Goodbye, Friend


We lost a very dear friend last week.  I needed a few days to process things before I wanted to talk about it.  Ivan passed away on August 9th, 2012.  We had just celebrated his 3rd birthday last month.

I am devastated.  He seemed perfectly healthy when I fed him his dinner and said goodnight on Tuesday.  Wednesday morning he looked so terrible, we rushed to the vet.  She took him in the back, ran some tests, did x-rays, and everything was normal, save for him being very dehydrated.  I thought that was good news, that he would be fine. I set him up in his carrier, said “see you later”, and went about my day.

Later, she called to tell us that he was looking better, but they wanted to keep him overnight just in case.

Thursday morning I had a missed call from her, and called back right away; thrilled that he got come home so soon.  But the news I received was the exact opposite.  Physically, Ivan would never be coming home.

The shock, complete and utter shock, has worn off, but not the sadness. My furry friends hold such a respected place in my family, and a tender place in my heart.

It is particularly breaking my heart that I didn’t get to say goodbye.  I had no idea he was going to leave this world.  He barely got an extra head pat because I was running around after Simon.

Speaking of the munchkin, I never imagined having to go through this.  Not being able to explain to my son where his friend is.  Ivan was obviously around since the day Simon came home from the hospital.  When he was younger, he just let Simon play on or around him.  Now that Simon is older, they played out in our mudroom together, daily.  To the point where Ivan was almost a live-in babysitter.  Simon’s second word (second only to dada) was cat.  When we leave the house, he still calls out “Bye cats!”.  He goes to Ivan’s room, and points in there and says “Cat?”.  He wants to know where his friend is.

I want to thank everyone who has shown support, and who will once they read this.  Also, thank you for all the love and prayers that were shared when he was sick in the past.  This was unrelated to his urinary issues.  In fact, I really don’t have any answer as to why he passed away; something else that will forever haunt me on sad days, I’m sure.

Our house feels empty. My heart feels heavy.


My dear sweet friend.  I miss you so much.  As I sit here writing this, I miss you trying to fit yourself between my belly and the computer.  I miss you when we come home and you aren’t in your favorite sun spot by the door, and I miss the sound of your expectant “meow” for your breakfast.  I miss you trying to eat our food, and breaking into the groceries.  I miss you following me everywhere I go.  I am sorry for all the times I yelled at you, squirted you with water, and pushed you aside (because you really did follow me everywhere), but I am sure you know that I love you.  And I know you love me.  No one, feline or otherwise, will ever replace you, be certain of that.  You were truly a one of a kind, a wonderful cat.  So sweet, so loving, so mischievous, and full of energy and life.  I am so sorry that our time together had to end so soon, I will forever wish that we had more. You will always be fondly remembered, and dearly missed.
– Mom

His first day home.


I am not sure how long it takes for it to stop hurting every day, but I’m not there yet.  I know it is different for everyone, so if it hard to understand that I’m still upset, I’m sorry.  We have been keeping busy and it is easier when we are out of the house, but…we always come home.

I am doing a few things to memorialize him/help make me feel better:

1.  I am going to put up a standalone bird feeder and plant a flower garden outside our big dining room window.  I had wanted to put one up for him since we moved in, but our trees are too tall to hang one.  I had thought of it the day he was at the vet, that he would be able to see great from that window, and it didn’t have to hang from a tree.  I might sprinkle some of his ashes in the garden, I haven’t decided yet.

2.  I bought a nice frame to print out a 8×10 of our favorite photo of him to keep with us.  It is a semi-shadow box, so I will put his collar and his favorite toy in there as well, along with one of our address labels that has pictures of all of us on them.

3.  I  love the symbology of the tree of life.  I have a few necklaces already, but I found a plain pendant that I really like, and I am going to add a paw print charm and a tiger’s eye charm to it.  Such a thing doesn’t exist, I’m trying impatiently to find a way to get it done.

We are not getting another cat yet.  I know it is a popular suggestion, and I considered it, but I just can’t.  As I said above, no cat could ever replace him, so it isn’t that.  We need the chance to mourn him as a family, and that hasn’t been completed yet.


Thank you for reading.  This has really been especially hard for us.

“I carry your heart with me (I carry it in my heart)”

Goodbye, friend.


Oh Fudge, Foiled Again

When we were youger, we mainly played educational computer games. I have fond memories of a game called Museum Madness that I don’t think anyone will ever understand but my brother. I actually found a download for it, but that might ruin the memory. One of them that I don’t recall the name of was a spelling game. It involved a castle, and a knight/king/dragon, and when you spelled the word right and got to pass, one of them always said “Oh fudge, foiled again.”

And that phrase has been repeating in my head for the past few days.

The past few weeks have been really busy. We threw ourselves right back into our regular schedule when we got back from our cruise, and I still feel like I am playing catch up. I felt like I needed a day off last week, and decided to swap a Friday rest day for a Thursday rest day. No big deal, right? But then Friday we had a playdate at 10, and Simon didn’t wake up until 9. He never sleeps that late! Okay fine, I can really run two days in a row.

Saturday I was getting a little sick and had probably the worst run of my life. Ever! Like bending over panting because I couldn’t take a full breath. And that was with walking 85% of it. Sunday we had to meet a friend at 10 and not only did we not have enough time, there wasn’t anyone to watch Simon at my parents’ house anyway.

So we got back home on Sunday night. I am doing a good job of not beating myself up about it, and I figured we would just have a do-over this week since I had some extra time on the half-marathon training schedule.

“Oh fudge, foiled again.”

We have pretty much spent the last two days like this:


Remember the playdate we went to Friday, the one we missed the run for? All the kiddos had fevers over 100 degrees by Monday afternoon.

This is really Simon’s first time having anything more than an annoying cold. But I chose to deal with it as naturally as I try to deal with his colds. And for a fever, that meant I didn’t do anything. I believe that a fever is your body’s natural and most effective way of fighting off whatever bug/infection/virus you are dealing with.

I did a quick search for natural relief from fevers, and found a pretty nice list. In the end, we went the “lukewarm bath” route, with a bath morning and night. We also went for a walk, and it was by far the happiest he was all day, both yesterday and today.

He is pretty much better now, although it has been a rough 48 hours. But considering how contagious this virus seems to be, there is no way I can bring him to the gym tomorrow. Solutions?:

1. We can run outside
Problem: It is supposed to rain

2. We can use the weather shield
Problem: It was lost in the move and I haven’t ordered another one.

3. We can wait until Thursday, run Thursday, Friday, and Sunday.

I think option 3 is the only viable option, so I suppose we are putting it off for another day. If it gets nice out later on we will walk again, but I’m disappointed to be so off schedule already.

Last week was only week 2, and it didn’t get completed. Is it just me, that something always comes up? Something always foils my plans. I’m trying not to get frustrated, trying to tell myself that I still have more than 12 weeks, that I still have time to even start over if I want. I guess I’m just worrying that I’m going to keep doing that until I don’t have 12 weeks left, and then what happens in week 9 when Simon or I gets sick again?

At any rate, right now, I do still have plenty of time to train. Hopefully with the weather getting nicer, any more debilitating sickness is behind us for awhile. At least I can hope. So we will for sure be back to the treadmill/pavement on Thursday, but for now I’m going to spend one more day enjoying the only good thing about having a sick baby:

Baby snuggles.


Braving The Oven: Spinach Calzones

So here’s something you probably didn’t know about me:  I am terrified of my oven.

People who like to cook will tell you how much better it is to have a gas stove.  So after hearing this for a few years, I was thrilled that when we bought our first house it came with our very own gas stove.  But after almost a year, it is still scares me.

It isn’t the fire, I’m okay with that, its the gas.  Like if I put on a burner, and it doesn’t catch, and it smells like gas?  I won’t try again for at least a few minutes.  It doesn’t help that our fire alarm is so close to the stove that it alarms if the oven is set to anything over 400 degrees.

So when I pulled our pizza dough out of the fridge for dinner, I held my breath when I saw it wanted me to put my oven to 500 degrees.  500?  I didn’t even know home ovens went that high.  Go ahead, roll your eyes.

So I set it to preheat to 500.  Then, quickly decided that Simon needed his diaper changed, and turned it off.  You had better be certain that I wasn’t about to leave that oven unattended for even a minute.

After dilly-dallying for a few minutes after that, I went back, and clicked it back up to 500.  And waited.

Turns out it takes a long time for an oven to heat up to 500, so I had plenty of time to make our calzones while we waited.

Cheese and Spinach Calzones

You Need:
~20oz Multi-grain pizza dough, portioned into 4 pieces
(We buy ours from Hannaford, near the specialty cheeses. Of course, you can always make your own)
10oz frozen chopped spinach, defrost and squeeze out excess water
16oz low fat ricotta cheese
1 cup 2% shredded mozarella cheese
salt and pepper to taste
a few pinches of nutmeg

You Will:
Each portion of dough should be pulled into a circle. Mix filling by combining the cheeses, spinach, S&P and nutmeg. Place approximately 1/4 of the filling on each portion of dough, fold over, and roll up edges so that it is sealed. Cut a 1 inch slit in the top of the dough. Bake at 500 degrees (yes, 500 degrees!) for 10-12 minutes.

In addition to being scared of my oven, homemade pizza makes me nervous.  This poor bag of dough had been in our fridge for at least a week.  But I’ve been trying to avoid simple carbohydrates, and pizza is really our most frequent offender in that department.  I really wanted pizza last night though, so it was time, and I was so surprised with how quickly this came together!  From making the rounds, to the filling, to baking, I think heating up the oven really was what took the longest!

Totally thrilled to have an easy pizza night option that is super easy, versatile, and free of those pesky white carbohydrates!  My oven fear isn’t completely over, I doubt I will ever leave the kitchen (or let Simon in), while that oven is cranked all the way up, but at least I can brave the scary oven to get some pizza out of it!

Half Marathon Plans

I have good news!  Remember when Simon used to scream when I left him at the Y’s childcare?

Now, he screams when we leave.  He has found a new love, and that love is:  Trucks.

Trucks, trains, cars, anything with wheels, and he is in love.  When we get into the childcare room, he squeals, leans over to be let down, and doesn’t even look at me when I say goodbye.

I could be emotional about it, but I love that I don’t have to worry about him and can stay at the gym a little longer.

This came just in time, because I felt a little bit like I stepped off a clif last week, when I signed up for a local half-marathon.  The longest race I’ve ever done was 8.14 miles, the Great Alhoa Run in Hawaii, but that was 5 years ago, and it didn’t go awesome.

But for the first time, I feel like I have actually set myself up for success with my plan for this half-marathon.  Normally I will sign up for a race as an impetus for starting a workout regimine, and while that is great idea, I never give myself enough time to start up a base as well as train, and I get frustrated or hurt, and don’t do well.

Most standard half marathon training plans are 12 weeks long, and the race isn’t until the 2nd of September, quite a bit longer than 12 weeks from now.  On top of that, I already did the first week of Hal Higdon’s half marathon training plan this past week, and it felt good; I don’t have shin splints, my quads aren’t sore, there is no twinge in my knee.  And while I’m not against it, I didn’t have to walk at all.  I feel like all of those 20 minute workouts have put me a step ahead of where I need to be.

I made myself a training spreadsheet to track my workouts over the next few months.  I can’t help but track my progress somewhere.  I will not be following the program exactly because I have extra time, so I will be repeating a few of the weeks, but the basic plan is pretty easy to adapt for extra time.

So hopefully in a few months I will be able to have one of these:

Although something like this is probably more my style:

So this summer will be spent running:  on the treadmill, with the jogging stroller, on the trail with friends, I will be doing whatever I can to be prepared for my first half-marathon!

As an aside, if things on here look weird for a few days and I don’t post as much as usual, it is because the power cord for my computer died this weekend.  So while I wait for my knockoff power cord to arrive, I will be using my husband’s computer, and I’m not used to it.  But hopefully it will get here hastily!  I miss my Mac already.

Vinegar with a Twist

I had plans of having a few things ready to post while I was gone.  They’d automatically pop up while we were out having our fun vacation.

And then I thought, what if our vacation ends up not being fun?  What if the boat pulls a Titanic, and we die, and then a blog post from me pops up?  How creepy would that be??

Unlikely, I know, but after thinking that, I thought it’d be better to just wait until I got back.

Just in case.

Well luckily we all made it home safely, so I can tell you all about the vinegar I had working for me while I was gone.   

I have been on ‘Team Vinegar’ for awhile now.  There are a number of factors that led to my choosing to use more natural products in our home, but I first started cleaning with vinegar when we lived in Hawaii.  I think something about living in a place where it is so easy to notice and focus on nature makes you more mindful of the world around you.

I love cleaning with vinegar.  Why?  A few simple reasons.

1.  You can eat vinegar.  So anything that ends up on the counter is 100% chemical free. Exhibit A:

Shortly after my husband came home today (which was shortly after I cleaned the kitchen), I found this. He didn’t know the counters had just been cleaned, and it didn’t matter.

2. It is super duper cheap.  You can’t beat the price, especially if you are comparing it to the more “eco-friendly” cleaners for purchase.

3. It is baby-safe. I was talking with a friend one day who was complaining about how she had to clean the bathroom while her son was napping. No way, napping is “ME” time, not cleaning time. He can run around the bathroom while I’m cleaning and I don’t have to worry about it being harmful to him.

Now, I’ve been using vinegar for long enough that the smell doesn’t bother me.  For general cleaning purposes (aka everything), I dilute it with water, using equal parts of each.  You can definitely smell it, but it dissipates so quickly as it dries that it doesn’t bother me.

But of course it would be better if it smelled good too!  Since Simon has a certain penchant for oranges, I made a point of supreming him some orange slices for the car ride.

Soon, I had a plate full of orange slices, orange juice, and orange peels.  Lots of orange peels.  So I decided I would tick one of my “to-try” ideas off my list, which is citrus vinegar.

This is three pint jars filled with the rinds of 2 oranges, and plain white vinegar.  It sat for two weeks, and I used it today in the same ratio as the plain vinegar to clean the house (kitchens, bathrooms, toilets, floors, etc).  Its nice! Not necessary on a regular basis, but this is a great use of leftover citrus peels if you’ve got them!

Have you ever tried cleaning with vinegar?  Have you made another variety of vinegar cleaner that I should try?

If you haven’t tried it, you should (I feel like ‘Sam I Am‘ saying that)!  Try it, try it, you will see!  It works just as good, if not better, than other cleaners I’ve tried, and even you aren’t a frugal shopper (I am definitely not), you can’t beat the cost.

Vacation Pictures

Well hello!  We are back, and we had a fabulous time!  I am still running around a bit crazy-like, trying to get unpacked and cleaned, whilst restocking the fridge and preparing for our upcoming weekend visitors.  It never ends, does it?

Since I’m still feeling a bit in a whirlwind, I thought I’d just do a quick recap to share some favorite photos from our trip!

We spent the first two days at sea.  We didn’t do anything fancy, just walked around, looked at the water, took pictures, napped, and played in the pool.  Oh, and Mommy did get her hair cut!


On our third day, we got off the boat!  We stopped at Grand Turk, and discovered that Simon loves playing in the sand!  Then it was back on the boat for a nap and some more pool time.

Our second port of call was Carnival’s private island, Half Moon Cay.  This was definitely our favorite day, we had such a great time!  Simon took a nap on the beach, we swam in the gorgeous water, ate lunch on the island, and really got to spend most of the day relaxing on the beach.  Perfect.

Our third and final stop was in Freeport, on Grand Bahama Island.  I have been here before, back in high school, and we were not impressed, so we decided to do an excursion to the botanical gardens.  Simon is happy anywhere he can run around, but since there were also ducks, he was thrilled!


Back on the boat, and back to Baltimore!  We had another relaxing day playing in the pool with Simon!

And then we had to leave.  We got some time to hang out on the boat before we had to disembark, and Simon found his way into a window.

For our first family vacation, this went so well.  Everything was completely stress free, and we all had a great time!  Carnival has a lot of kids programs, but Simon was too small, so we did hang out with him for the entire week.  He had a great time just walking around, climbing the stairs, and playing in the pool.  If you’re looking to go to all the shows and hang out at the bar all night, you’d probably want to wait until your kiddos are a little older (at least over 2, which is when their kids programs start).  But at the end of the day we just wanted to spend time together, and this was perfect for that.

Now I have a pile of laundry staring me down that I must take care of.  Hope everyone had a lovely week!!


Last Minute Dinner

We are leaving for vacation in a matter of hours, and I am on my blog.  Which can only mean one thing.

I am packed!

Or should I say “we” are packed.  Days of packing for one are long over.  I watch my husband pack with envy.  No worrying about remembering Simon’s toothbrush, or comb, or socks.  Scratch that, no socks this time, we are going tropical!

If nothing else, having to pack for myself and a little guy has made me a lot better at preparing for such events.  I can’t just throw my entire wardrobe and medicine chest in a suitcase anymore.  It takes a lot more planning, lists, and about a week’s worth of preparation.  But it is done.  And frankly, its a lot less stressful this way.

And in the midst of all this, I am supposed to be preparing dinner?  Hmph.  I usually do a pretty good job of not leaving much in the fridge, but I was way ahead of myself with this trip, and the fridge was pretty empty about a week ago.  Oops.  So I had to actually go shopping, less than a week before leaving, so that we wouldn’t also be running around trying to find food.

I made one of my new favorites.  I love finding an easy, simple, healthy staple.

From Appetite for Reduction, this is the 40 Clove Chickpea and Broccoli.  When I came home with the broccoli for this, I found that I already had broccoli (so much for using everything up already), so I doubled the recipe, which really only ends up being 20 cloves of garlic.

I love garlic, and doubled, I think I could have really added enough to make that 40 cloves.  But there would have been so much it wouldn’t have made finding those golden creamy cloves as special.

I don’t typically like to post recipes from cookbooks, especially when I don’t make a single change to them.  So if efforts to keep things even more quick and easy for myself today, someone else posted it here.

This is really good.  Roasted broccoli + roasted chickpeas + roasted garlic = wonderful.  Add in the little bit of brightness from the lemon zest, and you’ve really got yourself an easy winner.

Before I had Simon, I really loved to cook, and I almost never, ever, made the same thing twice.  I took pride in that.  These days I just don’t have as much time to spend in the kitchen, so we are definitely throwing some “regulars” into the mix.  Do you prefer to make the same dishes, or to always be trying something new?

I normally like this with polenta, but I didn’t realize we were out.  So I went with brown rice, making it gluten free, and vegan (of course, polenta would have been as well).  Considering the kind of food that is normally consumed on vacations, it is nice to have some nice, clean meals before we head out.

And with that, I think we are officially on vacation!


Hello, my name is Gina, and I have a toddler.

I was in denial for awhile, but its true, Simon is officially walking.  We spent much of our weekend playing outside, walking around the yard.  All he really wants to do is hold someone’s hand, or push his new bubble mower from his uncle, and walk, walk, walk.

So while Simon got some time playing outside with his new toy (and Daddy put the new raised garden beds in the ground), Mommy got to play with her newest toy.

I can barely even say that I have a working knowledge of SLR cameras, so don’t judge.  I’m just playing with the automatic settings for now, until I have some time to learn what I’m doing.  But my hopes are that once I do learn, I’ll have Simon’s first little photo shoot to come back to and look at where I started.

That’s a mighty big camera, mom.

Mowing, mowing, mowing.  It would be too dangerous, but handy, if it actually mowed.

Really, we’re still doing this?

Hard to keep the hair out of his eyes lately.

He is up to 7 teeth now!

His hair might be getting a little bit long, but I can’t bear to cut it yet.

Make sure everyone sees my new necklace.

Whoa, can I chew on that thing?

Okay, camera off, I’m done.

I really am starting to think that maybe he needs a haircut.  But most of the time I just think he looks plain adorable and just can’t do it.  For those of you with kids, boys or girls, when did they get their first haircut?  Did they love it or hate it?  Did you love it or hate it?  Even though it is getting pretty shaggy, I don’t forsee it getting cut anytime soon.  I just don’t think either of us will like it!

Anyway, in addition to these being the first pictures I’ve done with this camera, they are also totally unedited.  While editing is on the list of things to learn, it ranks pretty low.  Still, I love the camera so far, and I’m really glad the warm weather is creeping upon us.  Simon and I have a whole summer of photo shoots ahead of us!

Mr Nibbly Sweettreats

While I was at the gym this morning, Rachel Ray was on.  I could have changed it, but Alyson Hannigan was the guest, and I like her, so I kept watching.

After Alyson’s segment was a “double duty” Easter decorating segment, which sounded promising.  Until it started, and I realized I had already seen each idea:

Using plastic eggs as table weight – genius!  It is still too cold to eat outside here, so I didn’t pin this one, but you had better believe this has been all over Pinterest for weeks.

Feeling cheap?  Those free paint chips have been turning themselves into garland all over Pinterest – Easter eggs included.  I also didn’t pin this.  I prefer to decorate with Peeps.

Okay, this Pinterest tip really is genius.  I did have this pinned, and I think we are actually going to dye our eggs on Easter.  Because Mommy waits until the last minute like that.

I’m not trying to bash Rachel Ray, I just really couldn’t believe that this is where their ideas are coming from.  Pinterest?  Why should I spend an hour watching the show to get three tips, if I can get hundreds of Easter tips from Pinterest in a matter of minutes?

Anyway, I normally have a few things planned for each holiday, and then give myself a hearty pat on the back if I manage to get one crafty thing done (check!  see: Peep wreath).  I did start a second craft for Easter, but only got partway through…it was oh so cute though:

Unsure what exactly you are looking at?  Well, I have a…let’s call it glorious, collection of Boyd bears (and bunnies, and pigs, and lambs, and cats, and…).  A few years ago, I got the little guy on the right who came with a carrot of jelly beans.  I did refrain from eating them, but after a year or two they were melted and disgusting, so this bunny was left with his hands stuck together and nothing to hug.  Nothing to hug?  So sad.  Poor Mr Nibbly Sweettreats.

Well, in trying to move forward in my crochet adventures, I had decided I was going to crochet a couple of little carrots, because it would be cute for Easter.  It did come out really cute!!

It, as in one.  Not a bunch.  I was trying to find someplace to display my lonely carrot and lo and behold, it fit snuggly into Mr Nibbly Sweettreat’s waiting arms.

The pattern is free on Ravelry, with a whole set of crocheted vegetables.  I was really surprised with how easy it was, since this was my first little knitted or crocheted toy.  In fact, it was so quick and easy, that now I have my sights set on the whole set.  I have dreams of Simon wanting me to make him a whole grocery store full of crocheted food.  He did have fun with it…

I am hoping that our garden this year might help him get a little interested in having his own “food”.  At the very least, it seems that Ivan will play with him!

Did you make any Easter decorations or crafts this year?  I had one more pinned that I really wanted to do, but didn’t get around to:

I guess this one will just be first on the list for next year!!