Real Food Challenge – Week #5

Warming Up to Wallpaper

When I was a kid, the idea of wallpaper got us downright irritable. We lived in a gloriously large (by our standards) house that my mother slowly but surely made into a home. I like to romantically liken it to Mary Bailey in “It’s a Wonderful Life.” I’m positive it wasn’t actually like that, but sometimes it’s nice to live in our imaginations.

Regardless, I’m not sure if my mother was responsible for it or a previous owner, but our dining room was wallpapered. It had either been applied incorrectly or with an old-fashioned paste that made it damn near impossible to peel off with any efficiency. Instead, whenever we were on the phone (corded, kids), we would sit mindlessly scraping with an old paring knife, one chip of paper at a time. If nothing else, it taught me that, come hell or high water, you must do things the right way. Even if it took years of tedium.

So, when I first started seeing wallpaper come back ‘in’, I raised an eyebrow. There’s so much to hate about it.

But, after seeing it more…and more…and in incredibly modern, bold prints or subtle, classic designs…I warmed up. The fact that all the blog posts I read tout how simple and easy it is to apply (and just as easy to take down) made it less and less scary.

Source


Okay. So, I won’t be applying the stuff in our current house anytime fast (unless we suddenly decide not to move in the next year), but it gives me thoughts about fixing up places we may consider in the future. But, I have stipulations.

I’m not into papering an entire large room. Even with the most modern of prints, it seems to have an overpowering, almost Victorian style to it. Too busy, I guess. That said, I’m also not an “accent wall” girl; at least, not in a large living area. I also wouldn’t pick any of the styles they carry at, say, Lowe’s. They seem like all the other outdated, flowery options. 


So, what WOULD I do with modern-day wallpaper? I’m kind of into the idea of papering a closet (especially a bedroom one, emanating inspiration and a mood change every time the door is opened), small bathroom (large prints can actually do wonders in a small space), or maaaaaybe as an accent wall in an office or nursery.

The other cool trend in wallpaper is the forms that it can take. Traditional adhesive-backed or moveable vinyl or even a stencil used to look like a large pattern, you can customize it to your preferences. Whatever mood you hope to evoke, you’ve got it. Whimsical? Got it. Feminine? Of course. Moody? Sure thing.

You can shop around online and, luckily, purchase swatches before committing. There are several discount stores, although I could drool over Spoonflower (far from discount) for hours. The coolest part about this site? You can literally custom-make your own. But, really? How can you not want to just pick one of the genius designs they already offer? (This isn’t a sponsored post, BTW. I just like the site.) 

What do you guys think? Is wallpaper a trend you’d rather see go away? Or do you have some that you love in your house? Are you on the fence about it because of the “PITA to put up” factor?

Today’s Tip – First Edition!

I’m starting a new series that I’m lamely calling “Today’s Tip.” I’m hoping to share little tips and tricks (or “life hacks” as the kids these days are saying) to make your life just a wee bit simpler. The topics will range from parenting to cleaning to green living to just general time savers…and anything else that pops into my brain.

“Today’s Tip” is a super simple way to cut back on waste that’ll save you time, money, and one by one, the EARTH!!!

{dramatic pause}

No, really. If you’re not already doing this, it’s completely worth the tiny amount of time and effort to get on it.

I know, I know. This tip has been around forever. Yet, I know a ton of people who still buy over-priced bottles of water at work or go through the {oomph} effort it takes to lug the &$#%@*$ case of water home from the store. Switching plastic for reusable and filling it with filtered water at home is by far one of the easiest switches we’ve make, and has made a huge impact on the sheer number of water bottle waste we produce.

I also have seen several news sources cite that there’s a possibility of increased cancer risk (particularly for females) caused by drinking water from a plastic bottle that has, say, sat in a hot car (due to the leaching of chemicals into the water). I know that there was a time that I did this — regularly. I’d rather not take my chances if making such a simple change can possibly help.

Now, we happen to live in a state that now charges a 5-cent fee per bottle (meaning that you can redeem it when you bring back your bottles and cans). But, between the effort of taking back ALL those bottles and cans, and the energy used to recycle that bottle into another (and, by the way, that’s not a never-ending process; one day, the plastic will no longer be able to be melted into another item…and where do you think it goes then?), it’s still a drain on our time, energy, and environmental resources. And, really, we used to have to bring bottles back at least monthly. Now, it’s a couple of times a year (more in the summertime…ahem, beer and hard cider).

The bottle that we happen to use is the Ello flip-top glass bottle (mine is in turquoise; Dave’s is in gray). We love the glass since it’s completely free of chemicals or leaching, and the silicone provides an extra layer of protection from breakage. Dave bought me a gorgeous glass one awhile back with a wood top and beautiful design, but a student knocked it on our *cushioned* library floor and, oye, what a mess. Still can’t believe that tempered glass broke. 

And one open-and-honest caveat: With our particular model, we have to keep an eye on the latch and ensure that the top is properly screwed-on. Totally user error stuff, but I’ve had the entire contents of my purse completely submerged (a couple of times). So, yeah. Keep that in mind! 

You don’t have to get this kind, though. Klean Kanteen provides durable aluminum options that are pretty cool, too. Just be sure that whatever you purchase is at least BPA-free and suits your needs. Some people like buying a larger option to ensure that they’ll get the recommended amount of water for the day; others want a smaller, more portable option. It totally doesn’t matter. Whatever you get, just be sure that it meets all of your own criteria.

And, remember that the price is a one-time thing vs. a continual cost that adds up over time. We grabbed our bottles at Target, but they were around the $15 mark. It sounds like a lot, but if you estimate a bottle of water is $1 (in our work vending machine it’s actually $1.50, but it’s far less if you buy in bulk, so let’s take the average), you’ll be paying it off in about two weeks’ time. I kid you not, though: I love having more than one on-hand to bring along (kept in a cooler…or not, doesn’t matter) when we hit the road. It’s worth its weight in gold since I’m far less likely to grab a beverage along the way.

So, raise your hand if you already have/use your own reusable bottles! What kind do you like? Do you use them for hitting up the gym (not I, says the pig) or for daily use?

The above post may contain affiliate links. This just means that, if you happen to buy the item (or anything else from Amazon purchased after clicking that link), you’ll be supporting this blog. Win-win! You’re under no obligation to buy anything.

Real Food Challenge – Week #4

For 14 weeks, the family and I are undertaking a Real Food Challenge (put forth by the awesome 100 Days of Real Food blog). I’m hoping to check in about any struggles and successes along the way each week. Our ultimate goal is to cut down on our dependence on processed foods and start using some cleaner fuels to energize our bodies. And stuff.

So, here’s how it works. I’ll get an email every Thursday for the next 14 weeks (the actual eating challenge will start on Sunday or Monday for 7 days, so there are a couple of days of grocery prep built in). Each email outlines the “rules” for that particular week. It’s up to each participant as to whether or not they’d like to try each week independently or build on top of the prior week. In other words, continuing doing the prior weeks while attempting the new weeks, if that makes sense. There’s also a very active Facebook group (I’ve actually joined an offshoot that’s super supportive and far more focused) that’s there to share, answer and support.
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Review of Week #3: So, this week was all about cutting back on meat consumption and eating only locally-raised meat. I loved the idea of the thing, but had to get a little creative to get our hands on some. Our favorite local market was during a different weekend, so we missed it. Instead, I sent my savior husband to a local store that happens to provide local, organic, grassfed meat. I was disappointed at the cost of pork and the fact that they had no chicken, so we grabbed two pounds of ground beef and went with it.

I’ve just gotta say that during this whole challenge, the way to succeed is MEAL PLANNING. I do it in a casual, less structured way — by creating a list of possible meals for the week rather than saying “Tuesday is taco day and it’s set in stone!” For example, we usually eat pizza on Fridays, but for some reason I was jonesin’ for it on Wednesday. So, I sauteed some onion and a handful of the beef (our first meal with meat for the week) to top the pizza with, served it with salads and TADA! Simple. Plus, keeping the list written on our fridge’s dry erase board lets me get home from school and start cooking right away rather than racking my brain for ideas.

So far, so good. We still have the weekend to go, but we’re doing fine. I had to run to the store for some supplies last night, which delayed my cooking (but I didn’t have the stuff on hand to make a slow cooker soup…double-edged sword), but it’s a first-world problem.

Week #4 Challenge: This week is going to be E-A-S-Y. The challenge is twofold: No fast food (sit-down restaurants are okay, which is AWESOME because we’ve got a date night planned) and nothing deep-fried. We don’t use things like hard taco shells (deep-fried) and if we eat fries, they are healthily baked. I’m also thinking that I’d like to try baking some chicken fingers just to see how it goes; I did it once before, but I didn’t like the mess of the method.

Soooooo, purdy easy. We have the option to either stack the challenges (so that by the end we’re doing all 14 things habitually) or try each week separately to see how it works for our families. Right now, I’m trying to maintain the 6-fruits/veggies a day challenge, having little to no sugar in my coffee/tea, and now think that I’ll try to keep more local meats in the freezer and attempt more vegetarian meals each week. It’s actually easier than I thought, although I’d like to put more thought into the balance of nutrients we’re getting. So, I’d say that we’ve got a “modified stacked” approach going on, and I like it.

Here’s my meal “plan” for week #4:

Why We Do What We Do

It’s pretty obvious that I’m sporadic about my blog post topics. Welcome to my brain! For being a boring librarian (psht, if you believe THAT, you don’t know my librarian friends…), I have a million different interests. Things that I’m incredibly passionate about. Sometimes I’ll talk your ear off about them; other times, I don’t want to come off as a lecturer, so I’m pretty silent. So, depending on what’s boiling to the top at the time, it’s what I post.

I’d like to have more focus, but ultimately it’s important for me to say this: Just because I’m not posting about it doesn’t mean that it’s fallen off of my priority list. I may be “living it” or quietly doing my thing without telling the whole world about it.

Whenever I do a reader survey, I find out that everyone reads for different reasons – yet another reason I’m sticking to my “variety is the spice of life” posting style. But, I also tend to get questions about things that I might have posted about several years ago. Namely, our green practices and eating habits.

So, today I’m getting into it. Why we make the choices that we make.


We eat (mostly) organic. Currently, we’re taking part in a challenge to try to weed out a bit of our processed foods a bit. Why? Several reasons. We’re more mindful about the food that goes into our bodies. It has value to us, unlike “Value Meal” items (which degrade the lives that were given for the meal). But, most importantly, we have read and looked into the connection between pesticides/chemicals and cancer rates (and other health issues), and would like to lessen our chances at any cost. So, yeah.

We care about the lives of the animals we consume. Believe me, I only wish we could be vegetarians. I do. Deeply. We adore animals, domesticated and wild. We’re trying to get back into a healthier flexitarian diet. But, ultimately, we do our best to buy locally-raised (generally grassfed and humanely treated) meat and poultry, but at least look for a “humane” seal on packaged meat bought elsewhere. It. Just. Matters. An animal died for your dinner. Shouldn’t it have at the very least had a non-abusive life lived close with nature? We think so.

We don’t eat locally, but we’d like to more. The main reason we don’t purchase all of our food locally is probably the reason that a lot of people don’t – convenience. With our work schedules and a little monkey to chase after, it’s a miracle that I get to Hannaford weekly/bi-weekly (and the rare times that I get to Aldi). Another reason is that it’s difficult to get to the infrequent farmers’ markets during this cold part of the year. Between hopefully purchasing a CSA share and hitting up the markets more when the warmer months hit, we hope to amend this.

We’re conscientiously green. I say it this way because we’re not yet to the height that we’d like to achieve, but we’re doing our best. We use reusable lunchware and natural toiletries, cosmetics and cleansers. We try to use rags and other reusable items and minimal disposable goods. The list goes on, but we’re far from zero waste. 

There are several reasons that I like to think of us as “green family.” When I was a teenager, I loved the old hippie movement. I idolized the motivation it took for a vast group of people to stand up for their beliefs (namely, that of equality and peace), despite the opinions of the older generations. I listened to their music, wore their clothes, and allowed many of their views shape my current thinking. I longed for my own movement to support, but nothing concrete showed itself.

As time went on, though, my life became normalized and responsible, and I grew further from the true social issues that have been bubbling and developing. I felt that I couldn’t ultimately have a say or truly create the change I had hoped for, anyway.

Instead, however, I discovered my priorities. Along with a husband who shared my views, I gradually learned that those early Earth Day lessons from elementary school had stuck, our opinions about animals were passionate, and our views on all things based in chemical nastiness had no place in our lives (or damaging our world).


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I’m sure I’m missing some things that people have wondered about over time, so feel free to leave a question in the comments! Ultimately, our lifestyle has become such a natural one (in more ways than one) that I forget to post about things that have become routine.

Cat Relationships Be Weird, Yo

A vast majority of the time, our cats ignore each other. Sure, they full-on live with each other and at rare times even make eye contact. But, for the most part, they keep to themselves and seem to pretend that maybe, just for a mere second, they’re the “only cat.” And they’re each happy with that.

But what strange, subtle relationships exist. Staring ahead blankly while your brother cat licks your butt for five minutes straight. Sleeping on the opposite ends of a bed for literally the entire day (or sometimes even curled up near each other…merely for the heat source, of course, Mama; no affection intended here). Bathing each other without actually acknowledging each other. It takes a lot of talent to act that complacent.

Other times, they use each other as a means of getting food. Lately, we are incapable of sleeping past 5am (sometimes far earlier) without one of them becoming a wildcat due to an empty belly. Wildcat is code word for bully, but as we all learned in the school yard, “if someone hits ya, hit ’em right back.” {I, for one, disagree with that logic. My cats do not.} So, we have to hiss or stomp or spray them, which only keeps them apart for juuuuust enough time to snuggle back into our warm bed. Lather, rinse, repeat. Once fed, they go back to living in their own worlds.

Yet, we know. We know that, while he lives for the moments when his tiger brothers are napping away the day so that he can rub all over us and be the little-do-they-know kiss-up of the group, Winston adores his brothers. He especially loves Hadley. He’s almost always nearby, either watching Hadley play (partly with caution, partly as if to say, “Whatchya doin’?”) or curled up near his bedroom to keep an eye on things. Highly intelligent, I think he appreciates and relates to Hadley’s innate mischievous nature. 

Beardslee watches over him, too, but in a slightly more detached way. Actually, that’s pretty much his role in the house. He’s the boss supreme. Winston may be the brains of the operation, Beardslee has control and power. While he sleeps about 90% of the day away, he’s clearly king. If you pick him up (or do anything he doesn’t prefer), he’s got enough force in his body to push an adult human on their butt. Strong. But, he’s also the soulful, kind orange tabby that reminds us, daily, that our hearts would break without his constant presence. I cry just thinking about the day that he’s no longer with us.

Jasper, on the other hand, has always worn his heart on his sleeve. He loudly springboards into the crib and sometimes shares the end of the bed (or even lays ON the little guy’s legs and belly, much as he does with Dave) for entire naps. He instantly starts to purr when he is paid the least bit of attention. It’s so easy for Winston to goad Jasper into fights; you can just look at the boy and he’ll hop over to know what he can do for you. Craves love, the poor thing. The fact that he’s not the smartest of creatures makes him seem like a foreigner who sometimes doesn’t understand what you’re saying, but who lives life with a great passion. Where Beardslee’s the soul, Jasper’s the heart of the house.

While I know that Dave and I have changed, particularly in our life priorities and life choices, since having Hadley, I am incredibly proud that we haven’t changed in our opinions of our first “babies.” Over time, we’ve either heard stories or been told that “things would be different when we had our own” child. Kind of funny, but we always balked (and were offended) at the thought. No, we wouldn’t love them or treat them any differently. And, boy, am I happy to report that we were true to our word. We spend tons of time with Hadley and try to have fun and let him know how much we cherish him, but we still steal special time with each fur boy, in the form that they each enjoy – solo time [often “naked time” after a shower for Winston (he’s very European)], simple petting and praise for Boo, and cuddling in bed every night with Jasper.

And here I always thought I was a dog person who just happened to have three super special cats (which is true). Turns out, I’m just an animal person. Dave and I can’t wait to continue raising the next generation of animal lovers. 🙂 

Real Food Challenge – Week #3

For 14 weeks, the family and I are undertaking a Real Food Challenge (put forth by the awesome 100 Days of Real Food blog). I’m hoping to check in about any struggles and successes along the way each week. Our ultimate goal is to cut down on our dependence on processed foods and start using some cleaner fuels to energize our bodies. And stuff.

So, here’s how it works. I’ll get an email every Thursday for the next 14 weeks (the actual eating challenge will start on Sunday or Monday for 7 days, so there are a couple of days of grocery prep built in). Each email outlines the “rules” for that particular week. It’s up to each participant as to whether or not they’d like to try each week independently or build on top of the prior week. In other words, continuing doing the prior weeks while attempting the new weeks, if that makes sense. There’s also a very active Facebook group (I’ve actually joined an offshoot that’s super supportive and far more focused) that’s there to share, answer and support.

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Review of Week #2: The second week of the challenge was a pretty simple week. The only beverages allowed were as follows: water, milk (suggested organic & whole, which we do anyway), coffee, tea, and wine in moderation (one a day). ONE glass of juice was allowed, mostly so that if anyone hates water they could spritz a bit of juice in for some flavor.

I’m not a soda drinker anymore — I’ll have a couple per year. No, seriously. So, the only part of this that took me anywhere outside my comfort zone was that the only sweeteners allowed in one’s coffee or tea was honey (ew, bee barf; love bees, hate the taste) or maple syrup (the 100% awesome quality organic stuff is great, but leaves a “deeply flavored” aftertaste). I don’t drink a ton of coffee, but since it was allowed and I needed “caffeine motivation”, I tried the maple syrup with a splash of milk. Hmm. Okay, but honestly tasted like…maybe…almost…TOO sweet?

Okay, okay, hold the phones. Those who have known me for any amount of time know that I’m a sugar consumer. I used to use 4-5 teaspoons of sugar in each small cup of coffee. *ahem* And was passionately mocked by family and friends for it. Over time, I’ve cut it down to about 1 1/2 (which is big for me). But, the fact that just yesterday, I took a mug with coffee and a splash of milk to work and thought it was fine…well, let’s just say I’m expecting a chunk of the earth to explode. I’m pretty pleasantly surprised.

I’m hoping to maintain this, although if I’m in need of a sweet caffeine fix, I’ll probably try one of the recipes for a NATURAL creamer replacement (something with cinnamon or what have you mixed in so that I don’t notice the maple syrupy goodness). Oh, and while I used to have the super rare caramel macchiato (like, also twice a year) at a random Starbucks, I’m not even sure I’d enjoy that anymore. I’d probably get a latte. MAYBE a crappy flavor shot, just for a “treat”, but even then…not sure it’s a treat anymore. So, I’d call Week #2 a success.

Side note: Hadley still drank juice. I’m bending rules ‘cuz he’s…y’know…2 1/2. He had far more milk and water than usual and no more than his watered-down cup of organic juice each day, so I’m happy.

Week #3 Challenge: $#@% just got real. This week will actually be quite the challenge, unlike this past week. We’re “allowed” to eat only 3-4 (which means, um, 4) meals containing only locally-raised meat; the rest of the meals are essentially vegetarian. PLUS, whatever recipes we choose should involve meat in a supporting role rather than the star. Hmm. That’s. Um. Crap.

I’m not one of those “Must. Eat. Protein.” people. Our bodies actually don’t need the “one vast serving per meal” amount of protein that folks seem ingrained to tout. (Mom.) But, I do want to make sure that we all get enough. I could easily do pancakes for every meal, but it’s not healthy for any of us. At least I’m trying to maintain a semblance of the 6-per-day fruits and veggies, so we’re definitely still getting our fill of nutrients. It just throws quite the monkey wrench into things. And stuff.

I definitely have a love-hate relationship with this week’s challenge. I fully understand the reason behind it. I haven’t had the greatest success at trying a flexitarian meal plan. I’ve made “meatless” meals and was proud of them, but they weren’t that healthy. Like, pasta So, this is definitely a week that I hope to learn from. I’m excited to see whether this is one of those “this is soooo hard!!!” sort of weeks or more of a “this is easier than I thought, I can do this!” week. Fingers crossed!

Here’s my flexible meal plan “schedule” for the week:

Caveat #1: The asterisks imply that there may or may not be some local meat involved, depending on what we can pick up at a local market. Like, if we can find locally-raised pork or bacon, it’ll go into the potato soup. If we find chicken breasts, I’ll cook them up for the stir-fry and salads. Also, this is a general guide that helps TREMENDOUSLY when I’m having that, “What to have for dinner?” blank moment. But, if I decide that we haven’t had pasta in awhile (which we haven’t), I might switch that out for the omelet night, for example, with some salads on the side. We’re nothing if not flexible.

Caveat #2: Oh, and while we’re allowed 3-4 meals including meat, if there are leftovers from a particular dinner, you’d better know we’re using them for lunch. That’s how we’re playing that game. Leftovers are my saving grace, dudes.

So, that’s the latest! Looking ahead, the following few weeks look pretty easy again (and even fun!), so I’m lucky for the most part! Now, if I could get Hadley to eat more of these meals, I’d really be getting some place.

Have a great weekend (and happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day!) and good luck to any fellow challenge friends!

How May I Help You?

I’m a bit of a people-pleaser. Well, I’m sure I don’t please everybody all of the time, but it’s an innate concern of mine. It’s only natural, really. Wondering if you’re doing enough to help others. Wondering if what you do is worth it. Wondering if anyone’s listening and hearing and caring. It’s probably rooted in some anxiety and esteem issues, but that’s not what I’m getting into today.

What I am getting into is YOU. I’ve asked for feedback before, and even surveyed you. But, the focus was generally the blog. Yes, I want to improve the blog, and this post is somewhat related to that, but mostly, I want to know what I can do for YOU with this here tiny nook of the internet.

Here’s what I mean…

What do you hope to see when you stop by Meg, Acting Out?

Why do you read? What do you get out of reading?What are your favorite types of blog posts (on any blog)?

How-to? Recipes? Life betterment/tips? Entertainment? Inspiration (if so, in what way)?What are your life concerns? Goals?

Do you prefer a different format from time to time, like video or podcast?

Overall, what would you like to see more/less that will benefit you and your needs?

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We’re obviously still going to share random personal posts, but I want to know that the time that I put into this joint isn’t falling upon disinterested ears. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy writing and would do it for an audience of one, but once in awhile I need some focus and to touch base to see what’s what. Does that make sense?So, if you have any responses to the above questions (or any further suggestions or ideas), please don’t hesitate to drop me a line in the comments. Or, if you’d like to chat further and more anonymously, feel free to reach out to me at megactsout@gmail.com. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Summer Daydreams

We spend so much time stockpiling gifts, planning fun times and decorating that, in addition to the actual enjoyment of the holidays, it’s a pretty big letdown when it’s over. Many of us (myself included) even experience a mild depression when we bid adieu to Christmas every year. It sometimes takes awhile to get over, with winter weather adding “blah” to the bummer.

Almost as if an annual routine, I start to get the urge to plan the fun times that we hope to have when the weather turns warm. I think about the activities that Hadley will be able to enjoy (at his stage in development/maturity) and even start to mentally plan for his July birthday party. Family often makes fun of me for over-planning and over-thinking things, but it actually helps me a) keep mentally organized and feel on top of things, and b) get enjoyment out of the experience. The excitement is half the fun!

So, although nothing is in stone for our general Spring/Summer 2015 plans, I thought it’d be fun to have a little brain dump of the things we’d like to undertake in the spring and summer. Here goes!


CSA – We’ll finally be joining a CSA for some regular, local veggies. Yay! Now is the perfect time to do our research to decide which farm we’ll be choosing. It would be awesome if it was one that we could visit or even do some work on so that Hadley has an idea of where some of the food is from, but it’s not a deal-breaker. Either way, I’m excited to try some different produce and recipes with the family.

Utica Zoo membership – Last year, we LOVED our zoo membership. It only makes sense to support their cause and enjoy it with the little guy again. Plus, they have an awesome playground setup that Hadley will love even more this year, with his longer legs and better stability. And the monkeys. Oh, the monkeys.

Trip to Western Mass – Hopefully, this doesn’t have to wait until summer! Hadley’s been asking about his little buddy in Massachusetts every few days, so we feel awful that we haven’t been back sooner. (Oh, and we want to see our old friends there, too!) It’s Dave’s old stomping ground, so it’s like a second home full of happy memories for us to return to regularly. Plus, they have the Eric Carle Museum, which is a family favorite.

Beach – Last year, the only place we went with sand was a small beach in Old Forge. On a chilly day. With occasional drizzles. It was far from ideal and involved no splashing, no sunbathing, no playing. This year, I’m hoping that we can get to one of the family-friendly beaches closer to home. (Last year, there were some red algae issues, so there were lots of “no using the water” warnings. Hopefully, there will be fewer this year.) I can’t wait for Hadley to play in the sand and splash in the water (hopefully he’ll be less terrified by water in his face if playing is involved), and admittedly I can’t wait to get my toes in some sand, too. Fingers crossed!

Old Forge – Speaking of Old Forge…we try to get there every year to wander and sight-see, but last year was by far the worst I can recall. Between places being non-stroller friendly and the chilly, rainy weather (in August?!), it was kind of a bust. We made the best of it and found coffee and donuts for the trip home (best part of the day!), but I’m already assuming that anything will be better than last year. I don’t expect every trip or experience to be the best thing ever, but when it’s far less than mediocre…well…it’s disappointing. Even the farmers’ market was too soggy and full of imported produce to get excited over.

Time to try a city? – I’ve talked about the fear of bringing Hadley into a big city because he’s still not great at listening and following directions. (Okay, some days he’s even worse at it.) So, I’m still wary about this, but I’m wondering if we go to a city in the middle of a week, we might be better as far as crowds go. I’m partial to Boston (and NYC and Philly, but those are still a bit nuts to consider), especially with the Freedom Trail as a way of getting some history in without having to try to force good behavior in a museum. Their aquarium might be a hit with the little guy, too. But, if we can’t do that, maybe another smaller trip like our Concord excursion last year (but to a different spot).

Local adventures – For awhile now, I’ve wanted to get the family into the local experiences that make our area unique. We often forget about the historical and natural gems in our own backyard, so I’m hoping that, whether it’s just a farmers’ market, a nature walk, or a stop at a nearby historical destination, we’ll be able to do this weekly. Again, fingers crossed. I hope to make a list

THREE! – Dudes. Can you believe it?! Our little guy is turning the big 3 this July! I’m sure I’ll do yet another brain dump of fun stuff I’m drooling over on Pinterest (and if I’m lucky 50% of it will make it to the party – Hadley’s a mind-changer…but what 2 1/2-year-old isn’t?). The only thing that he’s told me definitively has me adamantly agreeing: strawberry cake. Damn straight, child. You shall have your cake. (And it will be organic and from scratch. Shh. Guests don’t need to know.)

House hunt – I’ve mentioned before that we’re finally hoping to move to a new town (relatively nearby), namely to get a larger space for the family that we can hopefully own long-term. Given that our current space is about 1,000 square feet, we’ve always known that this wasn’t going to be our forever home. So, while I hope to hit up tons of the above, if we’re in the midst of moving (or obtaining a larger mortgage), we’ll see what we can do. Heck, maybe his party will be at a new, larger setting.

For now, though, we’re going to hunker down and enjoy the good that winter brings. I do enjoy snow (and the prospect of snow days!), drinking hot chocolate, and cozying up with a good book. Although, admittedly, I’ll be super happy when the sunset happens later than 4:30. Oye.

Real Food Challenge – Week Two

For 14 weeks, the family and I are undertaking a Real Food Challenge (put forth by the awesome 100 Days of Real Food blog). I’m hoping to check in about any struggles and successes along the way each week. Our ultimate goal is to cut down on our dependence on processed foods and start using some cleaner fuels to energize our bodies.

So, here’s how it works. I’ll get an email every Thursday for the next 14 weeks (the actual eating challenge will start on Sunday or Monday for 7 days, so there are a couple of days of prep built in). Each email outlines the “rules” for that particular week. It’s up to each participant as to whether or not they’d like to try each week independently or build on top of the prior week. In other words, continuing doing the prior weeks while attempting the new weeks, if that makes sense. There’s also a very active Facebook group (I’ve actually joined an offshoot that’s super supportive and far more focused) that’s there to share, answer and support.

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Review of Week #1: We officially started on Monday (through this Sunday, although we’re going to attempt to keep up the increase in fruit ‘n veg), which also happened to be the first day for all of us to return to work. Thanks to some prepping over the weekend, some mornings and evenings (like making some ranch dressing for dipping and chopping veggies for snacking and tossing into meals) it was simpler than it would have been otherwise.

I loved having my meal plan, which you can see in my Week One post, jotted down on our white board, although I ended up switching out a couple of alternatives, like chicken fajitas (filled with veggies and with a sweet potato on the side) instead of a quesadilla…which isn’t really a huge change. But, yeah, I love having the structure and a quick choice for meal planning rather than that daily “what are we going to eat today?” feeling, as well as the slight flexibility of being able to switch out an equally healthy alternative. Ahhh. Yup, I’d say that’s the trick here.

The challenges this week? Well, all that prepping did take up more time, and we were generally exhausted trying to get back into a routine (and still are), but we’re handling it all just fine. Also, although Hadley’s not usually a very picky eater, he didn’t eat a few of our meals. That mixed with some teething (molar!!!) meant that I got pretty creative and had to have a conversation with myself about whether or not he HAD to have the same dinner as us every night. My answer? No. And it’s not a big deal. (I usually subscribe to the “I’m not a short order cook!” concept.)

Gonna keep working on this as we move forward, particularly finding meals that he WILL eat (along with us) that can become staples. Fingers crossed!

This week is all about beverages. Namely, limiting them to coffee, tea, water and milk (and sweetened only with a bit of honey or 100% real maple syrup). I’d like to say this is an easy one – it is, really – but Hadley’s a juice drinker. Plus, I can’t completely control what he’s given, aside from the meals I send, throughout work days. Also, I’m a sugar-user in my coffee and tea, so I’ll either be going without (not a huge deal) or trying a new method this week. {I tend to hate honey, not sure why. We’ll see how it goes.}

Oh, and since one serving of juice is allowed during the week, I’m not sweating Hadley’s intake. He’s only supposed to consume one sippy cup of it daily (and that’s watered halfway), so I’m not sweating it. I’d like to get him on to mostly water one day, anyway, and he also drinks milk, but at his age, I’m not concerned.
Otherwise, since this week is so simple, I’m going to try to build it on top of the “eat more veggies” thing. If I look at the day as “eat at least six fruits and vegetables, total” it’s not that bad. I’ve always brought an apple for lunch, so if I bring along carrots to munch or celery and hummus for an additional snack or add-on to lunch, I’ll be good. It definitely helps me to think about cleaner breakfasts than just, like, toast. 😉

Here’s my food plan for the upcoming week:

{WW = Whole Wheat}
Can’t wait to make our veggie pizza tonight! Is anyone else making some healthier choices lately? 🙂 Let me know in the comments!