Tag Archives: Domesticity

Scrapbook: Weekend

22 Jan

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Thrifty Living: An Army of Ten Cent Jars

19 Jan

Little Big went quiet yesterday in solidarity of anti-SOPA legislation. I didn’t post any links simply because I ran out of time what with chasing a toddler and spending the majority of my time not chasing her with hacking up and sneezing various colors of fluids. Suffice it to say that this legislation could shut down my little ol’ blog just because I occasionally post something like this or this or even this. And that last one is especially important to me. When I was having my panic attacks it was your comments on this blog that really helped me feel normal. I will never, ever forget that. One comment in particular, from Anne G, has stuck with me and sustained me through some dark moments. It simply stated stated,

“I don’t believe that the person that wrote about Brian McPoopington will not be OK. Your positive energy will prevail.”

The fact that I have the freedom to share Brian McPoopington with you all helped me through a tough time. One of the toughest of my life. SOPA could end all that. Suck it, SOPA. Suck it slooooow.

I love fresh flowers in the home but I usually have to stick with flowers I grew in my yard or various plants Isobel and I find on our nature walks (which essentially boils down to “stroller time through the suburbs.”) I’ve collected a small army of ten cent jars and petite glasses while thrifting in the rare event that I have enough foliage to display.

Last summer my dear friends Jenn and Chris hosted a wedding reception that I was honored to be asked to photograph, and Jenn didn’t let me leave without taking home one of the stunning table bouquets her family put together. (It didn’t hurt that the flowers happened to be in my vintage mason jar.)

I enjoyed the blossoms in the jar as long as I could but once it started looking raggedy I tossed any rotting or dried-out blooms and stuck them in these thrifted jars instead. In true thrifty fashion  I always make my bouquets last as long as possible by whittling down the flowers, displaying on the freshest parts, for as long as possible in my thrifted jars.

They last even longer if your cats don’t chew on them. Not that I would know what that’s like.

Thrifty Living: Thrifty Tips and Recent Scores

5 Dec

Some thrifty things I’ve been doing to save money:

* During the morning and early afternoon I try to find some excuse to use my oven: drying herbs, toasting nuts, roasting potatoes, whatever. I can keep the thermostat down a few notches because the heat from the oven will keep the kitchen toasty while at the same time making something tasty for later.

* I’ve also pulled out my stack of crocheted blankets from the linen closet and just keep them on the couch. When one of us gets cold I insist we put on a blanket or a sweater before we turn up the heat. They look lovely in a pile and are more likely to get used when I keep them out.

* I tried the no-heat curl method to try a new look. I already had the hairband so trying this was free!

* I’ve been using the library a whole lot more. This option should be obvious after working in a library for eight years, but since we also had Anthony’s Borders discount, and since discovering the handiness of reading ebooks via the iPhone, I stopped checking books out of the library. I still went to the library–I mean, between my mother and I Isobel’s been to every story time available since she was a year old. But we’d leave when story time was over. Now I stay and make sure I have new additions to both my and Isobel’s bookshelves every week.

* I don’t have a lot of pairs of pants. Since losing over 20lbs due to my time on the elliptical and the debilitating panic attacks I really only have two pairs of pants that fit. One of them has stylish (or so I tell myself) holes worn in the knees from constant use. I can’t afford to go clothes shopping but I did have enough to buy a few pairs of colorful tights. I love the way they add a pop of color to my outfits while keeping me warm and extending the life of my jeans.

* I’m being pretty strict about our one napkin and one rag per day and I’ve been trying to expand this rule to cups and plates, too. This is an excellent way to save water and saves me a lot of work in the dishes and laundry department. Score!

* I haven’t been doing any major thrifting because I’m still in the midst of my giant Etsy storage and reorganization project, but I’ve stopped off yard sales and a thrift store here or there over the past month and these photos are some of the things I’ve picked up: a colorful crocheted poncho for Isobel, pegasus and unicorn mugs for me (and Anthony, if he’s so inclined), and some lovely wooden hangers covered with a delicate web of crocheted threads. These were obviously handmade and came from an estate sale. I wish more people would learn how to do this because it’s gorgeous and I’m afraid it’s a dying art. I got all six hangers for a dollar. Can you even imagine how long it must have taken to make these?

Anybody doing anything differently to save money? This time of year I could use all the help I can get.

Sunday Self Portrait

30 Oct

Zorro and I be chillin.

(The baby’s around here somewhere. I assume.)

Thrifty Living: Rainbow Napkins

26 Oct

I’ve almost collected enough thrifted cloth napkins to create the entire rainbow.

Snapshot

22 Sep

Harvest Tomatoes

My husband was out of town for a week and I’ve been surviving solo parenthood by the seat of my pants. Here’s what I’ve been up to:

–I’m in a list-making mood, firing out lists like crazy. Lists of old movies I want to see. Lists of pastas I want to make. Lists of places to take Isobel on our adventures. I’ve always been a list-maker, but something is causing me to crank out lists in overdrive. I’ve been noticing my Life List is outmoded, so I’m coming for that next.

–We have a baby butternut squash growing in our garden! This is very exciting for me because I had given up on the butternuts. The squash plant languished and squeaked out a few leaves before stagnating in the stifling heat, while our pumpkins, for their part, became Mama’s favorite and took over their entire corner plus the lawn. We already have two huge pumpkins plus several smaller ones. This year we are going to have an actual harvest from the garden. This makes me feel all sorts of accomplished.

–Fall always reminds me to clean out my closet. I really need to buy new clothes and update my wardrobe, but I always put it off. We have a really limited budget and I always have limited time, so buying clothes just seems like a pain in the ass. I’m taking the advice from a book I read once and and am trying on everything I own before I go shopping. This is supposed to open your eyes to what you really need as well as point out things that no longer work for you. Have you ever done this? I don’t even have a lot of clothes compared to most people I know and I’m guessing this is going to some time. I’m doing it bit by bit and already it’s pretty revealing.

–Now that we are living on just one paycheck I’m trying to make our money stretch as far as possible. I’ve been tracking my spending and my coupon-savvy buddy Angela is teaching me some of her frugal ways. I also recently stumbled upon a sassy coupon envelope I had made that I forgot about, and I’m taking that as a sign.

–I’ve been reading Killer Stuff and Tons of Money, which is pretty interesting, even though it won’t help me at all with my business. I went to a large community sale with a friend recently and thought about that book as I interacted with some of the vendors.

–In honor of my Grandma’s birthday my extended family got together for a few family dinners. I also threw a dinner party for my friend Jacob’s 30th birthday, so there was a lot of eating and celebrating this weekend.

–Isobel was crying when I put her down for a nap a few days ago. Normally she handles nap time like a champ, but that day was difficult for some reason. We’ve been working on emotions and pointing out when someone feels a certain way and we correspond that with what their face looks like. She has also developed an obsession with Go, Diego, Go, a show which encourages observation. While she was crying in her toddler bed I could hear her talking to herself. “Is Isobel happy?” (sob sob) “No! (sob) Isobel is not happy!” (sob) “Isobel is sad!” (SOB SOB SOB).

The SAHM Gig

18 Jul

I’ve been thinking about writing this post for awhile, and indeed I had intended to last month, but then I realized I had only been home with the baby two weeks—the length of time I’m usually home with her during Christmas vacation. I really felt like I needed to give it some more time before I could really weigh in on the SAHM gig.

The first week was bliss. I didn’t stick to the work schedule I had created (more on that later) and simply overdosed on time with Isobel. It was lovely, but I got nothing done, and what I did manage to accomplish, I did so inefficiently. Efficiency, I’ve learned, isn’t just a workforce trait: it’s necessary when you work at home with a toddler underfoot as well.

The second week was Anthony’s vacation. What remnants of the schedule we did stick to went out the window when we took off for San Jose and did massive amounts of yard work. The week after that shall be known as The Week of the Tantrum. That was a hard week, and it seemed that the days were one long sobbing and/or screaming fit from Isobel. But we got through it and I learned more about it and now when I see one starting, I have a better idea of what to do or not do, and to accept it when it comes.

Some time after that, our whole family took turns getting really sick with the nasty summer cold that’s been making the rounds. Yay. Yet throughout the vacations and the tantrums and the illnesses, a pattern began to emerge. I had a weekly schedule all picked out but a daily schedule developed, and that is what I lean on when times get tough.

OUR SCHEDULE

This isn’t always how things unfold, but when a day is going well, it’s pretty close to it. This schedule allows for everything to get done and for Isobel and I to have the time we need. The times I’m listing are approximate, mostly to show you about how long we devote to activities, but nap time is sort of sacred around here, and we keep it as close to 2:00 as possible, meaning the day goes smoothly if we stay on this track. I keep things like fruit, vegetables, whole grain crackers and turkey or chicken on hand for mini-meals when the stretch between my mealtimes is too long.

This isn’t to say that we are perfect, nor that we get everything done. On the contrary, there’s so much to do that usually something’s gotta give: maybe I don’t eat as well as I should, or the laundry adds up, or I don’t get a shower that day. Mostly it’s my Etsy shop that has born the brunt of this, as I have easily a hundred items stashed away that I need to upload. At best, once I get caught up on some project that need tending and some things that I let go while I was working, I can stick to this schedule and bathe at the same time. A girl’s gotta dream.

So far, our days look something like this:

6:00-7:00 Get up; usually after six but before seven.

7:00-8:30 We do our morning chores, get ourselves dressed and ready, and we eat.

(8:00ish While Isobel plays, I drink my coffee and enjoy between 15-20 minutes of internet time, when I check into twitter, answer my mail, and post the link for whatever post I have up that day.)

8:30-12:00 After that we have our morning stretch: from about 8:30 until noon we tackle whatever is going on that day. This is the chunk of the day when useful and/or fun things happen. What we do here also depends on what day of the week it is.

12:00-1:00 At noon we have lunch, and sometimes start dinner (depending on the menu for that night).

1:00-2:00 We have an hour to play before nap time. If it’s under 95 degrees, we go outside.

2:00-3:30 Nap time! While she sleeps, I work out and edit photos.

4:00-5:00 After nap time, Isobel gets a bit of TV time while I clean up the day’s mess and start dinner.

5:00-5:30 I cook while Isobel plays nearby.

5:30-6:00 After Anthony gets home, we eat.

6:00-6:30 When dinner is done, Anthony and I clean the kitchen while Isobel begs incessantly to go outside.

6:30-8:00 Usually we go outside and generally have family time until about 8:00 pm when we come inside and begin our night time routine. Sometimes we stay in and clean, watch a movie, hang out, or run errands.

8:00-9:00 After the last story is read it’s usually 9:00 and I catch up on my blogroll or instagram from my phone while waiting for Isobel to sleep. Then I get ready for bed, fall asleep, and the whole thing starts over the next day.

DAILY PROJECTS

During that large 8:30-12:00 stretch, I focus on one of these projects:

* I devote one day a week to the house and various household projects, usually including meal planning, cleaning out the fridge and the pantry, organization and improvement projects, shopping, and errands.

Aside: One thing I don’t do a lot of on this day (or any other day) is cleaning. I take care of the chores such as the dishes, some laundry, maybe a quick toilet scrub down or a general pick-up, but as a rule I don’t dust, mop or sweep or do actual cleaning while I am home with the baby. Taking care of her, focusing on my business, and picking up after ourselves are enough. The deep-cleaning happens on weekends and after work, times when Anthony is around to help. He is completely supportive of cleaning together, and it’s important for me that Isobel sees cleaning modeled in a partnership, and not as “woman’s work.”

* I devote two days a week to my business. I get the bulk of my blogging done, I edit photos, I sell photos to Getty, I work on photography for clients, and I upload to Etsy. (So far Etsy has gotten the shaft, but I hope to clear up more time for uploading items in the near future.) My mom or Anthony’s Grandma helps with Isobel during this time.

* The remaining four days of the week are days that I do specific activities with Isobel: swimming, play dates, the water park, visiting family, going to the playground, and just generally having adventures. Two of these days usually fall on the weekends, so Anthony is included, or friends and family that normally work on the weekdays. On Wednesdays we like to have play dates with Kingston, and although we don’t always have an elaborate trip to the zoo, they always find ways to entertain each other. Friday we see baby Abby and go to the Farmer’s Market. I of course spend quality time with Isobel on the remaining three days, but our focus is the tasks that need to get done.

As you can see from this schedule, we are limited to doing things in the morning as lunch and nap time get in the way of the afternoon, and then once she wakes up I’m starting on dinner, but fortunately we’ve been able to find classes and activities and people up for doing stuff in our time frame.

OUR NECESSITIES

I have learned (sadly, the hard way more than a few times) not to leave the house this summer without these:

Hello Kitty Water Bottle: when it’s this hot, water’s a necessity even if we’re just going to the store. It closes tightly so I can throw it in my purse without worrying about leaks, but Isobel can sip out of the straw from her car seat without making a mess.

Cloth Napkins: for wiping the never-ending snotty nose, cleaning up after food related incidents, or wiping off hands that have been playing in the dirt.

Snacks: usually granola bars but sometimes cheese. Purse granola has rescued so many a doomed shopping trip by now that I’m nominating it for sainthood.

Diaper bag and the umbrella stroller: they pretty much live in my trunk at this point.

FUN THINGS

These are some of the really fun things we’ve been focusing on this summer.

Gardening – along with the pergola we have planted a sunflower, marigolds, poppies, onions, pumpkins and butternut squash. All of this with the help of our good friend Jake! Additionally I’ve been growing succulents forever and just started an herb garden.

Dress up – at any given moment, we are all wearing necklaces or some other form of dress-up garment. Even Zorro.

Cooking, both pretend (her) and for reals (me) – necessary on my part—good thing I enjoy it.

Play dates with friends – we’ve had a lot of fun with Kingston and Victoria especially.

Thrifting – Mostly fun for me, but Isobel loves a chance to discover new treasures.

Playing with Grandparents – she loves visiting their houses.

Swimming lessons and the kiddie pool – and painting, obviously.

Cleaning out clutter – fun for me, naturally, but Isobel loves it, too because she gets to play with things she’s never seen before.

Farmer’s Market – I push Isobel around in the stroller while she shouts MORE FRUIT! MORE FRUIT!, usually in Spanish.) I’m going to be so sad when this closes for the season.

THE FUTURE

This is how things are right now, and I know it’s subject to change. Summer will end at some point, the Farmer’s Market and fruit stands will close, and the water park will be shut down. Our long days painting in the backyard will be over. And yet that is okay because I feel like we haven’t been taking advantage of all the things I could be doing with Isobel: toddler story time at the library will start back up in September, and there’s tumbling classes, arts and crafts sessions, Mommy and Me. I want to eventually join the Moms’ Club. Our days are so full already; we don’t have to do it all. But it’s nice to have options.

The best thing about staying home, and the most surprising, is how much closer Isobel and I have become. I am so much more patient with her because I understand her more fully. I know how certain moods will play out and the impetus for some of her seemingly mysterious mood swings. I didn’t expect our relationship would change once I stayed home, but it really has. Each day we know each other better and I bask in our closeness. It’s strange, because as mother and daughter, I didn’t think we could get closer, but we have.

It’s not all sweetness and light, and every day has frustrations and challenges. I don’t expect this to change as she gets older, either. Sometimes I don’t get a break from her for days, and I’m slowly acclimating to that. It’s hard, it’s damn hard, but we are having a great time.

A very good friend of mine was worried I’d regret my decision once the summer started. I can easily say not at all. I am so happy with my decision, even if I am not happy every moment I am at home. I was not happy when I had the cold and still had to watch the baby, nor was I happy when she was throwing her epic tantrums. I was really unhappy in that moment. But I am happy with my decision, and I still have moments of just being totally blissed-out. It’s not easy, nor do I have lots of time that’s not already scheduled, but I am so very happy.

Thrifty Living: Dollar Store Chairs

7 Jul

We’ve made many trips to various home improvement stores in the last few weeks while building our pergola and installing a new lawn. Although I haven’t been shopping for outdoor furniture we inevitably have to walk past it on the way to find whatever it was we needed to find. Each time I’d pass by miniature versions of patio furniture that I’d wistfully imagine Isobel using in our revamped backyard. It’s just not in our budget right now.

I started thinking a lot about patio furniture for Isobel, though, as she keeps struggling to sit in our grown-up versions and never looks comfortable. I decided that since the expensive versions are not an option right now, perhaps the plastic ones I’d seen at the flea market as a child would do the trick.

Keeping that in mind, I did something very foolish the other day. While we were waiting for cousins to come over for a long-awaited playdate, I decided to fill the two hours we needed to kill with a surprise. I had been saving some of the toys she got for her birthday to give out over time in moments just like these. On the invitations we asked for contributions to Isobel’s college fund so we weren’t inundated with toys, but she still received enough that Anthony and I quietly stowed away some for future need for distraction.

I told Isobel I was going to get her a present from the closet. She was very excited. The last gift I had squirreled away was a fancy Playdoh set from the Waltons. She helped me spread the tablecloth on the table and I went to the bedroom to fetch her surprise.

I looked. And I looked. In all the shuffling around of things we had to do when getting our new carpet, I had moved it. I hadn’t a clue as to where it was. I searched the house while Isobel followed me saying, “Mama has my Isobel’s present?” Determined to make good on my promise and fulfill the desire for outdoor furniture for Isobel at the same time, we went to the dollar store to look for plastic chairs.

They are just as I remembered them. Decorated with ambiguous anime-style animals and hilarious Engrish sayings, these chairs did not disappoint. My favorite is YOU OVER THERE. Because who doesn’t need a chair that is kind of shouting at them? Adorable.

These chairs are versatile, stackable, and light. If you don’t believe me, here’s a picture of a baby lifting one.

Oh, and did I mention that they are wonderfully suited for a kiddie pool?

As if these chairs could not get any better, they are stamped with the number 5 recycling symbol, so if they break because Mama sits on one, I don’t even have to throw it away. I can toss it in my blue recycling bin on collection day.

Isobel was thrilled with the chairs from the moment she spotted them. I picked up extras not only for playdate purposes (you can imagine the toddler brawl that might break out over these babies) but because they are toys in their own right. Isobel played with them solidly for over an hour when we got home. In the driveway.  She did not even want to wait to go inside the house to play with them, and since the weather was nice, I let her sit in the driveway, stacking and unstacking, arranging and changing to her heart’s content.

Also we were watching some crows makeoutfight over Corn Nuts, so there was free entertainment. Ah, the glamorous life I lead.

Four chairs, four bucks total. Not bad at all.

Scrapbook: Sticker Time

11 Jun

A Year of Planning Meals

25 May

It’s been over a year since I posted about my commitment to menu planning and family dinners and I wanted to post an update. In my Life List I wanted to be able to successfully plan and cook family meals for an entire year. I’d like to be able to do that, but I’ve been thinking about it. Say I do it. What next? Do I stop? I realized my ultimate goal wasn’t to be able to do it for a year. It was to be able to do it. Forever. For always. For realsies.

Not that I had to always do it. I just wanted the option. To be able to do it, if I so chose.

Our life circumstances have changed dramatically since I first wrote about this. Anthony’s (fortunately) down to one job now and has graduated school so he’s around pretty much every evening that doesn’t involve D&D. Isobel is older and doesn’t need constant attention (just, you know, near constant attention). These things have helped the family dinner situation dramatically. We eat at the table together every night that we can, even if we’re eating pizza or takeout. I love that we get to do that.

I’ve been consumed with finishing my job at the library and I haven’t done much menu planning. I’m really just trying to get through the last month of this with my sanity in tact. I’ve given up on menu planning for the most part. I’m not going to have any more time when I’m home–I don’t have any illusions about that–but since I’ll be home menu planning will be more of a priority for me. I’ve already made an outline of our daily schedule for when I do stay home, and I’ve devoted lots of that time to the making of, eating, and cleaning up after food.

One thing I’ve noticed that really helps me stay inspired is scrolling through the food blog section of my blog roll daily. I don’t always have time to read, but I find that even if I just scroll through it I get inspiration and motivation and it really helps me cook more. One look at my browser history and you’ll find it’s full of porn–food porn.

Isobel has become very involved in our kitchen life and she likes to help by “washing the dishes” (read: getting enough water everywhere to fill a small pool), “feeding the cats” (read: filling one of their bowls with scoop after scoop of food until it’s overflowing, while simultaneously not letting the cats actually eat anything),  and “cooking” (read: standing next to us on a small stool, eating the ingredients and watching us cook).

She’s even beginning to take note of our food preferences and habits. A couple weeks ago when I was sick and laying on the couch in abject misery she patted me on the arm and said, “Poor Mama. Mama sick.” She then went to the pantry and gathered up my tin of coffee and some emergenC packets and piled them on my lap.

Isobel is also honing her palate. Sometimes she rejects food for no apparent reason. The other day she decided she didn’t want to eat the half a banana she had asked for just a few minutes ago. Anthony ate it in front of her, to her absolute horror, and as he did she shrieked, with ever-rising pitch of disgust, “ew ew ew ew EW EW EW EW EW YUCK YUCK YUCKY! GARBAGE! GARBAGE! GARBAGE!”

How many times does she have to tell you, banana? When she said that you were garbage she meant that you were garbage.

Right now Isobel’s favorite thing to eat is cooked chicken. She still has days where she’s just not that interested in solid food. She’ll ask for a bottle and when I suggest something to eat instead she’ll say, “No Mama, I’m full.” The girl really loves meat in any form, but chicken is her number one favorite, so I like to always keep some around to tempt her. If anyone has ideas for using up vast amounts of leftover cooked chicken, I’d love to hear it. Isobel will eat it day after day, but Mama needs variety.