Plant Motherhood – A Journey

If the title and content of this blog post seem a bit…farfetched, please note they are. I recognize that the whole “plant mom” title has taken on a life of its own and it’s one that I may have previously thought was over the top. I’m still not the biggest fan, however I have changed my mind in some respects. I’ve felt the pride of a new bloom from a dormant plant, the tender care required of some plants (and the almost forgetfulness needed for others), and, most importantly, I’ve successfully kept these plants alive and healthy long enough that I feel like I can actually share about them haha! We’re actually reaching the end of the growing season, and therefore the end of my full-on purchasing/propagating/trading of plants and so, I wanted to share where things stand at now. 

But maybe we should go back to the beginning?

I’ve always loved plants, always grown up around them (similar to books), but I’ve never been particularly good with them. Most of the plants in my mother’s collection require very little care and, in my fathers, a good amount (at the time- this is no longer the case) were bonsai- which are some of the most finicky plants there are (I say this from experience and several accidents). I’ve always loved the idea of an outdoor garden, if only we stayed in one place truly long enough to cultivate one, but indoor plants were one of those “if only” dreams. I quite honestly didn’t know if I trusted myself to know what I was doing. And once I started to, life started to get in the way as it does. We had a dog, we had a baby, then another baby, and then we moved abroad where we couldn’t take/bring back plants. 

However, while we were in Germany, I started to dabble. Plants were so inexpensive there that it was hard not to in a way. There wasn’t a huge financial output if I struggled, and they were pretty regularly available from just about anywhere you went. So, I picked up a plant…then another…and then another. I didn’t go too crazy as we were traveling and eventually, we would be moving back (it wasn’t like a domestic move where you can gently box and drive the ones you want to keep), but I managed to do pretty well with them. When it was time to come back to The States, I passed mine along to a friend and vowed to actually make an attempt with indoor plants. I love the idea of having plants around, they not only clean your air, but they bring a sense of peace, calm, and happiness to your home. 

Luckily for me (or maybe not so luckily haha) we live a 15-minute drive from an incredible greenhouse that sources plants and fresh produce and was able to basically supply everything I could ever need to create my own little oasis. And create I did. 

I have spread the plants out into every nook and cranny in our home, short of the boy’s room and the library/play area (several reasons for this both relating to air temp and light and two little boys) and it has infinitely changed the very makeup of our home. The boys LOVE them (the greenhouse is one of their favorite places to go) and will help water and pot new ones. I’ll have a slideshow or layout of all the current plants as they are now, but I’ll also list out all the current plants I’ve got in there “lament terms” as I don’t know all the actual scientific names as well as if there is any little gem in how I got them. 

ZZ Raven – This has been a wish list plant since I started buying plants upon our return to the States. 

Snake Plant

Monstera Deliciosa- this is actually a propagation from a good friend here! I currently have two. 

Pincushion Peperomia

Baby Monstera – one of the first plants I picked up from our local greenhouse!

Neon Philodendron – picked up while on vacation in Upstate (HERE).

Peperomia Polybotrya- also known as the raindrop peperomia this guy is just so stunning and I picked him up on a whim at the greenhouse during a sale. 

Monstera Adonsonii – easily one of my favorites in my collection and probably just my favorite all around. I said what I said. 

String of Hearts – I picked this up when our greenhouse had an incredible BOGO sale, and I was SO excited to get my hands on it. I’ve been eyeing them for a while, wanting a more established plant of this that I can then propagate from. However, I ended up having to completely dismantle and propagate this one due to an overwater/fungus gnat situation. I ended up with a strand or two of solid growth, so I’m hoping I can slowly bring it through. 

String of Pearls

Escargot Begonia – I could NOT help myself- this was just so little and so cute. 

Ficus Elastica Ruby – this is a beautiful plant and adds a pop of color

A pot of Adonsonii, Raphidophora, and Monstera Deliciosa – I saw a youtuber do this and I was determined to see if I could make this combo work in my own home. 

Marble Pothos

Philodendron Birken – this guy has been through the ringer, but I think he might be coming back on the other side.

Nanouk Tradescantia

Spider Plant – This is plant number one (of two potted ones), a propagated one from my mom, it contains a total of three propagated plants.

Watermelon Peperomia

2 Cacti – these are just cute little bits; I feel like cactus can just be a fun pop in a home. 

Peperomia tetragona – the Parallel peperomia

Spider Plant – This is plant number two and it’s been through a little trial. A little overwatering, a little too little light, a little too much direct cool air, BUT it’s bouncing back nicely and showing some perkiness and good light. (It’s crazy because these are some of the easiest plants).

Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma – also known as the mini monstera these are known to be fast growers and climbers- I ended up having to chop and propagate this baby (a word of the wise- ALWAYS check your roots, no matter where you get the plant from) so crossing my finger that this works out well and I can bring it back from the brink haha.

Rainbow Tradescantia – she’s just an absolute beaut!

Cupid Peperomia

Aloe

Philodendron Mican- I’ve now got two of these in my home. The first one I purchased is a maybe, I’m not sure, it’s got the velvet nature, but the coloring is off as all get out. It suffered in the big box store of massive over watering (think borderline root rot) and has been slowly coming back from that. 

Syngonium (1&2)- One of these is a propagation gone very well, the other I picked up from a local spot.

Fittonia

Peperomia Little Toscani I’ve found that I really like when plants have this silvery/pearly sheen to the tops of the leaves, and this was definitely purchased just because of that. 

Heartleaf Ice Plant- this was a total “pretty pink flowers and green and white leaves” purchase and for less than $4 I got this gorgeous little succulent. 

Pilea Glauca Aquamarine – easily one of my best growers, this plant is just beautiful

Scindapsus Treubii Sterling Silver – another wish list plant I got incredibly lucky to stumble on this in a local Walmart and snap it up. 

And that’s it for now! I don’t plan on getting a large amount more until next spring, but I’ll be keeping my eye out on different options. I definitely still have quite the wish list of plants, but I’m trying to take it slow (haha- this is probably funny to you if you’ve made it this far in this post).

A Morning in Salem

It’s officially October, officially the Spooky Month, and officially time for me to talk about our stop during our Summer Holiday (HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE) that I haven’t yet. I’ve been waiting, because to me, Salem is the heart of October, and while we went during the middle of Summer, I held on to that spooky feeling the entire time. We only stopped for a few hours, for several reasons, and didn’t do much, but it was a really exciting stop. 

With all of that, it’s definitely time for me to level with you…I went to Salem mostly for Hocus Pocus. I wanted to see the history, pay homage to those who were killed during the Witch Trials and learn their stories, but I also very much wanted to stop at certain points for filming purposes to see them for myself. There was A LOT more that we could have done, but after leaving Boston, the boys were tired, it was sunny and hot, and so we tried to limit our stops. 

So, a little recap on Salem history…

Salem was founded in 1626 by a group of immigrants from Cape Ann, with the Massachusetts Bay Company arriving two years later in 1628 to settle it for the Puritans. Over the following decades the town grows, militia is established (Salem would later be recognized as the birthplace of the National Guard), trade is established, a cemetery is created (“Old Burying Ground” or Charter Street Cemetery), a custom house is built to deal with taxes, and so on. In 1668 the House of Seven Gables is built, known later as a home of Nathaniel Hawthorne, and in 1675 the Witch House is completed, which played a large role in the Salem Witch Trials as one of the presiding judges lived there and some cases were heard in the home.  Finally, in 1692 the Salem Witch Trials, what would bring this little town to the history books, began. I think we all have a fairly good idea of what the Salem Witch Trials were, but you can read through HERE to get a good look into that history. The trials concluded (after a whopping 3 months and an accusation levered at the governor’s wife) with at least 20 dead by ruling and many others dying in prison. 

After the trials, life in Salem quieted down for a time until 1775 when Salem conducted the first armed resistance of the Revolution. The British were attempting to collect ammunition that had been stored in the town, but the militia of Salem successfully blocked them. The town of Salem continues to grow and expand and in 1799 a group of Sea Captains worked together to found the Peabody Essex Museum, the oldest continuously operating museum in the country. It features culture from the New England area, as well as around the world. 

Once again, a period of time passes; Nathaniel Hawthorne publishes a Salem local book (Fanshawe in 1828 and in 1836 Salem is incorporated as an actual City.  Then, thanks to Nathaniel Hawthorne, Salem comes back in the spotlight with the publishing of The Scarlet Letter in 1850. The residents were not a fan as they felt it mis portrayed the residents. However, Hawthorne followed up with The House of the Seven Gables, which turned the house into one of the most famous historic houses in the country. In 1866 Salem held the first public demonstration of a long-distance phone call. 

After a massive and devastating fire in 1914, and a National Historic Site designation in 1938, Salem becomes part of pop culture when the seventh season of the show Bewitched is filmed in town. This reignites interest in the city and the city starts to lean a bit more into its…darker past. In 1982 it hosted a one-day Haunted Happenings Festival, which still continues to this day (every October for the entire month now) and offers a variety of spooky and historical events to attend. You can see the site HERE if you’re interested! 

In 1992 they added the Witch Trials Memorial, which is simple, but contains stone benches around the perimeter with the names of every accused witch along with the execution date.  Finally, in 1993 Hocus Pocus is released into theatres and catapults Salem not only from the history books, but into a constant pop culture sphere (in my opinion). Fun fact, the very very opening scenes (think like opening credits) were actually filmed overhead the Plymouth Patuxet that we visited in Plymouth (you can follow the first link in my vacation above or HERE). 

So, what did we actually manage to see on our quick morning? Well, first I could not help myself but see the house from Hocus Pocus. It’s privately owned and while they don’t mind folks taking photos of the front, be courteous. Don’t leave your trash, don’t block traffic, don’t blast their personal information (such as cars, license plates, etc.) into the online world. We literally pulled over long enough for me to take a couple photos and then we left- a total of maybe 5 minutes. Then, we parked at the downtown mall, paid for two hours parking, and trekked through main street. 

We stopped to pay our respect to the accused Witches at the Memorial, we wandered over to Town Hall, to the Witch House, and stopped at the Ropes Mansion. The main street is absolutely delightful and the perfect spot to buy all your souvenirs, take in the sights, grab a bite to eat and just enjoy the small-town vibes. It was all in all, a delightful stop and I would definitely recommend making a least half a day to a full day to learn the history and take a step into both real life history and a world of pop culture.

A Cuppa Cosy Reads – September 2021

Well, we’ve come to the end of another month and I’m once again sat here wondering…where did the month go??? It was a busy one for us, we traveled at the beginning, and then school started, Autumn sports started, I got a little burned out in doing some forward planning and thinking about all the things that are coming, and it seemed like the world just continued much the way it has been over the past year or two. It was just…wow. You would think I would run to a book, take to reading and escaping even more and yet, it wasn’t a great reading month. I feel like there was a lot of…this was fine/ok, but not a lot of in-depth thoughts happening about really any of the books that I read. It was just a very…meh reading month to be honest. 

For Your Own Good by Samantha Downing 4 Stars  Ok, I was a bit on the fence about this one, but upon reflection I think I enjoyed it more than I thought. We are following a couple of characters at a prestigious private school who all just want the best for themselves/their friends/ their students and will go to whatever lengths to do what they think is right and best. While I think this was good and well done, and I enjoyed the overall concept, I do feel like there could have been a bit of change or editing. There were a couple bits that were…unnecessary? Or were intended to be like red herrings, but in reality, had just nothing to do with anything. 

Never Saw Me Coming by Vera Kurlan 4 Stars Ah, if I had to guess, I would say this was the book that started the reading mood I found myself in as the month wore on. There is just something to be said about reading a book from a variety of psychopath’s perspectives that will…just do something to you. Now, don’t get me wrong I really liked this book- the hunter becomes the hunted? Yes please. BUT there is something about reading from points of views of people who don’t “feel” as we do that just makes it…a struggle. 

Defy the Night by Brigid Kemmerer 4 Stars I think that Kemmerer is just one of my go to light romance, light fantasy authors that I know will give me a book that I enjoy and captivates me. This was my fourth of hers that I’ve read and, similar to the other three, I enjoyed this one. 

To Be Taught If Fortunate by Becky Chambers 3 Stars This is a novella that is space centered, like many of her other books. I don’t have a lot to say about this one as it was shorter, but I will say (and maybe this is because it was shorter) but what I will say is there is quite a bit more of the “science-y” stuff that I struggled with in this one. 

Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé 4 Stars I think this was probably one of my most unnerving books that I read this year. This is an academic thriller, with very much Gossip Girl vibes (a mystery person sending out texts that harm others reputations), but with much more sinister undertones and connotations. It hits you in a way that you don’t expect when you find out the common denominator (though as a reader I feel like we figure it out much faster), but it brings up quite a bit of good social commentary that could start some very important social commentary.

The Royals Next Door by Karina Halle 4 Stars This is the final book I’m going to talk about, the final book I’ve read at this point, and the easiest fastest read of the month. I think I’ve settled on my overly specific romance genre I prefer- which is royal or royal adjacent romances. In this case, the neighbor and the bodyguard. It’s good, some of the romantic thoughts made me giggle, and there was definitely some smut, but also some sweetness. A true win to the end of the month. 

I’m sure I’ll still read another book before the month ends, or maybe I won’t this month has been a strange one in terms of reading. What about you?

A Weekend in the Finger Lakes

Our final trip of the Summer was over Labor Day weekend and involved over 12 miles of hiking! It was a last-minute trip of sorts as we wanted to do something but didn’t know if schedules would work out for us to go anywhere. When it came out that we were going to be able to make it work, we decided to opt for a weekend in nature. We are a big “outdoors” active family, we love walking and hiking as a key part of our travel. I personally am a big water person (think lakes, streams, waterfalls, NOT beach). So, we decided to opt for a weekend in the Finger Lakes Region of New York. 

The Finger Lakes is a region in New York featuring ~11 lakes that run North to South. The Finger Lakes were actually formed during the last ice age when glaciers in the area receded to form these unique gorgeous lakes that do look like fingers from above. Each lake even has its own “claim to fame”, with Skaaneateles Lake being considered one of the cleanest lakes in the United States, Keuka Lake (the third largest) being a “crooked lake” like Lake Cuomo as well as for providing an excellent microclimate for wine. Cayuga is the longest lake in the grouping, running just under 40 miles and 435 ft deep. Seneca Lake is the largest by volume, with 618 ft deep. Finally, in fun facts, Canadice Lake – the smallest of all the lakes- is the most “untouched” of all the lakes making it the perfect peaceful spot for hikers and wildlife. 

Though the Finger Lakes have been existence for quite a long time, they weren’t actually referred to as “The Finger Lakes” until the 1800’s. The region was home to several Iroquois Tribes, which are referenced and respected throughout the areas you visit. The Tribes were actually able to fend of colonization for quite a long time, some of the last in their area to be colonized after putting up a large fight. 

Ultimately The Finger Lakes region is known for Waterfalls & Wine (or Beer), making it a pretty perfect vacation destination. This region is actually the main wine region in New York. In some ways it reminded me of Lauterbrunnen Switzerland (although, much to my disappointment it is very much not Switzerland- haha), in that you can be driving or walking down a road, look to your side and there is a waterfall. It is also the home to Watkins Glen International Raceway, which is home to several races of varying caliber drivers. 

We decided to explore the more Southern Region of the Finger Lakes, Seneca Lake and Cayuga Lake. Our initial plan was to RV or camp in the area, but a) camping wasn’t going to be an option and b) RV sites (and RV rentals) book up months and months in advance. So, instead we booked a hotel in Horsehead (which was all that was available!) to stay in. I will say, in some ways this would have been the only thing I would have changed about our trip. We spent 75% of our time out in the woods, in nature, and to leave that to come back to a hotel was a bit jarring. Otherwise, it was the perfect weekend. 

Our first stop was Buttermilk Falls State Park.

This is a park featuring a foaming cascade of waterfalls coming from an offshoot creek heading towards Cayuga Lake. There is a large amount of hiking trails throughout the park as well as camping, RV, Cabin, and Cottage sites to stay in the park. We walked the Gorge and Rim Trail, which allows you to see the different water spots. There are a couple of trickier spots to navigate, but overall, I would say these two trails are fairly easy for any level of hiker. I did not actually where my hiking boots for this trail or the next if that tells you anything. As for the falls themselves, these were pretty incredible to see. They are definitely a cascade effect, so you’ll be able to see several different smaller falls that lead down to the bigger Buttermilk Falls at the “bottom”. From Buttermilk Falls State Park we went over to the sister park of Robert H Treman State Park.

Similar to Buttermilk this State Park is home to not only waterfalls, but also campsites, hiking spots, AND (unlike Buttermilk) you are able to swim in the stream fed pool at the base of a waterfall. There are two waterfall spots; the one I previously mentioned that you can swim in and then the Lucifer Falls which is a 115-foot waterfall. Now, normally you would be able to hike through Enfield Glen gorge and get up close and personal with Lucifer Falls, however when we went there was a section that was closed, so we weren’t able to hike it down. We still managed to hike the trail opposite and see the falls in all of their glory, which were incredible. The trail was a bit more up and down than Buttermilk, but otherwise still pretty straightforward. After that we decided to call it a day, head to the hotel and let the kids do a bit of swimming in the pool. 

The next morning we were up bright and early to head to what became the real highlight of the trip: Watkins Glen State Park. I’ll say it here and now, Watkins Glen State Park was my favorite of the whole weekend hands down. The Park and falls were beautiful and expansive, the gorge trail was easy to navigate and if you walk the gorge in, the rim out, you get the perfect mix of both water and woods. 

The gorge was formed over time, starting during the same glacial event that formed the Finger Lakes.  As the water of Glen Creek cascades through the glen, cutting away at the rock. This is an ever-changing gorge, and you can feel that what you are walking through will continue to shift and change and move over time. The gorge opened for tourists in the 1860’s as a privately owned resort destination. In the very early 1900’s, New York State purchased the gorge in an effort to protect the land, the wildlife, and the people who would trek through. The goal was to create a safe and welcoming environment for everyone to enjoy. The stone trails that make walking the gorge so easy were crafted in the 1930’s through a program to help put Americans back to work post Great Depression. 

Like many of the other State Parks we’ve visited, there are camping options in the park, both primitive and basic cabins. The hiking trails were fairly easy (the official pamphlet calls them “moderate to challenging”), but I would definitely wear some sort of hiking shoe boot as the trails are wet. Another thing to note is that the Gorge trail does close during winter so you’ll want to keep that in mind as you plan a trip, and I would highly highly recommend walking the gorge trail. It’s incredible. 

We spent a good 2-3 hours in the park before wandering through the main street of town and over to Seneca Lake. We had a little snack and walk to the end of the pier at the lake before heading out. We stopped over to Shequaga Falls, which were easily the most incredible “side of the road” waterfalls as well as Hector Falls. From there we decided to do end our weekend on a high note of things for the boys and went to look at the international speedway and play a round of mini golf. 

Our final stop on our weekend was Taughannock Falls State Park. Taughannock Falls is a 215-foot waterfall right near Cayuga Lake. Like many of the other parks we’ve been to, it provides hiking, campsites, and cabins, along with a boat launch and marina for Cayuga Lake. We walked the Gorge Trail, and it was probably the easiest walk we did the entire weekend, the most accessible for anyone. I’ll be honest, the great thing about these falls is the accessibility, you can easily see them from above or below and while they are really nice, but they weren’t a highlight. 

And that really rounds up our weekend in the Finger Lakes! It was easily one of my top long weekend trips (rivaled by…of course Switzerland) and I think that it was the perfect way to close out the summer. As I previously stated, I do wish that we had camped/RV’d or stayed a little more remote in a cabin, but it was still a phone trip and the boys got to have a little hotel pool time. 

A Weekend Upstate

One of our final Summer Hurrahs was a weekend in the greater Albany region. We spent a total of 3 nights in Schenectady, exploring Saratoga Springs, Schenectady, and Albany. It was a relaxed weekend trip that covered quite a few cute spots. Our first evening was spent getting settled into our Airbnb and heading over to a nearby park for some live music. We didn’t really “start” our exploring until the next morning. 

Fueled with some delicious bagels, we headed out for a day in Saratoga Springs. Saratoga Springs is really known for two things, horse racing and spring spas. The city’s slogan is actually “Health, History, Horses”. We started with the latter and ended with the former. So, Spring Spa’s. This dates back to the Native Americans believing that the springs (High Rock Spring) held medicinal properties- this is nothing new, there has long standing been a belief that mineral springs are good for you/your soul/your body/etc. This was then expanded when a British soldier was brought by the Native Americans to the spring to treat wounds from the French and Indian War. 

But back up for a moment… The land was originally “settled” by the British who built the Fort Saratoga in 1691, which was actually now Schuylerville. This is most noted in the location of The Battle of Saratoga, which actually took place in what is now Stillwater and the surrender at Saratoga took place in Schuylerville. Saratoga Springs was settled in 1819, incorporated in 1826, and then became a city in 1915. There are two turning points for tourism in the history, one of which was the arrival of the railroad, which made it much more possible for anyone to visit and be cured by the legendary springs. The second was the doctor Simon Baruch advocating for the “European Spa” (aka springs and bathhouses) coming to America. At one point in time, Saratoga Springs was the home of the largest hotel in the world.

Saratoga Spring State Park was developed in 1962 when the state of New York to control to preserve the springs. The property was then labeled a state park and gained National Historic Landmark status about 25 years later. There is a wide variety of activities to do within the park, between walking trails and taking in the springs, to snowshoe and cross-country skiing in the winter, to golf courses and pools to enjoy. We enjoyed walking along the creek and seeing a couple of the springs, as well as the wells that would have been used in its heyday. 

After we were entirely relaxed from the Springs, we headed over to the excitement of the Racetrack. The Saratoga Racecourse is the fourth oldest racecourse in the US, though many think it is the oldest. The track dates back to 1863 and has been in use almost every year since (notable exceptions would be during an anti-gambling legislation, as well as during World War II). The track itself has three tracks within the complex, a dirt track, a turf track, and a second inner turf track, which offers steeplechase races. We watched I think 4 or 5 races and enjoyed the excitement of the tracks and were swept away in the anticipation of the race. The boys enjoyed it and then were able to go in the kids’ zone to play some games in between. It was a fun way to spend a couple hours and an experience to have (this was my second time going to the races). 

We spent much of the rest of the day wandering the downtown shopping district, popping into bookstores, clothing stores, and tea shops and enjoying the afternoon in the quaint little town. It was a lovely way to spend a day in Saratoga Springs and the city itself is a really nice spot to stop for a weekend of fun and relaxation. 

Our second day of the weekend we headed into Albany. Albany is the state capital of New York (as of 1797) and a relatively modern city in the area (whereas quite a bit still has some original architecture, I saw a much more modern look to Albany). Originally founded by Dutch colonists in 1614 (though inhabited by the Mohican tribe at the time), the city of Albany was officially chartered in 1686 (under the English). The Albany region has its’ own long and storied history involving the Native Americans, the fur trade, and the shipping trade. It is one of the oldest of the original 13 Colonies and the longest continuously chartered city.  We headed into the city with no real plan, just a list of sites we’d like to see. This actually came out to be quite handy as we quickly learned that there is very little open in the city on Monday’s and Tuesdays. Every museum and attraction, save for the State Museum is actually closed those two days of the week. A bit of a bummer, we ended up driving past two of the attractions we wanted to see (The Schuyler House and The USS Slater (DE-766)) so we could still see them, even if we couldn’t tour them. The one place we were actually able to visit was the New York State Museum. Located within the Empire State Plaza (which also houses the State Library and Archives) and across from the Capital, this imposing building and museum details the history of the state of New York. It is the oldest and largest state museum in the US. As we walked through, we learned about the mining activities, the native American presence in the state, the history of New York City and its diverse makeup and neighborhoods. There is also a section devoted to September 11, which was incredibly meaningful and special to see. 

From the state museum we walked over to the Capital (though due to security you are not able to tour it at this time), and up through some of the neighborhood streets, admiring the old architecture (all of which is plaque dated and so awesome). We spent most of the rest of the day stopping in at different antique stores and bookstores as we wandered from little town to little town. 

The final thing we did on this little weekend away was see one of the Erie Canal Locks. The Erie Canal was built to provide a route from the Atlantic to the Great Lakes (Hudson River to Lake Erie was the original stretch). Originally proposed in the 1780’s, it was considered again in 1807, this time gaining approval and funding. Construction started in 1817 and finished in 1825 with a total of 34 locks. At the time water was the most cost-effective way to ship goods (as there were no railways) and this was a way to transport goods at less cost and faster transport. By and large this is considered the most successful human built waterway and one of the most important works of civil engineering in the United States. We saw Lock 7, also known as Vischer Ferry, though we also drove past Lock 8 (and have since seen the Oswego Canal). I will say, the sheer engineering of these locks is impressive, and it was very cool to stand right at the edge and see it first-hand. 

And that was our weekend in Upstate New York.

Round the Kettle Ep. 32: A Few Big Weeks

How has it already been a couple weeks since my last round up? How is it already basically the middle of September??? Maybe it’s just the Labor Day travel, high holidays, first week of school, shifting of schedules that’s getting to me, but man it’s just really felt like the year is winding down. So, let’s touch on all of that?

What’s new with you?

I’m sitting here on a Friday afternoon (and probably a bit of a Saturday or Sunday morning too), in the peace and quiet of my own house with a cup of lady grey tea and some hot Cheetos to snack on. It’s been an absolute whirlwind week and while I’ve felt calm, I’ve also not felt calm, and I feel like I just need to breathe. 

Our week actually started the previous Friday when we headed out on a last summer hurrah trip. I’ll be talking about it not this week, but next week on the blog. It was basically a week of hiking and waterfalls, taking in everything mother nature has to offer and it was absolutely glorious. If I could spend every weekend like that I would. However, we didn’t have much “time to breathe” because the moment we came back it was school prep, Rosh Hashanah, and life amping up once again. 

This week Colton started Kindergarten. He rode the big yellow school bus, waved and went along his way. Happy as he could be, excited to see friends, meet his teacher, and learn everything he could. He has settled right in to going to school every day, though waking up so early (for him) has been a bit tough. I cried a little bit that first morning but have almost immediately reveled in the sheer quiet that only have one child at home can bring. Andrew is quickly going into his groove of Mommy/Andrew adventures, solo toy time, and being a little bit more independent. I will say though, all those goals and plans I had for Colton going to school and that free time I would get? They haven’t happened. I’ve spent most of that time mindlessly scrolling, potchke-ing around the house, and just unsure of what to do with myself. It sounds absurd, but that’s what a lot of parenthood is…a bunch of absurdities. 

Rosh Hashanah passed quietly, I lit the candles, said my prayers, tuned in to a virtual service and just overall quietly welcomed the New Year. 

In a completely random turn here, I’ve realized (as I’ve just re done some of my Autumn bits- more on that in a minute) that “quiet” is how I like to do things. I like subtlety, a quiet calmness to my spaces, to my things, to myself. Small things, small gestures, a subtle moment. That’s me. 

Ok, back to it…

With all that free time that I had plans for, but didn’t do anything with, I DID start doing the Autumn decorating. I’ve found that I a) don’t have much décor as it is (beyond the Christmas/Hannukah bits which is a lot) and b) what I had didn’t really fit with what I wanted for our space. So, I’ve been picking up little bits and pieces here and there…some pumpkins for our front porch, a new front door hanger, a couple throw pillows here and there, gourds and pumpkins on inside tables. Nothing big, but just subtle hints throughout the downstairs that Autumn is here. Our weather is starting to shift here and there, so it feels right. 

And with that, I’ve actually found a Starbucks Autumn beverage that I enjoy! It’s a shocker as I don’t like Pumpkin Spice and I’m not a caramel fan, but their apple crisp macchiato (hot not iced) is absolutely delightful and feels like Autumn in a cup. 

This weekend has been a homey one, trying to catch up on some reading, on some home things (like laundry and groceries) and trying to prep for the upcoming sports seasons. Both boys will be doing Soccer and Fall Tball so it’s about to be a busy time. I’m also taking on some local community roles and am looking forward to doing a little bit more with my time. Of course, I also have a really bad habit of loading up my calendar and trying to do all of the things…only to crash and burn halfway to the end. Hopefully that doesn’t happen, but we shall see how it plays out. 

Otherwise, I think that’s all I’ve got this week! Short and simple as life has mostly just been calm and little bits and bobs here and there. Now I’m off to enjoy my tea and chips (the oddest, but best combo) and hopefully a good book. 

Rosh Hashanah 5782

Shanah Tovah U’metukah! Happy Jewish New Year!! Today is a big day across the board in our home with the Jewish New Year coinciding with our eldest’s first day of kindergarten (yes, I’m sobbing, but we’ll be ok), but this is going to specifically talk about the Jewish New Year. I’ve spoken before (quite a bit) about my relationship with Judaism (read all about it HERE and HERE), but last year I really took a firm step back in and didn’t look back. 

As I’ve said, Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year and kicks off the start of our High Holidays (or some of the most religious days of our year). Similar to the “standard New Year”, the Jewish New Year is a time of reflection and of intentions. In fact, the whole month leading up to the New Year is a time of deeper reflection, of looking inward, looking at our past year, deepening our relationship with our spirituality/religion, and then, finally, looking forward to the new year. All comes to a head on Rosh Hashanah, which is a day on which we are called to account and our actions weighed for the Book of Life. It is both a solemn occasion AND a celebration as we “start all over again” with a fresh year. 

Tradition has us eating sweet food, wising one another a “Shanah Tovah U’metukah” or a Good and Sweet New Year, attending synagogue services and listening to the Shofar blasts (easily my favorite part- followed closely by the Apples & Honey). However, after the celebration we spend 10 days repenting, being judged by Adonai, and engaging of acts of repentance for our sins of the previous year. Those 10 days culminate in Yom Kippur, our Day of Atonement, our holiest of High Holidays. Yom Kippur is our day of atonement, and we spend the day observing a fast, spending time praying, attending synagogue. 

This year, I spent the month of Elul, the final month of the Jewish Calendar, doing some journaling prompts and trying to deepen my relationship with being Jewish. The prompts are from Rebekah Lowin, you can find them HERE, who I recommend if you want to see just how incredibly beautiful life and Judaism can be. I would also check out Ariel Loves on Instagram (HERE) and her Jewish Family Magic (HERE), for a wide variety of information about the various holidays, months, and life being Jewish. Anyways, I felt like over the past year I really deepened my religious connections, I found a community (of sorts), and found my way back to a part of myself that I had put in a box. I started on this journey just before Rosh Hashanah last year (I think a month or two prior- it’s in the “It All Rests on the Challah” post linked at the beginning of this post), so it felt fitting to continue deepening it over this past month and Rosh Hashanah 5782. 

I am treating this new year as THE new year, whatever intentions or words I set now, are the same words/intentions I’ll be setting come 2022 (although I’ll refresh those in a post then too) and I’ve found that the journaling that I’ve been doing over the past month has really helped with that. I want to share a couple of my thoughts from ALL that writing and reflecting and how I plan on incorporating those thoughts into this New Year. 

First up, on the first of Elul, I wrote about what “word” I wanted to mark my 5782 journey. Because there is nothing like starting with the hardest thing first. But, no worry, I did a little deep dive and figured out a word to a feeling to what I wanted. See, I’ve always said that I just want to be that happy spot, that light moment, that good thing that you experience in your day to day. Those are the moments/things that I cling to when I’m having an off/bad day, those are the moments/things I want to provide others with, and what I think makes all the difference. BUT I’ve never really found an English word that described that. So, I turned to Yiddish and/or Hebrew (this was in part because I couldn’t find an English word and in part because I really wanted to lean into this side of things a bit more). Enter: MECHAYEH or “that which gives life”, the idea of a thing or feeling that just makes your day (the example given was a cool glass of lemonade on a hot day). It is exactly what I want for my 5782, what I want to give off for my 5782, and where I want all my focus to be for 5782. On the things that give me/us/everyone LIFE. 

Another entry to share is from the Eight of Elul, where I wrote about habits for the year. Not the big goals, the massive, almost unachievable resolutions we are all guilty of making, but rather one small promise. One little achievable thing I could do every day that would make a difference in myself. That’s hard, especially for someone who…well goes big or goes home. It took a lot of thought, but I settled on “Getting out of bed when my alarm goes off”. We all do it, we all wait till the last minute, hit the snooze button as many times as we can, or just lay around on our phone until something else calls to our attention. When I don’t do this, I have a mile’s better day, feel clear headed, and don’t spend nearly as much time on my phone. So, that is my little promise to myself to do every morning. Get out of bed with my first alarm and get on with my day, instead of procrastinating until the last minute. 

On the 23rd of Elul there was a prompt regarding lending our life to those who need us. Now, you would think this is fairly obvious for me as a mom and a wife- I’ve got two little boys who rely on me 25/8 and a husband who relies on me to keep everything moving, BUT I want to make sure this coming year that I am looking forward and outward. I am stepping into a new community role that I’ve never done before, and I want to look further than my immediate family/friends/micro community to see further ways to help. I think there are always those that need help and I want to be able to help however I can. I look at it in a larger circle of “those who need us” I want to enlarge that circle a bit more for the upcoming year (and then continue that on).  

Finally, on 28 Elul there was an entry regarding what feeling we want to embody, to wake up to on the New Year and what we can do to make that happen. Honestly, I want to wake up feeling at peace, feeling positive, and seeing the beauty in our life. I want to kickstart new habits, which always transition a few weeks before the New Year. I always make small changes leading up to a bit “re set” (does this even make sense at this point?) and so, Erev Rosh Hashanah I’ll be doing all the little things- cutting off screen time early, reading, going to bed early, face wash, etc. Just to help kick my year off right.

To be honest, I’m really looking forward to this new year, to a chance to continue to deepen my relationship with my ethnicity and community, and to share a bit more about it along the way! So, Shanah Tovah U’metukah everyone! Have a happy and sweet New Year. 

Welcome to Our Home – Kitchen & Dining

It’s easily the most important room in the house and it’s historically the first room (and the hardest room and the one that changes the most) that we have set up every time we move…the Kitchen. I’ll say this much, when we accepted this house, the kitchen was easily the room that I was initially excited about. Not only is it spacious, with loads of counter space, it’s got a great center island, AND the cooktop/oven is gas! Yes, gas! I was so excited to be able to cook on gas again, although it’s been a little bit of a learning/reminding curve. 

The initial view into this half of the downstairs is the view of the three windows in the opposite walls. These provide some of the best natural light in the house and let us achieve that natural light all day (I do not care for overhead lighting as I’ve learned over the years). On the first wall we have our “command center” which as the calendar for appts and meal plans, the S was a wedding decoration, and any current photo or invitation to the clipboard. 

From there you open into the kitchen proper. I try to keep our island as clear and open as I can as we have the stools for seating for the boys or for friends. The stools are the Threshold Halifax Farmhouse Counter Stools from Target (linked HERE) and were mistakenly shipped to our old address…in Germany and ended up taking double the time to get to us (fail). Our dish rack tends to just live on the counter, though I try otherwise, unless we are baking or hosting (as we are normal people, not glamorous at all) and inevitably, things end up piled here despite my best efforts. Moving into the actual kitchen, we try to keep only the necessary kitchen gadgets on the counters, so the kitchen aid, toaster, cooking utensils, and recipe book tend to be the only regular things on the counter. The cabinets are topped with more memorabilia. We have a built-in pantry cabinet (which is SO NICE) that leads to the dining room. 

Across from the island and kitchen proper is our coffee station and deep freezer. We received the Ninja Coffee Maker (THIS one) as a gift a year ago and have absolutely loved it. I always make a rich coffee with the Ghirardelli chocolate syrup. We’ve also got our Almatrieb cowbell here to “ring for dinner” should the boys not hear us telling them. 

The dining room is the same as it always has been, with the addition of new seat covers (we got washable ones from Amazon to help save the chairs until the boys are out of the messiest of messy eating phase) and two small “café” style prints, the top from Rome, the bottom from Switzerland. Both large prints were taken in Fussen.  

There you have it, the next installation in the Welcome to Our Home: New York Edition. I hope you enjoyed seeing this little bit of our home. If you have any specific questions, please let me know in the comments below!

A Cuppa Cosy Reads – August 2021

How is it already the end of August? How are we only 4-5 months away from 2022? How has this year quite literally flown by??? Minor crisis over, let’s talk about August in Books. I read a total of 11 books, with an average rating of 3.93 (whoa!). I will be honest; I ALMOST got a little slumpy there for a week. I read one of my most anticipated releases of the year and it might find its way on my most disappointed list for the year. It put me in quite the mood that took a bit of work to get out of. Any guesses on what book that was? Let’s get into it…

Three Hours by Rosamund Lupton 3.5 Stars This needs to come with trigger warnings for abuse, school shooting, terror to children of all ages, and some pretty harsh words and content. This story is about a school shooting that seemingly melds the school shooting, family life, and diversity together in a way that just feels so real. 

Starsight by Brandon Sanderson 5 Stars Honestly, at this point I’m just a sucker for anything Brandon Sanderson writes, and I need the third book in this series STAT. 

The Nesting Dolls by Alina Adams 4 Stars I really really enjoyed this novel. It’s a generational saga of sorts, following a single-family line as they go from a small shtetl in the USSR to America and the struggles that each generation faces in each space. Part of this reason I enjoyed this is because there are similarities between my own family and that of the Nesting Dolls family (it’s basically the same in so many ways), but I found it to be beautifully written and a great insight into a time that was complicated for so many. Honestly, I could do a whole standalone chat about this book…maybe I should?

Night Sky With Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong NR I’ve added 10 minutes of poetry reading into my morning routine and loving it. This was the second book that I worked through a little at a time and it was just so beautifully, artfully written. You could feel the authors pain and longing to be in each and every poem, almost as he was writing himself into existence and into memory. 

A Lesson in Vengeance by Victoria Lee 3 Stars Ah, the disappointment of disappointments. I had such high hopes- EVERYONE had talked about how good this was. And it wasn’t BAD, it just…well it wasn’t really sure what it wanted to be. It focused so heavily (and did so well) on the atmosphere, the school setting, the love of literature, that everything else (namely plot) kind of fell flat. I had read almost half of the book before I even took a look at genres and the fact that it was a thriller helped and hindered it. Honestly, this is another book that I could do a whole standalone chat on…so many thoughts.

They Never Learn by Layne Fargo 4 Stars  Man was this book a ride. I don’t know if part of my enjoyment of this was just because I read after the disappointment referenced above, or if it was actually that good, but this twist…man this twist. I read this in 24 hours- I could not stop. 

The Royal Art of Poisoning by Eleanor Herman NR This was my second Eleanor Herman novel, and I loved this one just as I loved the other that I read, Sex with Kings. She has this way of writing such detailed history but infusing it with dry humor that leaves you both dumbfounded and cackling. This book divides into three sections, the first about the general concept of poisoning in history, the second notable figures in history that were thought (at one time) to be poisoned, and the third the modern art of poisoning in the political/royal realm.

Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke by Eric LaRocca NR This is a struggle. Honestly, I don’t even know what I actually read with this book, let alone how to talk about it. 

These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong 4 Stars. I very much enjoyed this book, borderline loved it. If you like (but maybe not love) Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, this is a retelling that shakes up the initial narrative, introduces a sci-fi/supernatural hit, and sets it all in Shanghai. I found it to be a dynamic read that is just enjoyable from start to finish. And then I immediately pre ordered the second book. 

The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix 4 Stars I really enjoyed this book. The entire book is a sort of satirical look into what life in the small-town south in the 80’s was like with a supernatural twist. It’s a fun one to read through and enjoy the ride. 

Know My Name by Chanel Miller NR This was easily the most incredible, powerful book that I’ve read this year. Beautifully written, incredibly powerful, and provides a massive insight into the court system and looks at various different things that we can work to change for the court system. 

And that was it! I’m currently reading For Your Own Good by Samantha Downing and enjoying it. What was your favorite book of the month? Any above interest you or have you read any of the above books?

Round the Kettle Ep. 31 Dipping MY Toes Back In

It’s that time again…it’s time for me to talk about how I’m bringing these posts back once again, but this time it’s for real (see last POST dated 4/21 :|). If you don’t know, or are new, Round the Kettle is a biweekly series that I do that I use as a bit of a brain dump of life. It wasn’t intended to stay in blog format, but rather transition into a podcast, but that quite obviously hasn’t happened yet. I keep talking about doing it, about getting the podcast going, but then I get these little thoughts in the back of my mind…what if it sucks, what if no one listens, what if I can’t do it. But then again, are you here? Are you reading this? Am I screaming into a void? Screaming into a void can be quite nice though…A thought for 2022 possibly.

I digress. That’s the beauty of Round the Kettle, you get my pure unfiltered, unadulterated thoughts on a wide variety of things. Quite honestly, I sit down at my desk with a small outline of what I’d like to cover from the previous two weeks, then I type a bunch of stuff, do a basic spell check and hit publish. It’s great. 

I originally had stopped these because we were moving, things were hectic and chaotic and, I finally found a routine with the blog and doing one post a week. That was manageable. Then somethings shifted in the world at large and I really needed to take a step back from everything and breathe in my own headspace. However, things are levelling out now (I say that- back to school is right around the corner and the world is still doing its thing) and I feel like I want to maybe…dip my toe back in. 

First things first, some lighter things to talk about…

Surprisingly, I’ve actually watched quite a bit of TV that I want to talk about. I’m not a massive TV watcher, mostly due to the fact that the TV tends to be monopolized by my husband and children, but also because I tend to prefer reading quite a bit more. However, Netflix has been doing a lot on the docuseries and reality shows that have been working for me and I’ve watched several. 

On the reality side of things, I obviously watched the After the Alter Love is Blind special and I’ve got a couple of quick thoughts: 1) STOP. Stop dragging these people through this, if we want anymore updates, we can see those on their social medias. I basically only watched to see Lauren and Cameron because they’re adorable, but the rest of the cast is full of such toxicity that it just turns into manufactured drama that doesn’t need to play out on a screen in front of us (especially that whole Damian and Gianina situ- so manufactured and edited my goodness). 2) If you want to keep the team of the Love is Blind “phenomenon” (which the first season and reunion WERE), then do a season two of all new people. Let the show continue to move on. Put this first season to bed. 

I also watched the second season of Too Hot to Handle and…oh my word was this next level compared to the first season. I mean, anything really went and they really went with anything. I don’t have much more to say on this one, except that I really rooted for a couple of people and I’m so happy with how it turned out and who is still together post show. 

Finally on the reality side of things, I’ve gotten about halfway through My Unorthodox Life and…I don’t know if I’ll go much further in it. Here’s the thing, I think the show is great at showing Julia’s life and how she has found “herself” and who she wants to be. I LOVE that she advocates that for everyone, that each person needs to find their own way and what they want out of life…BUT (and it’s a massive but) I feel like in some ways she doesn’t allow the same grace to others as she expects to be allowed her. Let me see if I can explain that better…Julia wants to be accepted and acknowledged as a woman who is no longer part of the Orthodox community, she wants to be free to be herself (which we can sit and debate the true realities of different parts of that statement- there are plenty of people already covering that), BUT she is disappointed or makes snide remarks that her children may hold a different view than her. Point in fact, she regularly referenced the fact that her older son still held some facets of orthodoxy (I think both her older daughter and son would be “modern orthodox”, but I’m not sure- I’m not a fan of labels) such as keeping Shabbos and Kosher as disappointing or confusing to her. If you want people to accept what you have decided for your own life, you need to accept what they have decided for their own lives, even if you don’t understand or agree all the time. It got to be a bit too much judgement and hypocrisy (especially with her older daughters marriage- my goodness) that I had to stop watching. And I don’t know if I’ll continue. 

We’ve also been watching Man with a Plan, The Heist, and I’ve watched an episode of Cooking with Paris as well as Shadow and Bone. I’ve been binging on a few YouTube videos and Podcasts- notable ones would be The Morning Toast & Not Skinny but Not Fat on Podcast, Observe, Morgan Long, The Book Leo, and Emmie on YouTube. It’s been kind of an eclectic time and I find myself being drawn mostly to aesthetic styles in my content consumption (outside of TV and Books) rather than specific topics. 

I referenced this earlier, but I’ve been doing quite a bit of reading. I talk about all of the books in my monthly wrap up, but I’m currently reading These Violent Delights, which is a Romeo and Juliet retelling taking place in Shanghai with a supernatural twist. I’m enjoying it quite a bit (I’m a bit of a sucker for a hate/despise to love romance) and while I think it’s good, so far it’s not GREAT, just good (like the difference between a 3 and a 4 star book). I recently finished both Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke by Eric LaRocca (which I don’t even know what to rate or say about) and The Royal Art of Poisoning by Eleanor Herman (which I loved). It’s been a pretty stellar period for reading this August. 

In the real world, it’s been a lot of heartbreak hasn’t it? Devastation from Mother Nature in Haiti, heartbreak in Afghanistan, and a world still very much in flux and fighting over this pandemic situation. Sometimes it feels like we can’t do anything, we see all this destruction and pain and heartbreak and we get paralyzed with the sheer amount of it all. It sits heavy on our soul and we carry it forward with an additional feeling of “what can I even do about this?”. Sometimes its hard not to feel like a small ant in a very big colony, but we can each do SOMETHING. Whether that is sharing links to resources, sharing information with our community, writing our leaders, or simply being the ears and shoulders for someone to share their burden, it all matters. Everything matters, from everyone. I want to say, that while I don’t or can’t always share my personal opinion on certain topics publicly (for a couple reasons that I won’t bring up here), note that I am ALWAYS doing something behind the scenes, something in my community, something in my home. I will always fight for what I believe in and what I feel is right, even if that’s not always a public fight. 

And that wraps this super long, super rambly new episode…there is something just freeing about the fact that I am about to just press publish and walk away. So many of my blog posts are so well thought out, edited down, researched, and worked on over a period of time. And I LOVE them, but I also love this style too. 

Which is your favorite?