50 Reasons to Move from NJ to Vermont

This list is, in part, courtesy of my sister who started a campaign to get us to leave New Jersey shortly after her arrival in the Green Mountain State with her husband. I’ve linked to proof of my statements and other interesting factoids so click on a few if you’re curious (especially the one about the serious maple syrup pride).

Drumroll please…

  1. You can see more than 5 stars from your backyard
  2. Burlington, Vermont was named by Parenting.com as #2 in the Top 10 Best Cities for Families in 2012
  3. Ben & Jerry’s!!! (almost got the #1 spot in my list, haha)
  4. No sales tax in Vermont when ordering online (at least for now from Sephora and Amazon)
  5. Second healthiest state in the US
  6. Sugar on snow in the winter from a maple sugarhouse and…
  7. Serious maple syrup pride statewide
  8. Kid-friendly Shelburne Farms with farm animals and activities
  9. WalletHub ranked Vermont 3rd best in its list of “The Best and Worst States for Working Moms” (NJ was 15th)
  10. Kid-friendly indoor waterpark at Jay Peak Resort (indoor= instant vacation in the middle of winter!)
  11. The Northern Lights!!
  12. The Fairbanks Museum and Planetarium (got a Groupon deal for a years family membership for less than the price of regular admission for 1 trip with my family!)
  13. Rated the 5th Happiest State in the nation in 2013
  14. The Stowe Recreation Path
  15. Breweries: Magic Hat, Long Trail, Harpoon
  16. Not one but two Hot Air Balloon Festivals: Quechee and Stoweflake
  17. Montpelier, Vermont is the smallest U.S. state capital and the only one without a McDonalds.
  18. There are more than 100 covered bridges in Vermont
  19. Lake Champlain Ferries (I see the appeal, but I find it terrifying)
  20. Champ, Vermont’s own Loch Ness Monster of Lake Champlain (this is adorable though!)
  21. Billboards are illegal
  22. Vermont is the 5th most educated state of 2013 (ahead of #6 New Jersey)
  23. The Vermont high school graduation rate is roughly 90 percent – one of the highest rates in the nation. And highly rated schools overall.
  24. Leaf Peeping season
  25. Walk the trail to Quechee Gorge
  26. Cleaner air  (Fine. I guess we won’t miss the garbage smell on the way to Newark Airport)
  27. Traffic and rush hour are almost non-existent (especially when compared to NJ/NYC)
  28. About 2 hours from Montreal, Quebec, Canada
  29. Lots of farmers’ markets and artisan/craft fairs
  30. Cutest ever trick or treating event for little kids, Halloween morning on Church St.
  31. Open Community swimming pools (unlike residency-required pools in NJ too full to even accept new membership)
  32. Cut your own Christmas tree farms
  33. Movie theaters where you don’t have to buy tickets in advance
  34. The King Arthur Flour company (the bakers out there will be excited with me!)
  35. The Vermont Solar and Small Wind Incentive Program (cool)
  36. Legal same-sex marriage since Sep. 1, 2009 (I definitely want to live in an open-minded, liberal state)
  37. VT Restaurant week
  38. For my husband: fishing!
  39. No IKEA. :( Which makes anti-materialism the pro here. Kind of.
  40. It’s possible to house livestock in your backyard (my husband has always wanted chickens)
  41. Getting away from the Blue Laws in Bergen County, NJ (practically nothing is open on Sundays)
  42. Just look at these beautiful pictures (from Buzzfeed)
  43. The Green Mountain Reiki Institute (for my mom who had enormous success using Reiki in treating her migraines).
  44. Skirack’s Annual Bike Swap (one person brought in 34 bikes to swap/sell and there were a number of people with 10+!)
  45. For my husband: there IS a Five Guys in South Burlington
  46. You’ll see stories about baby moose roaming around the city in the local newspaper
  47. And the newspapers write stories about helping turtles, frogs and salamanders cross the street, if it’s safe to do so. (FYI to self: look up how to identify a snapping turtle and DO NOT TOUCH!!!)
  48. Mandatory composting
  49. Getting out of a super expensive area! Forbes magazine’s 2012 Most Expensive ZIP Codes in the United States list included 12 Bergen county municipalities in the top 500. (And in 2013, Alpine, NJ, a Bergen county city, was #8). Yikes.
  50. Your husband gets a great job offer…

We’re Moving to Vermont!!!

Terms of Bedtime Surrender

giraffe bedtime termsSometimes bedtime goes smoothly but other times my daughter claims it simply isn’t possible for her to sleep, close her eyes or even breathe without someone else in the room with her. After exhausting the classic, surefire stalling tactics: I need water, I have to go potty, my tummy is exploding (hungry), I finally got this bedtime request last night:

“Mommy, will you make a surprise for me for in the morning?”

“Will you go to sleep now if I make you a surprise?”

“Um, yes.”

“Ok, what kind of surprise?”

“I want you to draw me a picture of a giraffe. With hearts on it. And say Love Olyla.”

“I would be happy to do that for you.”

“Ok, can you do it right now? Go get the crayons and white paper and sit at the table.”

As I backed out uncertainly I said, “Ok, I’ll go right now. Good night, I love you.”

“Ok. Do it right now and I’ll go to sleep.”

She said it. And I didn’t hear another peep.

If this became a tradition and actually helped her go to bed at bed time, that would be amazing. I’m going to ask her if she wants a surprise picture next time she doesn’t want to go to sleep. Fingers crossed. (Luckily my artistic abilities don’t seem to be a deciding factor either, haha.)

Holiday Gift Guide 2013

The best gift guides are ones that people actually purchase from right? So here’s what we’re getting and giving this Christmas:

b toys teepee blue1. Although I think a $249 play teepee from Pottery Barn Kids is beautiful, that is way more than I want to spend on a single Christmas gift for a kid under 5 years old. This version by B. toys, though, is only $39.99 and includes a star-projecting lantern inside! I’ve honestly never seen a teepee for under $100. Plus it looks like it’ll last longer than the cardboard castles and playhouse we’ve gotten in the past (although those were great to color on!).

hape-ukelele-red2. My 3 year old loves making noise… er, music. Instead of getting another electronic toy that plays automatically with the push of a button (of which she has tons), we thought this year she might enjoy something a little more individually powered. This tunable, 21″ Baltic birch & maple ukelele by Hape grows with your child if they wants to keep honing their skills. And at $29.95, it’s cheaper than most wooden guitars (in case the love is short-lived).

piggy paint orange3. This is more of a stocking stuffer, but we’re definitely getting some Piggy Paint non-toxic nail polish in Mac-n-Cheese Please – their most Vibrant, Pumpkin Orange and O’s favorite color. But, of course, there are lots more colors and sets to choose from (the Fancies and Frills set and Jingle Nail Rock sets are especially cute). I did my research and have used Piggy Paint since I was pregnant so I feel safe using their low odor, water based formula for both me and my young daughter. merida plush doll

4. I have a soft spot for all things Disney. It hasn’t completely taken hold in my children yet, but I’m pretty sure once they start watching the movies, it’s only a matter of time (of course, we may need a trip to Disneyland to cement the love, haha). In the meantime, I’m completely in love with these all-soft, 18 to 21 inch Disney character dolls. I love the large-but-not-too-large size, their creative fabric hairstyles that will never tangle, and their cuddly bodies. I’m stocking my son and daughter’s toy boxes with Woody, Rapunzel, Captain Hook, Cinderella, Flynn Rider, Merida & more. Plus frequent sales (including the Black Friday weekend prices happening now) often take these dolls from $19.95 each to under $10!!

Dyson Toy Vacuum5. Both my kids love whenever I pull out the vacuum: when they were babies, I swear the sound would put them to sleep, and when they got older, they’d crawl around the room following it, throwing a fit when I finally turned it off. My oldest has asked to help vacuum a number of times (yes, please!) but the large Dyson is hard to handle at her height. So, when I found a near identical, mini version of our red Dyson, I knew it had to be ours. This cool toy can even suck up little pieces of paper which will delight my kids. But this is just a toy, not an actual vacuum cleaner – from the reviews I’ve read, as long as you keep that in mind, it’s a pretty great gift.

6. We’ve had quite a few failures with blocks. I never bought plain wooden blocks because I’ve known too soft foam blocksmany people who’ve gotten hurt on those hard wooden corners and I was worried about them being thrown. So in my search for alternatives, first we had the set of giant Lego-like eco blocks that were impossible to separate and hard for kids under 3 to push together – oops. Then, we had the slightly smaller Lego-like blocks that refused to stick together making life frustrating for a little girl who wanted to walk around with her creations. But on a recent playdate, I found these soft foam Wonder Blocks which seemed like the answer to my prayers – no interlocking pieces and no worries about tall towers falling on someone’s head.

my pal scout7. My one year old really doesn’t need much, but he has a serious soft spot for puppies. So this year, his big gift is an oldie but a goodie: The My Pal Scout doll from Leapfrog. This toy has been around a while but it’s still on the shelves because moms and kids love it: you can customize Scout so he’ll say your child’s name and a few other fun personalized things, he sings songs, plays games and is easy to use. I hope the lullaby feature will help with naptime once Bugaboo stops nursing too. Kiwi Crate box

8. Last but not least, my daughter has an aching love of craft boxes. We already get monthly boxes from Kiwi Crate and BabbaCo but each box only lasts a few days and the months are long. So, I’ve put a few subscription sites on our Christmas wish list: M is for Monster, The Little Thinker Box and CareFree Crafts all look really promising.

Happy Black Friday shopping!

Halloween!!!!

halloween collage

Halloween 2012 as the Sesame Street Family

Every year, when we go to our adorable local zoo for their annual trick or treating event, there are hundreds of children in costume and maybe 10 parents dressed up. I don’t know, it just seems like such a waste – why not? Are you really going to be embarrassed in front of  kids that are totally fine with a ridiculous molted Easter bunny costume on some random person at the mall? Think it’s too much work? There are companies who are wholly dedicated to making Halloween ridiculously easy – enter the T-shirt costume (here’s one example). And there’s this thing called Google – just type in “easy Halloween costume.” Boom. But how about just simple memory making? You only get so many years where your kids aren’t embarrassed to be seen with you. So 11 Halloweens? 12? And then you’ve lost the opportunity.

Here’s another argument: most activities are way more fun in a group. The more the merrier, as the saying goes. Plus kids LOVE seeing their parents be silly. You know how they think it’s hilarious when you put something on your head that’s not supposed to be there? (no? try a cereal bowl, you’ll see). Well, imagine what a kick they’d get out of seeing you in costume! Add to that letting your children have a little bit of say in what you choose to dress up as and you’ve got excitement for weeks.

I love the holidays – even if we take the cheater’s way out sometimes, we still make an effort. Last year, we decided O would go as Cookie Monster and Number 2 as Elmo. I found a sexy Oscar the Grouch costume for adults (because non-sexy costumes don’t exist) but since I was 2 months postpartum, exhausted and it was like 50 degrees, I just took the cute trash can headpiece and picked out a green ensemble. I really wanted Daddy to accessorize with a yellow feather boa, but luckily for him I suppose, we couldn’t find one. He went with a bright yellow thermal to channel Big Bird with extreme simplicity instead.

This year, I was ready to go all out. I had a list of awesome groups with 4+ members as potential ideas: Alice in Wonderland, The 3 Little Pigs (with the big bad wolf, of course), Wizard of Oz, Mario Brothers, etc. But then, as Halloween drew closer, I asked my daughter for her costume opinions. I was not prepared for her to have just one definite idea that she didn’t let go of though. O wants to be a ghost. That means the rest of us could be… um, more ghosts? Uhg. Luckily I asked around and a Facebook friend suggested the rest of us be Ghostbusters – brilliant!!

Marshmallow Man Childrens Costume - Stay Puft Warm Version

Marshmallow Man Childrens Costume – Stay Puft Warm Version from The Wishing Elephant on Etsy

ghostbusters juniors costume tee

Ghostbusters juniors costume tee from Mighty Fine on Amazon

If you’re following me on Pinterest, you’ve seen my research (if not, click here). Although there are some great tutorials for DIY proton packs, I found a lovely printed t-shirt (with a proton pack printed on the back!) and that is totally enough for me. Daddy found a similar t-shirt and we’ll pair it with khaki pants, black boots (and probably a few layers underneath for warmth). There’s still a slight potential for a better, 3 dimensional proton pack but we’ll see what happens. Number 2 is going to be an adorable (and toasty warm) Stay Puft Marshmallow Man courtesy of The Wishing Elephant on Etsy. And my firstborn… I have an idea for a ghosty hooded cape a la Martha Stewart, but I’m not 100% sure, even with the sparkle overlay, that she’ll be satisfied without full head cover. So we’ll see. I better get sewing.

Our Spring Hunt

springcollage2
Even though there’s still snow on the ground (!!), my 3-year-old and I braved the weather and were still able to find some proof that spring really is coming. After we found the first plant, O ran around shouting “I’ll find more plants!” and did a great job with searching. I showed her leaf buds on a bush and on the tree branches. We even found some flowers that managed to push up from the frozen ground and had already bloomed. If anyone knows the names of the flowers I photographed, let me know.
springcollage1
It was interesting to notice the wide variety of plants popping out at the same time in the same area. We touched the leaves gently and smelled the flowers. We honked (and said I love you, haha) to some migratory geese. And at the end, climbing on a tree stump wasn’t really spring-y, but it sure was fun. This is definitely a tradition we’re going to do every year (although I really hope we’re in short sleeves next year).

springcollage3

St. Patrick’s Day Food and Fun

I used to wear green socks for St. Patrick’s Day – and that’s it. But now that I have kids, holidays have become a lot more important: they break up the day to day monotony, give us something to look forward to, give us a reason to be creative and they’re just plain fun. My husband looked at the 3 bags of spinach on my grocery list and warily asked what exactly I was planning. Cue evil laugh.

First up, green clothes. So easy. Until… I realized that O didn’t have a single green shirt! (Not even sure how that’s possible). In all my super planning, the most obvious thing completely slipped my mind until the morning of. Luckily, Daddy saw my panicked face and swooped in with one of his shirts, tied 80’s style into a knot on her side. Classic. Later on I drew shamrocks on our cheeks with my green eyeliner and painted our nails with Piggy Polish in their sub lime color (non-toxic, odor-less, kid-friendly).

st-patricks-clothes-collage
The second part of my awesome St. Patrick’s Day plan was fancy green food and, to up the ante, I forbid myself from using any food coloring. Easy? Me? Never! So, we all started the morning with spinach cheddar chive scones from this recipe by Weelicious (I didn’t tamper with the coffee under penalty of death). Lunch was spinach salads with mandarin orange slices. And for dinner, we had green cheese-filled tortellini with pesto sauce (in green bowls, of course) and a side of peas. O was not pleased with “too much pepper” on her pasta so we had to make it “clean” before she’d touch it. After we washed the tortellini off though (and wasted all that yummy pesto, as Grandma Mimi moaned), she ate it happily. Our Little Frog had some delicious spinach baby food (how does he manage to get it everywhere?! We require an outfit change after every meal; the bib is worthless).

Finally, the Pièce de résistance, a Turkish lemon spinach cake with cream cheese frosting. I know what you’re thinking. As the blog I found the recipe on hilariously wrote: “Congratulations if you are still reading this blog. You saw the words “lemon” and “spinach” in the same title and kept going.” But although it has 8 cups (!) of spinach in it (which makes for a fantastic green color), the cake honestly doesn’t taste like spinach at all. As far as anyone in your family needs to know (so long as they don’t see you preparing it) it’s just a nice, moist lemon cake in a funky color.

stpatricksfoodkids
Oh and we were going to listen to some Irish music (Mimi has Riverdance) until Daddy mentioned we should listen to Green Day. Ha, totally!

I need to start planning now if I’m going to top this next year – we’ll definitely need some crafts.

Hope you had a great St. Patrick’s Day too!

Hello Again!

someecards.com - Sorry I kept you up all night, mommy. On the bright side, we get to do it all over again tomorrow!
Hi again everybody! Sorry it took me so long. While I only took 12 weeks maternity leave from work, it look me quite a bit longer to completely regroup enough to make time for blogging again – having 2 children and working full-time is WAY harder than it was the first time around with 1 baby! Plus I really wanted to devote every free moment for a while to getting to know my new little baby boy and introducing him to my preschooler and the family :)

Here are the highlights from my time away from here:

  • Number 2 (which was his pregnancy nickname – we’re still waiting on something better) is holding steady at about the 50th percentile which (I’d forgotten) is still much bigger than his big sister was. While O was always a little behind the clothing sizes (at 9 months, she’d still be wearing her 6 month onesies), Number 2 at 5 months is comfortably wearing 6-9 month outfits. In comparison, he’s huge!
  • O has taken to being a big sister like a champ – my only real fear is that she’ll accidentally smother him during a hug.  We made her the official diaper disposer, a job she takes very seriously. And O often asks if she can play with the baby, meaning she wants me to put him on the floor next to her in her room while she places all her toys around him one by one (asking approval from me for each toy in case some are too small – adorable).
  • Number 2 goes from fine and happy to head-on-fire screaming in 2 seconds flat. No warning whimpers or warming up. It’s fun times.
  • I’m pretty sure Number 2 has a milk sensitivity so I’ve given up (most) dairy until I stop breastfeeding. I’m not positive that’s what was causing his fussiness, but it didn’t bother me any since I like soy products anyway.
  • O corrected me when I tried to call both my babies my “honey bunnies” so I’ve lately learned my nicknames are no longer interchangeable. “No Mommy, baby’s Sweetie,” she said. So I guess that’s that. Sweetie wasn’t necessarily the nickname of the hundreds I probably use daily that I would have picked to stick, but clearly it’s not my choice. (Luckily it’s still my choice in the blog so Number 2 wins out over Sweetie for now).
  • I swear Number 2 makes this high-pitched coo that is identical to the canned baby sound used for TV shows.
  • It may be just the difference between personalities or it may be because of their gender, but while O would lay happily on her tummy time mat or in her crib and just play to herself for 20 minutes at a time, Number 2 wants to be entertained constantly.
  • In related news, I’ve found I can do tons of stuff one-handed that I never thought possible. For example, when both my children decided they were dying of starvation at exactly the same time, I discovered I have the Olympic ability to nurse my baby while standing up and making lunch for my preschooler.
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