family service hour

sewing area before

sewing corner before

sewing area after

sewing area after

fabric storage

nicely sorted fabrics

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I’ve got that fall decluttering bug. It seems to hit me in the fall rather than the spring. I think it’s that fall seems like a new beginning to me–in a way that spring just doesn’t. We have mild winters here in southern California, so the transition to spring is subtle. But the fall! Back to school, sports, theatre–a complete routine change. (I wish there was a complete weather change too, sigh.)

I just don’t have the time and energy to tear apart the house top to bottom for a KonMari style decluttering.Not that it doesn’t need it. Weekends are full of soccer, fencing, band performances, and chores, not to mention a cute little dog that needs some attention However, I have trouble with small steps. I’m a recovering an all-or-nothing kind of girl. Intellectually I know that small steps  can add up to big change, but I’m a bit impatient with it in real life. But small steps are all I’ve got for now. So, I started with some things that were bothering me: the refrigerator, a couple of shelves by my desk, the filing drawer of my desk that I could not squeeze another paper into, and my sewing area (aka dining room).

I tackled these one at a time, over a couple of weekends, and those areas make me smile every time I walk by them. It’s given me the momentum to keep it up, a little every weekend. And it’s adding up to spaces that make me smile instead shake my head in frustration.

This inspiration to create freshly-cleaned, curated environment has led to my next Big Idea. Actually, I have to give credit to the Husband for this one. Each Sunday we are going to start Family Service Hour. A few months ago we got the entire family to pitch in to wash all the windows in the house–something that usually takes a huge amount of time for me to do. As a family, we knocked that project out in about an hour. Clean windows inside and out. It was like a little miracle. Why not apply this to other areas of the house and yard? An hour is not a lot of time to give up, but with five of us, adds up to some serious manpower. It teaches the kids some good deep cleaning skills and an attitude of service (hopefully).

So, first up, the kitchen. Clean out every shelf and cabinet, getting rid of anything we wouldn’t take with us if we were moving. We’re not moving, but it’s a little game I like to play when I declutter. Would I pack this if I had to pay to move it across the country?

I’m going to try to get Family Service Hour going next weekend. I’ll take some pictures and let you know how it goes.

 

 

 

 

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mondays with the girl

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I’ve written before about how when my son started playing club soccer out of town, I thought that it was going to be a huge inconvenience, but it has actually turned out to be a blessing of Time. Two whole hours to write, read, sew–whatever I want to do. That blessing has multiplied now that the Girl has started coming with me on these practice days.

It started out in the summer, when she her schedule was a bit more clear and she tagged along to practice with the promise of a Frappacino. That coffeehouse visit proved to be very productive and she started coming along to each practice and working on her college essays and some creative writing. It is wondrous how productive it can be to get out of the house and into a new environment. Now that school has started she is tackling homework along with all the overwhelming college admission work.

We are both painfully aware that a year from now she will be off on her college adventure–so this time is precious. We don’t actually talk much during our afternoons together, rather just enjoy each other’s presence across our laptops. But we are together and that’s enough.

 

 

all of a sudden he’s thirteen

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Well, it’s official. My baby is a teenager. We celebrated at home with an early (and I mean early) soccer game, a stop for donuts on the way home, and gifts a little later in the morning. His one request was a unicycle. It frankly was the obvious progression from Rubik’s cubes to juggling to–unicycles of course! And eventually juggling while riding the unicycle and possibility solving a Rubik’s cube simultaneously. It turns out that riding a unicycle is a hard skill to master (who knew?). Let’s just say that there was a bruised tailbone the first day, and I was very relieved that it wasn’t fractured.

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This boy of mine is all about soccer, video games (obviously–he’s 13!),and being a great student. He’s got a solid group of friends, for which I am very thankful. Personality-wise, he’s a lot like me–an ESFJ for you Myers-Briggs nerds (like me), so we get along great.

Though I’m sad that this growing up thing is going so fast (please note the name of this blog), I couldn’t be more pleased about how this guy is turning out.

landmark year

IMG_7172This is kind of a landmark year for us. The Girl is a senior. Yep. How did this happen so fast? I know it’s such a cliche, but seriously, I cannot deal with how quickly this has all gone. But instead of lamenting and denying the fact (I’ve tried both to no avail), I’m just trying to soak it all in. This whole year. And I think she is too.

We have developed a new routine on Mondays and Wednesdays–I load up the computer and some books, drop the youngest off at soccer practice and head to a coffee house. She as been coming with me and we share a table, laptops back-to-back, and we Get Stuff Done. She was amazed the first time she came with me at how productive this atmosphere is. She is cranking out her college application essays (sigh), some creative writing, and now, homework. We don’t even have to say much, just hanging out together is enough. In addition to a extremely heavy academic load, she is loving being a part of not just one, but two musical theater classes. I am absolutely looking forward to watching those productions this year.

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Boy #1 is in tenth grade, knee-deep in the music program at school: jazz band, orchestra, and marching band. It’s absolutely awesome to watch him dig into music like this. He’s got quite an academic load too, so this transition from summer to school has been especially cruel.

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Boy #2 is still digging club soccer in addition to Jazz band and seventh grade. He has an awesome group of friends that we carpool with and I had the honor of driving them the first day of school and forcing them to pose for pictures. Actually, they had to do it twice because the I took the entire first round of First Day of School pictures with no memory card in the camera. So we had a bit of a massive redo.

I am nothing if not a creature of routine, so though the schedule is a bit intense, I thrive it in. Everyone is still finding their feet with this new school year, but I suspect it is going to be a memorable one.

playing catch up

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Working part-time and writing a book has taken a toll on my homemaking routine. I work a marketing job three days a week and loved having my Tuesdays and Thursdays available to really do the business of running my home. Cleaning, shopping, errands, making and keeping appointments, all that stuff that often falls to us moms. Well, my hat is off to those of you that work full-time. Now that my Tuesdays and Thursdays are full of sewing and writing, things were starting to fall apart a bit.

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What I needed were some new routines in place. First up, I switched my grocery shopping day back to the weekend. I sort of hate to do that, since it is so much busier, but I love having it out of the way during the busy week. I’m trying be a bit better about spending some time in the kitchen prepping food for the week. Just this morning, I made chicken stock, chicken noodle soup, hard boiled eggs, almond milk, chai concentrate, and a container of cut-up veggies. I know it will make eating healthy meals and snacks a lot easier.

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Two days a week I’ve got a blissful two hours to myself while my youngest son has soccer practice. This team is too far away to drop him off and go home, so I’ve got two hours to fill. I thought it was inconvenient at first, but now I realize that it’s a gift. I’ve fallen into a routine of going for a 30 minute walk on some nice trails at the park, then I sit in the minivan with the laptop and have time to write! It is time that I know that I wouldn’t be taking if I were at home, so it feels special. I’m starting to blog more regularly, I’ve written a few magazine submissions, and edited some work for the book. It is a peaceful time that I look forward to. And to top it all off, the drive gives me an hour twice a week to be able to chat and connect with my son. So, what looked like another to-do item to add to an already busy schedule has actually created a little space. Win-win.

banana muffins

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I always feel like a good mom when my kids come home to a homemade, freshly baked and (reasonably healthy) treat after school.

These banana muffins from an old Cooking Light recipe fit the bill perfectly. I’ve adapted the recipe over the years, moving away from “light” butter and egg whites, and substituting white whole wheat for half of the white flour (they don’t even know).

Here’s the recipe Give it a try. And if you make them into muffins instead of loaves, they are done in 20 minutes. Just in time for an after school treat.

Banana Bread

(adapted from Cooking Light)

1 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 2/3 cups mashed ripe banana (about 3 bananas)
1/4 cup skim milk
1/4 cup sour cream
1 large egg
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Cooking spray

Directions:

Combine sugar and butter in a bowl; beat at medium speed of a mixer until well-blended. Add banana, milk, sour cream, and egg whites; beat well, and set aside.

Combine flour, baking soda, and salt; stir well. Add dry ingredients to creamed mixture, beating until blended.

Spoon batter into a loaf pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for  1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool in pan 10 minutes on a wire rack; remove from pan. Let cool completely on wire rack.

For muffins, set the oven to 400° and cook for 18-20 minutes.

an afternoon with the boys

On Monday we hit the road for a quick geocaching adventure since the kids had the day off of school.  Geocaching is such a fun way to spend some time with tweens and teens. If you’ve never heard of it, it’s like a treasure hunt. You are given coordinates and you look for little containers that contain a log that you sign to show you’ve found it. It’s a bit like a secret society. Once you know about it, you find out that geocaches are everywhere!

We actually only had an hour until I had to go pick up the Girl from her weekend away, but no matter, we just hopped in the car and fired up the Geocaching app. It was a beautiful fall day that was overcast and just a little cool. I love the fall color we get here, even if it doesn’t compete with the East coast.

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We had one of our most successful ventures, racking up five geocaches in under an hour. Sometimes you have to do fun things like climb trees and hills and bus stops.

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All in all, a great afternoon spent with my boys. Our last geocache landed us right across the street from where we were picking up the Girl. After gathering her up, we made a quick stop for frozen yogurt on the way home. Sweet!