2016: My Year in Review

Sometimes I can be hard on myself. I tend to get to the end of a year and think, “I didn’t do this” or “I never got around to that.” This year, as I sifted through the 1,300 photos on my iPhone, I realized I actually had a really phenomenal year and that’s worth celebrating!

1. I met Hillary fucking Clinton. Sorry, Dan, that had to be number 1.

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2. I read 20 books.

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3. We spent my birthday at a relaxing Spa.

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4. We went “across” with my Mom. CAPPA.

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5. We flew over the Atlantic Ocean for the first time.

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6. We visited Europe…twice…!

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7. I learned some Italian.

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8. I ran 2 miles, two days a week, for most weeks.

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9. I wrote more here on my blog.

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10. I danced on stage with Morris Day and the Time.

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11. We saw Pearl Jam, The Dixie Chicks, Brandi Carlile, and Rev Run in concert.

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12. We spent a week on Martha’s Vineyard and celebrated Dan’s 37th birthday.

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13. We went to the Warren Fourth of July Parade for the first time and Dan won $75 worth of cheese.

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14. We hiked, walked and ran with Sadie more this year.

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15. We kayaked and fished.

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16. We saw 4 Lake Monsters games.

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17. I won 99 $1.00 bills at Breakwaters.

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18. I also won a year of flea prevention medicine for Sade, ha.

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19. I spent a lot of time with family.

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20. I baked countless breads, cookies and pastries.

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21. We gave our greenhouse a makeover.

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22. We installed new basement windows.

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23. I cuddled (a lot) with Brody and Sadie.sadie-brody-cuddling
24. We spent some QT with friends.

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25. We played on a softball team and donned jeggings.softball
26. We ran a 5K and had to eat a pint of Ben & Jerry’s in the middle of it (and yes I realize how counter productive this was to #8)

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27. I became very close to the cat next door, Lily.

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28. I got to see one of my best friends have a baby (note: not *literally* see) and become an honorary Auntie.

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29. We visited Portland, ME.

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30. We went to Hampton Beach.

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31. We had awesome foliage and went on a leaf-peeing adventure to the NEK.

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32. I got *really* into nail art.

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33. I developed a new-found appreciation for both my dad and Sherlock Holmes.

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34. We made teacup bird feeders and became bird watchers.

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35. We got lots of snow in December and I continued trying to learn how to snowboard.

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36. I got to honor a close friend and coworker with a goofy video.

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37. I became a Nasty Woman – ok, let’s be honest: I always was one, but finally got the t-shirt to prove it.img_9507

38. I organized a drive for period products for a domestic violence organization.period-products-drive
39. I rekindled an important friendship.

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40. And…I finally hit that mother f-ing jackpot on Candy Crush.

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What a year!

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Priceless

White eyelet skirt: $35
2 tickets to Gin Wigmore at Higher Ground: $26
Finding out your brother is engaged via Facebook: Priceless.

There are some things money can’t buy.

For everything else, there is alcohol.

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fresh whole cranberries

CSA Recipe: Cranberry Nut Bread

I recently signed up for a CSA through the Intervale in Burlington, VT and I’ve become obsessed with it! I get an assortment of vegetables each week, and also get eggs/yogurt/salad dressing OR cheese/bread/pesto along with it. Everything is organic, even the bread and yogurt, and it’s all ridiculously tasty. Since we’re getting so many different vegetables that I normally never cook, I’ve been looking all over the internet and in cookbooks for different recipes. I’ll be sharing some of my favs here!

Recipe: Cranberry Nut Bread
CSA Ingredients: Cranberries, eggs

My family is pretty set in their ways when it comes to food. Although this blows my mind, one of the Lafayette must-have’s on Thanksgiving is—wait for it—canned, jellied cranberry sauce.  (*shutters*) I learned the hard way that making any dish other than the ones we’ve had  500 times is the equivalent of taking your time, money, and pride, and dumping it in the trash. So when I got cranberries in my CSA, I had to get creative about how to use them, since clearly a delicious, home-made cranberry sauce was out of the question.

Luckily one of the perks of getting married is getting a brand new family who feel obligated to try everything you make and lie to you about how great it is. Liam’s dad is my number one fan and guinea pig. I could give him a cake made out of beach sand and the man would tell me how much he appreciated the crunch. He makes me feel like Julia Child. He’s the best.fresh whole cranberries

With my cranberries in hand, I flipped through my Better Homes & Garden’s Cookbook (AKA, my cooking Bible) and found a recipe for Nut Bread which you could add cranberries to. Although it recommended a few substitutions if using fruit, I ignored those suggestions and followed the recipe exactly as is, just adding cranberries at the end.

This is what the batter looked like in my KitchenAid Mixer

This is what the batter looked like in my KitchenAid Mixer

I threw the bread together about an hour before we went to Liam’s parent’s house and brought it over warm.

final product  - cranberry nut bread

final product – cranberry nut bread

And it actually was a big hit! It was nice and dense like a banana bread, but also very colorful because of the cranberries. Three-quarters of the loaf was gone by Thanksgiving night, and Liam’s dad called me up the next day to say he finished off the rest of it for breakfast (I just LOVE him!). So give this one a try if you end up with some cranberries. It’s really easy and pretty rewarding (even if you don’t have in-law’s to pat you on the back). Enjoy 🙂

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 1 cup milk (I used half n’ half because we didn’t have milk. Cook about 10 mins longer)
  • ¼ cup cooking oil
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped cranberries (put in food processor if you have one. Way easier!)
  • ¾ cup chopped walnuts (or almonds or pecans)

Directions

1.    Grease the bottom and 1/2 inch up sides of a 9x5x3-inch loaf pan; set aside.Grease the bottom and ½ inch up sides of 9x5x3-inch loaf pan; set aside. In a large bowl stir together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Make a well in the center of flour mixture; set aside.

2.   In a medium bowl, combine egg, milk, and oil. Add egg mixture all at once to flour mixture. Fold in cranberries and nuts. Spoon batter into prepared pan.

3.   Bake at 350 degrees F for 50 to 55 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. (recipe then recommended storing overnight before cutting, but who is going to do that?!).

Some Favorite Memories of Uncle Tony

Yesterday we lost a man who meant so much to so many people. A man who was well known throughout his community and adored by his family. He was a father, a husband, a brother, an uncle, a coach, a friend, an optimist, and he was my Godfather.

Uncle Tony touched so many lives in his 61 years on this Earth. So many that people from all walks of life have been reaching out to our family to give their condolences. People like my Facebook friend Matt, who said, “I didn’t realize Tony was your uncle. He and my parents are good friends and he was always so kind to me.” Or my friend Chuck, who shared some memories of Uncle Tony coaching him and the Pirates in little league. Or my friend Rhonda, who said Uncle Tony was her biggest cheerleader growing up and he will always have a special place in her heart. It seems that almost everyone in the Burlington area knew Uncle Tony and had a special bond with him. I of course feel the same way.

Uncle Tony was my 7th and 8th grade CYO basketball coach. Along with my cousin Jenna (Tony’s daughter), he taught a group of 10 teenage girls the in’s and out’s of basketball on the St. Mark’s team. I’m not sure if many of you remember what it’s like being 13 and 14 years old—or better yet—what it takes to coach teenage girls, but somehow Uncle Tony did it. He was patient, encouraging, and he never gave up on us. He put up with dramatic stories of middle-school break-ups (“I can’t run laps today, I’m too depressed…”), and­ excuses only young girls would have (“I can’t make practice today because I’d rather go to the mall.”) Uncle Tony gave up every single Saturday to coach our practices and every single Sunday to coach our games.

One of my favorite memories of Uncle Tony and the St. Marks team was while we were practicing one Saturday morning. Uncle Tony never went too hard on us, so after going over a few plays, and running a few laps, practice was winding down. But before it ended, he had his regular proposition for us: “Ok, girls. If any of you make this half-court shot, I’ll buy you all pizza next practice.” WOW, we all thought. Pizza?! Besides going to the movies with a cute boy, free pizza was about the best thing you could offer a teenage girl.

Each week we tried in vain to make that half-court shot, launching rubber balls as far as we could. And most of the time they just bounced off the backboard and went up into the 2nd floor auditorium above. We’d have to stop practice, hoist a girl up on Uncle Tony’s shoulders, and go searching for the ball.

So as usual on this Saturday, we lined up at half court, one by one, to take our shot. Uncle Tony sat on the sideline with a grin on his face, knowing that none of us had a chance in hell of ever sinking this shot. I threw the ball as far as I could—and missed. Jenna launched one, and missed. Liz went, and missed. And it went on like this until we got to Rhonda (the same girl I mentioned earlier). Rhonda, the girl with an infectious laugh who was constantly smiling and joking on our team, chucked the ball as hard as she could. And to everyone’s amazement, it actually went in.

Uncle Tony was absolutely dumb-founded. As we all jumped up and down, cheering and celebrating, he sat in shock. If you know the Lafayette’s at all, you know that we’re cheap frugal people. The thought of him having to buy pizzas for 10 girls nearly put him over the edge. But being the amazing man he was, he congratulated Rhonda and came to the next practice with pizza for all of us.

1998: Uncle Tony took  my CYO baskeball teammates to visit me at the Statehouse during the time I was a Legislative Page

1998: Uncle Tony took my CYO baskeball teammates to visit me at the Statehouse during the time I was a Legislative Page

Besides spending the weekends with Uncle Tony, I also once shadowed him for a middle school project. At the time I thought it would be really cool to be a real estate agent—and because I was too lazy to contact a person I wasn’t related to—I followed Uncle Tony around for the day.

I thought it would be a cushy shadowing experience: sit in an office for a bit, make a few phone calls, sip on some coffee, show someone a house or two, and then call it quits around 2pm. But oh no. Uncle Tony had other things in store for me.

Our first stop was to an apartment he owned in the Old North End. The renters had moved out and he was having trouble filling the place. We walked in through the front porch and I was immediately greeted by a weird smell.

“Careful, Aim,” Uncle Tony said as we made our way through the crowded porch. “Watch your step,” he said.

And then I realized why. In front of us were at least three dead squirrels, all curled up and frozen, looking stiff and terrifying.  They had somehow made their way into the house, but then couldn’t get out. It wasn’t exactly what I had anticipated seeing that early in the morning, and being a teenage girl, I freaked out a little.

“I’m going to wait in the car,” I told him.

Lunchtime wasn’t really any better. We went back to his house to eat. Hmm, not exactly what I had in mind, but ok.  I grabbed a kitchen stool and sat at the counter.

“Got your sneakers with you, Aim?” he asked me.

“My sneakers? No, why? I thought we were having lunch?”

“Well we are. But first we are going for a jog. That’s what I like to do on my lunch break.”

You’ve gotta be kidding me I thought.  “Oh well, guess I can’t go since I don’t have the right shoes.”

Then Aunt Melissa chimed in. “What size shoes do you wear, Amy? You can just borrow a pair of mine.” Great. There was really no way I was getting out of this one.

I reluctantly put on the sneakers, telling Uncle Tony how much I hated running, and we set off.   We jogged for probably only 20 minutes, but it felt like 2 hours to me, and I spent the entire time wondering why someone would do this at lunch and being jealous of my classmates who were probably eating at some fancy restaurant.  When the jog ended, we went back to his house for hotdogs and chips.

By the end of the shadow day, I was not only exhausted, but I also had such a greater appreciation for the life my uncle led.

After middle school, although he no longer coached me, Uncle Tony was still an important part of my life. He always asked how I was doing in school, what sports I was playing, and asked about my friends.

Uncle Tony even helped Liam and I buy our first home. Although he was battling cancer, he was so proud that we were about to buy our first place and he wanted to be involved. He visited the house during the Open House, met with the owners, inspected the basement for leaks, and asked all the right questions. He told us the house was sound and would be a great first home for us. Then he helped us draft the contract and seal the deal.

Uncle Tony will be remembered as a man with a huge heart who loved his family more than anything else in life. He was giving, selfless, and he was always upbeat.  It’s hard to imagine what our family, and our community, is going to be like without him. But I know we will all be better off if we try to live each day the way he had: with patience, generosity, courage, and with a smile.

Rest in peace, Uncle Tony. We love you.

I encourage any of you to leave your favorite memories of him below.