Elf on the Shelf, Life, NaBloPoMo

Blog month wrap up, a cancerversary and the return of an old friend.

Well, I made it. 30 posts in 30 days. AND, I didn’t even drive Mr. KK crazy this year.

A few people have asked if I would continue to post every day through December, too. I’m flattered that there are people who want to continue reading for another month! And I love the idea of continuing to write for another month (and lord knows with all of the craziness of December there will be stories!).

However, I feel I should give you a sneak peek into what blogging every day for a month really looks like, in this ridiculously unflattering photo of me, lovingly taken by Mr. KK:

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This photo was likely taken around 10:30pm, me in my well-worn decades-old fleece, literally asleep at the computer while trying to write one of my blog posts. (I do think I should get bonus points for keeping my fingers on the right keys even while sleeping.)

Writing every day for a month is stressful. And exhausting, apparently.

But November 30 not only marks the last day of NaBloPoMo, it’s also my cancer-versary! Today it’s 15 years since I said buh-bye to cancer! I remember that cold November morning, driving to the hospital for my surgery like it was yesterday. In my week-long recovery in the hospital I alternated between napping, reading actual physical books, and binge watching HGTV and the Food Network (we didn’t have smartphones 15 years ago, or any devices for that matter…in fact, there isn’t one photo of me at the hospital or recovering from my surgery).

Fast forward 15 years, and here I am: Mom to the Little Mister and our four-legged fur baby, Rocco. This sweet photo was taken just this morning of Rocco watching the sun come up, apparently one hour before he threw up all over our living room sofa. Ah, kids.

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Being the official start of the holiday season, I spent the day Christmas shopping today. And tonight, I gave Mr. KK an early Christmas present: I drank brown liquor.

I know.

Technically, it was a mixed drink (as requested by me, one that would slightly mask the flavor of the bourbon enough so I could get it down). After converting me to an IPA drinker, I know it’s Mr. KK’s life mission to get me to drink bourbon. I cannot drink it straight (the smell alone turns me off), and I’m not yet cool enough to drink a manhattan, though how I dream of the day I could order one!

Instead, we went the Grapefruit and Thyme Bourbon Smash Recipe, courtesy of The Tipsy Giraffe.

And I have to say, it tasted pretty good – and it was so pretty it looked even better!

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And heaven knows I needed a cocktail because look who made his re-appearance tonight for the month of December:

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He’s baaaaaack! Little Mister was so excited to see him! Let the threatening holiday spirit commence!

In fact, my nightly alarm to move the elf just went off!

Thanks for reading along this month!

Christmas, Decorating, NaBloPoMo

Trading Turkeys for Trees

(Second to last day of NaBloPoMo)

FINALLY!

I can stop shame-listening to Christmas music in the car along and blast Burl Ives and Mariah Carey proudly in the house!

The Thanksgiving decorations are down, and I’m ready for the 47 bins of Christmas decor to make their way up from the basement! Today we got our trees, and those will go up in the stands either today or tomorrow. One full day getting acclimated to the house and they can be decorated!

Today on the way to get our trees, Little Mister asked me why I like Christmas so much.

“Is it because Santa comes and you get lots of presents?” he asked me.

“No,” I told him. “It’s because Christmas is magical and it makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside. And we get to have lots of people over our house all season long to visit us. We make cookies and have parties and stay up late and eat yummy foods.”  And because I get to buy lots of presents for people!

December is by far the busiest and craziest month of the year. Between work and family, there is so much to cram into those 24 precious days: Santa visits, shopping, family parties, work parties, cookie making, Christmas Light spectaculars, decorating, wrapping and…whew!

But I LOVE EVERY MINUTE OF IT.

In our house, Christmas means the music is always playing, the bar’s always stocked, and we have snacks at the ready – because you never know when someone is going to stop by to say hello and have a cup of cheer.

And that includes a drop-in visit from Santa!

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Is there anything more magical for a child than seeing Santa?

Growing up, I remember many years with our artificial out-of-the-box Christmas tree, and bending the branches into shape and trying to cover up the green pole that held the tree together (my how artificial trees have come a long way!). We’d set up our tree in the basement where my playroom was. I have always been an early riser, and I distinctly remember waking up before the sun had come up, begging my parents to get out of bed in the dark to see if Santa came. (Now that I’m a parent, and we tend to go to bed rather late after our Christmas Eve dinner and putting out all of the gifts and filling stockings, I realized that my parents were likely exhausted and hung over when I wanted them to get up. Somehow, I was blessed with a child who prefers sleeping in no matter what day of the year it is).

At some point we started getting real trees, and I remember going to cut down a Christmas tree one year. I feel like that’s someone you feel you need to do once – bundling up and trekking out into a field where every tree literally looks the same and you have no concept of how big of a tree you need (every tree looks small in the forest…and then you bring it into your living room!). And after that year you realize you’re just as happy going to a place that has already cut the trees for you and you can simply browse them like winter coats on the rack at the mall.

As an adult, we are a ‘real tree’ and an artificial tree family. Each year we get two real trees – one for the family room and one for the kitchen – and we have a small white artificial tree that goes in the Little Mister’s playroom.

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There’s decor throughout our main living space, and there’s always a ‘Christmas Cookie’ or ‘Sugared Plums’ candle burning.

I hope the Little Mister continues to love the traditions we’ve started: getting our trees as a family, decorating, ginger bread houses, cooking making with my mom (he’s mostly a cookie taster!) and having family and friends over throughout the month.

No one loves a party more than our Little Mister, who can work a snacks table like it’s his job!

Time to get decorating! Only one more day of NaBloPoMo!

food, NaBloPoMo

10 foods I could eat forever.

I love to eat.

In fact, most of my decisions and plans revolve around food. I have been known to plan an entire vacation around how many restaurants we could eat at during our stay.

I always have food on the brain. When I worked in Boston many moons ago, we would all start talking about lunch around 10am. What should we have? Where would we go? Sebastian’s for salads? Big Al’s for chicken salad sandwiches? Chacarero for those flat sandwiches that were so good? And then halfway through the afternoon, I’d start thinking about what I was going to cook for dinner.

Fast forward a bunch of years, and not much has changed. I still think about what my next meal is going to be, or try and schedule my days around meal times. There is nothing worse than being trapped somewhere during lunchtime without having any access to food. I do my best to avoid hairy situations like this.

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Thanks, someecards for capturing it so well.

It goes without saying that the main reason I work out is so that I can still eat and drink whatever I want. (Though that is starting to feel like a losing battle, but I’m trying!) I don’t like to diet, because I hate the thought of giving up things I enjoy eating. (And I’m sorry, spaghetti squash, but you’re just NOT a substitute for real spaghetti. No matter how much parmesan I use.)

Because there are simply some things that I will never stop eating. Even if the doctor suggests I stay away from my favorites, I may try and bargain with him.

10 foods I could eat for the rest of my life.

I tried to list out singular foods – not meals – that I could not live without.

  1. Pimento cheese. If you’ve never had pimento cheese, I suggest you wiggle your way out from under the rock you’ve been living and join the party. Because pimento cheese is the most amazing creation since almost everything. And it’s versatile! While I enjoy eating it cold and straight up on crackers (pita chips, specifically), it’s also delicious warm on baguette slices, spread on a chicken cutlet sandwich, and as a topping on a burger.
  2. Cheese. (I’m noticing a theme here). If I had to pick one specific kind, I’d have to say super sharp aged cheddar. Or the creamy cow’s milk deliciousness of Fromager d’Affinois. Third runner up: Manchego.
  3. Avocados (and, in turn, guacamole). If you put guacamole in front of me, I will eat entire bowl, unapologetically. Bonus points for blue tortilla chips.
  4. Chicken salad. There are many chicken salads out there that should be ashamed of themselves (cranberries do not belong in chicken salad. Neither do grapes). Chicken, mayonnaise, spices and maybe a little celery if you’re feeling frisky, and you have the perfect chicken salad. Pair it with Carr’s water crackers and it’s a meal.
  5. Onion dip (and Ruffles potato chips). Can’t. Stop. Won’t. Stop.
  6. Half sour pickles. Pickles make everything better.
  7. Red wine. Wine is a food group, right? As much as I love beer, there’s something about having a glass of plum-colored greatness after a long day, or on a cold evening, or with an Italian meal.
  8. Ice cream. It just makes everything better. I could never eat a cookie, cake or pastry again and I’d be ok with it. As long as I could have a bowl of ice cream. Peanut butter or Oreo, please.
  9. Steak. A thick-cut rib eye, crispy on the outside, medium rare on the inside. Blue cheese butter on top? Well, if you insist.
  10. Roasted potatoes. They need to be made exactly like my grandmother’s – crispy outside and warm and soft inside. Tossed with olive oil, garlic salt, regular salt and pepper. They’re so good they don’t need ketchup.

If you thought there’d be fruit or something healthy on the list, forget it! The whole point of the favorite foods list is that the items are SO GOOD you can’t imagine living without ever enjoying one of them again.

Now, if we’re talking meals that I could eat for the rest of my life, that’s a whole different story. Then we’re talking about the kk special pizza, tacos, penne vodka…

dogs, NaBloPoMo, Rocco

Getting a dog after losing a dog.

Two years ago, we lost our beloved Vito the Wonder Dog. It was a soul-crushing experience, and one that I’m not yet truly over. That dog was woven so tightly into our family unit, that saying goodbye was tougher than saying farewell to some humans.

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The Little Mister and Vito, a few months before we said good-bye.

In the weeks and months that followed losing Vito, the hole in our hearts was so big, that I often found myself saying, “I don’t think I could ever have another dog. How could I ever love another dog like I loved Vito?”

A year after we lost Vito, we still never mentioned getting another dog. The Little Mister, who was now 4, would bring him up every once in a while, with heart-wrenching questions such as, “I miss Vito. When is he coming back?” and “Is Vito in heaven? When will he be done up there?”

Our lives had changed a little bit in the year since Vito was gone. I had started a new job that allowed me to work from home. My inlaws also lost their dog, almost a year to the day that we lost Vito. And my father-in-law couldn’t wait to bring another dog into their lives. If there was ever a get a dog, we were approaching it.

Yet, we still didn’t talk about it.

Because as much as we mourned Vito, we had a little bit of a new lease on life. We no longer had to worry about getting home at a certain time to let a dog out. We could go away for the weekend and not have to made doggie arrangements. When one of us was away or working late, the other didn’t have to juggle taking care of a 4 year old and walking and caring for a dog.

But even with all that freedom, I still was in the habit of checking the floor for poop when I came around the corner. Or rushing to pick up a fallen M&M or grape or piece of onion from the floor. We didn’t physically have a dog, but mentally, I still felt like we did.

One cold Friday night, while Mr. KK was playing in his monthly poker night, I started scrolling through petfinder.com. You know, just to see what was in our area. We hadn’t really yet talked about getting another dog, but it had almost been 2 years, and I know at some point we would get one. We knew we’d rescue again, and who knows how long it would take to find the right fit?

On that very first night, I came across Rocco – at that time, named Nikki by the shelter. He was a 3 1/2 month old mix, some combination of chihuahua, dachshund and miniature pinscher. He was in a foster home 2 miles from our house. He had the cutest little face. His ears were so big and alert, he looked like a bat. And the clincher: he was black and tan, and looked a lot like Vito.

I emailed the rescue, and 3 weeks later we brought Rocco – formally known as Nikki – into our house, and our lives.

At first, I was a wreck inside. Rationally, I wanted Rocco to be part of our family. Emotionally, I felt like I was betraying Vito. On the third night of Rocco being in our home – and me chasing him around to make sure he didn’t pee or poop in the house – I broke down. “What if I can’t love him like I loved Vito?” I asked Mr. KK.

We had never had a true puppy before. We rescued Vito when he was about 8 months old. I was living in Boston, and Vito was with Mr. KK and his parents (before he was Mr. KK as we weren’t married yet) in Connecticut. My father-in-law house trained Vito in about 3 days.

When we picked up Rocco from the foster home, they informed us that he used pee pee pads and tended to just “poop by the back door”. Um, that would not fly in my house. From the minute he came home, I was in full puppy potty training mode. I took him out constantly, monitored his intake – and output, and made sure he was never left unsupervised. It took a bit of time but eventually we were on a schedule and I didn’t feel the need to freak out if he was out of my sight for more than a few minutes.

As the months passed, I began to feel less like Rocco was replacing Vito and more like he was becoming an addition to the family. Little Mister absolutely adored him, and Rocco was so sweet and gentle with him. During Rocco’s teething phase (that felt like it lasted forever), Rocco would chew on our hands but he would only lick Little Mister’s.

It was no surprise that Rocco was attached to me, mostly because we spent so much time together.

He’s my daytime work buddy, who often sleeps on my desk chair, snuggled up behind me. He’s the ultimate cuddler, often making it hard to get out of bed in the morning.

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Little Mister enjoying a quiet moment with Rocco.

This little boy wiggled his way into my heart, when I thought I couldn’t love another dog again. I can’t imagine our lives without him.

NaBloPoMo, New Haven, pizza

We are pizza snobs. #sorrynotsorry

Every state has something they’re known for: BBQ, lobster, cheese, potatoes…

I’m proud to live in the state that is known for having the best pizza on the planet. (It’s Connecticut, btw, NOT New York).

Unless you are gluten free or can’t eat dairy, I feel it’s safe to say you like pizza. And you’re particular about your pizza. Maybe you’re a deep dish lover. A New York-style die hard. Or a Sicilian pie is where it’s at for you. Whatever the case may be, there’s a style of pizza you like and to you, it’s the best there is, and no one is going to tell you differently.

For me, that pizza is New Haven-style pizza, that is only available in New Haven, CT.

What is New Have style pizza? Or should I say, apizza? (pronounced a-beetz).

It’s a thin crust pizza cooked to crispy perfection in a coal-fired oven that’s as hot as the sun.

As for toppings, they can vary. There’s the classic tomato pie with grated cheese, the white clam pie (add bacon and peppers and make it ‘clams casino’) and everything in between.

New Haven is home to the three heavy hitters of the pizza world: Frank Pepe’s, Sally’s and Modern. And if you’re familiar with them, you are loyal to one of them.

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For us, we’re a Modern family. Their clams casino pizza (on the left in the photo: white pie, mozzarella, chopped clams and garlic, peppers and bacon – and we add hot cherry peppers – is to die for).

The tricky thing with the New Haven pizza scene is that none of these places deliver. So if you’re not in the mood (or have the time) to drive down to New Haven and stand in line for a table, you have to find other options.

Let me tell you, with a 5 year old, we order pizza a lot. And we’ve have had some BAD pizza trying to find our “local” pizza place.

Our test pizza, the our favorite pizza to order from places that aren’t Modern, is aptly (self) named The KK Special. The KK Special consists of sauce and mozzarella, with sausage, black olives and ricotta. This is an especially difficult pizza to master, as you need to find not only the balance of the toppings, but you must ensure you have a crispy enough crust to hold up to the soft ricotta. (If you deliver a soggy pizza, you are one and done).

It took some time, but we’ve found our neighborhood pizza place. They only do take out – not a table to be found in the place. Only downside: they don’t deliver. But it’s THAT good, that we will throw on a coat and boots and leave the warmth of home to go and pick it up.

Olde World Pizza is amazing. And, it’s consistently amazing, which is a very appealing attribute for a pizza place to have.

Here are tonight’s selections:

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For Mr and Mrs KK, the pizza on the left: eggplant and meatball.

And for Little Mister, his favorite: bacon, spinach and black olive. (Pretty impressive for a five year old).

And you must have beer with pizza. No arguments.

And if you don’t eat so much pizza that you can’t breathe, you’re not doing it right.

Life, Mornings, Mr. KK, NaBloPoMo, Screen time

Why I’m proud of my excessive “screen time”

‘Screen time’ is a buzzword, most often used by professionals and websites telling people how they are bad parents when their children get too much of it. Little Mister does not do a ton of screen time at home, however I question whether these experts who pooh-pooh ipads for kids have ever tried to get dinner on the table at a reasonable hour, eat a meal at a restaurant while it was still hot, or just wanted 1 hour to get the grocery shopping done without having to answer the question, “Can we get this?” 3,728 times.

Now, adults are being judged on their screen time. It was either with one of the latest iPhones or one of the millions of updates that I started getting these weekly “Screen Time” alerts, where my phone would scold me tell me how much time I spent on my phone in the past week.

(by the way, that “5:41” at the top is AM folks, not PM)Screenshot 2019-11-04 at 5.41.24 AM

I spend a lot of time on my phone.

I am an early riser. I mean EARLY. (Don’t even get me started on Daylight Savings Time, when for the past 2 days I’ve basically woken up in the middle of the night).

And when I wake up, I need something to do to occupy my mind and time that is not loud or disruptive. Sometimes I read. But most times, I’m on my phone, scrolling, researching, planning.

Sure, I’m catching up on social media and reading articles that Facebook thinks I’ll like, and mentally shopping all of the goodies I see on Insta with the #targetdoesitagain.

But these early morning hours, these are the hours I’m most productive.

Here are some of the things I accomplish while the world still sleeps:

  • Catch up on all my emails that came in the night before
  • Check my calendar and mentally plan out the morning, and my day at work
  • Sign up for exercise classes for the upcoming days/week
  • Organize my photos and upload them to Shutterfly
  • During the holidays, get inspiration for gifts and make lists
  • Shop! I’m Amazon’s best customer before the sun comes up
  • Peruse family vacation houses
  • Make a grocery list
  • Research anything that Mr. KK and I have been taking about in the last few days: recipes for Thanksgiving, activities for the Little Mister, the new brewery opening up
  • Secretly look up and price out beach vacations
  • Silently LOL at the funniest things parents tweeted for the week on HuffPo

Of course, when Mr. KK finally wakes up, it’s likely I’ve been on my phone for a few hours by that point, so he barely has an eye open when I start bombarding him with questions, showing him recipes and asking him to look at the 37 links I texted him while he was sleeping.

Hey, if I’m going to be awake, I’m going to be productive.

Boston, getting old, NaBloPoMo, Restaurants

I’m too old to stand in line at a bar.

Once a year, my friend J and I arrange a girls’ weekend in Boston where we spend the weekend eating, drinking, catching up and shopping.

The weather Gods were in our favor this year, as we had gorgeous fall weather, low 50’s and sunny – perfect poncho weather.

Lunch was at Coppa Boston, where we sipped wine and enjoyed a gorgeous charcuterie platter of fennel salami, duck prosciutto and spicy soppressata, paired with nutty pecorino, creamy robiola and and sola cheeses; and meatballs and a celery caesar salad that was so crunchy and fresh, I have to try and recreate this dish at home.

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When J and I lived in Boston (15 years ago!) we both lived in South Boston (Southie, to those in the know). J lived on the nicely gentrified East Side, right on K Street near the famous L Street Tavern where Matt Damon and the Good Will Hunting gang used to hang out. I lived on the gritty west side off of West 5th Street, next to the park where Matt, Ben and others fought those kids on the basketball court.

Even though we lived on different sides of town, we both left before Southie became the trendy, up-and-coming area teeming with hipsters and millennials that it is today. So in an effort to relive our time living in the greatest city of all time, we decided to go to dinner in our old neighborhood.

“Wait until you see how Southie had changed,” I told her. “You won’t even recognize it.”

As our Uber driver, Wellington – whom we fondly referred to as Beef Wellington – took a left onto Albany Street, we both pressed our noses to the glass. What used to be dilapidated buildings and abandoned doorways, was now trendy gastro pubs, fromageries, and wine shops.

Whitey Bulger’s old haunt Triple O’s Lounge was now a rustic Italian cafe. Hole in the wall pizza joints were now chic taverns. And the old Mexican haunt with tabletops sticky from spilled margaritas was now a loud and hip sushi restaurant – and our destination for dinner.

Maybe it was eating at a restaurant where we the scene matched the food, or the hoards of youth on the sidewalks, but after dinner these two now-suburban moms were not ready to call it a night.

“Let’s go back to Broadway and go for a drink!” we thought who we were. And then we saw the lines at the bars. And then we realized who were weren’t.

We weren’t waiting in a line at a bar. Because we are OLD.

Both bars had lines so long, that it was doubtful that the kids – and they did look like kids – would ever see the inside of the place before dawn. And, not to go all MOM on the young ladies, but it was under 40 degrees, and the girls wore halter tops and mini skirts and no coats!

Don’t get me wrong, I still wait in lines. I’m just selective about the types of lines I’ll wait in.

I’ll wait in line to get into my favorite pizza place.

I’ll wait in line to get the latest beer released at a brewery.

But I won’t wait in line to get into a bar and pay inflated prices for cocktails and scream to be heard.

When we saw those lines, we looked at each other and a look passed between us, and in that brief moment we silently said to each other, “We have pajamas waiting for us in a hotel, with no spouses or kids and an entire bed to ourselves where we can lie down and watch HGTV uninterrupted until we fall asleep. So let’s leave these kids standing in line and high tail it back to our room.”

So we abandoned the line, hopped in an Uber and were in our jammies faster than you could say “millennial”.

To the young ones out there, waiting in lines at bars, enjoy it while you can.

And, for the love of God, WEAR A COAT!