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!!!

Our 2013 Summer Bucket List for a Happy Family

family pic 064

Yes, Daddy has a funny smile but since the blog writer and the babies look great, this photo wins.

I love being creative, Pinterest sucks away hours of my life, I’ve been hoarding Family Fun, Crochet Today and other crafty magazines for as long as I can remember, and I’ve got about 5 million bookmarks on my laptop. But, I’m also the type of person that needs sticky notes in every room just to remember to take my vitamins. Too often I read an article and say, “We should totally do that!” and then completely forget about it. Or, after the kids are asleep, I think to myself, “Oh man, we should have done X fun thing today!” but, of course, it’s too late. So, when I found out about The Summer Bucket List Challenge last year and again this year, I joined excitedly – an easy way to ensure we’re not missing out on those special little things that create memories and make childhood magical? Yes, please! Plus, there are honestly no cons; it’s all-inclusive, pure fun.

But I still have a few other reasons why I like the Bucket List Challenge anyway:

  1. Literally writing out and displaying our Bucket List in the living room, where we’ll walk past the list multiple times a day, makes it impossible not think about which activity you could make time for (and for visually oriented people like me it’s even better).
  2. Since the Summer Bucket List Challenge is public, that makes everyone online my new accountability partners.
  3. I’m addicted to photo books and The Bucket List will make a great one!
  4. Did I mention I’m also an obsessive list maker?

This year’s Summer Bucket List Challenge, sponsored by The Happy Family Movement, begins on May 20 and lasts until Labor Day, Sept 2. (It’s free and fun so if you haven’t signed up yet, click here now – you won’t regret it). That time frame gives us exactly 3 months and 13 days to create some serious summer memories. Now, 13 has always held a special place in our family – it’s the day Nick and I decided to get married and we always try to do something small and special whenever a 13th falls on a Friday. So… I’m pretty sure this is some sort of cosmic sign that we’re destined to have The Best Summer Ever thanks to our Bucket List!

If you’re a long-time follower of my blog, I admit we did not publicly participate much last year because Number 2 arrived and the season turned out to be an overwhelming blur of preparing, caring and adjusting – more so than I ever imagined it would be. But, now that we’ve had time to get used to our new family dynamic and Number 2 is a little older and less demanding, we are SO READY!

What to do with 15 weeks, 105 days or 2,520 hours of potential fun? In order to make sure our list wasn’t overwhelming, my husband and I voted on 2 activities per week (or 30 total), with the option to add more (which we quickly did). We also decided we should add in some Adult Only dates too because we’re terrible at making them happen and because happy parents = a happy family. So, (drum roll, please) here is our 2013 Summer Bucket List:

067

  1. Make Gak
  2. Go on a scavenger hunt
  3. Get ice cream from an ice cream truck (must be playing music)
  4. Ride bikes
  5. Go berry picking
  6. Go grocery shopping with O’s own cart and list
  7. Visit a farmer’s market
  8. Attend a baseball game
  9. Go swimming (first time!)
  10. Take advantage of BOA’s Free Museum Day
  11. Watch fireworks
  12. Play with water balloons
  13. Visit Sandy Hook beach (if re-opened)
  14. Go bowling (first time!)
  15. Visit the local zoo
  16. Trip to Boston
  17. Use sidewalk chalk
  18. Visit the Camden Aquarium
  19. Have a picnic
  20. Visit the Central Park Zoo
  21. Airbrushing
  22. Trip to California (first airplane!)
  23. Make stained glass with tissue paper
  24. ADULTS: Zip-line date
  25. ADULTS: Miniature Golf
  26. Bike on Governor’s Island
  27. Find a new fun park
  28. Play with bubbles
  29. Make popcicles (first time!)
  30. Ride a carnival coaster
  31. Have a one color meal
  32. ADULTS: Go to the movies
  33. Go on a firefly walk
  34. Visit Sesame Street Place

This year we’re going to document the things we cross off our List with lots of pictures. Stay tuned! Have you signed up yet? Do it NOW!!

Infant Car Seats VS All-in-One Convertible Car Seats

I think most first time parents, or at least all the ones I see waiting in our pediatrician’s office, go for a basic infant car seat like we did. You know the ones I’m talking about; it’s got the handle on the top and the base that stays in the car. We got a Graco SnugRide 32 for our first baby. Well, infant car seats are great for a number of reasons:

Graco Snugride 35

Graco Snugride 35

  1. Portable – If baby is asleep when you park the car, you can pop the whole car seat out to carry baby undisturbed into the house. You can also easily stick most infant car seats on a travel-system stroller without disturbing them if they’re sleeping or just in a good mood (we found that getting in and out of the car seat was generally the most upsetting to our babies).
  2. Fast – It is a lifesaver to be able to adjust baby’s straps and buckle them in nice and cozy before leaving the house (especially if you had a 2 door car in the beginning like we did – what were we thinking?!). Once you get to the car, most infant car seats come with a base that allows you to secure it by setting the car seat on top and aligning it with a click. It takes about 5 seconds and you’re good to go.
  3. Winter Bonus – If you’re trying to avoid dressing your baby in bulky winter wear while strapped into the car seat, there are lots of covers for infant car seats that let you ensure baby’s warmth and optimum safety.

With time and experience, we figured out what worked best for us and what didn’t. Here’s what we did not like about our infant car seat:

  1. Heavy – There are lots of different ergonomic handle designs and arm pads you can attach, but all infant car seats are bulky, heavy, and hard to carry – it’s why they’re so safe. Remember, even the lightest car seat won’t be light once your baby is inside – and babies put on weight so fast! I dreaded carrying it just from our house to the car.
  2. Short Lifespan – Even though our daughter was a tiny thing, she couldn’t use her infant car seat for more than a year (and even if she could have fit, she really began to hate being so reclined – she wanted to see the world, look out the windows, etc.). I have noticed some new infant-style car seats with fancy multi-position bases that allow you to use them rear facing up until age 2 (or the seat’s height and weight limits) like the Graco SnugRide Click Connect 40 Infant Car Seat. It’s pretty amazing but still requires you to get a new seat after 2 years instead of 1.
  3. Expensive (comparably) – Our Graco Snugride 32 retailed for approximately $150. After one year we had to buy a second toddler car seat which retailed about $300 (we bought it for less on Amazon though). Luckily, our toddler car seat (more about it below) is a convertible seat and can also be used as a booster later (up to 120 lbs), so we won’t have to buy her anything else in this department.
  4. Little Resale Value – Most experts advise against buying used car seats so you may not have many takers if you try to resell (or they’ll want a steep discount… like they’ll give you $20). It is wise advice though because car seats that have been in a car accident may have hidden damage and no longer offer adequate protection. Car seats also have expiration dates because over time the plastic can weaken and safety standards can change. When you’re dealing with something that could mean the difference between life and death for your child, it just isn’t worth it. I recommend taking your infant car seat into a Babies R Us during one of their Great Trade-In Events. From the company’s website: “The Great Trade-in Event places an emphasis on specific baby products, such as cribs and car seats that, due to safety concerns, may not be the best candidates to be handed down or resold.” At least you get 25% off something new that way!
Diono Radian RXT

Diono Radian RXT

So, as you probably guessed, we did not buy an infant car seat for our second baby. We were actually so pleased with O’s toddler car seat, the Diono Radian RXT (formerly Sunshine Kids), that, seeing the acceptable weight range started at 5 pounds, we just started him out in the same model his sister loves. We’re done buying car seats for his whole car-seat-needing life!

To be honest, there have been many times I’ve wished I didn’t have to unstrap Number 2 to take him out of the car, knowing he’d wake up the minute I did. But there’s no guarantee he would have stayed blissfully asleep in his car seat like his sister used to either. So, no regrets. We upgraded to a 4 door family car a while ago (thank god), so buckling baby into his seat no longer involves folding myself into origami (the infant car seat was so annoying to carry, we sometimes left it in the car). And, as with my first, I prefer baby wearing (Baby K’Tan shout-out!) to using a stroller while they’re tiny anyway.

If you do decide to start your newborn in an all-in-one convertible car seat like we did, there are more and more appearing on the market now (like the Graco Smart Seat All-in-One Convertible Car Seat) so you’ll have a lot of choices. But, before you start shopping, I have to mention a few extra things about the Diono Radian RXT car seat that we really loved:

  1. The Diono Radian RXT can be rear-facing up to 45 lbs which makes it the highest rear-facing seat available in the US. That’s nothing to sneeze at. (heh, who says that anymore?) According to this article on CNN from Parenting.com, a study “found that children under age 2 are 75 percent less likely to die or to be severely injured in a crash if they are rear-facing. Another study found riding rear-facing to be five times safer than forward-facing.” And just so we’re all clear, I hope everyone knows that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) now recommends that all children be rear-facing until age 2 (or until they reach the maximum height and weight for their car seat). In her Diono, our daughter O was happy rear-facing until almost 3 years old – seriously, leg squish was not a problem.
  2. The Diono Radian RXT has a very slim profile that the brand says allows you to fit 3 across the backseat of most standard size cars. Now, we don’t have 3 kids, so I didn’t think this would be important until we tried putting O’s old Graco Snugride in the back next to her Diono (before our second was born while we were still in research mode). There was NO WAY anyone would have been able to squish into that third seat. We tried every configuration. Amazingly when our second Diono arrived, we put Olyla by the window, Number 2 in the center, and our third seat was usable for an adult.
The backseat of our car

The backseat of our car

If you’ve fallen in love with a particular All-in-One car seat, definitely share the name of it in the comments. As I said above, there are lots more brands creating their own versions since the AAP changed their safety recommendations.

*I was not compensated in any way by Graco or Diono for this review.

Our Summer Bucket List


I found this on another blog and I’m glad I did! First of all, I love making lists period (have I mentioned this before?). So making a specific summer fun bucket list is something I’d naturally gravitate towards and one I haven’t done before. I’m going to try to make sure that my list includes both family fun activities and some mommy fun stuff too. Still a work in progress obviously, but wanted to post the first few things that came to mind.

  1. Have baby #2 and recover
  2. Make sure little O still feels loved, secure and hopefully not too jealous of the new baby
  3. New Jersey State Fair – we miss this every year! And it’s usually in Secaucus which is one stop from Penn Station. Even though O is probably still too short for any of the rides and my prego belly is going to keep me off the fun rides, there’s usually still a petting zoo, fun demonstrations, carny food, etc.
  4. Make initial pancakes (and decorate with whipped cream)
  5. Central Park Zoo – ashamed to admit we still haven’t been here
  6. Make fruit popsicles
  7. Bronx Zoo again – we’ve been to this one but didn’t make it through the whole thing cause this zoo is Huge! Maybe an elephant or camel ride too?
  8. Use the new sand and water table that O got for her birthday from her Auntie & Uncle
  9. Paint with O using the Glob paint kit I just got (probably after newspapering the entire kitchen)
  10. Finally try that Turkish restaurant near our house
  11. Make room for another family member? (no, not #2 – he’s already got space)
  12. Catch fireflies
  13. Go to the beach (more than once!)
  14. Stay up late to watch the fireworks on the Fourth of July
  15. Attend storytime at the local library
  16. Ride our bikes with toddler trailer (at least until hubby refuses to let me ride anymore due to the unfortunate combination of clumsiness + prego belly)
  17. Make homemade ice cream (decaf coffee choc chip for mommy!)

The Ocean Themed Nursery – Before

This room had no overhead light so we created one – IKEA sun lamp
(cord in plastic tracking goes to wall outlet)

No, it’s not perfectly spotless – let’s be real here

Unit for books and toys

So we’re starting this redecorating project with an obvious mishmash of old items (like the dresser which still contains mostly mommy’s seasonal stuff) and new items (the crib) along with things we were given to us (the changing table, the glider) and a few things we crafted ourselves (the mobile). Everything was originally purchased/obtained for our now 2 year old when she was a baby. And back then we didn’t have a separate room for her so our setup was quite a bit different. Now that we have a second baby coming (and I’m totally nesting!!), my husband and I wanted to really get this room pulled together and perfect.  Right now the only ocean-themed items we have are the color palette, the mobile and most of the art.

This is a real-time project so sorry it may take a while before the completed “After” pictures can be posted, but we do have a deadline, #2 is coming in about 3 months! And I’ll be posting pictures along the way.

Other things to note: we’re leasing so we cannot paint or wallpaper the walls (well, we could, but I don’t want to have to re-paint it back white later). Yes, all the adorable nursery layouts in magazines always have cute wall colors, etc., but we’re just going to have to do without that for now and I think it’ll still look amazing. Changing the carpet, likewise, sadly, not an option (at least it’s “sandy” colored). And second, let’s consider this DIY on a budget – yes, we could just buy a new changing table and dresser that matches the crib, but it seems like such a waste, both are perfectly good, and modifying them can be super fun!

To-Do List:

  • Replace silver frames on artwork above the crib with black frames (that actually fit the images, haha) like the rest of the room
  • Get those few other art pieces I’ve been waiting on
  • Replace Diaper Genie (which did work well for 2 years) with a hot blue Ubbi diaper pail (we need a pail with a locking top b/c of a curious toddler and the blue will look awesome)
  • Remove bottom 2 dresser drawers and replace with 2 open shelves (so we can put fabric bins there for our 2 year old’s clothes and keep the existing bins under the changing table for our new baby boy’s clothes). We want little O to be able to access her clothes, versus keeping them in the closet, so she can soon practice dressing herself. This one is a maybe? It seems simple in thought, maybe not so much in practice. We’ll see.
  • Paint dresser (white or blue?) and then my husband will be painting on a jellyfish scene (he has “a vision”)
  • Paint changing table white
  • Paint glider white (currently a creamy color)
  • Make slip-covers for the glider (depending on finished look of dresser, I’m thinking maybe something green-ish like the color of the changing pad?) or if I’m really brave, maybe a complete makeover?
  • Get actual curtain tiebacks or holdbacks – starfish? (instead of the chip clips I’m currently using – which work great, but not so cute)
  • Replace pink fabric toy bins in bookshelf with blue or dark purple (pink must have been on sale or something back when I got them)
  • Additional shelving on the only wall not pictured?
  • Definitely getting this adorable octopus hook for coats

Let me know your thoughts and ideas too! And if you love ocean themes, check out my Pinterest board of the same name.

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