Things I Love Thursdays

A few happy Things I Love on this first Thursday of August…

Pengoloo

Penguins

 

A game I never mind playing!  Pengoloo is a memory game made of hysterical little penguins and their colored eggs.  The game is easy to understand, fun, and fast!  It is loved by all three of my kids.  And we’ve given it as a birthday present in the past and it has been well-received. Only negative? The eggs are a choking hazard so stick to playing with kids who are 3+.

Pumpkin Muffins (recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

I do admit that I am usually anti pumpkin food stuffs.  And it isn’t fall.  But these are easy (one bowl!) and tasty.  My kids adore them (because, really, like most muffins, they are basically cake).  Smitten Kitchen is brilliant – I’ve loved every recipe I’ve tried (except the gingerbread, but I think that was more about me and less about the recipe, but I digress…)

Make these muffins.  I cut the sugar down to 1 cup, and eyeball the pumpkin amount.  I also eyeball the spices.  And the muffins are always great.  The recipe is really forgiving. I’m going to try making them with a 50/50 white/whole wheat flour mix in the next few days.  I bet they’ll still be great. Added bonus? These keep beautifully for a few days, unlike some muffins with fruit in them that get soggy on day 2.

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/3 cup canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (I usually just use cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger)
  • cinnamon sugar

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325 and put muffin tins in a 12-muffin pan.
  2. Whisk together the first 4 ingredients.
  3. Add all remaining ingredients except the cinnamon sugar and whisk ingredients together.
  4. Fill muffin cups 3/4 of the way full.
  5. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.
  6. Bake for 25-30 minutes (mine are always done at 25).

Enjoy these August days – eat as much ice cream as possible and run in those sprinklers – it’ll be back to school soon enough!

Leisure Time

Once a year my husband heads to Maine on a Friday morning with all three kids. This means that when I get home from work on Friday night, I get the house all to myself for a glorious 12-14 hours.  Sure, I’ll be sleeping for 7-8 of those hours but the other 5 or 6 hours?  I can do whatever I want!  And those sleeping hours?  They will be uninterrupted! (Except maybe by the confused cat, wondering where the rest of her noisy family is.) And the waking hours?  No one asking for anything (except maybe the hungry cat)! No one needing dressing, changing, wiping, feeding or any of my attention!  OH HAPPY DAY!

 

My mind spins with all of the possibilities!  I will make a plan!

THE PLAN:

I will…

… go to Target on the way home, or maybe Whole Foods, or maybe Trader Joe’s!  I never go to Trader Joe’s! I will get their margarita mix!  And some onion bhajis!  And croissants! And flowers!  And mango babka!

Image from Trader Joe's. Click on photo to go there!

Image from Trader Joe’s. Click on photo to go there!

… swing by Starbucks for an iced tea! That I won’t have to share!

… stop by my regular grocery store to pick up some items on my list! And wander slowly through the aisles, contentedly humming along to the piped-in grocery store music! And I won’t buy goldfish! Or yogurt in a tube!

… go home, preheat the oven and make this chocolate cake! While listening to 80’s hits and dancing around the kitchen!

Smitten Kitchen's Everyday Chocolate Cake. This is her photo - isn't it gorgeous?! Click on the link to visit her site - it is one of the very best!

Smitten Kitchen’s Everyday Chocolate Cake. This is her photo – isn’t it gorgeous?! Click on the link to visit her site – it is one of the very best!

… clear some toys from the toy room while the cake is baking!  Finally get around to moving the toys we are keeping into the newly-finished basement!  Prep some toys for donation! Good deeds! Tax write-offs! Less legos to step on!

… clear some of the 5,000 photos (I’m not joking) off of my phone!  Back everything up to the Cloud, my laptop, and my external drive!  Add photos to my family photo share site!

… figure out my Amazon Fire TV stick!

… unpack my suitcase from my Midwest trip! Do a load of cold delicates that is just mine!

… go out and get a steak or something decadent, and sit alone, sipping a cocktail (or two!) and reading!  No picking up pieces of cold, slimy mac & cheese off of the floor when I’m done! No rushing through dinner! No asking for the check when I order the entree!

Yes, please.

Yes, please.

… put on my PJs and watch a movie of my choosing, with an R rating, from the seat of my choosing, on my own couch! While eating cake!

… sleep a glorious 8 hours! Wake slowly! Drink an entire cup of coffee while it it still hot! Take a walk then a long shower using all the hot water I want! Eat a piece of chocolate cake for breakfast! No need to set a good example!

… swing by the farmer’s market for raspberries! And tomatoes! And veggies! And anything else that strikes my fancy!

… pack my bag for the journey up to Maine! Listen to podcasts on the way! Stop at my favorite outlet in Kittery! Make it up to see the kids at lunch, feeling fulfilled and refreshed!

THE REALITY:

I will go home, put on my PJs, and order Thai take out.

I will then realize I have to get dressed to get the Thai food, throw on a sweatshirt (in July), and hope I don’t run into anyone I know who is out and being social and fun on a Friday night.

On the way out, I will realize we are out of cat food but skip the grocery store, lest I run into one of those social, fun, productive acquaintances. This means I will have to listen to the cat loudly lament the terribleness that is dry food (disgusting death nuggets, stupid human!) for the rest of the evening.

I will half watch The Great British Bake Off (go Ian!) while playing Plants v. Zombies until my eyelids droop at 9pm.

I will wake up to pee twice, and to a meowing cat three times.  And I will wake up three more times for no good reason, other than that I’m really used to sleeping next to my husband.

I will leave early to go to Maine, because I’m inexplicably up at 5:30am and have no coffee or half and half in the house, because I anti-socially skipped the grocery store.

And I’ll drive straight through, because I should.  And because Maine is awesome.  And so are my kids and my husband.

And lobster.

 

Things I Love Thursdays

July is very nearly here!  Summers really do fly.  And even though our routine is pretty much the same – I still work full time and my kids are in camp/school/daycare – somehow summer feels more magical than it ever has before. I love it.

A few favorites I’m getting around to sharing.  This time I’m sharing some of my clothing favs.

Alice + Ames

These dresses are just my favorite.  They do cost more than I’d usually spend but they are well made, the colors/patterns are beautiful, and the fabric has just enough stretch so that the dresses are super comfortable (according to Plum, at least).  The best part? THE TWIRL!

 

Note: the selection online is currently pretty limited – I believe they are due to restock soon.  In the meantime, I’ve been eyeing this mustard dot Sunday dress…

mustarddot1

 

Keen “Bug Shoes”

Pistachio (almost 2 1/2) needed a second pair of closed-toed sneakers to wear at school so I got him some funky Keens with bugs on them.  He adores them! They have held up beautifully and they’re really cute, though they do look slightly clownish with their big green toes.  The only negative is that the tongues are thin canvas and need wrangling every time we put them on.

8634_magnet_bugs_3q

 

Mini Boden Dinosaurs

A while back Mini Boden launched a line of clothes for girls that feature dinosaurs.  They are adorable – and I’m so happy when I can get Plum something that doesn’t feature a kitten, some sort of food product (so much ice cream and candy on girls’ clothes!) or Elsa.  She has the shirt, but I may look around and see if I can find a dress on sale somewhere (supplies at the Boden website seem limited).  RAWR!

16GSPR_31966_GRY 16GSPR_33415_DIN

 

In other happy TILT news, the strawberry Vans I got for Plum a few months ago have become her favorite pair of shoes.  Though I need to give them some TLC since they are now brown.  I’m considering replacing them, or perhaps getting her a new pair in rose gold leather.  Because 1. leather doesn’t get quite as dirty, and 2. every gal should own at least one pair of gold shoes.

vans

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Happy 4th to all!

 

(PS – As always, links aren’t affiliate, they’re just there for your convenience.)

Mother’s Little Helpers

Though I do make an effort not to over complicate or over schedule our lives, life can still be pretty hectic sometimes.  There’s just a lot to remember and a lot to do to manage a household, parent, work, make it all work.  I’m certainly not the most organized, or the most motivated. Example: yesterday I ate some Oreo Thins and took a nap instead of prepping meals for the week and organizing the toy room (a task that desperately needs to be done – we’re drowning in Matchbox cars and Duplo blocks!).  But I have found some tools and things that help me get stuff done, so I thought I’d share them.

 

Stuff that makes my life easier/more fun/less complicated…

I’ll start with the most obvious: my husband.  He’s amazing.  I’m also very lucky to have supportive family nearby and a kind and moderately flexible employer.  I am so grateful for all of these.

 

A shared calendar: My husband and I use a shared Google calendar.  We use an app called Tiny Calendar on our phones to access it there, too.  I could just use Google Calendar, but it didn’t work on our phones when we needed it 4 years ago, so we ended up with Tiny Calendar.  So I stuck with it.  I like it.  Admission: our calendar is color-coded, but only a little bit.

tc

A housekeeper:  For the cost of dinner out for 2 (with an adult beverage or two), I can get my house cleaned beautifully.  We hem and haw over this luxury.  Because it IS a luxury.  And it is not something we do all of the time. But it makes a huge difference in my stress level.  I love having my entire house clean at one time.  Someone once told me that when it comes to house upkeep and maintenance, you can pay with your time or you can pay with your money.  At this point in my life, though I am certainly capable and willing to clean my house (and I do!), my time is precious.  I’d rather spend three hours on Sunday with my children picking strawberries, or playing at the park.  So we occasionally pay to have the house cleaned by a professional.  I never feel like it is money wasted.

16989150

Grocery list app:  There are several out there, but we use AnyList.  Mostly we use it for groceries (duh), since we share the shopping and cooking duties but you can make all sorts of lists.  Each week, my husband and I add items to the list from our phones and when one of us shops, we can use the list and cross things off with a touch.  We have a list of favorites that are easy to add to the weekly list, and updates are pretty much made in real time. Often I’m adding things to the list while he’s on the way to the store.  Very handy.  We also share a more general “to do” list using this app.  Very helpful when things get busy, or when we’ve got to pack to go away.

alist

Shutterfly app: This is a little glitch-y and imperfect in my experience but for the most part is a good way to make sure that the photos I take with my phone actually end up somewhere other than just on my phone.  The app is on my phone and my husband’s, and photos get uploaded to one account, so everything is in the same place.

sfly

Chatbooks: I really love this app.  It links to my Instagram account.  Once I’ve reached 60 new photos, Chatbooks prints them into lovely 6×6 inch books ($8 and free shipping!). My favorite part is that you can set up subscriptions – so the lovely little books ship out automatically to grandparents and special people in your life. There is NO extra work on my behalf.   Win!  I also love that the books are customizable – the photo of my kids painting the walls of the shower au naturale isn’t really Instagram-appropriate, but it IS adorable, and I can add it to my Chatbook before my book goes to print.  I order the slightly more expensive hard cover edition as a keepsake for myself, and let my kids enjoy the soft cover ones.  Use my code to get your first book free: CYKKMXVK.

cbooks

Amazon Subscribe & Save: This is useful with small kids and saves on trips to Target (which always cost at least $75 more than planned).  I set up to send diapers and wipes on a monthly basis and there are some other household goods we get less frequently.  It is a time saver for me.  Prices typically end up being comparable to my local Sam’s Club.  I suspect I’d love the Dash Button too, but I’m reluctant to commit. Plus, I’m a little concerned that my kids would find the buttons and we’d end up with 45 packages of paper towels.

subs

 

Stuff I’m working on…

Who has advice on the best way to deal with all of their iPhone videos?  I do back up to the Cloud, my computer and an external drive, but I’d love to put them in a format for my family to enjoy. Advice?

I’m going to try to devise a way to keep in better touch with people who are important to me beyond Facebook.  I’ll let you know how I do!

 

PS – No affiliate links, they are just provided for your convenience.

Just a Tiny Bit Magic

He thumps quickly into the bedroom, breathless and scared.

“Mom, I had a scary dream,” he says, voice shaky.

“Oh honey, I’m sorry.  What was your dream about?”

“There was a bad man with white eyes who made me go to jail,” he says, crawling up into my bed and into my arms.

“That sounds very scary.  But you’re safe.  No one is going to take you to jail. You’re safe,” I repeat.

He sighs, his body relaxes, but his heart still pounds.  We snuggle in the pre-dawn light. I can just hear the birds starting to sing.  After a quiet few moments I ask, “Are you ready to go back in your bed?”  He nods.

“Will you carry me?” he asks, voice low.  It is a rare request.

“Of course,” I say as I pick him up and he wraps his thin, strong, spidery limbs around me.

I place him in bed, pull the covers over him, kiss his head and return to my bed.

Three minutes later I hear his footsteps again.

“Mom, I can’t get the pictures out of my head, can you erase them?”

I nod.

He climbs into my bed, and I reach up to rub the back of his head.  I brush his hair from his eyes, and massage his scalp, mumbling as I go, “Yes… got it… right there… this should work.”  This is the nightmare erasing ritual I created a few years ago, based on an improvisational parenting moment (aren’t they all?), based on an idea I had given my little sister post-nightmare, 25 years ago.  It is perhaps a bit dishonest, in the same vein as kissing away the hurt.  But it is a version of the mother/child pact that has probably existed as long as there have been mothers and children.  Moms make things better.

Someday, he will understand that I don’t have the power to erase anything.  That I can’t really fix very much, that I’m not even “just a tiny bit magic” like he thinks I am now.  He will realize that the world can be big, and mean and complicated.  Perhaps he’s started to figure this out already.

But tonight, in the dark, I am his mom, and I have the ability to fix it.  I can heal, I can help, I can calm.  And I can make the bad dreams go away.  I do not take that loving trust lightly.

“That’s better,” he whispers.  And this time, we hold hands as I walk him back to his room and warm bed.

Magical Moments

I am cuddled in the wing chair with my littlest, he is winding down for bed, begging for just one more book.  We are snuggled in, chatting about our day.  He is 2 and he has a lot to say.  I tell him how much I love him, how proud I am of him, I tickle him a little to hear his gravely little laugh.  He reaches up and touches my nose gently.  “Mama?” he whispers.  “Yes, Pistachio?” I coo back at him, in love with him and the tender moment we are sharing.  “Poopy butt,” he whispers – not because he has one, just because he is 2,  those are funny words and he knows how to say them.  I laugh.

After a long weekend of fun, activities and probably too much sugar, my oldest is weary.  We have brushed, flossed, chatted, read books, and he has had the 4 million after dinner “snacks” he requires.  (Seriously, the nicer and more complete the dinner, the more they feel the need to gorge late night on the contents of the fridge.) “Tomorrow is a school day,” I say, peeling back the duvet on my bed, to lead him to his.  He groans loudly, overtired and forever complaining about the 20 foot walk from my cozy bed to his.  “Let’s go, Sweetie, it is late,” I say, leading the way.  I’m surprised when I feel his thin arms encircle me from the back.  He hugs me – hip level – and sighs “Mama, I love you.”   And the unexpected, nontraditional hug from my grumbling little guy makes my Mother’s Day the best one yet.

I’m perpetually exhausted, but oh what fun it is being mom to these amazing people.  It is tiny moments like these that make my heart pop.

To Plum at Four

(Late again on this birthday update – time and tax season are to blame.  But now, here we are, just around the corner from Pickle’s 6th, so Plum certainly deserves a small ode to her 4th.)

To Plum at Four

And just like that, you turned the corner from toddler to kid.  Little to big.

 

My sweet Plum with the “golden” hair and silly hula moves.

You are the brightest star.  I finally understand what it means when they say someone is “beaming” because your huge smile IS sunshine.  Actual sunshine.

You love to play and be heard.  You love your own space.  Your hugs are always lovely surprises.

You are brave.  You love to run.  You love to help (until you don’t).  You love Elsie cat so much we worry slightly for her safety.  You are good at being part of a team.

You are silly and smart, fun and funny.  You are confident.  You work hard.  And more than anyone I know, the camera catches the essence of you.  Perhaps because you don’t hold back, or perhaps because you just can’t help but let your light shine through.

You are my middle, and perhaps – unsure when to lead and when to follow – you just decided to do it your own dang way in your own sweet time.   And I love you for it.

Happy birthday Plum.  Four is awesome, and so are you.

Things I Love Thursdays

Happy Friday!  A few more things I love on this lovely Spring day.  Happy Mother’s Day to all!

Orlando Owl by Jellycat – I’m pretty sure Orlando is my spirit animal.

Who?

Better Life Bags – Beautiful, custom bags made by women in Detroit. A business with a great mission and a great product.  I’m thinking I might need to order a special new bag for Mother’s Day.

nicolebag

Strawberry Slip-Ons by Vans – These are definitely Plum’s very favorite shoes.  I love them because they are adorable, apparently comfy, and require no assistance from me to put them on.  Do these come in adult sizes? Yes. Yes they do.

vans

Longer days, things are getting greener, bugs aren’t really biting yet – hooray for May!

(Just an FYI – there are no affiliate links here, they are just for your convenience.)

Summer Lovin’

Yes, there was snow a week ago. But that hasn’t stopped me from thinking about sunshine and the longer days that are just around the corner.

Admission: I am on the receiving end of some ribbing for my love of planning.  It is possible that my mother actually gifted me with a framed a greeting card that said something like, “All spontaneous fun must be planned in advance!” or something like that.

I just like to know what the plan is.  And I’m kind of bossy.

But I’m not making any apologies for my summer to do list this year!  Summer around here is short, and there is much to do before the arrival of fall (and Pickle starting 1st grade. WHAT?!)

2039156788-quote-David-Hockney-you-must-plan-to-be-spontaneous-152430

Summer Fun To Do List 2016

  • Pick up subs and have an afternoon/evening picnic/swim at a local lake
  • Attend a Minor League Baseball game
  • Strawberry picking
  • Ice-Cream-for-Dinner Night
  • Weekly trips to our favorite local spot with ice cream, farm animals and an amazing sand pile (aka kid heaven)
  • Surprise the kids with a day off from school to go to the beach and have fun
  • At least 2 weekend trips up to Maine to stay with family
  • Go visit my sister and the new baby for a long weekend (probably with at least one of my kiddos tagging along)!
  • Trip to the Zoo
  • Solo trip to the Coast for some outlet shopping and a great lobster roll (okay, maybe I’ll bring a friend, or my husband)
  • Mini golf
  • As many al fresco dinners on the deck as the weather and mosquitoes will allow
  • Bring the big kids to two of the great “for kids” shows at our local professional theater
  • Make ice cream with the kids
  • A few evenings hosting friends for cookouts and play time in the yard
  • An evening with cookies, bug spray, and a picnic blanket at a local bandstand concert.

I was going to add “backyard camping” to the list, but I think my husband would kill me (and make ME be the one to sleep in the buggy tent).

A few of last year’s photos from our favorite ice cream spot/farm/giant sand pile/kid heaven:

 

Happy Spring to all!  Summer is on the way – what is on your list?

You Get What You Need

I want a cup of tea.

Not herbal. The real stuff. With milk and sugar.

And I want someone to make me popovers.

Which I will eat warm with a little butter and cinnamon sugar.

 

I want someone to wash my duvet cover and then put it back on my comforter. Because if we’re honest with each other, that is a four-person job.

 

I want a week to declutter, shuffle and reshuffle, purge (stuff, not vomit – though both usually make you feel better), think about writing something, nap.

 

I want dinner to be done, meals planned. But really, I want to do that stuff myself.

I want a bedside clock for my husband that isn’t the brightest clock on the planet.

I want the socks paired.

Oh the socks.

 

I want not to worry about the four RSVPs, camps, birthday party to plan.

I want to be grateful that I have parties, camps, birthday parties to worry about.

I want new work shoes that I don’t have to break in.

I want to use the hours between 8:30pm and 10:30pm wisely at least once a week.

I want to figure out how on earth to spend more time being and less time doing.

 

I want to cook every day. Walk every day. Sleep more. Pick up less. Read to my kids more. Explore more. Love more. Give more.  Fight more for the things I think are worth fighting for. And sit on a blanket on the grass in the sun.

 

I want to spend more time doing silly and creative things, and less time wondering what could have possibly spilled on the floor to make it that sticky.  I want more time with my kids. I want more time with my husband. I want more time by myself.

I want more time having grown-up conversations. With wine. I want more music in my house. I want less dust. I want my kids to eat less yogurt.

 

I want more dancing in my life.

 

And I want the thank you notes to write themselves.