Growing Baby Birdies

This year, I decided to try planting some annuals in our flowerbeds out front again. And I was pretty quickly reminded of why I don’t usually plant annuals. Our soil there is pretty much mulch, clay, or roots. Surprisingly, after an animal ate some of them and a few dried up, most of them have returned in the deluge of rainfall we’ve had the past two weeks. We certainly haven’t needed the kiddos to help water them for a while!

Watering the flowers

Jameson always loves to help daddy with yardwork. Brian prepped the gardens, while I’ve done a lot more of the planting, watering, clipping and weeding for most of our plants this year.

Garden prepartion

I’ve been feeling pretty protective of our plants which I’ve been caring for. Unfortunately, the tomatoes have a fungus, likely triggered again by this hot, humid and very wet weather we’ve been having. We’re trying to spray them and protect what is left, since it’s still very early in the season for them to have a disease.

Watering the garden

We also had baby birds growing in the garden this year. We have a honeysuckle bush within the fenced in area of the garden that a robin was nesting in. We were thankful she never bothered us and we tried not to bother her while she was nesting. Within the week after the mother bird finally left the nest enough to see the baby birdies they were already flying! One day I came up to get another photo and flushed them from the bush. I was lucky not to get pooped on, that’s for sure!

Growing baby birds in our garden this year

Birdies are getting so big!

I hope the wet weather turns again soon. Rain is great, but if it doesn’t stop soon I’m afraid we’re going to lose all our tomatoes before they’re even close to ripening.

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My Golden Birthday

For the big 3-0 this year, my husband actually planned a surprise party for me with a couple of my friends! I had been joking with him on and off for years (he’s 6 years older) that he needed to be planning my party! As it happens he didn’t quite start planning that far in advance. I did get the surprise party I didn’t expect particularly because just a couple months before I gave him a pass and told him he didn’t need to plan anything special since we were both going on separate vacations this year.


My mom and sister came up to visit and said they wanted to do a special girls day, so I already assumed I was done with surprises. They took me for pedicures (which I managed to guess at before leaving the house when I saw their shoes on the cooler day) but we also got massages and manicures! It was an awesome surprise, and when I wanted to go shopping afterward they had a hard time convincing me to leave.


We pulled into the driveway, and I really didn’t get it until I saw my friend Emma’s car with her out of state license plates. I was reeeeally slow on the uptake and thought all the cars I was seeing before that were for the neighbors’ house.


To make the surprise even MORE awesome (is that possible!?), Brian had ordered Chipotle catering. It was an awesome make-your-own-anything bar all along our counters in the kitchen. Good thing I hadn’t eaten much yet!


The theme for the party was, of course, gold because it was my golden birthday when your birthday coincides with the date of your birth. I turned 30 on the 30th of April.


The kids’ favorite part were the balloons, which entertainment lasted for days.




My co-workers threw a surprise for me too, with a completely decorated desk, balloons ready to fall from the ceiling (since I had said that all I ever wanted were balloons to come down on my head — like the winner of a game show), and sash, button and crown to wear. We went out to lunch, had champagne and SO MUCH DESSERT.

Best coworkers evarrrrr

It was such an awesome week to celebrate! I really feel grateful to have such wonderful friends and family to celebrate with. However, that milestone birthday is really going to be hard to beat!

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Racing to Disney


About a year and a half ago, I started running (jogging). I started out with a friend’s encouragement on the Couch to 5K app. My friend Lauren had already done it before, and was a pretty regular runner who had taken a little break, so she acted as coach and motivator and did it again with me. It took us about 4 months, but I was running a 5K, without stopping.

I did a couple races. The Color Run, which really was fun but not really a race. I tried to do a biathalon, but I biked too hard to run properly so that wasn’t a great race. Then I started training with Lauren while she was getting ready to run a longer race last fall, and I started running up to 60 minutes straight, and then 6 miles, and then, last September actually a 9 mile run.

It was especially exciting because I was confident that I could run an official 10K (6.2 miles) in Disney in February with my family. Of course, then winter happened. Luckily, a treadmill kept me almost in shape, and I could run 3-4 miles on it.

Before the run on Saturday, we spent some time at Universal Studios, since we were kid-less. Brian stayed home, and I went with my parents and siblings. It was really very cold (especially for those of us who packed for 60-70 degree weather instead of 40 degree weather)

Cold Florida morning!


Going to school

My favorite part was Harry Potter world that day, of course. Tyler and I went back then on Monday after everyone else flew out, and I got some photos with super heroes for Jameson, and that was a pretty fun experience, complete with slipping and falling trying to run to be first in line for Captain America, ha!

Hellooooo Captain America

Saturday morning we were up and ready bright and early, like 3 AM, for the Disney Princess Run. I made tutus for my sister and mom, with glitter and all. We stopped the night before for gloves, having realized that it was too cold to stand for a couple hours without any! But when it was time to run, it wasn’t nearly as bad as we thought it was going to be. The weather for running was really perfect.

Ready to run!


All the winners

I was so happy with my run. Despite not having run more than 4 miles since the fall, I ran the full length of the 10K without stopping (no, not even for characters! we were hardcore!). My siblings were very kind, and ran with me despite my slowness for the entire race. Tyler ran ahead and got photos of my running my first race. My favorite is the shot by the Epcot ball. It was so pleasant to run as the sun was rising in Disney.



After the race, we went back, showered and refreshed, to Epcot later that day and ate with the princesses at Askerhaus that evening.

Family Epcot day

The only request Jameson made of my whole trip was to bring back another Duffy, so we got him at Epcot, and he enjoyed the day with us.


Yes Sleeping Beauty, we do intend to be sleeping beauties in the morning

The next morning, we had our last character dining experience with the classic gang at Chef Mickey’s, where I enjoyed the Mickey waffles, of course. We took photos with all the characters for Jameson to see!

Chef Mickey's for breakfast

Goodbye Magic Kingdom!

Another highlight of the trip was getting to meet Tyler’s girlfriend. Since he lives so far away, sometimes his life is a bit of a mystery! All in all, it was such a wonderful, short getaway. It certainly wasn’t relaxing, but I felt really reenergized by it, as did the rest of my family since we all decided to sign up for the Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon in November!

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Trimming the Tree

Well it’s almost the end of January, and I think I could use a little reminder about the holiday season. This time of the year is so dark, I miss the lights on the trees and outside. In past years, I’ve used a sun light at my office desk to counteract that, but this year I work at a place that means I can drive to work in the morning light (or overcast as the case may be). I don’t feel the wintertime blues quite as much as in previous years.

It was rainy and wet this year, so we picked out our tree at Home Depot instead of going to the tree farm. The tree did just fine, and actually had some good sturdy branches, which was important since Jameson tried to put all the ornaments in one spot.



On the way home with the tree, Brian told Jameson told hold onto the string to keep the tree from falling off, which was pretty hilarious. Jameson took his job seriously.


Look there’s me trimming the tree too! We put on the lights, and this year we used the multicolored LED star lights. I really don’t like them that much. They are pretty in person, but don’t come out as nice in photos (maybe it’s the LED flicker?). The kids really enjoyed them though. I also got to bring out the wooden cranberry bead garland like I had growing up that my mom bought for me last year.


Then it was time to decorate! As usual, the kids wanted to decorate with all the breakable ornaments. Coraline did actually break one, my tennis racket ornament from high school. It didn’t shatter though, so I was happy there wasn’t clean up. She wasn’t super great at hanging them up, and was much better at taking them down.




Brian helped Jameson reach way up high!


When it was time to take down the tree, I tugged at the garland, one of the strands untied, and a bunch of wooden berries unstrung. I was picking those off the tree and floor for a while (I found most). I love the lights and Christmas time, but there’s something of a relief that happens when the space is cleared up and uncluttered. Ready to fill back up with new toys, of course.

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10/1/02 – 11/11/14

Yesterday, we had to tell Jameson that our beloved puppy was gone. Unexpectedly, he seemed to understand the concept of death already, that she was gone from us and not returning. He was incredibly sad, and immediately requested a new doggie. While I am certain he expected a new doggie to make him feel better, we know that is not entirely the case. It was the easiest question he asked. He also asked if we were with her, another unexpected but easy answer. The hardest part was watching him so sad, since this is his first experience with this kind of unresolvable sadness and grief.

Despite trying hard not to dwell on sickness or old age as reasons we die, he picked up on old age. He’s too young to explain that all of us die without causing fear, though I think he made that association anyway; or that death can also happen unexpectedly; so, we reassured him that Sasha had lived a very, very long time, and that she went to Heaven and can run in the grass there. He asked if tomorrow he will get older, and I told him that he will not be old for a very long time. I may have said that everyone lives for a very long time. It’s hard to find the answers to reassure and make him feel better, but to be truthful without opening up more questions he is too young to understand is nearly impossible. I am sure that won’t be the last of his questions about death and Heaven.

I did make him a book about Sasha, with photos of her as a puppy he has never seen before. It hasn’t really been the immediate hit that I expected, but I think it will be a useful tool when he asks more questions or misses her. Instead, he associated the book with making him sad, and he didn’t really want to read it again. I think he will want to later though.

We visited grandma last night, which was a much needed distraction for all of us. He has a big stuffed dog there, which he called his “pet doggie” and put it in the fort he and grandma made. So many, many sad moments. Some of the worst are associated with routine, of course. Looking for her in the morning when we get up or before bed. Leaving the garage door open when we get home to let her out. Thankfully, Coraline is so young, aside from looking for her very briefly, she has been a comic relief and little ray of sunshine for us. She chose an outfit today of all doggies.

I’ve found that I don’t really know Brian without Sasha, since the two were partners, his buddy, from the day I met him. It’s hard to find words to describe their relationship, since it was much more than master to pup. She will always be his very first baby. Watching him grieve is almost as hard as losing Sasha herself.

It took me a little time to love Sasha, not because she wasn’t lovable, but because she took up a lot of space in our bed, haha. But now, even though we’ve filled our home with additional pack members, the house feels so much emptier. She is such a big part of our life, home and family. And our hearts. Her exceptionally large presence really seems to make her absence even bigger.

We have a sing-song phrase we use with Coraline for naps and night-night time. It can be used for hello and goodbye, too. Monday, Jameson sang it to Sasha, singing “bye bye Sasha, bye bye Sasha, see you after school.” Knowing that she would not be home waiting for us in just a couple days while listening to him sing to her was the beginning of many hard moments. Another was watching Coraline, who has just started in the past few weeks to pull out Sasha’s treats on her own to go give to her. Yesterday morning, instead of a bye bye song, Coraline sang “Night night” to her.

Sasha reached the end of her life at the very old age of 12. She was, and is, the smartest dog I have ever met, a gentle giant with a sweet disposition as long as you don’t poke at her face, Coraline! Sasha loved rolling in the grass, sitting on couches, catching snowballs, eating cookies (the dog treat kind), and giving puppy kisses.

Pillow stealer

I’m sure you’re glad to be chasing bunny rabbits again.

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Farm Park

The time change this week really hit me, realizing that we’re approaching winter! Jameson comments on it being dark, and frequently asks if it’s his bedtime right after school now. It wasn’t that long ago that we were enjoying pleasant fall weather!




We visited the Farm Park for the first time at the end of September. We’ve been talking about it for a long time (at least a year), but finally we decided to go on this perfect weekend. Our first stop was the baby piglets, which pretty much made the trip for me. I love piglets.


Coraline was all about touching all the animals; she has no fear. She’s knows a lot of animal sounds, though she’s still not great with the pig’s “oink”. My latest favorite is her “cockadoo” for the rooster noise.



Jameson, on the other hand, was very stiff about it.



He refused to pet the piglets, but did pet the goat and a couple other animals. Surprisingly, he was even willing to brush the horse! Only once though.




Aside from traditional farm animals, they had an interesting plant and garden center. The kids could make vegetable people or stamp with vegetables. There was plenty of activity for kids of all ages. Coraline wasn’t bored, that’s for sure!



Our last stop was the corn maze, which also delighted me. We’ve avoided corn mazes because they’re typically geared toward older children. This one though was a perfect size for the preschooler and toddler. Jameson was very excited (don’t let his stiff smiling fool you). He went into what I would call “alleys” in the maze, between the stalks and actual paths. We had to go after him once.






Jameson really didn’t want to go to the Farm Park initially. Lately, he’s been all about staying in pajamas at home on the weekends. In lieu of that, he wanted to go to a playground. Convincing him to go out to an activity is occasionally more difficult than I’d expect! But I get it: He goes to school every day, and not being asked to do something for a while is definitely a luxury for him right now. I think in the end he had a good time.

There were even swings at the Farm Park, so everyone won.



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Fair + Visit with Aunt Holly


The kids were a delight at the fair this year. At least for the morning, until tiredness set in. This year we went on a Saturday morning with Aunt Holly who came up to visit us for the weekend. The first thing we always do is runwalk to the pumpkin to take our pictures before there is a line.


I’m sure you’re not really supposed to do this, but we put the kiddos up next to the actual big pumpkins themselves for some photos. They’ll only be this small for a short time right? And pumpkins rot.

And then we saw this magnificent pumpkin that looked like a little chair. So we did that too.



The pumpkins are one of my favorite parts of the fair. Even though it’s Labor Day weekend every year and hot in those final summer days, this just shouts the beginning of fall for me.

Next up is some animals. We do things a bit backward because of the pumpkins. This year, after a few animals, we ate an early lunch and actually had a chance to sit down at a table since we were so early. Cavatelli, another fair tradition, was enjoyed by the kiddos and myself. I only got to have one meatball, haha.


Hanging out with the cows



There’s a little village in the back of the fair with old rehabbed buildings. Jameson really got into those this year. I got a kick out of pointing out an old telephone to him. It was so foreign to him, he didn’t understand. We looked at old carriages, and the old train was also a hit.

I really think he enjoyed this part more than the animals, but the rides were the biggest hit of all.


He did request this year to ride a couple rides, and selected motorcycles and the batmobile. He always has a serious face on rides, but he really enjoyed himself.



Our last stops are typically the tractors and old machines. Coraline fell asleep but woke after 30 minutes, so we knew it was time to wrap it up.



Nap time


There is a popcorn making machine, which we always have to stop at. And then it was time to go! The kids actually did fine in the car on the way home, but we were all pretty exhausted from the heat.


Aunt Holly actually arrived on Friday, and left on Monday, so we enjoyed some more time with her during our Labor Day weekend. I took off work on Friday and we went to Cedar Point. Here’s a couple fun shots of our day. It was pretty fun to enjoy a day child-free (and work-free). We were there almost open to close, so it was a rough wake up the next morning for sure!

The rest of our weekend was quite a bit more relaxed, including a little campout for Jameson and Brian in the backyard, friends, and hanging around the house.

Fun day with Holly!

Wooden coaster

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Company Picnic

In early August, Brian’s workplace had a company picnic. It is one of the better company picnics I’ve been to, and really focused on entertainment and activities for the kiddos!

They had a couple bouncers that Jameson really enjoyed (though mostly when the big kids weren’t all over them; he got intimidated by them).





Coraline even enjoyed some bouncer time before the adults took over this bouncer, which is really one where you run and try to see how far you can get while being tethered to the wall.




We visited inside daddy’s office and made a mess of the whiteboard. I think Brian wanted to leave it up for a bit, but Jameson insisted on erasing his work when he was finished. Way to clean up, dude!



They also had an ice cream truck, bar, giveaways, and even a petting zoo!



Coraline enjoyed petting the animals. Jameson was fascinated with the snake but didn’t want it around his neck, so he just got a “bracelet”. All in all, a very good time!






Even better, Brian works very close to our house, so at the end of the day, I picked up Coraline and took her home at bedtime and Jameson got in a little more playtime for he had to head home with Brian.

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Niagara on the Lake Weekend Getaway Part 3

Have I mentioned the wonderful breakfasts we had at our B&B Among the Vines? They were simply fabulous. Our second morning, we had a wonderful cinnamon bun french toast (well, I did, Brian thought it too decadent and had raisin bread french toast instead).

We said our farewells, and visited on last stop before leaving wine country, Creekside Estate Winery.



I was a little bummed to be leaving, but thankfully we weren’t intent on driving straight home right away and instead, we stopped at Niagara Falls. We visited the American side of the falls along Goat Island, which we visited before on our last Niagara Falls vacation.








You can’t take too many photos of the falls! And we got one last one together:


Brian of course wanted to stop at a couple beer stores on our way home, which was not a problem for me since this also involved stopping to eat brunch at the Blue Monk, self-described as “Buffalo’s finest gastropub”. Brian was thrilled to see the extensive beer list!

We sat at the bar until the table was ready, and then had the most amazing brunch outside.


Also, check out these bathroom stalls, all made of old doors!?


And there ends our weekend getaway. It was nice to get home, though it was hard to remember I couldn’t eat and drink every hour or two and instead needed to be restricted to meal times.

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Niagara on the Lake Weekend Getaway Part 2


Even though we had been told the previous day in Jordan that it may not be worth the time to visit some of the larger wineries in Niagara-on-the-Lake, we felt like we would be missing out on part of the experience if we skipped it. So we started the morning off before big crowds hit at Trius and Jackson-Triggs.

At Trius, we found it similar to some of our experiences at Napa Valley, with a large tasting room and quick, less personal service. We found ourselves liking the barrel fermented chardonnay and 2011 red blend. It was here and in Jordan that we started hearing how wonderful the 2012 red vintages were in Niagara-on-the-Lake, and we started paying attention to any that were getting released that we could try. 2012 had a long growing season, apparently, and most of the wines from this year in Niagara-on-the-Lake were superior to years past and post.



Jackson-Triggs was very appealing visually, and we did enjoy our tour despite the large size of the winery. We definitely felt like our stop here was worth the time, though after the tour, we (I) didn’t have the patience to wait in line at their tasting room.






Our tour at Jackson-Triggs began out in their vineyard and ended in the cellars. I do love barrels full of wine! Our guide was very knowledgeable and also declared 2012 to be a good year! While in Napa Valley, I determined that my favorite wine was Cabernet Sauvignon, that was not the case in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Instead, we were really enjoying the peppery flavors of a good syrah and blends. Rather attributing this to any changing tastes, the Cabernet Sauvignon in Niagara-on-the-Lake is just not as smooth.




After Jackson-Triggs, we drove through the downtown area which was just as picturesque as it had been described to us by Brian’s mom. We were going to stop for a moment, but found it too crowded to find a spot close to the main street. Instead, we found one closer to the waterfront and spent some time looking out on the water.




Then we visited Lailey and Pondview. We enjoyed (of course) their 2012 Syrah at Lailey. Unfortanately, there was a large bike tour as well as a bachelorette party, and Lailey was simply swamped. While we both agreed that it actually might be fun to do a bike tour another visit, we decided to try and get off the main drag a bit after that and went to Pondview.


At Pondview, we enjoyed an appetizer sampler with their 2012 White Blend aka Meritage. Pondview wines are actually made by Di Profio (near our B&B) as well.

Brian wanted to make sure we visited the couple microbreweries in town, so we stopped at both Silversmith and Oast House after that nice break. Brian didn’t find the variety of beers to his liking quite as much at Silversmith, but we were glad we made the stop.




I loved the hops growing up the sides of the building!

Oast House only had 3 varieties of beer to try. We could tell, with both of these breweries, that they were catering more toward the winery crowd, but particularly so at Oast House. There just a couple beers and a large tasting bar.



Our next winery stop on our full day here was at Colaneri, a beautiful Italian-style building and vineyard. They are known for making wine with the appassimento style, a method of drying the grapes.



Then we stopped at Between the Lines, and were thankful to be out of the brief deluge of rain that came down while we were tasting. We enjoyed their Meritage and Cab Franc.

And, determined to pack in a full day of wines, we made one final stop to the Ice House, known for their ice wines (of course!). We did bring home a bottle of ice wine, though the one we wanted at first was too expensive! They offer ice wine slushies too!


Then we returned to the B&B for a break and change clothes before our dinner that evening at Treadwell, a “Farm to Table” restaurant. We arrived in town late enough that there was parking available on the main streets, and early enough that we were able to walk around prior to dinner.




The flowers growing all along are simply beautiful. And speaking of beautiful, our dinner was as well! I had an heirloom tomato salad that I am pretty sure I dreamed about that night and after. It was divine!



Everything about our experience at Treadwell was excellent, from the wine to the food. Except the dessert we got was truly a little bizarre for me taste, though Brian loved it (it was spicey!). I would return here in a heartbeat.

And that concluded our day in Niagara-on-the-Lake, a wonderful experience within just a few hours drive for us! I could definitely see why Brian’s parents return again and again.

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