Dreaming Big: Planning Forever

I just read this terrific article in the July issue of Real Simple magazine (which my grandmother aka the smartest, most fabulous woman on earth bought me a subscription for – remind me to post more about her later). It’s can be summed up in one question – What are the top three things on your lifelong to-do list?

I am a to-do list queen – I have shopping lists, travel lists (as in places to go AND things to pack), to do in emergency lists, to do this weekend lists, birthdays to shop for lists, books to read lists, movies to rent queue type lists, and on and on and on ad nauseum. I have this need to organize every detail of the rest of my life, perhaps to make up for my otherwise sloppy excuse for an existence. But outside of “schedule an oil change” and “pick up milk” – what about the big things? And for once, I don’t even mean “buy a house” that’s been on my eternal list for so long, it isn’t even fun anymore.

I’m asking me, but I’m also asking YOU:

What are the top three things on your lifelong to-do list?

I don’t want to hear about your mortgage payments, or the ones you hope to make in the future if you can ever get a house – I’m not talking 2 years down the road, unless you expect to be doing something HUGE in two years – I’m talking about when you die, what are the three most fabulous things you hope to have accomplished. Think big. Surprise me.

Okay, here are my responses, quickly before I start thinking about “to make for dinner“:

1. I want to travel the world. I want to get up some days and decide to go on a 2 day road trip for some wonderful inexplicable reason – and do it! I want to book long, lavish romantic trips to Europe with my husband. I want it all. Travel is one of the most important things on my forever list – I am just as enthusiastic about a small day trip to New Hampshire as I am about a month long hop through India. Even going a few hours out of town for the day with my family gets my heart skipping to a happy tune. My grandmother – you know, the fabulous one I mentioned above – is really good about this and probably passed her wanderlust on down to me – she is constantly embarking on these awesome little adventures – sometimes with her husband, sometimes with a friend, sometimes alone – sometimes we know months in advance, sometimes we find out after she gets back, sometimes – maybe not at all. And I love this about her – envy it about her – and I want it – I want wacky, chaotic family trips, romantic get aways for two, and last minute trips just for me. Maybe even a road trip with my wonderful girlfriends. My bags are already mentally packed, you could say…

2. I want to run a small coffee shop, bakery, book borrowing (drop off, pick up, free for all awesomeness), indie singer / songwriter concert venue kind of place – maybe it would also be a bed and breakfast? My husband and I even mentioned owning our own camp ground once. The problem is I have no interest whatsoever in the money part, and neither does my husband really. I don’t want to be bothered with it – I just want to experience running it, being my own boss and meeting interesting, quirkly new people – so this is for when we are really rich or older, wiser, and better versions of our current terribly lazy selves.

3. I want to support a cause – big time. I’m a bleeding heart – my biggest problem with donating to charities, is I could go broke if I let go, giving to them all. When I hear about a fire on the news, I stay awake all night worrying about all those people – and wondering what I would do and who would help if it were me. When I hear about orphans in China, I want to adopt 30 of them, and make everyone I know do the same. Meanwhile, I still panick every month about whether or not we can afford all of our bills… But someday, when we’ve got it together, I want to pick one or two or three charities and really get involved, and make a difference in the world. Maybe a disaster relief organization, or a search for a cure, or helping poor families everywhere. Somewhere, somehow, I will find my thing, that won’t suck me dry, but will make a difference and will help me sleep at night. I know I’m not ready for this yet, but someday I hope to be so I can put my mark on the world.

So, you, reading this silly blog of mine – What are the top three things on your lifelong to-do list? Leave me comments and / or post your answers on your own blog.

photography travel

It's Real "Momentous Occasions" Life!

This week’s theme is momentous occasion – and I had a few to choose from – in the end, I decided not to choose – they are all important to me. And let’s face it I’ve never been good at choosing (i.e. 10 types of snack food a night…) Anyhoo, to begin:

So let’s go back – way back – to 2001 – the event: my senior prom. I was just becoming the budding photographer I am today, and took a gazillion stellar pictures, but I’ll only bore you with these two:

senior prom 01

the “girls” dancing – that’s my feet in the light purple dress at the bottom
aren’t our feet and dresses pretty?

senior prom 02

I also had a friend take my picture, just so you’d all know I was there
take a moment to appreciate my completely awkward seventeen year old self

Four years later, I graduated from college – pretty momentous in this day in age, where a 5 year degree is becoming a normal thing – and I changed majors halfway through! Here’s a lovely shot of my grandmother and I on that special, hot, crowded day:

college graduation

A few minutes later (okay maybe I’m exaggerating, but not by much, in fact the trip may have even been before my actual graduation, I don’t remember) my dad and his fiance and I took a trip to Wurzburg, Germany to visit my grandfather and well see the sights. Here is an obligatory, “I was there,” shot:


and also a pretty picture of “Why I love Europe oh so much”:

germany 02

The whole town was gorgeous and quaint and perfect. I would love love love to go back, and then maybe stay… I loved the cobblestone streets that were literally everywhere, the small little food stands and village shops – even the commercialized sections of town felt terribly chic and trendy compared to the average American mall. In short, I ❤ Europe.

So then of course my father was nice and married his wonderful fiance – this is a shot from their special day:

dad\'s wedding

Aren’t they adorable? They married in what I refer to as our “hometown” despite neither of us having spent a permanent amount of time there ever (we’re kind of a military family at heart even when not in practice). My dad dated this poor woman for about 7 years before finally consenting to marriage – i.e. she’s a saint.

It seems like the very next day I was engaged (it was actually several months later if you must know). I remember dH popping the question nervously on a cloudy overcast day after a yummy meal at the Olive Garden. I then later went home for a photo session with my new “rock” or “ice” or whatever you kids are calling it these days.

engagement ring

Here’s a pretty pic of the ring shortly after I received it – apparently back then I didn’t have as much trouble photographing it:

And of course the wedding. I’m going to go a bit ape shit and post several pictures, in an attempt to make it seem like I have dozens of pictures and that these aren’t pretty much all of them:

wedding brides maids

wedding cake slicing the cake

wedding 02

that’s me, my grandmother, my son and my father

his family my family

Oh and just to give you an idea about the difference between his childhood and mine
the photo on the left is his “immediate family” ; photo on the right is mine. Seriously.

In between all that was the birth of our son, My Little Monkey – here’s a shot from his baby monkey days:

MLM is born

And another of his baptism:


The priest here, is Father Andy, my favorite religious person ever.
He actually made me almost want to become a Catholic person… Almost.

Since then we’ve had some other momentous occasions – really when your a parent maybe every day is momentous, but here are the classics and I’ll try to be brief as this is getting longer than intended:

first christmas

First Santa Picture – notice my son saying, “Who is that guy?”

first birthday

First Birthday with obligatory face covered in chocolate cake goodness picture

And recently we’ve had two pretty big events:

Taking down MLM’s crib and initiating the Becoming a Big Boy process

big boy bed

here he is tucking in all his “babies”

haircut monkey

And MLM’s first hair cut, which I’ve already blabbed about ad nauseum, so I’ll refrain from details here.

Phew, that was like running in a marathon or something, except I had a nice glass of pomegranate Crystal Light by my side the whole time and at no time ran anywhere… Remember, if you want to participate in It’s Real Life like all the other cool kids, just head over to Farm Fresh. See you there!



I’d like you all to meet the newest member of our family, TomTom:

TomTom 01

…to the newest member of our family. Meet TomTom – who coincidentally seems to be a female (around the age of 30-35 I’d venture to guess) – I guess naming girls after boys is becoming trendy (i.e. Joey, Sam, Peter, Paul and … ) Where was I?

Oh yes – TomTom – comes to us all the way from Springfield, Ma – after a long and treacherous journey with the US Post Office, he(she) has finally arrived and assures us that he(she) will surely be a fine addition to our family as he(she) features such marvelous attributes as:

– being able to speak over a dozen languages, and write even more – he(she) will be very helpful for those long trips to Belize or Papua New Guinea. Or Taco Bell.

– at 4.7″ x 3.2″ x .09″ and 6.6 ounces, he(she) is highly portable, making them the most fit, space efficient member in the family – our son finally has competition in this area!

– with dozens of points of interest at his(her) finger tips, TomTom clearly gets around and is armed and ready with the information needed to broaden our horizons for years to come.

– a “Help! me” menu allows him(her) to quickly find help from local hospitals to roadside assistance, TomTom is dedicated to keeping their family safe at all times.

These features and more go above and beyond proving how helpful he(she) will be as a member of our family as he(she) navigates us to our coming hopes, dreams, and the White Mountains this September. To quote Ty Pennington, “Welcome home, TomTom. Welcome home.”

motherhood travel

Top 10 Things To Do This Summer

Just a little list of the top 10 things I want to do this summer with MLM or would like to do given the time, money and / or energy:

01. Picnic at the park – complete with cute picnic basket, kite flying and a yummy dessert. I have actually never been on a picnic so this would be a real treat.

02. Hit the beach! – The sweet smell of sunscreen and sand in your shoes, waves crashing against the shore in a non-violent totally safe way. Building sandcastles and eating sand covered peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

03. Read a book under a tree – wearing some terribly cute peasant girl dress while the kids amuse themselves with that kite or a ball game.

04. Make my own ice cream – We tried the whole ice cream maker thing a few months ago but the machine we got was defective and we ended up returning it and never found the momentum again to try another one. Someday, someday… In a bag, in a ball, in a bowl

05. Go camping –  in the backyard I don’t have or a state park, tell ghost stories, roast marshmallows, star gaze, catch fireflies…

06. Go berry picking – and make pies, jams, and ice cream toppings with our findings

07. Watch a Movie in your yard – Hang a white sheet from a clothes line, rent a projector and a good flick. I’ve always wanted to do this. In my mind there are no mosquitoes or space limitations.

08. Good old fashioned fun in the sprinkler – who needs a fancy underground pool or beach pass, when you have a sprinkler – or even just a hose.

09. Go to a family BBQ – Nothing beats time with good family or friends, a grill full of burgers and hot dogs, and loads of other foods that are likely terrible for you but delicious. Enjoy the treat of having other people to amuse your kids for a day.

10. Go on vacation to the White Mountains! – Okay maybe this one is ultra specific but hey it’s also the only one without a doubt likely to happen this year and definitely the one I’m looking forward to the most.


I'm Dreaming of the White Mountains…

So when dh and I decided not to vacation this year the biggest surrounding reason was due to “certain things” we were saving money for. Well, house aside, we aren’t saving for “those things” anymore, and the more I looked at our upcoming savings budget, the more I realized there was no reason we couldn’t afford at least a small vacation (i.e. Disney is unlikely but a short road trip could be ever so in). I also realized that this is the last year that MLM will get in free to some of the places we’ve had on our wish list, namely Storyland in NH (So vacationing this year could save us money? Huh?).

So I went about pricing the trip to see what it would come to (because if I don’t have something major to plan at all times I start feeling useless and boring). Originally I was looking in the fall, say October, thinking it would be cheaper than the summer and less crowded with OPC (Other People’s Children), but in the White Mountains Area it seems that fall is actually more expensive than summer for lodging (maybe for cost of heating reasons?) and reminded myself that MLM might enjoy OPC. Crazy, I know.

So anyway, the area we were looking at in NH is supremely expensive so I started looking into campgrounds that have cabins (I’m not up  for tenting it with a two year old, sorry) since I had no idea if that would be a cheaper option or not and I came across this: The prices for their motel were very inexpensive compared to everything else I’d looked at in the area and it looks FUN. See: new awesome looking pool, family friendly events all the freaking time, picture perfect vacation for camp loving husband and playground loving toddler (and “activities loving nerdy momma”). This “resort” as they call it looks like a vacation in and of itself.

Then looking at the price range throughout the year I realized that the October rates (and major weekends throughout the year) were twice as expensive as even September or August. Given that the rates at Storyland are $24 per person all year, there is no other major advantage to going in October now. August may even be prefferable because Storyland at least will be open all week in August, but weekends only starting in September (Are you all asleep yet? WAKE UP! hehe j/k you can go back to snoozin’ sleep heads).

Another drool worthy feature of this area is Santa’s Village, where, again, the rates are around $25 per person and again Michael would be free this year (we’re just cashing in with this 2 year old) – so in amusement park tickets alone we’ll save $50 going this year and by going in late summer / early fall we’ll save half the cost of lodging. So I’m starting to come to the conclusion that a trip this year might be a good idea and that waiting until October might not make any sense whatsoever. Word.

Anyone else taking a vacation this year? If so, where are you headed?

motherhood travel

Top 10 Imaginary Family Vacations

This year we’ve opted not to take a vacation in an effort to save some well needed moolah – but that doesn’t stop a woman from dreaming – if we were taking a vacation and money was no object, these are the places I’d most like to go, probably in no particular order:

1. Sesame Place – located in Pennsylvania, though a bit expensive this park offers my son what few other amusement parks will – Elmo – it’s also in the same state as Amish Country and Hershey Park, already tried and true favorites for our family.

2. Disney’s Fort Wilderness – It combines the magic of Disney with my dH’s love of camping and wilderness – and it’s on the cheap side as far as Disney is concerned, at least if you use the campsite instead of the cabin – we’ve talked about renting an RV if we do this and making a big trip of it, with stops along the way to Florida.

3. Storyland – Located in New Hampshire this will probably be our next major vacation. Where a ride in a pumpkin coach, an antique car, or a pirate ship are only just the beginning – this one seems perfect for a toddler or preschooler and I really can not wait. Talk about bringing childhood storybook favorites to life!

4. The Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden – Right in Springfield, MA – This one may have to wait until my son’s a bit older, the trip would involve walking through a park filled with bronze statues of Seuss characters and trips to the local Springfield museums of science, arts, and history – a ridiculously good deal where one low price gets you admission to all four museums. I’m a nerd and this all sounds so great to me, but again, I think my 2 year old is still too young to appreciate this one.

5. Beaches Resorts – If you are really willing to shell out some cash you can get a real deal – a Caribbean vacation WITH Elmo, and the other Sesame characters – this trip is drool worthy and amazing and again, expensive. Expect to pay $3,000-5,000. But it is all inclusive (mostly) so this may make it a good deal if you can afford it.

6. Disney Cruise – While we’re dreaming a Disney Cruise, or heck any cruise would be fun, too. I’ve never done the cruise thing and while truth be told, the prospect of a cruise gives me an untold number of things to worry about, it also sounds like a lot of fun – assuming I can get the whole Titanic thing out of my mind.

7. Italy – We are dreaming right? I’ve been out of the US once, to see my grandfather in Germany and traveling Europe has always held infinite appeal to me – Italy seems like it would be up there at the top of my list. I’d definitely go in Spring or Fall when the weather is optimal and probably prices are better since most people do big vacations in the summer.

8. Niagara Falls – Preferably in Canada since again, I’ve never been. I’d also probably want to go to Jellystone Park since I’m a mom and all – it looks like a really cute idea for kids and again we could combine camping with the whole shebang.

9. The Grand Canyon – Doesn’t everyone need to go to the Grand Canyon? At least once? And again, how have I never done this? I am seriously lacking in the travel department, despite my constant wanderlust and family history of moving once every 2.5 years or so.

10. Mohegan Sun – I’m not a big gambler – I don’t buy lottery tickets or bet on races, but I feel as a grown assed woman, I aught to go to a casino someday and Mohegan Sun after a bit of research seems like a clear winner. Possibly a good just me and husband vacation we could spend a few minutes in the casino and then go see a good show and maybe pamper ourselves with some spa and pool time and eat some good food while we’re there.