We Share Our Food

I share plenty of our hum-drum meals around this joint, but it occurred to me that folks who have a hard time putting together a lunch for the babysitter (or to send to school) might be interested to know what we send along.

It’s important to remember that we’re super duper lucky. Our son’s babysitter is his very own grandmother (although she also watches his cousin — whom she’s not related to by blood — call her a saint, if you will, please!). So, she’s very willing to give him breakfast in the morning (he leaves the house by 7, so it’s darn near impossible right now to get him ready and fed and coherent, so she just feeds him when he arrives — it works) and cut up his lunch and microwave what needs it and so forth. Not everyone has the luxury of sending reheatable leftovers, and I get that. I do. We’re lucky ducks.

That said, as Hadman gets older, grows beyond finger foods (read: is able to delicately spoon feed himself yogurt — snort), and starts eating sandwichy things, it might be helpful to see the evolution. Plus, I’ll throw in our occasional adult food-share to letchya know what Dave and I gobble down for lunches or the rare, wicked awesome “adult dinner”, or the even rarer vacation food. Y’know. Just for kicks.

So, on this particular day, the munchkin was sent with…

*da daa daa da daa daaaaa, trumpet fanfare*

leftovers. (See awesome glass container to the right, to the right.)

*wop wop* (Lots of trumpets today.)

But, ho! (Who you callin’ “ho”?) These are not just ANY leftovers. These are what I have newly dubbed Miraculous Meat Muffins. Guaranteed to feed the pickiest non-vegetarian eater from 1 to 89. (I have yet to test the 90+ crowd.) I recently gave them to Had’s 2 1/2-year-old cousin (who, needless to say, doesn’t really eat meatloaf — which is essentially what these nuggets o’ goodness are) and she wolfed them down. THAT, my friends, is a miracle worthy of sainthood.

Guess I’m on my way. 

HA! Right. (We had to call them “meatballs” since she does, on occasion, eat those. But she’d been in a highly picky mood recently, so I still call it a success. ;-))

Anyhoo, along with his mini-meatloaves (2), he had a pile of frozen sweet corn*, a cheese stick*, strawberry pancakes*, a banana*, and yogurt*. We also send along his watered-down milk* since we don’t think Grandma needs to be worrying about buying organic milk. (We do provide her with a big ol’ container of organic apple juice to use as needed, but this is way easier than sending milk and cluttering up her fridge.)

* denotes organic product (or made with organic ingredients). The meat for the meatloaves wasn’t organic (but it was humanely-raised, grassfed, which is fine by me), but all of the other ingredients were…so I’m not sure where it falls on the spectrum. Maybe 90-95% organic? The FDA would probably give me the “okay”, but they’re not very stringent. I’m lookin’ at you, Michael Taylor. You fraud. (Former head of Monsanto, people.)

A couple of things about cost. Every time I hit up the grocery store, I get ONE bag of frozen organic veggies. Just one. Since we hardly ever use a full bag in one sitting, we get a nice stock pile going, and throwing it in a container (even frozen in the morning) with even some pasta (with or without butter and/or some cheese) tides a toddler over pretty well. But, purchasing a bag here and there won’t break the bank; stocking up on 5+ at a time will. They’re also great to have on-hand as our veggie sides, or to throw into stir-fry or soups or, heck, anything.

I ALWAYS have bananas on-hand. They are by far the cheapest of all organic fruit — and the sweetness factor makes them one of Hadman’s favorite. Things. Ever. Like, up there with Pigeon and Ernie and “Melmo”. Fav-uh-rit. When I buy them, they’re usually 20 cents more than the regular ol’ bananas, which I figure as being pretty inexpensive. They’re also terribly toddler-friendly. Cut ’em, eat ’em, wash hands. (That last part is essential. Blech.) Less fear of choking than apples. Plus, if any go bad (not often these days), it’s time for banana bread/muffins/pancakes! Ain’t nothin’ wrong with that.

The yogurt. Ahhh, the yogurt. Firstly, we only buy whole milk at this stage — and, honestly, I wish that Greek yogurt was a whole milk food (for Mama), but that’s a whole other bag o’ potatoes. (Just checking to see if you’re still paying attention over there. *wink*) I always, always, always keep a pint of Stonyfield’s organic whole milk PLAIN yogurt on hand. It’s good to cook and bake with (hellloooooo, sour cream substitute!), but also provides a fast, easy, low (as in “no”)-sugar snack for adult and child alike.

1/2 cup (or more) plain yogurt + thawed frozen fruit (cut up for the munchkin…okay, and Mama) along with any juice that may come from the fruit OR a bit of store-bought organic plain applesauce and cinnamon = yummy snack. If your youngin likes more sweetness (Had doesn’t care, but I do), drizzle a little maple syrup or honey, or the tiniest splash of vanilla – a little goes a LONG way. Bada bing.

This container stuff? That’s another story. I KNOW there’s other “stuff” in it. There’s sugar, yes. So, it’s kind of a rare treat. I search Stonyfield’s web site (their cows are pasture-raised and humanely treated, so we’re biased and buy all of our milk and yogurt products from their company, if possible) and signed up to receive deals in my email. Once in awhile, I go to their site and print off some coupons — for Hadley’s baby stuff (which is whole milk, vs. the toddler/kid stuff; it also has a tad less ingredients) AND for a handful of regular yogurt cups for Dave and I.

And considering that every time I open the refrigerator door, he runs to grab a yogurt cup — ANY yogurt cup — it’s safe to say he’s a fan. Use whatchya know.

Cheese sticks are his #2 favorite. I guess he’s into dairy? Hmm. Anyhoo, we also get Organic Valley for its support of farmers and general good-guy attitude. I recently discovered a cache of a no-name brand (there probably was a name, but I don’t recall one) organic mozz sticks at Aldi, which I piled into my cart, but I’m still up in the air whether or not they’re the same as OV or if OV’s practices are a little more to our liking. So, for now, I take the no-namers, he takes the OV. No big. Plus, it cuts the cost down big-time.

Oh, and as for his breakfast stuff. Any time we have pancakes (once or twice a week, usually on the weekends), I make a super big batch. Then, I use a big spoon to make specific “Had-sized” pancakes. In this case, I used some thawed strawberries (I almost think the batter might have bananas in it, too…mmmm, strawberry banana-ness…) to turn them into a yummy treat. Other times, I’ll mix some plain batter with cinnamon and applesauce. Still other times, it’s blueberries. (The very rare occasion, all natural chocolate chips…very rare…let’s say, Valentine’s day, along with some strawberries.) Then, I stack ’em in threes or fours, put a tiny square of parchment paper between the stacks, and freeze them about five days’ worth per bag. (I wash and reuse the bags when I can. Yes, I’m a tad psychotic.)

So, that’s one day in our life of toddler lunchiness. I’ll try to share a handful of adult lunches (not rated-R lunches, but the boring stuff that Dave and I take along) if folks are interested in such a thing. Just let me know! If I hear radio silence, I’ll get the point. 😉

Have a great weekend, folks! Things are on the sad side over here. More on that soon, I’m sure.

Facing Our Home’s Imperfections

I love our home. It’s our first. We went from separate apartments to, for a short time, one apartment, to this starter fixer-upper. It’s the place we became a family and learned how best to live together. Where we brought in one cat after another until, one day, we cautiously – anxiously – carried in a newborn in a carseat.

Sarah Beck Photography
and our pretty darn cool kitchen.

This is where he first smiled…gloriously rolled over on his protruding belly…danced like Fred Astaire (sort of)…tippy-toe walked…slept a full night…said anything resembling a real English word…got scolded for pulling one of those patient cats’ tails. This is his place. This is ours, and we love it.

But, we’ve always known it wasn’t our forever home. We’ve yet to find even a forever town or village. It has been a challenge – perhaps because we’ve been watching far too many Andy Hardy movies lately. There is no Carvel anymore. No white picket fences. No absolute security.

So, while we search and hunt and constantly adjust our mindsets, we take the bull by the horns (says the stubborn Taurus) and decide to take control of the factors that we do have control over. Namely, getting our current abode sellable.

Walk-through day picture of the can’t-wait-to-paint-it dining room…

Ugh. When I say “I love my home”, I might want to attach a disclosure – I love it as a home, but as a house, it ain’t perfect. Hence our not staying here forever.

It is by far a different house from the one we purchased. Then, it was in pre-foreclose, so its pipes had burst and it was quite outdated. Some of our current, hopefully fixable quirks are thanks to those irresponsible owners. Paint – smeared on woodwork and a horrific red dining room – is my latest bane, but there are a dozen (that’s actually a conservative number) tiny issues from previous owners floating around.

What our bathroom project USED to look like…

Then there’s the age factor. Funny thing is, I’ve always been the sicko who’d love living in a 200-year-old house. Yes, I know the cost of upkeep is high. Yes, I realize that the issues are greater than a newer build. But, much as with adopting a shelter animal, there’s a sense of selfless pride that comes from saving a house from poorly executed modernization, or worse. The fact that you’re that house’s steward vs. owner is pretty rad. Bring on the crooked ceilings.

That said, ours is a 1925 build. Love that era. Post-WWI, pre-Depression. Lots of great details. (One set of built-ins clinched the deal for me; for Dave, it was the “front room” aka sun room.) Of course, it’s small – around 1,000 square feet. Closets are pretty small, too.

We do have a crooked factor. It’s darn near impossible to hang a shelf straight (although we’ve done pretty well a couple of times). We’re working to get our doors to close and shut. (It’s not being a mom that gives me zero privacy in the bathroom – it’s Winston + non-shutting doors.)

Paint is piled, so I’m going to be busting out my sander to take down some of the build-up on our kitchen cabinets before painting them (inside and out, God help me).

From our walk-through. These aren’t nearly as grody.
The handle hardware is changed and it’s all been cleaned, but it needs a once-over again and, as mentioned, paint.

Then there are just those “lived here so long it’s hard to look at it with a fresh eye” things. Like, the aforementioned front room. It’s a bright, calming room full of windows and we can’t figure out how to best play it up. I think I may have an idea or two, but it’s not 100%. A few rooms have me stumped. Pinterest, here I come.

But, when we do leave, any of those quirks will fly out of my heart. All that will be left is the happiness that we’ve shared as a family here, along with those memories that happened in such fleeting moments. I know I’ll be quite practical about our pricing (our neighborhood is very working class), but will know that, no matter what we accept, it won’t be enough. That I’ll mostly be concerned that a nice family moves in – for the sake of our wonderful neighbors as well as the house, itself. That they’ll be able to appreciate it as much as we loved (and, some days, were frustrated by) it.

Wow. Okay, NOW I see how he was over ten pounds. My “see how fat I get” pregnancy pictures were taken in the hallway outside of our door, near my beloved built-ins.
And, yes, my eyes are BUGGIN’.

Where Dave learned to be a daddy…

As we roll along, I’ll make a wishlist for you of what we’d like in our new home. We like to think we’re not one of those high-maintenance HGTV couples (hopefully our realtor doesn’t think so!), and it sometimes bugs me when I’m reading what other bloggers want in a home — like, seriously, raise your hand if a multimedia entertainment room AND separate man cave are a must (not sure if it’s good or bad that you won’t be seeing much of your hubby…maybe good? Who knows) amidst two dozen other “absolute must-haves”. Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

These guys get me. Thank yooooouuu, Buzzfeeeeeed!

Oh, and we also live in the Stone Age in our part of the country/state. We weren’t too affected by the housing bubble and its subsequent burst. That said, housing is supa dupa low in our county (like, a good house for under $100,000 – I kid you not). However, that brings up the idea of what type of area we want to raise our family. We’re not in the ghetto…but there are car break-ins all the time and drug crimes that were unheard of maybe 10 years ago. Not to mention, a recent article doesn’t paint our town in the best light (at the bottom…that little place you probably haven’t heard of…that’s where we live).

So, it’s tough to wrap one’s head around moving out of a relatively inexpensive (relative to, say, the 1800s…yeah, that’s our competition in the housing market) county for a nearby one (again, while my brain is in “get a good deal” mode) while paying up to 60% more for the house. I mean, as I mention to Dave quite regularly — some of these crimes are totally random and can happen anywhere and at any time, so who’s to say we move and will be completely untouchable?

It’s a good thing we have those guard cats…

Conversation to be continued, but any thoughts are (as always) welcome below!

Color Conundrum

Ohhhh, I love this pre-painting phase. It’s the “use your noggin” part (ie the don’t-lift-a-finger part). Just walking around the paint chip aisles, picking things that look good under their light, only to get them home and see how they look in your own space.

Then comes the “oh, crap” moment. The “I’ve gotta make a decision” moment. And we all know how great I am in such a moment.

I grabbed a bunch (about 19, to be exact) of swatches that fell in the “greige” (gray/beige) range to replace the atrocious red of our dining room. After sticking them to the wall with painter’s tape, I immediately knew I could subtract over a third of my selections. RIP Flaxseed!

And was left with these…represented in a blurry arse iPhone picture. At least the color’s pretty clear…if not totally true-to-life.

The bottom two colors are less greige and more…grayish-beige with undertones of other colors (blue and green, kind of?), which I will probably nix. But, they look pretty cool next to bright white (which will be replacing the current “dirty cream” of our trim…it’s clean, it just looks dirty to me; drives me nuts).

So, I’m asking for any opinions. Here are the colors in a truer sense (and are still probably a little weird since we all have wackadoo monitors):

It’s kind of funny, this whole paint-picking thing. I can analyze the heck out of them and explain that the graphic didn’t even come out as true as the swatches (for example, the two “maybe, maybe nots” on the bottom left? Rope is way bluer and Travertine is way greener, and they’re ALL lighter.) So, when I ask your opinion — wait for it, I’m about to do just that! — feel free to mention “the one on the bottom left in the picture” or “Dove’s Cry on the ‘color options’ graphic!” or whatever works. Mkay? Mkay.

Can you pick one that you really like? Or three? Most of them would go pretty well, and coordinate to the colors in the accompanying rooms. (Heck, anything goes better than the outdated red.) We really appreciate any opinions on this one!

About Those Balls

Alternate title: Love Me Some Balls. (I’m a 13-year-old kid, I swear to God. Or an awesome Alec Baldwin SNL sketch.)

So, anyhoo, I made some meatballs this week and didn’t really think anything of it. Pasta’s a norm around our house (like, a once-a-week occurrence). However, we usually keep it easy and vegetarian, since we’re still eating about 50 percent meat (half of our meals with/without, if you will), give or take a meal here and there.

See, when I grew up, our spaghetti or baked ziti or lasagna (we ate very little of this after a vomiting bug incident…ugh) HAD to have meatballs. Actually, almost every meal had to have meat, but we were a meat-and-potato type family. Mom was June Cleaver, only with a career. #madrespect

She worked on her meatballs for years. She craved perfection. Baked or fried? Fresh or dried herbs? How much garlic is “too much”? WHY ARE THESE FLAT HOCKEY PUCKS INSTEAD OF MEATBALLS??? It was actually a tad entertaining to observe, from a child’s perspective. We always gave honest reviews — a little hard, a little mushy or fally-aparty (technical analysis, I tell ya), no flavor — but, really, they were always good.

One day, she perfected them. Man, was she proud, and I can’t blame her. They were a thing to look forward to.

Fast forward twenty years and my stepdad now makes them. They’re far from perfect, but, hey — a man who makes dinner? Can’t complain about that.

And at our house? I haven’t made them since Hadley came along. I don’t make my own sauce (oh, yes…Mom makes her own, too…talk about self-loathing, points to self), so I just boil some salty water for pasta, throw on a pot of Paul Newman’s organic sauce, and throw a couple of salads together (a “must” for my hubs). It’s just the easiest way for us. Maybe one day I’ll be inspired to make my own sauce. And freeze extra for five future meals. Like Mom.

But, last Tuesday, I had some local, grassfed beef laying around after making chili over the weekend. I could’ve made some mini-meatloaves, which I know my guys love, but I decided to make some meatballs (along with extras to freeze for later — I’m catchin’ on, Ma!) to throw in, too. Hadley’s a carnivorous youngster, so I knew he’d like the flavor. (Yep. I called it.)

Funny thing is, I didn’t think to take pictures or anything. I mentioned it briefly on Facebook and someone politely asked for the recipe — to which I kindly directed them to the Rachael Ray recipe I altered. Apparently, even my altering would be appreciated. Who knew? Lesson learned. Note to self: Take pictures of everything I cook. Ever. Just in case.

So, here are Rachael Ray’s altered balls. 😉 No offense, Rach.

He Pooped — Kid’s a Genius

Yup. I’m that mom who’s going to tell the whole world about her child’s potty behavior. If you find fault, please get over it. It’s not like I’m going to get graphic or show pictures (um…which I DO have…I’m clearly a first-time parent ;-)). ANYhoo, welcome!
Hadman is just over 18 months old. If my very shoddy math is correct, that’s a year and a half. Firstly, I can’t believe the time has gone so quickly from his first birthday to his “half-year” mark, but I guess time in general does whatever it wants when children come along. This is my excuse for pinning 2nd birthday themes, and I’m stickin’ to it.

Over two weeks ago, while at his grandparents’ house (and Mommy and Daddy were enjoying a wicked meal at The Tailor and the Cook), he let Grandma know that he wanted to go potty. Mind you, he’s verbal, but not
that verbal — he has cues and he knows how to use ‘em. (Grabbing a pillow and a dipe, which means he wants his diaper changed/potty’s happening; pointing at the potty. Nothing too vulgar…yet.) He proceeded to go both “1 and 2.” Whoa.

I wasn’t totally shocked, although the fact that he “did” both was astonishing. Santa had brought him a super sleek, super comfortable potty (yup, Santa went with the deluxe “has a higher back and even spots for him to rest his arms on” model; he looks like an old man leaning back, I swear). We only got one since we weren’t sure if we’d need one both upstairs and down (the bathroom is upstairs, but we’re keeping it in the kitchen since we spend most of our non-sleeping time downstairs, and let’s just say that the flooring’s not carpeted).
“How ya like the chassis on that one, guy?

From the moment he saw it, he decided to lug this kinda clunky “chair” around and simply sit in it. We didn’t see any issue with him using it this way since I wasn’t sure when we’d officially start the potty-training process. Well, I’m guessing that he’d noticed his cousin using her potty, because he started showing cues that he was ready. He would sit on it and make noises and look like he was “pushing”. Eventually, he would just come and point to it, so we’d ask if he’d like to use it and he’d immediately say “uh-huh!!” (I wish you could hear it; it’s a very high-toned, adorable sound that occasionally borders on “of course, why didn’t you know I wanted to do that this very moment?” annoyed.) So, he went a little. Then, the next day, he went a little more. It’s been sporadic since then, but he’s gone a TON more at his grandma’s house (she’s his daily sitter, too).

Okay, so maybe this is getting a little graphic. Sorry!

As I see it, he’s kind of potty-training himself at this point. If he wants to, great (and we celebrate with a potty dance and high-fives and lots of praise), but if he wants to use his diaper, no big.

We didn’t push him into it. He showed us he was ready and quite interested. I’m going to get some poster paper and make a “chart” (just a half-sheet of poster paper that says something like “Hadley’s Chart” or something inconspicuous…y’know, for when we have the Fancypants family over and don’t want them to know we’re keeping track of his poops and tinkles) where we can place stickers every time he goes. It’s basic, but I don’t want to do a calendar (I may start jotting down on the family calendar the number of each that he does to keep track, though) to make him feel like he HAS to do it EVERY SINGLE DAY.

Now, as far as M&Ms or anything like that…well. Hmm. How do I say this? I don’t want to offend anyone, since I’m pretty sure I might have had a “treat” for going potty (although when I was fully trained, it was a let-down not to get something anymore…since pottying is pretty much a toddler’s only job, aside from not biting — which I’m told I failed at), but we’re not keen on using food (especially the dye-laden kind) to reward behavior. I might consider using raisins or his organic graham cracker bunnies if he falls off the wagon (er, potty) and starts needing additional encouragement, but for now I’m hoping to stick with the positive praise and stickers that he can put on himself (stickers are his thing…actually, they’re almost every toddler’s thing).

I MEAN NO OFFENSE TO THOSE WHO CHOOSE THIS METHOD!!! I’m also not judging you. Just don’t judge me for using something as boring, er, wonderful as stickers. Every parent’s different; there’s no right or wrong way here!

Anyhoo, all that being said, I fully expect him to regress. I’m not hoping for it, of course, but I find that it’s easier to be flexible and prepared in situations (especially such unknowns as kids) if you ready yourself for possible failure. Some might call it pessimistic, but I don’t intend to be. (I’d say I’m a realistic optimist, personally.) Besides, I’ve known other kids to hit a setback and end up needing a dipe here or there (or, heck, who need to hit the “reset” button on potty training altogether), anyway. Since he’s so ahead-of-the-game on this, I don’t want to make him feel horribly if he does have a setback.

Oh, and is it weird that just about the time he started getting interested in potty-training, he started getting way pickier about food? He used to eat literally everything and anything put before him (“our little eater”); now, his favorites (like peas and corn) are left on the plate. At least he still likes things like carrots (for now), but it throws your mind and heart for a loop when you’re so used to his habits. I guess like I said before, I should prepare myself for all sorts of disappointments. 🙂

If you have a little one, when were they potty-trained? Or are you planning to start trying at a certain age? Do you have a method you tried/will try? Do share! And, remember — this is a no-judgment zone!

Side note: Given how “advanced” (early) he is on this thing, I totally expect any future kids to be wicked late and teach me a whole new lesson. Hmm. Okay, maybe I am a pessimist. Sometimes.

Hanging Around – Round 2

Happy Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day! With how much I’ve been doing with him and the civil rights movement at school, I feel kind of guilty that I’m sitting finally writing a blog post while the baby naps rather than going out to honor his memory with some duty-filled action. Well, he’s with me in thought, at least. Is anyone out there filling their karma bucket with all sorts of humanity-oriented activities today?

The last time we hung (hanged?) something on the bathroom walls, there was cursing. There was disappointment. There was anger. Knowing this, my hopes were low and my defenses were up when we finally got around to installing our floating wall shelves.

I was fearful, first, that the shelves would look disproportionate in our tiny potty room. Spoiler alert: They turned out to be the perfect size for our needs. Secondly, when it comes to an item that needs to be level, picture me sweating bullets — especially in this notoriously uneven house. Again, things worked out for the best.

Miracle of miracles!

Here’s how these things work —

1) Hold up the shelf to get an idea of where you’d like it to go. We lightly marked the wall (top and sides) with a pencil. (I erased these marks after we marked for the anchors.)


2) Mark and drill spots for the support and anchors to go. I love that anchors exist, but Dave HATES them — and with good reason. The directions often say to use a particular size drill bit, but 9 times out of 10 when you start to hammer it in, the hole’s too small. This time, we were missing the bit they suggested to use, so he used a smaller size and kind of hollowed out the hole to make it the right size. While I wouldn’t advise this method, it worked fine.

3) Hammer anchors into wall. Hold up the support bracket and drill into anchors. There are actually more holes to use than screws, but as long as you don’t put all the screws on one side (um, duh? I know you guys are smarter than that…right?), you’re golden.


4) Slide the shelf onto the bracket and drill the the two screws in to attach it to the bracket. You can either have the screws facing upward (so nobody sees them) or downward, depending on your need. I did the bottom one downward since no one would really see it, and the top one facing the ceiling since it would’ve stuck out like a sore thumb.

And, by all means, if you can get a trained professional to oversee, please do.
Ours is named Winston.

Aaaaahhh!!! Beauteous!

5) Load stuff on and style it to your heart’s content. I’m sure I’ll adjust this a million more times, but for now it’s so nice to have the additional storage back (we used to use a run-of-the-mill over-the-toilet storage unit, but I’d dreamed — yes, literally dreamed — of having something more modern and open like this forever) and fun accessories to play with.

Thar’s Q-tips in them thar mercury glass.

Yep, the hubs really and truly uses an old-school double razor thingamabob.
With a boar’s hair brush.

I love that guy!

I moved in one of my all-time favorite cheap-o DIY art pieces. Old game numbers (antique shop) + unused matted frame + glue (+ burlap, if needed) = vintage-y art.

More vintage with that turquoise blue side-bottle.

While we’re at it, I thought I’d show the shower curtain that I finally put up. I kept my previous white one (it’s not in the best of shape thanks to a cat claw or two, but it IS white) in case it’s advised that we tone it down when we one day sell the house. But, for now, the punch of fun, bohemian color makes me happy. Plus, it makes the space go from boring tan-and-white to something more special and “us.” Unfortunately, I also realized that the color in the painting that I made was a tad too pink to coordinate well, so after trying to glaze some deeper orange into it (it’s better…but that’s a hard frickin’ orange to match!), I think I may go with something simpler.

I do love it, though!

So, all I really have left in this room is to figure out a window treatment, then attack the shower surround. For now, we’ll just keep the shower curtain drawn and assume it’s finished. *wink*

It’s funny how it has taken so long to git ‘er done, but once I finally picked up steam, it came quickly. That being said, I’ve got some more painting/fixing-up to start in a couple of other rooms soon, too. Is anyone else full-steam-ahead on any projects?

Blog Name Indecision

Since I posted a recipe on Monday, I’m going to skip Foodie Friday for today and address something I mentioned/requested help with on Facebook this week. My blog name.

The original name came courtesy a previous Facebook request (one of the things Facebook is actually good at — ask for opinions and ye shall receive).

I love “Meg Acts Out” (or “Meg, Acting Out”, depending on the day). It’s me. I never would’ve used the name if not. While I have a post just about the meaning behind it, I can concisely describe it in three explanations — a) I enjoy acting with a local theater club (and in general, I suppose), b) I’ve been a little acty-outy (made that up) ever since I was a child (no jail time, but I’m sure I caused plenty of sleepless nights), and c) I’m, at times, outgoing. Bam. Bam. Bam.

But, lately, for a bucketload of reasons, I’m thinking it’s time for a change. Time to retire the old blog name.

Mind you, by no stretch of the imagination does this mean that I’m going to stop blogging. Quite the contrary; I hope to blog just as much, and hopefully in a new-and-improved way.

Some of my favorite bloggers successfully switcheroo-ed their blog names, be it for legal reasons, to take their writing in a new direction, to re-market (cool factor), or just because they’d outgrown the prior name. And I can relate to most of that.

In my case, the name feels stale. I haven’t acted in awhile. (Unless you count a quick stint on our old “radio” remake of “A Christmas Carol”…um, don’t.) I know I will again, but it’s not my life anymore. It’s PART of my life (and an important one), but I’m first and foremost a mama. It’s only fair.

I’ve also somehow become a bit of an introvert. Heck, if I could still be an outgoing, balls-to-the-wall, doesn’t-give-a-damn-what-folks-think, confidence-oozing person, I’d wear that like a hip coat. (Side note: I love a good hip coat.) I’m not sure at what point I lost a lot of that, but it was pre-baby. I’m often anxious, unsteady, and self-conscious around folks. HOWEVER, one place that I’m quite comfortable to say WHATEVERRRR (said in a high-pitched Oprah voice) is here. So, there’s that.

Another reason for wanting “the switch” is that I’m hoping to hop over from the amateur world o’ Blogger over to the slick(er) world o’ WordPress. Since I’m going to change, I figured I might as well grab a cheap domain to accompany it — and megactsout.com just sounds…kinda dirty. A little porn-ish. Is it just me?

I’m also hoping that a change will help me to focus on what my purpose is. I‘d like my blog to be a fun place. I want folks to read with an ultimate goal of having fun or leaving with a smile on their face. Why read anything if it’s not going to be a positive force in your life? That said, if you could walk away having learned a new idea or recipe or, hell, even a good joke…I’m happy.

But, what does that entail?

I’m green, but not super-duper green. I’d grade us on the darker end of the spectrum, but it’s not a race to see who’s the most eco-friendly. One great lesson I’ve learned as a blogger.

I’m a mom, but I’m not sure I’m a “mommy blogger” — many of my readers aren’t moms OR parents, and I’m so happy about that. It’s cool when other parents relate to you (WICKED cool, ‘cuz they’ve hardly got time to pee let alone read a blog), but when you’re writing about poo diapers and STILL can hold a non-parental attention span…that’s the money right there.

I consider myself to be modern in many ways, but Dave and I both associate with a buttload of history. We’re those “if we could live in another era…” people. Our appreciation runs wicked deep, and we like to take lessons from the everyday individuals of the past on how to enhance our lives today.

I lurve me some DIY and decor stuff, but I’m a novice. It’s a passion of mine that I’d like to incorporate into the blog, but obviously don’t want to over-stuff

I’m far from a food blogger (hello, there, iPhone pics!) but enjoy sharing our trials and attempts at keeping up with a REALISTIC real food diet.

I’m a New Yorker, but not one of THOSE New Yorkers.

Yes, I do have a dramatic side. Why else would I watch “Downton Abbey”?

I’m quirky to no end. Unnatural love of old music (40’s…check. Beatles…check. Show tunes…check. EVERY MONKEES SONG EVER WRITTEN AND EVERY RECORDED PERFORMANCE INCLUDING ALTERNATING LEAD SINGERS…um, check. Gregorian chants…not as of late.) Distinct cat voices for each cat, along with highly-evolved personality traits. An appreciation of British and Canadian humor. (Kids in the Hall, what what!)

As with most decisions in life and an ability to self-analyze properly, I suck. It seems that the idea of “Who knows YOU better than YOURSELF?” doesn’t apply here. Seriously. I’m sometimes shocked (and awed, it’s true) at how well another individual can peg me perfectly. How do people do that?

I can generally say the above facts (“I like pizza, how ’bout you?”) but my creative well’s gone dry as far as putting them together into a cohesive blog name. Do I just do a good ol’ lifestyle blog? Should I lean green? Should I hit more parent-friendly notes?

Well, this is where y’all come in. I’ve received some awesome ideas on Facebook regarding the “What should my new blog title be?” question. I’m mulling them over in my head (while my husband suddenly gets caught up Googling old 1930s terms in hopes of using one in my title…only to get sucked into the stupid fact void that is the interwebs), but would like some more ideas.

Now that you know my conundrum, what would YOU rename this place? If you’re new here, click through some of my crappy archive page (scroll down to find the month-by-month) or just click back through the ages by scrolling to the bottom of the home page.

I’m counting on the fact that you guys have been reading and viewing from a different perspective than the writer, and may be able to label this place and what I’ve been doing a little better.

Any ideas are MORE than welcome in the comment section. I’d also like to hear whether you think there’s still life in the current name (porn-ish sounding or not) and WHY! And, as usual, any other suggestions or “I like when you did this…why don’t you do that more?” types of ideas are welcome.

Thanks, in advance! Love you guys!

Coat Closet 2.0

Alternate title: Skeletons Scarves in the Closet.

So, I cleaned this closet a couple of years ago. I’m pretty sure that I’ve cleaned it since, but not for quite awhile. Liiiike…I didn’t have to switch our coats out when the cold weather came around this year. Let’s just blame it on the fact that parenting an infant was our priority over supah clean closets last year and move on, m’kay?

The issues with the “before” is mostly the pit of nothingness on the bottom, the fact that every time I put anything on the top shelf it fell back down immediately, and the sheer number of coats. SO. MUCH. CRAP. My breast pump (which we no longer need) was still in there…but it’s not like you can even see it. Purses? A puffy vest? Scarves? Unused yoga mat? Those, we see. 

The top had a few issues, but was relatively quick compared to the rest of the hot mess going on.

The thing is, I sat in the living room for countless hours thinking about what a pain in the bum it was going to be to get this chore done. Hence, it sat unfinished. Isn’t that how it usually works? I could’ve pulled a “put a favorite movie on and just pull everything out.” But, regardless, I finally had a moment of clarity, realizing that it would actually be relatively simple enough to do, even with a little one running around. Not fun, mind you, but not hard.

So, I attacked the coats and scarves mercilessly. I couldn’t get rid of too many jackets since our weather likes to flip flop a lot this time of year, but we did purge a couple. The scarves were another thing, though. The ones I don’t use whatsoever, I put in a pile to donate. There are a couple that I’m on the fence about, so I’ll keep a thumb on the situation and purge them as needed. It’s a process.

Then, I turned my attention to the bottom business. Snow pants got hung on the Command hook I put up back in the day, purses got emptied (probably the lengthiest part of the job, but it was kind of entertaining finding two flash drives — after buying a new one for myself for Christmas — and notes and lists from several years ago) and flung in a tote in the basement or donated, and so on. That being said, one of my favorite yet busted-but-maybe-someone-will-like-it-anyway purses was donated, so I’m on the lookout for yet another. I’ve got a million medium-sized bags, but need a larger one that’s easier for everyday; read: in which my lunch and water bottle will fit. A big style-factor and ability to match the almost constant brown or black that I wear to work is a must, as well. Sometimes cleaning makes you realize what you don’t need, and what you REALLY, REALLY DO need.

Finally, I pulled out the step ladder and pulled out and reorganized the top shelf (namely, the two cheap little shelf thingies and the large fabric bin with long-since-used mittens, gloves, hats, etc.) It’s nice to know where those random things I always find myself searching aimlessly for will be easily at-hand now. Oh, and not pelting me in the head when I open the door. That’ll be nice.

Here’s what it looks like now:

Those two metal hangers on the door were here when we moved in. They seem pretty old (maybe the ’50s?), and I almost got rid of the one on top. Luckily, I didn’t, since Dave got “into” old-style hats.  And, yes. The door closes easily again. Isn’t that really the ultimate goal in life? To comfortably close a door? Or is that just me? *1,000 points for anyone who can name the picture on our calendar in the background, or at least the artist.*


Speaking of finally getting on top of a dreaded task, let’s just say that we’ve been spending a bit of time in the bathroom…and, no, we don’t have the stomach bug. 😉 I’m not done (of COURSE!), but most of it looks finished, and that. Is. Exciting. Exciting enough to keep me motivated enough to finish the last couple of bits before, y’know, 2015.

Freaking Yes

I found a new blog that I’m SO excited about that I couldn’t contain myself in sharing it with y’all! So much so that I’m even posting on a usual “off” blogging day. Can ya believe it?! I know. Crazy town.

I equally love and dislike finding a rad new website or blog. Hear me out.

Love? Finding someone who can entertain you and educate you simultaneously.

Dislike? That they’ve been writing so long that there’s a huge cache of incredible information. *Brain explodes.*

Love? Relating (probably too much) to their humor.

Dislike? Wait…where did the last three hours go? My tea’s cold and the baby’s awake?? What has happened to my life???

Love? Helpful, relatable tips that are immediately applicable to my life. They’re watching me. They must be.

Dislike? What a sleek, modern, yet inviting appearance. My blog looks like it walked into a poopy willow store — or a free background Google search, either way.

I check in with several blogs. Most are DIY/design blogs (as you may well know). Some are family blogs. Some are just plain hysterical. (#neonfresh) When I find a lifestyle or food blog, I tend not to follow it regularly, for whatever reason. Wait, I know. I tend to use them for one purpose, then move on. (Is that catty? I don’t mean to be. Sorry, blogs-I-only-check-out-once! I have a family to feed and bathe and watch Cary Grant movies with!)

Through a favorite blog, I found Our Freaking Budget. I KNOW, RIGHT?! With a name like that, how can it not be a) hilarious, b) informative, c) entertaining, or d) all of the above.

(Here’s a hint, kids. Always pick “all of the above” if it’s an option. The odds are in your favor. *wink*)

Since we’re still on quite the financial trip over here (short story – Dave’s got mad college debt (but is impeccable with his budget and tracking of financials) and I’m the anti-budgeter…and Hadley eats like a 16-year-old boy, I swear.), I’m finding tons of value in every post I’m reading on their site.

Here are just a few articles that have me either chuckling or nodding…or both:

How to Organize Your Financial Paperwork – Wait. I can throw out bank statements?! *Clouds part, angels sing*

All Things Budgeting – This is where I need the most work…so I read. The link includes numerous posts on this topic. I’m totally going to steal borrow their “Everything Else” concept. I love the looseness in that. It’s got “Meg!!! It’s so easy even YOU can do it!” written all over it.

It’s not super financial-related (although, if it costs money, isn’t it ALWAYS financial-related?), but I love the He Says/She Says: Pillows debate. As a lady who loves a good, practically useless decorative throw pillow, my heart goes out. Although, with a toddler, they’ve come in handy for breastfeeding…and he always likes the cushiony squishiness under-head during a diaper change, so there’s that. See? Purpose served!

LOVE this Are You a Dave or a Suze? post about the differences between Dave Ramsey (guru of attacking and mercilessly murdering one’s debt) and Suze Orman (whom I can only picture as an SNL character, no matter how hard I try otherwise). Best part of the post? That they refer the mix of their styles as “Duze.” 

I’m not a “Breaking Bad” follower (heck, if my heart can’t take the ups and downs of Downton Abbey, how can I handle meth heads? Is that what the kids are calling them these days? Meth heads?), but the branding on this Breaking Bad Budgets post cracks me up — and the content is aces.

This one, Budgeting Means You Don’t Like Nice Stuff (clearly not true), hits the nail on the head so well, I shared it on Facebook already. If you know how infrequently I share stuff, you know that’s kind of a big deal for me.

I could go on and on. There’s. Just. Too. Much. GOOD. So, finally, I will give you…

Inbox Zero: How to Whip Your Emails into Shape – I don’t remember how many email ACCOUNTS I have. I still mainly use my Yahoo, although I’d like to make the switch over to Gmail for good. It’s kind of like how I still haven’t found the courage/energy/time to switch to a closer credit union. Anyhoo, my Yahoo account has 6,211. Strangely, the oldest in my inbox is from April 24, 2008. And…OMG…I’m seeing professors emailing me about graduate classes that I’ve long since completed. Oye. Yes, this needs chipping away, for sure.

My financial must-have of the year is a new computer. I’ve hemmed and hawed for years over a replacement. Another Windows OS or refurbished Apple? For awhile I even considered next to no programs and just utilizing Google’s free apps — Google Drive, etc. (My current Dell was purchased over 4 years ago, I believe. There’s something wrong with the video card so there’s a big bar splitting the screen in half vertically, the caps lock key was torn off by a certain baby, — who shall remain nameless — and the “r” sticks like mad (hardly working one minute and snapping too much at others). Rrridiculous.

Since I don’t/won’t put any purchases on a credit card, I’m working on it.

The other financial “whoa” is that we’re hoping to meet with some financial folks to see how viable a possible move would be. (Not too, too far.) There, I said that publicly. Now we won’t qualify for squat. 😉 But, seriously, analyzing what our fix-ups need to be (cough-driveway-cough)

So, happening upon a blog that shows that financial freedom can work for normal folks like me, who are more on the creative side of things than the practical side, gives me some hope and doesn’t stress me out like other sites. I guess this one is a ton more “love” than “dislike.” Now, off to mysteriously lose several more hours of my life. *poof*

SIDE NOTE: WHO SAW DOWNTON SUNDAY?? ARGH! I knew someone was getting (spoiler) this season, but I didn’t expect it to be (spoiler). I hope (spoiler) doesn’t go postal.

Apple Cobbler Thingie

Yay, a dessert recipe! Finally. Or maybe breakfast. Or snack. I love versatile recipes like that, don’t you?? 🙂 Since when did this blog become a crappily photographed food blog?? Eh, it ebbs and flows, I suppose. Side note: Today’s Hadley’s 18-month birthday. Holy crap! One-and-a-half! I guess we need an update on what this kid’s doing, huh? Will do.

So, anyhoo, I borrowed this recipe from Mommy Knows but changed it around a bit. It was a frigid cold day (haven’t we all had those lately?) and I was home from school because of it, so it felt like the perfect time to crank up the oven.

I had some pretty little apples going south for the winter. See? Wrinkly with blemishes. But the girls still had life in ’em.

Sure, I could’ve made some applesauce (not much, mind you), but I wanted something heartier and a tad bit naughty. I WANTED an apple cake of some sort. Instead, I got this apple cobbler-type thing. Just as delicious. Just, um, unexpected.

And, yes, I’m just showing off with that self-made GIF. Get down witchya bad self!

Gratuitous close-up — ready to be baked. Whuh whuh?? (Apparently I’m into ’90s hip hop phrases today. Roo, I blame thee! Naw, it’s all good.)

So, here’s the recipe. Of course, I added nutmeg and clove to the apple filling part (you could leave them out and just use the cinnamon, but I’m a high roller). I also highly advise serving this warm, if possible, with some ice cream. We have yet to find organic ice cream, so we’ve found a minimal-ingredient “natural” vanilla from Breyer’s that’s a very, very rare treat since it still veers from our food ethics. Ya gotta live, though. Heck, in the summer, I know for a fact that we’ll go to some burger joints (local ones, mind you) and share a cone of unknown ingredients (but quite known yumminess) with the little guy. I know, we’re rebels.

Oh, and one final thing. When you go visit Mommy Knows, appreciate her not-so-subtle way of telling folks off about letting her daughter use a sharp knife to cut the apples. Love it! And hope you love this apple cake…cobbler…dessert.