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Stuttering Shell: January 2011

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

the fab five.

Thanks to Trop 50 for sponsoring my writing about fabulous bloggers. This year Trop50 is granting 50 fabulous wishes. Click here to enter for a chance to win $1,000 to help grant a friend's wish!

fabulous - how do you define it?  exceptionally good, marvelous, incredible...superb?
yes, all of those things describe five bloggers {of the many} that i absolutely adore.

and, why do i adore them?  they have spunk, personality, honesty.  they inspire, encourage, believe.
they are creative.  they are faithful.  they are happy.  they are sad.
they are humorous.  they are colorful.
these are bloggers from all walks of life.  each is at a different point in her life.  but, each has a gift and that gift is to share about their amazing journey.
each journey is different, yet each holds a place in my heart.

this is summer's blog.  she is a wonderful person - inside & out.  she & i have struck up a friendship that i didn't think was possible to have with someone you don't actually know in real life.  but, you know what?  it works and it works well.  i love & appreciate her honesty, her vulnerability and her determination.  i see a lot of myself in what she writes about.  there is an emotional connection there that i don't get with too many other bloggers.  if all goes according to plan, i am going to meet her {in real life!} in march.


summer is also an amazing baker

have you visited jessica's blog, craftily ever after?  well, you should.
she's so stinkin' creative.  she also has an etsy shop.  her craft ideas & tutorials are easy, budget friendly & fun to make.  she occasionally hosts a giveaway & always has pictures of her super cute daughter sprinkled throughout her blog.  best of all?  she offers free printables like this:


click here to find out how you can get a copy of this super cute valentine's day subway art...for free!

jessica's blog may or may not have gotten me hooked on mod podge.  and, that crack-like addiction to mod podge led me to this blog:

amy is the mastermind behind mod podge rocks!  her blog is chock full of fun crafting and decorating ideas...all of whom use mod podge in some form.  trust me when i tell you that there are varieties of mod podge in your craft store aisle.  really.  i own two different kinds, but the possibilities are apparently endless.
anyways, amy's d.i.y. tutorials & other fun projects are VERY inspirational and definitely encourage those creative juices to flow.  go check her out!

speaking of inspirational, what about gussy??

Maggie Whitley Gussy Sews

maggie is the girl with the ruffles.  i should know...i own a few of her pieces.  i've gifted them as well.  

maggie is inspirational & awe-inspiring.  she is living her dream, y'all!
she's been a friend & a mentor to me.  she's also showered me with encouraging words & prayer when i've needed it.  she & i don't know each other outside of the blog world, but one day our paths will cross.
in the meantime, i encourage you to read her blog.  right now she's featuring other fabulous artists who have quit their day job {just like gussy did!} in order to live & fulfill a creative dream.

and, if you haven't had enough, then go buy yourself some gussy goodness.  

last, but certainly not least, is my friend jennifer.  she is so much more than perfectly disheveled.

i met her over at momlogic.  we've emailed & chatted on the phone before.  she & i both had a bit of a rough 2010, but we're looking to the future with hope...and  humor.  i love and appreciate that jennifer writes with such honesty about parenting.  she IS the parenting blog that my blog has always wanted to be but just never will be.  Jennifer keeps it real, y'all.  If you're a parent, then you'll definitely appreciate her blog.  

Don't forget to enter the 50 Fabulous Wishes contest for a chance to win $1,000 to support a friend's wish. I was selected for this Tropicana Trop50 sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective, which endorses Blog With Integrity, as I do. I received compensation to use and facilitate my post.

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Friday, January 21, 2011


i went to another yoga class this morning.  {two days in a row...this is huge for me!}

because i was a little sore from yesterday's class - my poor hamstrings - i decided to take the gentle class.  the instructor was fabulous & i met some very nice ladies.  i was definitely the youngest person in the class...i was also the least flatulent.

we were somewhere in between rocking our knees from side-to-side and the dead bug pose when someone let one loose {or, as aidan likes to say, "cut the queso."}. 

i told the kids about what happened in class which resulted in the following dialogue:

aidan:  "mom, one of your yogamates farted in class today?"

malia:  "aidan, that's what happens when you strain your muscles.  you run the risk of letting one go!"

i have heard that yoga is good for your digestive system...maybe this morning was proof??

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Thursday, January 20, 2011


i went to a yoga class this morning and, at the end of our session, the instructor read this passage from daily om:

the great transformer
loving what you hate

Hatred can be irrational, and it has a greater impact on the individual who hates than the person or object being hated. Yet overcoming hatred is difficult because hatred reinforces itself and causes greater enmity to come into being. The most powerful tool one can use to combat hatred is love. Deciding to love what you hate, whether this is a person, situation, or a part of yourself, can create a profound change in your feelings and your experience. There is little room for anger, dislike, bitterness, or resentment when you are busy loving what you hate. The practice of loving what you hate can transform and shift your emotions from hatred to love, because there is no room for hatred in a space occupied by love.

Granted, it is difficult to forgo judging someone, love your enemy, and seek the good in situations that seem orchestrated to cause you pain or anger. But in deciding to love what you hate, you become one less person adding negativity to the universe. On a simple level, loving what you hate can help you enjoy your life more. On a more complex level, loving what you hate sets you free because you disengage yourself from the hatred that can weigh down the soul. Responding with love to people radiating hatred transmutes their negative energy. You also empower yourself by not letting their negativity enter your personal space. Rather than lowering yourself to the level of their hatred, you give the other person an opportunity to rise above their feelings and meet you on the field of love.

Gandhi once said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Loving what you hate sends a positive, beautiful energy to people while spreading peace and harmony throughout the planet. Instead of reinforcing hatred, you become an advocate for love. Hatred responds to hate by causing anguish. But hatred responds to love by transforming into blissful peace.

eyes closed, muscles relaxed & in the corpse pose...i listened.  and listened.  i was nearly moved to tears.  was i already reaping the relaxation benefits of yoga?  or, was my mind simply open & receptive to such an intimate look at hate?  i think it was a little bit of both.  and, as i listened, i realized just how consumed i was with hate.  hatred has been building up within me for the last few years.  i know where it stems from.  i know what caused it.  one day, i'll be able to forgive.  one day, i'll be able to let it all go.  i'm slowly learning to release myself from such negative energy. 

one day, i'll find blissful peace.

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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

me & my money.

Thank you to TurboTax for sponsoring my writing about household finances.Learn more about how TurboTax can help you find every tax deduction you deserve. I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective, which endorses Blog With Integrity, as I do.

i was never destined to work in the financial industry.  never.  me & my money?  we have this oil-water relationship. okay, it's more like a 'i have some money so now i need to spend it' kind of a relationship.  yes, i am that girl who always, always, always has money burning a hole in her pocket.  wait, let me rephrase that because that statement suggests that i always have money which is such a lie.

life would be mucho bueno if i had one of these in my backyard:


wouldn't it be nice to walk out into the yard & pick crisp ones, fives and maybe even fifties off of a tree?  yeah, keep dreaming.

i've written about money before.  i've talked about my credit card debt.  i've shared a recession-themed money song.  i've blogged with wonder about people who can pinch & save.  i've even shared my son's thoughts about his father's wallet.  am i still in debt?  yes.  am i still trying to save?  yes.  am i still wondering how people can buy month's worth of groceries {with coupons} but only pay a nickel?  hells yes.

perhaps i'm not the proper person to be dishing out financial advice, but let me just share a few things that i have discovered about myself while navigating this long, winding, seemingly confusing financial road that i'm on...

watching programs hosted by those big financial gurus is humbling, but it's always reassuring to know that you're not alone.  everyone has a financial issue of some sort.  also, remember that the financial guru's 'sound advice' might not work for you - each financial situation is unique - so adjust & make accommodations for yourself.

going 'cash only' is hard.  so is giving up credit cards.  for the record, i've done neither.

it's okay if you don't religiously clip coupons.  i don't.  i have every good intention of shopping only with coupons, but rarely does that happen.  and, as for the crazy coupon deals like triples or super doubles?  take advantage of them, but don't go nuts.  i mean, do you really need 53946498576 bottles of shampoo just because it was on sale & you had coupons?  no.  but, when chicken quarters go on sale for $0.39 per pound you had best believe that i am that crazy lady who stocks up her deep freeze.  for reals.

if you're trying to get out of debt {like i have been & still am}, don't be afraid to ask for help.  we took advantage of our bank's debt management program for a couple of years.  it was wonderful for helping us get our finances back on track.  oh, call your creditors, too.  sometimes a simple phone call goes a long way.

generic does not equal poor or lesser means you're spending less money!  we are all about some generic or store brand items in our household.  of course, i have things that i will not skimp on {like my skin care routine} and that's okay.

i'm not the impulse shopper that i once was.  i find myself scouring websites for the best deal.  i participate in online deal/shopping sites like ebates, groupon & living social.  i encourage you do to the same if you're not already.

i also am not afraid of thrift stores nor am i materialistic.  when you're broke, you just can't be.

do you ebay?  i do.  don't be ashamed to sell stuff you have laying around the house for some money.  i paid off a credit card that way.  i also donate clothing & home goods often.

i could go on & on, but i suppose the one thing that i have truly learned is that less really is more.  last year my family took a severe financial hit.  we went from two nice incomes to one mediocre income {among other things}.  we've learned to survive on less.  we are happy with less.  when you have more or make more, you tend to spend more.

sure, you can't take your money with you {you  know, when your number is up}, but can you take all of the crap you bought with your money?  nope.

**remember, i'm not a financial guru. learn from my mistakes.  take comfort in the fact that you & i may be in similar financial situations.  you're not alone.  neither am i.  one day, we'll both be out of debt, but in the meantime...look out for those chicken quarter specials.

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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

heart of haiti.

i'm sure we all remember the vivid images from one year ago of the devastating earthquake that wrecked havoc in haiti.    

families & friends struggled to deal with the aftermath of such a horrific catastrophe.  lives were lost.  homes were destroyed.  meanwhile, aid from people around the world was sent in an effort to help the struggling island nation get back on its feet.

haiti, one year later, is still on the road to recovery.  

although the situation in haiti still seems bleak, all hope is not lost.  the haitians are vibrant & spiritual people who have a zest for life.  they are passionate & very proud of who they are and where they come from.  haitians value tradition & hard-work; however, it has been difficult for haitians to find work.  one way for you to experience the culture of haiti while helping haitians rebuild & get back on their feet is through  the heart of haiti project.

the heart of haiti project is the brainchild of willa shalit and her company, fairwinds trading.  in a partnership with macy's, the heart of haiti project is offering macy's shoppers the chance to view & purchase decorative art & jewelry hand-crafted by some of haiti's most talented artisans

 the artist's receive a percentage from the sale of each item and that money provides a source of sustainable income.  the money earned through the sale of items in the heart of haiti collection not only helps to rebuild homes, but it helps to pay for education as well as healthcare.  

some of my favorites from the heart of haiti collection include the watermelon bowl, the tree of life frame & the crazy quilt tray:

the heart of haiti project is an amazing showcase of beautiful haitian artwork and, for a very reasonable price, you will not only have a piece of haiti in your home, but your money will do so much for the people of haiti.  for more information about the heart of haiti project, click here or visit macy's website.

you can follow heart of haiti on facebook & twitter, as well.

disclosure:  I was selected for this very special “CleverHaiti” opportunity by Clever Girls Collective, which endorses Blog With Integrity. All opinions are my own.


Saturday, January 8, 2011


if these aren't the paws of {perhaps} the world's most spoiled dog, then i don't know who they belong to.  

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Friday, January 7, 2011

what k-cup?

the best thing we ever did was:
a) buy a coffee mill*
b) stop buying k-cups

okay, so that's two things.  
but, i'm being totally serious here.  
adam & i love, love, LOVE our keurig, but we got tired of buying k-cups.  if you chug drink coffee like we do, then you will understand why.  also, if your husband drinks his coffee out of a 24 ounce tervis tumbler, then you will really understand why {because you use two k-cups to fill a tervis that size!}.

needless to say, we were spending serious money on k-cups.  don't get me wrong, we love their convenience & the variety of flavors, roasts, brands, etc.  but, let's be real here...we are a single-income family.  and, our single income does not have wiggle room to buy $9-$10 boxes of k-cups...every. single. week.**


a 13 ounce can of coffee beans for $3.99.  we buy two cans per month.  adam grinds what we need for that day & we are good to go.  it's cheaper than starbucks!***

see...there is a reason your keurig comes with a filter so use it! 

* we bought our coffee mill at target for $18 
** we DO still buy k-cups from time to time because the kids like making hot cocoa with the keurig
*** this cost effective strategy for the keurig has NOT curbed my addiction to starbucks in any way, shape or form...that's a whole 'nother issue! {psst...i'm one of becky's starbucks divas}

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Thursday, January 6, 2011


many, many years ago my mother tried to teach me to knit.  it was a lesson that required much patience.  looking back, i'm very lucky that i was not strangled with yarn or blinded by knitting needles.

last november, i asked my mother to teach me how to knit...again.  she obliged.  but, maybe she only said yes because she was visiting for the weekend & knew her teaching time would be limited.  so, she taught about twenty minutes.  my first attempt at knitting {again} was not pretty.  by the time my mother visited again {my parents live 2.5 hours away & visit us frequently}, she took great joy in taking apart the wannabe scarf i was so proud of.  somehow, i had managed to add double the amount of stitches that i originally casted on.  did i also mention that there were about eight holes in the scarf, too, thanks to dropped stitches?  whoa.

so, i started over.  this time we had more time.  my mom sat with me to make sure i was knitting correctly.  she was there to help me pick up dropped stitches, fix my mistakes and cheer me on.  by the end of her visit, i had made my very first scarf.  the day after she left, i had already knitted a second scarf.

i was on a roll.

during my first successful week as a novice knitter, i taught myself how to bind off my stitches & how to perfect the garter stitch {a.k.a. the knit stitch}.  i was experimenting with different sized needles & different textures of yarn.

just a few weeks into my knitting frenzy, i taught myself how to purl & how to knit with two different colors of  yarn.  my personal style of knitting is not what might be considered standard.  i'm not a fast knitter, but i'm certainly an entertaining one.  adam & the kids like to sit and watch me knit.  either they are entranced by the "swish, swish" of my metal knitting needles or they take sick pleasure in watching me undo projects i had once worked so diligently on.

so far, i've made ten scarves and i currently have four more scarves "in the works."  well, i call them scarves.  perhaps they are more like neck warmers.  infinity scarf, circle scarf...whatever.  my next project will be arm warmers. before the kids & i went on our mini vacation, all i did was knit.  i haven't done much knitting since, but i'm gradually getting back into it because it really is relaxing {and i have a shit ton of yarn to use}.  oh, one other thing:  i have been encouraged to sell my scarves.  

what do you think?  

i have some lofty knitting goals for myself {like knitting on the round, learning more stitches, making a dog sweater}, but the idea of trying to sell my knit creations makes me nervous.  we'll see what happens.  if this whole knitting thing turns out to be THE opportunity for me, then wonderful.  if not, well, now you know what everyone will be receiving for christmas for many years to come!

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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

the granite state.

first of all, i find it very intriguing to know that at this particular rest stop in new hampshire, you can buy booze {tax free!} & lotto tickets...after you pee, of course.

{taken through the van's window as we drove down the highway}

after three days in boston, we drove to new hampshire.  
my brother-in-law lives & works in andover {while my sissy finishes her fellowship in boston}.  my b.i.l. works for the prep school that he attended, proctor academy.  he's also a dorm parent so he lives in the bottom half of the boys cool.*  

anything & everything our family does revolves around food.  food & shopping.  we met at famous dave's in manchester.  after some bbq, we went shopping.  first at the l.l. bean outlet, then to eastern mountain sports & finally to the tanger outlets in tilton.  the lady in the coach store tried to entice me with an extra 20% off clearance prices, but i resisted.  i do love my banana republic jeans, though {$30 for $90 jeans?? yes, please!}.

if there is anything to be said about life in rural new hampshire, it's that you have to drive {and i mean d-r-i-v-e} to civilization.  we learned that the hard way one night around 9pm when we needed children's tylenol for malia.  note to self:  next time, bring some...huge mommy fail on my part.

other than eating & shopping, the kids got to play in the snow and spend time with the dogs.  moxie, the bernese mountain dog, and bruin, the newfoundland, are two of the sweetest dogs on the planet.  they also both believe they are lap dogs.  bruin & aidan became fast friends.

we watched "how to train your dragon" & aidan and uncle james played a little lego harry potter on the wii.  we also did our christmas with monica & james.  it's so hard living so far away from family {they used to live in virginia}, but it was lovely being able to share a portion of the holidays with them.

on our last night in new hampshire, monica & james took us to dinner at lui lui.  oh. my. word.  the food was ridiculously delicious and the portions were ridiculously huge!  after dinner, we drove to see christmas lights at a shaker village {the name escapes me & i didn't have my camera on me}.  that very same night i also managed to pass up on a pair of uggs that were 20% off and tax-free.  i'm both proud & ashamed of myself!

we left new hampshire the morning of new year's eve.  after six full days together i think all of us were ready to get home & sleep in our own beds.  we walked through my front door at 11:15pm...just in time for me to get settled and see NKOTB rock out with BSB {priorities, priorities!}.

*my b.i.l., james, is a phenomenal lacrosse coach.  phenomenal.
don't believe me?  then read this.

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Tuesday, January 4, 2011


aidan: "mom, christmas day is jesus' birthday."

me: "sure is! do you know where he was born? 

i'll give you a starts with a b."

aidan: "boston."

{1st row: dim sum on day 1, boston as we drove in}
{2nd row: snowy chinatown, boston common}
{3rd row: the view of downtown boston from our hotel room, dim sum on day 2}
{4th row: malia & aidan with their new bogs boots, a random chinatown pic}

with an impending blizzard creeping up the east coast, we decided to go full-speed with our post-christmas vacation plans and visit my sister who lives in boston, massachusetts.  originally, we were going to leave on sunday, december 26th, but after hearing that boston was expecting up to two feet of snow we decided to get on the road.  the kids & i packed up and loaded up my parents' van.  the five of us were on the road by 8:30pm on christmas day.  adam & frisco stayed behind.

it was already starting to snow as we were leaving virginia {virginia beach got over a foot of snow while we were gone!}.  fortunately, there was no traffic...i mean, who would be road trippin' on christmas?  only us.  we stopped for the night somewhere in new jersey after driving on the jersey turnpike for a while.  we all needed sleep.  sleep & a yummy cracker barrel breakfast.

although the drive was fairly uneventful, the weather quickly deteriorated once we hit the new york-connecticut line on sunday.  as we approached the city limits of hartford, we knew the rest of our journey would be slow & pretty damn difficult {in a front wheel drive vehicle}.  there's nothing like having a two hour commute {the normal distance between hartford & boston} turn into a five hour fiasco that involved:
1. unplowed highways {the plows were out but they were barely keeping up with the snow!}
2. numerous stops to beat ice off of the windshield wipers
3. driving at the top speed of 30mph on a stretch of road that has a normal speed limit of 65mph
4. witnessing several cars on the side of the road with their front ends totaled because they thought they could go 65mph
5. answering the question "are we there yet?" about fifty gazillion times

but, we made it. and boston was so beautiful as we drove across the charles river.  the city was quiet.  there was no traffic.  just snow.  praise the lord there was a whole foods behind our hotel because we were starving!  my sister met us at our hotel on her way home from work {she is a pathologist at boston children's hospital*}.  and, so, our three day adventure in boston had begun!

we spent our time eating dim sum in chinatown, riding the t, walking in blizzard-like conditions, wearing dirty jeans thanks to slushy snow, shopping at copley place & prudential center, chillaxin' in my sister's apartment in fenway & just loving every minute of each other's company.

aidan told me that he wanted to move to boston.  he is in love with riding the t.  he also said he wants to be closer to his auntie monica.  bless his heart.

after three days in boston, we loaded my sister in the van and drove to andover, new hampshire to visit with her husband, do a little more shopping, eat more food & play in the snow.

{tomorrow's installment will be about our time in new hampshire...}

*remember how i mentioned that my sissy works at boston children's hospital?  well, a few days before christmas we were g-chattin' and she said, "i just heard joey mcintyre singing with the boston pops here at work!"


check it:


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Monday, January 3, 2011

the one with no title.

{a view from carr house at proctor academy in andover, nh}

the holidays came & went.
for the first time since having children, i didn't send out christmas cards.  and, believe it or not, i don't feel guilty or bad about it.  i had every intention of sending out a card for the new year and, well, that isn't happening either.  

i've been on a blogging hiatus - over a month long.  it wasn't intentional.  it sort of happened by accident.  and while i had so much i wanted to share with you all, it was kind of nice not worrying about writing & scheduling blog posts.

i suppose we need to get reacquainted.  i need to share with you all what i'm up to, what i'm making.  i have big hopes & dreams for 2011.

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