Saturday, December 8, 2012

on my shelf

You either love him or hate him.  He’s the (little creepy) bribery tool parents use to keep their kids well behaved for the month between Thanksgiving & Christmas.  You guessed it….he’s the elf on the shelf.  For the 2nd year now this little elf has graced our house with his presence.  I have to admit that he creeps me out a little, but he’s become a tradition in our house and my son looks forward to finding “Adam” every morning.   (If you’re asking yourself “What the heck is an elf on the shelf?” then click HERE) 

The elf has been around for many, many, years but has recently picked up in popularity.  If you do a google search or just log into pinterest you’ll find hundreds of ideas for this stuffed sprite.  Some of these ideas are outrageous and as a working mom I don’t have the time to dedicate every night to setting up some elaborate scene for my elf.  I can barely remember to move him every night so to spend 15+ minutes setting something up each night is exhausting.  Maybe that’s just me but my 4 yo is not going to give a hoot if the elf is hanging off the chandelier or if he’s riding in a hot air balloon that was home crafted out of paper, ribbons and a balloon.    He enjoys finding him regardless. 

I’ve tried to get a little creative only because I’m running out of quick ideas of where to put this thing.  Half of me wants to wrap him in an ace bandage and say that he’s had an accident and can’t move for a week. But I can't disappoint my son, even though I’m pretty sure that he is not buying the whole story about the elf and is just humoring us as we move him every night.  But for now he’s playing along and we’ll continue to move our elf every night until Christmas Eve when we bid him farewell for another year.

Do you have an elf on the shelf?   cast your vote – creepy bribery tool or cute holiday tradition??

elf acrobatics
chocoholic elf
going for a ride on the Sodor Railway
made his own design with our window decorations

flying home to the North Pole makes for a hungry elf


Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Great Purge of 2012

You may remember me mentioning a few times how I want to clean out the clutter in my house.  Well, I finally did.  My husband and I started “the great purge of 2012” nearly 5 months ago.  Slowly but surely we have been attacking each room of our house and getting rid of anything we haven’t used or need anymore.  Almost everything we purged ourselves of has been donated to a good home.  Initially I was going to sell some of it on ebay, but gave up on that idea fast.  Donation was a much better idea.  There are so many people out there that could use these things more than we could.

If you remember back to my summer goals from last year, my first goal was:
“Clean out/organize the built in shelving area in our downstairs. It has become a kind of make shift storage area that I’ve begun to cover up with Chinese screens so that I don’t have to look at it anymore. It could use a good purging. “
We started with our bedroom closet and progressed to other areas of the house.  We still have a few places left to work on (mainly A’s closet and his toys) but we've made great progress and I am feeling much better about the house.

What we got rid of:
  • 12 huge bags of clothes
  • 36 glasses (everything from water to martini)
  • 6 glass vases
  • 1 table & 4 chairs set (from our kitchen)
  • 1 parpasan chair
  • 1 (very) old radio
  • 3 bags of A’s toys (so far)
  • 8 pairs of shoes
  • 1 pair of snow boots

We also put a lot of stuff into a storage unit (holiday decorations, winter clothes, baby items) since our closet space is so limited in our townhouse.  De-cluttering was a little difficult for me in the beginning since I’m one of those people who tends to keep things (come on, you know you have your skinny jeans hidden in your closet too) but once I started purging it was like opening the flood gates.  I was tossing things left and right.

Time to go shopping??  (just kidding)

anyone thirsty?  I think I have a glass around here somewhere

Kickin' it old school!!

Thursday, November 1, 2012


It’s been a surreal past few days.  Sandy came and she came with a vengeance.  We were extremely lucky where we were and the brunt of the storm went around us.  Even though we’re a mile from the Hudson River, we were high enough up that flooding wasn’t an issue.  We somehow didn’t loose power either.  It flickered a lot and we had a couple brown outs, but I’m shocked that we kept it. 
However, a LOT of people weren’t as lucky.  They lost everything they own. Their homes, their memories and some even lost their life.  To say that the storm was devastating is a gross understatement.  I’ve never experienced something like this in my entire life nor do I think anyone else has.  There have been a lot of pictures floating around the news and the internet.  At first I was curious to see how other areas had fared, but after seeing picture after picture of pure devastation I just can’t take the sadness anymore.
I’ve been home all week due to the commuter trains being suspended on my line.  The train I take is pretty much on the Hudson River so the damage to those rails were extensive.  flooding, debris, etc.   As crews have been cleaning up the rails they found a boat (!) on the tracks between my stop and the next stop to the south.  It’s just mind boggling.  I don’t think any of us can fully grasp the sheer magnitude of destruction that Sandy caused. 
While there are so many heart wrenching stories being publicized in the media, we can’t forget that there also have been stories of human kindness.  Neighbors helping neighbors and strangers helping strangers.  Those are the type of stories that I prefer to hear.   Things will be rebuilt.  It will take time, but it will be done. 
If you want to help those families that have been affected by Sandy you can donate to the Red Cross via their website, phone (1-800-RED CROSS) or by texting REDCROSS to 90999 which will send an automatic $10 donation. 
My prayers go out to everyone who lost something or someone during this storm.
Sandy's Path (picture from google)
a boat(!) on the tracks I travel every day to work (picture from
what is left of the Atlantic City boardwalk (picture from gooogle)
yes that's a roller coaster in the ocean (picture from google)

Monday, October 29, 2012

Batten Down the Hatches

Historical.  Unprecedented.  Devastating.  Catastrophic. 

These are all words that have been used by newscasters over the last 24 hrs to describe Hurricane Sandy.  I’m not usually one to be afraid of storms, but I have to be honest and say this one shares the s**t out of me.  Thankfully we live high enough away from the river that flooding shouldn’t be a problem, but I worry about the trees…especially the huge one right behind us.   “Frankenstorm” is a combination of Hurricane Sandy, super-storm conditions, and climate change is about to pummel the East Coast…and my house.

My husband laughed at me when I told him I wanted to go out and get supplies last Thursday.  We only needed some batteries, water and a few other items.  I wasn’t prepared for what I saw (or rather didn’t see) on the shelves of Stop & Shop 4 days ago.

 We got the very last 2 gallon jug of water (the one pictured here) plus a case of bottles.  They also had ton of batteries then so we got enough for our flashlights.  Plus we needed some good ‘ol fashioned junk food to ride out the storm with.

and not to be forgotten the most important provision.  Wine!  Now we’re ready :)

We brought in all of our outside stuff and I froze some Ziplocs full of water to use as ice packs or extra water for when we lose power.  Notice I said when, not if.  I’m certain we’ll lose power at some point tonight.  No power with a 4 year old should be tons of fun.

I took advantage of still having power today and finished up some laundry and (more importantly) baking up a batch of Halloween/Hurricane sugar cookies.  Yum!  I had a little helper who loved rolling out the dough, cutting out the cookies and decorating them.

The trains have been shut down and my office is closed today and tomorrow. The storm just made landfall in NJ so it should be up here very shortly.  Bring it on Sandy, Frankenstorm, whatever you want to call it.  We’re ready!!

To my fellow east coasters (and those in the tri-state area) I wish you a safe Frankenstorm.  Batten down the hatches because this lady is cracking open a bottle as the wind kicks up around here.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Beer Marinated Chicken Thighs

Last Sunday night I was browsing online for an idea of what to do with some chicken thighs that I had sitting in the fridge and had to make that night before they went bad.  I stumbled upon the below and immediately stopped.  (link to original recipe is HERE)

Chicken soaked in beer!?   Yes please!

Here is a recipe for you to try on some chicken thighs.  I’m sure you could give it a shot with chicken breasts also if you prefer.  These thighs marinate in beer, spices, lime juice and cilantro for a few hours then you can grill them up for some crispy goodness.  You could also cook in the oven if you don’t want to fire up the BBQ.  The beer in this recipe works as a tenderizer so if you are expecting beer tasting chicken sorry to disappoint you.  

I improvised a bit on the original recipe based on what I had in the house.  For example I used dried cilantro instead of fresh, chili powder instead of ancho-chile pepper and bottled lime juice instead of juicing a fresh lime.   Everyone (including my picky eating son) loved it and ate it all up.

Beer Marinated Chicken Thighs

  • 2 lbs. boneless, skinless Chicken Thighs
  • 2-3 cloves of Garlic, pressed through a garlic press
  • 1 teaspoon Ancho-Chile Pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon Fresh Cracked Pepper
  • 2 tablespoons Fresh Cilantro, chopped
  • 1 cup {8 fl. oz.} Beer, any kind should do
  • 2 tablespoons Sesame Seed Oil
  • Juice of half a large lime

(1)  Combine the garlic, spices, cilantro, sesame seed oil, beer and lime juice into a medium sized bowl.

(2)  Place the two pounds of chicken thighs into a large re-sealable bag or large bowl (I trim off any excess fat before I stick them in the bag).  Pour the marinate over the top.

(3) Seal the bag and squish the chicken around to coat evenly. Place in the fridge to marinate for 2 hours, tossing around every now and again.

(4)  Preheat the grill to medium-high heat. Remove the chicken and discard the marinade. Lay the chicken on the grill grates and cover for a few minutes per side until cooked all the way through

(5)  Once the chicken is cooked, remove and let rest for a few minutes under foil.

Yield: 4 servings

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Why, Hello There

Has it really been over a month since my last post??  Wow!  I hadn’t realized it was that long since I’d been on here.  The entire summer just flew by this year.  I can’t believe that it’s fall already and I’m even starting to think about Christmas shopping.  Yikes!

We had quite the busy summer with a few trips and lots of parties & BBQs.  The fall is looking to be busy also.  We have a family vacation to Florida planned next month and if all goes well…..there could be some big changes coming my way.

Stay tuned.  More to come soon! 

Sunday, July 29, 2012

When Good Deals Go Bad

Online group deals can be a fantastic way to both save money and obtain goods/services that you otherwise may not have either known about or been able to afford. I personally have purchased and used many of these deals offered through various sites - groupon, living social, mamasource - without issue. But there are times when good deals go bad. This is my story.

I’m very into photography - both taking pictures and having pictures taken. I get photos taken every year for my son’s birthday to capture him at each age. My budget in the past couple years hasn’t allowed me to do anything professional so I’ve just been going to Picture People at the mall. They’ve been fine pictures but I was looking to do something different this year and also get a new family photo. So off to the internet I went in search of an online deal. To my surprise I found a deal on living social (in my budget) for a professional photographer session at Studio 6 Photography in northern NJ.. I checked the photographer’s website and looked for reviews of his work and found nothing off about him. He sounded reputable and had a good portfolio of work. I thought to myself, “how fantasitic! Let’s give it a shot.” My sister had done the same thing with a groupon and gotten gorgeous pictures of her family. How could this go wrong?? yeah, um well… did.

What was Included in the deal               What I Got
1 hour in-studio session                            20 minutes in-studio session
1 - 8x10 portrait of any image                  1 - 8x10 portrait of an image
of MY choosing                                          that HE chose
1 CD of 24 edited images                         1 CD of all raw images
                                                                      (the only bonus)

Our session was on May 19th. My first sign of things to come was being shorted 40 minutes on our session. He didn’t listen to anything I wanted done during the session, had zero ideas of his own, barely varied any of the poses with us, and then hurried us out of the studio as if we were wasting HIS time. I immediately knew the pictures were going to turn out like crap and I had just flushed 60 bucks down the drain. We were told to call him one week later to discuss which picture we wanted for our 8x10 and to set up a time to pick up our print and CD.

I won’t bore you with the play by play of the exact details of what happened week by week, but the summary is that he avoided me and blew off my phone calls for 2 months!! I wasn’t allowed to pick the picture for the 8x10 that was included in the deal, HE chose it. And to add insult to injury he chose the WORST picture of all 3 of us for the print he ultimately gave us. How does a professional photographer pick the worst picture he took to be the one a customer gets as a take away?  I seriously don’t get it.

In the few phone calls that I actually did speak to him, he told me half way through this ordeal that he lost the (crappy) picture so I took the opportunity to tell him to order a pose that I knew was nicer. I explained it to him in great detail and he knew exactly what I was talking about – one was horizontal and one was vertical so it was very easy to distinguish.

About 2 weeks ago I phoned up Living Social to complain about him and that I hadn’t received my goods after a month and a half. Their vendor relations group called him up and he miraculously gave them a pick up date of 7/23/12…a MONDAY when I’m at work. He also told them this date as if we had just spoken and set up a time, which was so far from the truth. I had to chase him this entire past week to see if I could come and pick up my stuff this weekend. I finally flat out told him I would be there Saturday at 11 am so he better be there.

Well….when we showed up to pick up our picture and CD yesterday he comes out with the crappy picture that he supposedly “lost” a month ago!! My jaw nearly hit the floor. When I called him on it (in front of another customer) he had the nerve to reply “why would I say I lost it? That’s weird. I don’t know what other new picture you’re talking about.” I seriously could have slapped him. Since he knows I’ve already complained he tried to make good on it by saying he’ll order me a new picture of the correct pose and mail it to me. Mind you he already told me 3 weeks ago that he had ordered this for me to replace the one he lost. I left my name and address but I’m not holding my breath that it comes.

I then came home and spent the afternoon cropping and editing in Picasa to get a few good images from the crappy raw ones that he gave me. I’ve ended up with a few good ones out of this whole ordeal and I have the CD of all the ones he took and will be making my own prints, so all is not lost. However the aggravation of getting my products from this man was NOT worth it. Next time I’m going to the mall instead.

Moral of the story….
While these group deal sites are good and you can get great deals from them, it all depends on the vendor. I thought I had done my homework on this place but evidently not enough. DO NOT EVER GO FOR PHOTOS AT STUDIO 6 PHOTOGRAPHY in ENGLEWOOD, NJ. Awful service and in my opinion, not so great photography. But I guess I got what I paid for.... 

Here are the couple best pictures that I got out of the 93 that were taken. Note: one of them I cropped from other awful ones:

Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Half Way Mark

In the words of Bon Jovi….. Whooah, we’re half way there.  6 months of project 365. ::pats self on back::  I was so worried about making it 1 month with this project, yet here I am half a year later and going strong.  I already see so much of a difference in both myself and Anthony looking back on our January pictures.  It’s amazing.

Here’s a slideshow of the last 6 months.  Looking forward to see what the next 6 months brings.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

End of Year Teacher Gift Ideas

It’s that time of year again - school is ending and camp is starting.  A couple weeks ago I found out that my son’s preschool teacher was leaving to pursue her teaching career in the local school district.  While I’m happy for her, I’m sad to see her go.  A had gotten attached to her over the past year and he still has one more year in this room before moving on to kindergarten.  He’ll have time to transition to his new teacher over the summer “camp” session but it won’t be the same without her.

To say goodbye to her I was looking for something a little more special than just the typical gift card.  A couple days ago when I was surfing around facebook late at night I came across it.  An etsy seller that I’ve previously bought hand stamped jewelry from (My Belle Boutique) was advertising a new necklace design she had done for teachers.  Perfect!!  I quickly snatched one up at 11:30 pm and am praying it arrives before his teacher’s last day on June 28th.  (Link to the necklace is here)

For his other two teachers (assistant teacher & aide) I’m going with the standard gift card, but with a little twist.  A friend of mine recently told me that you can personalize gift cards through the Dunkin Donuts web site.  You can add a picture and even a short message.  The cards come in a greeting card of your choosing and are shipped directly to you for only 45 cents!  The greeting card portion is an additional $4.50 on top of the gift card, but if you were going to buy a card anyway you would have spent $3-$4.  It was super easy to create and the cards were shipped the next day.  A really great gift idea for teachers that is a little different from the every day gift card.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Can you tell me how to get?

….how to get to Sesame Place? 

Last weekend we took our first trip to Sesame Place.  I haven’t been there since I was a kid myself and with the exception of one area it is completely different from what I remember.  We went with my sister and her family and had a BLAST!!  At first A was a bit hesitant about going on rides and preferred to walk around & scope everything out.  But once he got up the courage to go on a few rides he loved it.  His favorite part was playing the carnival games.  He played well and we are now the proud owners of 5 new stuffed animals :-/  Sesame Place has water rides as well as dry rides, but the water was cooooold and the weather a little windy so we didn’t spend too much time on the water activities. 

We stayed overnight so were able to spend a few hours in the park the night before (when it was empty) and then the whole day on Saturday.  On Saturday morning we had tickets to eat breakfast with the characters.  Both A and my nephew were a bit afraid of the characters but we managed to get some pictures and have a fun breakfast.  The best part of the weekend (and something we didn’t know when we planned the trip) was that it was superhero weekend.  How perfect for us, right?!  Super Why was there to take pictures and of course my little superhero dressed up as one of his favorite superheros all weekend and got his picture with Super Why and Princess Presto.

If you are planning a trip to Sesame anytime soon here are a few tips that I recommend that we learned from our trip:

  1. If you decide to stay overnight splurge for the little bit extra it is to stay in the hotel that is across the street from the hotel (Sheraton Bucks County).  It’s worth it to be able to go back & forth during the day with the kids to take naps, etc.  There’s also a hotel shuttle that will take you to/from the park. (FYI they are building a new hotel that is in the parking lot of the park.  It’s schedule to open in July/August 2012)
  2. Sign up for “Discovery Dollars” at the beginning of the day.  You use your credit card to link to a spending account and you are issued a waterproof bracelet to wear all day.  You then use the bar code on the bracelet to scan all over the park to make purchases all day.  This way you can lock up your belongings in a locker & not worry about carrying them all day.
  3. DO the character breakfast.  The park doesn’t open until 10 am.  I don’t know about you, but A is up at 6 am and there was no way I was going to be able to entertain a 4 year old for 4 hours before the park opens - especially when he’s looking out the window at the park.  Breakfast is at 8:45 and this gets you in early before the park opens (score!!)
  4. DON’T bother with Preferred parking unless you have a season pass.  I have a season pass so preferred parking was free.  However, the rear of the preferred parking section is just as far as the regular parking lot so there’s no difference for the extra $$ you’re paying for preferred.
  5. The park was much smaller than I expected.  My 4 year-old and my almost 3 year-old nephew walked the entire time and didn’t need a stroller.  We packed our things in backpacks and just went.  Was so much easier than trying to navigate with the stroller or worry about parking it, etc.  If you have slightly older kids it may be easier to ditch the stroller (or at least leave it in the car just in case).
  6. Line up early for the parade.  It’s awesome and worth it to be front and center.
  7. Download the iphone/android app.  You can even track where the characters are within the park to find your favorites!
  8. Check out what’s in each of the restaurants before you dine.  The food is just okay, but check on the map (or your app) for what is served in each of the restaurants before you go.  Some have a better selection than others.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

G is for Glasses

My husband and I both wear glasses. Almost everyone on both sides of our families wear glasses.  So….we didn’t have high hopes that our son would escape unscathed. 

When I took A to his 4 year physical his pediatrician did a simple eye exam, which my son proceeded to fail miserably :(  I had no idea that an eye exam was part of this visit and I had actually come prepared to ask his doctor when we should take him to the ophthalmologist.  Of course as soon as he failed she referred us to see one immediately.  I got him an appointment within the next week or two and the doctor told us he had a bad astigmatism and needed to wear glasses.

What surprised me the most wasn’t so much that he needed glasses (we knew he was probably going to need them eventually) but that we saw no outward signs that he was having difficulty seeing.  There was no squinting, no complaining that things were blurry and his teachers saw no signs either.  It’s probably because he didn’t know what he was seeing was blurry - to him it was all normal.  When he put on his glasses for the first time my heart broke just a little as he turned to me and said “Mommy, everything is so clear!”  It pains me to think about how he’s been going through life looking through a blurry piece of glass. 

It’s only been 3 days and I’m amazed at how well he’s adjusted.  Barely any complaints and he’s good about taking them off for nap time and bed time.   When he went to school yesterday his teachers told him he looked like Clark Kent, which of course made my little superhero very, very happy.   I’m sure it’s because he realizes how much keeping them on helps him, but whatever the reason is I’m not complaining and hope it continues.

not so happy at the eye doctor
our little Clark Kent!
a celebratory hibachi dinner to celebrate his new specs!!
now he looks even more like daddy!!
Mommy and A have matching pairs

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Celebrating Mothers

Happy Mother’s Day to all my fellow Moms out there!  Today is a day to celebrate both ourselves and the generations before us.  From kissing boo-boos, checking the closet for monsters, wiping away the tears and celebrating the wins.  We are the reason for all of it.     

I hope everyone has a relaxing day with their families.  Cheers to us all! 

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Cranberry Apple Pork Loin Roast

I was searching on the web one night looking for ideas to prepare a pork loin I had gotten on sale at the food store.  I came across this recipie and decided to give it a try.  It was an easy one to make in the slow cooker while I was at work and came out so delicious! 

Cranberry Apple Pork Loin Roast


  • 1 (3 to 4 lb) boneless pork loin roast
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 can whole cranberry sauce
  • 1/4 c brown sugar
  • 1/2 c apple juice
  • 2 apples, cored, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste


  1. Place roast in slow cooker; rub all over with the minced garlic.
  2. Add remaining ingredients and cook on low for 7 to 9 hours. Pork should be about 160° when fully cooked.
  3. Serve with rice.

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