Thursday, May 21, 2015

I’m a Virginian

A little over 12 years ago I moved to Northern Virginia.  I had been living and working in the Boston area when an opportunity opened up to move here and work for a Senator from Wyoming.  My plan was to move down here and stay for a year or 2, then get a good job in Colorado and move back out west.  That way I could marry a good western man, have western kids, and live a western life.

1 ½ years after moving here my colleague asked if she could set me up on a blind date.  I agreed, and 2 weeks later I was introduced to Joe.  After a whirlwind romance we were engaged and planning a wedding.  Choosing where to have the wedding was a no-brainer for me.  I wanted to get married here, in Virginia.  And so it was.

Fast forward 12 years and we have established roots.  Virginia is not only where we were married, it is where both of our children were born.  It is where we bought our first home (or rather, where the bank owns our first home).  It is where we have built a life together.  While there are days that I get annoyed with the traffic, or get frustrated with the high cost of everything…at the end of the day, living in Northern Virginia just feels right.  A lot of people don’t understand it.  Most of my own family members don’t understand it.  But it all comes down to one thing…after 12 years, Virginia is home.

Recently there have been 2 events that happened that proved to me that it is official…I am a Virginian.

1) A woman and I were talking.  During the conversation she asked me, “Where’s home?”  My first thought…HERE!  When I responded she looked confused, “So you grew up in Virginia?”  My response, “I grew up in Wyoming, but Virginia is my home.”

2) I was talking to a family that is living here temporarily.  In our conversation they mentioned that they haven’t really enjoyed living in Northern Virginia.  I tried to be understanding and hear where they were coming from, but inside I was completely offended.  How could you NOT love it here?  What’s not to love?  Look at all the awesome things around you!  Of course I didn’t say any of that, those were just the thoughts in my head.  But it was another sign that Virginia is where my heart is.  Of course a piece of me will always love the west, but I know that Virginia is where we are supposed to be.

12 years is a long time.  Our townhouse is exactly 2 miles from the apartment I lived in when I first moved to the area.  We are 1 mile from the apartment we lived in when we got married and 2 blocks from the townhouse we rented when Ella was born.  Everything I need is within a 3 mile radius.  I can get to the mall, grocery store, favorite restaurants, doctor and church all in under 10 minutes.  Ella attends the neighborhood school just 3 blocks from our house.  I love our street and know all of our neighbors.  I can tell you the best place for Mexican food, Hibachi, Chinese food, Italian food and hamburgers.  I know the quickest route to the movie theatre and can tell you where to avoid during rush hour.  This is my neighborhood.  My home.  Virginia.

Friday, May 8, 2015


There is something you need to know about me…I love cake.  I pretty much have a sweet tooth in general (I’ve never met a dessert that I didn’t like), but for me, cake is taken to a whole new level.  I love it!  While I definitely have my favorite flavors (strawberry, red velvet, plain white, and this awesome coconut cake that my friend makes), I will pretty much eat any cake set in front of me.  If you ever think something is a bit off and you wonder if my body has been overtaken by aliens, set a piece of cake in front of me and see how I respond.  If it’s eaten within 3 minutes, you know everything is ok.

My love isn't just with the cake, though.  I love...I mean LOVE frosting.  Joe's mom has this fantastic frosting recipe and she used to always bring me a big container of it whenever she would come visit.  Finally she just gave me the recipe, so now I always keep a container of it in the freezer.  If I'm having a rough day and need a little pick-me-up I scoop some frosting into a bowl and eat it with a spoon spread it on graham crackers.

Several months ago, long before our Christmas trip to Disney World, I read an article about must have foods in Disney World.  On the list was a Cake Cup from the Cheshire Cat Café.  The second I saw the picture I knew I had to have this cake.  Thus began my quest…eat this, and any other cake I happen to find while visiting the Disney World Theme parks.

The list begins with our first cake in Magic Kingdom…The Be Our Guest Restaurant cupcake topped with “the gray stuff.”

 When planning our trip, lunch at this restaurant was at the top of Ella’s list of “must-do’s.”  We waited in line for nearly 2 hours to finally get in for lunch, so we were definitely going to make the most of it.  We ate in the Castle Gallery.  The cupcake was divine and as Ella says, "Mom, the gray stuff really IS delicious!"

Next we hit up the Cheshire Cat Café.  I want to be very clear about something.  This is NOT a cupcake.  It is a cake cup.  A large plastic cup filled with alternating layers of cake and icing.  To make this cake cup even better…it had strawberry icing and strawberry gel filling.  Please note that strawberry is my absolute favorite kind of cake.  Heaven. In. A. Cup.  I gave Ella a couple of bites, but other than that I ate the entire thing.  Even the fondant rose on top.  Sometimes I find myself dreaming of this cake cup.  I will definitely hit up this Cafe the next time we head to Magic Kingdom.  And next time I'll get the chocolate flavor too, just for good measure.

We spent our 3rd day at Hollywood Studios and ate lunch at the Backlot Express Restaurant.  While there I spotted a sign advertising 2 special cupcakes.  A carrot cake cupcake topped with Olaf, and a gingerbread cupcake topped with Mickey ears and a Santa hat.  I couldn’t decide which one I wanted, so I did the only logical thing…I ordered both.  These cupcakes were huge!  Even with 3 of us eating them we still weren’t able to finish.  While I enjoyed the gingerbread cupcake, I was really partial to the carrot cake.  It took me back to my Boston days when I had this awesome roommate who made amazing cakes.  She made a carrot cake that was beyond delicious.

There you have it, my Disney vacation in cake.  I’m sure there is more cake out there that I didn’t get to try.  The next time we go I will make it my mission to try every kind of cake in the parks.  It’s my commitment to you to keep you informed.  I’m a giver like that.

I realize that I did not mention any cake from Epcot.  Either I didn’t visit the right places in Epcot, or they do not offer the delectable cake options the other two parks offered.  Also, I have recently seen a commercial that features a Darth Vader cupcake that will be offered during Star Wars week at Disney World.  I am jealous that I don't get to try this cake.  Chocolate and peanut butter...YUMMY!  Our next visit must be during Star Wars week.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Boys will be boys

There are 3 main differences between my days with AJ at 16 months old, and my days when Ella was 16 months old.

1)  Ella has EB and AJ doesn’t.  I know, this is obvious, but the physical limitations of Ella definitely made things different.  She’s more cautious.  AJ has no fear.  To this day Ella refuses to go down the slide at the park.  AJ goes down the slide, climbs up the slide, jumps off the slide, whatever he can get away with.

2)  Ella is a girl.  Despite what a lot of people want to believe, there is a big difference between boys and girls.  And there is a big difference between the first born and the second born.  Ella has always listened and followed the rules.  Even now, if I tell her not to do something, she won’t do it…ever.  In kindergarten her teacher said that Ella never talked in class and she really wanted her to open up.  When I asked Ella why she wouldn’t talk she said, “Because the teacher tells us not to.”  We had a long discussion about how there are times when it’s ok to talk in class, and there are times when it’s not ok to talk in class.  AJ, on the other hand, thinks that the word ‘no’ means to laugh and do it again.  Rules are optional and getting in trouble is no big deal.  With Ella we had 1 baby gate that we rarely used.  With AJ we have 4 baby gates…so far.
      3)  When Ella was 16 months old I was still working full time.  This meant that she spent her days at home with a nanny, and much of that time was spent either in the basement (a confined area) or outside playing.  I am home with AJ all day every day, and while I absolutely love it, I also have stuff to do around the house during the day.  As much as I want to, we can’t spend all day in the basement.  Sometimes I need to wash the dishes, or do the laundry, or take a shower.  This means that AJ can’t be confined to the basement and has much more reign of the house.  This leads to toys…everywhere.

AJ is definitely keeping me on my toes.  The other day he and Ella were in the living room and I had to run upstairs really quickly.  Immediately I hear Ella yelling in a panic for me to come quickly.  I raced downstairs to find AJ in the middle of the dining table and Ella desperately holding on to his ankle to keep him from falling.  He had taken it upon himself to push out one of the chairs, climb up on the chair, then climb up on the table.  He thought it was awesome!  Ella and I…not so much.

He also enjoys throwing his food on the floor.  Several months ago I decided that the best way to stop this behavior was to grab his hand and give it a little smack and firmly say “No!”  I wish I could tell you that it worked.  Soon AJ was going up to everyone (including our sweet Sabrina who wouldn’t hurt a fly) and hitting them and yelling “NO!!!”  Then he would laugh and smile as though it was some sort of game.  I’ve tried *redirecting* and that doesn’t work at all.  I’ve tried changing my wordage and instead saying “Stop!” or “That is not ok!”  I’ve even tried grabbing his hand and using a soft petting motion and saying the word “gentle.”  Apparently that isn’t as fun.  I am open to suggestions on how to curb this hitting behavior.

When Ella was 16 months old she was easily speaking in 2-3 word sentences and could sing numerous songs without a hitch.  AJ…I think he maybe has 10 words in his vocabulary.  He loves to read books and listen to music, but the words aren’t sinking in as much as they did with Ella.  He’s much more focused on his physical development.  Although he does have the word ‘ball’ down pat!

All in all he’s a sweet boy and there’s nothing better than when he stops playing and comes over to wrap his sweet arms around my neck for a hug.  He loves his sister so much and smiles the biggest when she walks in the room.  We are SO thankful to have him in our family.