Summer 2015

It’s equal parts being an over-planner and getting excited for some fun family activities, but every year since Hadman was old enough to have fun (in 2012, he was a newborn, so we didn’t do much of anything that summer!), I’ve made a list of fun summer ideas. In 2013, it was as much about my goals as it was the family. In 2014, we simplified quite a bit. While this year I’m still planning to get some personal goals accomplished (at least one book is written, so I’d like to get it sent out to publishers and work on other ideas) and we’re always puttering away at the house (and may be finding a new one! Eek!!), I’d ultimately like to keep it family-oriented. 

Heck, I’ve been so excited about summer that I dropped in with a wishlist in January! But, now that we’re getting closer, I thought I’d fine tune things a bit. So, I give you some dreams for THIS summer (along with some family favorite repeats from years gone by) – 


1. Birthday Party 3.0 – Had’s birthday is in July, so I always like to get my creative juices flowing so that I at least know a theme or what have you for the big day. This year, my sister will have a brand new baby (in May!) and my sister-in-law is having her first little one (due early July, so it’s anyone’s guess as to when!). So, it might be a smaller event this year, which is totally fine. However, given that every time I’ve asked him in the last several months what type of party he’d like, he’s given me the exact same answer, I at least know what type of party it’ll be. Even if we only have, like, 5 people there. 😉

2. Walks – We didn’t take nearly as many walks as I would’ve liked last year. Call it my own laziness, I suppose, but this year I’d like to take several a week. Whether it’s a quick up-and-down the street or around the neighborhood, we’ve gotta get movin’! (And, yes, I’m already exhausted thinking about it.)

3. Zoo – This was a HUGE hit last year, so we’re planning to re-up our family membership to the Utica Zoo this year. With the price that it is, we don’t mind just going for the morning, eating lunch, then heading home for a nap (or staying the whole day, if we so choose). We particularly love that the animals they have on “display” are part of their focus on conservation, habitat preservation, and species survival. It’s the absolutely perfectly-sized zoo for a toddler/preschooler (with a great playground area) and H talks all the time about the animals he’s seen (and even some he thinks he’s seen ;-)). It’s definitely a big part in our raising an animal lover. Plus, there are reciprocal zoos that we could get in during any trips at a discount or free with our membership.

4. Trips! – We’re planning on taking a couple of day trips (like, within 3 hours from home) plus one 2-3 day trip similar to our Massachusetts trip last year. Still working out the details. You’d be amazed at how many places you search for that are “toddler friendly” that simply babysit the kids for the parents to have alone time all day. Not our bag; we like a FAMILY vacation, not a vacation FROM our family. 🙂 We’re also pretty loose, enjoying things like museums and hands-on play places to relaxing on the beach (not the whole time) to discovering local history and culture, so our ideas are all over the place.

5. Sandy Feet – Whether we get to a beach during our “bigger” vacation or not, I’m really hoping to get to the beach one or twice in our area. We’ve got some awesome state-protected lakes with family-friendly beaches in the area, and H is at a “love to run and play” age now, so it just seems perfect. Plus, I’d love to do the same. 🙂

6. “Potted” Garden & CSA – Between the prospect of possibly moving and the fact that our friendly neighborhood cats have taken over our gardening space, I’m hoping to just get some small plants going this year. I’ve tried in years past and had crappy-to-moderate success (I think watering is my downfall, maybe?), but am determined to at least grow a tomato plant, some herbs, and maybe something else that might catch my eye. I’d love to be able to use our back deck for this purpose, but have had issues there in the past. More research ahead! 

Oh, and we’ve finally found a CSA that has us super excited to sign up. We’re still discussing between a full share (May through October) or the summer share (May through August) due to cost and our willingness/ability to keep up with meal planning come the new school year. But, we hope to figure that out this week and get our check mailed to hold our spot quickly. I’ll chat more about that once we get our first share!

7. Library – We haven’t utilized our local library much at all. It’s a pathetic state of affairs given that I’m a school librarian. We’re not huge fans of our town’s library, quite honestly (it’s always surrounded by riff raff, so kind of intimidating to bring a toddler into), but we should at least give it a shot. I’m going to look into whether or not they have a story time (their website says they do, but it hasn’t been updated since November). If not, I’ve seen that another local library has storytime and other events, so hopefully we can start getting used to *QUIET* spaces and interacting with other littles a bit.

8. Kindermusik – Here’s the opposite of quiet time! We noticed awhile back that seem to have Kindermusik classes available about a half hour away. I’d like to try a month of classes (4) to see how he likes them. If he does, it’d be cool to continue; if not, it was a good learning experience. I’m also eyeing some swim classes (that we would take with him). Again, this all might add to the “crazy” of the summer and with the idea of maaaaybe finding (and selling) a house and two new family babies coming, it might be shooting for the moon.

9. Baby Help – Speaking of which, I’m hoping to offer up my help as much as possible to Dave’s brother and SIL, and my sister and her family. Whether they’ll take it or not is totally up to them! That said, if anyone has some yummy, healthy meals I could make for their freezers, let me know in the comments! 😉 


So, what about you guys? What are you looking forward to the most this summer? This week is a dreary, rainy mess of a spring week (last week was gorgeous and spoiled us with borderline summer-like weather), so my mind is definitely wandering!
  

Homes Away From Home

We all have a place that we visit, eventually getting high off the thought of possibly moving there. It’s usually totally ridiculous to dream about and beyond impractical, but it happens. Even Liz Lemon fell victim to it…
 



Well, we have our “favorite spots”, too. We may love a place for its natural serenity, its bustling energy, its sustainable living practices, its cultural activity, or the very important fact that dear friends live there. Here are a few (very outlandish) dream places:

– Middlebury, VT – We visit here (almost) every year since first visiting on our honeymoon. It’s a green (in more ways than one), great little college town in a state that makes it far easier to live sustainably and support local. Somehow, it provides a mix of modern with traditional “New England small town” charm, all in an adorable package. Of course, we know no one who lives in the vicinity, making a move not only implausible but incredibly alienating and lonely. Sigh.

– Ithaca, NY – Much like Middlebury, it’s a “gorge-ous” college city with abnormally eco-friendly practices (especially for NYS). With a high-quality theater scene and the most hippies-per-capita in all of “upstate”, it’s practically a miniaturized Portland, Oregon. (That’s a good thing for us.) I can’t begin to list all the reasons we’ll never move there, but it’s a nice place to visit.

– Western Mass – Dave went to school here, so he may be biased (I shouldn’t say that; I went to Oneonta and I have no intention of moving there ;-)), but he has some of the awesomest friends on Earth whom we love to visit. So, it would be worth the price of admission just to move and see them once in awhile, honestly. Add to it the fact that it’s another “like-minded” place as far as local eats, organic and sustainable practices, and more, and it’s a dream come true. Unfortunately, it’s just not worth leaving our respective families and low cost of living. *wop wop*

– Concord, MA – Okay, a few of these are my dream whereas a few are more Dave’s, so bear with me. Have you BEEN here? It’s a step back in time, with many historical homes and well-kept historical and nature preserve sites (Hello! Walden Pond much?!). I’m fascinated by the transcendentalist movement and the life of Louisa May Alcott (and American history, of course), so when I tell my students I’ve visited her home, they tend to think I’m a stalker (then ask if it’s haunted, of course). The place is just bursting with history, culture…and incredibly expensive housing. *scratches off list* 

– New York City – We’ve never said “I want to live here!” In fact, when we were in our dating stages visiting every 6 months or so, we looked in restaurant windows to see parents with kids and said, “Wow, I can’t imagine raising children here.” Between the noise and constant over-stimulation, the sheer cost is unthinkable. But, of course, not enough positive can be said about the place. So, when the time comes, we’ll allow H and any future siblings tiny doses of over-stimulation. 😉 

– The Adirondacks – Here’s another one that’s all me and pretty much 2% Dave. Maybe 0%, who knows? While we’re relatively close to the majestic Adirondack mountain range and park, we rarely ever utilize the place, going maybe once a year (like the year I went camping for a couple of days with my family or our Old Forge visits). The Adirondacks are the total opposite of NYC, with their constant barrage of peace and quiet, natural wonder, outdoor activities, and, yes, more history. (Although NY has quite a bit of history, it’s modern to the max.) Again, it’s pretty darn expensive (unless you pick a less popular lake) to get even a shabby camp, and I’m admittedly a pretty crappy swimmer to be utilizing a lake, anyway, but for the gentle calm, fun and exercise of canoeing and hiking, and animal encounters? I’d take it. Plus, what better way is there to raise a child? 

– Cooperstown, NY – This is by far the closest “home away from home” for us. Every once in awhile, we take the drive out for their Saturday (indoor!) farmers’ market, random event (like their annual Candlelight Evening I’ve mentioned several times), or just to grab a deli lunch and head down to picnic by the lake. It’s another diamond-in-the-rough: rich literary history (no, really), incredible museums (sure, baseball, but so much more), picturesque scenery and perfect “Andy Hardy old-school town” vibe, plus an incredibly active group of people working to make the place as good as it can be. If I ever make millions of dollars writing the next big American novel, we’re movin’ there. 

What’s YOUR “home away from home”? I’d love to hear your favorite spot(s)!

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?

I Blame Louisa, Laura, and Lucy

Lately, I’ve been noticing that a lot of bloggers I casually enjoy seem to have a small running theme. A similarity. A coincidence, perhaps, but a common thread, regardless.

Sure, some blogs share a pioneering spirit, raising chickens and baking their own bread and growing what they eat. Others like getting their hands dirty and DIYing their hearts out. Lots share a life-simplifying philosophy. Many chat about living an earth-friendly life. Most ultimately focus on giving their all to their families.

Just drop the name “Anne” (with an “e”) on Facebook and the chatter starts. The same can be said for Laura and, to a lesser extent, Jo.

I blame the ladies. Those independent lady authors who came before us and created such true-to-life characters (characters who often reflected their own independent streaks) that still resonate with readers and fans a hundred plus years later.

Like many who grew up in the late ’70s and ’80s, I watched quite a bit of “Little House on the Prairie” and then, after watching my sister read the crap out of the series, swiped them from her book shelf when I was old enough to read a chapter book. During a time that could be construed as a bit terrifying (high child mortality rate, taking huge risks traveling to a new, dangerous territory to raise one’s family, relying on one’s own hands to provide food and shelter), Laura and her family faced challenges but grew together with warmth and even some fun. “Half-Pint” was allowed to be her own individualistic, at-times outspoken self.

I still think of her when I smell lemon verbena or see it at Bath & Body Works.

Laura was my gateway girl. Sweet and readable, I longed to eat biscuits with jam, grow my own garden, pull taffy, wear calico dresses with braids, and pretty much build a time machine to go join Laura in any one of her family’s cabins. It was definitely one of the things that sparked my history obsession.

Next, thanks to the impeccably-produced “Avonlea” TV series, which my mother and I watched religiously each week, I became interested in the books of Lucy Maud Montgomery. I took one or two of her original Chronicles of Avonlea books from the library, but got absolutely hooked when I met Anne.

I loved Lucy’s Sarah Stanley, but Anne was timeless. Between Megan Follows’ performance in the miniseries and finally reading a handful of the Anne books (namely, Anne of Green Gables) when I was old enough to comprehend the flowery language (very Victorian), I lurved her. Anne (with an “e”) Shirley was handed a pretty unlucky hand. Orphaned. Passed from one unfriendly family to the next. She finally landed in Prince Edward Island with strict, sensible Marilla Cuthbert and her silent, sweet brother, Matthew.

Her spunk, spirit, independence, and intelligence always inspired me. Aside from her disdain for her red hair, she never seemed to feel sorry for her lot in life. It helped me to recognize that, throughout history, lives have been hard. Damn hard. Far harder than mine, even growing up without my father. It taught me to suck it up and find the joys in life.

And, then, there was my all-time favorite author and character.

I watched the movie first — the good one, the 1994 one. (I love Katharine Hepburn, but hers is only second place of the five — yes, FIVE — versions.) It became a family classic. My sister and I will still throw in the DVD on those “off” days we need the comfort of the story and the friends within. Then, in about 8th grade, I got my very own copy of Little Women for Christmas (which, considering the first chapter’s theme, was perfect). Since then, I’ve read it piecemeal every year, or a different LMA work or biography. I have a new copy, but kept the old one. Of course. My dream is to own a first edition (two volumes).

Jo, the second oldest of four March girls, is the epitome of a feisty chick. She feels incredible highs when she’s able to read, write, and act with her sisters and friend-next-door Laurie (um, a guy), and incredible lows when she feels a great urge to be able to do greater things during the Civil War and in her own life, a tad bitter that she wasn’t born a boy with the rights they were afforded. She’d rather run, use slang, and speak her mind than be quiet or prim and proper. She’s a modern woman if ever there was one. I like to think she (in the form of Louisa May Alcott, her alter-ego) would have very much enjoyed and embraced the independence that women have gained, and it makes me appreciate the education and choices I’ve been afforded. Even if I have chosen to get married and have kids. *wink, wink*

Little Women and LMA is one of the reasons that we like to travel to Concord from time to time. I’ve been through her house once (and, honestly, felt like I was meeting a celebrity the whole time) and have learned about transcendentalism, her famous family friends and acquaintances, and every year seem to find out more deeply interesting facts about her family and past. The fact that it’s the site of the shot heard ’round the world…well, for a history freak like me, that’s the icing on the cake. Nom nom.

I think it’s only natural that so many of the independent female writers of today who may see any of these writers or their timeless girls as idols have taken to the interwebs to write their own hearts. The women of yore were romantic but realistic. True to themselves and independent. Hard workers to support their families. Strong as hell in the face of adversity. They helped show us a world outside our tiny little girl lives, inspired us to dream, and taught us to try what we want and work hard at it.

Write away, girls. Write away.

Embracing Self Care – Peace in the Home

Welcome back to our third installment in the “taking care of yo’ self” series! (Not really; I just called it that.)



This week’s “Embracing Self Care” theme involves peace in the home. Now, this can encompass many different topics — from finding peace through organization, surrounding yourself with decor that helps you find peace (or finding decor that helps you feel at one with yourself; finding your “style”), finding a schedule/routine that works for you, etc. See? It really can mean ANYTHING! Love that!

For me, this involves a couple of things. Obviously, I’m in the midst of some “low-stress” spring cleaning. (Taking it a day at a time, folks.) When I’m done with the “cleaning” part (ie the scrubbing, dusting, mopping, vacuuming stuff), I plan to attack on the organizational front. I’m weird that way. I see cleaning as more of a “must destroy dust bunnies!” and “wash windows” sort of thing; yes, things are neat and orderly afterwards, but more in a “picked up” way.

So, after things are spic and span, I’m going to address any organizational issues that we have. This will entail looking at areas where we’re falling short (like finding better uses for our closets and built-ins, and my bills…I pay them, then pretend they don’t exist ‘cuz, y’know, I don’t like them…so they just end up in random piles) and areas that just need our attention, like the basement and garage (y’know…the dirty places).

This is twofold for us. Yes, we want to have an organized, happy, serene environment…but we also hope to ready our house for a possible move. See? Two birds, one stone. 😉 (Hate that phrase, but it’s relevant.) And, of course, I’ll share any tips I pick up on the way.

The second “peace in the home” factor I hope to work on (which goes hand-in-hand with readying our house for a sale) is our style. This is the week I’m FINALLY working on painting the red out of our lives dining room, with the help of my uber-motivated mom. (Spoiler: It’s already gone! Just got some trim to do before sharing.) The other rooms are relatively light and airy (our bedroom is a little moody with a green wall, which we may or may not keep) or at least neutral, and the burgundy sticks out like a sore, outdated, 1990s thumb. 

Aside from that, I’ve got some Pinspiration regarding other areas of the house. Our front room was a spot that helped sell us on the place originally, so I’m hoping to modernize it a bit with the help of some better window treatments (we still use the short sheers that came with the house…for shame). So, I’m on the hunt for some extra long white curtains to hang “high and wide” and a few more bamboo shades, for an effect kind of like this —

I’m also excited that my stepdad has offered to help me complete the tub surround with a ghetto he-thinks-it’ll-work solution (I have my doubts), so that’ll finally be a done project. I’m not happy with the art I made for that space, so I’ve got my eye out for other DIY art solutions that’ll make me happy. Not to sound picky, but I’m not a huge fan of the word art stuff (“Brush your teeth. Wash your hands.” Uuuummm. No comment.); I guess I’m more into either a graphic or a vintage botanical print type thing.

Maybe something like this… (Different colors.)

Not sure of original source 🙁 Hate that!
If anyone knows, let me know, please!

Or this type of botanical…

Original Source

I also recognize that a big part of moving will be weeding out things that we don’t wish to drag with us to our next residence. That can be a horribly daunting task, or it can be an uplifting “ahhh” getting rid of stuff we don’t NEED in our lives task. Probably 50/50, in all honesty. There’s a part of me that looks forward to taking all the wine bottles off the shelf and in storage, putting only the pots and pans that we need in our cupboards, and having less “visual clutter” around the place. I’m already asking myself how many mugs we actual need to have on-hand for guests and for ourselves, how many utensils should be in our drawers, and what food we truly need around cluttering up our cabinets. Maybe it’ll be therapeutic, who knows?

So, the only way that “schedule” really fits into this “finding peace in the home” concept is that we need to better schedule our “to dos” to actually, um, y’know…get them done! 😉 The goal is to remember to keep the peacefulness of our lives while working on these projects and focusing on our future, and to make sure that the monkey doesn’t get his routine too knocked out of whack.

What about you? What “peace” do you hope to achieve in your own lives? How are you hoping to achieve it? Feel free to post a link to your blog (if you have one), or just share in the comments.

 

TThisWednesday, April 16: Peace in the Home

This can encompass home decor, fashion, organizing and decluttering, schedule and routine, etc. Whatever needs to happen in your life in order to restore peace and equilibrium will be represented during this week!

Wednesday, April 23: Taking Some R&R

This week we’ll dive into taking time to pamper ourselves, time to fully relax, putting aside the to-do list, etc. We will recognize that we need to find healthy ways of treating ourselves so that we aren’t tempted to bad habits that ultimately harm us (i.e. emotional eating of sugar, etc.)
– See more at: http://thehumbledhomemaker.com/2014/03/embracing-self-care-community-blogging-project.html#sthash.aWSSQQGz.dpuf

Summatime Update

Back at the end of June, I shared a list of my summer plans. I’m pleased with a buttload of what we’ve been able to do; I’m a tad disappointed (or even downright bummed) that a few, I won’t be able to do. At. All. Here’s the updated list:

1. I had already started this undertaking when I posted the list, and guess what! Still not done. Of course. I had done some clothing purging, but have more to do. I have yet to touch our coat closet. I did, however, tackle the toy situation, which in itself feels like a huge victory. But, y’know how pregnant ladies (sometimes) go through their period of nesting? Once the cooler autumn weather hits, I’ll start attacking this. Promise! And I’ll share my endeavors. (Oh, you lucky, lucky people, you.)

2. Bam! Done!! Hadley and I went for some time last week (with a break in the middle of the week, just to avoid meltdowns) to a camp my mom and stepdad rented for the whole family to use. It. Was. Awesome. I needed that. And Hadman even had fun! (I mean, what says summer like this picture?!)

3. *sigh* Okay. The Adirondack Museum trip didn’t happen. I’ll get into the why’s at a later date, but the plans that we had made to hit it up as a family fell through. And I wasn’t about to do that without my man; he’s never been. Eh, ya win some, ya lose some. We are planning to visit the Carle VERY soon. We’re ecstatic that the munchkin will be able to see the Mo Willems exhibit. I know he’s just over one year old, but he’s a F-A-N of all things Mo. He knows his books by illustration and picks them every single story time. We’re hoping that the exhibit’s a hit with him. I know it will be for us!

4. Yeah, I suck at keeping up with the “work” part of summer. I suck. We bought a relatively eco-friendly spray that I still need to use to clean OFF the front porch (and siding on the house). I still hope to at least clean stuff up, but I’m not sure if the paint job will happen this month or not. I’m not going to beat myself up, though.

5. See camping trip above. Sand. Done. 😉 Two birds, one stone!! (Okay, wait. Horrible metaphor. I hit what we’ve deemed to be a woodpecker on my way back up to camp and still feel like a murderer over it.)

6. Make that one “grill”. We have grilled far more than last year, but not everyday…or even once a week. A handful of times. But s’all good. Here’s my infamous grilled pizza recipe if you’re feeling like cookin’ outside.

7. The asterisk means I’m still workin’ on it, but I have at least trimmed and gotten the rest of my tile down (sans the around-the-toilet stuff, since we’ve gotta move that first) and caulked around the tub. My next step is priming and painting the base moulding that we’re reusing. (It’s still poop brown.) It’s gettin’ there!

8. Just like grilling, we’ve done SOME of this. Not everyday, but it’s been nice to get out when we feel like it. We took a few while at camp, and have done a few throughout the summer (even back for my “day in the life” post).

9. It’s in the works. I always have two main reasons that I LURVE visiting Massachusetts; the first is to see some awesome friends (yay, we’ll be able to do this!!) and the second is to hit up Concord (boo, we won’t be able to do this). But, we’re lucky we’ll be able to go at all. Oh, and we’ll be doing some fall shopping (not saying the dreaded “BTS” words out loud) at the outlets, so that’s a cool perk, too. Even Dave is in need of stuff, so it’ll be a family affair.

10. My garden this year has been a bit of a dud. I just got it planted way too late, I guess. I need to be a better planner. BUT, my tomatoes are going like gangbusters! They’re all tiny ones, and many are splitting (I think we’ve got a blight goin’ on), but the good ones I’m hoping to make a nice balsamic salad for the hubs with. So, if I do, I’ll share the recipe. 😉 Oh, and we also learned that the Hadman is totally into the ‘maters. I’m not pushing my prejudice on the kid (obviously; I hate them!!!), and I think it’s awesome that he likes them.

11. Thank you, camp!!! I shared with with Hadley and it. Was. Awesome.

12. Yay!! A few Sundays ago, Daddy, Hadley and I checked out the Utica Zoo. Dave and I went as kids, and it’s perfectly sized for a baby; not too big but just big enough to entertain. He was enamored with the zebras (and they were enamored with him), but all the animals were interesting for him. And apparently they all say “oof.” Even the snakes. (One totally wanted to eat my baby. Back off, scaley!!!)

13. Dave’s done this, I’ve done this, we’re both going to see our Massy friends and I’m working on a catch-up with another buddy this week. We’re gettin’ ‘er done.

14. *deep sigh* I’ve done this. And done it again. And still again. It’s weird; I’ve had waves of calmness followed by thrusts of anxiety-driven headaches. I guess I always get that way when September starts rolling around. But, yeah, I’m working on maintaining the calm. Also depends on Hadley’s level of crazy.

15. I guess I’ve technically accomplished this. I’ve read a few magazines (I lean towards “Real Simple” and hand-me-down “This Old House” mags, with the occasional Eating Well or DIY/house ones thrown in), but have re-started Walden and this rad short compilation of essays and papers on Transcendentalism. What? That’s my idea of a good time.


16. I’m actually following my inspiration on this one. Some days I feel like working on my non-fiction piece, others I feel like working on a *top secret* sumpin’ sumpin’ I’m passionate about…so the children’s books (yes, I said “books”) have fallen to the wayside. I’m not one of those “write about something if I’m not in the mood” types of people. Maybe if I assigned it to myself, I’d be better at it. But, yeah, by Christmastime I’m hoping to have finally at least flushed out one of these.

17. Been there, done that! Haven’t gotten to our local one as much as I’d like (I’d say once or twice?) but we’ve been to the Oneida County Public Market a few times.

18. Done and done. Post forthcoming!

19. Depending on the day and my little man’s mood, we’ve achieved this. If he’s cranky, the pokey little grass blades will annoy the hell out of him. If he’s in “adventure mode”, he doesn’t think twice about it. The fact that we got him to play in the sand (even while wet and a tad cool) was a miracle.

So, that’s where we are! We’ve done some stuff beyond the list, but seeing how many we have crossed off makes me feel purdy darn good.

What about you guys? Leave a comment! How has Summer 2013 gone for you?? I know it’s been rough for many of my local friends, but let’s think about the happy stuff. Anything fun to share? Have you basked in some sunshine? Discovered a new part of your town? Do tell!

Summatime, Summatime, Sum-Sum-Summatime

After a full weekend o’ fun, here we are with our first true day of summer vacation upon us. Quite awhile ago, I deemed today to be a lazy day — the only goal is to schlep Hadley over to our local farmers’ market, weather permitting. That’s. It. Hang out in bed watching Daniel Tiger? Take super long naps if Hadley wants? (Mama included.) Get zero work done around the house?

We’ll see if I actually allow it to be a lazy day or not. Only time will tell!

Friday, I posted this run-down of my summer plans —

Isn’t she purdy? I’m back with an explanation to the fun. ‘Cuz, y’know… I’m like that. Oh, and the more I think about it, there are about half a dozen extras to throw on there, but I’ll leave it with the original 19 for now. The longer the list, the more pressure (read: less fun!) you’ve got. So, here we go! (Those not listed are kind of self-explanatory.)

1. I’ve already started some of this. I got home Friday and went about in a whirlwind (until I sucked a sock up the vacuum’s tube. Way to stop a girl in her tracks, damn dust bunny sock!!) Storing clothes that don’t fit the baby or myself (and starting a bag to donate), cutting back on the number of bottles we have that aren’t being used…stuff like that. A big goal is the office, since that’s the place where some of my other goals will come to fruition, and Dave deserves a clear space to create a clear mind.

2. My mom has rented a camp for a week this summer, and I’m ecstatic about it. Different family members will be there any given day, and we may or may not stay for numerous days — but it’s close enough to home so that one of us can stop in with laundry and to check on the cats. I am SO ready to get my Thoreau on!

3. Mom has mentioned that, while camping, she’d like to go up to the Adirondack Museum, which is a place that she and I would spend ALL of our time, if possible. I’m ecstatic to get Dave there (he’s never been!) and that it’s baby stroller friendly. There is SOOOOO much to see and do, and several buildings set up by theme (a building about occupations in the Adirondacks, another area on Native Americans, still another on boats…that sounds lame, but it’s SO COOL!), PLUS if Hadman gets cranky, it’s easy to shuffle him out to the pathways and picnicking areas.

The Eric Carle Museum is another “must” since we’re looking to take a quick overnight trip to Massachusetts at some point. We’re excited to go just to see the place and what it’s all about (I mean…it’s Eric Carle!!), but we’re particularly stoked since they’ve got lots of Mo Willems activities and an exhibit of his artwork happening this summer. Considering he’s our “family author/illustrator”, it’s a given. We. Must. Go.

Ah, and I didn’t mention it here, but our local museum (I’m not sure if it’s considered a cultural center or what…I know I do), Munson Williams Proctor Arts Institute has an Andy Warhol exhibit all summer. Seriously, in Utica. While this one’s mostly for Mommy and Daddy, I’d really like to see if Hadley has any reaction to the brightly-colored images and pop art. Heck, he goes NUTS for certain book illustrations. We shall see!

4. BO-RIIIIIING. But I’ll probably blog about it if I do it. You lucky, lucky people.

5. Gotta stick my feet in some sand. It’s been a LONG while. Plus, I know the PERFECT place to bring a little one. Can’t wait to see how it goes and share!

6. I don’t think we cracked the thing open once last year. (Dave says we did, but I’m not buying it.) And now that he’s decided to try to find a CSA (that might, just might accept latecomers) it’ll be awesome to have veggies to grill. And it isn’t summer without a grilled pizza, folks.

7. Slowly, slowly, said the Sloth. That’s my new nickname.

8. Not much to add.

9. We’ve got some buddies in Mass who are expecting, and still others that we just haven’t caught up with. Honestly, we miss them, like, everyday. It’s like being away from family. And, the last time we saw them was when Dave went out for a conference — Hadley and I missed out! So, I’ve got withdrawal.

To top that off, I’m hoping to drag my guys further eastward (not all the way to Boston — not this year, at least) to hit up my version of “the happiest place on Earth” — Concord. *happy sigh*

10. Garden + Potted Herbs + Possible CSA Purchase = New Recipes

11. Probably not organic. We shall deal. Hand-in-hand with this goes FIRE PIT!!! Probably whilst camping.

12. Too early to bring a baby to see wild creatures? We shall see!!

13. Getting this underway already. I had a very random, very welcome invitation to have a girlie get-together with one of Dave’s friends (which, strangely enough, is how I’ve earned myself some of the best friends…love that!) and a fire was lit. I’m not very social (those who knew me in high school may be shocked to hear that now), so I need to push my head out of my shell once in awhile.

14. Mentally. SOOOOO in need of this. Lots of self-analysis and figurin’ life out. I don’t expect to accomplish nirvana by the end of the summer, but y’know…a little every day. 😉

15. A magazine. A book. The back of a cereal box. ANYTHING. I’ve got at least four stacks next to the bed. I don’t have to read them all. Just one. Is that too much to ask?

16. Sounds nuts? Well, I’ve already started. I have at least three complete stories floating around in my head; just gotta put pen to paper. One is underway. The REAL challenge lies in the “now what?” once the story’s written. Self-illustrate? Self-publish? What next?

17. Given!


18. Woot, woot! Workin’ on it. And, didn’t I jinx myself??? Staples has been a royal PITA. Oh, well. Homey’s rollin’ wit da punches. 

19. This actually means that I want to get Hadley outside this summer. Currently, he’s a tad leery of those sharp little blades of grass, even when wearing pants and sitting on a blanket. (I guess they pierce through. How dare they!) So, I’d like to get him over this, even if it’s just heading outside and playing with it more, or playing ON it more. He will hold onto loose blades that I pick up for him and seems to enjoy it. I know this won’t always be an issue, so I’m not obsessing about it. It’ll just be nice to have a kid who enjoys nature.

So, that’s generally what I’ve got in mind for summer vacation. I’m sure we’ll do more than this; heck, we may do LESS than this. Either way, it’ll all be about enjoying life as a family. So, even if you don’t have a vacation (or if your vacation will only last a few days), what will you be doing to enjoy the summer? Any trips? Grilling? Naming your baby after a direction?

Why I’m Not a Vegetarian

I’ve read a couple of articles and blog posts about vegetarianism lately, which got my juices flowing (ew. Visual.) and my thoughts drifting back to our eating habits. I’ve talked about my thought process on this before, from flexitarianism to partaking in Meatless Monday (and a follow-up) to my first ever post about our thoughts on Food, Inc.

Our hearts are torn. We’re passionate animal lovers. We live in a relatively rural area with tons of active hunters, and we’re not altogether crazy about it. Our area’s biggest job provider is a gun factory. (Let’s just say the governor’s abrupt push-through gun control act has plenty of folks up in arms…pardon the pun…around our surrounding towns.) Yet, I’m in favor of gun control insomuch as semi-automatics are simply unnecessary for any non-military purpose and the concept that our forefathers were dealing with muskets when they worked on the Constitution seems telling. So, sure, I’m a bit of a hippie.

So, why am I still a dang meat eater?

I don’t crave it. I don’t demand I eat it with every meal. I’m not “carnivorous.” But, I am stubborn. And a tad lazy.

One thing I’ve learned about myself, especially thanks to the awesome self-analysis offered by doing this blog, is that I can only change if it’s gradual. I’m not able to maintain a gung-ho, all-at-once life change, especially if it’s one that involves an immense learning curve and lots o’ planning. Exhibit A. Yeah, that didn’t work out so well.

I gave up coffee while pregnant (and still abstain), but I wasn’t addicted beforehand. Not that I’m addicted to meat, but it’s definitely a lifestyle. Definitely.

I’m Irish-American. We were raised with meat ‘n potatoes. The only time we didn’t have meat at the dinner table was Friday during Lent or when we’d have the rare pancake for dinner (although sometimes we’d have bacon…sometimes not). It was practically taboo NOT to have meat on our plates. Spaghetti must contain its accompanying meatballs, after all.

Not that it was a bad way to grow up. However, as we’ve learned more about the state of slaughterhouses and the food system in America, it’s difficult to eat without considering not only where the food started (and how it was treated), but what it might be doing to our bodies. As it is, I can no longer eat Taco Bell or McDonald’s without getting sick in some way.

The meat we do consume is, at its very basic, not given hormones and hopefully humanely treated. My number one priority, above it being organic, is how it was treated. If I had my way, all of our meat and poultry would be grassfed (not given a “vegetarian diet” which could include genetically-modified corn), lovingly cared for, humanely killed, and organic. It seems an easier feat to achieve in Europe (even with its Mad Cow and what not) than America, which is insane. Oh, and don’t get me started on seafood; that’s impossible to track and it’s a challenge to find anything to feed the family. A Mediterranean diet is harder to grasp than you’d think.

So, it stands; we’re omnivores. We eat less meat than most, but I still feel like a slave to my routine. I’d love to find still more *simple* vegetarian recipes to try to push out my meat-based meals. (And not the hippie kinds. Ones that I can give to the hubs without him thinking a second thought. Ones that blend in with our relatively traditional usual fare.) I’d also hate to be that daughter or DIL who throws a wrench into the works at family gatherings and stuff.

I don’t foresee this always being the way. After all; we’ve got a kid. And, if I know kids, and if he’s anything like this, he’ll be a motivator. If he takes after us, he’ll be an animal lover, too (he’s already nuts about his kitties and the doggies he gets to see at his grandma/sitter’s everyday). I can just see the day when he makes the correlation between what we’re eating…and the fact that it once moved.

Why is it that I can see changing for him, but in the meantime feel like it’s too daunting a task? The things we do for those adorable dimples. Maybe we should start our “slow and steady” race sooner rather than later. Oh, and if we ever take this route, I foresee practicing lacto-ovo vegetarianism — one that involves consuming eggs, milk and honey (as long as they’re collected humanely…not sure if there’s a honey standard, LOL) but no meat, poultry or seafood.

Baby steps, though. Hadley-sized steps.

Guilt-Free Green

I recently posted an update on the green goings-on in our cozy little abode. From that reflection, in addition to checking out a kazillion blogs (be they decor/DIY, personal, food or environmental), I’ve realized that a new year seems to be the time to kinda bum out on oneself.

With my self esteem, it’s easy to fall into the “man, I suck” slump. I guess it’s that whole quote from “Little Women” (the 1996 movie, not the book) referring to Transcendentalism: “With all this transcendence comes much emphasis on perfecting oneself.” Life is about transcendence from one moment to the next, but it’s sometimes difficult to just live without trying to make the next moment as good as you can, even though it’s kinda how I was raised. Grandma had a wall plaque in her kitchen that said “Good, better, best, never let it rest ’til your good is better and your better is best.” (I’ve seen the quote in other variations, but this is the one I remember.)

But, y’know what? Life, she ain’t perfect. And those of us livin’ it, we ain’t either. And all we can do is our best, even if it’s not perfection.

So, while I’m not making any resolutions for 2013, I’m trying to focus on the things I’d like to attempt…but not feel like crap if I a) don’t do ’em right, b) don’t have the time to continue or c) simply fail. After all, failure isn’t the end of the world; it’s just a chance to find something new to try.

Most of my goals involve greenin’ up our lives. The reason for this is, well, it aligns with what our beliefs are, in general. While we’ve always cared about the environment and human and animal rights causes (heck, I wish I could find a picture of me in high school; I was quite the non-drug-doin’ hippie, love beads and all), the availability of such wonderful resources for making our lives more eco-friendly just makes it a tad easier these days.

However, I’ve noticed that while there’s an overabundance of “green” blogs around this cyberplace we’ve created, I hope to add a touch of positive reinforcement and a guilt-free environment in my tiny slice of the pie. Most blogs that I prefer to read, be they green or otherwise, show that the writer is human. Duh, of course. I have yet to find a monkey-written blog. What I mean is that my favorites show that, while they sometimes paint some awfully gorgeous pictures of life, it simply is not always so. So, let’s all just let go of the idea that we’re perfect.

Soapbox moment: It breaks my heart when I see a favorite blogger post, for example, her daughters’ lunches on Facebook. EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. It takes a steel-hearted and -minded woman to do this. The criticism and rude questions astound me (reminds me of some my husband gets by faceless, nameless viewers that call into the newsroom). She’s doing what’s best for her family, making awesome choices AND giving the girls what they WANT to eat (not always an easy task) and it never fails — “Is that enough food?” or “Where’s the protein?” or “Why do you eat dairy? Ugh!” And those are a separate pet peeve from the folks asking questions that are easily found in the links she posts along with the lunch ingredients, but that’s irrelevant. It’s enough to make me think, “How long will she even share these wonderful tips and ideas with us with how much criticism she faces daily?”

Makes me nervous to think what the “greener than thou” folks would make of me. Hell, I don’t eat 100% organic. I don’t compost everything I should. I don’t find all my clothes pre-used. I don’t have solar panels. I say “hell.” No perfection here…but I’m learning how to be proud of that fact.

So, with a bit of feistiness and a healthy dose of cautious positivity in tow, I give you my list of “I’d like to”s:

– We’re always striving to simplify our lives more. We’ve cut out lots of TV-watching. We’re continually going through our clothes to donate what we don’t use. (That’s been a daunting task lately, since I’ve worn three sizes since the baby was born; some still fit, some don’t. Plus the maternity stuff, which we pass between family.) Dave and I like to look to the past for inspiration of living, but in a modern way, and knowing what little people lived on – happily! – helps us get our heads in the right place. So, this is a continual simplification journey.

– In the “old living in new times” realm, the idea that’s all over the web which apparently can’t be referred to in the old terminology (trademarks…sticky wickets) starts with an “h” and ends in a “steading.” It’s weird that a couple can take a term that’s been used in a historical context for decades and demand that others not use it. Oh, well. Be that as it may, folks are baking their own bread, knitting/sewing, growing tons (literally) of food, and generally getting in touch with the lifestyles of 100+ years ago. While no one’s goin’ Amish (so far as I know! And I doubt they’d be blogging about it…right?), it’s an admirable trend.

My wish, or hope? I hope to get a house with enough land to take our minimal gardening to the “small-time farming” step — to sustain our family and not rely on imported fruits ‘n veggies. With that land would hopefully come the ability to get some egg-layin’ hens (y’know…enough land for them to roam and for neighbors to not think we’re cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs). Oh, and with enough land for the kiddy to roam, when the time comes, too.

Self-sustainability would rock.

If I had the time to bake our bread (and sundry other meal ideas), knit scarves, and write books (what, people didn’t do that 100 years ago? I’m in Louisa May Alcott mindset, whoops), I’d wish for those things, too. But I work a full-time job, so that all needs to stay in the recesses of my brain…er, blog.

Given the odds that we probably won’t find our dream home with its dream plot of land, I’d be happy with doing an intentional garden this summer and making a bigger go at preserving what we get out of it. How’s that?

Streamline the ol’ blog. While this isn’t necessarily an eco-friendly endeavor, I’m hoping to make this place a clearer idea of who I am. Ha! Do I even know?! I guess that’s half the battle. Regardless, I’m wondering if “Meg, Acting Out” (or “MegActsOut”) is an appropriate label for this endeavor. I’m wondering if I need a new “look.” I’m wondering if I need to better organize projects – decor stuff, cooking stuff, green stuff, and the like. It’s tough when a lot of that overlaps. So, without guilt, I admit publicly that I’d like to work on the blog’s look and organization (even coming up with regular post ideas…anyone for “Wacky Wednesday”?! Yeah, me neither). The feel, I hope, will remain the same. And, of course, any suggestions (especially from other bloggers) are greatly appreciated!

– I live relatively close to what I feel is one of nature’s greatest gems: the Adirondack Mountains. I can count on half a hand how many times I’ve hiked one of those mountains. One of my favorite things EVER was the time we spent camping (not in a tent, but still) on Raquette Lake when I was a teen. Any and all visits to the Adirondack area, be they Old Forge or more rustic outings, have rocked my socks off.

I would love to be able to go camping with the hubby and little one (and even more family), if possible. I’d like to learn about the easier trails that I may be able to shlep Hadley on, and get the hubby into a fun hike to see if it could become a regular activity, too. If nothing else, I’ve GOTTA get Dave to the Adirondack Museum; one of my favorite places as a kid (and, admittedly, as an adult). I want to take advantage of the place we live. Why else pay so much attention to saving our environment and surroundings if we don’t enjoy them?

– Go out on a limb; challenge myself. I’m already on the path to trying new things, so be it blog and writing opportunities or maybe even trying a different yoga class (or DVD if it fits into my schedule better), I hope to keep an open mind.

Organize!!! I guess a lot of these overlap, eh? Simplification…streamlining…well, there ya go. I’ve got a desk in my office that I NEVER use. Dude, I MADE the thing. There has to be a reason (maybe comfort/ease of use?) that I choose my ratty old armchair to our office. Regardless, I’d like it to be less of a free-for-all dump space and at least more of a landing spot of handsomeness. So, even if I don’t use my laptop in the office, I hope to organize the space into a more useable place of positivity that I’ll actually WANT to use. That means throwing you out, 3-year-old catalog of Sam French plays!

Oh, and although I wish I could be zero-waste, I need paper. When the tough really get goin’, they make LISTS. So, between lists and a new binder full of women organized thoughts/projects, I think some more office organization may help me with my quest to streamline and focus the ol’ blog. One can dream, right?

Milkin’ It

Not to get preachy or disrespectful to the memory of MLK, Jr., but I have a dream. No, really, I have a pretty random dream (among others) that probably comes from my not-too-distant farmer ancestors.

See, my dad grew up on a farm. My mother’s family owned a farm for quite awhile during her childhood, too, but Dad’s was a working dairy farm with several family homes on the property. That’s probably why it was nicknamed “Homestead Farms”, and that’s what I look for when searching local antique stores for my touchstone to the past – the original glass milk jars, scrolled with the aforementioned, or “Brown’s” (my grandmother’s family owned the place; my grandfather took over).

I even had quite a bit of experience on a dairy farm from 3rd grade to around 8th grade. Yep, I scraped $#*! and took care of stray cats and got to name cows. It was a fun time.

No, my dream isn’t to own a dairy farm…although I’d love to start with my own chickens someday, but that’s a whole different dream. 😉 THIS dream comes more in the form of a question (well, more than one): In this age of convenience, why can’t dairy farms deliver straight to people’s homes like “back in the day”? Why must they sell to a corporation that travels hundreds of miles to further process, fill chemical-laden plastic jugs that allow light to leach nutrients out? Why can’t we have reusable glass containers with fresh milk from local farmers?

This dream or wish or whatever you’d like to call it, in my mind, solves several problems. a) Keeping the money local while helping friends and neighbors in their economic endeavors; b) Supporting local farmers who are all too often forced to sell the land that their families have owned for generations; c) Providing local consumers with a high-quality product of convenience. Lots of economic, environmental and moral issues solved, in my mind.

As I see it, it’s only a hop, skip and a jump before this could also relate to door-delivered CSA contributions and, one of my all-time HUGE dreams, creating a Central New York-based program like Vermont’s Vermont Fresh Network, linking local farmers with local chefs and restaurants, providing consumers with fresh, all-natural, local ingredients. But, yeah. That’s a different post. *ahem*

I’ve heard that urban areas such as NYC are utilizing this, which I think is fantastic. But, what sense does it make when we’re surrounded by dozens upon dozens of milk-producing farms within, heck, a 30-mile radius.

And this is the point in our rambling post when I state that I LOVE MY HUSBAND!!! He knew of my silly little dream, and over time obtained the knowledge that there are stores near Utica (Byrne Dairy, if you’re from the area) that provide locally-provided milk in (reusable!) glass containers. It wasn’t the answer to my dream, but it was partway there. And, since Dave works in Utica, it wouldn’t be a huge bother for him to grab milk on the way home.

One day, he excitedly contacted me that he would buy some on the way home. Honestly, he was way more excited than I was. I assumed they wouldn’t have the 1% that I prefer using, but when he arrived home, I was pleasantly surprised.

He was also quite excited that he’d get 50 cents back when he returns the bottle, although he immediately recognized that he’d paid the 50 cent usage with the price – which he said was $1-something, so it was $2-something (not quite sure how much), total. That’s still better than the stuff we buy at Hannaford. Although I wish I could be guaranteed that this is hormone-free. *sigh* The burden of knowledge. Update #1: I found out from Dave as well as the bottle cap that growth hormones are NOT used in the production of this milk. Wahoo!

I have yet to taste the milk, but Dave insists that it tastes really, really good. This is impressive because, well, he’s a man, and even he would admit that he’s not usually a milk drinker. I tend to think, “Okay, big meal, tall glass of milk with it.” Since meeting Dave, that’s turned to “big glass of water” or “small glass of wine” or what have you. Seeing that I have osteoporosis in my lineage, I’m hoping this stuff tastes as good as he says!

And while we’re at it, here are a few other beverages that have been keeping us cool during the start of quite a heatwave. (I’m not complaining, though. My brother lives in Chicago – I hear it’s hell out there!)

I used to make homemade organic iced tea, but we’ve since discovered this “Sweet Leaf” organic tea, which is delicious and costs $1.99 (and, of course, is tax-free). Mix it with a bit of the Newman’s Own all-natural lemonade and you’ve got a refreshing Arnold Palmer. Why does that sound like it should have alcohol in it, too? Hmm.

Anyhoo, I’ll be sure to post a follow-up when I taste the milk. Probably a note riiiiight here…hoping to try it in some cereal for breakfast tomorrow. UPDATE #2: Okay, so I didn’t have cereal ‘cuz I wasn’t feeling it, but I DID have an organic English muffin with peanut butter and jelly – is that not calling for a tall glass of milk, or what? The second that I tasted the milk, it brought me back to my childhood kitchen table with a large Sunday meal (why do I automatically think of roast beef?), in a good way. It. Was. Delicious. I’m sold! Had to text the hubs immediately with the great news – which he seemed just as happy about. 😀

What about you guys? Are you consistent milk drinkers? Or don’t you use it at all? Do you go for skim (ew, watery), 1%, 2% or whole? Do you purchase what’s cheapest, or look for organic or hormone-free? I’m interested in milk trends amongst my friends, what can I say? It’s in my blood.