heart. According to the specialist, this can be a "soft marker" for Down's Syndrome. However, that alone is not an indication that the baby could have a disability. It would have to be that plus a number of other factors, including shortened appendages, a fold at the back of the neck, pinkie fingers missing a bone, and an abnormal digestive tract to make it a true concern.

Chris and I were sitting there literally holding our breath when he told us that none of those other indications were present on the ultrasound, and that my triple screen blood test came back normal, and that we have a 1 in 1500 chance of having a baby with a Downs diagnosis, which is very low. Plus, he said that they see babies with bright spots on their hearts all of the time, and they are born without Down's.

We sighed a big sigh of relief, because we had been literally PRAYING ALL WEEKEND for a healthy baby. For those of you who knew what we were going thru, I thank you so much for your words of wisdom, guidance and support. Sometimes it takes going thru a scare to really put your life into perspective.

I think my Mom said the best thing, "whatever will be will be and you will love her just the same." She is right.

Here is baby and I at 21 weeks.

And a couple cute James things:

Is this where he gets those ruby red lips?

He calls strawberries "babies" which is so cute right now.

Love him!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Aren't Cousins Great?

Chris' cousin Chris is in town visiting this week. Here they are at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway yesterday hanging out at the race.

And here are Garrin and James:

I hope that in 30+ years they will be as close as Chris and Chris!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Katie, This Post's for YOU

You told me how good the shakes were from Carl's Jr., and I got myself a chocolate one today. Can I just say, "Where has Carl's Jr. been all of my life???!!!" Holy CRAP these are great. You rock! Thanks!!!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

More Like Daddy Every Day

James is fascinated when Chris mows the lawn. He is usually standing on the other side of the slider with his hands and nose pressed against the glass watching his Dad. Today we found him a little lawnmower that blows bubbles. Let's just say he loves it. Can't you tell?

Friday, April 11, 2008

Fussy Friday

Dear Mr. Cranky Pants,

What have you done with my happy Jamesy? Please return him to me at once. He was here earlier this morning, but as soon as his Daddy left, you appeared in his place. You want to be held, and then you say "down!" You are hungry, but then push your Cheerios off of the plate. You are thirsty, and then you throw your milk on the floor. You are so unhappy that you run away from me, and then you trip and bump your knee and cry some more. Please Mr. Cranky Pants, bring me back my smiley boy. I miss him!

James' Mommy

Thursday, April 10, 2008


Oh, to have been born a man.

Most of you know that I am terrified of pre-pubescent girls, which is why it is ironic that I will be raising one myself.

I just don't like all of the drama that comes with them. And for someone that has a theater degree, that is also ironic, don't you think?

I have recently re-connected with an old friend that I went to school with from 3rd grade through graduation. When the other girls were becoming boy-crazy, we were still horse-crazy.

I just found out that she is mother to four little girls. OMG I think I would have a heart attack.

I asked her how she handles all of the drama that comes with little girls. She told me that "We go with the Anne of Green Gables philosophy: Sometimes it is better to be smart than to be pretty."

I'll have to keep that in mind--for my daughter, and for myself!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

A Big Boy Bed!

Well, the time has arrived to finally decide what we were going to do for James' new big boy bedroom! Chris and I talked for weeks back and forth about using his nursery furniture in his new room, and converting his crib to a full bed. Or, buying him a bunk bed set.

I am not keen on bunk beds for a couple of reasons. 1) in the typical bed under a bed fashion, they are hard to sit in as an adult (on the bottom bunk) and read to your child. James and I read stories every night, and so I wanted this to be comfortable. 2) Many bunk beds are really tall, and with 8ft ceilings, I wanted whomever was in the top bunk to be comfortable. (I also didn't want it to be a HUGE pain in the but to make the top bunk).

We spent a long time looking at beds online, on Craigslist and in local stores. I was at my wits end, because everything is so so FREAKING expensive, and even though we had put money aside just for James' room, I really didn't want to break the bank, especially because Chris and I have been being ultra-conservative with our money while we prepare for the new baby's arrival.

At our last stop last Saturday we were in a store and were just about to sign the deal on new nursery furniture for Baby Girl when we saw a GREAT bunk bed set. It is made of birch and is beautiful. Also, the bottom bunk is not attached to the top, so it can be placed anywhere in the room. It also comes with built in drawers and a little desk! (It was also on SALE--Yahoo!!!)

I was immediately thinking that it would:
  • be great with the color in James' new room
  • be so nice to have an extra bed for one Garrin stays over
  • offer a nice play area underneath the top bunk when the bottom bunk is not there
  • be a special thing for James and a great way to celebrate his soon-to-be big brother status
I had also wanted some awesome safari bedding from Pottery Barn Kids (could someone please tell me to stop looking at that website everyday?) but is is already too expensive and now had to buy TWO SETS of bedding. We ended up finding awesome log cabin quilted bedding that is really soft and fun. It actually reminds me of summer camp. So, I am going to decorate his room with teddies and fish and woodland wildlife--maybe even some stuff from the Little Bear series (which he loves).

Also, the great thing about having all of this set up is that we can take our time transitioning him into the bed. Everyday at both nap times (10am and 3pm--I know, I am SO LUCKY!!!) we go in and he lays down for about 10 seconds before he gets up and plays. He lines up all his teddies either on the floor or on his bed, and then he goes and lays down again, and then gets up again and rearranges the teddies. It is very cute and I just love him to pieces. Eventually I just take him back to his crib, but I think he is getting the idea.

I took some photos yesterday of the whole process. Enjoy!!!

(Oh, and I guess reading back over this post, that you can tell how much I obsess about every little detail, huh??) Oh well. That's just me!! LOL

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

I Know You're Dying for . . .


These should tide you over for a while.

I didn't know we had a Yankees fan! I am not sure that I am good with that (being as I prefer the Red Sox, myself).

Dude, can you see anything?

Maybe we should turn this train table into a baseball diamond table.

I told you, they lost. Dude, they didn't even make it all the way. The Red Sox won again!

He has been especially sweet and cranky at the same time (hard to explain) but he seems to be going through this really needy stage where he begs and begs to sit on your lap, or for you to hold him, and then he immediately wants down.

Here he is with his Elephant (I just had to buy one after I bought one for Jerolyn's baby shower, even though I was only a few months pregnant with James.) He calls it "Allisant" which sounds an awful lot like Allison, tee hee.

What a face! Makes you want to stick a spoon in it and eat it all up!

And by the way, in case you were wondering, the baby girl is getting most of her nourishment from the following two items:

God help me! (and her!!!) LOL