March 27, 2012

Edible Wednesdays: Champagne Cocktails

I have died and gone to heaven. This may be the best thing I have come across lately - a guide to champagne cocktails. I am a HUGE champagne fan. It is one of the only alcoholic drinks I enjoy. Just in time for summer sippin'...(I am in a fantasy world thinking that summer is close but a girl can dream)

March 26, 2012

Exterior Tuesday: The Yard

So I did it. I started to tear up the yard tonight. It was sunny, I had the energy and so I just went for it. We still have to grind the large cedar stump out of the way but until then I moved the stuff that I could. I have a really big problem when it comes to the backyard. I am constantly rearranging it which means a lot of work and aggravation for my dear plants. Someday I will get it just right...? In any event, this photos are inspiring despite the fact that most of them take place in climates very different from the one I reside in. Sigh. 

Monday Memo: Toys

Toys can kind of take over if you are not careful. It took a few years for me to nail down exactly what worked best in our home. I generally prefer wooden toys but here are some plastic ones that are pretty crucial to our play.

Duplos - My mother-in-law saved a bunch from when my husband was a kid so we have a fair amount of old school-squarish duplo people around along with the more modern shapely ones. My daughter can play with these for hours - building zoos and pools and houses. The people that come with the various sets now have a nice wooden home to live in and pairs of skis to play on (thanks to my handy cardboard cutting skills). They go in the shower, in the bath and sometime eat with us. They are true friends.

Babies - We have a collection now. One that stays up at the mountain, one at Nana's, one at the farm and a few that reside with us full-time. This is Joovy. She is the current favorite.

Trucks and Cars - Both my kids love these trucks, bulldozers, tractors and cars. Sebastien likes to "drive" his all over the house. They have created ramps and hills and garages for them.

All these toys spark a certain amount of imagination that's for sure...and that is always the goal.

March 22, 2012

Family Fridays: Clarifying my Thoughts

It came to my attention that maybe I wasn't as clear as I needed to be in my response to the lady at SAQ. It is obvious that she struck a nerve in me, on a few different levels, but perhaps I need to clarify a few things.

The staying-at-home vs working is a constant battle for every family and especially women. No matter what we choose to do we will get flack from just about anyone. You stay at home? Yikes, doesn't your mind go to mush? You go to work? Yikes, don't you feel guilty? Well, actually, yes and yes. There is no right solution. There is no right answer. Mothers go back to work after giving birth out of necessity and/or desire. I was one of the lucky few who had a choice and I decided that I was going to be get more satisfaction and be of more use at home than I was going to be working outside the home. Now, was this the right decision? Some days it is and some days it is not.

If I had a job to go to every day where I was passionate about what I was accomplishing, I would feel that the benefit of me being happy and one hundred percent present when I was home would grossly outweigh the benefit of staying home just to stay home. Unfortunately, I did not work in a job that I felt good about. So I believed (and still do) that I would be happiest at home. This doesn't mean I am happy everyday just as those who go to work have their good days and their bad days. There are plenty of days when my kids would probably be more entertained and taken care of at daycare but I like to think that the majority of our days we are thoroughly enjoying our time together. And that is the most important point - when the parents are happy, the family is happy.

The benefit of going to a nice college is that your resume looks good from the start. I learned early on in my short-lived career in the investment banking industry that pedigree is everything. I was one of the lucky ones (there I am again, happily in that bubble) who went to such a college so getting an interview at any firm I wanted was not an issue. I am actually pretty sure that I was hired at Goldman Sachs simply because I went to Smith. I was thereafter introduced to clients and prospects as "the girl who went to Smith." This naturally meant that I was smart and capable and would not screw your accounts up. This is the downside of going to a nice college - in a sense you are pegged by the outside world for life. So when said "girl from Smith" decides to leave the solid resume, the promising future and stay at home with her kids, a lot of critics and judgements step in. I mean, who would trade pantsuits for making cardboard troll homes?  I didn't need to go to Smith to accomplish that did I? Well, yes and no. 

I gained an incredible experience from attending that school and am an educated woman because of it. This will transfer quite nicely to my children. But what I also gained was a sense of deciding what is right and best for me. I knew that the finance world was not the place where I wanted to be (did you read the recent NYTimes article about the executive that left Goldman? So right on.) Coincidentally I got pregnant shortly after making this decision so the natural transition would be to stay at home, raise my kids and figure out what DID make me happy and pursue that. 

It ends up I like to work with my hands (I am the daughter of two artists after all) so I get a lot of satisfaction from building things, making things and cleaning things. I actually enjoy getting down on my hands and knees and scrubbing the heck out of my floor - because, look, now there is a nice, clean floor to admire. But that doesn't mean I don't also enjoy a brilliant novel or that I can't argue my way through the latest piece in the New Yorker. There is such a thing as balance.

If there is one thing that Smith taught me, it is that I have the capability to be anything and to do anything if I put the work in. I have the final say in what makes me happy and what doesn't. I have the power to manifest my own destiny. The reason I was so upset over the lady's words was that I felt like she was belittling my choice to stay home and that I didn't understand what would really make me happy. Well, it turns out that we all have different roles to play and different passions. So please excuse me for a few years while I find inspiration and joy from two little munchkins...we'll see where that leads me. 

March 20, 2012

Interior Tuesdays: Patios

Should we do it? Should we start dreaming about outdoor spaces yet? I know it is still frigid outside where I am, but I cannot help but feel the pull of Spring. The cherry blossom trees are blooming and there is talk of temps in the 70's on the east coast so I thought, why not? Let's dive right in. Let's start getting excited about our patios.
We had to take a huge cedar tree off of our property this past month due to a very dangerous crack it was developing. We still need to schedule the stump grinding but after that it is Operation Yard Redo. We have to move some of the fences to make up for the loss of the tree so that our kiddos don't escape and obviously a whole yard revamp is in order. So bring on the daydreaming...
These pictures are more patio-centric but next week I'll start compiling some yard ideas.

March 19, 2012

Monday Memo: The Skinny Jean

You guys, I think I did something I said I would never ever in a million years do. I bought a pair of jeans that may or may not highly resemble the dreaded "jeggings." I am telling you, from an avid bootcut jeans wearer, the skinny jean road is a very slippery slope. It started with a pair of Levis skinny boot cuts (which now feel like bell bottoms compared to this latest purchase), then it moved on to a more stretchy skinnier leg, then the classic skinny and now this, the ultimate end of the spectrum...the tightest jeans made to man. I mean you can hardly even call them jeans anymore. And they are so damn comfortable. 

March 16, 2012

Ce que Disent les Parisiens

I love listening to the French language. I haven't spoken it myself in about ten years (gasp! really? yikes.) so this video is a nice reminder of why I should practice again...the fluidity is so beautiful even if this is a video making fun of Parisiens.

Family Fridays: Community

Where did our sense of community go?

I check outside my window before grabbing my mail to make sure my next-door neighbor isn't sitting in her car smoking for fear of getting sucked into a converstaion. How bad is that? I know only a handful of our neighbors (our favorite ones sadly moved to another part of the city) and for some reason, I don't mind it. This is weird considering I loved growing up in a tight-knit community. We lived on an island where everyone knew everyone - you knew the lady at the grocery store, your best friend's mom knew that Sally got her hair cut yesterday (ok, that part was a little annoying) and you always ran in to someone you knew on the ferry or in town. I really liked that sense of belonging to something greater than yourself.

Now I live in the city where, yes, I run into people I know quite frequently, but obviously there isn't a sense of shared community like there was on the island. And I'm not certain that if I moved to the country I'd find that same oneness - times have changed. People seem to be more interested in their own self-interests more than ever. Being a stay at home mom has made this more obvious - it is a lonely profession. You really need to put yourself out there to make new friends and new connections. Just because you are a mom doesn't assure your automatic inclusion into some mom club or what have you. You have to work for those connections lady.

In Judith Warner's Perfect Madness, she touches on how our society has delved inwards and stepped away from the help of community. She went from raising her children in France, where the community took care of new moms to Washington DC, where you took care of yourself. She says, "I put my elder daughter in DC public school and watched the light in her eyes go dim. I did not have a pediatrician available for human contact in an emergency. I felt like all the responsibility for my daughter's care, health, and education resided within our family. Often enough, it seemed to rest on my shoulders alone. I knew what had worked for me in France. It wasn't just that I had access to a slew of government-run or -subsidized support services; it was also that I'd had a whole unofficial network of people to help and support me - materially and emotionally - as I navigated the new world of motherhood."

March 15, 2012

Thursday DIY: Toy Chest/Kid Seat

This IoLine Changing Trunk is an ingenious design. It is one part toy chest, one part changing table and one part reading bench. And it looks great. We have something similar in our living room although by no means as chic. Many years ago, my Dad built a cabinet for under their television to hold videos and such. Once they upgraded their television, he built a wall hanging cabinet instead so the old one was shoved in the garage to be, probably, never used again. Until I had kids. I thought it would make a great toy chest - the key is that it has two drawers so you can "hide" the toys when they are not in use. And it was free. I added a roll of drawing paper on top to act as the art center. The top now has one-of-a-kind child masterpieces drawn all over it but that's ok. It adds character.

Ordinary vs Extraordinary

I woke up today in quite a dreadful mood - not sure why exactly - could be the lack of sleep this past week due to nothing in particular or it could be this nagging sore throat. In any event, hopping outside in the downpour to grab my mail only further exasperated my mood. There is was, a disappointing response to my recent letter to the Smith Quarterly:

"Regarding a letter writer's plea for greater representation of Smithies who have embarked on "new jobs as stay-at-home moms," let me suggest that the Quarterly is the wrong place to look. While becoming a mother is the most truly miraculous thing, it is also the most commonplace. What Smith prepares us for is something else- to make our unique contribution to this world. The Alumnae Quarterly is the place to read about the jaw-dropping, amazing things Smithies are doing to make the world a better place. It's inspiring - if often a bit intimidating (we aren't all destined to swim the English Channel or find the cure for something - myself included). In the lightening flash of twenty years, which is what it will feel like when the letter writer has successfully launched her children into adulthood, she will be glad if her only job was not "stay-at-home mom" - and the readers of the Quarterly will be fascinated to read all about it."

Now, my initial response was quite emotional - I felt like this lady had personally belittled my current full-time position as the CEO of my family. I was sad and my feelings were hurt. Then, I just got mad.

I was unaware that raising children to be respectful and creative citizens of this world was not a "unique contribution." Perhaps, I should have just kept on working at Goldman Sachs, dumped my children in daycare and hoped for the best. Affordable childcare that reflects my values, encourages creativity and boosts my children's confidence as human beings just does not exist where I live (again, I said affordable). I suppose that if I had continued to work, I surely would have relished those oh-so-productive Monday morning meetings or skipped my way home knowing that I helped very wealthy people make even more money. I definitely would not have regretted not watching my children learn to walk and talk and blossom into little people - I mean, how unsatisfying. Plus, raising children has got to be the easiest and most "commonplace" job. She did, however, raise a point that I had overlooked - I was unaware that being a stay-at-home mom lasts for "twenty years" - I guess being home while my kids are young and then going back to work when they head to school is not an option.

My point with my initial letter was to reach out to the Smith community and see what other mothers (it is an all women's college after all) are doing to raise their children. I agree that the Quarterly is inspiring - there are thousands of out-of-this-world successful women who have amazing lives to share - but what about the other women who are helping to raise the future generation? I am sure there are no "unique" upbringings happening - no traveling or living in foreign lands, no living off-the-grid on a homestead, no creative ways of bypassing the "system" and certainly no ideas for creating impressive and different learning environments.  The world is constantly changing - so what are we doing to foster children who can adapt to this change? I figured having gone to such a prestigious college, there would be a handful of extraordinary and progressive stories.

Well. I guess I will just go back to reading Glamour and eating bonbons on my couch.

March 13, 2012

Edible Wednesdays: Sandwich Bread

Ok you guys - I know I post a lot of bread recipes but this is the best one so far. It is super easy using the bread hook on my KitchenAid mixer - something I never tried with any other bread recipes. My daughter poked it a little too much on the last cycle but it still turned out fluffy and delicious. A must try for any of you who are contemplating on making your own bread. 

Julia Child’s White Sandwich Bread
2 1/2 cups warm water
1 Tbsp. active dry yeast
1 Tbsp. sugar
7 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup butter, softened

Tuesday Interiors: Sheepskin Rugs

Maybe because it is still winter (yes, it snowed yesterday) or maybe because I am in this white/simple mood, but I am really into these sheepskin (I would imagine almost all are fake) rugs that I spy around interior design sites. They add a cozy element and because they are white, they add a clean/fresh element as well. I caved and bought one at IKEA the other day for Sebastien's room - I really like it. I wish I had a bigger one for our room. Nothing like stepping out of your bed onto a cozy and fuzzy rug!

March 12, 2012

A Few of my Favorite Things

Hammocks...I have always been a sucker for a hammock. When I was pregnant with my last kid, I fell off of one poolside at the very cool Ace Hotel in Palm Springs. I flipped backwards and my legs got entangled in the web - I literally could not move or get up since I had a huge belly keeping me pinned down. It was one of the more embarrassing moments of my life. A guy lounging on the pool chair next to me had to help me up. But I still like hammocks. 

Fresh cheese. The stinkier the better (although my stomach may have something different to say to that)

Ferris Bueller's Day Off - hands down, one of the best flicks made. 1986 produced some stellar flicks - Ferris, Top Gun, Pretty in Pink, Little Shop of Horrors, Stand by Me...

Kir Royale - my absolute favorite cocktail

Family Fridays: Precious Time

We went over to a good friend's house for dinner earlier this week. It was not like the ol' days let me tell you. Because my son goes to bed at 6PM and our friend's daughter needs to do her homework after dinner, we decided on an early meal. But with four kids underfoot, one husband on the green egg (the grill) and one husband on a buns/pickles/beer run, prepping for dinner is not an easy and swift task. It was a mild storm in the kitchen where onions were diced, patties formed, potatoes fried and a slightly stronger storm in the corridor between the living room and bedrooms where four children were rushing back and forth - singing, dancing, running, screaming with delight. It was a happy scene but a somewhat rushed and ragged scene to say the least. The kids were delighted and the adults were a little less so - too busy worrying about if the toddler was climbing up the table again or if the potatoes were burning. Oh, and what was that? Oh, are you trying to have an actual conversation over all of this? Good luck lady.

As we all sort of crashed at the table to eat, my friend and I looked at each other from across the table and shook our heads - it sure is different these days. Four short years ago we wouldn't have eaten until 8PM with a bevy of drinks to share before and after. Lots of conversation, lots of laughs and little stress. But you know what? This craziness of child-rearing will be over before we know it - or at least this part of it. I can already sense a severe shift - my son, who is 11 months this week, already seems older overnight. He is way more interactive, way more in tune to what's going on around him. It's like the baby in him left his body one night and the toddler in him leapt in.

Time is so precious. We need to enjoy these crazy moment because they will be gone too soon along with first steps, first words, funny story telling and sweet little smiles.

March 7, 2012

Helping the Planet - One Step at a Time

How does one make political change? I have had this question stuck in my head for months. I am a stay at home mom, which means we have one income, which means we have limited funds, which means we have no extra money to donate to causes we value. I am a stay at home mom, which means my free time is very limited, which means I don't have time to volunteer for causes we value. So. How, aside from voting, does a person like me help fuel change in our nation? We do the bare minimum "green" things like recycle, compost, eat organic foods from local sources, buy used instead of new...but that seems like stuff everyone should just DO.  

I have just been feeling lately that we have been taking, taking, taking and not giving back. Personally, my timing may not be ideal as I barely have the time and space to put our laundry away so maybe in a few years when my kids are in school most of the week I will be able to contribute to society more. I want to show our kids that we, as people of this country and land, need to give as well as take. How does one do that? 

Well, I asked my friends Brendan and Anne DeMelle. They are a very impressive couple (see Brendan here). Here is Brendan's response - it is sooo inspiring and not at all intimidating so be sure to check it out after the jump: 

Edible Wednesdays: Waffles Waffles

We are lucky enough to all be home in the morning for a good amount of time before anyone needs to rush off to school or Nana and Popa's or work. So very often we have nice big breakfasts to send us off in the day. Today we had waffles - this recipe is the best one we have found yet. Light and fluffy. And because we realized we had no milk a little too deep into the making of said waffles, we may or may not have used formula as a substitute. Don't hate.

March 6, 2012

Interior Tuesdays: Follow Up to Living Rooms

After posting about my living room today, I ran across this lovely post at ApartmentTherapy illustrating styling tricks to save time and money. I basically did just that when I rearranged my space! Funny how things come in to your life - even though I read this post after I changed my space around, it is nice to be validated for said changes.

Interior Tuesdays: Living Rooms

I have been sitting in my living room for the past few weeks trying to come up with something fresh and new (being sick and stuck on your couch has the tendency to make you very aware of your surroundings). I was so bored with the colors, the arrangement and the furniture. With the exception of changing throw pillows and getting a new rug, there wasn't much I could do about the furniture and colors. I love the color of our walls - it's like a yellowy wheat field - and we don't have new furniture in the budget this year (skis, jackets and oh, more skis = yes, furniture = no) so I was left with changing the arrangement. I moved the chairs in different positions, I got rid of the rug and moved half of the toys into the kid's rooms. Voila. What a difference! It just feels soooo much better - a little change can truly bring big impact to a space. So, I'm happy...for now. 

Here are a few inspirational living rooms to drool over... (Can you tell I am in full-on simplicity mode?)

March 5, 2012

Monday Memo: Dresses for Everyday


These are dresses that you could wear everyday but are a little different so they add a splash of pizazz to your wardrobe. I think everyone could use a little of that from now and then!
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