Friday, July 31, 2009

Favorite Things Friday: Chocolate Zucchini Bread

Photo of zucchini and husband courtesy Organized Living by Amy

I seem to be determined to do the most unhealthy things possible with my farmer's market produce this week. First, with the amazingly fresh and delicious peaches and blueberries, I made pie. Then, with several zucchinis much smaller than the one pictured above, I made one of my summertime favorites: Chocolate Zucchini Bread. It's my feature for this week's Favorite Things Friday.

This sweet bread was an August staple in my house growing up. There was one unfortunate year when I pureed cucumber rather than zucchini when helping my mom bake and I will never again confuse the two!

The recipe is incredibly easy. I highly recommend making three loaves rather than a bundt cake. The loaves freeze really well.

Chocolate Zucchini Bread
3 1/2 C flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt

4 eggs, beaten
3 C sugar
1 1/2 C oil

Beat eggs, sugar and oil; mix dry ingredients and add to wet ingredients. Then mix in:

1/2 C cocoa
3 C peeled, pureed zucchini

Grease and flour bundt pan or 3 bread pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour and 15 minutes. (My oven bakes this in closer to 1 hour; I'd check on it at that mark just in case.)

Cool 10 minutes. Remove from pan.

As with all things unhealthy, it can get even more delicious and unhealthy: try a warm slice spread with butter!

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Cooking Challenges

The photo above is of the almost-completely-devoured peach and blueberry pie I made earlier this week from scratch--including the crust. It isn't the prettiest crust ever, but it certainly turned out to be quite delicious.

I'm not a natural cook. I can't open my fridge and cupboards, scan the contents and come up with a new and delicious meal on the spot. On the nights when I haven't planned for a specific recipe in advance, when I haven't shopped for the specific ingredients, we usually end up eating grilled cheese, frozen pizza or pasta.

I like to say that I can make just about anything if I have a recipe. Because if there's one thing I can do, it's follow directions. Only very recently have I gotten brave enough to stray from or modify recipes, even for things that I've made one hundred times.

And yet, even recipes truly stump me sometimes. There are so many cooking terms I just am not familiar with. Sometimes I wonder, what exactly is meant by "medium saucepan"? Is it what I'm using or some other pot that I don't have? What is a dutch oven? What is braising? When the potato recipe calls says to "boil, covered, in a small amount of water," does that mean that the pot is covered with a lid or that the water covers the potatoes? If the latter, then how exactly is that a small amount of water?

I think this is partially why cooking shows are so popular. They don't just tell you, they show you how to do it. Any teeny bit of "knife technique" I have can be fully attributed to Rachel Ray.

Back in the day (or maybe still for some families) women (yes, mostly women) learned these recipes and techniques at the hands of their mothers over many, many years in the kitchen. And, it is thanks to my mother's great skill at all things pie, and my years as sous chef to her when baking, that I had the courage to attempt the deliciousness pictured above. I mean, how else would I have known what to do when the recipe called for the shortening to be "cut in" to the flour and salt mixture?

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Just a bad dream

I had a bad dream last night. We had moved to a new house and Lucas and Abel were napping upstairs. I decided to take a walk. On my way home, I passed a house that was on fire. I started running home only to find that our new house was also on fire. Despite the flames and thick smoke, I ran inside to find Lucas and Abel. Neither was in their room. Were they looking for me? They didn't know I had gone for a walk. Had they escaped? What should I do: continue looking for them or flee the house? It was an impossible decision. I woke up to find Lucas had crept his way into our bed and was laying in between Abel and me. I reached over to touch Abel and I held onto Lucas for the rest of the night. Tonight I'll be changing the batteries in our smoke detectors.

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!


Here's a photo recap of our visit to Emporium, PA last weekend. It was wonderful. The air was so fresh and crisp (maybe a little too crisp, we all wished we had packed hoodies!), the mountains were gorgeous and the creek was so much fun. Lucas played in it for hours. It had been too long; hopefully we'll be back again soon.

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Lovin' my Summertime Commute

Traffic. Ugh. People who live in the DC area know traffic. Today I'm over at DC Metro Moms talking about why I love my commute in the summer. Go check it out!

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Lovin' my Summertime Commute

If you live in the Washington, DC metro area, you know traffic. It seems like every year we receive another "accolade" in the Top 10 lists: worst commute, worst bottlenecks, you get the idea. Most recently, we moved up to claim the second worst regional traffic congestion in the nation. (Thanks, Atlanta, for stepping aside for us. Los Angeles: congrats on the top spot again this year!)

Over the past ten years of working in this region, I have commuted from DC to DC, from DC to Virginia, from Maryland to Virginia and now I drive from my Maryland home into the city three days a week. Every summer I reach the same conclusion: I love my summertime commute!

I can't find any empirical research to back me up (you know, after attempting approximately three google searches) but my own personal research after more than a decade of commuting tells me that approximately 25% of all residents of the Washington DC area are on vacation during any given week of summer.

What else could possibly explain the fact that I am currently shaving a solid 7 minutes off my morning commute and 10 minutes off my evening commute? Even better, past history tells me that I'll shave off a few additional minutes come August when Congress goes on recess and, apparently, 40% of people flee the city. (Again, my own personal research!)

I can't let myself get too used to lingering just a bit longer in the morning, though. Because come September, everyone returns from their lazy weeks at the beach and promptly forgets how to drive. Seriously. What else would explain why my September commute is the longest of the year?

Original post to DC Metro Moms. When Aimee Olivo isn't dodging traffic she's blogging at Smiling MamaOut by Ten.

Gunfighter said...
Same for me... and I only have to do 18 miles.

When we go on vacation in August, there will be another two cars not making the I-95 shuffele between Prince William County and The District (well, The District and Alexandria, where I work).

Lauren said...
In my area there are lots of students who commute to private school, so traffic is lighter during their summer vacation. Even in the winter, school holidays are like traffic holidays!

Megan said...
I live in Charlottesville. It must be that the DC commuters all come down here during the weeks in summer, because Friday afternoon northbound traffic in summer is horrendous. And you'd think that summer traffic here would be better with all the students gone, but for every undergrad UVA sends home it seems that they bring in two campers or grad students.

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Favorite Things Friday: Your Baby and Child from Birth to Age Five

For today's edition of Favorite Things Friday, I bring you one of my favorite parenting books. (Okay, it is also the only parenting book which I have read cover to cover. Okay, almost to cover. I'm in the final stage of development it covers right now, probably 75 pages from the end. And as long as I am giving caveats here let me remind you that all Favorite Things Friday items are purchased with my own hard-earned dollars. None of which, btw, come from blogging because I do not have ads. Whew!)

So back to this great book. I received it as a gift shortly before going on maternity leave from our administrative assistant at my previous job. She told me she had given it to many new mothers over the years and thought I would enjoy it as well. Not only was she right about me enjoying it, I have now given it to several soon-to-be mothers myself.

In Your Baby and Child from Birth to Age Five, author Penelope Leach discusses children at various stages of development: newborn, settled baby, older baby, toddler, and young child. My favorite aspect of her writing is that things just make sense. There is no talk of this method or that method for insert issue here. There is just practical, common-sense, this-might-work-for-your-family-and-if-it-does-then-use-it thinking.

Much of the book focuses on why your child is doing this or that. Why is she saying "no" to everything? Why does he go from one emotional extreme to the other in mere seconds? Why is she suddenly truly terrified of monsters? Then, with that development perspective in mind, Leach counsels on how a parent might handle the situation.

One thought that really resonated with me as I was reading the other night was Leach talking about the young child (approx. 3-5 years old) exploring the capacity of his body. She said, he knows that he can run to the end of the block but is curious just how far he could possibly run. Ah ha! So, that is why Lucas takes off at full speed and--it seems to me--might never stop. Now I'm on a quest to find a space where I can let Lucas safely run as far as he heart desires so that he truly can explore the capacity of his amazing little body.

I've been reading this book (and often re-reading sections like the discussion of potty training) since before Lucas was born. I slowly make my way through the developmental stage that he's in while he's in it. I decided last night to finish the book in the next few months so I can start again on page 1 before the new baby is born. Four years between newborns is a long time--I fear I may have forgotten everything!

I'd love to know about any of your favorite parenting books. Please share in the comments.

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, July 23, 2009


Today was my 14 week OB visit. For those of you keeping close track, I've actually gained a week. I was calculating my due date incorporating my incredibly long cycles which put me at 13 weeks and the OB says I'm actually a week further along based on the early sono. It does make sense that I'd be a bit further along as the nausea (hallelujah!) is practically gone. But, overall, I'm not too concerned about pesky little dates. I thought Lucas's due date was earlier than my last OB did and indeed he came a bit early for their calculations but right on the spot of when I was ready for him. So my answer to when I'm due is "end of January" vs. January 21.

Anyway, the point of mentioning the OB visit was to say that I got to hear the heartbeat. The thumpthumpthumpthump heartbeat! That super fast little beat is such a lovely sound.

Especially right now.

I mean so far in this pregnancy I've just been giving and giving and getting nothing in return!

It's an odd thing, the first trimester. On one hand, there is the initial jubilation of the positive pregnancy test. That seems to be quickly surpassed by a bit of oh-my-what-have-we-gotten-ourselves-into-here? Then the nausea and walking-dead fatigue. Then all the stuff you have to immediately give up: a nice cold beer at the baseball game, your regular lunch of turkey cold cuts, the delicious wheel of brie and log of goat cheese you had JUST purchased because those first two pregnancy tests came up negative and, holy hell, you may as well gorge yourself on soft cheeses for the next month, a crisp glass of pinot grigio with dinner. Gone. Gone. Gone.

And so you're just giving and giving and giving and getting nothing in return. No visible baby bump to let the world know you aren't just getting fatter. No nice little kicks to keep you up at night remind you that you are growing a real live little person in there. No adorable little hiccups to make you smile. And it still seems much too early to pull out (or start purchasing!) those adorabe 0-3 month outfits.

But then, for a few glorious seconds, you get a heartbeat. And you realize that you will gratefully give and give and give to this new life for the rest of your own.

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Emporium, PA: The Center of the Universe

Lucas and I are heading up to Pennsylvania tomorrow to drive with my parents to the annual family reunion for my dad's side of the family. We'll be going to the place of my birth, both of my parents' birth and all of my grandparents' birth: Emporium, PA. My mom and her brothers and sisters believe that Emporium is the center of the universe.

How do you find Emporium? First, you look at a map of the state of Pennsylvania. Then, you find the big spot in the north central part of the state without a single major road. Yeah, it's right there.

Emporium is county seat of Cameron County, PA. The county is 97% forest covered. With a population of just over 2,500 in the 2000 census, Emporium is the most populous town in Cameron County. When I was younger there was one stoplight in town. I believe there may now be two.

The sun doesn't rise in Emporium until about an hour after it does elsewhere and it sets about an hour earlier because the town is, quite literally, completely enclosed in mountains. Can you imagine how stunning it is in fall? How nice and cool it remains in summer? Can you imagine how many times my siblings and I barfed while crossing the mountains on our way to or from Emporium?

Are you questioning that whole "center of the universe" designation yet?

From a family history perspective my whole universe certainly revolves around this little valley surrounded by the most amazingly gorgeous mountains in the northeast. My parents moved from Emporium when I was about two. But, because it is the hometown of them both, we spent every major holiday, at least one week each summer and countless weekends in Emporium.

I haven't been back in about 7 years.

Mostly that is because my grandparents are now deceased. My mom tells me that when I was younger I thought that my grandparents' house (her childhood home) was Emporium. And, in a way, I guess it continues to be.

Emporium was cousins crammed six to a bedroom. It was showers that had to be "called" or you risked not getting one until after noon. It was highly competitive trivial pursuit. And, Scrabble, with a Scrabble dictionary close at hand. It was hours and hours on the front porch swinging with my grandfather. It was Christmas. It was political discussions. Religious discussions. It was $1 each to walk to the Little Shopper and spend on penny candy (true 1 cent penny candy!). It was canasta. It was huge pots of sloppy joe and made-from-scratch macaroni and cheese. It was where my grandmother looked me in the eye and told me, "it will not be a tragedy when your grandfather and I die. We have lived full lives." It was where she died. It was where their 5 living children, 18 grandchildren, a few great grandchildren and myriad in-laws gathered to mourn them both.

About a year after they died--within 6 months of each other after almost 55 years of marriage--their children sold the house. We all had dreams and discussions of holding onto it as a family gathering spot, but ultimately realized that would never work. None of the siblings or their children lived there anymore. It would get used maybe twice a year. And so it was sold. And the universe, in a way, became unmoored.

I have no illusions about this visit. Certainly the town will seem small and a bit shabby to me (the economy there has been depressed for decades, I can only imagine that this current economic downturn has hit it hard). My grandparents' house will not be open to me, nor will it look the same. I am not sure that the penny candy shop is as grand as in my visions or that the pizza at the Pizza Palace actually is, as I once thought, the best pizza in the world.

But, I do know that the mountains will be more lush and green than I remember. That the mountain spring supplying the creek next to the pavilion where our reunion will be held will be just as cold as in my memory. I know that Lucas will love playing in it as much as my cousins and I once did. As much as my parents each did when they were young. I am hopeful that some remnant of "Herbie's Trail"--one of the mountain trails my dad built when he was a park ranger there--will remain so that Lucas and I can hike a small part of it. I know that the hunt for the perfect marshmallow roasting stick will be just as easy as it always has been in the dense forest. I know that the air will smell just as fresh and that it will cleanse my soul.

And I know that in some small way the universe will shift to that spot while we are there. That we will be at its center. And that all will be right with the world.

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Ooey gooey amazingness

I don't know what got into me on Saturday but I cooked and baked up a storm. First, I cooked a huge batch of easy sausage jambalaya for a family in town who recently lost their son. Then, I moved on to desserts.

On our way home from the beach, I just couldn't resist the sign for shelled pecans. They just sat on my counter because I just couldn't figure out what to do with them. Finally I cracked my good old Better Homes and Gardens cookbook and quickly discovered that pretty much every recipe involving pecans also includes large quantities of butter, sugar, sweetened condensed milk, chocolate or all of the above! I went ahead and chose the most decadent looking recipe.

Oh. My. Goodness.

These things are amazing.

Luckily I was taking dinner to another family with a new baby the next night so could ship some off to them. Our neighbors very kindly agreed to watch Lucas for a few hours last-minute when Abel and I discovered we'd miscommunicated about our separate evening plans so I took some over to them as well.

Otherwise, I'm telling you, the entire pan would have ended up in my belly!

Photo via

Chocolate Caramel Bars


1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 cups coarsely chopped pecans
1 cup flaked coconut (I don't like coconut so skipped this)
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
20 vanilla caramels, unwrapped
2 tablespoons milk
1 cup milk chocolate pieces or semisweet chocolate pieces


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

For crust: In a medium bowl, stir together flour and brown sugar. Using a pastry blender, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Press onto the bottom of an ungreased 13x9x2-inch baking pan. Bake for 15 minutes. Sprinkle pecans and coconut over hot crust.

2. Meanwhile, for filling: In a small bowl, combine sweetened condensed milk and vanilla. Carefully pour over pecans and coconut, spreading evenly.

3. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes more or until filling is set. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine caramels and milk. Cook and stir over medium-low heat just until caramels are melted. Drizzle caramel mixture over filling. Sprinkle with chocolate pieces. Cool completely. Cut into bars. Makes 24 bars.

Trust me. You do not want to know the nutritional value info.

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Monday, July 20, 2009


My mom and especially my sister were both pretty amazed to see Lucas's social skills in action last week. He says, "hello my name is Lucas" to pretty much every single person we see. Generally, he also introduces the adults he is with as well. For example, he'll say, "Do you know my Grammy, Grampy and Aunt Sarah?" It is pretty darn adorable.

I know I just sent you over to my sister's blog recently for Favorite Things Friday, but you just have to go read her most recent post about Lucas. It's pretty darn adorable, too.

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Favorite Things Friday: Oral B Brush Ups

So I've mentioned before that I'm a little obsessed with my teeth. Despite the fact that I've had two emergency root canals in the past few years and the fact that I recently had to have a tooth pulled because there was nothing else that could be done to save it for the long-term, I swear that I take scrupulous care of my teeth. I shudder to think how much worse my dental issues would be if I didn't brush, floss and visit the dentist on a very regular basis.

And yet, this pregnancy has brought on a new dental woe: sour mouth. Basically, my mouth tastes bad almost all the time. It is just awful. In addition to brushing and using mouth wash more often throughout the day, another weapon in my arsenal is a product I've loved for years: Oral B Brush Ups. That's why I'm featuring them today for my Favorite Things Friday.

Brush Ups are basically little mint-flavored textured sleeves that fit over your fingertip. They are individually packaged. You simply put it on your finger and swipe over your teeth and tongue. They do a really great job of truly cleaning your teeth (that texture works wonders!) and freshening your breath. I always have a few in my purse. Except this exact moment, however, because I've been going through them more quickly than usual. I'll be sure to restock this weekend!

I really enjoyed having my sister guest post for Favorite Things Friday last week. Let me know if you have a favorite thing you'd like to do a future guest post about! E-mail smilingaimee [at] gmail [dot] com.

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Like the best summer camp ever

When we drove home from the beach on Saturday, we drove home without Lucas. No, we didn't leave him at the beach to frolic in the surf, he drove up to Pennsylvania with my parents and sister who is on the east coast for another week of vacation. Sarah declared that she needed more Lucas time, my dad is now officially retired and my mom's off for the summer as a teacher so we knew he'd have plenty of attention.

As far as I can tell, he's basically been at the most amazing summer camp ever. On Sunday they went to see the movie "Up" and I'm told that at the end, Lucas stood up on his chair and yelled, "that was awesome!"

On Monday they took him to Hershey Park. Just like when we were kids, my parents made sure to arrive at 10am, as soon as the park opened. The crew was my parents, sister, Lucas, Sarah's best childhood friend, Meredith, and Meredith's boyfriend and her 4yo niece. Coincidentally that niece is the daughter of one of my childhood best friends who my parents took with us to Hershey Park when I was not much older than Lucas. I'm told that after every single ride, Lucas wanted to ride it again and again. He basically had to be dragged to each new ride which he then declared to be THE BEST and wanted to ride and ride again. At 6:40pm I got the following text from my mom: "The adults r pooped. The kids r going strong. Bribing with Mickey Ds to leave."

Yesterday afternoon I got a call from Lucas. Apparently they had visited a farm. He saw cows, chickens, horses and pigs. He collected eggs from the hens. And, as he told me, he got to drive a truck. Here's the conversation we had about that:

Lucas: Mama, I drove a truck!
Smiling Mama: WHAT?! You got to drive a truck? Wow! That's so cool!
Lucas: No, Mama. Say, little boys can't drive cars or trucks!
Smiling Mama: Oh, okay. Little boys can't drive cars or trucks!
Lucas: Yes! It is possible!

He then handed the phone to my mom who said he had worked out that entire conversation before calling. Apparently at Hershey Park there were several rides where he got to "drive" and then at the farm there was some sort of rugged golf cart thing that he also drove. I think I'm in trouble now. He's always begging to drive our cars and I always tell him that little boys can't drive cars. He's going to be impossible to convince now that he believes that he has, in fact, driven cars and trucks!

Abel and I miss him like crazy. I'm so glad he's getting so much awesome time with my parents and sister but also am very jealous that he's having so many amazing first-time experiences without his mama and dada. His life is going to seem pretty boring next week when he's home--no beach, no amusement parks, no constant attention from many adults other than his parents! But it will be nice to have him around and get back to normal.

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Arc of a Beach Vacation

You know one beach post just isn't enough. I'm over at DC Metro Moms today with a humorous (I hope!) take on the arc of a beach vacation. You know, things are nice and slow at the start of the week then suddenly it's the last day and you wonder where in the world the week went!

Go check it out, pretty please!

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Arc of a Beach Vacation

Day 1: You’ve arrived! Decide that was the easiest 6 hour drive ever; totally worth it. Look at that water! Feel the sand in your toes! Unpack with vigor.

Day 2: The week stretches out before you filled with endless days of sun, sand and waves. You are completely relaxed.

Day 3: Only Monday? Think of friends and colleagues returning to work. Not you! Your only job is to relax. This is totally the longest week ever!

Day 4: Have you been at the beach forever? Seems like it! Pick up a local real estate listing and dream of owning a beach house.

Day 5: The realization creeps in that you are more than half-way through the week. Push it out of your mind. It’s only Wednesday! There’s still plenty of time left.

Day 6: Rain? Rain? How dare it rain!! This is your second to last day. Time is critical. Each moment must be savored. Rain. Is. Not. Allowed.

Day 7: How can this be the last day? This was the shortest week ever! You try to enjoy each second of the sun, sand and waves but are unable to do so. You are already thinking of everything that needs to be done before dropping the key off tomorrow morning. Decide to do a load of laundry to lessen the number of loads upon return home. So much pack. Why in the world did you bring so much stuff? Did it multiply?

Day 8: Home. Ugh. That was the longest drive ever. Sort mail. Start first of a million loads of laundry (one million minus one, that is). Get annoyed that you’ve somehow tracked sand into your house. Put beach chairs and umbrella away for another year. Realize fridge is empty, go to grocery store.

Day 9: Decide you need another vacation!

Original post to DC Metro Moms. When Aimee Olivo isn't dreaming of another week at the beach, she's writing at Smiling Mama and Out by Ten.

workout mommy said...
yes, that just described my vacation last month! I've been dreaming of another one ever since. (sigh)

off to buy lottery tickets.....

KC said...
My favorite quote: No one needs a vacation more than the person who just got back from vacation. (or something like that.) Glad it was that good.

Stimey said...
This is spot on!

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Beach

So my blogging break was actually a family trip to the beach. Which was, in a word, glorious. We had 12 adults (if you include my 16yo cousin as an adult), a 2 year old and 3 year old in one house for 7 days. Definitely could have been a recipe for disaster but it went incredibly well.

My dad officially retired a few weeks ago and all he wanted for his retirement was for our whole family (plus any extended family that could join in) to go to the beach for a week. We've done family beach weeks in the past but this year we (my dad) splurged and we got a house on the beach. We walked out the back door, down a wooden ramp and were on the sand. It was amazing. I don't think we'll ever go back to the much-more-reasonably-priced second row again.

Anytime you hear about a family vacation that includes one or more babies/toddlers/children, the parents always lament that, of course, it wasn't really a vacation because the baby/toddler/child still got up early, had to be tended to, etc. Well, I have to say, this was a true vacation for Abel and me. Not that we shirked our parental duties completely, but we did shirk them quite a bit.

First, my parents uber-generously offered for Lucas to sleep on his little air bed in their room. That meant that theirs was the bed he crawled into at 3am and they were the people awoken at 6:30am while Abel and I snoozed blissfully away until 8:30 or 9am every single day. And, there were enough doting aunts, uncles, grandparents, second cousins, great aunts and great uncles to help keep him (and the other toddler) entertained on the beach and at the house during all waking hours.

We were on the beach by 9:30am each morning and I took a nap almost every single day (while Lucas was napping). Most days we also went back to the beach in the afternoon/early evening. Or, we walked along the pier or went to the playground. We split dinners so that each couple/family only cooked one night. The remaining two nights we ordered pizza and went out.

One evening (on my sister's night) we cooked up a feast of some of my dad's favorite foods: crab cakes, shrimp, potatoes and corn on the cob; surprised him with a new driver (golf club!); and, did a "roast" sharing our favorite Herb-isms or favorite funny/sentimental stories. It was great fun!

As always, the beginning of the week went by super slowly, feeling like we'd be at the beach forever. And by Wednesday the days seemed to move into warp speed. Our departure on Saturday morning definitely came way to quickly.

But, my oh-so-slightly tan skin and the bit of sand that was tracked into the house via beach chairs and seashells are helping me remember what a glorious week we had.

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Favorite Things Friday: Skype

In keeping with my vacation from blogging this week, I asked my sister to do a guest post for this week’s Favorite Things Friday. She’s under the impression that her blog has approximately three readers (our mom, me and perhaps another friend) but I’m so glad that she keeps it up because her posts regularly make me laugh, sometimes make me cry, and always give me insight into the life and mind of my little sister. Sarah blogs at Sorry Sarah which she describes as “a glimpse into the life of a military wife / junior high teacher / wannabe mother.” Here’s her guest post.

The other night Mike and I met up with one of his dad's old military friends for dinner.

Side Note: Said Military Friend first showed up at our door unexpectedly the evening before thanks to my in-laws who gave him our address but did not happen to tell us that he was in town or that he would be stopping by to see us. It just so happened, though, that he showed up at the door about 5 minutes after Mike had left for his evening soccer game, and I, convinced that it was my stalker, hid in the hallway and did not answer the door. Comedy of errors anyone? But, really, that is quite another story for another day.

Throughout the course of our dinner, Military Friend spent a great majority of time talking about his military career, particularly his deployments. Mike having just returned from his 2nd deployment to Iraq in February, and currently gearing up for a deployment to Afghanistan this May, is no stranger to deployments. However, our dinner conversation with Military Friend was quite an eye opener.

We realized just how very lucky we are. I mean, spending 7 months away from your spouse could never by any stretch of the imagination be considered easy, but it's certainly a heck of a lot easier than it used to be back in the old days. I attribute this to one very important thing:


This is why for my guest spot on Smiling Mama, I am featuring Skype for my Favorite Things Friday. Skype allows you to make FREE long distance voice and video calls. All you need is a computer with internet connection, a microphone, and a webcam.

Mike and I tried out a couple different messenger services for webcamming during his last deployment such as msn and yahoo, but both of these proved to be sub par as far as video quality goes. Skype, on the other hand, has excellent picture quality and rarely has a delay.

Thanks to Skype, the world seemed a whole lot smaller during what was sometimes a long and dreary 7 month separation from my husband.

Of course, you don't have to have a husband in Iraq to enjoy the benefits of Skype. My in-laws use Skype regularly to webcam with their grandchildren who live across the country from them, and one of my co-workers has a friend living in China who he Skypes with every now and then to keep in touch.

Twenty years ago, military members on deployment had only snail mail letters and short wave radio phone calls to rely on for communication. Today we have email and real time webcamming at our disposal. At this rate, you really have to wonder what kind of high-tech communication tool will be available to us in another 20 years. That's something to ponder.

For now, though, as far as communication goes, it really doesn't get any better than Skype.

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Positive proof

This is the third of three not previously published posts that I wrote about being pregnant before I was ready to spill the beans publicly. I'll be back from my little break next week!
*My deepest apologies to the artist but I have no idea where this cartoon came from! It is just too perfect to not include here.

So back in February when my hematologist gave me the okay to get pregnant she also told me that she wanted to be my second phone call when I found out. Conveniently, I already had an appointment scheduled for about a week after my positive pee test. I called the office a few days before the appointment to let them know that I was pregnant because I suspected they'd want to add that to my blood work. You know, they wouldn't necessarily take me at my word, they would need an actual positive blood test to add to the records, right? The nurse called me back to let me know that, indeed, the doctor would add it to my work up.

When the appointment came, however, they apparently had forgotten to add it. After waiting about 35 minutes for them to figure the result wasn't coming back because it wasn't tested for, they had me pee into a cup instead of making me get another blood draw that afternoon. By the time I met with the doctor the actual pee test results weren't back. Apparently that fact came to light later that evening when I was complaining to Abel about how long I had to wait for what ended up being a 3 minute visit with the doctor.

Abel: They didn't confirm it?

Smiling Mama: Well, I'm sure the results came back later in the afternoon.

Abel: But, they didn't call to tell you? I mean. What if you aren't pregnant?

Smiling Mama: Dude. Two positive pee tests, 4 weeks late, exhausted, nauseous all the time: I'm pregnant. We don't need the doctor to confirm it.

Abel: Well, if you're sure.

Smiling Mama: I'm sure.

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Must Nap

This is the second of three not previously published posts that I wrote about being pregnant before I was ready to spill the beans publicly. I'll be back from my little break next week!

I totally took a nap at work al la George Castanza the other day. It was great. Well, not exactly great, but it was good.

As I have mentioned, I have this huge office. Also, I have a door that locks. That is key to a successful nap at work. I had woken up exhausted that morning and since I have been napping pretty much every weekend day and when I am home with Lucas, I knew this full day of work was going to kill me. I grabbed my yoga mat and a beach towel on my way out the door.

After eating a quick lunch at my desk, I closed and locked my door, rolled out the mat placed the towel on top and laid down. The first five minutes dragged by and I almost got up. But then suddenly it was 35 minutes later. It wasn't overly comfortable but I wasn't completely uncomfortable, either. At minimum I will need a little travel pillow for future office naps. My dream is to bring an air mattress into the office but that might just be a little much, don't you agree?

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Say something like that again and this kid will be an orphan at birth

This is the first of three not previously published posts that I wrote about being pregnant before I was ready to spill the beans publicly. I'll be back from my little break next week!

The pee test came up positive on Wednesday, May 13. I had already been feeling nauseous but hadn't mentioned it because one two three four previous pee tests had been negative. I knew I was pregnant just couldn't get that damn stick to agree with me. After the first second positive test I was, of course, certain and therefore felt free to start complaining verbalizing my obvious symptoms. The first time I mentioned how nauseous I was to Abel, he replied, "Already? Don't you think this is all in your head because the test was positive?"

I stammered a bit about how doesn't he watch TV or movies and notice that pretty much every character figures out she's pregnant because she's suddenly puking all the time and it starts right away and. and. and.

Next time I'll say: see above, my dear. See above.

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Favorite Things Friday: So You Think You Can Dance

For today's Favorite Things Friday, I bring you my favorite summertime show for the past few years: So You Think You Can Dance. This show is awesome! If you're already a fan then I'd love to know who your current favorite is. If you haven't ever watched it, then I'm only sorry I haven't told you about it earlier.

Like American Idol, the show holds auditions across the country, takes a certain number of dancers to Las Vegas then chooses 20 to take to LA. The dancers are paired into couples and each week draw a dance style from the hat. The perform, the judges critique and America votes. From the bottom 3 girls and bottom 3 guys the judges then send 1 girl and 1 guy home.

Unlike American Idol, the host is just awesome. Not only is Cat Deeley beautiful (I can't wait to see her dress each Wednesday and Thursday evening) but it is clear that she genuinely cares for each of the dancers. The judges, too, clearly care a great deal about their craft and give thoughtful critiques. Well, everyone but Mary Murphy who kind of drives me crazy but I guess there's always a spot for a crazy female judge, right?

Next Wednesday the remaining 12 dancers will perform. The judges have said, and I agree, that this is probably the strongest season yet in terms of talent. These men and women are simply amazing. If you tune in, you won't be disappointed.

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

I'll be back

My sister has been giving me a hard time lately for being a little light in my posting around here. Personally, I don't think I've been that bad though will admit to posting a little less than usual. I blame most of it on the pregnancy. Before I shared the news with all of you, all I had to say was that I was nauseous and exhausted--over and over and over again. Which, of course, I couldn't say, nor, I'm sure, did you really want to hear. And now, well, I'm slightly less nauseous and still quite exhausted which, again, I'm sure you don't really want to hear about. Plus, when you're fighting such overwhelming symptoms and still have a part-time job and full-energy 3 year old, who would have the inclination to even type it out? Not me.

Lucky for you (and my sister) I did, indeed, type out a few particularly memorable early pregnancy incidents which have been languishing in draft status for more than a month now. I'm going to take a little blogging vacation next week and so have those all cued up for your enjoyment, dear readers.

After my little break, I'll be in my second trimester (pending, of course, Baby Center sending me an e-mail telling me that I'm there, anyway. Who can remember such details with baby #2?!) and hopefully feeling great. At which time, I'll be back!

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Lucas's Big Boy Room

I'm having a lot of fun thinking of decor ideas for Lucas's new big boy room. We've already started emptying the guest room and I can not wait to redecorate it. When we moved in, we went crazy with color. Can you blame us? We'd each lived in sterile dorm rooms and apartments for years and years and were ready to put color on our walls. I still love our orange living room and yellow dining room but have come to despise our bright blue guest room.

We kept our apartment for an extra week after we closed on the house so we could paint with the house empty. We got a ton done but when we got to the guestroom we realized--as we were painting--that the previous owners had painted over wallpaper! We didn't have time to strip it so went ahead and painted thinking we'd strip it eventually. Well, now is the time!

As soon as the three pallets of stone in our front yard (that's a post for another day!) are built into a wall in our back yard, Abel's top priority is to strip and paint the guestroom. I want to have it ready for Lucas with enough time left for me to redecorate the nursery. (Currently the nursery is Ohio State Buckeye themed. Abel has been warned that the next nursery will be much more girly/babyish even if it is a boy!!)

In the meantime, I'm having a lot of fun dreaming about Lucas's big boy room. I want it to be something he enjoys now but will continue to like well into--and dare I dream, beyond?--elementary school. I have a color scheme of navy blue, light blue and green in mind with neutral cream or very light tan walls.

Here are some things I'm loving today....

Circo Boy Color Block Quilt and striped sheets from Target

Awesome license plate display by Lindsay's friend and guest blogger Nicole over at The Pleated Poppy (I've already started collecting old license plates but if you have any you want to send my way, just comment or drop me an e-mail! I'd be happy to pay for shipping.)

Canvas map of the US via Pottery Barn Kids; at $99 this would be a big splurge but I've looked everywhere for something similar that I like as much as this and nothing compares.

What do you think? Does this look like a room a boy (and his mama!) could live with for the next 5-7 years?

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!