I Heart Beekman

I’m just going to say it: I adore the Beekman Boys. I remember seeing ads for their show, The Fabulous Beekman Boys, when my husband and I first moved to upstate New York, back in 2008. It looked cute, and I had a vague sense of their story, but that was about it.

Fast forward almost seven years, and I started noticing their pictures that my friends had liked on Facebook. I ended up liking their Facebook page myself, and started to fall in love with them and their world.

If you’re not familiar with them, Josh and Brent are the Beekman Boys. They used to live and work in NYC, but on a weekend trip upstate, they stumbled into the town of Sharon Springs, and found a beautiful, old farmhouse. They bought the farm, and eventually started a business selling cheese and soap made from the milk of the herd of goats living there. Today, Beekman 1802 is a lifestyle brand, focused on seasonal products ranging from skin care and cookbooks, to furniture and clothing. Their goods are produced seasonally, and in collaboration with local artisans and farmers. Here are some of my Beekman favorites:

  • Books. Josh is an accomplished writer, and his book, The Bucolic Plague, tells the story of how they found the Beekman Farm, and eventually decided to make it their home and business. I’ve also read his personal memoir, I Am Not Myself These Days, about his time spent working in advertising by day, and as a drag queen by night.

  • Reality Show. Early in their time in Sharon Springs, Josh and Brent had a reality show, chronicling their adventures as they transitioned from city life to country life. The Fabulous Beekman Boys is great viewing for those of us who fantasize about farming, but will never actually do it ourselves. I binge-watched both seasons as soon as I got my hands on them.
My most recent Beekman Beauty Box
  • Beauty Box. In my post about my favorite subscription services, I mentioned that I would love to receive the Beekman 1802 Beauty Box as a gift. Fortunately, my sister was reading, and she gave me a subscription for my birthday. (Thanks, again, Sis!) The Beauty Box contains several Beekman 1802 soaps and skin care products, beautifully packaged, is delivered quarterly.

  • Harvest Festival. Rounding out my “Beekman birthday”, my husband gave me tickets for our family to attend the 2017 Harvest Fest Beekman Farm Tour this coming September. We’ll get to tour the farm, meet the goats, and attend the Sharon Springs Harvest Fest. I love fall events, and I’m not sure I’ll be able to contain my excitement on our way to this one!

Are you a Beekman fan, too?

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Monday Meal Plan #31

Happy Monday!! I hope you had a wonderful weekend.

Weekend Recap

We had a pretty low-key weekend at home, with mostly nice weather. On Saturday, my husband spent a lot of time working outside on projects – re-seeding the back grass and building a fire pit were his big ones for this weekend. I spent a little time working on my own gardening projects, did a few indoor chores, and ran a couple of quick errands.

The fire pit my husband built

Yesterday, my daughter and I spent some time at a playground with friends. The weather was beautiful, and she and I both had a great time catching up with good friends.

The Week Ahead

This week, it’s back to school for my daughter, and back to work – Tuesday and Thursday – for me. It’s going to be a long week for my daughter, because she’s participating in her school’s Missoula Children’s Theater production. Essentially, this traveling theater company spends a week at the school, and the kids who participate practice the show after school every day, then put on performances on Friday evening and Saturday. My in-laws are coming up for the day on Saturday, to attend the play.

My other commitments this week include: having our septic tank pumped, getting my hair cut, grocery shopping, dropping outgrown clothes off at the children’s consignment store, and a visit from the exterminator to check the status of our mouse bait stations. A week full of non-stop excitement, huh?

In keeping with one of my goals for 2017 – find a way to hate meal planning and cooking less – I’m trying a local meals to-go place. A couple of days a week, they offer specials on family dinners. This week we’re trying the ziti with meatballs and sausage, plus salad and bread.

This Week’s Meal Plan

Here’s what’s for dinner at my house this week:

  • Monday: Shrimp stir fry w/ peanut sauce and jasmine rice
  • Tuesday: Leftovers
  • Wednesday: “Mama’s Ziti To Go” from Augie’s To Go
  • Thursday: Leftovers
  • Friday: Picking up pizza before my daughter’s play
  • Saturday: Post-play dinner out with my in-laws
  • Sunday: Risotto (from Michael Chiarello’s Casual Cooking) w/ peas and asparagus

What’s for dinner at your house this week?

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Spring Cleaning My Life

One of the many things I love about seasonal change is the chance for a fresh start. Each season entails different clothing, different routines, and different activities, sometimes dramatically different, sometimes more subtle. So when I read this recent post from Modern Mrs. Darcy, it really got me thinking about some changes I need to make this spring. These are the ways I’m spring cleaning my life:

  1. Start wearing sunscreen daily again. I know I should make this a priority because I don’t want to end up with skin cancer, but I’ll sheepishly admit that my fear of wrinkles and leathery skin is what really motivates me to slather on sunscreen in the warmer months. I’ve already found myself looking like a lobster once this spring, when I spent several hours outside without sunscreen, the day after using retinol on my face. (Talk about an anti-aging fail!) I love trying different skin care products, and I’m starting with this one and this one this spring.
  2. Move more – much more. I’m not an active person by nature, and I go into full-on hibernation mode in the winter. Unfortunately, as my doctor kindly pointed out at my physical last fall, I’ve gained 10+ pounds over the past five years. Judging from the warmer weather clothes I’ve dug out of the back of my closet recently, this trend has not been reversed. Now that it’s warm again, I have no excuse for not walking and/or running on a very regular basis. And my 5K goal from my goals for 2017 should give me plenty of motivation to get moving soon. Plus, I’ve got my Fitbit to keep me honest…
  3. Get outside daily. Whenever I’m feeling unsettled or out-of-sorts, I notice a quick improvement in my mental health after going outside. This is true even during the dead of winter. I’m not sure if it’s the sunlight, the fresh air, or just being in nature, in general, that makes the difference, but it consistently works. However, I love sitting on the couch (see change #2 above), reading, blogging, and just generally hanging out inside, so I need to make a real effort to get up and out every day to get the benefit of being outside.
  4. Research and plan free activities. Is it just me, or are there countless ways to spend a few dollars on kids during the summer? There’s the carousel, ice cream, festivals, splash parks, and all sorts of other activities competing for attention and cash. But I also know that there are lots of free activities in our area, and I need to put a little effort into researching and planning them. Our library is a great starting place, as well as the local parenting blogs and newsletters. I need to start filling the calendar with them as soon as I start hearing about them.
  5. Invest in some casual dresses and skirts. In past years, I’ve worn mainly shorts during the summer, even though I don’t really like them. They ride up, they’re really casual, and they simply do not flatter my body. This spring I’m investing in some casual, warm-weather dresses and skirts. I’m going to start by ordering a box from Stitch Fix. I haven’t received one in a while, but this seems like a great time to get some help refreshing my wardrobe. (Read about my love-hate relationship with Stich Fix here.) To keep costs down, I’m also doing some sourcing on ThredUp. They have tons of brand-new and excellent-condition clothes for great prices. Finally, I’ll take my shorts to the consignment store, to make a little money back on them.

Are you making any changes to your life this spring?

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My Favorite Children’s Books: Board Book Edition

I was a pretty anxious new mom. Was my daughter eating enough? Was she on a good sleep schedule? Should I be cutting her blueberries up any smaller, or was into quarters sufficient? (That’s a true story, btw.) Was I doing everything I could to help her grow and develop? Even now that she’s seven, I still have lots of questions about the best things I can do to raise her well.

From the beginning, though, I spent lots and lots of time reading to her. I knew the benefits of reading to babies and children were countless, and as someone who’s loved reading for as long as I can remember, this was one thing I felt completely confident doing for and with my daughter.

We had many, many board books in her room, and I enjoyed reading most of them. (I confess that I had a hard time with the Karen Katz books…) Now, several years removed from the board book stage, these stand out as some of my favorites:

Listen, Listen

Hands down, this is my favorite board book. There are so many things I love about it – the gorgeous illustrations, the rhythmic, rhyming text, the depiction of seasonal change and the beauty in every season. I also have an emotional attachment to this book, since my husband and I read it to our daughter quite a bit, and eventually realized that she had learned a lot of her early vocabulary from it.

I Love You, Stinkyface

I received this as a baby shower gift, and loved the cute title. But as we started reading it to our daughter, I also fell in love with the sweet way it shows a mother’s unconditional love for her child – without being too sappy. To this day, both my husband and I will occasionally call our daughter, “Stinkyface.”


This one was another shower gift, and I’ll admit that it took a little time to grow on me. My daughter loved the illustrations, though, and it’s written in rhythmic, rhyming text, which is very helpful for early language development. Plus, I’m a fan of berries, which are celebrated throughout this book.

My First Book of Girl Power

I’ve never been much of a superhero fan, but my daughter developed an early interest in them. Naturally, I was immediately drawn to the title of this book, but what I really like about it is the emphasis on a variety of positive traits, including teamwork, problem-solving, and, of course, strength.

The Hat

I’m a big Jan Brett fan, and this was my introduction to her work. I’m also a sucker for hedgehogs, and this book is about one who gets a sock stuck on his prickly head. What could be more endearing than that?? As someone who struggles a bit with winter’s cold barrenness, I appreciate that the illustrations in this book make it seem almost cozy, in a hygge sort of way.

The Going to Bed Book

I love  routines, and this adorable book walks the reader through a group of animals’ somewhat silly bedtime routine. It’s great for teaching this concept to toddlers, by combining the slightly ridiculous – exercising in the moonlight – with the more practical – brushing teeth.

What are some of your favorite board books?

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Monday Meal Plan #30

Happy Monday! I hope you had a fantastic weekend, and a lovely Easter, if you celebrate.

The Weekend Recap

Our family’s weekend basically started on Friday, since my daughter was off from school, and my husband’s office closed early. My daughter took a spring cupcake decorating class that afternoon, then we met my husband at the mechanic to drop off my car for some work (oil change, replace snow tires with all-seasons, inspection, and check why the A/C isn’t blowing cold air). We picked up Indian food for dinner at our favorite Indian restaurant, on the way home.

On Saturday, my daughter had gymnastics in the morning, followed by an egg hunt, and then a cookie decorating class (at the same place as the cupcake class). Afterwards, we returned to the mechanic to pick up my car. The good news: it passed inspection,the oil change was completed, and they think they know what’s wrong with the A/C. The bad news: the edges of the all-season tires were so worn they wouldn’t pass inspection, and the A/C fix can’t be completed for a least a week. The new summer tires will go on then, too.

We went out to brunch on Sunday, checked out some Easter festivities, then chilled out at home. I went for a nice, long walk, while my husband did some yard work. Rain (briefly) moved in late in the afternoon, so we watched the movie Sing, which the Easter Bunny brought our daughter.

The weather was great all weekend, and it was so wonderful to be outside again – walking, relaxing, and gardening. I LOVE this time of year!!

The Week Ahead

It’s school spring break week here, so my daughter and I are both home all week. We have a few things planned, including a playdate, pedicures, a program at the library, a cooking class with her Brownie troop, and an afternoon at the office with my husband (for her). I’ll add a playground trip or two, when we have some extra time to fill.

In keeping with one of my goals for 2017 – find a way to hate meal planning and cooking less – I’m trying a local meal delivery service** this week. We’ll be getting an entrée that should be enough for two dinners for my husband and me, plus a couple of salads and a soup. I’m very excited about this!!

This Week’s Meal Plan

  • Monday: “Chicken” tagine, (I requested the vegetarian version, since I strongly dislike poultry), and kale Cesar salad from Nine Miles East**
  • Tuesday: Leftovers
  • Wednesday: Spicy peanut noodles from Simple Vegetarian Pleasures (This didn’t happen last week.)
  • Thursday (evening swim lesson): Leftovers
  • Friday: Sheet pan steak and veggies
  • Saturday: Leftovers
  • Sunday: Grilled fish with roasted asparagus (Pending the grill getting cleaned in time…)

What’s for dinner at your house this week?

**The lovely people at Nine Miles East meal delivery service are offering My Upstate Life readers $10 off their first delivery (new customers in the Albany and metro Boston areas, only)! Just contact Adam (Adam@9mileseast.com), and tell him Amy from My Upstate Life sent you!**

Frugal Real Food Meal Plans

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My First Colonoscopy

Earlier this week, I had my first colonoscopy. The procedure was scheduled several months ago, and I spent much of that time experiencing a high degree of anticipatory anxiety. I mainly worried about the dreaded “prep”, but the whole thing stressed me out. Although I’m very happy that I don’t need another one for five years, overall the experience was much less onerous than I expected.

If you’re unfamiliar with a colonoscopy, here’s how the Mayo Clinic defines it:

“A colonoscopy is an exam used to detect changes or abnormalities in the large intestine (colon) and rectum. During a colonoscopy, a long, flexible tube (colonoscope) is inserted into the rectum. A tiny video camera at the tip of the tube allows the doctor to view the inside of the entire colon. If necessary, polyps or other types of abnormal tissue can be removed through the scope during a colonoscopy. Tissue samples (biopsies) can be taken during a colonoscopy as well.”

Sounds like a real party, right?

Why I Had a Colonoscopy

I’m 42, a bit lot younger than 50, the age at which this procedure is recommended for most people. However, I have a family history of colon cancer. Neither of my parents have had it, but my maternal grandmother died of it at the age of 57, and my paternal grandfather was treated for it in his early nineties. The guideline for someone with my family history isn’t straightforward, so my primary physician had me meet with a colorectal surgeon for advice. Because I had some general stomach complaints last fall, he recommended I schedule my first colonoscopy to take a look.

What I Feared Most

There are many things I found concerning about a colonoscopy, but without question, the prep terrified me the most. Apparently different doctors prescribe different prep variations, but the basic formula is: consume only clear liquids the day before the procedure, and at some point that day, ingest large quantities of medication to “cleanse” your digestive tract. My prep instructions were to take four Dulcolax tablets at 3pm the day before my procedure, then, at 5pm, to mix an entire 238 gram bottle of Miralax with 64 ounces of Gatorade (or the clear liquid of my choice), and drink an eight ounce glass every 15 minutes, until it was finished.

Because I was so anxious, I basically told anyone who would listen that I was having my first colonoscopy, and was terrified of the prep. As a result, I heard lots of people’s experiences and advice. Here are some of them:

  • Start on a clear liquid diet a couple of days in advance, to help make the prep go more smoothly. (I like eating too much to do this.)
  • The prep might still be working on the way to the procedure, so bring a change of clothes and a towel to sit on in the car. (I heard this from two people, which really scared me.)
  • Once the prep starts to kick in, don’t bother leaving the bathroom for a few hours. (I prepped lots of reading material.)
  • You will want to throw up after forcing down all that liquid in such a short period of time. (That sounded totally plausible to me.)

How It Actually Went

After several months of anxiously anticipating this event, I can honestly say that it wasn’t as bad as I expected. The prep wasn’t much fun, but I guess I had built it up as being so horrible in my mind, I could only be pleasantly surprised. Since I was locked alone in my room all evening and night, I actually got a lot of reading done. (I read about half of The Dry, which now seems a little ironic.)

As most people told me, I don’t remember a thing about the procedure, itself, for which I’m extremely grateful.

A Couple of Surprises

Despite all of my worry and conversations with people who had already had a colonoscopy, there were a couple of things that surprised me that day:

  1. As I was getting ready for the procedure, I asked the nurse if I would be okay eating anything I wanted, immediately afterwards. When I met with the doctor to discuss whether I should have a colonoscopy, he told me that I could eat a cheeseburger on the way home, if I wanted to. The nurse said this was technically true, but he recommended taking it a bit easy with my first couple of meals, since the prep would still be working most of the day. NO ONE else had mentioned this to me, and I’m so glad that he did. (He was right.)
  2. As happy as I am that the only thing I remember from the procedure room is the ceiling getting really blurry as the sedative kicked in, I did not expect it to have such a profound effect on me, or that it would take so long to wear off. My husband said he found me in recovery, dressed, clutching my water bottle, and looking passed out. I have absolutely no memory of getting dressed after the procedure, being given my water bottle, or of walking to our car to return home. I slept the whole ride home, and passed out again on the couch when we arrived. I then spent about an hour gardening, and took another hour-plus nap after that.

It wasn’t until the next day, that I finally felt human again, and all effects of the prep and the sedative had worn off.

My polyps are being biopsied, and I should have the results in another week. My understanding is that they were so tiny, there’s likely nothing to worry about. And I now have five more years before I’ll need to have another colonoscopy.

Have you had a colonoscopy yet? How was your experience?

Frugal Real Food Meal Plans

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Monday Meal Plan #29

Happy Monday-ish, okay, Tuesday night! I hope you had a fantastic weekend – or at least you did something better than I did…

Weekend Recap

I had my first colonoscopy on Monday. If you’re unfamiliar with the procedure, there’s a lot of “prep” involved. Essentially, you consume only clear liquids the day before, then empty your digestive tract with the help of over-the-counter medications. My procedure was scheduled at 7:30am on Monday, and I had to arrive an hour early. Because you’re sedated (thankfully!) you need someone to drive you home afterwards.

Since my husband was with me at the hospital, my parents came up to stay with our daughter and get her on the school bus Monday morning. They arrived Saturday afternoon, and had lunch with us at our house. We then spent some time walking around at a local park. For my last supper, we ordered take-out from one of my favorite local restaurants, and I got my clear liquids ready to go for Sunday.

The weather was gorgeous on Sunday, so we took our daughter to the farmers’ market for an egg hunt, then my husband took her to a playdate at a park. I headed home and went for a walk, then started my prep. The rest of Sunday I was locked in my bedroom by myself, where I caught up on a lot of reading. (I finished this book, which I really enjoyed.)

The Week Ahead

Between getting up at the crack of dawn, my procedure, then waiting for the sedation to wear off, I was pretty out-of-commission on Monday. I work Tuesday and Wednesday this week, and my daughter has a swimming lesson Thursday evening. Her spring break week starts on Friday, and we’re spending the Easter weekend at home. We’ll be going out for Easter brunch on Sunday, at a place we’ve gone several years in the past.

A chilly Easter two years ago

This Week’s Meal Plan

Here’s what’s for dinner at my house this week:

What’s for dinner at your house this week?

Beekman 1802

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My Goals for 2017: Check-In #3

Some people are motivated by rewards. Some people are motivated by fear. Others are internally motivated. Me? I’m motivated by public shame. I do not want to be embarrassed, and that’s what typically gives me the push I need complete things.

It helped keep me focused when I trained for two marathons in my younger years. I joined Team in Training, which, in exchange for participants raising funds for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, provides coaching, support, and organized, group training runs. Those group runs were critical for me – in particular the weekly “long runs.” Knowing that I would be running 16 miles with a group on Saturday, helped keep me motivated to train on my own throughout the week. I knew I’d never be the first, but I really did not want to be the last person to finish the long runs.

What does this have to do with my 2017 goals? I’m going to use this motivation to help keep me on track with my goals. I’ll be sharing monthly check-ins on my progress to keep me focused, and as a form of accountability.

2017 Goals Check-In #3

(You can read more detailed descriptions of each of my goals here.)

Goal #1: Read at least 24 books that I truly want to read.

In March, I read A Separation, and The Happiness Project. I didn’t love either of them, although I enjoyed The Happiness Project more. This brings my total number of books read in 2017 to six. You can see all of my 2017 reads – current, past, and future – here.

Goal #2: Try at least three new (to me) activities, preferably active ones.

I researched a few options in March, but didn’t actually try any of them. (Unless you count giving up added sugar for a month!) My work schedule is much quieter in April, so I’m going to try an exercise class this month. Because I’m about as out of shape as one can possibly be, this kind of terrifies me…

Goal #3: Run at least three 5K races.

I’m not running yet, but I identified the three races I plan to run. The first is in May, so I better get going!! As one of my Team in Training marathon coaches told us, “Your goal is to complete, not to compete.” Yep!

Goal #4: Find a way to dread meal planning/cooking less.

I gave Blue Apron a try in March. This service delivers ingredients and recipes on a weekly basis. (Read my Blue Apron review here.) The meals were all good or great, and more “restaurant-quality” than what I usually make at home. I’m going to continue to dabble with Blue Apron, but since I still have to do the chopping and cooking, it doesn’t really solve my problem.

How are you doing with your 2017 goals/resolution?

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Monday Meal Plan #28

Happy Monday! I hope you had a fantastic weekend!

Weekend Recap

Late last week, my daughter got hit with a stomach bug. Although being sick is never fun, we got off pretty easy this cold-and-sickness season. In past years, she’s had a cold every few weeks, October through March. This year, she had only one or two colds early in the season, and this has been our family’s only stomach bug of the year. I haven’t been sick at all, and my husband had only one, horrendous cold. (I’m knocking furiously on wood as I type this!)

Fortunately our daughter was back to normal on Saturday, and she was able to attend a friend’s birthday party that afternoon. My husband and I took the opportunity to go out for lunch and walk around downtown Saratoga. At lunch, I had a delicious burger, and because my no added sugar month was over, I was able to enjoy it with a bun! (You can read what I learned and experienced during my month without pleasure sugar, here.) While downtown, we spent a little time in Saratoga’s fantastic, independent bookstore, where I picked up the book I’m now reading, The Lowland. That evening, I binge-watched season two of The Fabulous Beekman Boys.

The weather was sunny and warm-ish yesterday, so I went for a walk, and spent some time looking for signs of spring in our yard. While blooms are still a ways away, some bulbs are definitely sprouting! I also had some straw bales delivered for this year’s straw bale garden. I planned to only plant eight bales this year, but the farmer from whom I purchased the bales only sells them in groups of 15. If I’m feeling ambitious, I’ll plant veggies and herbs in all of them. If not, the extras will be used for mulch and compost.

The Week Ahead

This week, I’m working two days per week at my regular job, and potentially a third day at another job. (I was recently contacted by someone I know in the career center at a different liberal arts college in my area, and asked about filling in for someone who has gone on maternity leave. That position may or may not start this week.)

My daughter has swimming lessons Thursday evening, and my parents are arriving for a visit on Saturday. The purpose of their visit is to get my daughter on the school bus Monday morning, since I have my dreaded colonoscopy early that morning, and my husband will be accompanying me to that torture event. As a result, I’ll be fasting and “prepping” on Sunday. (I think I’d rather give up sugar again, quite frankly.)

This Week’s Meal Plan

Here’s what’s for dinner at my house this week:

  • Monday: Turkey meatloaf from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook (didn’t happen last week) and stuffing
  • Tuesday: Leftovers
  • Wednesday: Pasta with tomatoes, spinach, and cheese
  • Thursday: Leftovers
  • Friday: Curried rice with shrimp from Real Simple Easy Delicious Meals and roasted veggies
  • Saturday: Takeout or dinner out with my parents
  • Sunday: Everyone else is on their own, since I’ll be “prepping”

What’s for dinner at your house this week?

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