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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What’s Up Wednesday: February 2017

What We’re Eating This Week

I got some inspiration from two of my favorite Food Network cooks this week: Ina Garten and Ree Drummond. Plus, we’ll be out-of-town this weekend, which means fewer nights of cooking for me – woo hoo! You can read this week’s full meal plan here.

What I’m Reminiscing About

I recently went through a bunch of old photos with my husband, and there were a number of ones of my sweet, old kitty, Tony. He died a little over a year ago, and I still miss him. With apologies to his (living) sister, Sophie, Tony was indisputably the best cat ever. I adopted the two of them when they were kittens, and I was only 25, and had just moved to California for work. I don’t miss those lonely days of being across the country from my friends and family, and finding my way in a new place, but those two made my time there more bearable.

What I’m Loving

We’ve been enjoying some unseasonably warm weather lately, and it’s got me believing that spring is almost here. Seriously, highs in the 50s in upstate New York in February?? I love it!

What We’ve Been Up To

It’s school vacation week here, so I’m home with my daughter all week. We had a ladies’ “day of beauty” yesterday, with hair cuts and manicures. (The “day of beauty” concept was my way of bribing her to get a hair cut, which she hates. It took years for her hair to grow long, and now she never wants to lose a centimeter of it.) Today we have a Girls Scouts ice-skating event, then a visit to a friend’s house, and Thursday her Brownie troop is going on a tour of a local grocery store. Friday we’re packing and heading to Massachusetts for my nephew’s first birthday party.

 What I’m Dreading

Next month, I’m going to cut added sugar out of my diet, and, while I’m very excited to try it, I’m definitely concerned about having a more limited diet. For me, one of the most intriguing things about cutting out added sugar is going to be realizing just how ubiquitous it is. I’ve started reading the labels of some of my favorite foods, and have been distressed to find added sugar in many of them.

What I’m Working On

What – me procrastinate?? Yep, I’m still dragging my feet on our taxes. Actually, I have everything we need, with the exception of a letter about a donation. I still need to fill out the questionnaire from our accountant, though, and I haven’t forced myself to sit down and do it, yet.

What I’m Excited About

Even though I’ve embraced winter this year, I’m excited that it seems to be loosening its grip. Spring’s arrival seems almost imminent, and I’m excited to welcome pansies, daffodils, and leaves back to our yard!

What I’m Watching/Reading

I’m watching absolutely nothing these days. Nothing. Seriously, with the exception of watching some news coverage when I make dinner, I’m just not switching on the TV these days.

I’m struggling to get through the book, The Case Against Sugar. It’s not exactly what I expected, and it’s fairly dry. I’m definitely going to need to read some fiction after I finish this one. (You can see all of the books I’m reading, have read, and plan to read in 2017 here.) I’m also always slowly working through my huge pile of magazines – The New Yorker, O, Money, Real Simple, The New York Times Magazine, and Kiplinger Personal Finance.

What I’m Listening To

Podcasts, of course! However, I’m completely caught up on binge-listening to all episodes of my favorites, so I’m in need of some new options. Recommendations??

What I’m Wearing

My school (and work) vacation week uniform consists of yoga pants and a fleece at home, and jeans and sweaters when I leave the house.

What I’m Doing This Weekend

We’re heading to Massachusetts for my nephew’s first birthday party. I don’t see my sister often enough, so it’ll be fun to catch up with her this weekend. My parents will also be there, and my daughter is beyond excited about spending time with my sister’s older son. (Sadly, she’s a lot less interested in her “baby cousin”…)

What I’m Looking Forward to Next Month

Seeing if I feel any differently “off of” sugar, gaining an hour of daylight, and maybe, just maybe, seeing the first signs of spring bulbs.

What’s up with you??

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What’s Saving My Life Right Now

I recently read a post on the Modern Mrs. Darcy blog, in which she asks her readers to focus on the positive. Rather than rattling off the things that are upsetting us, or making us unhappy/worried/sad/pissed off, she asks us to identify what’s actually giving us life right now. As someone who’s innate worldview is much more of the glass-half-empty type, it felt like a great way to reorient my thinking.

As Anne notes in the post, winter is often a cold, dark, and dreary time of year for many of us. Here in upstate New York, that’s certainly the case. For this reason, I’ve never been a fan of the winter months. Some years they’re worse than others – I still remember last year’s mild, El Nino winter quite fondly – but they all entail a lot of darkness, and a lot of time spent cooped up in the dry indoors.

For years, starting in about late August, I’ve dreaded the start of winter. “I hate the cold!”, “Why do I live here?”, and “Wake me in May!”, were common utterances of mine. I spent the fall dreading winter, and the winter complaining about it. More recently, I did some basic math, and realized that this meant I spent half of the year focusing my mental energy on hating winter. That’s a lot of time – a lot of life – to be unhappy. Over the last couple of years, I’ve become very conscious of this negative focus, and decided to do my best to change it.

I lived in California for almost two years during my twenties, and it really wasn’t for me. One of my biggest complaints was the lack of four, distinct seasons. The trees looked basically the same all year-round. Without the change of seasons, marking time felt much more difficult to me.

As I thought more about how the lack of seasonal change affected me, I also noticed how excited and uplifted I feel in the spring. Every day, I walk around my yard and look for new signs of life – which shrub has leaf buds, which bulbs are peeking out of the ground, and what animals are becoming visible again. This routine brings me great joy. I love my spring-time high. When I lived in a place without much seasonal change, I didn’t experience my spring-time high. I didn’t feel exhilarated by the changing sights, sounds, and smells of the new season.

I finally connected the dots, and realized that, without the cold, dark, and dreary winter, there would be no spring-time high. Without the low, I had no reason to experience the high. Without winter, there was no spring.

This all crystallized for me last fall. As I started to slip into my annual season of dread, I did something I’d never done before: I pushed back against it. I started to focus on the beauty of winter, rather than just the barrenness – the color of the sunsets, the sparkle of the frost on the grass, the wonderland of snow on the trees. I have noticed a huge shift in my mindset this year. I don’t grumble every time I check the forecast. I’m not counting the weeks until daylight savings time begins. I haven’t felt the desperate need to order my garden seeds in January.

When Anne asked her readers to share our list of what’s saving us now, I’m pretty sure she had an actual list in mind, rather than just one thing. But when I asked myself the question, it wasn’t hot tea, fleece clothing, or cozy blankets that I came to mind. No, what’s saving me now is this change in mindset, this acknowledgement that winter plays an important and beautiful role in the seasons of my life.

What’s saving your life right now?

Five Things I Love About Saratoga Springs

I live in the Capital Region of New York, meaning the area surrounding the state capital, Albany. This is pretty much the heart of upstate New York. (Check out this post for my thoughts on the definition of “upstate New York”.) While it isn’t technically true, I tell everyone that I live in Saratoga Springs. In reality, I live in a town that borders the city of Saratoga Springs, and is a part of the Saratoga school district. Plenty of people have heard of Saratoga Springs, but no one – even locally – has heard of our town.

Our town has no real downtown or business district, but it’s a lovely place to live. We were drawn to it for the larger, more private lots, and because one can get a good bit more house for the money here. I consider myself a resident of the town we live in, but Saratoga Springs is the community with which I identify. I fell in love with Saratoga many years ago, and when my husband and I decided to move out of the New York City area, we quickly zeroed in on it as our new home.

Five Things I Love About Saratoga Springs

I am incredibly happy living here, and there are many things I love about Saratoga Springs. Here are the top five:

  • Broadway. When my husband and I decided to leave New York City, we wanted to find a place with a decent-sized, walkable downtown. I’m not talking about a couple of nice blocks, but a generous commercial district, with lots of different kinds of business. Saratoga’s main street is called Broadway, and it has many restaurants, shops, salons and spas, boutiques, and other businesses. It’s well maintained, and has lovely, seasonal decorations throughout the year.
  • Restaurants. While I’m not fan of cooking, I’m a big fan of eating! When my husband and I left New York City – a city chock-full of amazing restaurants of all kinds – we were looking for a place that had a similar variety of great eateries, but on a smaller scale. From my fancy favorite, 15 Church Street, to the tiny, takeout-only Falafel Den, to Druthers Brewhouse and Restaurant and many others, Saratoga is full of great dining options.
  • Library. I didn’t really appreciate Saratoga’s public library until my daughter was a baby, and I was looking for places to take her. Like most libraries, they have a fantastic selection of books, DVDs, and music that patrons can borrow. But in addition to this, they have a great playroom for toddlers and young kids, amazing classes and programs for all ages, community spaces, a used bookstore, a coffee shop, and much more. It’s truly a community gem.
  • Farmers’ Market(s). Prior to moving to Saratoga, my main experience with farmers’ markets was the Union Square market in New York City. Saratoga’s doesn’t match its scale, but it’s a pretty fantastic market. In fact, stopping by the farmers’ market on a Wednesday afternoon or a Saturday morning is a pretty standard summer activity for us. And a few years ago, a second, Sunday market came to town, and it rivals the original in terms of size and quality.
  • Proximity. I’ve lived in New York, Boston, and Oakland, and I don’t miss living in a big city at all. However, I enjoy visiting big cities and taking my daughter to experience them. Saratoga is well-situated, in that one can drive to New York, Boston, and Montreal in four hours. We’ve visited all three cities multiple times, and will continue to do so throughout the years.

What do you love most about Saratoga Springs, or your own hometown?

What’s Up Wednesday: October, 2016

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It’s the last Wednesday of the month, which means it’s “What’s Up Wednesday”!

What We’re Eating This Week

This is not my best week for cooking. We were away last weekend, and I worked Monday and yesterday, leaving no time to hit the grocery store. As a result, we had mostly pre-made dinners – ravioli and a yummy Quiche –  to start the week. I’m picking up my game a little bit for the rest of the week, and I get to take Friday off from cooking, since it’s my daughter’s birthday. She requested Chipotle for her birthday dinner, and I’m happy to oblige. (Especially since I have a buy-one-get-one burrito coupon that my husband and I can use!)

What I’m Reminiscing About

My daughter’s past Halloween costumes. In order, they were: ladybug, jockey, Rapunzel, Elsa, and witch. The jockey was definitely my favorite, and while the costume itself was beautiful, at least 65% of girls were Elsa two years ago, which was kind of a drag.

What I’m Loving

Selling my used clothing at a local consignment store. I’ve been selling my daughter’s outgrown clothing at consignment sales and stores since she was a baby, but options for selling used women’s clothing in my area are very limited. A couple of weeks ago I visited a new-ish consignment store that sells women’s clothing, and I’m hooked! I’ve already made two trips there to drop-off items for sale.

What We’ve Been Up To

This month has really been a blur. I’ve been working three days a week, which leaves less time than I’m used to for keeping our house and family running, blogging, and life, in general. We were away last weekend, had guests the one before that, and will be busy again this weekend. Everything we’ve been up to has been good – working, celebrating, visiting with family – but I’d love to have some unstructured and unscheduled days to catch up.

What I’m Dreading

My annual physical. I like my doctor. She’s very knowledgeable, a great communicator, and never makes me feel rushed. But, she always discusses weight and BMI. Always. I haven’t been on the receiving end of scolding from her, but my husband has, and that woman doesn’t mess around. At my physical last year, she said that my weight was in a healthy place, but that I shouldn’t gain more than a pound or two. We don’t own a scale, but since all of my fall/winter clothes are a bit snug, I’m confident that I’ve gained more than my alloted pounds. And I know I’m going to hear about it… Oh, and did I mention that I stupidly scheduled my physical for the Monday after Thanksgiving?? #whatwasIthinking

What I’m Working On

Decluttering my daughter’s room. It’s already packed with dolls, stuffed animals, books, and who-knows-what-else, and she’s got birthday and Christmas presents coming. That kid hangs onto every scrap of paper and plastic trinket, so I have to weed things out when she’s not home. I try to do multiple, small clean-outs, rather than do one big one, and risk her noticing lots of things missing at once.

I’m also prioritizing and getting ready to go through all of the resources in the Genius Blogger’s Toolkit. Technology terrifies me, I’m clueless when it comes to design and visuals, and I often feel overwhelmed by all of the other things a “real” blogger should know about. I’m thrilled to have this set of tools to help me out.

What I’m Excited About

This election season is almost over!!!! At the same time, I’m excited to cast my vote on November 8th. My daughter loves to come with me, and it feels great to participate in the foundation of our democracy. As wacky as things have gotten in our political world this year, I know I’m very lucky to live in this country.

What I’m Watching/Reading

I don’t really watch any TV shows, but I’m a bit of a news junkie. And while I’m very excited about the end of this election season, I LOVE the excitement of Election Day. My (presidential) election night routine is to get Chinese food for dinner, pull out the sleeper-couch in our living room, and watch the coverage of the election until it’s called.

As for reading, I’m currently in-between books. Earlier this month, I stopped reading a book before I finished it, which is hard for me to do. I then read The Bucolic Plague in a few days, and my next book is going to be, The Power of Habit. However, my pile of unread magazines was turning into more of a tower, so I’ve been reading magazines for the past week or so.

What I’m Listening To

Podcasts galore! In particular, this month I’ve been binge-listening to episodes of the Brilliant Business Moms podcast.

What I’m Wearing

All warm and cozy clothes, all the time. I got my first pair of straight-leg jeans in I-don’t-know-how-long in my most recent Fix from Stitch Fix, and I love them!! I’ve been wearing boot-cut jeans for as long as I can remember, and I now feel a little more up-to-date. I also started wearing my winter coat this week, along with gloves on some of the chilly mornings we’ve been having.

What I’m Doing This Weekend

We have a pretty packed weekend coming up. As usual, my daughter has her hip-hop dance class on Friday evening. We’ll head straight from there to Chipotle, for her birthday dinner, and home for cake and presents. Saturday morning, my husband will take her to gymnastics class, then we’ll hit Saratoga’s Fall Festival, until her birthday party at 2:00 that afternoon. On Sunday, we’re going to the Fall Fest at the Spa City Farmers’ Market, and doing some cleaning and catching up on life at home.

What I’m Looking Forward to Next Month

Thanksgiving, some fun holiday events, and the start of my six-week winter break from my job.
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What’s Up Wednesday: September, 2016

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I’ve been reading What’s Up Wednesday posts for a while, so I’m very excited to do my own this month…

What We’re Eating This Week: I dusted off my slow-cooker when the temps cooled and I went back to work. This week I’m using it to make two, new-to-me recipes. We’re also having taco salads and breakfast-for-dinner, two family favorites. You can see my full meal plan for the week here.

What I’m Reminiscing About: Because my daughter’s birthday is coming up,  I can’t help but reminisce about her arrival in our lives. She hung on for a few days past her due date, my doctor induced me, and she ultimately was born via c-section, seven years ago. Sniff, sniff…

What I’m Loving: Apples, and pumpkins, and squash – oh my!

What We’ve Been Up To: Settling back into our school-year routines. In addition to my daughter being back in school, I’m back at work two days per week, and my daughter is doing several extracurricular activities (hip hop dance, gymnastics, and Brownies). I’m also blogging (obviously), and in the midst of my semi-annual purge of my daughter’s outgrown clothes.

What I’m Dreading: Darkness. Even though the days have been getting shorter since the summer solstice, I only really started noticing a difference in late August. By the end of next month, it’s going to be very noticeable, and once we set the clocks back in early November, well, I don’t even want to think about that…

What I’m Working On: This week I’m tracking how I spend my time in 30-minute increments. I’m reading I Know How She Does It, by Laura Vanderkam, and she suggests that better time management starts with tracking how you’re already spending your time. I’m also trying to complete an editorial calendar for October for this blog, and starting to understand my least favorite social media tool, Pinterest. (I consider it a black hole, where I end up spending way too much time, and come out feeling incredibly uncreative.)

What I’m Excited About: Fall decorations!! It took me a while to warm up to them this year, but I’m thrilled to have mums, corn stalks, and pumpkins out at our house now.

What I’m Watching/Reading: I don’t really watch any TV shows, but I’m a bit of a news junkie. However, I’ve scaled it back this summer and fall, since I just can’t take any more election coverage. November 8th cannot come soon enough for me! As I mentioned above, I’m currently reading I Know How She Does It, by Laura Vanderkam. (You can see everything on my fall reading list here.)

What I’m Listening To: Podcasts galore! In particular, I just started listening to Her Monday with Jean Chatzky, and I’ve been binge-listening to catch up on the episodes I missed.

What I’m Wearing: Fleece, sweaters, long-sleeve tees, jeans, and boots – my kind of clothes!

What I’m Doing This Weekend: Saturday is my 11th wedding anniversary. Unfortunately, I didn’t schedule a babysitter on-time, so we’ll be enjoying a family anniversary dinner, followed by a date night next weekend. Other than that, we don’t have any plans at this point. (And that’s just how I like it!)

What I’m Looking Forward to Next Month: Our anniversary, my daughter’s 7th birthday and two parties to celebrate it, and Halloween!

What Else Is New: Work, school, fall… isn’t that enough?!?

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My Fall Favorites

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Although we still have a couple of weeks left before the official start of fall, it’s definitely upon us. Here in upstate New York, there are many things to love about this season. These are some of my fall favorites:

Celebrations. We have a lot to celebrate in the fall. In addition to the Thanksgiving and Halloween holidays, my husband and I celebrate our wedding anniversary (11 years!) in October, and our daughter will turn seven at the end of October, too.

Gorgeous colors. This is kind of a no-brainer. In a couple of weeks, the leaves will start turning brilliant shades of red, orange, and yellow. Plus, there will be mums and pumpkins everywhere we look,which only adds to the colorful beauty.

Cider donuts. The proliferation of cider donuts is clearly one of the best things about fall, in my humble opinion. Seriously, is there anything better than picking up a grease-stained bag of warm, cinnamon sugar-crusted cider donuts on a crisp fall day??

Return of baking weather. I really enjoy baking, but I generally take a hiatus from it during the summer. It’s already pretty hot, and I can’t bear to fire up the oven on most days. But by early fall, temperatures are cool enough to start making cookies, muffins, and other baked goodies on a regular basis, again.

Decorations. I love all of the pumpkin, acorn, apple, and gourd goodies that proliferate come September! The Saturday when our family goes to the local nursery to pick out pumpkins of every color and shape, Indian corn, and mums for our front steps, is an annual highlight!

Apples. Crunchy, juicy, delicious, and healthy?? Sign me up! Of course I particularly enjoy them candied and in pies and crisps, but surely they retain some of their health benefits in these forms… right??

Smell of wood fires. We don’t use our wood-burning fireplace (mainly because it’s very energy inefficient), but I adore the smell of wood-burning fires. Starting in late September, the smell seems to be everywhere outside.

Cozy clothes. While I don’t like winter’s freezing temperatures, I’m a wool-sweater-and-long-pants kind of gal. Each year is a little different, but usually by mid-October, my wardrobe has been completely switched over, and the cozy clothes are back in rotation.

A brief respite. Our highest electric bills of the year always come over the summer, when the air conditioning is in use. In the winter, we have propane bills for heating our house. But in the fall – at least until we change the clocks and the darkness descends upon us – we get a couple of months of relatively low electric and propane bills.

A fresh start. The start of a new school year energizes me, and gets me excited about becoming organized and scheduled, again. I implement systems, fill storage bins, and test new organizational tools. What can I say: I love structure!

What are some of your favorite things about fall?

Summer 2016 Recap: Highs and Lows

“She turned to the sunlight And shook her yellow head,And whispered to her neighbor- -Winter is dead.”

This is my daughter’s last full week of summer break. Although fall doesn’t technically begin for a few more weeks, once the school bus rolls up, summer is essentially over. (Cue the sobbing.) Summer, 2016 is, sadly, in the books. Here’s how it went for me:

Highs

  • I started a blog! But you already know that. Thank you so much for reading!! And for following me on Facebook. And Instagram.
  • I came close to achieving the balance of regular, fun activities for my daughter, without driving myself crazy, that I described here. Every day wasn’t a barrel of monkeys, but I feel good about the amount of socialization, fun, and educational activity my daughter got this summer.
  • I read some great books. I didn’t read a single book that I didn’t enjoy, but some were better than others. Overall, I’d have to say The Nest was my 2016 summer-reading favorite.

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  • Summer camps were a success. My daughter has a long history of disliking summer camps of all kinds – even the ones she clearly enjoyed. (She’s an anxious homebody. I wonder where she gets these traits…) This year we tried two new camps – theater and art – and she has said she’d like to do both again next year. Whew!
  • We all survived the LONG drive to Bar Harbor, Maine, and back. We split the drive up over two days, but we drove home all at once, and those 9.5 hours in the car almost broke me. Fortunately, I’m able to read in the car, and we brought a bunch of DVDs for our daughter to watch. And we stopped at one of the many conveniently located New Hampshire Liquor Store rest areas.
  • I went to some great shows at SPAC. My husband has a contact in the SPAC box office who has gotten us free tickets for orchestra and ballet shows there the last two summers. This year we saw one New York City Ballet show, and a fantastic Philadelphia Orchestra show. Then I balanced out that culture by taking my daughter to the Kidzbop show last week.

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  • I ate lots of ice cream and kettle corn. Thanks, Dairy Haus, Humpty Dumpty, Plum Dandy, and Broadway Kettle Corn!

Lows

  • Getting my daughter to read and practice math was a near-constant struggle. I registered her for several summer reading and math programs, to keep her motivated to practice her skills over the summer. She was enthusiastic for about a week, and after that it became like pulling teeth.
  • My garden was something of a let-down. I didn’t get things started early enough, and I didn’t dedicate enough time to gardening throughout the summer. As a result, my veggie-garden yields were pretty low, and my flower gardens are full of weeds.
  • I didn’t bring my daughter to several places I intended to. I had planned to bring her to a variety of new-to-her local landmarks and attractions this summer, but we didn’t make it to any of them. What can I say; I’m a creature of habit.
  • The new behavior system didn’t create much behavior change. I created a summer positive-reinforcement plan to get my daughter to adopt some new (and overdue) habits this summer. Like the summer reading programs, she was very motivated for a couple of weeks, and eventually lost interest. Next up: a fall negative-reinforcement plan!
  • I ate way too much ice cream and kettle corn. Damn you, Dairy Haus, Humpty Dumpty, Plum Dandy, and Broadway Kettle Corn!

How was your summer? What were some of your highs and lows?

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My Friday Favorites

Friday Favorites

Raindrops on roses, whiskers on kittens… Happy Friday!! Today I’m sharing a few of my Friday favorite things:

Electricity. Sometimes, it’s the little things… On Tuesday, our power went out just before 1:30 in the afternoon. A power outage is never ideal, but because we have well water, it means basically means we lose our water supply. (A small amount of cold water remains in the tank, so I could at least wash my hands when I needed to.) Most power outages are pretty brief – an hour or two, at most. But on Tuesday, the power remained off until almost 8:00, for a total of 6.5 hours!!! In addition to being without access to anything that requires electricity – hello, A/C! – and a normal water supply, my car was in the garage. Despite watching a few YouTube videos about how to manually open an automatic garage door (shout out to my sister for suggesting this), I was unable to open the door and leave my house. This was unfortunate, because I was supposed to pick my daughter up from camp at 4:00. Thankfully, my husband was able to leave work early and get her. While I was waiting for them to come home, all of the smoke detectors in our house starting going off, presumably because the batteries had been drained. To escape the deafening noise, I went outside and sat on our front steps. While there, I looked to the side and noticed a very large bees’ next in the ground next to the steps. It was an all-around, banner afternoon! But the power finally came back on, my husband showed me how to manually open our garage door, we replaced the batteries in the smoke detectors, and I’ve been enjoying my hot showers since then with a renewed appreciation for electricity.

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This cookbook. While the power was out on Tuesday, I randomly grabbed the Real Simple: Easy, Delicious Meals cookbook from my collection, and started paging through it. I quickly realized that I was in possession of the best. cookbook. ever, and couldn’t believe I’d never realized this before! (A big thank you to my husband, who I’m pretty sure gave me this book for my birthday, about five years ago!)

I do not enjoy cooking in the least, so I try to keep the meals I make as simple as possible, while still feeding my family reasonably healthy and tasty food. This cookbook is made for people like me. The ingredient lists are short and include store-bought shortcuts, like puff pastry; the directions are simple and clear; and the food looks delicious! Some of my favorite recipes include Easy Ice Cream Cake (made with ice cream sandwiches – genius!!), Curried Rice with Shrimp, and Lasagna-Style Baked Ziti. I can’t wait to try the recipes in this book!!

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The seasons. My sister shared the frightening image above with me this week, and if it’s correct, winter is going to be back with a vengeance this year. I dread almost everything about winter – the cold, the darkness, the ice – but I still love the change of seasons. I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for a little over a year, and I really missed the changing seasons. Having lived in the Northeast virtually all of my life, seasonal change is inextricably linked with the passage of time for me. In the Bay Area, everything always looked pretty much the same – no autumn leaves, no glistening snow, no return to life in the spring. So while you’ll hear me complaining about winter from November through March, I know couldn’t live without it.

What are some of your favorites today?

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What’s Up Friday

Happy Friday!! It’s been a while since I’ve written, so here’s an update on what’s going on with me: (I borrowed and adapted this post’s format from the What’s Up Wednesday posts at Joyfully Prudent.)

What I’m Loving: Summer!!! While the back-to-school sales are proliferating, and mums and pumpkin spice coffee are starting to pop up at local stores, I’m still in complete summer-vacation-mode. Winters are long and cold here, so I look forward to the warmth, color, light, and life of summer for far, too long to wish away a nanosecond of summer.

What I’ve Been Up To: In addition to prepping and packing for our upcoming vacation – and tidying the house since my in-laws will be cat-sitting while we’re gone – I’ve been shuttling my daughter to and from theater camp this week. I also met a friend for lunch, took my car in for service, and ran some other errands.

Whats We’re Eating: We’re headed to Maine for vacation on Sunday, so I’m trying to use up as much of the stuff in our fridge, as possible. So far this week, we’ve had pasta with grilled squash from my garden, BLTs, stuffed peppers with couscous, and pork chops with green beans, for dinners. Tonight I’m planning to make chicken satay for the first time, with jasmine rice and broccoli. That should clear out all of the veggies and proteins in the fridge, so I think take-out is likely on Saturday…

What I’m Reminiscing About: I’m not sure why, but this week I’ve been thinking a lot about my sweet cat, Tony, who died in January. He was a complete mush, and truly a special guy. I adopted him and his sister, Sophie, when I moved to California in 2000. Sophie is 16, and still hanging in there with me, but I miss my buddy, Tony.

What I’m Dreading: The end of summer. Also, I’m a little concerned about how the seven-hour drive to Maine is going to go…

What I’m Excited About: Eating lots of amazing seafood in Maine. I cook seafood on a somewhat-regular basis, but usually stick with swordfish, salmon, and shrimp. In Maine, I plan to stuff my face with fried clams, lobster rolls, scallops, and other forms of seafood. I. Can’t. Wait.

What I’m Reading: I just finished reading, Before We Visit the Goddess, which I really enjoyed. I’ve been really happy with all of the books I’ve read so far from my summer reading list. In addition to a stack of recent issues of The New Yorker, I’m bringing, The New Countess, on vacation with me.

What I’m Listening To: I’m a podcast junkie. I listen to several NPR podcasts (Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me, Codeswitch, etc.), Sorta Awesome (which has been on hiatus and I really miss), The New Yorker: Politics and More, and a couple of personal finance podcasts, including Listen Money Matters, and Afford Anything. When I’m alone and doing things around the house, I’m almost always listening to one of these podcasts.

What I’m Doing This Weekend: Finishing packing on Saturday, going to bed early, and getting up at the crack of dawn on Sunday to leave for Maine.

What I’m Planning for Next Month: September is always busy for our family. I return to my part-time job in the career center at Union College, and my daughter returns to school. Extracurricular activities start up again, so we have a new routine to learn. Because I love fresh starts and routines, I actually look forward to September every year – with the exception of the whole summer-ending thing…

What about you? Have you gone on vacation this summer? Are you ready for fall, or still hanging onto every second of summer?

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