Thursday, January 29, 2015

Friendly Friday: The Nod

If you are not watching Blackish, you need to start. It is as good as Modern Family, New Girl and the Mindy Project (all tops in my book). This week we caught a re-run where the family was talking about "the nod."  Its spot on with my idea of saying hello (except you know I am white Jewish lady but I think its universal)

This week I have not done a great job with my resolution to say hello first.  I ran into the grandmother of the boy for whom I styled the bar mitzvah.   I have seen her several times since, but she <i>never</i> remembers me.  I didn't have time to go through the whole thing, but then we ended up seated next to each other.  The whole time she kept staring at me, obviously trying to figure it out.  I could have solved the mystery and been polite in approximately 30 second.  I really regret that I didn't do it. Similarly, I was meeting a colleague at my old work to talk business (more on that later).  I used to work exclusively in the Family Court; if our meeting had been there it would have been like  old-home week, with me high-fiving everyone (okay, maybe I am just imagining that part).   Anyhow, we met at the Civil Courts Building, where nobody knows me.  Like nobody--even with a bar card in my hand, they made me go through the metal detector and take off my shoes.  And I was sock-less.  Sock-less with a half-worn off pedicure when I saw another attorney I know.  I should have owned it, but instead I kept my head down and prayed he didn't see me.  Probably no harm done, but it still would have been nice to be nice!  Next week is a great time to try again!      

Throwback Thursday: I am turning One and my parents bought me a new house!

I am feeling great because my pictures are organized through 2008! Okay, that doesn't sound so great, but it is a massive improvement. In July of 2008 we celebrated the 1st birthday of the "baby." At the time she was an actual baby, so I guess I don't technically need to put that in "quotes." We moved into our new house exactly one month before the big day, so we figured that we would have a combined house warming and birthday party. I was getting a wee bit better about photographing event details, though still pretty bad at it at this point. We went with a preppy blue and green motif. The invitations had a sweet pic of A and a quote that said, "I am turning One, and my parents bought me a new house!" I included a pic of our house the day of the party for reference. It was too hot to landscape until the following fall, but I wanted you to see because the cake was made to resemble the house. Of course, she had her own smash cake too. Since it was an afternoon open house, we served a buffet of fruit with fruit dip, a cheese board, and crudites. I am not sure but we probably also had caprese skewers because I was really into those at the time! As you can see I have a pic of the buffet before it was fully set-up (nothing I can do now!). We also served punch that could be spiked or virgin and beer and wine. There were precious blue napkins with green writing with the address and blue ones with her name in green writing. Of course, no picture exists! On the way out the door there were brownies with a note that said, "it was sweet of you to come to my new home." Finally the best detail and show-stopper was that she stood up, took her first steps and walked around the room. She is an aspiring actress; I think it may work because her sense of timing is,and has always been, spot-on!!!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Workforce Wednesday: Why I am not going to be a stylist

Part of the process of deciding what I want to do for a career is sometimes ruling things out. One such thing was event styling. I could spend days writing about this subject as I am genuinely excited by it, but I won't (at least not today). Since I was a teen I was interested in executing events from exquisite invitation through a delicious meal right down to a clever favor that ties it all together. My mother actually encouraged me to go into culinary arts or hospitality, telling me that I would make a great television chef (which was not really a thing during my childhood except for Julia Childs and Graham Kerr). I thought I was too smart and besides who wanted to see a slightly chubby Jewish girl cooking and throwing parties for her friends? Well, actually apparently everybody (I love you Ina--you are my spirit animal)! Anywho...after become a social working lawyer, I always had this itch to try events. So I did, and I realized that I didn't love it. I didn't even like it. It took my passion and made it a job; a job with horrible pay and even worse hours (nights and weekends) no less. So, I am over it. But sometimes I can't help myself. I am not even being paid for this, but on Saturday I am pitching ideas for a Paris themed Bat Mitzvah. Ooh La La!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Total Health Tuesday: Back in the Saddle

When I was younger and having a particularly thin moment, I took a few spin classes. This was 1999 and I think Spinning was a brand-new concept. I went to a studio where the equipment bore more resemblance to traditional bikes than the computerized bikes in studios today. To set the scene the owner would dim the lights, burn candles and incense, and spin Dave Mathews Band. All that, plus the sweating and up and down motion, reminded me of you-know-what (my serious college boyfriend was a big fan of DMB--sorry honey).

Fast forward 16 years: my husband spins all the time while I haven't done it in years, even though now it is ubiquitous. As a part of my total health initiative (and to support our school), I bought a spot in a spin class for a fundraiser at my kids school. The candles and incense have been replaced by carefully timed LED lights while spin bikes have evolved immensely. They are basically computers with tiny butt holders on which to sit. I was pretty bad at it, but made my way through the class and am even encouraged to do it again.

But the next day I was so sore. Not in my legs. Like, you know, in an area that once again made me think of you-know-what. I actually goggled the terms "spinning and crotch." You should do this. It is pretty hilarious, unless it happens to you, in which case it is considerably less funny.

Next time, I will take a gel seat and the padded pants, but I am up for it again!

PS--I still haven't had refined sugar or white flour. I am not sure what the benefits are but I thought I would give it a full month and then begin counting calories!

Come to Order Monday: The Mudroom Cubbies

I have been working my way from the back of my house towards the front; I've already organized our laundry and mudroom bath. Today, I attacked the mudroom itself. Strangely, guests often tell me they are envious of my mudroom and the cubbies therein. It is ironic, because I used to think that simply having cubbies would make us organized. Truth be told, however, they are actually a big source of clutter. This is an area that requires a lot of weekly cleaning in addition to a big switch-over each season for changing clothing and activity needs.

Here is how they looked Monday Morning:

There are four of us; the last cubby is meant to be kept completely empty for guests. At this moment it was housing a bunch of random crap. Though I have been using cloth bags since the late 90's, I often forget then and come home with bags that later need to be recycled. My collection of plastic bags often fills the guest cubby along with items that need to go to Goodwill and goodness knows what else! Here, the other cubbies were overflowing with various coats and accoutrements. We keep vacillating between jacket and parka weather every other day, so we have left everything out. The kids also use their cubbies as "storage" for trinkets they bring home from birthday parties and school (though I have repeatedly asked them not to). You'll notice I also had some kid art on the exterior of the cubbies. My girls' sweet "days of creation" charts were there, but I moved them to another area of our home that is designated as a gallery for their work. Next I took everything out of the cubbies, organized the items on the top shelf into baskets, removed superfluous items, and wound up with this:

That will work for a few weeks, when I will have to do it again!

Friday, January 23, 2015

A little something extra!

As I am going through my old photos, I came across the pictures of our old house. The decorating has begun to look a little dated; we moved 7 years ago and a lot of the decorating was done when we moved in 2002. A pink and brown baby girls' room and a red kitchen--remember when those were all the rage? Still, it makes me smile to see my girls' nurseries and to remember how fun it was to decorate that home as newlyweds. Our "new" house (which I am already ready to re-do) is totally modern, so its fun to look back at a time when I used tassels, swags and trims. If you want to check it out, click on the new page (on the right)!

Friendly Friday: what a wonderful word hello

Credit for the delightful montage above goes to:

A few important things have happened for me this week regarding friends and acquaintances. If anyone is just tuning in, I have a firm resolution to say hello to people this year and a larger on-going goal to deepen some friendships that I have neglected.

While I have been craving deeper connections, I still have many friends and am often invited out. A fun "girls" night happened earlier this week and it gave me the perfect chance to practice what I have been preaching about saying hello to people first. The moment I walked in, I spotted my old boss seated at the table next to my group. My relationship with her ended on a very sour note. She did a fabulous thing in founding a not-for-profit legal services organization. Nobody can deny that; it exists helping people today. At times she was a brilliant mentor to me and at times she was undeniably cruel. Having nothing to do with her "management" style, she left her position at the helm without much fanfare in a scandal complete with a legal defense for all of us lawyers. Being a very smart and capable person, I hear she has once again risen to a high and powerful position now in the for-profit world. My guess is she experienced a lot a pain and shame.

I also guess that she was far more uncomfortable seeing me walking in than I was. I thought about it for a split second and then walked right up to her before even stopping at my table. In case she had forgotten me in the past seven years, I stated my name as I walked over. Of course she remembered. Before I knew it I was not only saying hello but hugging her hello. Our interaction was very brief, pleasant, and not at all meaningful, but what a gift to us both! Had I averted my eyes both of us would have had horrible nights and not been able to concentrate on our dinner companions wondering when the shoe would drop. I am so glad I just did it. On her way out she stopped and thanked me. Not in the usual way, but in a way that I thought symbolically said "thanks for remembering the good parts of me." That, in turn, made me remember the good parts of me too!

Later in the week I was on a phone call with a friend I used to talk to every single day. Now we talk to every few weeks. There was an organic moment where referenced that I have been feeling removed from her and our close-knit group. Its easy to express remorse that you rarely talk to your college sorority sisters two states away. It is entirely different to tell someone a mile away that you feel distant. I literally had to take a deep breath first and will the words to come out. It was so scary. The second of dead air before her reply felt like an eternity. She responded in a kind way--just one sentenced that subtly acknowledged she had noticed it too while moving the talk in a positive direction. I am so glad its out there. I am glad there is a chance to make it better even if it isn't set right just yet.

As if reading my mind Kelly at Kelly's Korner had a post that spoke to me so much yesterday--so close to what I have been working through. After reading it, I have an idea in the works about something nice I can do for a friend. I will keep you posted!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Throwback Thursday: A Very Simple Swimming Soiree

Bless my heart. I am going through the digital chaos that is my family photos, and have discovered that things are way worse than I originally imagined. I have learned a valuable lesson about keeping everything streamlined, in chronological order, and in one place! I have also learned that I used to be horrible at photographing all the sweet details I put into my kids' birthday parties. Looking back, this party was a double whammy. Not only did I fail to photograph the party very well, there weren't that many good details in the first place. I had another baby two weeks before this party!

Before Baby #2 arrived, I sent invitations to the party to be held at a local swim and tennis center. The invitations were on my 2006 issued Mountain Cow Printing Press. I loved that program (still do). It took my hand-crafted cards to a new level. I was able to make polished "real" invitations without a trip to the service bureau. I keep saying this in the throwback series, but at the time that was a BIG deal. Etsy and Tiny Prints were not yet invented, so I thought I hit pay dirt!

I chose a simple pink and purple dot motif and carried that over to the matching cupcakes, napkins and favors which were the sweet swim rings with dots. We served a giant tray of fruit while the kids swam, and then we went inside for kids meals and a big salad for the parents. I think we played a party game and were home in time to nurse baby #2!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

What's next (workforce) Wednesday: A tiny bit of a toe...

I can't say anything yet, but I have a plan to meet with an old colleague about doing the slightest bit of work. When I had a contract position that was very part time, I would always say that at least I still had a "foot in the door." This would not even be that. It would be more like a dipping my little toe in the water to test it out. Since I am making foot analogies, I can't wait to see if the shoe fits! More if it develops!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Total Healthy Tuesday: the Battle of the Bars

After completing 100 Days of Real Food's 10 day pledge last Thursday, I felt great. I had dropped a couple (just two) of pounds, though that was not the intent of this particular endeavor. I am also re-establishing some habits like cooking at home and paying actual attention to food labels--rather than just believing the green-washing. To me, the real take-away was awareness. I plan to make everything as real and fresh as possible when we are at home so that the stuff we have out in the world is balanced against something wholesome. I do plan to allow some "pantry snacks" as my kids call them--you know, something they can grab from the pantry instead of the fridge. My thoughts were to have mandarin oranges in water, organic raisins (we have some old conventional ones to finish first), squeeze apple sauces, nuts, freeze dried fruit, fruit leather, Lara bars, whole wheat pretzels and Baked Kettle Chips (the stuff on the left in this picture).

The trouble was that we had some food items that we had stored away during the pledge. I am not proud to admit that those little purple and blue bars on the right have been my picky eaters go-to breakfast for three years. The first thing she did was go to the box of stored away items and grab those, though I was offering up homemade whole wheat waffles she found delightful only two days before. Side-note: during the pledge I have come to view the bars as the enemy as they epitomize my failings in the food department--they are organic junk food that I allowed to make up a shocking amount of one of my kids' diet. I stood my ground and said she could not have it. There were both foot stomping and actual tears, but she went to school without actually dying from not having the bar.

I spent much of the morning thinking about the conundrum. My daughter is thin and a picky eater. That is why I allowed the bars to sneak into our lives--I really wanted her to eat. This is ironic as I and have been overweight on and off since I was nine, and it never helped when my parents tried to intervene. In fact it made things much worse. I really believe that the only way to address the situation of an overweight child or picky eater is to model good behavior. BUT. I. FAIL. A LOT. I decided that perhaps letting her take some ownership was the way to go.

Luckily, a situation presented itself that very afternoon. School was getting out early and we had plans to hit the movies. WE don't go often, but when we do this is a time we go absolutely off the rails with popcorn, candy and a big diet soda for me (I know, I know) . It is my fault--I love the ritual of concessions at a movie. I just told you I was a fat kid. On this occasion, I decided to bring our own air-popped popcorn lightly salted with pasture-raised organic butter. I also brought one of the now infamous bars. I figure that as a sweet treat, in lieu of candy, it is actually an okay choice. OH MY GAWD--you would think I stuck a hot poker in my child's eye. Now the bar she was begging for in the morning was absolute verboten. Fail number two--second round of the tears and foot stomping. At this point I feel it necessary to say this is an otherwise beautifully behaved child.

Third time is the charm? Fast forward to Sunday when she produced a Zone bar from somewhere deep in the belly of our house. My husband was using them after workouts. When she begged for it as a snack I said yes, but I made her look at the label as well as Google the amount of sugar a child in her age category eats. She learned that the 15 grams of added sugar in the bar are actually over the daily allotment for someone in age and eating bracket. Mind you, I don't care about natural sugars from fruit and dairy. I told her if the rest of the day's food had no other added sugars, she was free to take the bar. She did have to keep in mind that we were eating out that night and taking the bar unequivocally meant no dessert. Given the same choice, her little sister opted not to eat a treat, but the picky eater went for the instant gratification. After a healthy dinner for all, little sis opted to spend her daily allotment (and then some) of added sugar on ice cream (dessert is pretty rare treat on a regular day). The fit hit the shan. Picky eater had (thankfully silent) tears rolling down her face. I did not relent. I did tell her how sorry I was that she was sad and that I was sad too to not have dessert myself--I am still on no added sugar. I Think it may have worked! We shall see...

As for me, I am sticking with whole grains and no added white sugar until I figure out another weight loss program. I hope to have a plan to detail by next week!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Come to Order Monday: Postponed!

The weather here has been gorgeous; we are experiencing a heat wave for mid-January with temps in the 50's. It could not have come at a better time for my kids' four-day weekend. We have had far too much fun and squeezed an impossible amount of activities into the last four days--we enjoyed seeing Paddington, an adult tennis double-date, a triple play-date day (three separate ones--morning noon and night), two dinners out as a family, a children's theater production, indoor swimming, and a science fair meeting. Today was devoted to a morning of service in honor of Dr. King. All of this did not serve my Monday goal of organizing something each Monday. In fact, it was quite the opposite and the house sort of looks like a pit. I will spend all week cleaning it up, and be back next week with a house that has hopefully come to order!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Friendly Friday

One of my goals this year is to reach out and make plans with friends more. I just want to connect with people rather than feeling isolated. Most people would laugh that I feel this way because we are part of a HUGE circle of extended friends; I am in a tennis group, a supper club, a Temple, a member of a social club, and I am on the PTO. But you can feel lonely in a crowd, and sometimes I have. So, I just made my plan yesterday to be with a friend. We went shopping. One of my other goals is saving, so I didn't buy much. I mostly just looked around. I bought $4 worth of Valentine's decor (no candy this year) and splurged on a bottle of avocado oil that took my roast veggies to the next level last night. I felt a wee bit guilty as I started my next shift (when the kids came home) and had done nothing towards making dinner or organizing. Laundry sat undone and the house suddenly looked cluttered, but I felt as if I had accomplished so much more.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Throwback Thursday: Sailing 1st Birthday from the Way, Way Back Machine

8.5 years ago, I planned my eldest daughter's 1st birthday party. At the time we owned a sailboat, and that theme seemed a natural fit for our littlest sailor. Though I was never a scrap-booker, I was really into making cards out of papers, stamps, and embellishments, which were all the rage at that time. I crafted cards with little sailboats made of several patterned papers all in the same hue of pink. The idea was to go Lilly-esque (this was before there were actually Lilly paper products). We invited guests to set sail on a dinner cruise with us! The RSVP line called for regrets only, saying, "landlubbers? call: xxx." Since then I have seen all manor of cute puns, but I tell ya'-- it was inspired in 2006. Signs matching the invites said "welcome aboard" (on the front door), "build a boat" (next to a wooden boat decorating station), and "regatta" (next to a baby pool where they were supposed to sail their boats). The boats were fun to decorate, but due to being the hottest late July ever, the kids never sailed them. They just stripped down and hit the pool instead! This was not intended at all, but it is my favorite memory of the day. I tried to keep this pics PG and not show any faces other than my own family. I made three huge BBQ briskets, corn pudding, dips, chips and salad. For dessert we had a chocolate fountain with all the trimmings. I know chocolate fountains are "over" now, but it wowed at that time. The cupcakes were adorned with sails made from the patterned paper, which was also used to craft napkin rings. Oh how I wish I could go back in time and photograph all those details and the hard work that went into them (though sadly I did not learn that lesson until years and years later). That's it for now--next week I will show the second little lady's first birthday!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

What's Next (workforce) Wednesday: The privilege to write this post.

I am a spoiled brat for having not one, but two, graduate degrees AND the incredible audacity to sit on my arse every Wednesday and dedicate time to think about what I am going to do next. I know that. I realize that there are moms working at dead end jobs and still others who are dreaming of getting a job at all just to feed their kids. Figuring out what I am going to do after having been a SAHM is a HUGE privilege. Being a SAHM is a privilege. Getting those graduate degrees in the first place was a privilege. But this is still my current struggle.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Total Health Tuesday: Small Update

Oh my--they are turning on me just since that earlier post! I stood making and packing my husband's lunch of whole wheat pasta salad with pasture raised cheese, organic broccoli and peppers, local smoked turkey, olives tossed in a homemade vinaigrette. Meanwhile, I was making him a spinach and egg white omelet for breakfast, and the girls were begging for chocolate milk. I made the chocolate milk with maple syrup and coca (which fits the bill, but seems to defeat the purpose) while rushing through packing their lunches and getting their breakfast. My husband ended up forgetting the lunch. I almost cried. Just then girls began plotting to eat gummy bears for breakfast Friday morning when the ten days are over. Perhaps this is not going as well as I thought.

Total Health Tuesday: The Ten-Day Pledge So Far

I mentioned that our family had 100 Days of Real Food's ten day pledge here. Today is our one week mark, and it is going pretty well. That is to say that my family hasn't turned on me yet. The girls have even mentioned that they could do the full 100 days! Their parents aren't quite as convinced yet, though we know a lot of good has already come of this experiment.

The first benefit of the pledge is what I am going to call "happy pantry." We have an intentionally small pantry. I designed it as such because I wanted to avoid the pitfalls of constantly having a pantry well-stocked with junk or even with healthy items that we would ultimately forget about. This week, I just liked the look of it :). You will note that there are a very few off-limit products in there.

I have one extremely picky eater. She is really doing her best. Going in, we knew there were a few foods she "needs" that were technically off the pledge. We only allowed two, both of which are moving in the right direction. For example, you will see that we have the Natural Jiff for her, along with the organic and fully acceptable and actually natural peanut butter from Trader Joe's. We only purchased natural peanut butters until about two years ago when she was introduced to regular Jiff by someone who shall remain nameless (rhymes with shram-ma). At that point, our picky eater began refusing the natural PB due to its tendency to separate. Since PB makes up a large part of her diet, we caved. For now, we are on the road to peanut butter recovery and we feel okay with this "natural" Jiff. Similarly, we have allowed her to eat some Cheerios while the rest of us have abstained. They are whole grain, yes, but do have many added ingredients including sugar so not actually allowed. She has eaten these in moderation, which in turn has allowed her to give up some far worse vices. We are BEYOND proud of her, though she is the only one not actually fully adhering to the true pledge as written. You may also note there is agave syrup in the picture. I thought was akin to maple syrup and honey. Having realized it is actually a processed food that was invented in recent years, we are abstaining from that this week as well.

What we have been eating is actually very, very tasty.

Breakfasts have alternated between overnight oats with fruit, hot oatmeal, and some combination of veggies with eggs (one morning it was poached eggs on a bed of spinach, another it was a veggie omelet, yet another egg whites topped with leftover Israeli salad). If you are not familiar with overnight oats, you should get acquainted. The night before simply mix equal parts old fashioned oats, plain Greek yogurt and the milk of your choice. I used organic soy milk this week as I found out my usual unsweetened vanilla almond milk is highly processed. In the morning, the oats will be perfectly soaked and ready to eat cold. You can top with fruit, nuts, cinnamon, honey, maple, syrup. This morning I had mine with just cinnamon. My husband has really enjoyed my serving breakfast to him; he usually grabs it at the office. I am happy to have him here a few extra minutes. Win-win!

Giving him breakfast at home was the second real benefit of the pledge, and we will keep this up for sure. I think we will save money and he will eat better in the morning. This is also the meal that we realized we have had to clean up the most for the kids. Gone are the toaster waffles and cliff bars.

For lunch I have had great salads with quick soups--using only simple ingredients like the ones seen above. Since we can't have jarred mayo, we used mashed avocado with tuna one day. Easy peasy. My kids' lunches have basically been fine along, usually featuring a whole fruit (sometimes dried or canned in water), a whole vegetable, a protein (cheese/yogurt/turkey roll-up/tuna), a usually whole wheat carby-thing, and a little treat. This week we have made sure the carby-thing has been either triskets, ak mak crackers, or homemade bread. The homemade bread has pleased even the picky eater, making it the third major benefit of the pledge. The picky eater has always been a strict adherent to a certain name brand very thin whole wheat bread that turned out to have corn-syrup. She now knows she can live without it!

What has been harder for me is, of course, making homemade bread. Packing my husband's lunch is also an added chore that I took on as a concession for the family to make it through the pledge. That task will happily be dropped at the conclusion of the ten days!! I am not sure why but it just seems harder to pack his, especially because he leaves during the breakfast rush. He misses doing business with colleagues over lunch. I am sure with better planning I could pack his at night, but I think we are both ready to let this one go come Friday!

I haven't had to do anything too out of the ordinary for dinner. When we do cook, it is usually pretty healthy and organic. The problem of late was that we were using late night dance classes, doctors appointments, violin lessons, Hebrew, and Holiday parties as excuses to grab dinner on the go. Then we'd really go nuts with the worst stuff you can imagine (what can I say--I am a dichotomy). This pledge has forced us to eat at home every night including the weekend (heretofore unheard of). We have had pan-seared cod over zuchinni "spaghetti" with Israeli Salad, sirlion tips over mashed cauliflower with green salad, chicken tika masala with whole what orzo and green beans, quinoa and black bean stuffed acorn squash with an avocado tomato salad, beef vegetable soup, homemade roasted vegetable pizza and locally smoked turkey with roasted root vegetables and kale. The picky eater can always take something or make her own meal using the lunch formula above--she has been great about trying at least some version of what I have made. Because everyone was really missing sweets I also made maple syrup ice cream and honey whole wheat brownies to enjoy in moderation through the ten days.

The hardest individual meal by far was the pizza. I had to make the crust--I used this, make sauce, shred my own cheese, and roast the vegetables for topping. It was crazy good, and fortunately it lasted for lunch the next day. It is just that the totality of all this cooking is harder than I thought it would be. Like. really. really. hard.

Its too soon to know actual health benefits or anything, but I will keep you posted once it is all over (or just beginning)!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Come to Order Monday: The Mudroom Bathroom

The original plans for our house didn't include a kids' half bath on the main floor. Acting on some some good advice from friends, we asked the architect if he could add a half-bath for our kids to use in lieu of going into our very lovely guest powder room. Since our mudroom and laundry room form a "L," the solution was to place a small (emphasis on small) bathroom in the crook of the L. It is so small, in fact, that I had to search for a special sink for the space, and it required a pocket door. I immediately loved the idea. Our mudroom and laundry have a durable slate floor that is easy to clean. The floor change is supposed to symbolically mark a transition to a private, family area from the more public spaces. Private + easy to clean = the right spot for a wee bathroom just for our family to use. Though she be but little, she is fierce.

That little bathroom is by far the most used in our house. Since I spend so much time in the laundry room and nearby kitchen, it is my spot. This will probably change over time, but for now it is also where my kids do their hair and brush their teeth just before school, Ironically, it is also where a lot of guests go (making me regret the expensive Florida tile in the seldom-used-and-beautifully-decorated-powder-room). There is just one problem with the little room; the special small sink is too little for a cabinet (it barely holds a bar of soap). A few years back we addressed the issue by adding a basket to corral a few items, but our basket overfloweth :

Wishing to better use the space, I decided to go vertical! Since I think my girls will eventually use their own bathroom to get ready, I did not want to invest in shelving. Thus, the idea to use a peg board was born (I had a piece lying around from a previous project). Even though the room is totally utilitarian, I wanted a somewhat finished look so I bought a close-out piece of art from homegoods. At $8, it was less than the cost of a picture frame:

I ripped out the back.

I removed the glass and traced in on my pegboard to get the perfect measurements for the frame. Then I cut the pegboard with a plain old saw, all the while wishing I had a jigsaw. I popped the board in the frame and secured it with small nails. Then I hung it in the bathroom and let the girls go to town organizing their items. Here is the finished product. Its not pretty, but it is perfect temporary fix for the small but mighty bathroom.

Here is one more shot looking out of the room where you can see the reflection of this project and my newly reorganized laundry room:

The rest of my Monday will be spent working on summer schedules. Yikes! Here is wishing you accomplish all your goals this Monday morning!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Friendly and Financial Friday

As per my goals for Fridays, I am off to meet my friend-foe to talk about future partnerships. So today I am both saying hello and thinking about my financial future. Stay warm !!!

Throwback Thursdays: The Simchat Bat Parties

I have officially begun my quest to organize our family photos. They have been neglected on various digital devices for nearly 8 years. Y'all the digital mess is way worse than I thought!

The fun part was that I got to take a trip back in time to our baby's naming ceremony. I am also patiently waiting on the mail, which should contain the letter that instructs us to pick three potential dates for our eldest daughter's bat mitzvah. It won't actually occur until 2018, but it is a strange marker of time none-the-less. Since I ALREADY have bat mitzvahs on the brain, it seems like a good time to look back on both girls' simchat bat.
Unlike a bris, or circumcision, on the eighth day for boys, there are no explicit rituals for a girl. The level or formality and size is truly up to the parents to decided. Many people simply go to services to receive a blessing and announce her name. Our first daughter was born prematurely, and we experienced a huge outpouring of love from family, colleagues, and friends. We were so excited she was well and touched that we did it on the bigger side. I also sort of just wanted it on the bigger side! It wasn't over the top though.

It was actually a lovely and low-key event for having so many people--about 150. These picks are from a book I completed long ago. The invitations were sent as an insert along with her birth announcements. We held it at local restaurant. I tried to do it at the synagogue, but with the cost of the caterer, rentals, and floral to dress it up, it was actually less money to take 150 people out. They closed for the morning and we treated our guests to a phenomenal brunch. There was no music other than the Rabbi's guitar, and there were only the flowers the restaurant provided. We did splurge on a few details: we had cute pink napkins with her name and birth-date on them as well as pink cookies with her monogram as a give away. We started two nice traditions on that day. The rabbi suggested that we have a blessing bowl. People wrote notes and well wishes for our N and dropped them in the bowl.The idea is to read them on her bat mitzvah day (can't believe we will know that date soon). We also all wore pink, much to the grandfather's dismay. We loved these ideas so much that we carried them forward for the next time.

I also learned somethings that I didn't want to carry forward to the next event. Even though the restaurant gave us an incredible deaal on food, our conversation on alcohol was a little murky. I negotiated juices, coffee, and teas into the price. We had new parent brain, but we are both lawyers. We told them to offer only those drinks but that if someone specifically asked for an alcoholic beverage to serve it to them discretely. Due to my poor planning, a landslide effect, and servers natural desire to up-sale, we ended up with a doozy of bar bill for 10 am. It was as if every man, woman, and child had two drinks (which means some people had several, as no children were actually drinking)! Mimosas and bloody marys were to be expected, but somebody did a shot!!!!! There was also beer on the bill. Thankfully my parents had given a gift earmarked for the event and my in-laws were generous in other areas, so we didn't go broke. It was still a shockingly expensive day.

Two years later I found myself planning another simchat bat. I was better prepared. I called a restaurant without even investigating other options. To differentiate the girls' events we used another placed and served lunch this time. We offered champagne on trays as people walked in and when it was gone it was supposed to be gone. Ironically, my FIL (who is a regular on our local finer restaurant scene) ordered a bottle of wine for the family table. Erroneously assuming he was the host, they served him and a few tables followed suit. The bill was still much better than before. My mistake that time was that service was a bit slow. There was a choice of salads. In the future I would serve one salad with a choice of entree so that salads were ready to go down. Live and learn. This time we still had 150 people, but we didn't feel obligated to include a lot of my in-laws friends (my husband is from here and many are a regular part of our lives). We added several families we met in playgroups and a ton of two year olds!

This time the family joined us up front which was really special.

We kept the blessing bowl and added it to a candy buffet with "life is sweet" signage and adorable bags with her monogram and that saying. I know these were de rigour for awhile and might be passe' now, but it was totally cutting edge in 2007. My jars made the rounds of people wanting to borrow them after this event! We had matching table numbers and place cards all made on my 2006 issued Mountaincow, all with the moninker "life is sweet."
Our cousins even came in pink shirts this time (so fun--it was catching).

I didn't have great detail shots because I was so busy those days but in addition to what you see here I have lots of pictures of the people who made it so special that I am now pulling together. Hopefully this TTT will keep me on track!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

What’s Next? (Workforce) Wednesday: What am I worth?

I have a long laundry list of things to do, including laundry. So long, in fact, that it makes me think I could never go back to work full-time because there is no way that everything could possibly be accomplished if I were working. Truthfully, I know that the reverse would probably occur. It is very possible that I would find ways to run my home more efficiently, encourage my kids to pull some of their share, and let go of some unnecessary tasks that I now feel are perfunctory. Just yesterday I was completely without pressure to do anything and so I did almost nothing between drop-off and pick-up.

I did do some things, obvi. There was some work for the 10 day pledge. I packed three lunches (including my husband's which only ever happens on Passover), made homemade butternut squash soup for myself and a neighbor with whom I am doing a soup swap, baked whole wheat bread, and made dinner (Pan-seared cod served on a bed of zucchini "spaghetti" topped with fine-chopped Israeli salad). All of that was actually way easier than it sounds, leaving me to "work the whiteboard" for summer planning. I don't actually use a whiteboard for this, but this is what my husband and I call summer camp planning it after a hilarious episode of Modern Family depicting the pains parents go through to effectively plan multiple camps for multiple kids. The problem I was that I got side-tracked and mostly worked Facebook, Instagram, and this blog. One pleasant distraction was a call from a dear friend who is my former adversary (in a professional sense--she represented the opposite side in all of my cases for the five years I worked part-time).

This friend-foe and I chose to leave our part-time, contracted positions at the same time. She, too, is thinking about starting to work, maybe even as my partner one day. She got a very flattering and tempting offer for a part-time job with fluctuating hours (not flexible, mind you, but fluctuating). The pay was...well, it was part-time public interest attorney pay. That's the life we chose for ourselves and so we know that we won't get rich. But the question for her and for me is, "at what point is it worth it to work?"

This begs the inherent other question--the big one: "What is my worth?" Is my worth defined by my fancy degrees from a fancy place? Is it defined by the social good that I could do? Is it defined by the money that my family would have to spend to replace me as housekeeper, nanny, cook, and chief homemade whole wheat bread baker? Is it defined by the money that I wouldn't be spending in Target if I were at work? I really don't know. Like so many stay-at-home-whatevers, I do know that my worth today will be defined by how much of this to-do list actually gets finished by 3:00~

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Total Health Tuesday: Its getting real!

After clearing space in our (intentionally) small pantry, I hit Whole Foods and Trader Joe's:

Why are my groceries worth posting you may ask? I am sure at some point I will say more, but for sake of giving attention to the actual topic at hand, I will simply say that I have battled my weight off and on since I was nine (my profile pic was a few years back in better days). I know what to do to lose weight in a slow, healthy fashion and how to make flavorful food that is also good for you. But when I am bad, I am horrid. Since I was doing all the right stuff and not seeing results last year, I really went off the rails the last few months. My habits show on the scale--the proof is in the pudding (or in this case the pudding led to the proof?).

I didn't need the scale to tell that. I just feel disgusting. We went to Disney just before Halloween; after Halloween it was practically Thanksgiving. Hanukkah felt like it was the next day, and then it was instantaneously New Year's. It has been 10 straight weeks of parties, dinners, and occasions not to cook at home or fill the fridge (at least very often). In 2015 one of my resolutions goals is to get healthy. This may involve an actual diet plan or trip to a nutritionist. It will definitely involve working out. For now, however, it is just about getting real.

I just want to get some real food in our bodies. To that aim, our family and several friends are taking the 100 days of real food 10 day pledge.

Since I have so much knowledge from past weight loss about reading labels and eating organic, I thought it would be a snap. Time will tell, but shopping was not easy as I thought. I had to box up some surprising "off-limits" food during our pledge to avoid temptation. Yes, I knew easy mac was processed and out of the question, but the Organic Whole Cereal (it has added sugar) and organic breadcrumbs?!. Here is what we boxed up:

As you can see above, the bulk of the trip was devoted to organic produce. I couldn't get organic squash at either store, but I feel okay with that as we don't eat the skin. I did get some organic (or grass fed) dairy products including two blocks of cheese, milk, Greek Yogurt and Irish butter. The seafood that you can see is all frozen and wild-caught. I have a great fish monger, but I will have these if I don't get there. I didn't have to buy meat as we already have a deep freezer filled with grass-fed beef from a cow share and some non-hormone chicken (though it is not local). Finally, there are some canned and boxed items, some of which are not organic, but all of which are just made from whole fruits and vegetables:

The food cost was almost double our normal weekly spending at $240. I think the cost is offset by the fact that this includes food for lunches that my husband and I normally eat out. The fridge was also really bare from winter break, so any grocery trip may have been costly. Today is the first day with the food--I will be back to talk about our experience thus far next Tuesday.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Come to Order Monday: The Laundry Room

When we built our house I did not think too much about the laundry room. We came from an 80 year old house where the laundry was in the basement with no proper shelving at all. The architect's plan for a main floor laundry with two closets and a sink with an under-cabinet seemed like a huge luxury. The laundry room is just off our garage and mudroom. It was a big improvement from the old house, but after a few years I realized that I should have given a bit more thought to the room. I do practically live in there after all! I added wallpaper, upper cabinets,and even some decor. I love the look of the laundry room. It truly is set-up beautifully for the room's purposes, which are: 1) to clean and fold laundry, 2) store cleaning supplies, 3) house out of season or bulky items that would otherwise go into our mudroom (no need for snow suits to be in the cubbies year-round), and finally 4) store a few extra items if we buy something on sale.

Even though the systems in place do work, a year later, the room needed a wee tune-up. Here is how it looked Sunday morning:

The pictures actually look worse than the reality as the closets and cabinets are (of course) closed at all times. Anyhow this gives you a glimpse into how even a well-plan and organized space can slip into a bit of chaos after a year of hard-use. Since one of my resolutions goals is to organize the house, I figured this was a good space to start. I tried to consider the purposes of the space listed above, remove anything that was not serving those purposes, weed out unnecessary items (like boots that no longer fit my kids), and group like-items in meaningful ways.

It took a bit longer than I thought it would because I became sidetracked. I noticed that I had a stack of paper plates that made no sense being in the laundry room. This led me to the kitchen to put them away. This made me realize that my appointed paper goods drawer was a mess, which made me empty the whole thing out. While doing so, I saw these little plastic cups. That made me think I should dole out some almonds in little cups for snacks this week. When I finished that, I turned my attention back to the paper-goods drawer. Now it was lunchtime. So, I made lunch. Then I finished the drawer.....

Finally it was back to the laundry room, where I focused on weeding out superfluous items and logically grouping everything. I ended up with this:

If you are wondering what is in the baskets--they hold seasonal items that we may need (one is sunscreen and bugspray, another has extra hats and gloves, another has flip-flops and sunglasses). I rotate the baskets, bringing the current season's needs down for easy reach. They have worked perfectly and have not needed reorganization. Our cleaning products are about 80% organic and chemical free. I have been buying method, honest company, and some other green products for several years. I even tried making my own, which is why the Dr. Bronner's is there. We still have one bus tub of old stuff that we are using until its gone and for really dirty days :).

Next week I am going to tackle our cubbies and mudroom as I work towards touching up the whole house!

Friday, January 2, 2015

Dunt, Dunt, Dunt: The Goals are Revealed!

I mentioned that I have only one real resolution. Saying hello first is something I can do with no expectation of results. Doing the action in and of itself fulfills the resolution. Not so with other would-be resolutions.

For example, last year I resolved to lose weight and get healthy. I worked out like crazy and ate well, but didn’t lose a significant amount of weight. Even though I never defined how much weight loss would actually be a success, I felt like a failure. I was discouraged and fell off the wagon by September (actually a pretty good run). I threw the workouts out with the bath water, so to speak. This year, instead of broad resolutions, I am setting goals.

Various organizational strategies define goals. Some say that goals are merely aspirational outcomes that should be broken down into discrete, measurable tasks. Others emphasize setting goals that are themselves measurable. I know it is all semantics.

For me, saying something is a “goal” rather than a “resolution” is just a little mental trick to be kinder to myself. If I don’t reach the goal by the end of the year, I haven’t outright failed. I also like the idea of breaking the goals down into measurable tasks, so that I can feel some success. Makes sense to me, and they are my goals after all!

I am still working on setting measurable goals and breaking those down into discrete tasks, but I have four broad categories that I plan to work on: physical health (including weight loss), organization (including all of our family pictures that I have left to rot in old computers), saving money, and planning my reentry to the workforce. Those four plus the one resolution equals five things on which I will be actively working.

Since I have decided to use the blog as an organizational tool for myself, my five work areas break (somewhat neatly) down into five days a week. I am thinking about

Come to Order Monday:
I used to have court on Monday morning (get it—come to order?) and now I plan to start the week off right with task setting and organization projects to get my house in order.
Total Health Tuesday:
These are posts to keep me accountable, but will feature healthy recipes from the week for you to enjoy.
What’s Next? (Workforce) Wednesday:
The one day where I wonder about my purpose in life.
Throwback Thursday:
As a part of my own goal to organize our family photos I will feature our past parties and crafts.
Financial or Friendly Friday:
Alternating posts about my attempts to save a bit in the very material world in which I live and checking in on resolution to say hello!