Marvelous Mama Margaret

29 August 2016

After a short interlude, I’m back with another Marvelous Mama! And this is a very special one (though aren’t they all): my grandmother, Margaret Ayer. or as I know her, Bang. Bang raised six children (including my Dad, the fourth), on a dairy farm in Connecticut. She is smart, resourceful, funny, lively, and humble. At 90 years old she has more energy than most people my age (which seems like a cliche, but with her it’s actually true), and lives close to her children but in her own house. She is famous for injecting herself into any conversation within earshot. She loves doing crosswords, telling stories, singing camp songs and hymns, being at the Island, and being with her family. She has a loud, gorgeous, generous laugh. I would be thrilled to be just like her when I turn 90.

P.S. Big hugs to my Mom, who went out to the farm, asked Bang my questions in person, and sent me her notes. I’ve paraphrased from there!


Name: Margaret (Peg) Ayer
Occupation: Wow – there have been a lot! I was a Biology major at Mount Holyoke College; I graduated in 1947. Out of college, I was a lab assistant in Dr. Peter’s Diabetes lab at Yale Hospital in New Haven. I met Jack then – he was working at Yale teaching Spanish. In 1949, I began working for the Red Cross in Attleboro, MA as the Executive Director of a local chapter – a very small chapter! Jack and I were married in September 1950. I switched to working for the Department of Children and Families for the state of Connecticut, assessing families that wanted to take in children for foster care, and I worked there until John was born in Nov. 1951. Then I had five more children! As the children got older I began subbing in our town’s school and in other districts – with no training. I also kept busy with church activities and being active on the School Board and Public Health Nursing Board. Around 1967, I taught kindergarten in a nearby town, bringing my youngest daughter with me. I worked there for about ten years, also teaching fifth grade. For two years, I worked for Project LEARN on the team that identified special needs kids, but the funding ran out and the job ended. After that it was back to the Department of Children and Families as a Child Protection Coordinator based at a local hospital.


Bang is in the pink and my Dad is down front in the yellow

Things you collect: Books!
Words to live by: Every day, learn something new, do something kind, and see something beautiful.
Favorite TV show: I don’t watch TV.
What was one of the best things you did to prepare for having kids? Well, we got the necessities together (cradle, clothes, etc.). There were no parenting classes, Lamaze, or anything like that, so that was about it.
Where did you go for parenting advice? Grammy Robbins, my mother-in-law, most often. I also would ask my other friends, and there was an extension (farming) group with other young families. We met once a month and after the farming talk there would be a family/parenting talk by the ladies!


I’m all the way to the right in the sweatshirt!

Best tip for a new parent: Enjoy being a mother.
What is your parenting philosophy? I always tried to encourage good things in my kids. I encouraged them to take advantage of opportunities that would help them grow. Mostly, I tried to ENJOY them — except for the time when John was about four months old and I couldn’t get him to stop crying and I yelled out the door, “If anyone wants this baby, they can have him!”
What is something related to kids you were not at all prepared for? Hmm, probably leaving the hospital – I thought, “these people are crazy for letting me take this baby home!” I was lucky enough to have my mother-in-law next door — she was a wonderful mother-in-law — and she was helpful with the things I wasn’t prepared for.


Classic Bang move – offering direction/telling people what to do :)

Tell us about a few of your favorite family traditions. I loved our Pendleton and Copeland family reunions. And of course, our time at the Island with my two sisters and all of our cousins.
One thing you did differently than your parents: I didn’t make my children take their younger siblings along with them — I always had to take Alice along.
One thing that fell by the wayside and one thing you never compromised on: I had played the viola with the Eastern Connecticut Symphony in Willimantic, but I didn’t get to keep that up. I was also involved with a theater group in Lebanon, and I only kept that up through the first few kids. We always stayed active in our church, and I served on many boards and commissions in town. I was lucky because Jack worked at home!
Favorite books to read with or to your kids: Everything by A.A. Milne, the Just So Stories, and A Child’s Garden of Verses.


My grandfather and my Dad – too cute not to include :)

Thank you, Bang!! We love you.

Easy date idea: a dessert crawl

26 August 2016

John and I don’t go on a lot of dates, or we go on dates all the time — depends on how you figure it :) I generally don’t consider going on a hike, heading to a swimming hole, going to a concert or a movie, or even getting dressed up for a fancy dinner as a date. That all just seems like doing life with my husband. Maybe that’s what a date is when you’re married?? Anyway, we recently tried something new, and if you’re looking for a “date” idea, this might be it :)



Last weekend, we decided to do a dessert crawl in downtown Raleigh. We started at 5pm at our favorite patisserie, lucettegrace. Triangle friends, if you haven’t been here, absolutely put it on your list — SO GOOD. We split the Videri Chocolate Cream Pie (dark chocolate cremeux, almond shortbread, brown butter cocoa nib custard) the Blueberries + Cream (vanilla cheesecake, blueberry mousse, pistachio cake, almond cake, blueberry compote), and a citrus agua fresca.


We walked around the block a few times (June was in the stroller!) before heading to our next destination, Bittersweet. Their seasonal peach and blackberry cobbler (with pie crust “fries”!) was a delicious second course.


A few more laps, and we were ready for our last sweet of the evening, at Treat. They have a kiddie scoop that is practically thimble-sized, making it the perfect final stop on our sugar quest (though John opted for two scoops!!).

By 7pm, we were back in the car and headed home to tuck June into bed. Once she was asleep, we ate a small (healthy) dinner. The novelty of eating dessert first, combined with walking Raleigh’s summery streets, made for a fun evening out (and, no babysitter was required).

I’m curious: If you’re in a long-term relationship, what do you consider a “date”? Every fun activity? Maybe an activity that one person plans? Or one that simply has advance planning? Something expensive? Something fancy? I’d love to hear your criteria!

A week on the Connecticut shoreline

22 August 2016

Usually when we go home to Connecticut, it’s for a major holiday or a big occasion, like a family wedding. Every trip is fun, but on those occasions our schedule is often hectic and largely dictated for us. So to have a full week where we could simply enjoy some of our favorite restaurants, activities, and places in our hometown was a rare treat – and we took full advantage of it! Here are a few photos, if you’d like to see. At the bottom of the post I’m also sharing a list of our shoreline/southeastern Connecticut favorites, if you should find yourself in the area!


The view from Abbott’s.


The magnificent Ocean House. We went for lunch and it was as wonderful as you’d expect!


June loved the penguins at the Mystic Aquarium! Everything else pretty much went over her head, but the penguins were a hit :)


All dressed up for a high school friend’s wedding!




Taking an evening walk to see my house.

Favorite places to eat:
Caffe NV and NV Market
Sift Bake Shop
Oyster Club
Kitchen Little
The Ocean House
Mystic Drawbridge Ice Cream and Buttonwood Farm
Paul’s Pasta
Chinese Kitchen
S&P Oyster Company
Clyde’s Cider Mill

Favorite things to do:
Mystic Aquarium
Picnic at Harkness Memorial State Park and Avery Point
Hike at Haley Farm and Bluff Point
Beach day at Napatree in Watch Hill
Walk through downtown Mystic
Walk through Stonington Borough
Walk through downtown Madison
Kayak on the Mystic River
Pick berries, pumpkins, apples, or Christmas trees at Maple Lane or Holmberg’s

Connecticut peeps, did I miss any of your favorites?

Lisa’s all-white French-inspired baby shower

18 August 2016

Surprise! Lisa (unintentionally) tricked many of you with her shower outfit post from last week. Though the dress she wore to her shower had stripes, it was also white, which meant it was a perfect fit for theme no. 2! Though I adored all of the options (especially that juicy fruit one!!), a classic, fresh, all-white soiree was just right for my oh-so-classic pal.

Because I flew solo as the host, planning for this shower was a little different than past parties. On the one hand, I loved having complete artistic freedom (ha!), but I did have to carefully navigate all of the prep work and the expenses. Here’s how it went down!


Lisa LOVES a good invitation suite (girl after my own heart), so I splurged on this silver foil beauty from Minted. She says she’s keeping it forever, so I count it as a win :)


The guests did a fabulous job of dressing for the occasion! I know how much it meant to me to have the chance to gather with family and dear friends before June arrived, so it was sweet to play a small role in Lisa coming together with her dear ones — including her mom, sisters, mother-in-law, and family-friends-who-are-almost-sisters pictured here.




Girl LOVES her some brunch, so I knew that’s the meal we’d be serving. I made a few of the items, supplemented with some favorite store-bought goodies, and relied on friends to pick up a few. This was our menu:

— cucumber sandwiches (homemade)
— cheese board with fruit and baguettes (put together by a friend)
— mini pancake stacks (Trader Joe’s)
— chicken minis (a friend picked up from Chick-fil-a)
— mini lemon scones (Whole Foods)
— deviled eggs (homemade)
— lemonade, coffee, tea, ice water


Let’s talk about those peonies for a minute. White peonies in July?! If you know your wedding flowers, you know this is highly unusual. Turns out a friend of mine had seen peonies at her Trader Joe’s the week before, so I called mine and asked about ordering some (they can custom order flowers for you if you call ahead, FYI!). The TJ’s gal said she couldn’t guarantee anything because peonies aren’t in season, but that she would call me if they came in. She did end up calling me, and the peonies did come in. However, because they had mold on them, she couldn’t sell them to me — BUT if I wanted them, I could have them for free! (!!!) After removing brown petals from a few stems and tossing a few others, I was left with about three dozen gorgeous white peonies. Thank you, mold!



I also set up a separate dessert table with lots of bite-size treats. Our sweets menu:

— mini vanilla cupcakes (Whole Foods)
— mini pecan pies (made by Lisa’s mama)
— gourmet donuts cut into quarters (brought by a friend)
— chocolate and vanilla macarons (Trader Joe’s)
— chocolate, vanilla, and red velvet cake pops from Sugar Euphoria


We didn’t play any games, just chatted and ate and opened presents. I also had each of the ladies go around in a circle and offer Lisa encouragement as to why she’s going to be a great mama, which is similar to something I loved at my bridal shower.


And, everyone filled out two cards before they left. One was for Lisa (above), and the other was for her little boy. I’m not sharing it here because it included his name, but it was pretty much pirated from my baby shower :)


Lisa, you are thoughtful, smart, sentimental, intuitive, and loving, and you are going to be a wonderful mama. I can’t wait to walk beside you as you grow into your new role and was so happy to celebrate you last month. Much love to you!!

P.S. Lisa recapped the shower on her blog, too — see it here!