Spring break!

This week was the boys spring break and Easter. Though as a stay-at-home mom, weekends and breaks tend to be more work for me than when school is in session. While I worked outside the home, it was “Thank God it’s Friday.” Now it’s rather “Thank God it’s Monday.” I like having my weekday routines. Though I wouldn’t want to be without the special times and the holidays – after all they’re what makes one appreciate those ordinary Mondays!

Spring break has been an amazingly fun and successful week with glorious weather and fabulous company! We’ve been very busy, and I figured I’d take some time and summarize it. 

Monday: Chuck went to work. All three kids and I spent the morning at the Preston park playing and picnicking with my MOMS Club. We came home and had quesadillas for lunch. Chuck came home early and took the boys to get six new baby chicks for our chicken coop. (I had resisted agreeing to more chickens for a long time, but then I decided that I reeeeally wanted a new living room area rug, so I made a deal with Chuck and let him have chicks if I could get a new rug. It was an easy sell and I’m crazy excited about picking out a new rug that will go much better with our newish furniture.) For dinner, I made a new favorite meal, halloumi stroganoff, and later in the evening we watched a movie (“Coraline.”) Perfect start to our week!


Tuesday: Chuck and Izzy had some special daddy/daughter time while I took my dear stepsons to lunch at Chilis and to the archery range Halls Arrow in Manchester. We all had a blast and shooting those arrows is addictingly fun – but tiring. Amazingly enough I still had energy for my Tuesday night Zumba class! 


Wednesday: Chuck went and picked up grandma Mary at the airport while the boys and I cleaned the house and Izzy made new messes. After grandma and daddy arrived, we hung out and later made grandma’s delicious almond stir fry and quinoa! 

Thursday: I started the day with a MOMS Club board meeting. On the way home I stopped at Target and couldn’t resist a pair of bunny ears for Izzy to wear at Easter. After lunch at home, grandma Mary and I did our grocery shopping. We had grilled marinated salmon, brown rice and green beans that night. Yum!


Friday: The whole family spent the morning at the Mystic aquarium, and I think everyone had the best time! We are lucky to be so close to such a cool place to visit. We had lunch out at an Asian fusion restaurant in the Olde Mistick Village, Pink Basil. Definitely a recommend! We came home and rested, and spent some time outside in the sun. Then it was time to make dinner again – good thing Mary and I love to cook together! We made another favorite – butternut squash/kale/lentil Indian curry, served with rice, Naan bread, and Greek yogurt. DELICIOUS! We even have enough leftovers for tonight (Sunday)!


Saturday: In the morning, we went to the annual Easter picnic and egg hunt with my awesome MOMS Club. Lots of yummy food and fun searching for treatfilled eggs (though Isabella is a little on the young side to really get it.) We came home to yet another delicious meal, an Italian vegetarian soup cooking in the crockpot that Mary had started in the morning. After dinner, we   hard boiled and dyed some eggs in preparation for our Easter Sunday brunch the next morning. 


Sunday (today): We invited Chuck’s uncle and aunt and set up a pretty great Easter brunch, if I may say so myself: hard boiled eggs, five kinds of sweet bread, yogurt, fresh fruit, granola and brownies. Our guests just left before I started writing this, and as I wrap up the blog post I can see that it’s really no wonder that I feel tired. But it’s a good tired. It’s been a fun, fun, fun week. Tomorrow life goes back to normal, and that’s okay too. 

Happy spring everyone!

Weekend getaway!

After months of snowy and cold weather, sicknesses, and being stuck inside, Chuck and I decided that we needed a break from home and a change of scenery. We spent some of Chuck’s Hilton honors points and booked a room at the Homewood Suites down in Stratford, CT (just outside New Haven.) Okay so it was not Paris or NYC, but good enough for a much needed weekend getaway!

We headed out shortly after breakfast. I kept hoping that Izzy would sleep in the car since her afternoon nap would likely be delayed… well that didn’t happen, but she was pretty good on the drive as long as she had her snacks, books and toys. 


Our first stop was to walk around downtown New Haven. Being from Europe, I very much miss “authentic” outdoor city shopping areas and I’m not too fond of malls or Walmart. The small cities in our part of CT don’t really have the same vibrancy and energy I’m used to from back home. So I was very pleased to find that the shops at Yale and the theater district in downtown New Haven were super nice to walk around! Of course it would have been even more pleasant in the spring, but we all had fun checking out the shops (LOVE Urban Outfitters!!) and eating lunch at a downtown restaurant. Chuck had spinach/Gorgonzola flatbread, Izzy had a grilled cheese sandwich and I had a Caesar salad. 


After lunch we checked into the hotel, put Izzy down for a nap in the pack n play and hung out. When Izzy woke up, we got changed into bathing suits and went for a nice swim in the pool. Izzy got to show Daddy everything she’s learned in swim class!

We got semi-dressed up and headed out to dinner in the center of Stratford. Chuck picked the restaurant “The Sitting Duck.” Izzy devoured half a plate of mac and cheese, I had shrimp pasta, and Chuck celebrated St Paddies Day with an Irish lamb stew. With a Guinness and a white Sangria, it was a yummy dinner for sure!


We slept okay. But that was okay since we got to wake up to a delicious breakfast buffet! We all enjoyed the omelet, fresh fruit and French toast. Yum! Izzy ate like a pie eating contestant, and kept signing for “more”! I guess she will soon grow out of her 18mo sized clothes…

After breakfast, we packed up our bags and checked out. We ended our getaway with a short stop at IKEA. We picked up a few things for the house, and had lunch and Swedish dessert in the restaurant. A trip to IKEA is always kind of like “coming home” for me!

All in all, our little trio had a nice getaway with lots of yummy food, walking around, snuggles and playtime with Izzy, and a break from house chores. I’d call it a success!

Spring forward!

We woke up to a wet and cold snow storm this morning. The day has involved shoveling, keeping warm under a blanket, and baking pizzas and cookies. No school for the boys and no work for Chuck. It’s cozy and all – but I’m SO OVER winter! And I know I’m far from unique here – but every year in March, without fail, I become  so indescribably IMPATIENT for spring! 

I don’t want: any more snow, bare trees, school and play date cancellations, boot/glove/hat messes in the kitchen, or such cold temps that make it almost impossible to enjoy even a walk down the road. 

I want: warm evening walks, ice cream in the sun, trees in bloom, the sound of singing birds and the smells of flowers, visits to the playground with Izzy and friends, and the dreams of summer that spring brings…

But the thing I’m most excited about right now is to plant my 2017 garden! I started my tomato and pepper seeds a few days ago, but the rest will have to wait until the last frost. My growing plan this year is to keep it pretty similar as last year. 2016 was the first year with the new layout, a small 10’x10′-ish square, which I will be keeping and filling it half way with veggies (beefsteak tomatoes, a color blend of bell peppers, carrots, and probably some herbs) and half way with lovely annual flowers.

 In addition to that, I will plant a sunflower mix by Chuck’s workshop barn, flowers in my window boxes, and elf sunflowers in pots on the south side of the house. I grew the elfs last year, but went to Sweden for three weeks while they were in bloom in August – this year I want to see them IRL and booked Izzy’s and my trip home for September. 

It’s time to go cook up the pizzas I made the dough for earlier today, but here are some shots of my 2016 garden to get me through the remainder of this snowy snowy day…

Five photos that make me happy

My beautiful children (at my childhood home in Sweden)! One I carried inside my uterus, two I carried inside my heart. I absolutely loved breastfeeding! The best six months of my life! Here in Central Park…Our wedding day! Such a fantastic day filled with love, joy, laughter and fun! Love my sweet, generous, snuggly, handy man husband!Our vacay to Cancun, Mexico! A wonderful memory I will cherish for a lifetime!! Håkan Hellström took Manhattan! And I was there! Such a SPIRITUAL experience!

Study makeover!

We have been blessed with a baby who has been sleeping through the night since she was a month old, and who takes consistent and fairly long naps every day. So because of that and because I’m no longer working outside the home, I really needed a project. Our downstairs study/guest room was in desperate need of a makeover; it was the only room left with a different trim color than the rest of the house, did not have a light switch, the wall color was awful and way too dark, the windows were in terrible shape, and the furniture just… bad. It seemed like a good room to take on as a nap time project!

View of old study, picture taken at the boys Minecraft party.

I started off in September last year by restoring the two windows. Working in the basement, I used my “silent paint remover,” a tool that uses infrared heat to remove paint from wood – no yucky chemicals needed – to get all the paint off the frames. Paired with a good sanding, it does a fantastic job and I love my SPR! Once the frames were all stripped and sanded, I ordered new glass panes from the local glass store as well as glaze from Advanced Repair Technology. I already had a caulk gun from restoring the mudroom windows a few years ago. I inserted the glass and glazed the windows, which is easily the most fun part of window work! The final step of the process was to paint the frames – Classic Ivory on the insides and Rockwood Green (both from Sherwin-Williams) on the outside. Voila! It may sound a bit odd, but I genuinely enjoy doing this. And the best part is that it all happens down in the basement – very non-intrusive to our everyday life.

Very old window, in very bad shape

Scrape, sand and glaze…

Once the windows were done, I (with help from Chuck and the boys) cleared the room out. We gave away our old tan sofa sleeper which was AWFUL to sleep on and really too big anyway. We had a big chest of drawers that only aided in accumulating useless junk – this is now in the workshop in which I don’t care if there’s clutter. We kept the rest of the furniture (a desk, filing cabinet, and bookshelf) and added a twin day bed. We already had a box spring and mattress and our neighbor let us have a frame that she wasn’t using anymore – so we didn’t actually have to buy any new furniture at all!

While Chuck was away traveling for work, I painted the radiator, desk and filing cabinet. Love how all three came out! When Chuck returned, we worked together to install a light switch in the room. There used to be a big ugly ceiling fan with pull strings, so now with a regular light fixture it feels soooo much more open and spacious! We had to cut two holes, one in the ceiling and one in the wall, to be able to run the wires. This made for some extra work having to mud and sand repair the holes, but that is okay. It’s so worth having a switch!

By January it was finally time to paint – walls, trim and ceiling. Having painted almost every room in the house at least once, and not to mention the entire exterior, I have become somewhat of a master and this one small room was a breeze. It came out super nice too I must say, and I can tell that I’m getting more experienced. The only thing I’m a tiny bit bummed about is that the wall color that I picked (SW Chelsea Mauve) looks almost identical to the mudroom’s Queen Anne Lilac. I had expected it to be closer to beige/gray than purple. OH WELL.

The final stage entailed my #1 favorite activity: to decorate! It’s a shame that this is the quickest part of the process… Izzy and I took a trip to Target to get some new throw pillows for the daybed, a lovely table lamp, and some other decorations. I made an inspiration display out of our plain old cork board. I hung two paintings by Georgia O’Keeffe I found laying around. Chuck set up the computer and printer. We moved our dear robot vacuum, Sheldon, into the room. Here are some photos of the end result – enjoy:

Love our new study/guest room!

Daybed and art

Bookshelf made by Chuck

New fave hangout spot!

My inspiration board!

View into study from dining room…

I must say I’m very, very happy with how it came out! It’s a huge relief that our house guests will no longer have to stay in that ugly, cluttered dungeon it used to be… It’s also really cool to have some additional space downstairs where one can sit and read a book or do a Sudoku puzzle. I find myself hanging out in here a lot while the boys watch Battlestar Galactica.

It’s the greatest feeling to have a project be completed! Now to take a little break from house projects and enjoy my family who will be visiting later in the month. But once it warms up outside we are going to tackle the next big challenge – adding an above ground swimming pool to the yard! Wish us luck and stay tuned!

 

 

10 of my favorite things

So I guess I haven’t written on my blog in about two years. But tonight, I thought to myself that it might be cool to start it up again. I like having a place to gather and organize some thoughts, and I gave up on Facebook since there’s so much drama as well as that it tends to eat up too much of my time. So here we go blogging!

We’ve had a bit of a rough stretch in the Curtis family, with everyone taking turns being sick plus my drawn out (no pun intended) recovery from wisdom tooth removal a few weeks ago. So I’d like to pull a Maria from “Sound of Music” and when I feel sad, I simply remember my favorite things, and then I don’t feel so bad… list 10 of my favorite things!

Susanna's sunflowers

  1. My family! Chuck, Will, Ben, and Isabella. My core. My support system. My gang. I don’t know what I’d do without them. Also my extended family – my parents, sisters, brothers-in-law, nephews, and Chuck’s parents and step parents!
  2. Music! I honestly don’t think I could survive without music. I need to consume it as well as create it every single day; if I don’t I feel malnourished somehow. I love singing with Izzy and her friends at my baby music group. Going to concerts. Playing the piano with a glass of wine. Blasting Spotify in the car. Music has saved my life so many times over!
  3. Good food & drink. I find myself daydreaming about what I’ll be eating for dinner several times per day. There is nothing better than going out for sushi or Indian or a good veggie burger with someone you hold dear. I love to cook too! Crispy stir fries with lots of garlic and ginger, homemade pizzas, fresh seafood dishes, or a hot wintery soup in the crockpot. What did we do to deserve this savory pleasure?
  4. Zumba! This is a newfound love. I finally joined a gym last year that offers Zumba classes. I had expected that I’d be DRAGGING my lazy butt over there, but it turns out that it’s a BLAST, and every week I can hardly wait for Zumba night! It’s not as much a workout as it is a Latin dance party. My serotonin levels are awesome and I’m happier than ever!
  5. Summer! She’s a dear old friend, and I long for her with such passion. I want long days on the beach. The smells of a hundred kinds of flowers. Bare legs and sandals and painted toe nails.
  6. Adventures! I like being at home and living my sweet, predictable life in Preston most of the time. But sometimes a girl just needs a good adventure. Traveling somewhere new, meeting new people, creating new memories. I loved my volunteer vacation at a kids camp in Greece, Chuck’s and my trip to Australia, and taking the boys to Cancun.
  7. Fighting for my core values! We all sing with the same voice. It’s true. I may risk sounding naive or whatever, but I will never stop believing in a more fair and loving world. I will never stop fighting for (in my own way) the things that I really care about – gender equality, multiculturalism, LGBTQ and women&kids rights.
  8. Relaxing in my neat & clean home! Nothing stresses me out like having my house be filthy or disorganized. I have become a Monica Geller type – I clean all the time and my best friend is a robot vacuum. Other people have hobbies. I just clean while listening to NPR!
  9. My friends! I joined my awesome Moms Club before I was even a mom, because I know that I only thrive when I have friends and a community around me. They’re awesome, and we have so much fun together. I love all my other friends too – I’m really fortunate that they’re too many to list – but you know who you are! I love spending time with you all!
  10. Beautiful things. I’m like a magpie bird. Love things that sparkle, glitter and shine. Whether it’s a sequin dress, or a golden piece of wall decor – nothing can lift my spirits like beautiful things. Planning outfits and decorating my home are two of my greatest passions. And if I don’t have my finger nails painted… actually not sure how to finish that sentence – my finger nails are always painted!

There. Now I feel much better. Hopefully it’ll hold me through tomorrow’s snow storm.

Making Art!

On President’s Day, Monday 2/16/2015, we invited Anne Marie Boroughs (artist and preschool teacher) to the house to do an art workshop with us.  Anne Marie had previously told me about her special technique of using one’s fingertips to make impressionist style paintings, and I had immediately thought to myself that having her make one with us would be an amazing experience to share with Will and Ben. The perfect opportunity to do it arose with William’s 12th birthday, and since it was his gift, he got to pick the motive and decided to go for a hummingbird (his “spirit animal.”)

The process started with Will picking a photo of a hummingbird to use as inspiration. It took him about ten seconds to find one:

Hummingbird

 

Anne Marie showed up and we had lunch together. Afterwards we set up the canvas and all the supplies. Anne Marie drew a grid over both the photo as well as the canvas, then numbered the squares. We (Will, Ben, Chuck, Anne Marie and I) each picked one or two squares from the photo and started to sketch on the corresponding square on the canvas. No erasing allowed! We learned that it doesn’t matter if the drawings are exact, they will just work as a guide.

Once we were finished with our pencils, we got a lesson in color study. We learned what the primary colors are, and how a color wheel works. After that the truly fun part began! We started mixing up the colors and painted the bird, flowers, and background with their OPPOSITE colors on the color wheel (at this point using brushes.) It was kind of odd to see green flowers and red background, but the purpose is to make the art more interesting and have the background layer make the top layer “POP.”

We finished the bottom layered, drank some coffee and let the paint dry. We used acrylics so it dried pretty quickly. At least dry enough to make the top part. This is where our fingertips got to get busy! We simply dipped them in the paint and lightly tapped them onto the painting. Wow it was so awesome to feel the paint on your fingers, mix colors up and go “dot dot dot” over the canvas.

The entire process took less than two hours and was amazingly fun! I was a tad nervous if the boys would enjoy it, but Will said “this is kinda fun” and Ben said “that’s probably the best painting I’ve ever seen.” It makes me so happy that Will is always going to have this piece of art that has such a special meaning and story behind it. (And I’m going to print this blog post and tape it to the back of the painting.) The final result is pretty darn nice, if I may say so myself. Thank you Anne Marie for giving us all this fun experience…it’s good to have talented friends!

Sketching Outlines Brushing Bottom Layer Dot Dot Dot Williams Hummingbird

You Can’t Get to Me, Winter!

Despite being Swedish, I am the antithesis of Elsa in Frozen. “Hate” is a strong word, but I STRONGLY dislike winter and the yucky cold temperatures and snow that come with it. I have basically been depressed every winter of my entire life (well maybe not when I was a baby.)

BUT SINCE THIS IS MY GOLDEN YEAR, I have decided to EMBRACE the Winter of 2015 and create my own happiness. I think I’m doing pretty well so far! Let me tell you (and the future me going back to read this whenever I may feel the D word sneaking up on me) how good I did this weekend doing fun things:

Friday night after work, I swung by one of my Heavens on Earth–Mirch Masala Indian Restaurant in Groton, and picked up two delicious meals for Chuck and myself. I got home and we did my absolute favorite activity of all times–watched three episodes of an awesome TV show (we’re always addicted to something, right now it’s Suits) while devouring our dinner! Yup, that is the somewhat sad truth about me, watching TV is the best thing I know!

But not more than a few hours per day. That would be counterproductive in my fight to beat my seasonal depression tendency. So on Saturday, Chuck and I took a long walk with the doggies. And even though it was cold, it was nice, because I actually bought my very first pair of warm hiking boots a few weeks ago. (Yes, I’m proud of myself for this. I used to go everywhere in a pair of falling-apart Converse or Uggs and I’m only just now discovering the joy of comfortable shoes!) I also went to the store and cleaned the house, because Saturday night we had guests coming over for homemade pizza and to play some cards. It was so much fun!!! Dave, Lauren & Jake, we’ll have to do it again!

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Today, Sunday, was also fabulous. I tried to jam in as many fun things as I could. One of those is actually-believe it or not-to fold laundry while watching På Spåret, a Swedish quiz show. I also talked to my Mom on the phone, helped Chuck in the workshop and met up with Anne Marie (my friend and coworker, or “work wife”) at Panera Bread to type up some observations of our students. We were really behind and it’s always a great feeling to catch up. And actually get to talk a little too…we don’t really get to do that much with 20 pre-schoolers in our care. Anyway, I had fun. It’s awesome having a job and coworkers that you love! ❤️

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Then tonight, I decided to try a new recipe (from Pinterest, where else,) well actually two new recipes–baked salmon filets marinaded in a soy sauce/brown sugar marinade and Parmesan baked potatoes! I served it with an arugula salad and sour cream. Mm-mm-mm! It’s good to get away from pasta & red sauce sometimes.

Then I decided to practice my piano homework. The piece I’m currently working on still needs fine tuning, so I’m not going to post it, but here’s another one that I like, it’s a Swedish children’s song and is called Vad det är bra att jag har dig. I’d like to dedicate it to Chuck because this is how I feel about him. The lyrics translated into English are:

How good it is that I have you
How good it is that you have me
That we can see each other every day
And be together, you and I
Because no one, no, no one, wants to be alone

Yup, it was a weekend in January and I wasn’t in a black hole=SUCCESS!!!!
Right now I’m listening to: Tucker barking to get back in after doing night-night potty

The Great Curtis Boy Quote Collection, pt 1

Chuck, Will and Ben are the men of my life. They just make me so darn happy. The reasons for that are many, but one is that they keep me laughing with the silly, sometimes a little stupid, always adorable stuff they say. A while back, I decided I wanted to keep remembering these epic quotes forever by recording them as they occur on my iPhone. In case you who are reading this are in need of a laugh, I’ll share what I’ve got so far.

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S=Susanna
C=Chuck
W=Will
B=Ben

Chuck

While wedding planning…
S: I still have to decide on something borrowed, something new, something blue…
C: Something old? Well, that’s me.

S: If you would describe yourself with three words, what would they be?
C: Attention. Deficit. Disorder.

S: Let’s go somewhere fun and romantic!
C: Home Depot?

S: What do you most look forward to about one day having a baby?
C: It’ll be a good excuse to get a bigger boat.

S: Let’s go to a club on New Years! MIST at Mohegan opens at 9!
C: I was hoping on being home by 9…

S: I was thinking about what we talked about, and I don’t want to stand in the way of your dreams so…
C: [SUGGESTS SOMETHING RATED R, INAPPROPRIATE FOR THIS BLOG] You’re awesome!
S: Chickens!!!!

Will

S: I love you.
W: Kinda doubt that, you only bought me ONE doughnut!

We had a discussion about dissecting dead animals (I had to do a fetal pig in my Biology class at Mitchell…ick!) over dinner.
C: You know, if you go to medical school, you have to dissect a human.
W: That stinks, then you have to go kill someone first?!

Singing…
S: All you need is love!
W: All you need is video games!

When his sheets were all messed up one morning:
W: Why should I make my bed when it doesn’t appreciate being made?!

C: Have you heard of pi? Well, it’s a Greek number…
W: It’s also very yummy!

Ben

B: There’s a ladybug in the bathroom!
C: So?
B: I don’t wanna take a shower with a girl in there!

S: Sometimes people choose to be cremated so their ashes can be spread over a place that was special to them and that they loved. For instance, a sailor may choose the ocean.
B: Oh I know where you’d want to be spread–over Targa or Tucker?
S: Hahahah, no.
B: Over Dad? Or your classroom?

B: Look under there!
S: Under where?
B: You said underwear!

S: Do I look pretty enough to go out to dinner?
B: You look like a regular woman.

And finally, a classic from when Ben was around 3 years old and couldn’t distinguish between pronouns.
W: No Ben, that toy is a “he!”
S: It’s Ben’s toy so Ben decides whether if it’s a “he” or a “she.”
B: He’s a she!

Right now I’m listening to: “Bröllopsresan” by BKO