Monday, April 30, 2018

No.115: Five April Favorites (A Link-Up & a Giveaway!)

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Welcome to the Five Favorites linkup!  Congratulations to Rita, with March's winning post: Five Inspiring Quotes from Sister Helen Prejean.  Be sure to check below for this month's prize pack!  

One of the fun things about the first spring at a new house is discovering all of the flowering shrubs and plants!  We have a forsythia shrub in our front yard and I am in love with its tiny little yellow flowers.  Spring is coming - slowly, but it's coming! 

Mark heard about this cheese at work and bought some for us to try.  According to the package: "English Farmhouse cheddar blended with sweet caramelized onions creates a nice sweet and savory balance."  It was SO good!

The three biggest boys share a bedroom and it quickly becomes a pit of destruction when their things are out and everywhere.  To combat the clutter, we bought these navy storage trunks to put at the end of their beds.  They love that they can keep their important Legos and books away from nosy baby brothers and I love that their room generally feels clean 90% of the time.  Win/win! 

The dirty cups situation in the kitchen was getting out of control, so I went back to my color-coded system from a few years ago.  I ordered cups from Re-Play and they are awesome!  The price is right, they're sturdy, and they come in a ton of different colors.  Bonus: they're made in the US and are dishwasher safe.

Have you heard of #the100dayproject?  Creatives are dedicating 100 days to a specific theme and sharing their work on Instagram.  The timing didn't work for me this year, but I love watching and cheering them on!  Three of my favorites:
  • Elise (@elisejoy) is using the theme of #100craftadventures and is taking 15 minutes (or more) out of her day to make something with her hands.  So inspiring!
  • Brooke (@brooke_petermann) has been exploring rainbows with her hashtag #100daysofrainbowfun.  I love how inventive her posts have been.  Her project is a beautiful example of seek and you will find.  Turns out rainbows can be everywhere!
  • Christy (@a_creative_almanac) has been illustrating #100daysofourlady and they are incredible!  She recently ran into technical difficulties when her computer died and is hoping to raise enough money through her shops to buy new equipment.  (I purchased a little something for next month's Five Favorites giveaway so stay tuned for that. 😀)

A Peek into April'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, May 6th and I'll randomly pick a winner on May 7.

April's prizes include:
1 // Tall daisy glass

2 // Hello notecard from acbcDesign

3 // Two Bobo's Oats Bars

4 // Sky blue Snack Pack from Re-Play Recycled

5 //  Three packs of tags

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!

Friday, April 27, 2018

No.114: What I Learned in April

Linking up with Kelly's Quick Takes!

I thought I had the best plans for Lent this year.  It was going to be difficult, but the perfect way to sacrifice and grow closer to Christ.  And like the true perfectionist I am, I failed and quit within the first five days.  This happens every.single.time, but it never fails to surprise me, hah!  I imagine God just shakes His head, smirks a bit, and thinks, "Oh you silly girl.  When will you get it?"  It turns out He had other sacrifices for me, ones harder and more sanctifying than I would have chosen on my own.  A good lesson that if I get out of my own way, positive things can happen.

Slight exaggeration, but I always tend to put a bunch on hold and they always come all at the same time!  And then I panic that I won't be able to read them before I have to return them, so I drop all the physical books I'm currently reading (even if they're good!) and dive into the library books, one after the other.

16 months later, I'm finally growing new hair (gotta love that postpartum shedding!), but it's coming in all around my scalp in the craziest way.  They're like wispy things with a slight curl that you can't slick back and make me look like I've got a weird Farrah Fawcett thing going on.  Pulling my hair back in a ponytail or bun makes it more noticeable, and let's be honest - that's my go-to look 99% of the time.  Pretty much a total babe over here right now. 

After sniffling for a few weeks, I did some investigative Googling and apparently this is true for many people.  A common cause is moving to a new location (check) as well as having a big hormonal change like post-pregnancy (check).  Thankfully, it's not unbearable, just annoying.

I found these cool Christmas tree-shaped things with tiny purple flowers in my yard.  I had no idea what they were called, so I downloaded a new app called PictureThis, which helped me identify it as a purple dead-nettle.  Apparently, they're actually weeds and depending on the website you read, it's considered a yard pest or a foraging favorite.

Did you ever see Sybil, the 70's movie based on the woman with multiple personalities?  It was casually mentioned in Brain on Fire that her entire story was fake, so I did a little digging and it's true!  This article was fascinating - I want to read that book now too.

I no longer watch television on weeknights, but I just realized that I've replaced my favorite TV genres for similar ones in books!  I love a good whodunit/police procedural and mystery books are often on my nightstand.  I also read and enjoyed my first medical memoir, which should come as no surprise since I love a good medical show too.  (Find all the details on this month's reads here.)

What did you learn this month!

Thursday, April 26, 2018

No.113: My Latest Reads // April

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THE WOMAN IN CABIN 10 by Ruth Ware
My Rating: ★★★★☆
I love ports. I love the smell of tar and sea air, and the scream of the gulls. Maybe it's years of taking the ferry to France for summer holidays, but a harbor gives me a feeling of freedom in a way that an airport never does. Airports say work and security checks and delays. Ports say... I don't know. Something completely different. Escape, maybe.
I found The Woman in Cabin 10 at the thrift store and couldn't put it down!  There are twists and turns throughout and I couldn't quite figure it all out - a sign of a good book!

My Rating: ★★★★☆
'We don't put much faith in ecstasies here,' Dame Ursula had told them.  'The nun you see rapt away in church isn't likely to be the holiest.  The holiest one is probably the one you would never notice because she is simply doing her duty.' (p.41)
In This House of Brede is a beautiful look at monastic life.  I found the book to be a great reminder that priests and nuns, while living a holy vocation, are still human, with likes and dislikes and annoying character traits just like the rest of us!  I was also really struck by God's hand in Philippa's life, from beginning to end.  We can't always see the "why" of situations in our lives, but God is faithful.

My Rating: ★★★
Until that moment, self-sufficiency had been a strange and abstract concept, something my forebears had had to do, but nothing I would have chosen. Now, the enormity of what I had been missing all along struck me—this, the simplest of joys, the pleasure of nurturing living things that would then give back to me in return. (46%)
When I was in my twenties and even my thirties, fifty had been unimaginable—a lifetime away. I had so much to do before then. I had kids to raise, a career to tend to, so much to do and see and accomplish. But now, here I was on the cusp of fifty, and the only thing I really knew was how very much I did not know, how much I would never know. (82%)
My life before revolved around doing what I thought I should do or what I believed other people thought I should do, and I was so busy doing those things, I never really understood what I wanted. I didn’t stop consider other possibilities or to listen to those parts of me that longed for a simpler life, for some deeper connection to the people I loved. So I think I have made some progress toward figuring out how to do that, how to create a life that is meaningful with the people I love. (98%)
I stumbled upon this while it was on the front page of my library app.  While I didn't necessarily agree with the way they handled their money (and the initial lack of responsibility regarding losing everything), I loved the goat antics!  I learned so much about raising goats and kept reading parts aloud to Mark. The lessons she learned because of the catastrophe were so good too.

My Rating: 
The healthy brain is a symphony of 100 billion neurons, the actions of each individual brain cell harmonizing into a whole that enables thoughts, movements, memories, or even just a sneeze. But it takes only one dissonant instrument to mar the cohesion of a symphony. When neurons begin to play nonstop, out of tune, and all at once because of disease, trauma, tumor, lack of sleep, or even alcohol withdrawal, the cacophonous result can be a seizure. (18%)
Dr. Najjar, for one, is taking the link between autoimmune diseases and mental illnesses one step further: through his cutting-edge research, he posits that some forms of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and depression are actually caused by inflammatory conditions in the brain. (80%)
I wouldn’t take that terrible experience back for anything in the world. Too much light has come out of my darkness. (90%)
Brain on Fire is an incredible medical memoir about a twenty-something journalist who within the course of a month, went from being totally healthy to strapped to a hospital gurney with doctors debating whether to admit her to a psychiatric ward.  I found it so fascinating and couldn't put it down!  I learned so much about the intricacies of the brain and the fine line between psychological issues and neurological ones.

My Rating:  ★★
Jack’s death taught Liz that sometimes the surface is not an accurate indicator of what lies beneath. Sometimes these things just happen. There’s no way to know. No way to predict. (6%)
Little Broken Things was another one that I stumbled upon at the library.  The story is about a mysterious request from one estranged sister to another to keep a little girl safe and hidden.  It was suspenseful, although I did figure it out quite early into the story.  A little slow-moving, but good.

THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN by Katherine Applegate
My Rating: ★★★☆☆ (more like 3.5 stars)
I can just make out Bob's little head sticking out of Julia's backpack. "You are the One and Only Ivan," he calls.  I nod, then turn toward my family, my life, my home.  "Mighty Silverback," I whisper. (p.300)
We read this one as our school read aloud for April.  This was a moving story about an adult gorilla living inside a glass cage in a mall and his mission to find freedom for his friend.  I found the book absolutely heart-breaking and said on more than one occasion, "This is just the saddest thing ever!"  I can't believe it was inspired by real-life events too.

My Rating: ★★★☆
We were still children, for all that we thought we weren’t. We were in that in-between place, the twilight between childish things and grown-up things. Childhood still held out a friendly hand to us, if we wanted to go back to it, while the unexplored country was ahead, beckoning us to come there and see what new pleasures were to be found. (73%)
A pick outside of my usual genres, Lost Boy explores the Peter Pan story through Captain Hook's eyes.  The premise is a really interesting twist and I don't think I'll ever look at Peter Pan the same way again.  A good book, but super dark, violent and bloody.

My Rating: ★★★
We need habit to get through a day, to get to work, to feed our children.  But habit is dangerous, too.  The act of seeing can quickly become unconscious and automatic.  The eye sees something - gray-brown bark, say, fissured into broad, vertical plates - and the brain spits out tree trunk and the eye moves on.  But did I really take the time to see the tree?  I glimpse hazel hair, high cheekbones, a field of freckles, and I think Shauna.  But did I take the time to see my wife? (p.53)
Anthony Doerr is the author of All the Light We Cannot See, so if you've read that one, you can imagine how beautifully written this little book is.  I couldn't put it down!  I loved his reflections about living in Rome for a year with his wife and twins.  The way he looked at the world in such makes me want to look more carefully at my own ordinary life.  And now I want to visit Rome too.  


Books Read: 26
Fiction: 17  // Non-Fiction: 9
Kindle Books: 14  // Paper Books: 12
Original 2018 books "to-read" total on Goodreads: 443 // Current "to-read" total: 435

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

No.112: 20 Things I Love - A Gratitude Journal vol.7

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deep orange sunrises
the smell of freshly mowed grass
frothy milk bubbles on my morning cup of coffee
listening to one brother read aloud to another one
my baby's long, dark eyelashes as he carefully inspects a toy
bird calls and woodpecker noises
the twinkle in my mother's eyes when she's surrounded by her grandchildren
tiny purple wildflowers sprinkled around the mailbox
sidewalk chalk drawings covering our driveway
a novena prayed for a loved one
jotting down notes to send to friends
the salt and pepper growing more apparent in Mark's beard (so distinguished!)
curtains swaying as the breeze comes through open windows
the rush of riding a bicycle (at full speed - "you can do it, mama!") with my big boys
five tiny bird eggs snuggled in a nest on top of our porch fan
watching a hesitant writer start to try words out on his own
a countertop basket overflowing with fruit
the way running first thing in the morning changes the entire course of my day for the better
spotting the white tail of a deer as it dashes across our property
this quote from Four Seasons in Rome: "We need habit to get through a day, to get to work, to feed our children.  But habit is dangerous, too.  The act of seeing can quickly become unconscious and automatic.  The eye sees something - gray-brown bark, say, fissured into broad, vertical plates - and the brain spits out tree trunk and the eye moves on.  But did I really take the time to see the tree?  I glimpse hazel hair, high cheekbones, a field of freckles, and I think Shauna.  But did I take the time to see my wife?"

Friday, April 20, 2018

No.111: Our Farmhouse Schoolhouse in Photos (Week 31)

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I have major spring fever (already!) and you can tell with the lack of school posts lately.  I think I'm ready for the break more than the kids are!  At almost 17 months, the "baby" is definitely a toddler now and is such a distraction: climbing on the school table, whining constantly for me to hold him, or destroying everything he can reach.  He's exhausting!  Just five more weeks to go... I think I can, I think I can... 


+ We added The Blue Fairy Book to our morning basket and I'm surprised at how much my older boys enjoy the stories.  Favorite so far: Jack the Giant-Killer.

+ M (5th grade) started his Edison unit in science.  He's reading A Story of Thomas Alva Edison and then keeping a journal, writing as if he were Thomas himself.  It has been a nice way to change up his narrations.  I love seeing his creativity.

+ TJ (age 3) is suddenly fascinated by dinosaurs.  A few of his favorite things right now:
+ We have a nest on our front porch fan and just discovered four little white eggs inside.  After a little research, we think they are from an Eastern Phoebe.  We signed up with Nest Watch (a free program with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology) and will be recording our data to help their scientists.  The perfect spring nature study, just two steps from home.

+ Last week, we watched a few episodes of "Chasing Monsters" on Netflix, including one episode where the Bear Grylls/Crocodile Hunter-like host got bacteria samples from the teeth of live sharks to help with shark bite antibiotic research.  It was so random, but also really interesting.  And in some strange way, it tied back to our science bacteria study from a few weeks ago. 

+ We're starting to wrap up our African Geography Studies for the year - just three weeks left!  This week we went to Zambia and read Beautiful Blackbird.


+ Health: Running again!  I'm starting slow, just a couple of miles at a time, but it feels good to be back and pain-free.
+ Reading: A random library pick called Lost Boy: The True Story of Captain Hook.  It's not something I generally read and I'm not sure how I feel about it yet.  It has really great reviews though, so we'll see.
+ Fun: I'm in a bit of a creative slump right now.  I need to brainstorm to get that spark back!

Thursday, April 19, 2018

No.110: Our Extraordinary Ordinary Life // April 2018 Edition

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

Highlights from Wednesday, April 18, 2018:
  • I was awake at 6:00, but stayed in my warm bed for a good 15 minutes before officially starting the day.  It was cold!
  • The gutter cleaning guys were supposed to come tomorrow, but showed up bright and early today and caught me in a hot mess of an outfit: black leggings, brown socks, an oversized shirt and a navy blue sweater.  My pride is officially gone.
  • I took yesterday off from laundry (such a rebel), but made up for it with four loads today. 
  • I baked a loaf of honey wheat bread for lunch.  We ate it with ham and white cheddar cheese.  Simple and delicious.
  • We spent three hours outside in the sunshine.  The little kids dug in the dirt and the big kids learned how to make different types of knots.  I paced the driveway, drank my afternoon cup of coffee and read my book.
  • P took a morning and afternoon nap and his whiny "I want to be held always" mood changed drastically for the better.  A miracle!

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

No.109: What Makes You Feel Alive? A Health Manifesto

I lost myself a bit this winter, but I'm determined to bring her back.

It all started in January when I injured a muscle in my hip.  Unable to run, I wallowed, comforting myself in winter hibernation.  Cozy afternoons reading, curled up under blankets in front of the fire, became my new normal.  At the same time, my fertility struggled to return and my hormones were in chaos.  The scale, for lots of reasons, crept up and up and up.

And then...spring arrived.  There's nothing like temperatures in the 70's, when the bulky sweaters are shed and you have to stare that unfamiliar body in the face.  I looked in the full-length mirror at myself - looking tired and sorta flabby - and wondered, Where did I go?  What happened to me?

It's more than just the number on the scale.  It's the slow burn of aging, the way my body doesn't work in the way I think it should.  It's the wear and tear of six consecutive pregnancies without a significant break between them.  It's the nagging feeling that while I'm happy with so many things in my life, there's one little piece that doesn't feel quite right.

In the quiet, the thought came to me like a whisper: What makes you feel alive?  And without any hesitation, I knew the answer.

Running makes me feel alive.

So last week, I tied on my sneakers and got on the treadmill for the first time in three months.  I started at barely a jog, feeling every step.  I was clunky and slow.  My running shorts were just a wee too snug.  More than one part of me jiggled and my lower back ached.  But it felt SO good.  Afterward, big, ugly tears mingled with my shower water.  I felt proud of myself.  I felt strong.  In a rare moment of self-love, I made a manifesto of sorts and am recording it here because I'm sure I'll need the reminder.

Here's to loving ourselves as we are, while having the courage to make positive changes too.


I am more than just the number on the scale.
I will fill myself with lots of good, nutrient-filled food.  And a little of the "not-so-nutritious" is okay too.  It doesn't have to be either/or.
I will focus on movement, in whatever way it materializes.  Preferably a run, but sometimes laps around the yard or dancing in the kitchen.
I will prioritize my mental health.  Sleep comes first and can cure much.  A little time away can do wonders too.  I am not a bad wife or mother for needing both.
I will stay in my lane.  No comparing myself to others who may be further in their goals than I am.  We don't all have to take the same path to get to success.
Perfectionism has no place in my wellness - I will do what I can, when I can.  And that's enough.

taken last October after a long run 
freshly showered, no makeup, wrinkles, happy

Monday, April 16, 2018

No.108: Intentions for the End of April

I took an unintentional, but much needed internet break last week.  It was a week full of family and weekday sleepovers and play dates - so many good things!  Because of all the extras, I had to scrap my never ending to-do list and stick to the essentials.  Sometimes life forces my hand a bit, telling me sternly, "Lady, you need to check yourself.  You can't do it all and that's okay."  I'm always grateful for that reminder to slow down.  Especially when I refuse to do it on my own.


  • Habit of the Month: Thoroughness
  • start running at least three times a week - movement is the goal, not paces or miles
  • try making bulletproof coffee
  • choose a baby gift for my cousin's shower
  • buy a baptism gift for a friend
  • buy tiny hooks 
  • string lights throughout the back porch (100LT #61)
  • do a science experiment with Sophie
  • make dentist appointments
  • print photographs off of old hard drive 
  • finally finish December Daily 2017 album
  • finish another book that I've only partially finished
  • pick a date for a field trip
  • recommit to weaning P - make a plan and stay strong!
  • start dreaming and sketching our garden for next year


If you're reading on your phone or in a reader, be sure to click over to see what I checked off the list!
  • switch car seats around (5 out of 6 were happy about the change, so pretty good odds, hah)
  • take out clothes to spring/summer and pack away winter (half done!)
  • fix the dryer hose
  • start a deep cleaning of the house (I'm using this checklist - thank you for sharing, Jessica!)
  • finalize plans for front walkway and flower beds (the estimate was waaay more than we had budgeted, so we've decided to just do the flower beds for now)
  • string lights throughout the back porch (we need to pick up tiny hooks first)
  • install curtain rods and hang curtains in the dining room
  • make dentist appointments (need to sync with Mark's schedule)
  • print photographs off of old hard drive for my December Daily album
  • mail another batch of postcards (I still have some room left on the list - sign up here!)
    • return to a few half-finished books and finish them (finished In This House of Brede, but then started and finished two new ones...oops!)
    • research safe sunscreens that actually work (trying Bare Republic - thanks for the recommendation, Catherine!)
    • bake a loaf of whole wheat bread
    • make a batch of granola
    • learn how to make baguettes 
    • find a local milk provider (did the research, now to figure out how to budget it!)

    What about you?  What do you hope to accomplish in the next two weeks?

    Tuesday, April 10, 2018

    No.107: New Habits, Little by Little: Homesteading 101 - Make Your Daily Bread (Part Three!)

    I live in a farmhouse on five acres in the country.  It's time for this suburban girl to learn a few things!  
    Welcome to my self-taught Homesteading 101.

    Update on Daily Bread Post #1 and Post #2: I'm still baking bread almost every other day!  The recipes that start in the bread machine and are then put in bread pans to rise seem to be the easiest to fit into busy weekdays.  I keep the more time intensive ones for the weekends.  Maybe I'm at a point where I can stop purchasing bread from the grocery store? 

    Below are three new recipes that I've added to the mix:
    • English Muffin Bread
      • Thanks for the recommendation, Jen!
      • Consensus: This one was really good!  We liked it even more the next day, toasted with jam.  
    • Irish Soda Bread
      • I baked this on St. Patrick's Day for the recommended 45 minutes and while the internal temperature was 190° like the instructions said, the very middle was under-cooked!  Yikes.  I made it again the following week, added 6 more minutes to the cooking time, and it was perfect.
      •  Consensus: Delicious!  Sweet without being too sweet.
    • Honey Wheat Bread
      • This was my first attempt at mixing white and whole wheat flours.  I started the dough in the bread machine and then separated into two bread pans to rise, but it didn't rise nearly enough.  (I'm thinking there's not enough gluten?)  I tried again as just a single loaf and the result was much better.
      • Consensus: A really good sandwich bread!  We ate it with leftover Easter ham and white cheddar cheese.

    Next up: sourdough, french baguettes, and a bread with cheese or herbs mixed in.  Share with me your favorite recipes!  I'm also thinking it's time to start another homesteading skill.  What should I try next?

    Friday, April 6, 2018

    No.106: Farmhouse to Home // What I Bought (Vol.1)

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    When we moved to the farmhouse last June, we were pretty house-poor.  The entire selling and moving process is so expensive and our savings took a big hit.  We were thrilled to be in our dream house, but I'd be lying if I didn't say that it was frustrating not to be able to dive into improvement projects and furniture buying.  There was no floor refinishing or kitchen renovations.  There wasn't even painting!  We literally unpacked our things and there they've sat for nine months.

    Only recently are we finally in a position to begin purchasing things to make this house feel more like us.  It's exciting!  And because of the wait, we appreciate each carefully chosen piece just a little bit more.  There's a good life lesson in that, I think.

    Below are seven new additions to the farmhouse.  I search widely and go for a mix of more expensive, less expensive, vintage and handmade.  It takes much more time, but I love the look of a collected home.  Linking up with Kelly's Quick Takes!

    One of the only things we splurged on when we moved in were two rocking chairs for the front porch.  We really needed three, but money only stretches so far, hah!  We just got the last one we needed and aesthetically, it looks so much better.  The chairs are made in the USA, created with eco-friendly materials, really sturdy and comfortable.   

    I stumbled on Annie's work on Instagram and knew I needed a piece of her art in my house!  I chose one of her original Marian monotypes and it is so stunning in person.  I have it framed and ready to hang in my front foyer.  (ALSO!  Check out her on Instagram for a coupon code, good through tomorrow!)

    I was on the lookout for something to hold fruit on my kitchen island and this metal fruit basket fit the bill.  I wavered between two or three tiers, but the smaller one is perfect.

    I've had naked windows in my dining room, just begging for curtains!  After searching for awhile, I went with my go-to favorite from Ikea.  They are inexpensive and look great!

    Have you heard of Freckled Hen Farmhouse?  I love Natalie's store!  It was so hard to choose, but I picked a zinc flower pot for my first purchase.  It is so cute with that already worn look.  I can't wait to find a new plant to put inside.

    After the addition of my new welcome mat, I wanted something to flank the front door.  (It's totally the home version of "If you give a mouse a cookie," haha!)  I found two 21" concrete planters and am thinking two bay leaf trees may be fun and unexpected.  I'm impatiently waiting for warmer weather to plant them.

    A few weekends ago, Mark and I joked that we needed a bell to wrangle our children for dinner. when they were all outside.  A quick search on etsy and I found this hand forged dinner bell!  It just arrived this week and we are all so impressed with the workmanship.  My kids love the show, Forged in Fire, and it's definitely helped us appreciate the work involved.

    Have you added anything new to your house lately?  I'd love to hear about it!

    Wednesday, April 4, 2018

    No.105: Getting into Nature // 1000 Hours Outside Challenge

    As they huddle together putting on sneakers and sweatshirts, I overhear one of them exclaim, "Let's try for THREE hours today!"  We're less than two weeks in, but I think this is our new normal.  And it all started with a family meeting and a challenge.

    I credit Tabitha for introducing me to Ginny and her 1000 Hours Outside Challenge.  The idea comes from research finding that an average American child spends more than 1200 hours on a screen each year.  So the goal of 1000 hours outdoors, not attached to a screen, seems like a reasonable way to add a little balance.  This challenge has been nagging me since my Seven Changes post and with the arrival of spring, it seemed like the perfect time to jump right in!

    We officially started tracking our hours on March 23.  Our one rule is: the hours count if most of us are outside.  A second personal goal for me: I decided that my cell phone would stay in the house.  (Exception being, I can use it if I want to take a photograph, but then back into the house it goes.)

    This extended time outdoors is new for us.  It's a bit uncomfortable and intimidating.  And yet, just twelve days in, I can already see the fruit of positive change.  A few observations: 
    • There is a difference between the random pleas to "please go play outside" (which could last anywhere from 10 minutes to 3 hours) and intentionally deciding to spend hours outdoors.  When they know we'll be outside for an hour, they find something specific to do vs. wandering aimlessly.  
    • There is less bickering and fighting.  Maybe because there's room to spread out?
    • Toys are totally over-rated.  We have bikes and plasma cars and sports gear, but the items they use the most?  Sticks.  
    • We all sleep better.  Fresh air and extra exercise have us knocked out at the end of the day.
    • I am the one who had the most trouble at first.  I was the one who kept peeking at the clock.  I was the one who felt the urge to grab my phone and just check one thing (can you say, addict?).  I was one who struggled with the idea that I should be doing something "productive," whatever that means.  I started this challenge for my kids, but it's probably been most beneficial for me.   
    1000 hours can seem like a huge goal, so I decided to bring it down to a more manageable level - 100 hours at a time!  I created a printable tracker to keep in our kitchen and we're coloring in the tree leaves as we go.  As of this writing, we have 24 hours completed.  A solid start!  Feel free to download the tracker for your family as well.

    Some other ideas:
    • Trying to combat weekend laziness?  Set the goal of completing 5 hours outside (if you count Friday afternoon, Saturday and Sunday, it averages to about an hour and 40 minutes a day) and you'd reach 100 hours in around five months!
    • Fill a tracker during summer vacation!  Most breaks are around 10 weeks, which means a daily habit of around 1.5 hours outdoors would have you finished by the first day of school.
    • Do you have a handful of outdoor places you like to explore?  Color code your experiences (ie. green for the backyard, blue for the beach, yellow for hikes, etc.).  At the end, you'll be able to see at a quick glance where you've been.
    Download your own copy here!

    Tuesday, April 3, 2018

    No.104: New Habits, Little by Little: Cooking at Home (March 2018)

    It's the sense of what family is at the dinner table. It was the joy of knowing mother was in the kitchen making our favorite dish. I wish more people would do this and recall the joy of life. - Paul Prudhomme

    Week 35 (cont.):
    Thursday, March 1: A Taste of Madagascar. chicken legs and rice, spicy bread
    Friday, March 2: No Power! random food from the pantry

    Week 36:
    Saturday, March 3: Five Guys burgers at my parents' house
    Sunday, March 4: Power is back! random food that we were able to get from the grocery store
    Monday, March 5: tacos
    Tuesday, March 6: shredded chicken tossed in salsa verde over rice, salad
    Wednesday, March 7: roasted chicken thighs with mashed potatoes and broccoli
    Thursday, March 8: french onion pot roast with rice and broccoli
    Friday, March 9: frozen fish sticks and shrimp egg rolls

    Week 37:
    Saturday, March 10: brisket in the smoker, coleslaw, BBQ beans, and ham & cheddar biscuits
    Sunday, March 11: Daylight Savings Time. Mark's homemade pizza
    Monday, March 12: brisket nachos
    Tuesday, March 13: roasted chicken legs with broccoli, rice and ciabatta bread
    Wednesday, March 14: beef stroganoff soup and blueberry pie for "Pi Day"
    Thursday, March 15: Refrigerator Clean-Out Night
    Friday, March 16: Mark worked late, so we just had grilled cheese sandwiches

    Week 38:
    Saturday, March 17: St. Patrick's Feast Day. shepherd's pie and Irish soda bread
    Sunday, March 18: brats on the grill, velveeta&rotel mac&cheese and salad
    Monday, March 19: St. Joseph's Feast Day. philly cheesesteak sloppy joes
    Tuesday, March 20: leftovers
    Wednesday, March 21: breakfast for dinner - waffles
    Thursday, March 22: A Taste of South Africa. shredded chicken with South African yellow rice and salad
    Friday, March 23: sushi

    Week 39:
    Saturday, March 24: homemade buffalo chicken pizza
    Sunday, March 25: leftovers
    Monday, March 26: grilled pork chops with brown rice and broccoli
    Tuesday, March 27: kielbasa with rice and salad
    Wednesday, March 28: Mom and M visit! burgers and fries from our favorite local spot
    Thursday, March 29: beans and rice
    Friday, March 30: creamy tomato tortellini soup

    Week 40:
    Saturday, March 31: Refrigerator Clean-Out Night

    Monday, April 2, 2018

    No.103: Intentions for the Beginning of April

    It's Spring Break for us this week!  Our days are purposefully wide open and while the weather doesn't look promising, I hope we'll be able to spend much of it outdoors.  I also plan to attack my long overdue to-do list and maybe even deep clean my house.  And reading.  Definitely lots of reading too!


    • Habit of the Month: Thoroughness
    • switch car seats around (we need to separate a few frequent squabblers)
    • take out clothes to spring/summer and pack away winter
    • fix the dryer hose
    • start a deep cleaning of the house (find a checklist online!)
    • finalize plans for front walkway and flower beds
    • string lights throughout the back porch (100 LT #61)
    • install curtain rods and hang curtains in the dining room
    • make dentist appointments
    • print photographs off of old hard drive for my December Daily album
    • mail another batch of postcards
      • return to a few half-finished books and finish them
      • research safe sunscreens that actually work
      • bake a loaf of whole wheat bread
      • make a batch of granola
      • learn how to make baguettes (100 LT #50)
      • find a local milk provider


      If you're reading on your phone or in a reader, be sure to click over to see what I checked off the list!
      • speak kindly about myself to myself (why is this so hard?! working on this)
      • send out the first batch of cards for the Springtime Postcard Project (still room to sign up!)
      • take photos for March's "Our Extraordinary Ordinary Life" (you can see the post here)
      • buy candy and fill eggs
      • make sure the kids have something appropriate to wear for Easter (and me too!)
      • find a type of sushi that I like (anything cooked is good - I still can't get behind raw fish yet)
      • drink more water
      • make dentist appointments
      • plan out flower beds for the front of the house and research local landscape architects (we had a landscape architect consultation last week, so excited!)
      • find coordinating outdoor pillows for the front rocking chairs and back bench that don't cost a small fortune (no luck yet!)
      • start the weaning process with P (this isn't going very well...he's teething and sick and not really having it)

      What about you?  What do you hope to accomplish in the next two weeks?
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