Thursday, May 31, 2012

Springfest 2012

   My computer is up and running again so all is well in the world. I was scared for a few hours because I hadn't backed up my photographs in about a month. I was concerned about losing all of the shots I had taken since then. Luckily, the computer only need a minor fix and then it was working again, so I immediately backed everything up. Phew!

   Moving forward, a couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending Springfest in downtown Northampton. Springfest is a festival of music put on by the Northampton Community Music Center. It first started in 1995 and takes place on Main Street in downtown Northampton. It features live music performed by the students of the music center every half hour. The festival is also a fundraiser for the center. Neighborhood businesses sponsor the students' performances and the students individually raise money to go towards scholarships for families that can't afford lessons. It's a great opportunity to support the music center and the children of the community.

    In addition to it being Springfest, the Saturday Northampton Farmers Market was also taking place that day. The outdoor market is another great way to support the community as well as eat fresh and healthy! The market takes place on Gothic Street every Saturday from 7am-1pm from April 28-November 10.

   For more information about the Northampton Community Music Center visit To learn more about the Northampton Farmer's Market go to

Saturday, May 26, 2012

OH NO!!!!

I think my computer has finally died on me! Luckily, we have a lot of other forms of technology laying around so I don't have to be totally "unplugged". Please keep checking back for more updates!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Accommodating Difficult Diets and Grocery Shopping

   With everything we know about food these days, grocery shopping can be a frustrating and time consuming task, especially if your family has special dietary needs that you have to accommodate. Reading labels and making good choices can be exhausting and pricey! But there are many ways you can quickly weed out the bad stuff and save time and energy, if you do a little research.

   I can only speak for the diets that I have to accommodate in my own household, but I wanted to share the top three things I’ve learned throughout my years of learning how to eat healthier and how to grocery shop. It may or may not work for you and your family, but hopefully you will find something helpful.

1) For starters, as a general rule I try to eat as FRESH as possible. This can be more expensive than buying in bulk and freezing, but I’ve had some bad encounters with frozen foods, so this is what works best for both me and my family. It’s also a pretty healthy form of eating, which if you think about it, can save you money in the long run because it decreases future health problems and doctor visits. This rule also requires quite a bit of foot work. A lot of people are shocked when I tell them this, but I go to some kind of a food store probably 5 out of the 7 days a week. I know that seems time consuming, but it really isn’t if you know where you are going and what you’re getting before you head out. It just becomes part of your weekly routine. I feel very lucky that we live near several amazing bakeries, fish stores, and locally grown food stores in addition to our large chain grocery stores, so eating fresh is made really easy for us, but I know it’s not always possible for everyone.

2) Because of certain health needs in my family, every time I pick something up when I am grocery shopping I have to run through “the checklist” in my mind:

1-Is it low in carbohydrates? I have a blood sugar problem where I need to eat foods very low in sugar and high in protein. I don’t avoid ALL forms of carbs because some carbs are good for you (I LOVE bread and will never give it up) but I am mindful of my sugar intake. This is VERY difficult because virtually all food has sugar in it! Even things like pasta, ketchup, fruit, cereal, and honey can make me feel very sick if I don’t eat the low sugar versions or have protein with the sugary item. I always read the labels and try to buy the wheat bread with the least amount of sugar in it, the least sugary kinds of fruits, etc. Even if you aren’t sensitive to sugar, we are learning more and more how bad sugar can be for your body, but it’s hard to avoid it entirely. Also, unfortunately, some items that are low in sugar are then sweetened with artificial sweeteners (like light yogurt) which leads me to…

2-Are there artificial sweeteners added? If so, avoid it. I once tried to replace the sugar in my coffee with Splenda and had to stop after a week because it was causing me to have severe headaches. The minute I stopped using it, the headaches stopped. This experience really proved to me how badly artificial sweeteners can affect your body, but for people with sugar problems sometimes it’s your only choice. I rarely drink pop/soda (maybe once every two months, if that) but if I do, it has to be diet and caffeine free. This is something I always check for.

3-Is it low in cholesterol? High cholesterol runs in my family so I try to buy things that aren’t too high in cholesterol just to be safe (and for my husband’s health).

4-Is it organic? I try to buy as many organic foods as I can. Although I can’t always buy everything organic, I at least try to make sure I buy organic when it comes to the “Dirty Dozen” (which are the most contaminated with pesticides) foods: peaches, apples, sweet bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, pears, imported grapes, spinach, lettuce, and potatoes. Some other high pesticide foods include corn, green beans, apricots, cucumbers, raisins, and soybeans.

5-If it is boxed, canned, or packaged, does it have 10 or less ingredients? I try to eat mostly whole foods but it’s very difficult to avoid all processed foods. When I DO have to buy them, I try to make sure they are as “pure” as possible. The least amount of ingredients and preservatives, the better!  

So what does that leave us with? Mostly vegetables, but you’d be surprised. There are still many wonderful things to choose from, but I LOVE vegetables so I’m ok with this! They are a HUGE part of my family’s diet. This leads me to…

3) Buy a farm share or CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). We belong to an amazing farm in Easthampton, MA called Mountain View Farm. Each week during the summer, we are able to pick up our “share” of several varieties of fresh vegetables (and fruits occasionally) as well as go out in the fields and pick some of the items. The cost of the share averages out to about $20 a week, but you get WAY more than that in your weekly pickup as opposed to what you would get if you went to the grocery store and spent $20. Sometimes I feel like I am robbing them when I go because I leave with so much food! You can also split a share with another family which can help bring down the cost. Regardless, it is totally worth it!

   A few other tips I always try to live by to accommodate my family’s dietary needs: shop in the outer parts of the grocery store where the fruits and vegetables are (avoid the inner isles where the boxed, canned, and processed foods are), make sure your plate has a variety of colors (for example, not too many white things like starches or too many brown things like meats), watch your portion sizes, and eat what your ancestors would have eaten. This means mostly fruits, vegetables, nuts, fish, etc. This website is fascinating if you are interested in learning more about the history of the foods we eat.

   Have you learned any tips or acquired any habits over the years that have helped accommodate a certain dietary need in your family? Please do share! 

To find a CSA near you, visit For more information on Mountain View Farm, visit  

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Favorite Mixes (or “Playlists”, but I refuse to call them that!)

   I was working out the other day and listening to some of my favorite mixes on my iPod and thought that I should share them on the blog (I also wrote about them once before on Facebook. Music is a favorite subject of mine!). I LOVE discovering new music, so I thought it was a good opportunity to put some songs out there that people might not be familiar with or may have forgotten about over the years. Apparently, I title my mixes on one of three things: 1) the person’s name who gave me the mix 2) the time period when I made the mix or 3) the name of where I worked at the time the mix was made. I’m not sure why, I guess it’s the only way for me to organize them in my head.

Anyhow, without further ado, the mixes (in no particular order)…

1. Chicks-Russ’s Mix: This is a mix that a friend and former coworker of mine created for me in college. He was an excellent piano player and I sang, so we used to kill time in between classes by going into one of the music rooms at the university and jamming. At the time, I mostly listened to male singer/songwriters and I didn’t have any female singers in my song repertoire. In an effort to make me become more familiar with some female artists, he made me a mix of what he considered to be “chick songs.” After all of these years, I still love this mix! I think the music is excellent (although I must admit, I usually skip #3 and #9) and it reminds me of fun early college memories.

1. Can’t Be Sure-The Sundays
2. Carmella-Beth Orton
3. Mother Heroic-Bjork
4. Hideous Towns-The Sundays
5. Half Acre-Hem
6. Never Do That Again-Ivy
7. Nothing Sweet-The Sundays
8. Stay-Lisa Loeb
9. Smoke-Natalie Imbruglia
10. She-The Sundays
11. Spinning-The Innocence Mission
12. Destiny-Zero 7

2. Husband’s Mix: This mix was in heavy rotation when I first met my husband. He had it on almost every time I got into his car. It reminds me of that first crazy summer together.

1. This Bouquet-Ani DiFranco
2. Chan Chan-Buena Vista Social Club
3. Pitseleh-Elliot Smith
4. Needle in the Hay-Elliot Smith
5. Revelator-Gillian Welch
6. Midnight Radio-from Hedwig and the Angry Inch
7. Could You Be the One-Husker Du
8. Ce Charmant Coeur-Julie Doiron
9. Failure-Kings of Convenience
10. Bonnie and Clyde-Serge Gainsbourg duet with Brigitte Bardot
11. Lost in Space-Luna
12. Blown a Wish-My Bloody Valentine
13. Hey Oh! Let’s Go!-The Ramones
14. Cold Blooded Old Times-Smog
15. Entire-The Spinanes
16. Brakhage-Stereolab
17. I’ll Be Your Mirror-Velvet Underground
18. Island in the Sun-Weezer
19. Say It Ain’t So-Weezer
20. Speeding Motorcycle-Daniel Johnston

3. June 2003 Mix: More fun college times that involved a lot of “Reservoir Dogs” and John Cusack marathons.

1. Wrong Way-Sublime
2. Stuck in the Middle-Stealers Wheel
3. I Gotcha-Joe Tex
4. Fool in the Rain-Led Zeppelin
5. It’s Your Thing-The Isley Brothers
6. Kid Things-Counting Crows
7. You Rock My World-Michael Jackson
8. Lime in the Coconut-Harry Nilsson
9. Losing Lisa-Ben Folds
10. Last Goodbye-Jeff Buckley
11. If You Could Only See-Tonic
12. Bittersweet Symphony-The Verve
13. Come Pick Me Up-Ryan Adams
14. When the Stars Go Blue-Ryan Adams
15. When the Stars Go Blue-Ryan Adams cover by Bono and The Corrs
16. Jolene-Dolly Parton cover by Mindy Smith

4. Orlans Mix: I used to swap iPods with some of my friends at one of my jobs, so this ended up being a little bit of a mix of everything from the various iPods I borrowed. I also threw some of my old favorites.

1. My Moon My Man-Feist
2. I Feel It All-Feist
3. Sunrise-Norah Jones
4. I Miss You-Incubus
5. Shiver-Coldplay
6. Mr. Blue Sky-Electric Light Orchestra
7. Who Needs You-Queen
8. Sweet Nadine-The Arc Angels
9. Alison-Elvis Costello
10. Amber-311
11. Take a Picture-Filter
12. Everything You Want-Vertical Horizon
13. Love Song-311
14. I’m So Sick-Flyleaf

5. Winter 2011 Mix: A few recommendations from my brother.

1. Lovely and Blue-Ryan Adams & The Cardinals
2. England-The National (words can’t describe how much I LOVE this song)
3. Slippery-Vetiver
4. Brainy-The National
5. Cemetery Hill-Ryan Adams & The Cardinals
6. More of This-Vetiver
7. I Wish I Knew Natalie Portman-k-os

6. High School Mix: A compilation of various mixes from high school.

1. Kiss Me-Sixpence None the Richer
2. Ooh La La-Rod Stewart
3. In Your Eyes-Peter Gabriel
4. Angel Eyes-The Jeff Healey Band
5. Hanging By A Moment-Lifehouse
6. Mellow Yellow-Donovan
7. Magic Carpet Ride-Steppenwolf
8. D-yer Maker- Led Zeppelin
9. It Ain’t Over ‘til It’s Over-Lenny Kravitz
10. She Talks to Angels-The Black Crowes
11. You Spin Me Right Round (Like A Record)-Dead or Alive
12. Build Me Up Buttercup-The Foundations
13. Joker-Stever Miller Band
14. Classical Gas-Mason Williams

The list could be so much longer but I think that’s it for now. Hopefully you’ll discover something new that you will love! 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

One Way Screen Printing

   There’s nothing I love more than when people go above and beyond the call of duty! In an economy such as the one we currently live in, good customer service is rare. So when I DO encounter excellent customer service, I feel as though it is my obligation, my duty, to spread the word. Plus, I love supporting our local businesses!

   Last Christmas, I wanted to surprise my husband with a new t-shirt. He had been wearing his old, nasty, worn-out high school t-shirt for over 20 years and it was time to retire it. I contacted his high school with the hopes of ordering the exact same t-shirt (he really liked this particular shirt color and graphic). Unfortunately, the only shirts available for ordering were not exactly the same as the one I had, so I had to come up with another plan. I took the shirt and headed over to One Way Screen Printing on East Street in Hadley (I had remembered passing it on the bike path while riding my bike over the summer). They were able to take the old shirt…

…and recreate almost the exact font and design. I was so excited!

   The best part was when I returned to pick up my shirts a couple of weeks later, they had also created two additional shirts for my son for free! How sweet was that?!

   I couldn’t have been happier with the results and my husband was thrilled with his gift!

   If you ever need any shirts made and live in the Pioneer Valley, you should give your business to One Way Screen Printing. I’m currently thinking of all kinds of other shirts I’d like to have recreated from the old ones. You can check out their website at