Sunday, July 29, 2012

Day 234

I've often heard people say that the best thing about growing older is gaining wisdom. Or self-confidence. A greater ability to home in on what's truly important. I'm not sure I'm any more self-assured than I was, say, 10 years ago (I'm still 100% comfortable in some areas and a second-guessing mess in others) but, yes, I do know more now. Mostly what I know now - and not then - is that I should let go of most things. Chill out. Embrace experiences. Be grateful.

What I think is one of the best things about growing up - at this stage of my life, at least - is having the opportunity to get to know, and love, the little people that some of my favorite people have brought into this world. At first it seems strange that these charming children, whom I see but two or three or four times a year, are so quick to give me a hug (or so easily entertain me with a late-night Gotye cover concert) - and that my boys are equally familiar with their parents, my friends. Then it all makes sense. I know that impish grin and (burgeoning) quick wit. And I so get the plucky spirit that sparkles in those navy-blue eyes.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Day 229

Things that made today fantastic: 

1. An awesome and inspiring lunch with my friend Jed.  (Check out his mod pet furniture design studio.) He has an exciting new business in the works and it was so fun to hear about its evolution and to talk about five-year plans and making things happen.  

3. Meeting week-old Baby Lane. He's got his big bro's sweet face. Love!

4. Two little boys who were incredibly excited to cheer on their dad and "Michael"/"Mike Balzano" (what Kai and Julian call him, respectively) at their softball game. Jules was practicing his chant in the car on the way to the game: "Go baseball, football, Daddy!" When I revealed that there is no football in baseball, he switched the cheer to "go, Daddy, go." 

It's a very down-to-earth team: The players chill with their fans.

4. A serendipitous run-in with Jen, Caleb and baby Julia at New World Tortilla. (PS: My vegan rice and beans wrap could have fed our entire family.)

5. Fresh, frozen yogurt (topped with mango chunks) at the new SoYo shop on Pine Street. (I find their branding to be a bit confusing. In case you were wondering - I was, at first - it's not soy yogurt... it's straight-up dairy. But it is good. Very good.) 

6. I bought two new bras. And they fit. TMI, yes. But this major accomplishment had to make the list.

7. This awesomely hilarious HuffPo piece on TomKat by Deb Baer. 

What made your today great? 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Day 228

I spend a lot of my life wishing I were more like other people... that I possessed more of UB's hell-yeah-let's-do-it-ness. That I had the discipline and focus of my friends who get up and run seven or eight miles before work. Every day. But I also wish I could just chill. Relax. Like my mom does. 

I wish that I were as brilliantly creative as my artist friends--and also more strategic and less emotional, like my business-minded buds. I wish I was a little bit taller. I wish I was a baller... Not really. (Actually, yes. 5'6 or 5'7 would be nice... and it'd be great to have a little bit of hand-eye coordination so that when someone tossed something for me to catch, this wouldn't happen.) 

I could go on and on... 

.... yes, I could go on and on and I don't think I'd ever get to wishing I were more like Steve Jobs, much as his Stanford commencement speech moved and inspired me (and pretty much everyone else). But just because I'd never really thought about it. Until I read this article in the current issue of Wired Magazine. The piece basically examines the profound influence that Walter Isaacson's bio of Jobs (which long has been on my to-read list) has had on so many people. According to this worth-a-read article, you read the book and you become a Jobs worshipper. Or you become a Jobs rejector. To my surprise, my responses to the sidebar quiz designed to assess where on this spectrum someone falls, I scored solidly in the latter category. A rejector.

But I still admire the guy's drive. And definitely his passion. A lot. Which lead me to walk away from this article realizing that I can learn a lot trying to be a little more like all of the people who, in some way, inspire me. 

Who inspires you? 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Day 227

Me to Jules: “What did you do this weekend?”

Jon’s parents watchedthe boys while we celebrated our 8th anniversary in Montreal.

Jules: “We ate ice cream before our dinner.”

Jon, with a smirk: “Really?”

Jules: “Yes. It was Grandma’s idea. Papa said we neededreeaaal food but Grandma wanted to get us ice cream.”

Me, about to crack up: “Oh. So you and Grandma were sort ofon a team?” (“Yes.”) “What else did you do?”

Jules: “We had vanilla cookies. And we had gummies shapedlike men.”

Me: “Besides food, what did you do?”

Jules: “We went to the dog park. Grandma dropped her applethere. She dropped it by a bench.”

For the record, I know that they also went to the playgroundtwice—and spent almost the entire day at ShelburneMuseum’s Circus-palooza. And no doubt, Grandma and Papa read dozens ofbooks, pitched lots of baseballs and built loads of Lego structures. They werein good hands.

And Jon and I had a fantastic time - in part because we were armed with great recommendations. We stayed at Auberge Les Bon Matins, a colorful B&B downtown. My friend Dan had recommended the place last November but it had been booked. This time, we were luckier: there was room in the inn. Friday night, we arrived, settled in and walked to get some late-night sushi at Sho-Dan (thanks, Nicole!) 

Like Jules, Jon and I had a weekend that basically revolved around food. After kicking off Saturday with a run up run/walk up, run down Mont Royal, we had eggs and waffles and about a pot's worth of coffee back at the Inn. Then we hopped on the Metro to the Jean Talon market... after browsing the colorful stalls - each one seeming to outdo the last - we meandered over to over to Alep, a Syrian restaurant that came highly recommended by Bob, for lunch. Alep was closed. We spent a few minutes in a cute boutique and played with a handsome Calico cat. 

Then we hoofed it to St. Hubert (what appeared to be a garment district) for the great Cuban fare that Scott told us about. The sign on Caya Coco's door said to hang tight... they'd be right back in 15 minutes. We were hungry. And thirsty - so ran across the street to ShiShi Desserts for an appetizer: lemonade and mini cupcakes. Which turned out to be a good thing, as the super sweet owner told us that the Cuban resto-bar had become a full-time hookah lounge. Had we not ventured down for rice and beans, we would missed out on our midday Dulce Le Leche and Passion Fruit cakes. (Jules wasn't the only one savoring dessert before meals.)

The ShiShi baker recommend that we head a couple of blocks over to see whether Tapeo, a hot newish tapas bar might be open. Alas, it was not. But it looked awesome. Def on the list for next time. 

Now famished, we went back to the market and stopped for the first food we encountered. It was a taqueria and I'm not sure I'd recommend it. More browsing the market, then we jumped back on the metro to St. Catherine, did too much shopping and stopped to refuel with coffee Americanos. 

For dinner, Reinhold and Pam recommended L'Auberge Saint-Gabriel. I can't even describe how amazing it was - the food, the art, the service, the dental-floss dispenser in the restrooms - I highly suggest checking it out for yourself. Post-supper, we hit the Port for the fireworks. (Left early, gawked at the awesomeness that is Notre Dame... and marveled at the incredible, electric energy of Montreal.) 

Thanks, all, who helped make this such a fab weekend! 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Day 224

This box was sitting on our doorstep when I got home. 

The label read as follows:

Apparently, Jon made some sort of football bet with his friend Derrick. Derrick apparently lost and had to send us some pizzas. Derrick... the guy who, when I Jon and I met 13 years ago, listened to Jon's stories of our "dates" and informed him that I indeed would become Jon's actual girlfriend. That perhaps I was even "the one." Derrick told him all of this before he met me. And, actually, I never spent all that much time with Derrick. 

But I  love Derrick -- Derrick, the structural engineer whose undergrad degree is in English. Derrick, who went on to receive his MBA (I think). He's got a case of the "liberal arts" as much as I do and a has this witty way that always makes me smile. (I love that all family gifts come to the "Micco Household," despite the fact that I'm the only Micco here.)

Though Jon keeps in touch with Derrick regularly, I've seen him only twice and talked only about more 3 times in the last decade. So. Can he still be one of my favorite people? One could argue that he is, after all, partly responsible for prompting the establishment of the "Micco Household." 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Day 222

I'd like to share this little modern love story:

Girl walks into a bar. In Queens. ("Elvis" is performing, collecting money for the children. In a year or so, it will be revealed that there were no children. The philanthropic Elvis is a fake and a scam.)

Girl hits on Boy. 

Flirting and beer-drinking ensue. Numbers are exchanged. 

A strange courtship begins. Girl and Boy go for runs through Forest Hills, meet up at the bar and the bowling alley. Their contact is sporadic. Boy continually insists he is moving to Spain. To build bridges.

After a few months, girl moves across a bridge, to Manhattan. 

Shortly thereafter, Boy shows up at Girl's door, insisting that they do dinner. (Note: In their three-month, sporadic "relationship," Girl and Boy have never shared a meal.) Girl, now working at a ridiculously crazy start-up that has her toiling away 19 hours a day in a 3 square-foot space, obliges. They dine outside at a laid-back upper Upper East Side establishment. She is wearing stained khakis.

A more traditional dating relationship ensues. There are dinners, movies and museum visits. There are many trips across the bridge. Life is good. 

Fast forward 2 years. Boy invites Girl to move to Colorado with him. Girl says likes her life in NYC publishing. 

Boy moves to California to live on the beach with Boy's younger friend. Girl is pissed. 

~To protect the innocent, the next part of this story will be summarized to this: For awhile they break up. But still visit and talk. It's all very dysfunctional. However, to deal with this drama, Girl trains for a Marathon with Team in Training, at the encouragement of Gabby Studenmund. She raises more than $5,000 for leukemia and lymphoma research and runs 26.2 miles in London. During this adventure, she meets amazing people, including Eliana Agudelo. ~

Boy decides to move back East to be with Girl (and near his family). They agree that Vermont sounds like a nice place to live.

Girl lands a fellowship in the nutrition department at UVM. Girl moves to Vermont with her cat Charlie  (may he RIP...)

Boy gets an engineering gig in Vermont.

Girl flies out West. Girl, Boy and all of Boy's belongings, including an awkwardly shaped chair procured in South Africa, spend 6 days driving across Canada in a Subaru Impreza. 

One year later, Girl and Boy buy their first home.

Then, Girl and Boy adopt Dempsey.

The next summer, Boy's BFF proposes to his girlfriend. Then Boy's other BFF proposes to his girlfriend. Weeks later, Boy proposes to Girl. (Sorry, Boy, Girl is a Journalist. Journalists state the facts.)

They plan a big wedding for October 9, 2004 (Happy Birthday, Deb Baer!). They send out Save the Dates, then ditch this plan and reschedule a teeny tiny ceremony atop Mt. Philo for July 17, 2004. Girl's mom says that sounds just fine to her - whatever makes Girl happy - but don't be surprised if people think that Girl is pregnant.

Girl is not pregnant. 

This happens:

Lots of excellent things occur: new nephews and another niece, parties round the fire pit, dancing in cabarets, another marathon, trips, hikes, house dormers, exciting new jobs, softball games, etc. (And some bad ones too: Chuck dies.)

Girl and Boy adopt two kitty sisters.

Girl gets pregnant for real. Thirty-five-and-a-half weeks later, this guy is born.

Life really gets fun. 

And then girl gets knocked up again... and 40 weeks later, this guy is born. Life really gets crazy, which is as it remains today, exactly eight years to the day that this photo was snapped by HT. 

Which - really - is just how the Girl likes it. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Day 221

Before the glow fades and I get swept up into the chaos of the day, before I start focusing on all of the things on the to-do list that don't get crossed off, I want to take a moment to acknowledge the important thing that (finally) did. 

Today, I got up at 5:30, put on my running clothes (laid out in the bathroom - so as not to disrupt Jon - the night before), drank a glass of water, ate 5 cherries (stalling) and got myself out the door by 5:45. I did my standard 4-mile loop. Five minutes in, my legs were itchy and my chest was tight ... but two sweet bunnies hopped across my path... and when the trees opened up to the lake, I noticed that the clouds hung low in front of the mountains. The image was like one you'd see on an inspirational poster, or a book about finding your Zen. Perfect. I stretched on the bridge to the sounds of screeching gulls "harmonizing" with some delicate dark bird whose pretty sound I did not know. Down below, there was smooth driftwood on wavy sand, deep-blue water with so many concentric circles breaking out on the glass-like surface where the river meets the lake that I thought it might raining. It wasn't. So what were they: fish? frogs?

And when I got back home, the teeth-brushing wrangle and bagel battles didn't break my stride. I know I need to run every day to keep sane. (And I don't... hence...). And I don't know why I was able to stick to my morning plan so easily today but I'm glad I did. 

Because it's most certainly going to be a manic Monday. Happy one to you!

And tell me: What helps you stick to your exercise plans? 

Friday, July 13, 2012

Day 220

I am a chronic multi-tasker. To a fault. (Which you already know if you know me.)

I have the day off, and the boys are at school. So my plan was to do a whole bunch of things that will free up our weekend so that our family time can be focused on fun. I got the oil changed in the Swagger Wagon. I picked up some staples (and, randomly, mung beans - any ideas?) at Healthy Living. I got a new hard-core case for my iPhone - a necessary purchase, given that Kai has (er, I also have) dropped the device about 25 times. This week. 

I did these tasks before 10:30 a.m.

Then I got home. And with so many options for "being productive," I got stuck. And I then I started doing them all simultaneously. I threw in a load of laundry. I roasted beets and cooked quinoa. Figuring it was too hot to run outside, and feeling that I needed to take advantage of this "free day" and exercise, I threw in a yoga DVD... during the intro, I checked my email (huh? awful.) Halfway through the DVD (which I bought 6 years or so years ago and NEVER have used), I decided that I was too experienced to benefit from the instructional practice but not experienced enough to remember the sequences well enough to do the second disc, the sans talking one. So I quit. (Want the DVD? Email me. I'm an in-person kinda yoga person.) I went back into the kitchen, powered up my work computer and started reading emails (why? I don't work on Fridays) and at the same time, starting the VERY routine task of making tabbouleh. VERY routine. I basically make it every week.

But today, as it turned out, I used about 30 percent more water than I should have. Which resulted in a consistency of... oatmeal. Did I give up and toss it? No. Did I embrace the texture and plan to eat it for breakfast? No. I stubbornly forged on, thinking I could fix this. I stirred in the quinoa I'd made earlier. I chopped parsley. I chopped mint. I squeezed in lemon and drizzled olive oil. I reached for tomatoes. Which we did not have. So I started pitting cherries.

And then... I realized this: I just developed a recipe. A new savory dinner-for-breakfast recipe. Which I will eat for breakfast. And dinner. And lunch.

I think I'll call it Christmas in July. The recipe - with a hednote even! -  follows. Sorry, no nutritional analysis. Yet. Gotta get on that.

I actually carried the bowl outside to the picnic table so the lighting would be *slightly* better. 

Christmas in July Breakfast Tabbouleh
This incredibly tasty mistake exudes whole-grain goodness. Try it as a savory breakfast - or just eat it whenever you're hungry. (God knows the recipe makes a TON.) Its creaminess comes from over-"cooked" bulgur; the unexpected crunch, from leftover (cooked) quinoa. Dark sweet cherries marry with mint, parsley and a hefty dose of garlic for a surprisingly balanced flavor. 
Serves "a lot" 

You'll need:
2 cups of fine bulgur
2-3 whole lemons 
1/4 cup olive oil (approximate)
1 cup or so of cooked quinoa or other whole grain
2-4 cloves of garlic
1 bunch parsley
1/2 bunch mint (use this rest to refresh your water, or make a Mojito!)
1 large cucumber
~1 1/2 cups sweet cherries
Optional: chopped walnuts 
Optional (but cancels the vegan claim): feta

Now. Here's what to do:
1. Pour 5 1/2 cups boiling water over 2 cups of bulgur. Let sit for 15 minutes. (Or as long as it takes to get through 1/2 of a yoga DVD and change a load of laundry). Tip: If you want to make bulgur with the correct texture, and omit the "makeup" quinoa, just use 4 1/2 cups of water. If you are taking this traditional approach, you will need to strain the bulgur.
2. Juice lemons and add juice, plus olive oil, to the bulgur. 
3. Stir in cooked quinoa, to add some "chew" value.
4. Press or mince garlic. Stir into the grains.
5. Chop parsley and mint; seed and dice cucumber. Pit the cherries. Mix it all with the grains.
6. Add salt and pepper to taste.
7. Invite a whole bunch of people over for brunch. Offer bowls of chopped nuts and feta on the side as topping options. Enjoy! xo

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Day 217

Today, I chopped my hair - the longest it's been in years - into a pixie. Well, technically Hannah (at Salon Cruz) did. And I think she did an amazing job matching the pic I brought in

Do I like it? Yes, I sure do. Do I look better with short hair? Maybe. Maybe not. (Did I shoot the Before picture below, unsmiling in the bathroom at the salon and the After smiling at home in natural light outside on the deck. You betcha. Why? Well either it's because I realized I hadn't taken a before pic and felt too self conscious to do it in public or ... it's because I was magazine editor for so long that I know the after shots need to look much better and happier than the before shots - and so I subconsciously "styled" them accordingly). 

What I do know is that I needed a big change. And my life right now offers only so many opportunities for big changes. So it was either knocking out the kitchen wall to create the open floor plan that I so desire or this. And given that that wall is holding up our house, according to Jon, the structural engineer, lopping off my locks was the safest option. 

No regrets here. 

And After... 

Monday, July 9, 2012

Day 216

Dear Kai and Julian,

I am sorry. Sorry I let Dad take you to the Hairy Bear and get your cute surfer-dude do's lopped off into crops that look quite a lot like Jim Carrey in Dumb and Dumber. (Click. It's worth the laugh.) Of course I still think you are incredibly handsome little men. (I'm your mother. That is part of my job.) But oh how I loved the fringe that fell into your eyes... the little wisps that hung over your ears. The sweet mullets that told everyone... oh, hey...  there's a party out back. But here's the thing: We let you boys play and play hard. So when there are grass stains on your shorts, dirt under your finger nails and bangs that obstruct your vision, people start wondering if you actually have parents. 

Hence, the cuts. 

Don't get me wrong: I don't regret the choice. It had to be done - and before we know it your shorn locks will fill out to the perfect length the way hot coffee cools to the ideal temp... it's a fleeting moment and I'll have to remember to drink it all up before it's gone. Plus, you're both pretty happy about the situation overall... what with those helium-filled balloons--pink for you, Jules (of course), orange for you, Kai--and the choking-hazard lollipops that come free with every cut. 

Sleep tight, my loves. I look forward to your tousled bed heads at breakfast. 

Your Mom

PS: I'm seriously contemplating a pixie. (That, guys, means a super-short hair cut.) I may look better with longer hair but I'm craving a big change. This super hilarious blog entry (which I ran into, perusing the web for pixie-cut images) might have tipped me into taking action. Might. Have.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Day 215

"Picture perfect" - it's a saying for a reason. That is, life isn't so neat. Even when it's pretty damn perfect.

Tonight, I sit here feeling sorry for myself that both boys insisted that Daddy do the book-reading and back-patting. Feeling dejected and rejected, I headed downstairs and mindlessly started fiddling with my phone. To find the photos I snapped over the weekend. To be reminded that we had a most amazing couple of days: fresh healthy meals on the picnic table followed by ice cream at Burlington Bay, gorgeous walks through forests and fields, skirt steak and Mojitos (tomorrow, we eat clean) at Chris and Ri's. 

And that was just our time as a four-top fam. I also got in some great girl time... including a ladies' night/kiddo sleepover at Ri's. And how quickly I'd forgotten that all of Friday night, my boys snugged me into a 2'-wide edge of a king-sized bed. 

Ok, whatever - the little dudes love me. And I am incredibly lucky.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Day 212

I should be in bed, willing myself to rest, but instead, I sit here ripping out articles and recipes and notes on interesting apps, from set-aside issues dated June and July - even one Vermont Life from last summer. It was stuffed into my marathon goodie bag and reminded me that Dottie P. and the rest of her Algonquin Roundtable spent raucous summer weekends in Vermont - Neshobe Island on Lake Bomoseen to be exact. Now I want to visit. My body is heavy, my brain a fog but I have that ill-feeling focus that compulses me to stay awake, to work through these magazines, read the New Yorker piece on spoiled kids, maybe check Facebook or browse Zillow just 30 more times. Even though I know the best thing to do would be to brush my teeth and go to sleep. #myownworstenemy

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Day 211

Today, my family got together for a BBQ in Bessemer. Angelo and Casey drove in from Akron, Kate came up from the 'burgh and my "Aunt" Judy, "Uncle" Davy, their son (and my "god brother") Mark and his family gathered at my parents' place to celebrate the 4th.

I texted photos of my boys to them. I followed Kate's Instagram action of the party. And was bummed. I wanted to be there.

But I also wanted to be here, with the awesome "family" and friends we've made in Vermont. Celebrating our independence on Reinhold and Pam's porch, watching the parade, eating popsicles with Mike B. Grilling ribs and dogs on Chris and Ri's deck with Jeff and Lauren, the boys mesmerized by Chris's backyard firework show. When I was a kid, it was lamb and loads of vegetables from Grandpa Patsy's garden at his place, followed by an insane fireworks display by "Little Theresa's" husband Ralph. All of my (dad's side) cousins - and most of my dad's cousins - were there. It saddens me to think that my boys won't have so many big family memories to look back on... 

Family friends.
But, I suspect (hope!) that Jules and Kai will have awesome memories of their childhood in Vermont - and many of these memories will  include the amazing people here in Vermont that we're lucky to call friends, old and new. The "family" dinners and parties 'round the fire pit. The hikes, the bikes and trips to the beach, the farmer's market, the waterfront. BBQs, parades, camping trips... and that's just the summer stuff.

Some days, I can't imagine ever leaving Vermont. But I also hate thinking about never being closer to our "real" families. Such is the price we pay for freedom, I guess. The freedom of so many choices. 

I had this thought earlier this afternoon. And then I had another thought: All of the men and women who are (and who have been) responsible for ensuring the freedoms that we as Americans enjoy often live (or have lived) far, far away from their families -- and without the option of hopping on a plane for a random visit or picking up and moving to be closer to their parents, their siblings, the people who matter to them most.

And to all of these people, I am grateful. 

Happy Independence Day!