Back to School

Today was the first day of school in Chester County, and I’d imagine most of PA. While Daphne isn’t heading off to school, it does have me thinking. Will we be those ‘emotionally wrecked’ parents sending Junior off to kindergarten?

Knowing me, yes.

Last week I cried (on the inside) because Daphne is big enough to climb the stairs and jump off the couch. Her legs are getting longer, she’s more confident, and she’s starting to get into trouble. While I’d love to say I’ll be one of those strong parents who doesn’t let growing up take its toll, I know I’ll be missing those glory days when our kids are young, impressionable, and can’t stand to be away from Momma and Daddy.

While I know kids are the far off future, it is important to think about these types of things. Just think how much worse it would be to have the first day of school sprung on me. At least I’ll have a few years to mentally and emotionally prepare.

Note: I wanted to post a photo of me on my first day of kindergarten. Unfortunately my mother has recently moved and can’t find it. I’ll be sure to share some elementary embarrassment as soon as it’s available.

Jen's first day of kindergarten

The Secret Life of Dreams

The last few days have been interesting. We’re under 40 days left until elections, which means just over 40 days until I leave for China. Work is sporadically getting busier, and I am slowly exhausting myself. Luckily there’s NyQuil to help me sleep at night. But even though this week has been uneventful in my personal life, minus the season premiere of The Office, I have been busy in the wee hours of the morning (yes Olivia, you can quote me saying ‘wee’).

Monday I woke up a little warm. I had just been in Paris wearing the same stunning red ball gown Blair Waldorf donned in that evening’s episode of Gossip Girl:


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wondering who that brunette was wearing the same dress as me and talking to Chuck Bass, because wasn’t I supposed to be standing on the bridge in Paris convincing him to come back to New York?

Then Tuesday I woke up shaking just a little, wiping the blue face paint off and testing my breastbone for a dagger – I had been crusading around the British Isles as William Wallace. Cornered in a castle tower, I had been betrayed and was about to meet a less than valiant end being stabbed to death.


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I’ve never seen Braveheart. Not even five minutes. I’m not really a big fan of blood, even in the movies. We can worry about my obsession with vampire TV shows later.

Then on Wednesday, I had merely gone for a swim, probably in the ocean. Seemed harmless at the time. Except when I walked into my house (Georgian style mansion? Where did you come from?) I had a powdered wig and straw hat covered with sunflowers unwillingly thrust onto my head. Then I found out that Adam was in fact next in line to rule a European principality and didn’t I know I had to look presentable? You try doing that with a powdered wig, rain boots and a towel. Not a lot to work with.


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Something like this but with sunflowers instead of Tiffany blue ribbon. That I could have enjoyed.

So I’ve done a little digging into what all this might mean. I asked Leah (both her parents are psychologists) if she thought dreams could tell us about what was going on in our lives. She thinks sometimes it works. I’m going to guess it’s working now. I tried to pick a key point or two to explore. Thanks to the Smart Girl Dream Dictionary, here are a few ideas:

Monday: Actor / Actress: To see an actor or actress in your dream represents your pursuit of pleasure. Your admiration of a particular celebrity may lead to a desire to have some of their physical or personality traits. To dream that you are an actor denotes that your hard work and labor will be well worth it in the end.
Bridge:
Bridges often signify travel and transitions. Dreaming of a bridge over water suggests that you could be conflicted in your emotions. If the bridge was unstable or collapsing, it could mean problems in a friendship or love relationship.


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Tuesday: Knife: If you dream about a knife, you may be worried about a male person in your life. This dream might also mean you can solve your problems by being honest with others about your fears and anxieties.
Betrayal:
To dream that you have been betrayed represents your suspicions of another person, relationship, or situation. This dream usually occurs when you have feelings of insecurities and are facing major commitments.


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Wednesday: Swimming: Dreams about swimming are related to the need to trust your instincts and look to past situations for answers to problems. They can also signify the need for nurturing or mothering in one’s life.
Mansion:
Symbolizes your greatest potential and growth. If you dream about living in or visiting a mansion, you may feel that your current situation or relationship is in a rut. But have hope – your dream is a positive omen that you will someday leave your home for a better place and you will be lucky in life and finance.


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Unprepared: If you dream of being unprepared for something, it represents your fear of messing something up and failing. You may be worried and insecure that you don’t have what it takes to accomplish a particular task coming your way.

I picked the last one because while it was great figuring out that I would be a ‘princess,’ I felt completely inadequate. At the end of the dream, instead of sitting neatly in line with everyone else on big floor cushions, I plopped down with my legs stretched out right in the middle of the floor. This must be my acquiescence of my fear. Haven’t decided if it means I’m giving up yet. I do have a rekindled desire to write, and I’m hoping to motivate myself during the free time I have at work. At least to get something creative flowing again. Any ideas?

Cheers, Kate

Wow

I wanted to share a few fun links today from across the web. The first is an interesting event blog called The Pink Toast. You can read about Danielle’s Bat Mitzvah in 5 installments, but here’s a sneak peak:

I can only imagine what this 13-year-old will grow up thinking about her wedding. I wish there was a way to check back in 10 or 15 yaers from now…

On to our next link, The Knotty Bride posted up a brief article on lingerie which was mildly inspiring. Alison led me to a great new online shop asos from the UK. They have dresses from £15 to £250 (about $30 – $500) I did find this cute jersey dress I’d love to have for the holidays:

and at £26, it’s not at a bad price either. And along with this great jumpsuit (which doesn’t look like a jumpsuit at all):

at £50, I’d sure make my British friends proud for at least stepping away from my pearls and cardis.

And of course, last night’s Emmy Awards has people talking fashion. This Oscar de la Renta on Lea Michele from GLEE made me a little giddy and Emily Blunt’s flowing Christian Dior one-shoulder dress wished I had my other half around to float around in a bedsheet pretending to be a Grecian goddess. InStyle of course has a great gallery up of photos from the red carpet.

Hopefully this has give you a bit of inspiration for a happy Monday!

Cheers,

Jenna Kate

Labor Day and 101 Grilling Tips

With Labor Day just around the corner, one of the summer’s last opportunities to pull out the bar-be-que is almost here. I found this great list of grilling tips from NYT’s The Minimalist.

Photo source.

I picked a few good tips off the list so here’s a sampling below:

2. Best grilled artichokes: Cut artichokes in half, scoop out the choke, parboil until tender. Grill, cut-side down, until lightly browned; grill a couple of halved lemons, too. Combine the juice from the grilled lemons with melted butter and spoon over the artichokes. Finish with parsley.

33. Smear hanger, skirt, flatiron or other steak with mustard. Grill and serve with grilled shallots.

61. Odd, but good: Strawberries and cherry tomatoes kebabs, finished with basil-laced balsamic vinegar.

80. A chicken or turkey burger worth eating: Cook and chop bacon; mix with ground chicken (or turkey) and grill.

and

101. Actually, this is a drink: Skewer green olives, then char them a bit. These would be a good garnish for shrimp, chorizo or anything else. But instead, make yourself a fantastic dirty martini.

What will you be grilling up for Labor Day?

Cheers,

Jenna Kate

Summer Birthdays

Birthdays are an interesting creature. Mine is in November, which means it’s cold, probably raining, but not cold enough to snow – when fun can be had outside. I used to envy all those late spring/summer birthdays because they had nice weather, could have poolside birthday parties, and always got the day off from school. Unfortunately, Veteran’s Day is not celebrated as a holiday in all states.

Then I found this: A Raspberry and Lemon-Lime Birthday: Raspberry Lemon Lime Sparkling Punch and Layer Cake

from Desserts for Breakfast. And it made me wonder, could I turn my cold, drizzly birthday into a summer flashback? Here is Steph’s recipe for the Raspberry Lemon Lime Punch that inspired this scrumptious cake:

Raspberry and Lemon-Lime Sparkling Punch

1/2 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 cup thawed frozen raspberries (or fresh)
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
2-4 cups sparkling water
lime slices, for garnish
lemon slices, for garnish
fresh raspberries, for garnish

1. In a small saucepan over medium high heat, cook the sugar and water together until the sugar has completely dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool completely.
2. In a food processor or blender, puree the raspberries.
3. Combine in a pitcher the cooked sugar syrup, raspberry puree, and lemon and lime juices. Mix together.
4. Add the sparkling water, adding less for a stronger mix and more for a lighter mix. Garnish with ice, lime slices, lemon slices, and fresh raspberries.

So now the question is, aside from decorating my apartment in lemon yellow and fuscia, are there any summer-themed board games I can pull out at my next birthday party?

Cheers,

Jenna Kate

U.S. News & World Report: 15 Free Things

I love finding good articles to share again, and normally I’m a fan of paraphrasing. But this one is just too good, so it’s going on in its entirety. I did add a few photos to make things more interesting. Please leave comments with other things you should be getting for free, and good freebie websites to use!  

15 Things You Shouldn’t Be Paying For

by Phil Taylor, Thursday August 19, 2010

provided by US News & World Report

So much money and energy is wasted on things we could get for free. If you’re into new, shiny things and collecting stuff, this is not for you. But if you want less clutter in your life and want to keep more of your money, then check out these 15 things you shouldn’t be paying for.

Basic Computer Software — Thinking of purchasing a new computer? Think twice before you fork over the funds for a bunch of extra software. There are some great alternatives to the name brand software programs. The most notable is OpenOffice, the open-source alternative to those other guys. It’s completely free and files can be exported in compatible formats.

Your Credit Report — You don’t have to pay for your credit report. You could sign up for one of the free credit monitoring services online to get a quick look at your credit report. You just have to remember to cancel the service before the end of the free trial. Or you could do one better and visit www.annualcreditreport.com, the only truly free place to see all three of your credit reports for free once a year.

Cell Phone — The service plan may be expensive, but the phone itself doesn’t have to cost a thing. Most major carriers will give you a free phone, even a free smart phone, with a two-year contract.

Books — There’s a cool place in your town that’s renting out books for free: the library. Remember that place? Stop by and put your favorite book on reserve. And if you don’t feel like getting out, visit www.paperbackswap.com and find your books there (small shipping fees apply).

Water — Besides the monthly utility bill, there’s no reason to shell out $1 for every bottle of water you drink. Bottled water is so last decade anyway. We’re over it, and into tap, filters, and reusable water bottles. It’s cheaper for you and better for the environment.

Credit Card — With as many credit cards as there are available on the market today, it’s easy to avoid a credit card with an annual fee. Unless you’re dead set on a particular perk that a fee card brings, skip the annual fee card and pocket that money yourself.

Debt Reduction Help — Speaking of credit cards, if you’re in over your head with credit card help, there are many free sources you can turn to for help with your debt. No one is going to be able to magically wipe away your debts, but there is help out there that will set you up on a debt reduction plan you can handle. Start with a visit to the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.

Basic Tax Preparation — If your tax situation isn’t that complicated, then you should probably be preparing your own tax return using one of the many free online services. It’s now common for e-filing to be free as well with many services. You won’t even need a stamp.

The News — Leave it to a blogger to try and kill off traditional print. I’m not anti-newspaper. I just don’t find them practical anymore. Skip the daily .50 cents and get your news online. And for you dedicated coupon clippers, you can get most of your Sunday coupons online now too.

Budgeting Tools — There are many budgeting tools (both online and desktop) that offer up the service for free. Don’t ask me how they do this, but who cares. If you’re looking to rein in some of your spending, the good news is you can do it for free.

Pets — This is a controversial one, I know. But there are likely many pets down at your local animal shelter that could use just as much love as the pure-bred types. There may be a small fee due to the shelter for shots and basic care, but you’ll have your pet home without paying a mini-fortune.

Shipping — If you like to buy online, you probably use coupons to get a percentage off of your purchase. Take your skills to the next level and look for coupons or promotion codes that offer free shipping. If in doubt, visit a site like www.freeshipping.org.

Checking Account — Isn’t it nice when a bank takes your money, lends it out to earn money, and then has the audacity to charge you for the service? What a joke. Checking should be free. If yours isn’t free then move to one of the many banks that offers a checking account for free. And the same can be said for ATM fees, teller fees, and checks.

DVD Rentals — Did you know that you can rent DVDs from RedBox locations for $1 a night? And better yet, if you use one of the coupon codes from www.insideredbox.com you can avoid the $1 charge. Free DVD rentals! Most libraries now have free DVD rental as well.

Exercise — Skip the expensive gym memberships. Visit your local park for a walk or run. Do basic push-up and sit-up programs in your living room. Rent a workout DVD from the library. There are many free workout programs you can download online as well.

Photo source, source, source, source, sourcesourcesource.

Some other great articles cited on Yahoo! Personal Finance:  Why Spending Less Can Make You Happier by Stephanie Rosenbloom and  Get Out of Debt the Right Way by Laura Rowley. More from USNews.com includes: 8 Painless Ways to Save Money20 Things You Should Never Buy Used, and  5 Ways Spending Money Makes You Fat.

Can you think of other things you should be getting for free? Leave your suggestions in the comments below, along with any other freebie sites you recommend!

Cheers,

Jenna Kate

Features: Novels and Photos

Thanks to TrèsSugar, I have two really fun features to share with you.

The first is their Summer Reading List: 20 Smart Chick-Lit Novels. I’ve read several of these titles including Lipstick Jungle, The Devil Wears Prada, and The Pact, and have had others on my must-read list for a while: Something Borrowed and Something Blue.

The great this about this list is the inclusion of less-well-known authors like Melissa Bank, Rita Ciresi, and Dixie Cash, so there are some new faces to befriend these last few days of summer.

TrèsSugar has also blessed us with this fantastic spread of film inspired Engagement Photo Shoots. Granted, two of my top five favorite movies of all time are included in this list: timeless romance from The Notebook, and tragic desire from Atonement.  Here are my favorite photos from the shoots as posted on TrèsSugar:

Atonement:

Up:

Breakfast at Tiffany’s:

The Notebook:

and Alice in Wonderland:

Have you seen other movie-inspired photo shoots? What other films do you think would make a great inspiration for engagement photos like these? Happy photo hunting!

Cheers,

Jenna Kate