Tuesday, January 31, 2012

the finish line

Today is the final day of LoHoRaBloPoMo, my month of daily blogging. What a month this has been, both for the blog and for me! I began sharing my blog for the first time to a wider audience than just close friends and family. Put simply, wow. I am humbled by all the attention the blog has received. A very heartfelt thank you for reading!

Combining the 23-day frugal living challenge with my daily blogging turned out to be a great idea because I had a continual source of inspiration when it didn't come from within. This led to some posts that garnered exponentially higher hits than I'm used to getting. As my aunt said, I may have just found my metier. Here are the top five posts in order of popularity...

Monday, January 30, 2012

raising a glass to simpler times

Today I'm beginning with an aside. Have you joined Bloglovin' yet? I held off joining because it was just one more social media gadget, I couldn't imagine getting yet another username and password, and I already organize the blogs I follow in Google Reader. I changed my mind yesterday because it occurred to me Bloglovin' might be a good way to find new blogs. And it is! If you're thinking of trying it out, you can follow my blog with Bloglovin. Now, onto the topic at hand...

If I've learned anything about myself during this frugal challenge, it's that I enjoy simplifying my life. Rather than feeling burdened by buying less, I feel more free than ever. Nate is feeling it too. In fact, we are so enjoying our new-found freedom that we're willingly cutting out any expense possible. I'm following up on the frugal challenge goals I started out with 23 days ago so you can see how far I've come.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

quarrel of miniscule proportion

Do you guys get frustrated when your gimpy, broken-leg husband, couch-ridden in the next room, shouts pearls of wisdom like "Just feed her already!" about your sick, whining baby--when you are already in the process of making her a scrambled egg and all he's doing is watching TV?


Me neither. Just checking.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

social media buttons: copy my code for your blog

Today I am sharing how you can make social media buttons (Facebook, Twitter, etc. like you see on the upper right corner of my blog) appear on your blog. Before I could do that, I first had to figure out how to put html code in my blog without it being interpreted as code. Here's where I went to figure that out.

Rather than tell you all the steps I went through to find these pieces of code and what I did to make sure they were in a line and spaced mostly equally, I am sharing the finished product. Be sure to replace my code (i.e. what you see highlighted in red.) with yours in the appropriate locations, or else you'll be sending people to my pages. Not so bad for me, but not so good for you either.

Friday, January 27, 2012

spinach manicotti warms my soul

TGIF!  Nate has the day off today; he's been working 65+ hour weeks, so he certainly deserves a "rest," if that's what you call spending the day with the munchkins. In honor of our jump-start on the weekend, I made my spinach manicotti last night. It's splendid dish for winter, hearty and savory and cheesy. I've been making it my own way for years, ever since the hubster and I began our courtship.

Ah, the days of yore. Circa 2003.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

you found me how?!

I got the idea to post about the crazy ways people find my blog via Word Nerd Speaks. This is my first installment, aside from the time I laughed about geese and Tim Geithner, of what I imagine will be a more frequent occurrence of the people who find my blog through strange and sometimes hilarious Google searches. The following are some of the #youfoundmehow searches from this month:

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

ducks running amok

We are dreadfully lazy over here. It's actually more like I am lazy, but I like the sound of "we" better. The hubs is potentially flying to 7 different locations in the next few months, 1 of them international, so I guess I should leave him out of it. Like I was saying, I am dreadfully lazy. Yesterday was foggy for me. Even though lil' C slept through the night, I felt like I had been at a rave until the wee hours, proving my insomniac mom is right that the second day after no-sleep is worse.

wordless Wednesday: any box will do

This is what happens when people stop being polite and start being real. Ha! Not really. It's just some funny places I found my kids recently... 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

tutorial: design your own blog buttons

A few days ago I would have never thought I'd be sharing my tips on designing anything using a computer. I'm not the most tech-savvy person. If I can do it, so can you! I'm even new to using the techie lingo; up to a few days ago I'd never even used the words banner, button, or badge in this context.

Monday, January 23, 2012

croup, there it is (aka. why I didn't sleep last night)

Yesterday evening I did some yoga in the office while hubs watched the semis or the playoffs or whatever that round of NFL games was called. It was peaceful and uneventful, my kind of evening, and I went to bed early with a book and was asleep by 10pm. I should have known never to trust a calm evening, and sure enough, by midnight the storm was brewing.

Charlotte's coughing startled me out of sleep because of how pathetically weak it sounded. It was as though she was trying to cough with a ball in her mouth. I was so worried that she had something stuck in there, but since there was nothing in her crib but pacifiers, and since she had been sleeping soundly since 6:30pm, it seemed unrealistic. I bounded into her room, and she seemed upset but had a healthy pink face and no fever. Horrible, barking cough continued. Unsure of what to do, I went for the old standby of children's ibuprofen and running upstairs with her to wake Nate up.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

for whom the snow tolls...

Beantown has been all aflutter for the last month. You see, we haven't gotten much snow yet. There was some aggravating snow back in October when the leaf-and-snow-laden trees cracked under the weight and caused lots of damage, but we hadn't had the winter wonderland, fluffy, puffy, flitty, giddy, perfect snow. Until yesterday.

Saturday is the absolute best day for it to snow. It started snowing Friday night, which is even better, now that I think about it, because you wake up with snow already on the ground. Coming from my childhood in the ATL, I still get excited when I see snow out the window. It hovered at 15 deg F all morning, so it was the beautiful, tiny, sticks-to-nothing snow us southerners ain't never seen a'fore. Well, Nate and I did experience it in Wisconsin, but that fact ruins my hackneyed, deep-fried joke.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

do wacka do

"At my age, you think you've seen it all. Then boom! Somethin' else happens." 
-Burt, Raising Hope

Remember how we got rid of cable last week? Yeah, well apparently that doesn't mean we stop watching TV. That 9-10pm hour draws me to the couch like an undertow, and most nights I'm too brain-dead to read my shiny stack of library books. Instead, we've discovered a new show to stream on Netflix, marathon-style: Raising Hope! It took us so long to get on board, despite the literally dozens of friends who told us we should. In case you're also one of those people who can only add so many TV shows to the repertoire at once, let me just say that this one should move up a few notches on your stand-by list.

Friday, January 20, 2012

it takes a metaphorical, sometimes virtual village

Nate is having a long work week, during which he is still in Boston but pretending to be in San Francisco where the rest of his team is working on The Big Project. Cali time means late nights at the office. I can go a couple of days without his husbandly companionship and parental assistance, but usually by day four I am officially unraveling. Last night I was having one of those moments in parenting that we all try not to talk about, where all I want to do is work on my night cheese, and meanwhile I have a child who is insisting on playing the matching game--or infinitely worse, "princesses."

What is a mother to do in such a scenario? Parenting books offer the occasional good idea. Back when she was just turning three, we had a "will you play with me?" terrorist living with us, and we learned to enact 'special play time with Mommy/Daddy.' Fortunately now she plays for much of the day with Charlotte or off in her own little world of make believe. But there are moments, particularly the after-dinner, dark-outside, Charlotte-asleep time of day, in which you're just too tired to play but can't stomach the thought of turning on the TV/electronic babysitter. I find that books aren't good at offering solutions for this time of day.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

a doula for youla

Hey there, creative readers! I could use your help. My plan to become a doula is moving full steam ahead, and the more I learn about the field, the more excited I become. The women in this profession are about as calm and empathic as it gets, so I feel more relaxed about paving a new career path than ever before, thanks in large part to their guidance.

Becoming a doula will be the easy part for me. The trouble is I do not have the entrepreneurial spirit. I'm an idea girl, to be sure, but somewhere along the way I tend to lose steam from the obstacles I encounter, and I haven't figured out how to mount the hurtles. I wish I had it in me to take great risks, but as I often say about myself, at the end of the day I'm a paycheck gal.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

just say no

Find out more about SOPA/PIPA by reading this page. Then contact your members of Congress. Oh, and don't forget to check out the always hilarious The Oatmeal's take on SOPA.

wordless Wednesday: death by monkeys

Here are recent places I have found monkeys (of the barrel o'). If my family disappears, please alert the authorities to the following potential suspects...

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

colcannon: Irish potatoes

I have moved to the part of a diet where you begin fantasizing about certain kinds of food. For me, those foods are specifically anything white or sweet, since that's what I'm avoiding. Last night we were skyping with friends, and one of them made a reference to "bread and butter" in a completely non-food related manner, and I flipped out at the thought of eating my mom's fluffy bread and butter. A little self-control now will make the food taste better later, or so I keep telling myself.

Monday, January 16, 2012

a post about compost

I have always wanted a compost bin, but apartment living or having young babies (i.e. good excuses) have stopped me in the past. Last year I finally got my compost bin; our progressive town offers them at a steep discount, along with rain barrels, which I have yet to buy. This is my bin:

Sunday, January 15, 2012

the busy and the tired

"There are only the pursued, the pursuing, the busy, and the tired." -Nick Carraway, The Great Gatsby

We are a house full of injuries this weekend. On Friday during a play-date, Charlie slipped and bumped into the corner of the banister just above her eye, so she got a shiner and a split cut. Luckily, no need for stitches. Then even worse, Nate was playing football yesterday and broke his leg in an accidental spill with another player. So that line from The Great Gatsby about sums up how I'm feeling today.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

the caterpillar non-diet

I am not a fan of diets. Starting a post this way reminds me of the time I was a tween (before we were called such), and the girls were gabbing away while changing into swimsuits in our cabin at summer camp. They were all chatting about how fat they were--oh how sad, looking back!--and I chimed in, "Oh I know. I'm sooo fat." I resembled a walking stick bug at the time, only more bow-legged. Even my hair was skinny. One of the other girls gave me a withering glance and taunted, "YOU are NOT fat," then spun on her heel and continued to moan about how fat she was. I had never felt less a part of the in-crowd.

Fast forward to the present day, and I am still mostly excluded from diet talk, only now it is by design. My "diet" is a consistent path I have continued--since as a child in my mother's home--of eating whole, real food, local when possible (okay, the local thing is recent), and little to no junk or fast food. I pride myself on not needing cleanses or other fads to get back on the wagon.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Annie's orange buttermilk cake

When I was growing up, there were legendary stories about my great grandparents. Cubby and Grandma, as they were known to most of us, raised eight children through the Great Depression and lived to be 98 and 92 years old respectively, outliving four of their eight children. Can you imagine? Cubby passed on when I was seven years old, so I have a few cherished memories of my days spent in Miami with him, throwing a ball for the dog in the yard or guessing in which hand a dollar, soon to be a gift for me, was hidden.

When someone would cut up a cantaloupe, he'd say "Your mother said we had to get married," and pause long enough for family to think he was about to reveal a shocking secret before then saying, "because she said we CANT-ELOPE." He was always saying amusing things like that.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Babci's bread: cultivating the need to knead

As part of the frugal living challenge, I decided to bake my own bread. My mom has been baking bread since before I was born; to this day, I am consumed with gushy childhood memories at the smell of bread baking. I can't say why I have never attempted my own bread, or even helped her out enough to know the recipe by now, especially considering how much I love to cook. I suppose it has to do with my general disdain for the fussiness and measuring of baking. I love to smell and taste as I'm cooking--a pinch of this and a smattering of that--so baking has never appealed to me beyond easily-mixed, fool-proof recipes like breakfast cookies.

In the beginning, even buying flour and getting out the proper bowl were tough for me, having never done it before. Luckily, I stumbled upon this quick Bread 911 page from the Washington Post, which I discovered when googling whether I could use my biggest metal bowl (answer: no metal bowls! Glass, ceramic, and plastic are all okay).

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

blessed are the cheesemakers

A blogger friend wrote a comment a few days ago reminding me of a scene from Monty Python's Life of Brian--love that movie! Watching it again got me thinking about religion and humor. The movie was apparently controversial on its release; it was made the year I was born so I wouldn't know, but so I've heard. Getting up in arms about religious satire is a strange phenomenon. From my perspective, it seems only natural to poke fun at your own faith, just as you would any other area of life, or other faiths for that matter (remember a certain Danish cartoon, anyone?).

It's been necessary for me to hone this point-of-view lately, since Vivi has started making jokes about everything in her life, including her spirituality. The jokes aren't very good; most of them only she gets, but she laughs hysterically every time. I find myself unsure about whether to let her make the ones about God and Jesus (see: Cheez-its), but as I said, it seems to me a little levity couldn't hurt. Here's another recent example of a Vivi joke:

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

coming to a freezer near you...

We freeze food, water bottles, and ice.
Day five of the frugal challenge is about saving on groceries. Although I already posted about how to shop frugally without coupons last week, I did not mention a key player in our grocery savings: the chest freezer. While I lived without one for 14 years, I don't know what I would do without it now.

Why buy a chest freezer? For us, the answer is simple; we wouldn't be able to participate in a meat CSA as we are now. We are also considering purchasing a quarter of a cow to get more bones for stock and grass-fed ground beef, our tots' favorite. While your meat situation may be different, if you are frugal like me, the freezer will provide you many other rewards.

I admit that freezing is not the most environmentally friendly way to store food, but when you consider that we make food from scratch (thereby reducing our package waste and cost of travel) and support a local farm to raise sustainable, humane livestock, I hope it more than evens out our carbon footprint.

Monday, January 09, 2012

hair club for mamas

Have I told you about my hair? Probably not; I try not to talk much about it. However, I am buoyed by other ladies with more eloquent, confident writing than my own (read: Suburban Matron's discussions of her own post-chemotherapy hair loss), and so I've decided to let you in. I have rarely found anyone discussing the topic of female hair loss on the web, so perhaps I can be helpful.

My hair is falling out, like, a LOT. I don't have cancer or anything, so not to worry. It's happened before, although both of the previous times took place from exactly three to six months after giving birth, when there are several potential reasons for the loss of hair. In fact, even excessive postpartum hair loss is a normal condition, for 40-50% of women, called Telogen effluvium. The great news is that the hair grows back.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

adios, Comcast

Image Credit: allconnect.com

[N.B.: In the process of cutting cable, I had to learn about digital antennas and a bunch of stuff I would have liked to have been told in one place but wasn't, so if you're going to cut your cable too, I'm here to help you out! See update at the bottom]

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We're pulling the plug tomorrow. On cable, that is. We actually don't even have Comcast right now, we have Verizon FIOS, but I've always really wanted to stick it to Comcast, so I'm just going to pretend they're our provider.

You may be wondering why we are getting rid of cable. Amazingly, I don't have to write the reasons, as I was handed the perfect online article in my lap yesterday evening by my aunt. Timing is everything, and apparently I have my finger on the pulse of the winds of change, since just yesterday the Wall Street Journal posted an article titled Cutting the Cord on Cable. It's cleverly written, short, and even includes some ideas for going cable-free at the end.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

top 10 frugal challenge goals

Having a good weekend? Ours is once again blissfully unfilled, except for church, the gym, and a few odds and ends. Today we spent many hours outdoors at our local park enjoying the unseasonal warmth. Vivi met and became fast friends with a little boy while we happily chatted with some neighbors we've never met and one who I haven't seen in a while due to her giving birth very recently. Oh boy do I love new babies! They make everything okay, you know? That is, when you only have to spend an hour with them.

a Beekman cooking challenge

Last night I made a second recipe from my new favorite cookbook:

The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Cookbook: Heirloom fruits and vegetables, and more than 100 heritage recipes to inspire every generationThe Beekman 1802 Heirloom Cookbook: Heirloom fruits and vegetables, and more than 100 heritage recipes to inspire every generation by Brent Ridge
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love that this book is divided by season. I also love that it only has 100+ recipes in it. I never feel overwhelmed when flipping through it, and I always come away thinking of the many recipes I am looking forward to making. These heritage recipes are not only simple, but they use real, healthy ingredients; you won't find corn syrup or other modern industrial ingredients. The color pictures are beautiful, and they've even included some recipe cards for you to write your own family's heirloom recipes.

I've decided, as an homage to Julie and Julia, I am going to challenge myself to make all of these recipes in the next year. No, I don't have my sights set on a book or a movie directed by the talented Nora Ephron at the end of this rainbow. I just really love this cookbook and don't want to forget about its existence, as I often do of such books. Thus, the project.

Friday, January 06, 2012

frugal & healthful grocery shopping...without coupons

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Over the past year, I tried couponing. I occasionally watched that TLC show "Extreme Couponing," and I followed the coupon gurus Coupon Mom and Krazy Coupon Lady (even though I make it a point to keep my distance from people who spell crazy with a capital "K"). I dutifully kept my coupons organized in an accordion binder and bought a Sunday newspaper every week, telling myself I must be saving more than the $14 cost of the monthly subscription. Today, rather than sharing a step-by-step guide for how you too can become a couponer, I'm here to tell you why I stopped.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

living frugally in an official capacity

I talk often--maybe too much?--about how I try to live as frugally and sustainably as possible. Frugal living is important to me both because of our OITK household ("One Income Two Kids," my own adaptation of DINK, but something tells me it might not catch on) and because, well, I was raised that way. I can think of so many examples from my childhood from which to pull. Let's see, there's...
  • The oft-repeated story of my grandmother standing up at my dad's wedding rehearsal dinner to announce "I LOVE a bargain!," apropos to nothing [might be a good post for another day] 
  • The other oft-repeated [spoiler: gross!] story of my great grandmother sopping up the remnants of a ketchup bottle with her bread and coffee at the breakfast table 
  • Or, how about the fact that my dad polishes furniture with his old whitey-tighties!

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

maintaining my morning-time sanity

I hope you are warmer than me on this wicked-cold Wednesday. Last night our weather man reported that, with wind chill, it felt like minus 6 degF, and boy did it ever. This morning it was even only in the 20's all the way down at my in-laws' home in Florida! Brrrr. I am managing okay, although I would like to invest in a nose-warmer.

Ever since I started thinking of finding a job later this year, my mind keeps wandering back to the horrid thought of what our household would be like with both of us working. I am fairly sure the organization level of our refrigerator would drop a few pegs, as would our level of clean laundry and, let's be honest, our sanity. Nate and I keep looking at each other and saying "how do people do it?!"

(almost) wordless Wednesday: single digits

See number at the very bottom for how many degrees it was outside my house this morning (hint: it is one more than the number of fingers on a hand)...

Once again, I joined the link party at 5 Minutes for Mom. Stay tuned for a "wordy Wednesday" post later today with my adventures in breakfast-making.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

packing up our baby cheez-its, and other January activities

Note: Are you just looking for the recipe? It's hiding at the bottom. Sneaky me.

Have you put away your Christmas stuff yet? It probably goes without saying that I dislike this part of the holidays, but I'm saying it anyway. I miss the cheery atmosphere around the house once I put away all the jingly bells and little crocheted reindeer. But all good things must come to an end, or something like that.

So today I'm boxing it all up, in the midst of a repair guy who's here to "tune up" our big oil tank in the basement, whatever that means, and another guy who collected our donations to the Vietnam Veterans of America, my own sort-of belated Boxing Day celebration. I wish our country would get on board with this holiday! I love to give a big send-off to the old stuff we no longer need. Thank goodness for wonderful organizations that will come to your doorstep to take it off your hands.

Monday, January 02, 2012

how'd ya like to hang a stocking on a great big coconut tree?

We had a great holiday in Florida! It was my first year to celebrate Christmas without my mom and my family, so I was a bit sad at first. However, I must admit I couldn't have chosen a more agreeable place for my in-laws to live than Florida at this time of year. I'm sure I won't be singing the same tune if we ever visit in the summer, when we'll likely be fending off mosquitos the size of sparrows and collecting Nate and Vivi's sweat in a 10-gallon bucket.

The girls had a blast from the very beginning. You could say we had them at "pool." I have a hunch Charlotte is going to be a fish in the water as she gets older, just based on the fact that she tries to run straight into the pool any chance she gets.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

tending my livestock

"Everybody's coming back to take stock of their lives. You know what I say? Leave your livestock alone." -Minnie Driver, Gross Pointe Blank

What's on your New Year's Day agenda? Are you cleaning? Shopping? Enjoying the outdoors? Taking stock of your life in 2011?


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