Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Sunset on Winter

It's the end of February, which means that spring is around the corner. Yay! Although as I write this, the snow is falling and we are under another Winter Weather Advisory, and I narrowly avoided major travel problems last weekend because of a snowstorm when I flew out to Massachusetts. This winter wasn't too bad for me personally though. It's still my least-favorite season, but it helps me to appreciate the other seasons even more and it's also nice to totally indulge my true self--a homebody--for much of the winter. And there's no denying the loveliness of a pretty snowfall. But in any case, I'm not sad to say good-bye to winter. It will make a rather welcome return again at Christmastime!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

We Finally Went to Mystic Aquarium!

We lived in Connecticut for four years and we never once went to the famous Mystic Aquarium while we were there. Unfortunately, it can be easy to take things for granted when you live near them, thinking "Oh, we'll go there sometime." But it wasn't until we moved halfway across the country that we finally made it there. Last summer, the boys and I spent a fun afternoon at Mystic Aquarium with my sister Elizabeth and her family and our father. These pictures prove that we really were there!

Cue the music for "Baby Beluga"! (Such a cute catchy little song!)

This sea lion was cool! Literally, once he dove into the water.  
 I could totally relate to the wonderful feeling of stretching out in the warm sunshine.

 John and my cute 3-year-old nephew Rocco.

Sharks, penguins, and our cute little boys:

Can you spot the frog?

It was an awesome aquarium! I'm glad that we finally found that out for ourselves!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

If You Get a Cool New Accent Chair...

You know the children's book If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, where the boy gives the mouse a cookie and then the mouse gets thirsty and needs a drink and wants a straw to go with the drink, and it leads to one thing after another? There are many applications of that story to real life, which is one of the reasons that it's such a clever, relatable story. I have a recent example of this from my own life. It's a fun, good example! (Just don't ask my husband his opinion on the matter. You'll see why!)

For awhile I'd been wanting to get a chair for our living room to round out the seating area. Before it just had a couch and a loveseat with a coffee table between them, and I thought a chair would be both functional and aesthetically pleasing. I didn't want a big bulky recliner or an overstuffed easy chair (as comfortable as both of those are) because this was our "formal" living room, but I also didn't want an uncomfortable chair that was just for looks. I looked around at different stores and couldn't really find anything that I liked. So I resorted to my #1 secret shopping tool: the internet. And that's where I found it. On, of all places. (Don't be dismissive of Target's furniture like I once was! They have some really nice, well-made things, some of which we've had for years.) I found exactly the type of chair I was looking for, and it had a cool floral design, which was a fun unique contrast with the rest of our furniture, which is mostly various shades of brown, beige, or taupe. 

Behold the Hudson Upholstered Accent Chair in "Gorgeous Pearl." 

And here it is in real life:

I love it! But I knew that Peter probably wouldn't. He kind of believes that comfort and style don't really go together. But I got it anyway, because it's my house, after all. (Hee hee. Well, it is.) And I unknowingly had a secret weapon: my in-laws. The weekend the chair arrived, Peter's parents were visiting from Rhode Island. His father put the chair together while Peter was at work, and his mother, who has a bad back, said it was very comfortable and she ended up using it a lot that weekend, even bringing it into the family room when we watched TV. It was that comfortable! I haven't heard much complaint from Peter since then. I win. :-)

John thinks it's comfortable too!
I don't normally choose big prints like this. I like things that are more understated and classic. But it's nice to have a statement piece. And it rounds out the seating area just like I wanted it to. I think it's perfect!

Here's where the "If you give a mouse a cookie" part comes in. Ever since we got the chair, I've grown increasingly tired of the window treatments in the living room. They're a nice maroon color, but they really don't go with the chair at all. Plus, I think they're original to the house, which would make them almost ten years old. I'd like to get something lighter in color and more airy in feel to match the already airy feeling of this room. So this spring I'm planning on hiring a decorator for the first time to help me pick out new window treatments.

And while we're at it, I'm in the market for a new coffee table. The current one is good but it's over eight years old--from Target! It has a funny stain on the top of it from our move and it really is time to get a new one. (We did get a new one when we moved here but I ended up hating it so we gave it away.) I also want to get an accent pillow or two for the couch that coordinates with the colors in the chair. And that ficus tree in the corner? Its days are numbered. It's going to get replaced with one that's bigger and better looking. This isn't vanity or pride talking here, it's purely design and aesthetics. And in another year or two, it might be time to get a new couch and loveseat. I love them but they're about seven years old and they're starting to show signs of their age. Just saying!

Who knew that a simple accent chair would turn out to be a significant reactionary agent of change and improvement?

Accent chair ---> New window treatments ---> New coffee table ---> New toss pillow(s) ---> New ficus tree ---> New couch and loveseat

Or in other words...
If you're going to get a new accent chair for your living room, you're going to want new window treatments to go with it. When you get the new window treatments, you'll notice that the coffee table is old and needs to be replaced. Once you the get the new table, you'll see that the decorative toss pillow doesn't match anything anymore, so you go and pick out a new one. As you put it on the couch, you see the cheap green leaves of your flimsy ficus tree, and off to the store you go to get a nicer one. After you put it in place and stand back to survey the room, you're dismayed to notice the sagging cushions of the couch and loveseat. Once the new couch and loveseat have arrived, you sit down in your accent chair and look around with a sigh of contentment and happiness. But then you turn around, and you see that the library room could use a new chair...

Like I said before, just don't ask my husband his opinion about all of this.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine Roses

 They start out a little shy and wrapped up in themselves...

But with a little time and the proper nourishment, they open up, blossom, and grow...

Gently sparkling, they are beautiful and have reached their full potential.


Happy Valentine's Day!
(Otherwise known as National Celebration of My Favorite Flower Day!)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Future Ivy League Student...

...who peed his pants three times that day.

 I guess we all start somewhere!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Scenes from January

I'm a hibernating homebody during the months of January and February. I don't like being outside in the cold too much or driving on icy roads, so I stay home a lot. As much as I like doing that, there are definite downsides to it. Like restless/fighting/tired children during the witching hours of late afternoon, and the lack of fresh outdoor air. I may be one of the worst moms when it comes to bringing my kids outside to play in the winter. I figure that they get to do that at school each day, so I don't have to. In any case, even I am starting to feel some cabin fever by February!

These are some scenes from around the house over the past month.

Sam got a new Thomas toy box for his room that he loved. 

Speaking of the kids' rooms, I cleaned them out, reorganized them, and got some new furniture for them. (If I'm going to be home a lot during the winter, then I might as well be productive and get lots of things crossed off the to-do list!) This was a project that was long overdue. John's room took hours to get cleaned out and organized. Kids this age (7) accumulate so much stuff, and a lot of it seems to be made of paper!

John's room

Sam's room
This cleanliness and organization lasted until naptime.  

See the Thomas toy box?

My favorite thing in the collage below is Peter's perplexed expression while playing Harry Potter on the Wii.

I love this picture of Sam sitting on the counter. The lighting is just perfect, and so's the kid. :-)

No winter blues here!

We had a snowstorm and the kids got the day off from school. The whiteness outside of the windows is the snow falling. I love that! So peaceful and pretty.

Sam builds these super-long trains...

Sometimes he gets inventive and adds non-train objects to make the train longer. Here he used John's pants and shoes. So funny!

From top left: John likes putting together this world puzzle that he got for Christmas; snacktime; John's favorite seat in the house, where he likes to watch shows on Netflix on the iPad as he devours clementines; Sam all swaddled up (sort of).

White daisies against the cold winter whiteness outside. 

I'm looking forward to spring and the subsequent decrease of our level of indoor hibernation!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Five Things for Friday

1. Lost Notes. A small tragedy befell me last week. Small as in not very important in the grand scheme of things, but big enough that it made me cry and feel sad for about two days. What happened? One morning Sam somehow quickly deleted ALL of my lists from the Notes app on my iPad. All of them. Gone forever, just like that. They couldn't be recovered--believe me, I researched and tried. Mission impossible. "The cloud" didn't come through for me this time. These are lists that I've been keeping for years, way before I got an iPad. I transferred them to the iPad because it was convenient to have them on there. Unfortunately and unbeknownst to me, it wasn't secure. I try not to think too hard about the content of the lists because I don't want to face the full realization of all of the information I had in them that was lost. Some of them were practical lists and some were just for fun and some were pretty important. Sob.
But life goes on. It's not the end of the world. I found a new app that's much more secure and I've started making new lists there. And I banished Apple's Notes app to the very last screen all by itself. It's getting a permanent timeout. I tried to delete it altogether but it comes free with Apple products and can't be deleted. Thanks for that Steve Jobs!

2. Hair. I recently blow-dried my hair for the first time in over a year. At my last hair appointment I decided to start getting my hair washed, cut, and blow-dried again. Because of the damage that happened to it two years ago I've been getting dry cuts whenever I go in because blow-drying was too damaging. Fortunately my hair has slowly but surely finally been getting healthier and I felt it was ready to experience the blow-dryer again. Plus it just feels good to have someone wash your hair and massage your scalp and blow it all dry, and my hair looked nice afterwards, much better and fuller than usual. So I thought that maybe I'd start blow-drying it every once in awhile, like sometimes for church or a special event. Unfortunately, I can't seem to remember how to blow-dry properly, because my hair felt stiff and stuck out at funny angles when I was done. What a waste of hair products and ion-blasted warm air! I think I know what I did wrong and I might try again this weekend. A new chapter is opening up in Donna's Hair Chronicles. Stay tuned! (I know. I'm ridiculous!)

3. Cooking. I've been making new recipes for dinner lately. I try to do two new recipes a week. Most have turned out pretty well, but I was disappointed by one of them this week. I made broccoli cheddar soup in the crockpot from this recipe that I got from (where else?) Pinterest, and it had a funny bland sort of taste to it. John, my soup-lover, didn't like it, Sam wouldn't touch it (no surprise there), and Peter thought it was okay. Last night's recipe was better. I made these Chicken Enchilada Puffs and they were good. The thing I'm finding with cooking and making new things is that it takes more time and it costs more money. But I'm going to keep it up because I'm tired of making the same things and I'm ready to become a good cook, even if it means making some duds now and then!

4. Potty-training. I've been potty-training Sam for the past week and it's going fairly well. I think we're about halfway there. I have a pretty good rewards program set up to help keep him motivated. It's been really fun to look at the underside of the toilet lids and the parts of the toilet that I try never to look at every 30 minutes during the day. Oh, and dumping the contents of the little potty is a real treat too! But you know what? I really shouldn't complain. I'm so thankful for Sam and that he's in our family and that I get to be his mother. Who knows? He may turn out to be the last child I'll ever have to potty-train. So in spite of the inconvenience and the ick factor, I'm grateful for the experience of potty-training this sweet, special blessing of a child because it means that he's healthy and he's here. (Even if he did delete all of my iPad lists.)

5. Snowstorm. There, not here. The Northeast is supposed to get a huge snowstorm this weekend with up to 2-3 feet of snow! I live for these kinds of storms, but they just don't seem to happen in Iowa. I miss Nor'easters! Stay safe and enjoy the storm, my lucky family and friends back East!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013


Green is my favorite color. It's the color of trees, and I love trees. It's the color of nature and of life, so vibrant and alive. I love the lush greenery of summer, my favorite season. Is it any coincidence that one of my favorite stories and movies is Anne of Green Gables? If I could go back in time I would change my bridesmaids' dresses to a light sage green (they were lavender) and if I ever get around to it, I'll change the background design of this blog to pale green. I also like green because my eyes turned green as I grew older. I was born with "root beer brown" eyes, and they turned hazel when I was a child, and then they took on a decidedly green tint when I was in high-school. Now they're a nice hazel-green. Some days they're more hazel, and other days they're very green. So I feel like green is really a part of me and my nature and of many of the things that I love.

One of my favorite children's authors is Laura Vaccaro Seeger. I discovered her creative and unique books when John was a baby. Her newest one is titled "Green" and I knew I had to get it when I saw it. It's a visual treat in which she features many lovely shades of green beautifully and imaginatively. I love looking through it!

My mother's house in Massachusetts was built in 1900 and it's a pretty pale green color. In the summer it's surrounded by tall green trees. Needless to say, I love this combination!

 My mom and the boys working and playing in the garden. Look at all that green!

A few more green pictures from around her yard...

And one last shot, this one from in the house, of a window framed by sheer light green curtains looking out onto green trees.

  "Green is the prime color of the world, and that from which its loveliness arises." 
-Pedro Calderon de la Barca
I couldn't agree more. I love green!