4 Simple Fall Decor Ideas

I recently shared a teensy decor switcheroo to help autumn-ify the living room a bit. Since I finally had a nice day to take pictures, I thought I’d share a handful of the other super simple add-ins I used for this year’s fall decorating.

I’m not a big “spiders and skeletons” person. I’ve seen some awesome spookifications going on in the blogosphere, but this year I’m keeping it simple, stupid. Er. You’re not stupid. I’m keeping it stupid simple. Better? 🙂

While giving you guys a quick tour of our living room/dining room (I pretty much decorated the entry way from the living room into the dining room, so it hits the main living areas), I’ll give a few SUPER simple tips on bringing a little autumn inside.

This year, I took my hints from nature. The first way? Bringing in some nature, of course! See those twigs adorned with dried leaves? Free, from our backyard. Instant pops of rust, orange and yellow. You’ll also notice gourds and mini pumpkins placed throughout, along with some individual leaves strewn strategically.  

(Pay no attention to the hideous rug.)


This pretty lady has hung in this spot for years. I just can’t bring myself to switch her up. Her neutral colors and gorgeous frame, rocking sense of style, and clear adoration for books has made her a kindred spirit. So, she stays. Plus, she really fits any season or holiday, doesn’t she? I say yes.

That said, a tip here is to use stuff you LOVE. What else do we love? Stacks of books and magazines. I also love sneaking in an old script. 😉 


Going hand-in-hand with my girlfriend up there and bringing in some nature, I love using neutrals and various textures. Hence the super easy-to-make twine and linen bunting (seriously, F-R-E-E), small dollar store wreath on the window, bundle of sticks on the sidebar, and various rattan balls (I got them on clearance at Pier 1 awhile back, wish I remembered how much they were…maybe $2 each? And you know I’ll use the crap out of them). And my favorite thing during fall is white pumpkins.

Plus, what’s more fun than buntings? I think nothing. When I first hung them, Hadley assumed every day was now his birthday.

Oh, yeah. More nature. A huge vase filled with apples. Had to keep it simple since the little guy uses the dining room table for tons of pretend play. 


If you’re having a hard time freshening up your surroundings (believe me, I’m with ya), try the new-ish chalkboard trend. Think it’s too hard to find one? Too expensive? Nope. The one we have in the living room was Dave’s as a kid (free) and this small one (that reminds me of an old school tablet, which I’m searching for while antiquing) was a dollar store find. Yup, it was a BUCK. Can you believe that?!

And don’t worry about your artwork. You get graded on effort, not perfection. 😉 My favorite part of this trend is how interchangeable it is. Come Thanksgiving, this witch’s hat will probably be a turkey or a Pilgrim’s hat; come Christmas, who knows? Stocking? Elf? A snowflake? Endless options, really.

On a final irrelevant note, we may not have a black cat, but we’ve got a drama queen king gray one. He’s pretty intense. Does that count?

It just occurred to me that all these tips could also be eco-decor tips, too. Awesome!

Jarred

Hey, homies! I’m finally posting again! Been home sick with a sinus infection that went untreated too long. Long story short, glad to be on the mend!

I’ve recently realized my favorite little buddy in the kitchen (aside for Jasper begging for scraps – yes, he’s a cat – and Hadley wanting to “help”). While I’ve probably mentioned the beauty that is a mason jar before, it’s time to declare my undying love for them, along with a bunch of things you can use them for. Come. Let’s chat.

We’ve currently got a few sizes of mason jars floating around, but our all-time faves are minis (4 oz.) and half pint-sized wide mouth Ball jars. They’re perfect for storage (well, duh, that’s why they were invented), but you might be surprised as to how many ways that we use them. And, guess what! We don’t jelly/preserve a damn thing in them. I think I’m kicked out of the club. (One day, my friends. One day.)

Salad dressing – The tiny ones are perfect for transporting dressing for lunch. Seriously, just pour in your favorite or do what we do: olive oil, some vinegar, and seasonings.


This also deters anyone from sneaking your salad topper from the fridge at work. Seriously, a couple of weeks ago, I observed someone who had forgotten their salad dressing perusing the row of dressings others keep in the fridge, as if shopping. So, bringing one serving of dressing is perfect AND super easy.

Dry spice mixes – We don’t buy spice packets for things like tacos, chili, and salad dressing (Dave’s a fan of Good Seasons, but he hasn’t quite perfected the recipe yet). So, we double or triple the recipe and store the rest in our tiny jars. I use a dry erase marker to make a note of what’s inside, then just spoon it out as needed.

Mmm. Tacos.

Lunch packin’ – This is especially an awesome one for toddlers. We send breakfast and lunch to Grandma’s for Hadley, so we’re lucky that she’ll hear stuff up as needed. Most days I’ll pack his whole lunch in a glass container with a silicone-lined lid, but I’ll often split it up and give, say, his peas and carrots or corn in a tiny jar. They’re also a great size to fill with applesauce. Just like those little plastic cups at the store, only eco-friendly, reusable, and you can control what goes in. It’s also super cheaper to buy or make organic applesauce in large amounts and dole them out.


Yogurt keepers – Similar to the applesauce idea, yogurt is a great snack that is the perfect match for mason jars. The little ones are awesome for the little guy (just check out that link!), and I use the slightly-larger size for my own. Again, cheaper, reusable, and easier than you’d think!

Snack ‘n dip – Half-pint jars are a great way to make a tasty, healthy snack alternative. Just put whatever dip you like in the bottom and the fruit or veg spears of your choice standing up on top of it. Carrots sticking in ranch, apples in almond butter, celery in peant butter. Really, the combos are endless, and make otherwise boring snacks something to look forward to.

On-the-go snacks – Speaking of snacks, the 4-oz. size is awesome for toddler treats on a little trip. Fill ’em with raisins, mini crackers, pretzels, or dry cereal and skip the baggie.


Serve up some fun – Use mason jars (plain or decorated) to serve appetizers or little snacks for company. I even like the idea of creating a salad or taco bar by filling separate jars with toppings and just scooping out your favorites with a spoon or fork. Simple, rustic, fun.

Bank it – Hee hee. While Hadley has an incredible robot bank for his millions (uh, no), Dave and I use a few jars, labeled with simple cut-out paper rounds on the top, to sock away for future goals. It’s cool to look and see our change filling up these jars that have super happy connotations. Just seeing the vacation jar brings a smile to my face.


Oh, and surprisingly, none are swear jars. Knowing me…one probably should be. 😉

Coconut oily goodness – Dave and I both use coconut oil for different (and wondrous!) uses. He keeps a tiny jar of it nearby to style his hair with, and I have some mixed with essential oils (namely, peppermint and an “alignment” combo) for occasional aches and pains. Like, now. On top of getting stupidly sick, I pinched a nerve in my shoulder/neck. *didn’t say I was smart*

Decorating – Pinterest has a million awesome decor ideas using mason jars. I used the large ones to display fruit skewers at Had’s second birthday shindig and they provided some “height” and purtiness (totally a word) to the table. I’m dying to try one of the painted jar crafts, too!

Gifting – This is a great tip that I hope to use for the holidays, but you can use it all year long. Fill a pint jar with some candy, a favorite product, or something homemade, like granola or a “recipe in a jar” layering dry ingredients, and tie on a tag (I suggest printing something quirky/dorky like “we mix you a merry Christmas!” for a recipe mix). Embellish with ribbon or raffia…or don’t. Either way, the jar acts as a beautiful presentation, so you may not even have to put it in a gift bag.

Flower “vase” – Looking for a no-nonsense, sweet, rustic alternative to those flower shop vases? (Sometimes they’re okay, but mostly outdated or too frilly-looking.) Well, mason your vase game! The cool thing is that you can split up a mixed bouquet and use various sizes of jars to create a tiered, layered look. 


Holding collections – We have one jar that stores rocks and sticks that the little guy “collects” on walks. I’m sure that, as his “collections” grow, we’ll be splitting them up into organized items, too. And, not only does he feel that the things he finds are validated in their special containers, but they look cool all lined up. Which I can’t say for most of his toys. Ahem.

So, that’s just some of the ways we use our beloved little jars! Do you have any awesome ways that you utilize them that you’d like to share with the class? Go ahead in the comments!

Anti Clorox Wipes

In a house full of cats and an active toddler around, messes are inevitable. Namely, messes of the bodily function variety.

That’s right. Cat pee and potty training smears.

It happens. Daily. Gross, but it’s kind of a moot point when you’re in love with those little rascals.

So, when we recently ran out of my OCD-ish husband’s favorite clean-up tool, disposable Clorox wipes, I found myself hesitant to buy some more. I knew full well that it was contributing to an eco-hater status, which I cringed over every time we wiped a potty seat. Plus, the nasty chemical makeup of the wipes bummed me out.

Of course, I did what every mother does when faced with a dilemma: I took to Pinterest.

There actually wasn’t as much as I thought I’d find, but I really only needed to find one great pin. And I found an awesome resource for you guys at Live Renewed. You’ve got not one but TWO recipes for a natural disinfectant.

I decided to take her Castile soap (ahem, I hope you all know we mean Dr. Bronner’s when we say that, right?) and tea tree essential oil recipe and run with it, mainly because I had all the ingredients on hand.

Side note: My essential oil experience has been a fun experiment that’s working out quite well so far, and I still haven’t ordered my replacement lemon (and any new ones I’d like to try out, so any suggestions for new “flavors” would be welcome in the comments!), which is why I didn’t try the other recipe. I’m loving the quality and non-pressure system that Native American Nutritionals has in place compared to others.

Anyhoo, back to the wipes. Here’s how I put this shebang together:


 
For the reusable wipes, I just cut up a couple of (*cough* too small *cough) soft old T-shirts, which gave me…like…maybe 16-20 wipes per shirt, depending on how big you make your wipes. You can also use old cloth napkins (I cut up a few of those for the days I’m out of T-shirt rags) or your husband’s old boxers or whatever. Just check first. Let’s just say I’m waiting for mine to give up on a couple of crappy white tees to sacrifice for the cause. I’m not sure if color really matters or not; it’s not like I care whether they get stained since they’re rags, but I’ll be sure to update you if the color runs. (That said, if you have something white to cut up or use, um, choose that. Probably best.)


Here’s the stuff I mixed up. Per her recipe, I used about 10 drops of tea tree oil (which actually SMELLS like it’s disinfecting, I kid you not! Like Lysol, but natural!), two tablespoons of Dr. Bronner’s, and a cup of water. I ended up splashing a little more water in to moisten all the wipes, but I think it’s because I put the solution on the bottom of the container instead of pouring it over the top.

Doubt that this stuff works as well as Clorox? Behold…doesn’t this look all disinfecty? If that were a word, of course…

Right?? So, I put the solution at the bottom of my empty, de-labeled and washed Clorox container…

Sexy. Anyhoo, this is the point that I cut up my reusable wipes. I wadded them together, kind of in a roll, and pulled them up in the middle (I didn’t end up using the old white napkins on the outside since there wasn’t room in the tube)…



Don’t overthink it. Just shove it in and pull in the middle. It works. Okay, this is probably the point I should have poured the solution over everything, but I had already put it in the bottom hoping that it would seep upward. I’m sure it probably would have seeped just fine, but I’m an impatient mama and love to see results. So, I splashed a bit more water on the top and shook the thing. Here’s our final product:


Yup, I grabbed a marker and labeled it with a cheeky description. It also has the recipe in small lettering on the other side, just in case my husband feels like whipping some up next time, or in case my incredibly shoddy memory fails me. Again.

I’m keeping them where we kept our old wipes, under our bathroom sink. It’s where we dump Hadman’s potty and where they get used most frequently. This also happens to be where our laundry hamper lives, so it’s perfect. If I think it’s gross to toss these in with the laundry, I’ll grab our old wet bag from cloth diapering days and keep them in there ’til all the rags and linens need to be washed. No big deal.

Whatchya think? Would you try reusable wipes, or are you addicted to your current method of disinfecting? No judging here.

(By the way, there’s an affiliate link or two included in this post. Just a warning. It won’t blow up your computer, and if you purchase anything off of Amazon after clicking through my links, even if it’s not a product I listed, you’ll be helping to run this here little blog. Which is awesome of you and earns you a gold star for the day.)

Why Would I Want One of Those?

Our house is a step back in time. Our TV is an Admiral. (Dave’s from a long time ago.) No flat-screen. Just a big black box. We keep it prominently displayed just in case someone considers casing the joint. (And when it goes, we have a second just-as-outdated TV waiting in the wings.)

We have a record player (that also plays cassette tapes – I only have one anymore – and radio) in our sun room.

And, in an unfun take on the ever-popular, ever-ruined (in the library world, at least) “Where’s Waldo” books, just try and see what’s missing from our kitchen. Aside from general housewifey cleanliness.

Yup, no dishwasher.

There are a couple of reasons that we never took that plate plunge.

First, there’s no realistic space for the thing without making the place look seriously effed up. The base cabinet would look all funky near the sink, and there really isn’t the space for it there, anyway. Our kitchen’s a pretty good size (there’s a wall of cabinetry behind where I took the picture and tons of space for a small table/stools and cat food – priorities, people – on the right), but it was built in 1920, so there’s really no non-awkward place for one.

Oh, and for the record, I’m not sure if it’s the more efficient way to wash or not. I should probably search for some ways TO make it more efficient, but the comparisons seem minimal (and, in all honesty, I’m tons faster than Dave at it, so I think it’s a tad more efficient the faster you are; play “beat the water”, it’s fun. *shakes head* It isn’t.). Still, I’ll continue the search. In case you’re wondering, here are a few interesting articles: Treehugger (love them), NPR (love them, too) and GizMag (who?).

Anyhoo, the other big reason is that we really don’t care. We’ve been offered the gift of a dishwasher several times, but we always quickly agree that it wouldn’t be necessary. We really don’t mind washing dishes by hand. And, regardless of what it may sound like, we tend not to have a full sink of dishes always waiting to be washed. (Sometimes a couple of random mugs or a plate and a knife or fork from breakfast. Maybe.)


I know. Crazy, right?

I guess that, since we’ve lived here, we’ve really gotten used to this method. Our apartments didn’t have dishwashers, but we both grew up with them (and I’m assuming Dave didn’t do a lot of kitchen cleaning as a teenager…just a guess; I, however, have done an @$$ ton of it since early childhood), so we know the pros to those magical mystery machines. Really, yes, they’re great. We get it. We do.
But, a dishwasher’s not a necessity. Plus, I’ve come to enjoy dish washing.

Okay, wait. The wording’s wrong there. I’ve come to enjoy not mind dish washing. Using a brush (we used to have one for just the baby’s stuff plus a bottle brush to keep it all “less contaminated” and started using the old baby brush on our stuff…now that he’s allowed to eat dirt and other things I can’t fathom, we’re using the same one), it’s fast and easy, and seeing an empty sink and full dish rack is completely fulfilling.

It also gets me off my @$$. It’s easy to fall into the “sit and stare at the TV” mode after eating, especially a bigger meal like dinner. But, knowing that there’s a pile of dishes waiting in the sink makes me completely unable to relax. No way. So, after the dishes are done, sometimes I ride off the rush of having accomplished at least one tiny bit of housework for the day, using the adrenaline to get something else done…or patting myself on the back and feeling that I’ve deserved some TV/blogging/Ancestry.com/reading/stare-at-my-husband-until-he’s-uncomfortable time.

And what’s better than that? Even when we move one day and, say, the joint doesn’t have a dishwasher…I doubt we’ll jump on the bandwagon.

What about you guys? Who’s a hand washer? Who swears by their dishwasher? Who just makes their kids do it like my mom? I can’t blame her, really. Her parents got an automatic dishwasher after she graduated and got married (which happened practically at the same time), so I think she realized what her value was to the family. 😉

Come to think of it…wait a minute.

Hmm. Hmph.    

Lemony Goodness

Apparently lemons are my thing lately. I’m hoping to make a lemon cake for Hadman’s birthday this weekend. But today’s not about recipes. It’s about essential oils.

I’ve had my starter kit for a couple of weeks now, and I’m discovering the awesomeness of each kind s-l-o-w-l-y. As a problem strikes, I turn to Google to see which oil will help me out. It’s been fun to learn about these all in a hands-on way. And it’s kinda funny to see how excited, amazed and clueless Dave is about these little viles of magic. I’ll never forget the first time he set eyes on them and said, “Aww! I’m so sorry they’re so small. Is there a bigger size to buy?” Sure, 15 mL is a small container, but for the most part you’re only using a few drops to maybe 10-20 in one use. So, they actually last quite well.

So, while I’ve been using lavender on my pillow (Dave says it’s the best sleep ever), an “arthritis” blend for my achy knees (I’m not old, really), tea tree on my feet when I feel like I’m coming down with a summer cold, and peppermint to chase away an upset stomach, I thought I’d share my current FAVORITE use for essential oils. By far the best.

See, while I’m not a laundry hater, and I stay on top of it pretty well, I have a tendency to get that smell goin’ on with it. You know the one. The I-forgot-the-load-and-left-it-in-too-long-on-a-humid-day musty smell that, if you wear the clothes, follows you all day.

I’m the queen of that smell, it seems. Am I the only one?

Well, the only EO that I’ve decided to relocate out of the handy carrying case is the lemon — next to the washer. It’s going to stay there until it’s empty…then I’m getting more to repeat the process!

There are two ways that I use the stuff. I’ve come to add it automatically (10 drops, give or take, depending on the size of the load) to the washing detergent before dumping it into the washing machine. If I don’t get to the clean-but-wet load in a day or so, I haven’t noticed that musty smell AT ALL.

Then, if the load has been in the dryer and is displaying any not-nice smell, I put about 10 drops on a washcloth (it can stain, so make sure it’s an old cloth or one you’re okay with staining; this hasn’t happened for me, but you never know), toss it in, and run it until everything’s dry (or run it for awhile to “fluff” the load). If it doesn’t take it away completely, repeat the process. It shouldn’t take more than two “fluffs” to rid the clothes of the smell.

The reason that the lemon EO is so ideal for laundry use is its disinfectant qualities. (It can also be used in other cleaning applications, too.) See? The stuff ain’t just for aromatherapy! I’ve found a couple of links (like this one – alternative to disinfectant hand gel?! – and this one) that give you far more information than I currently can on other incredible uses for this lemony goodness.

Does anyone have an EO uses that they can’t live without to share? I’d love to pick your brain!

By the way, I’m not a seller of any essential oils, so these opinions are just to help out anyone interested in the benefits of EOs, no strings attached. 🙂     

Summer Eats

Am I the only one who gets a bit of a jolt when one season melds into the next? Don’t get me wrong, my favorite thing about living where we “feel” four seasons is that new transition into the next one; the new smells and sights and feelings of temperature changes. What hits me a little harder, aside from figuring out what the heck to wear, is what to eat.

I always seem to forget what “got us by” the previous year. Plus, now that we’ve got a little guy who eats dinners right alongside us, it’s a tad more challenging to come up with meals that he’ll partake in, as well. There was a time that Dave and I could live on salads almost every night for dinner, but that won’t cut it with the munchkin and his super-human appetite along for the ride.

So, here are a few ideas. Feel free to add more in the comments!

Grilled stuff. Grilled chicken, grilled veggies, grilled pizza…grilled freakin’ siding from the house. Seriously, almost anything? Grill it. It’s the new “put a bird on it.” (Hadley is hit-or-miss on this. If it’s, say, a grilled cheeseburger, he’ll generally eat it. Grilled chicken is a 75/25 chance [75% of the time he doesn’t eat it]. It is what it is. Gotta keep trying!)

– Low-key sandwiches. In the winter, it’s a quasi-weekly “soup and sandwich” night (which my husband inevitably turns into a “salad and soup” or “salad and sandwich” night…); in the summer, it’s a “sandwich night” (with something as normal-yet-unhealthy as chips on the side, or something healthier like carrots or cooked veggies — which is more for the toddler than anything). This is also what my mom used to call a smorgasbord night. Just grab some hoagie/sub/whateveryouwannacallthem rolls, set up a station of veggies, meat, cheese, and condiments, and go wild. Hey, it’s better than Subway!

– Another variation on the “smorgasbord” is the “let’s see what’s in the fridge” meal (probably closer to what a smorgasbord really is). BTW, I feel like the Swedish chef every time I say “smorgasbord.” K. So, this is something my sister and I used to do when we ate “picnics” on a blanket on the living room floor. It entails finding cold cuts, cheese to cut up, pickles, olives (if you’re into those; I am, but Dave isn’t, so it’s useless buying them), crackers, carrot sticks (any veggies, really) and dip, granola bars, apples with peanut butter…seriously, anything in the pantry or fridge that could be considered a finger food. It’s not necessarily the healthiest thing ever (well, actually, it CAN be, depending on what you have), but it’ll work for those “so hot my brain won’t work” nights.

Paninis. Sure, this is a variation on “grilled” (especially if you put something grilled on it) AND “low-key sandwiches”, but they’re still kind of their own thing. You make the sandwich (including SOME sort of cheese…it’s gotta get melty!), then throw it on the grill pan (less messy and less work than a regular grill, honestly), and you’re done. You can use no-nitrate cold cuts (or don’t, no judging) or leftover grilled chicken; whatev. If you’ve got a picky eater on your hands (like, I doubt Hadman would eat a balsamic carmelized onion mushroom panini…just a hunch), just make him a grilled cheese and call it a day. Don’t stress, guys.

Pasta. I know it sounds heavy, but seriously — (lightly cooked) veggies + pasta + pasta water + grated cheese + lemon juice (optional) and seasoning = dinner. Bam.

Wraps, like sandwiches, are a great light option for those sweltering evenings. They can turn a boring sandwich into more of a restaurant-like experience. Just think of what you’d like to order and see if you can recreate it at home! And don’t worry if you don’t wrap it up perfectly; it’s the taste that counts. (And toothpicks help!)

Stir-fry. Again, it sounds heavy, but when you don’t go heavy (like teriyaki) and aim more for veggies (and maybe chicken) on some rice, you’d be surprised. Especially if you keep it bright and light with some citrus. Yum…I think I’ll make that tonight. 🙂 I did. Don’t forget to use soy sauce…instead of Worcestershire.

Quesadillas. You can make this as complicated, traditional, or simple as you’d like. Here’s a recipe for a black bean quesadilla I made awhile back, but you could easily just make a simple chicken or beef quesadilla, or push the envelope with something more “daring” (as daring as food can be, I guess) like a breakfast version with sausage or a buffalo chicken version — which my husband would go nuts over. Oh, and you can probably tell that if there’s melted cheese on something, it ups the chance of our little guy’s eating it. Clearly.

– Speaking of breakfast, this is a go-to anytime of the year for me: breakfast for dinner. Whether it’s pancakes, french toast, omelets or simply eggs/toast/hash browns, this is a quick, relatively light way to get some food down your family’s gullet.

And if all else fails, make a couple of grown-up salads will grilled meat and give your munchkin some of his own grilled meat, some heated-up frozen veggies, and a cheese stick (or, our son’s latest FAVORITE, pineapple) and call it a day. It’s hot, after all. Don’t knock yourself out.

Flashing What We Know

I recently mentioned falling in love with a few homemade birthday presents for our monkey. Thank you, dear friend Pinterest. I call her “Pinny” and she looks remarkably like Kaley Cuoco (whatever her married last name is, I can’t be bothered to Google) in my head. Pinny’s my new enabling BFF.

Anyhoo, one of the super easy projects I just HAD to stay up past midnight working on was the toddler flashcards. See, the kid’s a toddler genius (but what mom doesn’t think that, really?) who is starting to pick words out (for real), LOVES reading, and knows tons of letters, numbers, and animal sounds. Kid’s got it goin’ on, thanks to his Grandma’s diligent work with him daily. So, I don’t want all her hard work to go down the toilet while he’s lazing about spending intellectually stimulating summer days with me.

So, I spent some time on PicMonkey making and saving a few sets of flashcards. Here are a few wicked easy samples (not the whole sets, that’d be cray-cray):

Numbers!

Shapes!
(Boring as all get-out with the gray, but didn’t want to detract.
Side note: I did a rhombus AND separate diamond. We’ll throw the spaghetti on the wall and see which one sticks. Child-led learning. ;-))


Matching Game!
(Printing an extra set of the above shapes, he has to match them to the “real life” objects; moon goes with “crescent”, by the way. I’m tricky. I would accept star there, too, though.)

Colors!


Now, to print, *evenly* cut, and laminate them! Actually…first, to head to my mom’s basement to track down my tiny old laminator. *wink, wink*

By the way, I’m still thinking of making up a few cards for matching with colors as well as a set of friends ‘n family ones with pictures and names (especially to learn the folks who love us who happen to live far away, or whom we just don’t get to see often).

I am wondering, though — the game ones I’m obviously going to keep loose for matching purposes, but the others I’m thinking of putting on a metal ring. Whatchya think? Loose or ready-for-car-use?

Moderately Green

Am I the only 32-year-old who’s still trying to find her identity in a super awkward way? I hope that my son can see me as a fun, silly, intelligent, independent, take-no-guff sort of woman. He may be young enough still to naively see that, but I’m scared that he’s going to see me as the un-hot mess that I feel I truly portray on a daily basis…any day now.

Just puttin’ that out there. Am I alone? Maybe. And that’s okay.

To add to the un-hot messiness and my lack of real identity — I don’t identify as a librarian (although that’s technically what I am, in a school setting), I don’t identify as a 30-something most of the time (I’m still 12, right? Or am I 80?), I don’t identify with a million other things; I only truly identify as a wife and mother — I’m green. Er, well, I try to be green. I try as much as my oft-zapped energy will allow. And life sometimes gets in the way of that.
Thing is, seeing the levels of “green”-ness out there, it’s easy to deal with the dreaded green guilt. Actually, this happens in most areas of life these days — competition. It’s mostly a female thing, it gets greater and greater when you become a mom (WHY IS THAT?! As Arrested Development‘s Gob would say, “C’MON!!!”), and it can get overwhelming. Soccer moms. Urban moms. Christian moms. Heck, doggie moms.

“I did *such and such*.”

“Oh, yeah? Well, I did *a such and such deemed greater thing*.” {Thinks to self, “I’m the best.”}

It’s a thing, and it sucks.

It’s not always stated openly this way, but just seeing blogs and Pinteresty ideas and such things, it’s hard not to get dragged down that you’re not doing enough.

Like…for instance…I’ve failed at some of the things that a green mama might use to generally identify herself as a green mama. Our diapering situation never took a turn for the cloth. It just didn’t. I used them a bit, but it never stuck. (We have used eco-friendly dipes all through, but still, I’d have preferred cloth.) Next time around, we’ll do them, I swear. But it just didn’t happen this time.

Baby wearing never stuck, either. Or baby led weaning. Or co-sleeping. Or probably 30 other things that the cool kids are doing. They just didn’t work for us.

I try not to feel badly about it, and I’m really learning how to not feel “Less” anymore. This really is a HUGE thing for me in every aspect of life. I’ve had self esteem issues f-o-r-e-v-e-r, and saying “I’m sorry!” for everything has become the norm. So, I’m working on apologizing less, taking responsibility only for myself, and not letting the judgments make me feel — you got it — Less than anyone else. That’s capitalized for good reason, by the way.  

Which is why I love contributing to Green Child Magazine. It never feels like work. I’m able to learn about topics that are directly important to me, and can often write the pieces pretty quickly out of sheer excitement. Currently, it’s an unpaid gig, but that’s fine to me. I’m “meeting” (virtually…do we still use that term, virtual?) some incredibly genuine, dedicated, talented, kind women in the process, and what’s better than that? No, really. What’s better? Good people are hard to find.
I mean, what’s better than this article (written awhile back, but still one of my faves), which pretty much sums up the fact that NO ONE’S doing it perfectly. No one’s living the “greenest” life. Whatever we’re doing…it’s good enough, until we decide to do more. At least we’re doing SOMETHING.

So, I’m happy with the things I do. Which, come to think of it, are plenty.

I’ve chatted with y’all about green guilt before. A few times, actually. But, it’s always good to return, especially now that I’m a mama…and green mamas be some of the coolest (yet competitive) ladies on earth. I’m trying just to be “enough” in my own book, and the best I can be for my family and the future of the planet.

Now, off to research essential oils. 😉

Partying Simply

Last Wednesday, I revealed my plans for Hadley’s second birthday party (which will be in July). Can you tell I’m a tad excited about it??

While I was typing up that post, I thought about all the things that we do to try to keep the festivities eco-friendly. Mind you, in all things green, I think we’ve plateaued at a nice medium kelly green; not mint green (not at all eco-friendly) but not even bordering on dark moss (practically living in the woods). It’s a place we’re comfortable being. Our efforts are still there and have become a habitual part of our lives, but we don’t sweat it if we have to use a paper towel once in awhile. Y’know?

So, that said, I thought I’d share a few of the *simple* tricks and tools we use to keep a birthday shindig more about the monkey and less about the ozone.

Reuse, reuse, reuse. I don’t expect every guest not to use wrapping paper, but if I can, I recycle it. (I WILL love you forever if you bring a gift bag. That’s almost all I use anymore. Perfect for reusing!) Our decorations this year will also utilize the poufs I hung around last year (if they’ve survived), probably along with a handful more that I’ll make new. The sign for “Hadley’s Party” I made last year will be tapped into the front lawn again, too. So, any decorations you make or buy, consider whether they’ll have a future purpose, or can at least be recycled (hello, crepe paper!) when you’re done. I’m also going to hit up the thrift shops to see if they have any yellow or blue curtains or sheets to use as tablecloths (may or may not work, but we could use them in the future, too!) Heck, I even saved the party hats I bought last year. I’m turning into a grandmother from the Depression, I swear.

NO BALLOONS ALLOWED. Again, I don’t expect everyone to follow this rule, but as far as my decorating goes…nada. Hence the poufs. Those things are SO scary to me. I don’t want them near my kid (choking hazard) or in the landfill (SO VERY BAD for animals, you guys!!!). If someone gifts one (usually the Mylar kind in the shape of something), it’s fine, but I am a hawk about watching Hadley with it. Plus, I take it out ONLY when I can watch him, then put it in MY bedroom closet. Seriously. It’s Fort Knox up in here.

Use whatchya got. This goes hand-in-hand with reusing decorations. With the ducky theme this year, we’ve got a handful of rubber duckies (although I’ll probably have to get a handful more, admittedly) at home to use for decoration. I also have a mini red wagon (which Hadley, like, never fit in) that would be awesomesauce on a table with some hay or raffia in it. Oh, and I’ll peruse his toys to see if anything else goes with the theme.

Invites. Okay, this is a tricky one. If your family’s a super hip one full of folks who are tech-savvy, good for you. No, really, that’s awesome! But my family has some, shall we say, old school folks (again, not a bad thing!) who don’t spend much time perusing the ol’ interwebs. Thus, I make invitations. How do I keep it relatively low waste? I invite fewer people. Tricky of me, huh? Honestly, less people also equals less waste; makes sense, huh? Oh, and believe me, we DO invite the folks who mean the most to us, so no one’s missing out here. We’re just not inviting everyone we ever met. We didn’t do it for our wedding, we’re not doing it for our son’s second birthday party. 😉

Cups and flatware and plates, oh my! Some folks might suggest to use reusable (or “real”) plates/silverware/glasses/etc. Believe me, it crossed my mind last year, but I also fall victim of the a) that’s gonna take awhile to clean and b) people are raising an eyebrow at me…AGAIN complexes. Instead, I only get the items that I know we’ll need (no bowls if there’s nothing soup-like or ice creamy), and I try my best to get the compostable stuff. Of course, last year I only found a couple of compostable kinds of flatware, so had to supplement with other plastic ones (grr), so this year will probably consist of using all that up. Again…don’t sweat the small stuff, just do your best. Just know that there are more eco-friendly options out there.

Simplify your theme. You could also avoid a theme altogether, but I’m a nut for a good theme. Goodness knows how long I can get away with one! So, this year’s ducky theme will lead into an awesome homemade Sesame Street theme next year (reusing the colorful decorations, duckies, and Hadley’s plush toys instead of buying a bunch of trademarked stuff). Simple is best.

Actually, simplify, in general. This isn’t one that we’ve succeeded with as far as friends and family purchasing gifts entails. As Hadman gets bigger, we’ll talk with him about what he really wants and other ways we could ask people to spend their money in honor of his birthday, but at this age I don’t want it to seem forced. So, we accept graciously (and sometimes have to return doubles or the things we simply haven’t the space for). However, Dave and I try to keep it minimal and put tons of thought into what he’s getting based on his interests and what concepts we’d like for him to learn.   



So, here were just a few easy ideas to hopefully help you consider the environment whilst partying it up. There are already a few great resources on the web (like this and this and this) to help you in this arena, so I’m clearly not reinventing the wheel here. Just wanted to let you know what I prioritize in my mind so I’m not ultimately overwhelmed by all the craziness that birthday planning could possibly turn into.
    

A Lovely Lunch

A long while back, Dave and I had a celebratory dinner at a lovely steak joint. Strangely enough, the most memorable part of the whole meal has stuck with me for years. It’s strange because the best part of that incredible meal was our salads.


Yes, we’re salad people (Dave more so than me; he could live on it) but this was the best salad I’ve ever had. All thanks to the incredible dressing. Isn’t it weird how, no matter how wonderful the ingredients, the dressing can make or break a salad?

I recently made a variation of the dressing, and my reasons for posting it are twofold: 1) I thought you guys might like to try it, and 2) I’m purely selfish – a quick blog search is the best way to find a recipe I like (I do it 2-3 times a month for my mini meatloaf recipe).

So, since it would be weird to post just a dressing recipe (wait…I’ve done that before), here’s the lunch I made for Dave and I. By the way, you’ll get used to the fact that it’s a warm vinaigrette.  I promise!

Mixed Salad with a Warm Bacon Vinaigrette 

3-4 slices bacon (cut in half)
1-2 shallots (depending on size; I had 1 large and 1 small)
A good splash of vinegar (I used white wine, but white or apple cider would work)
1/2 tsp – 1 tsp dijon mustard (I honestly used deli mustard, LOL)
1-2 tsp sugar or honey (maple syrup would probably work beautifully, too)
Splash olive oil if needed

Salad greens (I mixed mixed greens with extra romaine)
Strawberries (optional – I used, Dave didn’t)
Tomatoes (optional – Dave used, I didn’t)
Hard boiled eggs (optional – again, me not him)
Shaved Parmesan or Romano

Bring eggs to a boil and start cooking bacon on medium to medium-high heat. While cooking, plate your lettuce and prep your add-ins (and finely chop your shallot).

Do you really need a visual of bacon and eggs cooking? Sure, why not?

When ready, drain bacon on paper towels. Place all but 4-5 tbsp of bacon grease in a separate bowl; in the 4-5 tbsp, toss the shallots and cook until soft and translucent. Take eggs off heat, drain, and replace water with cold a few times (a cold rinse helps). 

When shallots are done, add the sugar, vinegar, and mustard and whisk to combine. Finish assembling salads by arranging sliced eggs, strawberries or tomatoes, drizzling with the vinaigrette, crumbling two half-slices of bacon (per plate), and shaving cheese on top. 

Finish with salt and pepper (though not necessary) and enjoy!


This made enough for two large “lunch” salads, and we took the leftovers for “work lunches” the next day. I had to throw a little extra EVOO into the dressing to make enough for the next day, but if you reserve your extra bacon fat, this won’t be an issue. Just a heads-up.

Give it a go and let me know how you like it! And, while you’re at it, let me know — what was in the BEST salad you ever had?