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The letter B

I had so many things to say, but then baby Beatrice arrived, and I forgot them all.

Photo Jun 15, 2 56 13 PM

I had a lovely plan for a peaceful, unmedicated birth center waterbirth. Did not happen! Maybe next time.

I had another brilliant plan to spend my entire 12-week maternity leave freezing, canning, and finding other creative ways to store all the farm-fresh produce Erik was bringing home … and blogging about it. Also did not happen, since I was lucky if I even found time to brush my teeth! The upside was that Erik became a chef extraordinaire during that time (actually, he’d been doing most of the cooking while I was pregnant, too!), saving me from having a diet based entirely on ice cream.

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Not joking about the ice cream.

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(Side note: My child would only nap in the Moby wrap for weeks 3-12. You may think I could have convinced her otherwise. You would be wrong. I decided it was not a problem, so it was not a problem.)

As the end of my maternity leave approached, we decided the only possible option was for me to quit my job to be a temporary stay-at-home mom.

One: Beatrice would only nap in a carrier.

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(Many thanks to friends who kept us from starvation with delicious dinners when we were too exhausted to cook!)

The Moby and the Tula were complete lifesavers. We never would have gotten out of the house without them.

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Two: The breastfeeding never ever stops. Feeding was further complicated initially by tongue and lip ties, and Beatrice seemed to take forever after we got them revised to figure out how to use her mouth in a way that did not disfigure me. Does this look like a person who can function in a professional environment?

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Three: This was every day from weeks 3-8.

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Four: There was no way that I could justify spending my entire salary on childcare and a commute that would require either 11 hours per day away from my baby or up to three hours per day commuting with her.

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The decision to leave my job was bittersweet, but it was the best one for us. My ideal, dreamworld vision is to find a part-time job in my field within walking distance in January or February.

In the meantime, staying home allowed me to wear Bea for naps until she let me know that she needed a new system around 16 weeks. Her Moby naps at home went from 2+ hours to 30 minutes, her Tula naps while out walking became nonexistent, and nighttime (the only part of sleep that had been consistently “easy”) became impossible.

We moved her from the cradle in our bedroom to the crib in her room for all sleep, developed consistent pre-sleep routines, and did (and are still doing) a combination of modified cry-it-out and pick-up/put-down. Basically, we’ll let her fuss and shout in her crib by herself. If and when her cries escalate and it becomes clear that she will not be able to soothe herself without some trauma, one of us will go in and pick-up/put-down until she goes back to just mild fussing or shouting in the crib. Once she is a bit calmer and has her hands in her mouth, we leave the room and let her fall asleep on her own. Sometimes, we need to repeat this process over and over and over. Other times, she needs no help at all. If she still won’t sleep after 45 minutes to an hour (this is rare!), I go into her room, pretend she had a great nap, and carry on with our day until she indicates again that she is sleepy. Nights have gone back to being wonderful, with just one or two wakings to eat over a 12-13 hour stretch. I’m letting the process go at her speed, and I’m so grateful I have the option to be home with her right now while we figure out what works.

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With Beatrice sleeping in her crib during the day (even if it is only for 45 minutes at a time!), I finally was able to conquer a few brief food projects that had been needing my attention desperately.

I made apple pie with some apples from this year’s orchard adventure, the gluten-free pie kit BRM sent last year, and about 10 pounds of butter.

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The crust was to-die-for, thanks to all the butter. I used the crust recipe on the package but substituted coconut oil for the shortening. I was going to send the pie to work with Erik in the handy pine Pie Box that BRM also sent last year, but it did not fit! I had to eat the whole pie myself, with a little bit of help from Erik and my mom. I accidentally ate it all before I could take a picture.

I finally made dill pickles. I don’t know why it took me so long to get on the homemade pickles wagon. We’ve had cucumbers pouring out our ears all summer, but turning them into pickles was something that fell on my priority list somewhere below keeping the baby alive. These pickles were so easy. I loosely used the America’s Test Kitchen recipe but used a different kind of salt that I had already. And probably five times the garlic since I included the required 20 cloves … but they were 20 ogre-sized cloves from the farm.

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Sadly, a measly 10 pickles is all I have to show since I could not get it together before the season was over. Tomatoes are the same sob story. Last year, I canned 14 quarts of crushed tomatoes!! This year, I canned five pints of tomato sauce, using farm veggies and the Ball jar recipe for Italian-Style Tomato Sauce. Life with an infant.

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We have not broken into the stash yet because we’re trying to save them until we’re really desperate.

So, that’s some of how life has turned upside down, brought to you by the letter B. I was also supposed to talk about our bathroom updating adventures, but that will have to be a separate post since I’ve gone on so much already. Stay tuned for adventures in nursery decorating, the highs and lows of cloth diapers, the war on diaper rash, and the uphill battle to be frugal and green amidst the expansion.

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Almost there

Now that winter is coming to a close (we hope!), my belly and I have been getting excited about having access to farm food again. These pictures from last year’s bounty have been helping me get in the mood.

Guinea egg:

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Homemade pizza, right down to the dough from local whole wheat flour, that I’ll never be able to re-create:

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Kombucha and baby spider plants:

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OK, this isn’t exactly homemade or local, but who doesn’t love a nice selection of cheese and crackers?

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And wine! Sigh, I haven’t had wine in a loooooong time …

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Erik’s take on huevos rancheros:

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My first adventure with preparing pork belly (from the farm!):

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I used this recipe, and OMG.

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I had never in a million years imagined that pork and potatoes could taste SO good.

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Canning, of course:

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14 quarts of tomatoes to the rescue!

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Fun with a gifted cake pop machine, thanks to Erik’s mom:

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(Oops!)

Erik’s pork tenderloin with blackberry vinegar-mustard glaze:

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Might have been loosely based on this recipe. So delicious that my jaw hurt!

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Farm-grown grapes!

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Popped sorghum!

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Tons of apple pie, thanks to the Feld’s apple-picking visit and Kristin’s pie plates!

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Of course, this beautiful and intriguing pie box from BRM arrived after my pie-baking extravaganza:

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Maybe I’ll be able to break it in with some spring/summer fruits this year.

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We finished out the season with this year’s farm-to-table dinner at Erik’s farm. Welcome to the Fire Pit Fiesta!

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That “El Diablo” cocktail was no joke!

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We took a VIP tour of the outdoor kitchen setup.

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Monkfish in progress!

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We sipped and nibbled and mingled until it was time to take our seats.

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The amuse bouche was a work of art as always: crab, cucumber, and anise hyssop with charred tomato and lovage broth.

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The light started to fade fast, making it hard to capture the beauty of each dish. Just take my word that these were all winners!

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First Course: Fire pit roasted beets, carrots, and smoked Apple Street Farm ham salad with goat’s milk yogurt and kale chips; whey, caraway, and Lady Apple vinaigrette.

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Second Course: Grilled monkfish in radicchio with fried shishito peppers and arugula; Point Judith squid, pumpkin broth.

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Third Course: Wood-fired grass-fed rib eye in cracked pepper and garlic with short rib, fresh dug velvet potato, and gratin of cardoon in bone marrow; shallot Cotes du Rhone jus.

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Dessert Course: Grilled pear with vanilla-lime pots de creme and smoked chocolate ice cream.

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Plus s’mores fire pit …

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… and macaron party favor!

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Although I probably only understood two-thirds of the menu, everything was DELICIOUS. However, nothing can beat the first year’s Festival of Tomatoes.

Erik will be working at a different farm this season, so I think we’ve seen the last of the L’Espalier farm-to-table dinners, sadly. We could never afford to go on our own dime! New adventures await :-)

Sigh. Fresh, local food is just around the corner!

I’ve been feeling the need to get my blog on lately, perhaps because I’m having a real life tale of expansion in a more drastic way than I’ve ever experienced before:

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It may not look that drastic but, believe me, I am feeling the weight of those extra 10+ pounds … along with all sorts of cute karate directed at my bladder.

I have many many projects to share, and I am going to start with one from the end of last summer. (Eeek, ancient!)

In our dining room, we had a small side table desperately wanting to be flanked by some chairs. I never took a direct “before” picture, but you can catch glimpses of the table and the chairless spots behind Erik demonstrating his local brand loyalty:

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Worth noting: The giant semi-naked lady canvas is a story in and of itself. When Wife & Ted were visiting last Memorial Day weekend, we stumbled upon the masterpiece at a yard sale for $3!!!! Do you know how much just a plain canvas of that size would cost to buy?! The guy selling it desperately wanted to unload it because some other dude had painted it for his girlfriend years before. Ohhhh also, the canvas was captioned across the top in bold blue writing: “Anthem to a Seventeen-Year-Old Girl.”

The last thing I needed hanging in my dining room was a painting of a half-naked teenage girl, and I felt guilty purchasing it with the intention of painting over it. The seller, however, begged me to take the canvas and do what I pleased as long as he never had to look at it again.

The canvas sat ignored for a while on my dining room floor because I couldn’t quite figure out how to doctor it. I really liked the colors and saw that some skill had gone into the creation of it, and I couldn’t bring myself to obliterate someone else’s art. When my artist mama visited a few weeks later, she helped me create a plan, and together we mixed up a bunch of wall paints (I’d been hoarding samples) to create the perfect tints. We set to work covering up the controversial caption with great results! I later added a bit more shirt because the poor girl seemed cold, and I covered up what appeared to be a pool of blood under her bottom. You’ll see the final version below.

Anywayyyyyyy, chairs! Erik and I had found some cute little wooden chairs with brocade-y upholstery at an antique shop, but they did not really fit the space. Dark wood overload! I decided I needed some brightly colored tall chairs with metal backs instead. I mentioned this epiphany on the phone to my mom, and she reminded me that she had just the thing rusting away in her garage. On her next visit to Gloucester, she brought these gems along:

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Gorgeous, right? ;-)

I unscrewed the seats, and Erik gave the chairs a good sanding and de-glossing for me.

I gave both chairs several coats of Valspar’s Exotic Sea gloss spray paint-and-primer-in-one. Getting all sides of those curvy parts covered was no quick process!

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Once the frames were painted, I tried them out in place to get a sense of which direction to take with the seats. Forgive the overly filtered iphone photo!

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I took a trip to Joann Fabrics for inspiration with the previous seat cover as a sizing guide, and I came out with an actual purchase: 3/4 yard of this Southwestern-y rainbow chevron fabric, some thin foam for a little bit of cushion, and an upholstery staple gun.

I had no idea what I was doing but set to work anyway. Ignore the mess (and the graininess!). The guest room has (still!) gotten minimal attention since we moved in.

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I was worried the seats were too rainbow-y at first, but they’ve really grown on me!

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(Erik’s farm tomatoes give an indication of the age of these pictures! Also, food had to make its way in here somehow.)

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Tomatoes before and after:

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And filter-free:

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The doctored art and the revitalized chairs (and the canned tomatoes!) make me so proud of this formerly dead wall that is now full of life.

Still on the agenda: convince the landlords to replace the wretched linoleum floor!

Bubbles and bite

Keeping with the food theme, we have been trying desperately to keep up with the influx of produce from Erik’s farm.

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We’ve been living on salads for months …

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… but we also decided to try something new. Introducing fermentation round two. (Here’s round one.)  

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Kimchi!

Erik brought home TONS of Napa cabbage, so kimchi was the obvious solution. We loosely followed this recipe. We didn’t have fish sauce on hand, so Erik made some following this recipe with Bragg’s Liquid Aminos instead of soy sauce and honey instead of agave. It was a huge success.

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I packed the kimchi into a one-quart jar and loosely covered it with plastic wrap and the jar lid (to keep fruit flies away). When it was full of bubbles after three days, I decided it was done.

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It is certainly potent … but I think it is awesomely potent. As long as I don’t have to breathe on anyone for a while. And the biggest perk of making kimchi is that it successfully condensed five heads of Napa cabbage into one very managabley-sized jar. I see more fermentation — and perhaps even some pickling (ooh la la!) — in my future.

Grains of discovery

Oh, this is a food blog?

In that case, I have a food miracle to talk about.

Once upon a time, I was an actual regular blogger. I hosted a Bob’s Red Mill giveaway, and 178 people entered.

Ever since that time, I have a received a twice-a-year sampling of new Bob’s Red Mill products. I’m not talking about wimpy little samples, either. I’m talking about multiple full-sized packages of whole grain gold.

June 2011:

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June 2012:

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June 2013 is no exception. BRM has kindly turned a blind eye to the fact that, for all intents and purposes, I no longer blog. And if I do blog, maybe five people read what I write.

This year, however, BRM has reached a new stratosphere of generosity. I have no choice but to share.

I arrived home from work one day in June to a suitcase — a SUITCASE — full of heaven.

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By suitcase, I mean 16 pounds of pure nutrition.

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What did I ever do to deserve this?!!

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I opened this box and nearly fell on my face. The chia seeds alone would have been enough to make my year … but NINE full bags of “grains of discovery”?!! My heart is racing just thinking about it. Sorghum? Teff? The food adventures I could have!

The suitcase arrived equipped with a book detailing the fascinating history of each ancient grain …

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… and a recipe for each grain.

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This situation became even more of a miracle when it inspired Erik not only to spend a full day researching the social and political backgrounds of the ancient grains online but to prepare feast after feast after feast involving them!

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While cooking, he enjoyed some local brews under the distracted gaze of our new nearly-naked model salvaged from a yard sale. (Though I’ve since doctored her a bit for propriety’s sake.)

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The chef prepared a mouth-watering millet and greens gratin, loosely based on this recipe (and obviously using greens and eggs from the farm) …

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… and a free-style kamut, beets, greens, and balcony herbs saute …

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… and, the true winner of the batch, Bob’s Red Mill Farrotto.

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That picture makes the farrotto look repulsive, but there was no way I could invest any extra time trying to get a better shot with that aroma filling the apartment. This farrotto was like adult mac and cheese made out of real food. I can’t possibly describe how amazing it tasted. Just go and make it. PLEASE.

As usual, I took charge of the sweet side of things with chia smoothies and yogurt breakfasts.

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(That’s not a baby — it’s just my belly.)

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And we have still not even made a dent in the suitcase of discovery! I will try to keep track as we embark on our sorghum/teff/amaranth/spelt/quinoa journeys.

Yay for free, healthy food!

Performance

For Solstice/Christmas, my mom gave me a box of flowering jasmine tea.

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I loooooove jasmine tea, but I didn’t want to waste these talented performers on a regular ceramic teapot. I needed to see the performance.

Armed with the Amazon gift card that my office gave us for getting married, I spent days laboring over the reviews (all mixed/negative) of various glass teapots and ended up going with this one. There were lots of complaints about the teapot’s frailty and tendency to drip, but I decided I didn’t care because I wanted to use my tea already and didn’t want to spend tons on a teapot that was probably going to break anyway. As all my teapots do eventually.

On a glorious January evening, my Amazon box finally arrived. In addition to the teapot, I had made all sorts of fun purchases. In fact, here’s exactly how exciting my shopping cart looked.

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It was probably the most boring order to ever pass through the halls (if there are even halls?) of amazon. But I was thrilled when that box finally arrived because it meant I could finally have my tea.

There’s a point to all this rambling about my amazon order.

I started pulling out my catch one by one, taking each item out of its packaging, admiring the brilliance of my everloc chrome dental station, etc.

And then this happened.

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WHAT?!

WHAT?!!!!

And so, what could have been the most boring blog post in the world (for everyone except me), just got a little more interesting.

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So yeah. Time for some tea!

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I made a video. Because I was that excited to spend my evening watching a tea ball unfurl. Please watch it on mute. I sound like I’m 10 and I don’t know why I’m whispering. And I say thing too many times. And the unfurling wasn’t nearly as dramatic as I had anticipated.

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We transferred it to the infuser cup a few minutes later. The switch did wonders for aesthetics.

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Same teapot, different day, different ball.

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In the end, the teapot lasted not much longer than my final ball of performance tea. The glass spontaneously shattered one day, soaking and burning everything around it with boiling hot tea. I guess the excitement of a life well lived finally proved too much.

Nesting

December 22nd was our official move-in date at the new apartment.

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I did not take photos of the move because I HATE moving. However, this move was probably the best move of my life. Have I mentioned the peace? And the space? We have the whole second floor. And NO ONE lives above us. And rent is easily half of what it would be if we were still in NY. But the commute is three times as much … so yeah, still coming out about even.

As I already mentioned, Erik was in charge of “before” pictures. They all look like this:

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He thought I wanted him to take before pictures of the walls and not of the rooms.

Anyway, we’ve been working on gradually making some subtle rental-appropriate improvements that make us happy.

For example, see that random turquoise threshold on the bottom right?

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After a couple weekends of sanding through four layers of what was surely lead paint (we used masks!), I put down a coat of strain and a coat of poly … and we had a decent-looking threshold:

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The mix-and-match linoleum remains a problem. I’ll have to work on the landlord a bit for that one.

The turquoise is still alive and well in the back half-bedroom (currently masquerading as a walk-in tool closet). We’ll have to address that at some point as well.

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Erik’s mom and stepdad came out from MN for New Year’s weekend and helped us feel homey with cupcake plates and competing NFL fleeces. Neither of which did us any good in the post-season.

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We used their visit as motivation to get to Halibut Point finally:

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Brrrrrrrr.

Their visit also motivated my mom, dad, and stepmom to come up to Gloucester for brunch at Sugar Mag’s and a snow walk around the harbor. And musical winter accessories it seems.

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And tea in our new bay window nook!

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A few more of my new apartment favorite things …

Ocean frost on the bathroom window:

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A colorful snowy neighborhood:

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A colorful cozy living room:

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And the perfect sunrise view from my spot on the bed:

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Visitors welcome!

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