« August 2011 | Main | October 2011 »

13 posts from September 2011

September 30, 2011

{this moment}

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. One photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.


Idea courtesy of Soulemama.  


September 26, 2011

Crockin' the Night Away

In 1998, I discovered the beauty of a crock pot.  Peter and I had stopped by Shannon's apartment in Old Town and she kindly shared her pot roast with us.  I thought I had died and gone to heaven. The veggies were fabulous, the meat was fork tender and the prep work was but a few minutes out of her morning.  

Prior to that occasion, I thought crock pots were nothing more than something one would collect from banks everytime a person opened a new account.  I had no clue that the slow cooker could be so useful or that the meals one could make would be considered as unprocessed as something that was slaved over for hours. 

Even after the introduction to the crock and receiving one as a gift, I still didn't truly get into it.  I still felt like it was TOO easy, that meals tended to be too meat-based and somehow it just didn't feel like cooking.  Then I found this site in 2009.  

We were in California and enjoying fresh veggies galore.  We would spend hours at farmers markets and wanted to create the healthiest meals possible.  However, during the school year, nights quickly became busy and I realized I needed to rework the crock pot back into the meal plan.  I found Stephanie's site and worked 3 of her recipes immediately into our rotation.

Then as is wont to happen, the crock went on the back burner.  For the past year, I haven't done that much cooking (okay, I didn't enjoy it as much as I wanted to) and utilized the crock on occasion, but not frequently.  However, since school has started and I'm a bit busier with evening obligations, I realized some dinners may be from the crock...or not at all.  So, I pulled the crock back out last week for an old favorite:  spiced lentils.  Then I realized if I wanted to really rock the crock, I needed to get a bit more creative.

I have been afraid, you see, of mucking things up.  My worst fear is to spend several hours (to more than a day) making something only to have it turn out to be a complete disaster.  However, the only way to get over a fear like that is to jump off the deep end. I did and it turned out beautifully, if I do say so myself!

While we try to limit our meat intake, there is nothing that screams comfort food to me like a good bit of pulled pork.  Now, put those judgements aside about the recipes, while I know I grew up (for the most part) in Memphis, I also enjoy a good Carolina style barbecue and figured the kids would, too.  Knowing that our schedules would be very hectic on Sunday and having agreed ahead of time that a crocked meal would be best, I started researching recipes on a whim on Saturday.

IMG_1026 IMG_1025 After picking up Cait from an FSYF event in the city, we headed to the new, gorgeous Whole Foods (bulk everything, paper bags/cartons for veggies instead of plastic, a cart escalator, Icelandic cheese and so much local produce).  She was ansty and wanted to get home, but then realized it was nice to have a bit of one-on-one quality time and got to hear all about the college days (Peter and I both graduated from GWU).  Less than an hour later, we were headed home with all of the key ingredients.  By 6 p.m. that night, the hand-rubbed shoulder was in the crock, delicately perched atop two quartered onions.  By 11:30 that night, when we returned home from a night out playing poker (yes, even me!), the smell of the spices intermingling with the sugar, vinegar, meat and onions had begun to permeate all levels of the house.

IMG_1036 And by morning?  The scent was nothing short of heavenly.  I admit, I sampled a bit throughout the day, but had no idea just how well it would turn out.  I don't consider myself any sort of cook, but couldn't help but exclaim just how delectable the meat was when I bit into the sandwich last night.  I was worried it would be too spicy (the sauce was a tad intense) but the meat was nothing short of perfect.  Cait spent the evening at her youth group, but Kelsey and Nicholas gobbled it up. In fact, Kelsey had thirds, if memory serves and nearly licked the bowl when doing the official taste test.

IMG_1039 When I mentioned the scent of dinner wafting through the air on Facebook, several friends asked for the recipe.  It can be found on Food.com and I highly recommend it.  It is extremely easy and the only processed food ingredient was the mustard.  I like to cook from scratch as much as possible and despite the list of needed items seeming long, it was still a very quick meal from start to finish.

I can't claim that I made the potato salad or cole slaw, as I knew I could pick up tasty, pre-made versions at Whole Foods.  However, I suppose next time, knowing how easy the pork portion is, I might just try to throw in a batch of homemade slaw....there's that deep end again!

September 23, 2011

{these moments}

{these moments} - A Friday ritual. Four photos - no words - capturing moments from the week. Simple, special, extraordinary moments. Moments I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment(s)' in the comments for all to find and see.



Idea courtesy of Soulemama.  


Lest I forget, two more images as reminders of special events this weekend...

Happy Birthday, Mom




and Happy 7th Anniversary, Salty Dogs!




September 18, 2011

It's nothing earth-shattering

but the kids finally had haircuts today.  Two out of three had the "I'm growing out my bangs/bad haircut look" for ages and we finally decided to attempt to find a decent salon again.

We have tried repeatedly to go to a local chain and each time it is close to disastrous.  The stylists spend most of their time trying to sell me shampoo I don't want, need or use and then proceed to hack away at the kids' hair.  The last time we went, Nicholas ended up with so many layers, I couldn't tell what the woman was trying to do.  

He was also not very happy about the hair cut idea (has never been crazy about it) and I don't blame him. Scissors and what-not flying around your head for 30 minutes is not everyone's idea of fun.  We finally decided we would try a friend of a friend's barbershop in Annapolis.  Pete would go first, Nicholas would watch and all would be well.

Unfortunately, the barbershop closes at 3 p.m. on Saturdays and by the time we arrived (my insomnia causes me to oversleep on the weekends), it was nearly 2:45 p.m. I cursed my inability to get out of bed in a timely manner and then we both remembered a children's hair salon we had seen in a nearby shopping center.  The prices were reasonable, it was open and it was across the street from my new favorite indie coffeehouse in Annapolis, Caffe Pronto.  Yes, it was all an excuse to get a mocha and my favorite coffee...sue me!

We stepped into the salon, Pigtails & Crewcuts, which was bright, airy and happily decorated.  They had the fun kiddie seats (airplane, fire engine and police car), a child size seats for those who would rather a regular chair and two regular size salon chairs.  I feared a long wait as it was a rather gloomy day out, but to my surprise, we were called within minutes.

IMG_0988Kelsey went first and after getting her settled, Nicholas's name was called.  Now, the test:  would he have any interest in getting his hair cut or would he be miserable the whole time?  I do NOT like bribing children since it generally doesn't work, but he had requested a lollipop (if they had them) prior to going in the salon.  We figured that was a fair compromise (considering I treat myself to an Indian buffet lunch after I get my hair done...) and we walked over to try out a car seat.

IMG_0989 He wouldn't have any of it and wanted absolutely nothing to do with the cars.  So, we offered the next best thing:  Dad's lap.  Sure enough, he climbed up, had no problem with the colorful drape and happily sat in Peter's lap for the entire cut (to include use of the clippers).  She chatted while she cut, cut, cut a bit more and worked the kinks out of the layering nastiness.  Nicholas was as calm and cool as a cucumber.  No unhappiness, no tears, just a quiet Little Guy sitting in dad's lap.  It probably also helped that there was a movie on (which was really for Kelsey, seated next to him), but it really doesn't matter.  He was happy and not traumatized by the experience and, even better, he got a really great cut.

He hopped down the minute the cut was over, gobbled up his lollipop and happily played at the train table until it was time to go.  Kelsey ended up with a smart bang/all over trim which will work a bit better than the bangs that were constantly in her eyes.  And the salon?  They have found new loyal customers.  The stylists were great, extremely patient (but quick) and the cost was the same or less than that local chain. No pressure to buy anything and we all left happy and well-groomed (well, 2 out of 5 of us).  Given that we are frequently in the area to see the Salty Dogs  (insert sweet quote:  Nicholas stated today, "Baby Nate is my best friend!"), it's an easy visit to work in.  We were to go sailing with them today, but the weather did not cooperate.  However, we had just as much fun hanging out at the Salty Dog homestead. 

Now the real point of this post? Pictures of the kids with their new 'dos.  And is it me or does the Little Guy really not seem so Little anymore?


September 16, 2011

{this moment}

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. One photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.


Idea courtesy of Soulemama.  


September 11, 2011

Three days ago, as I typed

the post regarding the weather, I thought of nothing more than how grateful I was that the school system had come to their senses (and quickly).  I had been out in the driving rain several times during the day and early evening and it was not fun nor safe.  At the time, however, I was not clued into just how dangerous the rain had become.

Not long after I finished the post, I noticed an article about a child who had died in Vienna after falling into a creek swollen by the rains.  Cait read the same article and instantly became concerned, asking, "Do you think it was one of my classmates?"

I told her no, forgetting for a moment that many of her classmates do live in Vienna.  However, whether a classmate or not, it was still someone's child, friend and possibly, sibling.  I thought of the parents and how heartbroken they must be, but didn't think that I would learn much more about it.

Sadly, I did.  Early the next morning, I received an email from my friend, Christy.  The child who had died was the son of her friend, Anna.  I had never met Anna in person, but read her blog and loved her crafty ideas.  I had discovered the blog through Christy and Jill and had bookmarked it as I enjoyed her style and her wit.  I had no idea the next time I visited it would be to leave a condolence on the page that housed pictures of happy, smiling children in their annual back to school photo shoot.

Thinking of you, Anna, and your family and many prayers going your way...




September 09, 2011

{this moment}

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. One photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.



Idea courtesy of Soulemama.  


September 08, 2011

We don't have to wait for a good snow,

as the email has already made its way around to announce that school in Fairfax County is canceled tomorrow:  for rain.  Now, these are the same folks who manage to wait until 5:30 a.m. (or sometimes later) when roads are treacherous in the winter in order to close the schools.  Kids wait by the window, anxiously wondering if the 2-3 inches will turn into 4-6" and whether there will be nothing, a delay or a closing.  

Imagine my surprise then when Peter announced at 9:30 PM that there was no school tomorrow due to the flooding.  And, despite it being only the third day of school, may I say a big thank you to whomever had the common sense to cancel and to do it tonight?

If you haven't been following the news, we have had rains like I have never seen in this area.  I might expect it elsewhere, but not here.  It has been pouring non-stop for two days, drains are overflowing, streets are flooding everywhere and it's no fun to be out there right now.  Cait's school actually had to debate sending buses back to school today when they weren't sure they could get to some of the residential areas.  

Frankly, I'd much rather drive in a blizzard than the weather we've had the past few days.  The rain is unrelenting, windshield wipers at times are close to useless and without an umbrella or rain coat, expect to be drenched in seconds.   Oh, and a let-up is not expected still Saturday.

So, trying to figure out what we will do for our first "weather" day of the year, though I have a feeling if up to Nicholas, there will be much jumping in puddles and such while his sisters are at home baking treats for friends.  Maybe not quite much fun as building a snowman, but I have a feeling it will make one Little Guy extremely happy.  

September 07, 2011

And now the official

back to school pictures for Master Nicky Quinn.

As you can tell, he was extremely excited to start school.  Normally, we drop off at the front door of the school (which is the most excellent preschool drop-off system on the planet!), however, the first few days are flexible and some parents take their children to the classroom.  Nick wanted to park and walk in.


We got to the door and a teacher quickly opened it.  Before I could say a word, Nick turned around, grabbed his bag of extra clothes, put his left hand on his hip and swaggered off to his classroom.  I watched him til he turned the corner, and then headed home to miss my Little Guy and look forward to hearing his account of the day at pick-up.  

The LG...seeming not quite so "L" anymore....



September 06, 2011

My children, especially

my eldest, would like you to believe that I spend my days bawling my eyes out when they go back to school or move up a grade.  While I do occasionally spend time reminiscing about past years, believe it or not, I do not fear them getting older or wiser...

Perhaps I just fear the looks they give me when I ask for the annual Back to School Photos.



Yes, they are back!  It wouldn't be the Dinoia Family blog if I didn't have one semi-unhappy looking* teen, one very giddy 4th Grader and one Little Guy who clearly didn't want to get out of bed, but by golly, can't miss the chance to wave to the school bus.  


Today was not actually the start of school for all three, as Nicholas merely had an open house at his school.  We were there for approximately 5 minutes when the other children left, so Nicholas spent 25 minutes regaling his teacher with stories of his father saving a turtle's life (true story) and his father being bitten by a blue crab at the beach (also a painfully true story).  Oh, and much discussion of trucks, trains and 'struction matters.  We left at the end of the open house with a Little Guy who just can't wait for the start of Montessori School tomorrow.

Perhaps the best part of the new school year?  We are now 'bent on Bento' in this household.   We have had Bento box style lunches for a while, but I could never get them exactly like I wanted.  Last week on Facebook, I found BentOnBetterLunches.  Wow! 

Incredibly creative lunches that are very similar to what we already packed, but simply put together in a more fun way.  Kelsey saw the site and went nuts.  A friend saw the page I liked and let me know about a site from a friend of hers that has even more ideas. Between the two pages, I am fairly sure we are never going to have a 'boring' lunch again.  


Kelsey has taken over her lunch production from picking the groceries out at the store (which she did before, but now it's much more exciting) to creating the lunches at home.  I'm ecstatic as I am now fairly sure she will now never request a school lunch (which will not be had by her until those awful disposable styrofoam trays disappear) and she is eating what we both think is best.  


Even better, last year's lunch box and snack/sandwich bags** are still very much in play.  We couple them with other reusable containers (the stainless steel being a favorite), silicone muffin cups for color, throw in a drink in a Sistema water/juice bottle*** and lunch is complete.  Oh, and a cloth napkin, can't forget that!  And, with that, we have a successful beginning to yet another new year...


*The look is a bit staged.  She reminded me 5 times that I needed to take the picture, so it couldn't have been that much torture.  Oh, and why is it dark?  Well, ask the school why on earth they start at the crack of dawn.  LOVE that Kelsey's school starts so much later...just wish the middle school would follow suit!

** These bags (whether bought or homemade) also make excellent party favors and teacher gifts.  We gave each of Kelsey's teachers one last year, with a small gift card tucked inside.  Easy, fun and very little waste!

***I purchased locally at The Container Store.

September 05, 2011


I know you must be wondering (if not, just nod and smile, that's fine), after reading Cait's announcement, why on earth we are trying the unaccompanied gig when it didn't really work the first time.  There are so many reasons that it's hard to pick the main one, however, if pressed, I'd have to say that perhaps it's closure of sorts.

I could say logistics (do I really want to move next year), could say we still have so much to do to the house before we rent it out (windows, carpets, hardwood floors, bathroom updates), I could say it's because the kids are settled or I could say financial reasons.  All of these reasons are valid, however, closure is the biggie.

When Peter came home last year, it left a gaping hole in our year.  I know one must think, "But he was home with you, what could be better than that?"  Well, not having to go through what I did, for starters.  I know myself well enough to say that I do not look upon this as any sort of learning experience (other than learning to be extremely wary of most doctors who practice western medicine).  It was not the best thing that ever happened to me in any way, shape or form and if I could have my old body back, I'd take it in a heartbeat.  

I've also realized after a tough summer that I need my old normal back.  I am not a 'new normal' kind of person.  I finally started to turn that corner in early August when the kids were away for a week.  Call me a selfish, horrible person, but I needed that time.  I was so convinced that I was spending my days screwing up my kids because I was angry and unhappy that I needed a week away to realize that not only were they just fine, but maybe I was, too. 

Part of my anger, believe it or not, stemmed from the unfinished year last year.  We had SO many goals, so many plans and I couldn't figure out for the life of me why everything had to be aborted.  Why me and why now, when we were already sacrificing so much?  Now body parts need to go, too?

The wracking guilt just never truly left and would wash over me when I least expected it.  As we discussed possibilities for future bids (and how Peter would likely need to do another UT at some point), Pete mentioned the idea of another AIP tour.  This sent me into a tailspin.  Not only did we give up the first year so he could go to Iraq, but the second for my "health."  Now, he was suggesting a third!  In fact, his exact words were, "Maybe it would be a redemption of sorts."

That sent me over the edge.  Redemption?  As thought I HAD done something wrong?  Why should I go through another year, when according to every doctor I had seen, NONE of this was my fault?  We had a tumultous week of discussions, brought in third parties to hash it out and finally Pete backpedaled on the redemption idea, we looked at it from a financial standpoint only, and it started to seem like a reasonable idea.

We looked at our finances, the house, talked with the kids and I made up my mind:  it wasn't what I wanted, but it was the best choice for our family.  I realized that since we are still paying medical bills, need to keep Nicholas in Montessori and moving in and of itself (even with a government move) can be expensive, maybe this was the best option.   Peter would go overseas by himself, we would shoot for those fabulous vacations, do a few house updates, bulk up our savings and we'd get through it.  

It then hit me last week that I am also okay with the year, because it will be redemption and I do need it.  One friend reminded me that the year would go quickly, and I remarked that I hoped it would be a full year.  I've never truly gotten over making Peter come (and stay) home when he had promised that he would do a tour overseas.  I've never gotten over the missed vacations or time wasted online or in doctors' offices.  Now, I have that chance.

So, as crazy as it sounds, that is our why.  I'm finally nearly back to my old normal and I need to stay there.  If the only way is to sacrifice a year together so we can finish what we started in July 2010, so be it.   And don't think for a minute we aren't already dreaming about a fabulous (read: anywhere overseas) post in 2013!


September 03, 2011

And our next post is...

oh, wait, I almost forgot the more exciting news!  Caitlin has a blog!  Yes, my dear sweet teenager is now going to embarass me as much as I mortify her (unintentionally, of course).  

The exact reason behind the blog is actually me fearing a Facebook account for her.  My biggest issue? I know what a time suck it can be.  Perhaps I'll reconsider sometime during 8th grade, but right now, I'm just not sure she needs it.  Therefore, when she asked for a blog, she did it the right away:  asked me for a Facebook account, I promptly said no, and then she jumped on me for a blog. Without hesitation, I said, "Okay!"  

Honestly?  It really is fine with me.  She knows that her father and I (and other friends and family) will read what she writes and she takes that into consideration.  I also look at it as a writing exercise and a good way to strengthen her skills.  Her language is clean and while her writing style is still developing, I think this will be far more mind-expanding than playing Farmville on Facebook, but what do I know?. 

Now, you will notice that it may not always be perfect (she's going to have my head for typing that), but I am not correcting every mistake or inserting spaces for her.  It is her blog and as with her schoolwork, she owns it.  If you notice an egregious error and feel up to informing her, that is fabulous, but up to you.  I tried to point out a spelling error last week and nearly had my head bitten off.  I have no desire to repeat that again!  

Since I have written the above, I should also add that we do not read items until they are published. I am then pleasantly surprised and like having a 'finished' copy to review.  She does take her time and I certainly know what it's like to have folks standing over you while you are trying to work.  I leave her alone and as with her drawings, she reveals when she is ready. 

I was a teeny bit shocked when I read an entry from last Tuesday and she mentioned something we hadn't yet shared with others.  I hadn't yet announced her blog and this put off the reveal a bit further, as we were not ready to make the other announcement.  However, it also helped me make a decision concerning that reveal.  I really wasn't sure how to go about the unveiling of our next post, until I read Caitlin's blog.  Lo and behold, she took care of it for me!  I also must say that I am so proud. This lifestyle isn't for everyone and with all of the crud that has been thrown at us over the past year, this post has me sure that she is up for any and all challenges this life can hand us.

Without further ado, here is Caitlin's blog:   Going Global.

If you are chomping at the bit to learn about our next post, you will have to click here and read her post. It's about halfway through and, well, that's enough of my prattling on, go read it already!  I will also flesh out the details more in a later post, but you can get the basic idea from her writing.  Oh and Google Friend Connect her if you feel like it...I know she'll appreciate the bloggy love!


September 02, 2011

{this moment}

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. One photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.



Idea courtesy of Soulemama.