Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Paper towels vs. towels

Did I ever tell you that we gave up using paper towels?  We did and it has been so much easier than I would ever, ever have anticipated!  After reading about the huge amount of waste that is created each and every day by paper towels (not to mention deforestation, toxins emitted by the bleaching process, and fossil fuels used in transportation), I was curious whether or not this was something that we could give up in our household.  It's now been a year and a half and we haven't missed them at all!

I purchased these towels to use in the paper towel's place and they are still going strong!  They are a bit smaller than a normal paper towel, but that hasn't been an issue.  Also, I just throw them in the wash with my regular loads of laundry- I don't do a special load just for them.  We keep them in our tilt out door in our sink cabinet, I love that counter space is not taken up with a paper towel dispenser anymore!

I just want to encourage you to think about trying to use less/no papertowels.  Our environmental issues seem so massive and large but I really believe that we can make a difference!  Please share what efforts your family is making so that we can learn from each other!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Favorite Things #13

 Life is short, so I've been wearing sparkly shoes to pick-up. And grocery shopping.  And lunch.  And pretty much everywhere.

These shoes are comfortable and seem to go with everything.  Plus, they make me smile!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

A little letter to fall

Fall 2007

Dear Fall,
Why did you abandon us?  For a few glorious days you teased us into buying cider, wrapping up in quilts and pulling out our flannel pajamas.  Your mysterious disappearance has prompted a warm, damp and very humid substitute to take your place, but he is not welcome here anymore.  Nats and mosquitoes are taking advantage of your absence.  Windows have once again been shut.  Shorts and sandals that had been given time off have been called back into service.  The massive amounts of moisture are causing pumpkins and gourds, your very symbols of the season, to rot on their stems (not to mention making it very difficult for any work to get done on my house).  People who are normally cheerful beings have turned grumpy and lethargic.  You, and you alone, can turn this tide around. Please, please come back and reclaim your rightful place!  We miss you.

Anna, Bryce, Harris and Grace

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Legging Jeans for Grace

I've been working on switching out the children's clothes for the upcoming season.  While I do so I always take the opportunity to discard out-grown clothes and access what the children will need in the upcoming season.

One of the large gaps in Grace's wardrobe is always pants.  Grace is very, very sensitive to clothing.  She has been for as long as I can remember.  She cannot stand for things to be too loose or too tight, she doesn't like anything that doesn't sit at her natural waist (no low rise for her!), and zippers, buttons and stiff material are usually no good!  So you can imagine that jeans are not really an option for Grace.  In fact, I can count on both hands the times that she has worn jeans and been happy in them!  Skirts, skorts, dresses and leggings are staples for Grace.

However, I'm happy to report that I think we have finally found our saving Grace!  We recently bought legging jeans at Gap and they are perfection!  They fit like leggings but look like skinny jeans!  The waist is elastic and is not low rise.  Also, there are no buttons or zippers!  She loves them!

She liked them so much that we went ahead and bought a pink pair too!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Beer Bread

As the weather has cooled down around here, I have found myself having the urge to cook soup once again.  Oh, how I love soup!  And the only thing that makes soup even better is warm from the oven bread!  I have a favorite go-to bread that gives all of the pleasure of serving my family fresh, homemade bread without the hassle of waiting hours for the bread to rise.  It's Beer Bread*!  Our whole family loves it, it's healthy and it couldn't be easier.  Seriously, it takes 5 minutes to throw together and is ready to eat thirty minutes later!

Beer Bread

1 12oz bottle of beer (use a beer without preservatives)
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup unbleached flour
4 Tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt

Preheat over to 350 degrees.  In a small saucepan warm up the beer and maple syrup (I've also done this in a measuring cup in the microwave).  Mix together remaining ingredients, pour warm liquid into the flour mixture and mix it up.  Pour batter into well-buttered loaf pan.  Bake for 30 minutes.  

*This recipe is adapted from a Susan Branch recipe.  And when I say adapted I really mean that I just leave out the Caraway Seeds that she includes in hers!  Susan Branch now has a blog!  I just love her.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Favorite Things #12

I'm not a huge jewelry wearing person.  I wear the same rings and the same earrings every single day.  However, I love, love, love my necklace from Nest Pretty Things by Tamar.  I perhaps wear it a little too often, but I figure that means I just need another one.  Right?  It's one of those necklaces that you put on and instantly feel feminine and pretty.

 You really must peruse Tamar's etsy site!  She is offering a 10% discount right now, so it's the perfect time to buy Christmas gifts!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Bathroom Tile

Our new bathroom is getting tiled this week!  It's finally starting to feel like it might all come together!  I thought I would share the tile that we picked out for the bathroom.  As you can see, we went with very subtle, neutral colors.

Our floor tile is 12x12 and we are laying it on the diagonal.  For our shower we are using two different sizes of white subway tile.

At the tile store I fell in love with this little tile.  It has everything I wanted in it- Carrara marble, white marble and some taupe colored stone or marble!  I had visions of this on the shower floor but, unfortunately, it was way out of our budget (that seems to happen to me a lot!).  A happy compromise was to buy one sheet of it and use it as an accent in the shower!

For the floor of the shower we are going with a flat stone.  Bryce has always loved this look and I think it fits right in with our other picks!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


We started composting a year or so ago, but it wasn't until this summer that we got serious about it!  Our first decision was to decide what sort of receptacle we wanted to use.  After reading an article in Martha Stewart Living I decided on a three bin design from the Iowa State University Extension.  This design is a bit of overkill for us but hopefully we can grow into it!

Bryce (with Ron's help) built the bins over the course of several weeks.  It's a simple but efficient design.  The slats in the front are removable so that it is easier to get to the compost and it allows you to have several brews at several different stages (we are clearly not to that point!).

I've been surprised at how much I love to check up on how the compost is doing!  It's oddly exciting to check on the progress.  I'm still learning what makes a great compost (I'm concerned mine is not hot enough) but we are off to an exciting start!   The whole family has shown fantastic interest in the composting and the children now automatically compost banana peels, carrot shavings and the like.

I found a fantastic book for children on composting.  We learned so much from Compost Stew by Mary McKenna Siddals, I had no idea one could compost dryer lint!  The illustrations are very fun to look at and it definitely gets the children excited about composting.  I would highly recommend it to future composters or current composters*.

We use this compost bin from Crate and Barrel.  It's the perfect size to fit under our kitchen sink.  It's big enough to fit a fair amount of material in but small enough that the children can easily carry it to the compost pile.  We've never had a problem with smell.

*I'm not sure that composters is a word.  But I like it.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Porch Furniture

I spent a lot of the weekend trying to figure out porch furniture.  Though the porch is nowhere even close to being done, I wanted to get a jump start on it.   From the moment we decided to add a screened in porch to the house, I've had a vision of what I wanted it to look like.  I've always envisioned a comfy seating area around the fireplace and a dining area with a long table!  In my minds eye there is lots of open space and room to move around.  In reality, it's going to be "cozy" and a little tight to fit everything in.  I'm sure that it would make more sense to give up one of my areas but I just can't do it.  My heart is set upon having both.

There has been a little bit of debate as to whether we should go with wood, metal or wicker for the porch.  I've always had in mind wicker, not sure why, and I found a line of wicker which I really love by Lane Venture.  I really, really wanted a sofa out there but after doing some measuring I realized that the sofa might be an impossibility.  I was having a hard time visualizing the space so I ended up making "furniture" from newspaper and catalogues that were in our recycling.  It worked out great and quickly helped me realize what would and wouldn't fit.

 sofa and two lounge chairs

I think that we are going to get two "cuddle chairs" and flank the fireplace with them.  In the place of two lounge chairs we will use dining arm chairs.  Even though they aren't as comfortable as a lounge chair might be, they can do double duty as dining chairs and sitting around chairs.  It's always nice in a tight space to have multiple uses for something.

cuddle chairs and two dining chairs

I would get white furniture and so my fabric options are really limited.  Apparently, most people do not buy white furniture so the fabric choices are geared toward fabrics that compliment darker furniture.  Go figure.  I'm considering this combination...


Friday, September 9, 2011

School goals- for me

With the start of school I find myself, for the first time in 9 years, with 7 hours a day without children!  To be perfectly honest, I'm incredibly sad and overwhelmed about it.  Of course, it will be lovely to have time to wander the aisles of Target, grocery shop and have the occasional lunch with friends without my trusty sidekicks.  But as the children have gotten older I find that I crave time to myself less and less often. The children are no longer so very dependent on me- they go off and play for huge chunks of time, so I have time to myself even if they are home with me.  I can start a project and finish it.  I can cook dinner without a million interruptions.  I can have and finish a phone conversation.  I can run errands with the children and it's actually helpful.  And all of these things have evolved so slowly that I didn't even realize it was happening!

I've struggled with the children getting older.  I've loved every new stage and they are at an exciting and interesting age right now, but I see their childhood slipping by a little too fast for my taste.  I feel so very blessed and fortunate that I have been able to experience every moment with the children and I don't want that to end, not just for me but for the children as well.  Just because they are older doesn't mean they need me any less (I hope!).

However, I feel that now that they are both in school full time I need to redefine my "job."  Does that mean I need to think about going back to work outside of the home?  I'm not ready, nor do I think my family is ready, for that.  But I want to do something... I just haven't figured out what that something is.  Hopefully, this year it will become clear to me.  In the meantime, I have made some goals for myself in the hopes that I can find a new rhythm to my day.

Less time on the computer- no computer before the children go to school or after they get home
More creating
 Plan more activities with the children, Bryce and as a family
Be more intentional in my days- have a plan
Make exercise a part of my lifestyle (walking, biking, gardening, etc.)
Find a volunteer position that I'm passionate about 
Attend all PTO meetings
Learn to sew

What about you?  Have you had a transition to make?  What made it easier?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

First Day

It's official.  The children have gone back to school and our fall routine has been set in motion!  Both children were excited but a little nervous for their first day.  Unfortunately, opening ceremonies had to be cancelled due to (excessive) rain but they didn't seem to be too unsettled by that change of plans.

Do you know what I dread the most about school starting?  Lunches.  Every year I determine that this is going to be the year that I faithfully send the children off to school with good, healthy lunches.  And every year Grace buys lunch at school more and more and more throughout the year!  That has to end this year because Harris cannot buy lunch at school.  For their first day I sent in this cute lunch...

I thought it was super cute, but I must admit that it will not happen with any regularity for several reasons.  1.  it took too long to make  2.  it fell apart in their lunch boxes (seriously, Harris had no idea his sandwich was supposed to be a pencil!) 3.  it's a little too much wasted food for me (all those scraps of cheese and bread!)

Even though the children won't be getting "artistic" lunches all the time, I would still like to send a variety of food.  Any ideas or suggestions are welcome!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Back to School Celebration

I can hardly believe that it's already September, and I really can't believe that it's already time for the children to head back to school.  Tomorrow is the children's first day back in school, and we celebrated tonight with our annual "back to school celebration."

Harris loved helping put the alphabet vase together and running around the house in search of letters to spell our names for the place settings!  The zinnias are from the children's garden.  

 We had our usual alphabet soup and letter breadsticks for our meal.  For dessert I made chalkboard cupcakes that turned out adorable and could not have been any easier!

At the end of the evening we gave the children their school cones.  Of course, they were delighted with them!

I can't believe that we have a first grader and a fourth grader!  How is this possible?  

Friday, September 2, 2011

Construction Update

Our construction project is moving along at what seems to be a snail's pace.  We are now officially three months into the project, which is how long it was originally going to take for the whole thing to be done!  Every time I start to get too antsy I try to remind myself how lucky I am to be getting a new bathroom and porch at all!

Even if it doesn't always feel like it, things are getting done and they are working on the house everyday!  Our fireplace (on the screened porch) is in and the stone is pretty much complete on the outside.  I love how it turned out.

Dry walling is almost complete in the bathroom.

(This is where my little vanity from Bryce is going to go!)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Longwood Gardens and Bruce Hornsby

We've recently taken an overnight trip to Longwood Gardens to see Bruce Hornsby and the Noisemakers in concert (Bryce is a devoted fan!).  It was the children's first concert and Bryce was excited to share the experience with them!

We originally had planned to spend the afternoon at the Enchanted Gardens but when we pulled up we  discovered that they are closed on Mondays!  Oops.  That was a disappointment, but we recovered and spent time hiking* at the Brandywine State Park instead.

Our accommodations for the evening were amazing!  We stayed at The Inn at Montchanin and loved every minute of it.

( I'm sad that this picture of us is out of focus!  It's always very hard for others to take our picture with the Nikon!)

Our tickets to the concert included the day at Longwood Gardens so we spent the whole day exploring. They have a fantastic indoor children's garden in which no detail has been left behind!  Every sight in the gardens is more spectacular than the next!  We really enjoyed it.

The concert was great and we left with tired, but happy, children and one very happy husband!

*I had dressed for the day in anticipation of a leisurely day spent at the enchanted gardens so it was very humorous that I ended up hiking on a very muddy, overgrown hiking path (we even had to climb under a fallen tree!) in a pink and white dress with very flat sandals on!

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