20190128

20 Questions with H


1. What is your favorite color? Scarlet
2. What is your favorite toy? Flip Car
3. What is your favorite fruit? Oranges
4. What is your favorite food? Lasagna
5. What is your favorite ice cream flavor? Vanilla and Strawberry
7. What is your favorite tv show? Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug & Cat Noir
8. What is your favorite animal? Lions, Tigers, Leopards and Saber-tooth Tigers
9. What is your favorite song? Dynamite by Taio Cruz
10. What is your favorite book? Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss
11. Who is your best friend? Mommy :)
12. What is your favorite game? ColorFox
13. What is your favorite thing to do outside? Play superheroes
14. What do you want to be when you grow up? Helicopter, Submarine, Jet and Race Car Driver
15. What is your favorite thing to do with mummy? Help Cook
16. What is your favorite thing to do with baba? Running around the house
17. What is your favorite thing to do with D? watching videos (only if I get to pick them)
18. What makes you feel sad? D being mean to me
19. What makes you feel happy? Dad tickling me
20. What was your favorite thing about your birthday? Making the Lego cars, the Lego car race and coloring.

20 Questions with H when he turned 4

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20190125

Friday Photography



Jellyfish - Mesmerizing and soothing pink jelly fish in a deep blue sea.

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20190121

H's Lego Birthday Party

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H loves Lego's. I love Lego's. I have been trying to convince D to want a Lego party for ages.. he was never interested. So when H said he wanted a Lego party I was thrilled! And thankfully Lego parties are all over the internet which made it so easy to plan this party.

First we started with the invitations. I used this printable. D has had birthday parties both at home and outdoor venues but him being a summer baby we have always been able to throw the parties in the backyard. This was our first time having a children's birthday party indoors.  


There were 10 kids in attendance and most of them where accompanied by a parent. We set the basement up into two sections.. the playing area and the eating sitting area. 



All of the tableware, balloons and banner I bought from the Dollar Tree. The tables and chairs we rented from a local mom and pop shop.

When the kids arrived they first played Guess How Many? I filled the jar with super cute Lego candy found here. You can actually build with them!


After which we lead them to the table where they colored Lego man heads. Once they had all colored their Lego heads we moved on to Pin the Head on the Lego Man. 




This game didn't last as long as I had imagined. The kids rushed through their turns.. and as soon as their turn had ended they were looking for the next thing to do. I had already started doing the math in my head.. did I have enough games to entertain?


Next we had a relay race.. we lined the kids up with a spoon and gave them all a Duplo block. The rules were simple.. make it to the end of the room without dropping the block. You drop it, you go back to the start. The kids had so much fun with this.. they once again followed no rules at all, they just kept walking.. and dropping.. they held on to the block while they walked.. they held the spoon in their hands.. in their mouths and just kept on playing. Any concern I had about not having enough activities to entertain these kiddos vanished. The above picture is really low res.. mainly because it's a screenshot of a video I just took since we took no pictures during this entire activity. 



The kids were directed back to the table to build some Lego cars. I found non Lego brand car kits at the Dollar Tree. I opened them up and separated the pieces in bowls so they could create their vehicles which the kids also got to take home. And M had spent the better park of the previous weekend building the kids an awesome racetrack using cardboard boxes, black table cover and painters tape. 



The birthday boy had requested to wear a Lego crown on his big day.. so I printed out a Lego background print like this and cut him out a crown. 

Before we knew it it was time to eat. We ordered pizza and I found these juice boxes that are really flavored water.. and thought what a great healthy alternative to juice. They were not good. 



For the cake.. I ordered a plain chocolate cake with vanilla butter cream from Wegmans and made these Lego pieces myself using this mold and colored chocolate wafers. It was a pretty easy process and super fun. 


When it was time to leave the kids went home with Lego party bags also bought from Dollar Tree.. inside were a bag of legos and a giant Lego man crayon, also made using the above mold.





See how we celebrated H turning four with a Ninja Party!


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20190118

Friday Photography


       
Contort - The deconstructivist MIT Stata Center designed by Pritzker Prize winning architect Frank Gehry in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Read more about our trip here

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20190114

Reading in 2018

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I read a whopping 19 books this year.. this has been my best reading year in a very long time.. maybe since I had kids.. and I finished every single one of them..


The Black Book by James Patterson - Being a cop runs in Billy Harney's family. The son of Chicago's Chief of Detectives whose twin sister, Patty, also followed in their father's footsteps, there's nothing Billy won't give up for the job, including his life. After a brutal shooting, Billy is left for dead alongside his tempestuous former partner and an ambitious assistant district attorney out for blood, But somehow Billy survives. He remembers nothing about the events leading up to the shootout and is charged with double murder. Desperate to clear his name, Billy retraces his steps to get to the bottom of what happened. When he discovers the existence of a little black book that everyone who's anyone in Chicago will stop at nothing to get their hands on, Billy suspects it contains the truth that will either set him free... or confirm his worst fears. I have never read anything by James Patterson.. I had heard great things about this book and I thought I'd give it a try.. it was very good.. full of great twists.

The Kind Worth Killing by Peter SwansonOn a night flight from London to Boston, Ted Severson meets the stunning and mysterious Lily Kintner. Sharing one too many martinis, the strangers begin to play a game of truth, revealing very intimate details about themselves. Ted talks about his marriage that’s going stale and his wife Miranda, who he’s sure is cheating on him. Ted and his wife were a mismatch from the start—he the rich businessman, she the artistic free spirit. But their game turns a little darker when Ted jokes that he could kill Miranda for what she’s done. Lily, without missing a beat, says calmly, “I’d like to help.” After all, some people are the kind worth killing. This was an interesting read.. it had some predictable moments but there was plenty that was not predictable.. I have read another book by Peter Swanson which was highly forgettable.. this was not, it was full of crazy twists and turns and completely caught me off guard.

Dark Water by Robert BryndzaWhen Detective Erika Foster receives a tip-off that key evidence for a major narcotics case was stashed in a disused quarry on the outskirts of London, she orders for it to be searched. From the thick sludge the drugs are recovered, but so is the skeleton of a young child. The remains are quickly identified as seven-year-old Jessica Collins. The missing girl who made headline news twenty-six years ago. As Erika tries to piece together new evidence with the old, she must dig deeper and find out more about the fractured Collins family and the original detective, Amanda Baker. A woman plagued by her failure to find Jessica. Erika soon realizes this is going to be one of the most complex and demanding cases she has ever taken on. Another pretty good thriller.. I couldn't predict the killer which is always a good thing.

The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel by Alyssa PalomboWhen Ichabod Crane arrives in the spooky little village of Sleepy Hollow as the new schoolmaster, Katrina Van Tassel is instantly drawn to him. When romance gives way to passion, Ichabod and Katrina embark on a secret love affair, sneaking away into the woods after dark to be together – all while praying they do not catch sight of Sleepy Hollow’s legendary Headless Horseman. That is, until All Hallows’s Eve, when Ichabod suddenly disappears, leaving Katrina alone and in a perilous position. This one was a major dud. It had so much potential but it failed on so many levels. The only way I finished it was by skimming and skipping paragraphs. 


Next Year in Havana by Chanel CleetonHavana, 1958. The daughter of a sugar baron, nineteen-year-old Elisa Perez is part of Cuba's high society, where she is largely sheltered from the country's growing political unrest--until she embarks on a clandestine affair with a passionate revolutionary... Miami, 2017. Freelance writer Marisol Ferrera grew up hearing romantic stories of Cuba from her late grandmother Elisa, who was forced to flee with her family during the revolution. Elisa's last wish was for Marisol to scatter her ashes in the country of her birth. Arriving in Havana, Marisol comes face-to-face with the contrast of Cuba's tropical, timeless beauty and its perilous political climate. When more family history comes to light and Marisol finds herself attracted to a man with secrets of his own, she'll need the lessons of her grandmother's past to help her understand the true meaning of courage. This was by far one of my favorite books of the year. It had a sappy romance thrown in which was predictable but the history of Cuba, the current day situation.. I was riveted. I could do a whole post about just this book. I spent a good deal of my life growing up in Pakistan which is considered a third world country.. but never have we had it so bad, so dire. It made we re think so many things.. appreciate the life we had in Pakistan and appreciate the privilege it is to live in America. It brings up many issues like immigration, asylum seekers and I think it is a must read!

What Should Be Wild by Julia FineCursed. Maisie Cothay has never known the feel of human flesh: born with the power to kill or resurrect at her slightest touch, she has spent her childhood sequestered in her family’s manor at the edge of a mysterious forest. Maisie’s father, an anthropologist who sees her as more experiment than daughter, has warned Maisie not to venture into the wood. Locals talk of men disappearing within, emerging with addled minds and strange stories. What he does not tell Maisie is that for over a millennium her female ancestors have also vanished into the wood, never to emerge—for she is descended from a long line of cursed women. But one day Maisie’s father disappears, and Maisie must venture beyond the walls of her carefully constructed life to find him. Away from her home and the wood for the very first time, she encounters a strange world filled with wonder and deception. Yet the farther she strays, the more the wood calls her home. For only there can Maisie finally reckon with her power and come to understand the wildest parts of herself. Another great read. It was a beautiful book, a combination of fantasy and fairy tales, feminism and family. The four F's lol. I thoroughly enjoyed it.. reminded me a bit of one of my last years favorites The Bear and the Nightingale. 

Dawn Girl by Leslie Wolfe - A beautiful girl found at dawn, on a deserted stretch of white sand beach? What is her secret? FBI Special Agent Tess Winnett searches for answers relentlessly. With each step, each new finding, she uncovers unsettling facts leading to a single possible conclusion: Dawn Girl is not the only victim. Her killer has killed before. Hiding a terrible secret of her own, Special Agent Tess Winnett faces her inmost fears, in a heart-stopping race to catch a killer who’s getting ready to end yet another life. Will she find the killer in time? Will she be able to stop him? At what cost? It was a good thriller.. but I read a lot of thrillers and this was certainly not the best. 

All We Ever Wanted by Emily GiffinNina Browning is living the good life after marrying into Nashville’s elite. Her husband made a fortune selling his tech business, and their adored son has been accepted to Princeton. Yet sometimes the middle-class small-town girl in Nina wonders if she’s strayed from the person she once was. Tom Volpe is a single dad working multiple jobs while struggling to raise his headstrong daughter, Lyla. His road has been lonely, long, and hard, but he finally starts to relax after Lyla earns a scholarship to Windsor Academy, Nashville’s most prestigious private school. Then, one photograph, snapped in a drunken moment at a party, changes everything. As the image spreads like wildfire, the Windsor community is instantly polarized, buzzing with controversy and assigning blame. At the heart of the lies and scandal, Tom, Nina, and Lyla are forced together—all questioning their closest relationships, asking themselves who they really are, and searching for the courage to live a life of true meaning. This one was such a bore. It had all the right ingredients.. the current issues of social media, rich male privilege, race, me too etc but it all fell so flat. It seemed forced and was not a great read.


A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny - No one liked CC de Poitiers. Not her quiet husband, not her spineless lover, not her pathetic daughter—and certainly none of the residents of Three Pines. CC de Poitiers managed to alienate everyone, right up until the moment of her death. When Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, of the Sûreté du Québec, is called to investigate, he quickly realizes he's dealing with someone quite extraordinary. CC de Poitiers was electrocuted in the middle of a frozen lake, in front of the entire village, as she watched the annual curling tournament. And yet no one saw anything. Who could have been insane enough to try such a macabre method of murder—or brilliant enough to succeed?  This is my second Louise Penny book. It was pretty good. Not much else to say.

The Girl in 6E by A.R.Torre - I haven't touched a human in three years. That seems like it would be a difficult task, but it's not. Not anymore, thanks to the internet. I am, quite possibly, the most popular recluse ever. Not many shut-ins have a 200-member fan club, a bank account in the seven-figure range, and hundreds of men lining up to pay for undivided attention. They get satisfaction, I get a distraction. Their secret desires are nothing compared to why I hide... my lust for blood, my love of death. Taking their money is easy. Keeping all these secrets... one is bound to escape. What if you hid yourself away because all you could think of was killing? And what if one girl's life depending on you venturing into society?  This book seemed to have so much potential.. it could have been a wild ride and yet it wasn't. I'm not really sure where it all went wrong but there were a few essential ingredients missing and it just didn't work.

The 1st to Die by James Paterson - Inspector Lindsay Boxer of the San Francisco Police Department suddenly finds herself in the middle of two horrifying situations: The first is that she's just learned she has an often-fatal blood disease. The second is a double homicide case she is now heading up that involves the murder of newlyweds on their wedding night. Burdened with Chris Raleigh, a new partner reassigned from the mayor's office, Lindsay finds that she has too much to deal with and turns to her best friend, Claire, the head ME on the case. Soon a fledgling newspaper reporter, Cindy, makes contact with Lindsay looking for a career-making story. Although Lindsay can't officially comment on the case, the two women form a rapport. With the addition of understanding assistant D.A., Jill Bernhardt, the four women create the Women's Murder Club. I did it again.. I read something by James Patterson and I actually liked it.. a lot. I'm afraid this is going to start becoming a trend.. yikes! This was a great book.. it managed to surprise me a few times and I really loved the camaraderie of the four women. I've already got the next two books in the series to read in the coming year.

Hunting and Gathering by Anna GavaldaGavalda explores the twists of fate that connect four people in Paris. Comprised of a starving artist, her shy, aristocratic neighbor, his obnoxious but talented roommate, and a neglected grandmother, this curious, damaged quartet may be hopeless apart, but together, they may just be able to face the world.  I can not say enough good things about this book. It was beautiful. It took a little while to get into but once I did I didn't want it to end. It's a book for the outcasts, the ones that don't fit in.. it was a book about hope, about companionship.. It reminded me of the goodness of people.. random acts of kindness.. and that everyone needs someone.. a must read!



The Doll Maker by Richard Montanari - A quiet Philadelphia suburb. A woman cycles past a train depot with her young daughter. There she finds a murdered girl posed on a newly painted bench. Beside her is a formal invitation to a tea dance in a week's time.Seven days later, two more young victims are discovered in an abandoned house, posed on painted swings. At the scene is an identical invitation. This time, though, there is something extra waiting for Detectives Kevin Byrne and Jessica Balzano: a delicate porcelain doll. It's a message. And a threat. With the killers at large, Detectives Byrne and Balzano have just seven more days to find the link between the murders before another innocent child is snatched from the streets.  This one was uber creepy.. which also made it pretty good. 

America's First Daughter by Stephanie Dray - In a compelling, richly researched novel that draws from thousands of letters and original sources to tell the fascinating, untold story of Thomas Jefferson’s eldest daughter, Martha “Patsy” Jefferson Randolph—a woman who kept the secrets of our most enigmatic founding father and shaped an American legacy. Her choice will follow her in the years to come, to Virginia farmland, Monticello, and even the White House. And as scandal, tragedy, and poverty threaten her family, Patsy must decide how much she will sacrifice to protect her father's reputation, in the process defining not just his political legacy, but that of the nation he founded.  I am no history buff.. I don't read non fiction books.. but this was an amazing book. Books set in a different century always make me very very grateful for being born in the one I was born in.. But to read about the early years of our country's birth and the hardships faced.. especially from the point of view of a woman was moving and impactful. A must read!

Home by Harlan Coben - A decade ago, kidnappers grabbed two boys from wealthy families and demanded ransom, then went silent. No trace of the boys ever surfaced. For ten years their families have been left with nothing but painful memories and a quiet desperation for the day that has finally, miraculously arrived: Myron Bolitar and his friend Win believe they have located one of the boys, now a teenager. Where has he been for ten years, and what does he know about the day, more than half a life ago, when he was taken? And most critically: What can he tell Myron and Win about the fate of his missing friend?  This was a good book..there were okay parts in the middle but it was the twist at the end that really set it apart.. I did not see it coming.. and it was heartbreaking. 

The Butterfly Garden by Dot HutchisonIn this garden grow luscious flowers, shady trees…and a collection of precious “butterflies”—young women who have been kidnapped and intricately tattooed to resemble their namesakes. Overseeing it all is the Gardener, a brutal, twisted man obsessed with capturing and preserving his lovely specimens. When the garden is discovered, a survivor is brought in for questioning. FBI agents Victor Hanoverian and Brandon Eddison are tasked with piecing together one of the most stomach-churning cases of their careers. But the girl, known only as Maya, proves to be a puzzle herself. As her story twists and turns, slowly shedding light on life in the Butterfly Garden, Maya reveals old grudges, new saviors, and horrific tales of a man who’d go to any length to hold beauty captive. I love a crazy crime thriller.. but this one just didn't do it for me.. I mean it had an intriguing story line but too many holes.. also Maya's character left me conflicted. 

     
 

Criminal by Karin SlaughterWill Trent is a brilliant agent with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. Newly in love, he is beginning to put a difficult past behind him. Then a local college student goes missing, and Will is inexplicably kept off the case by his supervisor and mentor, deputy director Amanda Wagner. Will cannot fathom Amanda’s motivation until the two of them literally collide in an abandoned orphanage they have both been drawn to for different reasons. Decades before, when his father was imprisoned for murder, this was Will’s home. It appears that the case that launched Amanda’s career forty years ago has suddenly come back to life—and it involves the long-held mystery of Will’s birth and parentage. Now these two dauntless investigators will each need to face down demons from the past if they are to prevent an even greater terror from being unleashed. I love Karin Slaughter.. I would not want to take a peak into her twisted mind. This was my fifth book by her from the Will Trent series and it was a brilliant. The crime was horrific and unimaginable. But what I loved most was the behind the scene look into women police officers in the 1970's. If you are not faint of hurt then I wholly recommend it. 

The Nature of the Beast by Louise PennyHardly a day goes by when nine-year-old Laurent Lepage doesn't cry wolf. From alien invasions, to walking trees, to winged beasts in the woods, to dinosaurs spotted in the village of Three Pines, his tales are so extraordinary no one can possibly believe him. But when the boy disappears, the villagers are faced with the possibility that one of his tall tales might have been true. And so begins a frantic search for the boy and the truth. What they uncover deep in the forest sets off a sequence of events that leads to murder, leads to an old crime, leads to an old betrayal. A monster once visited Three Pines. And put down deep roots. And now, it is back. This is my third Louise Penny book and I like them but I just don't love them. It was an interesting mystery but just not interesting enough.. I prefer Karin Slaughter.. I think I like the urgency in those books. 

Christmas Camp by Karen SchalerHaley Hanson’s idea of the perfect Christmas is escaping to the Caribbean to work so she can avoid all the traditional Christmas distractions. Over the years, she’s sacrificed her personal life to climb the corporate ladder at a prestigious Boston advertising agency. Now she just needs to land a coveted Christmas toy company account to make partner. But first, her boss, Larry, thinks she needs a holiday attitude adjustment, so he ships her off to a Christmas Camp at Holly Peak Inn to help her find her Christmas spirit. Arriving at the charming mountainside inn, Haley meets the owner’s handsome son, Jeff, and feels an instant spark, but resists the attraction, refusing to be distracted from her goal of doing all the required Christmas tasks as fast as possible so she can get back to work. At first Haley struggles with all the traditional Christmas Camp activities. It’s not until she finally allows herself to slow down, live in the moment, and let Christmas back into her heart, that she begins to grow closer to Jeff. But when he finds out Haley’s come up with a plan to help his dad save the struggling inn while he’s been trying to convince his dad to sell it, their relationship takes a serious holiday hit.  Now it will take the magic of the season to bring these two hearts together. This was not something I would generally be attracted to..too Hallmark Channel for my taste.. but after giving it a chance it was actually the perfect Christmas on the beach kind of light read. 



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20190111

Friday Photography



Brown Door - An old brown wooden door found in the streets of Isla Mujeres. More from our trip here

You can buy this print here. Get Free Shipping with code BLOGGER

Prints also available in larger sizes. Contact for more information and special requests.

I am open to wholesale and licensing opportunities. Get in touch for more information.
      
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20190107

Sint Maarten Winter Getaway

Hoping you all had a wonderful holiday season. We spent some of our winter break basking in the hot Sint Maarten sun. It was the perfect getaway.

We caught an early morning direct flight to Sint Maarten. Did you know - St. Martin is the smallest island in the world divided between two countries, France and the Netherlands. We stayed on the Dutch side at the Little Divi Beach Resort with the all inclusive option. Our focus was to try to relax and spend most of our time doing nothing.











On one day we decided to rent a car and drive around the island. We went to the cruise ship port and capital of the Dutch side, Phillipsburg. It was an extremely touristy shopping area.. it was Christmas Day so many shops were closed. After a quick stroll be headed to Orient Beach and then to Pinel Island. We parked in the Cul de Sac and took a quick five minute ferry to the island. The very very small island is clothing optional.. as was Orient Beach and has two restaurants as well as many iguana's and hermit crabs. The boys were oblivious to the topless women (thankfully). H was enthralled by the iguanas.


There was an ice cream boat.. :)  We stayed on the island for about an hour.. D was starting to feel a little feverish.. eek.


Back on the ferry and to the car.. we continued our drive around the island.. our mistake was probably that we chose Christmas day to venture out to explore the island when so much of the island was closed. Our final destination was Maho Beach aka Sunset Beach. This beach is famous for its proximity to the Princess Juliana Airport's landing strip. We grabbed a snack at the Sunset Bar and sat on the beach as we ate and watched the air planes flying low overhead..


It was a pretty perfect getaway. 

In September of 2017 Hurricane Irma devastated the island. It was the worst hurricane to hit the island in over a century. Over a year later the island is on it's way to recovery. Until just a few months ago the airport was a large tent.. while the airport is still under construction it is now a building with walls. The tourist areas appear almost untouched but along the shores you can spot shipwrecked boats, the houses of the residents can we seen covered with tarps. It is a beautiful island and I wish them a quick recovery.. 

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