Smarties, I’m honored to introduce you to our Smarty Mom this week, Jenni Strazzulla. The Strazzulla family goes way back to my childhood, to first grade to be exact. I grew up with Jenni’s hubby, Chris, he was actually my “first crush” in 3rd grade, but don’t tell Jenni:-)
I first met Jenni at my 20th high school reunion (gulp, I feel like such an old goat even typing that!) and she was pregnant with her twins. Her personality is magnetic, so I adored her within the first five minutes of talking to her. Jenni was living in Vero Beach, FL at that time, our home town. Fast forward a few years and I got a fb message that Jenni was moving to Charlotte. Her boys were a year old and they moved into our hood. It was so fun to see her with twin boys, one who is a mini-me of her hubby.
Jenni tackled Charlotte by storm. She has such a unique lens of exploring this amazing city. I love her daily documentation of her adorable twins as they toddle and run around every playground or toddler spot they hit. A light bulb went off and we recently decided that Jenni needs to be a part of our Smarty family. Jenni will be our “Smarty expert” on preschool activities and playtime in the QC – from Gymboree, to Charlotte Swim Academy, Jenni and her twins will be our go-to as she documents their journey. (Pssst, we have an AMAZING giveaway going on at Gymboree right now – one lucky Smarty will win a YEAR of free classes – click here to register, can’t win if you don’t enter!)
Let’s get to know Jenni Strazz!
Jenni’s Smarty Mom Stats:
Mom of: Jack & Christopher – 3 years old
Married to: Chris, 10 years married, 16 years together:)
Years in Charlotte: We have made it to 2 years!
‘hood: Providence Plantation
Hometown: Vero Beach, Florida
Occupation: stay-at-home mommy/Elementary School Teacher
Tell us what first went through your head when you found out you were having twins.
I was over the moon excited. I was in total denial of what was about to be. How hard could twins really be? Boy, oh boy…. I was clueless.
What is your favorite thing about having twins?
Where do I start? Having twins is amazing. These two little guys have changed my life. If I had to pick one thing, it would be watching them communicate in their own little language. It wasn’t until the twins turned 3 that they started articulating words outside of their “Twin Talk.”
When you first moved to Charlotte, what was your first impression?
First impression, Charlotte is great! It has the small town feeling with all the amenities of a big city. The hospitality of the people is what sticks with me the most. Everybody was so incredibly nice and willing to help with whatever we needed.
What resources have you found helpful in your transition from another city?
Charlotte Smarty Pants has been my #1 resource. Moving to a new area with twin 2-year-olds, CSP provided all the information I needed from finding the right pediatrician to best place to get their haircut. It was (and still is) my one stop shop. I am a BIG fan!
What tips do you have for others first moving here?
1.) Utilize Social Media and contact everyone you know that has lived or lives in Charlotte.
2.) Hit the streets and start exploring.
What is your favorite preschool activity in the QC?
The twins and I love to be outside. One of our favorite places to go is Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden. They have a great children’s area called Lost Hollow. The twins love running around the trails and exploring. It’s a magical experience!!!
How did you find your preschool – what tips do you have in making the right selection for your kids?
I strongly believe it is about research and instinct. I started by asking everybody what preschool their kids went to.. or go to.. Then, I scouted out the location. Was it close it my house? What was the drop off like? Was the playground close to the street? Did the facility look clean? Thirdly, I decided which friends had the closest parenting style to me. From that point, I made my list and set up times to visit each school.
In my case, the first one I visited (St. John’s Episcopal, I knew it was the place for Jack & Christopher. I can’t really describe it…it just felt like home. It was small and intimate. All the kids were happy. The walls were filled with art that wasn’t perfect…but perfect to the little hands that created it. These were all things that were important to me as a teacher. It shows the school is about the process not the product. As a mother, I knew once I met the Director (Ms. Jenny) and the teachers, my children would be safe and loved.
Best babysitter resource?
Friends & Neighbors have been an A+mazing resource.
What is your favorite thing to do with your family in the fall?
Fall is my favorite season of the year. We love, love, love making a trip to Sky Top Apple Orchard. The backdrop of the mountains, the crisp air, the yummy donuts and all the apples. It makes for the perfect outing. We went 3 times last year. It helps that apples are the twins favorite snack — so we load up!!
What is the last meal you cooked?
I’m embarrassed to say that unless it is a grilled cheese, I haven’t cooked since we have gotten home from our summer vacation in Maine (It’s only been two weeks. It’s been hectic around here). In Maine, however, I attempted to make my first Lobster Roll. Here goes: the recipe is from Food Network.
2 lemons, halved
3 1/4 to 1 1/2 lbs of Lobster
1/3 cup mayonnaise
7 tablespoons of unsalted butter, melted
6 top split hot dog buns
1/4 cup roughly chopped celery leaves
1/4 celery salt
Directions: Fill a large steamer or pot with about 2 inches of water. Squeeze the juice of 1 lemon of water, then add the lemon halves and 1 teaspoon sea salt to the pot. Bring to a boil over medium heat.
Cover and steam until shells turn bright red, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from pot, rinse under cool water. Wait until the lobsters are cool to touch and start removing the meat. Roughly chop the lobster meat. Transfer to a bowl & chill for 15 minutes.
In another bowl, whisk the mayonnaise. 4 tablespoons of melted butter and voice the remaining lemon in a large bowl. Add the lobster meat and toss to coat. Season with salt.
Toast or grill your hot dog buns. Divide lobster among the hot dog buns. Drizzle the remaining butter and sprinkle with celery leaves.
Voila, you are done!
What’s your go-to when you don’t feel like cooking?
My go-to(s) when I don’t feel like cooking (which seems to be more lately than ever) is Portofino’s and Akropolis Cafe in the Arboretum Shopping Plaza. Akropolis Cafe has outdoor seating, amazing food and an amazing staff. Love, love, love eating there! The twins do not behave as well in Portofino’s – so we normally get take out.
My favorite app is Chatbooks. They are super easy, super affordable little photo books. Small enough to carry around in your purse. They are 60 pages and the photos come directly from your Instagram, Facebook, Google plus account and even the Camera roll on your phone. So there is no work involved (unless you want to make edits). It creates an adorable ongoing book series. It is the perfect gift for the grandparents. They will ship directly as soon as the book is complete. My parents love receiving the books. It is a little surprise in the mail. It also has made me a bit of an overgrammer on Instagram, so please excuse me if you are a follower on my account.
Best book you’ve ready lately?
My favorite all time book is a children’s book that I am currently reading to my twins. It is called The Tarantula in my purse and 172 other wild pets by Jean Craighead George. It is fun short stories about a family and their adventure with different animals. My twins love birds so I tend to focus on those stories more….
**I can’t wait to start diving in adult books again. So please, send me some recommendations…
What’s your favorite Netflix series?
My favorite Netflix series is House of Cards. In college, I worked at the SC State house for the Senators Holly Cork and Larry Richter. Then, I went on to intern for Senator Strom Thurmond in Washington, DC. I guess you can say that I have a thing for politics.
Who is your idol?
My idol…hmmmmm…. I would have to say my idols are my parents. I cannot say one without the other. They inspire me everyday to be a better person, a better mother, and a better wife. They are the most giving, kind people I know.
This one is easy. My celebrity crush is Patrick Dempsey. I mean come on, the face and the hair…..and bonus, he is an activist for finding a cure for cancer. I cried like a baby when he died on Grey’s Anatomy.
Behavioral trait you hope your children don’t inherit from you.
I’m afraid to say it’s too late. The twins have already shown my traits of stubborness and curiosity. It can get you in trouble, but also can be helpful.:)
My Guilty pleasure is from Kilwin’s Ice Cream Shop in Vero Beach, Florida. It is a sundae called the Almond Joyous. It is heavenly if you like coconut.
Please join me in welcoming Jenni Strazz to CSP!