6 things I’m loving in September.

I am feeling pretty deep into the throes of September right now. School has been back in session for almost a month now (!!!) and life is starting to fill up with all of the things. Homework, school lunches, after school clubs, school day volunteering (because I have to protect my Super Mom Reputation and also because I not-so-secretly love it).

Add in all of the other things like vet appointments, oil changes and grocery shopping; and the Self Care Goals like hitting the gym regularly, getting in regular writing time at favorite coffee shops and squeezing in lunch dates with my husband. The end result has been pretty hectic days – it’s filled with good stuff, but it’s a LOT of stuff. And after the slow burning days of summer, it can be a hard adjustment.

I’m taking a page from Anne @ Modern Mrs. Darcy (you know, like always) today and sharing some of the things that I’m loving right now in the midst of this busy season, when I kind of want to go talk to a chocolate cake in a dark room for a minute.

  • A great pedicure – My good friend Laura and I have accidentally created a wonderful tradition of getting pedicures together at the beginning of the school year. It’s a nice chance to reconnect after a busy summer and celebrate the return to our regularly scheduled fall lives. And I’ve discovered since then that I love having red toe nails! I almost never paint my finger nails, but there’s something about red toe nails makes me feel like I can rule the world!
  • London Fogs – I’m trying to limit the number of coffee drinks in my life because I hate having nice things or something. I discovered London Fogs maybe a year ago – it’s basically a chai latte but it’s made with Earl Grey tea instead of chai tea. It’s magical and soothing and makes a gloomy day feel a little cozier. It’s been a good substitute for mornings when I still need a latte style indulgence, but maybe with less caffeine. PS: for hot days, I’m digging iced green tea right now.
  • My new purse and lanyard – I mentioned in my last post that I’ve been wearing a tiny cross body bag to hold a few every day essentials. This teamed with a lanyard for my keys (which has apparently become the telltale sound / sign that mom is coming according to my kids) seems to be the magical button answer to not being burdened with a giant heavy bag. I’m trying to cut down on the amount of stuff that I have to carry everywhere and have a little minimalist zen vibe about me. It also makes up for the lack of pockets in my life. #girlproblems
  • This cute Cactus pen! I got this adorable little pen in an Owl Crate a few months ago and it has quickly become my favorite pen. It was good timing, too, because I recently decided that my nice fountain pens really need to start living at home because they don’t seem to like living in my purse. I was really surprised at how nicely this pen writes and the little cactus topper makes me smile every. time. Does anyone else take their pen situation way too seriously?
  • Listening to classical music while I write – So I mentioned making regular writing time for myself during the week. I’ve been taking my laptop to local coffee shops and trying to get in at least an hour of creative writing – either a great blog post or working on a current writing project (of which I have a couple right now). The big problem that I ran up against initially is that I’m very easily driven to distraction. Coffee shops are seriously noisy sometimes between the espresso machines, tables of talking people and adorable children and whatever background music they’ve put on. It’s stuff that I normally love about a coffee shop except apparently when I’m writing. I knew that listening to my own music collection on headphones wouldn’t work either – I’d just find myself rocking out to some good jams and forgetting what I was doing. So after looking up writing background music ideas, I went to Amazon and found this CD by Laura Sullivan called Timeless: The Most Relaxing Classical Piano Music Ever. The title is very accurate and also kind of doesn’t do it justice. It’s seriously terrific writing music and I’ve found myself turning it on while the kids do homework or sometimes when what’s on the radio is feeling extra meh. I’m not a big Classical Music fan tbh, but I love this CD and it’s definitely doing the trick.
  • Watching The Joy of Painting with a cup of coffee in the morning – I know, I’m seriously late to the party. I never watched this show growing up because I was not remotely the target audience. But I put it on at a whim the other morning while the kids were finishing breakfast and quickly found myself in a state of zen. He is the most relaxing man on the planet and his show was way better than I expected. By the end of the half hour, my husband and kids had joined me in the living room and we were all enamored and it was quickly decided that this is Our New Thing. I’m having a little Creative Inspiration moment right now which is definitely helping to feed into my interest in the show, but honestly it’s half inspiration and half therapy. I can be in the worst mood in the morning and five minutes into streaming an episode of Bob Ross painting a waterfall and I’m feeling one million percent chill, inspired and Best Version of Me. What better way to start your morning? Pro tip: It’s streaming on Amazon Prime and Hulu but Amazon Prime has WAY more episodes to watch.

What are you loving right now?

What I’ve Been Into Lately | July 2018

We’re nearing the finish line of summer vacation with about three weeks to go until school starts up. This has turned me into a slightly more productive version of Jen as I try to get us back on a schedule and tidy / organize the house before the onslaught of homework and business returns.

Here’s what we’ve been up to lately:

Reading

The kids have made great progress with summer reading. MM has finished my challenge as well as the library’s summer reading program (twice). BB earned a bookmark on my challenge and about half of the goodies at the library’s program, though honestly she’s reading a ton – she just isn’t great at logging things.

I read five books in July which is a record these days. You can read more about my reading list here. Right now I’m reading My Plain Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows. I’ve also been reading Talking As Fast As I Can by Lauren Graham on my kindle and reading James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl to my kids.

Watching

DRAMA MAMA | I blogged recently about the shows I’ve been watching with the kids – we’ve also been watching Doctor Who and Lost in Space. Dan and I just watched the first episode of Castle Rock on Hulu and we’re definitely planning to keep watching.

FUNNY HAHA : COMEDIES | Last night we watched Iliza Schlesinger’s new comedy special, Elder Millenial. If you like her other specials, you’ll love this one. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, watching Freezing Hot first. We also started watching Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee because I’m very late to the party.

Planning

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School starts in like three weeks so I’ve been kind of cleaning and planning like a madwoman, trying to get our life in tip top shape before the busy season begins. One of the first orders of business is to get the kids and myself used to getting up early again and I have big plans to get myself out of bed earlier than I did last year. Inspired by a podcast on The Lazy Genius Collective on morning routines, I mapped out this ideal routine for myself:

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It’s a little on the crazy ambitious side but I’m starting now so that by the time school starts I might be almost used to it. And there’s a small amount of wiggle room in here for when reality bites. But if this goes well, it will make the rest of my day run smoother.

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I’ve also been decluttering and organizing in small pockets of the house. One of my most recent victims was my tea collection. I’ve been evolving the perfect tea storage for awhile now but this is the current iteration. The drawered bins have tea organized by type: fruity, spiced, and traditional. I also have little tins of tea in a basket on top.

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I’ve also been streamlining our dishes so that we have more of what we love and stop keeping things we don’t really use. I’ve purged a ton of coffee cups and most of the “kid’s dishes” because frankly we don’t need them anymore – I have big kids, guys. MM is basically a small adult now and BB is old enough to be trusted with a glass. Also if she breaks a glass, we’ll all live to kvetch about it.

Cooking

I made a bag of scone mix the other day and was like, “Wow, these don’t look anything like scones.” And my husband made this comment about how I could probably make scones from scratch anyway. I have this pretty scone pan that I got for Christmas a year or two ago and I decided it was finally time to teach myself a new skill. Guys, making scones is super easy. I used  this recipe at Craftsy and added a little vanilla extract, cinnamon, and dried cherries. Look how they look like scones and everything! I’m feeling a baking spree coming on in which I try lots of other toppings.

What kind should I make next?

What have you been up to lately?

6 Things I’m Loving Right Now.

Anne recently shared 6 things she’s loving for early summer and I thought I’d play copy cat and tell you some of my recent favorite things.

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1.Winking Owl Moscato and all the other cheap, yet delicious, deals I keep finding at Aldi. I used to shop at Aldi like eight years ago when I was saving up for our house and living on a shoe string budget but back then I felt like I couldn’t quite accomplish all of my shopping needs and found myself going to too many grocery stores to make it through the week so once our budget got less angsty, I left Aldi behind.

Fast forward to a couple of months ago when I started hearing more and more moms tell me that they were shopping at Aldi almost exclusively. I listed all my reasons for not shopping there: Produce and meat left something to be desired, you have to bring your own bags, they don’t take cash, etc. Well then I found out that the quality of produce had improved, the selection in general was apparently better and not only do they take credit card, they also take Apple / Google Pay. I had to check it out for myself and I was so pleasantly surprised. I’ve been shopping there for a couple of months now and haven’t looked back. One of my favorite splurges is this $3 bottle of sweet Moscato.

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2.Fun quasi-educational, kid friendly youtube channels. We’ve been starting our mornings slow with a handful of videos that I carefully curate into a watchlist during random bits of downtime. I get a good half hour to drink my coffee while the kids and I watch an assortment of videos about drawing, science, history, geography or things being blown up in slow motion. I’ll be sharing a full list of our favorite soon but Cartooning 4 Kids has been a big hit especially. My eight year old rushes to grab a pad of paper and pencil now whenever she sees a drawing video come on.

3.Podcasts by the pool. My kids have 30 minute swim lessons every morning for about two weeks this month. It’s not quite enough time to be productive but too much time to stare at my feet. I have a tendency to waste the time playing games on my phone but I recently thought to grab a pair of headphones and listen to a podcast instead. I’m very new to the podcast world – I’m not very good at remembering that they are a thing. But I have to say, it’s been awesome and I hope to listen to them more regularly. My two favorites right now are the Lazy Genius Collective and of course, Anne’s What Should I Read Next podcast. What other podcasts should I check out next?

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4.Green tea. I didn’t think I liked green tea until I tried a blend by Harney & Sons recently and was like, “Hey this is actually pretty good!” Of course leave it to H&S to be the one to bring me to any tea flavor – they have historically been one of my favorites. Now I’m on the hunt for new green teas to try and really just tea. I seem to fall in and out of love with drinking tea, but right now it is ON. What’s your favorite kind of tea?

5.Five Dollar Movies. Okay, this is nothing new but we’ve been taking advantage of it this month – our movie theater has $5 tickets for all movies on Tuesdays which is such a steal. We took the kids to see Incredibles 2 and Solo this month – both really good movies. Last night I also found out that with our theater‘s rewards program (which is free to sign up for), I also get a free small popcorn with each purchased ticket in addition to other discounted food stuffs. Seriously.

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6.The Who Was? Show on Netflix. Based on those kids biographies with the giant headed illustrations – this show  delivers the same goods but in short sketches about famous people. It’s geared for kids roughly 8+ but manages to hold my attention as well. One of the regulars on the show, Lilla Crawford, was in Into the Woods and she’s terrific on the show. And fans of Archer will be amused to no end at the fact that H. Jon Benjamin, aka Sterling Archer, is the show’s narrator. This information alone got my husband to watch a couple episodes with us.

So what things are you loving right now?

What I’m Into: December 2017

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It’s been a busy month here – we’ve been enjoying Christmas Tree farms, piano recitals, cookie baking, parties with friends and all the usual fun stuff that goes into a month. Aside from the family fun, here are some of the things that have been keeping me occupied in those in between moments.

On My Bookshelf

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I’ve been reading Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick this month and really enjoying it. I’ve always loved Anna’s movies and her amazeballs singing voice but reading the book and getting to know her as her actual person has been so fun. I’m only mostly delusional when I say that OMG we could totally be BFFs in real life!!

In My Kitchen

 I’ve been baking up a small winter storm as one tends to do around Christmas. Not everything was a winner but these three recipes need to be in your life.

This FUDGE recipe is so easy it almost feels like cheating. You only need three ingredients aside from salt and no candy thermometer or savvy candy making skills are required. You really just need the patience to let it set on your counter without eating it before it’s ready. I made the same recipe using peanut butter chips and that came out awesome, too. My waist line is fearful about how easy this was.

I made these RUM BALLS for my husband and he cannot stop eating them. They are potent as heck and way too delicious. Also super easy to make. These taste better the longer they chill out in your fridge so I recommend making them a couple of days before you need them. Because you definitely need them.

Okay if you are feeling like you want to step up your cookie baking game, I made these FRUIT CAKE SHORTBREAD COOKIES from Martha Stewart’s website and mylanta. This isn’t a difficult recipe but there are a lot more steps involved than I normally willingly get myself into. You’ll be chopping dried fruits, macerating them in terrific smelling booziness for a few hours, softening two sticks of butter and then making the cookie dough and shaping it into a triangular log. Then letting the dough chill for an hour in the fridge. Then slicing the log into super cute cookies and baking them. Then the hard part – not eating them all before your guests arrive. Real bakers probably read this and thought it all sounded easy but my fellow half assers know what I’m talking about. This recipe was a real test in will power and commitment but oh so worth it because:

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So good.

On My TV

THE MIDDLE’S FAREWELL SEASON has been stringing me along all fall. Somehow this season turned me into a squealing fangirl shipper when it comes to Sue. Wasn’t she an awkward little tweenie bopper like a minute ago? I’m going to miss this show when it’s over but I also do think they are ending at the right time. What family sitcom should I pick up next?

AUSTRALIA’S NEXT TOP MODEL is streaming on Hulu and it’s filling the void that Tyra Banks left in my life when America’s Next Top Model ended. The formula is pretty similar but a bit different and the Aussie slang is kind of giving me life right now.

STRANGER THINGS SEASON 2 was all the things that season one delivered and maybe even just a little more. We probably waited longer to finish it than most people but it was still one of the best shows Dan and I watched this fall and I’m already missing it like crazy.

On My Phone

I’ve downloaded a few new to me games worth mentioning recently like:

DRACONIUS GO which is basically the same premise as Pokemon Go but it actually runs on my phone. My husband got me hooked on this one and it has resulted in a lot of family walks and drives around town looking for arenas. Yeah, we’re those people.

KNITTENS! is only available as a prerelease app right now but it shows a lot of promise. It’s a match three game that has you collecting yarn and patterns to “knit” outfits for your in app kitten. Seriously. It’s the most adorable game ever.

BACKPACKER is a kind of Travel Trivia geography game that tests your knowledge of the world as your character backpacks around the world, picking up odd jobs and doing favors, answering trivia questions and more. I’m far, far too into this game.

What have you been up to lately?

What I’m Into: Fall 2017

I’ve been a tad bit neglectful of my poor little blog lately. I think this is typical when Fall gets into full swing and life just happens and happens and happens. I thought I’d touch base on what we’ve been up to for those of you following along at home and wondering where I’ve been. Show of hands?

LIVING

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I’ve been a field trip chaperoning machine this fall. And by that I mean “I’ve been on two field trips this month! Woah!” They were both pretty fun. BB’s class went to a local cemetery for a “ghost walk” where local actors portrayed Wisconsin residents involved in the Civil War who told the kids all about their lives. My daughter was particularly smitten with the ghost photographed above who was admittedly a captivating story teller and perhaps more importantly to BB was wearing a gorgeous dress.

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In typical Wisconsin fashion, October has no idea what temperature to be. We’ve been getting a healthy mix of sunny high seventies and dreary mid fifties. My wardrobe is very confused but the kids are just going with the flow.

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I went to my first paint nite with some friends this month and painted the lovely masterpiece photographed above. It’s now hanging in my living room and my kids are pretty sure I’m an up and coming artist. I’m happy to give you a tour of my “gallery” for a very reasonable price. The event was a lot of fun – the teacher was funny and well a good teacher.

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After ignoring my optometrist for ages about not wearing my glasses when I’m reading, I finally bought myself a little chain for my glasses so they can hang out when I’m not wearing them. They are basically the opposite of reading glasses because I like to be difficult.

EATING

My family has given emphatic praise to these recipes recently:

One Pot Stuffed Pepper Casserole from Damn Delicious (accurate)

Crispy Sheet Pan Gnocchi and Veggies from The Kitchn

WATCHING

 

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image source | http://www.thewrap.com

 

Are you guys Jeopardy fans? Can we talk about Austin because he’s seriously the most impressive human I’ve ever seen. I’m a few episodes behind so no spoilers but I love it when funny, clever people have success.

I’ve also been watching old Will & Grace reruns because I’m behind the times and enjoying all of my old favorites coming back for the fall like Big Bang Theory and The Good Place. What are you watching this fall?

READING

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My book club is discussing Before the Fall by Noah Hawley this month which has gotten a lot of good reviews. The first few paragraphs were a little stiff but now that I’ve settled into it I’m really enjoying it. It has a lot of different characters and stories to tell and the initial plot to suss out. Have you read this one? It seems like an ideal book to read on a dreary October afternoon.

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I’m also reading Anne Bogel’s new book, Reading People, and definitely loving that as well. I thought I was pretty familiar with personality types but even just a few chapters in I’ve already had several Ah Ha moments. Anne is really good at getting to the root of how to make your personality work for you.

I’m afraid I might be turning into one of those people who likes to preface my conversations with, “Well as an Introvert…” but hopefully my friends don’t get too annoyed with me. Speaking of personality types, my husband shared this gem with me and if you haven’t seen it yet, well…

So that’s been my life these days. What have you been into lately?

What I’m Into | August 2017

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September is finally here and I don’t know about you but I’m like: Finally. My kids went back to school two weeks ago so it’s felt like September to me for awhile now. The struggles of going back to school earlier than the rest of the city. #thestruggleisnotreal #itsbeenawesome #excepttheearlymornings

I’m linking up with Leigh Kramer to share what I’ve been into lately – books, movies, tv shows, recipes, life, etc.

Here’s what I’ve been up to lately.

READING

I read a ton of graphic novels last month based on classic novels and finished two actual regular type books, too.

the graphic novels

  1. Jane Eyre: The Graphic Novel by by Amy Corzine and Charlotte Brontë – Finished 8/8 – I had a hard time following the plot as I haven’t read the novel. I’d consider this a kind of cliffs note version of the original story but I enjoying the artwork and finished the book in one sitting.

  2. Anne of Green Gables: A Graphic Novel by by Mariah Marsden (Illustrations) and Brenna Thummler (Illustrations) and L.M. Montgomery – Finished 8/17 – This wasn’t a home run for me but not a total loss either. I enjoyed spending some time in Green Gables but I am not sure that someone new to this story would fall for it in quite the same way as you would the original. The pacing felt very fast and the illustrations were not always my favorite. But it was a quick read and a nice way to reexperience an old favorite.

  3. Manga Classics: Pride & Prejudice by Stacy King and Jane Austen – Finished 8/25 – Pride and Prejudice is one of my favorite novels and I tend to enjoy most adaptations of it. This was no different. I’ve read several graphic novel versions of classic novels now but this series of manga classics is my favorite. They go into just enough details and do a good job expressing the heart and essence of the original without feeling overly abridged. Plus the artwork is beautiful.

  4. Manga Classics: The Scarlet Letter by Stacy King and Nathaniel Hawthorne – Finished 8/28 – This is one of those classics that I loathed in high school and never actually finished so I thought it would be a good book to try in manga format. I think any effort to simplify Nathaniel Hawthorne is a good thing and definitely enjoyed this more than the original. The artwork is well done and you definitely get a good understanding of the story. It feels like the important details and the heart of the story are all intact. As for the actual story, it will probably never be a favorite of mine but I can understand its importance and even why it would be a good book to discuss in school.

regular type books

20603758Ready Player One by Ernest Cline – Finished 8/4 – I enjoyed this book but it took me awhile to finish. It felt very long and I picked it up and put it down a few times. I enjoyed all the 80’s pop culture references and the plot of the story. I can see why it’s being made into a movie. The main character has a lot of heart and it was just as much a coming of age story as it was a kind of scifi action adventure story.

24388326The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood – Finished 8/23 – This book can probably be best described as disturbing. I thought the premise was interesting and Atwood definitely took the story to places I didn’t see coming, but basically all the characters are terrible people and it definitely had scenes that made me squirm uncomfortably. Not for the faint of heart. (August Book Club Pick)

Right now I’m kind of floating between books. I haven’t really committed to anything yet. My book club will be reading Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance along with the UW Big Read program.

WATCHING

My husband and I have been making our way through Scrubs together. The kids and I watched a lot of Beat Shazam and Glitter Force before they went back to school. Now that they are in school during the day I have been catching up on The Handmaid’s Tale and watching the newest season of Project Runway. I also just watched season one of Glow on Netflix and OMG I was obsessed. Seriously soooo good. Also NO I have not watched the last Game of Thrones episode so please no spoilers!

Some movies we’ve watched recently:

The original Tron was a solid movie despite the achingly old fashioned vision of ultra modern technology. I think I spent a very large chunk of the movie OMGing over oh so young Jeff Bridges. Now we need to go back and watch the original.

I also finally watched Dirty Dancing and I don’t know what I was waiting for. It was actually way better than I was expecting for some reason.

LISTENING

I am borderline obsessed with Taylor Swift’s new song, Look What You Made Me Do. My husband borderline hates it. This seems to be one of those songs that divides the line between our musical tastes. What say you?

We were driving in the car yesterday and an older Ed Sheeran song was playing and my eleven year old was singing along in the backseat. I commented on it and my husband said, “Well yeah, he loves Ed Sheeran.” How did I not notice this? But then, we all love Ed Sheeran. And yet I have not gotten around to buying any of his music which seems absurd. I’m chalking it up to the music always been readily available on Top 40 – but is it more than that?

What songs do you end up purchasing like immediately and which ones do you always enjoy but never buy?

EATING

We made this cabbage and kielbasa skillet recipe from Budget Bytes over the weekend and my husband was basically writing love songs about it. Our other favorite kielbasa recipe is this one from Dude Mom with roasted potatoes and broccoli.

LOVING

We crammed in a lot of last minute summer fun last month – a trip to Dubuque to see the Mississippi River Museum, an afternoon at the Renaissance Faire and a day trip to one of our favorite state parks for some fishing and beach time.

52164268I found ballet flats at Target that my feet didn’t immediately hate for a price that didn’t make my heart hurt. I don’t think these are wear them all day flats (at least for me) but they seem to be solid wear for an hour or two around town flats.

I want to go to all of these hotels for book lovers. And like move in and live there forever.

And God Created Millennial Earth at McSweeney’s is the LOL you need today. And possibly the one you deserve.

This Buzzfeed Quiz will tell you which Babysitter’s Club member you are – it’s surprisingly accurate. It won’t just tell you who your favorite member is (because those are rarely the same person). I got Mallory – how about you?

So what have you been into lately?