Wednesday, July 18, 2018

No.155: New Habits, Little by Little: Cooking at Home (June 2018)


One year ago, I wrote these words: "I've had trouble in the kitchen for a long time.  Mark cooks amazing food because he loves the creative process.  I cook so we don't go to bed hungry.  That (lazy? burnt out?) attitude has never sat well with me, though, and I really want to change."

Last July, I committed to a year of renewed interest in cooking at home.  Having moved to an area where delivery was nonexistent and fast food was a 15-minute drive, my dinner crutches were all suddenly taken away.  Sink or swim, I was going to have to figure this out!  Fast forward to today and my attitude toward the kitchen has completely changed.  The lessons I've learned are too many to count, but the biggest one is this: sometimes you just have to step out in faith, knowing you're going to stumble, and work toward your goals anyway. 

Here's to another year of delicious meals.

_____________________________________

Week 48 (cont.):
Friday, June 1: homemade pizza

Week 49:
Saturday, June 2: cold cut sandwiches/lettuce wraps with fruit and chips
Sunday, June 3: moo shu pork in tortillas
Monday, June 4: leftover moo shu with rice
Tuesday, June 5: tuscan garlic chicken with salad
Wednesday, June 6: garlic parmesan chicken thighs and broccoli
Thursday, June 7: tacos
Friday, June 8: kielbasa veggie bake with rice

Week 50:
Saturday, June 9: brats and hotdogs on the grill, chips, chocolate covered strawberries
Sunday,  June 10: pizza
Monday, June 11: Refrigerator Clean-Out Night
Tuesday, June 12: grilled pork chops and pasta salad
Wednesday, June 13: grilled pork loin, rice and asparagus
Thursday, June 14: rotisserie-style chicken, Mark's panko macaroni and cheese, and salad
Friday, June 15: homemade pesto pizza using sourdough focaccia

Week 51:
Saturday, June 16: pulled pork sandwiches, then out for ice cream cones
Sunday, June 17: Father's Day! porterhouse steak for Mark, brats for the rest of us, bacon ranch potato salad
Monday, June 18: leftover pork nachos
Tuesday, June 19: cold cut sandwiches with chips
Wednesday, June 20: roasted chicken thighs, rice and asparagus with homemade sourdough bread
Thursday, June 21: tacos
Friday, June 22: pork fried rice using up a bunch of leftovers - the kids loved this!

Week 52:
Saturday, June 23: McDonald's after baby L's first birthday party
Sunday, June 24: one pan pesto chicken, tortellini and veggies (BIG hit)
Monday, June 25: roasted pork tenderloin with rice and broccoli
Tuesday, June 26: whole chicken with carrots, onions, and potatoes - the chicken was way too small this time and everyone was still hungry, so I supplemented with popcorn and waffles after
Wednesday, June 27: tomato soup with sourdough grilled cheese sandwiches
Thursday, June 28: one pot kielbasa pasta
Friday, June 29: homemade pizza

Week 53:
Saturday, June 30: chili dogs

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

No.154: What's New? // 10 Things I Need to Tell You

This post contains affiliate links.

Hey friends!  After a month of blogging (almost) everyday, I took a much-needed Internet break and it was so good.  July has been full of great things, though, and I'd be lying if I said it wasn't hard for me not to pop in and document it all.  If you lived nearby, I'd invite you over for coffee and sourdough bread so we could catch up!  In the meantime, here are ten things I have to tell you:

1 // I PAINTED MY FRONT AND SIDE DOORS AND AM HALFWAY THROUGH MY SHUTTERS.
We took advantage of Sherwin William's 40% off sale and bought one can of their exterior paint in Iron Ore.  I wasn't sure how far it would take me, but it's proven to be the can that keeps on giving!  So far, I've painted two doors and all of the shutters on the first floor of the house.  Next up is getting on the roof to assess the shutters on the second floor.  This both excites and terrifies me.

2 // WE COMPLETED OUR FIRST 100 HOURS OUTSIDE.
After cruising through the first 50 hours, we came to a screeching halt once spring allergies and rainy days arrived.  We've tried to pick up the pace this summer, but it really depends on the day: humid 90-something degree days are miserable!  In all, it took us 98 days to complete 100 hours.  Nothing to brag about, but it's a start. 

3 // WE HOSTED FOURTH OF JULY AT OUR HOUSE AGAIN THIS YEAR.
Mark took off the Monday and Tuesday before the Fourth as a little staycation and it was great!  We had guests over each day (Mark's friend, my brother and girlfriend, and my parents) and hung out and laughed and barbecued.  So nice to share our home with friends and family.   


4 // I'M GETTING "GAZELLE INTENSE" WITH DEBT REDUCTION.
In our twelve years of marriage, we've always had some sort of debt.  We've been chipping away, little by little, but new babies, new cars to fit all the babies, and real estate decisions have all been bumps on the road to financial freedom.  Now that we're in a relatively stable place, with (hopefully!) no big changes in the near future, Mark and I are ready to roll up our sleeves and really get to work!  We can see the light at the end of the tunnel.     

5 // MY POST-WEANING HORMONES ARE ALLLLL OUT OF WHACK.
Today marks exactly one month since I weaned P and what a month it's been.  My hormones have been crazy!  In desperation, I went on a Googling spree looking for answers, but it's really just an issue of giving it time to regulate.       

6 // I SPENT A LONG WEEKEND WITH MY COUSINS AND BRAND NEW BABY COUSIN.
My first trip without a child (in utero or out!) in my entire adult life!  It was so relaxing and went way too fast.  It was such an honor to help with my cousin's new baby boy; we spent our mornings together while his mama got some much-needed extra rest.  I've never really had the opportunity to cuddle babies that aren't my own and I kinda love it, hah!  I came home on Sunday feeling so refreshed and thankful.   


7 // I KILLED MY HOUSEPLANT AND MY HERBS.
I'm going to blame this on insufficient sunlight, but such a bummer!  I hope I don't have a black thumb.

8 // I'M FINALLY CAUGHT UP WITH MY POSTCARD PROJECT.
I paused the project in June while I was blogging everyday, but just finished the last handful of postcards today.  So if you signed up and haven't received one yet, check your mailboxes soon!

9 // ALL OF MY LIBRARY HOLDS CAME IN AT ONCE.
You know how I feel about this...all of my other books have been put on hold and I've been a reading machine trying to get through them all!  So far, I've read Educated: A Memoir and Killers of the Flower Moon and I'm currently on Gone Girl.

10 // HOMEMADE ICE CREAM IS SO GOOD.
We bought an ice cream maker last month, checking off a task on my 100 Little Things list.  I was hesitant that it would just be another appliance to store, but it's awesome!  We've made old-fashioned vanilla twice so far, but I'm anxious to try a frozen yogurt or sorbet next. 


Your turn!  How is your summer going?  What's new in your neck of the woods?

Saturday, June 30, 2018

No.153: What I Learned in June

Linking up late with Kelly's Quick Takes!

1 // TWO NEW PLANTS DISCOVERED IN THE YARD: RED CLOVER AND MOCK STRAWBERRIES.
Lately, I've been enjoying taking walks through the property and waiting to see what catches my eye.  This month, TJ and I found these little pinky purple flowers along the tree line, which we researched and found to be red clover.  We also found a few patches of mock strawberries, which was a bummer.  We were really hoping for the real thing!

2 // IGNATIAN SPIRITUALITY COMPLEMENTS MY PERSONALITY TYPE.
Kelly mentioned Meg's series in one of her blog posts and I was curious to see where I fell.  I am an ISFJ and according to Meg, Ignatian spirituality is the best fit for my personality.  From Meg:
Ignatian prayer is often summarized as an imaginative approach to prayer by which we put ourselves into the Gospel stories and allow the Spirit to speak. (I have an explanation here and some guided meditations here.) This style of prayer uses the senses to enhance the experience, imagining what the scene looked like, what the weather was like, how the marketplace smelled, etc. More than just being a way to meditate on the Gospels, though, Ignatian prayer finds itself rooted in all of salvation history. The liturgical year is Ignatian by nature, leading us through the life of Christ each year and encouraging us to enter into his experience. It’s hard to imagine anything more Ignatian than the Triduum, where we have our feet washed, wait up with the Lord, cry out the words of the crowd, kiss the Cross, and rise again on Easter.
Ignatian types will benefit from an organized prayer regimen, often finding great fruit in traditional types of prayer, particularly the Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours. Reading longer passages in Scripture and seeing how it all connects can also be very helpful for them. When reading Scripture, they should look first to the Gospels and the historical books (especially Exodus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, if you can believe it) as well as Acts, Isaiah, James, and the Psalms.
3 // WHEN IT RAINS, THE SEPTIC MAKES THE AIR SMELL LIKE ROTTEN EGGS.
We've had a string of rainy days here and one morning was particularly stinky.  Apparently, it is due to heavy air, which doesn't allow the methane gases to take off through the vent. Because of atmospheric pressure, it stays low to the ground and may smell like rotten eggs.  Good ol' country livin'.

4 // MY BABY TAKES AMAZING NAPS OUTSIDE.
He is 18 months now and fights a nap like none of my other kids ever have!  In an attempt to keep an ounce of sanity, I've resorted to pushing him up and down our driveway in the stroller.  He's out in five minutes and stays asleep for a long time.  I totally get why other countries swear by keeping napping babies in strollers outdoors now.

5 // I CHECKED OFF A TASK ON MY COUNTRY LIFE BUCKET LIST: REMOVING A TICK.
Mark found a tick on his leg and I had the privilege of carefully taking it out.  I had no idea what I was doing and was nervous, but it was a clean removal.  We then proceeded to Google everything there is to know about ticks (and scare ourselves silly).  A great reminder to be vigilant about our kids' daily "tick checks."

6 // SOCIAL SECURITY WILL BECOME INSOLVENT IN 2034.
Unfortunate news for GenXers or Millenials.  The news has been even more motivation for us to get our finances in order and save, save, save for retirement.

7 // WRITING EVERYDAY IS HARD, BUT SUCH A FUN CHALLENGE.
My final tally was 28 out of 30 days - I sort-of fizzled out at the end.  It's not perfect, but I'm proud of it anyway!  It was just the creative challenge I needed to start the summer.

Signing off for a bit!  Thanks for reading this month and see you soon. xo

Friday, June 29, 2018

No.152: My Latest Reads // June

This post contains affiliate links.


SIBLINGS WITHOUT RIVALRY: HOW TO HELP YOUR CHILDREN LIVE TOGETHER SO YOU CAN LIVE TOO by Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish
My Rating: ★★
The family is where we learn relationship skills.  And the way we relate to our children and teach them to relate to each other, even in the heat of battle, can be our permanent gift to them. (p.240)
Can you guess the issue we're tackling at our house lately, hah?  Siblings Without Rivalry was an easy read with approachable advice.  I zoomed through it in a matter of days and have added a few new tips to my parenting toolbelt.  Our results haven't been earth-shattering, but are definitely headed in the right direction.



A PIECE OF THE WORLD by Christina Baker Kline
My Rating: ★★ 
You can never escape the bonds of family history, no matter how far you travel. And the skeleton of a house can carry in its bones the marrow of all that came before. (4%)
I really knew nothing about this book going into it, other than the fact that the author also wrote Orphan Train.  A Piece of the World is a fictional memoir based on Andrew Wyeth's painting, Christina's World.  The story is gut-wrenching and sad, but beautiful too.  I was surprised how much I liked it - I found it hard to put down.



THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS by M.L. Stedman
My Rating: ★★
You only have to forgive once. To resent, you have to do it all day, every day.
Oh man.  This book is so hard!  I really struggled with the ethics of it all and my heart was pulled in all directions.  I couldn't stop thinking that the actions of adults can drastically change the lives of innocent children, both for good and for bad.  I know I'll be thinking about this one for awhile.



HOW TO RAISE A WILD CHILD: THE ART AND SCIENCE OF FALLING IN LOVE WITH NATURE by Scott D. Sampson
My Rating: ★★ 
In the end, raising a wild child is much more about seeding love than knowledge...Antoine de Saint-Exupery expressed this point beautifully: "If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea." 
Nature connection is the ship we're trying to build.  Our goal as mentors is not to share facts or assign tasks.  It is to be match-makers, to help children fall in love with nature so that they long to be immersed within it.  That emotional pull, if deeply entrenched, will nourish a lifelong sense of wonder and a desire to seek answers.  If you help to cultivate that longing, children will figure out the rest. (p.281)  
How to Raise a Wild Child was part of my "summer reading" and I kept notes on the blog throughout the month.  Equal parts educational and inspiring, I closed the book really feeling like I could mentor my children in this area, despite my deficiency!  Really, really good.   
 

THE YEAR OF LIVING DANISHLY: UNCOVERING THE SECRETS OF THE WORLD'S HAPPIEST COUNTRY by Helen Russell
My Rating: ★★
If living in Sticksville has taught me one thing, it’s that cutting down on choice can take some of the hassle out of modern life. Too many options for things to do, places to eat (ha!) or what to wear (hello London wardrobe) can feel like a burden rather than a benefit. Danes specialise in stress-free simplicity and freedom within boundaries. (99%)
I love a good year-long experiment book and this one on living Danishly seemed right up my alley.  Similar to Gretchen Rubin's books, it blended studies and facts with personal experience.  All in all, I would say the book was interesting, but I often found myself distracted and constantly putting it down.  That behavior tends to tell me that it wasn't great.  Good, but not great.


THE DRY by Jane Harper
My Rating: ★★
Death rarely changes how we feel about someone. Heightens it, more often than not. (61%)
Another book set in Australia!  The Dry is a page turner about a small town with big secrets.  The story kept me guessing and I didn't predict the end, which is huge!  (I'm getting pretty good at figuring out the plot early on in these types of books, hah!)  A good mystery - I liked it.



_____________________________

MY 2018 READING IN NUMBERS
Books Read: 39
Fiction: 23  // Non-Fiction: 16
Kindle Books: 21  // Paper Books: 18
Original 2018 books "to-read" total on Goodreads: 443 // Current "to-read" total: 433

Thursday, June 28, 2018

No.151: 2018 Goals & Projects: Mid-Year Review

It's been almost six months since I wrote my 2018 goals/project list, so I think I'm due for an update!


HOUSE TO HOME PROJECTS


✔ Find a special piece of artwork to add to the master bedroom.
I've had a limited-edition print from Caitlin Connolly on my wishlist for years.  I finally snagged it with Christmas money and I'm so glad I did - it was print #48/50!  I sent it to be matted and framed at Framebridge and was impressed with the entire process.  

✔ Buy a console table for the front hallway and decorate.
I have the console but am still working on the decorations.  For now, I've been pulling things I already own: a black and white photo of my grandmother as a child at the farmhouse, a few books, a milk glass jar that will eventually hold a plant, etc.  I'm also on the lookout for a lamp, but no luck yet.

✔ Work on the little boys room: paint their headboards, purchase one more mattress and decide on bedding.
Small progress: I bought the boxsprings and mattress in February and went with the same striped duvets from Ikea that the bigger boys have.  Now to paint their headboards navy!  I might experiment with chalk paint.

✔ Add one more rocking chair and a porch swing to the front.
We bought the rocking chair and are saving up for the porch swing.

✔ Have dead and fallen trees removed from our property.
Two guys came out with a bobcat and a chainsaw.  My kids watched from the window in awe!  We had one tree that had been ripped by the roots, but was dangling precariously on two other trees.  Watching them take down that tree (which, as we counted the rings afterward, looked to be over 30 years old!) was amazing!

✔ Build a 10-foot table for the back porch.
Our builder friend moved out of state, so we decided to just buy one with our tax return. I'ts not quite 10 feet long, but big enough to fit eight. We love it!

✔ Plan out and create front flower beds. (Possibly hire out?)
We contacted a local landscape architect and worked with her to create beds around the front of the house.  She also did a brick walkway that connects the driveway to the porch.  The result is fantastic and well worth the investment.

✔ Hang curtains in the dining room.
I had my favorite white linen ones from Ikea shipped to the house.  I love how it softens up the room.

Still on the list:
  • Paint the first floor. 
  • Paint Sophia's and the little boys' room.
  • Paint the shutters and the exterior doors. 
  • Strip and restain/seal the front porch.
  • Hire an electrician to replace the living room fan, front hallway light, dining room chandelier and outdoor lanterns.
  • Create a gallery wall of black and white family photos in the living room.
  • Paint the headboards in the little boys' room.
  • Add a porch swing to the front.

HEALTH AND FITNESS


✔ Pace myself. 
I certainly have room for improvement, but I'm proud of my work in this area so far.  When I'm feeling frazzled or overwhelmed, I know it's time to pull back and slow down.  This has taken the form of a week-long internet break or even just a semi-regular nap.  We're heading into July and I haven't felt burnt out yet - HUGE.

✔ Make major progress on the Amerithon Running Challenge.
I wouldn't say major progress yet (I was sidelined for three months due to my injury), but I've recently made it to another checkpoint, which is exciting.  My first since last November!  

✔ Drastically reduce my sugar intake. 
This goal has ebbed and flowed...I was 99% sugar-free in January, fell off the wagon a bit in February, went back to about 75% for Lent...and on and on.  It's a marathon, not a sprint, hah!

🗙 Run another half marathon and decide about running a full.
Due to the hip/groin injury I had in January, this goal has been postponed for now.

Still on the list:
Learn a few self-defense techniques.


FAMILY


✔ Learn new things directly from the source.
I've started an (almost!) monthly thrifting day with my mom - she has such a good eye and knows the best places to go!  She also taught me how to make strawberry freezer jam and helped me with my sourdough starter.

✔ Brainstorm new ways to spend time with my siblings. 
Small progress, but lots of room for improvement here: I've been texting more frequently just to say hello or share something funny.  My brother and I spent an afternoon completing a Finders Seekers subscription box, which was so fun.

✔ Start a savings account for traveling to see out-of-state relatives. 
I created the fund but haven't been specific about adding money to it.  Need to add that to our budget!  

✔ Create new memories with my husband and my kids. 
My first thought was that this goal was a big fail.  We haven't traveled anywhere exciting or done anything really big and new.  But on further reflection, we've made a ton of memories so far this year: reading together by the fireplace, snow days, science experiments, being without power for three days, baking all the things, watching baby birds hatch, playing baseball in the front yard, water gun battles, even making homemade ice cream!  It's a simple life, but it's still so good.

A HODGE-PODGE OF EVERYTHING ELSE


✔ Keep up with a year-long photo project.
We just wrapped up Year #1 and began Year #2 of One Second Everyday.  (We started the day we moved into the farmhouse.)  Can I just say how thankful I am for beginning this project?  In a little over six minutes, you can watch an entire year's worth of memories and laughter and kids growing.  You watch P go from a little six-month-old baby to a busy toddler.  You see the seasons change, the house change, and the kids change.  This little video has become one of my most prized possessions.  I can't wait to keep going.
I'm also going strong on my 2018 Coffee Project!

✔ Start a One Line a Day five year journal.
I started this in January and haven't missed a day yet!  It has become almost a gratitude journal, making me reflect on the best part of each day before I go to bed.

✔ Check off tasks on my 100 Little Things list.
As of this writing, I've completed 38 tasks, including: reading a book over 500 pages, learning a new card game, making bread in the dutch oven, potty training TJ, buying an ice cream maker and tweaking the Week in the Life projects to a monthly Day in the Life.  So many fun things still to do, so I need to get them on the calendar.  Just a month to go!

✔ Read 25 books.
My current total is 38 books!  I'm reading more than ever.  (Check out my Book Report posts for details on all the books.)

✔ Dip my toes into homesteading.
I started with baking bread and have sort-of stopped there, hah!  It's a skill that takes time and effort and I'm pleased with my results so far.  I'm sure I'll be ready to move on to new things soon. 

✔ Invest in our new community.
Baby steps in this area are better than nothing, right?  We ate dinner at Chick-Fil-A for a spirit day supporting a new pregnancy center.  Mark volunteered to teach CCD again in the fall.  M is altar serving at church.  The boys started Trail Life.  Our neighbor passed our house on a walk and we jogged over to chat (with acreage between our houses, we don't see them very often!).  Writing this out sounds pathetic but we'll get there, little by little. 

✔ Dive deep into faith.
This is slow going because I tend to read religious books slower and more intentionally. But the "Into the Depths of Catholicism" series is still alive!

✔ Be creative again.
I wanted this goal to be purposefully vague since creativity can manifest in so many ways.  So far this year, I've cross-stitched, done some scrapbooking, had fun with snail mail, dabbled in home decorating and design...and this blog!  Probably my favorite creative hobby to date.

How are your 2018 goals going?  

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

No.150: Read With Me // How to Raise a Wild Child (Part 4)

This post contains affiliate links.

Quick recap: I assigned myself a summer reading book, How To Raise a Wild Child: The Art and Science of Falling in Love with Nature, to help me have a better relationship with nature and encourage that relationship in my children.  I'm jotting down some notes and thoughts as I read through it this month and sharing them here.  Maybe it will inspire you in a new way too!

The book is divided into four sections.  (Find my notes on Part One, Part Two and Part Three.)  Part Four contains Chapters 9 and 10 and is called "Obstacles and Solutions."


Chapter 9: Dangerous Liasions

Ultimately, children who develop this hybrid mind will be able to interact deftly with both technology and the natural world.  Technological tools will be used to augment, rather than block, human senses.  Just as a birder uses binoculars to look closely at a robin and then lets the optics hang while she absorbs its lovely song, so too, with practice and mentorship, will kids learn to migrate between digital experience and the real, multisensory world.  In this sense, the litmus test for nature-friendly technologies might be how long it takes to transition from a digital focus back to the multisensory world. (p.242)
 Notes and takeaways from this chapter:
  • Chapter 9's theme was one that really fascinates me: the balance between technology and nature.  Sampson's argument is not that we should eliminate technology, but rather asks: How can we embrace both?
  • Books to check out:
  • "the hybrid mind" = individuals who are capable of switching easily back and forth between the digital and physical worlds
    • spotlight consciousness = narrow, directed attention that blocks external stimuli (reading, school, etc.)
    • lantern consciousness = broader, more diffuse kind of attention
    • "Spotlights are purpose driven, focusing their beam tightly on a particular subject.  Lanterns illuminate broadly, shedding light on a broad range of subjects." (p.239)
  • Today we value the spotlight far more than the lantern (ie. pushing academic-style learning beginning in the preschool years) but we shouldn't count the lantern out.  I found this part really interesting: "Directed attention and spotlight consciousness tend to be fatiguing and stress-inducing, robbing us of energy.  Think about how you feel after staring at a computer screen for hours on end.  In contrast, being outdoors in, say, a park or a forest encourages a less focused, more diffuse mode of attention, the sort that opens up our senses, relieves stress, restores energy, and fosters clear thinking.  This explains at least in part why even a brief walk outdoors can be so rejuvenating." (p.240)
  • Ideas for including technology with outdoor adventures:
    • Apps like iNaturalist and Sky Map
    • Geocaching
    • Photography

    Chapter 10: The Rewilding Revolution

    In the end, raising a wild child is much more about seeding love than knowledge...Antoine de Saint-Exupery expressed this point beautifully: "If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea." 
    Nature connection is the ship we're trying to build.  Our goal as mentors is not to share facts or assign tasks.  It is to be match-makers, to help children fall in love with nature so that they long to be immersed within it.  That emotional pull, if deeply entrenched, will nourish a lifelong sense of wonder and a desire to seek answers.  If you help to cultivate that longing, children will figure out the rest. (p.281)  
     Notes and takeaways from this chapter:
    • This chapter read like one big dream for the future.  While the realistic part of me hardly believes we could cut through political tape to make it happen, the other part of me sure hopes it does.  All children deserve to live this type of life.

    Final Thoughts

    I really liked this book!  It was the perfect mix of science and inspiration.  I'm excited to put the tips to use in the months ahead.  Thanks for reading along with me!

    Monday, June 25, 2018

    No.149: Five June Favorites (A Link-Up and A Giveaway!)

    This post contains affiliate links.

    Welcome to the Five Favorites linkup!  Congratulations to Jen, with May's winning post: Stuff I Love {five favorites}.  Be sure to check below for this month's prize pack!  

    1 // COLD BREW COFFEE
    My favorite afternoon treat lately has been a big glass of iced coffee.  Mark and I have tried a few brands, but I think Gevalia's vanilla cold brew concentrate is my favorite. I mix it with cashew milk.  So good!

    2 // MID-RISE 6" SHORTS
    For most of my life, I've been self-conscious about my legs.  But after sweating many a summer in jeans and maxi dresses, I've decided enough is enough!  I'm embracing this 30-something body, for better or worse!  It turns out, though, that shorts buying is as tricky for me as jeans.  I have longer legs, so I've been searching for something in between booty shorts and bermudas.  On a whim, I bought a pair of Old Navy shorts from ThredUp and they're the perfect length for me. 

    3 // ARTISAN SOURDOUGH MADE SIMPLE
    I love this cookbook!  If you've ever been curious to try making sourdough bread, this is the book for you.  The directions are clear and she walks you through the process step by step.  So far, we've made the everyday loaf, a focaccia pizza and sourdough waffles.  Everything has been delicious!  I want to make every single recipe.

    4 // THE EVERYDOLLAR BUDGETING WEBSITE AND APP
    Mark and I are ramping up our debt reduction plans again and we just started using Dave Ramsey's (free!) EveryDollar website and app.  I still like working out our budget on paper, but the app really helps Mark and I stay on the same page.  It's especially nice to see how much we have in sinking funds, all in a quick glance. 

    5 // MY NEW PULLOVER
    My latest thrift store find: a like new L.L.Bean rugby pullover for only $4.50!  I got to wear it a few days before the heat became unbearable.  It's so comfortable.

    _______________________________

    A Peek into June's Prize Pack
    The giveaway items I've chosen are a mix of some of my favorite things: etsy finds, vintage pieces and little bits picked up from various stores.  All have been purchased by me and nothing has been sponsored.  This incentive is to thank you for visiting here and linking up your posts.  It's my small way of showing you that your words are being heard!  I read every single entry and try to comment on or share a few (I wish I could do this for every one - not enough hours in the day!)  Here's how it works: every time you link up a blog or Instagram post, you get an entry.  The official closing date will be Sunday, July 1st and I'll randomly pick a winner on July 2.

    June's prizes include:
    1 // Tall strawberry glass

    2 // Three reusable plastic straws

    3 // Sun Porch goat milk soap from Clean Line Soap Company

    4 // My Not So Perfect Life paperback

    5 // Strawberry napkins

    I can't wait to hear about what you're loving this month!  Here's what to do:
    1. Write a blog post sharing about five of your favorite things.  You could also share a photo on Instagram too! (hashtag is #bwffivefavorites)  It can have a theme (ie: five of your favorite slow cooker recipes) or just a mishmash like I usually do.
    2. Please link back to this post so your readers know where to find the Five Favorites hub (posts not mentioning "Five Favorites" or not linking back to this post will be subject to removal).
    3. Not mandatory, but feel free to visit some of the other posts in the link-up!  Sharing and/or leaving a comment is even better.
    4. Make sure to add a link to your specific post or Instagram picture, not just your blog address.
    Thanks for linking up!


    Saturday, June 23, 2018

    No.148: Tales of a Thrift Store Convert

    I started and never finished this post in my draft folder months ago, so I'm finally hitting publish!

    Dear Friend,

    Can I tell you a secret?  I used to be afraid of the thrift store.  I used to think they were a little icky, a smelly building that certainly must be full of yellow armpit stained shirts and tacky tchotchkes.

    But then came 2018 and my heart check on waste and cheap fashion.  My mom is always finding treasures at the thrift store and curiosity finally got the best of me.  I was ready for her to teach me her ways.

    Just a few trips in and I'm a believer!  I'm sure there are places out there that fit my naive description above, but I really think they must be the exception, not the rule.  Anyway, I wish I could have you over for coffee so I could proudly share my latest finds, but maybe a little virtual sharing will do in the meantime?  Check out what I found:


    In my very new experience of thrift store shopping, the way clothing is handled makes or breaks a shopping trip.  My mom and I visited one store that is amazing in its organization!  I practically found an entire spring wardrobe for just a few dollars a piece!  J.Crew, Gap, even a Merona sweater with tags.


    Years ago, I bought a set of dishes at Target.  We've slowly lost pieces due to chips and falls and I was at a point where I was debating whether to buy more of the same or invest in something different.  Lo and behold, I found my exact dishes at Goodwill.  Seven dinner plates, six salad plates and a handful of bowls for just $2 a piece!  In one swoop, my dishes were replenished for half the price.  My best find to date.


    Books!  I could browse the books all day long.  Most books are only $1, but my favorite is when you discover at the register that some are half off.


    I try to keep focused, but some things are just too great to pass up!  I loved these sweet vintage candle-holders and can't wait to use them this Christmas.

    Are you a seasoned thrifter?  Tell me your best tips and tricks.  Have you recently been to Goodwill?  I'd love to hear all about your finds!

    xo,
    Ashley


    A QUICK REVIEW OF THREDUP'S GOODY BOX PROGRAM


    Okay, so maybe thrift stores aren't your thing or the idea of browsing with little kids in tow gives you hives.  (No judgement here!)  Another option is ThredUp, a virtual consignment store with amazing secondhand deals.  I recently tried out their new Goody Box program and while it wasn't a perfect fit (too many pieces suitable for fall when I was looking for spring/summer), I really enjoyed trying out brands I've never worn before.  This box had everything from Zara to J.Crew to Madewell to Old Navy.  The price points ranged from $6 (for a Merona skirt) to upwards of $50 (for a Marc Jacobs skirt).  I ended up keeping three out of the fifteen pieces and just shipped the rest back.  A fun alternative to boxes like StitchFix.  Use my referral link HERE to get $10 off your first order!

    Friday, June 22, 2018

    No.147: Farmhouse to Home // What I Bought (Vol.2)

    This post contains affiliate links.  

    Do you ever read home decor blogs and wonder how they have the time/money/focus to do entire makeovers of certain rooms?  Part of me wishes I could do the same, but another part thinks my slow-as-molasses approach to decorating is much more meaningful and fun.  Slowly but surely, we're making our house a home that (hopefully!) feels welcoming and warm.

    Below are seven new additions to the farmhouse.  (Check out the first installment of Farmhouse to Home here.)  I search widely and go for a mix of more expensive, less expensive, vintage and handmade.  You know how much I love the look of a collected home.  Linking up with Kelly's Quick Takes!

    1 // WHITE BATHMAT
    Do I dare admit how long we needed a new bathmat in our master bathroom?  At one point, we were even using a beach towel!  #classy  I ordered this simple white bathmat during a sale and geez, what was I waiting for?!  It works great, washes well and the price isn't bad either.

    2 // VINTAGE EXPANDABLE WALL RACK
    The wall by our front door needed something, but since it isn't a frequently used area (we use the side door and the mudroom 99% of the time), I wasn't sure exactly what I wanted to do.  I stumbled upon this picture on Instagram and set out to find a vintage wall rack of my own.  I ended up purchasing one from Lititz Carriage House on etsy.  I love the well-worn look.

    3 // STRING LIGHTS FOR THE BACK PORCH
    This has been on the wishlist since the day we moved in!  I decided to go with these black string lights and bonus!  The company offered a discount if you purchased two sets, which we needed anyway.  We hope to install them in the next few weeks, but so far, I've been impressed.  Packaged securely and the customer service was great.

    4 // BLUE STRIPED DUVET COVERS
    The two little boys will eventually share a room and I spent entirely too much time researching matching quilts for their twin beds.  I never really found exactly what I wanted, so decided to just buy my go-to duvet covers from Ikea.  The three bigger boys have the same in their room and they've held up well.

    5 // WHITE TERRACOTTA PLANTER
    I bought myself a houseplant for Mother's Day this year and this planter to keep it in.  I think I may have already killed the plant (did I over-water? not enough light?) but the planter sure is cute.

    6 // CARPENTER BEE TRAP
    We had a big carpenter bee problem this spring, but learned about a trap you can install to catch them.  (Thanks for the tip, Rosie!)  We're at the tail end of the season - apparently, they're much less active when the weather heats up - but I'm grateful that we're prepared for next year.

    7 // USA PLEATED FAN BUNTINGS FOR THE FRONT PORCH
    I've always wanted to hang flag buntings in July and this year, we're finally going to make it happen!  Can't wait to put them up this weekend.



    BONUS // OUR NEW FRONT FLOWER BEDS AND WALKWAY!
    This was our biggest house purchase so far!  We saved a chunk of our tax return to have a landscaper come and install a brick walkway and flower beds.  We were so impressed with the work!  Well worth the investment.  Now to save up for beautiful shrubbery in the flower beds and lots of terra cotta potted plants on the steps.

    What about you?  What great finds have you added to your home lately?


    P.S. Etsy is having a big sales event and I've been sharing great deals over on my Facebook page.  
    Come on over and check it out!

    Thursday, June 21, 2018

    No.146: Read With Me // How to Raise a Wild Child (Part 3)

    This post contains affiliate links.

    Quick recap: I assigned myself a summer reading book, How To Raise a Wild Child: The Art and Science of Falling in Love with Nature, to help me have a better relationship with nature and encourage that relationship in my children.  I'm jotting down some notes and thoughts as I read through it this month and sharing them here.  Maybe it will inspire you in a new way too!

    The book is divided into four sections.  (Find my notes on Part One here and Part Two here.)  Part Three contains Chapters 6, 7 and 8 and is called "Life Stages."


    Chapter 6: The Playful Scientist

    Young children are like wolf pups.  They long to venture outside, but not too far from Mom and Dad.  They're all about exploring and pushing edges close to home, yet run back regularly for a dose of security.  As a nature mentor, the key is to give young kids plenty of time in natural places - backyards, beaches, forests, deserts, creeks, parks - where they can play with all those loose parts until exhaustion sets in.  Show interest when they bring you some random object for inspection, but otherwise feel free to let kids hang out and explore with all their senses.  The end result for the child will be an amazing experience in which she deepens her bond with you and with nature. (p.169)
     Notes and takeaways from this chapter:
    • This chapter focuses on children ages 2 to 6, where the goal is just to play.  Play with rocks and sticks, play in dirt...it's all healthy and good.
    • This was fascinating to me: "Ilkka Hanski and colleagues at the University of Helsinki conducted an intriguing investigation of allergies, comparing adolescents living in neighborhoods surrounded by natural areas with those in neighborhoods landscaped in concrete and neatly trimmed lawns.  They found that people immersed in more natural settings, places home to greater varieties of native plants, were themselves covered with a wider range of microbes and were far less likely to exhibit allergies than folks in the more sanitized settings." (p.164)
    • To read: Rachel Carson's 1956 essay, "Help Your Child to Wonder"
    • To try: seek out opportunities to take children on nighttime adventures

      Chapter 7: The Age of Competence

      ...an important element of nature-mentoring children of this age is to loosen the reins enough that they have the freedom and access to find their own place and visit it often. (p.180)
      Notes and takeaways from this chapter:
      • This chapter moves up to middle childhood, focusing on ages 6 to 12.   
      • Sampson shares stories of two adults who brought their kids along as they fished, camped and hunted.  This paragraph really stood out to me: "The key here is that both men took their kids with them while they pursued their own outdoor passions.  The children, feeling that longing for competence, picked up on these passions and unknowingly used them to deepen their own nature connection.  The lesson is that while it's important to observe children closely and support their individual interests, as a nature mentor you need to be authentic in your own interests as well." (p.182)  I may not fish or hunt, but I can see how even gardening with the kids can be beneficial to all of us.
      • How can we reduce risk and manage our fears while still getting our kids outdoors and giving them some meaningful autonomy? Two strategies:
        • Go with them
        • Put outdoor time on the calendar and make it a priority
      • "hummingbird parent" = giving kids space and autonomy to take risks, staying on the periphery and only zooming in when necessary
      • This chapter really inspired me to research what's available around us.  A simple search of our county on Facebook was all it took to find what's happening with Parks & Rec and a handful of new trails to hike.  Why didn't I do this sooner?!

      Chapter 8: The Social Animal

      If beauty is symbolized by the heart, and truth by the brain, goodness might be considered the domain of the gut - a moral compass guiding our decision-making.  It is during the teen years that we begin to fine-tune our moral compass. (p.211)
      Notes and takeaways from this chapter:
      • The teenage years are just around the corner for us, so I was very interested in this chapter!  
      • A handful of tips:
        • Make time for nature: limit screen time and encourage teens to get outside, bonus points if you can get peers involved too
        • Make nature the place for adventure: pick an activity that they're passionate about and get out there regularly (examples: biking, hiking, snowboarding, camping, etc.).  I really liked the idea of picking a specific activity for each season.  Such a great way to make memories, build traditions, and get into nature all at the same time.
        • Nature-related service is really powerful among adolescents: I need to see what's available locally!
        • Rites of passage mark the transition from child to adult: I love this idea so much!  Need to brainstorm with Mark exactly how we'd like to do this with our boys.  And something special for Sophie too. 

      Wednesday, June 20, 2018

      No.145: Highs and Lows // June 2018

      a random assortment of this month's highs and lows

      HIGH // A BRAND NEW BABY COUSIN! 
      My cousin just gave birth to her first baby, two weeks early!  (Such a lucky duck - she didn't have to suffer through those unbearable last weeks.)  We are all smitten with his pictures and can't wait to meet him.  Which leads me to...

      HIGH // A  LONG WEEKEND TRIP ALONE 
      My generous dad cashed in his frequent flyer miles so I could spend four days in July visiting my cousins and helping out with the new baby.  This will be the first time in over a decade that I am traveling all by myself, no pregnant belly or baby along for the ride!  I am so, so excited.

      LOW // BURNING MY HAND
      D and I were about to make sourdough waffles and due to miscommunication, he turned the wafflemaker on without telling me.  I grabbed the side to push it out of the way and woo boy!  The pain was intense!  I spent the rest of the day gripping icepacks like they were strapless handbags, hah!  Thankfully, it has healed quickly.

      HIGH // SOURDOUGH BREAD
      I feel like I've reached "Bread Making 2.0" level since starting with sourdough.  The first few loaves were intimidating, but with practice, it's gotten so much easier.  I now keep my starter on the kitchen counter and make a loaf almost every day. 

      HIGH // PORCH FANS
      The weather turned a corner this week and it is HOT.  Coupled with the humidity, it's just unbearable to be outside for more than a few minutes.  (See yesterday's post for my Googling and screenshot-ing of inground pools for the backyard, hah! #dreams)  Fortunately, this house came with fans on both the front and back porches and if you sit directly underneath them, they do give you some relief.  I've been taking advantage first thing in the morning and when we eat dinner outside.   

      LOW // FLIES ALL OVER THE HOUSE
      I guess it's part of country living and the fact that the kids rarely shut the door on their way out, but the flies are everywhere!  I've become that crazy lady tiptoeing through the house with the swatter in hand.  I may need to invest in the classy sticky fly trap soon.

      HIGH // A NEW ACTIVITY FOR NEXT SCHOOL YEAR
      We're joining a homeschool co-op next fall!  It's a bit of a drive, but the classes sound fun and I'm going to be helping with TJ's preschool class, so little stress for me.  The missing piece to this year's homeschool puzzle was helping everyone find non-family friendships and I think co-op will really help. 

      HIGH/LOW // THE BABY HAS OFFICIALLY WEANED - I THINK?
      As of this writing, we'll have officially gone 72 hours without nursing.  So I think we're done.  It's exciting and surreal and just a little sad.  So many emotions all rolled into one.   

      Tuesday, June 19, 2018

      No.144: Finding Inspiration in Social Media // My Latest Saves

      This post contains affiliate links.

      Do you save or screenshot all the things like I do?  I seem to find inspiration everywhere and don't trust myself to remember them!  Today I thought it would be fun to share a mix of random saves from my phone, Instagram and Facebook.   

      SCREENSHOTS FROM MY PHONE


      • Chloe May Brown: a potter I just found on Instagram and would love to support.  Her bowls are beautiful!
      • Youtube videos to help with praying the rosary through the Apostolate for Family Consecration
      • a tick remover card we need to buy
      • average postpartum cycle lengths, thanks to the Facebook Marquette group
      • denim shorts I'm debating purchasing
      • I already have a sunscreen that I like, but am also intrigued by Beautycounter's mist version
      • I'd really like to try to sew a piece of clothing and this skirt pattern was recommended - looks easy enough!
      • Talk about an interesting viewpoint!  I can't wait to read American Radical: Inside the World of an Undercover Muslim FBI Agent
      • a farm relatively near us I'd like to visit
      • new Birks I'm saving up for
      • a DIY spray to combat stink bugs
      • my dream pool
      • a state park in Virginia Beach I'm adding to our travel list
      • sad news that there won't be Social Security left by the time we retire
      • I'm trying to veer into natural deodorant, but having trouble with ones that are heavy on the baking soda.  Maybe this one will be better? 
      • Jen Fulweiler's husband's queso recipe - must make soon!
      • Homesteaders of America conference in October: this looks amazing
      • peonies I'd like to plant somewhere around the house 
      • lists of deer-resistant plants

      BOOKS ON INSTAGRAM



      FACEBOOK SAVES


      What have you been screenshot-ing lately?

      P.S. Etsy is having a big sales event this week and I'm sharing great deals as I find them over on my Facebook page.  If you need ideas for gifts or a treat for yourself, I'm your gal!

      Monday, June 18, 2018

      No.143: Intentions for the End of June


      My big goal: WRITE EVERYDAY FOR A MONTH.  I'm more than halfway there!  This has been fun and intense and just a little bit crazy, but I'm not quitting yet.

      Quick recap of my goals from the first half of June:

      my summer plans for the kids 
      ✔ an "official" post about the African Geography Studies curriculum I created this year
      ✔ our favorite homemade granola recipe
      ✔ thoughts on a new book I'm reading
      ✔ 10 podcasts I've been listening to
      ✔ another round of bread recipes for Homesteading 101
      ✔ a project I've been quietly working on since January 1st
      ✔ some of my favorite things related to running

      And a few more on the plan to write:
      • great recommendations I've recently saved from social media 
      • another "official" post about the science curriculum we used for school this year 
      • another round of things we've purchased for Farmhouse to Home
      • June's Five Favorites linkup
      • a six-month update on my 2018 Goals and Projects list
      • June's latest reads

      If you have any post ideas, let me know.  Thanks for sticking around and reading!

      Sunday, June 17, 2018

      No.142: Four Resources That Are Helping TJ's Speech


      This post contains affiliate links.

      My three-year-old, TJ, has a slight speech delay.  We had him tested last winter and the results solidified what I already knew: he struggled with final consonant sounds, but didn't have any significant facial muscle irregularities.  At the advice of our family doctor and a few others, we've decided to postpone therapy for now (private therapists are so expensive!) and work with him at home until we feel we aren't making any progress.  I'm so happy to say that hasn't happened yet!

      In the past few months, he's been making huge strides and we're thrilled to see a happier boy who is finally being understood.  Turns out he has a lot to say, hah!  Here are four things that have been helpful for us:

      1 // FLASH CARDS
      Out of all the books and games I've researched, this simple deck of flash cards has probably been his favorite.  Last winter, he was very hesitant to even try to say new words, often just shaking his head when we asked him to repeat something.  We started playing a game of "What's this?" and suddenly, he turned a big corner!  We praised him for every word he tried, even if it sounded incorrect, and built on that momentum.

      2 // A LITTLE BOOK ABOUT FINAL CONSONANTS
      In my Google searches, I came across a little book called Easy-To-Say First Words: A Focus on Final Consonants.  It was written by a speech therapist and focuses on one syllable words and repetition.  So for example, one two-page spread says, "Up, up, up. The hot air balloon goes up."  We will typically say the first part ("Up, up, up.  The hot air balloon goes...") and have him fill in the blank at the end.  We've also played a game where we dramatically exaggerate the last sound (uP) to try to help him hear that at the end.

      3 // SISTER'S READING BOOK
      I originally purchased ABC See, Hear, Do: Learn to Read 55 Words for Sophie, but I quickly realized how beneficial it could be for TJ too.  Combining animal pictures with hand motions helps kids remember each letter sound, but it's also a sneaky way to have TJ actually say each sound too!  He loves this book.

      4 // A REFERENCE BOOK FOR ME
      I've really only skimmed through The Late Talker: What to Do If Your Child Isn't Talking Yet - it's on my summer reading list! - but I have a feeling it will be helpful as I navigate this uncharted territory.  There is an entire section about activities to play that I'm really anxious to read.

      Saturday, June 16, 2018

      No.141: Our Extraordinary Ordinary Life // June 2018 Edition

      A monthly project featuring ten photos throughout the day that show a peek into our extraordinarily ordinary life.

      Highlights from Friday, June 15, 2018:
      • When the kids woke up, I got to share the exciting news that our newest baby cousin was born last night!  We oohed and ahhed over his picture and cannot wait to cuddle him.    
      • The weather was beautiful: 83° and partly sunny.  We're trying to keep our electric bill down, so the air conditioning was off and the windows were open.  Having both a front and back porch seems to keep the house pretty cool for most of the day.  I just love when the breeze sweeps through and the house smells fresh.
      • The baby is soooo whiny.  I don't know if it's teething or weaning or just the age, but it makes for a long day.  Thankfully, he fell asleep in the Ergo in the morning and then took a cat nap in the stroller in the afternoon.  
      • I ran a 5K on the treadmill to check my progress and was pleasantly surprised at the results!  Runkeeper says it was my second fastest 5K time ever.  
      • I made sourdough focaccia "pesto pizza" for dinner and I thought it was delicious.  We also made a regular cheese and pepperoni for the kids who weren't so impressed.
      • Favorite summertime experience to date: watching fireflies at dusk.


      Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...