Monday, November 26, 2012

The Big Kitchen Reveal

When Jon & I bought our new house, we knew we needed to redo the kitchen. We thought maybe we'd live here for a while, get some ideas and then renovate sometime next year.

Well, that all changed very quickly. The kitchen was ugly, but I can live with ugly. What I can't live with is dysfunctional. I love to cook and it was nearly impossible to do. Our stove was next to a wall, so I could only use 2 burners at a time. With only 3 cabinets we had NO storage space and even less counter top space for food prep. It was a nightmare. See exhibits A & B.

Check out the fake brick floors, the blue door and the lack of cabinets.

This is parallel to the other side: fridge, armoire to store food and random kitchen cart for storage.

Less than a month after moving in and we had already ordered new cabinets and interviewed contractors.  And less than 4 months after moving in, we had a brand new kitchen.

Demo day 1 (the day after Hurricane Sandy)

Sheet rock is in and sub floor is down

New flooring is down

We have cabinets & granite!

The finished product. Walls are painted & our stuff is in!

The other side

To say I'm happy with the final product is an understatement. Cooking is a pleasure in here! And, not only is it just what I wanted, it's also really made our house feel like a home.

Saturday, November 24, 2012


Our first holiday in the new house was a huge success!

The food was delicious and everyone was so generous with all of their contributions to the meal. We had turkey (there were 2), stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce, sweet potato pie, green bean casserole, corn, and 2 types of cornbread (jalapeno cheddar and bacon maple).  Every single thing on the menu was made from scratch--even the cranberry sauce. No canned ingredients for this family!

For dessert we had ice box cake (one of my family's traditions), cheesecake, rainbow cookies, and pumpkin pie.

Gia had the most fun ever running around the house playing with her cousins.

This week I'm (belatedly) thankful for my wonderful family. Without them, I'd be nothing. I'm thankful that my husband and I are both gainfully employed and that we both love what we do. I"m thankful for friends, near and far, who love me, faults and all. And lastly, I'm thankful for my beautiful daughter. Being her mom is the biggest blessing of my life and has made me who I am today.

I was too busy cooking & hostessing to take many pictures. But, here are a few!

My turkey in the oven
Gia loved checking on the turkey

Me, Gia, Liam & Catie

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving Craft

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and I'm so excited! It's our first holiday in our new house and we're hosting. I can't wait to make the mother of all meals in my brand new kitchen. (I know, I know, I still haven't posted the pictures of the remodel. I'll get there...I promise. First let me just feed 15 adult members of my family and 4 children.)

After a day of cleaning and prepping the house, I pulled out the art supplies and Gia and I did a quick Thanksgiving craft. I was reminded of this no-so-original, yet adorably cute idea on Pinterest and thought Gia is at the perfect age to do it.

We made hand print Turkeys to use as place cards tomorrow.

I was a little worried that it might not work out so well because Gia typically hates to get her hands dirty (kinda like her mommy). So, I told her what we were doing a few days ago and she warmed up to the idea. We got through ten hand prints before she said "Wipe my hand off Mommy!"  She took a little break to paint by herself (using her paintbrush) and then we cajoled her into finishing up the last 5 place cards.

So here's the step by step:

1. First I cut pieces of construction paper in half and then folded the halves in half. I stacked all the little cards so they were ready to go once Gia's hand was painted.

2. I painted her entire hand brown.

 3. I gently pushed her hand down onto the cards and then peeled the paper off her hand very carefully.

 4. While she was taking a break from the strenuous hand printing, I painted black eyes, yellow beaks, red wobbly necks and little legs onto the thumb print part of the turkey.

5. Lastly, after everything was dry, I wrote names on each place card. Some of the hand prints are a bit crooked, so I had to get creative to fit the names on the cards. But, ya know what? It adds character.

The finished product!

Gia and I were really happy with how they came out. I think my family is going LOVE them too!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Little Choices

Toddlers are an interesting species. They feel things so deeply and their emotions swing back and forth, so quickly. I get it--they're little people with their own minds and opinions and ideas, but the big people in their lives make all their choices for them. I'd be frustrated if I had no say in my life too! Routines help and so does bribery. Kidding! Maybe.

As soon as Gia was old enough to understand the concept of choice, I started giving her choices. I only give her 2 choices and both options are things that are acceptable to me. She can choose between 2 lunches or 2 outfits or 2 get the idea. And, let me tell you, she's great at making choices. She thinks for a few seconds and then announces her selection. When she picks, her mind is made up. Rarely (like maybe one time in her life) has she switched from one thing to the other.

Well, here's what happens when choice backfires in your face.

Each year I get Gia a special Christmas dress from Nordstrom. This tradition started because, a month or two before her first Christmas, I found the most adorable plaid dress for her at Nordstrom and it was on sale. I snapped it up. It was perfect: pink (my favorite) and just a little different from the traditional Christmas dresses for baby girls.

Then last year I found her another adorable -- and affordable, I might add -- Christmas dress at

So naturally, this year, it was back to Nordsrom. (I have to keep up with traditions, people!) Except, between kitchen renovations, working and taking care of Gia, I haven't actually had time to go to the mall. So I searched online and I found a gorgeous dress. It met all of the requirements--stylish, cute, and appropriate for a little girl. I tend to like things that are a mix between girly and funky. Nothing too traditional or too trendy. It also has to be reasonably priced (bonus if it's under $50). I refuse to spend a ton of money on a dress that she'll likely wear 1 time.

Not wanting to buy the first thing I saw, I kept searching. I pinned all my choices to a Pinterest board I created just for Gia's Christmas Dress. (You can see all of the dresses I pinned here) And then I showed the board to Gia. And asked her which dress she liked the best. And, much to my dismay, she picked a different dress!

I was heartbroken but I didn't let her know that--because I was also quite amused. I kinda screwed myself here, right? She's so used to having choices that, at two, this girl can make a decision!  I waited 2 days and thought maybe I should ask her again. Just in case she changed her mind. Which, ya know, never happens. Guess what? She chose the same dress she originally chose. NOT the one I really really want her to wear. Girlfriend knows just what she likes.

It's not over yet though. I ordered her the one she picked AND the one I like best. And maybe one or two other ones too...  When they all get here, Jon and I will take a look at them and then we'll all pick together. And, yes, I'll give Gia the final say.

So stay tuned for my Christmas card post and, of course, the Christmas post. Both will feature The Dress.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Tips & Tricks: Coffee Edition

So after Gia hijacked all my K cups, I came across a handy little gadget I bought nearly 2 years ago but had barely used: The K-Cup Saver. It's a tiny stainless steel top that allows you to reuse k-cups!

Apparently the company I bought mine from is no longer in business. (I checked their website and it's no longer there). But there are several other options available on Amazon like these.  Now, I know there are several companies that make re-useable k-cups, but if you have the Keuring Mini, not all of  these things fit.  I bought 2 different kinds and they didn't fit in my machine. I was fed up and thought these little lids would be easier to use. They are!

So here's what you need:
Your favorite coffee, a used k-cup, and a saver lid

Peel the lid off the k-cup. Do this over the garbage so you don't get coffee everywhere.

Scrape all the coffee out and then gently rinse the inside till it's cleanish.

Then put scoops of your favorite coffee inside the kcup. Pack it down a bit so it doesn't get diluted during the brewing process. (The water moves through the k-cup kind of fast and that can make the coffee a bit watery.)

Then put the new lid on the k-cup. Just gently place it on there. It won't fall off.

  Put the k-cup in the Keurig & brew!

Viola! You've re-used the k-cup, which saves money and is a greener option (k-cups are NOT recyclable.)

Happy coffee drinking!


So this past week Gia got into my stash of k-cups for the Keurig. When this happened, our house was still in disarray because of all the kitchen construction. Gia was in the dining room (which is where everything kitchen-related was hanging out) and I could tell she was playing with something, but I was talking to our contractor and wasn't paying close attention to what she was doing.

Later that night--after Gia had eaten dinner and had a bath--I went into the dining room to see what she had been doing earlier. I opened the k-cup drawer where I store my k-cups, and there were none in there. Not one. I was quite surprised. I had just bought a new box and knew I had at least 10 around.  I asked her where they were and she looked at me with a pitying look and said, "I don't know Mommy." After searching all over, I found them in the trunk of her little play car. She's crafty, that one.

I'll admit that I didn't immediately put the k-cups away because I thought it was so funny. Such a toddler thing to do. The following day Gia obviously remembered where they were because she was playing with them -- lining them up on the mantel by the fireplace.

After that I put them all back. But only because my kitchen was finally done and I wanted everything back to normal!

As I was putting them away, I came across a little Keurig gadget I purchased a long long time ago, but have never used--the K Cup Saver. Stay tuned for a Tips & Tricks post about this awesome little thing.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Another Thankful Thursday

This week I am thankful to have a functioning kitchen again. It's been a bit of a bumpy road getting here, but we've arrived and I'm thrilled.

My heart is already broken for all the people in NY & NJ who lost power or worse, lost their houses completely. Living without a kitchen was certainly annoying, but I tried really really hard to not complain because, let's face it, there are people in my own backyard who are dealing with much much worse.

I know you're dying to see pictures, but until my beautiful cabinets, granite and new appliances are surrounded by more than naked sheet rock, you're just going to have to wait. (The painter comes Monday, so I'll be sure to post ASAP!)

For now, I'll leave you with this gem:
The BEFORE picture...there are NO words.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Traveling...with kids

I've been meaning to do this post for a while. With the holidays often come travel, so I thought now would be a great time to post some things I've learned from traveling with an infant, and then a toddler.

5 months old & heading to Aruba!

Jon and I love to travel and, although we've slowed down since Gia was born, we do still like to get away. Gia's been on 4 trips and she's only 2 years old! We've had some funny mishaps along the way--like the time Gia grabbed an old cup off the floor of the airport and just started drinking -- but mostly we've learned a lot about how to navigate through airports with kids.

So here are some tips to keep you sane and the baby happy:

  •  Navigating through the airport can be difficult. Some people prefer to babywear. It keeps both of your hands free and eliminates the need to collapse the stroller and then set it back up again several times.  But, Gia was always too heavy for me to do that, so we brought our lightweight stroller and gate checked it. (More on checking bags & strollers later.)
  • When you go through security, keep in mind that you have to collapse the stroller and put it on the conveyor belt so it can go through x-ray machine. You carry the baby through. For that reason, other than a diaper bag and the stroller, try to check every thing else. You will have to juggle the baby, the diaper bag, collapsing the stroller, opening it back up again, taking your own shoes off and putting them back on, collecting your belongings...  anything else will just be more stuff to juggle. 
  • If at all possible, rent a car seat at your destination. That's certainly the easiest option. Most destinations have that option available and it's very inexpensive. I think we paid $4 a day to rent a car seat.
  • If renting isn't an option, you can check the car seat at check-in. I bought an inexpensive travel bag for the car seat. It had wheels on the bottom and was well worth the money.
  • You can also carry the car seat on the plane and your child can sit in it for the flight. This is a great option as far as safety goes, but it requires you to have purchased a seat for the child. It also means you'll have to carry it through the airport with you. Not necessarily a bad thing, just something to prepare for. You are not required to buy a seat until the child is over 2 though. When Gia was under 1 we held her. Over 1 and it was extremely nice to have seat for her.
  • Check with your airline about checking items; sometimes babies are allowed to check a car seat AND a suitcase. Usually that's the case if you are flying internationally.
  • Pack extra clothes for the baby and a large ziploc or plastic bag to put messy clothes in -- and an extra shirt for you, just in case. 
  • Sometimes families traveling with children are allowed on the plane early. This can be a double-edged sword. It's nice to get on before everyone and not have to fight the lines, but keep in mind, you're on first. Meaning, you're on the plane--in one tiny little spot-- for a longer period of time. 
  • Bring Clorox wipes or organic cleaning wipes and wipe EVERYTHING (tray tables, arm rests, seats, etc) before you sit. (People may have looked at me like I was crazy when I did this, but I don't care. I'm not a germophobe, but planes are notoriously dirty and I didn't want my child getting sick on vacation!)
  • When kids are immobile, things are relatively easy.  We brought a ton puffs and Cheerios for the plane and they kept Gia busy for a while. I also bought her a few new toys and brought those too --anything she hadn't seen before was a huge help on the plane. Gia was a good napper and lucky for us, she fell asleep for a little bit of each flight. We just held her. 
  • Have bottles or sippy cups ready for take off and landing. This helps with ear popping and keeps ear discomfort at a minimum. (Pacifiers work too.)
  • Be prepared with extra everything. On the way home from Florida (when Gia was 8 months) we got stuck on the plane sitting on the runway for nearly 2 hours. So, for that reason (delays, etc) make sure you have extra bottles, formula, diapers and wipes. We were panicking a little because it was a whole extra feeding that we hadn't planned on dealing with. You can bring as much baby food and formula on the plane as you need. But, they don't have anything to warm the bottles on the plane, except hot water. 
  •  Airplane bathrooms are tiny but they do have changing tables. Don't attempt to change a diaper in your seat, lest you get yelled at by flight attendants. Not that I'd know. Ahem.
  • When kids are older, bringing a DVD player or iPad to entertain them is usually a good idea. Keep in mind, though, that they cannot be on for the first 20 minutes and last 20 minutes of the flight. Be prepared with other very fun and exciting things to do during that time, especially if your child doesn't understand why he or she can't watch Dora right now.
  • In this vein, I have heard that those seasonal window clings are a great thing to bring for kids to play with. We haven't tried it yet, but it does sound like a great idea.
  • Lastly, don't forget to leave yourself a lot of extra time. Airport lines take forever to begin with, and adding a baby to mix just means things will take even longer!

If you have any other tips to share, I 'd love to hear them!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Thankful Thursday

In honor of November and Thanksgiving, I've seen daily "Thankful" Facebook posts from many of my friends.

I really like the idea, but, let's be realistic. There's no way I'm going to remember to do that every day. (Remember how I failed miserably at posting every day in October?)

So, how about a Thankful Thursday post every week?  That I think I can handle. Except that I just thought up this brainchild today and that means I already missed a week.

So today I'll start with two things I'm thankful for--one for today and one to make up for last week's miss.

Last week my Thankful Thursday post would most definitely have been about Sandy. I'm thankful that we only lost power for 24 hours and that all our friends and family are safe. No one was hurt and no one lost their primary home. Many were displaced due to flooding, many had damage done to summer homes, and many are still without power. But, we are all alive and well, and frankly, with a disater like that on hand, being safe is certainly something to be thankful for.

This week I'm thankful that my kitchen is almost done being renovated. I'm thankful that we are in a position to renovate it at all! The construction has really been a nightmare (more on that another time) but Jon and I did our best not to get too upset as this process has worn on and on and on, with a few bumps in the road along the way.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

My Political Post

I don't think I've ever been happier that an election is over. It seems like the campaigning lasts longer and longer every 4 years, and the "talking heads" that analyze the crap out of every.single.thing that each candidate says start earlier and earlier.

I have to admit that Facebook really played into my overall annoyance with the  election process. Not only do I have to listen to the media, now I have to "listen" to each of my 386 friends spouting their nonsense.

In my real life (not to be confused with my life here on the interwebs) I make it a point to talk politics with only a select few people--my husband, my parents, and a few very close friends. Not all of these people share my political views--it's not about only talking to people who agree with me-- but all of them are willing to talk about the candidates and the issues and share their own opinions with respect. No one makes sweeping generalizations about the future of this country and no one threatens to move to another country if Candidate X or Y gets elected.

So, as I said before, I'm happy that it's all over.  Regardless of any party affiliation, I'm an American and because of that I'll stand behind whoever our president is.  As a friend of mine so eloquently said, "If we want a better nation, we really need to start working together to make it that way. It doesn't take one leader to decide our fate... Look in the mirror, become a better person & move forward. We should be helping everyone we can, not because we sustained a disaster (Hurricane Sandy), but because we really truly care about each other".

Monday, November 5, 2012

Happy Halloween 2012

Halloween was crazy again this year! Last year we battled snow and this year we were worried Halloween would be cancelled altogether.

In the morning we visited Mummum (my grandmother) in West Milford. We drove over every hill and dale (and under every downed tree and wire) in the town to get to her. A 20 minute ride turned into an hour-long adventure. We almost turned around several times, but Gia freaked when I even suggested that we might not be able to see Mummum and her dog Corkie. So, we forged ahead and made it there in one piece.

Later in the afternoon we went trick or treating in our neighborhood with Gia's favorite friends, Adrianna & Christopher (aka Aurora and Cookie Monster).

Getting a good group shot of 2 year olds is like trying to herd cats.
My Little Owl

SO happy to be trick or treating!

My favorite moment of the day was a two-fold. When Gia and Jon went to the first house (our neighbor Marianne), Gia rang the bell and Marianne answered the door. Gia walked right into the house! She didn't quite have the hang of trick or treating yet...

Jon reminded her to say "trick or treat" and then she took her candy -- a full size bag of M&Ms.  She was SO excited. She turned around, held up the bag for me to see and yelled "LOOK Mommy! Candy!" Then she ran as fast as she could to me--I was at the end of the driveway just waiting to check out her loot. She couldn't wait to show me the candy. That moment melted my heart. I loved seeing the innocence and awe and wonder --and just pure joy -- in her eyes and in her heart.  There is nothing greater than experiencing all these things with Gia. I don't think I'll ever forget that moment, the one with the M&Ms.

I hope everyone had as happy of a Halloween as we did!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Conversations with a 2 year old

It's no surprise to any one that knows me or Jon that our daughter loves to talk. We both talk quite a bit, so it was sort of natural that Gia would be the same.

She's been stringing together sentences for a while now, but as she gets older we have longer conversations. And, she comes up with the funniest things to say. Here are a few from the past few months in our house.

1. On the way home from food shopping, where we'd purchased strawberries:
Me: What do you want for dinner? Chicken or rona-mac (aka macaroni)?
Gia: What about the strawberries? I want straaaaaawberries!

2. Jon putting Gia to bed right after mowing the lawn (he was still wearing his grassy sneakers):
Gia: Daddy, lay down.
Jon: No Gia, it's bed time. You need to go to sleep.
Gia: Daddy, lay down.
Jon: I can't lay in your bed with you because my feet are dirty. I don't want to get your bed all dirty. Go to sleep, ok?
Gia: Daddy, wash your feet. Then lay down!

3. After nap time the other day Gia & I hung Minnie Mouse decal stickers on the back of her bedroom door. She LOVES them and was so excited to show Jon, but he had left for work while she was napping, which she didn't realize. I told her that she could show him the following morning. Here's the convo from the next morning:
Gia: I'm going upstairs!  
Me: Why do you need to go upstairs? 
:::footsteps::: as she stomps up there
Gia: Mommy!  I'm upstairs! Come up!
Me: Why are you up there Gia?
Gia: Mommy, I show Daddy my new stickers.  DADDY! Come up to my roooooom!

4. Gia's new favorite sayings: "Oh my!" and "Oh man!"

5. Me: Gia what do you want for breakfast?
Gia: Cheeries (aka cheerios)!!  In an orange bowl!
Me: Ok.
Gia: yellow spoon, Mommy!


Friday, November 2, 2012

Update: Aftermath of Sandy

So Sandy DID live up to the hype, and more.

I'm so thankful to be able to say that the Quinns are all safe and sound. We lost power around 9 pm on Monday. The wind was scary, but luckily all we had was a few branches that broke off the trees in our front lawn. The rain wasn't too bad here, and thankfully there wasn't any flooding.

On Tuesday morning, Sandy was on her way out.  The contractors were able to make it to our house and began the demolition of our kitchen, even though we didn't have power.

Since our house was freezing and a construction zone, we spent the morning with some good friends in Suffern who had power. Gia played with her pal Adrianna and I was able to charge my phone and store some food in their freezer.

After the contractors finished, we headed to Wayne to spend the afternoon and evening with my cousin, who kindly took us in and fed us. Gia had SO much fun playing with her cousins and Aunt Dawn and Uncle V.

Hanging out, eating popcorn, watching Tangled.

We came home around 8pm and as we drove toward our street we realized that all of the houses on the way had power. We turned on our street and, house by house, everyone had power...AND SO DID WE! Yippee---we were so happy! No cable, but who cares?! We're safe and warm.

Since then, we've been surviving. The kitchen work continues on. Halloween was lots of fun...more on that soon!