Sunday, August 3, 2014

the confusion

The pictures above are from my recent trip to Fredericksburg. The last photo is a summer favorite -- orzo summer pasta salad (minus pasta). 

I swear, I'm not intentionally going so long without posting.

I have so many thoughts today though, so perhaps that will make up for the void. It's been a rough weekend, between my car of 13 years finally going into transmission fail and worries about money along with other anxieties I don't yet feel comfortable sharing publicly (we are fine though!). Luckily Friday was our last day for the summer with children so I'm just not going in tomorrow because I need a day to catch up on home life and to destress.

My brain has been feeling a bit convoluted lately. I think it started in part when my parents came in last week and spent a few days here. It was wonderful time with them, but it threw off my routine/menu plan and even though I was decently flexible with shifting things around I realize how good I've gotten at my illusion of control (same with losing a car, which will likely be the case for the next few weeks as I research getting a "new" one) and how dependent I've become on it.

Sometimes (more often than not) I still very much love what I'm doing. But other times, I realize how hard it is to do what I do, both in terms of being able to practice the Montessori method purely in the context of a school, and in terms of making what I'm truly worth and being able to live without feeling so financially fragile. Sigh. Seems to be the sticking point for our entire generation. ALL of my friends and DH's friends are struggling to make ends meet let alone afford things like a vacation (we're talking a simple two nights away in a cabin somewhere!! forget it!!) or paint/curtains for our new living room. Sometimes I want to get back into writing, not journalism but freelance. Sometimes I just want a decent "grind" job like I had at trader joe's or at a coffee shop/yarn shop (no money there either though and other issues like random hours/working holidays). Sometimes I want to just go be a hippie homesteader (tell that to DH...!). I'm feeling just a bit disillusioned with this extremely short life. I want to do what i WANT to do. selfish? yes. truthful? yes.

I won't go on into a full-on complain fest, poor DH got the brunt of it earlier and was so very kind and understanding. I even skipped the politics of it all for his sake.

I just wish I had more time. For crafting. For gardening/canning. For reading. For overall self/family enrichment. I fill all of it as it is with full-time work and being a proud part-time "homemaker." There just always seems to be less time than what I have ideas for :-)

This area has been a particularly difficult one to adjust to. It's not a demographic we are at all familiar with -- I'll leave it there. I can usually find ways to be happy anywhere but neither of us is having a good go of it. I think once I get the used car situation nailed down I would like to be more proactive about making a master list of frugal things to experience. Saving up the stores again. And making some connections. But we're also "keeping the options open" as much as it pains us to do so (we are SO ready to settle).

So many blogs present life as this endless panoramic of wildflowers, nearly fully-knitted items made with pricey yarn, baskets overflowing with large garden goodness, and serene life with young children. I love all of that but they're lacking honesty. So I turn to my own blog for that, obviously :-) This is how I keep me accountable to ME.

And now if you'll excuse me I'm totally feeling a Sunday nap coming on ..... I do hope to see you all again much sooner than the last time I posted!!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Back from the edges ... !!

Well, hello!!

That was certainly a very unexpected, but apparently very necessary, blog break! Has it really been one month since we moved? Wow. Life was certainly very, very busy there for a while, a whirlwhind of busyness and emotion and just the getting-used-to-it-all. I won't lie, we still don't have all our paintings and pictures hung and there are still a few boxes lying around. But overall, we're feeling like it's home. This three-day weekend certainly helped.

Last time I wrote, I talked about a place in Alexandria. Well, we were approved for that place but as fate would have it we wound up in a town much closer to work in a much larger townhouse. We are pleasantly surprised by how quiet and peaceful it is here. We are very close to a wooded walking/biking trail that goes for miles, so I've put the kibosh on swimming/yoga for now as I'm more interested in having more money to save and put towards debt, anyway. That was a difficult decision, but no doubt the right one, for now. It feels wonderful to be in "civilization" again after two years of living smack in the middle of nowhere! I am growing a tomato plant, and purchased a bird feeder and birdbath. I go to the farmer's market on Sundays and buy pastured eggs/meat, and organic vegetables (probably will look for a CSA next year). We signed a two-year lease to start. It feels good to have some settledness. Our jobs are challenging and a bit uphill but on my end it feels wonderful after three years to be going "deeper" into this very profound method I use with children. Classroom management? Relatively easy at this point. Now I find I'm focusing much more on observing myself, and also being able to look at the "child" more globally. This might not make sense if you are not familiar with Montessori but it feels really good to be on the verge of this point in my career.

I feel that this blog may be shifting soon, yet again. I'm not sure how, but I know I'll keep writing for sure. There are changes that aren't ready yet for these pages, so many of which are just seeds within me. So I wouldn't even call them changes. Still just dreams, mainly. But I may not always be doing what I'm doing now. Which I've always been fine with. For now, I'm very happy.

Oh!! One thing I must mention is that John and I have gone on the Whole30 diet for a month (today was day 20 actually). This is a strict Paleo diet. We have both seen incredible changes, most notably more energy, reduced cravings, an ability to feel full faster without nasty side effects like bloating/fatigue/blood sugar drops. In 10 days we add back eliminated foods gradually in an effort to help us see what might be causing our problems. We both suspect gluten sensitivity. It gets a bit tiresome as it requires lots of planning (and eating out is dicey but doable), but I haven't found it hard to "stay on" one bit. I also seem to have already lost 5-8 pounds.

I hope to be back again very soon. For now, I'm off to enjoy the rest of my Sunday with Bleak House (halfway through!). Much Lark Rise/Downton Abbey was had this weekend, along with fireworks and breakfast out and we saw Jersey Boys which despite all the swearing (not my favorite) was a great movie (love that music!!). Some time alone with my book is in order!

Love and light,

Friday, July 4, 2014

I'm still here ... !!

Oops, a month and a half has passed since I last blogged!! Life has been super nuts with our move and transitioning to new jobs. I am going to try and give an update this weekend. I've really missed blogging it just didn't have a place there for a while with all the upheaval. If you are still there thank you!!

love and light,


Sunday, May 18, 2014

finding and savoring the simple order and peaceful harmony in enough

I've been thinking a lot lately about the way we live our lives. As each year has gone by, I've parted with more and more "stuff." It feels GOOD to see empty floors in closets, and half empty clothing racks. There is more to cull, but at this point I am very happy with the kitchen supplies and furniture and clothing we have. We don't NEED more (although I'd like a tart pan and some new cookie sheets). I have finally, after six years of my journey into living simply and frugally (it really IS a process that reverses so much of what we absorb growing up in such a harried, materialistic culture), felt the SEA change in myself regarding the way in which I want to live. I almost can't believe it, yet there it is, firmly planted somewhere in the center of my being. I first felt it strongly the day I bought organic half and half because the awful grocery store here had it stocked for the first time, even though I knew full well we had at least 2 perfectly good non-dairy milks at home (I have learned that I prefer good half and half in my coffee to vanilla-flavored nondairy milk, which is what my DH prefers). It was $3 I hadn't wanted to spend. It was an "aha!" moment which is weird because I've certainly had those dilemmas before. It made me WANT to be intentional but not stressed about those types of choices. Usually, there is one choice. Do without and make do! So I have begun applying that to everything. Also, of course, less being more -- a little less laundry powder each time I wash, washing in cold water for 99 percent of loads (our most recent electric bill was HALF the previous month's!!). We are using the drying rack to hang towels that have had dishes drying on them and it has drastically cut down on how often we wash kitchen towels. I just bought the EXACT bathing suit (well, very close) I had been researching online for lap swimming (priced at $60-80+) at a thrift store for $9. It wasn't the perfect suit, but darn good enough for that price! Saved me a bundle, plus I also was able to purchase a new work-appropriate top for $4. Still way less than the price of one suit. I have been packing a meal for grocery shopping trips and saving $10 or more on the cost of dinner, say, at the Whole Foods salad bar.

We have been crazy busy here trying to find our place to live in northern Virginia. We may have settled on a place (!!) in Alexandria. Now, this place is not perfect. It's SMALL. But it does have great storage should we need to stow a chair, our books, etc. for the next year or two. Our master plan is to rent a single family home in a year, or two, depending how it goes. The rent is a little cheaper than the blandblah (yes, my word creation) townhouses/condos rampant in that entire area that we are SO not fond of. Not much, but it puts more wiggle room in a tight, but not unbreathable, budget. I have found that if I stick to the budget, I will have some for savings, some for joining a pool and yoga (NOT extras in my opinion, as health is thy medicine!), and plenty for bills. I also found a few loopholes to begin paying down debt. DH having a full-time salary at last helps too. Alexandria is farther from work, but a vibrant city full of life and amenities (and lots of free entertainment, in addition to what's a short train ride away in DC!). I think we're going to like it. We should know for sure in a couple of days on whether we get this place, and then I'll post some pictures for you.

I am struggling with not having a summer vacation this year, as the school year here winds down (2 more weeks of school days!) and I get into my usual pattern of "too hard to get up" and getting to school much later than I normally would, not having breakfasts and lunches planned, etc. But I think the new environment will refresh and keep me occupied and summer nights are long :-)

Food here has been quickly lightening up. We are doing a lot more smoothies and salads. There are just a couple more roasts and stews planned. Lunches have been hard-boiled eggs, grassfed hot dogs, homemade trail mixes. I love this time of year, a nice break from all the cooking/baking/heavier foods of winter. It's a great time to lose some weight, although I find that my diet keeps the weight steady :-( Not sure if that's good or bad, as the weight is much higher than I'd like it to be. But I always do seem to lose some this time of year. The heat does make one eat less, I find.

Well, this is quite enough rambling for one update. Speaking of food, today will be spent in the kitchen doing some prep work for pizzas. I'm going to make crockpot baked beans, quinoa, and -- for dinner later -- a lamb roast with mashed potatoes. If I don't get it all done, well that's okay too.

I hope you've been enjoying a wonderful spring.

Love and light,


Sunday, May 4, 2014

the first true day of spring

the knitting basket, currently. The Simple Things Shawl in progress is at the far left, with fingering weight yarn from our honeymoon in Savannah, GA called Spanish Moss :-) 

basketweave dishcloth (a project from this winter's Hibernate retreat)

that apple candle (gift from christmas) is incredibly mind-clearing! 

we have been loving that white flowering bush down in the yard. i can't bring myself to take cuttings it's so delicate and lovely. 

favorite cookbook of the moment, and chicken salad over local greens

Yes, that feels like today. And with sweet timing, as I had gotten all my "personal tasks" done yesterday, an attempt to get back on track with personal life after a very imbalanced (yet rewarding) week of WORK at work. Today is a "free" day and I had even written it down as such on one of my usual lists. I have actually, unexpectedly to myself, made May a month of relaxation as much as possible when you are moving in the first week of June. But this time around we have wonderful family help with both our moving costs and -- MOVERS!! -- and it just makes things a million times easier, even thinking about it is just not stressful. All we'll have to do is pack. And erm ... go up to northern VA next Saturday and find our special place to live.

But I've gone off on a tangent ... so back to today here at home. Because it's halfway (!) through the year (already thinking about Christmas handmades...), the light comes earlier in the morning so I was up at 7:15. It was lovely to have the dishes and laundry done, the dog walked, french press and breakfast made all by 9 a.m. I knitted for a good hour and a half, and I read the most captivating novel (The Snow Child), about 80 pages worth, on the outside balcony. I wore my new thrifted skirt and needed my 100SPF cream and spray. The sun was hot, it's sunny, and there's been the most gentle breeze all day. Just gorgeous.

I've already begun lighter eating. Still thriving on a mix of Paleo-ish and vegetarian meals with a much lighter emphasis on grains, though we did have a wonderful pasta dish last night -- spinach fettucine with walnuts, adapted from Rose Eliot's 30-minute Vegetarian. I've been making a lot from this book lately. I love the simplicity of the recipes, I love the photography. I own a lot of cookbooks, have in fact embargoed myself from collecting more at present until I see which ones I do cook from all the time (I also get a ton online, mostly more last-minute stuff and very directed stuff, like "enchilada sauce", but nothing beats a real cookbook) -- except for maybe a good slow cooker one as we've been really enjoying the benefits of my crockpot lately. I would highly recommend this cookbook. From it, we have loved:

Avocado and Roasted Potato Salad with Creamy Dressing
Vegetable Curry with Bombay Potatoes and Dal
Grilled Mediterranean Vegetables with Couscous, Hummus, and Toasted Pine Nuts
Mediterranean Strudel
Fast White Chocolate and Lime Cheesecake

We are looking forward to making
Spaghetti alla Puttanesca
Red Onion Tarts
Quick Almond and Raspberry Cookies
Grilled Halloumi Skewers with Red and Yellow Peppers and Herby Couscous
Grilled Eggplant with Halloumi and Mint
Potato and Leek Gratin
Oven-Baked Asparagus and Pea Risotto
Red Bean Wraps
and many more!

Really if you're in need of some inspiration this one's great!

I have recently decided on a plan for weekday lunches once the new school starts up in June. Do something like a bunch of amazingly fresh chicken salad started in the crockpot (currently being enjoyed over organic lettuce from the first farmer's market of the season).

4 bs breasts. stack in crockpot with 1/2 cup water and turn on low 6 hours (9 hours if frozen).

once cooled, chop small. combine with 1 cup organic mayo, 2tbsp organic lemon juice, and black pepper. no salt needed (best part)!

Take one portion every day, over greens. Fills you up for hours!

In a couple more weeks, I think we'll be relying on the Vitamix (thank you wedding!!) for almost all of our meals, at least for breakfast. This morning we enjoyed frozen banana with fresh chopped watermelon, pineapple, strawberry. Half a scoop of vanilla whey protein powder and 2 tbsp. chia seeds. Creamy, filling, and delicious. Of course you could skip the powder.

For now, it's still cool enough to bake a few more treats. Today I'm going to make Heather's raspberry oat bars, which uses ground up oats instead of flour. I've been craving them for a while and have had a couple jars of organic raspberry preserves in my pantry all winter just waiting for their turn to be used. I do want to decrease the pantry items down a bit even though our move will be just roughly 4-5 hours away and the food will keep for the trip.
** added some white chocolate chips to the raspberry filling. mmmm!!!

Wow that's a lot of kitchen items!

I have some knitting mojo back again, right now working on dishcloths (my mom) and another Simple Things shawl (MIL). Also will soon start on a shawl for myself called Vintage Bouquet. I have a couple people who I'll knit a small pile of dishcloths for for Christmastime (I took a pledge online to drastically reduce my Christmas spending on "new" this year -- something I've worked at intentionally for a few years now, but this will be more "extreme" and I'm excited about it. A lot of handmades and secondhand items will be featured). Two shawls which have been languishing, and a long-hibernated shawl for my grandmother which I'd like to give her for this Christmas. Have you ever knit dishcloths from Aunt Lydia's crochet thread? I like this so much better than Sugar n Cream yarn which I really do not like the feel of. And the thread seems much stronger for the use of a dishcloth, much likelier to hold up well over time.

I never did start the Little House journal, instead one day, inspired, I began a list of ways in which I am already frugal and ideas for how to be more frugal. This is always a work-in-progress in my life. One recent thing is I've been washing everything in cold water. I turned our water heater down 5 degrees and we haven't needed heat at all for a couple of weeks. Hopefully we'll see a difference in next month's bill.

I am finding that a lot of my attention span has come back since I've become more conscious of screen time. Most nights by 9 p.m. (and many nights by right after dinner, so 7:30-8-8:30) I shut the laptop down and avoid the Kindle. I've never been a cell phone person, that mostly stays off or dead and in September when my contract is up I'm going to pay for a much cheaper basic phone that only makes calls. Anyway all this to say I've been reading more which is something I was missing from my long hours of childhood curled up with a book. I'm so happy to be plowing through books again. I also have been thinking about using Friday nights when I am very tired to watch movies or shows online (yes, back to screen lol) and have a very simple dinner, like popcorn or snacks like salami-olives-cheese. That would also be frugal (once we have streaming again, and good libraries to get free DVDs from!) because we could move homemade pizza night to another night, like Monday or Saturday, and save on the grocery bill. Popcorn is super cheap (I pop organic kernels in a paper lunch bag that I've taped shut and placed in the microwave, or I use a cast-iron dutch oven on the stove) and snacky dinner doesn't take much to fill me so leftovers can be saved for other weeks, especially the meat-cheese-olive combo I mentioned above.

I am also considering figuring out how to put some soft advertising on my blog, mostly for indie companies like yarn dyers and mothers who own home-based businesses. Any trickle of dollars earned would go into savings. If anyone has ideas for how to begin this process, please message me to let me know!

Finally I've been loving using my Amazon Prime membership. Yesterday I needed more vitamins. Popped online to order them, and guess what? My first bottle, purchased at Whole Foods, was $35/bottle. The SAME bottle was $18 on Amazon! I purchased a set of needles I needed for the new shawl project, and the price for two items came to $28 (free shipping with AP membership)!! STILL cheaper than the bottle of vitamins, not to mention the gas (and here, tolls) it took to get there. WOW.

Wow, this post has gotten super long so I'm going to go tidy up the breakfast and lunch dishes and get those raspberry bars baked. We're having homemade pizza tonight with ricotta and spinach. It has been such a relaxing weekend and I feel that my life has been brought into even keel again. Home life is so vitally important to one's family happiness!! I feel proud to call myself a part-time homemaker.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

simple woman's day book time

Simple Woman's Daybook


Outside my window... all is dark and quiet as it's late ... i've been burning oil looking at houses to move into, all the while wishing we could pack up this marsh house in our truck ... 

I am thinking... that I'm so happy we are starting a new chapter of our lives in such a calm, prepared frame of mind. 

I am thankful... for our months in the marsh house, for its antiques and hardwood floors and quiet marsh backyard and all the birds who live and pass through here

In the kitchen... a mess from tonight's stir-fry -- tofu, spaghetti, mushrooms, asparagus, cashews. it was amazing asian deliciousness!! a keeper, for sure (from heart of the plate by mollie katzen). it was vegan. 

I am wearing... old yoga t-shirt, cameo necklace from my MIL, jeans, leather boots. i never seem to take these boots off. 

I am creating... another Simple Things shawl for my MIL for mother's day. a plan of action for our new life in pretty (but scarily $$$) northern va ... a way to be a better wife to my amazing husband. i'm too cranky sometimes :-) 

I am going... to take my vitamins, get in bed and read Happier at Home/Bleak House

I am wondering... where we will end up next ... 

I am reading... Dickens (bleak house). Rubin (happier at home). Wanting to start The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey. 

I am hoping... that I will give as many lessons as I can to my 24 children before school's over and i wont' have those sweet faces to look at and love and guide anymore.

I am looking forward to... moving! new job! upcoming four-day weekend! indian food! reading and knitting over the long weekend! my tax refund arriving! 

I am learning... how to be a better human. how to handle money like a grownup. how to chill out sometimes. 

Around the house.. so happy i got through the stuff in the attic. cleared a ton of clutter, things i didn't need that just kept getting carted to every house. this house has just what we need with some artfully chosen antiques and keepsakes. my closet isn't full to bursting anymore. i LOVE the space in the closet. i love that we've pared down. i would like a few more enamelware refrigerator dishes for food storage. the new french press makes me happy. it was worth the splurge. we turned the heat back on, to my chagrin, few colder days ahead. i'm so hoping to keep the desk and that we won't be charged a ton for the furniture we want to keep (especially the bed!). 

I am pondering... when i should make the cookies john loves. 

One of my favorite things... staying up late after john's in bed. reading inspirational books like Simple Abundance and actually attempting to live out the principles. same for simple living blogs. 

A few plans for the rest of the week: grocery shopping, making pizza friday night, more swimming (i'm up to 25 laps and 32 is a mile!), more knitting, more reading. indian food and buying new jeans at old navy on sunday (dog ate last pair!). snuggles with hubby. walks with dog. make some contacts in moving world. 

A peek into my day... it's late ... i should be getting in bed. ... after school i gave one of my children's dads some math lessons he was wondering about ... then i went swimming at the Y. great stress reliever. i felt so good. came home and made dinner. it was a simple, decent day without too much stress. 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

pictures, and some clearing.

cobb salad with the best chicken money can buy from whole foods, along with pastured eggs and pastured bacon. i do wish local farmers here in VA were allowed to cut up their birds after processing (no thanks to you big ag). i do not like working with whole pastured birds. but this chicken is animal welfare rating 3 -- enhanced outdoor environment -- out of 5, with 4 and 5 being pasture only. so. wow that was a ramble sorry!! i'm just PICKY with meat sourcing, i will NEVER EVER eat factory or simply "natural/organic" chicken. 

amazing sushi i had in texas!! (the conference was in a big fancy mall that had an ice skating rink inside)

an adorable space i came across while visiting various Montessori schools during the annual AMI conference in Houston in February. I love getting new inspiration!!

i LOVE that window!! imagine it with the sun streaming in...

these really call to a child's sense of attractiveness (as motivator) and need for order. i love Montessori color coding.

So I finally figured out that I could simply connect my Kindle to my laptop and like magic there would all the photos be. D'oho!! Hello Captain Obvious.

Thanks for being so patient while I figured that one out.

As I write this, it's the second of two absolutely glorious spring days here. Temps in the low 70's, a lovely breeze, and I'm in flip flops. Ironically it's given me inspiration inside as I worked all weekend (John was away) going through stuff in the attic. I found, as usual, massive amounts of stuff to donate/to sell/to toss. In particular, a lot of old photos/cards/letters that I kept telling myself I'd do something with but yet kept lugging the same massive tote, complete with many ex-boyfriends pictures, along. It feels so freeing to only keep the photos I know I will want for my kids to look through in the future. I also saved a few cards from family from over the years. Just can't keep everything. The nice thing about this process (which involved just a few minutes of anxiety and wistfulness and tears, I really have to work myself up to a time when I have to just do it without too much attachment involved, or without poring over every document in depth) was it made me feel so happy and grateful for the life I live now with my dear husband, the life we are just beginning, and for the oft-awkward/fumbling road back that brought me here today.

I have been reading Gretchen Rubin's Happier at Home, which came in the mail from Paperback Swap recently, and one of her earliest chapters is about possessions. How they really can make us happy. How eliminating clutter and all those things "I might use" someday can free up possessions we aren't willing to part with and allow us an opportunity to bring them out and spotlight them in our daily lives. I feel this to be so true, and found that as I was finally forcing myself to go through things (some just needed consolidation, like Christmas decorations). I also did yet another clean out of my clothes closet and found something like 20 vintage dresses that I'm going to try to sell online for a few bucks. I've noticed that as I "grow up" (??!!), my style is gravitating toward a more classic, timeless look. I want good quality clothes I can spend years wearing (hello consignment shops, my new friends, not so much thrift shops anymore). Think Ann Taylor meets Banana Republic meets Target/Old Navy meets vintage-inspired indie clothing makers whose wares somehow end up in funky consignment shops. I still have a handful of vintage, but most of that stuff I was holding on to because I didn't want to just not make any money from it. I can't believe how much I've pared down my entire wardrobe over the last few years. I also put away the handful of sweaters I own and brought out all the summer dresses :-)

I say this with every move, but I am lighter than ever on the STUFF. Over the past years, I've gotten better and better about much more out than in. I don't mean to become a monk, of course, but I have met this goal I've kind of become friends with along the way. Looking at my high school and college year photos (before tossing 90 percent of them), I realize what a pack rat I used to be. Things are so much different now. It feels GREAT.

On Monday, I'll be calling the realtor that was recommended to us who will help us find a house to rent. I'm really, really excited that my amazing MIL is going to pay for MOVERS. All we'll have to do is pack and take our pets and my vintage pyrex and drive four hours northwest.

I have finally decided, amongst all this physical decluttering, to mentally declutter as well. Goodbye, Facebook (I've heard this is a process so it may take a while). Yes, for real, for good. I've reached out to those people I would like to continue corresponding with in real time, and yeah. I've had enough with "having" to check the clogged-up-with-distractions feed every day. I'm definitely keeping the blog. I feel that it inspires me and connects me in a deeper way with like-minded women whom I am constantly learning from. I apply so many ideas in my everyday life. Facebook is too surface-only for me. I crave deeper connections, both with close friends and the friends who I've been interested with on there. I'm also hoping to make new friends (in reality) where we are headed next. I do not think my life will be hurt by getting rid of one of what is now dozens of social media platforms. I'm also going to eliminate a few other bad online habits in favor of :: outdoor exercise, yoga, and swimming (I've been going several times a week now and I'm over a half a mile, headed toward the mile!), knitting, and reading. I still want to break into sewing at some point but that's not clear yet when. Also, writing more letters and sending little care packages to friends, as well as seeing friends in everyday life. I'm a serious homebody/introvert but I think the occasional lunch out or hosting a potluck dinner, or heading to knitting night ... those are good things for me.

In the past couple of weeks I've finished two projects, the shawl you saw earlier and a cowl for a wonderfully inspiring blog friend in Canada who is facing some challenging times in her family. Then I have two more shawls to finish that have been languishing forever.

The menu plans are already getting lighter. Last night, I made a meatloaf with pastured pork and bacon, and a ton of kale and spinach. Alongside a HUGE salad of wild arugula dressed simply with olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Yes, it was Paleo. Tonight's dinner will also be paleo -- spaghetti squash "pasta" with sausage link pieces, and marinara sauce. Just the way it worked out in the menu plan. I'm excited that everyday smoothie days are returning. Had a lovely green one today along with the prenatal vitamins I've started taking.

I hope that spring is making you happy and energetic wherever you are and that you are taking advantage of that sunshine in whatever way suits you best!! I had a lovely 2.5 mile walk with the dog earlier.

have a beautiful week.


Sunday, April 6, 2014

happy week, still lacking pictures

this is part of a shawl i knit for my mother-in-law, who is having two upcoming surgeries. i love the simple pattern and the colors of the yarn. I used Madeline Tosh in Filigree, and the pattern is a paid pattern called Simple Things on Ravelry.

I have way more pictures than this to share but the uploader is difficult with slow Internet. Just have to be patient!

I wanted to post my menu plan here. It's Sunday so we're going to enjoy a slow-cooked grassfed beef stew and sage-rosemary mashed potatoes. I've already prepped the chicken, hard-boiled eggs, and bacon for tomorrow night's cobb salads. We're kind of on a cobb kick lately. They are so fresh!

Here is the plan for the coming week. We have been eating a mix of paleo and vegetarian meals (i'm a believer in moderation for all things, but definitely less grain/gluten overall), we almost always do tacos on tuesdays (lately grassfed beef) and homemade pizza, either meat or veg, on fridays.

I would like you to once again be reminded that I refuse to eat ANY factory (even plain "organic") meat. makes me a restaurant vegan (i sometimes eat dairy and eggs depending on my mood and whether or not i can swallow my ethics on those rare occasions).

the first set of meals is totally planned and has already been shopped for. the second set is fluid and changes throughout the week as i revisit it. i love making menu plans and looking at both online recipes, old favorites, and my numerous cookbooks (I'm currently not allowing myself to obtain ANY more cookbooks, to see which ones I currently own I actually use). Might post that list sometime, too. I'd like to get a few good paleo cookbooks as well. Any recommendations?

These are dinners. Lunches are a mixed bag, usually leftovers, simple sandwiches, apples with nut butter, homemade "trail mix" (like sunflower seeds/almonds/chocolate chips), dried nuts/fruit, tortilla chips/veggies with hummus, that sort of thing. And to be honest occasionally i flub it with planning and i go down the road and get some sort of vegetarian wrap at the coffeeshop. I plan on making salmon salad with arugula this week, too. We also have some grassfed beef chili in the freezer that reheats extremely well. for breakfasts we do green smoothies, pre-made (by me! not a company) breakfast sammies that we reheat in the toaster oven. john likes bagels and cream cheese. we both like organic raisin bran, i add pecans and dried cherries or raisins to mine. i like oatmeal too but sometimes it has a rancid taste. i need to start stashing it in the freezer.

Finally, I find that I need two small snacks a day (once before lunch, once mid-afternoon). Usually they are tiny but protein-packed.

Anyway, right, the dinners -- you will see too that I often write prep/shopping ingredients to myself within each day. I post the dinners on some scrap paper on the fridge so my husband can get excited about them too and isn't in the dark if for instance it's "leftovers" (to him this could mean Subway, or a tuna sandwich, or whatever) and I'm not home yet (working late, swimming, whatever).

mon cobb salad, make mexican rice for tuesday night :-)  -- the chicken/bacon/egg for these I prepped while making sunday's dinner. all set to be assembled and eaten quick. easy meals are awesome on mondays.

tues tacos (beef) and mexican rice (freeze leftover rice)

wed conchiglie pasta (this is an AMAZING vegetarian concoction using a homemade greek yogurt and green pea sauce, and feta, from the Jerusalem cookbook)

thurs leftovers

fri pizza (pepperoni and spinach)

sat pork and bacon meatloaf with marinara to top, side of greens (arugula dressed with oil, s&p) (paleo meal)

sun zucchini or spaghetti squash pasta with sausage and marinara (paleo meal)

mon leftovers (make shredded chicken for dinner tomorrow night, use crockpot see bookmark)

tues tacos (shredded chicken, reheated) with newman's salsa! with leftover (freezer) mexican rice, reheated

wed noodles with tofu/cashews/asparagus (heart of the plate -- sometimes I write the cookbook or say "bookmarks" if it's on the computer so I know where to find the recipe)

thurs paleo stir fry with kale (buy a bag fresh at food lion) and sausage and red pepper (paleo)

fri pizza (veggies -- onion, broccoli, red bell pepper)

SHOP (every 2-3 weeks due to living FAR from tj's/wfm, usually on friday nights or somewhere thereabouts. the stores are dead at this time, they're also dead early sunday mornings and monday nights)

I felt like the last plan was really meat heavy, so this will eventually mix more veggie meals in. Remember -- eat food, mostly plants, not too much. my current manifesto :-) Obviously these meals aren't definitively planned yet but they are sketched. Do we ever deviate from the plan? Rarely -- saves us money on going out, and keeps food waste from happening -- but yeah, of course. There are DAYS. Where we end up at our favorite Mexican watering hole with a huge burrito in front of us. Sometimes I swap an easier meal if a slightly harder one is planned and I just don't feel like it. Sometimes I forget to soak beans or defrost meat and that's why swaps occur. We often put off pizza for a day if there are too many leftovers or dinner just has to happen too late for some reason. This is life, folks. Not set in stone. But the menu plans, boy do they help. Especially with shopping.

ANYway .... here's the second plan for this month. So far.

sat mashed potato bar :-) :-) toppings :: bacon/scallions/sour cream/(see Heather's page for ideas)
sun paleo
mon off - shredded chicken tacos in the crockpot with mexican rice
tues -- leftover tacos and rice
wed-- paleo
thurs salmon burgers and ???
fri pizza (sausage, bacon, onion)
sat vegetarian
sun pork roast with mashed potatoes and veg of some sort
m leftovers from sunday
tu tacos (beef)
we vegetarian -- pasta dish?
th premade burgers, homemade french fries, fresh greens salad (cold) -- VERY simple
fr pizza (vegetarian)
sat hearty vegetarian dish

Another 2 rules in the kitchen I've learned to faithfully abide by ::

mise en place (everything ready and portioned/chopped/prepped appropriately before just reading the recipe and happily watching it come together)

clean as you go. when you cook from scratch the downside is a TON of dishes (my husband always notices this one ... .lucky for me he's so good about taking out the trash, which I hate)

I'm interested in beginning to save some vegetable peelings to make stock, once we move we might have an additional freezer in the house. Would love a good chicken or beef stock recipe if you have it. We're not composters for now, but I hate just throwing all this good organic matter away, or to my dog.

I've just polished off my second bowl of beef stew. If you are going to eat like this remember to exercise (I walked two miles and swam nearly 3/4 mile today). In fact just because I'm on a roll here is what I ate today, and it's how I try to eat every day.

guilty indulgences :: 3 sea salt dark chocolate covered almonds, one small caramel cashew cookie from tj's (bought those for hubby, a cookie freak. i can take or leave cookies.)

breakfast:: smoothie -- almond milk, 2% yogurt, raw kale, chia seeds, maca powder, honey, frozen bananas, cinnamon, vanilla extract, sunflower seed butter

2 mile walk

lunch :: spicy brussels sprouts stir fry with snap peas and walnuts, salmon burger on a 100% whole wheat bun (if i wasn't going to the gym I would have skipped the bread, I do not think even this organic bread is good for our bodies overall but it won't hurt a workout)

3/4 mile swim (laps)

post-workout snack :: fresh strawberries and a few small pieces of sharp cheddar cheese, also a hard-boiled egg b/c i was still hungry

dinner :: two bowls of beef stew and mashed potatoes.

In other news ...

I've finished Four Spirits and am back on to Dickens' Bleak House. I also really want to read The Snow Child. From the library I have out Eating on the Wild Side.

I've started taking prenatal vitamins (holy 6 per day!!) and a DHA supplement. I swear my hair is already softer.

I'm finishing two shawls and a cowl that have been on the needles far too long before I start anything else. Then I want to start a mother's day shawl (same as the one pictured but more of a slate gray color) and work on a long-forgotten shawl for my grandma and try making a dishcloth leftover from the hibernate retreat i took with Heather this winter. I have some pretty purple Aunt Lydia's crochet thread for that.

No, I am not pregnant!! Just erm ... prepping the vessel :-)

There are just 9 more weeks of school and then a 10-day break until I jump right back in at the new school. Yikes !!

Happy week, everyone ...

love and light,


Sunday, March 30, 2014

on social media and friendships, quality of life, a reflective

hello friends,

internet has not allowed me to post pics from my Kindle lately even though i have them to share. only 2 more months till we're in real Internet land again. so, sorry but i did not want to stay silent.

i've been having some reflective thoughts lately, a lot of them centered around maintaining real friendships in this new era (to me) of social media. i haven't truly heard from any of my core group of friends in ages, though i must admit that i'm not much better. i did recently send some of them postcards (in the real mail). the funny thing is, they don't seem to be online much, either. so their lives stay dark to me. and that's hard when some of us are scattered in faraway miles. when i was much younger, i wrote frequent letters to my sixth-grade best friend who moved one state over. for a long time until we just naturally drifted apart, we stayed very close this way, even visiting each other from time to time as our parents allowed.

then there are the people who i knew in real life at some point that i've made some positive connections with on facebook, more so than we ever did when we knew each other in real life. i don't want to lose those, in fact i'd like to continue to communicate -- swap recipes, etc. to those people, i'll probably provide with my blog and email as well as snail mail addresses. i'm really not a phone person, in fact i'm considering going down to a pay per use type phone (no texting) and getting a landline at home when we move this summer. facebook ... even since i've gone down to fewer than 50 friends, it still "suggests" pages and posts i like, people post inane quizzes and quotes, etc., and it's basically a time-waster apart from the tiny bits of meaningful connection i've managed to find there.

i also think it might just be time for me to make a few new friends where we are going. this isn't easy for me as a super happy introvert, but i do think it's necessary. for potluck suppers, mama (one day) gatherings, and the like.

in the end, i'm also trying to build my attention span up again to what it was (or as close as possible) when i was younger. i try to spend my days focused on DOING things i enjoy, knitting and reading and cooking and baking. today i read a REAL book, with paper pages, for two hours. that felt so liberating. sad, right? but true. even i, who spend less time online than just about anybody i know, have suffered the negative consequences of too much screen time.

here's what i do on the computer on any given day.

candy crush
checking news articles, mostly a few glances around CNN
blog reading and updating
facebook ... the feed, need i say more? scrollscrollscroll (thank goodness for 48 "friends")
ravelry (knitting website)
look up recipes
manage my ongoing menu plans/shopping lists
and, because i have a strange hobby of checking up on missing people/conspiracy theories, i tend to get sucked into those types of stories and message boards.

in full honesty, that's what i do on the internet. i also suffer from that from one window to another syndrome, something makes me wonder, so i click, the same thing happens again, i click, next thing i know i've navigated through dozens of windows and hours of REAL time have elapsed. i don't want to do all of these activities every day, to be honest i'd like to see my computer turned off more often than not. i'd like to have it on just once a week. i have a kindle that does all the same stuff but really the reason i got it was so it could be easier to cook in the kitchen using a bookmarked recipe or doing knitting using a bookmarked pattern. not to mindlessly surf the net or get sucked into games on a daily basis and don't get me started on how instantaneously people expect you to return emails ...

if you've made it this far, thank you! it's just been something i guess i needed to get off my chest. i keep thinking, "what will you do with your one precious life?" and realizing more and more one answer is, "be offline." and BE ENGAGED. with real people and reality. to sleep knowing i've worked with my REAL HANDS, whether at something that interests me, or challenges me, or both. i want a long attention span again, even if this means subscribing to offline pubs like the new yorker rather than scanning through virtual text. seriously, i can't even read indepth online articles anymore without getting all jumpy and antsy and wanting to skip around or "read more later" while clicking to another window. this is scary stuff, folks. do any of you ever reflect on it?

i guess that's the stuff of this post. for now. stay tuned ....

love and light,

Sunday, March 23, 2014

fits and starts

we are getting spring here, in fits and starts. yesterday was sunny and 70's. but we're forecasted for more snow on tuesday. i'm loving the increased strength (and amount) of sunshine each day. i think most of us are very tired of this long, difficult winter. 

this is the last day of our spring break. we spent it mostly at home, i unfortunately contracted a mild case of food poisoning that had me more down than usual for the first few days. i got to realize how burned i was from work. it was good to focus on some things in my personal life again. i'm knitting a shawl for my MIL for mother's day which is already almost finished. i'm pleased with my commitment to it. 

also, i am currently focusing more on eating well and exercising more. i'm also going to start taking prenatal vitamins ;-) (not yet...just preparing). i'd like to lose 10-15 lbs. through summer. i don't think that's unreasonable. yesterday i swam 1/2 a mile. 

looks like i will be purchasing a new (to me) car this summer. when i hit the deer a few months back my insurance would not cover the damage and i don't think the car will pass inspection without me getting it fixed for a hefty cost. also i've been driving the same car for 13 years now, nearly. it's time. once we are settled i think i'll be able to save some money towards it. i am getting so excited about our move. i found an artisan butcher, pools to swim in, yoga centers, a yarn shop, at least three trader joe's and a whole foods. now all we need is a house to live in ;-)

i can't seem to keep myself from buying some new clothes (consignment/thrift "new") lately. this was not my intention at the new year. must be cabin fever. i am trying to rein it in but also be gentle on myself. i buy high quality clothes that last a long time. also i just sent a huge bag to an online consignment shop and i hope anything i make from that will go right into the savings toward our security deposit and first months' rent. also i really wanted to spend the other day so i played around with clothing in a "cart" for a while then deleted all of it and went over to my student loan website and "spent" the $ ... hee hee. i'm TRYING. it's hard. I'd still like to make my own laundry soap, it's one of the only cleaners (that and dish soap) I still buy. I make my own deodorant and all-purpose spray, and use baking soda and vinegar to clean tubs and toilets. I am guilty of using clorox wipes to clean the outer toilet parts, I don't really want to keep a sponge just for the toilet cleaning purposes kind of grosses me out but maybe I can figure out how to make my own wipes with old t-shirt pieces and then just wash them in hot water to reuse. we'll see. i do love saving money. 

we plan to join a CSA where we are next. 

i'm TRYING. you know, it's all a process ... an evolution. fits and starts, those happen for sure. 

next weekend i plan on another decluttering session. there might be things i can donate/sell on craigslist. like, my banjo. i realize i do love the banjo and i love bluegrass music but i'm not sure actually playing an instrument was something i actually meant to do. has that ever happened to you? i really would like to learn how to sew though, so the machine will stay. i'm sure i can find some classes where we're going. 

this morning i made breakfast sandwiches for the week. i plan on getting to work an hour before school starts each day and staying after for an hour most days. this will be my new schedule in june (7:30-4:30) so I figure it'd be good to get used to it now even though I'll be working more hours than what my salary (currently) allows. I feel frazzled without the professional development time that my new job is going to give me, so perhaps this will help. It has been a BUSY year. Montessori is not for the faint of heart though it's a VERY rewarding calling. Oh yeah, food. We will have orzo pasta salad for lunches this week. Menu plans have been simpler lately as I've been trying to save some money at the grocery store. 

Are you interested in our weekly menu plans? Here is this week's. 

Sunday (tonight) -- conchiglie pasta (from Jerusalem)

Monday -- leftovers/snacky dinner

Tuesday -- tacos (with veg meat)

Wednesday -- bacon-wrapped roasted chicken, broccoli, quinoa

Thursday -- cobb salads

Friday -- cheese pizza (homemade) with sliced red bell pepper on the side

Saturday -- grassfed burgers and broccoli/carrot slaw with toasted sunflower seeds

Sunday -- tunisian chickpea soup 

i have been trying to eliminate screen time an hour before bed each night. i find that when i spend the last hour of my day reading a book before turning out my light, i sleep much better. i've also been trying to take ginny sheller's advice and knit for at least an hour each day. i need to take REAL lunch breaks at work (i get an hour for this at my new job, eek!!), currently i work through them but if i adjust my schedule for the hour before and after school i think it would be good to take knitting along and actually sit to eat and breathe, and maybe leave work once a week to grab a coffee and some fresh air. i know i would feel happier and more balanced. you know, balance is so important to me!! 

if you've made it this far, thanks for tuning in. i'm sorry my blogging has been so spotty. a lot of it is that it's hard to upload pictures because of our unreliable internet. we will miss the quiet here but we are so ready to feel we are among the living once again. just two more months, hard to believe!! 

happy spring to you wherever you are ... let's hope this next bout of cold, snowy weather is the last of it!!

love and light,
k. ~ xo