Thursday, July 23, 2009

my mantra

my four-and-three-quarter year old (yes, apparently the specifics are important) has been a feisty one lately. that is my way of saying she has been a challenge. a little different than usual (since i know i have posted challenges before).

one of her favorite meditations: art

perhaps it is age. perhaps it is knowing that kindergarten is just around the corner (!!) and not knowing exactly what that means (other than change), but she has been an upset little person and expressing her angst in atypical ways for her. hitting, biting, kicking, pushing, grabbing, and the angry little voice shouting "no fun!" in combination with the stinkiest face she can muster.

it gets really, really old spending all day with someone who is constantly battling you and constantly angry about things she can't even identify. and who, for perhaps the first time, doesn't want mamma anywhere near her.

i know i shouldn't use the word constant, because it isn't. the days are good, interspersed with unpredictable outbreaks.

a happy moment. invited to sit in the pilot's seat in the cockpit of a 737. photo credit: my mom!

sometimes i am handling it poorly, i admit. but more often than not, i am handling it well.
i have a mantra:
calm. consistent. firm, yet gentle. ignore.
and to this, my mom added: whisper. love.

i am struggling to find the solution, which when used, subdues the anger, calms the upset, gently disciplines, and expresses love, all at the same time. 1-2-3 magic does work for the most part, but i found it difficult to do when traveling. i have also discovered that i have unfortunately allowed myself to become a parent who bribes. now, i actually have nothing against bribing in general, but i allowed it to go too far. i have created a child who now asks regularly for treats and then turns into the devil when the answer is no. how did that happen? i can only hold myself responsible, so i am trying to undo my doings.

calm. consistent. firm, yet gentle. whisper. love. ignore.

taking a photo of a barrel cactus. happy with the camera immediately following a fuss. photo credit: my mom!

and while i often feel as though i am suffering through these stages, i am still for a moment, only to look up and realize, again, just how quickly my little ones are growing. it hurts to realize we cannot relive these moments. i need to soak them all in as she takes two steps away from me and one step back.

perhaps we all just have growing pains.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

corner view: 7:45p, friday, saturday, sunday

i was in arizona through sunday afternoon. i live in california. usa.

friday, 7:45p. margaritas at the hotel. arizona.

saturday, 7:45p, attempting, with my lack of skill and point and shoot camera, to capture lightening from my hotel patio. heat lightening during the start of monsoon season. beautiful, but i didn't catch any of it on the camera. arizona.
sunday, 7:45pm. gratefully, blissfully home again. bedtime stories with dada. california.

for more of what people do with their weekend evenings....

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

the family weekend

as i mentioned previously, the kids, my mom, and i spent 4 very long days visiting family in arizona. the premise of the trip was to go see my grandmother to celebrate her 90th birthday. it turned into an impromptu family reunion (missing a handful of people, particularly those from our immediate family)

i always return from this sort of trip with a confusing assortment of emotions.

i am so glad that we went. my grandmother is now 90 and suffers from some version of dimentia. she still lives alone in her home (not such a good thing), is still mobile, but no longer drives and is clearly craving company.

she does not remember who i am.

if i tell her i am barbara's daughter, she understands, but she doe not know my name. she does not know my children.

but she very clearly enjoyed our company, particularly watching the kids.

this sort of trip brings me closer to my family. sort of. it is too short to really get to know each other. i wonder if all the baggage and history is too great to break through.

and this sort of trip leaves me so very glad to be home again. the kids were pushed beyond tired and held together very well. mostly. there were some meltdowns, and of course they happened at the moments i wished they wouldn't. but lala is old enough now to remember meeting some of her great aunts, uncles, and second cousins we see infrequently.

and the trip had highlights:
  • lightening and thunder storm, two nights in a row. heat lightening combined with monsoon season. amazing, beautiful, and something we don't experience in california in quite the way arizona's big sky country does.
  • lala getting to sit in the pilot's seat in the cockpit of the airplane during our stopover in L.A. (that adorable grinning photo was on my mom's camera)
  • making my grandma smile while watching her great grandchildren.
  • time with my mom.
  • finding beauty in the dessert. big sky. cacti of all sorts. clouds. heat lightening. an afternoon dance in the rain.
  • coming home. to mike. a spotless house. fresh foods. our beds.

Monday, July 20, 2009


we are just back from a very busy, emotional, extremely exhausting impromptu family reunion. a better post might be on its way, as i collect my thoughts and photos, but for now, i hope these start your week with a "peace" of nature...

Thursday, July 16, 2009

frugal household how-to

wow, i really hit a soft spot with this post. thank you for all your kind and thoughtful comments. this blog community truly is amazing!
the kids and i are headed out of town for a few days with my mom, to visit my maternal grandmother for her 90th birthday. i will be back next week. in the meantime, here's a long post with loads of links and food for frugal home thought. be well!

come with me on a tour of my house and see how we are pulling it together as economically as we can...

a frugal household is one that is able to accept free items, sort, store, plan ahead, and organize what one has. when you do this, it is so much easier to save money.

most of what we have was given to us (gifts (wedding included), freecycle, local list, bartering. in turn, we give and we pass along when we are done). we have filled in around the edges with used purchases (antique, thrift store, craigslist), homemade, and honestly, for the rest, IKEA has often filled in the cracks. the dollar amount you see in parentheses next to the room names (below) is the total spent to furnish the room.

i have posted a home tour before, but here is a briefer, updated photo tour, with some tips to go along with them.
  • pick storage solutions that are versatile and compact. although i love baskets, they take a lot of room when not in use. instead, i have come to love large canvas bags and collapsible boxes.
  • don't like it? cover it up! we received a like-new couch (years ago, it is time for couch shopping, actually), but didn't like the faded pattern. now, with kids, i love having a slipcovered couch. (the couch serves double duty as a pull out guest bed, too.) i have made covers for kitchen appliances (added bonus of keeping them kitchen-grease-free) and curtains for open cupboards.
  • less really is more. we just passed our 5th anniversary as homeowners. we bought this home after renting it, so have actually lived here for nearly 9 years. i have spent chunks of time over the past 5 years (once we realized we weren't moving and wouldn't be forced to purge in the process), decluttering, collecting, purging, organizing, and starting the process all over again. i could have happily spent that time doing something else. it is too easy to acquire stuff, so try to be discerning about what you bring into your home. accept what is given to you, but if something better comes along, then pass the first item on immediately. it shocks me to think back on how little we owned when we moved in. now we have too much stuff for our small space!
  • freecycle hints: 1) set your membership to accept individual emails, then set your email box to sort freecycle emails into their own email. this way, you get ALL the freecycle emails, but they aren't mixed in with your regular, personal emails. 2) post offers. people like to give to other people who gives. we have two stokke-style chairs (one handmade by someone else, one original stokke) from freecycle, because the people offering recognized my name out of all the respondents due to all the offers i had made. 3) participate in as many freecycle groups in your area as you are able, but out of courtesy, post to one at a time. participating in several allows you to view more offereds and have a greater pool of people interested in items you have to give. 4) be polite! don't reply to an offer with "i want this." seriously, people do this to me, i laugh, and hit delete. although some people do first come first served, i try and be fair and give enough people a chance to reply, then i pick randomly or i pick the nicest reply. a little niceness goes a long way.
at the top of the post, our dining room ($185). the floor was carpet when we bought it. we ripped it out, matched a missing section of floorboards (a fire damaged the floors before we moved in and is why we still have carpet in the living room), and refinished the floor.

you've seen our entry way ($20), our living room ($70) arranged like the last 2 photos, but now, with no baby gating around the fireplace!), and downstairs "plus" room ($130) now with floor in front of the door and improved sewing nook). our bathroom ($20) has not changed from my original posting, but the kids' room ($120) certainly has. all the furniture you see below was free, with the exception of the crib, which we bought used (and i have since seen free many times over), and the mattress we put in it, which we bought new for health reasons. extras, like the hanging toy holder, baskets, and the rug were all from IKEA ($25). the bed (which has a matching bunk for when the kids are ready), belonged to mike and his brother as kids and was gifted to us by his parents. (the mattress came from my parents.) the quilt was made for lala, by my parents, as a birth present (more on this in a later post). one of my favorite items in their room is the metal cabinet, a curbside find.

our bedroom ($100). you saw our handmade night tables in this post. that colorful dresser is a super cheapie that used to house yarn for my mom's weaving business. it is soon to be moved for storage elsewhere, as mike's mom has a quality shaker-style dresser to give us. it is worn, but then again, she has had it since she was 3! again, a favorite in here is the metal cabinet, this one a thrift shop find. leaning against the wall is a door-turned-mirror. mike replaced the glass with mirror. the kids share a room, so the pack n' play is used daily for naps.

our kitchen ($300 for a fridge i detest) is a bit of an embarrassment, but i am showing it in all of its normal (not cleaned for a photo) glory, because i took these as "before" photos. we finally decided that a kitchen renovation is not financially possible for long enough that painting it would, indeed, be worth the effort to enjoy in the meantime. so here is the before. (the next photos you see will be the same kitchen with a fresh new look...hopefully before new year's!) the second photo below, while dark, shows the portable dishwasher we bought used (best new-mamma present i got, but i have since joined freecycle and seen dozens of these offered up for free), the edge of the stove our neighbor gave us, and a view out to the deck, which was the best unfrugal money we have spent in years. the deck was not cheap, but has vastly expanded and improved our living space.

for those of you wanting more info on economizing, i have labeled all relevant posts with "frugality." i also did a weekly frugal friday series for a couple months last year. additionally, we are trying not to buy anything new, so their are posts with a " no buying new" label as well as each month, in review of how we have done.

have a lovely week's end!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

corner view: revealing myself

edited to add...huge congratulations to my friends kelda and dave, on the arrival last night of their new baby girl, haley jordan!

this week's corner view is "revealing my true self."
a topic that will certainly lead to some interesting and creative corner views! i cannot wait to see the artistic photos of other corner view participants!

i think most friends would say that i wear my heart on my sleeve. what i am willing to share, i share fully. what i am not willing to share, i hold close. i am indecisive and therefore change my mind often. (and somehow, i find my 4 year old's fickleness exasperating?!)

here is more about me.

the photo i am choosing is one i took of my daughter, who was on my knees having an "airplane ride" when i snapped this. she looks so much like i did at her age (only cuter!).

who else better to show a reflection of myself, but one of my children?
they are, in every way, the best parts of myself.

for more corner views...

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

on crafting...

i am finally at a place where i feel somewhat settled into my roll as full-time parent, in huge part because i have found an outlet all my own in the writing (aka blogging), sewing, economizing, gardening, and other crafting i have been doing recently. several of the creative blogs i read are written by women who talk about their creativity (re)surging at the births of their first children. not so for me. i have always had underlying inklings of craftiness and have always been quite thrifty, but it was not until i became an at-home mom (versus a work-outside-the-home mom), that i needed a creative outlet(s). previously, work was mine. now, work is 24/7, and sewing, recipe-trying, thrifting, etc. (all things i did only in small doses before) have become my entertaining release valve.

so this is what i do. i mother. i homemake. i create.

now...why, even though i am finally feeling comfortable settling into this skin, do i feel totally uncomfortable, passed over, lacking in confidence (and a whole assortment of other negatives) the moment i am asked "what do you do?" at a dinner party full of people?
edited here to add: i know there is a difference between what i do and who i am, but as an at-home parent, the lines are far fuzzier. and the party was a reception with family friends to introduce my close friend's baby to everyone. this was her first time home since his birth. they aren't people i see often and in some cases, people i have not met before.

does anyone have a good answer to this dinner party question? one that you have pulled off successfully?

what i do each day is the hardest work i have ever done. it is incredibly rewarding, but it is tough. i have learned an incredible amount in the time i have been home with our kids. at-home parents have a little of every job rolled into one.

but saying i spend my days caring for our kids and home, blogging, and sewing just sounds lame. perhaps next time, i should go with mike's suggestion...i am the CEO of a small start-up.

well, with all my crafting time, blowing off steam, i have been sewing more for friends, which makes me feel good. here's what i have been up to:

i have a blog friend who learned to knit right around the same time i did, only she kept at it and has gotten good! she sews too (don't you hate her?), so i felt a little funny making this to send to her, especially with my shortcuts and mess-ups, but i knew she needed a little pick-me-up and it let me use (with modifications) one of the patterns from simple sewing by lotta jansdotter, which i had just checked out of the library.
sorry, poor lighting on the knitting roll photos.

for a new baby girl, this bib i made using a modified version of the pattern at nested.
it is reversible, pink poodle on one side, striped on the other, with a snap closure. hadn't used my basic snap setter in awhile, so i was pleased with the outcome.

and for young friends (sisters) who happily co-"cooked" with lala and finn on a playdate a couple months back....felt eggs.

Monday, July 13, 2009

my eco-babble of the week

i, like so many, am continuing to become more environmentally friendly. where the struggle lies for me is our continuing need and desire to be more frugal. i have a lot of eco-eco guilt (ecological and economical). those who know us think we are frugal (at least i hope they think we are frugal, rather than cheap, as there is a difference), but we are less frugal than we once were, and partly this is due to our increasing desire to be more ecological. now, i grew up in berkeley (home of hippiness), in a household with parents who lived a life of ecology and economy (i.e. being earth friendly and frugal are not new concepts to me, thanks mom and dad!), but things have changed. the environment has become a political issue. this means more is readily available. technology has advanced us to a state where, at least in this country, we think we have needs that, truly, we don't have. we are overworked, underpaid, overwhelmed, underinsured, overinformed yet underinformed, blah blah blah.

so moving forward (because this is all i can do), i am taking baby steps to improve our environment, my family's health, a little bit at a time, in ways we can handle. what does this mean? it means, for now, i am not giving up our costco membership, but i am ridding us of nasty shampoos. i am not buying everything at the more expensive, all-organic farmer's market, but i am growing more organically. you see? and so on, baby bites, baby steps.

and because for every single environmental piece of information if find, i find contradicting information, i am going with my gut. (i earned my degree in biology, am the daughter of a chemical engineer and librarian, sister of a biologist, wife of a chemical savvy DIYer, and friends to countless bright individuals, so i am not clueless about gleaning information.) and going with the approach of "all in moderation." all of this baby-stepping forward, i wanted to share a few things....
  1. i bought 2 more stainless steel water bottles. these were bought at costco, both for the price of one klean kanteen of the same size. i love them! the klean kanteen brand caps fit perfectly on these bottles, a bonus given my sport top bottle loving kids. now...with all the mad dashing to stainless steel water bottles, remember that no product is perfect. they are not good for carrying acidic beverages, for example, because the acid combined with the stainless steel creates hexavalent chromium, which is not a healthy drink. not to worry! this amount is minimal, i just mention it to keep in perspective that most things have a troubled side, so your old nalgene bottles may not really be as horrid as you think. plastic can be a good thing. (that said, i admit to eliminating most of our old nalgenes and i have BPA-free nalgene bottles on my wish list. the kids' nalgenes are already the BPA-free versions.)
  2. the book in the photo above is an excellent skim so far. anyone who has read pollan and kingsolver and is looking for more earth friendly food reads may be interested in this one!
  3. oxo brite non-chlorine bleach (not the same as oxyclean). i bought this tub about half a year ago from trader joe's and it is fabulous. it gets my old, stained kitchen sink spotless and shining, a job only straight bleach used to handle. again, i am not anti-bleach. i think using it as little as possible is the best approach, but we will always have some on hand as a sterilizer for emergencies (a couple drops in an opaque bottle of tap water lets us safely store earthquake water) and now, as a household who has suffered from staph infections.

if you are interested in more of my eco-babble (i am trying to wade through this just like everyone else, so you may notice shifts in my attitude or me changing my mind), i label all such posts with the word "earth."

Sunday, July 12, 2009

DIY library and link round-up

there is a group of books that has found its way into our home through second hand book shops, yard sales, and library book sales. the reader's digest set of manuals produced in the 1970s and early 1980s. and i tell you...i have such high regard for these books. they have been (totaling less than $20) a frugal library staple for go-to books. in our set: back to basics, the complete do-it-yourself manual, the fix-it-yourself manual, and the complete guide to sewing.

these last two books helped me fix my sewing machine(!!), saving me money and an unnecessary trip to the sewing machine repair shop.

what's in your handy home library?'s my linky round-up:
  • adorable baby sun hat from purl bee!
  • portable fabric doll house from UK lass in US
  • moomama has a list of 100 frugal things to do with kids this summer!
  • - seriously...had never heard of this before, but when our energy and water efficient, 1.5 yr old front loader washer quit working (with a full load of cloth diapers in it) and flashed an error code, i googled it and found the fix laid out clearly by other consumers on fixya. thirty minutes later, mike and i had the washer cleaned out and running again. now we know where all the missing socks went. (ok, it wasn't really socks. i am not telling you what it was in there, but i will say mike's comment was "thank god this wasn't a sewer clog." yuck.) savings estimate of DIY? $200
  • annie of imagination in parenting has a fabric box tutorial. cute!
  • how about making your own swimsuit? the allison suit is 1940s style cute! (burda has loads of great free patterns for download. you just have register, which is also free.)
  • kermit gets all knit up!
  • gotta love the long thread for her awesome links. check out this one for crafts to do with kids this summer. there are some fabulous ones here. gift worthy fun!
  • how to do iron on transfers!
  • crochet a cute basket to hold your yarn stash. so who is gonna teach me crochet? anyone?
  • renee of FIMBY has a fabulous green drink recipe. i know my little guy will suck that back!
  • don't have a basket? make a bag for a scooter (or bike)!
  • i just love that SF leads the way. using unused space for community gardens. love it.
  • heather of beauty that moves has a conversation-starter post about grocery budgets. the comments are fascinating and informative.
  • just tutes has a great hat tutorial
  • decluttering and getting organized? you all know i am! whip up featured 2 books on the topic, neither of which i have read, but you all can look for more posts from me as i keep getting our home more pulled together!
edited to add: renee of FIMBY mentioned me in her pretty things post AND look at the dress i won for lala!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

pay-it-forward: tag, you're it!

new arugula seedlings, discovered in the garden yesterday! popped out the following:
Anonymous (eh?!)

you three will be receiving homemade packets (recycled maps) of home grown arugula and cilantro seeds and dried lavender. i had hoped to sew the lavender into little sachets, but as i mentioned yesterday, my sewing machine died this week. happy gardening and remember to pay it forward in some small way to 3 people in your life, whether they are friends or strangers!

Friday, July 10, 2009


i have had the pleasure of participating in a pay it forward chain. moo mama posted on her blog, i replied, and received this sweet little package of goodies this week! (do you see the trivet is made by her 8 year old?!)

perfect timing, this little package arrived in a week during which our washing machine, kitchen aid mixer, and my sewing machine all died. (yep, add my sewing machine to the list!) the pick-me-up was most welcome, moo mama, thank you!

now it is my turn to pay it forward! i will randomly pick 3 people who comment on this post (include an email or blog address, please!) and each will receive a small little goody packet from me. in turn, you must pay it forward to 3 other people in some way.

a lovely idea, isn't it?

have a wonderful weekend!

edited to add: sorry i was completely unclear about this! they all died this week, but mike managed to fix the washer by taking it apart. it was a clogged internal filter, apparently commonplace in this model. the kitchen aid has been taken apart and the broken part has been ordered. (this broke once before about 3 months ago.) the sewing machine ...hmmmm

Thursday, July 9, 2009

a RE post

i have had the prefix re- on my mind.

first, unrelated to the rest of this post, in a parenting moment of frustration, i was reminded by mamma friend, liz, and by a preschool mamma friend (who herself was in tears due to her son's behavior) that all our little people, while very much individuals, all have similar tendencies at this quirky age between 4 and 5. so i am beginning today, with refreshed resolve, to be calm, consistent, gentle, yet firm, and if all else fails, that ignoring has definite merrits!

and in my moments of mamma recharge and reflection, there is always sewing...

i have been repurposing mike's shirts into pants for finn. i am thrilled with this for obvious thrifty reasons, but also because i am still struggling to find cute things to make for boys and my little guy deserves all the same cuteness i am able to dole on his big sister!

on the left, a t-shirt and on the right, sleeves from a business shirt. both became pants for finn. the t-shirt pants are based on this tutorial from handy home projects. the sleeve pants are inspired by the tutorial from luvinthemommyhood (although i didn't follow it closely, so my version is simpler.)
i have also continued to recycle a wool sweater i bought for $1 at a thrift store. i felted it and it has now been used to make: 1 pull-on diaper cover, 1 pair wool baby pants, the batting for 4 wrap around coffee cup jackets, 3 slip-on coffee cup jackets, and a stack of felted wool coasters.

does anyone else get as much of a thrill from reusing something old for something new?
yes, i know many of you do, since i glean so many ideas from the web. i learned, growing up, all about recycling materials, and when we met, mike retaught me through his recycling of wood. but refashioning like this puts my sewing skills to the test and lets me exercise my innate earth friendly frugality. i love it!

what are you recycling these days?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

corner view: places for reflection

my place for reflection....where i just go to be...
nature. i will take it in any form, but my favorite retreat is a lake we go to each summer. during the rest of the year, i have little spots and ways in which i escape and recharge, but i visit the lake often in my mind. so, despite being a photo from last summer, i will start with a photo of the lake, from the deck of the cabin we stay in, at sunset.

and at home...
lounging in our back garden and on our deck...watching the kids, reading, dozing, what-have-you...

sewing - in the little nook i have carved out for myself in our small house....

edited to add: yes, i did make the skirt and have happily been making them (and other things) for others, as well. sewing is what i sneak into my days with my children. thank you for the compliments!

for other retreats....


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