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A Spoonful of Sugar or Perhaps a Pound

Mexican LunchAs a concerned mom of four, I try very hard to feed my kids a nutritious diet. Sure, I write about all kinds of sweets and treats on my food blog, but I take great care to limit the junk in our daily diet. Just to prove to you that I’m not full of crap, up above you will see the lunch I made today. A masterpiece of nutrition.

Macchiato Muddy BuddiesPrior to that healthy lunch, I spent the morning working on a recipe for A Beautiful Bite. I came up with this ridiculously easy to make Macchiato Muddy Buddies recipe that I thought would be a fun snack for the kids after they had their initial healthy snack after school. Yes, I require them to eat something good like a fruit or veggie before the treats. I have enough mom guilt, thank you very much.

But when my littlest came home from school today, she announced that it was ice cream social night. Doh, I forgot about that. Actually, I blocked it out. I know the kids love it and all, but one hundred plus kids running around screaming after being pumped up on sugar is not my idea of a good time.

And then there was the special treat I made. So much for that. I couldn’t give them two sweets in one day. Once again, mom guilt.

School Ice Cream Social

School Ice Cream SocialOff to the social we went. And it went exactly as I thought it might. Lots of treats that of course thrilled the girls and enough noise to rival a sonic boom. Upon arriving home I skipped the muddy buddies and went right for a glass of wine. The idea of anything truly sweet made my brain hurt.

So nutritiously speaking, I think this day was a wash. But tomorrow is another day. A day I plan to fill with the colors of the rainbow in the form of fruits and veggies, not M&Ms. It’s all about balance and flexibility, right?

Pressing Forward

LollieI once heard someone say that if you surround yourself with people you aspire to be like, it will inspire and motivate you to achieve similar success. That notion resonated with me, so I set off to surround myself with creative people who excel at the things I’m interested in; blogging, food photography and recipe development.

I was very successful that way. Indeed, today I am not only connected with successful food bloggers, photographers and cookbook authors, I’m actually friends with them. And while this has been an amazing blessing, it’s also been a curse.

Every day when I check my Facebook feed, I’m bombarded with posts that show another amazing food picture, an announcement of a cookbook deal and stories of milestones met. And while I am sincerely happy for my friends, I can’t help but feel badly about my own progress with my personal food blogging goals.

And this is kind of hysterical if you think about it because even though I haven’t written on A Beautiful Bite in five weeks, my traffic continues to grow. It grows in spite of myself.

So what’s the deal? Why am I not writing on that site? Because I am artistically paralyzed. Try as I may, I cannot master food photography. It’s one of those things that I struggle with. Sure, my pictures aren’t awful. They are fairly decent and if I didn’t have a basis of comparison, I’d probably be rather pleased with my progress.

But because I cleaved to that notion of surrounding myself with people who excel at food photography, I can’t help but admit that it isn’t what it should be. Or what it could be if I just tried harder.

Not one to give up easily, I reached out to one of those fabulous friends on Facebook who’s always posting gorgeous pictures to ask for some guidance as to what I’m doing wrong. And being the generous type, my friend Lollie agreed to spend the day with me, teaching me how to properly use my camera.

Thank God for generous friends.

LollieLollie shoots with a Nikon while I shoot with a Canon. That doesn’t sound very different to people who don’t understand photography. But trust me, it’s a big deal. She basically had to figure out how to use my camera before she could teach me what I was doing wrong.

She even went as far as to look at my pictures on A Beautiful Bite to get a feel for what I was missing. Once again, I’m lucky to have friends who care enough to devote the time to help me.

Pound CakeBetween sips of coffee and searches on Google for Canon help, Lollie made the necessary changes to my camera settings that will help me take better photos. Oh, and she showed me the difference a tripod can make to a photo. No more handheld shots for this girl.

Pound CakeThe above image is one of the shots we took this morning. Already I can see a difference as the image is sharper and warmer in tone than the images I’ve taken previously. A major step in the right direction.

And while that is all well and good, that’s not the point of this post today. What I want to do today is encourage you.

If you are struggling with learning something new, don’t give up. I know that it’s easy to fall into that mindset that we are too old to learn a new trick. Because when I’m struggling with my camera, this is my fall back response. I’m too old to learn something new.

But whenever I start to feel that way, I remind myself of Julia Child.

Did you know that she was in her 50′s when she became the Julia that we know and admire today? Did you know that she was 37 when she enrolled in Le Cordon Bleu? And that she was 49 when she published her first cookbook which was quickly followed by her television show at the age of 50?

I don’t use this example because I aspire to be famous like Julia. That is not one of my goals. What I draw from her life is the spirit of not giving up. To learn and grow every single day. Even in the face of frustration. Even if I don’t compare to my peers. Even if I can’t produce the same quality of work that my friends are producing, it’s ok.

Every day that I learn something new, it’s a step above where I was yesterday. Learning does not come easy to me when it comes to this one thing. But with each day that goes by and with the assistance of friends who truly care, I am moving forward and my skills are improving.

And even if I learn at a snail’s pace, can you imagine where this snail will be in a few years if she keeps slugging away?

How about you? Is there something that you would like to do but you find it challenging? Is there a new skill you’d like to learn but are too intimidated to try?

Hood Sour Cream Meal Makeover Cook-Off

HoodA couple of weeks ago I was invited to compete in a cook-off that required that I use Hood Sour Cream as a base ingredient for a dinner entree. And you all know how I love a cook-off. So of course I was all over that.

Hood Sour CreamI use sour cream regularly and Hood is my go to brand because I appreciate how they donate to causes I support like The Great American Milk Drive which donates milk to families who are struggling financially. It’s a great cause which I encourage you to read about. Brands that give back are worth supporting in my book.

Hood Sour Cream EventThe competition kitchen was super cool. All of the bloggers had their own work stations and access to whatever tools we needed in the kitchen. They even had people there to wash our dishes when we were done. Sadly we could not bring them home with us.

Melanie and FriendsThis competition was rather strange as I was competing against my friends. And as it turned out, it was more like a delicious dinner party than a competition. My friends are good cooks.

Sarah Hood EventHere’s Sarah having her dish recorded. Did I mention that there was a production crew? This was serious stuff. Sarah’s Sour Cream Chicken was delicious and I will be serving that to my own offspring soon.

Southwestern Pot PiesMy recipe was a Southwestern Chicken Pot Pie served up in individual servings. A big hit with my kids and popular with big people too. Recipe to follow at the end of this post.

Leah's KugelThe winning recipe of the cook-off was my friend Leah’s Sour Cream Kugel which was the cat’s meow. I love kugel. Actually, I think all of the recipes were worthy of blue ribbons. I didn’t try a dish that wasn’t wonderful at the cook-off. And I am now convinced that my friends really ought to invite me over for dinner more often.

If you are a pot pie lover, give my Southwestern Chicken Pot Pies a whirl. They are hearty and zesty. A great way to warm up on a chilly day. Great for littles and adults alike! For more dinnertime inspiration, be sure to visit Hood.com.

Southwestern Chicken Pot Pies
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1/2 cup poblano peppers, roasted and chopped
½ cup chopped red pepper
½ cup corn kernels, roasted
½ cup black beans
¼ cup cilantro, chopped
1/2 cup flour
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup Hood sour cream
1 ½ cup cheddar or Monterey jack cheese
2 Tbsp Southwestern spice (see recipe below)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
4 cups cooked chicken, shredded
1 pie crust
1 egg

Southwestern Spice Blend
2 Tbsp chili powder
1 Tbsp cumin
1 Tbsp paprika
1/2 Tbsp black pepper
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 Tbsp salt

In a large dutch oven, saute onions in butter until translucent. Add peppers, corn, black beans and cilantro. Add flour and stir to coat.

Turn heat to low and add chicken broth, sour cream and cheese. Cook until cheese is melted. Add Southwestern spice, salt, pepper and lastly, the shredded chicken. Stir to thoroughly combine.

Take off heat and spoon into individual ramekins. Top with pie crust. Lightly beat egg and brush over crust. Sprinkle a little salt over top and bake in a 350º oven until golden.

This is not a sponsored post. Hood did give me a gift card to cover my ingredients and transportation costs.

Crafting Fun with DohVinci and a Giveaway!

The Paint Bar Newbury StreetLast night the girls and I got our craft on at The Paint Bar on Newbury Street. But instead of painting, we got to try out DohVinci. Made by the makers of the classic Play-Doh modeling compound, DohVinci is a sophisticated and versatile crafting compound that’s more appealing to bigger kids who have aged out of the classic Play-Doh.

DohVinci Blogger EventThe girls and I spent the evening with other bloggers testing out the new product which was great fun. DohVinci is very different from Play-Doh. The kits come with a styler that you load with DohVinci cartridges which are filled with the colorful compounds that you use to embellish different craft projects. The DohVinci compound consistency is not the same as classic Play-Doh as it’s designed to flow out of the styler sort of like a glue gun.

DohVinciOne of the nice things about DohVinci is that it’s not complicated to use. I’m not particularly good at crafting, so I appreciated how easy it was to work with. The girls liked that they could easily control the styler and change the color cartridges. I appreciated that it wasn’t messy. The less I have to clean up after a craft, the better.

DohVinciDohVinci is a nice craft for older kids and tweens. It’s definitely more versatile than traditional Play-Doh and will certainly be appealing to the tween in your life. My girls were pretty smitten with it.

How would you like to win a package of DohVinci products for your favorite big kid? The folks from DohVinci are offering a prize package for one of my readers that consists of one DohVinci Vanity Design Kit and one Door Décor Kit. All you have to do to enter is comment on this post by leaving your first name, last initial and the state you are from. Entries must be received by Wednesday, September 17th 11:59pm ET. Good luck!

This post is not sponsored. DohVinci did provide kits for my children to use to facilitate the review. There are affiliate links in this post.

Brimfield Antique Show Shopper’s Guide

Brimfield Shopper's GuideThe Brimfield Antique Show is billed as the largest outdoor antique show in the country. Located in Western Massachusetts in the charming town of Brimfield, the show is held three times a year in May, July and September and is a not to be missed treasure hunt for the diehard antiques fan.

With over 6,000 dealers, odds are good that you will find that special something that you are looking for along with countless other treasures you didn’t even know you needed. And while I conquered Brimfield in one day, the serious antiques collector could spend several days at the show and still not see it all. It really is that massive.

The following are some tips and tricks I learned during my Brimfield experience that will hopefully better prepare you for a day of treasure shopping…

The Schedule

Before you even start your car, be sure to study the show schedule. The Brimfield Antique Show consists of many sub shows that are open on different days and times. And while there are always dealers open for business on any given day, certain fields are open on certain days with different start times. I planned my visit to coincide with the May’s Antique Market opening which requires vendors to set up their wares at the same time that the gates open which sort of levels the playing field for all.

Going earlier in the week may be beneficial if you want choice pick of the offerings, but rest assured that you will still find tons of desirable merchandise if you go towards the end of the show and you’ll have the added benefit of getting a better price so that the vendors avoid lugging their wares home.

Parking

As you drive into Brimfield on Rte 20, you will see many private parking lots with attendants trying to wave you in. Resist the urge to park at the first lots you see. There’s tons of parking in the heart of the action and it costs only a few dollars more. You do not want to be walking back to a remote parking spot after a day of non-stop walking. Not to mention you will  be lugging your purchases around and they will feel exponentially heavier as you walk to your bargain $5 parking spot.

I arrived at 8:30am on Thursday which was the opening day of May’s. I was one of the first people in the lot and I paid $8 to park. The lot which is located right across the street from May’s is smack dab in the middle of the Brimfield action which makes it a no-brainer parking spot. Spend the extra $3. Your feet and arms will thank you.

Shopping Cart

What to Bring

A trip to Brimfield is not as simple as jumping in the car with your pocketbook. There are some items that you really should bring along with you or your day will not be as lovely as it ought to be. Here are the necessities:

  • Cash While some dealers have card readers for their smartphones, cash is still king. ATMs are readily available, but the surcharges are hefty. Bring cash and keep it close to your body.
  • Sunscreen There are few shady spots in this outdoor show besides the tents that house the dealers. You will be exposed to the sun all day long, so be certain to bring sunscreen. I did not see anyone selling it at the show, so be prepared.
  • Umbrella Conversely it could rain all day long, so put an umbrella in your vehicle in case you need it. The show is rain or shine. Be prepared for rain.
  • Hand Wipes You will be so very glad that you brought hand wipes to Brimfield because your hands will be filthy after an hour into it. I saw only one hand washing station at Brimfield. Eating lunch will be miserable with 100 year old dust on your hands. Bring wipes.
  • Shopping Cart While a shopping cart sounds like overkill, you will be so thankful for it after you make your first purchase. That two pound mixing bowl is going to feel like a twenty pound bowling ball about fifteen minutes after you purchase it. Seemingly everyone toted a shopping cart around, so you will be in very good company. I especially like this shopping cart as it has a liner and cover.
  • Padding Toss in some old towels, newspaper or tattered shirts to wrap around breakables. As you wheel your cart over the gravel and grassy grounds of Brimfield, things will jostle and bump into each other in your cart. Wrapping your treasures in some fabric or paper will protect them.
  • Water Bottles Staying hydrated is very important while you walk around in the hot sun. Be sure to bring water. If you don’t feel like carting around water all day long, there are vendors who sell it for $1-$2 per bottle.

Know What It’s Worth

If you collect anything, odds are good that you are familiar with the values of your collection. But if you want to purchase something that you aren’t familiar with, use your smartphone to see what the item is worth by discretely doing a search on eBay or Etsy. Do be sure to be discrete as a courtesy to the dealer. But don’t feel guilty for looking up a value because no one wants to be hosed. And knowing the value of an antique helps with the next tip, haggling…

Haggle

While the idea of haggling may sound intimidating, it is entirely expected at Brimfield. You will not insult the dealers if you haggle the proper way. The easiest way I’ve found to get a better price is to ask that very question. “What is your best price for this?” I did not pay sticker price for a single thing I purchased at Brimfield. Often times I paid almost half of what the items were marked. And if you feel that the price is not reasonable enough, know that you will probably see that same item somewhere else at Brimfield for less money.

Pilgrim Sandwich Brimfield

Sustenance

All of this antique hunting is going to make you hungry. Lucky for you, Brimfield is brimming over with good eats. Of course there’s the requisite carnival fare like funnel cakes, kettle corn, ice cream and other fat and carb laden treats, but there are also vendors offering up unique options like the fantastic pilgrim sandwich I had for lunch which was a pretty good deal for $8.50. It wasn’t a small sandwich for darn sure and it was stuffed with freshly carved before my eyes turkey. Wonderful.

I also saw beautiful lobster rolls, Thai food, barbecue and chowder, just to name a few. You won’t go hungry at Brimfield.

Brimfield Bathrooms

Bathrooms

At some point you will need to visit a potty during your visit. While there are lots of porta potties at Brimfield, I only saw one with hand washing facilities. That’s not to say that there aren’t more, it’s just the only one I saw that day. While I am not a fan of porta potties, honestly I hate them, these potties were tolerable because the one I used was manned by an attendant and kept as clean as a porta potty could be. This station which was located in the Hertan field was about as good as it gets. Washing my hands felt awesome!

Kids or No Kids, Pets or No Pets 

The Brimfield Antique Show is not particularly kid or pet friendly. So many breakables are placed on makeshift shelving on portable tables that one bump could bring the entire display down. I did see some kids in strollers and none of them looked happy. And while I didn’t see a no pets sign anywhere, the general consensus was that they aren’t welcome. Think hard before bringing your little folk or fur babies.

The Brimfield Antique Show is a not to be missed event for the antiques lover. And even if you don’t buy a single thing, it’s great fun to take a long walk through history and marvel about how much times have changed. Do your homework ahead of time and bring the suggested necessities and you will thoroughly enjoy your time in the quaint New England town of Brimfield, Massachusetts.

There is an affiliate link in this post.

Winner!

Congrats to Mary F. from NC! You are the winner of the Walmart gift card giveaway. Please send your mailing address to melanieinthemiddle@gmail.com. Thanks to all for entering!

Brimfield Antique Show 2014

Brimfield 2014For years now I’ve wanted to visit the Brimfield Antique Show. Known as the largest outdoor antiques show in the world, Brimfield attracts antique hunters from around the globe. Located in Western Massachusetts, the show practically takes over the town of Brimfield. With over 6,000 dealers, you could spend the entire day hunting and still not see it all. It’s legendary.

And yesterday was my day to tackle it. Did it live up to the hype? You betcha. So much so that I’m writing a couple of posts about it.

Today I’ll share with you what I found interesting and what I purchased. Tomorrow I’ll be posting a visitors guide to Brimfield. While there are lots of tips out there, none of them covers everything you need to know about the show. And trust me, this show takes some preparation and thought.

But more on that tomorrow. Let’s see what Brimfield is all about…

May's Antique MarketThe show is divided up into a bunch of sub-shows. Not all shows are open every day of the six day event. While there are always tons of vendors to visit along the roadside, different fields are open on different days. On the day I visited, May’s was open for business. With over 600 vendors, May’s is one of the more popular shows to visit.

What makes the May’s show unique is that the vendors cannot set up until the show opens. So when the doors open and people flood in (or stampede like they did yesterday), the vendors quickly put out their merchandise. This sort of levels the playing field as no one knows what’s going to be placed on the tables. The first half hour is sort of mayhem while people try to figure out what dealer has what vintage goodies to offer.

Corkscrew T-ShirtPeople who are serious collectors wear t-shirts that describe what they are looking for. This makes it really easy for a dealer to peddle their wares to the right buyer.

Those that didn’t have t-shirts ran up and down aisles shouting out “CAST IRON” “ANY MILITARY” “GLASS, WHO’S GOT GLASS”. It was quite the ruckus. And you could totally tell the newbies like myself. We were the ones frozen in our tracks like deer in headlights as we tried to figure out which way was what.

CheetahReally, it was a spectacle. Even though I knew what I was interested in (mid-century kitchen), I couldn’t help but check out some of the other fantastical offerings like this vintage stuffed leopard. Because how often do you see something like that? And as focused as I tried to be, I kept getting sidetracked by all the oddities.

Vintage SilverwareOnce I got my bearings straight, I started making some headway. Does anyone remember my hunt for vintage flatware last year? I think this is where it was hiding. All of it.

Fiesta WareAnd can you believe this tent filled with Fiestaware? So much color. I don’t collect it, but it sure is pretty to look at. I have no idea how this guy got all of this glass safely to Brimfield. Can you imagine the work it would take to safely package this? It gives me a headache just thinking about it.

JadeiteHow about this display of jadeite? I would love to collect jadeite. The only thing stopping me is the price tag. It is SO spendy. $30 for a plate or bowl? That’s too rich for my blood, but it sure is lovely to look at. I’m not thinking that I will ever stumble across jadeite at a thrift shop or garage sale.

Vintage Pyrex BrimfieldI was very surprised that I didn’t come across much Pyrex at Brimfield. I really thought the place would be overflowing with Pyrex dealers. There was some, but for the most part it was ridiculously overpriced. I expected some inflation, but not extortion. I did score a couple of pieces which I’ll share with you in a bit.

vintage mixerOh how I wanted to take this Sunbeam mixer home. Just look at the bowls stacked up next to it. So pretty. It was marked $85, but I was certain that the dealer would knock off $20 if I asked. The problem was that I wasn’t sure how to restore it. There were some rust spots and I’m not a fix-it kind of girl. I’m sure that you aren’t surprised by that.

60's dinetteHere’s something else I wanted to take home but had no good reason to. This funky 60′s dinette set. It charmed my socks off. I would build a room around this set if I was a gazillionaire. So much fun. Can’t you see my Pyrex on this table? Thank God I don’t own a truck or this would be in my basement.

dutch spice jarsSee these Dutch milk glass spice jars? I’ve always wanted them, but DANG are they expensive. This set was marked at $80. I’m too cheap to spend that kind of money, but I have a story to share about these later on…

Vintage NauticalThe antique nautical also caught my eye. Completely impractical because I have nowhere to put it. If I thought my Pyrex took up too much space, can you imagine my home if I started collecting gargantuan green glass floats?

vintage thermosA hot trend that I’m noticing lately are thermos dealers. If you go to a yard sale and see an old time thermos, snatch it up. Those things are selling like hotcakes. Campy fun is in.

HandsI totally don’t get the hands, but I was tempted to buy several. I flirted with the idea of placing one in the hamper when it’s full as a signal to the kids to give mom a hand by taking it down to the laundry room. Or maybe I could stick one on their mattress to remind them to make their beds. All kinds of great uses which would most likely lead to nightmares which would land one or four kids in my bed at night.

So what did I buy and for how much? That’s the best part of the story…

Dutch Spice ContainersI did end up with the Dutch milk glass spice jars but I didn’t spend $80. Actually, I found a dealer who was primarily selling furniture. She only had a few pieces of glass as that was not her specialty. These six spice jars were sitting on top of a table she was selling and seemed to be there for decoration. The tag on the side of one jar said $8, so I figured that each jar was $8 which made sense.

But when I asked her for her best price for the entire set, she said $6. As in $6 for all six jars. That is a crazy good deal. Sure, there are two spice jars missing as the set originally came with eight and the rack is missing, but for $6 I will happily live with it. Aren’t they sweet?

Vintage blue pyrex bowlThis blue pyrex bowl doesn’t look like much and it isn’t in perfect condition, but I only paid $6 for it. I have this bowl set called Primary, but was missing this tiniest bowl which I was having problems finding. It’s not minty perfect, but it completes my set which makes me happy.

vintage pyrex loaf panThe dealer that sold me the little bowl also sold me this blue fridgie for $6. A complete bargain compared to other dealers’ prices. That little blue bowl was $18 and up everywhere else.

Milk Glass PitcherThis precious milk glass pitcher was 50% off. I happily gave the dealer a $5 bill and walked away dreaming about how I was going to use this in future food photography pictures.

Vintage Ruffle PlatesAnd these ruffle plates that I picked up for $2 each will most likely be posing with that little milk glass pitcher. I love mid-century glass. Makes me want to bake an apple pie or some cookies. It brings out the domestic in me.

Antique Rolling PinWhen I saw this old maple rolling pin I had to have it. This thing is solid. I can only imagine the beautiful pie crusts it rolled out in its day. While it is quite large and chunky, it feels right in my hands. Like it was made for me. It was priced at $18, but I got it for $12. You can’t buy a crappy rolling pin for $12 these days.

Vintage Glass PitcherMy last find was this mod glass pitcher. It looks like it has red dots in this picture but they are actually pink. So retro and fun. It was marked $18 but the dealer gave it to me for $10. Just looking at it makes me smile.

Obviously I’m not into the big ticket antiques. Sure, there were dealers selling furniture and collectibles that were priced in the thousands, but that’s not how I roll. I’m more of a spend $2 here and maybe $12 there kind of girl which is totally fine by me.

But if you want to spend money, Brimfield is the place to do it. If you collect anything vintage, you will find it here. So if you are an antiques treasure hunter, put Brimfield on your bucket list. It’s as epic as they say it is.

Sun, Sand and Lobster Rolls

Connecticut beachWell hello there. It’s been awhile since I’ve written, hasn’t it? You’ll have to forgive me because I came down with an awful cold last week. Not your regular annoying variety either. This was a full on hacking cough, yucky nose and pressure behind the eyeballs kind of thing. It knocked me on my fanny for awhile last week and I had little energy to do anything other than sleep.

I started to rally by Friday which was a really good thing because I had promised to take the girls to Connecticut to visit my girlfriend Linda for Labor Day. Aidan was busy working and Michael had other plans, so the girls and I went down to Linda’s house to celebrate the holiday weekend.

The weather was downright glorious. The perfect way to say goodbye to summer. Good friends, some fun on the beach, fresh seafood and sunshine. Lots of memories made that will hopefully tide me over until next year. Why does summer pass so quickly?

This week I have lots to share with you. So instead of writing a lengthy post today, I’m just going to share some of my favorite pictures from my weekend. I hope your Labor Day weekend was filled with happiness too.

Shannon Beach Stairs

Shannon Beach

pecan pie

Trouble

Linda Swings

Frisbee

Lobster Roll Lunch

Sunset

Lessons at the Beach

Girls at BeachGrowing up in the Midwest, I dreamed about summers on the beach. Sure, we had the Great Lakes, but in my mind that wasn’t quite the same. Not to mention my childhood home(s) were nowhere near any lake. I was landlocked in suburbia with the closest body of water located in the neighbor’s pool where I spent many days floating, planning my future life which would most likely be lived out in some quaint coastal New England town.

And while many of my childhood dreams did not come to fruition, living in the quaint coastal New England town certainly did. Some dreams become requirements and living near the ocean was a pull that I could not resist. It’s like I had a homing device that lead me to a place that I always knew would be home.

After living here far many more years than I’ve lived anywhere else, I identify myself as a New Englander. No other validation is needed because one could argue that my heart was here long before my feet were.

Now I have four kids who have been birthed in New England. And what I so desperately wanted growing up is quite literally in their own backyard. Whether they are on a school bus or just taking a ride with me to pick up a gallon of milk, the ocean is part of their daily life.

It’s either to the right of us or to the left at any given moment. Still breathtaking to me, but ordinary to them. A blasé attitude that I battle with every day, trying to teach them that not everyone has this kind of natural beauty surrounding them. That they need to stop and take this view in once in awhile, appreciating the gift that it is.

I’m not very successful with this lesson, mind you. I guess it’s hard to appreciate what you have when you are born into it. Maybe if I took them for a two week vacation back to the middle of the mitten Michigan (not near water), they would better comprehend the lesson I’m trying to teach.

Cape Cod BeachThis summer was a really good example of this lack of appreciation. I’ve asked the girls numerous times if they would like to go to the beach for the day. This is usually met with a shrug of the shoulders and a glazed over look of indifference. But yesterday I made the executive decision, packed the requisite snacks/towels/sunscreen and ordered them into the car. We were going to the beach.

With Leela off of the crutches and out of the brace, there was no reason not to go out and enjoy probably the last beautiful beach day of summer. And truth be told, I did this more for myself than I did for them. They might not appreciate the gift of living in this special place, but I still do. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t reflect on how blessed I am to live here.

Cape Cod BeachWhen we first got to the beach, the girls were a little cranky. And I’m not entirely sure why because there was no reason for their sullen mood. Quite possibly it’s the anxiety of going back to school. Or maybe it’s because I forced them away from their Minecraft session. I’m not really sure, but for the first hour they weren’t there because they wanted to be which made me wonder if this was even worth it. It’s no fun being somewhere when the majority of your party doesn’t want to be there.

But after awhile the sun and sea started to warm up their spirits. The sisters went off on a search for sea glass and met a new friend along the way. Five hours later we were the last two families on the beach. The sun was going down, a chill setting into the air, but the kids were still dancing in the waves with their new friend.

And when I announced that we absolutely had to go. No more warnings. Get into the car or you are sleeping here. They actually asked if that was an option as there is a campground onsite.

No, I said. We can come back tomorrow. Actually, we can come back any day we like. All you have to do is ask because this is ours.

On the way back home the girls were limp like noodles. Completely drained of all energy but infused with the glow of summer.

With her head leaning against the window, hair full of sand and salt, Shannon said to me “Our new friend was on vacation. She said that she never gets to see the ocean. That’s sad. I thought everyone had it.”

That lesson I’ve been hammering into their heads all of this time was finally driven home by a chance encounter with a tourist.

Parenting is interesting. As a mother I strive to teach my kids all the things that I should. To be appreciative. To be courteous. And especially to be kind. But sometimes the very best lessons in life are taught by others. And I think that those lessons are the ones most readily received.

My Weekend

Cape CodThe past weekend was rather busy. School’s starting this week and we’ve been taking care of last minute purchases that should’ve been bought weeks ago. We excelled at procrastination this summer.

All of this preparation for back to school has taken a lot of the wind from my sails. So I took a few hours off on Saturday and took a walk on the water just to center myself. This year more than any other, I’m the one who’s not looking forward to the school year starting. And this is something entirely foreign to me because I can’t remember a year that didn’t have me anticipating the arrival of that yellow bus.

This year, not so much. I’m just not ready for the homework, school projects, packing lunches and the inevitable drama that comes with having tweenagers. Not to mention, having the kids around this summer was nice for a change of pace. So much less bickering between the kids. I daresay that I’m going to miss them.

emile henryAfter my walk I took a ride over to the local thrift store. As I’ve shared before, thrift stores are wonderful for finding interesting props for food photography on the cheap. I don’t often visit them in the summertime because my area is a real tourist attraction in the summer months. You know, the ocean and all. Cape Cod brims over with people in the summertime.

So I wasn’t expecting to find much of anything. And as I scanned the shelves filled with glassware, I could tell that it was really picked over already. But you have to look closely when shopping at thrift stores because the best stuff has a way of hiding in the corners.

My first good find was a stack of three Emile Henry  ramekins. Ok, so it isn’t the normal vintage goodness that I usually hunt for, but they were marked $1.99 while they retail $36 for a set of four. Some simple math will show you that .66 per ramekin is a very good deal compared to $9 per ramekin. Score!

vintage pyrexMy other find was something that I debated with for awhile. I saw this vintage Pyrex bowl you see above when I first walked into the store and it didn’t grab me right away. It’s sort of plain and not very much to look at. Also, it’s a Pyrex mixing bowl that was originally part of a Hamilton Beach stand mixer. Not very notable.

But as I walked around the glassware, I kept coming back to this bowl. I guess I just can’t walk away from vintage Pyrex. It’s like buying a little piece of history. $1.99 worth of history that is now living in my kitchen cabinet. I am weak.

Pain D' Avignon HyannisOn Sunday Michael and I finished up his school shopping. Boys are so much easier than girls when it comes to clothing. Or at least my boys are easier than my girls. While the girls required four different stores and countless trips in and out of fitting rooms to settle on a few well accessorized outfits, I was in and out of the store in a half of an hour with Michael. God love him.

And to celebrate the end of the back to school cash hemorrhage, Michael and I had an amazing lunch in Hyannis at Pain D’ Avignon. If you ever find yourself visiting Cape Cod, I highly recommend this wonderful French cafe. They are famous for their fresh baked breads and pastries, but don’t come here just to buy a loaf of bread. Oh no, sit down and have a meal because their menu is exquisite.

I had Croque Madame which consisted of crusty country bread topped with melty cheese, black forest ham, two baked eggs and arugula. A hearty meal and priced at $8.50 which I thought was a completely fair price. So wonderful.

Michael had a monkfish sandwich which was also to die for. Tender chunks of fried monkfish stuffed into a fresh bakery roll with some kind of spicy mayo brushed on the grilled bread. Yummy.

And if you make your way down and don’t try the fries, you haven’t really been there at all. Worth the trip for the fries alone.

Pain D' Avignon HyannisOn the way out the door, Michael asked if we were planning on visiting the dessert case. Well of course, I said. One doesn’t come to a French cafe and NOT visit the dessert case.

And while I abstained from dessert, Michael did not. He picked out a blueberry lemon tart which he took to go. Not that it went far. He ate it in the parking lot.

Not a very eventful weekend, but a good one nonetheless. Now starts the 48 hours of prep required for the first week of school. Belongings to be labeled. Food for lunches to be purchased. Forms to be filled out. Damn forms. And the hours it will take to help the girls figure out which outfit they want to wear on the first day of school.

Can we go back to June?

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