This Is My Wish

I heard a Rascal Flatts’ song the other day, one that I’ve heard many times before.  But this time, I realized how perfectly it summed up our hopes for a daughter who is suddenly “all growed up”.  Like it or not, country music has a way of doing that.  Corny, I know.

Daughter turns 18 in a couple of weeks and Mr. Man and I have been discussing our dreams for her.  It’s taken me way too long to realize that the specifics don’t matter: where she goes to college, what profession she aspires to, what marriage and family goals she sees in her future. Those are things she needs to work out on her own and will.

OUR dreams for her are wrapped up in her ability to find satisfaction in the life that she was given, taking every opportunity to love and live fully in the service of others. God makes that so abundantly clear.  When we live in opposition to this idea, striving only to satisfy ourselves, we are left empty.  Been there, done that.

Did we do our part to deliver that message throughout her life?  I sure hope so.

Now let me be clear, we (Mr. Man and I) do not have this parenting thing all figured out. Our methods often result in tears, gnashing of teeth, eye rolling and door slamming. Did I mention eye rolling?

But just the other day daughter and I had this conversation.

Daughter: I think I am going to take a break from (a specific) social media.  It just doesn’t add value to my life.

Me Outwardly: Um OK, if you really think you should. Me Inwardly:  OMG! Hallelujah!

A couple days later Mr. Man and I had this one.

Mr. Man:  Daughter just hit a pothole driving home from school and blew out two tires.

Me:  OMG!  Oh no! Where is she?  Are you with her? Is she OK?

Mr. Man:  She’s fine. She pulled into a parking lot and proceeded to change one tire before realizing the second one was flat.  She called AAA and is waiting for the tow truck. She’s got this.

Me:  Um, OK.

Then, son, who is almost 10, made this beautiful plate of cookies for me while I was away for a day.  He found the recipe and baked them all by himself.  I’ve tried for years to bake cookies that look like these!

So let’s assess the situation:  Our kids can make cookies, change a tire and know the perils of social media.   I’d say our work here is done.

Ah, if it were only that easy.

I dare not say that we’ve done the best we could, because sometimes we didn’t. But, we are here at this crossroads, and she is going to move to the next stage of her life, no matter how well we did or did not equip her.

Our wish is still the same.  So in case you’re not a country fan:

Pax,

Kristin

Book Love

So, what books are you all loving this Valentine’s Day?

My mom celebrates her 86 birthday today and since she inspired my love of reading, let’s celebrate her with some great books.

I just hosted a book fair in my elementary library and the selection of new fiction was outstanding. The picture above highlights some of the titles. I heart reading youth fiction.   I will keep you posted.  I can say that Switch is an accompaniment to one of my favorite books SaavySee you in the Cosmos got incredible reviews, and we are reading The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street aloud as a family. So far it is delightful.  I linked all the book covers so if you want more details, just click.


 

 

Our priest is a reader and continually provides new thought-provoking books related to The Catholic
faith at very little cost.  This Lent we are reading The Case For Jesus by Brant Pitre. So, rather than giving up chocolate, we’ll be reading.  Son even got a new book of Bible stories that he’s going to read each night during this season.

 

My book club is reading An American Marriage.  The New York Times Book Review calls it haunting and beautifully written.  Loooving it!  Do you sense a theme?

 

 

 

I am rereading probably the most pivotal book on the subject of reading I’ve ever come across. Better Than Life by Daniel Pennac “Delving into his experiences as a parent, a writer and a teacher, he (author Daniel Pennac) asks, how does the love of reading begin? How is it lost? And how can it be regained?” Essential questions that must be continually addressed if we are to raise readers!

 

 

I forgot to mention last time that I love magazines.  I don’t subscribe, but I pick up a couple faithfully. Sometimes you just need the eye candy that magazines provide.  Four of my favorites linked below are Where Women Cook (gorgeous kitchen photos), Bake From Scratch, Flea Market Style and Cottage Style.  I get my People fix at the hair salon.


By the way, The Amazing Ursula Underwood was an interesting book.  I enjoyed it and jumped right into another Susannah B. Lewis Title, Ten Years Taken.  My mom loves mysteries so I will have to share it with her when I am finished.  Wait, I’m reading it free with Kindle Unlimited.  Happy Birthday anyway mom!

 

Hope your day is filled with love, laughter and books!

Pax,

Kristin

 

 

 

Are you Ready to be an Actionista?

The purpose of this blog is to connect with other (wiser than me) women, who are also attempting to live their best (not perfect, not one size fits all) life, and share the journey. I am a planner.  Perhaps you’ve noticed.  So, the concept of living intentionally is affirming for me.  I can say, “See, I told you we needed a plan!”  The plan part I’ve got.  It’s the actual purpose, I’m still working on.  Oh, I get “The” purpose (at least for me). First Corinthians has that covered. “Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

But, how do we simplify living intentionally and infuse it into our daily lives? How do we shift our focus back to the important relationships in our lives rather than the functions of the day?

For me the key is the simplify part.  That is why I’m hell-bent on decluttering every aspect of my life. When daily life and routines are simplified, then the mind can rest and the heart can be free to be more generous.  Does that make sense?  Marie Kondo could not have sold millions of books across the globe if she hadn’t struck a chord with so many.

So, we’ll talk about technology, shoes, pantries, photo storage and free time.  But let’s start with the idea of detoxing and what it means in our homes and habits.  I hope we can agree that it is one of the essential simplification processes that will help our state of body and mind.

Ten years ago, I read a book (Mr. Man finds reading to be a very dangerous habit for me ; ) about the health impacts of bioaccumulation, also referred to as “body burden”.  Fancy words to describe the layering of toxins in our bodies, too great for our natural detox system to handle.  Our bodies are amazing and they filter toxins in a variety of ways.  They are equipped to handle a reasonable level of toxins.  They are not equipped to handle the enormous amount of man-made chemicals entering our systems through the soap, shampoo, deodorant, lotion, makeup, we put on our skin…..or the chemicals we inhale while cleaning our homes or doing something crazy like sitting on the couch or laying our head on our pillow….or the chemicals we ingest when we eat processed food.  Shall I continue?  I think you get the point.

So, I read some more.  What struck me about each study I read, was that the two main issues, as a result of personal bioaccumulation were hormone disruption with relation to infertility and carcinogens linked to breast cancer.  Well let’s see, I spent the better part of my twenties and thirties being treated for infertility issues and my mother is a breast cancer survivor.  Fast forward 8 years to when I am diagnosed with breast cancer and go through significant genetic testing to learn that I do not carry a gene for breast cancer. It is my belief that environmental factors adversely impacted my health and still do. As these toxins are linked to many more issues that just these two.

Now, I am part of what I like to call the “P” generation.  I grew up with polyester, pesticides, petroleum-based products, perfume, plastics and processed foods. To summarize: The Poison generation.  Nobody set out to poison America, but just watch the movie, The Human Experiment, and you will see that once some folks realized they were, they didn’t see fit to stop. I can’t completely reverse my own body burden, but I can absolutely do better for my children. I am not a doctor, a scientist, a researcher, or a dietician.  I AM a woman, wife, mother and a reader. Here was my initial take-away.

Um, this all just makes sense.  Why overload our systems with toxins they can’t handle?

So let’s talk solutions.  I initially attacked the issue in three steps:

  • read labels and purge
  • read/confer (regarding replacement)
  • make/replace
  • repeat  

I did this in three areas:

  • cleaning/home care,
  • personal care/beauty
  • food

I do enjoy a good forward-slash, don’t I?

Lately, I’ve noticed some bad habits resuming (I act as if I have no control over my habits.  Oy vey!) and less than natural products sneaking back into my home. (Are you picturing a bottle of Lysol hiding under my porch waiting for a chance to get into my house?) .  So as I “reboot the detox”, I will share my process, tips, products and resources.  Then, I would love to hear your detox success stories or issues.

To avoid, information overload, I will break it into multiple posts. So if you would like to join me, we can do this one step at a time. Trust me, no judging here.  Any step to detoxify your home or habits is a victory for you and your family.

*To get you pumped and ready to take your personal environment back, consider reading (Click the Actionista button) about one of the amazing women highlighted by Women’s Voices for the Environment, for their work to make our world safer. Then take a look at your calendar and intentionally set some time aside in the near future to make a positive change in your life.

 

WVE is an outstanding organization whose mission is to amplify women’s voices to eliminate the toxic chemicals that harm our health and communities.

Toxic Free Future is also a great organization established to help ignite change.

*If you are ready to be your own Actionista, and you are a DIY’er, here is a list of some of the ingredients I will be using to make natural homemade products.  You probably have the most important ones in your pantry right now. I get almost all of my products locally from the grocery store or I order from Amazon.  I will make all these products on a regular basis, so I have all the ingredients.  It may seem like a lot but it is far more economical (and safer-that’s the point) than purchasing commercial products.  If you aren’t all in yet, I highly recommend at least making the spray cleaner. There are other (non homemade) options that I will share too, so don’t panic.  Lots more specifics to come!

Green Cleaning Product Shopping List:

Wonderful Whipped Body Lotion:

Cleaning:

All Purpose Spray Cleaner:  white vinegar, spray bottle, essential oils (optional-lavender or lemon)

Soft Scrub:  baking soda, liquid Castile soap, vegetable glycerin(works as a preservative)

Dishwashing Soap: Borax, soap flakes or grated Castile bar soap, essential oil of choice (optional)

Laundry Detergent: Borax or baking soda, soap flakes or grated Castile bar soap, washing soda

Dishwashing Detergent: Borax, washing soda, citric acid, kosher salt

Beauty:

Body Lotion: Pure unrefined Coconut Oil, Shea Butter, Mango Butter, Carrier Oil (almond or grape seed work great)

Many of you are probably way ahead of me, so I look forward to hearing from you along the way!

Pax,

Kristin

 

What’s for dinner? Simple steps to help you rock that question.

Our household consists of two working parents and two active kids.  Sound familiar?  Years ago Mr. Man and I made a commitment to dinner.  Well, that sounds….interesting.  We decided that no matter how busy our lives get, every evening our family will gather around the table, give thanks to God and share a home-cooked meal. Here is a little further reading (if you are interested) on why we made this commitment.

We realized pretty quick that it wasn’t just going to happen because we wanted it to.  There had to be a plan or at least some thought put into how we could make this a reality.

If you are doubting, consider: we have evening commitments, we don’t have an unlimited budget, we are tired after a day of work, and our kids are over-scheduled.

This wasn’t a linear process, but I am not going to share our epic fails. Ain’t nobody got time for that!  Trust me they occurred. I am going to share what worked/s for us.  It may be tempting to just consider one step, not the whole process.  I think you will be more satisfied though, if you set aside an hour when you are ready to go through the steps.  One hour dedicated to saving you lots of time, frustration and stress in the long run, is an hour well spent.

Step 1:  Consider the time at which you are going to try to eat dinner each day. 

This may be the hardest part.  During basketball season we eat earlier.  During baseball later.  Sometimes we just have a window of time we shoot for.  When the kids were younger it was easy. Don’t get hung up on the exact time, just make a schedule you can shoot for, and consider this daily worry tackled.

Time tip:  try to eat at the earliest possible time.  There are many health reasons for this, but it also frees up your evening, so you don’t feel like you’re making dinner, cleaning up and heading to bed.  That sounds like drudgery.

Our House: 6:00-ish on M, T, Th, F, S 4:30-ish on W and 5:00-ish on Sunday

Step 2:  Consider your weekly grocery budget.

We have a budget.  We didn’t always and life was much more stressful then.  I’ll talk more about budgeting in an upcoming post, but consider tracking what you spend on groceries for a month.  Then consider if that is working for you, or if you could be a little more economical.  Found money is fun money!  My mantra here is You control your money, so it doesn’t control you.

Budget Tip:  Use the weekly grocery flyer front page to plan your menu.  Getting a discount on your proteins is a great way to save money.

Our house: $900 a month (450$ every 2 weeks)

Step 3:  Consider how much time you have to prepare a meal (based on your planned dinner time)

Do you enjoy time spent cooking or do you just want to get to the meal at the end?  Either is just fine, but it will impact how long you want to spend on preparation.

Our House: 30-45 minutes.  We have leftovers one night a week and we do homemade pizza one night.  Oh look, we only plan for 5 nights a week.  Sometimes we even go out to eat.

Step 4:  Consider how much time you have/would like to spend on menu planning, list making and shopping.

Some of you are thinking, “I don’t want to spend any time on this.  That is why I’m reading this! Sheesh!”  But, stay with me, as this is where the magic happens!  If you consider how much time you now spend making a shopping list (or roaming aimlessly through the grocery store), traveling to and from the grocery store, as well as how much time you spend trying to figure out what’s for dinner and then in preparation, I bet it is way more than it will be, when you start using a routine.

Our House: Weekly Menu Planning 30-45 minutes on the weekend, List Making 0 minutes (what?? Girl, you lyin’!), Grocery Shopping 10 minutes-1 hour.

Step 5: Choose the resources that you have access to and that appeal to your lifestyle and budget.  There are more than you know!

Ooh, this is the fun part.  Resources include cookbooks (we collect em’), menu planning services, menu services, meal/prep delivery services, grocery shopping and delivery services.

Cookbooks-Seriously, do you have some?  Then dust ’em off and start using them.  Select meals based on the pretty pictures.  Use the index!  Pick a book and plan from that book for the week.

Menu services– Two that we tried and liked are The Six O’clock Scramble and Sweet Peas Meals. These services deliver (right to your inbox) at the least 5 to seven dinner meal recipe options weekly.

We used Scramble for years.  Membership ranges from $35 for three months to $150 for 2 years. There is also a 14 day free trial option.  I can say without hesitation that the recipes are delicious (all reviewed and kid friendly), simple-30 minutes or less, healthy (all nutrition info is given) and economical. You choose the meals for the week that appeal to you, and it provides a grocery list. Awesome sauce!

Sweet Peas Meals-This is a newer service that is much “fancier” and a little more challenging to navigate.  The cost is $15.99 to $10.99 a month (with free month options).  They provide dinners, snacks, breakfast and even cocktail recipes. They are not under 30 minutes and the nutritional information is minimal, but I found most to have a healthy focus.  They are beautiful meal options for people who enjoy spending time in the kitchen.

Menu Planning Services-My current jam! Cue glorious music here.  I love this service!  Plan To Eat is the one we use. It costs $39 a year. Here’s what they offer:  A web-based platform to plan your menu.  Simple really.  The key is that it allows you to curate (sorry for the overused word of 2016) recipes that you rely on and drop them into your menu.  We actually browse our cookbooks (usually using a different one each week), then go online to find the recipes we’ve selected and add them to our plan. Obviously once they are in there you use them again. You could plan for a whole month if you wanted to!  It then, and here’s the best part, provides a list based on  the time period you select.  It’s easy to use and has a has an app for your phone, so you don’t even have to print out anything if you don’t want to.

Meal Ingredient Delivery Services-There are several of these currently available.  They provide you with all the ingredients, perfectly portioned for tasty and healthy meals. When we were experiencing a health (injury) crisis in our family, my wonderful co-workers provided us with this service from Hello Fresh for several meals. It was a perfect gift/service and we were so grateful. We just opened the box and cooked a great meal at a time when none of us had the energy to do much else.

Online Grocery Ordering and Curbside Pick-up-The store we shopped at most frequently does not offer this service, so I am trying another. This is a planner’s dream.  Here’s why:  You already have a list so it’s quick to order.  You won’t be tempted by extraneous items (because you are not entering the store) and you just got 90 minutes back in your week.  Some charge a fee while others are free.  You can certainly order groceries and have them delivered to your home as well.

Our House:

  1. 30 minutes-Using one or two cookbooks for inspiration, we select 5 meals.
  2. 15 minutes-We either search for or enter them in Plan To Eat (or select from our established database in PTE).  We schedule the meals by placing them on the PTE calendar.  We add items for lunches and breakfasts as needed.  We select the week time-frame and “print” the list. I delete items we already have.
  3. 30 minutes-I then open up my grocery app and shop for the ingredients.  I schedule a time for pick up.  We usually do it right after church on Sunday.*
  4. 15 minutes-Pick up the groceries curbside and then…um…that’s it.  We are ready for the week.

Go ahead, ask me, “What’s for dinner?”

*If Mr. Man would prefer to shop at his favorite store which doesn’t offer this service yet, he goes Sunday afternoon and it takes about an hour including travel.  Also, my friend Amy gave me the great idea to just order paper products online monthly from a “super store”. So, we don’t add those to our weekly grocery list.  Those items are paper towels, napkins, toilet tissue, Kleenex tissues, all-natural hand soap and dishwashing detergent.

 

Journals, Calendars and Planners, Oh My!

It seems like a good time of the year to talk about how we keep track of all we have to do in our busy lives.  I am a paper/pencil gal at heart.  As a librarian, I love books, actual books.  I am fascinated with bindings, fonts and paper.  So, my love for journals is just an extension of my paper passion.  Mr. Man finds my journal collection odd.  I don’t know why he thinks collecting empty books is….wrong.

With all that being said, I am happy to use technology tools that help make life easier.  Mr. Man, my 17-year-old and I are all linked by the same Google calendar.  What a lifesaver.  The teen’s work schedule, Mr. Man’s evening meetings, little guy’s sports’ practices and my book club meetings are all in one place for all of us to see. We are all iPhone users but I like the look and layout of the Google tool.  The “Schedule” view is, dare I say, fun.

From my early days as a teacher, a plan book has always been essential, but its format has morphed. Years ago I carried a pocket calendar, a large professional plan book and had a family calendar (loved the bestselling Sandra Boynton Mom Calendar with stickers!) on my fridge.

Multiple calendars worked as well as you would imagine.  I never had the right calendar in front of me at the right time.  Also, I need more than a calendar.  I still need a life “plan book”.  I still crave those little squares and a month at a glance.  I need a place for long-range planning, list making and goal setting.  I also need something that is inspiring.

I’ve tried so many commercial planners.  I tried the Nourished Planner last year. It has a  meal planning/foodie focus.  I’ve tried the faith focused Catholic Planner, inspiring for sure. A dear friend turned me on to the Day Designer (beautiful and ideal for all my needs).  All of them worked well for their intended purpose, as long as I used them faithfully at the start of my day and reflected with them at the end.  In other words I needed to establish a habit.  In order to do that I personally needed something a little more….creative.

That’s when I discovered the Bullet Journal.  It bills itself as “The analog system for the digital age”. Ryder Carroll explains how he developed the system to cope with his own ADHD. It is a dynamic system that evolves as you determine your needs. Carroll hopes the system will “declutter your mind, cultivate your curiosity and help you to remain focused.”I definitely think he’s on to something.

You can see the basic premise and actually get started with 4 minute video here on the BuJo Website.  That’s what I did and I was sold.  If you would like to dive a little deeper check out Ryder Carroll’s Tedx Talk here (I did that too).

Next, I discovered the Bullet Journal (or BuJo) community.  Thousands of folks just like you and me (OK so much more creative than me) sharing their journaling/list-making/habit tracking/goal setting hearts out!  Google Bullet Journal Images and you will be blown away with the creative efforts of people putting their own spin on the basic premise.

You can keep it as simple or as creative as you like, but the components and the system are intentionally streamlined. I purchased a Moleskin dotted/grid journal. Over the Christmas holiday I sat down with a cup of tea, my favorite pens and pencils (I love pens and pencils too) and set up the basic components that I use. It was  quick and felt good to do.  Oh and I got these stencils for teen daughter as she uses the system as well.  Totally unnecessary but fun!

So, if you are searching for a new “system” or just curious, take a look.  It really can make a daily chore, a little more joyful.

Before I go though, I want to share a little bit about the other journals/calendars in my life. First, there is the Shutterfly calendar that my sister does for the family each year.  Here it is hanging next to my desk (with the adorable bag/laptop case that daughter got me for Christmas). She fills it with photos of the kids and the year’s adventures.  She does it for the grandmothers too, and makes each one unique to the receiver.  It is my favorite gift to open because I can’t wait to see what photos she included.  I’ve kept each and have a series of family scrapbooks, that I didn’t have to make.  What a treasure.

Another important calendar/planner I have is my Christmas planner.  I picked this up at a craft show a couple of years ago and love how it helps me keep Holiday plans straight.  It is just a composition book inside but decorated beautifully on the outside.  It has 4 categories:

  • Cards- I keep track of where I ordered my cards from and how many I ordered.
  • Gifts-In “Gifts” I make a list of each friend and family member and note what I purchased or made for them.    I budget for all parts of the holiday and this keeps me on track.
  • Recipes-In “Recipes” I like to note what special recipes I made for celebrations or baked goods I made to gift.
  • Traditions-In the traditions section I note who visited that year, which mass we attended, and what The Elf was up to.  It’s funny how you think you will remember that kind of thing at the time it’s happening, but for me, not so much.
This adorable photo of my babies was taken by my friend and photographer Kristin @ksphoto on FB . She’s journaled our family through the years through her beautiful photography.

The last are my “button journals”.  I always wanted to have a shelf full of personal journals (actually fill all those empty ones I’ve collected) but every time I started it seemed  I just couldn’t find my voice.  Then one day (after my second child was born) I read about a woman who journaled to her children.  So, I purchased a journal for each and started keeping a traditional diaries for them .  I say traditional because I write about the day, what’s going on in the world or something special I want them to remember or experience through my eyes.  Don’t be super impressed as I only do this once a month, sometimes once every couple of months.  It has accumulated into something of a snapshot journal that I look forward to sharing with my children when the time is right.  My daughter turns 18 soon and asked if she gets her “button journal” then.  I am not sure….I might have some catching up to do.

Do you journal?  How do you keep track of events?  What planner do you use?  I would love to hear about your journal journey.

Pax,

Kristin

PS-Just wanted you all to know that I am not affiliated with any of the specific products (I do use and like ’em) on the blog, but I am an affiliate link with Amazon.

 

Mother always knows best. So why does it take us so long to figure that out?

Earlier this year I decided to enter my local newspaper’s baking contest.  The theme was pie.  Every year I follow the competition with serious envy.  I enjoy baking as a hobby and am fairly successful most of the time.  But, my success is measured by my family’s happiness with the results.  They are a pretty easy crowd to please.

Here’s why.

I follow Michael Pollan’s premise that in order to cut down on processed foods, you can eat sweets as long as you make them.  Challenge accepted! He’s probably not willing to whip up a dark chocolate layer cake on a random Tuesday after work, but I am!

I digress.

My mother has always baked a great pie, specifically cherry pie.  It’s her thing.  (I am still looking for my thing….you know, that thing where people say, “Have you tried Kristin’s _____________?  It’s the best!”)  So, I chose the cherry pie category in which to compete.

Now this was 2017, so in my digital age wisdom I thought I need to put my spin on cherry pie.  The fact that my mom has produced a no-fail crust for probably 60 years did not phase me.  The fact that she only used water packed cherries (canned pie filling never entered her kitchen), and kept it simple to enhance the true flavor of the cherry, pish-posh. I could do better! The fact that I had used her recipe to make dozens of delicious pies in the past, somehow seemed irrelevant.

I made a lot (A LOT) of different crusts, trying something new each time.  I attempted to “enhance” the natural flavor of the cherry with a variety of different flavors….’cuz that’s always a good idea…perfecting nature.

I’m guessing that you see where this is going.

So I arrive at the contest not knowing what to expect.  This was in fact my first rodeo!  The pie in the picture was my entry.  The crust and filling recipe a combination of some of those I tried. I was proud of how it looked but had no idea how it tasted.

There were a lot of contestants, but a lot of categories.  So that’s good, right? Chatting with other contestants  while waiting for the judging to begin, I learned that there were very few first time cowboys. Let me cut to the chase, as I am sure you are on the edge of your seat.

Good news, I won honorable mention (not everyone got one of these snazzy pot holders) and a professional chef said that my pie looked perfect.  He said it was the only one that had the correct coloration of crust.

That is where the good news ends.  Trust me when I say that the feedback given to me to help me improve as a baker, was less than complimentary. It was brutal.

So here is the lesson.  Don’t try to improve on perfection.  Experts come in all shapes and sizes (85 year old mom’s being one of them). Trust your mom.  Oh, and could someone please tell my daughter that?

Now, I can’t leave you with nothing but sage advice today so how about a few recipes.  The first is my mom’s cherry pie recipe.  It’s the one with the pot holder.  It’s a keeper, but you already know that.

The second is a recipe for Cherry Pie Bars that I found on The Country Cook. I needed something to use up the leftover cans of pie filling I had in my pantry.  Don’t tell my Mom!

Soon, I’ll take you on a tour of the baking “station” in my kitchen.  Prior to setting it up (during a renovation) I planned it to be efficient and fun.  It’s evolved slightly with use, but it is still my favorite place to try out recipes (old and new ; ).

 

Pax,

Kristin