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Giving Thanks…..

As the holiday season is upon us in full swing, I want to take this time to say how grateful I am for my family, friends, health, my career, and all the joy in my life.  I find myself reflecting on past times when money was scarce, stress and worry were at an all time high and the general outlook looked bleak.  What a contrast to today.  While we don’t live in a mansion or have the newest cars, we are rich with blessings.  And you really can’t put a dollar sign on that, can you?  Really helps to put things in perspective and makes me even more thankful for the little things in my life that make me smile and gives my heart joy.

It’s easy this time of year to get caught up in the sales, and give in to the panic and over-extend ourselves financially and emotionally.  To quote a favorite film in our house, “How about some perspective?”  Don’t give in to the chaos.  If your cookies don’t turn out picture perfect, or you don’t get the “it” toy no matter your efforts, take a deep breath and realize it’s going to be OK.  Seriously!  I wouldn’t steer you wrong, would I?

So, go tell your loved ones today how thankful you are for their presence in your life.  Don’t wait!  Your heart will feel joy and you will share that love with the people that mean the most in your life.  Pay it forward.  Take some time during this season of excess and crammed schedules to reflect, inhale and find a moment of quiet and peace.  Just five minutes!  You can carve out five minutes for sanity, right?

I wish you all peace, joy, love and gratitude.  And Zen – don’t forget the zen!  What do you wish for?

The Baby Green Steps….Part 3

Since it’s been quite a while since my last post, I wanted to update everyone on the garden experiment this year.  Our garden did well and grew like it was on steroids.  I got cucumbers that were at least 3 pounds!  And tons of them!  I got some huge squash and zucchini.  Things were growing good in our neck of the woods…. But all good things must come to an end, right?

I started noticing the blossoms were dying off and didn’t really pay that much attention, because after all, they’re not all going to survive – that was what I told myself at first.  I got alarmed as I noticed that every time I watered, there was a small commotion of flying beetle like insects that would fly away. Again, I didn’t give it much thought until one day I decided to google yellow and black beetles on cucumber vines.  That’s when I decided to take some serious action.

To the local nursery, Oakland Nursery, to seek advice.  The recommendation was made – which I purchased and promptly applied.  The promise was that this worked fast and was still safe on a food crop.  Take that, cucumber beetle!  Well, I will admit I did get some satisfaction spraying those little demons with wings.  The satisfaction was short lived though.

After a while, I was under the impression that I was actually spraying them with the insect version of Red Bull, however.  They weren’t dying off and they didn’t seem phased by the stuff! Back to Oakland to get a better product to kill these horrible beasts.  I returned to the back yard with a renewed sense of cockiness and a secret hope to smother these pests once and for all.  A couple I managed to directly hit with the hose, knock to the ground and smoosh beyond recognition with my hippy sandals.  I will admit, I did resound an evil laugh on those occasions.  Now it was personal.

On my third run to the store and my third different product I was starting to wonder if I had just waited too long and should just cut my losses.  The inner perfectionist in me was never going to wave that white flag, but the outer hippy in me was telling the perfectionist to give up already.  Just grab the 3 pumpkins that were still on the vine and run!  Run into the house and be happy they didn’t take you down with the blossoms!

 

While I lost the battle with the tiny yellow and black swarm, my tomatoes grew in comic proportion.  My three tomatoes broke free of their cages, grew so heavy that the cherry tomatoes fell over, and grew along the ground with glee.  From there, the two other tomato plants followed suit and toppled to the ground.  No staking would keep them upright so I gave up that battle quickly. The Romas were quite tasty and we made some great sauce from them.  But they didn’t yield much crop.  I got some huge beefsteak tomatoes, but much to my disappointment, they had rotted on the vine!  I didn’t realize until I grabbed one and the flesh squished under my fingers.  Gross – I didn’t get one of those darn it!

I tried a couple things this year that I heard about from family and friends.  If there is one thing that will get my attention, it’s the statement, “You can’t do that!”  I had read somewhere that you can train cucumbers, squash, small pumpkins and zucchini onto a trellis.  Well, of course I HAD to attempt this!  I had limited space in my raised bed, yes.  More importantly was the tone of the delivery from numerous people who gave me their loud and doubting opinions. “Hey, check this out,” I’d say as I’d guide the nonbelievers to the trellised raised beds.  My grinning face would gaze upon their confused expressions as I’d tell them everything that was growing on the hodgepodge of tangled vines.

 

I will admit it was great to have some successes and unexpected experiments gone well. The planning for next years’ garden is formulating in the way back of my mind as we speak.  I will keep you posted to any hair-brained ideas I decide to attempt.  I am sure there will be more than one.  There always are. How did your garden grow?  What were your successes or failures?  I love to hear about all of it.  Please, do share!  I can’t wait to hear from you.  Ciao!  

The Baby Green Steps…continued….

Sorry for lacking in the new material lately.  I have been binging and purging.  Seriously!  But in a good way.  We are cleaning and purging all the excess crap to the curb, or the garage sale as the case may be.  I have TONS of items we are getting rid of to make life simpler and less cluttered.  As a result, it has rained almost every weekend.  And every time I open my garage door, I swear I can hear the Sanford and Son theme song.

As for the binging….We’ve been lucky enough to have had some beautiful days and spring fever struck me hard.  Spring has always been my favorite season.  When I see the bulbs peeping up through the soil, it fills my heart with joy.  It reminds me of being a kid and seeing those first bits of green after the long winter.  I could barely contain the excitement of the realization that summer was just around the corner.

I did an assessment of the current state of our garden.  My bleeding hearts were going to town this year!  The one out front was gargantuan and gorgeous.  I did an experiment last year and put my glazed pots in the garage fully planted with succulents and hens and chickens before the first frost last autumn.  To my delight, they overwintered perfectly and when I took them out of the garage last week, they eagerly soaked up the sun and some rain.  It’s amazing what a difference 6 days can make.

Last week, the kids and I weeded, mulched, put together the second raised bed in the back yard and planted it.  I discovered it’s worth it to buy the slightly more expensive 1 cubic foot of garden soil because the 2 cubic foot one I couldn’t even move without assistance!  I got all of the garden boxes planted with beautiful flowers and some peppers because we planted so darn many of them and they all grew!

Last weekend as I weeded, mulched, planted and built the raised bed,  my body felt like I was on the losing battle of a boxing match.  But I kept my eye on the prize finishing Sunday afternoon during a rain drizzle that was both cold and dreary.  This weekend is supposed to bring back that elusive sunshine and how happy am I that I only have to plant the strawberries in the beautiful strawberry pot my mom gave me last year for my birthday?  Pretty darn happy I must say!

As for the pictures I promised of the garden, they really are coming.  I am having an issue with the picture sizes and don’t want to attach a mural to the blog.  I will figure it out soon and post some great pictures of the garden progression from seeds to planting.

Please enjoy your week and if you see that elusive sunshine, go out there and enjoy it!  Take a walk, beautify your yard, plant a garden or just a flower.  But don’t let it pass you by.  Until my next post, have a wonderful week and as always, let me know what you are doing to welcome this beautiful season and get your Zen on.

 

Our Baby Green Steps

Let me just say from the start, I am a self-proclaimed hippy at heart.  When I was in high school a group of us formed the PLFC-80’s (Peace Loving Flower Children of the 80s).  We then extended it to include the 90s and after our last reunion, we brought it into the new millenium.

That said, ever since I had kids, I feel like I’ve entered the land of excess waste.  I am however trying to redeem myself and change our ways.  We teach our kids about conservation, reducing, reusing and recycling.  Along these lines, we also try to live healthier, eat better and set a good example for our kids.

Last spring, we took the plunge and started a garden.  We had talked about it for years and made some rather lame and feeble attempts resulting in some peppers and a sad tomato plant.  My kids and I discussed what we wanted to plant and eventually eat. Peppers are a favorite at our house.  Strawberries, cabbage, lettuce, squash, broccoli.  Our list grew rather large.

Knowing that I ran a fair chance of coming in like a lion and fizzling out like a lamb, I decided the smartest move would be to limit myself to container gardens on our deck.  This allowed me to test my level of commitment without much disruption to the yard.  I tend to fizzle out around August not wanting to keep up with the watering demands in the extreme heat.  I can’t tell you how many times my poor hanging plants are given up on by mid summer.  I was prepared for the reality that this could happen after the novelty of the garden wore off mid season.

I can now happily call our garden experiment a success.  We not only reaped some yummy bounty last year, but we also harvested a lot of seeds that we have already planted for this upcoming growing season.  I kept a very detailed garden journal which allowed me to learn from my mistakes – and yes, there were definitely some trials and errors.

The transformation we experienced last spring and summer were amazing.  My kids helped with our garden all the time.  We adopted “Manny” a baby praying mantis for our deck garden which was our loyal companion for half the summer.  Our deck was more inviting than it ever was.  We hung out on it every night weather permitting.  We treasured our fresh food straight from our garden.

In honor of earth day, take the plunge and not only make the earth a better place, make your back yard a better place.  If you’re unsure, do a container garden.  Just do something.   But watch out, you just might find yourself hooked!

Here are some pictures from last years’ garden.  Please share yours!

 

Ten Minute Family Clean-ups

family guide to cleaning!I don’t know about you, but in our house we have the best of intentions when it comes to picking up and cleaning.  I’ve never been able to pinpoint the exact time, but somewhere along the way, our good intentions get sidetracked, which quickly spirals to laziness, blame and complete and utter lack of motivation.

We live in a bi-level home that doesn’t have much storage.  To be exact, we have roughly one square inch of storage, give or take.  That said, our kids’ rooms can quickly get overrun and all encompassing, making them seem like daunting tasks to tackle.

In a midst of genius and desperation, I came up with a stroke of genius – the 10 minute family clean-up.  Let me say that when I announced this concept I was sure it would immediately crash and burn.  Much to my surprise and joy, the kids were excited and even motivated!  The only way this works is because all four of us were doing our 10 minute clean-up at the exact same time.  No one can say “boo” if we’re all working together at the same time.  We make it enjoyable by playing upbeat music – sometimes we take requests prior to the start of the 10 minutes.

Now I know 10 minutes is not much time.  But, when four people are all working at the same time, 40 minutes worth of work is accomplished each night in 10 minute increments giving us 70 minutes each week per person.  In that short amount of time, we get close to 5 hours worth of cleaning done between the four of us.  What does that equate to?  One weekend worth of cleaning by your average mom.  Since we are accomplishing this task in 10 minutes each day, we are able to fully enjoy the weekend instead of spending it dusting, cleaning and arguing about chores.

Admittedly, some times we go over our time.  This is strictly by choice.  When the timer goes off, we are done.  And yes, to make it fair we use a timer.  Since we have started our 10 minute clean-ups we have noticed an increase in family time, more relaxed weekends and a tidier home.  What’s not to love, right?

If this works for you, please let me know!  Did you have any tweaks to make it a success for your family.  Please share your experiences!  I always love to hear what works for you and your family!

 

The Pierced Ears Journey….

When my daughter Chloe turned 6 I took her out on her birthday to get her ears pierced.  Now let me back up here and say this was something we had discussed for well over a year.  I didn’t want her to get her ears pierced because I suggested the idea.  She is a very head strong, little spitfire of a sassy gal, so I wanted it to be her decision completely.  I was honest, “Yes, it will hurt, honey.  But, it won’t hurt for long.”  I know from experience she has a high threshold for pain.  When she gets a shot, even as a baby, she’d wince, maybe cry a bit, then that was it.  Unlike my son, who will scream bloody murder and have to be held down with force.  So, we started on our ride to the mall to Claire’s.  I kept asking her periodically if she still wanted to get her ears pierced, she kept saying, “Yes!  I want my ears pierced, Mom!”  I told her repeatedly that if she changed her mind, she could.  This was her decision.

So she bravely climbed into the seat at Claire’s, the girls stood beside her each with their gun aimed and ready.  In case you are confused by that statement, let me explain.  Unlike in the days when I got my ears pierced, they do them both at the same time so as to get it over with quicker for kids.  I must say, it’s really smart and went well.  And yes, it did sting!  She cried, and after a couple moments, she twisted her earrings as instructed and we were able to peruse the multitude of earrings.  We saw everything from fortune cookies, to Hello Kitty.  We discussed all the pretty earrings she would be wearing in just a couple of months’ time.

Her ears only hurt for about 10 minutes, max.  Per the instructions, we disinfected her ears every morning and night.  And then, I will admit, we got a bit lazy with the disinfecting.  It’s not like we stopped completely, but we just forgot on occasion.  So, of course, her ear got infected, and with gusto!  Her poor little ear was red, swollen and painful to the touch.

After much convincing on my part, I got the earring out and then proceded to squeeze her ear to extract the puss.  Let me tell you, this was a horrible experience.  One that will ensure I follow directions to a T to avoid this sort of situation in the future.   Thank goodness it was winter so all the doors and windows were shut, or I am sure the authorities would have been called in due to poor Chloe’s high pitched level of screaming and crying!  The worst part was getting the new earring into her ears.  When I took the piercing earring out because of the infection, I just replaced it with a new earring.  She already had the others in the recommended time.  This was another hour’s worth of screams and sobbing to add to the previous hours’ headache.

Once we got that behind us, her ear was healed within 1 and a half days.  Much better, moving on, right?  Not so fast there.  Take it back a step.  My daughter would still twist the earrings to prove her ears were healthy and not infected, but she refused with zeal and determination she was absolutely NOT changing those earrings.

That was OK, she was not ready.  I wasn’t going to push her on this.  But, I didn’t want her to never change them.  I also definitely did not want to risk them getting infected again.  So, after a month of this, I mentioned the risk of infection.  She showed me how her earrings twisted, so therefore, they were healthy and they didn’t hurt.  I let it rest.  Another week goes by.  I show her how I change my earrings every day to match my outfit or my mood.  “Cool, Mom.  I am not going to change my earrings,” she says as she turns foot and leaves my bedroom.

Another week goes by and the whole family goes to the mall to get an Apple TV.  (Coolest thing ever and I will post more on that on another day!)  I take Chloe to Claire’s and show her all the amazing earring selection.  She immediately sees through my veiled attempt at bribery and storms out of the store.  Did I mention she was born a head strong, opinionated, beautiful girl full of sass and spitfire?

I was a bit at my wit’s end here.  I really didn’t want her to hate that she had gotten her ears pierced, but it was quickly barreling down that road.  I asked her what she was scared of and she said she didn’t like the idea of the earring going through her ear.  It completely creeped her out.  So much that she didn’t care if I took her earrings out and let the holes close shut completely!  So, after convincing her to think about it, I let it rest once again.

After about 2 weeks,  I asked her one morning if she could help me put my earring into my ear.  “Why?” she asked.  “I am just having a hard time getting it in and you can see it better than I can.”  I was sure she would call me out on my completely obvious attempt, but instead she was excited to help me!  So, this became our morning ritual for about 2 weeks.  Then, one morning, we were out to pick up some things, and we happened to go past the jewelry department.  My son, Zach who had been trying to get Chloe to change her earrings for at least a month, tried yet again.

“Chloe, I’ll buy you some earrings.”  For the first time in almost two months, she was intrigued by the concept.  Not wanting to lose that momentum, we scoured the earrings.  Lo and behold, Chloe found some she liked!  There were flowers, silver balls, and white, pink and purple sparkly earrings all on one card.  Before we headed to the check out, I told Chloe she had to promise that we would change her earrings when we went home, that same day, right after we put away the groceries.  This sent up her defenses and I was sure she would change her mind and put them back.  But, much to my surprise, she pinky promised, under some duress I will admit.  I also think the cashier thought I was a monster, but I knew what I was doing.  Chloe, like most children, was notorious for promising one thing and doing another.  I only did this to ensure these earrings would make it into my daughter’s ears and not be something pretty to look at from a drawer.

So, the big moment was here!  I could feel it!  The anticipation was eminent.  I got the first earring out.  Chloe got a big grin on her face and started laughing.  “That didn’t hurt at all, Mom!  If I would have known that, I would have changed them a long time ago!”

It only took patience, planning, bribery and a bit of luck!  To quote Hannibal from the A-Team, “I love it when a plan comes together!”