cream-colored ponies and crisp apple strudel...

I totally, totally want to complain about the insane and/or dopey comments prospective buyers make after they’ve viewed our house. I totally want to complain so much, you have no idea. But I won’t because Steve (not his real name) told me to do yoga instead and bought me an annual subscription to FINE.

(But if you really want me to complain, I will totally unleash. Just leave your request in the comments. I am nothing if not accommodating to my readers.)

Carrying on...

...doorbells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles!

No, it’s NOT a trip to the Austrian Alps—it’s a blog post of some of my favorite things!

(I can totally hear Julie Andrews’ voice in my head. If you read this with an English accent and I think it will enhance your experience.)

While Ms. Andrews liked some weird stuff—doorbells?—I, on the other hand, like only cool stuff! Come with me on this journey, won’t you?

2013-06-18 15.07.48 These are my kitchen shelves of jarred non-perishables. No, I neither grew nor canned any of this stuff. (I’m much too afraid of botulism for such an endeavor as canning. Oh—that could be the seed of a fantastic post: “things of which I am afraid.”) I did buy these things in bags and empty them into the jars. It makes me feel like a pioneer woman when I look at them.

2013-06-18 15.40.14 Here is my beloved green tea latté. My love of the green tea latté is not news here, but please allow me to expound. The green tea latté is not only delicious and refreshing AND a perfect mid-afternoon snack, but green tea is high in antioxidants. And honey (a crucial ingredient in my recipe) is a natural antibacterial, contains flavanoids, boosts the immune system, fights carcinogens in the body and can even contain probiotics! And I am ready to share my recipe. Once I hit 10,000 unique daily visitors! I average about 80 right now, so you should probably get to passing this blog around. I am terrible at math, but by my calculations this shouldn’t take long at all. You will be sipping this delicious nectar in no time. In the meanwhile, I will continue to enjoy them in great anticipation of sharing the joy with all who visit my blog.

(I cannot wait to tell you this recipe!)

2013-06-18 15.14.11 NEW TECHNOLOGY ALERT!

(Well, new to me at least and all the people like me who figure stuff out way after everyone else does. If that describes you, then get ready for a new technology alert!)

This is Evernote. Evernote allows you to create “notebooks” in which you can stash individual notes. Instead of having bazillions of random documents cluttering your desktop lest you forget all the important crap you'd better NOT forget and then have your life fall apart as a result, you can save them all in this one easy place. You can sort and search and accumulate more information than you could ever put to use. But at least it will all be organized. Also, Evernote most likely does way more than I even know since I am not good at exploring technology. If you discover anything you think I might like, please let me know. 2013-06-18 15.07.29 (Above is my uncluttered desktop. If I planned anything well and had a little foresight, I would have taken a photo of my cluttered desktop to show you the difference. You’ll just have to take my word for it that it was a holy mess before Evernote.)

2013-05-08 15.04.09 Target steno pads. Love ‘em. Love ‘em, love ‘em, love ‘em. Like most writers, I have my preferred pad and pen. The pen I use is fine point blue ink from Bic. I am immovable on this. You will not move me. Go ahead and try. For many years, I have used regluar old college ruled legal pads. ‘Cause the thing with those is that you are always working from a fresh sheet—tear the top written-upon sheet off and you are left with a brand new, clean, glistening page. Good energy, people. But with a legal pad, as you tear a sheet off, you have to put it somewhere and risk it being lost or going out of sequence and no writer enjoys losing work. Just ask one. S/he will agree, I promise you. I dealt with it. Then I found these steno pads at Target. Wire-bound, people! Just flip the sheet over, and voilà! Brand new, clean, glistening page! Brilliant. And $2.99. $2.99!

2013-06-18 16.43.22 Cube bag. Do I even need to explain this one? It’s a cube. It holds its shape. Also it collapses down flat. Is there anything left to tell you? I really think I’ve said it all.

(And it was $4.99. $4.99!)

2013-06-18 15.16.32 This is the new (again, I use that word loosely) Gmail “default” inbox. Holy crap, this is awesome. The inbox I have always wanted. I am beside myself with excitement. I’m not even exaggerating. It is comprised of tabs wherein you can teach Gmail where to direct your emails. What? Are you kidding me? Now as the emails flow in, they go to the tabs wherein I want them to go. (And I got to use the word "wherein" twice!) Seriously. This is almost too awesome. It not only creates less work, but keeps me organized. When I am organized, I feel sane. For me. Which might not be saying much, but it’s better than nothing.

So, these are a few of my favorite things. (You totally just sang that in your head. I know you did.) Please let me know if you want me to complain about the insane and/or dopey comments prospective buyers make after they’ve viewed our house. I am totally dying to do it.

(I'll just go do some yoga now.)

thursday stew—a random collection of unrelated miscellany

I think some of my cleaning habits are pretty brilliant. Or maybe totally compulsive. But mostly brilliant. Such as separating the dirty cutlery in the dishwasher basket as you fill it. Do you know how much less time it takes to put it all away when you’ve already separated it?! At least 2 minutes less than when it hasn’t been. Imagine what you will be able to get accomplished now that I have shared this trick.mixed_cutlery

I happened to be at my sister’s when I was writing this so I snapped a photo of her basket of MIXED cutlery. That is one disgraceful mess. And she will be separating all that for at least 2 extra minutes once it’s washed. This kind of wasted time is why world peace gets back-burnered, people.

Here’s a laundry trick you’ll love. I used to just do the kids laundry together in one big load. But now they are getting bigger and so are their clothes (that will always happen) so I usually just combine mine in with theirs and make it a 2 load job. (Steve does his own laundry. I know, ladies... don’t even look at him—he’s MINE.) Now the problem, I soon learned, was that the first load was full of halves of sock and jammies sets, some of this and some of that and zero organization. I am nothing without my obsessive methodologies, people! You really want to know how I do it, don’t you? First load consists of pants and anything that goes on a hanger; second load is for undies, socks, shirts and jammies sets. Here’s the why part. Pants fold up quickly and I don’t even have to fold the hanger stuff. I carry it all up, hang up the dresses and shirts, stash the pants (super quick) and wait for load number 2 wherein all socks and jammies sets are conveniently together! Then I fold them and put them in neat little piles according to the individual to whom it belongs. Then I bring the basket upstairs and usually empty it out around 5 days later.

(Did you want to know this much about my laundry system?)

(Also, sorry if I just bored you to near-death.)

scratched_cell_phone I’m scared to tweet. I’m supposed to start using Twitter to build my author platform. I don’t know what to tweet and I don’t really understand Twitter in the first place and hash-tags and re-tweeting and I don’t like learning new things. I am the type who keeps the same cell phone until it literally falls apart or is no longer compatible with contemporary technology simply because I don’t want to have to figure out a new phone. That’s where I’m at on tweeting. But FINE I will do it. (And then wonder where it has been my whole life. Like Facebook and Spotify. And wine.)

kessik_and_chicken “Are you supposed to have that chicken?” This falls in the category of things you sometimes have to yell from the kitchen door out at kids in the yard. I would explain this one but would rather hear what you might be imagining. (Kindly leave your musings in the comments section below.)

TJ Trader Joe’s is awesome and I already knew this but I forgot for a while and now just remembered again. I have been thinking about how my grocery shopping methodologies (yes, of course I have a methodology for that, too—did you really fathom that I didn’t?) will need to change when we move. I do not like the primary grocery store in the area to which we are moving, but there is a Trader Joe’s about 45 minutes away. I figure I can go there every 2 weeks and do some bulk shopping and fill in on alternating weeks at the stores closer to home. I was always concerned that buying my full shopping list at Trader Joe’s would blow the budget. But it really didn’t! And organic apples for .79 cents a pound! .79 cents! I am a total convert.

(I just read that back to myself and almost died of boredom. Do you still have a pulse? If not, get someone to hit you in the chest with those electrified paddles they use on Grey’s Anatomy until you hear a beep beep beep. That’ll be your heart coming back. And sorry about that.)

m&ms_in_trash We received an ungodly amount of candy for Easter (which is kind of ironic). We ate some and saved some and some I had to put in the trash in order to stop eating it. This unfortunately did not entirely stop me from eating it until I threw something gross on top. Even then I considered just rinsing some peanut M&Ms off under the faucet. I am proud to say I didn’t. But mostly because Steve came home and I didn’t want to explain why I was rinsing peanut M&Ms off under the faucet.  (I should have waited until he was busy and then I might have gotten away with it. That’s what I’ll do next year.)

I wish you the happiest of Thursdays!

clutter is not the worst thing that can happen

Not cleaning made my life better. BR_mess2 That makes me sound gross which is not entirely accurate. Clean bathrooms, clean kitchen—totally. I HATE crumbs and sticky food messes—they seriously gross me out. And nasty stuff in the kitchen sink drain totally freaks me out. But that’s not what I’m talking about. What I’m talking about is your average, day-to-day crap pile. Mostly, this will be from the kids. If you don’t have kids, it will be from your husband. If you don’t have a husband, it will be from you. I haven’t really covered all the possible living-arrangement scenarios, and I strongly believe in being all-inclusive, so please simply insert your own configuration here, confident in the the knowledge that I embrace all of you.

That average, day-to-day crap pile used to make me raving nuts. Mean Mommy. Grouchy Wife. Seriously grumpy. I would reach the end of every single day and grudgingly, angrily, hostilely clean up that crap pile. Put everything back in its stinkin’ place, resenting every moment it took.

Then I chose not to do that anymore.

(You can do that, too, you know.)

messy_living_room Nothing bad will happen if you only clean that crap pile every 3 days or so. I swear—I totally ignore it most of the time. Trying to get the kids to help was more work than cleaning it myself. While I believe it’s important for kids to understand their responsibility to the home, I also believe that will naturally ripen as they develop. You live the behavior you want to nurture and you encourage them and you keep your expectations low when they are little, lest you find yourself wanting to toss them and their crap piles out the window.

“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

There is only so much you can achieve each day. And peace of mind and body should be one of those things. To give the best of ourselves to our kids we have to recharge. Better to ignore the crap pile and take some time to rejuvenate to ensure you have the best to give.

I did help myself out by cutting back on the clutter that I could—the knick-knacks, the amount of stuff out on the kitchen counter—and I seriously purged in general. I went rather cuckoo—stuff I didn’t really need or care about, duplicate items (do you really need 4,200 towels and 5,300 kitchen gadgets? No, you don’t), all that stuff you keep “just in case” (of what?)—GONE. And it worked—we have space and no more crammed closets and cabinets. That kind of simplifying makes day-to-day tidiness easier to maintain.

BR_mess1 And the crap pile? You clean that every few days. You let it go. Someday the kids won’t drop everything on the floor and throw their stuff around as a matter of course. They will outgrow this behavior. You can let this one go. I swear, you really can.

Easter_candy Speaking of cleaning up, please tell me what the hell I am going to do with this enormous bowl of sugar? Seriously. This is the Easter haul. That is a large-ass bowl pictured right there. There is no way my kids are going to consume all that. Any takers? I will mail it to you. I could stretch this pile out all the way through June—I am notoriously chintzy on doling out the sugar to my little ones. Their idea of a “treat” might shock some in its skimpiness. (But—ssshhhh—they have no idea I’m a cheapie.)

Keep the bar low—it’s how I roll.

who needs a proper day planner when there are perfectly good scraps of paper on the living room floor?

planner4If I had a nickel for every organization system and notebook/folder planner I have pulled together in the last couple of years, I would be at least .60 cents richer. And while that is not an impressive amount of cash, and therefore fails to drive my point as effectively as I’d intended, it nevertheless represents quite a few attempts at creating an adequate organization system. Let’s say if I had a hundred thousand dollars for every organization system and notebook/folder planner I have pulled together in the last couple of years, I would be at least twelve hundred thousand dollars richer. (That could be wrong—I don’t do math. But, whatever it is, I think it comes out to a lot.) Now do you see what I mean? That sum makes things a lot more serious, doesn’t it?

planner1 But somehow, none of these organization systems ever stuck. I’ve tried day-runners (remember those?), small binders, big binders, We’Moon which is super-cool and divinely crunchy and I got it one year and looked at it twice, TeuxDeux which is a brilliant idea but I simply stopped using it for no decipherable reason, spiral notebooks, notebooks with perforated pages, little purse-sized calendars.

planner2 My most recent foray into the organized life was in the form of a pretty binder, some free life-organizing printables I found online and a weekly calendar I designed with the help of a Google docs template. Yeah. Didn’t stick. But it looked impressively nice.

But the thing is, I am not actually disorganized at all, because as it turns out I already have an effective organization system. It’s called mining the living room floor for useable scraps of paper.

planner 3 Lists! As it turns out, I am all about lists. They work for me. Steve once asked me if my lists freaked me out—that seeing everything to do and think about in writing caused me stress. It does not. I am actually semi-psychotic without them. A legal pad (12 for $5 from Ocean State Job Lot), sticky notes and scraps of paper—detritus from the living room floor—upon which I write the pressing stuff to leave right on top of the pad. So I won’t forget. Backs of rejected kid artwork, torn construction paper—either works beautifully. I have daily lists and house to-do lists and books to read lists. I have lists of lists I need to list.

To complete my system, I printed out a simple 2013 doodle calendar from Creative Mamma (love her stuff) for keeping track of events and birthdays and plans. I stapled half a sheet of cardstock to the back of the legal pad creating a pocket to hold other all the other lists.

I think the trick is not any one thing—any perfect thing. You simply keep trying until you find that thing that works for you. It might be a cheap-o legal pad and some free printables. It might be right under your nose. Or your feet. Look down—you just never know.

Here’s the beautiful thing about a legal pad: rip off the top page and you have a fresh start every time. You gotta love the metaphors. planner5

because i just can’t leave well-enough alone

chest_purple1This week I decorated an old storage chest. I totally do not have time for weird projects such as this, but why allow that fact to stop me? Exactly. chest1

I’ve had this chest for a long time. I bought it at Bostonwood (which used to be called Maverick Something Something) in Allston, Massachusetts (woot woot for Allston!) and dragged it many blocks down Commonwealth Avenue to a sweet studio apartment I lived in when I was 23.


Dead cat scratches on each corner. (She wasn't dead yet when she did the scratching.)

The chest has been painted over many times and served many purposes over the years—sweaters, extra blankets, I can’t even remember what-all. Most recently, it held our winter outerwear in the breezeway. One of the things I like to do periodically is start moving furniture around. It begins innocently enough—perhaps I need to rearrange some storage or something. But then you move one thing and you need to move something in its place to store whatever you emptied out and sometimes when you move something, you see that the paint on the wall needs to be touched up and if you’re bothering, you might as well paint the radiators the same color so you have to go down to Rocky’s Ace Hardware and buy the paint. And then you should really put up a shelf right there—it would look awfully nice—but its color is wrong so just paint that, too. The other curtains would look better with this new furniture arrangement and newly painted wall. They’ll have to be ironed, of course. Meanwhile, this all began because there was one too many sweaters to fit in the bureau. Would a better solution perhaps be to give the offending sweater away? Yes. But why would you do that? Exactly.


This chest project began because I am tired of organizing the girls’ toys. The best thing for kids’ toys is to have little bins (label them if you have a laminator—the best mothers laminate) on shelves at their eye-level, thus making available to them all their stimulating and educational play options. (All your kids’ stuff is stimulating and educationally rich, right?) Then they go to Harvard. If you do this exactly right, they will go to Harvard when they’re 12 and turn out like Doogie Howser, MD. DO NOT get a big toy box (like you had when you were a kid) because then all their educationally rich stuff gets all jumbled together and they won’t be properly stimulated and then guess who’s going to Harvard? No one.

But do you know who organizes all those little toys every stinkin’ day? ME. Thus, I wanted a nice big toy box (like I had when I was a kid) to just toss all the toys in and shut the lid and go downstairs again. So I decided they can just go to college at the normal age to a nice regular university, just like I did, and take 6 years to get a BA at 3 different schools after changing majors twice. I turned out FINE. See?

And here I bring us to the purpose of this blog post: potato paint stamps! (Did you see that coming?)

Once I decided regular college was just fine, I went out to the consignment shops and the Salvation Army Thrift store to buy some kind of toy chest for them. Found nothing. I didn’t want to buy something new or something they would outgrow, so I decided simply to re-purpose my good old storage chest. I shifted a bunch of stuff around, painted a few walls and then tackled potato stamping! First, I got me some little paint samples from Rocky’s Ace Hardware and painted the top purple.


Then I carved little shapes from halved potatoes to fashion simple flowers and voilà! Toy chest! (‘Cause I’m a bad mother.)



There are other things around here I also can’t leave alone. The kids’ tables, for example.


These are those really inexpensive ones from IKEA that lots of people have. And even though they were only $19.99 for a table and 2 chairs, they have held up really well.

IKEA_table2 These chairs I snagged from a neighbor’s lawn (no one was sitting on them and I love to take free stuff off neighbors’ lawns). I am discriminating about the free stuff I remove from lawns. (That’s what I tell everyone.) I painted the tables with some paint I had around and smoothed contact paper over the tops.

IKEA_table3 But then the table was too low for the new chairs so I had to fashion special bottoms for the table legs. See how things just snowball?

Anyone can unnecessarily refinish all kinds of things around the house—even you! I promise that you don’t have time for it but why would you allow that to stop you? Exactly.

sickness, sleep (not much), meal-planning

Don’t even try to deny that is the best, most compelling blog post title ever! Yeah, so you’re only getting one blog post again this week, due to sickness (kids’) and lack of sleep (mine). But I do have a small offering and it just might change your life.

(For the better.)

It is meal-planning.

Recently I heard a stat that is completely wackadoo: according to a recent study, Americans throw away nearly 40% of the food we buy. (Think on that for a moment. Okay, continue.) If you want, go ahead and use the Google to find out what this means for water waste, increased greenhouse gas emissions from rotting food in landfills and the amount of money you might be throwing away annually. Also, only 28% of Americans say they can cook.


100% wackadoo.

I am not being judgy or bossy. (I’m being slightly bossy.) Let’s think of it not as bossiness but as unsolicited helpfulness.

I am really good at meal-planning. There are many things at which I suck. Gymnastics. Swallowing vitamins. Behaving normally in a great deal of social situations. But this chick can meal-plan.


I created a standard grocery list and print a copy every week then cross off and add to it as needed. This is a blank one. I shop at several places, so they’re all on here as well as a little OTHER column for those one-offs. I know—I’m such a dork.

You can totally do this, too. I swear that you do have the time. I developed this skill when I was in graduate school full-time and working 40 hours a week simultaneously. And even though I didn’t possess actual small humans in those days, believe me when I tell you that schedule is something like having 7 newborns with at least 2 of them screaming at all times.

(I am totally being bossy today. It’s the lack of sleep. Or that I’m bossy.)

I promise you, this is quick and easy. Okay, you don’t need a fancy app, but you do need to start with one of two things (or both): a little stash of recipes you like and/or a little list of things that your family likes to eat. Now jot down the days of the week. Choose 5 meals and, depending on what your schedule looks like for the week—when you’ll be getting home and how long each recipe will take to prepare, etc.—decide what meal you will assign to each day. I say 5 because chances are you’ll have leftovers to eat on the other days. If you want to only cook 4 days of the week, choose recipes that produce a high yield and hence a larger quantity leftovers. I do suggest choosing recipes that are quick and easy for weekdays and save those that are more challenging and time-consuming for weekends. And I promise that if you decide to switch things around during the week no one will stop you.

Next, make your grocery list based off the ingredients that your chosen recipes require, plus your usual staples.


I write in my weekly meals plan here as well. This sheet may seem a little much, but it really makes my life easier. I categorize the items by department and also list stuff in order by aisle. (I’m a freak.)
Grocery stores tend to induce the fight or flight response in me—
it’s best for everyone if I get outta there quickly.

If this all seems like, doy, I know—I get it. But before I devised this system, I was one of those people who threw food away every week. Not only do I never throw out fresh produce or meat anymore, I almost never even throw out leftovers. ‘Cause I plan.

Bonus Tips! Freeze those leftovers! If, after a day or 3, it seems evident that you are not going to consume a container of leftovers, label them (don’t question me on this one) and toss them in the freezer. Some night when you don’t feel like cooking, you will rejoice over that container. And if you make a soup, double the recipe and freeze half. Soup freezes really well and doubling is easy since soup is pretty much just a bunch of stuff you bung in a big pan. Double lasagna filling and freeze half. Double veggie or chicken pot pie filling and freeze half. (Use pre-made pie crust—cheat! Who’s gonna know?) Make a double recipe of meatballs and freeze half. (Are you getting this?)

See? Easier than executing a cartwheel. Or carrying on a normal conversation with the cashier at Hannaford.

I have begun to dabble in make-ahead-and-freeze meals (got this book) and once a month cooking (this is an oldie). I’ll keep you posted.

(Expect more unsolicited helpfulness in your future. You can’t wait.)

groc_list2 Notice how WINE is both capitalized and emphasized? Like I’d forget wine... But better safe than sorry.

is anyone else totally confused about what day of the week it is?

I have no idea. Could be Wednesday; could be Sunday. Actually, I know it must be a weekday from what’s on NPR. Further than that, I really have no idea. Happy New Year! How are you? I’m confused. And a bit untethered.

Newton's First Law of Motion states that a body at rest will remain at rest unless an outside force acts on it, and a body in motion at a constant velocity will remain in motion in a straight line unless acted upon by an outside force. Resisting motion if at rest or resisting changing speed if in motion is called inertia. (I totally lifted this from the Internet—I could never spew this on my own.)

I never took Physics—and math-y concepts typically elude me—but I think this might apply to me.


This is the long view down my legs to my fanciful slippers. I am firmly ensconced on the couch with my Kindle. I can’t lie to you—I never want to get up again. I mean it. Not for any reason. Oh, but then what about wine? FINE. But that’s my only concession.

I shut down in December and now I can’t seem to get back on track. From Thanksgiving week until now, there was only time for the holidays and doing Christmas-y and Solstice-y things with my kids, and all the stuff that goes along with those occasions, so I just told myself everything could wait until after Christmas and then I would return to real life. Which I think means work. Which I think really means I dropped the stuff I wasn’t sure how to figure out and now I have to pick all of it up again.

Frankly, I do not want to pick all of it up again.

When and how to publish, how to figure out a work schedule that works for both my husband (who is now working from home) and me, what the hell I am going to do for paying work, a homeschooling plan (or not?) for the kids. Blogging. Oh, and my LinkedIn page is a disaster. And I should be more active on Twitter, which is to say I should be on Twitter.

messy_living_roomAlso, the mess keeps growing. The living room looks very, very bad. Very, very bad. I keep thinking from my perch on the couch, someone has GOT to clean that up. But, unfortunately, I think it’s gonna be me. I really don’t want to inform myself, as I think I will be pretty bummed when I figure it out.

I decided to simply chill after Christmas which for me means reading a lot and not worrying so very much at all about picking up or cooking meals that make nutritional sense. Or showering. And, you know, I sort of like this. A lot. I don’t want to get back into real life. Sometimes in real life, I feel like that poor dude who follows circus elephants around with a bucket and shovel—that poop dude. You might not know this, but there is an endless amount of poop. Metaphorically, I mean. Also literally.

But then again, here and there, I feel the new year excitement creeping in. A purposefulness and hopefulness and energy. I find myself slowly moving back into the work. Reorganizing, writing up lists of household projects and upcoming blog posts. Homeschooling ideas. I bought fabric to sew up some new kitchen curtains. Also I am moving furniture around. I opened a new document today—draft 5 of The Mosquito Hours! I am going back in and these will hopefully be the final edits.


Look at my curtain fabric! Feisty!

I wish you a very happy beginning to 2013. I hope you are exuberant and energized and hopeful. I hope you are excited about your work.

And I hope we can all figure out what day of the week it is. That will definitely happen.