A Very Hungry Caterpillar Birthday

When Harper was first born, my husband bought her a nice plush “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” stuffed animal from the hospital’s gift shop. It was surprisingly inexpensive (we’d priced them at the Eric Carle Museum) and her eyes were immediately drawn to the bright green body and cute round red head. 

That moment is still seared in my mind over a year later. I’d literally been envisioning her first birthday shindig the entire year. Of course, with our move and everything going on, we knew it would be a challenge, but didn’t want to shirk her big day. After all, Hadman has had four amazing birthdays and counting (I’m already mentally prepping for his 5th <my GOD did I just write that?!> given some hints he’s dropped) and it wouldn’t be fair to do any less for her, right?

So, given the unknowns – we were supposed to close on the new house by her birthday, but things went awry and our old house was full of boxes – we figured out a Plan B quickly. My uncle (a local priest) was kind enough to let us use the basement of the church, so my mother and I went over earlier in the day to set some things up.

We didn’t get a million pictures (as usual), but I had created a large “hungry caterpillar” out of foam sheets to tape to the wall. I also printed out labels for the food, which I divided and conquered with the help of family. (These pics are more for our own memories than a Pinterest-worthy tipfest. That said, go ahead and use the ideas to help you create your own event!)

Unfortunately, there was a big hiccup. Both kids had been put down for early naps (which NEVER, EVER happens), so our son’s meal schedule was kind of off. Given the fact that he only had a donut for breakfast (rather than anything “substantial”) and didn’t sit down to eat anything else until around 2, he started to look a tad pale. When he said that one of the pickles on his plate didn’t taste right (another huge clue – they were fine, and he LOVES pickles) then stopped responding to questions, my mother and I scooped him up and ran to the car. Long story short, we think we need to make sure he has enough protein throughout the day in order to keep up with his super high metabolism (he’s also thinned out and had a growth spurt lately). My mother sat with him and he was bright and rosy by the time we got home, although sad that he couldn’t celebrate his sister’s special day.

Aside from my heart feeling like it was literally in two places, the party went perfectly. Harper behaved herself and truly enjoyed all the attention, the theme was fun and offered just enough color to help make things festive, and everyone (kids and adults included) seemed to have a great time.

(This was after the smash cake. Y’know, a girl’s gotta embrace a nice, comfy jean.)

So, I thought I’d share exactly how we go about planning a simple birthday party that would be just as special and fun as her brother’s first (y’know, when I had more time to, like, make everything – including decorations and cake – from scratch) while still juggling all the balls of life.

Here are my best tips after doing this rodeo a few times now:

– Pick a theme. Believe me: a theme is your bestie. I get the eye roll sometimes for picking a theme, and I understand why. A theme makes it seem like you’re going overboard. But, actually, the focus helps me to mentally organize and NOT let things get out of control.

So, obviously, for Harper’s first we did a “Very Hungry Caterpillar” shindig. This gave us a super clear direction for the food (everything except the pizza is listed off on every page! Not that we made ALL that food, but it helps), a color scheme, and invitations.

Just think of what your little one’s favorite things are – and if they’re too young, even a simple color (like “Fun and Frilly” or “We’re Blushing” with soft pinks and tans) will help in your planning.

– Keep it simple. After picking a theme, brainstorm some ideas that go along with it. Then, pick your favorite, say, two or maaaaaybe three.

In our case, I printed off a few small signs out of cardstock to go with the food (On Monday, he ate one apple…), created a simple green and red caterpillar to hang on the wall, and worked on goodie bags for the handful of kids present (they contained a cool wind-up green caterpillar, cheap Play-Doh, crayons, and some candy). Super simple.

– Use colors more than trademarked stuff. Have you ever noticed how expensive all the character party stuff is?! It’s crazy town. And the worst part is that when you’re done with it, it’s hard to reuse (unless you keep a stash of mismatched stuff for pizza nights…which is a great idea).

For our theme, we used two tones of green (a lighter and a darker) along with red, just like the main parts of the caterpillar. I got one tablecloth for a super long table that’ll be green, some red plates that were leftover from my son’s Dr. Seuss birthday (you can tell I’m a librarian, right?)…you get the idea. We’ve reused some of our decorations for years when we remember to grab them, from handmade poufs to a cheap chalkboard sign, because they’re generic enough to work in many ways. Oh, and we skip the balloons and request that our guests do so, as well – they’re horrible for the planet.

– Accept help when offered. This year, I was lucky enough to have my mother, mother-in-law, sister, and brother/sister-in-law all offer to bring something. It’s amazing how helpful that is. I used to get a little, um, controlling about things (I’ll admit it) but I’ve learned to go with the flow a bit more. I still did some ordering of the pizzas and picking up of healthier snacks, drinks, and some cupcakes (see? I used to make EVERYTHING – organic and “real food” – myself…not that there’s anything wrong with that; I genuinely try my best when time allows, and this year it simply wasn’t in the cards) and little odds and ends, but it was such a strain off my mind to have it equally disbursed.

So, make a list of your menu and divvy it up. Even if you only have one family member or friend offer to help, it’s still a little less you have to do

– Don’t keep up with the Joneses. Much like when wedding planning gets out of hand, keep in mind the ultimate goal of the day: in this case, to celebrate the life of an amazing child with people who love them almost as much as you do. Period. That’s it. So, no matter what happens, just let them know they’re loved and special to you.

Maybe the food’s not organic and Pinterest-worthy. Maybe it rained on your outside BBQ and you had to all huddle in a pavilion. Maybe your child made fussy faces during photo ops. Maybe the little one gets sick so it ends up a “parents and grandparents shindig” (which is what happened for Hadley’s 3rd party). Whatever! It’ll all add to the memory and won’t scar a single soul. Seriously. Remember what kinds of parties we had as kids. We survived just fine, right? (One of my mom’s ideas of a party game was “guess the kind of cake this is!” …I kid you not.)

What are your favorite birthday party tips? Do you agree with the ones I’ve shared? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments. 

Why We Couldn’t Do the Tiny House Thing

It’s intriguing. It’s resource-saving. It’s simplifying. It’s even hip.

And there’s no way that we could ever attempt it.

The tiny house movement is a fad (there, I said it) in which people buy or build a super small building and make it work as their one-and-only living space. We’re talking 200 square feet spaces, guys. It’s kind of like taking a tiny NYC apartment and proving that you could live in it any old place. Sure, in the city it may seem worth it…okay, not even in the city does it seem worth it. At least, not for our family of four humans and three cats.

Even if it would be the best excuse ever to get well-meaning relatives to stop. Buying. All. The. Stuff. Tiny just isn’t viable or sustainable in the long-term.

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Currently, we’re living in a house just over 1,000 square feet. Some might say we’re already living in a tiny house, but I’d argue that it’s more of a small house.  Not bursting at the seams. Not “a hut in Africa” small. But cozy and definitely cramped, especially with a 3-year-old who takes to announcing “I’m Kid Flash!!!” zooming from room to room. As cute as he is, it gets old.

The idea behind tiny house living is an admirable one. In response to the mentality behind McMansions that led to the housing market collapse, people thought, “That’s gross materialism, plain and simple.” So, what’s the opposite? Gross simplification.

As you know, I’m all about living a simpler lifestyle. The benefits are immense. If we COULD wrap our heads around the idea of living in a tiny house, maybe this blog post would be a very different discussion. But, as it is, I’m a realist. And a mother, at that. Four years ago, I know I thought, “Well, if we don’t find another house, this one will suit us just fine in the long-term.” I was wrong.

I couldn’t have foreseen the special, what-the-heck-is-in-his-Wheaties kiddo who would bless our family. He is SUPER-CHARGED a lot of the time. Kid’s got spunk and energy for days. The only good our tiny house is to him currently is as a race track: the fact that our layout offers a misshapen circle to race is his favorite. Dining room, kitchen, living room…dining room, kitchen, living room….

No, a kid like this deserves a larger space. Sure, we could do a tiny house on a HUGE plot of land, but we spend far less time outside during the winter than we do inside. (Maybe I should amend that.) And, since winter is *usually* a pretty lengthy season in these parts, there’s a lot of energy that can get stored in a 3-year-old body. That energy inevitably explodes in sometimes disastrous ways.

So, while we by no means long for a McMansion or even a Happy Meal version, we’d like to upgrade to a reasonably larger space. At least one that allows for more inside play space (along with a bit more outside, too) but still small enough that we know our kids, if you catch my drift. Then, in purchasing a house rather than wasting materials on a new build, and by upgrading in eco-friendly ways, I’m hoping that our footprint will still be markedly less than the big beasts.

As with all things in life, moderation is key.

Office/Nursery Progress

We’ve got LESS than a month before we welcome this new little one into our world. There’s a TON we have left to do, not gonna lie. I’m working on sub plans for my maternity leave and generally trying to get a jump on things at work while juggling the usual tasks, trying to get ahead of any writing work I’d like to accomplish pre-baby, and, well, generally getting ready for the baby — name picking, analyzing what we may still need, etc.

But, one area that we’re trying the “slow and steady wins the race” motto out is our office/nursery; our “offisery,” if you will. It doesn’t need to be done immediately since the baby will be in our room with us for the first month or two (or more), but we realize that we won’t have the time to do it after the little one arrives. Plus, ticking things off of our “to do” list is always enjoyable.

So, most nights, we’ve been doing something *small* in the space. We started with a buttload of books, which we packed up except for the ones we always like to have available. (I’m talking about YOU, two copies of “Little Women”…you!) So, after finally emptying an entire 6-foot-tall bookshelf, we dragged that sucker down to the basement. Let’s call it additional storage, although we all know the cats prefer the term “jungle gym.”

Then, after vacuuming up a lifetime’s worth of dust, it was time to assemble our version of a changing table. As you may (or may not) remember, we repainted a free dresser to use for Hadman’s changing area when he was a baby. This time, we’re using one of the more heavy duty “cube storage” units from Target. It’s definitely thicker than the usual flimsy ones, so I feel more comfortable using this to support the little one. We also grabbed some feet to attach in case the height wouldn’t work and, of course, a few of the nicer cube boxes to up the fanciness quotient. If cube storage could be called “fancy.”

So, what’s left? Well, we already moved my desk out and the crib in, tossed down a big, fluffy, natural wool rug that I got from Rugs USA (seriously, cheapest high-quality rugs ever), and purged/boxed up tons of stuff we don’t need access to. Here’s where we’re left:

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– Obviously, um, declutter more. Lots of random pieces hanging around. And an extra chair. We’re still discussing the fate of the cat tree (yes, that ratty, scratched-up thing that my husband seems as attached to as any of the cats) and whether or not he can foresake the ugly office chair for a comfy, fits-an-office-AND-nursery-decor alternative. And, yes, we’ll be saying “see you in the next house!” to much of the comic art on the walls, which Dave’s been super good about. I just want to leave him with SOMETHING of his own…that doesn’t involve violent crime-fighting. Because, y’know, babies.

– Switch out some new wall art (which will involve some touch-up painting, ugh). I’m thinking of grabbing some canvases and a gold paint pen to do some DIY art, and I already picked up a bunch of swatches that I’ve ironed and chopped into fabric tassels for a wall hanging. But, yeah. Art.

– Floating shelves to the rescue. This is one of those “if we have the time/energy” things, but the floating shelves in Hadley’s room and our bathroom (seriously, how have I never showed you guys a final reveal for that space?!) are amazing, so we may do something similar above the changing area in this room. Plus, it’ll give us some more options for combining decor styles and a little extra storage. But, again, it’s not a “must-have” right now.

– Bring in the baby stuff! (sing to the Muppet Show theme song) “It’s time to strip the diapers, it’s time to clean the clothes!” So, I’ll be utilizing under-crib storage, which I’m in love with, for the “next sizes”, but otherwise keeping the newborn and 0-3 stuff at-hand as best as possible.

What do you guys think? I know we’re fighting an uphill battle with the color, ugly as heck rug, and, well, general officity (can that be a word? It should be) of it all, but this is FAR better than we were even a month ago. 🙂

Simply Spooky

Halloween last year was pretty darn awesome. The fact that it’s on a Saturday this year could be a good thing…or not. We’re hoping that it will, at the very least, make for a more relaxed day. We can visit the grandparents early in the day to show off the little guy’s costume, maybe do some baking or movie-watching, not have to rush for trick-or-treating (although we’re only going to hit a handful of houses, like last year), then finish the night with some hot cider or cocoa and popcorn. I mean, really, what’s better than that?

Of course with baby stuff going on, my brain has been all over the place lately. I keep telling myself to get going on the little guy’s costume…then work on something for the baby’s room, or a writing project, or planning for school…and it doesn’t get done. It’s time to change that! I’m sick of having half-done projects EVERYWHERE. But, we’re hoping to simplify stuff to the point of “that wasn’t so bad”, if you catch my drift.
When Hadman was a baby, he was a giraffe. (He was only 3 months, so it wasn’t even really a costume as much as just an outfit and we didn’t necessarily “do” anything for it.) The following year, we got a Snoopy stuffed animal and did the Charlie Brown thing, which was pretty rad. Then, last year he was an apple. Clearly he’s starting to have a say in what he gets to be.

So, what did choose this year? Unfalteringly, he selected…ghost. The classic ghost. 

I remember stories of my big brother tripping over his sheet ghost costume a million times on the steps, and having the eye holes shift downward while trying to walk. Sounds like a good time for all, right?

Let me just say: Thank you, Pinterest!!! I ended up finding this spooky (and safe!) inspiration from Parenting magazine, and was hooked…

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Not only is it WAY safer, but it’s adorable, classic, and kitschy…just like our kid! 

So, I’m doing it a bit differently. I’ve assembled a thrift store ladies’ white long-sleeved t-shirt for the base (going to trim and hem the arms), black felt to make the mask (which I can’t wait to add to his dress-up box), black (and white) sneakers, and even a pair of black and white striped leggings.

I may switch those leggings for black sweat pants if it’s cold (please…no…snow). Here’s what I’ve got left to do: cut out the mask, make the white hat (probably from an old t-shirt), and alter a white pillowcase to fit comfortably over top (if I can find a reasonably-priced pillowcase; seriously, how are they more expensive than the frickin’ sheets?!). If there’s time, I may get some gauzy tulle to go over top and some white gloves, but I’m not worried about the small stuff.  

Oh, and we’ll be putting out our jack o’lantern and painting a teal pumpkin like last year to let folks know we have allergen-free goodies. This year, we’ll be handing out more of the glow-in-the-dark teeth and spider rings from last year, comic books the Dorky Daddy has stocked up on, and I DID grab a couple of bags of Surf Sweets goodies. I wrote a piece for them awhile back and am in love with their products AND ethical, inclusive practices! (Plus, I can trade out some of the candy Hadman gets with these and he won’t know the difference. Candy = candy.)

So, slowly but surely, it’s coming together. I love hearing the ideas that kiddos (and parents) come up with for costumes every year. What’re your little ghosts and goblins going as this year?

Or, better yet, what was YOUR favorite costume ever? I loved the year my mother switched my costume, last-minute, from a princess to the Tooth Fairy (since I was missing 3 or 4 front teeth at the time). She’s super creative that way.

House Wishlist

Happy Groundhog Day! We’re lucky enough to have a snow day (and my hubby took the day, too!), which is our first one of the year. Definitely a great day to hunker down, drink hot cocoa, bake cookies, and generally appreciate the warmth together.

That said, we love our house, but we’re hoping to start up a house hunt just about when the snow melts. It’s strange to admit it out loud (or, for all the internet to read), but the good thing is that we’re not in a hurry. Our current situation is fine, for now, but because we’re not rushing to find something, we have time to work on little areas of ours that need work and won’t feel quite as pressured to buy something we don’t love.  

It’s not a huge move; we’re still going to be in the same relative area, but hopefully safer and with more space for the little guy to play. That said, I thought I’d share Had’s current thoughts on the house situation (which, quite honestly, change a little depending on the day). He has consistently asked for the following:

– More land to “run and run and run.” I’ve asked for awhile now whether he wants a house in a “town” with people around to play with or in the “country” where he can have lots of room…and this is what he says.

– Places to play. We take this as either a room that’s big enough for him to use also as a playroom, or a specifically designated place that IS a playroom

He doesn’t ask for much. Gotta love a 2-year-old. His mom and dad, however… Well, here’s what we’re hoping for:

– More space, but not too much. We currently have a 3-bedroom, 1-bath house that clocks in at around 1,000 sq. ft. If we could have a house with an extra bedroom (or a 3-bedroom with an office or playroom area, or finished basement) and maybe an extra half bath, we’d be happy.

– Bring on the charm. Our current fixer-upper is charming. There are soooo many cookie-cutter homes that lack things like substantial woodwork or built-ins or, well, much of anything. I personally prefer homes from the first half of the 1900s. I’m flexible…but within reason. 😉 I will also gladly work to bring it up to modern standards, while maintaining its character.  

– Centrally located. We’d like for our commutes to be 30 minutes or less. Currently, Dave’s is around 25 minutes; mine’s 15 minutes.

– A bit of land. Again, not too much, but enough that Had and any future siblings or friends have space to roam. I’d like to be able to garden. It’s also a bit of a dream of Dave’s to have a barn or garage for strays. Just call him St. Francis of Assisi. But, if we didn’t get a country home and instead had a nice backyard in a safe neighborhood, we definitely wouldn’t mind.  

There are other things on our list, like particular townships near friends or a particular price-range or yes-to-hardwood-floors-no-to-oil-heat, but everything is flexible to an extent. We’d like it to be a place that we enjoy for many, many years to come, so we’re picky about some things, but willing to work with others. Certain aesthetic issues can be remedied, but other bigger updates may not be in our budget long-term. But, seriously, I’m so glad that we don’t have HGTV right now — watching the house hunting couples walk into a place and put their foot down over bad wallpaper or easily-amended ugliness is frustrating!

That said, I thought it’d be fun to share a couple of the “wow, that would be AWESOME” mental wishes for a future home. I can’t wait to get my DIY on and put some fun, love and life into a gem of a space.

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For some weird reason, I’m really into bungalows from the ’20s and ’30s. It’s not a deal-breaker, but these have me weak in the knees.

 
Then, there’s my husband. When we drive around the neighborhood where he grew up, he swoons over these cottage- or English-style houses. I’m not against them, but they’re not my favorite. Again, it’s not a deal-breaker, but these are the styles that make us sit up.

Let’s head inside our “dream house.” I don’t have an idea of specifics (unless I’m thinking about “the one that got away” last year; it was the perfect size and had no work to be done, so of course it was out of our price range), so I’ll just share a couple of things we’d love to have or create over time.

Our current kitchen is a pretty good size and has amazing light, so it’s going to be hard to find something by comparison. However, it doesn’t always function very practically (hello, 1925 dwellers). So, given what we’ve already seen on the market, I’m pretty much positive we’ll have to do a makeover in the kitchen. Enter subway back splash, stage right. I love this stuff, and chunky open shelving comes in a close second.

This may not be exactly what we’re thinking, but the idea is here (and isn’t it gorgeous?). Wood floors? Yes. Fireplace? Definitely. (Bonus points if it works.) Space for entertaining/hosting holidays? Hopefully.

We currently use an entire bedroom as an office. We’d LOVE to be able to have similar (or more) space for another one, or even part of the basement, but if we need to be creative, this set-up is awesome and simple (and cheap).

A kid space is pretty high on our list. The zillions if ideas I’ve seen floating around online have me itching to create a fun place for Hadman (and any future siblings). Chalkboard paint + homemade tent + reading area + art area + dress-up/stage area = fun. I’d also LOVE to put a piano in this space, as well, since our current place can’t accommodate one. (sigh) Plus, if we decide to homeschool, it could double as a learning room.

So, what do you think? Are any of these items on your wishlist? What are some must-haves for your dream house?

Easy

With an impending blogiversary coming up here at MAO (yes, that’s a real word), I get to thinking about the direction of my blog. I’m sure I’ll get into that more when the time comes (April 22nd!), but for the time being, I can’t help but think: What the heck AM I writing?

I enjoy blogging, of course, but when I’ve asked in the past what my readers would like me to do, I get one of those crickets chirping, glazed-eyed-students responses (believe me, I’m quite used to THOSE responses at school *winky wink*). Then, I ask, “No, really!” Finally, a few kind-hearted souls pat me on the back and tell me to just keep doing what I’m doing, that it’s fun to read, blah-dee-blah-dee-blah. And, believe me, I do GREATLY appreciate that feedback. It’s helpful in its own confidence-building way. Really! (And a low self-esteem girl like myself needs all the help she can get.)

But, when I sit back and look objectively at the whole thing, it makes me scratch my head. Mind you, the general lack of organization and all-over-the-placeness of MAO reflects the person writing it to a tee. I’m pretty hard to pin down, and my interests hop all over the place (and often change in a second…a little ADD when it comes to some stuff). It’s a curse that often bums me out. Heck, 9 times out of 10 Dave and I experience a challenge trying to figure out where to go out for dinner.

And, yet, a big goal in our household is the oh so easier-said-than-done concept of “simplification.” It’s a noble challenge. We’re actually getting closer and closer to this in the physical sense, although we’ve still got a way to go yet. But, mentally (ie what I’m thinking for my little chunk of the blogosphere), I’m still cluttered to the hilt.

So, surrounded by my mental pea soup, a quite simple thought presented itself, as if by internal dialogue: Easy.

Hmm. Easy, huh? Isn’t that the thing that I’ve grown up to see as “evil”? Isn’t nothing in life ever truly easy? Doesn’t easy equal lazy? Yes, perhaps, maybe.

For example, growing up, we (meaning my siblings and I – but for the most part, my sister and I) performed a lot of chores on a weekly basis. Let’s just say that pretty much every week, the house was newly clean. I admire my mother that her standards were/are so high. I also love the concept that “It doesn’t matter how much or little money you have; your belongings can always be taken care of and clean.” So, the guilt sinks in when I realize that my house hasn’t been vacuumed in weeks, or that I’d never be ready for a surprise visitor at any given moment. I just can’t keep up with it – so, am I being lazy? Perhaps. Can I find an easier way to clean everything (and with a more realistic timeline) so that I’m happy with the state of array AND the little time I need to spend doing it? There MUST be! Yes! There’s nothing wrong with finding an “easier” way.

So, linking simplification with my new-found admiration of “easy,” I’m able to at least look at the direction of the blog with a tad more clarity. Sure, I’m sure I’ll still be writing all over the place (what the heck do I use for a label? Personal blog? Green living? Family life? DIY? It’s none of those things…and a little piece of each of them, too), but a philosophy of not letting life whack us over the head with the HARDEST solution time after time while attempting to live a simpler life sounds like a nice starting point.

After all, one of the biggest challenges is coming down the road…and who wants to make it harder than it HAS to be? (Yes, I’m still planning on cloth diapering…why do you ask? ;-))

Current Menu and Future Plans

I recently wrote about my attempt at “recharging” myself, food-wise. While I’m proud to be able to say I’ve stuck to the new diet completely, I can also say that I’ve learned a lot about myself in the less-than-one-week I’ve been eating differently. I’ve also determined some of what seems to works well out of the “diet”.

I have been eating puffed brown rice cereal (only one ingredient!) with almond milk, except for yesterday when I gave into a craving for “diet approved” fruit. I have been putting lots of time into my meal prep, which, at times, throws my schedule off (but only by about 15 minutes or so) – so, for the most part, I’ve been eating regularly, four or five times a day. My lunches have consisted of a minimalist vegetable chicken stir fry with brown rice and black beans with veggies and quinoa. Dinners have varied, from a huge salad with some sliced chicken to rice pasta with sauce (that…was…interesting) to salmon with quinoa and veggies. My snacks have been rice crackers with local fig goat cheese (my new addiction), carrots and hummus, and celery with almond butter (my other new addiction). I’ve mostly been drinking water, massive amounts of water, since tea sweetened with honey is a tad too “bee puke” for my taste.

And, y’know what? I’m starting to lose weight, already. Y’know what else? My mood isn’t better, and I’m feeling deprived. Shit.

My ultimate goal is to be happier and healthier. Mind you, I haven’t been able to get in as much exercise as I’d like, which will supposedly contribute to the happy factor. However, it’s a challenge to think to myself, “Wait. It took me how long last year to find whole-grain, no-HFCS hamburger buns to use with my free-range beef…and now I can’t have a hamburger all summer?” The wheat thing, I think, is pretty much the worst part.

That being said, I’m going to stick with the diet at least until the end of the weekend, to be able to say that it was accomplished to term (for a full week). What I will take forward with me on my journey of edibles is the following:

– The “4-5 small meals” thing works for me. That, I keep.
– The snacks have to be HEALTHY and portion-controlled. Luckily, I’ve landed upon some mighty tasty alternatives that I’d gladly gobble every day.
– Take time to enjoy your food preparation. There were times that I was thinking, “This is going to be crap”, so I didn’t enjoy the process OR the food in the end. When I know I’m cooking something I’ll enjoy, I enjoy the experience all the more. So, while I won’t be cooking crap
– I want my kids to be raised with organic (when possible), always hormone-free cow’s milk. One day, when I’m complaining about the price of it, I’ll remember the time that I looked at the price for a quart of goat’s milk only to remind myself that there’s always water to drink. I’ve got osteoporosis in my lineage, so let’s just say, I’m going back to the moo.
– I survived without sugar. Need to buy more agave, but it will suffice in the future. And, hey, I can even have cereal without sweetener! Get that! So, yeah.
– Caffeine. Hmm. I’ve lived without it, for the most part, in the past. But, this week I realized that we had recently purchased a stash of awesome Twinings (Dave’s favorite brand) green teas with various natural flavors…only to determine that they aren’t caffeine-free. So, guess what this means for my rules. No, I’m not throwing them out (this whole “wasting food to start a diet” thing freaks me out); it means that I’m doing caffeine in only very small doses, such as green tea. No coffee. No soda. (This also cuts out the sugar.)
– Speaking of beverages, water is my friend! It’s always at my side now, and I’d like to keep it that way.
– Again, with the beverage thing…dude. There are some nights that you just need wine. Or a Woodchuck hard apple cider. Or friends are coming over. While I was no alcoholic by any means before, I will go back to the *rare* alcoholic beverage. What’s the point of living life if you can’t enjoy it?
– Fruits and veggies are our friends! I’m not necessarily down with the fact that this diet shunned fruits to, essentially, the top of the food pyramid. I know they have more sugars in them, but they have so many other nutritional benefits (and if, when I have a sweet tooth, I reach for fruit, isn’t it better than reaching for a brownie?). So, while I’m definitely going to continue eating lots o’ veggies, fruits will be a bigger part of the equation that it was this past week.
– Wheat. Aaaahhhh, wheat. I didn’t have a sandwich. I didn’t eat toast. My pasta was made of rice (and had a weird consistency and after taste, in my opinion). It was kind of brutal. So, while I will cut back on how much of my diet is wheat-based, and will concentrate on whole-grain and healthier wraps, it will be back in my diet. Again, I’m quite sure I don’t have celiac’s, so it’s not doing me much harm to have it.

And, I know what you’re saying; “Meg, you didn’t even give it a full week! You can’t judge it yet!” And, yes, I feel a bit like a failure. But, if I’m going to write this blog (which I do enjoy doing), I’d rather tell the truth and talk about my mistakes along the way – and how I learn from them – than continue very unhappily going from a borderline foodie to someone who altogether hated food.

I’ve learned a lot from this experience; most importantly, the fact that I need structure in order to control myself and what I eat. I’m thinking of starting to construct weekly menus, whenever possible, to not only rein in our spending, but to know exactly what I’m eating and when. This will be helpful especially when school starts back up, and will hopefully keep us healthy while we direct our show next season.

Thanks for reading, and for, I hope, understanding that I’m at least trying to fix my ways (learning along the way) to achieve a happier, healthier life.

Unplugged Update

We’ve been living on basic cable, down from the “But, Wait! There’s MORE!” plan, since mid-May (You’ll see I first wrote about it here, and first whined about it here). So, now that summer vacation, in a sense, has hit, I thought I’d give a more complete update.

This week marks my only true “vacation” from school, since I’m a glutton for punishment and have a sweet tooth for money-making, hence my signing up for another year of summer school. It’s a half-day gig, so that’s not too bad, but it definitely takes the “vacation” out of “summer vacation.” Eh, it’s a living, and I’m here to complain about not having TV, not about occupations.

Just kidding. I’ve actually adjusted (finally) to not having cable. This week, it’s been a little weird because the daytime TV shows that I would watch have been usurped by Wimbledon. I may be a former tennis player from a past life (*cough*highschool*cough*) and enjoy playing when I can drag my oh-so-willing husband along, but watching it is another thing altogether. I can follow for a little while, thinking “Oh, that was some nice topspin” or “Ouch, killer lob”, before I suddenly find myself awakening hours later with drool running down my cheek.

So, what have I done? Well, you’re looking at it. Yeah, instead of being altogether productive (hey, the laundry’s done…almost), I’ve blogged. I also fit in some reading and a viewing of the Winona Ryder version of “Little Women” (which happens numerous times a year, mind you), and am currently holding down the fort while our tree out front comes down. I’ve also been focusing on my current diet in hopes of squelching my bad moods and laziness.

As originally written, Dave has handled the transition to basic cable admirably, and almost sickeningly. Sometimes I handle change better than he does; other times, he’s the one with the grace and flexibility. I caught up…eventually.

The facts that Monday nights is “Antiques Roadshow” night, Tuesday is “The Office” reruns night, Thursday is “NBC actually can do comedy” night, and that I’ve got a stack of books that I’m actually interested in reading this summer, all help. In general, I’ve made it through just fine…although none of those Internet-to-Wii-to-TV ideas ever panned out, which would make things all the more bearable.

It just goes to show you, though, what we can do without when we simply take the scary leap.

Appreciate the Now

After reading this article, it dawned on me that our current surroundings may not just be a starter home — it may be our after-starter home. Certainly not our ending home, but a bigger player in our future as a couple and family and careers than expected. I’ve gotta start coming to terms with that.

We found this house a little over a year ago, thanks to my mother. She was on the look-out for a cheap starter home for us (it seems lots of people were — my sister and Dave’s brother both bought their first homes around the same time). In luck, she found a foreclosed property in our suburban area for a great low price. Yeah, no. Ridiculously low. Dave and I walked through, knowing that it might have some unforeseen issues (the realtors couldn’t inform us due to its foreclosure status, which we were fine with), but the place seemed just right for our needs. I think once Dave saw the brightly-lit sun room in the front, he silently fell for it — I think the age of it (close to that of my first home, where I lived for 18+ years) did me in.

Shortly after moving in, we discovered that the house hadn’t been winterized in sufficient time, so the pipes had burst. A funny story involving our kitchen’s leaking ceiling fan and my niece calmly proclaiming that, “The light’s got water coming out of it” will always be engraved in our memories of our first day in the place.

With great thanks and appreciation for my step-father, before too long we had all new pipes, toilet, and energy-efficient water heater and furnace. Then, he and Dave worked together to put in a pedestal sink, vanity, overhead light, light/heater/fan, front door locks, etc etc etc. Dave’s dad supplied us with well-priced windows, which we’re still working on getting put in — a vast majority are finished. We’ve turned our eyes to getting the lawn green (in a green fashion — like by using his old-school push mower, as mentioned in this post) and will be planting a modern “victory garden” when the weather stays warm for a bit.

Oh, we’ve done more — much more. Lots of painting and cosmetic stuff, but nothing too costly (yet). We put in some cool vintage-looking (but modern material) black-and-white-check flooring in the kitchen, painted nearly every room, and am in the midst of finishing the cellar-way. Oh, and as a wedding present, my stepdad will be helping us put in a back deck. But, we’ve talked over other plans and what we’d like for the rest of the house while we own it. This is where it gets a little complicated.

See, the house itself is pretty small. I’m not sure of its exact square footage, but I’m pretty sure it’s misleading when I say we’ve got 3 bedrooms. In actuality, we have one bedroom (slightly cramped), one guest room (it’s embarrassing to admit, but it’s covered in my clothing — it contains a closet and a large dresser, but I still don’t have much room for clothes), and a den/office which houses 3 not-big desks (Dave uses this closet for some of his clothes; he also has 2 dressers in our room, plus the tiny closet). Add a small bathroom and you’ve got our upstairs.


Downstairs is a little roomier. Our living room feels pretty expansive, but once you get 4 people in it you realize how uncomfortable it really is — it’s a hard room to furnish correctly! But, YAY, at least it’s got a sufficient closet; still tiny, but works for seasonal items. The front door and “sun room” (tiny!) open from the living room, as do the kitchen and dining room (each have a door; this is the 1920s, after all). The kitchen is a sufficient size, but there’s not enough storage and some of the cabinets were downright abused by the prior owners. Mom always says it’s the brightest kitchen she’s ever seen in her life, so once we add a back door onto the deck, it may just be my favorite room. The dining room isn’t very big, and won’t be once we get my piano in there, but it fits its purpose.

The basement is a “future project.” It’s pretty expansive, but with lots of opportunities for head-bumping. We’ve discussed how to do over the basement and have decided not to completely finish it, but to waterproof it and designate storage areas — and even a comfy TV area and bar. Oh, and there’s already an area for a possible 1/2 bath, so it only makes sense to put one in. 🙂 I can’t wait to get some kitchen pantry/storage built in!

Outside, however, is another situation. We have a tree in front of our house which has pushed up the sidewalk and doesn’t allow much to grow around our foundation area. It’s also buckled our already-curvy driveway — so, those projects would pretty much be a necessity if we’re going to stay.

So, that’s what we’re dealing with. I already know that I simply need (need vs. want) to downsize lots of my stuff, particularly clothes. Perhaps we both do. Who knows? I know that people only use 10% of their clothing, which is a discouraging figure, so to garage sale it or give it away would only make sense. But, this is just to get it to be a comfortable living situation for a young-ish engaged couple now — what about the next step?

I’ve thought a lot about what will happen when kids come along — I think we both have. It’s pretty obvious that, for now, we’d stay here; but how long? The article makes me re-think it. When we moved in, I mentioned that things’ll be very different when we move out, to which we both agreed; I figured we’d have a toddler running around, Dave thought we’d have teenagers helping us. Very different ideas!!! I can’t possibly imagine raising 2 or 3 kids in this house — but, I’m sure it was done, back in the day. I know of a family with 3 grown children who did just fine in a house as small as ours, if not smaller…but, they were uber-close and uber-religious (we weren’t raised to be “close” in the literal sense, and our religion was always pretty mute).

But, as they say, desperate times call for desperate measures. It’s not that things are desperate now, just tighter, and I can’t imagine how tight they’ll be with young ones around. However, it may not be plausible to just move, and I’m considering whether we should put more money into the place than we were originally intending to (that tree was definitely a “eh, leave it” thing before).

So, what will help make the house more user-friendly in the long run? I’ve got a few ideas. 🙂
– Well, obviously, get the tree/sidewalk/driveway taken care of. *shivers* These are “little at a time” projects, but, in this case, a priority.
– Finish the basement. Dave recalls his childhood home as having a sort of rec room basement where he and his brother could crash and play to their heart’s content. Well, why can’t our kids have that? We already have an extra TV and entertainment center, and eventually when we get a new living room set, we could easily put our “old one” down there. Plus, waterproofing will help the organization we do create even safer. (And an extra bathroom is helpful in ANY house!)
– Once we have our back door, life will be a lot easier. Currently, our driveway is on one side of the house and both the front and side doors are on the complete opposite side. With the plan of adding this entrance, we can bring groceries directly from the car and into the kitchen — what a luxury!
– If we’re living here long-term, the floors will have to be re-done. While we can pretty easily live with the cheap living room/stairway/office carpet with just the two of us, no amount of steam cleaning will make it sufficient for when we’ve got babies crawling. I’d like to see what wood we’re working with and whether it’d be cheaper to have it repaired/refinished or to get a nice carpet throughout.
– DE-CLUTTER, DE-CLUTTER, DE-CLUTTER!!! We’re currently using pretty much all of our space, which I think is a little bit much (I’m guilty as much as Dave is!!!). This is something that we could pretty easily accomplish without much, or any, money. 😀
– Re-analyze our needs. Do we need all the books we’ve got? Dave does a great job with purging his collections through eBay and amazon.com, but our bookshelves are full. Do we NEED more bookshelves, or less books? (No right or wrong answer.) Do we NEED 3 desks, or more office storage? Do we NEED the huge extra bed in the guest room? (That’s probably one that we won’t work on until *dun dun duuuunnnn* eventual pitter-patter.) Organization isn’t easy in this house, and once you let it slide for a few days, you’re buried — with Dave being pretty particular about his space and us both being brought to tears by the shows about hoarders, it’s pretty obvious what we’ll need to do.
– Eventually, a small kitchen reno — and, hopefully, some new appliances. The cabinets under the sink were very poor quality and currently stink when you open them — seems they had a moisture issue and the bottom of them fell through. I’ve still got some items down there for my cleaning, etc, but it’s pretty ridiculous. Can’t wait to have them GONE and simply something cleaner (and that match the rest of the kitchen — white!) and better-quality. While we’re at it, we may get some granite-esque tops for them, and the old, original cabinets.
– This summer, I’m planning on re-doing the main bathroom. It’s small, but I like it. The tub isn’t white, but it’s livable. The mosaic tiling on the walls I find disgusting and the floor and trim need an update. The paint isn’t staying on correctly, so that’ll take some sanding, and I’d like to fix up the cabinet to be a nice, open concept. Since we have some new items in there already, it shouldn’t be TOO costly — but let’s see if summer school + bathroom reno + wedding planning = happy Meg. 😉
– A cohesive, non-green color scheme outside. (And I don’t mean non-eco friendly, hee hee.) The shutters are pretty yucky and, after replacing the tree, will be quite viewable, so I’d like to paint them a high-gloss black, along with thresholds and doors (possibly a tan thrown in), but we’ll see when the time arises.

So, those are some ideas for our “home sweet home” if it’s going to remain such for 5+ years. If another great deal (higher-priced but within our budget) comes along before that, ’tis fine, but for now my philosophy of “get out and spend relatively little before doing so” may have to go the way of the dinosaurs.