Monday, July 18, 2016

My Kitchen Essentials

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Sometimes I pretend like we are downsizing and have to live in a tiny house. It keeps me from buying extra gadgets and doo-dads we don't need and it keeps me more organized (something I ALWAYS need).

When it comes to kitchen gear, I am blessed to have a wide variety of just about everything we could need but truthfully, only a small portion of it gets used regularly. Here are some of my "can't live without and would keep them if we moved into a tiny house" items. (NOTE: all Amazon links are aff links)

Pineapple Slicer
This is a gadget I just bought two weeks ago. Friends had been telling me for years that it was something worth having and I just couldn't stand behind buying something that only had one job. Well, I finally spent $4 at ALDI and bought it. It's totally life-changing. For all the times I wasted times and wasted fruit on pineapple, I am sorry. My friends were right. This thing is WORTH it. I cannot link to Aldi's version but above is a link to one similar on Amazon. 

8" Chef's Knife

We watch America's Test Kitchen pretty religiously and they always have the best reviews on products. If I could only own one knife, it would be this Victorinox chef's knife. It's large enough to cut up a watermelon without a wrestling match, durable and easy to maneuver for minced garlic or chopping peanuts. Plus, great to handle for all of my regular cutting, chopping, slicing and dicing. 

Stackable Melamine Mixing Bowls

In my imaginary tiny house, obviously I would need to maximize all space for storage. Stackable mixing bowls are a must in any kitchen. My personal favorites are from Williams Sonoma and have a rubber bottom which helps them to grip the counters when I'm stirring or using an electric mixer. In said imaginary house I would probably get the kind of bowls that nest with all measuring cups and spoons, but the link above is my personal fave that I own. My original set came with four bowls. I have dropped one of them and shattered it, but the remaining three have been with me for five years now and are still going strong.

10" Skillet

This is something I just got at Costco a few weeks ago. I'd been in the market for new frying pans for a little while and though I had planned on getting these per ATK's review, the price of these GreenPans at Costco was too good to pass up. I am a huge Le Creuset fan, so I knew I would love cooking on ceramic. These pans do not disappoint (so far). They're truly non-stick, I can cook an egg without any fat added to the pan and they come clean very easily. If I could only take one with me, the 10" is the keeper for sure. They're on sale through the end of the month at Costco so if you are also in the market for some new pans, snatch them up! $32!!!!

Dutch Oven

As I mentioned above, I'm a big Le Creuset fan. Their products are as beautiful as they are hard working. I snagged a 5.5 qt dutch oven at the outlet mall for $75 six years ago for Hubs as a birthday gift and it's been the best gift I've ever given him...for myself :) It's the perfect size for a batch of soup or chowder and cooks so consistently every time. I just LOVE this pot. 

VitaMix Blender
I never would have guessed I could love a blender so much...but I really do. It seems excessive to spend so much on something I really only use to make smoothies. I know it can do so many other things, but I truly love it for how it blends leafy greens. It's really important to me to have green smoothies and this is the ONLY blender (I've tried MANY) that truly liquifies the greens while consistently blending all of the other ingredients I add (chia seeds, frozen fruits, ice, etc). In my opinion there are no other blenders on the market. Only VitaMix. 

Toaster Oven

Obviously space is an issue in my pretend tiny house, but in truth, I use this oven more than my standard sized double oven. It perfectly toasts every muffin and piece of bread, it makes every slice of pizza perfectly crispy, it's never ruined a pan of brownies and it is large enough to roast a small chicken. Actually, I've made perfect chicken in this toaster oven *every. single. time* I have tried. Can't say that for my big ovens! Not to mention, it keeps my house from getting too hot in the summer when I need to roast or bake something. This thing is ABSOLUTELY worth it. 

Tervis Cups
If you know me IRL, you know I don't go anywhere without my Tervis. A 24oz tumbler with a lid and a hard plastic straw might as well be my calling card. They are durable as heck, keep beverages hot or cold for impressive lengths of time and they are guaranteed for life. A younger me thought drinking out of "plastic cups" was tacky, but real-life, had two kids and been around the block me knows...plastic cups are excellent. Having glassware is nice for parties but we use Tervis for all day-to-day and outdoor entertaining. Plus they come in tons of cute designs so you can play with them and have fun. My boys even use the small tumblers with lids and straws as sippy cups. 

Super Pot
There is no link here because they haven't been made in decades, but the Oster Super Pot is my slow cooker and it's magnificent. Now the non-stick coating is chipping and it's wearing out around every edge so I know its days are extremely numbered, but it's given us a damn good run. This pot gets hot enough to brown meat so all soups, stews, braised dishes and chowders can be done completely in one pot. Plus, it's ENORMOUS. There's a reason they named it the Super Pot. Why it's no longer manufactured, I don't know. I plan to get this "multi cooker" by Cuisinart as the Super Pots replacement unless I can find something similar by Breville that gets great reviews. I saw this Cuisinart on demo at Crate and Barrel a few years ago and it did the job well but I love Breville products since having their toaster oven.


Pressure Cooker


We owned this for probably a year or more before I took it out of the box. In honesty, it intimidated me. That's all. However now I can't imagine my kitchen without this - the whole set. I use the smaller pot with pressure lid to braise meats and make stews in record time. Last week for the first time I used it to make brown rice - which usually takes an hour - in 25 minutes. HELLO!!! Amazing. The 8qt pot is my stock pot. I make all of our stock and I wouldn't have the patience to do it with anything but a pressure cooker. If you're looking for a great wedding gift for a kitchen enthusiast, this 5 piece set is the perfect thing. 

In retrospect, these things absolutely would not all fit in a tiny house. Good thing we are staying put here!!

What are your kitchen essentials? 

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Best Time of My Life

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I have a "thing" with TV series that take place in high school and college. I didn't particularly love that time of my life, mainly because I thought academia was a bore and did all I needed to do to get my A's and B's and get out of there. In the least possible creepy way, by then I just wanted to be in love, get married and become a mom.

I get sucked into these shows that take place in "real" colleges (currently – Gilmore Girls). Since I went to a commuter college, all of these different college experiences seem really enchanting to me. I watch them and think, "Man, if I went to that type of school, it would have been the best time of my life." or "If I was in Glee Club, it would have been the best time of my life". I tend to get a little sad thinking I missed out on something when really, I was just interested in different things at those times of my life.

This morning I started thinking, what was the best time of my life? I let my mind wander a little and WHAM. No-brainer. Between when I was 9-16 years old was the best time of my life.

Every time I hear 90's music (especially Norah Jones and Sarah McLaughlin) I am instantly taken back to the most incredible and defining years of my life. I didn't need to wait for college to have life-changing experiences and meet the friends I would carry with me the rest of my life. I rode horses in a barn full of like-minded, completely insane girls supervised by a bunch of ladies who were not our mothers. Or worse (better?), supervised by a seventeen year old boy for a short time.


We took riding seriously and the care for our horses even more so, but the times we weren't in the saddle we spent together, being idiots. As much as fraternity brothers use alcohol to bond, we had passion for horses and anything that involved them. Friendly competition broke out frequently but generally speaking we spent hours upon hours obsessing over the same thing, with few responsibilities beyond learning how to stay safe and take care of ourselves. So many microwavable meals were consumed. So many. We were essentially college students for 3 or 4 hours a day at age 12.

I'm not sad when I look back and think the "best" time of my life was almost twenty years ago. I'm partially relieved that it's already happened and extremely thankful that I have so many photos and songs to bring me right back to that incredible time in my life.

Mostly, I'm excited. My boys haven't hit their stride yet. They still have their whole lives to build and the "best" for them hasn't happened yet. At this point, every adventure we take is the "best" time for them. Every single day is better than the day they had before.

I can't wait to experience their "best" as a bystander. Watching the world through their eyes just took a new meaning for me. Every day is the collective best day of our lives. I love it.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Permission to Fail

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I'm reading a new book right now. It's called "The Rhythm of Life" by Matthew Kelley. In it he talks about the things that make us happy and what keeps us from general happiness. The book is fascinating and while I'm not through it yet, I still recommend it to anyone who wants to better their life.

I've started to do these things that make me happy instead of finding ways to busy myself and make excuses not to do them. You know you do that too, right? Say you're too busy to read when you know you love reading. Or exercising. Or eating well. Or doing anything spiritual. You might not want to say it, but you totally do it. I know, because I'm the queen of denial. I swore I was happy and I always did things that made me happy. Until I realized I always wished I could (fill in the blank) or could spend more time (fill in the blank). See? You know you do it too.

Missing the little luxuries and the sense of self-worth I got from earning has brought me back to Jamberry. Happiness is contagious, you know. Once you find one area of your life to improve and bring the happy into, it just oozes everywhere else until you're all full of happy.

Watching a Jam-training video today by Valorie Burton, I was reminded of this little saying. "Permission to Fail". By giving myself permission to fail, it takes the fear out of the equation. It has made me start asking myself so many questions and the answer swipes any fear right out from under me.

Why do I procrastinate cleaning the house? I love having a clean house...so why procrastinate? Because it's a lot of work and if I don't do it all today then I will feel like I have failed. Except that's totally false. If all I clean today is the bathrooms....WE HAVE CLEAN BATHROOMS! Permission to fail granted. And huzzah! Tonight the just floors got cleaned after bedtime. Which means, we have clean floors!!!! HAPPY!

Why don't I work harder (okay, before today...why didn't I work at all) on rebuilding my business? Because I feel like I've failed and it seems like a long way to go to get where I was again...and there is of course the chance that I may fail again. But if I try and make one sale, that's a few more dollars towards my goal of having new tile put down in my laundry room! PLUS I did one thing to help another woman feel beautiful. HAPPY!

Why do I take all morning to decide if I am going to take the boys on an outing or not? Because it may screw up the 1 year olds nap or the 3 year old may have a tantrum while we are out, which is embarrassing. Or we may have an amazing time and one tantrum or one day of missed nap won't ruin the memories we build! HAPPY!

Why have I waited 28 years to join a Bible study? It's something I've always wanted to be a part of. Because I always thought I wouldn't be able to keep up and therefore...fail. Now I am in a Bible study and I can say: I'm not keeping up! But one night out per week without my kids and surrounded by adults who are thankful for all God has given them, just like I am, PLUS free cookies is absolutely worth it. HAPPY!!!!!!!!!

I try my best to keep up in the study but so far it's been pretty tough. However, I am not keeping up because I am choosing other things that make me happy, in moderation. Some days I just play with my kids. All day long! I do nothing but play. Then the next day I mix in some cleaning, some reading, some chatter with people my age. I don't have to be perfect at every single thing every single day to be happy.

I am a terrible blogger because I struggle with perfection. If I can't write a great post, I don't want to write any. There was a chance this post was going to suck (maybe it does!) but by giving myself the permission to fail at it, at least it got done.

What can you give yourself permission to fail at?

Monday, March 21, 2016

One Hour

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In Jamberry world, we call it the "Power Hour". The one hour you give yourself to focus 100% and rock your business.

Well, I've given myself a Facebook "Power Hour" the last two nights. Last night it just happened to be an hour before I decided enough is enough. Tonight I think I got six stories into my news feed scroll and lost interest. Now, thank my girl Shonda for the new-found bravery...but I'm about to say something that will probably piss off a lot of people. Or, offend them. I get that.

Here is what I have learned in my extremely short time "off" Facebook (I'm not "off" I just don't have it on my phone and won't use the browser to see it - hello, that's cheating): I don't give a shit about Facebook.

Of those six stories, one was a birth announcement I've been hoping to see for a week. Every time I saw this friend post about still being pregnant I thought, "Come on, baby! Show your face!". That was the highlight of my Facebook time. The rest? I don't even know what. I think I had 26 notifications. One was a recipe Hubs shared with me. The rest, I don't even know.

While I appreciate being connected with old friends and I love a good dose of nostalgia, social media started to take over my life. No, not started. Social media legit took over my life.

It started when it was my job. My career. It was cool and cutting edge and trendy. Then as it went on it got harder and less fun and more of just a pain in the ass. Add kids into the mix. OOH! social media is fun again. Share all of the things. Don't keep baby books. Facebook is forever. Why journal anything when Facebook Memories exist!?

Don't get me wrong, I love seeing the FB memories. Hubs and I look through them every day and reminisce about the stories they tell. But it's the past. It's over. And it's digital, which means tomorrow Facebook could explode and there won't be anymore memories. My life had become Facebook only. If it wasn't on FB, I forgot it ever happened.

I haven't printed a single photo of Mo since he was born. I look at him on Facebook. Why put him on the walls? Maybe because he is our child?! Yeah.

How many aspects of my life have gone to the wayside because I've depended on this social network to remember my life for me?

Yesterday I was thinking about when LW starts dating. I'm not talking about high school prom date type stuff, I mean he's home from college and brings the girl of his dreams with him. In my mind, he and she sat on the couch and flipped through a scrapbook. I stopped myself and realized...there is no such book. Well, there is, but it's mostly empty. I think I stopped after his first few months on earth.

How will she know that he pronounced things with a B instead of an M when he was two? "Jambies" "Thobbus the Train" How will she know that he nicknamed his little brother "Dinosaur Simon"? How will she know that he pronounced his name "Biddy"?

My friends, it's time I wrote things down. It's time I printed photographs. It's time I documented our lives in ways that will last. Facebook is a big business. Huge. But it's not a baby book. And I'm embarrassed to admit that I've relied on it to be ours.

I am now 41 minutes into my one hour on the computer. Like a teenager, I needed a curfew. But I don't need these last nineteen minutes. I don't want to scroll through the clutter and read about things that simply don't matter to us.

These few days have already changed me. I'm calmer. Happier. More focused. I've gone on walks with friends. I've been texting my close girlfriends and talking. Not just complaining.

I like where this is going. I'm sure I'll come back to social media in a more active role but right now leaving all of that mental clutter behind just feels too good. If you need me, stop by my house. Or call me. I have been popping in and out of Instagram periodically, which feels like a good balance.

I'll leave you with this, my favorite line from Year of Yes (which I finished tonight and it's magnificent): "I don't have to do anything about my problems if I am busy complaining and feeing sorry for myself" 

Preach, Shonda. Preach. 

It's high time I stopped complaining and started doing.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Do Over // YES

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Hi. Hey. It's me. Again.

I'm probably the world's worst blogger. I mean, a lot of people tell me they "love" my blog and look forward to posts and in my mind I like to think I inspire a person here or there but really...I suck at blogging. Because I do this thing where I disappear for months and months. I can't keep up to save my life.

Well, I'm back. Hi people!! Today. I'm back for today.

Last week I participated as a guest in a podcast which will be released in a few weeks. Among other things, I mentioned this year I am making time for myself by reading. I love reading and I've missed it - though reading is like blogging. It's one of those things you love while you do it then months go by and you suddenly feel its absence from your life like a gaping, black hole.

So in this podcast I mentioned that I hope reading will inspire me to write again. I said I miss writing...

...? I do..? Until that moment when it came out of my mouth in its recorded for all of eternity glory, I had no idea I missed writing. Hey, subconscious. Thanks for popping up in the middle of something that's recorded for all to hear. Nice of you to join us.

Yesterday, as an effort to make more time for myself, I deleted the Facebook and Messenger app from my phone. I started to feel the effects almost immediately.

Do you know what happens when I don't check my news feed every 37 seconds? Nothing. Well, not nothing. I pay attention to my kids. I read. I clean the damn house. I fold laundry that's been in a pile for four days (okay so that's still on my list but I really am going to do it today). Nothing BAD happens if I don't check FB every waking moment.

I had become an addict. Now, I like to admit some of my addictions. Sugar is one I'm pretty proud of. I can pound a box of Girl Scout Caramel Delights with a side of Peanut Butter Patties before the first commercial break of Grey's Anatomy on a Thursday night. But my phone addiction? That was one I only half-admitted. It was like a joke to me. "Yeah, I'm addicted to my phone....ha...I can stop tho...anytime I want....." *scroll...scroll...scroll...like...comment....haha...sad face....poop emoji.....like* Don't get me wrong, seeing your kids is adorable but it was keeping me from seeing my kids. 

I would set my phone on the rocking chair to change a diaper before I nursed and WHILE I changed said diaper, I would glance over my shoulder at the phone. I felt anxiety build in my chest every moment I wasn't staring at my phone. Scrolling to oblivion.

What did I learn in all of that scrolling? What did it bring me? Turns out, anxiety. It brought me anxiety and helped me learn every possible thing I do for my children is wrong or stupid or will scar them for life so I might as well give them cyanide and dynamite to play with.

But seriously, EVERYTHING was contradictory. EVERYTHING gave me heart palpitations. Regardless of which school of thought I tried to follow consistently, I questioned myself, my abilities and my strengths. Not to mention, I questioned my children. And it left me with no time to actually DO anything. All I did was read about all of the things. I did not DO any of the things. I spent time worrying about the things. Worrying sucks. Anxiety is the worst. Addictions to phones are stupid.

Currently I am reading Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes. Now, while Shonda and I have some distinct differences in our political beliefs, I can set that aside and admit that we are shockingly similar. Her attitude, her sense of humor, her vision of her self and her life are almost *too* similar to my own. She's really damn relatable (and writes a mean TV show...or three). As I read this book I realize all the things she does to improve her life, I could do too and improve mine. And I'm not talking like, "I should say yes more often to dinner parties with the POTUS" but more of a positive, self-discovery attitude. "Yes, I would be happier if I spent more time focusing 100% on my kids. I would be happier saying yes to more things that make me happy and doing more instead of dreaming more."

So, what am I doing here? Blogging? Well, turns out my kids don't want me staring at them every waking moment. They like to spend time exploring and adventuring which gives me time to do a little self help via word vomit.

I know, I just added another thing for you to scroll through and possibly cause you question yourself and your choices. Sorry about that. Instead of stressing out about it, think about what would make you happy right now. Then go freaking do it.

Ciao!

Monday, December 14, 2015

Reindeer Food

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I have been trying to keep crafts on the schedule for the last six weeks but in reality we don't craft a whole lot. It's stressful for me. LW isn't very interested in doing a lot of the things I have picked out for us or the weather isn't what it's supposed to be for that day to complete the craft...you get the picture. 

However, today we finally did one. And it was only kind of a wreck because a certain little brother wanted more attention than I could give him in the moment. No biggy, he's over it. 

We made reindeer food! Once it was done we put it in an empty jelly jar and decorated that to look like Santa. 


We didn't measure anything. I simply let LW scoop or shake all he wanted of each ingredient I offered: oats, ground flax, colored sugar sprinkles and regular sprinkles. 

I wanted to make something that was safe for all animals, just in case the reindeer aren't hungry on Christmas Eve ;-). 

LW really loved shaking the sprinkles out of the container. He had to work at it which seems to be something he enjoys. Plus, it's a motion and sound he's very familiar with from music class. 

As a 2.5 year old this is his first Christmas he is aware of Santa/reindeer/etc. I talked up the project for a few minutes before taking out all of the materials because originally he seemed disinterested. He needed to k LW he was really going to help those hungry reindeer on Christnas Eve, which would help Santa bring more presents. Once he had the full picture of the story, he was more convinced it would be fun. Plus, I added it was going to be "just like making cookies" - a favorite pastime around here. 

What holiday traditions do you do with your toddlers? 

Sunday, November 22, 2015

The kind of mom I want to be

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Once you are a mom, you're always thinking (or is it just me?) about what "kind" of mom you want to be.

For me, I have a lot of great mom role models.

I remember seeing photos on Facebook of one mom who always made pumpkin pancakes for her kids in the fall. I saw them and thought, "That's the kind of mom I want to be."

I remember realizing that some moms bring their kids on zoo outings when the weather is nice, just because. "That's the kind of mom I want to be."

Or the mom who takes her boys on road trip adventures full of educational opportunities and unforgettable experiences. "That's the kind of mom I want to be."

What about the mom who always looks effortlessly put together and even when she isn't, doesn't seem bothered by it? "That's the kind of mom I want to be."

The mom who calmly reacts in public to her toddler's outburst by giving him a hug. "That's the kind of mom I want to be."

The mom who goes hiking with her family, nursing and wearing the baby while patiently allowing the toddler to explore and experience nature. "That's the kind of mom I want to be."

The mom who bounces right back into comfortably taking time for herself, leaving her baby with someone she loves and trusts while enjoying an evening out of the house. "That's the kind of mom I want to be."

The mom who still goes on dates with her husband, because she knows how important it is to keep the flame alive in her marriage. While they are out, she isn't anxiously thinking about how the kids are or if they are in bed for the sitter. "That's the kind of mom I want to be."

The mom who goes to baby and me yoga. "That's the kind of mom I want to be."

The mom who uses "quiet time" as an opportunity to read and be read to by her child. "That's the kind of mom I want to be."

The mom who always lends an understanding ear, doesn't pass judgement and never has a snarky remark. "That's the kind of mom I want to be."

I think there are a lot of kinds of moms. And I think every one I know is pretty damn great.

This week is Thanksgiving; a time to be thankful for all the things in our lives. In the spirit of the holiday, I'd like each of you to think about the kind of mom you want to be. Then stop, and realize that you probably already are that kind of mom. Be thankful that you are a mom. And you're freaking awesome at it. Thanks for being here. And thanks for being so cool being you.