Friday, August 31, 2012


"Whatcha doin'?"

That is what my little two-year-old munchkin said to the cat, while holding a tiny button in one hand and a butterfly hair clip in the other. After I died of the cuteness, I was left wondering what I often wonder these days: Where is my baby? They just refuse to stop growing up, don't they?

Happy Birthday Charlie! You are a blessing to us each and every day, and we are all happy to share our little family with you.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

{guest post}: four ideas for vocabulary-building projects and games

I am thrilled to have a guest post today by a talented language educator. The hubster and I both love language--vocabulary, foreign languages, etymology, you name it--and it is important to us that our children study language arts. Because we firmly believe language teaching begins at home, I've been looking for creative ways to add vocabulary-building to our daily activities. Enter Lily and her fabulous post! Be sure to read to the bottom so you can see her bio and website.

p.s. I must add that the "dictionary game" Lily describes below (known to some as Balderdash) is our favorite adult game at my mom's famous Christmas Eve party. The rivalry and ribbing are second to none, so only serious competitors need apply. 


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

paying it forward with baby gear

When I was pregnant for the first time, I had a few showers given by friends and family, and they were a great way to celebrate my peanut and to get some of the gear I needed. Even more helpful, and completely unexpected, were the gifts from moms of hand-me-down clothes and toys. I received several large boxes over the years, and I would guess they saved us easily $1,000 and gave us the nice feeling you get from reusing instead of buying new.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

mise en place: simple productivity ideas

Welcome to the August 2012 Simplicity Parenting Carnival: Productivity
This post was written as part of the monthly Simplicity Parenting Carnival hosted by The Lone Home Ranger and S.A.H.M. i AM. This month we are discussing how we balance simplicity and productivity, i.e. remain productive while also maintaining a slower pace of life. Be sure to read to the end to see a list of the rest of the excellent carnival contributors.

Image Credit: Ranger Mike Designs

I can't remember when I first heard of the term "mise en place;" maybe it was Julia Child, or perhaps it was Top Chef. What I can recall is that my brain automatically flagged it as a great concept not just for cooking but for many parts of my life. French for "putting in place," it's the gathering of ingredients prior to starting to cook. Preparing ingredients and equipment ahead of time is a brilliant time-saver in the kitchen. Plus it makes you feel like a celebrity chef and culinary genius, even if what you happen to be making is a simple as pesto. So could it be a metaphor for life? Could life itself be a dish that is best created when elements are designed, pondered, and crafted ahead?

Extending the notion of pre-assembling to the rest of my world took no less than a paradigm shift, the basic assumption moving from "I don't have time to plan anything ahead; I must wait until I have some time and decide what to do then" to "I don't need to do an entire project at once. I can start it and come back later." Giving myself permission to stop mid-project and switch to another task has been the kick in the pants my organized self wanted.

When I talk of preparing ahead, I'm not necessarily referring to the organizing of stuff. I probably brag too much, in fact, about my knack for organization. It's more like a thoughtfulness for the tasks ahead and a orchestration of the tasks into an efficient and productive order. I've never been great at time management, but I've been pondering some changes I could make ever since Barb's guest post on work flow a while back.

Modern technology aids me in my task of planning ahead. For example, I use Todoist to begin my day-mapping; it lets me easily add items to lists, color-code them, and switch tasks to other projects. I put the washing machine on automatic time-delay to run in the early morning hours. That way, I take the fresh laundry out of the wash when I wake in the morning rather than letting it sit there for hours and risk molding. Similarly, I set the dishwasher ahead to run after we have showered in the evening so it doesn't use up our hot water.

I set out the non-refrigerated breakfast items ahead in the evening, like bowls/spoons and cereal or oatmeal, and then get up a few minutes before the kids and pull the laundry out of the wash, start breakfast, and get the mid-morning snacks set up. While my kids have nap time and "room time" (when Vivi plays quietly for an hour), I get their afternoon activities set up; if we're going to the local beach, I prepare the bags and set up a crock-pot meal, and if we're staying home, I get paint or other art projects ready.

I apply mise en place for my meal components as well, and I plan out what I'll be preparing on any given day, from cooking meatballs to incubating yogurt to chopping carrot sticks or grating squash to freeze for future recipes. In the evening, when I'm not doing yoga or knitting while I watch TV, I use my down-time to apply mise en place to the blog, organizing and planning topics on certain dates.

My last change sounds like an easy one, but for some reason it wasn't for me: I always always wash dishes as I use them. This is a rule my dad has been following for as long as I can remember, but I just couldn't make myself do it until I forced myself to consider it a RULE. I now absolutely do not leave the kitchen until they are done. For moments that the kids need my attention while I'm cleaning, I keep special toys in a cupboard that they don't see often; you'd be surprised how long they will play with a few plastic army men and matchbox cars if you keep them hidden most of the time. Speaking of dishes, when I'm waiting on the faucet water to get hot, I fill up my watering can. It saves both water and time later when I'm ready to water my herbs.

Most of all, remember: if it's not fun, it's not sustainable. Make yourself view these preparations as a positive part of your day; do whatever it takes to make your brain see it this way. Reward yourself for a productive job well done! Play happy music and postpone the chocolate and "Facebooking" until you've completed your prep work.

Do you have secrets to making your day more productive? I'd love to hear them.

All the links on the list below will be live and updated by 3pm E.T. today! 

Thanks for reading the Simplicity Parenting Blog Carnival! We hope you’ll take time to read these other great contributors’ posts: SimParCarButton150x150
Thanks to all the fabulous writers and readers for being a part of our simplicity parenting community! Stop by The Lone Home Ranger and S.A.H.M. i AM to see how to join us for a future carnival.

Editor's note: This post is part of Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways and Your Green Resource.

Monday, August 27, 2012

the architect of my home

I have long been intrigued by the concept of simplicity as it relates to a life well lived. Back in March, I began my quest to simplify my parenting style. I wrote my Jerry McGuire-esque minimalist manifesto. I read a great book about simplicity parenting and started a simplicity parenting blog carnival {the next post of which will take place tomorrow and will discuss productivity, a topic related to today's post too}. One of the enduring quirks of making our lives simpler has been that simple does not always mean easy; in fact, simplifying is frequently quite the opposite of easy.

While the process may be difficult and ongoing, the results are worth the effort. I find it especially helpful to imagine myself as the architect of our home, designing and overseeing activities, project construction, and the rhythm of our days. Organizing our belongings falls under my purview as well, and although I find the occasional purge of stuff to be cathartic and highly enjoyable, I am also incredulous at the sheer volume of items we continue to accumulate despite my best attempts.

One idea from the Simplicity Parenting book has stuck with me is that there are four main areas (referred to as the "pillars of too much") in life that we must actively work against if we are to be content and raise content children:

  1. Too Much Stuff
  2. Too Many Choices
  3. Too Much Information
  4. Too Fast

According to the author, my role as architect is to add space and grace and remove speed, clutter, distractions, and choices. And so today, I am getting ready for yet another children's consignment sale, at which I will both sell what we don't need, use, or find beautiful and search for a minimal amount of new items to give to my ever-growing, ever-changing brood.

The purgatorial pile of purged apparel.

Friday, August 24, 2012

unleash your kid's inner the mall!

This month, select GapKids stores across the country will host "Shine On Saturday" events. Click here to read more!

Vivi draws and paints whenever, wherever I will let her. The girl is an artist.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

"kidyasa" yoga: an any-time mommy exercise

No matter what I am doing for work, no matter where I live or how many offspring I am raising, there is one universal constant in my life, and here it is: Just about the most difficult thing I ever do is force myself to exercise on days I don't feel like it. Maybe I want an afternoon cocktail on a day I was planning an evening run. Maybe one of my kids is cranky and doesn't want to go to the gym. Maybe my knee is acting up again. Maybe I am hungry and tired and have too many loads of laundry waiting for me to fold.

I may lack energy, but one thing I never tire of is excuses.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

guest post at {donuts, dresses, & dirt}: tea tutorials

The beginnings of powdered chai mix.

I hope you'll go check out my guest post on Sheri's fabulous blog today! I shared two tutorials: sweet iced tea for hot weather and chai for cold weather. Sheri has done me the wonderful favor of guest posting on this blog twice, on the topics of wardrobing 101 and recession-era gardening. I highly recommend adding her blog to your reader. Living a self-described "well-tended life," Sheri's taste is impeccable, and I always come away from her blog with a way to improve my life-tending. She asked me to write on a subject she doesn't know much about, and since I usually can be found drinking tea while I read her blog, I thought it the perfect subject about which to write.

I am a loyal tea drinker. Summer or winter, cold or hot, I can on most days be found with a cuppa nearby. After you've read my guest post, and if you're interested in reading even more about tea, I've got a few other interesting links to share with you. The Splendid Table had a great interview this spring with a tea expert discussing the five types of tea, including and focusing on one I hadn't previously heard of called "dark tea." It's worth a listen.

In addition to the teas I wrote about on Sheri's blog, I have to say one of my favorites is rooibos from South Africa. Have you had it? It's mild and naturally caffeine-free, and I find it's good just about every way I've tried. What's your favorite kind of tea?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

at least the house is clean: {vacay recap & recovery}

We just returned from a trip to see the grandparents and Aunt Katie in sunny Florida. It was a great vacation! The upside of returning was that we went from 90's to 70's in just a few hours. The downside is of course leaving the fam. Vivi has been distraught ever since we left. She lives life with such an admirable energy and thrill of every moment. Here's where she could be found 99% of the time we were there:

Friday, August 17, 2012

learning about life and death through chickens: {guest post}

I'm thrilled to have a guest post today from Kassandra. Her ability to change what could have potentially been a disastrous experience with her family into a positive one is an inspiring story. I only hope I can be half as insightful about my own family moments. Be sure to read through to the bottom so you can see her bio and her discount offer to Ranger readers!

At 6am on a Tuesday morning, I went outside to answer the call of nature and saw that nature had called in a totally unexpected way during the night. Our backyard was suspiciously silent, and as I peeked around the corner I noticed a chilling sight. The night before there had been 10 lively three week-old chicks. Now, five half-eaten chicken filets, and two whole dead chicks lay on the ground. We never found any trace of the others.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Auntie M's toddler chili

There are some people in this world who know how to look after a crowd. My Aunt Marcia IS that person. Growing up, I specifically remember standing in her kitchen watching every move she made so that I could absorb it and with hope be able to replicate this talent some day. Her remarkable expertise extends to a near-magic ability to find space for hangers-on that inevitably show up at her door.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

thoughts on "natural" skin care & the oil cleansing method

I'll get to the tips in a moment, but first I have to tell you what led me to ponder this subject in the first place, when it's so out of my typical element. Stick with me--we're going somewhere. During my girly weekend, I happened upon the Bobbi Brown makeup counter in a Lord & Taylor department store. How I wound up there is in itself a small novel.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

market tip: get to know your farmers

Welcome to the August 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Farmer's Markets
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have written about something new they've learned about their local farmers.
gleaners after the market
Image Credit: from a local article about "gleaning"
Have you ever looked into where your food comes from? Have you spoken to a farmer who cultivated one part of your meal today? These are questions I couldn't have answered well just a few short years ago. We began our intentional food journey by joining a vegetable CSA when we lived in Virginia. It was gratifying to know we were helping to support a farm, and we would run home with giddy excitement on CSA day to find a crate of veggies on our porch.

When we moved to Massachusetts, we weren't satisfied by simply having the food dropped off on our step. We wanted to know our farmers, by name if possible, and know the ins and outs of the farm itself. We choose to buy the bulk of our fresh meat and produce straight from two local farms so that we know the farmers and their process and support them both.

In summer time, we pick up the remainder of our fresh food at our farmer's market. Prior to this month, I couldn't tell you anything about those farms apart from the name and spot in the parking lot where they were each located. I could tell you which one had my favorite bread but not what ingredients the farmer used to bake it.

Monday, August 13, 2012

on dream houses, the word of the day, and other haps

Tell me, friends, do you spend time planning your dream house? If so, do you plan what you will adorn the walls with or do you focus on building your own home some day?

I focus on the former, but truthfully it's more like I obsess over one or two minute details, like that I will have a gallery wall or a map room some day. We are still renting a home, so those dreams have to stay just that for the time being. But whenever I am feeling blue about not being able to jazz up my current dwelling, I turn to Pinterest and pin to my heart's desire.

Here are some of my favorites lately (and you can see the whole board here). Do tell me what your dream home will include.

Gallery wall of black and white photos. {Swoon}

                                   Source: via Lone Home Ranger on Pinterest

Sunday, August 12, 2012

the end of an era

Something you might not know about me is: I don't cry. I just don't. It's an event so rare that when I do cry in front of the hubster, he stops what he is doing and holds me and says "Whatever happened, if it's something I did, I was wrong. Are you okay?"

So I guess that's what you'd call a perk about not crying often. I've often been called even-keel, which I mostly think of as a compliment. But one of the downsides of being emotionally steady is that sometimes my emotions are too far under the surface for me to notice, and they bubble up when I least expect. Before I know it, I am bursting into tears while standing in an aisle at CVS trying to decide which hair clips will be best for Vivi at school this fall.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

top 10 favorite breakfasts

cupcakes and cashmere
Image Credit: Cupcakes and Cashmere

Yesterday morning as I struggled to get everyone ready and out the door to get to my 9am spinning class, I realized I'm staring at many mornings to come. Once Vivi begins 9am, 5-day/week pre-k in one month, we'll be doing the morning rush EVERY DAY. Oh boy. How did I not consider this fact until now?

Friday, August 10, 2012

sneaky Pete: {summer squash muffins}

I'm all about sneaking veggies into my kids' meals. Every morning of the summer, we all drink a green smoothie, which is more accurately a neon pink smoothie as I've been putting beets into it lately. Vivi is obsessed with pink and will do anything to have it near her, including ingest it when combined with no less than two kinds of leafy vegetable (spinach and/or beet greens too). Popeye would be proud. Score 1 Mommy.

Even easier than sneaking vegetables into a beverage is into a bread. After our successful carrot muffins, I thought we'd try summer squash. I came into a big score of it (for a buck!) at the "seconds" stand at my local farm. Have one of these? I get some great bargains there. Sometimes the item sits in my fridge for a few days while I figure out what to do with it, but it always gets used somehow. This time, I knew just what to do when life gave me banged up squash: make muffins.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

approaching two-ness

Image Credit: Sarah Pelham Photography

Charlie will be two years old at the end of the month. At this age, a magical moment happens where suddenly your child goes from one year old to two seemingly overnight. You realize your baby is nowhere to be found and has been replaced by a talkative, independent, but still comically potbellied person. You can normally find her toddling around in someone else's shoes, shouting things like "MINE!!," "I gonna do too!," or "shut da doh!" Everything is said with at least one exclamation point.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

call for August carnival submissions: {productivity}

SimParCar Button 2

If you feel like you're having deja vu, it's because you really have seen this post before back in July. Feeling challenged in the area of productivity, Emily and I decided to postpone this carnival a month so we could devote more thought and time to the task. We hope you will join us in our challenge to become more productive and write about your experience for our next carnival!

Monday, August 06, 2012

mother's day year-round {plus blueberry syrup}

It's a rare thing, but occasionally a weekend comes along that I am able to step out of my mom role for long enough, even if it's just a day, and just BE. Not be anyone's meal-maker or clothes-washer, but just read a book or maybe even be pampered for a change. Has this happened for you? Friends, let me tell you how wonderful it is.

When Nate got back from his long work trip, he had a brilliant idea. Why not use some of his points for a night in a hotel room, just for me to relax? I agreed, why not?! It was a great suggestion, and three months later I finally took him up on it. I invited my best local bud to come along. We had a fantastic time eating, shopping, and wandering Boston together.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

summer in your hand: basil rolls

basil rolls
Rolls are pictured with Trader Joe's shrimp gyoza
I have loved basil rolls ever since having them at my favorite Thai restaurant in Georgia many years ago, but I'd never attempted to replicate them until yesterday. The herbs and cucumber give the dish such a fantastic crisp and bright taste. I've eaten the Trader Joe's version a few times lately and decided I must be able to make them at home for cheaper than $4 a pop. Verdict? Delicious and refreshing! But a tad fussy, which is kind of what I was expecting.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

your neighbors are probably right {a garden update}

On July 1st, I surveyed my garden's progress after just returning from a long vacation. Some plants didn't fare well without being watered (hehem, poor strawberries), but luckily it rained a good bit while I was away so most plants looked good. My neighbor behind us saw me eating a cherry tomato (yay, tomatoes already! was what I was thinking) and said "Yawh gettin' one or two now, but you won't have enough for a salad until August." Pish posh, said I. I'll have tons of tomatoes before then.


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