On My Mind: February

4 Mar

I’ve talked before about how I live to start (but rarely finish) projects. Now that I’m a mom of two, this extends to just about everything. Lunch. A Shutterfly calendar. Deciding which type of strawberries to plant this spring. The list goes on.

I’m afraid if I wait any longer to write full posts about some of the things currently on my mind, that day will never come so I’m going to test out a new monthly series idea, kind of like a “Currently Digging,” but on a monthly basis. I bet it will be fun to look back at the end of the year, too. So, without further ado…

Betula apoiensis ‘Mount Apoi’ at the winter garden, The Bressingham Gardens, Norfolk.

  1. Winter Gardens by Cedric Pollet

    It’s an annual tradition that once the Christmas decor is packed away (aheam, in February), I become consumed with spring garden planning. This time it coincided with my discovery of a book dedicated to the beauty of the dormant winter garden, aptly titled, Winter Gardens, by Cedric Pollet. To say that is has completely changed my approach to garden design is an understatement. Utilizing seedheads for winter interest was on my radar already, but this book opened my eyes to bark color, heathers, and flame colored dogwood stems and I cannot stop thinking about it all. After yet another season gazing upon the depressing, barren void that is our current backyard all winter, I could easily drop thousands of dollars at a garden center in a heartbeat designing our garden with the “winter garden” in mind.

  2. Tricycle Paths

    How ADORABLE would a dedicated “tricycle” path be curving around the perimeter of our huge backyard? For over a year now, “kid-friendly backyard ideas” has been the unicorn of my Google search history: do they even exist? It’s laughable what comes up in the returns — insanely unrealistic tree houses and DIY swing-sets. As I’ve started to think more and more about integrating our landscape design with the set-up of our daughters’ swing-set, I’ve been thinking long and hard about how we want to utilize our outdoor space.My must-haves include: a space to comfortably entertain and eat/relax as a family; a safe space for the kids to play; and I dream of a comfortable, quiet, shaded spot where I can take a book and my tea every morning and just escape for a bit. Ideally, in a teak adirondack steamer chair like this. I could go on and on about how deep I want to dive with our landscape design and plan which I’m taking on myself, but the most exciting aspect so far has been stumbling across a photo (FINALLY) of a swing set with an adorable little curving bicycle path around it.

  3. Yoga teacher certificationIn my early 20’s I considered getting my Pilates mat teacher certification and have kicked myself for YEARS for having not followed through. I just took to Pilates. It was my “thing.” For someone non-athletic, I was weirdly good at it so when my favorite instructor pulled me aside once after a class and told me: you should really be teaching, I practically died on the spot. Before my love affair with Pilates though, I was a yoga devotee largely thanks to Rebecca Pacheco, my teacher for years at Inner Strength. Long before either of us had kids or she became the authoress of Do Your Om ThingI was one of her Thursday night disciples. I rarely missed a class for years because attending was akin to therapy. Her teaching is just different from other instructors, more meditative if that makes sense? Since I love to work with children, I’m most interested in that certification, but I’m also considering pre-natal certification as well.
  4. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

    I haven’t had much time for television lately, but I couldn’t resist the premise of this show about an Upper East Side wife turned stand up comic. And the lead is INCREDIBLE. She was born to play this part. I think the most incredible thing of all is that the actress in the lead was a rather minor player on House of Cards and when I see her in the lead role on Mrs. Maisel I’m just astounded that so much talent was relegated to such a minor role on another show I love. I feel like it has opened my eyes to how crazy it must be to be an actor.

  5. Natural Skincare and makeupThroughout my early 20’s, I desperately wanted to start a database-type website that inventoried product ingredients to help educate and inform people about makeup and skincare products after I learned how damaging it was to not wear sunscreen while using retinol products. Although that project never quite got off the ground (holla, Beauty Check Blog), I’ve been moving more and more toward natural skincare and makeup lines since I feel really strongly about avoiding exposure to toxins and chemicals. This Into the Gloss article about Emma Watson’s similar transition to more natural products was excellent and gave me a lot of great leads for things to try next.
  6. Quick dinners without recipes

    Maybe it’s all the crappy, gray weather lately, but I had a rare craving for one of those creamy, soul-warming Hamburger Helper meals recently. It’s not a nostalgic thing either, my mom wasn’t a box mix type of cook; it’s more that I never cook creamy pastas and the few times I do are when Brian is traveling (so I can do something cheesy/with cream) or I’m feeling lazy (hence a box mix dinner). It’s weirdly indulgent for me I suppose. Anyways, I don’t keep many prepared box meal type foods stocked in our pantry beyond taco kits so I did a quick Google image search and found an inspiration meal: Creamy orecchiette with sausage, peas and kale. We only had elbow macaroni, lean ground turkey, zucchini, and peas and no heavy cream, so that’s what I ran with and improvised where I needed to. It was delicious and so simple — I cooked it all in one pan. A pinch of freshly grated parmesan romano took it to the next level.

    Emilia chose the pasta and helped me stir and add the peas and seasonings so it was a fun experience in the kitchen together. Then she wanted to make cornbread too, so we really went for it with dinner that night and it all turned out absolutely delicious.

  7. Montessori activities for toddlers

    My mom was way ahead of her time as far as her approach with my siblings and I growing up and I realize this more and more as I observe other parents with their children. Curiosity and exploration was encouraged and we learned at every single turn instead of being told “no” or “don’t touch.” I’ve adopted the same style with my kids too and in seeking out new activities for my girls, have realized how much I relate to Dr. Maria Montessori’s methods and approach to children’s learning. I particularly love this, from her writing:The classroom is  prepared by the teacher to encourage independence, freedom within limits, and a sense of order. The child, through individual choice, makes use of what the environment offers to develop himself, interacting with the teacher when support and/or guidance is needed.I’ve been on a quest for simplification and order in our house for a while now, so it particularly resonates with me that children crave order and independence. Merely through observation, I’ve noticed how much more deeply they engage with activities when there is simply LESS. And, for my older daughter, when she feels a sense of autonomy as far as being able to select her own paper, stickers, or markers from an “art drawer” when she wants to work at her coloring table.

    I haven’t read anything by the Italian physician, educator, and innovator as of yet, but plan to as I continue to look for inspiration for some of the toddler activities and environments I want to set up for my girls as they grow.

    a selection of fiddle leafs at Home Depot

  8. Fiddle Leaf Figs
    I’m about $200 deep as far as investing in these finicky, uber popular house plants; I’m averaging about two a year at this point. I buy them in the late winter and baby them until the garden takes off, usually around July, and by then they’re usually vestiges of what they once were; dusty, completely dried out, and clinging to life.Right on schedule, I purchased a new one in mid-February and have vowed that THIS ONE WILL LIVE. The thing is, these things are total divas. If I look at mine wrong, it dies. One early mistake I made was over watering, but the next batch died of thirst, so this time I decided to hedge my bets and intensely research how to not kill it. In my research, I learned that they’re not technically supposed to be house plantsThey’re tropical trees native to rainforests that can grow to absolutely MAMMOTH size. No wonder the little stunted thing in a pot doesn’t do well for me.

    I’m sure there is more that has been floating around in my head but this will have to do for now. ‘Til next month. Godspeed, fiddle leaf.

Plans, Travel, Kids + Blessings

13 Feb

The plan had been to return to Hawaii last year to celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary. But I was due to deliver our second child in June. Then we thought, OK, Paris in the spring next year to celebrate TEN years. But we have two weddings to attend in May. And then a third, big, big one that I’m IN in October for one of my absolute best friends — I’m her matron of honor. It was shaping up to be kind of a busy year on the wedding front so we knew we’d have to scrap Paris before we even rang in 2018.

As I was reflecting on all of this earlier tonight and hating myself for how ungrateful I was sounding in my head, lamenting all these wonderful invitations to celebrate with our friends, I started to think about my daughter. I’m finally feeling a little better after weeks of sickness in our house, so we hit the road for the mall earlier today. Exciting, I know, but I had never attempted a solo excursion to a bigger mall with both the girls, but wanted to bring E to The Disney Store, so it was an excursion with a capital “E” if you know what I mean.

Emilia was so well behaved and Caroline, well… second babies. She’s a dream. Sooner than I’d planned, I found myself steering the rig stroller toward the Disney Store as a reward for all this excellent behavior. Emilia lept from the stroller at my insistence and RAN — hair streaming behind her, little arms pumping, straight to the mouse ears, a girl on a mission. I just wish I’d filmed it. It went something like this as she arrived breathless through the door: WOW MAMA! LOOKIT! FROZEN! ELENA OF AVALOR! ALL MY FAVORITE THINGS!

I was practically dead from the adorableness of it all.

She tore through the store hugging dolls, rolling a suitcase beside her, and even lying on the floor at one point to get a better look at a selection of “figures” as she calls them, of all the Disney princesses.  In that moment, I probably fell in love with my little girl a hundred times over, which I’m sure many other parents can relate to. One moment, you’re fit to tear your hair out because they’re throwing a tantrum over one thing or another and the next, the unabashed enthusiasm they show for a set of figurines causes your heart to swell up to the point that you think you might choke with adoration and devotion to this little person who is propped up on her elbows, belly down on the floor, inspecting the wares at the Disney Store.

It was a whopping reminder to me that they’re not going to be this little forever, and while the days are very long and hard a lot of the time, this period of our lives together is so brief in the grand scheme of things. The fact that strangers stop me when I’m out with the girls and say: Gosh, I miss that age so much. Mine are grown! should tell you something.

It also made me realize that the Disney trip I’d been envisioning happening when the girls are older and will appreciate it — something said to me repeatedly as far as kids and travel are concerned — should happen far sooner than even I had realized. The time is now! I never realized how brief the window is for Disney magic through an almost-three year old’s eyes until today. How many Disney trips can we squeeze in before she grows out of this phase? It was a total perspective shift, I’m telling you.

All this to say, as much as I’d love to sneak away for an adults-only vacation soon and check some locales off my “Dream Travel” bucket list, (I’m looking at you, Denmark), what I’m doing right now is pretty great too. It may not be the kind of adventure you see pinned to travel boards on Pinterest or Instagrammed all over a friends’ feed, but it’s messy and beautiful and fun all on it’s own, so maybe it’s best to count my blessings.

And maybe start to think about planning our first family trip — to Disney.