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Tallying up time

January 18, 2017

It’s funny, if you ask me how I’m doing I’ll say “good…busy, but good.” And I am busy. But doing what?

I spend a lot of time thinking about how I spend my time. As mommy to a toddler, a small business owner, and work at home mom, it’s important to be able to manage my time and try to achieve some sort of balance. And yet, thinking back on this month, I had to think hard about what I’ve been so busy with.

And while I doubt you care very much how I count my minutes in my day to day life, I’m going to share because all the things I realized are accomplishments. They may not be big things, or things that anyone else would take the time to note, but I’m proud of how much I’ve accomplished just in the new year. And maybe this will remind someone who needs it to be kind to themselves, and take the time to be proud of their accomplishments, no matter how small.

Momming

You know what they say, mommin’ ain’t easy. Also, mom life is the best life. I agree with both. I’ve got a stubborn, sweet, hilarious, ridiculously smart little toddler on my hands. Sometimes that means we’re laughing together. Sometimes it means I want to bang my head into the wall. But each day, her little personality comes out more and more and every moment we spend together, whether it’s working or playing or holding her while she falls asleep, is absolutely worth it.

Sawing

In early December I finally picked up a silver saw, and took my first foray into the world of cutting sheet silver. And it’s awesome. Not every piece is perfect, and I occasionally struggle with my solder, but this is a major step towards real jewelry fabrication. Considering I was told the learning curve is fairly steep, I think I’m doing really quite well. I just shared some recent pieces on the Seashore Design Studio Facebook page.

Cleaning

On a quiet weekend in early January, I reorganized the pantry and the linen closet, and tidied up the storage room. I’ve only been meaning to do this for about a year, maybe a little more. Once it warms up outside, garage, I am looking at you. In the meanwhile, the office needs some help. I get frustrated and decide I need to do a purge and make space…and then I fill it with more craft supplies. Tales of a compulsive crafter over here, it’s practically an illness. I can’t…help…myself.

Cooking. Eating. Dieting.

Starting on January 2, the man and I started the TLS 21 Day Challenge. The TLS system is a lifestyle plan that is based on the glycemic index, and teaches you how to change how you think about food, and thus, change your eating habits to make healthier choices. The initial stage is a “cleanse”, but not like what you typically think of as a cleanse. It’s a few days of eating simple, healthy foods to help you break bad habits and addictions, and give your body a chance to relax and reset. Then phase 2 offers a tailored eating plan that focuses on whole and healthy foods. The more aggressive plans are more limiting than the more passive of course, but it all depends on what your goal is.

Little Miss reviewing phase 2 food plans with me.

I’m actually very impressed. I’m spending a lot of time cooking and preparing, but we’re getting excellent results and I can see this as a very reasonable plan to follow indefinitely. It’s not a crash diet, and it doesn’t restrict you to the point of feeling oppressed. It’s simple, healthy eating, focusing not on calories but on how your body processes your food. The hardest shift, to my mind, is going from a standard “main protein dish and tiny sides” mindset, to getting used to having a smaller serving of protein and then filling up on healthy sides.

So we’ve got a toddler who (luckily) eats nearly anything, a largely vegetarian mom, and a carnivore dad who doesn’t do dairy, beans or nuts. It’s been interesting, but not impossible. I have a pretty good understanding of food to begin with, so the hardest part has been making two proteins to accommodate my own preferences.

There is a trade off here. We are spending slightly more on groceries because I’m buying even more produce, however with smaller servings of proteins, our meat purchases are going further. And rather than getting lazy and having my husband buy lunches (and often breakfast, if he eats it), I’m making and sending them for him. So when you consider buying versus bringing lunches, I think we’re saving money – and he’s losing weight at a very respectable pace! But it is taking up a lot of my time.

Of course, I make breakfast and lunch for Little Miss every day. But whereas I used to have an apple in the morning, I’m making myself something real now, which takes time. Then mid afternoon, I prepare for dinner. And breakfast and lunch for the next day for the mister. Then clean up after dinner and load the dishwasher. There are ways I could save time, but since I don’t have to, I don’t mind too much.

I joke around in the evenings that I’ve been cooking and cleaning all day. And some days it feels like it! I cook dinner, put away the leftovers, then prepare a breakfast, lunch and two snacks for the next day (the amount of tupperware my husband has to carry…)

But again, we’re getting results and it’s a sustainable plan. I’m actually delighted. If you’d like to learn more about the TLS system or 21 day challenge, I’d be happy to share some more details!

So anyway…

My January accomplishments aren’t extraordinary. They’re not really above and beyond what you could normally expect. I’m not looking to brag about my activities.

But a business coach I once worked with used to say, “celebrate all wins”.

Especially in the dead of winter, with cold winds and grey skies, I say it’s as good a time as any to celebrate all wins. I have been busy, and I have been accomplishing small, but important things. And I’m sure you have too.

So give yourself a high five and keep on keeping on. If you’d like to share whats been keeping you busy, feel free to drop it in the comments, and I’d be happy to give you a high five too!

Life Parenting

Hello, 2017

January 1, 2017

It’s been 17 years since my mom and I stayed up late playing Monopoly around the coffee table, waiting for my dad to come home. My two little siblings were tucked away in their beds, and I was happy to have my busy and very pregnant mom all to myself for awhile.  It was the year everyone in the tech field was anxious about the dreaded Y2K and what it would do to computers, so my dad and a few coworkers had to ring in the new year at work in case it all went to hell in a hand basket. We all know how that went down, nothing crashed, nothing happened. Our country still had many unknown trials to face in the future, but that was not one of them.

Last night, my husband and I spent our first new years eve with little Indy. We went to our favorite Italian place for a very early dinner with friends. My poor baby who is suffering from his first real cold pulled my hair and whined until he fell asleep on me. We got him ready for a bath at home and in the one minute that he was naked between diaper change and bath- he peed down my entire outfit, down to the shoes! After we finally got our poor munchkin to sleep, we watched Grand Tour and I read Dragonfly in Amber- the second book in the Outlander series that Ilana mentioned in her last post. We are both hooked! Despite all of the grand plans we had for the evening- these sleep deprived parents chose to sleep through the new year. Goodbye 2016. You brought us our son- the absolute light of our lives, some of our happiest moments, some terrible losses, and the worst election season that I’ve ever experienced. Last night I was more than ready to put 2016 to bed. I slept soundly through the transition of years right next to my best friend. I wouldn’t change a thing.

I woke up at 12:09 to the sound of Indy crying and got up to help settle him. It was officially a new year. This morning, as I write this, I know that the coming year won’t be easy. I am aware of the fear and suffering in the world, as well as the hurt and the pain that my family deals with as so many of us cope with loss. I have hope though, and that makes all of the difference. I hear my son’s little coos and I am determined to do my part to make this world a better place. I have so much hope for joy in the coming year. Today as we all lay low at home to recover from our colds, I’ll pack away our Christmas decorations and prepare us to settle into our quieter winter rhythms after the holiday rush.  I think I’ll leave out my little advent candles for a little bit longer, though. I’m not ready to put them away. I’ll light my candles as a reminder of the hope, peace, joy, and love that I long for God to bring to this world.

Happy New Year my friends! I hope to write more faithfully this year. I’m thankful to Ilana for keeping this blog going over the last few months as I’ve adjusted to new motherhood. Thank you, as always for reading.

Baking Life

A year that was awful, and a pie that wasn’t

December 29, 2016

The title of this post is perhaps a little misleading in that I don’t actually categorize things by year. New Years Day, to me, is just another day. I don’t make New Years Resolutions. But for argument’s sake, because everyone else is talking about 2016, I’ll refer to it that way.

In a lot of ways, 2016 was really hard, for my family in particular. My maternal grandparents passed away within 6 weeks of each other. We watched them struggle and suffer and ultimately go, and we barely had time to breathe between the two. This kind of loss doesn’t just go away after the funeral. You’re not sad for a few days and then you go back to normal. There’s a mourning period and an adjustment period and then…life. Some days it’s easy. Some days you cry in the supermarket. It’s difficult to accept that this is the “new normal”.

Yes, 2016 had been tough. It’s been an emotional year full of sad firsts.

And yes, I am aware of what is going on in the world. I force myself to read news articles on domestic and international concerns to stay informed. This election was quite ugly, and American politics hasn’t gotten much prettier since November.

If I got all my news from Facebook, first off, I’d probably see lots and lots of fake news…but secondly, I’d be pretty sure that 2016 was the worst year ever because lots of celebrities died. It is sad. Some, even tragic. Certainly many were major losses to the entertainment community and our beloved franchises. But forgive me if, standing where I’m standing, this doesn’t make 2016 any number of expletives or exaggerations I’ve seen it referred to as. I’m not impressed.

Everyone, feel how you feel. Seriously, I’m all about people working through things for themselves and I hate when something is used as a stand in to try to invalidate people’s feelings or concerns (ex: just because something is a “first world problem” doesn’t mean it isn’t profoundly affecting your life right now). But as far as 2016 being THE. WORST. YEAR. EVER. Unimpressed.

I’m big on perspective. 2016 hit my family hard. However…

  1. Little Miss is doing well, her speech is progressing appropriately and it’s becoming more and more clear how very clever she is
  2. My nephew, adorable little Indy was born
  3. My brother got engaged to my high school bestie
  4. My mother and I both got involved in an interesting business and are doing well and enjoying the products
  5. My own little business, Seashore Design Studio, has come together nicely and my sales have been the highest ever (out of 10 years on Etsy with various shops), and I now have an amazing group of “fans” who support and encourage me
  6. My husband remains gainfully employed, with good health insurance
  7. We are all, for the most part, healthy
  8. I discovered the Outlander book series
  9. I got over my fear of my canning kettle and learned to make and can jams
  10. I learned to make red beans and rice and arroz con gandules (it was a good year for rice and beans around here, I guess)
  11. I’ve been able to do more charitable giving than ever before, thanks to my little business
  12. I have continued to learn, research and grow as a person

I have good days, and I have bad days; the kind where everything reminds me of people I’ve lost or I can’t stop thinking about the atrocities happening around the world. But also this year I’ve learned that dwelling will accomplish nothing, but action will. Donating, learning, educating, can make a difference. Giving back in ways big or small make a difference.

Be kind, be generous, make someone smile.

Speaking of smiles, you know what makes me smile? Chocolate. So I’m going to finish this post out with a little story about a pie I made yesterday, as well as the recipe.


Vegan Chocolate Pie

This recipe was based on the Chocolate Raspberry Coconut Almond Tart by BlahnikBaker (link to original HERE).

I had pinned this recipe on Pinterest, into my “Naturally Gluten and Dairy Free” board. Today is my husband’s birthday – we had originally planned to see my parents last night, and his family tonight; due to a bunch of people being sick, that changed. But I was thinking I needed to make a birthday cake 2 days in a row, and no way was I making the same kind of cake for both! So, I thought, I need gluten free and dairy free. I headed to Pinterest and found this recipe, and sure enough, I had everything I needed in the house.

My version is slightly different from the original, but all credit really goes to the original recipe. I wish I had thought of vegan ganache! It’s lovely. My version is a pie instead of a tart, and I changed the proportions a little out of necessity. But still. The crust is tasty with great texture, and the center is dense and chocolaty and sweet, nearly fudgy and delightfully smooth. And vegan and gluten free, which perfectly avoided the allergens I needed to steer clear of. I topped it with candied sunflower seeds and served it with strawberries and blueberries to break up all the chocolate.

Now I do need to note…I didn’t know chocolate pie was a thing before I read The Help. And that’s a real shame, because chocolate pie is amazing. Really, what a great idea. But now, I can’t make it, or even really thinking about it, without thinking about The Help. It was hard not to make any off color jokes last night.

But anyway!

Ingredients:

Crust

  • 1/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1 1/2 cup almond meal
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 2 table spoons agave syrup (you can use maple syrup as well)

Filling

  • 1 cup coconut cream (canned or bottled)
  • 6-8oz semisweet chocolate chips (I had half a bag of mini chips, make sure they’re non-dairy if that matters to you)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3-4 teaspoons cocoa powder

Directions:

  1. Start with the crust. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix coconut flakes, almond meal, coconut flour (I assume another flour, gluten free or regular would act roughly the same) and salt in a bowl. Melt coconut oil and agave syrup then stir together with the other ingredients and mix well. Pat into the bottom of a pie plate (I used a glass Pyrex one) firmly, making sure the crust covers the bottom and goes slightly up the sides. Bake for 10-12 minutes until a little golden around the edges. Allow to cool somewhat.
  2. In a small saucepan, heat your coconut cream until it bubbles gently. Turn off the heat and add the cocoa and chocolate chips. Let sit a moment, then add vanilla and stir until smooth and even in color. Pour your awesome vegan ganache into the waiting shell, then pop it into the fridge for at least 2 hours to set.
  3. Keep cool until serving. Top with seeds, nuts, coconut flakes, some coarse sea salt or fruit (or serve the fruit alongside it, to keep extra moisture off the cake).

And that’s that! While the recipe originally seemed rather involved, it was actually fairly simple and quick.

So here’s to beautiful desserts, love and light and peace and giving, and a 2017 that doesn’t make people quite so miserable.

Life

I should be cleaning

December 15, 2016

I am hosting a party this weekend, a holiday get together for my husband’s friends from work. I believe all told, we’ll have 12 adults and 4 children in the house. I had planned to clean and prepare all week. The week had other plans.

Instead of writing right now, I should be cleaning.

An hour ago, when Little Miss and I were mixing cookie dough to make a surprise for a friend’s birthday, I should have been cleaning.

Yesterday, the day after I said I was no longer accepting orders for holiday delivery, when I stood at the workbench for 3 hours to finish orders for existing customers and excited new customers, I should have been cleaning.

When I sat on the floor and pretended to eat plastic pizza with my daughter, I should have been cleaning.

But I wasn’t cleaning. And despite everything, I think that’s actually okay.

To rewind a bit, one of the things I was most excited about when we bought our house was the ability to entertain. With a smallish kitchen and moderate sized living room, I’m still not able to host holidays and even family dinners with everyone are a stretch. But I appreciate being able to have people over for casual get togethers, pretty much whenever I want to.

Now I’m not going to lie here, I’m somewhat neurotic about cleaning. Things my poor husband has had to endure include:

  • “We need to clean the bathroom, it looks like someone groomed a long haired chihuahua in there!”
  • “Who decided black furniture was a good idea? I dusted yesterday and you know what I see today? Dust.”
  • “The kitchen floor has sticky spots, do you want the baby to get trapped like a rat?”
  • “Where is my stuff? You moved my pile! I knew what was in that pile!”

It’s not that everything has to be shiny and perfect, it just needs to be…as close as I can get it. I mean, don’t look at my windows because I’ve not cleaned them once in the 2 years we’ve been living here. But I want at least the public rooms of the house dusted, swept, vacuumed and CLEAN.

Typically. Typically I make myself crazy, running around for days before the company is due to make sure everything is neat and clean. I re-organize. I clean the kitchen, only to cook a full meal and make it a mess again.

I think I’ve come to a turning point.

No, I will not have company over with a dirty house. I’ll make sure the bathroom is clean and the tables are spotless and the floor has been swept. But the need to have everything perfect? Done.

Because you know what, I’m busy. I’m running a business from home. I’m raising a very sweet, very smart, suddenly very chatty little girl. I’m finishing my holiday shopping and getting the holiday cards in the mail. I’m grocery shopping and making sure my family has a healthy home cooked meal nearly every night of the week. And right now, I’m doing it with a not-serious-but-very-annoying back injury too.

I’m not commuting to work and working for someone else. I’m not making the big bucks. But I’m doing fairly important and good work nonetheless. I’m raising a really good little person. I’m running a business that is making people happy (and this holiday season, I diverted a percentage of sales and was able to donate a total of $355 to 4 different charities).

So the counters will be cleaned, but the cabinet doors can stay as they are. The wood floors will be vacuumed, but not polished. The bathroom will be cleaned and the towels washed, but do me a favor and don’t look too closely at the bathtub. Because you know what? This doesn’t matter.

It’s not about the sparkle. And who did I think was visiting anyway, who would criticize the books on my end table or dust I may have missed on a windowsill or chair back? Really?

I’m tired of running around doing busy work to satisfy some bizarre notion in my own head. I’m tired of focusing on things that don’t matter, and I’m tired of apologizing. How many times have I had a surprise visitor and said “I didn’t get to clean, don’t look at anything too hard,” with a self deprecating smile?

Be my guest. Any day of the week. With advanced notice, you bet I’ll be tidying up. But scheduling a week of my life to dedicate to cleaning for a party? So long to that notion, consider this your Dear John (Dear Broom?) letter because I am out. Take me and my house as we are. Instead of focusing on cleaning, I’m focusing on the things that matter.

Right now? I actually should be cleaning. I have a little more tidying to do, aside from the last minute set up. Then there’s the shopping. Then there’s the cooking! And really, cooking is more fun than cleaning anyway. Then hopefully, we’ll have a successful get together Saturday night, after which I’ll need to spend 2 days cleaning up again anyway.

And that’s that. Where do you stand on the cleaning issue?

Life

It’s the most wonderful time…

December 8, 2016

Oh hi. You’re still here? If I’m not mistaken, I haven’t written a word in just a bit over a month. Life has been…busy.

Truth be told, the end of this year has flown by. I went to Lake George with my family in August and in a lot of ways, it feels like it was yesterday. September was still right after the trip. October flew by, marked only by my brother’s engagement party and my birthday. Halloween was quiet and then November rolled in. There was Election Day and then suddenly it was Thanksgiving. And now we’re full on in the holiday season. I have my Christmas cards, waiting for addresses and stamps, and I’m trying to finish my shopping as quickly as I can so as not to wind up doing it last minute. I know everyone feels this way, but there just aren’t enough hours in the day.

And you know what they say, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year…”

I actually tend to have a difficult time with the holidays, and this year will be no exception. It’s the first year we’re celebrating without both of my grandparents, which has been an adjustment unto itself. I think a part of my detachment this year has been due to this. I’ve managed to stay fairly even keel most of the time, and make it through all of the events and holidays thus far. But then sometimes reality hits me and I choke back tears in the supermarket. You know how it is.

This year I’m making an active effort to not slip into grinch-hood. Little Miss is almost 2.5 years old, and extremely aware of everything going on around her. She is thrilled with all the holiday lights outside and had fun helping me set up our little tree. Last night I showed her how to spin a dreidel, though her spin looks a lot more like chucking it at the table and laughing. I’m not big into Santa Claus, and really don’t know how much she would even understand, but I am trying to introduce other traditions for both holidays we celebrate as a family, and allow her to get involved.

Today we will do the first of the holiday baking, for an event this weekend. I’m sure she will help; she loves mixing and pouring and helping me measure. It gets messy, but it’s fun. I imagine that in the coming weeks as I make the biscotti and Italian fig cookies, she’ll be helping me as well.

One of the things that has helped me get “into the spirit” this year is actually my business. Through Seashore Design Studio I offer handmade fine and sterling silver jewelry that is strong, and flexible in style. Recent promotions have allowed me to ship dozens of items along with free gifts and extra goodies to friends and customers, as well as collect from these sales for charitable giving. The feeling of being able to give back and make a difference has gone a long way towards keeping me engaged, especially following this year’s political season.

I’ve also been doing a lot of my holiday shopping on Etsy. So far 99% of my shopping has been done from independent artists, with that last 1% from small companies or companies I love. I know how excited I get what I see a new order come in, and I want to be able to do that for other people. Plus there are some absolutely fantastic, unique gifts to be had when you buy from people instead of corporations.

I apologize for this blog being quiet for a while. The time has flown by so fast, and there’s been so much to do that there just never seems to be time to document something to share. I hope you’re well; stay warm (I’m already always cold and it’s not even real winter yet).

Cooking Gardening Life

It’s not easy being green

September 30, 2016

I have a lot in common with Kermit the Frog. I’ve been known to flail my arms in the air like boneless wet noodles when I’m excited, and I use the phrase “it’s not easy being green” fairly often. Usually it’s in self deprecation, when my husband has responded to something I’ve told him and I just sigh and tell him, “what can I say, it’s not easy being green.”

This post however, isn’t actually about Kermit the Frog, or my pithy comments, but actual real green stuff.

Namely avocados, olives, basil and figs.

I’ve been stuck on both lately. Avocados in New York are not at their best prices of the year, but I’ve been buying them anyway. I recently did my now traditional annual olive curing. And basil, well, it’s coming to that time where my summer garden is nearing the end of it’s natural life and I’m trying to harvest what I can to keep.

First, avocados

avocadoI love avocados. We make guacamole, avocado toast with runny eggs on top, and avocado salsa. I’ve even made lemony avocado pasta sauce. It’s slightly odd, but surprisingly good.

You know what else is awesome? Tacos. I just want to be sure, do we all realize how easy tacos are to make? Grill meat or shrimp, or fry fish (or often in my case, cook some beans), warm up some corn or flour tortillas, and put the filling on the tortilla. You can add shredded lettuce or cabbage, salsa, diced tomatoes, etc. It’s really so simple, and it’s so easy to take it from a boring little roll up to outstanding. Dicing up a mango and dropping a spoonful on top of grilled shrimp adds an awesome tropical flavor. Or, my personal favorite, the 5 minute avocado salsa.

Ready? Dice a tomato or two. Cut an avocado in half and draw the knife lengthwise then widthwise and use a spoon to scoop out neat little chunks. Toss your avocado with the tomato, plus a little lime juice, salt, pepper, dried cilantro if you have and onion powder (or use fresh diced onion, I just can’t eat raw onions so I opt for powder). The acidity of the tomato, tang of the lime juice and creaminess of the avocado really amplifies and compliments the rest of your ingredients.

Second, olives

olives2 weekends ago I cured 16 pounds of olives with the help of my sister in law and my future sister in law. While Little Miss napped, we took all sorts of aggression out on these olives, crushing and cracking them before putting them in their jars. We used my grandfather’s method (which can be found here) and successfully filled 13 jars with only a minimal amount of difficulty. To fully cure, they need to sit 40 days, so I am (im)patiently awaiting the end of that period.

Last year, my grandfather taught me how to cure olives. He passed in March of this year, and the months since have been filled with those odd moments where I almost forget he is gone, or I do things that in the past I may have done with him or asked him about, or things I learned from him. I was afraid that olive curing would make me an emotional mess, but my sisters in law were an extraordinary team that kept me on task. Nonetheless, I’m extremely grateful for having had the opportunity to learn from grandpa last year.

Third, basil

basilBasil! I’m half Italian, so an affinity for basil is in my blood. I planted several rows of basil in my garden this year and then grew into bushy, unruly bundles of leaves which I’ve been selectively picking from for cooking for months. But, it’s the end of September and everything left in the garden will be dying off soon.

If you’re in the same boat, here’s my tip – I pick the basil leaves, wash them and let them dry, then lay them into a freezer bag and freeze them so even in the dead of winter, I can crumble off some fresh basil. Once it’s in the pot with whatever I’m cooking, you’d never know it was frozen.

Yes, there’s always dried basil, which I have and use…but it’s not the same. You know it’s not the same.

Fourth, figs

figsThis is simple excitement. It’s fig season! My two fig trees are producing slowly but steadily, with me picking a couple of figs each day.

I’m not going to lie, the fig trees were not the selling point on this house, but they certainly didn’t hurt. Between the fig trees, the screen porch, and the italian neighbors who talk loudly in their yard (stop laughing, I seriously find it comforting even though I have no idea what they’re saying), it just felt right.

And as it turns out, Little Miss is a fan of figs and has threatened the entire crop with her enthusiasm.

So that’s my green round up for right now. We’re heading into the season of reds, yellows and oranges, so I guess it’s good that I get all this green out of my system now. What’s been keeping you busy lately?

Life

This time last year

August 27, 2016

This time last year, Kristen and I started writing here on Old Fashioned Modern Living. Months and months before, I was standing in Kristen’s kitchen telling her about one of my projects when she said, “you know, you should start a blog.” And I responded “you’re the writer…I’ll blog if you do it too.”

Plenty of text messages bounced back and forth before we decided on a name, I bought the URL and hosting and set up the basics. Then in August we decided it was time to go. We chose a theme for the site, I got things ready and we started blogging. The funny thing is, I never even finished the site; there are still a lot of things I wanted to implement that I never got around to.

But anyway, we started writing. About cooking and crafting and life, and an amazing thing happened. People started reading what we were writing. Not a ton of people, mind you, but people. And that was pretty cool. And hey, if you’re reading this now – thanks for being here. It means so much to us that people take the time to read our posts and click ‘like’ or leave a comment. We know you’re all busy, and it means the world to us that you’re on this journey with us.

A little background here, I’m no fun on New Years Eve. Everyone’s talking about the GREAT NEW YEAR they’ll have and I’m like, it’s tomorrow. Tomorrow is just another day. Point is, I don’t do this “celebrating time” thing too well. And honestly, as a work at home mom, I often feel like I don’t do very much at all. I can’t talk about my promotions, my fancy trips or the concerts I’ve gone to. I’m home, a lot.

As I started thinking about this post, I realized that a lot has changed in the past year. And maybe I don’t have big accomplishments to talk about, the kind you shout from the rooftops and receive glowing praise for, but that’s okay. Sure, some not so good things have happened this past year (but I’m not going to talk about that here, I’m going to keep this positive), but I have been involved in and surrounded by some amazing things and honestly, that’s enough.

Professional

  • 1year-sdsIn September of 2015, I started my little jewelry design business, Seashore Design Studio. I remember the first time I picked up that handheld torch and cut into my fine silver wire, the excitement, the accomplishment. I took my time learning and practicing, and have met some absolutely amazing people along the way, and then in late spring of 2016 I did a soft relaunch with new signature items, lovely promo images and a new set of goals. I’m in the process of re-vamping my website to be an eCommerce site in addition to my Etsy shop, and I’m excited to have that ready!
  • Just last month I became an Unfranchise Owner with Market America. This is a very interesting business opportunity, and it allows me to help people save and earn money on online purchases via my shopping portal, and help people find some of the best vitamin supplements on the market, as well as natural cleaning and homecare products and top notch cruelty free, vegan makeup. Plus I’ve been taking those very same vitamins and my seasonal allergies are all but gone, I’m sleeping better and I’m feeling more energized. Not bad.

Cooking, canning and home

  • 1year-jamLast year I jarred my first batch of homemade tomato sauce, and cured my first olives.
  • In this past year I’ve done my first canning (by myself, as opposed to watching my mother do it), making a whole load of peach, blueberry and strawberry jam. As I write this, I am actually standing in my kitchen stepping between my laptop on the counter and pot of glittery, boiling blueberries cooking down into a lovely blueberry-lime jam.
  • I’ve utterly fallen in love with my cast iron dutch oven and have learned how to do a number of damn good stovetop slow cooked dishes.
  • I’ve learned to be adventurous in the kitchen, baking breads and cookies without recipes, just based upon my own knowledge.
  • I’ve discovered broccoli rabe. I always though I didn’t like it. I was wrong.
  • I’ve taken on a number of (small) home improvement projects, and am finally getting somewhat used to being a homeowner.

Personal

  • I’ve seen two friends get married, and my brother got engaged to my best friend from high school. Go figure!
  • I got to meet my first nephew, Kristen’s adorable little guy. He is delightful, Little Miss adores him, and I am so incredibly glad he is part of the family.
  • I’ve gone from “acquaintance” level to “soul sister” level with two incredible local moms who I am so utterly grateful for. Although we have different backgrounds and experiences, our base personalities are very similar and we understand each other on a level that I never expected.
  • I’ve been lucky enough to watch as a local mama and friend (and her delightful sister) got their business off the ground in a most spectacular way. You may have seen me talk about babywearing on this blog. If you’re looking for a woven wrap, look into Emmeline Textiles. I can’t say enough good things about them.
  • I have a toddler.

1year-lilyI need to expand upon that last bullet. I have a toddler. At this time last year, I still had a baby. Little Miss was all round head and chunky limbs, scooting herself around the floor. She hadn’t yet taken her first step, and certainly hadn’t uttered a word. Now…she’s tall, she’s running and going up and down steps, she’s saying words and doing things on her own. It’s not “will she cry” anymore, it’s “what is this tiny person with a mind of her own going to do, say or pantomime”. She is very much herself (and herself is awesome, by the way); a tough cookie with an infectious laugh, mischievous smile and the capacity to understand more than I ever expected.

Watching her change and grow has been really incredible. Being a mom is an exercise in a lot of things, including humility. Last year, it was still about me; I was in charge. Now, I think she’s kind of in charge. Not really, but you know what I mean. She doesn’t just go where I go and stay where I put her. She makes decisions and makes requests. She’s experimenting, learning and getting to know her world. And I get to be her steward, making sure she doesn’t get into too much trouble and doesn’t behave too badly, while allowing her enough freedom to experience things for herself. Through this, I have found within myself a patience and calm that I’m not sure I knew was there before.

It’s funny, I had Little Miss’ name picked out for years and years (luckily, my husband liked it enough to agree to it). And now, she turned two this summer, and at time I’ll write an email and mention her and stop and think, “wait, this is real? I really have a daughter?” I’m still somewhat in awe of her. Does that ever go away?

So all in all, not too bad for a year I barely considered. Thanks again for reading, and cheers to our next year!

Life Shopping

I love online shopping

July 19, 2016

I have something to confess. I love online shopping.

I love it more than I love in person shopping. No lines, no parking lots to deal with, no worrying about how my toddler will handle the shopping trip. It’s easy and I can find nearly anything. I love buying handmade items on various online marketplaces, and I admit, I sometimes treat myself to silly little items from a certain auction site.

There are some things, like fancy clothes or shoes that need to be bought (or at least tried on) in a store, but for many basics, I prefer buying online.

Here’s another confession, which most people can probably relate to: I like saving money. I’m totally that person comparison shopping and searching the internet for coupon codes. A deal is a deal, you know what I mean?

My credit card offers cash back, 1% on most purchases with 5% in certain categories; it’s not huge money, but it adds up and every few months I cash that in and get some extra money back in my account. So now I’m going to say something…double cash back.

I’m going to stop for a second. What am I talking about here? I have recently become a Shopping Consultant with SHOP.com/Independent Distributor with Market America. Let me tell you a little bit about SHOP.com.

SHOP.com is owned by Market America, and it is a powerful shopping engine and shopping portal. There are three main ways to utilize this – and if you decide to follow along, be sure to start at SHOP.com/ilanaleah so I’ll be your Shopping Consultant!

  1. Shop: That’s right, just shop. Visit the shopping portal at SHOP.com/ilanaleah and search for your favorite online retailers. Your purchase is completed through the retailer’s secure site, and by visiting via the shopping portal, you get cash back from the retailer. Think of it as a referral bonus! Cash back can range from 1-50%, with 2-10% being the most common. For added savings, download ShopBuddy from your homepage (here’s a 1 minute video explaining how it works) and it will alert you when cash back is available, and automatically compile all the active coupon codes and deals available on participating sites.
  2. Compare: SHOP.com has a compare feature where you can search an item right from your homepage and it will show you where the item is available, the price, and if cash back is available from that retailer all on one screen. No more hopping from site to site to compare prices, you can easily see different options for purchasing a specific item all in one place.
  3. Buy exclusive items: Market America offers a selection of exclusive items that can be purchased on SHOP.com or from specific websites. These include high quality, natural cosmetics, skin care products, baby products, home cleaning products and isotonic vitamins.

Is there any risk or obligation?

No! Signing up for a SHOP.com account is completely free and there are no minimums to meet or requirements to fulfill. You sign up, you shop, you get cash. The only caveat is that you cannot cash out less than $10 at a time. Essentially, you earn free money for buying items you were buying already anyway. Plus, have a friend sign up using your referral link, or putting your email address as their reference and you get .5% cash back on his or her purchases, indefinitely!

What stores can I get cash back from?

The amounts and offers may change, but there are thousands of retailers to choose from. Just a handful are Macys, Aeropostale, American Apparel, Target, Sketchers, Ashley Furniture, Babies R Us, Barneys New York, Beauty.com, Drugstore.com, Boxed.com, Jet.com, Ancestry.com, Kohls, Kmart, Groupon and many, many more. Some stores offer cash back on online orders with in-store pick up, including Barnes and Noble, Ace Hardware and Apple, just to name a few.

How do I maximize this?

shopHow do you get the most cash back? How do you make this make you a little extra cash, and your life a little easier?

First off, pay with a credit card that rewards you so you get double cash back. Second, use the comparison tool and compare prices and cash back to find the best deals. Also, leverage your time by shopping online; there are things you always buy, that you know you’re going to buy, that you can order and have delivered.

I order diapers for Little Miss online. I go to Diapers.com from my portal (2% cash back right now) and order the diapers, wipes and diaper genie refills. They have good prices and they often have useful coupons, plus free 1-2 day shipping. I order, I get credit towards cash back, and in a day or two a big box with everything I need arrives at the door.

I’ve started ordering paper goods and pantry staples from Jet.com rather than trekking up to BJs. I start at my shopping portal and search Jet.com (also 2% cash back right now) then I order my garbage bags, paper plates, etc. The site has good prices and offers discounts if you forgo the right to free returns (lets face it, I’m going to use those paper plates even if I don’t like the design) plus coupons and low flat rate or free, quick shipping. No parking lots, no carts, no travel time. A box arrives and I have my products.

On some purchases, the cash back I earn is only a few cents, but it adds up. By the end of the year I’ll have a tidy little bonus I can cash out and put towards holiday shopping.

Also important, the SHOP.com customer support is very responsive, and I am available to answer questions about signing up, how the website works, and exclusive products.

Want to learn more about some of those exclusives? I’ll share more in the future, but for now feel free to visit two of my favorites:

Thanks for reading! I’ll be sharing more about these products periodically, but only periodically! If you have any questions, feel free to contact me. There are business opportunities available as well, but I’ll only discuss those if you ask.

Life Parenting

Why I babywear

May 13, 2016
why i babywear old fashioned modern living

A nearly 3 month old Little Miss apple picking in a ring sling.

You know how sometimes the simplest things seem to be the most difficult for people to understand?

This is one of them. Before my daughter was born, I decided to wear her; by wear, I mean carry her in a baby carrier meant for the purpose. She is now almost two years and almost 30 pounds and I continue to.

In the nearly 22 months since my daughter’s birth, I have used countless carriers (more about that later) and used them everywhere I go – at home, out visiting, at public events, at fruit orchards, in stores, at wakes and funerals. I’ve gotten some strange looks here and there, and heard plenty of whispered comments ranging from the appreciative to the concerned to the downright dumb. Only rarely has someone actually approached me about it, and even then, it was a reasonable conversation. Luckily, I don’t have any horror stories about babywearing in public.

What I see over and over, and what strikes me as so odd is that people just don’t seem to get it. Isn’t it hard? Does it take a long time to learn to do? Isn’t she heavy? Why not just use a stroller? Can she fall out? Did you invent that? The answers, in order, are not really; no, I watch video tutorials while I’m nursing; it’s no heavier than carrying her in my arms; strollers are bulky and unwieldy; not if I put her in right; no, even when I did make my carrier, I did not invent it.

Note: If you’re unfamiliar with babywearing and getting upset over people “wearing” their babies like accessories, slow your roll, please. “Wear” in this case is just a variation on “carry”, from the original German term. We don’t think we’re putting on our babies like we stack on bangle bracelets.

The short answer to why I babywear is because it works for me.

If you don’t know me, let me start by telling you that I am a hair under 5 feet tall. Carrying a 20+ pound bucket seat in and out of the car was never an option for me. And lugging even the smaller strollers in and out of the trunk was not something I wanted to do. They’re heavy and I’d rather not push a stroller around everywhere. Plus, wait for it…I wanted to hold my baby!

Now, if you prefer the bucket seat or the stroller, good for you. I have no problem with that, it’s just not my thing.

Since becoming a mommy and meeting mommy friends, more and more articles cross my Facebook feed about parenting. Thanks largely to these articles, I know that babywearing can help with colic and reflux and can lower the risk of SIDS. I know that holding baby can help stabilize breathing and heart rate, improve sleep quality for baby and reduce crying (and consider I had a newborn fresh out of NICU, I’ll take all of that, thank you!), plus baby being up and moving helps build neural connections. I know that more and more babies have flat spots on their heads from spending too much time in “containers” – play pens, cribs, car seats, etc. I know that babies who don’t like spending time on their tummy (mine didn’t) can develop the same muscles by being upright in a carrier. So there’s science to back it up.

But that’s not why I decided to babywear. I decided to babywear because it felt right. I wanted to hold my baby and be able to monitor her breathing. I wanted to be hands free, not chained to a stroller or cart, worrying about someone bumping into it or touching my infant’s face with their dirty hands. She was safe, and calm and happy, and it very much worked for me and my husband (who will also occasionally wear the carrier).

Oh, and discreet breastfeeding on the go, safely tucked into a carrier is the best tool in my mommy arsenal.

I asked some friends why they babywear and answers included because it makes mommy and baby happier, convenience (both offering a hands free alternative with a little one, and easily carrying a tired toddler), and necessity. Some babies are more comfortable upright, or just don’t like being in a stroller or car seat.

These brief answers summed up many great reasons to choose babywearing.

To some, babywearing is a lifestyle. And that’s fine. My mother has told me many times that 20-30 years ago, she didn’t call it “babywearing”, but she carried all 3 of her kids in a carrier that had front, back and hip carry options. It was more of a tool and less of an identifier.

For me, it’s mostly convenience. When my daughter was small, it allowed me to keep her close and safe. Now, it’s a way to comfort and calm, and when I need to, confine those rowdy toddler limbs. Little Miss will ask to be carried when she just wants to be close. Mama gets to cook/clean/work, and toddler gets to snuggle up on mommy’s back. It’s beautiful.

These days she mostly sits in the shopping cart when we’re out and about, but I always have a carrier in the car for if she’s sleepy or grouchy or just needs some snuggles. Yes, she’s slightly more than half my height. Snicker if you must, gawk if you have to, but drink it in…maybe take a second to appreciate this content, quiet toddler instead of whispering and shooting me funny looks.

why i babywear old fashioned modern living

Nearly 28lbs of sweet toddler, happy and secure in an Emmeline Textiles woven wrap.

I’ve been asked if I think that continuing to babywear and breastfeed is going to make my daughter too dependent on me. Well here’s science again, letting us know that breastfeeding never loses it’s nutritional benefit for a toddler, and that these “coddled” children not only become independent, they sometimes become even more independent than children who “learn independence” because their secure attachments let them explore with the surety of a solid base of support to return to.

Babywearing made a huge difference for me. When Little Miss was small, it meant I could hold and comfort her while answering emails; it meant I could easily nurse her while walking around a store; it meant I could do things around the house without her losing her mind. I don’t put her in a carrier every day and never have. But when I need it, it’s available and it’s perfect.

There are a lot of carrier options out there from reasonably priced to quite expensive. There are structured styles with buckles like the Tula, Connecta and the ubiquitous Ergo (available in Target and Babies R Us), there are woven wraps which are essentially a long piece of cloth that you learn to tie, there are ring slings which are slightly easier than woven wraps for some, and there are carriers that fall somewhere in the middle like the mei tai and onbuhimo. I’ve tried nearly all of these. The number of carriers I’ve tried is almost embarrassing. Maybe they haven’t all been my favorite, but they’ve all gotten the job done. If you’re interested, give it a shot! Find yourself an ergonomic carrier, read the instructions well and go for it – safe babywearing is good babywearing.

So, not that you asked, but if you’ve seen me in the past 2 years, odds are you’ve seen me with a carrier. So if you were wondering, this is why I babywear.

Life Parenting

She’s not terrible, she’s a toddler

April 24, 2016
toddler terrible two babywearing old fashioned modern living

If you can’t tell, this is all 28lbs of Little Miss on my back for a recent walk.

My daughter is pretty awesome. She’s about a week past the 21 month mark, and she’s bright, sweet, friendly, funny and compassionate. Armed with only a handful of signs and a few handfuls of words, she communicates more effectively than some adults I know. She notices every detail and is an alarmingly fast learner.

She’s remarkably well behaved the vast majority of the time. She’s energetic but not wild. She likes to walk around and explore, and sometimes I don’t want her to. She’s stubborn. I’m stubborn. We butt heads sometimes (stop snickering). But isn’t that how it’s supposed to be?

Ever since my daughter hit roughly 18 months, I’ve been hearing about “the terrible twos”. Any time she isn’t 100% cooperative, I’m warned that the terrible twos are coming, or maybe they’ve even arrived early!

She’s not terrible. She’s a toddler.

She’s exploring her world and starting to understand how things work. She’s not a little machine, programmed to follow orders and never slip a toe over the expectation line. She’s exploring her world and starting to understand how things work. And she’s largely very well behaved. So do me a favor, if she doesn’t want to finish a puzzle with you or give you a hug, or if you see her whining to get out of the wagon and walk around Target and I’m refusing, don’t tell me I’ve got some terrible twos on my hands. Because I don’t. I have a toddler on my hands.

Is this just one of those “things people say”? Is it an excuse? I’m not saying that I get terribly offended by this or anything, I just don’t get it. I feel like it expresses an unrealistic expectation. 6 months could change my mind, but I doubt it.

One of the major things I remember from preparing for my daughter’s birth is a passage from one of my books that warned that we, as humans, are more likely to experience what we expect. So if we expect something to be painful, scary, etc, we are more likely to experience it as such. In the same way, does defining a period in our child’s lives as “terrible” set us up for it to be? Our words may not change the behavior, but are we likely to be less patient when we’re expecting rowdy behavior?

Aside from everything else, toddlerhood is uncomfortable! Adults get a toothache and are useless until it’s fixed. Toddlers have all sorts of teething and growing pains going on and we think nothing of it. Just because a tooth isn’t actively cutting doesn’t mean it’s not uncomfortable in any way. They do need to move from where they start to where they cut (and then continue coming out), and it isn’t a quick process. Add in the struggles of trying to communicate with limited verbal skills. I don’t know well adult moods would fare, if we all had these same considerations on a regular basis.

Now, I like being a mom. I really enjoy spending time with my little sidekick. Do I get tired and worn out? Yes. Do I sometimes feel like I’m going to lose it? You bet. Do I occasionally wish I had just a few minutes to myself? Absolutely (though only a few, I start missing her nearly immediately).

I’m pretty even kilter, most of the time. I feel like my whole life is a balancing act. I work from home part time, which I like to say is both the best and worst of both worlds. It gets frustrating sometimes! Trying to do everything isn’t easy. Some days we don’t leave the house, even to walk around the yard. Then other days we run errands, I get work done, we do all sorts of fun things together and I make fresh pasta.

When I spend 80% of my day catering to a tiny dictator, and the 20% that I’m trying to get things done is interrupted every 5 minutes, I’m not going to lie, it’s freaking annoying. But it’s part of the job. I’m the adult here, not her. I want her to explore and experience. I want her to try things and learn things; admittedly, climbing onto chairs and unlocking the front door aren’t my favorites, but they’re to be expected!

For the record, I’m not terribly permissive. I expect her to behave decently. I expect her to greet people in some matter. I expect her to sit at the table to eat with the family. I don’t feel like I need to allow any and everything to let her get the full experience. I’m still in charge here, not her. But I like to think we do it as a team. There’s a lot she can do, but also a whole lot she can’t do. As adults, I feel like it’s up to us to model the behavior we want to see in our kids. You can’t be rude and condescending and expect a child not to pick that up. So, we’re a team. Yes, I say “please” and “thank you” to my toddler. No, I don’t allow her to ignore me.

I don’t enjoy when my daughter gets upset. Who does? But it allows her to learn what is and isn’t okay, and how to cope with it. She doesn’t always want to follow instructions? Fine. It’s a balance. She doesn’t have to finish a game as long as she helps clean it up; she does have to hold my hand in the front yard or walking around in public. She can climb on our couch; she can’t play on steps or near the road. Safety and manners rule around here. You will be safe, and you will not behave like a little jerk. You want to baby-babble argue with me sometimes? Fine kid, you’re entitled to that.

I feel like I see a lot floating around on social media that makes it seem like its “in” to hate on being a parent. It’s tough sometimes! I’m not going to lie. That being said, I don’t feel the need to read posts and blogs about how categorically awful our kids are. I also don’t need to be told my child is made of stardust and moonbeams, who inhales the air around her and exhales perfection. Let’s just each embrace our own experiences, shall we?

My daughter can be clingy at times. I’m typing with one hand because she wants to sit with me right now. She’s hilarious. She’s adorable. She’s headstrong! And you know what, I’m okay with that. She’s a toddler.

People tell me she’s got a mind of her own with that tone in their voice that says, “oh, you’re in trouble.” They tell me I’ll have a handful.

Good. Let her be headstrong. Let her be independent. Let her make me crazy sometimes, and let me use my position as her parent to teach her to use these traits for good rather than for mischief.

So sure, she doesn’t always follow instructions and she’ll sometimes put up a fight when I tell her she can’t do something. But no, she’s not terrible.  And she’s going to grow up to be a strong, sweet, kick ass little lady.