My Most Memorable Birthday

(The title of this post is a bit of a misnomer, since my husband and I got engaged on my birthday a number of years ago…)

Earlier this month, I turned 43. The older I’ve gotten, the less of a “thing” my birthday is to me. I’m incredibly grateful for my health and safety over the past 40+ years, and I know that in many ways, I’m a very lucky person. But I no longer get giddy about my birthday, looking forward to celebrating and opening presents. (Although, if you’re reading this husband, I do still love getting presents!) Actually, the thing I probably look forward to the most these days is not having to cook dinner on my birthday. In many ways, my birthday is just another day to me.

Birthday Gift #1

This year, however, my birthday ended up being very memorable – and not in any particularly great ways. For starters, our part of the world was stuck in a sharp and stubborn cold snap. For a couple of weeks straight, the daily highs struggled to make it into the teens, and overnight lows were well below zero. This kind of cold snap is not unheard of for upstate New York, but this one lasted for an unusually long time. And for someone who’s pretty cold-averse, this was not a great birthday gift.

Birthday Gift #2

We heat our house with propane, and we’re on our propane company’s auto-delivery list. This means that they estimate our usage, and deliver when they believe we’re getting low. Over the years we’ve been using them, I’ve been impressed by their accuracy at estimating our current propane level, and I’ve never been concerned about them letting us run out.

Unfortunately, they were caught way off-guard by this recent cold spell, and did not have the propane supply nor the manpower to deliver to all of their customers. Many people ran out completely, and their stories were all over the local news and Facebook.

We watched our tank level drop below 20%, then 15%, then 10%, and slowly into the single digits. We set our thermostat at lower and lower temperatures to preserve our remaining supply, for fear of running out completely and having our pipes freeze. On my birthday, the thermostat was set at 59 degrees.

Birthday Gift #3

In keeping with my birthday being just another day, I was scheduled to have my blood drawn for my annual lipid profile early that morning, and then to take my car in for an oil change. I had to fast for the blood work, so I just had a cup of black tea for breakfast that morning.

Just before the school bus arrived to pick my daughter up, we got into my car to pull up to the end of our driveway and wait. As soon as I turned the key in my car, the “check engine” light came on – and stayed on. “No problem. I’ll have the mechanic look at it when I get there,” I thought. However, as soon as I pulled out of our driveway, I could tell that something was wrong with my car. It didn’t accelerate with my usual amount of pressure on the gas pedal, and it seemed stuck in gear. Every time I stopped for a light or a stop sign, I had the same problem with it accelerating painfully slowly for the first 20 seconds or so. As a result, I dropped my plan to get my blood drawn, since this would’ve required me to park the car for at least a few minutes, and I was concerned about getting it going again to get to the mechanic.

I debated whether I should go the faster route to the mechanic – the highway – or take the local roads. Since the latter would’ve entailed a lot more stopping and starting up again, I opted for the highway. I stayed in the right lane the entire way, and watched every other car on the highway that morning blow past me as I maintained a steady 60 miles per hour speed. Did I mention that it was also snowing during this drive??

I made it safely to the mechanic, where I spent a couple of hours waiting, and periodically calling the propane company to check on the status of our delivery request. (I got a busy signal every time.) The mechanic finally told me that they’d need to keep my car overnight to do “more detailed diagnostic”. Thankfully, I had two granola bars stashed in my purse, which I devoured while I was waiting for them.

At least this guy hung out with me at the mechanic

The mechanic is about a half hour from our house, and they do not have loaner cars for customers. Much to my relief,  my husband was able to leave work early to pick me up. While he was driving, I called he propane company again, and magically got through to a human being after only about two minutes on hold. She told me that we were scheduled to receive a delivery the next day, which made me feel a lot better – but also concerned me since our tank was running on fumes at this point. So my husband and I stopped at a hardware store and bought a kerosene heater and a can to fill with kerosene. My husband set it up when we got home, along with our, three space heaters, to try to keep the temperature at a habitable level. By the time we went to bed that night – all three of us in our queen bed to keep warm – I was a nervous wreck. I was cold, snapping at our daughter, and imagining the cost of replacing our burst pipes and draining our flooded basement.

Birthday Gift#4

In the end, I received a belated birthday gift when the propane truck rolled into our driveway around 9:30 the next morning. I immediately teared up at the sight of it, and watched the delivery guy fill the tank, from inside. When he left, I raised the thermostat temperature, and shut off the smelly, kerosene heater. At that moment, I realized that, while I like to romanticize living “off the grid” in the woods somewhere, I’m definitely not cut out for that lifestyle.

Oh, and I got one more belated birthday present when the mechanic called that afternoon to say that a mouse had chewed through a sensor wire, which caused the difficulties with my car and the presence of the check engine light. For the bargain price of $260, I got an oil change and a new wire installed. Happy birthday to me!

(PS: I also received a number of lovely, real gifts from my family this year. They were a lot better than the “gifts” discussed here!)

How do you like to celebrate your birthday – if at all??

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How We Chose Upstate New York

This spring marked nine years since my husband and I relocated to upstate New York. At the time that we moved, we were childless, but looking to find a place to settle down. This is how we chose to settle here in upstate New York.

Where We Came From

Both my husband and I grew up in places that were not rural, but not quite suburban, either. He grew up in northwestern New Jersey, and I grew up in southern upstate New York. (Read how I define “upstate New York” here.) We each grew up in houses on more than an acre, and that backed up to woods. This is what felt normal to us, and played a large role in what we were looking for in a home.

At the time that we moved, we were living in Jersey City, New Jersey, which is just across the Hudson River from lower Manhattan. We moved there after living for several years in the Battery Park City neighborhood of Manhattan. We had both gone to graduate school in New York, and worked there for several years afterwards.

After three years in Battery Park City, we moved to Jersey City to save on rent, without increasing our commutes by much. It was a good move, but about fifteen months later, we were ready to buy a house. If you know anything about the cost of real estate in the New York City suburbs, you know that it’s pretty astronomical. Not only that, but our commutes would’ve increased – potentially by a lot of time – and become more expensive. (This is a great article about some of the extreme commutes people have taken on to minimize their cost-of-living, while still working in New York City.)

Rather than spend hours each day on a train, we decided to relocate outside the New York metro-area entirely. We knew we’d need to be near a city for my husband to have job opportunities, and we knew we wanted to be someplace that wasn’t too built-up, and also had some sophistication. We wanted a walkable downtown, with non-chain restaurants and shops. And of course we wanted our housing dollars to go farther.

Smallbany It Is!

We ultimately decided on Albany – or “Smallbany”, as some of our downstate friends called it – as the city around which we would center our search. When thinking about where to live, though, I was reminded of a brief stop in Saratoga Springs, many years before, on the way home from a family vacation in Maine. I was in high school at the time, but even then I loved Saratoga – the beautiful, historic homes, the walkable downtown and main street, and the small-town feeling that permeated it.

Depending on where you are in Albany, the drive can take 35-45 minutes from Saratoga, as long as you’re not driving in rush hour traffic. There’s a set of bridges that span the Mohawk River, connecting Saratoga County to Albany County, officially called the Thaddeus Kosciusko Bridge, but referred to by locals as “the Twin Bridges”. Many people warned my husband about the rush hour traffic at the Twin Bridges when we first moved to the area. This always made us chuckle and think, “You don’t know rush hour traffic until you’ve been stuck trying to enter the Holland Tunnel!”

We also researched housing prices, and were just amazed at how much more house we could get for our dollar in the Capital Region, (as the Albany area is called), even in Saratoga Springs, one of the most expensive markets in the Capital Region. And when we researched apartments to live in immediately after we moved, I became giddy at how low the rents were. I actually said, “That’s it?!?”, to a leasing agent at one complex. (My husband, who was hoping to negotiate the rent down even further, was not amused.)

Home Sweet Home

Ultimately, we opted to buy a house in the next town over from Saratoga Springs. We could get even more house for our money just outside Saratoga’s border, and most houses in Saratoga come with much less land than we were looking for. But we can be in downtown Saratoga in ten minutes, so it feels like we have the best of both worlds.

I’m a huge fan of Saratoga Springs and our town, and very happy that we’ve chosen to live and raise our daughter here.

Do you live where you grew up? If not, how did you choose where you live?

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


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.
create a healthy home shop

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What’s Up Wednesday: September, 2016


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


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:


  • 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.


  • 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.


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


  • 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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