Hello Again!

Allow me to reintroduce myself.

I'm Jen, an interior architect and graphic designer. I started documenting my home improvement journey in the summer of 2010, when I bought my first house with my ex-husband. In the fall of 2012, with the birth of my son Leo, I began my biggest project yet, motherhood.

It's been awhile since I've shared. The timing of my last post coincides with the beginning of the end of my marriage. It was a time of necessary internal focus to work through the transition of my family, and make sure that we all got through the necessary changes in the healthiest way possible. I may talk more about this process on these pages, I may not. I have yet to decide how much I want to share. 

What I do know is that I am on the other side now. My spirit has taken a beating. But I continue to make small changes & add finishing touches to my home while I re-design my life and seek out that sparkle once again. I'm ready to shine. And one of the things that has always made me feel full is writing about things that make me do so. 

I've begun contributing small articles to 30seconds, an online community that strives to make life better through quick tips and essays. It's made made me realize how much I miss the feeling of my fingers clicking across the keyboard. And how much more I actually have to say. I'm limited there to 1200 characters, and it's a challenge! If you are interested in checking out any of my tips, please see the feed in the upper right hand corner of this page. 

I welcome you back to my story of things that make life sparkle—from improvements to my home that make it look beautiful and function better, to adventures in parenting that make my heart sing on a daily basis, and the art & design that fuels my creative soul.


Our Sparkling Summer Adventures - Part Three

If you have stopped by to visit recently, then you know we've had quite a busy summer. In addition to the Part One and Part Two, I have a few more Sparkling Adventures to tell you about. 

My BFF lives in the southern part of the state. We are always looking for ways to meet up halfway between us, especially since the arrival of her second adopted son who is only a few months older than Leo. This summer, we met up for a fantastic play date at the Easton Children's Museum. This is a charming little museum built in an old fire house. They have plenty of activities that reference the former use of the building, including the fire pole that kids can climb from the first floor, and watch from the second floor through a piece of plexiglass. It is a favorite activity of our friend S. 

Leo and I watched S climb the fire pole from the plexi-glass covered hole in the floor. 

S managed to fit himself INSIDE the mailbox. Quite a sight from one of my favorite kiddos!

The museum also has a really great outdoor play space with making use of natural elements. There were musical instruments made from planks of wood, and a big pile of logs and sticks that could be used for building. Probably the favorite element outdoors was the tree fort. This was the moment when I realized that my baby could climb a ladder higher than my head. Deep. Breath. In. 

Leo and M had tons of fun making music (or banging??)

I can't help but call this one "Lord of the Flies, Jr." (no idea who the blond is)

Another destination we hit once or twice is one of my favorite places on earth. It turns out it's also good for quite a bit of toddler fun. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.

Boston is also known as a really bike friendly place. There are tons of trails along converted railroad right-of-ways, and along the Charles River in Boston and in our own town. We've made good use of the bike seat that Leo gave Greg for Christmas with several great rides around the area, including the Minuteman Bikeway, Memorial Drive in Cambridge of which a portion is closed to cars on Sundays, and the Esplandae

A favorite repeat destination is a local farm and ice cream stand with this signature tractor in the lawn. Leo never got excited about the ice cream, but he was always excited to visit this old vehicle. 

Aside from our many trips to Walden Pond, we did fit in a few trips to the ocean as well. I already mentioned our trip to Revere Beach for the sandcastle competition. We also had a quick stroll there early one Sunday, early in the summer. We closed out the summer with a trip to my favorite beach, Horseneck — which has traditionally been the only beach in the state (aside from the Vineyard) with water warm enough for me to get in up to my knees. I think I mentioned previously that I grew up with a pool...that usually had 85 degree water! The day was over-cast, but we had a great time playing in the sand, and a few waves as well. The lack of sunshine helped to minimize the typical holiday weekend crowds. 

Revere Beach, early June

Horseneck Beack, Labor Day Weekend

And there you have it. That pretty much sums up our adventure filled summer. Though we did fit in one last warm weather water focused outing after Labor Day passed. If you remember, in Part One, I mentioned that we hadn't returned to Beaver Brook since our first visit early in the summer because Leo didn't enjoy the sprinklers. I decided to give it one last try when I heard it was still running during the very steamy week we had immediately after the holiday weekend. This time, it was a huge hit, and I can't wait for summer to start all over again so I can hear some more of those squeals of delight! In the meantime, we will have to look into some fall weather fun to fill out time. I'll be sure to come back and tell you all about it.

Happy Fall Y'all!


Our Sparkling Summer Adventures - Part Two

In my last post, I shared just a few of our Sparkling Summer Adventures. I realized as I was writing, that we had so much fun this summer, one post just wasn't going to cut it. So, without further ado, here's the second installment.

Because I became so enamored with Walden Pond (how can you blame me...I could sit in the water and be happy while Leo played in the sand at the edge. Heaven!) we didn't make it to as many of the cool local splash pads in our area as I would have liked. We took one trip to Beaver Brook Reservation, which has a great playground and sprinkler park, with sprays of water mixed in with giant boulders. But, Leo was not very into the sprinklers this summer. He didn't seem to know that he could run away from the stream of water. Instead, he would freeze in place and get an exasperated look on his face. Let's face it, half of the reason I go to these places is so I can get wet too. So once I discovered he was comfortable at the pond, that was the destination of choice. Last week, however it was a very hot day. We had just been to the pond, and I had one more splash pad on my list to check out. The Artesani Playground right on the Charles River. Again, within twenty minutes of my house. I had been told that this wading pool had a graduated entrance, similar to a beach, and the water sprays only in the center, so it's easy enough to avoid. Add in the scenic location along with river with geese and kayaks to watch and rocks to throw, as well as to playgrounds, and you've got a mini toddler heaven. Leo probably most enjoyed throwing rocks into the river, but he did make a few friends by sharing his toys in the pool.

Another event we happened upon last minute through the wonders of FB friends, is the Middlessex County 4H Fair in Westford. This was a charming little event that was not overly crowded, and had tons of activities geared toward children. Leo rode a school bus shuttle from the parking lot, got a balloon monkey from a clown, went in a bouncy house, watched a rabbit race (Lady Go Go was the winner), and rode a pony. And of course, we saw plenty more sheep, cows, pigs, chicken and horseys. I will definitely keep my eye out for this event next summer. I think it is traditionally one of the last weekends in August.

A favorite destination any time of year, is the Boston Children's Museum. Leo and I spent a few fun Saturday mornings there while Greg had to work. While it's a great rainy day destination, we really enjoyed hanging out on the waterfront outside as well, eating our lunch, people watching, and of course...climbing. I never quite know what exhibit is going to grab Leo's attention during a given visit. One of our visits happened to be during Critter Day. There were several therapy dogs on sight. This was a great opportunity for Leo to get to know some very calm and friendly dogs. He's always been excited to see doggies, but when the reality of getting close enough to pet them sets in, he usually shies away.

Over the Fourth of July holiday week, Granny came to visit. We took her on a whale watch to celebrate her birthday. Leo was probably a but young for this adventure, but we had a lovely, if not stomach turning boat ride. If you recall, the Fourth this year was a complete rain out. Our trip was the day before, and I think the seas were already starting to show signs of the storm. Unfortunately, the impending storm also messed with the typical feeding patterns of the whales, and it was an unsuccessful trip. Though we didn't get to see any whales, we did see a shark just before we had to turn back for shore. Because of the no-show whales, we got a rain check that we can use again any time in the future. So, we'll be able to take another trip someday when Leo will be able to better understand what is going on. All in all, we were quite satisfied with the outcome of our adventure. 

Leo's Gramma grew up in Revere, so every year we hear about the sand castle festival at Revere Beach. This year, Uncle Jeff joined us for some fun in the sand, and a tour of the entries. We didn't check out the rides, but in a few years, I'm sure Leo will enjoy those very much. He's a daredevil and he seems to like being dizzy, so I have a feeling they will be right up his alley. For now, a little digging in the dirt does quite nicely. 

Now, I know you are thinking, wow, this was a jammed packed summer. But you know what? I'm even not done yet. Seriously. It was a blast. And I'll be back with one more installment to fill you in on the rest of the details. 


Our Sparkling Summer Adventures - Part One

Labor Day is often considered to be the last official day of summer. Anyone who knows me and my love of swimming knows that I will hold on to any day above 75 for as long as I can, and try to find ways to get wet. But still, it seems like a fitting time to reflect on what has been a summer that truly sparkled.

I've been so busy going on adventures with my boys, that I haven't managed to visit this space as often as I might like. Though, I think I mentioned when summing up my 100 Happy Days Challenge, that I'm ok with that, because I've been living in the moment, and really enjoying myself. Still, I want to share some of our adventures for nostalgia's sake, and for others with small children in the Boston area who are looking for great things to do with their kids.

So, here we go...in no particular order, our Sparkling Summer Adventures - Part One. (Yeah, I realized as I was writing this that it was going to get way too long for one post!)

One amazing place Leo and I frequented is Walden Pond. Yes the very one made famous by Thoreau. I always knew it wasn't far from my house. But when I discovered that it's a less than twenty minute drive through the beautiful country side of Lincoln, and only $5.00 to park, it became a go to destination. And you can bet I will be buying a season parking pass next summer. The pond is beautiful, surrounded by forest, with crystal clear sparkling water. There is plenty of sandy beach perfect for toddlers. And you can even find some spots that stay shady for most of the morning. Depending on your comfort level, there are guarded and unguarded parts of the pond, which is also a popular destination for distance swimmers training for triathlon and such. We found our way to the unguarded area often, because it was less crowded, and Leo was able to engage in one of his favorite activities, throwing rocks.

Walden Pond is a perfect destination for toddlers, not only because there are so. many. other. toddlers, but because the water is warm, and shallow, and there are no waves. It was incredible to watch Leo's comfort level with the water increase with each visit. He was able to wade in to a depth that made him feel comfortable without needed to dodge waves, or just jump into a pool from a ladder where his feet wouldn't touch the ground. One thing we did learn though, is that no matter how many interesting toys we brought of our own, the ones that belong to someone else are always more desirable. At least we made a few friends this way.

Greg and I both took a week off from work in August. We were able to get away to Martha's Vineyard for two nights with a group of our friends who go every year. The rest of the week, we had a fantastic staycation with the little man. We made it our mission to check out a few new destinations.

The new Legoland Discovery Center kept us busy one morning. It was fun, but I'm not sure it exactly lived up to the hype. It really felt like a lego themed indoor play ground, with a price tag much higher than your typical Gymboree. The entry sequence was tedious. We reserved tickets online, but then still had to wait in a line for about 20 minutes to check in at the register. Then we had to wait in a line to get our picture taken while we also waited for the elevator. Then we had to wait in a holding room outside the elevator once we got upstairs. Then we had to watch a movie which was billed as the lego factory tour. Then, we were finally released into the space, and greeted with yet another line to get on one of the two rides. If there was a way to by pass all the waiting, it was in fact a fun lego playground. Though, I think Leo will enjoy it more in a few years, as he was too small for one of the rides, and not confident enough to go in the climbing structure alone. I couldn't go with him. But Greg loved the fact that there was a shake table so he could test the ability of his duplo structure to withstand earthquakes. The highlight for big "kids" had to be the miniature Boston complete with a basement level Cheers bar. We also had a lot of fun building lego cars and racing them against others. And, as always, Leo had a blast running around and checking out his new surroundings.

at least they provided some entertainment for the kids waiting in line

the line after checking in, waiting to get a photo taken, and then board the elevators beyond

Leo was too afraid to go down the slide at the top because it was an enclosed pipe and he couldn't see the end!

Another incredible destination we discovered that week is Drumlin Farm. It's a working farm and wildlife sanctuary, also less than 20 minutes from our house, in Lincoln. I have to say, finding good toddler entertainment has led me to act like a tourist in my own back yard. I've learned about so many amazing places that I'd either never been to or never even heard of in my now, officially, 16 years of living in Boston.

Anyway, back to Drumlin Farm. It was great! Leo loved running along the paths, watching all the other kids and wandering from barn to barn. We got to go on a hay ride. He now says "hay ride" every time he sees a tractor. There were sheep, cows, horses, chickens, pigs, you name it. He pointed them all out, and said "cluck, cluck, cluck...," as we walked past the length of the chicken coop. It was easy to navigate, and stroller friendly, for the most part. And the scenery was beautiful. I kept exclaiming to Greg..."can you believe this place is so close to Boston?" We will definitely be making a trip back in the fall to see the animals and check out the pretty fall colors.

He even managed to find some rocks and a puddle to throw them into! 

The main events of our staycation seems like a natural place to pause. Stay tuned for the next installment of Sparkling Summer Fun!