Monday, September 22, 2014

Calling All Moms

Happy Monday, all! I was going to do a Weekend Diaries today, but then I thought maybe I'd take things a different direction (sorry, Mom). Let's take a little poll. First question:

How do you shop for children's clothing? The mall? Online? Consignment shops? Thrift Stores?

When I only had one and then two kids I did lots of shopping at thrift stores. Then things got hairy, trying to make rational decisions with all the whining and grabbing and running that accompanied the kids getting bigger (and greater in number) and sprouting personalities. So we started going the consignment shop route more and more - things tended to be a bit pricier, but also more concentrated and organized in terms of sizes and quality. 

One recent trip to a local shop yielded about fifteen pieces that we really liked, but thank goodness it was "half-off" day - the total before discount was $150! This experience, along with a recent revival of my thrifting adventures (the start of the school year has allowed me to venture forth with a mere two children) got me thinking. What if there was an option that fell somewhere between the two extremes? Could there be a way to access good quality, clean, used items easily and on a budget?

Now second question: How do you feel about "shop my closet" profiles and/or hashtags on Instagram? For those unfamiliar with the practice, more and more bloggers have either set up a separate profile, or use the hashtag "shop my closet", to sell their gently used items to other Instagram users. I've always liked looking, but I find that I don't like to purchase things that I can't try on first. 


But then - light bulb - I rarely ever have my kids try on clothes (can you say "torture"?) when I shop for them. And an idea began to form... Maybe I could put my love of thrifting to good use, and start a little virtual shop to pass on the good finds that don't fit my babes.

So short story long, I'm asking if you other mothers would be interested in said shop. A curated space of gently used baby and kid's clothing, ranging in price from a couple bucks to $15 (for things like quality outerwear). All transactions would be first come first serve (not auction style a la ebay... ain't nobody got time for that), and conducted via PayPal.

So hit me. Tell me your thoughts, o wise mamas. 


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Five Favorites

Today I'm stepping in for Heather and guest hosting Five Favorites. And my good friend Laura is stepping in for me with this guest post. If you've never visited her blog, get thyself over to This Felicitous Life. She covers topics profound and mundane, and it's always a great read. I promise.

So, without further ado, here's Laura.

Non-Conventional Book Club Picks

“Why have you put ‘Wine for Her?’” she asked. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“It means that these are wines that women are more likely to enjoy,” said Bruce. . . .

“And why do you think women would want different wine from men? Do they have different taste buds?”

“Yes,” he said. “Women like sweeter wine. And they like bottles with more feminine labels. Everybody knows that.”

--Alexander McCall Smith, Espresso Tales


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Books with "discussion questions" at the end strike me as the literary equivalent of a "Wines for Her" shelf. I feel condescended upon, stereotyped: Woman In A Book Club = chick who probably can't finish the book, much analyze it herself, and just shows up for the wine. Grrr.

That's not to say there aren't plenty of good books that have discussion questions at the end. Still, it's a strike against them to me.

In that spirit, here are five non-conventional book club picks that my book club and I have enjoyed over the years.

The Children of Men by P.D. James: Apocalyptic thriller, a real page turner. Chilling, yet completely non-religious, vision of a world that stops having children. Don't judge the book by the movie based on it, which is very different.

The Book of Judith (in the Catholic Bible): Many Bible verses used in honor of the Blessed Virgin are taken from this book. What you might not guess is that Judith was one badass chick, who uses questionable tactics to defend her people. This book raises some puzzling moral questions that are fascinating to discuss.

Blood Brothers: The Dramatic Story of a Palestinian Christian Working for Peace In Israel by Elias Chacour: A short, autobiographical account of a Melkite Catholic Archbishop, whose community was uprooted from their homeland when he was a child, during the founding of Israel. He weaves his story in with reflections on the Beatitudes and his own quest for peace between Jews and Palestinians.

The Next Step In the Dance by Tim Gautreaux: This book has lots of conventional chick-lit ingredients- -a good-hearted, hard-headed woman and the man who loves her. But it's a beautifully written, clear- eyed look at marriage (my previous review is here), in the Southern literary tradition, with some tall- tale elements thrown in. Delicious.

Emotional Vampires: Dealing With People Who Drain You Dry by Albert Bernstein: This is psychology/ self-help in a funny, helpful format. This should be required reading for everyone entering the workforce, but if you didn't read it then, read it in your book club!

Happy reading!

Thanks for joining us for Five Favorites again this week! Let's hear some of your favorites!


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

There's A Chill in the Air

Or maybe it's just germs.

I read online somewhere that cold and flu season lasts from May to October. By that tally, we should be nearing the end of it. 

But. 

We were fairly healthy from May until the first week of September (also known around here as the first week of school). Since then its been running noses, sore throats, coughing, aching bodies, respiratory infections, and - I shudder to even type the words - gastrointestinal distress.

These past few weeks have given me a lot of opportunity to ponder what I want around when my brood and I aren't feeling well. It can be hard to call to mind the goods when feeling chipper; so here's a list I've put together of "necessaries" in case you have a friend who's ill.



The Sick Call Goody Basket

Ibprophen (Adult or Children's)

Emergen-C's (or their poor cousin "Essence C," hehe. Click here for a free sample of the real stuff.)

Vicks VapoRub (apply to the chest or to the bottoms of the feet for young ones)

Epsom Salts (to soak that achy body)

Throat Lozenges (we like these, but they're not for the faint of heart)

Popsicles

Ginger Ale

Smart Water with Electrolytes (Is this a gimmick? Possibly, but some I know swear it makes a difference.)

Soup

Crackers

An Easy Paper Back (bring on the fluff)


Of course, this list is not exhaustive, and it depends on the invalid (s) involved, but it's something to get you started. What would you add?

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Five Favorites: Fall Style Concepts

This week I'm pleased to be guest hosting Five Favorites!

For those of you who are new to my little corner of the web... Welcome! The About Me blurb over on the right pretty much covers the basics of what I've got going on here.

And also, Mama Knows is my sister-in-law, which is much (much) less Oedipal than it sounds.

My Five Favorite posts tend to be a bit theme-y, because I like a good theme. Today I want to talk about five style concepts that I'm really digging as the season starts to change. And by change I'm not referring to our recent foray into perdition like heat (I know, I know, hyperbole and all that, living in Buffalo has made me a heat sissy), but the as yet theoretical crisp days of fall.

Five Favorite Fall Style Concepts
tank // blue jeans // shoes // turtleneck // skinny jeans // birks // blouse // black jeans // loafers // hat // hat // hat
Blue on Blue on Navy: It's no secret that navy blue is everywhere right now. I love mixing it with other shades of blue for a monochromatic look that's a little more unexpected.

White and Black: Again, black and white = everywhere. And this is one of those combinations that never really goes away, it just takes on different permutations. During the summer months, the ratio was weighted on the side of the white. Now I'm feeling heavy on the black with just a shot of white.

And following from the previous favorite - Black Jeans. I love black skinny and straight jeans. For some reason, I've never really been able to jump on the legging train. Yet, I do like to have a slim fitting and flattering bottom option beyond regular blue jeans. And black denim can be really pulled together, edgy, or casual, depending on how it is styled.

Chunky Knits: What says fall like chunky knits? Who doesn't like to be wrapped in the warm embrace of something soft and non constricting? To balance out the big, I prefer a slimmer silhouette on the bottom. Since I'm not much for leggings, I usually go for a pair of skinnies.

Hats: So I haven't been much of a hat girl in the past, except for those winter days when they are absolutely essential, and then only a hardcore stocking cap (aka tuque). But last fall I saw Anna rocking this look, and it got me thinking. I really want to get my hands on a ball cap in black and grey, maybe something with wool and a little [most likely faux] leather.




Friday, September 5, 2014

It's Hot But I'm Still Hungry

And my garden has 100 ripe tomatoes. 

Or so it seems.

I want to share with you this super easy and quick recipe. It's my simple version of pasta caprese.


Easy Pasta Caprese

Ingredients:

Two or Three Large Tomatoes
Generous Handful of Basil
3/4 - 1 lb. Pasta (prepared and at room temperature; I prefer the "bite size" shapes to spaghetti or fettucini, but anything works)
8 oz Mozzarella Ball
Juice of 1 Lemon
Olive Oil 
Salt and Pepper

As you can see, the ingredient list is simple, and the amounts flexible. It's really whatever your taste dictates.

Wash the basil leaves by placing them in a bowl of water and swishing around. Pull them out and if there is sediment in the water, replace the water and repeat. Do this until there is no more dirt in the water (this method is really the most thorough for anything leafy - lettuce, parsley, mint, etc, etc... nothing spoils a meal like a mouthful of grit). Place leaves on a towel to dry.

Roughly chop the tomatoes and mozzarella into bite size pieces. Throw them into a large bowl. Gently rip the basil with your fingers and throw into the same bowl. Add the lemon juice and about 1/3 cup of olive oil. Mix.

Add in the prepared pasta. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with bread for getting those tasty juices at the bottom of the bowl.

And an ice cold hard cider or a glass of chilled, dry white wine and you have the perfect dinner to beat the heat! Enjoy!


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Tiny

Recently I watched a documentary called Tiny: A Story About Living Small (available on Netflix Instant View, ITunes, and Amazon). Merete Mueller (one of the individuals in the film and it's co-director) sums it up on IMDB like this:
What is home? And how do we find it? TINY follows one couple's attempt to build a Tiny House from scratch with no building experience, and profiles other families who have downsized their lives into houses smaller than the average parking space. Through homes stripped down to their essentials, the film raises questions about sustainability, good design, and the changing American Dream.
Sounds interesting, right? Well, it was. I recommend this movie to anyone who is feeling cramped in their current quarters. I can almost guarantee that you will feel like you live in a veritable mansion after 66 minutes of viewing houses 300 square feet and smaller (often much smaller). It will probably also give you the urge to purge, a desire to run madly through the house, filling a large receptacle destined for Goodwill as you go. And long after that fervor passes, it will leave you with much food for thought.

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While the synopsis says "couple," the tiny house highlighted in the documentary is primarily the brainchild of Christopher Smith. Though his girlfriend, Merete, grows more and more attached to the project, her future relationship with the tiny house (and Christopher) remains ambiguous at the end of the film. So there's the first thing about tiny houses: they're tiny. So small that one wonders if that, by necessity, they are isolating. Are they big enough to hold even two lives, two wills, two egos?

Yet, despite my doubts, some do it. In addition to Christopher and Merete, the film also introduces other individuals and couples who live in tiny houses. In their interviews, some of the tiny householders focus on the amount of time and money that is saved over a traditional home. Some mention the peace that one finds in simplifying one's life, the freedom of not being forced to work constantly to buy goods that are unnecessary. Some even mention the newfound ability to focus on relationships rather than things.

As a minimalist myself, I found myself nodding along in agreement. Yes. Yes! That rat race. I want out of that rat race. I don't want my junk. I want relationship. I want intimacy. I want freedom. Freedom.

Even though each person spoke about the topic differently, it all came down to this one thing: freedom.  I do want freedom, and a freedom not just from things, but for things. Good things. But that's where I have to part ways with the movement (and yes, it is a growing movement). My good things involve a spouse, and unfortunately, he's not as much of a minimalist as I am (though I don't think it's so unfortunate when one of his "random" purchases turns out to be just what I need).

And we like children. Our first one. Our second one. Our third one. Even our fourth one. And even other ones. More ones. Future ones, so to speak. And that may not be tiny, but it sure is good.




Tuesday, August 12, 2014

9-10 August

WEEKEND DIARIES
This summer has been a really cool one. The nights have often dipped into the fifties, and many days have just barely hit 80 degrees. Humidity has been low, the sun and breeze abundant. This summer has been perfect. 


I expect I might feel differently if I spent the year looking forward to long days at the beach,  Corona in hand, reading fluffy novels and relaxing. If my house had central air conditioning. If I didn't travel in a party of four dependents and a double stroller (I love my double, but after flying adult solo to almost every soccer practice and game this summer, I am so tired of loading it in and out of the van...). And I love wearing shorts with long sleeve tops sans sweat. If this is summer, it can go on forever.


But the season is beginning to change. The insects sound different, more insistent. Fallen maple leaves have scattered themselves across the driveway, summer green giving way to tinges of red and yellow. A hint of sadness is in the air, a hint that gains strength when the clouds momentarily drift between sun and earth, or when the air grows still just before dusk.


I was contemplating these things on Saturday, when we came across a bunch of children's Christmas books on sale at the local library. At 25 cents a pop, I snapped up twelve of them. The plan is to put them away until December, and then incorporate them into our Christmas preparations. 

In some strange way, finding those books gave a counterpoint to the melancholy of summer's waning. Thoughts of white twinkling lights, the subtle scent of evergreen, bright warmth against the cold, strong spicy beer, the ever new joy of Emmanuel.  And suddenly that gnaw of imminent decay had lost its bite. 


Have a great week, everyone!