This blog chronicles my life as I try to balance healthy lifestyle habits with my husband's penchant for pizza rolls and my daughter's desire to watch iCarly 8 hours a day. It contains a mostly humorous, kind, and somewhat spiritual look at everyday life and the people who live it.
Saturday, July 31, 2010
I've been thinking lately about a Top 10 list: what are my 10 favorite things to do/experience this summer. Here's what I have come up with so far:
10. The way my house smells first thing in the morning when the windows have been open all night long and the air is still cool.
9. Sipping Simply Lemonade. With plenty of ice. (Fresh squeezed would only be better if someone else was willing to squeeze it for me...)
8. Scrunching my toes in the sand. Not being a native New Englander, I had no idea that there were so many types of sand on beaches. York beach in York, Maine has a course, brown sandy beach. Hampton Beach in Hampton, New Hampshire has a soft, yellow sand. Ogunquit Beach in Ogunquit, Maine has a soft, light brown sand. Marblehead Beach in Salem, Massachusetts has a very rocky beach with not much sand at all. Whatever their type, I like all beaches and scrunching my toes in all kinds of sand.
7. Seeing the bees really working the flowers in front my house. The previous owner planted lavendar and the bees just go crazy over the stuff. Every day, without fail they show up to work. I don't know much about bees but I think these bees are honey bees. They are big and fat and can barely squeeze their bee-bodies into each flower. They don't seem bothered by me trying to weed the area around the lavendar and other flowers and to my amazement, even with hundreds of bees around me, I've never been stung. Thanks, bees!
6. Freshly painted hot-pink toenails. I rarely paint my fingernails but in the summer I like to have my toes looking cute. Hot pink is my choice this summer. Probably it's weird but glancing down at my cute-hot-pink-toes set against my tanned foot makes me smile.
5. The smell of Hawaiian Tropic suntain lotion. Probably laden with chemicals and extra artificial ingredients to make that wonderful, trademark smell, Hawaiian Tropic has it right: it just smells like summer.
4. Eating cherries on the back deck. Having a pit-spitting contest with my daughter to see who can spit their pit the farthest into the woods.
3. Grilled corn on the cob. Purchased fresh that day from the farmer's market. With butter and salt.
2. The sound of the ocean. Be it crashing waves, screaming gulls, the blowing wind, or the dull roar of the surf, I find the complex sounds of the ocean to be at times calming, at times stimulating and always awe-inspiring.
1. The smell of my daughter's hair in the summer: a potpourri of chlorine, shampoo, and sun. I could just breathe that child in forever. She's 11 now, so time spent hugging mom whilst I smell her hair is both short and met with horror ("Mo-om! Why are you so weird???"). No matter. I know what's important.
So there it is. My Top 10 Summer Pleasures. Any of those pleasures resonate with you? Any pleasures to add?
Thursday, July 29, 2010
Our family likes to play a game sometimes where we imagine what kind of outrageous, wonderful, quirky, and expensive items we would own if we were filthy stinkin' rich. My daughter frequently chooses things like an iceberg complete with penguins that would swim around in our basement. My husband likes to imagine things like our own parking garage filled with a different car for every mood. I seem to always envision outdoor stuff like a waterfall that cascades into our multi-level inground pool.
What would you dream if you had a million dollars to spend? A billion? A trillion?
There was recently a man in our town who won a large lottery. He was just a regular guy, working a regular job, and now he gets $50,000 a year for 30 years. Not bad for a single scratch lotto ticket. His story got me to thinking again about how much money I'd love to have if I could have any amount. I have decided I would like to have 3 million dollars. Here's what I'd do with the money:
I'd take the first million and pay off my home mortgage and the mortgages of my parents, brothers, sister, and in-laws.
I'd take the second million and establish education trust funds for my daughter and her 3 cousins. These wouldn't be just college funds, they'd be education funds that would carry them from whenever their education begins to whenever it ends. I'd give whatever was left after the funds were established as donations to schools that need it in our area.
I'd take the third million and bank it. Invest it. Use its interest to travel and create new experiences for myself and my family.
That's it, just 3 million. If I won a lottery of $10 million I would still do my $3 million plan, I'd just donate more money to charity. I wouldn't quit my very-part-time-job at the local college bookstore. I doubt Steve would quit his job either. We love our jobs. We love what we do. I wouldn't re-decorate my house or build on another wing (though I would hire professional exterior painters in a heartbeat!). I wouldn't even change my car, though I'm sure Steve would want another car, not to replace his, but just for fun. I wouldn't change my daughter's school, where we live, or our grocery budget.
I'd travel to see my friends and family a lot more.
I'd make sure that all of the children in my school district were eating healthy meals at school for breakfast and/or lunch.
I'd probably spend more getting my hair highlighted.
But I like my life. While I would love to have the financial serenity of having my house paid for and a healthy chunk in the bank, I wouldn't want to actually have a different life.
What about you? What amount would you like to have? What would you do with your dream-money?
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
It turns out Mom was right: it really is a bad idea to track muddy, or really any kinds of shoes, into the house. The Asian cultures have known this for centuries and have always insisted that shoes be left at the door, but it's kind of a new phenomenon here in the west.
There are a lot of pollutants that get stuck on the soles of our shoes: dirt, pesticides, fecal matter, and dust (which provides a wonderful biosphere environment for dust mites, mold, viruses, and germs to breed) all ride in with us whenever we walk in the door. It's especially bad if you have carpeting which acts like a gigantic doormat sucking up all the pollutants it can from your shoes. The problem isn't so much the gunk we track in, it's the chemicals we're forced to use to get it back out. Carpet cleaners, bleaches, harsh chemicals, and dry cleaning (for winter coats) are regularly used throughout our homes as we try to combat all the dirt that has been drug in.
Keeping your house clean can be as simple as removing your shoes as soon as, or right before, you walk in the door. Now for me this is a bit of a challenge. Our home doesn't really have a foyer. Or a mud room. Or a convenient place to leave shoes. We usually enter from the garage so our shoes get taken off as soon as we enter the house through the dining room. This means that our dining room always has an empty shoe tray with 4 or 5 pairs of shoes scattered around it. And the shoe tray always has a nice layer of sand, cut grass, and dust to make it look especially appealing, being as it's in a dining room and all.
My husband is not yet convinced.
This is my vision: The dining room is a perfect square so we put a big comfy chair with ottoman angled in one corner. (We already have the chair, it lives in the basement waiting to be rediscovered). That provides a perfect spot for putting on/taking off shoes. Then we line the back wall with those gorgeous cubbies from Pottery Barn (or a knock off from Target, you know how I love Target), add a round rug in the center of the room and call it a day.
I like the idea of a proper place to put all our shoes. I like the idea of coats, backpacks, purses, umbrellas, briefcases, and lunch bags having a permanent home as well. All of those "outdoor" items that get tossed on the floor, drug across the classroom, dropped on the floor of the car, and thrown into the corner of the office pick up a lot of dirt and germs. Finding a spot, preferably close to where you enter your house, for these items to live means containing a lot of dirt and germs, which makes cleaning a lot easier. It also means less wear and tear on your carpet. Which means you'll replace your carpet less frequently. Which means less waste going into a landfill. Which is green. Or you can use gentler cleaners on your hardwood floors. Like good old vinegar and hot water. Which is green. And y'all know how much I like to be green!
Friday, July 23, 2010
I wasn't so much checking the mailbox as I was fleeing the scene.
When I opened the mailbox it was there. Nestled in among the Redplum coupons, the grocery store ads, and the oil bill. A Pottery Barn catalog. Just for a moment I heard the angels sing. I pulled out the mail, tossing most of it into the recycle bin as I walked into the house. But not the Pottery Barn catalog. Nope, no recycling bin for you yet, my pretty. You, my little book of magic, are going to provide me some much needed therapy.
Then Pottery Barn and I went upstairs where I quickly made beds, put dirty laundry into hampers, threw in a load, and gazed longingly at the cover of the catalog while I folded laundry. I put the laundry away, made a cup of Bigelow's Chai Green Tea (in my beloved Keurig, of course) and then sat down to relax. Just me and Pottery Barn.
I enjoyed it just as much as I thought I would. Each page filled with beautifully photographed, beautifully layered, accessorized, and clean roooms. Pottery Barn catalog inspires me. Just knowing those beautiful images awaited me gave me the push I needed to set my own house to rights. After perusing through Pottery Barn I find myself looking at collections of candles and glassware in new ways. I will arrange pillows and blankets in different groupings, mixing patterns in a way I hadn't thought of before. I have painted picture frames, printed out my photos in black and white, covered scraps of wood with chalkboard paint or fabric, all because of things I've seen in Pottery Barn magazine. I don't actually own a lot of Pottery Barn "stuff." I have a few accessories, my daughter has a lot of their bedding and a desk hutch, and many, many of my paint colors through the years have been taken directly from the Benjamin Moore Pottery Barn paint deck, but for most part it is the lifestyle they are selling that I am buying, not the actual product. (Which is probably not music to Pottery Barn's ears but I'm just tellin' the truth here).
After 30 minutes spent in my now-clean-house, sipping chai green tea and flipping through the catalog I was completely relaxed. I got up, actually set the table for dinner, as opposed to simply putting out plates. I used napkin rings, brought in a centerpiece of a glass bowl filled with sand, white candles, sea glass, and shells (except for the candles all found objects from the ocean). We had a pleasant dinner, enjoyed some dumb game shows as a family, and went to bed.
The next day I was still inspired to move some throw pillows around from different rooms when making my bed. The day after that I hung a shelf in my bathroom that I'd been meaning to hang. Just this morning I grouped some picture frames differently.
I spent 30 minutes with a catalog and I didn't buy anything. But I did get a new attitude.
What inspires yet relaxes you?
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
I love grilling out. I love the smell. I love how the food tastes. I love the excitement that I can't help but feel about the whole process. Until I learned a little more about cooking out I was (mistakenly) thinking that it wasn't a very "green" option. It turns out, cooking out can be quite environmentally friendly.
Friday, July 16, 2010
All of the choices today and the easy availability of constant entertainment have some experts arguing that TV is too important, too much a part of our daily routine than is good for us, and certainly more than it was 20 years ago. I'm not going to dispute whether that is true for everyone I'm simply making the statement that's it's not true for me even though I make use of just about every single technological advance available for TV viewing. Here's why:
Back in the 'old days' I'd be outside playing with my friends. We'd all be involved in a game of kickball. Or pickle. Or Smear the Queer (because political correctness was not yet a soundbite in the '70s). Suddenly doors would open all over the neighborhood as mothers called their children to come inside because the Charlie Brown special was starting in 5 minutes. The kickballs, softballs, and baseballs would all be abandoned as each child stopped playing to go inside and watch television. In the old days if you missed a show when it was aired you had to wait a whole year, or possibly longer, for the show to be aired again. Not so these days, my friends. My daughter frequently asks "Will you TiVo that show for me?" regarding some Disney special, ABC Family movie, or Nickolodeon premiere that she wants to watch. "Sure," I say, "I'll make sure it records for you." I program TiVo and then we both forget about it until one day when we are sitting down to watch TV and the desired program magically appears in our TiVo To Do List. Our children don't have to stop playing in order to see a desired program. They don't have to schedule their lives based upon the TV schedule.
I think the technology also helps me better screen the choices available to my daughter. Before the advent of the internet a parent had to go by the 1 or 2 reviews of a movie that we published in the newspaper. They may have gotten some word-of-mouth reviews from other parents who had seen the movie, but there wasn't an easily accessible, wide variety of information and opinions about any given movie. Now if I want to decide if the Twilight series is appropriate for my 11 year old (my vote is NO, not for my 11 year old!) I can read thousands of book reviews, thousands of movie reviews, and see enough trailers to feel like I have a handle on the movie content. When I was 11 my parents let me go to the theater and see Poltergeist a movie I had absolutely no business seeing and a movie that my mother was appalled that I had seen when she finally saw it herself.
It's no secret that I am a huge fan of technology. I believe that the latest advances relegate TV viewing to a lesser importance than 30 years ago because it can be at our convenience, with informed consent, and doesn't have to interfere with any 'real life' activities.
What do you think?
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
I'll admit that last year when we first moved to this house and I got to experience this early morning wake up call I wasn't too pleased. "Really?" I thought. "It's 4:30 in the morning!" I have since changed my attitude about the birds' song. I have decided that those little guys really have their priorities straight.
Every single morning the birds greet the rising sun with incredible joy. They sing out their joy, their thanks, their appreciation for each dawning day. They don't drag themselves out of the nest, grumpy and bleary eyed. They don't curse the rising sun. They don't instantly begin complaining about all of the "stuff" they have to do today.
Hundreds, maybe thousands of birds live in the trees behind my house. Now when I am awoken by their morning song I lie in bed and listen. I smile. I thank God that I am alive, for the rising sun, for the gift of this new day. Steve and I now leave our shades open at night so we can see our mountain view first thing each morning and be awed all over again at the magnificence of the display.
The same powerful force that forged that mountain, grew those thousands of trees, conceived of each different kind of bird, and created the rising sun created me. I don't need to worry, stress, fear, or bemoan the new day, no matter what ills I imagine it may bring. The birds don't, and surely I'm smarter than a bird, right?
The birds are brilliant. They know a good thing when they see it. They know what to do when faced with the gift of life, the anticipation of a new day, the magnificence of a rising sun.
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Repair it? I felt embarrassed because I hadn't even considered trying to repair it. The fact is we live in a throw-away society where frequently, replacing something rather than repairing it, is cheaper, easier, and more exciting. I can remember when my grandmother's vaccuum cleaner broke and I rode along with her to take it to get repaired. I remember my mom had Sears come out to repair something gone awry with her Lady Kenmore washing machine and dryer that she had for nearly 20 years. I am stunned to realize that I have gone through 4 vaccuum cleaners in the 20 years I've lived on my own and not once did I even consider repairing one when it stopped working.
I just bought something new. Something better. Something with bells, whistles, lights, and sounds.
My father-in-law has an entire cottage industry going in his garage: finding lawn mowers people put out in their trash, repairing them, and then selling them at the flea market. He reduces, reuses, recycles, and makes money all in one.
So, as with all things I blog about, I decided to try out this phenomenom first. I have a sewing maching that hasn't worked in years. I have been seriously considering asking for a new sewing maching for Christmas but now I am going to try repairing this one first.
I went down to the basement. Unboxed the broken machine, got out the manual and began following the maintenance instructions and troubleshooting guide.
I took it apart. I oiled it. I put it back together and tightened all the screws.
I plugged it in and held my breath. Maybe I'll have to call in a professional, I thought, but at least I'm trying. I slid a remnant under the presser foot, turned on the machine, and voila! It worked! I have left that poor machine in a box for 4 years with the intention to replace it and all it needed was oil and its screws tightened!
Sometimes items need to be replaced. Sometimes it's just time for something new and the old can be recycled.
But sometimes a little elbow grease will save money and reduce waste too. Now that's what I call Green.
Sunday, July 11, 2010
Summer has been good to me thus far: I have taken a fantastic trip to Ohio and back, I have gone to a new-to-me beach in York, Maine, I have had many wonderful meals shared with family and friends, I have played a lot, worked a lot, and most importantly, laughed a lot.
Here are some general housekeeping updates.
1. American Express came through for us by refunding the $169 we requested due to unauthorized charges dating back to 2007. Good job American Express, now how about we don't do that again, eh?
2. TMPP continues though very slowly. Massive heat waves followed by rain, followed by more massive heat waves defnitely have slowed the process. I thought we'd be on the finishing touches by now, but then I am an unfailing optimist who is also blessed with an ability to underestimate the scope of any project while vastly overestimating my ability to get said project completed. It's a gift.
Having said that we are at another decision making point in the project. We are considering replacing the shutters (don't worry, I'll donate my old shutters to a recycle center like Habitat for Humanity) that were on the house previously. They are dark green louver style shutters. We are thinking about black raised panel style shutters. Care to cast your vote for a style? We know the color will be black, the style is still up for debate.
3. Just a teaser: Debbie and I are hatching a new blogging project together that will be like music to your ears...
5. Always in search of something new to drink that is water, but not just water, I have found that mixing carbonated water with any fruit juice is just about the most refreshing thing on the planet. My friend Chellie gave me the idea and I have taken it and run. Add crushed ice and enjoy.
6. While contemplating my neverending exterior paint project from inside my house because of the rain I have decided upon a new color for the interior of my home: Benjamin Moore's Rainforest Dew will be adorning my walls this fall, stay tuned for photos.
Whew, getting all of that housekeeping out of the way feels great. Now I can go back to enjoying my summer. I hope you are having a great summer too!
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Record high temps in Massachusetts and around the country have me thinking about ways to stay cool in environmentally friendly ways. I don't have central air conditioning in my home (a fact much bemoaned by my poor husband) so I'm not going to go on and on about turning the air conditioner temp up just a degree or two, or running the air conditioning only at certain hours, etc., etc. We've heard those things before and frankly, in this heat, people are going to run that air conditioner as hard as they can, I would too if I had one!
I found some great tips for keeping your body cool by eating. Yes, eating. There are actually cooling foods: any high water content food helps to keep you hydrated and a hydrated body runs more efficiently and therefore cooler. You probably knew that. But did you know that high water content and raw foods actually use less digestive "fire" and thus keep you cooler in that way too?
Foods like watermelon, cantaloupe, grapes, berries, cucumber, celery, carrots, lettuce, green peppers, tomatoes, all citrus fruits, and processed foods like yogurt and ice cream contain a lot of water. Unlike cooked foods which need a lot of enzymes to be broken down and digested, raw, high water content foods contain their own enzymes. Less work digesting means more available energy for doing things like...say...regulating your core temperature. Less work digesting also means less heat being generated internally. Less work digesting also means more available quick energy so that you'll have energy even when the heat and humidity are oppressive.
There are "cooling" waters you can make too: herbs like mint added to water actually produce a cooling sensation. Adding lemon to water is so refreshing that it may also be perceived as cooling. Days like this are a great time to experiment with flavoring waters, using cookie cutters to make fun melon shapes, peeling grapes, and making your own popsicles with juice, an ice cube tray, and toothpicks.
Think shade, think lots of water, and think cool. Mother Nature will provide the rest.
Monday, July 5, 2010
We all recently celebrated our country's birthday. It also happens to be my dad's and older brother's birthdays. With all these birthdays around me I started thinking about what kind of gifts our country could use.
What if, just this month to honor our country, we recycled every plastic bottle we saw?
What if, just one time this month, we contributed to the American Red Cross?
What if we hung an American flag from our homes?
What if we smiled and welcomed every person we encounter this month, even if they are not citizens or do not speak English as their first language?
What if we all said just one good thing about this country this month?
What if we thanked a veteran?
What if we all planted just one tree?
What if we picked up the garbage in just one tiny spot in this country?
What if we shopped, just once, at a local Farmer's Market for our produce?
What if we all registered to vote?
What if we unplugged just one item in our homes?
What if we all mowed our grass after 5 p.m., just once this month?
I wonder how our country would be a year from now if we all just did one thing on the What If list? I wonder how our country would be if we all did all of the things on the What If list?
Happy Birthday America, I hope you have a great year.
Saturday, July 3, 2010
It all began as one of those great ideas you have late on a Friday night when you are snug in your own home, safe, missing faraway friends and family, and full of optimism. My mother-in-law was coming to stay for a week. She was flying from Ohio to Massachusetts. Wouldn't it be a great idea to take Grandma back to Ohio, stopping to visit friends and family along the way? Yes! I say! No! Says Steve. So it's decided: my daughter and I are making the trip, Steve is staying home. Sounded great on the couch that evening. Sounded great on the phone when I got to be the hero for coming to Ohio again for the 3rd time in the less than 2 years we've lived in Massachusetts. It sounded great to my daughter who envisioned a week's worth of endless sleepovers with her Ohio friends.
It was great. Things were humming along beautifully until...until it was time for me to get back in the car to drive home. Suddenly the enormity of the task I'd set before myself seemed overwhelming. I'm the only adult in the car! I'm the only driver! It's 14 hours to go back home! What have I done???
We left at 7a.m. The first 4 hours were a breeze: we snacked on fruit provided by my mom, my daughter watched a movie, I listened a bit but mostly just enjoyed my own thoughts, the beautiful morning, the time with my daughter, and concentrated on navigating morning rush hour traffic through Columbus, Ohio.
11 a.m. The fruit is gone. We've moved on to the sandwiches provided by my mom. The newness and excitement and adrenaline I had at 7a.m. have drained away into a road-weary sameness. We're in Pennsylvania which feels like progress until I realize I have New York and Connecticut still to go.
1 p.m. We've stopped for the bathroom, we've stopped for gas, I can think of no other reason to stop but I am completely restless. My legs hurt, my back hurts. I am trying to be extremely careful about what I eat so I stay hydrated and my blood sugar stays constant and I don't experience any blood sugar induced fatigue. I've listened to all my podcasts. I am beginning to think of Pennsylvania as a continuous loop of scenery: didn't I just see that tree? The drive has taken on a Twilight Zone quality.
4 p.m. We're in New York. It looks just like Pennsylvania. I am thankful for cruise control and air conditioning. I have a new respect for anyone who does this kind of driving regularly. I am numb. The traffic is rushing by and I am keeping up but I can feel my stress level climbing as more and more cars join me and as speeds increase. I am not usually a nervous driver, but I'm tired and the road is unfamiliar, and I'm probably driving faster than I should be.
6 p.m. I-84 in Connecticut is at a complete standstill. Occasionally we get to creep a few feet forward only to stop again. My foot is cramping from hovering over the gas then over the brake then over the gas again. We pass a highway patrol with a radar gun. I find myself laughing a bit hysterically thinking who are you going to stop? A jogger? No one in a car is going faster than 5 mph and that's if we're lucky! My daughter has been watching movies for 12 solid hours. I don't even have the energy to persuade her to stop. I'm jealous, I wish I could check out for awhile too.
6:30 p.m. Haven't even gone a mile.
6:45 p.m. I am thinking horrible hateful thoughts about Connecticut. I have completely abandoned the idea of stable blood sugar and am consuming anything my daughter can find in the cooler.
7:00 p.m. Traffic is finally moving again. The speed limit through Connecticut is 50 miles per hour. My fellow travellers and I are treating that as a suggestion, not a law. My hypochondria is in full swing. I wonder if I can get a blood clot from sitting so long in one position. I feel a blood sugar crash coming on. Steve is urging me to just get a hotel but I'm so close to home that I just want to get there. My left leg is aching from being tensed. My right arm is tingling and my fingers feel stiff.
8:15 p.m. Massachusetts state line! I have renewed energy, I can do this! I'm almost there.
8:45 p.m. HOME. I nearly collapse getting out of the car. My legs are shaking and muscles in my back are spasming. I feel like crying with relief.
10:00 p.m. I am exhausted, I should be sleeping but I can't. My leg muscles are trembling. I keep having mini flashbacks of being stuck in Connecticut. Steve can't believe I am this stressed from driving and honestly I am surprised at myself too but I know it wasn't just the drive: it was being soley responsible for our daughter's safety in the car and the entirely self-imposed pressure to do the drive all in one day.
I did some research and discovered that a lot of serious conditions such as heart attacks, strokes, and embolisms occur or are discovered while people are on vacation or shortly after they return home. No kidding. I get it.
I learned a lot about myself on this trip. I'm glad I did it. I won't do it that way again, but that's all part of the learning curve. For me it was the length of the drive. For my husband it's air travel. For a friend of mine it's staying in beds not her own. For another friend it's constantly having to eat out.
What about you? Any travel traumas to report?