chosing my focus (and a recipe)

Sometimes its so easy to focus on what I didn't get done. The pile of Fall/Halloween decorations is still sitting on the dining room table, so its hard to miss. The straightening and cleaning I have to do to even put those out is hard to miss too. Less obvious, but very apparent to me, the blog post I hoped to get written yesterday (not due yesterday, but wanted to get it out of the way), and the work project I wanted to do, but realized I didn't have what I needed to actually do it.


Looking at all that it's easy to get frustrated with myself. But I know that sometimes the best way to get myself motivated to do more is to take it easy on myself. To acknowledge that we all have days when the To Do list is just too long, and there aren't enough hours. And it helps to focus on what did get done. Yesterday I had a great visual for that one:

Recipes after break.

A home cooked meal for my family. Filling, delicious, and nutritious. Enough leftovers to feed a small army. Now that's something!


CM repost: school decisions

The following is a re-post of my Connected Mom post from Monday:

Photo Credit
This past Saturday marked the official start of Autumn, my absolute favorite time of year (I know, I know, me and every other blogger out there!). Autumn makes me think of many things: brightly colored leaves, crisp air, apple cider, and hayrides to name a few. But more then anything else, autumn always makes me think of school.

Now its been 8 years since I graduated college, but those 19 years of school (including kindergarten and two years of preschool) become quite ingrained in you. And its only a year until Gwen will start a preschool program, so it is definitely on my mind. As a work outside the house mom (we're all working moms!), I think a lot about the what ifs and the what might have been regarding staying at home, especially when I read about homeschooling and unschooling.

I'll say this first: There is no way, in this time and place, that I could be a stay-at-home mom. If I'd done it from the start, never gone back to work, it would be different, but I did and for me, that ship has sailed. We'd have fun, for sure, but we'd drive each other crazy. She's so used to having the other kids around, I think I'd bore her! Sometimes though, I miss the opportunity that has passed. And never more so then when I daydream about homeschooling. The neat supplies all tucked into baskets, the personalized teaching method and lesson plans designed just so to help my girl get the most out of her schooling.

All parents have a desire to pick the best "life-prep" path for their kids, no matter your parenting philosophy. School is one of the biggest parts of that prep. As parents who sometimes sit outside the mainstream, a schooling system that reinforces certain values and ideals is a big deal to me, and one that's a little harder to find. I am a public school grad myself, so this is in no way an indictment of public school, but the best school districts around here are very expensive to live in, and in the other districts I worry about the overcrowding, overextended teachers, budget cuts for the arts, and other problems public schools are facing these days. This is also not to say that all AP parents chose to look outside of public school, or that Gwen wouldn't thrive there, but like others, I believe that Gwen would do even better in with the unique blend of more personalized teaching with more room for independently-led education that certain "alternate schools" provide. So we look elsewhere.

Right now our top two choices are Montessori and a Friend's School. I'm thrilled we have those options, though, like everything else in our area, they come with a large price-tag. Friend's Schools are known for teaching self-sufficiency coupled with a compassion for others that I really appreciate. For reasons why Montessori partners well with AP, check out Julian's post. There are benefits and drawbacks to both, but short of suddenly not needing my income and finding a homeschooling group in my area, they are both my top choices.

The self-imposed pressure to make the "right" choice, the "best" choice, is intense... even though this may be one of those areas where there isn't just one right or best choice. It sticks with me though, the thought that the choice I make now will certainly influence her way of learning for years to come, and with that perhaps her desire to learn and her ability to learn. I wish for her to always have a love for learning that will propel her to try new things for the rest of her life. I hope that the decisions we make in the coming months will help achieve that.

What route did you or will you go with for schooling your children? What helped you make that decision?


long weekend

Friday feels like a long time ago. It was a good weekend, with more fun parts then not, but ended on an exhausting note that made everything else seem a long time ago and left us all rather tired.

Friday Trav and I had a date day. We got two movies (Underworld: Awakening and Hysteria), ordered up some sushi, and relaxed together. A few odd things around the house, and then it was off to pick up Gwen a little early. She and I had a great time at the park by Willy's house, while Trav did a few things there... then it was off to pick up his mom from the hospital for dinner.

Such a nice park.

Saturday we just took care of odds and ends before heading to the hospital to visit with Willy. A very low-key day.

Sunday we headed to Ro & Pat's place for a day with them and the girls, plus our friends Barb, George, and their two girls. It was a relaxing, fun day... playground time with the girls, a nice stew that Ro made, a funny movie (What to Expect When you're Expecting). Overall, great.

We were getting ready to leave, hoping to get home a little early for bathtime, laundry duty, and a relaxing dinner when Gwen came over to us crying. She and GG were playing, and her arm got pulled hard (I'm guessing she went one way, GG pulled her arm the other)... long story short, Nursemaid's Elbow. Take two! Ironically, almost exactly a year later.

Happy with her red tongue after the Dr. gave her a popsickle.
We headed home, hoping that we were wrong, but by the time we arrived, knew that it was back to the ER for us. Trav grabbed some food stuff for Gwen, then stayed home to take care of a few things there, while I headed to CHOP. It was a quiet night, so we were out in just over an hour, from check-in to pulling out of the garage.

Thankfully, once its fixed, they are fine. That's the only nice thing about NE. But what a damper on our evening!

So with that excitement behind us, we begin another week!!


what a week

Sorry for the lack of any actually interesting content this week, but what a week! Trav's Grandfather, Willy, is in the hospital. They think its a stroke. So we're all over the place this week.

Trav and I are also off on Friday, long planned date day, which means more work in an already shortened week. Plus all by one of my coworkers were out on Monday and Tuesday for Rosh Hashanah, which added to my load while slowing things down!

Today I leave early to pick my mother-in-law up at the airport and take her over to the hospital. A staff meeting and a deposit to take leave not much time left in the day.

Hopefully better news to report next week.


iPhone dump...

My iPhone memory is almost completely full... oops. So I'm going through and deleting stuff I don't need. I thought I would share a few pictures and two videos I never got around to sharing before.

"Riding" neighbor Joe's motorcycle.

He let her try the "big" bike too.

My sweet, sleepy babe.

First pumpkin ice cream of the season!

Beautiful day during our camping weekend.

Best seat in the stadium!

Lehigh wins!

And two videos with Gwen talking about Daddy's music.
#1, she's not a fan of Black Flag (skip ahead to 5 seconds, and sorry I'm loud!):

#2, but she does like the Ramones!:

:-)  My silly girl. 


transitioning summer to fall

Officially its not fall until next weekend, but this weekend felt like such a transition. It was so beautiful out on Saturday, high in the mid-70s, perfect for the ultimate fall activity... football! We headed up for our first Lehigh game of the season, where they had some fun blow up things to celebrate community day:

My parents joined us too, which was great. Gwen was in heaven with her Nonnie and Papa.

Lehigh won too, so you can't beat that.

Sunday we took it easy, going out only to pick up a few things at the store. I prep cooked a bunch of things in the afternoon to make for easy dinners this week... roasted some brussels sprouts and an acorn squash, made this inside of a chicken pot pie so all I have to do is throw it in the crust and bake one of these nights. Then we fired up the grill and ate our BBQ chicken and grilled corned outside. It was pretty perfect. A combination of early fall and end of summer that left me feeling so contented.

Today and tomorrow should be very quiet on the work front. Rosh Hashanah means that all of my coworkers are out except for 2 today and 2 tomorrow (L'Shana Tovah all!). Here's looking forward to getting lots done in peace! And here's hoping I can hold on to that weekend contentment through the week!


happy things

Sometimes its the little things that put a smile on your face...

~ Getting some cooking mojo yesterday after spending half the day not having any clue what to cook. I ended up whipping up a double batch of potato leek soup (half to freeze), and some amazing chicken sausages with garlic and gruyere (some new to me all natural brand - so damn good). Some steamed green beans, a random peach, and it was a pretty great meal.

~ Gwen and music lately... she loves Home by Edward Sharpe & the Magnificent Zeros so much that she calls it her song, and Trav has to listen to it multiple times every day in the morning and at night (on their drive to/from daycare). Obviously I love it too, but I think its so neat that she loves it so much. She will also bust out randomly with "Alabama Arkansas..." (which is how the song starts), or say, "do-do-do do do-doooo" (the way they whistle).

~ Another song she's quite fond of now, Call Me Maybe. We've cracked up to this video more then once, and now she'll randomly sing, "here's my number. call me maybe. here's my number. call me maybe."

~ I won this!

I mean, oh my, what a beauty, right?!  Sakura Bloom is having a trivia contest on their facebook page, multiple questions, each with their own winner... and I won the very first question!!  That beauty is one of their simple silk ring slings, in Patina.

Now I just have to decide what I want to do with it. I could give it to a friend, keep it for myself but giveaway/sell my current ring sling, keep them all for now... its hard to decide. That thing is amazing and gorgeous and I'm dying to wear it. But we don't babywear a ton anymore, and when we do I normally reach for the Mei Tai. Plus we're one and done now, so saving it doesn't make sense (though it makes me sad to think of getting rid of any of my carriers!). Hmm...

~ Anniversary plans - booked! Yay!

~ This amazing post with tons of gorgeous photos of babywearing around the world. Gorgeous.

Wales! (pic from Hybrid Rasta Mom)

What's making you happy today?


the smell of it is in the air

Yesterday I wore my new burnt orange pants and a top with 3/4 length sleeves to celebrate the gorgeous 70something degree weather. Today, another pair of pants, another long sleeved shirt. Its going back up into the 80s for the rest of week, but dipping back down again early next week. Fall is on the horizon and I love it. I can smell it in the air, especially at night when I run. A crispness, an earthiness that wasn't there just a week or two ago. I suck it in like life fuel.

I know I've spoken of my longing to be starting school right now, and while that isn't happening, I do have another wonderfully fun adventure starting this week. You're looking at the newest contributor to Connected Mom! I'll be posting there every other Monday, and honestly I couldn't be more excited. I've read and admired this blog for a long time, so I'm thrilled to be a part of it. Wish me luck and let me know if there is anything you want to see me talk about here or there.

For now, back to work. I'm suffering from work-malaise right now and am not working very effectively. What I can't manage in quality right now, I'll just have to make up with quantity. So, off I go.



We had a very colorful weekend.

It started off with a drive down to Maryland to visit with my Uncle and Aunt at their new place. My cousin and her son were over too, and another cousin joined us later.

Grandpa Gray/Gruncle Wray holding Tommy & Gwen

Gwen took to him immediately!

We hung out for a while, ate some lunch, and read some stories.

Then it was time to swim and play on the dock. We completely forgot swim stuff, so Trav and I stayed out and Gwen headed in wearing just a diaper, with my cousin Brendan (who she adored).

They got completely stuck in this tube... it was pretty hilarious.

After that Megan and little Tommy headed home, Travis and Susie ran to the store, while Gwen, Wray, Brendan, and I watched a pretty crazy storm roll in:

The downpour was crazy, and there were even tornado watches going on. Thankfully W&S's place was unscathed. We stayed for dinner, hung out for a little more, before heading down to Virgina (right over the water from DC), to spend the night at our friend's place.

Sunday we were up bright and early to head to National Harbor for the Color Run. I suggest you play this song while you read about the next part (they like to play it during the color throws at the end of every run, and for some reason it just works):

Beforehand in our nice bright whites:

And after 5k up and down hills and being pelted with color!!

It was a great time and Gwen was so excited to "be colorful":

Afterwards we headed to Annapolis, to hit up a place we saw on Man vs. Food (it has a 6lb milk shake!!). We only got the 2lb milkshake (to share), but next time we'll have to bring my brother, and then we'll definitely tackle the 6lb one. It was a beautiful city though, and we turned some heads, that's for sure. 

While certain parts didn't turn out as planned (my brother got sick and couldn't join us), we ended up having a really wonderful weekend.



This week flew by in a whirlwind of "hello fall scramble!" at work, "chores at night during the week since we don't have time on the weekends!" at home, and a hammering out some details of a cool collaboration that I'll be starting soon. Its been busy, and I am so looking forward to this weekend. Tomorrow, while an "out and about" day, should be relaxing and fun. Sunday should be fun too, though I don't know about relaxing. Can't wait to share it all with you later.

In the meantime, just trying to get through this work day!!

Happy Weekend all.


works for me wednesday

My "real life" friends have probably heard me talk about these two things, but I realized that I haven't mentioned them on here. So, just a quick post to share two "crunchy" things that work for me, and I think will work for you. For both of them, I started out very unsure of them, but now I'm a convert. 

#1: I don't know if I mentioned it before, but earlier this year (January actually), I started doing the Oil Cleanse Method. Crunchy Betty has one of the best summaries and reviews (click the name to find a complete run down on the hows), so I'm going to point you there rather then rehash the whole thing... but in brief: Its using clean, natural oils to dissolve the dirty oils on your face while moisturizing in a way that helps your skin regulate how much oil it needs to make. The best part of this is that it is so versatile. It can be easily customized to work with oily/problematic skin (mine!), combination, normal, or dry.

My skin is very acne prone/problematic. Since I started breaking out as a teen, I can think of only one or two times that I would have called my skin clear. The time that comes to mind was when I was taking birth control, taking an oral acne medication, using a prescription wash, and using two prescription gels/lotions. Way too much! Plus, I can't remember the names of the meds, but I bet you they were Class X drugs, which I definitely have no interest in ingesting anymore.

While the OCM hasn't made my skin clear, it has made it better. I still break out, but in much smaller "doses." Putting aside the actual acne, my skin is definitely way less oily too, which is one of my favorite parts. It used to be that my skin would be an oil slick by the end of the day, now, I can go a few days between washings if needed. My skin just isn't making the extra oil. After a 2 or 3 day adjustment period, my skin was dewier, but less greasy... it just looks and feels better.

Sunday of our camping weekend... hadn't washed my face since Thursday night.

Normally I wash about 3x a week, and just give my face a quick warm water wipe down the other nights. My oils are jojoba, caster, and a few drops of tea tree (again, check out that Crunchy Betty page above for a list of the oils and what skin types they are good for).

So, no more products for me... no more hoping from cleanser to cleanser to find something that works. Instead I got a few big bottles of my oils of choice from ama.zon, and those bottle are going to last me a LONG time (both, after 8 months, are still about 2/3 to 3/4 full).

I'm a convert, and I'm not looking back!!

#2: If you read green/crunchy blogs, then maybe, like me, you're a little sick of hearing about coconut oil. Honestly, I just didn't get it. Why would I need it? Why would I want it? There is always some "new" thing that everyone latches onto and it gets spread around like crazy, until the hype dies down. So I didn't use it.

Until Daisy wanted her belly rubbed one day and I saw that her belly was covered in weird, coarse, black spots. I was worried. So I looked online a bit (there are some great "ask a vet" sites) to see if this was something common. Turns out it is... normally caused by either a bacterial infection or skin irritation. And the vet recommended coconut oil* (both orally and on the spots themselves)! So, I grabbed some coconut oil, fed it to the pup daily and within a few days the spots were fewer and smaller. Fast forward a week and the spots were gone. Daisy's skin looked great.

Since then I've seen that it can be used to moisturize your hair, as a lubricant, or in cooking (though should be done very sparingly as it is high in saturated fats). I'll definitely be keeping a jar around from now on.

Does anyone use either of these? Will anyone try them?
What "crunchy" thing works for you?

* If the coconut oil hadn't shown signs of working within a week, Daisy would have gone straight to the vet, but I wanted to try a natural, and less costly, method first.


camping (picture heavy) and expanding family news

This weekend was such a balm to my hippie heart. I breathed out as much city air as I could and breathed in the trees, rocks, water, and amazing mountain air. We left Friday just after lunch, letting Gwen nap on the way up, and got checked in just after 3pm. Within an hour we had our tent up and campsite arraigned.

The view behind our site was pretty awesome.

But that was just the tip of the iceberg... or mountain (as Ricketts Glen lays 2500 feet up). We ran to the local corner store to grab some firewood, and grabbed some corn from the farm stand out front. Back up the mountain where we cooked dinner, poked around a bit, said hi to our campsite neighbors (who are from our area, go figure!), then had an early night.

Saturday morning we woke up bright and early (thanks to Gwen, and the sun). We cooked breakfast over the fire, and were off hiking before 8. Rickett's Glen has a bunch of gorgeous trails to pick from, but we wanted waterfalls! So Falls Trail it was. Of course, Falls Trail is a non-blazed trail, and gets the park's most difficult rating, but it was worth the sore thighs!

(Ps. The boots... I still love them! They were amazing and my feet felt great.)

I loved that Daisy could do all the hiking with us... and she did too!

We probably saw about 5 of the falls on the trail before deciding to head back up for lunch. But next time we'll bring our lunch with us and do the whole thing. Its beautiful out there.

The biggest of the falls was almost 100'.

Trav wore Gwen most of the way back up since she couldn't do a lot of the hiking herself and it was too hard to carry her in certain sections.

The way down was harder since it was steep and you're stepping down the inclines and steps (feeling like you're going to pitch forward... especially when holding 20something pounds of toddler, or containing and exuberant Lab!), but the way back up was more tiring!

Daisy did great, but boy was she a pooped puppy when we got back!!

After lunch we headed out for a shorter walk, just along the lake and towards the beach area. Gwen and I went down to the lakes edge for a little, so she could stomp around in the water a bit. Then we took a brief drive to see a little of the area, and I could show Trav where I had spent time every summer. My grandparents used to live just 15 or so minutes from where we were camping, and I used to go to their place for 2 weeks, for many summers to visit with them, teach vacation bible school at the local Methodist campground, and visit with my longtime friend Carrie. It was fun to take a trip down memory lane. We also passed by my grandparent's old house (their dream house, which they built)... which was a little hard, to pass by but not be able to stop there... and the graveyard where my grandfather is interred and my grandmother will be as well.

Once we were back at camp, we cooked up some dinner... more corn cooked on the fire (it was so good we stopped to get more... seriously the most amazing sweet corn I think I've ever had), and hot dogs.

Then it was time for a walk around the camping area to try to settle down after an exciting day. Gwen did very well the whole weekend, but getting her to fall asleep in the tent was hard. She was just too excited, and you could hear every noise from the rest of the campground.

Sunday, our last day, we woke early again and set about breaking down camp. The tent came down, the bags were all packed, and everything went into the car. We had a quick breakfast, and straightened up the site. After that we headed to the bottom of the hill to do a quick hike there.

We followed the Evergreen Trail and got to see another waterfall, which was probably one of the most picturesque of the bunch!
It was smaller, but had worn all the rocks smooth, and was surrounded by gorgeous pools.

After the waterfall, we followed the trail to check out some old growth forest. Gwen was a great little hiker!

The beautiful forest gave Gwen and I some good opportunities for talking about trees and what they do for us, and how we can help them.

We also talked about lots of other new and interesting plants:

Once we got back to the car, we headed out, making a stop for lunch on the turnpike, then on to home. It was still only early afternoon when we got home, so we went to the store and started on all of our laundry. It was such a wonderful time and I can't wait to do it again. This was definitely a trial run for camping with dog and babe, but now we know what works and does, and I look forward to doing about 2x the hiking next time! All-in-all though it was gorgeous and we had a lot of fun.

Just to top off the happiness that was our camping weekend... I got the news Sunday night that my brother had proposed to his girlfriend! I knew it was planned, so I was beyond excited to get the call that it had gone off nicely and they were now engaged! I cannot wait to welcome Elise to our family, she's just so wonderful, and perfect for my brother.

Now here it is, Monday night, and I'm getting ready for heading back to work tomorrow. I'm not too excited for the office after all that beautiful forest, but at least I have another awesome weekend to look forward to! And I can look through these pictures anytime I need a little nature boost in the meantime.

How was everyone's Labor Day?