Buried

At the risk of sounding like Wendy Whiner this has pretty much been my word of 2015 so far.  And so I’ve stayed off the blog.  But we’ve reached the stage in life where we can laugh a bit at things and also see the light at the end of the tunnel.  So I thought I’d start to return to you all and give you an update.

Let’s start with the literal.

We have been buried in snow here in New England.  We’ve had several feet of snow from many storms.  The Cuties have only attended school on Monday once in all of 2015.  And here we are on Sunday afternoon and it’s snowing again!  Now normally, I’m all about snow days; we bake, we craft, we snuggle up by the fire and then I kick them outside to play when everyone gets stir crazy.

Except we are still in the 1,000 square foot apartment.  All four of us.  Without really any of our stuff.  No yard, no craft supplies, just a couple of board games, and minimal space.  I tried to make a game out of scrubbing toilets the other day, but The Cuties are pretty smart cookies, and didn’t really buy into that.

And there’s no garage.  So each time it snows and I have to drive them to school, I head down to the parking lot in the dark before 7:00 AM when it’s 5 degrees to scrape the snow off my car and warm it up.  And then do it all over again the next morning. Can you see how this has gotten rather old fast?

We’ve been buried.

Meanwhile, we’ve been house-hunting.  I believe at one point I saw almost every house on the market in three zip codes.  As you can imagine, most people don’t list their home for sale over the holidays so the inventory when we arrived back in America wasn’t the most desirable.  When I tell you I saw some real doozies, I really mean it.  I think one of my “favorites” was the listing stating a “three-car garage” that turned out to be three individual one car garages on the property – none of which connected to the house.  I kid you not.

I got a bit down about it.  In a I know I’m being ridiculous that I’m teared up in a house for sale because it’s not the one so now I’m laughing at myself kind of way.

You know, buried by it all.

And so we took a breath, realized we’d fine something eventually and moved on to the next house.

Which of course, was it.

And so we are under contract on a lovely house.  It has great potential.  Which means it’s filled with projects.  Which really means you will soon see a LOT of activity on the blog as I show you Before and Afters, both big and small.

I’m looking forward to unpacking our things from Japan and the full trailer of things we left in storage all these years.  There will be lots of sorting, purging, some repurposing and a little shopping.

Sort of like digging yourself out. ;-)

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Out of My Comfort Zone

We’re at a point with The Cuties where they are old enough and curious enough that we are regularly trying new things as a family.

And me?

I’m not really a swing from the seat of your pants, try new things, daring kind of gal.

I like comfort, familiarity, and my feet firmly on the ground.

But I don’t ever want to be the Mama on the sidelines.  I don’t want to not participate, miss out on being in the moment with my kids and my husband, or not share an experience with them.  And I’d never ask them to not do something they want to do just because I’m scared or hesitant.

And so being a Mom has often found me out of my comfort zone.

Parenting has often put me there ~ from the very simple first days of How the heck DO I change a diaper? to the more awkward singing aloud in front of others {despite being totally tone-deaf}, because it was the only thing that would make a crying child happy.  And now, recently, The Cuties have enthusiastically embraced experiences on our vacations that have me literally shaking in my boots.

Things like zip lining in the mountains of northern Thailand…

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or this week, snowmobiling in the White Mountains of New Hampshire…

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Before both of these excursions, I woke up desperately hoping for pouring rain, or even perhaps a child to not feel well and need and adult to stay back with them. I’m not a dare-devil, I don’t do speed well and heights do not thrill me to say the least.

But I don’t want to share my fears with my kids before we go.  I don’t want to ruin their enthusiasm and I don’t want them to second-guess their excitement.  I LOVE that they’re bold and always up to try new things.  I WANT them to find new things interesting and have an attitude of why not? instead of reticence.

And for me, one of the greatest things about being The Cuties’ Mom is that they regularly encourage me to step outside my comfort zone because I really want to be fully in their world.  I want to share their joy and I want to be there for their happy as long as they’ll have me.

And that is way more important than my fears.

And so I’ll strap on yet another helmet.

And as hard as it is to admit, I’ve LOVED every one of these experiences!

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Monograms & Mountains

It’s almost Winter Vacation and we are off with The Cuties to New England for a week of fun: skiing, sledding, snowmobiling and more.  All that winter wonderland activity of course necessitates helmets and at the rate The Cuties have been growing it was time for a shopping trip.

And well I’ve never been one to spy a wide open surface and leave it alone now have I….

Thank goodness my daughters are my daughters and so when I proposed monogramming their ski helmets they were not only interested but excited and had opinions as to style, fonts and colors!  We even made sure to note where the goggle straps would hit so the monograms would still be visible when fully geared up!

So we got to work~

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Now I just have to decide what to put on my helmet and we’re ready to head to the mountain this weekend!

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Hanukkah House

In my continued quest to find small holiday projects we can do in our temporary housing, I set The Cuties up with a gingerbread house this weekend.

While I was thrilled to see this product for the first time ~

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The Cuties really wanted gingerbread and not vanilla cookies, so it was quickly vetoed.

I did not share with them that I had seen this product online and neglected to purchased it because well, let’s be honest, with a price tag of $50 it just wasn’t happening when I knew the Christmas gingerbread house kits were marked down to $7 at Michael’s already.  Sorry, kiddos.

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But I was inspired a bit.  So I purchased a regular gingerbread kit, a few packs of silver and blue Sixlets, some frosting in shades of blues and a bunch of Hanukkah gelt.

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And because The Cuties are older now, I totally let them go to town!

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I love that they even added a menorah in the window!

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And of course, The Cuties being MY daughters, felt it very important to add their monograms to their house.  Clearly, I would add my monogram to my roof if I could!

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Oh Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel!

I am so excited about my new Hanukkah wreath, I’m spinning in circles.

You know, like a dreidel.

Hardy har har.

I first thought of this idea while we were living in Tokyo, but knew it would be cost-prohibitive to ship the supplies to me in Japan and well, you know ~ there aren’t exactly a lot of local dreidel shops in Minami Azabu.

So now that we are back in America and Hanukkah is just around the corner, I knew this was the first crafting project I wanted to tackle.

So here’s what you need for this project!

A wreath form {I used a styrofoam one because it was cheap and the right size, but wrapped straw would work fine, too}, glue gun & glue sticks, ribbon {I bought mine at Michael’s on Black Friday for 70% off ~ how many of you were there scooping up rolls and rolls, too?}, and about 150 small dreidels!

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I loved the selection of metallic ones at ChocolateGelt.com and put together a custom order in royal blue, turquoise and silver.  Aren’t they so pretty?!!!

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I first wrapped the wreath in my ribbon.  This is an important step for two reasons: first, it covers the ugly green styrofoam and prevents it from showing on the project and second, it will give you a bit of a base so that the hot glue doesn’t melt the styrofoam.  I kept the ribbon on the roll as I wrapped it and used approximately 18 feet on my 14 inch form.

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Then I simply started hot gluing dreidels in a random fashion all around the wreath form.  I mixed colors, directions and of course letters on the dreidels!

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It took a while to cover the whole form, but this is an easy project to do while watching a movie or to work on a little bit at a time.

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All those dreidels make me so happy!

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And one more peek ~

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And because I over-ordered as always, I have plenty of leftover dreidels.  So now I’m wondering what else I can cover in tons and tons of dreidels!

Linked to:

Creative Jewish Mom, Nesting Place

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Pasta We’ve Been Missing

Every now and then there were recipes I found challenging to shop for ingredients in Tokyo.  Not because they contained anything that unusual, but more because of language barriers in getting exactly what I wanted, or seasonality issues.

And let’s be honest: constant access to sushi-grade fish at all times, can’t be beat, so why mess with a good thing, right?

But now that we’re back in America, and the weather has turned colder, I am craving a little comfort food.  In flipping through The Joy of Cooking {one of my favorite old stand-bys}, I was reminded of a recipe I have altered a bit.  It’s easy, it’s fast, and best of all, it’s seriously delicious!

Ingredients:

1 lb Orecchiette pasta, olive oil, crushed red pepper, 1-2 large heads of broccolini {roughly chopped}, 1 lb sausage {removed from the casing ~ I use a mild Italian sausage}, garlic, salt and pepper.

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Heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil on medium heat and then brown your sausage.  Then add 1/4-1/8 tsp of crushed red pepper {depends on how hot you like things} and 3 minced garlic cloves and cook about a minute.  Remember, I use a ceramic grater instead of a press and it works great for this recipe ~ no chance of burning the garlic at all, and it will smell terrific as you cook it.  In fact, The Cuties came running into the kitchen just about this point in the night!

While you’re doing this, bring your water to a boil and start cooking the orecchiette.

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Add your broccolini and cover until cooked and tender.

This takes just about the same amount of time to cook as the pasta.  Once you’ve drained the pasta, put it back into the pot, and add the sausage and broccolini mixture and stir.  Cook together about another minute or two.  Salt and pepper to taste.

Serve topped with parmesan if you like.

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The Cuties are notoriously pretty great eaters, but I seriously can’t remember the last time they hopped up on their own accord and helped themselves to seconds and thirds!

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I Miss Japan, But…..

We’ve arrived in Connecticut and survived jet lag and starting at two new schools and settling into our little temporary apartment all in one week.

We all miss Tokyo quite a bit and are suffering some “re-entry” issues, but have started to notice a few things here in America that are pretty nice after three years in Japan….

We arrived just in time to catch the end of fall foliage, which while a big deal in Japan, ROCKS in New England.  My drive to school for The Cuties in the morning takes me down a winding lane around a reservoir.  Even The Cuties commented bright and early one morning how amazingly beautiful it was to see.

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{photo credit: drivenct.com}

We had a family fun night this week that included dinner out – no requesting an English menu necessary, no relying on picture menus and no struggling through katakana!  We then went to the movies, where everything was in English, and everything was a first run movie {of course, we still opted for Big Hero 6, which we could have seen in Japan now, LOL!}

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I bought seedless grapes at the grocery store.  Yes, grapes.  Where to start?  For starters, grapes in Japan that are labeled seedless aren’t always so….

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And that price?  That’s for about eight grapes!  I kid you not.

But I’ve been buying a big bag of organic grapes at Whole Foods for about $5.  Score.

And of course, the mother load of Expat shopping…

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The first three days in our apartment we went so often and spent so much our credit card started calling!  Thank goodness there’s no room in our tiny little place for craft supplies or I’d be living at Michael’s, too! ;-)

So we’re finding our way, little by little.

The air shipment arrives in a couple of hours and that should make us feel that much more at home as we remind ourselves that home is wherever the four of us are together.

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