Monday, March 30, 2015

Easy Crock-Pot Beef Roast

A tender beef roast is one of my favorite comfort foods.  I remember being SO excited when my mom would bring out a roast with carrots and potatoes!  My brother and I ate as many of the carrots as we could - my poor parents probably never got any.  I guess that's the plight of the parent...if your kids are excited about eating let them eat all the carrots.

This past weekend, we made a roast while Travis' parents were in town.  Now that I'm involved in the cookin', it's important for the preparation to be quick (since we have Owen).  That's why the Crock-Pot is your best friend.

This roast takes about 10 minutes to prep (it's all "open and dump") and 5 hours to cook.  Can't get much easier than that!


Beef roast
1 pound baby carrots
18 ounces sliced mushrooms
Large onion, chopped
Large red pepper, chopped
2 pouches Lipton dry onion soup mix
1 can Cream of Mushroom soup (10.5 ounces)
1 can Cream of Onion soup (10.5 ounces)
1-2 cans water (use empty soup cans), depending on how much you need
Salt & Pepper


Place beef roast in bottom of Crock-Pot.
Add carrots, sliced mushrooms, chopped onion, and chopped red pepper.
Add Cream of Mushroom and Cream of Onion Soups.
Sprinkle in 2 pouches of dry onion soup mix, salt and pepper.
Pour in 1-2 cans of water, depending on how much liquid you need.  (Start with one and see if more is needed later.)
Cook on high for 5 hours or until beef is cooked through.
If serving directly from Crock-Pot, cut beef into slices and return to pot.

We served ours with half a baked potato (it's yummy to spoon over the potato!) and broccoli!


Saturday, March 28, 2015

Bald Eagle Nest in West Newton - in our backyard!

Our little street here in West Newton has had a lot of excitement over the last few weeks.  A bald eagle couple has taken up residence and regularly hangs out in the trees behind our house!  Our street list-serve has been sending sighting announcements back and forth so others can try to catch a glimpse, and we've finally figured out they're building a nest at the end of our street.  This is very exciting - if all goes well they'll be here all year!

Friday, I stood outside and watched one of them fly back and forth with sticks for about 30 minutes.  Another neighbor watched both work on their nest earlier that day.

It's pretty amazing!

Here are a few shots of our new friend(s).

He accidentally dropped that giant stick, and it fell to the ground.  

Eagle butt!

Photo by my neighbor, Paul Shoemaker, before they'd found their home

Another shot on a cloudy day

Last week, Travis' parents came up for a visit.  Travis' mom LOVES bird-watching and was ready to take our eagle's picture. We were certain we'd see them at least once while they were here, even though sightings had become less frequent...

We took walks several times a day to their favorite spots, and even drove around to other sites where they'd been spotted, hoping Jenny would be able to see one of them.  Owen especially enjoys looking for eagles...

Finally, the next-to-last day they were here, we found a bird.  Even though it wasn't the eagle, it was fun to see this beautiful hawk who must have kicked the eagle off his regular tree.

After 5 days of looking, it was time for Terry and Jenny to go home.  We did one more sweep around the neighborhood and took them to the airport.  On the way, we joked that we'd see them again now that they were leaving.

Well...Travis, Owen and I returned home, pulled into the parking spot behind our house, and BAM!  Before we could even turn off the car, the eagle landed right in front of us, on the baseball field in our backyard!  We couldn't believe it.

We jumped out of the car as he flew away.  Travis watched both of them swoop around the field and I managed to get one picture of him through the trees.  Poor Jenny.

If you live in the area and would like to know where the nest is, comment below with your email address and I'll share.  (Don't want to post someone's address on the internet!)

Update:  After posting, someone from Mass Audubon contacted me to hear more about our neighborhood eagles.  Here's what she had to say about them...

"This is really exciting to say the least. A bit more on this pair. The location is really intriguing. Eagles typically chose a site near the water, and if they were going to nest in that area I would have expected a site along the Charles River, not half a mile away, and certainly not in a suburban back yard. The pair consists of a full adult male and a 4th year female. The only difference between the male and female is size - as with all raptors, the female is larger. You can tell she's a 4th year because although she has a white head and tail, there are still traces of darker plumage on the face and tail as evidenced on your photo "another shot on a cloudy day." This is extremely late in the year for breeding since most breeding eagles now have young. So, I think this pair is just getting ready for next year - strengthening their pair bond by cooperatively starting a nest. Eagles will use the same nest year after year, so the efforts won't be wasted. If by any chance they do breed this year I wouldn't be surprised if the nest failed."

Friday, March 27, 2015

Date Night at the SuperLux!

Last week, Travis and I had the privilege of going on a date.  Yep...a real date that didn't include Owen!  Travis' parents were up for a long weekend and were gracious enough to keep Owen so we could get away for a few hours.

We have been hearing really great things about the SuperLux theater in Chestnut Hill (outside of Boston) and wanted to see a movie there.  It did NOT disappoint!  What an awesome experience!

The Showcase Superlux isn't your typical movie theater.  Dark wood, modern furniture, full bar...who knew movie-going could be such a swanky experience!  We seriously felt under-dressed.

After hanging out in the lobby for a little while, we were ushered to our theater and seats.  None of that checking-the-ticket-and-sending-you-on-your-way're ushered to your theater here!  They explained what was included in our ticket and how to order dinner, and left us to look over the menu.

We thought we might be the only ones at the movie.  Who else would be going to see Imitation Game (a movie that has been out for a month) on a Thursday at 5pm?  We had the theater to ourselves for a while, but finally 4 or 5 others wandered in.

With the SuperLux ticket, you get your own, reserved leather recliner.  Every two recliners are separated from another set, so you're not right next to a stranger - pretty nice!  The seats were soft, the feet reclined all the way out and there was enough room in in front of the seats for people to walk in front of you.  It's a bummer to have to put your feet up and down at other theaters with reclining chairs when there isn't enough room for those in the middle to get through (#FirstWorldProblems).  Every seat also has a call button for your waiter, if you need a refill or want to order some food during the movie.

Back to the food:  the menu was great - lots of options and creative apps!  We ordered Steak & Cheese Springrolls with spicy ketchup, the SuperLux Burger with guacamole (to split), and drinks (Travis got a S'mores martini and I got a mango strawberry mixed drink).  Everything was delicious.

Buttered popcorn and drink refills are included in the price of the ticket (along with a $5 food credit per ticket), so we asked for those immediately (of course!).  I rarely order popcorn at theaters, so I'd forgotten how good it is!  Maybe that's a good thing...

The movie was fantastic - now I see what all the fuss was about!  It was so nice to go to the movies without neon signs, loud music, or long lines.  It was a quiet evening, which is what I really needed since I haven't been feeling like myself lately.

After the movie, we decided to walk around the Chestnut Hill Mall for a while.  I haven't been to that mall without a purpose before, so I didn't realize how small it was!  So much for walking around a lot.  We spent most of our time in Brooks Brothers marveling at how CRAZY EXPENSIVE everything was.  I'm used to Brooks Brothers outlets...holy cow, prices are different at the real thing!

Guess how much the shoe below cost.  No really...guess...


I don't get it.

Before heading home, we swung past Cheesecake Factory and picked up a few slices to split with Trav's parents back at the house.

It was a fun night out with my sweetest husband!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Monte Cristo Recipe

Brunch is one of my favorite meals of the day.  Sausage and Cheese Casserole, cinnamon and nutmeg pancakes, or a yummy Monte Cristo sandwich.  Today I'm going to share our recipe for the delicious Monte Cristo!

It's really the epitome of "brunch" - it's a ham and cheese sandwich, dipped in egg and cooked like french toast.  Perfect.  We especially love to make these when using up leftover ham. Use honey mustard to kick the dish up a notch!


Oatmeal bread
Swiss cheese
Honey mustard
Maple syrup
Powdered sugar (optional)
Jam (optional)


Make your sandwich: ham, Swiss cheese and honey mustard.  (You could even add a little mayo if you wanted!)

Whisk together eggs and milk (1 egg per sandwich + generous splash of milk).

Spray frying pan with Pam cooking spray and turn burner on low/medium.

Dip each side of sandwich in egg/milk mixture and place in frying pan.

Cook for 4-6 minutes (or until side is browned) on each side.

Serve immediately with maple syrup, powdered sugar and fruit or jam.


Monday, March 23, 2015

My battle with postpartum depression

I wrote this post a few weeks ago, and since then, have thought a lot about whether I should hit "publish" and share it with the world.  I'm still not sure it's a good idea - probably too much too soon - but I want to be real.

It hasn't been all smiles and giggles over here the last 3 months.  My baby is amazing.  My husband is amazing.  Our family and friends have been so loving and helpful.  But it's been hard.  Here's a quick view of what's happened in the last 3 months.

 - After 36 hours of labor, I had a c-section
 - I got mastitis
 - Everyone in my house (except Owen and me) got norovirus on Christmas day
 - Migraines overcame my life
 - Nursing was so impossible I had to stop
 - My incision popped open and husband had to clean and pack it until it finally closed
 - I got food poisoning and had to be in the hospital for 2 days
 - We got more than 108 inches of snow and were stuck in our house

If that wasn't enough (trust was more than enough), I also have postpartum depression.  There...I said it.  I have postpartum depression.

This is one of those "pregnancy things" no one talks about, which I think actually think makes it scarier.  Everyone talks about stretch marks, how hard it is to lose baby weight, and not sleeping...but when it comes to a lot of the big and scary things after the baby is born...crickets.

I've always been someone who thrives and REQUIRES a lot of social interaction.  I'm at my best when there are 100 things going on and love the fast pace of my job.  I love being busy and caring for others.  Postpartum depression turned all of that upside down in just a few weeks.

Stimulation was (and is) my nightmare.  If the TV was on, someone was talking to me, and another was on the phone, I felt like I would jump out of my skin.  Public places or large groups of people were completely out of the question.  I needed breaks from my baby, who I just wanted to hold.  Anything stressful gave me nightmares.  For no reason at all I'll become completely overwhelmed and anxious.  It's nothing like I've ever experienced before, and it sucks.  I was (am) a wreck.

Thankfully I have a support system (family, friends, coworkers, physicians) who have helped care for Travis, Owen and me.  I've also gotten help from amazing doctors who, in addition to helping me work through this, fought for me to get an extension on my short term disability.  Now I have a few more weeks before resuming normal life.  My medicine is helping, and I'm learning techniques to help me keep calm in situations that I know will trigger anxiety.  I've realized that this is not about circumstances or's about hormones.

I hope you don't feel lied to from my posts.  I AM happy.  I have the most amazing little family and know how blessed I am for that.  This has been one of the best and worst times of my life, which is why it's been so hard.

I'm certainly not well, but am so much better than I was...and eventually I'll be back to normal.

If you're experiencing postpartum depression, I encourage you to reach out to a friend, family member, your OB, or a stranger...whoever you can talk to...because it WILL get better.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

I discovered Children's Orchard

This afternoon I made an amazing discovery...Children's Orchard!  I was in Burlington at the mall, walking around, and remembered a friend had mentioned a really great children's second-hand store in Billerica.  After a little googling, I decided she must have been talking about Children's Orchard, and I was on my way.

The store wasn't huge, but was packed to the brim with clothes, toys, strollers, and baby accessories.  Thankfully the sections were nicely marked, so I knew exactly where to go to start my search.

I must admit, second-hand stores (and even places like an untidy Marshall's or sales racks that are just thrown together) often times drive me crazy.  If things are a big mess, I can't deal.  I love a good bargain, but can't stand sifting thru a mess for an hour to maybe end up with one piece.  Thankfully, Children's Orchard wasn't like this.  In my opinion, if the racks are more organized, you're going to sell more (at least you will to me!) because someone will look longer!  ...that's exactly what happened here.

I (and Owen) racked up!

He got 2 summer hats and 8 outfits for $40...all in great shape (no stretched necks or spots), and some with the original tags still on them!  I actually picked out about twice as much as I went home with, but put most back so I could still face husband when I got home.  Hehe...

Now a look at the loot!

Left - Genuine Major League Merchandise Red Sox romper ($4.99)
Middle - Adidas  Red Sox onesie ($2.99)
Right - Carter's shirt and puppy overalls ($4.99)

Left - Ralph Lauren Polo Romper *with the tag still on* ($5.99)
Middle Top - Plaid The Children's Place hat (normally $10-12, purchased for $2.99)
Lower Top - Faded Glory collared onesie ($2.99)
Right - Carter's romper ($3.99)

Top - Gymboree hat ($2.99)
Two Carter's sleveless rompers ($3.99 each)

I passed on a Bumbo chair that I'm now regretting - it was $18!  Maybe I'll convince myself to go back later and see if it's still there.

If you're in the Boston area, it's worth it to make a trip to Children's Orchard!

Even better, they have franchise locations (can't speak about the other stores, but I assume they're good, too!) in Alaska, California, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Nevada, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin!

Get to shoppin', mamas!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Baby Shower Activity: Make a "Wish Tree"

I'm not into most baby shower games.  What pregnant lady wants her friends to guess how big her waist is (Lord help the person who goes way over...) or taste candy bars in diapers?  I'd much rather do something that will last forever!

I was tossing around a few ideas for shower activities - it was between three things:

- writing messages on diapers to make the new parents smile during those late-night changes
- decorating onesies
- a wish tree

I decided to go for the wish tree because it's seriously one of the sweetest things ever.  We made one for my friend Laci at her baby shower last year and everyone loved it.  These two special little girls needed one too.  Here's how it works!

Everyone writes down wishes or things they are excited for the girls to experience as they grow up on a leaf.  They can range from kisses from their puppy, their first school dance, to cuddles with mommy...anything goes!  This is nice because people can do it at their own pace while you're eating or chatting, and do as many (or few) as they'd like.  Later, everyone reads their wishes for the mom-to-be and puts them on the tree to be hung in the nursery.

You can either reach out to family members and other good friends who aren't able to attend before the shower to include their wishes, or leave some space on the tree for others to add to later.  We decided to do a mixture - Barb's sisters and nieces sent in some wishes ahead of time that we were able to share at the shower, and her husband and other friends will fill out their own later!

To make this, you'll need:

A large frame
White paper
Acrylic paint (1 color for the background, 1 color for the tree)
Assorted paint samples (from Lowe's or Home Depot)

First, you'll need to cut out the leaves.  Barb sent a picture of their nursery a few weeks ago, so thankfully I knew what colors to pick out when standing in front of the paint sample section.  You could do all one color, different shades of a color, or a mix like I did.

(Funny story...I was really uncomfortable getting all the paint samples at Lowes.  I know they're free, but I felt like I was stealing!  3 people asked me if needed help and I told them I was just I discretely stuffed paint samples into my purse.  I even held them up and pretended to compare them.  I'm a dork.)

Then, plan out your tree.  There will need to be enough branches to hold lots of leaves, but few enough so there's room for the leaves to live.  Take the back of the frame out of the glass and tape white paper together so it covers the entire surface.  Sketch out your tree with a marker on the paper.

Owen photo-bomb'd the picture!
Lay our your leaves to make sure there's enough room for them to live without feeling "scrunched" so you know if you need to adjust the limbs.

Now it's time to start painting!

Pick out your background color and apply 2 coats on the board of the frame.  Once it's completely dry, cut around the tree you drew on the paper and place on the board.  Cut away piece by piece, drawing what you see under that place (this helps keep the proportions you just double checked with leaves!).

Then fill out your outline and let dry!

Here's a look at the (almost) finished product (they still have to add more leaves from additional family and friends) in their nursery!  Looks pretty great, doesn't it?

What are some of your favorite baby shower activities?

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Roasted Cabbage and Carrots

Last month, while we were in North Carolina visiting our families, Travis' mom made us one of the most yummy side dishes...cabbage and carrots with a splash of lemon and garlic.  You  need to try it.  Seriously.

This is on our regular rotation of meals now - it's healthy, cheep and delicious - perfect!


1/2 head of cabbage
6 oz shredded carrots
1.5-2 Tablespoons olive oil
Lemon juice (1 Tablespoon + extra)
Garlic powder


Chop cabbage, separate leaves and discard hard white pieces.

Place into a Pyrex dish with carrots.

Toss in olive oil, 1 Tablespoon lemon juice, garlic powder and salt.

Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until done.

Add another splash of lemon juice and serve!

You won't be disappointed!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Owen is 3 months old - likes, dislikes, and my thoughts

Well, we officially have a 3 month old baby!

I can't believe it's been 3 months since we welcomed this little guy into our lives.  It's been the most exciting, exhausting, wonderful, trying, fulfilling, and frustrating time that I wouldn't trade for anything in the world.

People have asked me several times if it's true that you don't know what love is until you have a baby.  I think it is true, but not for the reasons you'd think.  I love this baby to the moon and back, and having a baby has made my heart double in size...but not just for him.  It's made me love my husband more as I watch him care for our little one, our families as we see their excitement about their first grandchild/niece/nephew, and our friends as they help care for us as we learned to care for Owen.  Sure, my love for Owen is different...but part of the reason it's different is because it's something special I share with my husband, who I love so much.

Owen's growing and changing like crazy!  He's now over 15 pounds and is still in the 98th percentile for length AND head circumference!  He's a long little guy!

He's becoming a champ at holding his head up and loves to be upright now.  He either wants to be walked around, sit up in your lap, or stand (more like river dance) on your legs.

Owen and his friend Luke doing tummy time on their boppies...supervised by Toby

3 month babies...just chillin...

He's definitely a mover and a shaker. I can honestly recognize some of his favorite "moves" from his days in my belly.  I'll see him throw his arm in the air and kick like crazy and think, "that sure does look familiar...".  So cool.  Yesterday, he rolled over for the first time!  SO exciting!  See a video here.

Owen loves his puppy.  We've joked since before he was born that Toby was the "baby sitter", when he would try to sit on my belly.  That tradition has continued, and Toby loves sitting, cuddling, licking, and playing with his new friend.  Thankfully Owen is a big fan of his puppy too.  When Toby curls up next to him, Owen reaches out and pets him!  Best friends already!

Owen loves baths (especially getting his hair washed) and playing with his toys (rings, giraffe, blue puppy, play mat, or the foot keyboard in his crib).  He's happiest being cuddled or sitting in his vibrating chair, but also likes to just hang out on the couch beside us.

Here's a video of Owen and his keyboard...composing just like his dad!

Thankfully he's still sleeping like a champ.  He has slept through the night since 3 weeks (please don't hate me...), and is now going to bed at 10 and sleeping until 7:30-8am!

Owen also enjoys making NOISE!  This baby loves to jabber. Here's a video of Owen "chatting" with me when he was 3 weeks old.

Recently, jabbering is turning into squeals and laughs!  His first "real" laugh was a few weeks ago...and super adorable.  He also loves sputtering and blowing bubbles, and has started drooling all the time, so we've always got a burp cloth ready to wipe his little mouth.

The "don't likes" are a shorter list!

When Owen's hungry, he's HUNGRY!  There's no warm-up phase...he goes from 0 to 60 in 5 seconds, so we've got to be ready with a bottle.  He hates burping (or gas in general) and isn't a fan of baby mittens - he wants to use those fingers!

He's also a tummy-time-hater, so we spend most of the time strengthening his neck on his boppy or in our laps (like you saw above).

And that's about it.  He's generally a happy-go-lucky baby.

We love this little bug!