Monday, October 12, 2009

The Geological Dig

Just look at that clean counter!!

Getting our house ready for the market has been quite the experience. Stressful, yes, but also incredibly eye-opening to our habits, priorities and memories. Several weeks ago, we made the final decision to sell our house and began the geological dig through the stuff we have lived with for years and years.

I was scared most of the basement, so we began there. Not only was it filled with the most disgusting yuck from years of a wet, sopping experience down there, it was also the space that would show the most improvement over the smallest span of time. I wish we had a dumpster to toss it all into, but we found ways to decrease the mass of trash bags and got it all out with the evening trash. We were pretty proud of the accomplishment after the first day of digging. We were also saddened that we had let so many of our possessions, once special and memorable, disintegrate down there.

By the time we moved our dig up stairs to the main rooms of the house, we were beginning to get familiar with this strange sensation. We were digging through all these boxes, bags and shelves of things we apparently felt we needed at one time or another. We began to wonder why we needed all this stuff - especially stuff that we hadn't even looked at in a long time. We started asking ourselves, and each other, what does this box of mementoes hold for us? If we trash them, do the memories still exist? What was so important that we needed to hold on to all of this? Why put it in a box in some closet or shelf when we really need to let it go?

Once we got started letting go, it became tough to stop. Only getting back to work after the weekend off took us out of the trashing mentality - but honestly, I kept going in the evenings after work, just at a slower pace. After we attacked each and every room (including the boys' rooms!!), we began looking at the bookshelves, the cupboards, the drawers. If we weren't careful, one of us would put something down and someone else would snatch it up to get tossed!

What we were afraid of happening - finding the love for our house once again - did happen. We love living in a clean and organized space. We love it so much that we are finding new habits to keep it somewhat tidy and presentable. Of course, leading realtors through helps us stay focused on that. But I find that I have been able to let go of the fear that someone would drop by unannounced - mostly because now I want someone to see how beautiful our home has become - but also because we were able to get things cleaned out enough to know what's behind every closet door, under every bed and behind every cabinet. Although we discovered how much we love living in a clean house, we still understand how important it is to sell our home and move on.

Within all this, we made 4 trips to the second-hand store, with the van stuffed with donations. We have made one trip to the bookseller, but only unloaded 7 books. The library will receive the rest. We have made use of our local trash and recycling center with what felt and looked like tons of junk. Living without all of this has brought on a feeling of lightness of being. No longer stepping over things to get into bed, I can navigate to the bathroom and back in the middle of the night without fear of a catastrophe. My kids can find their clothes in the morning without needing a pickax to get through the piles of junk. We are truly a family transformed.

What piles are you hiding behind (or under)? Do you put off sorting through loads of junk as a way to put off cleaning out your life? Or do you have everything in neat order to keep control of things? Have you experienced a clean-out as we have? What did you find out about yourself? Share your thoughts here!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Coming Back Into Focus


Do you know the feeling when you somersault underwater, then come out of it not knowing which way is up and out into the fresh air? I have become quite familiar with that feeling over this past month. When several issues hit at once, that were frustrating, eye-opening and concerning, I had to find my way to fresh air. During that process, I stopped writing on my blog. I stopped, mostly because I had nothing to share. I had put aside my urge to check in with everyone, and to share things I was thinking about. I gave myself time to define my priorities, and to let go of those things that were no longer important.

I have made several discoveries about myself over the past month. I have learned that taking care of my family, my home, my body and my money are all priorities. Not that they weren't in the past, but I have reached absolute bottom with each of these areas lately, that I had to stare each one in the face long and hard to discover how I was going to pursue a comfortable standard for myself. Just how clean is clean? Just how much money needs to be in savings to feel secure? What foods make me feel sick and what make me feel better? How hard do I push for my kids to be involved in after school activities - or homework? How about family respect? Do I demand it at every turn?

My sister, Lisa discovered more cancer in her breast (pectoral) muscle - from the side that the initial tumors were removed. I never considered this would happen. Why? I knew it could. However, I knew what 'clean margins' meant - and when the doctors announced that they 'got it all' with the initial surgery, I never questioned it. I subscribed to the magic carpet that carried us all right out of harm's way and into the land of healing. I should have known better. But I just so desperately wanted to take a deep breath - I wanted to be certain Lisa would be fine forever. So when she called me with the new pathology report a few weeks ago, I felt all the trauma of the first cancer phone call over a year ago. Me, at a laundromat during one of my washer-break-down days, trying to shove the clothes into the dryer, putting quarters into the machine with blurry, tear-filled eyes. The quarters kept falling to the floor, and me, swearing under my breath. I wasn't angry at those quarters, but at life. At the ridiculous cosmos for causing my sister pain and anguish.

So you see, I had to step aside from this blog, from certain areas in my life that were taking considerable time and effort that I just didn't feel I could afford to give. I stopped creating art, making music for fun, enjoying friends, laughing. So many things stopped making sense, and I had to figure it out. Not really a depression, but a serious focusing to get clear on life and how I really want to live mine. I can't stop my sister's cancer. I can't change the housing market. I can't force my children to love school. I can't pay the bills unless I go to work. Looking at all of this with a positive light, I can learn more about breast cancer, to be pro-active rather than frightened. I can keep my house tidy until the right time comes to sell it. I can extend my kids' educational experiences by offering more museum trips and adventures that relate to their curriculum. I can find a way to de-stress at work, providing myself enough space to enjoy what I do and the people I work with.

And I can keep finding time to do the things I love, to keep everything in perspective.

I wish you all well.

Friday, September 11, 2009

A Day at the Museum

This summer, we had the great experience of visiting The Connecticut Science Center. Housed in a beautiful new building in the busy city of Hartford, Connecticut, this place is amazing. We have a pretty terrific science museum and a children's museum here in Boston, but when I read a review in the paper about this place in Hartford, I figured it was worth the 1.5 hour drive. And I was right. (I love it when I'm right.)



The museum, designed by world-renowned architect, Cesar Pelli, sits on the beautiful Connecticut River. Although it is crazy busy outside, once inside the comfortable walls, it feels as though you are suspended above a calm and peaceful turn of the water. Lots of windows to look out - even climb into to get a better view.






Everything about the place was airy and cool. Being a very hot day in August, we welcomed the cooler temperatures indoors. There was a whole exhibit on how they built the museum taking into account green engineering and geothermal energy for cooling.

The exhibits were incredible. Usually, my kids can breeze through a place, pretty much casing the joint for the 'fun-ness' factor. Well... I can tell you that we had to drag them out of there after 5 hours! And only because we were starving, and had a long drive ahead of us. We could have stayed longer, much longer.

Here, my husband is using bursts of air to move a beach ball. The game involved getting the ball through a chute - somewhat trickier than he thought!




Our eldest had pretty good luck. Turns out you needed the smaller ball, using less air momentum, and a whole lot of patience, in order to make it through.





Interactive exhibits where kids actually want to participate with an adult tops my list of fantastic summer finds!




My husband received a tutorial on speed-skiing, video-game style from our youngest. Although he typically does not enjoy video games, he kept trying this out, again and again.




Making music is one of our passions, and this museum did not let us down. Our eldest found the electronic jam room, and tuned up with several other kids.



You can listen to some of what they created here:






Our youngest is the mover and shaker of the family, as you can see here with the jumping exhibit:


And here, our youngest and my husband duel it out mind-blowing style. See the little, tiny ball in the glass tube? And see the headbands on their heads? With alpha waves, they are each moving the ball back and forth. He who gets the ball to the opposite end of the tube first, is the most relaxed. No pressure, folks...


And this is what the graph looks like after the competition. You may have guessed that you want the waves to be down low with few peaks. Looks like Player 2 got it this time!



This exhibit was pretty fun for our youngest. he's such a rock-'em, smash-'em kinda guy that he took to this immediately. The whole point of it was 'why do we need helmets'? You choose a helmet, put it on the 'dummy head' and then pull back the huge mallet and let it go.


The mallet then hits the head simulating a car crash or some other type of head trauma:



I'm pretty sure the point of the exhibit was totally lost on my son. He just enjoyed smashing the head over and over.

Here, you see both my boys actually checking something out together...! I thought they had outgrown playing in the water and sand, but what-do-you-know? Put it out there, and they will get their hands in it!



We had an incredible time. At lunch we traipsed down to the cafe for a meal full of organic and local produce/meats. It was a bit pricey, but when the food is that well-prepared, I don't mind paying a little more.

If anyone ventures out to Connecticut, make a beeline for the Connecticut Science Center. If it can bring my family together for a full day of fun, it must be totally amazing!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Hurry-Up Breakfast Smoothie, Or... How to Get Out the Door On Time!


My kids draaaaaaag out the door for school. Who can blame them? The schools in my town open earlier as the kids get older. It would make sense to me that the youngest kids go to school the earliest, and then as the hormones kick in, the start time gets a little later. Ah well. As I always say, "I don't run the zoo".

So to get things going quickly, we have to be pretty creative with breakfast ideas in the morning. My guys leave eating to the last minute after getting ready, so smoothies have become the best belly-filler of all. Here's our favorite with the boys:

Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie
(goes down nice and fast)

Serves 2 with large glassfuls

2 C milk (or other milk-like beverage (soy/rice, etc)
2 ripe bananas
2 heaping tablespoonfuls of protein powder
1 T agave nectar
2 T peanut butter (can be omitted for allergies)
Large glassful of ice

Add ins (if you desire): chocolate chips, chocolate powder, vanilla extract, peaches, strawberries (or any other fruit), nuts (if no allergy)


Put all in blender and mix until creamy, frothy and thick. So good!


image from wiredfornoise.com

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Parenting 101


Parenting is, at best, rewarding, yet challenging. It has taken many a discussion and many occasions of being ignored for me to just begin to understand what my kids are really saying. During the times when I can take a step back and just breathe, I cherish what my kids are saying underneath it all. It isn't always what I want to hear, but if I pay attention, I can figure out what they need.

What They Say (in black) versus What They Mean (In red)

I didn't do it.

Yes, I did indeed do it, but I'm not going to admit it as I think you'll eventually calm down and not eat me if I just pretend I don't know what you're talking about.

I don't have a girlfriend.

Yes, I do like someone, but I wouldn't DARE express anything but negative emotions in your presence as you might get the idea that I am still a nice, gentle person inside.

I am so bored.

I need to spend more time actually doing things and less time being entertained, although what I am thinking is I need the opposite.

I don't want to walk next to you.

I don't want my friends to see me wanting to spend time with you, and enjoying your company.


I need money.

I need money.


Can I have a sleepover?

Basically, I need your permission to stay up all night, be rowdy with my friends, eat every single thing in the house, then demand that you buy more food, drive the neighbors crazy and sleep all the next day while you have to get up and function on pretty much no sleep.

I don't care.

Of course I care, but if I show you I care, you will then expect me to be all mushy and on top of things all the time. I can tell my friends that I care, but never you.

I don't want to go with you.

I am asserting my independence, and even though I typically want to go with you, I am opting out this time, so you know I am becoming my own person.

I love you.

I do love you very much, no matter how I am acting.


I wouldn't ever change my parenting job. I wish it was a little easier sometimes, especially when I am tired or over-stressed. It is true that teenagers are a whole different breed from toddlers... but it's good to keep growing and learning (as a parent, I mean)... right?


Thursday, September 3, 2009

Reflections of Summer


Yesterday, I returned to work. After 5 1/2 weeks of no work, I have returned to my job, along with 700 other fellow employees. This week, as with all first weeks in years past, we go through orientation, various training and inservices, and get ready for our students to arrive next week. These are the days we all look at each other and wonder, "Where did the summer go?".
I look back at the things I said I would do this summer, and laugh at my absurdity. Work out one hour a day!?!?!? Who was I kidding? I did, however, learn to like walking, and found that I could happily walk myself into town to run some errands. I also like getting up out of my very uncomfortable beach chair to wander down to the ocean and walk in the waves.

We did not get to Vermont or to Maryland to visit loved ones. We did get to drive up and down the coast of Maine, reconnecting with our boys and our love of the wild terrain that state has to offer.

I read some great books - The Time Traveler's Wife, The Schwarzbein Principle (for the 4th time), Everyday Grain-Free Gourmet, and some of Suze Orman's books on finances.

We took apart the bathroom, pulling out the really disgustingly colored blue tile and replacing it with lovely white tile. The room is not finished, but at least it's been started. Perhaps we'll wait until next summer to get the rest finished (gulp).

I made some great meals - when I wasn't complaining about the rain, or the intense heat and humidity. I learned how to satisfy my savory cravings with fresh latin food.

I learned how to block out constant chaos and pounding as the house next door began it's transformation. I tell you - it takes all my strength not to holler, "Be Quiet!!!" at their incessant hammering, sawing and yelling. But hey - they tell me it will be beautiful. I think it's different when the contractor tells you that so you'll be more patient - when it's your own house that they are making the noise on. When it's someone else's house - WHY SHOULD I CARE IF IT'S GOING TO BE BEAUTIFUL??? It's still terribly disruptive.

Ah. But back to summer ending. What will Fall hold? I happen to adore Fall. Every little thing about it just tickles my fancy. I love the leaves turning, the crisp sound of them crunching underfoot as you walk through the park. I love the chilling of the air - gone are the thoughts of humid sunrises where breathing was challenging. Here come the slow-cooked meals, long-simmered soups and casseroles. Mulled cider and wine have my name all over them.

How about you? What do you look forward to as summer comes to a close and Fall comes down the road? Will you miss the summer, or look forward to the next adventures to come?


Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Looking Out For Lisa - 2 Months To Go!




It's been just over a month since I posted here about Looking Out For Lisa, sharing our efforts to raise funds for her cancer care.

I am so happy to report that just through contacting our online friends, we have raised $3410.00! We are looking into a couple of outside events in our towns to further support this drive, in order to complete our goal of $30,000. Alone, this feels like a mountain to move. But I know that by working together as a community, as a supportive and tremendously creative group of individuals, we can make this happen. I've seen this happen, and feel no reason to think it can't happen here.

Just as Lisa goes into another surgery this week, I would love to ask the question -

"Would you help a stranger?"

To what lengths would you go to support that person? I ask myself this question often, living outside of Boston, crossing paths with individuals needing housing, food, companionship. How far will we allow ourselves to reach out in kindness and love to someone we do not know?

Do you have $5, $10, $20 to support this effort? Do you have web space to refer visitors to this post? Do you have interest in blogging about it on your own?

What if we all carried each other through the tough times? Our health care will never be what we need it to be - or at least I don't see a perfect health care system in my near future. Can we carry each other through to the other side of well-being and financial grounding? I believe we can. And it really only takes a few bucks.

If you are able to participate, please click on the Looking Out For Lisa ChipIn above. If you need button html, please email me.

Thank you so much for your kindness and consideration! Let's see how far we get this month!

Blogger Showcase!

Why does it seen like I turn around and it's Tuesday again!?!?!?

This week, I want to showcase someone my mother just turned me on to. As you know, I looooove to cook. Love it. Love. It. As the weather cools (can't believe I just typed that), I turn to my slow cooker to get things ready while I am working and being taxi-mom all day. I have some pretty good slow cooking cookbooks, however, all but one uses copious amounts of cream of mushroom soup - which I'm not even sure belongs in any food group.

Just so happened my mom drops the name of this blog during a conversation, and I am totally hooked. The site I'm talking about is... (here goes the drumroll...)



At A Year Of Slow Cooking, Stephanie has taken, as the title announces, a year to use her slow cooker every single day. For those of you familiar with books and movies, Julie and Julia has done a similar project, as the author cooked through Julia Child's cookbook in a year and blogged about it. Stephanie has blogged through her escapades, has published a cookbook, and though her year has ended, still shows up to post every now and then.

What I really like about this blog is how she pictures her ingredients, gives clear instructions on how to fill the pot, then returns after the meal to describe how it went - how it looked, tasted, and what the kids thought.

Of course, the best part for me, is Stephanie's family is gluten-free just as mine is. It is really hard to find gluten free folks making waves in the culinary world, and doing a good job of it, so I appreciate the added resource.

Some examples of what she cooks up:
Mmmm. Can't wait to pull my pot our and dust it off after a hot summer. I'm not too sure what I'll make first, but I'll be sure to let you know.

Definitely stop by A Year of Slow Cooking. If you make something, tell me about it!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Summer's Over Tostadas

Had to - just had to come up with a new recipe for the blog. (And oh, by the way - you're getting four with this post tonight!!) It's been weeks since I last gave you a mindful dose of cookin'. I was reading the article about Jennifer Aniston's cooks who made this super-yummy looking tostada and salad meal. I was really inspired to use kale in my tostadas, as I am always looking for new ways to get my kids to eat greens. What follows is my rendition, which is why I can name it. Please let me know if you make it, and tell me what you think.

By the way - many weeks ago, I asked for your recipes to put into a menu plan. I haven't forgotten, still have what you sent, and welcome more additions. This project asks for more time than I was able to give it this summer to complete it, but I'm almost done with a 2-week trial for your perusal. Feel free to send me more ideas!



Summer's Over Tostadas


Preheat over to 400 degrees F. Brush olive oil over one side of 18 corn tortillas. Bake for approximately 8-10 minutes on a cookie sheet (I had to do mine in batches) or until browned. You may want to turn them over, but you will not need to brush more oil on. Remove from over and let sit.

Topping:
2 cans black beans
3 scallions, minced
2 T feta cheese (optional)
1/2 C chopped greens (I used swiss chard because that is what I had on hand. You could use chard, kale, bok choy, or other leafy green)
Salt and pepper to taste

1 C monterey jack cheese, shredded

Put all ingredients except monterey jack cheese in a large bowl to mix. Spread 2T bean mix over each baked tortilla. Put back in over and bake until cheese melts and bean mixture is hot.
Top with salsa verde, guacamole, sour cream. Serve with Enchanted Salad.

Salsa Verde

12 tomatillos, husked and chopped
4 scallions, minced
1 large handful cilantro, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3T Apple cider vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
1 jalapeno pepper, minced (optional)

To make this salsa the easy way, put everything in the food processor and pulse until somewhat chopped and uniform in texture to your taste. Refrigerate after using. Makes about 1 cup. Use to top tostadas.

Enchanted Salad

3 Cups various salad greens, torn into bite-sized pieces (I used Organic microgreens)
1 red pepper, chopped
1 avocado, cut into small slices
1 blood orange, peeled, cut into large chunks

Mix all ingredients, putting avocado and orange pieces on top (they look pretty there!).
Dress with Cumin Dressing, below

Cumin dressing
1/4 C Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 C Apple Cider Vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
1 T cumin

Mix all ingredients and pour over salad. So good. So, so good. Mmmmmm.


Ambrosia Delight
(in honor of my mother)

Fill a large drinking glass (16oz) with ice. Pour in 1/2 cup both pineapple and guava juice. Fill the glass with Seltzer (or Sprite) and mix with a spoon.

* Double check that the juice you use for this drink is only juice - no sugar, additives, etc. Sometimes the guava nectar is only fruit and gives the drink a nice, smooth texture. Ah yes, 'Ambrosia', my mother would say.


Sunday, August 30, 2009

Friday, August 28, 2009

What a Cool Tag!

Angela, at My Year Without Spending tagged me with a very special award:



"The Humane Award honors eight certain bloggers that I feel are kindhearted individuals. They regularly take part in my blog and always leave the sweetest comments. If it wasn't for them, my site would just be an ordinary blog. Their blogs are also amazing and are tastefully done on a daily basis. I thank them and look forward to our growing friendships through the blog world. Link back to the person who gifted you with the award and share the love with other bloggers."

Every day, I am excited to see who has checked in on my blog. Like an excited neighbor, I rush to their blogs to see what's up with them. It really is a sweet and inspiring community that we blog in, supportive, encouraging and entertaining. Through blogland, I get to watch children grow, look at what they are studying through homeschooling, learn new crafts, discover new gardening techniques, explore places I have never been around the world.

In the interest of paying it forward, I would like to pass this award on to the following 8 blogging friends - I thank you all for your support, encouragement and inspiration on a daily basis!

  1. Barbara at Second Surf
  2. Stacy at Golden Bird Knits
  3. Cory at Pink Dogwood Blossom
  4. Michelle at Earthy Crafty Mommy
  5. Jamie at Inspired Mess
  6. Donni at The Magic Onions
  7. Kyndale at Earthy Crunchy
  8. Lisa at 5 Orange Potatoes
I am adding a ninth and tenth - My sister, Lisa and my mother, Sunny have been my biggest supporters all along. I'm adding them as 9 and 10 as they don't have blogs, but I really want to share how wonderful they have been, and truly deserve this award.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Stop and Think, Then Think Again


Several folks commented on yesterday's post about my dryer. The general feeling that came through was to think about those who do not use a dryer - because they do not have one available. And also to think about the folks who choose to dry their clothes outside on a line.

Although these are very good points to ponder, I must admit to feeling a little defensive at first. I choose to dry my clothes in a dryer for several reasons. We happen to live in an area that gets tremendous humidity in the warmer months, and chilling cold in the winter, making a line somewhat challenging, since the clothes would not dry. I also share my yard with another family, and a really big trampoline - not much space for a clothes line.

But after more thinking about it, I am left wondering - Are these just excuses? Why do we choose to be tunnel-visioned about certain decisions (as in the effort to live mindfully), yet completely oblivious about others? Is my choice to dry my clothes with the dryer some way to hold on to older habits - as if my whole self was not in on the decision to take better care of the world? Or is it simply that I can't stand the feel of stiff, rough, air-dried towels on my skin?

I happen to be a rather robust woman living in a busy community, and the thought of my clothes hanging out for everyone to marvel at feels pretty humiliating. However, would 'airing my laundry' out where others could see actually set me free from the worries of "What would the neighbors think"?

I think the only way I will know is by trying. Before the ground gets cold (hard to think of that happening in this heat), we could sink a post or two and tie up a line. It would be good to work through my stubbornness regarding line drying, and see where it gets me.

Are there decisions in your life that you keep putting off? What would they be?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Dryer Saga, Part 3


Who'd have thought? You may have been around when I posted this about our dryer breaking down in January. Then, we were able to replace it with a free one, even though I was pining for a cherry-red, front-loading model. After a few months, it broke down, and I talked about that here. We were able to fix it, amazingly, as dryers don't seem too challenging to understand, once you figure out how to open them. So we were able to keep the free one after investing in a $14 part.

A few days ago, one of our sons just happened to mention that they had noticed the clothes in the dryer were still wet - the clothes they had put in a couple of days prior. They informed me - the dryer is broken, mom. Oh great.

How far do you push a free dryer? When do you throw in the towel and get a 'new' one? When do you throw in THAT towel and buy a really 'new' one from the store that gives guarantees and delivery and hauling away of the old one (or old ones in our case)? Those were the tough questions in our household this weekend.
I was ready to bite the bullet and get a brand new one. I'm tired of taking on other people's problem appliances. Why should I have to learn how a blower wheel works when other people get to watch their laundry spin round and round in their brand new front loaders? Grrr.

Earth to Jill... Remember why you started this blog in the first place??

Um... Yeah. So I started to do some research. The machine just wasn't starting up at all - no juice whatsoever. It could be many things, but we had to start at the door switch. Having learned recently how to open the dryer front, I took it off and quickly found the switch in question. Having unplugged the machine (of course), I removed the switch and set about looking for a replacement. Two appliance parts stores later, we found the part. Now to go home and find if this was the problem.

The part fit perfectly, with a little squeezing of some pliers, and low and behold... it started up. It's been drying all day now - and yes, we re-washed the stinky boy load and everything is just fine now. (Gotta give them kudos for trying to do their own laundry, right??)

What items have you fixed when you could have replaced?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Blogger Showcase!

It's Tuesday! Time for the Blogger Showcase!

This week, I am showcasing a blog that is new to me, but not to some of my blogging friends.


Some amazing ideas for gardening are shared here. Talk about inspiration! I only wish we were going in to spring as they are over on the other side - my plants did so poorly this year, after all that planning and planting.

I also learned about a lovely loaf of artisanal bread dough that you keep ready in the fridge to be baked before a meal - you ought to check that out. I only wish it was gluten free (boo hoo).

There are some fantastic recipes, garden structures and stories about a husband (Superman) that likes to make surprises.

Check out Wendy at Urban Homestead South Africa when you have the chance. I know I'll be back for more!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Grouting 101


Way back when, we decided this was the year of the bathroom makeover. I touted that I would do the re-do on the cheap, and of course it's been anything but. But all that aside, I thought I would share my wise words for those of you considering a walk down the aisle of home improvement, especially projects in the bathroom domain. Being that we grouted the tile around the tub today, I thought this post could be ...

All About Grout
  1. Do not leave grout all over the floor, the tub, the wall and your hands unless you plan on sanding everything down at a later date - including your hands.
  2. Do not use a kitchen spatula to transfer grout from the bucket to the float, especially one with holes.
  3. Do not expect happy moments with your spouse if you are both squeezed into the tub trying to grout the walls before the grout dries, and both making a royal mess.
  4. Do not... 'ahem'... do not wear a favorite outfit while grouting, especially when grouting with your spouse as grout has a tendency to fly about the room and permanently land on clothing (and the floor, sink, tub, toilet, door, hall)
  5. Do not make any other plans for the day. The grouting takes forever, and then you will be too tired to even get up off the couch to go look at your great job done until tomorrow.
  6. Please - and I am asking nicely - please do not put blue-green wall tile around a pink bathtub. If you do, the next person will just have to come and rip it out - and then they will have to learn how to grout. Think neutral, people!
  7. Do expect very sore arms by the end of the day - grouting is all about the 'push', you know.
  8. Do expect that you will either have to miss those very important calls while you are grouting - or expect that your phone will become one with the bathroom wall after you reach for it (not thinking) and inadvertently cover it with grout.
I am grateful for the ability to begin, carry out and complete home improvement projects with my husband. I do wish they were less messy, and hope that the next project could be in a somewhat larger space.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Summerings

Can you ramble with pictures? Well - consider this a major rambling. We have been so busy with family visiting, that blogging has been tough to get to. Here are a few pics of things we have experienced lately.





































This is a mushroom










Be Well.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Pretty Sweet Giveaway!


I came across this giveaway through Debra at flotsam and had to pass it on. I think the bag is amazing and oh so cute - going to try to make one myself someday... hmmm.

Sew Cute Shop Amy Butler Birdie Sling GUEST GIVEAWAY!!!!

12 Ways to Pamper Yourself, On the Cheap!


It's summer. I thought things would be slower and less hectic. But no, I'm a mom, and being such calls me into place repeatedly to taxi, feed, kiss, referee, manage, juggle and supervise. Finding that little slice of 'me' time is still challenging, without the full time job (I'm off for the month of August). So I set out to find little things that aim to pamper oneself, inexpensively, and in small amounts of time - just right for a busy mom, professional, or all around too-busy-to-take-care-of-myself kind o' gal.
  1. Take a bath. These days it is a cool bath for me with the humidity in the stratosphere. Strew fresh herbs and flowers under the tap as it fills your tub. The scents will fill you with happy and relaxing, invigorating thoughts. Light candles. Play soft music. Read something light and enjoyable (or nothing at all). Soak as long as you like, or are able to - after about 20 minutes I'm a bit prune-ish.
  2. Make a smoothie. Check here for a great recipe. I try to keep a variety of frozen fruits in the freezer just for this purpose. Typically, when the kids hear the blender, they have this Pavlovian response and come running, so when I want something all to myself, I have to make it quick or make it when they are outside ;). (Not that I don't love sharing with my boys - but the point here is to have an individual experience.
  3. Clean out a drawer. I know - weird, huh?? Who would think that to pamper might mean actually cleaning? But hey - try it. Stop putting it off and actually clear out that junk drawer. It is surprising how wonderful it feels afterward. The sense of pride that fills my heart after I do this is tremendous.
  4. Take a walk. How well do you know your neighbors? Have you noticed what's been going on in your neighborhood lately? What are the trees doing this time of year? Are there any animals running about? Get outdoors and clear your head. I walk around my neighborhood and find things I never knew were there - after living here for 10 years!
  5. Swim. Do you have a local pool or pond/lake nearby? We are lucky to have a town pool where we can swim for no cost. We also live on a river - we can't swim in it, but we can be down by it and enjoy the wildlife there. How about a beach? I'm an hour away from the coast, but with a little planning, I can take a drive and spend some time there. The water is so refreshing and renewing. Even a gym membership, if you already have one, will work for this - if they have a pool. You don't always have to swim laps in a gym pool, especially if the pool isn't busy. Splash around and cool down. Float. Sink to the bottom. Feel your body suspended.
  6. Sit. Ask any busy woman. She'll concur with you how little time we all get to sit and think. Or not think. Just sit to breathe and rejuvenate. What a treat not be talked to for a few minutes. Ahhhhhhh...
  7. Go ahead. Eat a cookie. Sugar does something to us. Chocolate too. I know it's supposedly scientific with endorphins and all, but the truth at the bottom of the barrel is... we like it. Sweets make us smile. Perhaps some key to a door closed during childhood - sugar opens us like a good book. Grab one and enjoy.
  8. Spend time with a friend. This is one of my favorites. I especially love calling my sister and chatting for long minutes about all sorts of things. We can be in any kind of foul or frustrating mood, and know exactly what to say to the other to help boost things. The unconditional love felt between two individuals is more powerful than steel in my book.
  9. Garden. Whether you have an acre or windowbox, you can take some time to connect with the seasons through gardening. Planting herbs for the kitchen, planting flowers for the bees and butterflies, or planting the family garden plot at the community garden. These are all ways you can spend some time communing with Mother Nature, connecting with her cycles of germination, pollination, fruiting and finally, death.
  10. Sleep. Or, if you can't sleep, meditate. Can you spare 10 minutes to close your eyes? Past studies have shown that just a few moments of peace and quiet will restart your motor. Any longer than 20 minutes might make it more challenging to rest later on, so you would want to keep this to a little catnap.
  11. Enjoy some time with animals. We have so many little beings at my house. When things get a little rough, I love pulling a cat into my lap to chill out for a few minutes. There is a reason pets are used for therapeutic sessions. Talk about unconditional loving - wow! When you need a moment to be reminded that touch is sometimes the most important thing in the world, find a pet and enjoy.
  12. Be creative. I spent many, many years not creating. Making music for other people left my own bank empty. Recently, I started crafting, beading, collaging, dreaming. I wake up in the night, sometimes, thinking over a plan to create something when I next get the chance. Crafting fills me with excitement - as the energy I feel inside has somehow become tangible. I can hold the product, rework it, hang it up, throw it out. I'm in charge of it, and I like how that feels. The possibilities are endless and I like that as well.
It is so important to find time to pamper yourself. In fact it really is TAKING CARE of ourselves - not so much pampering. Pampering brings to mind luxuries that we could do without, and such is not the case here. Finding a way to recharge is a necessary part of each day. Can you make time for it?

I am curious what you might come up with as additional ideas for pampering. What do you do to relax?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Blogger Showcase!

It must be Tuesday! Time for the Blogger Showcase!

I look forward to this time every week so I can share one of the great blogs I've been looking through, reading, getting excited about (when I'm supposed to be cleaning/parenting/sleeping... you name it). The hardest part for me is deciding who to pick because I keep finding such great ones.


This week, I am showcasing... drumroll please...




Sarah at Thrifty Decor Chick has the most incredible decorating ideas I've found so far. Being mindful and mindfully simple does not mean being boring and ugly. I love to bargain hunt down the aisle of the flea market on any ol' day. I could - and often do - stop the van on a moment's notice to peruse a tag sale or two on a hot Saturday morning, coffee in hand. But then, what should I DO with those new treasures??? Well, I look to Sarah for the answers. She's amazing. Her motto is: "A good home must be made, not bought" (quote by Joyce Maynard)
  • Want to know what to do with those great second hand finds? Look here.
  • Looking for support while re-organizing the house? Look here.
  • This woman will arm-wrestle you under the table for molding. Look here.
  • Have you ever needed a reason to use spray paint? Look here.
The options are endless the way Sarah sees it. And to top it all off, she offers decorating advice at a steal of a price.

I am always looking forward to whatever she comes up with next - but I find myself asking, "Why didn't I think of that?!?" as I read her posts. It's really okay that others come up with the good ideas, as long as they don't mind that I try my hand at their projects every now and then (when I'm not reading blogs!).

Check out Sarah at Thrifty Decor Chick when you need a good decorating idea, or when you need to smile - her sense of humor is terrific! You'll be glad you did!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Summerings

It's just after 11 pm - not too late to get in my usual Sunday Summerings post. Here are a few pics from our trip to Maine, with just a few explanations.



Cobscook State Park, Dennysville, Maine
A truly beautiful and peaceful place.
Felt like we went to the end of the earth to get there, though.
This is a picture of mud flats - the tide had gone out and people were clamming.



Boys decided they needed a mud bath.



I loved the texture of this seaweed, but it was too slippery to walk on.




Looking out over the mud flats, mid-day. Such peace and tranquility.



Our campsite was on this little pond, surrounded by icky, gooey, deep mud. Bet you can guess what the boys discovered once the tent was up...



I fell in love with this little man in the rock. In the interest of leaving things as they were, I left it at the shore. I miss him.


Sandy Beach at Acadia State Park. Wow, what an amazing place. You must visit Acadia if you ever have a chance.





Brotherly love runs deep in our family. Especially when you spend very small spaces together all week long!


Lubec, Maine. Supposedly the Easternmost town in the US. They claim to see the sunrise first here.



Camden, Maine. You wouldn't know it to look at this picture, but Camden is one of the most touristy coastal towns in the whole state of Maine. Thank goodness we found a quiet spot.






West Quoddy Lighthouse. Easternmost lighthouse in country.

Thunder Hole - in Acadia State Park. The tide was high, so the effect of the thundering and splashing was not nearly as effective and exciting as we had hoped. We will return next year and wait for low tide. It is supposedly quite the show!

Everyone needs those experiences which make them feel on top of the world! This is in Lubec, Maine.

Thanks for coming along for the ride. Our trip was terrific, one to be repeated in the future - but perhaps with less driving (we drove 1000 miles over the week).