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Our New Addition!

puppiesWeeks ago I shared with you that a puppy was in our future. Well, I am beyond excited to announce that our puppy has been born! Two weeks ago our breeder contacted us to let us know that the mama went into labor. Luckily for us, our breeder had a live cam going and we got to watch the whole thing.

What a beautiful evening that was. Everything went swimmingly for both mama and the pups. And six weeks from now our sweet little puppy will be coming home with us.

PuppiesWe’ve been waiting a long time for this and the kids are gleeful. After a time of upheaval and change, a puppy is exactly what this family needs and we can’t wait to share two million pictures with you.

In case you’re wondering which one is ours, it’s the white one. Can you spot it? Sorry, I couldn’t resist. They all look like carbon copies to me. Only the breeder knows which one is our new fur baby.

Samoyed PuppiesThe picture above gives you an idea of what our pup will look like when it’s a little bigger. Fluffy. There are many lint rollers in our future.

Even though the puppy is six weeks away from coming home, it hasn’t stopped us from buying toys for our new addition. We already have a toy basket well on its way to being filled in the family room.

I bet you’re curious what we named him. Boy was there a lot of debate over that topic. Lots and lots of debate. At first I wanted Cobra, after The Colonel’s aircraft, but the little ones would have none of that business.

One girl liked Butter while the other thought Cookie was the best name of all time. Clearly my baking influences their thinking.

The boys were pretty open to anything, but Michael liked Chewy after his favorite Star Wars character, Chewbacca. Aidan thought Michael said Chili, not Chewy, and once we heard that mistake, we fell in love with it.

So now we have a puppy coming named Chili and I can’t wait for you to meet him!

Urban Southern Winner!

Congrats to Pam L. from Indiana! You are the winner of the Urban Southern Market Tote. Please email me at melanieinthemiddle@gmail.com with your mailing address. Thanks to all for entering!

Friends and Fun

KimThe last few weeks have been rather hectic which explains my lack of posting regularly. My kids now spend a good portion of the summer with their father as that was part of our divorce agreement. Preparing them for that many weeks away took some time. And packing for that kind of trip at the end of the school year made a chaotic time of year even crazier.

I could take an entire blog post to tell you how I feel about not seeing my kids for that long, but it would be depressing. Of course I miss them, but at the same time I’m happy for the time they have with their dad. They are going to have so much fun this summer and I made sure I was going to have some fun too!

We started off by having our dear friends Kim and Anthony down for a visit. I haven’t seen them in such a very long time, so I was beyond excited to spend some time with them.

Harris Crab HouseAfter sharing pictures on Facebook last month of our dinner at Harris Crab House, Kim requested we go there for an authentic Maryland crab dinner. You don’t have to ask me twice to eat crab. I’m always up for that.

Kim and MelanieThis isn’t the best picture of us, but you get the gist. We were very happy to see each other. Kim is like a sister to me. I couldn’t love her more even if we were blood related. I feel the same way for her husband. He’s been a very good friend to me. Anthony helped make my house handicap accessible after my accident four years ago. Can you believe it’s been that long? Four years ago as of yesterday.

Susan and MelanieAnd if all that wasn’t enough excitement, then I got to spend time with another dear friend the very next weekend. Like I said, its been a whirlwind of activity here.

The Colonel and I drove down to Virginia right before the 4th of July to visit yet another dear friend Susan and her very wonderful husband Jon. We spent two nights at their mountain cabin which was so completely relaxing.

Even though the rain poured down incessantly the first two days, it was warm and cozy in the cabin. We spent our time binge watching movies and catching up after months of not seeing each other. It was perfect.

lunch with susanSusan is also a food blogger which meant we did not go hungry while we visited. That’s one of the advantages of having food blogger friends. They’re rather good at entertaining!

Susan's HouseAfter a couple of days at Susan and Jon’s cabin, we transferred over to their house for the holiday. It was a beautiful sunny day which was a nice change after days of rain. We celebrated with Susan’s family and enjoyed a delicious meal which was made by her extended family. A gracious bunch who really know how to cook. Now I know where Susan gets her cooking skills from.

The Colonel and the DucksA very nice way to spend the holiday. It’s not often that we get the chance to hang out in the mountains, so the fresh air and beautiful scenery did us some good. We even had the chance to walk Susan’s ducks. That certainly isn’t something we do daily or ever now that I think about it.

So that was the last two weeks which brings us to this one. Currently Susan and I are on a girl’s trip to North Carolina. I have SO much more to share on that topic in the coming days.

I’ve never been to North Carolina if you don’t count the airport and I’m thoroughly enjoying my time here. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about this state is that they take food very seriously here. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve already seen evidence of this.

Much more to come in the days that follow, but for now this sort of gets you up to speed and explains a bit why I’ve been so quiet.

I hope you all had a fantastic holiday and that you spent it with people you cherish! Chat with you soon!

Urban Southern Review and Giveaway!

Urban Southern

Urban Southern Market ToteBeautiful bags are a weakness of mine. I especially adore bags that are pretty and functional. As a mom of four very busy kiddos, I need bags that stand up well to the constant on the go lifestyle I lead. Pretty things are nice and all, but delicate fabrics and colors don’t stand up well between trips to the stables and farms we visit.

So when the folks from Urban Southern reached out to see if I would review one of their artisan leather bags crafted in a simple but classic style, I was so excited to work with them.

Leather is sumptuous, isn’t it? I just love the smell of it and I especially appreciate how it feels to the touch. A bit of luxury that stands up to everyday life.

Urban Southern handcrafts each and every product they offer. Leather masters hand tool the leather and buff the edges with wax to create a superior product. You can see the workmanship in everything they create.

I received the Market Tote which is an especially roomy bag. It’s a full 20″ high and 14″ wide.Perfect for shopping outings. It’s fitted with two wide straps which allows it to sit comfortably on your shoulder or you can carry it by the handles. Super versatile.

Let’s check it out in action…

Michael Charlotte HallSay hi to Michael! My son was my date on this beautifully sunny day in Southern Maryland. Corn is just now coming to market here, so we set out to the Charlotte Hall Amish Market to pick up some ears along with some other fresh produce. A fine time to try out the Urban Southern Market Tote. Just the right size for a farmers market outing!

Charlotte Hall Farmers Market

Charlotte Hall Amish MarketI probably could’ve fit a couple dozen ears of corn into the Market Tote. It’s really that roomy. I was sorely tempted as it looked so good. Instead, I grabbed a half dozen ears and saved room for other produce treasures sure to come.

Charlotte Hall Green BeansThe green beans are looking good right now and I’ve been thinking about pickling a few pounds for winter eating. Into the bag they went!

Amish Baked GoodsOk, this didn’t make it into the bag because hello calories! But I have to tell you that I was so very close to blowing my diet on the Amish homemade Twinkies. So very very close.

Urban Southern Market ToteFresh herbs always make their way into my purchases at the market and this day was no different. Look at how lush that basil looks. Pesto is on the menu this week at Casa Melanie!

Charlotte Hall Market

In the end I picked up everything you see above (minus the Twinkies) and I added a few jars of various jams, jellies and pickles. It all fit easily into my tote and the straps distributed the weight on my shoulder which made it so much easier to carry around.

Urban Southern Market ToteAnd while it worked perfectly for a trip to the market, it also was a nice choice for a day outing into the city. The Colonel and I took a day trip to Alexandria, VA where we did some sightseeing and shopping.

I found that the bag was the perfect choice to carry all kinds of things like sunscreen, camera, guide books and other bulky things that don’t fit in the smaller purse I usually carry.

So if you’re looking for a fine crafted leather bag that’s not only beautiful but practical, this is a very good choice.

Urban Southern offers many different bag styles and also leather accessories that would make fine gifts. Be sure to check out their website to learn more about their products and how they’re crafted. You can also find them on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest!

Win It! 

Urban Southern has offered up a very lovely giveaway for my readers. One of you will win your own Urban Southern Market Tote (ARV $275). 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. That’s it! Open to US residents ages 18+. Entries must be received by Friday, July 10th, 11:59pm EST. Good luck!

This is not a sponsored post. I was given a complimentary sample to facilitate my review. All opinions are my own.

National Geographic the Home Version

Storm MessThe past few weeks we’ve had some wicked storms, but this past weekend was a doozy. Downed limbs all over the yard, potted plants flipped over and our birdhouses clean wiped off their perch. What a mess. And while it was just an inconvenience for us humans, I think it’s gotten the local wildlife a little off kilter.

The Colonel and the TurtleThe Colonel was clearing some downed limbs when I heard a booming “Melanie, come see this!”. And usually this should be interpreted as “Melanie, you’re going to totally regret seeing this.” I’ve learned this the hard way being a mom of two boys.

I’ll never forget the time Michael, who was three at the time, shouted for me to come into his room because “you’ve got to see this!”. In his hand he had a big fur ball. Definitely not surprising as we had two Persian cats at the time. Dear Lord was there fur.

“It hops!” he said. The kid was convinced it was a frog. I was convinced I needed to clean the house better. I told him he had a great imagination and went on my way back to my bedroom where I was folding laundry on the bed.

Not one to be dismissed or doubted, Michael followed me into my bedroom and placed the fur ball on my bed. And when I reached out to pick it up so I could throw it away, the ball hopped straight into the air. I nearly had a heart attack. A bullfrog was stuck in the fur ball and I had the joy of harvesting him from the center of his fiber prison.

Michael was gleeful.

Big SnakeSo last week when Michael asked me if I saw what was on the front lawn, I knew to stay in the house. While I adore living in our new home in the middle of the woods, I’ve learned that nature grows big here. Like really big. I saw a gopher on the driveway yesterday and I’m pretty sure he’s been munching on plants that have been treated with MiracleGro.

And the thing that Michael wanted me to see on the front yard? Yeah, well I didn’t want to see it but he took a picture anyway. A very large snake, like five feet long. Who needs the zoo when you live in Maryland? Mother Nature delivers here.

Lord Sith TurtleSo what did The Colonel want me to see? This Eastern Box Turtle which I named Lord Sith. The Dark Side in turtle form. Can you believe the colors? Often times creatures who are wildly colorful can be poisonous, but this guy is harmless and perhaps a bit thankful that The Colonel freed him from the downed limb.

I sort of envisioned my life here mirroring scenes from Bambi. What I ended up with is more like Jungle Book. Minus the bears. If I see one of those, I’m out of here.

Meet Marc Forgione at the Macy’s Montgomery Mall, Bethesda MD #MacysChef

Marc ForgioneToday I have exciting news for my D.C. area readers who love good food.  Next week, June 11th at 6pm, the Macy’s Culinary Council is hosting a private dinner party with Marc Forgione at the Montgomery Mall in Bethesda, MD.

Chef Marc Forgione is the chef/owner of Restaurant Marc Forgione in New York City, American Cut in New York City, and Revel in Atlantic City. He was recognized with a glowing two-star review in the New York Times and received a Michelin star consecutively three years in a row! As Marc Forgione puts it, “Classic American food never tasted so good.”

And you have the opportunity to have dinner with him! How cool is that?

Over the years I’ve met some superbly talented chefs. Having the chance to ask them questions about their experiences and techniques is such a kick! This is a wonderful opportunity for those armchair chefs who love to surf the cooking channels to see the action front and center!
Marc ForgioneAnd I don’t know about you, but all these end of school year activities has me feeling a little frazzled. A night out a dinner party sounds pretty darn good to me right about now.

So if you’re a D.C. local, here are the details. Be sure to get your tickets now as they’re limited. Hope to see you there!

When: 6/11 6pm

Where: Montgomery Mall, Bethesda MD

Tickets: Tickets are $45 and include a reserved seat to the dinner, a $20 Macy’s gift card and a copy of Chef Forgione’s cookbook, Recipes and Stories, which he’ll sign during the event. Space is limited so reserve your spot today by calling 1-877-556-2297 10AM – 6PM EST.

This post is sponsored by Macy’s Culinary Council; however, all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.

Staying in the Present and Worrying Less

Kids in the BayIf worrying was an Olympic sport, I’d be a gold medalist. Even during good times I have a tendency to worry about things which totally becomes a joy stealer. And now that I’m in a solid peaceful place, I’m determined to make some changes in my thought life.

While I will never be a complete carefree spirit, I’d at least like to fully enjoy the more beautiful moments in my life and not allow them to be clouded over in a fog of “what could happen next?” kind of thinking.

This past Friday was an excellent example. After school we took the kids to a pool where we have a new membership. It’s super nice with two water slides, beach access and picnic pavilion. I had grand thoughts of how much fun we’d have this summer splashing in the pool and building sandcastles on the beach.

But on our first visit we learned that the kids would have to take a swim test to use the slides. No problem for my oldest daughter as she has an athletic build and has been swimming all her life.

My youngest has also been swimming all her life, but she’s small and doesn’t have the same stamina her older sister possesses. I wasn’t sure she’d make it swimming two lengths of the pool and then immediately take the thirty second tread water test.

And she wasn’t so sure either based on the crying jag that followed when she learned what it was going to take to pass.

Immediately I envisioned a summer of her crying by the pool while big sis splashed and played. I had failed her in my mind before she even had a chance to put a toe in the pool.

It’s like my mind is always fast forwarding to the worst case scenario as some type of survival mechanism. And if something goes better than the worst case scenario, I’m pleasantly surprised. It’s a problem.

Oh, and guess what? When she finally got the gumption up to take the test? Yeah, she passed it. With the breast stroke even. Go figure.

The Colonel looked at me and said, you worried for nothing. It’s a habit, I said.

Happy HourAnd I do believe it’s a habit. So here I am publicly announcing that I’m going to take small steps towards changing that behavior. Melanie’s thought life wasn’t built in a day, so I can’t expect it will change in a day either. And making a declaration that I’m going to make changes in that area is definitely more for me than it is for you. There’s something about making a statement to other people that makes you feel more accountable, don’t you think?

Another part of my plan is to just stay still. We’ve packed so much exploring into our weekends in order to show the kids our new state that I think we’ve been missing out on just being still together.

So the other day we did that very thing. We all sat on the patio and just hung out. I made a pitcher of sangria for The Colonel and I and I also made a kid’s version which was vino free. Michael brought out his guitar and we all just enjoyed each other’s company. I need more of that in my life.

SangriaAnd I need this to be a regular thing too. Sangria is such a wonderful summertime beverage. How about you? Do you feel like you have a tendency to worry too much? Like, so much that it prohibits you from enjoying the good times in your life? Do you have strategies that help? I’d love to hear what works for you.

The Chesapeake Auction House

vintage pyrexMaryland is a wonderful place for lovers of old things. The first semi warm weekend here yard sale signs went up at every intersection, flea markets set up in the freshly mowed fields and seasonal antique shops opened their doors to tourists and locals alike.

Being a seasoned antiquer, I’m rather familiar with pricing on most vintage glass. I can now spot a Fire King, Pyrex or Glasbake piece tables away. It’s funny, I can’t read a menu at a restaurant without glasses but I can spot a vintage bowl half a block away. Strange how that happens.

In New England, prices can be rather high for vintage glass. Heck, prices are high for most antiques up there. Sure, there are deals to be had. I’ve gotten a fair share of them myself, but for the most part anything vintage in good shape goes for a pretty penny. Unless you find it at a yard sale. That’s always a sweetheart deal.

I went to several auctions in Massachusetts but quit after awhile because dealers know what the values are and because of that they can drive up prices. Auctions just weren’t a value for me and what I was looking for.

Now here I am in Maryland and it’s a wildly different story. I’ve been cruising around the antiques shops for kicks and I’m floored that stuff is so much more affordable here. Granted, I’m not looking for expensive stuff like 1800’s furniture which is a good thing because good grief is that stuff expensive, but the smaller stuff like vintage glass and other small wares are pretty darn cheap.

Chesapeake Auction HouseNot that I’m looking to add to my collection. I’m not. What I am looking for are items to decorate my home. Nothing big. Just some interesting pieces to decorate the shelves and tables. I’m looking for a Pinterest worthy home at Goodwill pricing. It can be done with patience and a bit of legwork.

Legwork that led me this past weekend to the Chesapeake Auction House. The auction is held weekly with special auctions throughout the month. This particular auction was an antiques auction which made me hesitate a little because I figured the prices would be exorbitant. The web preview which showcased all the items to be auctioned listed some rather lovely stuff which I expected to soar sky high in pricing.

Antique Underwood TypewriterBut as the auction progressed, I kept elbowing The Colonel in the ribs every time something went absurdly lower than I expected it to. Deals were being scored left and right.

At one point a gorgeous 40’s mahogany queen sized sleigh bedroom set complete with two nightstands and dresser went up with no opening bid. And once the bidding did start, The Colonel nudged me and said the set would look lovely in the currently empty guest bedroom. Before I had the chance to process that thought, the gavel banged and the winning bidder walked up to claim their  $85 dollar steal of the day.

Let that sink in a moment. $85 for an entire mahogany bedroom suite in gorgeous condition. Valuable lesson learned. Always listen to The Colonel.

Not that I didn’t get deals of my own. Up above you can see my Underwood typewriter. As a person who spends a good chunk of her time typing, I thought this would be a gorgeous piece for my office. It needs some love and care, but once I clean her up I think she’ll be rather lovely.

Lenox Solitaire ChinaThere were four sets of china up for auction, three Lenox and one Noritake. And let me tell you, no one was feeling the china love. The first two Lenox sets were twelve setting lots complete with serving dishes. The first set was gorgeous but rather busy looking with a floral border. Not exactly my style but when it went for $165 complete, I was kicking myself for watching it go at that price.

It could’ve been resold for SO much more. I’m pretty certain that a dealer already has that set on display in some antique shop just waiting for the killer profit their sure to get.

I didn’t pay much attention to the second set because I was busy inspecting a dresser, but when the third set of Lenox went up for auction, I walked over to the table out of morbid curiosity. A setting for eight complete with coffee service, bonus vase and all with the stickers still attached.

And when the bidding started at $50 for the whole shebang with only one bidder, I was not going to let that get away. I figured I’d buy it and flip it on eBay if I got it for a steal. Which I did. I was the high bidder at $75. I still can’t believe it. Brand new, minty condition, in a style I adore for $75. Lord have mercy.

Table set with chinaAs The Colonel was helping me carry it into the house, he asked me if I was indeed going to sell it. While that was my plan, I couldn’t help but set it up on my table to see how it might look. That couldn’t hurt anything, right?

Lenox chinaThat coffee service is rather lovely, don’t you think? And the platinum edge is just so very sophisticated. The perfect china for the holidays and any special occasion, don’t you think? I bet you know where this is going….

China in cabinetYup. Right into my cabinet. Sure, I could make some money selling the set, but how much more enjoyable it will be to actually use it!

Never would I have guessed I’d find something this lovely at an auction for that price. And that’s just some of the bargains at the auction this weekend. I’m fairly certain more auctions are in my future.

How about you? Do you attend auctions? What’s the best deal you’ve ever scored?

Together

Aidan FishingSo sorry for the radio silence this past week. Aidan came down to visit and we were all absorbed by that. Our time with him is so sparse these days with him living in Massachusetts and us down here. What time we have together is savored and way too darn short.

But boy did we cram a lot in while he was here. One of the first things he did was get his fishing license at the local bait and tackle shop. While there I bought a couple crab traps and crabbing supplies.

You can bet there will be future posts on crabbing trips. I’m so excited to do that with my kids as I have very fond memories of crabbing with my dad on the Jersey Shore. Some of my favorite childhood memories for certain.

Aidan dockHe had his license for all of an hour before he went on his first fishing excursion. Maryland is good for that, let me tell you. Fishing piers everywhere. And while he didn’t have much luck this trip, I can say without a doubt that there will be some good eating once the kid moves down here this fall.

As I edited these photos for this post, I noticed that the kid no longer looks like a kid. Someone swapped out a man where a child used to be. My first born has grown up on me.

Harris Crab HouseOne of the things I promised the kids we’d do when we moved here was to have a proper Maryland blue crab dinner. After doing a bit of research, we settled on Harris Crab House because they have solid reviews and an all you can eat option.

With two man sized offspring, I thought this was a good choice. Also, crabs are SO expensive. One tray of jumbos can run over $125! That’s enough to make anyone crabby. So when I read that they had a midweek special of all you can eat crabs plus sides for $50, I thought that was a rather decent deal.

Sure, it’s not cheap, but this is not something you do every day. Or every week for that matter. This is a special occasion kind of meal.

piles of crabsAnd special it was. We as a family are used to the high pay off of eating lobsters. One crack of a claw and you have a mouthful. Crabs are a ton more work but oh so delicious.

It took some instruction from The Colonel who’s skilled in this area, but with some tips and a little wooden mallet, we were picking like experts in no time. Ok, so maybe not like experts. It was ugly. Shell flying everywhere and we left with crab bits in our hair, but dang was it tasty.

Leela and the crab

A Malibu punch bucket. No one need me for the rest of the night.

A Malibu punch bucket. No one need me for the rest of the night.

If you ever get to these parts and find yourself at Harris Crab House, be sure to order the punch bucket. 32 ounces of rum happiness with a splash of some fruity thing mixed in. Boozy and perfect. Oh, and at $11.99 a total bargain. It’s like three cocktails rolled into one. You’ll be glad you did.

Oh Maryland,  you look lovely tonight.

Oh Maryland, you look lovely tonight.

Such a fun time with my kid. I would’ve cried when he left, but he’ll be back in early June. And we had so much fun while he was here, it would’ve spoiled it to get all down and mopey. So for now I will count the days until his return and start looking for places to drop those crab traps.

Because a free crab dinner sounds pretty darn good to me! Now I just need to figure out how to make that punch bucket at home!

The Colonel

The ColonelSo there’s a guy. I bet you knew that was coming, didn’t you? Yup, there’s a man in my life. He’s been here for awhile now, but I’ve been hemming and hawing over introducing you to him. It’s so very odd that I find it more difficult to share things with you than I do my own blood family. Seriously, I’ve been turning this over in my mind every which way trying to figure out how and when to share this with you.

So here we go. Meet The Colonel…

ColonelI think we’ll start with the most ironic part of the whole thing. The Colonel is a retired fighter pilot and former flight trainer. His whole career is centered around aviation and it still is today in his civilian position. The man is addicted to flight.

My long time readers are chuckling over this because they know I’m a complete flight phobic. The idea that a pilot would enter a relationship with a phobic is rather amusing. And indeed, he finds me amusing in this way.

Matter of fact, according to him, he finds me amusing in most ways. He says I bring color to his life. What I think he’s saying is that I’m the jumbo box of Crayola crayons with bonus sharpener. The man wanted color and by God he got it.

We have a tremendous amount of fun together despite the fact that we have few hobbies in common.

I’m a foodie and he’s an eatie. He might not be able to cook, but boy can he EAT! He’s a strapping guy who still gets up at the crack of dawn to do his Marine Corps workout. The man is nothing if not disciplined. And he eats the same way he works out, with gusto. It does my heart good to see him devour whatever I cook. There are very few leftovers after our meals together.

We may not have many hobbies in common, but we share the same beliefs. Politics, spiritual and life views are shared which is important in a relationship. He is the frick to my frack.

The Colonel on the SwingWhile he says I bring color to his life, he brings levity to mine. Playful in spirit, The Colonel is quick to break out in laughter and smiling comes easy to him. We recently went to a water park and he was the one egging the kids onto the slides. I’m convinced he’s part teenager.

And with me he’s equally playful. He’s been known to pick me up when I least expect it, like I’m light as a feather, hoisted right up on his shoulder. There’s something hot about a man who can pick up his woman. Especially when she’s not a petite little thing like me.

His strength is appealing. I never worry for my safety when he’s around because he’s trained to defend. His eyes are always scanning an area to make sure it’s secure. He’s the same way with my kids. Always watching and protecting. I breathe easy when he’s by my side.

What do the kids think of him? They like him very much. He treats them respectfully and they reciprocate. I can’t ask for much more than that at this point. But I will say this, it speaks to his character that he’s willing to take on a woman with four kids. Jumbo box of crayons with sharpener indeed.

The Colonel and MelanieThe Colonel is an all-around good guy and I’m lucky to have him in my life. And as you can see, this is a committed relationship. We aren’t just dating which is why it was high time you meet him. Much more in the months to come. But for today, here he is. You’ve been formally introduced.