Thursday, February 28, 2013

On writing and blogs

I've been thinking about this blog lately, and about the fact that I write it. See, the thing is, I don't consider myself a writer. But I write this blog, so that kind of makes me a writer. And, I've even written a first draft of a novel. So that makes me a writer too, doesn't it? 
And, thinking back over the course of my life, I've always been a writer. I've always had journals and I've always loved to write. I love crafting the perfect letter or even the perfect email. I love the challenge of expressing myself perfectly using written words and knowing that, even without my facial expressions or tone of voice to rely on, the reader will know just what I mean. And, one of my dreams has always been to publish a novel--ever since I was 11 or 12.
So back to the blog thing. I think I've mentioned before that I read a lot of other blogs. Like 40. Or maybe even 50. Most of them are mommy blogs. Some of the bloggers have sick children, some are regular moms, some are pregnant, some have a bunch of children, some are crafty, some are funny....they really run the gambit. Then there are few blogs I read that are dedicated to one of my favorite tv shows. (It's the Bachelor, ok? Total guilty pleasure.) 
I love taking a peek into other people's lives and I really like to study the way other people write. There are a few blogs I read that I am just in awe of. These women write like their souls depend on it and they inspire me so much. There is such beauty in what they write. I've only been writing this blog for a few months, but already these women have had a profound impact on what I write, and how I write it. 
I can't force myself to write in a way that isn't comfortable for me. Too cutesy annoys me. Too may fragments annoy me, even it is for stylistic effect. And forget major grammar errors--like nails on a chalkboard for me. And it goes the other way too. Some of these women are so philosophical and can put into words things that I can only feel and could never name. But still, I will glean whatever I can from them and integrate into my writing.
Can anyone out there relate? What's something you do but don't consider yourself a real "do-er" of it?
I'll leave you with this totally unrelated, yet adorable, picture of my baby girl asleep. So peaceful.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Fruit Leather

Ever since we got back from vacation I have NOT been in the mood to cook or bake, which is so unlike me. I usually love cooking. It's relaxing for me and it makes me feel good to put a homemade meal on the table for my family. Not to mention that it's much healthier than eating out all the time.
A few Christmases ago Jon got me a subscription to Cooking Light magazine. I read them each month, take pictures of the recipes I want to try or cut them out, and then I pass the magazines on or toss them.  Last week I was going through my large collection of "recipes to try"-- I was looking for a little inspiration to break me out of my cooking funk. I came across a "recipe" (and I use that word lightly because 1 step and 2 ingredients is hardly a recipe to me) that I've been meaning to try: fruit leather (aka fruit roll ups).
Here's what I did to make the Fruit Leather:
4 cups of berries (I used all blueberries)
 2 tablespoons of honey or agave
Puree them in the blender.

Then spread the mixture out on a parchment lined baking sheet (regular sized)
(You can use a silpat baking mat too, if you have one)
Bake at 200 for 4 hours, or until the mix is not sticky. (I pulled mine out a bit too early and some stuck to the parchment, as you can see below. I left it out overnight and it hardened up a bit.)
Then cut into strips or squares or however you like it.
My pictures aren't very pretty, but this sure tastes delcious and was a HUGE hit with Gia. I especially love that there is nothing in it but fruit and honey!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

What next?

So after a wonderful vacation, of course we couldn't have a nice, calm, normal week back to the grind. Right?
We got home on  Tuesday evening. Wednesday was hectic because I had to work, foodshop, unpack, etc. Thursday I finally got around to doing some laundry. I went down to the basement, where our laundry room is, and found quite a large puddle on the floor. The hot water heater was leaking--from the top AND the bottom.
We've had this happen once before (in our condo), so thankfully I knew who to call without having to bother Jon at work. By Friday at 11 am we had a new hot water heater and were a bit poorer. We considered ourselves lucky though, because we fixed the problem before we had 40 gallons of water all over our basement. 
Fast forward to Monday. We'd been home for nearly a week and I was still playing catch up with the cleaning and the laundry. I ran down to the basement to throw in a quick load of laundry before heading to work. And, what did I find? Another puddle on the floor in the basement. I hadn't even touched the washer yet, so where the heck was this coming from?
My mom arrived to watch Gia & I showed her the problem. She thought something was wrong with the washer--and even though I hadn't yet used it when I saw the water--that it was the culprit. Turns out she was right.
So this morning we bought a new washer. 
But wait. I'm not done.  It's not over. 
Before we went on vacation we ordered custom roller shades and a coordinating cornice for the triple window in our family room. They arrived while we were gone and were supposed to be installed yesterday.  
You know where I'm going with this, right?
The cornice was 2 inches too long to fit in our window frame. The "home designer," who came over to consult with us and help us pick fabric and do the measuring, messed up the measurements and it doesn't fit. They're making us a new one, but we have to wait 2 more weeks for it to get here.

This is the look we're going for: custom cornice & roller shades. We chose a striped fabric and cream colored roller shades.
 None of these things is a really big deal. But, all of them together? It's just really frustrating.  Sometimes I hate being a homeowner.

Monday, February 18, 2013

St. Thomas

Ahh, the Virgin Islands...
I don't even know where to begin with this post because we had such an awesome time.
Secret Harbour Beach
Jon & I went to St. Thomas on our babymoon back in 2010 (when I was 6.5 months pregnant), so this place already held a special place in my heart. To go back with Gia was like coming full circle.
My mom and stepdad rented a condo on the beach in Bolongo Bay.  We rented 2 cars and spent the next10 days jetting around to all the best beaches St. Thomas has to offer. And they are just gorgeous.
Gia played in the sand and in the water and had herself a wonderful vacation.

Gia even had her first ice cream cone while we were there. 

Gia loves my mom and stepdad so much. 

One of the days they took her the whole time so we could take the car ferry to St. John and hang out at Trunk Beach kid free for the day. It was heaven.
My stepbrothers Zach & Ben

Jon and me at Trunk Bay

And of course there were the silly photo shoots on the beach. It wouldn't be a Gonda/Quinn vacation without one (or two)!
2013 glasses!

St. Thomas t-shirts made by me!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Where is the love?

Yesterday was Valentine's day and it was such a fun day that I couldn't resist doing a whole post about it. Eventually I'll find time to upload and edit my 350 vacation photos and post them here, too. For now, check out the St Thomas Update post. I fixed the pictures so now you can actually see them.
Gia went to school yesterday morning. I made pink heart-shaped sugar cookies for her little school party. I have an awesome recipe with a secret ingredient that keeps the cookies super soft and makes them taste extra delicious.
(Want the recipe? Go to my Facebook page like the page and then leave me a message and I'll send it to you.)
I spent an hour decorating them with icing and and M&Ms and forgot to take a picture. And then, on the way home, I put the Tupperware container of leftover cookies on the hood of my car and drove away with them up there. Oops.  I went back later that night and there was no sign of the container or the cookies. I gave up cookies for Lent, so perhaps this was God's way of keeping them out of my house? (Yes, giving up cookies is actually a sacrifice for me. I love love love cookies.)
I also sent little treat bags for Gia's classmates. I included the heart-shaped crayons, a few chocolate kisses (Gia's favorite) and some heart-shaped stickers. 
Gia and I wore our matching shirts all day, which she got a kick out of. She said, "Mommy, you're the same!"
At school Gia made Jon and me some Valentines.
They are the cutest things ever and I totally teared up just looking at them.
We went out for dinner -- to our favorite Mexican restaurant. We were serenaded by the guitar playing waiter, and Gia loved it.
Then we came home and opened presents. 

We usually just do very small things, but this year Jon let me pick out a special present (or two) from the Gucci store in St. Thomas. The prices were amazing and there was no tax. I saved about 15%. I wasn't allowed to have the stuff till we got home though, so yesterday I was thrilled to get my hands on my new wallet and new iPad case--both GG Shiny Leather in Bordeaux. Gorgeous! I also got an awesome shirt from St Thomas--one that I'd been eyeing all week.
We got Gia a new cartridge for her Innotab, the movie Tangled and a Tangled cup. She had more fun ripping through the wrapping paper than she did with the actual gifts.  
I got Jon a Christmas ornament in St. Thomas (we collect them), headphones for the gym (normal ones bc he hates earbuds) and....
I made him a heart shaped collage.  And had it framed.
He loved it.
(I have an Etsy shop --with nothing in it right now-- and plan to sell personalized versions of these in the very near future. Make sure you've like the FB page for updates!) 
Hope you all had a wonderful Valentine's Day!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Pinterest Test Craft: Heart Crayons for Valentine's Day!

Gia's class is having a little Valentine's Day party and I wanted to make something special for her to give to her classmates. I bought the requisite Disney Princess Valentine's day cards, but that wasn't enough. We are discouraged from sending candy, cookies or cupcakes (which makes sense. Who wants a bunch of 2.5 year olds hopped up on sugar at 9 am?).  So, I started to think about what else I could make.
I remembered that last year a Facebook friend of mine made adorable little crayons in the shape of hearts, so I searched Pinterest for some specifics on how to make them.  I ran into a few snafus along the way (who knew peeling crayons was such a pain the ass?) so below you'll find directions as well as some time-saving tips and tricks.
Here's what you need:
4 boxes of crayons (24 count) 
silicone heart shaped "cupcake" mold
your oven
Yield: approximately 18 heart crayons
1. Preheat the oven to 250.
2. Lightly grease the mold with cooking spray.
3. Peel all the crayons. If you're having trouble doing this, soak them in water for a few minutes. (I stood them up in a drinking cup.) Once the paper gets wet, it is MUCH easier to peel off.

4. Break the crayons up into small pieces and put the pieces in the molds. I did about 4 crayons to a mold. I also put varying colors in each mold so that my crayons turned out multicolored. No need to fill the mold--then the crayons will be too thick anyway. Put the mold on a baking sheet for stability.
5. Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes. Check on them at the half way point. If they aren't melting uniformly, turn the mold so that the opposite side is now toward the back of the oven. That will help.
6. Once they're melted take them out and cool completely (about 20 minutes). Once they are cool, bend the mold and pop them out. If they are totally cool, and you're gentle, they shouldn't break. (I wasn't too gentle and they still came out very easily.)

That's it! Simple and adorable! Pop them in some cute favor bags, or simply attach them to your child's cards and you're done!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

An Update from St. Thomas

I've been wanting to post an update since we got here. It's just so beautiful and we're having a ball. But, I didn't bring my laptop, so I have no way of posting all my awesome pictures. And really, what's an update on vacation with out pictures?
Also, I'm typing this from my iPad. And it's kind of a pain. My two pointer fingers are working overtime here. 
So I'll leave you with a few quick thoughts and whatever photos I can get to work here...
I don't know who took my 2.5 year old and replaced her with a 10 year old, but Gia has been amazing this whole time. She sat in her seat, quietly, the entire plane ride. 3.5 hours and she didn't ask to get up once. We watched Ariel 3 times and, viola! We were in St Thomas. (In case you're wondering, we did give her Benadryl for the plane ride--to help dry up this cold she's fighting. We put her in a pull up and made her go right before we got on the plane. She wasn't much into food or drinks on the plane and held it until we arrived in St. Thomas.)

Jon loves coconuts. Here he is drinking the milk straight from it!

Sunrise view from the condo we're in

Gia loving the pool

Me driving--on the left side of the road!!

Gia hanging out at the condo, watching Ariel

One of the gorgeous beaches...maybe Magen's Bay (can't remember!)

Now that we're here, she's a little champion. She sings songs, she plays in the pool, runs in the sand, eats and sleeps well.  It's amazing how good she's being. 
We are staying in a condo right on the beach and we have a view of the sunrise every morning. It's pure bliss.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Etsy for Valentine's Day

I love Valentine's Day and I'm not afraid to admit it.
Yes, it's a "Hallmark Holiday" but it's a day centered around love. What could be better than that?
This year I was looking for a cute Valentine shirt for Gia but I wanted something a little different than the ones you find at some of the usual kids stores.  I found these awesome mother-daughter Valentine's Alphabet shirts from Mrs. Meshugga in her Etsy shop and I knew they were perfect.
I've been running to my mailbox ever since I placed our order and today they arrived (in a super cute polka dot package, by the way). 
The shirts are super soft and awesome quality. 
Gia loved hers and immediately wanted to put it on.  
Check out my little model in her I <3 U Alphabet shirt.

Mommy & Me matching shirts!

Check out Mrs. Meshugga's Etsy Shop HERE.  She has adorable stuff --and it's not just shirts!