Things to Do - Random Links

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* For your summer reading - Female Perspectives: Five Novels That Bring Outsiders In. Further, Indie Booksellers Pick Summer's Best Reads. How to choose? Seriously, how to choose?

* It's hard to believe they're fake.

* NPR's 50 Best Songs of 2013 (so far). I can't get Tegan and Sara's Closer out of my head. And yes, Blurred Lines is sort of addictive to listen to.

* An apartment covered in blue crystals.

* 12 Kids Moms Hate Having Over For Playdates. Yup. Though I'm pretty sure my kids are the hungry kids.

* I can't stop perusing the National Geographic Found Tumblr (Celebrating 125 Years). So much wonderful randomness.

* My imaginary well-dressed daughter. Funny. Really funny (thank you, Carolyn!).

* 15 Homemade Hair and Bodymasks (and don't forget my posts on pumpkin yogurt facemask (so wonderful) and rosemary sage body scrub).

* The pollinator project and children's books about bees (love this idea).

* What the night sky would look like if other planets were as close as the moon.

* Oh the 1980s, even people with incredible bodies looked ridiculous. Trust me, this has to make you laugh.

* Figuring It Out (Olivia Bee is only 19 years old and she's a working photographer, employed by brands including: Hermes, Adidas, New York Magazine, Converse, etc. I've been following her for a few years now and her photos always manage to blow me away).


Places to Go - Cherry Picking at Great Country Farms (Bluemont, VA)


I write about Great Country Farms a lot on this blog (click here for past posts), mainly because it is one of my favorite places to take the kids in the summer and fall (we also have a CSA membership through them). Throughout both seasons, the farm tries to make sure that something is always available for you-pick (ranging from fruits in the summer to swiss chard and pumpkins in the fall). My kids love both the hayride to the fields and participating in the acquisition of the food we eat.

Last week we spent the morning withe friends - bouncing on the huge "pillow", driving life-sized car/slides, fighting bad guys on a pirate ship, swinging on rope swings, tunneling down humungous slides, and petting all of the baby goats as they wandered the property. And, in the afternoon, we picked (tart) cherries. Now I just have to figure out how to cook them, any EASY suggestions (I don't have enough for a pie)?

I love this place.


Every kindergartner receives an "award" at the end of the schoolyear. P was given a certificate as "Little Miss Monkeybars", which pretty much summarizes the last year. Memories of her broken arm never held P back, she continues to bounce/hop/swing/cartwheel her way through the world.


Things to Make - Gwyneth's NY Street Vendor Salad

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I have to admit, I sort of like Gwyneth Paltrow. Yes, sometimes she does seem a teensy bit full of herself (don't we all?), but she's also a sharer (loved the story about the see through dress, the razor, and rocking a seventies vibe) and, as you've probably noticed, I am also somewhat of an oversharer, so I like this about her. Plus, she's a fellow blogger. Thus I spent two months on the library waiting list to finally check out her new cookbook - It's All Good: Delicious, Easy Recipes That Will Make You Look Good and Feel Great. And, seriously, the food is fantastic. Absolutely fantastic. Granted, I'm not sure Gwyneth needed to include a picture of herself on nearly every page (I get it Gwyneth you're gorgeous, we all GET IT), but still I've made four of the recipes thus far and they're incredible (though I did have to scavenger hunt myself through Whole Foods to find some of the ingredients). I'm even considering trying her elimination diet.

In particular, I can't stop eating this relatively easy salad. If you like hummus, you'll love the dressing (which keeps for about a week). It's addictive, trust me. So thank you, Gwyneth, thank you!

4 servings -

1 large head of romaine , chopped
A handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 an English cucumber, chopped and diced
1/2 red onion, very thinly sliced
(I also added 1 cup of canned chickpeas)

*Place the lettuce in a large bowl and combine with 1/4 cup of the dressing. Add the rest of the ingredients to the lettuce. Drizzle remaining dressing on top.

Yogurt-Tahini Dressing (so so yummy)
Makes 1 cup -

2 tablespoons tahini
1/4 cup boiling water
1/2 small garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup plain sheep's or goat's milk yogurt or Vegenaise (all of which are available at Whole Foods) (Gwyneth is anti-cow's-milk-dairy, but you can also use plain yogurt).
3 tablespoons lemon juice (preferably freshly squeezed)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

*Whisk the tahini and water together until completely smooth. Whisk in the remaining ingredients. Keeps in the fridge in a jar for up to a week.


Places to Go (Vacation) - Hiking Italy's Amalfi Coast, Part 1 - Amalfi


Dan and I never had a "real" honeymoon, which at the time was the least of our worries. When we married we had both JUST finished taking the bar exam and starting new jobs, I was 4 months pregnant with F, we used all the money we had to buy a house (luckily, in 2004 down payments weren't necessary). We had bar loans and new responsibilities, a two week honeymoon wasn't part of the equation. Still, every wedding anniversary I kept reminding Dan that one of these years, I WANT a honeymoon.

Then in March I read this Washington Post article on hiking the Amalfi Coast (love the travel section). Dan and I both agreed it sounded like a fantastic vacation and maybe some day we could make it work. Then, miraculously, all of the stars seemed to align - the doctors proclaimed Dan cancer free, grandparents on both sides offered to take over childcare (thank you, thank you, thank you), a hole in Dan's work schedule opened up in June. So I contacted On Foot Holidays (the travel agency referenced in the article). Planes were booked, hotels arranged. And before we knew it, after 8 years of marriage, Dan and I were flying to Naples, Italy for our much-awaited honeymoon, which really blew all former expectations out of the water. I couldn't have hoped for more.

All of these pictures are from our first night, in Amalfi. Even though I'd seen SO MANY photographs of the picturesque villages tucked into mountainside cliffs, Amalfi still managed to take my breath away, especially its beautiful piazza and duomo. The first night Dan and I drank wine on our hotel room balcony, checking out the sea views and watching local kids play soccer for HOURS (literally hours), while the church bells continually reminded us of the passing time. Total relaxation. After two nights in Amalfi, we spent the next 4 days hiking to a different town each night. I (of course) took hundreds of pictures, but I'm still working my way through it all, so I'll post them gradually over the next few weeks.

Happy Monday everyone!!



Things to Do - Interview the Kids (June 2013)

Today is the girls' last day of school. FINALLY. Plus the solstice. Celebrations must be had. And children must be interviewed.


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F, Age 7.5

FAVORITE BOOK - "Let's just say there are a lot of book series I like." (examples?) Judy Moody, Little House on the Prairie
FAVORITE SUBJECT - Art, art, art
FAVORITE SONG - Never Ever Getting Back Together
FAVORITE MOVIE - Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Dog Days
FAVORITE FAMOUS PERSON - Mommy and Taylor Swift
FAVORITE MUSEUM - The Baltimore Aquarium
WHAT DO YOU WANT TO BE WHEN YOU GROW UP? - An artist or a poet or a teacher
WHO IS YOUR BEST FRIEND - I just have a bunch of good friends, no best friend
FAVORITE THING TO DO AS A FAMILY - Go the the county fair and ride the ferris wheel
FAVORITE PLACE TO GO AS A FAMILY - Go to the cherry blossoms and watch P cartwheel
FAVORITE GAME TO PLAY WITH P - Play roller coaster in a box
FAVORITE GAME TO PLAY WITH T - Play shipping the queen off to England
WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO THIS SUMMER? - Sleeping in and staying up late

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T, Age 4

FAVORITE BOOK - Star Wars books and Trashy Town
FAVORITE SUBJECT - Go upstairs and drive the cars
FAVORITE SONG - "I love you, you love me, we're a happy family"
FAVORITE FOOD - Yogurt, milk, and tomatoes
FAVORITE MOVIE - Singing in the Rain
FAVORITE TOY - Swords and guns
FAVORITE TV SHOW - Jake and the Neverland Pirates and superhero shows
FAVORITE MUSEUM - The Jail Museum (i.e. the Playseum)
FAVORITE SEASON - Summer because "its so cozy"
WHAT DO YOU WANT TO BE WHEN YOU GROW UP? - A Paperman, a man who writes things down on paper
FAVORITE THING TO DO AS A FAMILY - Go on the pirate ship
FAVORITE PLACE TO GO AS A FAMILY - Go the the lighthouse and to the beach
FAVORITE THING TO DO AFTER SCHOOL - Go to the police museum (i.e. The National Children's Museum)

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P, Age 6.5

FAVORITE COLOR - Purple and blue
FAVORITE BOOK - Reading Dr. Seuss
FAVORITE SONG - Gangnum Style
FAVORITE FOOD - Ice cream and pizza
FAVORITE MOVIE - Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Dog Days
FAVORITE MUSEUM - Baltimore Aquarium
FAVORITE SEASON - Spring and summer
WHAT DO YOU WANT TO BE WHEN YOU GROW UP? - "I don't know, maybe a veterinarian."
WHO IS YOUR BEST FRIEND - Laney and Aubrey
FAVORITE PLACE TO GO AS A FAMILY - Disneyworld and the County Fair
FAVORITE GAME TO PLAY WITH T - I try not to play with T because we can never agree on a game
WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO THIS SUMMER? - Going to the pool and trying the diving board


Things to Read - Favorite Kids' Books IX

We haven't reviewed children's books in awhile, both because (1) we keep reading the Lemony Snicket series and (2) the kids told me that they're sick of talking about the books we read. Still every once in awhile they give me feedback . . .

For more Favorite Kids' Books, click here to see past posts.


Dinosaur vs. Bedtime

C (T's friend, age 3) (while laughing) - Can you read that again? I liked the roar roar roar.

T (age 4) - I love it, even though it's not a firefighter book.

The Family Tree

T (age 4) - I like when the workers came and the boy saved the tree. And when the animals said "not this tree."

Press Here [note - T is currently obsessed with this interactive book (you keep pressing dots to "change" the picture), he thinks it's "magic", then he looks at the pictures and decides "it isn't magic, they cheated", then we read it again and we're back to "magic."]

T (age 4) - I like this book. It's so funny. I like to make everything happen. Can we get it lots of times from the library?

Little Owl Lost [note - I thought this book was sort of blah, then I read it to T and he couldn't stop laughing. Over and over. F, on the other hand, didn't seem to think much of the book, so I the magic must end around age 4 or 5.]

T (age 4)- It was so funny when the squirrel thought the bear was the owl's mommy. it's a funny book.

F (age 7.5) - I thought they could develop it more, but T thought it was funny. I guess it's a little funny.

And Then It's Spring [note - I'm a little in love with this book, so we read it a lot, despite the fact that it's almost summer.]

T (age 4) - I like when it became green and I liked the turtle and bunny.

C (T's friend, age 3) - I liked everything. I like the boy.

P (age 6.5) - I like the pictures, especially when the turtle wears a hat.


Extra Yarn

P (age 6.5) - Good. The box was empty, but kind of magical. The box only wanted yarn for the girl because she's the only one who wanted everything pretty and not just black and white.

F (age 7.5) - It shows that a girl can change the world, but the magic doesn't work for greedy people.

Dragons Love Tacos

T (age 4) - Read it again. I like when they breathe fire and I like when they build. That book is funny.

P (age 6.5) - This book is so good. It's so funny. Because of all the tacos.

F (age 7.5) - It was really good. I liked when the dragons helped rebuild the house for the taco breaks.

Boy + Bot

T (age 4) - It was so good that the boy played with the robot and they had fun and they read books.

P (age 6.5) - It was really good. I like how they became friends.

F (age 7.5) - I liked that they do the opposite, that Bot malfunctioned then boy fell asleep.

M (F's friend, age 8) - I thought it was funny that Bot gave the boy oil and the Boy gave Bot applesauce.

Brave Girl/ Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers Strike of 1909

T (age 4) - I like when the police put her in jail because I like police. [note - obviously T didn't quite "get" this book]

P (age 6.5) - She was brave and she made lives better. Plus, I liked that it was all real.

F (age 7.5) - I liked that it was a true story and she stood up for herself.

M (F's friend, age 8) - I liked how all the women and girls came to help her - young and old, rich and poor.

Ladybug Girl and Bingo [note - This book is all about camping, so it could be a nice starter book if you plan on going this summer.]

B (T's friend, age 4) - I liked all the pictures of the dog. [note - B's English is very limited, so the pictures were key]

K (P's friend, age 5) - I liked firefly girl at the end.

F (age 7.5) - It is a really adventurous book, she has a lot of imagination.


Things to Do - 12 in 12 (June 2013)

12 pictures in 12 hours on an ordinary day. Because sometimes the best moments are the simplest moments.

Now click on over to Rebecca's blog to check out her 12 in 12 for June. And let me know if you want to join in, so we can link to your blog as well.

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9:30 am - T's 4 year old doctor's visit. Shots = sadness.

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11:30 am - Playdate at Potomac Overlook Park and Nature Center. Who needs toys when you have sticks?

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2:00 pm
- Library.

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3:00 pm - Pass out on the couch (T almost never naps anymore, but whenever I attempt a 12 in 12, he passes out. Maybe I need to shoot these more often).

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4:00 pm - New library books and popsicle cheers after the girls come home from school.

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5:30 pm - F's martial arts class.

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7:00 pm
- Celebrating our 8 year wedding anniversary (with the kids) at Cantina Mexicana.

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8:00 pm
- Stopping at the playground while walking home from dinner.

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8:15 pm - Spontaneous sibling bonding before bedtime.


Things to Do - Prepare For "When the Bad People Come", Part II

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Two and a half months on this blog I interviewed my friend, Cathi, about her work with Moms Demand Action, a grassroots organization committed to common sense gun control measures. Unfortunately, the Senate did not pass the proposed background check bill that we discussed during the interview, so Cathi volunteered to write a new post informing us of current proposed measures and bills. Talking with Cathi continues to be a huge wake up call for me, in that she makes me realize how important of an issue this is and how we really need to make our voices heard. So please read . . .

With Rep. Connolly
(Photo - Moms Demand Action Meeting with Congressman Gerry Connolly of Virginia's 11th district)

On April 17, 2013, the "Manchin-Toomey" gun background check amendment was defeated by just six votes. This common sense proposal would have helped to close gaping loopholes that allow for gun-show and online sales of firearms without requiring a background check.

Now it is June. It has been 6 months since we all witnessed the horror of Newtown. And yet not a single bill has been passed in Congress to make our children safer.

Parents from across the country have noticed this inaction and have reacted the same way they did when they heard about the Newtown tragedy. Enough. This is ridiculous. It is time for common sense.

We have all heard about the powerful NRA whose leadership is directly funded and supported by gun manufacturers through their gun lobby. But since that fateful April vote in the Senate, membership to Moms Demand Action has exploded. Moms who may have been previously outraged on this issue were finally propelled to act. As the Founder of Moms Demand Action, Shannon Watts, recently stated on MSNBC, "When Congress voted against background checks in April they locked the door, so moms will come in through the window. We'll continue putting pressure on Congress, but we're also working on state legislatures and American businesses to change laws, policies and our culture."

Background checks are a common sense measure that an overwhelming majority of Americans agree with. The reason why is simple – a 90 second background check keeps criminals from legally obtaining firearms. It is just common sense to make sure that individuals who buy guns are legally permitted to do so.

There is hope that the Manchin-Toomey amendment will return to the Senate Floor this summer. Please continue to call your Senators to keep the pressure on. There is a similar bill on the House side, called "King-Thompson". You can use this easy phone-calling tool to call your Representative and let them know that you support background checks and that you hope they will co-sponsor the bill, or thank them if they already do.

I have often been asked what inspires me to volunteer my efforts on this issue. Here is the truth -- it's rolled up socks and Buzz Lightyear underwear. When I am exhausted from my long (can I say LOOOOOOOONG?) day, I’ve put my goofy first grader and his little sisters to bed, and I am folding laundry and I get to those damn rolled up socks that still have sand and mulch stuck in the toes, I want to scream a tiny bit. But right there. In that very moment. The image of Buzz Lightyear appears to me from the basket and I want to cry. Yet I know there are 20 mothers in Newtown--as well as more mothers EVERY SINGLE DAY who lose a child to gun violence--that would do anything for a rolled up sock filled with sand and mulch. And that is why I know we are far from being done.


(Photos - The Human Ribbon of Remembrance sponsored by the Newtown Action Alliance to mark 6 months since Newtown)

Other ways you can support the safety of American children and families:

Moms Demand Corporate Responsibility
Moms Demand Action urges American moms to support companies that have gun sense, and put pressure on those that don't. Moms and women oversee nearly 80 percent of household spending; Moms Demand Action wants to ensure those dollars are spent to support the safety of American children and families.
Use the link below to participate in Moms Demand Action's corporate responsibility campaign for gun sense.

Gun Violence Is Not a Game
The gun industry is profiting by marketing assault weapons and other guns to our children as potential customers. Entering into licensing, marketing or financial deals with gun manufacturers helps advance their efforts to push more of their products onto our streets, leaving our kids and our communities at risk. Click here to read our report.

Moms Demand Action is calling on leading video game producers to pledge not to enter into any future business relationships with gun manufacturers.

Please pledge not to partner with the gun industry on any future licensing, marketing or financial arrangements: http://action.momsdemandaction.org/page/speakout/gun-violence-is-not-a-game


Things to Do - Grateful List (May 2013)

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(I always love the quirky decorations in old beach houses)

* Watching Swiss Family Robinson for family movie night and F complaining about how sexist the movie is
* Watching Housewives of Orange County with Liz and Adrienne
* Listening to Cold War Kids' Dear Miss Lonelyhearts
* Watching the Gatekeepers (so depressing)
* Reading Alice Munro's Dear Life: Stories
* Reading The Astor Orphan: A Memoir
* May 13, 2013's New Yorker article on Falafel (the world's best backgammon player)
* Reading Tracy Kidder's Good Prose: The Art of Nonfiction
* Reading Molly Ringwald's When It Happens to You: A Novel in Stories

* Dan cooking Rick Bayless's chicken a la veracruzana for Cinco De Mayo
* Dan's Mother's Day Feast - pork roast and root veggies
* Margaritas in a can (just like the world's cheapest dive bar would make)
* South Mountain Creamery's ice cream

* Azaleas at the National Arboretum
* The zoo with Hannah (elephants and sea lions)!
* T catching his first two fish ever at Hains Point
* Great County Farms with T and Coco on an incredibly empty Monday (we had the whole place to ourselves)

* B Kamins night cream (which has been discontinued, ugh)
* La Mer night cream (found as a substitute for the above)

* Drinks with the neighbors on Friday nights
* The Ruiz's wine party
* P's 5 goals in one game
* T's soccer class with Q and J (Coach Emma is amazing)
* T - "Can I be a daddy when I grow up?"/me - "Yes"/T - "A daddy that has a watch?"/me - "Yes"/T - "And that doesn't have a hurt leg?"/me - "Yes"/T - "Because I really don't want daddy's leg."
* me, one size smaller
* T telling his teacher he loved "adventuring" with his mom
* F and her microscope
* Maggie's peonies
* Refinancing our house

VACATION - Corolla, NC
* A full moon over the ocean
* Dolphins
* Duck Donuts (so so good)
* Playing Would You Rather? and Dominion
* The sun returning for our week at the beach (after so much rain and cold)
* Wine tasting at Currituck Historical Park for Saruul's birthday
* My ipad (I always liked me ipad but never really LOVED it until i could search the web on vacation)
* Estuarine Nature Walk
* Coco chasing crabs
* Eating at Urban Kitchen (so so good)
* The kids turning my bedroom into a pirate's lair and using Dan's poker chips as booty
* Island Bookstore (BEST!! bookstore ever, with a fantastic kids' section)
* Climbing to the top of the lighthouse with P
* Dan and T catching A LOT of fish

The Kids' Lists

F - that we have everything we need, my family, Auntie Jenny and the Banana visiting, our house, that my martial arts instructor called me 'black belt material', tonight, rain, that my friends left before the rain came, a really great sister, piano lessons, art, books, Cybil Lily, the beach, bodyboarding, vacationing with my friend M, renting a nice house on the beach

P - McDonalds with my teacher, gymnastics, the Banana, a great day at school, playdates with Avery and Logan, a popsicle party at school, my teacher's birthday, watching Swiss Family Robinson, walking Coco at night, Mother's Day, all of my friends staying over, E sleeping over, L playdates, stayovers with my friends, the market fair [at Claude Moore Colonial Farm], soccer practice, reading Magic Schoolbus's beach book, the beach,

T - Hannah Banana, that we go see the flowers [at the National Arboretum], going to school, taking Coco for walks, J sleeping over, that F likes reading Spiderman to me, Coco, the beach


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