I don’t want to take America back decades of progression, but I have to get this off my chest: my life would be so much easier if we had an Alice the housekeeper, just like the Bradys.
There. I said it. And I’m not sorry.
Now, before you get mad at me, I don’t want anyone to live with me (we don’t have room (or the patience) for that) or wear a silly outfit, but I wouldn’t mind someone stopping by every day for a few hours to care for our house in a way that it needs, with the hours I just don’t have to dedicate to it.
Those dishes that seem to always be in the sink? Taken care of!
The beds that stay rumpled? Hospital corners!
The laundry that piles up? Washed and dried and folded!
The dog hair dust bunnies? Swept!
Dinner? Prepped and cooked!
Just writing this gave me goose bumps!
I wouldn’t even mind if Alice’s boyfriend Sam came by to visit (especially if he brought some dry-aged steaks!). I would pay her well, and she’d be on the Christmas gift list!
If you ask Mr. KK, I am a horrible housekeeper. It’s just not my thing. So, really, this would be for everyone!
Last year my social feed was filled with friends with extra time on their hands, who took up a hobby.
I was not one of those folks.
However, now that life is resuming and calendars are filling up and I have very little time for myself, I have decided that I need to find myself a nice little hobby.
My new hobby needs to fit the following criteria:
I need to be able to do this hobby at home
This hobby cannot require any additional time out of my day
Hobby must be relatively easy and inexpensive
Based on this list, I introduce my future hobby: knitting.
While I’m not yet ready to join official Stitch & Bitch groups (as much as I want to, I just love the name!), I can confidently say that knitting:
is something I can do at home
is something I can do while I’m doing something else (ie: watching TV at night)
may take time to learn, but once I get the hang of it might be therapeutic
For my very first knitting project, I think I will order a scarf-making kit from Stitch & Story:
I’m excited about this project! A long time ago I started knitting with one of my friends, but I never kept it up. but I’m ready to start again and actually produce something! First, a scarf! Then, a knit banana hat!
Plus, I just read Sutton Foster’s memoir, Hooked, which – you guessed it! – is about knitting!
Hopefully, I finish this knitting project before next November so I can share it on the blog!
This time of year is when some of my most favorite things convene into a perfect storm of bliss: Christmas, decorating and Target.
Last year (also known as ‘The Year with No Rules’), I decorated for Christmas before Thanksgiving because it makes me happy and last year sucked big time. Plus, I was spending so much extra time in my house, I wanted pretty things to look at 24/7.
This year, Mr. KK (sort of) put his foot down that I was to not decorate for Christmas until after Thanksgiving. Which I heard as, “You have extra time before you have to decorate, so you should buy more stuff!”
Personally, I can’t wait to start decorating because I am running out of hiding spots places to put my new decor purchases.
If you haven’t been to Target yet this season, prepare yourself. Their holiday offerings are on point.
The minute you walk in you will be greeted by Bullseye’s Playground (formerly known as the Dollar Spot). During the holidays, they have great items like gift bags, gift tags, little houses, greenery…all for $1, $3 and $5. I have a love/hate relationship with Bullseye’s Playground; I love how cheap and cute everything is, and I hate how fickle the inventory is. I stalk Instagram accounts that showcase holiday finds, and I am SO JEALOUS of how awesome Targets are in other areas of the country.
And now, for the good stuff. No matter what your holiday decor theme is (or even if you don’t have one!) there is something for your home at Target. I’m obsessed with little houses, red trucks and bottle brush trees. And Target does NOT disappoint.
These trees come in 2 sizes, and are a perfect way to light up your decor. I have a similar version of these trees that I put in a bookcase where I don’t have any lighting and it lights them up so nicely! (NOTE: I will also be purchasing these this year!)
I have a few of these birds (the Fall version is out in my bookcase right now!) for Christmas but I love the red and pink outfits on these three. I’m sure I could fit a few more birdies into the decor…
This past September, we were in Newport, Rhode Island for a wedding. The day of the wedding dawned sunny and bright, 70 degrees and no humidity. The perfect day to dine al fresco by the water if there ever was one.
Our group of six made out way up and down the wharfs until we came to a restaurant with a stellar outdoor patio, right alongside the water. AND, it was empty! This was like kismet because finding a spot to eat for 6 people was proving to be difficult.
We walked up to the host station. “Six please, for outside,” I said.
“I’m sorry,” the host said, “We don’t have any availability.”
Me: “But your entire patio is empty. Can’t we sit at one of those empty tables? Are they all reserved?”
“Reserved? No,” she said. “I just don’t have any waitstaff to work this area.”
And so it went, as we stopped at a few restaurants. They had open tables, but no one to work them.
Fast forward a month and a half to tonight. Mr. KK and I decide we’re going to do take out. The fact that we made this decision – and picked a place – in a relatively timely fashion was a miracle in itself. When it came time to order, Mr. KK took one for the team. I took the dogs out.
When I came back in, Mr. KK was still on the phone, holding muzak blaring from his phone. “I’m on hold,” he told me.
This went on for several minutes.
“Let me call, too,” I said, dialing from my cell phone. It rang and rang. No one even answered.
“It’s been 10 minutes,” Mr. KK told me, “and I’m still on hold.”
I called three separate times, and each time my call went unanswered. “They must be short staffed,” I said, hanging up. For the record, this was a Wednesday night. Not a busy Friday or Saturday.,
Just a day earlier, we read about a restaurant in a neighboring town that was closing because they couldn’t find a chef to hire. Imagine that, they couldn’t find someone to cook at the restaurant.
Last year was horrible for restaurants and staff; Mr. KK did what we could ordering from our local favorites when they had family meals and take out available. And here we are – a year later – and restaurants can’t staff their establishments.
This is so sad to me. And maybe it’s only happening in places that aren’t big cities where there are thousands of people who need/want a job. But in our small town, restaurants are on the verge of closing their doors (if they haven’t done so already).
Maybe it’s The Great Resignation. Maybe people don’t want to work in the restaurant biz anymore. But it seems that people don’t want to work anywhere anymore. I’m not going to lie, while I love my job, if I could retire tomorrow in a way that I was financially stable, I would do it in a heartbeat. Not because I don’t like to work, but because I could think of a million things I could be doing every day that aren’t work.
So what is going to happen to restaurants? I’m sure the popular and city ones will be fine. They will bounce back and have full reservations. But what about the other ones? The local bars, Nonna’s Italian place down the street, and the local pizza joint? What happens to them?
Even in cities like Boston, so many familiar, old-standby bars and restaurants have closed. College and 20-something favorites have shuttered their doors, leaving behind vacant buildings and memories.
So what’s going to happen? Restaurants just start closing down because they don’t have anyone to work? There are so many people out there looking for jobs, why can’t restaurants staff their establishments?
Part of being a parent is constantly questioning every single choice you make regarding your child; everything from how much TV they watch, to how you enforce house rules, to wondering if you’re raising a good human.
Because at the end of the day, we want our child to be a decent person.
In my early morning social news gathering, an article in my feed described four parenting styles. However, I think my parenting style is the 5th, not listed style: Afghan parenting.
Haven’t heard of it? that’s because I made it up. However, it works. Stick with me!
My grandmother – my mother’s mother – crocheted afghans. Big, colorful blankets that would grace our sofas and the ends of our beds. One of my most vivid memories of my grandmother was the time she spent crocheting. I can still see her sitting in her chair, legs covered with what she had finished thus far, knitting needles lightly tap-tap-tapping against each other, lips silently moving as she counted out her stitches.
When I was young, my grandmother would crotchet for me afghans for my bed, a new one each time I redecorated my room. I got one to match the hot pink comforter I bought for my freshman dorm for college. And I received a crisp, white one for my wedding shower. Afghans were how my grandmother showed her love. In addition to blankets for humans, she would also crochet little blankets for my dolls, to keep them warm in their cradles. When everyone in the family had at least 3 afghans, she began knitting lap blankets for the elderly who were long-term inpatients at a medical facility near her house in California. There was my 80-something grandmother knitting lap blankets “for the old people” as she used to say.
Here are all the reasons I equate my parenting style to an afghan blanket:
Afghans – like parenting – are a labor of love
Afghans keep you warm and safe. (This is your number one job as a parent!)
Afghans have holes in them so that while they keep you warm, your body can also breathe. This built in ventilation is very important in parenting: you should cover them when they need it, but also allow them a little freedom. Or, you can do the ‘one leg in and one leg out’ method, which is what I predict the teenage years will be like.
Afghans are soft but a little scratchy too. You should be soft as a parent, but you need some hard edges, too.
Afghans are reliable.
Afghans are familiar.
Afghans are sentimental. You don’t buy an afghan, you inherit one or someone knits one for you specifically.
Afghans can be a little smothering. They can be heavy and hot, and you may find yourself trying to push it off of you when it’s too much. Admittedly my parenting style is something like that. I want to keep Little Mister close to me, and hold on to him for dear life. Of course, I can see how this might be considered sMOTHERing.
Afghans can go to college with you, but you them away from your roommates (too embarrassing) and only take them out when you’re alone and you are missing home.
And, like an afghan, I will eventually not be used for warmth or security, but I will sit untouched at the end of the bed. And possibly put into a trunk. Or the attic, Or the basement.
And even if I’m not being used or needed everyday, Little Mister will know I’m still there, miraculously holding my shape, possibly smelling slightly of moth balls, waiting for him when he needs me.
But then they also tell you – in a variety of ways – that no matter how young you feel, you are, in fact, OLD.
I remember the first time I was Ma’amed. I was awkwardly ordering at a Starbucks with their exclusive sizing language when the extremely young barista said, “Here’s your change, Ma’am.” The word rang in my ears. I silently repeated the word in different voices and tones in my head. I was far to young to be a Ma’am…wasn’t I?
Oh, but society is tricky! Just when you’re feeling good and young and NOT your age, whammo! It’s time for a medical test that “people your age” start to have. Or, if you’re a woman and you’re pregnant at age 35 or later, you are considered of “Advance Maternal Age” and quickly shuffled off to a “special” office with “expert” doctors and “personalized” care. You’re suddenly in a decade that is being called “[YOUR AGE] is the new [INSERT YOUNGER DECADE HERE]”.
Personally, while I know that time is passing, I still have a misconceived notion of how long ago things happened. This is me exactly:
I can’t be the only one who is time-challenged.
I have a headshot that I use that Mr. KK took of me over a decade ago that I still unabashedly use because 1. I love this photo of me and 2. In some weird way, I still think I look like this. (Sad, I know.) I feel like almost no time has passed, when in reality, a dozen years have gone by and our lives have changed so much (we had a kid, which contributed to me no longer looking as young and relaxed as I do in that photo), so perhaps I hang onto that photo because I wish I STILL looked like that. I also still have the blue scarf.
Interestingly, while my mind may still feel young(ish), my body hasn’t gotten the message because GOOD LORD why do so many things hurt? And when one thing starts to feel better (my back), something else starts to hurt (my shoulder). Speaking of shoulders, a few years back I was having so much shoulder pain I went to see a massage therapist who basically said, “You have frozen shoulder. It happens to women around your age.” Hmph!
Physical aging aside (eye sight, crawling out of bed every morning, constant nerve pain), I am aging out of “cool” social platforms. Case in point: TikTok. I just…can’t. I mean, I do, a bit, for my job. But personally, no thank you. I already have ZERO time in my life, and I imagine a constant stream of videos that never, ever stop would be such a time suck out of my life, that I would open TikTok on Tuesday, and before I knew it, it was Thursday afternoon and I haven’t slept or eaten, and Little Mister has lost 2 teeth.
I suppose in a few years, Little Mister will be my tie to all things social and cool. He’ll want to be on the latest social platform that is yet to be invented by some future 17 year old billionaire. I’ll have all the knowledge of cool parent phone spyware and be not only up on what he’s doing, but still somewhat cool. When we have dance parties now in our kitchen – and Little Mister asks me to “Please don’t sing” and “Do you have to dance like that?”, I like to tell him how much I’m looking forward to chaperoning his school dances and busting out with some signature moves while he and his friends look on. Fun fact: I will absolutely do this.
I will continue to use my out-of-date headshot (maybe even for my obituary?), and remain young mentally. Fashionably, I will age; I will wear what’s comfortable, even if everyone is hating on skinny jeans and I still have a pair I feel halfway decent in.
And I will still let myself think that 1980 was twenty years ago, and that me and millennials are “around the same age” because, well, why not?
Growing up an only child, all of my childhood vacation memories are of me and my parents. California to visit my grandparents, Wildwood, New Jersey the same week every August until I was 18 and, a trip to Six Flags in New Jersey. Not to do the amusement park (I would have been riding those rides solo) but instead, for the drive through safari.
I have vivid memories of this safari; namely, sitting in the backseat of the car, thighs stuck to the leather bench seat in the summer heat, little monkeys sitting on the hood of our car as we drove 5 mph through the park, and – the pièce de résistance: a giraffe walking up to our car, bending its long neck down to the passenger window, and my mom rolling down her window and feeding him a piece of gum. (For the record – my parents have no recollection of this happening so perhaps I’m making this up?)
But what I do remember from the Safari was that I thought it was pretty cool.
So when it came time to think of a birthday present this year for our Little Mister, the Safari felt like the perfect gift! 1. He loves animals 2. It was an experience, and would not be another toy in our playroom and 3. We could make a weekend out of it and have an adventure!
Our adventure started with a traffic-filled drive to the middle-of-nowhere New Jersey to a Hampton Inn in the Township of Cranbury. (Can someone please explain these Townships to me? What the heck is a ‘Township’?)
Little Mister is not an experienced hotel visitor so he thought who he was rolling his suitcase up to the front desk. Since we’re still in a pandemic and I have an unvaccinated child, once we got into the room we stayed there: bringing in take out and watching movies on TV.
The next morning we arrived at the gates to the Safari after meticulously reviewing all of the animals we would see, the order we would see them, and how many exactly there were. And let me tell you: it didn’t disappoint. I don’t know who was more excited to see animals…me or the Little Mister. I just couldn’t not believe I was looking at an elephant a few feet away – not caged like a zoo – and I was in New Jersey.
We often had to stop so animals could cross the road in front of our car because they have the right of way (of course). And we were in New Jersey! (Did I mention that we were in New Jersey?)
Our Little Mister could not contain himself. Here were some of his most favorite animals, right in front of him! Lions! Elephants! Giraffes! (My favorite) Tigers! Bears! Rhinos! And a whole lot of gazelle/oryx/eland that literally all look alike. Not to mention about 4 million geese. He was so excited about seeing the geese, I felt we would have driven around a few ponds in Connecticut and has the same effect at the safari that was 3 hours away.
But seriously, this Safari is practically in our backyard (closer than Africa! Cheaper than Disney!).
I highly recommend it! Especially if you take your kids overnight to the lap of luxury also knows as the Hampton Inn.
Here are some highlights:
All this for $9.99/person? Talk about the bargain of the century! If you haven’t been, and you have an animal lover at home, GO. It’s totally worth it!
Potatoes are one of the most perfect foods on the planet.
They are so versatile: you can bake them, roast them, hasselback them, mash them, french fry them, hash brown them, and even turn the into pasta. Very few foods an claim this amazingness.
As much as I love potatoes, I don’t eat the as often as I would like. This short, pear-shaped body would likely morph into a pineapple if I got the fries instead of salad every time.
But everyone once and I while, I treat myself (and, indirectly, Mr. KK). Last night was one of those nights. I busted out the big guns and made Gorgonzola Twice Baked Potatoes.
Gorgonzola Twice Baked Potatoes Recipe
2 Russet baking potatoes Crumbled gorgonzola cheese (exact amount depends on your taste; I tend to use maybe 1/2 a cup or a little more) 2-3TBSP of sour cream Milk Salt and Pepper
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Wash and completely dry potatoes. Place them on a baking sheet and piece them with a knife (about 5 good pierces per potato)
Bake the potatoes in the oven until they are crispy on the outside and a paring knife glides in easily, about an hour
Remove from the oven and let cool until you can handle them (reduce oven temp to 400 degrees)
Hold the warm potato in your palm, and using a knife, slide off a little oval flap of potato. This will be the opening you will use to scoop out the potato. I usually do one that’s about a few inched long and an inch or two wide. It should just be across the length of the top of the potato (see photo below)
Scoop out potato from both potatoes into a bowl. Mash with a potato masher to remove any lumps.
Add cheese, sour cream, salt and pepper. Mix slowly. Add milk as needed to loosen the mixture just a bit – it should still have a very thick consistency and hold together.
Put the stuffing back into the potato shells, place stuffed potatoes back on the baking sheet.*
Warm and slightly brown the tops of the potatoes in the over for about 10 minutes (or as long as you need to get the filling hot and the cheese a little melty).
*At this stage, you can wrap the potatoes in foil and refrigerate for a day and then bake the next day in the oven at 350 until the are hot, then increase to 400 to brown the tops a bit.
Are these good for you? Not likely. Are they delicious? YOU BET.
These are probably one of my favorite ways to enjoy a potato. Though roasted baby potatoes with oil, garlic and rosemary are a close second. And the french fries from our favorite beer bar. Oh, and gnocchi. Who am I kidding? I like ALL potatoes. Except scalloped potatoes, which I feel are that second cousin of the potato that no one wants to invite to family reunions.
Speaking of adoring potatoes, my child doesn’t like mashed potatoes. Let me repeat that: my child does not like mashed potatoes. I’m not quite sure how this relationship is going to turn out, to be honest.
The time of year has arrived when I drive myself absolutely insane looking for our family’s annual vacation house. (cue the fanfare!)
Next year will be our 13th year (lucky 13?) of vacation houses, and each one has been better than the last one. No pressure.
Over the last two years, finding a vacation home is proving to be very challenging (Thank you, COVID!). People are sticking closer to home, opting for driving destinations vs flying. And because our vacation house geographical area is New England, more than 70% of the houses are already booked for next summer. Not only are they booked, but the prices per night have gone WAY up.
I know about this price increase because I have been stalking houses for so long, and have made so many Trip Boards and Wish Lists that I remember how much houses cost. Houses that were in my “acceptable” price range last year, have increased more than $200-$300/night.
As the family’s travel agent – and someone who has traveled extensively with both my parents and my inlaws – I have a very good idea of the type of house that will work for us as a group.
Ideally, 3+ bathroom (one for each family; we could get away with 2, but…why? we’re on vacation)
Close to beach (bonus if it’s walkable!)
At least 3,000 square feet (trust me, this is a good starting point for square footage)
Parking for 3 cars
Close to a town with great restaurants
Large kitchen, big enough to fit the entire family around the island and leave me enough room to move around and cook
Countertop where we can set up our bar
Seating for 8 in the living room; we need to all be able to be in the living room relaxing at the same time
Outdoor space for eating and hanging out
A reading nook for my mom
A desk area for my mother in law to do her “correspondence”
A chair where my dad can go from reading to napping in 3 minutes flat
A play area for Little Mister
An outdoor napping space for Mr. KK
A warm spot in the sun for me
With our price range (which, it seems, used to be easier than it currently is)
I do all of my research on two specific websites; one rhymes with Bear B and B and the other, Mer-bo. I have spend so many hours on these two particular sites, that I have grown to know each and every house for rent.
My obsession is SO extreme, that you could show me just the fabric swatch of a sofa cushion from a random house and I could likely tell you what the house looked like (“It’s the modern farmhouse with the wide plank floors, blue kitchen cabinets and orange drapes”) where it was located (“Thats the house in Kennebunkport, near the beach with the playground in the good walking neighborhood with the ice cream shop you can walk to”); whether or not it was in our price range (“Affordable before 4th of July but is over $1500/night in August”) and one other random yet distinguishing fact about the house, such as (“Oh that’s the place with the finished basement with the dart board and pool table and weird light up Nude Beach sign”)
While this year is proving to be challenging, it hasn’t stopped me from obsession over these two websites. I’m on them late at night when I can’t sleep, and I’m back searching first thing when I wake up.
If I may make a suggestion to the creators of these two websites: can you please create a “thumbs down” icon? I already have the option to “favorite” a property with a little heart, but I would also like to be able to mark any houses I’ve looked at and rejected so that they no longer show up in my search results. There is nothing more annoying than having a house show up in search results, tricking you into looking at the property again until 4 photos in you realize you’ve already looked at the house and dismissed it for whatever reason.
And speaking of rejecting properties, it doesn’t take much for me to say “no” to the house (sorry, home owners). I rationalize it as if I’m going to spend a precious week of vacation somewhere, it better be pretty spectacular.
Reasons why I will reject a property almost immediately (don’t hate me):
Outdated living room
Patio furniture acting as actual living room furniture
Carpet in the main living areas (I’m sorry, but carpet in beach houses is weird)
Black leather couches
Dark wood paneling
Shared outdoor space with owners
Too many personal items in the house (Are you living here, or am I?)
Cluttered countertops and dressers
No outdoor space
No linens included
Blonde wood furniture
Non-open concept floor plans
Mismatched furniture (but not in a cool way)
Four poster beds
Big furniture in a small room
Small furniture in a big room
Before you judge please know that I believe if you are going to be charging $1,000/night to rent your house, ti better well be worth $1,000 a night. And white appliances in the kitchen are not worth that much money.
But here’s a secret, homeowners: your photos can tell a really nice story. If you take nice photos.
What I would say to the people taking the photos for house rental listings:
Put the toilet seat down
Wait until a sunny day to take photos; natural light trumps evening with the lights on every time
Put the dishes in the drying rack in the kitchen away
Toss the magnets on the fridge
Make the bed vs “pulling up the comforter” (hello, hospital corners!)
Wash your windows, fixed broken outdoor furniture and pick up your child’s toys in the yard
How in God’s name are your photos blurry???
If your finger is in the photo, take a new one. Please.
If you can’t get a good photo of the entire room, just forget it. No one needs to see a close up of bi-fold closet doors
Last year, we added a pandemic puppy to our family. And let me say, it has been a challenging year and a half. Bruno is a medium-sized dog (a little bigger than we thought he would be), is constantly into everything, and I must blurt out, “Where’s Bruno?” at least a thousand times a day. Because if I can’t see him, he’s doing something he shouldn’t be. But he’s a big goof and we love him. And it’s no coincidence that the word ‘NO’ is at the end of his name.
Adopting a puppy during a pandemic meant all the “pros” were also cons.
PRO: you are home 24/7 and can effectively potty train the puppy!
CON: you are home 24/7 and your puppy turns into velcro dog, develops separation anxiety and can’t handle it when you leave a room.
Move over Millennials and Gen Z, Bruno has you beat when it comes to FOMO.
I think every pet has a preferred parent. It could be the one who gives out extra treats when the other isn’t looking, or the one who snuggles them on the couch. In my case, I have become Bruno’s “person” because I’m the one who takes him on long walks every day.
These walks serve a dual purpose: 30 minutes of exercise for me (at least) and hopefully wearing out Bruno so that he will take a nice, long nap. Because a tired dog, is a well-behaved dog.
And because I’m Bruno’s person, he is extremely attached to me. And he’s afraid I’m going to do something fun (read: go outside for a walk) without him. It’s like having a very unflattering stalker.
Bruno’s FOMO looks something like this:
I spared you all and didn’t post a photo of Bruno joining me in the bathroom every time I’m in there, standing in front of me, staring at me.
In the early spring, when we started going out again, we could not leave the house without Bruno freaking out. He’d be in his crate, scratching at the bottom like crazy, whining and crying. One time, he moved his crate halfway across the kitchen floor because he was trying to get out so badly! We were prisoners in our own home! It took a bit of training, leaving for short periods, and some “herbal” remedies of a spray and some calming drops to get him to be calm when we put him in his crate when it’s time for us to go out.
We didn’t know when we adopted him he’d become velcro dog, but I suppose being with us 24/7 trained him to think we’d always be around. Sometimes Bruno’s FOMO is cute and it makes me feel very loved and admired…at a very close distance. And I hear that Rockwell song in my head, “(I Always Feel Like), Somebody’s Watching Me…”