Blooming

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The daffodils and forsythias are blooming and the trees are budding! Everything seems to be about 2 weeks ahead of schedule, so I’ll cross my fingers and hope there’s not a cold snap around the bend. I don’t want these pretty blooms to be frost-bit.

My Spring Momiform will include this lightweight pink jacket (to elevate my standard jeans & t-shirt) and this maxi skirt (dressed up with blouse and booties or down with t-shirt and converse). Finding out what I like to wear through The Curated Closet has been so helpful in making thoughtful choices to freshen up my wardrobe for Spring.

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My spring wardrobe will not include my Campside after all, unfortunately. My Olympic knitting project is an Olympic failure. Back when the Olympics began, I told myself just 6 rows a day would have me blocking by the closing ceremony. But just like staying up past bedtime to see who wins the gold, I haven’t committed past the first few nights. This might be renamed my March Madness project…

How are things blooming for you?

❤️

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Feelings

Anger, Frustration, Hopelessness, Sadness, Fear, or Joy?

Share your feelings with someone today. Listen to someone today. Empathize today. And try again tomorrow. Teach your children to do this by modeling love.

❤️

In the Kitchen: Gluten Free

I am trying to pysch myself up for eating gluten-free again. While I’ve never been diagnosed with celiac disease, I have experienced symptoms of gluten intolerance.

When I went gluten-free last year, my joint pain disappeared, digestive issues improved, and I slept so much better. I know it’s a healthy choice for me, but it’s really difficult without intense meal prep and planning.

I want to go in it with a better game plan this time, so I started by making a list of dinners that my family already eats that are gluten-free (or easily adaptable for me).

Easy GF Dinners:

Taco Bowls with rice
Roasted Chicken, Potatoes and Carrots
Stir Fry Chicken or Shrimp, Squash and Onions
Potato Soup with Sausage
Grilled Chicken or Pork, served over salad
Hash, with potatoes, peppers, and onion
Cheesesteaks (without the bun)

These are the common dinners that my family loves that make it hard to stick with a gluten-free diet:

Spaghetti (I can make with chickpea pasta)
Sandwiches (I can use GF bread)
Pizza (I am doomed)

I haven’t made it beyond list-making. But as good veggies are popping up in the grocery and farmer markets will be opening soon, it seems less daunting.  Does anyone else have this ‘good on paper, bad on follow-through’ problem?

❤️

January Reading

I hit my reading goal this month, easily! I know there are many January-haters out there, and as much as I do not enjoy freezing temps, I love how much I can accomplish this month!

Drums of Autumn, Diana Gabaldon
Fourth in the Outlander series, this is set primarily in America before the American Revolution. Like the other Outlander books I’ve read, this installation in the series is exquisite in detail, romance and daring. And like the others, I always proclaim the last one I read to be the “best”. It’s just long, so carve out some time.

The Horse Dancer, Jojo Moyes
Let me preface this by saying I am a big fan of Jojo Moyes. But this one was slow. So slow in fact I had both the audio and digital version of this last fall, and never got past the first two chapters. But I persisted and borrowed a library copy and ended up loving it in the end. It is romantic in a realistic, modern way. Driving the story is Sarah, an orphaned teen, and her survival story.

Perfect Plates, John Waite
This is a perfect gift for a cookbook lover. The recipes are well-photographed and mostly simple, with known ingredients, yet he pulls together some very unique combinations. The Banana and Blueberry Dutch Baby Pancake is the perfect Saturday morning breakfast, and I’m bringing the Rye Soda Bread with Egg Butter to my next lunch meeting.

Gem & Dixie, Sara Zarr
This young adult selection certainly pulled at my heart. Gem & Dixie are neglected teens with a complicated family system. Both the mother and father do their fair share of loving these girls but yet they continually manipulate them for their own selfish gain due to their own flaws and addictions. My heart breaks for any adolescent that is robbed of the chance of adolescence. Her characterization and dialogue of the teens seem near perfect, and the book highlights the importance of the school support system in a vulnerable teen’s life (all the way from teachers, counselors, to even school cafeteria workers).

All Grown Up, Jamie Attenburg
Someone recommended this one as being funny. I don’t think funny would describe it well. It was ironically humorous at times, but I mostly found it depressive and narcissistic. The character’s lack of identity and struggle to find passion and purpose was insightful, but definitely not funny.

And we’re off?, Dana Schwartz
The premise of this story is a teen artist is offered the opportunity to study abroad, but the mother decides to tag along at the last minute. This one is funny and a bit nightmarish, at least from the teenager’s perspective. She gets an opportunity of a lifetime for some self-discovery, and her broken mother decides to both physically and mentally anchor her. The mother seems less like a helicopter mom, and more just discouraging, pathetic and lost.

Pioneer Woman Cooks, Come and Get It!, Ree Drummond
These really are normal, delicious recipes for a busy life. The Overnight Muesli is easy and delicious, and the Sheet Pan Tofu and Grilled Cheese & Veggie are my new favorite lunch favorites. I’ve never made salmon before, but my daughter and I are going to try to cook the Honey Soy Salmon together the next opportunity. Not all of the recipes are perfectly healthy, but in this cookbook Ree makes healthy also look easy and tempting, a considerable feat.

Rules of Magic, Alice Hoffman
Rules of Magic is a prequel to Practical Magic (which I haven’t read or seen the movie, but I’m reading it next). I will be the millionth person to echo that you don’t have to read Practical Magic before reading this one, and it’s such a beauty that it can stand alone if you wish not to read how the family progresses, as hard as it might be to try. It’s the Owens sisters backstory set in 1950’s New England, and it’s masterful storytelling, capturing both the spirit of the time and the fantasy of magic. I’ve heard the audio version is outstanding, although I only had a library copy and was blown away. I loved it, and would put this on any must-read list.

A Letter to my Congregation, 2nd Edition, Ken Wilson
I believe that most Christians would agree that a defining issue for this generation of believers is the church’s path forward through embracing or excluding people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender. Whether you agree or disagree with the author’s conclusions, I found it was a worthy journey. I was especially moved by his discernment process of prayer, counseling and research, and the afterword he wrote for the second edition, a true “what happened next.” His generosity of spirit and openness touched me. He wrote, “I can appreciate anyone disagreeing [with] me because I have lived long enough to disagree with myself.” I hope I can approach my calling with such humility.

Have you read anything wonderful that you would recommend?

❤️

On (& Off) the Needles

This month, I have many projects on the needles and very little finished.

I have only one stripe of the baby blanket finished for my new nephew AJ. I scrapped the log cabin idea and went with this chevron stripe. He was born a few weeks ago, in Utah, so he might have a week or two of cold weather left by the time I finish to enjoy this blanket. From what I hear, he’s a patient little fellow. Since he hasn’t heard yet how terrible of a finished knitter I am, there’s no need to dash his hopes just yet. Worst case scenario he can use it as a scarf next winter, haha.

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My Campside is about 1/2 finished. This has been fun to knit as we watch several basketball and football games. The repeats are easy enough that I am lucky to complete several rows each night. However, my luck at picking teams is not so great. While the Vols are playing great basketball, just about every NFL team I love has lost. My husband wants me to cheer for the Patriots next.

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I needed a quick project to help me feel like I accomplished something this month, so I decided to knit this Chunky Cabled Hat. I can never have too many hats, what with these freezing temps and the girls taking all the hats to school and leaving them in their lockers. ❤️

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What’s Working

Whether at church or with my neighborhood friends, something that I’m always keen to talk about is best practices- best mom practices especially. While everyone has different kids and different circumstances, there are always commonalities shared that sparks inspiration for me. Why reinvent the wheel?
Sometimes you’ll find a mom with some kids that are about 5 years ahead of you, and her mom best practices are truly little golden nuggets. And other times, you can help a mom with younger children find the perfect sippy cup, share your perfect bedtime routine, or just in general gain some perspective and appreciate that not every phase lasts forever.
Motherhood is a marathon, not a sprint, and just like a running buddy will help encourage you to finish the race- your mom tribe will also!

These are the top 5 things that are working for me right now:

  1. Getting up earlier than my kids. It sounds so simple, but in that 30 mins or hour, I can take a long walk, enjoy some coffee and devotional time, and be ready to give my kids attention to get them to school on time and start my day more peacefully.
  2. Using a bullet journal to write down my goals and create action steps to complete them. I journal my weekly progress, as well as success/fails of the week. I love making lists, so this works well for how my brain works, but it also lets me see big picture progress which helps me in turn be more realistic.
  3. The Think Dirty app is helping me to be choose greener beauty and household products. For many years now, I’ve tried to keep a greener home, both for my family’s health and to be a better steward of our world’s resources. I use many of the Norwex cleaning cloths and my laundry routine is probably as green as I can make it, but my makeup and beauty products need an overhaul. My current rating on the app is a 6. This app helps me identify my biggest offenders (my mascara, deodorant, shampoo, toothpaste, & body wash) so that when it comes time to replace them, I can make a better choice.
  4. Choosing to unsubscribe from so many retail e-blasts. With budgeting continuing to be a top priority for our family, I have found it easier to spend less by unsubscribing from so many eblasts that prompted that “oh, I need that” reaction.
  5. Activating the “move” function of my Garmin. I don’t want to be bossed around by my watch, but I work a 9-5 office job and sitting all day long is deadly. Keeping water at my desk helps too, then I’m forced by my bladder to move, haha. You could set an alarm on your phone too. Thankfully I work from home, so that I can dance to Timberlake for a few minutes in the privacy of my own office.

I would love to hear what is working for you too! Let’s lift each other up so that this motherhood journey is a little easier!

❤️

November and December Reading

November

The Widow by Fiona Barton, I really enjoyed The Child and this was recommended to me before I had ever heard of Fiona Barton during my mystery kick last year. But I have to confess, this one isn’t my cup of tea. I only read about 10% of this one, then read the last chapter. As a 10 of 10 on a gritty scale, my momma heart couldn’t take it.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by JK Rowling, loved it as much if not more than the last time I read it. I am having so much fun reading through this series again and catching details that I missed the first time around.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz. The ending gave me mixed feelings, but ultimately I’m glad I read it. It’s a delightful tale of friendship, but maybe teen and young adult gay & lesbian fiction just isn’t for me.

Sing Unburied Sing by Jesmyn Ward- Had this book not arrived in the gift subscription that my sister sent me for Christmas, I feel certain that I would not have read this. It is gritty and centers around poverty, racism, drugs, and the child neglect and despair that can be at the center of this encompassing epidemic. With that said, this book stretched me and beat me up, and crawled into my heart. This gritty story of loss and hope that truly toes the line between thriller and ghost story is poetically told from the view of a mother and her young son who has to grow up too fast. It won the National Book Award for Fiction and I would highly recommend this one.

Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel. I was so excited to learn that our library selected this author and this book as part of their “Big Read” community reading event for the purpose of bringing neighbors together to be more empathetic, more aware, and more engaged. The culmination of the reading event was a lecture and open discussion forum with Emily St. John Mandel, and it was particularly insightful. She spoke of her inspiration for this story and her writing process, both in general and the research involved in writing this specific story. I was especially intrigued because she has somehow managed to live a successful, creative life on a balanced 9-5 work schedule. And she signed my sister’s books, which delighted my sister immensely.

Turtles all the Way Down by John Green was exactly what I wanted it to be. While slow at first, John Green expertly weaves a tale of love and friendship around the mysterious disappearance of a local billionaire, through the eyes of an obsessive compulsive and anxious (and extremely loveable) teen. He just understands- all the feelings, the self-centeredness, the dialogue. John Green is a master of young adult fiction.

December

The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin- Set in the untamed Pacific Northwest at the turn of the twentieth century, the author captures both the time and place with stunning clarity. Two girls escaping a violent life come upon this orchardist, who after losing his own family, takes them under his care and they journey to ultimately build a new family. It’s a rocky and distrustful relationship, and will challenge any version of a traditional family, but their journey is beautifully told.

Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway. Surprised by how much I loved Sing, Unburied, Sing, I went back to the National Book Awards to find more titles to read. My sister recommended Far from the Tree, and she had a copy, and told me she would send it to me. In the meantime, I went back through Robin Benway’s backlist and chose a couple to keep me busy until it arrived. Emmy & Oliver is a must read, with characters that are real and funny, and like me, you will be sorry this story has to end. These kids were best friends in elementary school when Oliver disappeared. He is found many years later, and Emmy and Oliver have to deal with the consequences of his disappearance on both of their lives, and ultimately discover their friendship again in the process. I loved the parents too. Just loved all of it.

Genuine Fraud by E Lockhart- I enjoyed We Were Liars and E. Lockhart’s twisty, trippy style of writing, and was excited when this popped up from my holds list at the library. It is written backwards in time, which can be confusing if you are the type to read multiple books at once. It’s a story of two girls, Jules and Imogen, but really just one girl with identity issues. I always think it’s a clever trick for the author to make you fall in love with truly unlikable characters. And I didn’t find it too confusing, because I couldn’t put this one down.

Audrey, Wait! By Robin Benway- This wasn’t as great as Emmy & Oliver, but a likeable story nonetheless. It’s cheery teen lit, unsurprising and sweet, and I enjoyed it.

That rounds out the 70 or so books I read in 2017. Mostly fiction, and pretty evenly divided between adult and young adult. It would be hard to rank my top five, but the one that most changed me was Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson. I especially enjoyed Wonder by RJ Palacio and Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk, because I read them with my daughter. I enjoyed mysteries more than I had in years past especially I Found You by Lisa Jewell and The Lying Game by Ruth Ware. And I’m so excited to continue reading more of the Outlander series in 2018. I loved the quarterly book subscription and am excited to read those selections (although it will be hard to beat Sing, Unburied, Sing.)

Happy Reading!

❤️