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Monday Musings: The story of our Little Free Library

2 Oct

It took us a couple of years, but we were finally able to open our Little Free Library yesterday!

Yesterday, October 1, 2017, we officially opened our very own Little Free Library. It was a project two years in the making and it means a great deal to us. Inside our library I have placed a binder which tells the history of our library along with some photos of the process from 2015 to now. I thought I’d share it here as well, for those who are not local and can’t just take a drive by to check it out in person.

In 2013, a friend gave us an article about a local Little Free Library from the Providence Journal. You can read that article here.

“If anyone would want to do this, it would be you and your family,” they said.

That following winter, we were in Providence with my brother for brunch, and we went looking for the Little Free Library we’d read about in the article, and found it.

We went exploring and found the Little Free Library from the article.

We decided that we too, wanted to have a Little Free Library. We began considering what sort of material to use for ours, but it seemed a bit beyond us, and buying a ready-made one was cost prohibitive for us.

 

 

 

 

 

In the summer of 2015, Chloe Rigg contacted me to do a story for the Cranston Herald about the Little Free Library she and her husband Jim had opened at their home in Cranston. You can read that story here.

I loved visiting with Jim and Chloe Rigg and learning about their Little Free Library. I even found a cookbook inside, that I still have today.

When I told Jim and Chloe Rigg that our family had really wanted to do a Little Free Library too, he offered to help us. He’d use his leftover scraps to create a kit for us. The girls and I could come to their house one Sunday and make it with him, step by step. He had the girls send him some design ideas for our library. A treehouse design, incorporating a fairy garden was soon in the works.

On September 20, 2015, we spent the day at the Rigg house, creating our library together with Jim.

Jim Rigg spent the entire day with us in his garage, walking us through every step of building our library and explaining what we were doing and why.

It was our intention to put it up the following spring, but it was that spring that we ended up unexpectedly having to start our kitchen renovations, and it delayed our ability to get the library up and finished. This summer, we finished up the bulk of the kitchen work and in September we were able to change our focus back to finishing up the Little Free Library project.

Now, exactly two years later, almost to the day, we are ready to open our Little Free Library.

Sadly, Jim Rigg passed away unexpectedly, just four months after we spent the day with him. We were devastated to receive that news, and we attended his memorial service that January of 2016.

We have dedicated our Little Free Library to Jim and his memory. Without him, it would not be possible and we know he would be so proud to see it open for business now.

We were incredibly sad to hear that Jim Rigg had passed away soon after our day spent together. We will think of him every day as we run our own Little Free Library. We made a plaque for ours, to honor him and the dedication he showed us out of the goodness of his heart.

We are forever grateful for Jim’s time and dedication and for the impact he has had on us and our memories from the making of our own Little Free Library and we can’t wait to see what stories we will have to share from this new endeavor.

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If I still used refrigerator magnets…

18 Sep

Even though I wasn’t busy blogging, I was still busy writing for you!

Which I don’t, because they would scratch my new refrigerator, but if I did…I’d want to post some of my latest work with the Cranston Herald and with the Providence Journal.

Although wasn’t active on this blog all summer, it doesn’t mean I wasn’t writing and eating, and eating and writing, because I definitely was!

In addition to writing about eating and eating so I can write about it, I was also preparing for the school year ahead, which will be our first senior year. Of course that means that not only was I preparing for it, I was also writing about it. I also chose to write about other experiences that people have had with their senior years as well as people who have a little more experience and could share their advice with the rest of us.

So today I have many things to share with you.

First off: I had two great dining experiences at Milestone Kitchen & Bar here in Cranston, and I wrote about them in the Providence Journal here. If you are looking for an affordable dining spot with a varied menu for all taste buds, I highly recommend you give Milestone a try. You can check out their website here.

Eating, and writing about eating!

Next up: I had the pleasure of interviewing Murray and Deby Kaplan who own Rainbow Bakery, a Jewish Bakery here in Cranston. I learned about Murray’s grandfather and the bakery he started 100 years ago this year, and all that Murray and his family have done to keep his family’s baking legacy alive. I also sampled many delicious pastries! I loved meeting the Kaplans and telling their story. You can read it here. To see what they’re offering for the upcoming High Holidays, check out their Facebook Page here.

And I thought college times one was a big deal…

And finally: I have done a series of three (so far) Cranston Herald articles about high school seniors/college freshman and the experience of that journey for parents and kids alike. The first article is about sending not one, not two, but three high school seniors to college at the same time! I have known these triplets since they were three, when my oldest daughter went to preschool with them, and now in the blink of an eye, they are off to college. You can read about their senior year and summer preparations here. You can read about our own preparations as we head into our first senior year with our daughter here. And, just so we all know that it does get easier from there, you can read some perspective from other parents who have done this before, in the latest article, here. Let’s hope they’re right!

I made several trips to Rainbow Bakery this summer and fall!

They say it does get better…

 

 

 

Budget-friendly camping tips from The Penny Hoarder

24 May

Camping on a budget can make you a very happy camper!

It’s the end of May, Memorial Day weekend is just days away. I can almost taste the summertime…if it would just stop raining! We had some hot, 100 degree days last week, and the flip flops and tank tops were out, the sun shining, kids playing in the yard, I could see the lazy days of summer just ahead.

If summertime includes camping for you, as it does for us, you’ll be happy to read the most recent post from The Penny Hoarder’s site, “Get the Vacation You’ve Been Craving on a Budget: Go Camping.” The post contains six tips for budget-friendly travel through camping.

If you’ve been a fan of The Whole Bag of Chips recently, then you know that we purchased a new-to-us camper in 2015 and used it to travel in a budget-friendly manner over the past couple of years, touring the country in 2015 and touring NYC this past spring. We also traveled to Mystic, CT and to Meredith, NH as well as hanging out by the beaches here in the Ocean State in 2015, 2016 and again this coming summer in 2017. Having our own camper is thousands of dollars cheaper than renting a beach house in New England for a week every summer.

I was so thrilled when Lisa Rowan, writer for The Penny Hoarder, reached out to me for some tips to include in their camping post. The only thing that makes me happier than being able to do things because of the fact that we budget, is to be able to help others achieve their own goals by doing things on a budget as well. Stretching a dollar has helped us to achieve so many things, including all of the recent travel that we’ve been doing.

So if you are wishing you could do more traveling, but just don’t have the means, be sure to read the above post, or check out my travel pages #crosscountryadventure2015 and #thecowartstakemanhattan2017 for some tips and tricks for traveling and camping on a budget.

Fun Friday: “The Cowarts take Manhattan” and what was for dinner

5 May

April was incredibly busy, and here is the rest of why!

Last week in my What’s for Dinner Wednesday post, I promised you that I would share more of what had been keeping me from posting recently and I also promised you some weekly meal inspiration with a twist. Today’s Fun Friday post is all of those things wrapped in one.

As you’ll see in this week’s Cranston Herald feature article, we took a whirlwind trip to New York City and the surrounding areas, including Jersey City, Hoboken and Brooklyn, just to name a few. It started out as a college tours trip primarily, but because we had never taken any of the kids to NYC, and because they all wanted to visit so badly, we decided to try to make it a mini family vacation, on the cheap rather than one adult taking one child to New York and everyone else staying home.

Super cheap.

We accomplished that goal by using our camper, although very early in the camping season, and despite the fact that we wouldn’t have a ton of time for prepping for the trip due to work obligations and the Easter weekend. One of the ways that we made it work was by eating many of our meals in and only eating a few special things out, as we visited the city. We had extra money and we could’ve spent it all on eating out, but we didn’t want to. We opted instead to choose a couple of extra-special eating adventures and to choose a couple of extra-special sightseeing adventures too, giving ourselves the best of both worlds.

Our camper has a full kitchen with a microwave, oven and stove as well as a refrigerator, freezer and pantry. Therefore, we could plan meals as extensive or as simple as we wished. We decided to go simple. We knew we’d be out a great deal of the time and the last thing we wanted to do was come home and spend an hour and a half cooking. We also knew that simple meant cheap, and if our meals were inexpensive, that was more money we could throw into our travel budget from our normal grocery budget.

Because the weekend before the trip was Easter (an expensive, busy weekend in itself), we did have some leeway in our meals leading up to the trip and we were not eating at home on Easter Sunday. Therefore, my list of meals starts with Monday, the first night we arrived at Liberty Harbor RV Park and Marina. Here’s what we ate while we were away:

TWO WEEKS OF MEALS

Monday: Quesadillas (extras became lunch the next day) with Spanish rice and corn. We also had chips and salsa for appetizers when we arrived because it had been a five hour ride and we’d eaten lunch in the car earlier in the day.

Tuesday: Chicken burgers and hot dogs, fresh sugar snap peas, sauteed.

Wednesday: Macaroni with Chicken Parmesan, (chicken cooked in the cast iron skillet). Today we also used some of our spending money to have treats at Carlo’s Bakery in Hoboken, the original bake shop featured on the TV show, “Cake Boss.”

Breakfast on Wednesday morning: Carlo’s Bakery sweet treats

 

Very inexpensive, delicious and a fun end to our trip to NYC!

Thursday: We opted to eat out that night, experiencing NY Style Pizza, $1 a slice, in Times Square at 2 Bros. Pizza. DELICIOUS.

Friday: We were home again by Friday night and we had French Toast for dinner. Breakfast for dinner is fast and easy and a good meal to make when you get home. It was a breakfast option we never used on the trip so we had all the ingredients ready to go.

For the second week of our two week cycle, we tried to choose meals that were still inexpensive and that used some things we had at home already

Saturday: Homemade chicken and rice soup (perfect for what ended up being a cold, rainy, raw day)

Sunday: Pork Chops and homemade applesauce (I brought applesauce to dinner on Easter Sunday, so I made a triple batch that day, freezing one batch for our trip. We never used that meal on the trip, so we had it Sunday night instead.)

Monday: Zucchini shrimp Scampi (recently featured in this blog post)

Tuesday: Taco Bake (recipe here)

Wednesday: Chicken, Broccoli and Pasta

Thursday: Leftovers

Friday: Pizza

Monday Musings: Working together to make a difference in the world

27 Feb
Fish, plants, and test tubes are just some of the things you'll see when you visit The Greenhouse Effect at Western Hills Middle School.

Fish, plants, and test tubes are just some of the things you’ll see when you visit The Greenhouse Effect team at Western Hills Middle School.

I know I say it often, but I truly love my job as a newspaper reporter. I love what I do every day, even on the busiest, toughest days. One of the reasons I love it is that as a reporter who focuses on school news for the Cranston Herald, I get to see some really amazing things being done in the schools. Another reason I love it is that I often get a glimpse into the educational goings-on for my own three children as I get to cover many of the big things they are involved in at school. Today’s post shares the news about a story which combines both of those perks.

My second daughter Liz has been involved in the after school extra-curricular STEM program at her middle school for both of the years she has been enrolled at the school. My youngest daughter has also joined this school year as a new sixth-grader. The club usually meets a couple of times a week and over the past four years or so that it’s been in existence the group has worked with app development, coding, drones, 3D printing, and more. The club has had a team of their students win the Verizon App Challenge “Best in State” title for several years in a row and the “Best in Region” title once as well. They have had a great reputation for winning this challenge, which provided money for the program and prizes for the kids, and over the years the club has grown to 100 or more members, with a second faculty advisor, John Worthington, recently stepping in to help out the founder, Michael Blackburn, because the numbers were so big.

This past fall, the students finished up the annual Verizon App Challenge and went right into a new challenge, the Lexus Eco Challenge. Multiple teams ranging from approximately four to six students had just two weeks to complete the Lexus Eco Challenge. This was a brand new challenge that the STEM club had never tried before and they were under the gun with just two weeks to complete the challenge before the deadline. The challenge asked the students to choose from a variety of environmental issues, such as pollution and poor air quality. They then had to work together as a team to find a possible innovative solution for the chosen problem, create a PowerPoint presentation, a prototype, a video and a Public Service Announcement (PSA) if they had extra time. You can read about all of the teams and their innovative ideas for the Lexus Eco Challenge in this article.

Friday the 13th of January turned out to be a very lucky day for Liz and her Lexus Eco Challenge team, The Greenhouse Effect.

Friday the 13th of January turned out to be a very lucky day for Liz and her Lexus Eco Challenge team, The Greenhouse Effect. Here she is, stunned, shortly after receiving the news that their team had won.

On Friday, January 13th, Liz got an urgent request from a student at her school on behalf of Mr. Blackburn, to take a Facetime call at 3:15 pm, just minutes after she’d gotten off the school bus. It seemed odd, unusual, almost concerning, so she took the call and was given the news from Mr. Blackburn: her team, The Greenhouse Effect had won the Lexus Eco Challenge! She was stunned. We were thrilled for her. In winning, her team became one of just four middle schools and four high schools across the country to win. Each child was given a cash prize, splitting $7,000 between them. The school and the teachers were also given cash prizes. When the check arrived, along with it was a memo that said, “Thank you for making a difference in the world.” You can read about the winning team and their reactions to the news here. They are a special group of amazingly smart students.

More than two dozen plants are being grown as part of The Greenhouse Effect's final project. They are hoping to feed the world and save it, all at the same time.

More than two dozen plants are being grown as part of The Greenhouse Effect’s final project. They are hoping to feed the world and save it, all at the same time.

Now, the students are continuing their mission to make a difference in the world. The Greenhouse Effect team has taken on the next and final stage of the Lexus Eco Challenge. They are working to feed the world, and to save the world. Visiting their team recently, speaking to them, listening to them describing their project, their prototype and their end goal was humbling. I don’t think I was ever this smart as a child, this forward-thinking. I am proud to know these kids, and grateful for their teachers who go above and beyond, and then above and beyond that, every single day. You can read about their final challenge project here. I wish them all the best as a reporter, and I am proud to be able to help them spread the word about what they are doing and what they have already accomplished. I am also proud as a parent and thankful that I have the privilege to take an occasional peek into the world in which my kids spend much of their day.

Fish are an integral part of The Greenhouse Effect's final project.

Fish are an integral part of The Greenhouse Effect’s final project.

If you would, please also take a moment to check out The Greenhouse Effect on their blog and on a variety of social media platforms. Like them on Facebook. Read their blog. Part of their challenge involves spreading the word about their project and let everyone, everywhere know what they are doing. Please help them change the world, do your little part to help them out by visiting their sites:

Facebook

Blog

Twitter: @LexusEco,  Instagram: @The_Greenhouseeffect

Snapchat: Greenhouse_whms,  and on their YouTube channel.

Congratulations again, and best of luck to The Greenhouse Effect and to their amazing, wonderful teachers, Mr. Michael Blackburn and Mr. John Worthington.

The best Lexus Eco Challenge team around, The Greenhouse Effect!

The best Lexus Eco Challenge team around, The Greenhouse Effect!

 

*Thanks to The Greenhouse Effect for the use of their photos for this blog post!*

 

 

 

Fun Friday: To warm your heart and soul

10 Feb
We have had blizzard conditions for most of the day today, but we're warm and safe and all together.

We have had blizzard conditions for most of the day today, but we’re warm and safe and all together.

Today (Thursday, as I type this) was our first snow day of the school year, and tomorrow (Friday) will be our second. We had quite a storm today, with about a foot of snow falling throughout the day. It was cold and windy and snowy, but inside we had a lazy day for much of the day, and we were warm, safe and together, which is really what matters on a day like today.

I thought I’d take the opportunity to share some recipes with you for some nice, warm, delicious treats, since it’s so cold and snowy here. Even if it’s not snowy where you are, there’s nothing like something warm and delicious to warm your heart and soul in the winter months.

DIY crepes in both the regular and gluten free varieties.

DIY crepes in both the regular and gluten free varieties.

Early in the day we had crepes, which is one of our favorite special breakfasts. They are labor intensive, so we don’t do them often, but they’re so delicious when we do. They can be made gluten free, so we make both kinds. My husband does the majority of the cooking for these, but today I did the hot bananas with the maple-brown sugar sauce and Elizabeth made the scrambled eggs, so he had some help. We put out many filling options for our crepes: scrambled eggs, ham, bacon, cheese, peanut butter, Nutella or a Hershey’s chocolate spread, bananas, and today the maple-brown sugar bananas. Everyone can fill them as they wish.

The recipe we use is the same for both gluten free and not, but we use gluten free all-purpose flour for our gluten free crepes, specifically Bob’s Red Mill 1:1 All-Purpose Flour. This is the recipe we use:

Thanks to the New Betty Crocker Cookbook!

Thanks to the “New Betty Crocker Cookbook!”

Warm chocolate pudding is soothing on a sore throat, especially on a snowy day.

Warm chocolate pudding is soothing on a sore throat, especially on a snowy day.

Tonight, my youngest daughter requested homemade chocolate pudding, which is a relatively new recipe for us, but I have posted it on the blog before. You can find it here. She’s had a sore throat and cough, and prefers the pudding to be warm, which would soothe her throat. I didn’t have a sore throat myself, but that pudding sounded good to me too, especially on a day like today, so I obliged. Another warm and soothing recipe that I make often in the winter months is homemade hot chocolate. Although I didn’t make it today, I will re-share it here anyway, since it’s been a long time since I originally posted it. It’s an absolute favorite for my family.

Finally, I had some great new articles in this week’s paper to share with you too, and they will warm your heart and soul also. You can find my latest feature from this week’s Providence Journal here, about Rachel’s Sugar Shop in Cranston. She’s got lots of great Valentine’s Day treats on deck, and she does amazing wedding, birthday and all kinds of occasion cakes, so stop by and see her if you’re local.

I have lots of stories in this week’s Cranston Herald, but this one about a family who immigrated to the United States is one of my favorites, especially with all that is in the news currently about immigration to America. I also loved doing this one about Janet Tanury, the owner of Botticelli’s, which is a local store whose tagline is “Generous clothing for the curvaceous woman.” Janet is working hard to make plus-size shopping a whole new experience for women of all ages, especially when it comes to formal wear, and her shop is wonderful, as is she. If you have a prom or formal event on the horizon, stop in and visit her in North Providence, RI or visit her website here. She’s hosting a special prom shopping event on President’s Day from 10-5pm.

You can view all of this week’s Cranston Herald stories by visiting their website, and there you will see all of my work for this week. It’s certainly been a busy one!

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newspaper-4   newspaper-5   newspaper-7                  newspaper-6

 

 

 

 

It was a banner day!

30 Jan
My very first piece for the Providence Journal's Food section!

My very first piece for the Providence Journal’s Food section!

Last Wednesday was an exciting day for me, and I’m so happy to be able to share the excitement with you!

I have been working very hard over the past month or so on some great projects. Recently, I was asked to be a freelance contributor for our state newspaper, The Providence Journal. Specifically, I have been asked to write for their Food section. I have been a fan of this section for a long time now, and in past years both of my grandmothers’ recipes have been featured in it, as have my daughters’ accomplishments in various cooking competitions. The section contains great recipes, restaurant reviews and features, as well as tips and tricks for your kitchen cooking adventures, and I am so thrilled to be a part of it.

On Wednesday, my first piece, “Vive la France at Cranston’s Caffe Bon-Ami” appeared on the front page of the section. You can read the feature here. I’m so proud of this piece, and if you’re local, I highly encourage to pay a visit to Malcolm over at Caffe Bon-Ami, you’ll be glad you did! If you’re not within driving distance, be sure to check out his Facebook page!

This was such a fun project to work on!

This was such a fun project to work on!

As if that wasn’t exciting enough, I also recently agreed to take on a different sort of project for the Beacon Communications newspapers I have worked for, the Cranston Herald, the Johnston SunRise and the Warwick Beacon. I volunteered to take on this month’s special RhodyLife section, which was a bridal feature. I visited local bridal gown vendors, I spoke to brides, photographers, bakers, and explored local and widespread wedding trends. I interviewed a friend who had recently had a Harry Potter themed wedding, and their wedding story was featured in the section, front and center, so I was thrilled to see her smiling face, alongside her husband, when I opened up my paper Wednesday morning. You can read my three wedding articles here, here and here.

All in all, it was a banner day!