Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Sharkface's Second Birthday Party

Also known as the party that I spent entirely too much time on Pinterest.

Starfish and Sand Dollars

Dinglehoppers

Rolled Utensils with Lifesavers


In case you haven't figured it out, it was a fish/shark/under the sea themed party.

Initially it was supposed to be a Finding Nemo themed party, but when I asked Steve to make the cake, I told him Fish/Shark/Nemo and let him go with it. After all, leave the cake making to the expert. I think that I mentioned before that Steve was a semi-finalist on the Holiday Baking Championship, right?

Shark Cake

Needless to say, I was thrilled with his creation!

Snack, Plate & Utensil Table 

For my kid-level table, I had plates and utensils down low to reach, as well as cheese (Shark Teeth), grapes (Seaweed), puff'n corn (Coral), pretzel sticks (Driftwood), and goldfish served in a fish bowl with a fish dipping net.

Coral is delicious


The kids seemed to really dig this table. At the end of the party, they grabbed the bucket of "Coral" and Mark kept dumping net-fulls of goldfish onto the table, plate, and floor.


Cheese Face

It's my party and I'll make a mess if I want to

Other winners of the day were the bouncy house, which I got for free through Jay's fire department buddies. Those things are worth their weight in gold for keeping the kids occupied. Parents could actually hang out and enjoy some cocktails. Speaking of which, our signature cocktail was a Shark Bite, which was basically a Moscow Mule made with Blueberry Vodka and garnished with blueberries.

I'm surprised he sat still long enough for this

The other hit was our impromptu photographer, as well as a super fun shark cutout that I ordered from Oriental Trading Company. Laura graciously grabbed my camera and started shooting without prompting... now I have amazing photos for my blog as well as some to share with the attendees. So THANK YOU, Laura!

We look a little too pleased to be eaten... be sure to check out Angela's Blog!
Slow Swimmers and Octopus Dip

Peanut Butter & Jellyfish Sandwiches and Sea Shell Salad

Submarine Sandwiches

The food items that didn't quite make it to the table:

Land Caviar - Devil Eggs
Sea Snails - Pigs in a Blanket

The Octopus Dip was supposed to have an octopus made out of a pepper sitting in the middle of the dip, but I ran out of time for that. I also was planning to carve a watermelon shark. It took me weeks to prepare for the party between making the food tags, ordering decorations and goodie bags. I completely forgot to take pictures of those, but they were these adorable fish bags that I got from Oriental Trading. I filled them with Nemo Stickers, bouncy balls, snacks, bubbles, and also candy shark tooth necklaces.

The day before the party was incredibly frustrating for me, as I had a lot of interruptions that ended up with Mark not napping and everything taking five times as long without my usual 2-3 hour window to get stuff done.

It took me four hours to ice these sugar cookies

Sand Dollar Almond Cookies were my own concoction
I have to say that I was pretty pleased with how my sand dollar cookies came out. I started off by using this recipe from Odense, but then I realized that I had more almond paste than they called for. So I added more butter and more flour. They turned out pretty tasty! I'm going to work on tweaking the recipe and will post it soon. The reason I decided to use almond paste is because I ordered a bunch of it when I made my own rainbow cookies and the paste expires in October.

Speaking of cookies, back to dessert!

Cake this awesome needs lots of pictures

Markface did his best to sing along

Markface clapping for his birthday song

Steve gave me a lengthy tutorial about how to dissect the shark - Mark looks concerned

Oh, maybe that was the dowel rod that Steve was talking about

The aftermath 

I let Steve have free rein over the design and type of cake. It was a vanilla cake with vanilla buttercream. I love that he dyed it red... the inside looked just like sashimi, which was a bit disturbing but also entertaining!


I almost forgot our drinks - sea water (water with cucumbers and mint, still attached to their stems to look like seaweed), and squid ink (iced tea). For the grown-ups, we also had a variety of beer, including Landshark - which I hadn't even thought about until the party was nearly over.



A few folks hung around after the party wound down, like our friends Jen and Tim. Since we're now officially part of the friends with kids crowd, we have to get our fun in whenever and wherever we can. I love spending time with my kid, but it's nice when I get the best of both worlds. I feel like I'm away from him plenty with working full time, plus all of the weddings (6 this year!) and other social engagements we have. It's nice to be able to enjoy some combined adult and kid time, especially when everyone is having a good time.

I hope that you enjoyed Markface's 2nd birthday highlights. If you need more ideas or want to see more pictures, there are hundreds on the Shutterfly site.





Thursday, September 8, 2016

Traveling with Tots

I've been wanting to blog about our traveling experiences with Markface for a while in hopes that it might help others.

I scoured the internet for hours, posted questions in the moms group I belong to on Facebook, texted friends, and consulted my Magic Eight Ball.

Travel with a toddler? The number one answer: Don't do it!

Traveling with babies is tough, but how else can you get a picture like this?


In my brief experience, I have discovered (so far) that there is an age that is extremely difficult to deal with - at least it was for us. From about 14 months to 22 months was not good for traveling. In our experience, doing pretty much anything during that time frame was a challenge (and continues to be - terrible twos in full force here).

In the 14-22 month range, Mark was mobile, curious, headstrong, and would not listen to anything we said. Running away was a fun game. This time frame also involved either extreme clinginess or extreme independence. Mark either was clinging to our legs and begging to be picked up or was running away at full-tilt.

This was a trip to AZ to visit my SILColleen at around 17 months old - we were lucky to have family to help on this trip!

You can imagine that this wasn't the ideal time for trips.

While I am by no means an expert, we've chalked up a dozen long weekend road trips and three week-long vacations involving air travel (two domestic and one international) in two years with our son Mark, so I wanted to share a few things that might be helpful for other folks traveling with small humans.

Mark's first "trip" was to New York to visit family when he was three months old.

Here we are at the Residence Inn Long Island Islip, which is our favorite place to stay while visiting friends and family in the Deer Park area.

Here are some travel suggestions to maintain your sanity. Good luck, we're all counting on you!


1. Maintain Your Usual Schedule, If Possible

Kids thrive on routine and still need their sleep. We are all grumpy when we don't get as much shut-eye as usual, and this is especially true for kids. They're in a new place and their schedules are all up in the air.  Staying on schedule is easiest from birth to three months, as kids can nap anywhere, and in these early months, there is no such thing as a schedule anyway.

If you're traveling by car and your destination is less than four hours away, try to plan naptime for the middle of the trip. If you're traveling by air, for the love of God, don't wake them up early for a flight. We immediately regretted our early flight to Miami (which I was so proud of saving a ton of money on). The trade-off for saving cash on our flight was a cranky 15 month old who we woke at 3 a.m. for an hour + long drive to the airport, the usual fun check-in procedure, and security. He put up with all of this until we got on board. He cried for what felt like the entire flight. To my horror, I discovered that we were those people on the plane.

The best baby on a plane is a sleeping baby

It was so bad that the flight attendant gave Jay two free bottles of vodka with his Bloody Mary mix.

Determine if adjusting to a new time zone makes sense for you and your child. The general rule of thumb is that it takes one day to adjust to each hour of time difference. If you're taking a long weekend in Paris (lucky you), consider sticking to your usual time zone for activities, if at all possible.

If your trip allows you to adjust to local time, live like our ancestors did. Wake at sunrise and start winding down at sunset. Make sure that you and  your kiddo are exposed to as much natural light as possible. It will help you adjust more quickly.

I've always heard that you should stay up until 8 pm local time to best adjust to a new time zone. For adults, a 2 hour nap on arrival afternoon (hell, you're on vacation - nap each day!) is also fine, as well as up to a 3-3.5 hour nap for your kid. Wake them at least 3 or 4 hours before their local bedtime though so that they can eat dinner and try to get settled in.


2. Prepare for Passport Issues

Ready for Mexico
If you are traveling abroad, it can be incredibly difficult to get a good passport photo of your baby. Especially if they are less than 6 months old and can't sit up. We tried passport photo apps as well as getting Mark's picture taken at Walmart photo. We failed at both. It's difficult to get everything aligned correctly without any shadows, and Walmart employees weren't the most knowledgeable on the whole baby with a passport thing.

If you're going to try the photo yourself, lay your baby outside on a white sheet or blanket. Preferably on a cloudy day, where you get enough light for the photo, but not enough to cause shadows.

I found this post to be the most useful for getting a passport photo for Markface.

Ultimately, the lovely woman who works at our local post office took Mark's photo while he was laying down on an old mail bag. When in doubt, ask USPS what to do. They're experts!

Also, don't forget - kid's passport photos expire after 5 years, so you need to keep a close eye on Passport expiration dates. Most countries require that your passport is valid for at least six months beyond your planned return date. Check to make sure that you have all of the necessary information from the U.S. State department before your trip, and also check with the country you will be visiting to see if there are any travel visas to secure ahead of time.

3. Keep them occupied

This is the name of the game on planes, trains, and automobiles (and boats too, I'm sure). A kid occupied with a new toy or game is going to be less likely to annoy those around them, especially their parents.

When you think of traveling with your child, think like a bride on her wedding day.

Something Old
A favorite toy, stuffed animal, or blankie- perhaps even something that you haven't let them have in a while that is comforting to them. Break it out if you sense they are about to lose their shit. If you have to resort to a pacifier even if they've given up the habit, do it. It's also good to have a pacifier, bottle, or sippy cup for them during take off and landing in an airplane. Kids have tiny Eustachian tubes that are more prone to getting blocked than ours. This is also why they are more prone to ear infections. Speaking of which, if it looks like that might be happening before your trip, try out Wally's Ear Oil. You'll thank me later.

Something New
Kids love something they've never seen or played with before. Have something new and available before they spy something that someone else has that they want. Download some new apps on the phone or tablet. Some inexpensive suggestions: pipe cleaners with beaded fluff balls, stickers, dollar store junk wrapped in wrapping paper, a Tupperware container full of random objects, yo-yos, invisible markers with coloring books, masking tape and duct tape too (just in case you get desperate - also good for childproofing your destination). Whatever you don't mind losing.

Something Borrowed
Ask friends with kids their saving grace when it comes to traveling with their kids. Then ask to borrow it. A good travel stroller? An ergo carrier? An iPad or Tablet? Think of what can do the most good and take up the least amount of space.

Something Blue
Blue is for blueberries. Stopping meltdowns from happening in our house usually involves snacks. Bring pouch applesauce, blueberries, or raisins. Mandarin oranges. Cereal bars. Bring something low in sugar to stop them from bouncing off the walls, but also something that they might consider a treat.

4. Be Prepared, but Don't Overpack

This may come as a surprise to you, but people populate the entire world. This means that at some point, they were babies. Inexplicably, people continue to make other people- there are kids all over the world. You probably don't need to bring your entire stash of diapers. Bring plenty of diapers to get you through the travel day and the next day or two (you never know what delays you'll encounter with air travel). Chances are good that there will be a place to buy diapers where you are going. They might not be your chosen brand, but they will be fine. Exception: Bring swim diapers as those might be harder to find.


One of the many places that I fed my kid was at this lovely restaurant in Cancun overlooking the lagoon
On breastfeeding: I made the mistake of bringing my breast pump on vacation several times and I never needed it. If you will be away from your child, invest in a small manual pump. Also, most other people around the world are more used to seeing babies eat in the usual fashion. Bring a cover up if it makes you comfortable, but don't stress too much - no one really wants to see your boobs and they can look away if it bothers them.

5. Don't Give in to Fear

It's okay to take a break from your kid(s) on vacation. Go to the spa. Go out to dinner. Take time for yourself (and your significant other).

As soon as I start planning for a vacation, I start the Google search for a babysitter. It never fails that when I begin my search for a babysitter or sitting service, I see posts like this:"I can't see how safe it would be, leaving a child with an unvetted stranger."

I don't advocate that you leave your child with an unvetted stranger. Instead, I suggest that you do some research and meet the sitter ahead of time and/or ask for references. Most hotels also have a go-to babysitting service that they recommend, and they nearly always come with background checks.

We've used babysitting services in Cancun, Outer Banks, NC, and Key West. We even found a sitter on Craigslist for Key West. She gave us references and we met her at her day job when we got down there. Sitter City and Care.com are other resources to utilize.

Sunrise with Markface in Buxton, NC

When we go to Australia next year, we are planning to use Busy Bees. I will report back after our return.

I'm not saying that child abductions don't happen; they certainly do. However, your child is most likely to be abducted by someone they know. 82% of abductions are by a family member, often a parent. Less than 1% of all kidnappings are by strangers, and the majority of those are likely to happen near your house. It's much easier to abduct a kid in ways other than posing as a babysitter online and risking detection and leaving a paper or telephone trail.

If you're still feeling anxious about leaving your kid with a stranger, think of vacationing in a place that has childcare available.


Obviously this list is not all-inclusive. This is very much a work in progress and I am planning to add on to this list (perhaps even make it a devoted page on the site) as I have new ideas. Also, I'll be blogging about our trip to Australia next year. It involves a 15 hour time jump forward, so that should be fun with an almost three year old.

How about you? Please share your own tips and tricks of traveling.

Happy traveling!



Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Toddler in Tow

I'm working on a post devoted to traveling with a small person. Given how many hours I researched on my own before our first trips, I think it is only fair to share my own experiences!




Tuesday, August 23, 2016

A Change


My first blog post here was on April 10, 2012. In line with what was currently happening with our Home Improvements and all of the insanity that living in a construction zone entailed, I called it “Home Adventures and Unfortunate Incidents.” At the time, that was pretty much what was going on in our lives. Drama with the renovations, navigating being a quasi-newlywed – all of those things.

I’ve almost always had an online presence.

Starting in the early 90s I had a 14.4k dial up modem with a 386mhz processor DOS-based computer and all there was to log on to was a local BB. After that came IRC. Then AIM. I even created a website for a boyfriend's band back in the mid-90s. It was all HTML and I put a lot of work into it. Back in those days, people were pretty paranoid about the internet (hell, I guess many still are). The other band members freaked out and I had to take it down. I started my first website/blog on the Tripod platform in 2003. It’s actually still there (and no, I'm not giving you the address.)

However, I will give you a picture.

I miss that hair and that youth. Oh girl, what I could tell you.


Then there was Myspace, then blogging my 101 list in 2007, then Facebook. I feel like Facebook has contributed to the overall dumbing-down of society, the same way that those old chain letters and emails did. No, Bill Gates is not going to send you money, nor is there a Nigerian Prince who will share his fortune with you. Obama isn't Muslim. Vaccines don't cause autism.

Rinse, lather, repeat.

Over the years, I would like to think that I have matured. A bit, at least. I spent a few minutes reading my old website and blog at Tripod... I think those entries are representative of how I have matured in the last ten+ years. I would share some, but they are too embarrassing!

This name change better reflects my current outlook on life in general. Plus I have a domain name now, so that's cool, right?

Unexpected Adventures is how I have come to see everything in my life over the past year or so, and also how I am making it work. This is true in all aspects of my life - work, home, and travel.

My Unexpected Adventures:

Work
I made a big jump back into the financial world nearly three years ago after leaving a fairly new position and coworkers that I liked. There have been challenges to overcome, but it was a great opportunity that has paid off for me. I also learned that I was pregnant several days after giving my notice at my old job. I don’t post much about it. I put in plenty of hours there and I don’t want to think about it when I’m not working! The only anecdote that I’ll share is that every day at work is a spelling bee.

Home & Family Life
I have a kid now, which I still find strange at times. Becoming a mom (especially a working mom) has brought with it all of the usual trials that one might expect. But it has also focused me on what really matters and has made me rethink my time commitments. It is fascinating to watch the development of my child from day to day, week to week, month to month, and now year to year, as he nears his second birthday. It is truly the most unexpected adventure of all, as I get to share the world with him. Honestly, I’ve probably learned more from watching him. Last weekend, he was overjoyed with bubbles.


I wish that I were that enthused about pretty much anything! Having a kid has also changed the dynamics of my marriage. In some ways, it has brought us closer together, but in others I think it has made our relationship more work. I'm probably a little too excited to go to Mexico later this year without little Markface.

Travel
About ten years ago, I didn’t understand why anyone would travel with kids, or want to travel with kids. I thought that they should just be polite to other travelers and not bring children on airplanes. It’s funny how your perspective changes once you find yourself in that situation. I posted that I wanted to not have my child totally consume my life, and traveling is how I'm continuing to live the life that I want. Sure, it's more difficult with a kid in tow. But life doesn't just stop because you have a kid. The first two years have been tough. The first year is exhausting. The second year, they're more mobile and you're just trying to keep them alive. As my girlfriend Sara has said, the kid just lacks any sense of self-preservation. Especially from about 14 - 22ish months. We had our first ER trip a few months back because he took a header down the stairs.

So for partially that reason, we haven't done much traveling this year, or taken him to any place too crazy. He has finally started to listen to us, so I am hopeful that when we go back to Australia next year that it won't be as painful as previous trips. Also, bribery is beginning to work on him, so I see that as a good thing!

All of that said, welcome to my Unexpected Adventures.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy. 


Monday, August 15, 2016

Markface's Second Birthday

This post is actually just because I am struggling to get his pictures right for the Evite that I'm doing.

Posts soon to come, I swear.






Well nevermind. I can't get any of my other pictures the right way.

Argh! 

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Long time no post

As usual, life is hectic and crazy. Work is insanely busy and my arts council board is taking up a lot of time as well.

And then there's the kid to fill the rest of the time!

The good news is that Jay and I are going back to Mexico sans bambino. The bad news is that we still have a ways to go. We want to go diving a few times this summer, but are having trouble finding the time. Maybe next month.

The REALLY awesome news is that we are heading back to OZ in 2017! We're spending a week in Coolangatta with my aunt and then we'll be heading north for a week of adventures in and around Daintree and Cape Tribulation.

Here's some pics of the last few months.






Monday, March 14, 2016

Final Numbers on SNAP Challenge

I'll be posting my update and thoughts soon. Wednesday - Sunday were a bit of a whirlwind for me, so I didn't have a chance to post.

At the end of the week, it kind of fell apart due to my boss picking up lunch and a last minute invitation to hang out with some friends. So the chicken that we'd planned to have for dinner on Friday ended up getting nice and dried out by the time we'd gotten home. In an effort to not be wasteful, we will be shredding that and using it for burrito/taco night.

All of that said, using my super scientific calculations, I managed to stay under budget and kept my family fed for each meal that we ate. Approximate spent $58.60. Total meals = 40 x 1.58 = $63.20.

Were they all healthy? No. Were they all quick and easy? No.

Here is my final list... I'll be posting a modified recipe for this Baked Polenta and Pepper Sauce. It's budget friendly and quite tasty.

Food Final/Adjusted Price Price
Pasta (Spaghetti) $0.88 $0.88
Peanut Butter $2.74 $5.48 *10.96 at BJs for two GIANT jars
Jelly $0.49 $0.97
Frozen Broccoli $0.00  
Pasta Sauce $1.50  
Rice (2 lbs) $0.75 $1.49
Black beans $1.79  
4 progresso soups $1.50 $6.00
Bananas $2.49  
Whole fryers (2) $0.00 $10.90
Cornmeal $0.35 $1.38
Ground turkey $5.92  
Sausage $2.99  
Honey nut Os $0.84 $1.68
Mozzarella $4.93  
Cheddar $2.47  
English muffins $2.00  
Oatmeal $0.82 $1.64
Whole wheat bread $2.68  
bell pepper (2) $2.68  
Gevalia Coffee $3.85 $5.84
Coffee Creamer $1.25 $2.49
Peas (frozen) $0.00 $0.98
Fresh strawberries $2.28  
Plain yogurt $5.48  
Canned crushed tomatoes $1.50  
onions (bag) $0.49 $1.97
Lettuce $0.55 $0.99
Milk $3.50  
Sour cream $0.84 $1.68
Eggs $0.00 $2.49
Ramen - case of 24 for $8.28 $0.35 $8.28
Tomatoes w/ Chilies $0.69  
$58.60
  Me Jay Mark
Sunday 2 1 2
Monday 3 2 2
Tuesday 3 2 2
Wednesday 3 0 2
Thursday 3 2 2
Friday 1 1 1
Saturday 2 2 2
  17 10 13
$1.58 $1.58 $1.58  
$26.86 $15.80 $20.54 $63.20