Thanksgiving on Jost Van Dyke, BVI

by Leslie on March 5, 2014

It has only taken me, oh, 3+ months to write this post. World’s worst blogger. I blame the weather. This horrid, horrid winter with its weekly polar vortex and forced hibernation has made me a terrible combination of lazy and bored. I’ve become too lazy to do anything so we’re not bored and too bored to actually enjoy being lazy. Most of the time Gus and I just sit inside and have a pout off, which he usually wins. I can hold my own in the pouting department but lately Gus has come up with this spinning, arms flailing, flinging himself against the wall fit-throwing move that is hard to compete with. Luckily, we are headed to the beach next week for a much needed dose of vitamin D that is sure to get us out of our funk. In the meantime, it’s helping to look at these pictures of a trip we took with my sister’s family last Thanksgiving and remember what it was like to feel warm.

IMG_2336 copyAbout 10 years ago, my sister, brother-in-law, and I started a tradition of taking a trip over Thanksgiving week. If you don’t mind missing all of the football and turkey, it’s actually a great time to travel outside of the US. It’s just before peak travel season in most warm places, so prices are low and beaches aren’t crowded; you only have to take off work for part of the week; just as your skin is starting to turn a pasty shade of white you get a fresh glow; and lastly, it’s just really nice to spend a relaxing week in the warm sun before heading back into the frenzy of the Christmas season and freezing temps. We’ve had some really good trips, but the last few years, we haven’t been able to go – one of us was too pregnant to travel or had a newborn or someone was getting married. Needless to say, we missed it, so this year we decided to bring the tradition back.

When picking our destination we only have two criteria: it needs to be tropical and it needs to be relatively easy to get to. We ignored the latter with this trip. We went to the incredibly beautiful island of Jost Van Dyke, one of the British Virgin Islands, which requires flying into St. Thomas or Tortola and then taking a water taxi or ferry to Jost. It wasn’t so bad for us – we even had a direct flight from St. Thomas on our way back to NYC. But my poor sister’s family had three legs, which were delayed, connections missed, a night spent in Puerto Rico, and 36 hours later, they arrived! They were just traveling with a 3 and 5 year old. NBD.  But an hour after arriving on the island and seeing our amazing house my sister declared all the hassle worth it.

Jost Van Dyke is a tiny island, only 3 square miles, with around 200 people living there. There are no hotels, just a few guesthouses and various villas for rent. Most people visiting the island come in off their sailboat for the day. We rented a house on the east side of the island and it was absolutely perfect for us. The house was made up of three separate structures spread out with space between. On one side was a duplex with two bedrooms that my sister’s family stayed in. On the complete other side was a one bedroom suite where we were. Between them was a kitchen, living room, huge deck, a covered outside dining area, and small pool. And from every direction you looked was the most beautiful turquoise sea. The views were killer.

houseinjostIt was our first big trip with Gus and I was a little concerned our days of relaxing vacations were over. While it wasn’t quite the same as traveling childless, it was really great. The cousins hadn’t been together since Christmas, so it was fun to see them play, especially now that Gus is older. They were all so good and happy. Every day after Gus’s nap we’d head to one of the beach bars/restaurants that Jost is known for. These bars are seriously the best. They’re so laid back and have a feeling of authenticity that I haven’t experienced before in the Caribbean. The best part about them is that they’re all right on the beach, so we could be sitting at a table eating lunch or having a drink and the kids would be at our feet building sand castles. Not having to worry about restaurant meltdowns was huge. We could really relax and enjoy our time. We’d spend the afternoon swimming and then head back for Gus’s afternoon nap. We’d cook dinner at the house every night and then hang out on the porch drinking and talking after the kids went to sleep. We were all a little surprised by how much we enjoyed our routine.

Below are pictures of the Soggy Dollar Bar, one of the bars we frequented, and where the local drink, the Painkiller, was created. It’s a mixture of rum, pineapple juice, orange juice, coconut cream and a little nutmeg sprinkled on top. It’s so good. The bar is located on White Bay, one of the prettiest beaches I’ve ever seen. There is no dock, so people swim in from their boats, money presumably wet in their pocket, which is where the bar gets its name.

soggydollarbarWe had lunch one day at Foxy’s, located in Great Harbor. That is Foxy below, sitting on the deck, playing the guitar. They’re New Year’s Eve parties are supposed to be legendary.

foxysOur favorite bar was Ivan’s Stress Free. It’s located on White Bay, down the way from the Soggy Dollar, with the most perfectly calm water. I mean, seriously, look below, it’s like a pool. Gus would crawl straight into the water with absolutely no fear. He loved it. Avoid the nachos, but otherwise, this place is perfect.

ivansIt was such a great trip and an unbelievable island. I love to travel to new places, but I don’t know, it seems dumb not to go back to Jost every chance we get. It’s perfection.

IMG_2308 copyI recently read an article discussing the importance of siblings. Its point was that your parents eventually die and your spouse and children come in later in life. Your siblings are your true lifelong partner. This Thanksgiving (and every day) I’m so thankful that my sister is my lifelong partner, for many reasons, not the least of which is her preference of beaches and rum to turkey and pumpkin pie.

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Central Park In All Its Glory

by Leslie on November 5, 2013

Central Park 2New York City is at its best right now. Let’s face it, summer in the city is sweltering. Winter is an endless bone-chilling, slushy mess. But oh does NYC know how to do fall and spring. For a few short weeks the city is magic. This past Saturday, temperatures rose just high enough for us to leave our coats at home.
Light sweater weather is where it’s at! We headed straight to Central Park for a picture perfect fall day – cool, crisp air; all the trees in amazing shades of gold, orange, and red; that irresistible crunch under our feet. Gus played in the leaves, practiced walking (He’s finally walking! Yay!), and tried to shove every acorn in his mouth. A day like this can make me forget all about that foul-smelling, un-airconditioned subway ride in August and the icy puddle I will inevitably step in soon. A day like this and all’s forgiven.

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Gus as Gus Gus

by Leslie on October 31, 2013

Gus Gus Costume 2Happy Halloween! Here’s Gus dressed as Gus Gus, the mouse from Cinderella. I decided to make his costume this year and I think it turned out pretty cute. The shirt is a little wonky, but I’m proud of those ears! Gus is seconds away from pulling them off and smearing his whiskers. Thankfully I got a few pictures before it’s destroyed. Putting a costume on a 1 year old ain’t easy! Hope you all have a fun and safe Halloween!

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Salted Caramel Apple Pie and a Pumpkin Patch

by Leslie on October 23, 2013

salted caramel apple pieEvery year around this time, I want nothing more than to join in on all the warm, fuzzy, fall activities that fill my Instagram feed – leaf peeping, apple picking, corn mazes, anything involving apple cider doughnuts… and every year I’m met with a roll of the eye and the suggestion that we go get a pumpkin ale at a neighborhood bar instead. But not this year. No sir. This year I had the Gus card to play, which trumps all other cards with its love, guilt, and hope for providing an idyllic childhood wrapped up in it. Yep, this year we piled in the car and headed to Long Island to pick pumpkins straight from the vine, Gus dressed in mustard cords to be color coordinated with the pumpkins – go big or go home, right? We went to Elwood Pumpkin Farm in Huntington, NY and had the best time. We went on a hay ride. Gus crawled around the patch and picked out pumpkins and gourds to bring home. He rode in a wheelbarrow. All my fall dreams came true.

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Gus’s 1st Birthday in Grafton, Vermont

by Leslie on October 1, 2013

IMG_1290In early August, Jolian had a week off from work and it just so happened to coincide with Gus’s first birthday, so we packed it up and headed north to cooler temperatures to celebrate our little bubba. This summer was a hot one and sometimes you just can’t take the smell of steamy trash for one more day! We rented a house for the week in the tiny, picturesque village of Grafton, Vermont.

The house was beautiful, but turned out to be not so baby friendly. There was a white rug, a white couch, glass objects, marble lamps, antique furniture – all things I should realize scream “DON’T BRING YOUR BABY HERE!,” but at the time of booking, they just screamed “PRETTY!” Needless to say, we were Gus’s shadow for the week, catching trucks in midair before they were banged on the 100 year old farm table. Lesson learned. Made me think of this quote! (via Cup of Jo)

The town itself couldn’t have been more lovely with its beautiful old houses, inn, tavern, pond, cheese factory, covered bridges… we’re talking serious charm here. We’d driven through it on our way home from Woodstock, VT last winter, but it was covered in a blanket of snow at the time. I was so happy to see it was just as pretty in the summer. I posted some pictures from our trip below if you’re interested. Warning: I didn’t hold back. Hope you’ve got some time to spare!

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How to Pick a Perfectly Ripe Avocado

by Leslie on August 15, 2013

perfectly ripe avocadoThere’s something so satisfying about getting Gus to eat. For the most part, he’s a good eater. We went through a period where he spit everything out, but thankfully that stage has ended. Now, he’ll eat a lot some days and others he won’t eat a thing. But the food I can always count on for success is a good ole’ avocado (this recipe is also a sure thing). He loves to squeeze it between his fingers, rub it in his hair, ears, on his clothes, but a good amount of it is happily gobbled down, which makes me feel like I’m doing my job. And as a bonus, half an avocado is left over for me to smash on toast with a little sprinkle of salt and crushed red pepper flakes. So good. Needless to say, I buy a lot of avocados these days and I buy them to be eaten immediately. I do not have the patience to let an avocado ripen on my counter for days. In the past, I’ve had some trouble. An avocado would feel perfect to me in the store, but then I’d get home and cut into it and it was overripe. Well, no more! I recently learned a new trick. First press the skin of the avocado and find one that feels ripe. Then remove the little stem. If it’s green underneath, it’s still good. If it’s brown, it’s past its prime. Easy as that. Now I buy perfectly ripe avocados every single time.

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Apartment Hunting in Brooklyn

by Leslie on July 31, 2013

440x660Lately, I’ve been spending a lot of time looking for an apartment to buy – only half seriously. The market in Brooklyn is kind of insane so it might not be the best time, but I have this panicked feeling that if we don’t buy now we’ll be priced out forever. Overall, it’s been pretty depressing seeing what we can afford – I use the word afford very loosely. The other week, I’d finally found a place that could work, was reasonably priced, and in a great location. We went to the open house and someone offered cash while we were there. Whomp. Whomp.

The whole process can make a person go a little nuts. You lose the ability for rational thought in your desperate attempt to find some place… any place. You start thinking, maybe I could survive with a kitchenette. I could carry a stroller up five flights of stairs every day. Closets are really overrated. Last week I was trying to sell Jolian on a tiny, rundown townhouse next to the Gowanus Canal, which mind you is a Superfund site, and wait, it gets better, floods. I think I used the phrase, “It’s a steal!” when telling him the price that would be considered a ridiculous amount most places.

Whenever I feel myself start to lose it and need a break from my search, I like to play the game, “Where would we live if money weren’t an issue?” I slide that little bar over until it reads “any price” and I immediately feel my spirits lift. There are some amazing properties in this city for deep pockets! My favorite right now is this triplex penthouse in DUMBO’s Clock Tower building. Isn’t it so bizarre, but awesome? And it can be yours for the measly asking price of 18 million dollars. It’s a steal!

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Roasted Carrot and Lentil Salad

by Leslie on July 16, 2013

IMG_1113The thing I miss most about life before baby is going out to dinner. It used to be such a big part of our life and one of the benefits of living in New York, where you are surrounded by some of the best restaurants in the country. We still do it occasionally, but it’s not the same. It’s hard to really enjoy a meal when we’re eating at 5 PM, not quite hungry yet but trying to beat the crowd, all the dishes crowded onto a narrow strip of the table out of the baby’s reach, playing peekaboo with the napkin while quickly shoveling food into our mouths to try to finish the meal before the first scream. Most of the time it’s just not worth it. We did recently discover a trick that I’m a little ashamed to admit. French fries. Order a side of fries and they will keep Gus happy and occupied the entire meal. Isn’t that awful? How did I go from making all of his food myself using only organic produce to giving him french fries so I can enjoy another glass of wine?! Eh, at least I made it a year… almost a year. I feel bad for future Blevins babies. I foresee orange Fanta in their bottles.

IMG_1031I really miss eating at Rucola, a Northern Italian restaurant located in Boerum Hill. I’ve mentioned Rucola here, here, and here. We used to go all the time, but haven’t been in ages – no fries on the menu! Everything is good. The arugula salad, the pastas, the pie… oh, that pie from Four & Twenty Blackbirds. But the other day I was craving their roasted carrot salad and saw these little carrots at the farmer’s market, so I decided to try to recreate it. I tossed the carrots in a little olive oil, salt and pepper and cooked them in a 400 degree oven until they were caramelized and tender. I love most roasted vegetables (lately I’ve been hooked on roasted sugar snap peas – so good) but you really can’t beat a roasted carrot. I laid them on top of a bed of lentils that had been cooked with onion and garlic and a splash of champagne vinegar at the end. That splash is so key. Don’t skip the splash. Use champagne vinegar, red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar – it doesn’t matter – whatever you have on hand. Ina taught me this step and it really makes a huge difference. I then crumbled goat cheese on top, which adds a tangy-ness (Is that a word? Spell check thinks not. You know what I mean) and sprinkled on a little chopped dill. Delicious and simple. It’s the type of light meal that leaves you feeling good, but full and satisfied. It would be better if was followed by a piece of strawberry balsamic pie, but we can’t have everything. This guy is worth the sacrifice.

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Tied Baby Quilt #3

by Leslie on July 8, 2013

IMG_0829Another baby, another tied quilt! I swear I have more friends pregnant right now than not. I love it. Yay for more babies!

I made this quilt for a friend’s little girl born last month. I used fabric designed by Eliza of if she sleeps… that’s sold on Spoonflower. If you’ve never checked out Spoonflower, you should. It’s pretty cool. You can upload your own design or pick from the millions designed by other people. You can then have it printed on your choice of 10 different types of fabric, wallpaper (it’s removable, great for renters!), gift wrap, or decals. I had these 3 navy and white designs printed on cotton voile, which is really thin and extremely soft. Perfect for a baby growing up in the Texas heat. For the edge of the quilt, rather than using ric rac or pom pom trim like I did for my previous tied quilts, I used a double fold binding method. It takes a little more time, but is easy enough and looks really nice. There is a great tutorial here. I’m happy with the way it turned out. Hopefully it will make tummy time for that sweet gal a little less painful!

PS) If you like Eliza’s designs, check out her new company Hopewell Workshop. Right now she’s selling gorgeous quilts and napkins.

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Mother’s Day in Chatham

by Leslie on June 4, 2013

IMG_0622I’ve been meaning to share these pictures with you for a few weeks now. I almost didn’t write this post at all because I’d waited so long, but I’m averaging one post every two months these days, so I figured I couldn’t waste it. Plus, while a little selfish, one of my favorite parts of having this blog is being able to go back and relive events in my life, and this is one I don’t want to forget. So please forgive me as I use this space as my own personal scrapbook. I swear I’m going to get it together and start blogging regularly again… about things that interest more people than just my relatives. Will somebody please come over and teach this baby to nap?

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