29 July 2011

The Joy of Less

Lately, I've been telling everyone I'm on a cleaning "bender." Pops keeps telling me not to use that word. He says the connotation is specifically for drunken binges. Like a weekend of wearing one of those hard-hats with spots for two beer cans and tubing that goes straight from can to mouth. Hmmm. I could never make that work with one of my outfits.

So while I am decidedly not riding any carnival of inebriation ... I do feel rather drunk with the desire to reduce. our. stuff.

A couple of months ago, I picked up a book at the library called The Joy of Less. I've got to tell you, I found it inspiring. Sure, the author is a bit extreme. She got rid of her bedframe so she didn't need to have night-stands and could just stick a lamp and a clock on the floor by her head. Uh, yeah. I'm soooo fine with having a bedframe and night-stand.

But, peppered throughout the book were really excellent bits of wisdom. Some of them quite logical and familiar, and others shocking. Such as ... Apparently, buying more transparent bins to "organize" junk still leaves me with stacks of prettily-boxed ... junk?? You mean, spending half a paycheck on bins might not be the solution to all organizational woes and world peace? You mean if I get rid of stuff in the bins I'll have empty bins on hand? Part of my brain just exploded a little bit.

Amongst the scattered nuggets of truth, the main thing I took from the book was to be intentional about stuff. Stuff isn't bad or evil. Stuff isn't the problem. It's the hold that it can have over us that is. This resonates so deeply with me. Does my stuff make my life more full or just fully overwhelming. I'm realizing that the "stuff" I actually want to have around me really can actually fit into at least one three categories: Do I find it truly useful? Do I find it truly meaningful? Do I find it truly beautiful? Intriguing, right?

The result for me, is utter pleasure of pawing through the house ... just little manageable bits at a time ... and determining if I use, find precious, or just love an item. And if not ... it is my joy to be done with it. Liberating, I tell you.

And get this. I have not used my label-maker, bought a bin, or strapped alcohol to my head. "Bender" or not, I think I'm becoming addicted to wanting less and truly loving what I possess.

Does this resonate with you, too?

28 July 2011

27 July 2011

Jane Rides Her Bike

 Today, somebody wanted to go for a bike ride. Her mama suggested we take the training wheels off. The little girl, wide eyed and be-smiled ... agreed.

Out came the wrench, off came the clackety wheels. One try, two tries, three tries go. The little girl was determined.

 And the little girl succeeded. Celebrations ensued. But not too gregariously 'cause that would be embarrassing. We're cool.

The mama watched and watched as the newly minted bicyclist rode and rode. Plans were made for cookie baking and stories to regale the family. After dinner they may then come outside to watch and cheer. Then we will give them a cookie.

Cookies are good for celebrations.

Serving up Easy Summer

As we were walking out to her patio for a late-afternoon chat, my Mamasita offered a glass of sparkle with some lime. So refreshing! Because every good idea I've ever had I have stolen from someone else ... I've now equipped myself with a case of Pellegrino and an equally large mess of limes.

The Pellegrino is chilling and I have limes wedged and ready to be squeezed. Come on over and I'll fetch you a glass.

22 July 2011

Rare Sighting: A Family Photo!

Glacier Natl. Park, Avalance Trail

20 July 2011

Life, On the Nose

I used to be very self-conscious about my nose. Once gone the stubby cuteness of youth, my adolescent self was not prepared for for my Italian genes to show up in full-force. In my eyes, I was the bearer of a proboscis of colossal proportions. A nose that walked before me and announced my impending arrival.

"It's very regal, Anna" my mother would say. "Roman and stately. Unique." I wasn't buying the 'regal' and 'Roman' and 'stately' were not what I wanted to embody. And really, 'unique'? Blending in was far preferable to standing out. I wanted darling, small, impish. And while you're at it, change my name to something adorable, like Heidi or Tiffany.

But now, with thirty-five just around the bend, I like my name. And I like my nose.

Perhaps it's maturity. Perhaps it's self-confidence that develops with time. Perhaps it's being the mother to a son and two beautiful young girls who may or may not inherit my features. And since this blog, ultimately, is a life-letter to my children, I want to remind them: God made you. On purpose. Fully. Down to the detail. Down to the nose. He made you unique ... and He is worthy of praise.

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, 

I know that full well. 
Psalm 139:13-14

19 July 2011

Operation Healthy Snack

As a follow up to my healthy-snack initiative ... 'cause oh how I do need my snacks ... here is my latest munchie love. RyCrisp crackers with Laughing Cow cheese wedges (35 calories a wedge? How is that possible?) and a slice of Fuji apple atop. It's got the crunch, the sweet, and a little bit of protein.

What are you snacking on lately?

13 July 2011

Wicked Good Dulche de Leche

 I heard a teen call something "wicked" the other day. It was a positive affirmation rather than a commentary on that which lacks virtue. I didn't really get it ... until last night. You see, I made something "wicked good."

A month ago or so I was in a specialty food store and picked up a $9 jar of Dulche de Leche (creamy caramel goodness). I managed to keep the drool in my mouth, but put the jar back ... 'cause $9?? Really? To my side was a lady who was apparently watching my caramel lust and commented to me: "You know, you can make that in a crockpot or something. I never done it, but my friend did and it was amazing. You should Google it." So I did.

Are you ready for this? You take a can of sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated milk!), take the label off, put the whole unopened can in the crockpot, cover it with water, set to low, and 'cook' for 10 hours. Let cool slightly before opening. Done.

Imagine my family's delight when we came home from swimming and cracked open a can of warm gooey caramel goodness! It's like magic. Is that wicked?

12 July 2011

Good Food & No Apologies

One of the things I love best about summer is that salads can pass for main courses at dinner! Last night we had a heaping bowl of Greek Salad, corn-on-the-cob, and a steamy loaf of crusty bread. When easy and tasty come together, I am a very happy lady.

As a side note, you may be asking how I got my children to love Greek Salad. Well, I didn't. They don't actually love it, but too bad. It's good food and good for them. I figure they can get over it, eat it, and develop a willingness for new foods ... or ... they can take one "thank-you bite" and be a little hungry for the rest of the evening. Choice is up to them and I'm not going to sweat it. But complaining? That is a sure-fire ticket to an early bedtime. Bam! Mean-Mom on the prowl.

• Because-It's-Good-Greek-Salad •
Combine chopped red, green, yellow bell peppers, cucumber, kalamata olives, thinly sliced red onion, chopped oregano (or whatever fresh herb you've on hand), and feta cheese. Drizzle with olive oil, red wine vinegar, and a bit of honey. Salt and pepper to taste.

11 July 2011

A New Life For the Ratties

 Our old Ikea towels that we use for swimming, sprinkler-running, and general kid use ... had become ratty. As in no-amount-of-bleach-or-oxy-clean-will-ever-redeem-these-towels ratty. And don't even get me started on the cleaning rags. You know the rags and old-dishtowels that are too nasty to keep in the kitchen but perfectly fine to scrub floors and bathrooms with? Yeah, we've got lots. But sometimes they get mixed up with the good stuff. If the kids grab a house-cleaning rag to dry the dishes with I start convulsing like a hair-ball-bound feline. Gross.

So what to do?
Grab your 40% off coupon for your local craft store and a couple of bucks and snag yourself a packet of i Dye. It's pretty awesome. It comes in a packet so you just toss it in your machine (with a cup of salt - weird, right?) and seal up the mess. Once the cycle is finished, do one rinse cycle and you're done. (I ran a bleach rinse cycle once it was empty just to make sure everything was good to go for a regular load.)

Now we have zippy kid-towels ready for swim-lessons and rags that scream "cleaning only" and obviously belong in the cleaning cupboard. Not a bad make-over for 2 bucks and some salt!

**Note: This is some seriously saturated color in these dyes! I'd do a short wash cycle if you don't want them quite so electric.

09 July 2011

Because We're Special

 We like to hold it together while in public. But when we are all gathered, away from the public-eye ... it just slips out sometimes. Like, random attacks of exuberant "nerd-face." Which may or may not be the result of an apparent vulcan-mom-grip on the armpit. It's hard to contain creative genius.

Often following, I may have an inspired outburst of "raise the roof" ... while in the woods. In response, my sister-in-law retreats to her "special place." She goes there often. Brilliance can be such a curse.

 Pops and I have always been glamorous. It's a husband-wife thing we have learned to embrace. We have these Jolie-Pitt moments all the time. We try not to flaunt it too much. Don't hate us.

And when you get to gaze upon the generations, it really is an awe-inspiring moment. We're born into it. Like royalty, really.

Three-fingered peace-out, Peeps.

07 July 2011

The Luxury of Unscheduled Time -- Glacier Natl. Park

 Heading north to Glacier National Park was the highlight of our trip. Peaceful beauty.

We stumbled upon this lake-front hotel and were delighted to find that they had a cancellation that we could fill. My no-plan attack to this trip paid off. Not only was I not stressed in scheduling and organizing every minute, but we were free to land and stay where we were most drawn to.

Did you catch this? We were traveling with no accommodation reservations to a tourist location in summer! This coming from the gal who earned a PhD in over-planning and general organization neurosis. Well, at least if there was such a degree I'm sure I would have signed-up and attended every class. With a notebook. That had dividers. That were pre-labeled. And had a zippy pouch for my sticky-notes, highlighters, and mechanical pencils.

You get the drift.

So instead of being glued to my spreadsheet of activities, we just did what was available and fun for the moment. We boated and lounged, read and hiked and skipped rocks for, quite literally, hours on end.

There is something to be said about not having plans ... and seeing what unfolds before you.

06 July 2011

Jane Fishes Big Sky Country

 We're back from our roadtrip to beautiful Big Sky Country -- Montana. Isn't it staggering the vast quantity of beauty our country holds?

Amongst the gracious family visits, wedding celebrations, sightseeing, and good eats ... there was the fishing.

 Jane used Pops' fishing rod from when he was a child. A perfect fit.

 Grandpa was a good instructor and Jane was a patient student.

The result? May I present: The Victorious Fisher-Woman Jane. As the toothy grin, confident stance, and hand on the hip imply ... she was most proud.

More travel tid-bits to come ...