Because pumpkin spice latte is expensive and like cancer in a disposable not recyclable cup

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Now I LOVE pumpkin spice!!

But there are three things I don’t love: paying too much for mediocre coffee, cancer and generating more trash.

For more details about gross ingredients and cancer in a “latte notably lacking actual PUMPKIN” check out Food Babe’s article. It’s making the social media rounds right now.

I adapted this recipe to use what I like: extra clove, less nutmeg, 2% milk, turbinado sugar- but the proportions are essentially the same.

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Organic ingredients, of course.

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Honestly, the problem with these recipes always is how freeking labor intensive it is! It almost makes me want to drive to Starbucks and buy one just to save myself the effort and clean up!

But this time I got smart.
This time I made a giant batch!
So now on these cool fall mornings while I want for the bus to pick up the kiddos- I can enjoy some delicious additive-free goodness!
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One pot of spice mix made 4 ice cube trays. I have yet to determine if two or three cubes are required, but for sake of argument let’s say each latte requires 3 cubes to reach optimal flavoring.

-That’s 4 trays of 12 cubes, at 4 cups per tray, that’s enough for 2.5 weekday mornings in a row of delicious pumpkinny goodness before I have to exert any additional effort!

Fabulous!!

Can I share some big news, and be a big old tease at the same time?! The contents of this mail delivery have been keeping be very busy the last 2 weeks!! Hopefully I will finish soon so I can give you a big reveal the -and tell you all about it!!
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Almost back to school…

It’s the best worst most complicated time of year.

This week has been exhausting. I realize how tragically ‘first world’ all these problems are, and how fortunate I am that this is all I’m dealing with- but problems they be!

So here is the thing- shopping for school supplies is a nightmare. Those teachers work SO hard at their job, the least I can do is be sure they start the year with the right markers and glue sticks, right?! But here’s the rub: they ask for 8 Crayola markers but they come in packs of 10. They need 20 glue sticks but they come in packs of 6. The folders have fasteners, but the list asks for folders without.

It took me three separate trips to Target to finally procure all the supplies and each time I was talking to myself, cursing under my breath and generally channeling Steve Martin with the hotdog buns from Father of the Bride. As I looked at the parents around me they all had similar expressions of Crayola-hostility.

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While shopping for supplies is stressful it’s just a small part of a much, much larger picture.

I want my kids to start the year off on the right foot.
Confident.
Excited.
Ready to learn.

I have no control over any of that!! All I can do is tell them how much I love them and how awesome they are and then send them off, and hope for the best. All my knowledge and experience with school and bullying and my theoretical understanding of child development can’t help me do it for them so we get it right this time.

::pardon me while I hyperventilate into a paper bag::

I mean, what if they don’t learn enough?
What if they don’t develop an inquisitive mind?
What if Jack doesn’t get placed in the advanced math class?!?

Let’s not forget the fact that all three kids will be in school At. The. Same. Time. two mornings a week. I haven’t been alone in the house EVER for the last 6 years and 7 months. I’m so excited I’m salivating. I’m also scared as hell. I have never been good at being alone. I’m an extrovert, like off-the-charts and I’m actually equal parts utterly terrified and completely overjoyed at my impending solitude.

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So I’m overcompensating for all my craaaazy emotions.

IMG_5843.JPGMaking last-minute crafts for the kids. These fingerless gloves are a huge hit!

IMG_5833.JPGTie dye. Lots of tie dye.

IMG_5832.JPGExcessive food preservation. In the event of the zombie apocalypse my house is the place to be!

IMG_5854.JPGChocolate chip pancakes. Because nothing says love like chocolate for breakfast.

So how are you? Has school started yet? Are you freaking out or taking it in stride?

Annoying blog of annoyingness

I’m going to write something that I would never want to read myself. It’s going to make me want to punch myself in the face. I’ve been dragging my feet. 1. I don’t want to always talk about my new favorite thing- especially if it isn’t time-tested. 2. I started out motherhood as a highly principled, no exceptions kind of momma, and I’m very glad to have released myself from those chains. But I’m going to write about a new and drastic change that has changed us for the better.

I’m really selling this, aren’t I?!

So here it is: The ‘no-ish’ TV family.

To understand the change, I’m going to tell you something shocking. Sometimes Often Every day my children would watch TV or play on the computer all day long.

TV was a crutch. I needed it, and I will not let myself feel guilty for that.

You may remember that Jack stopped napping the day he turned 2. I remember. ::eye-twitch:: The only way I got a break from chasing him around the house and making sure he didn’t kill himself or break everything was to plant him in front of the TV. And I was 9 months pregnant, or Henry was a newborn… my memory is a little fuzzy, lack of sleep and all…. Then I was stuck nursing a baby and needed to be sure Jack wouldn’t sneak off and get into trouble.

I suppose I could have purchased a baby corral. Kept him hog-tied in the living room… but that seemed to be the wrong approach.
After I finished nursing Henry, there I was… pregnant again. I know what to do, more TV!!
After that? A preschooler, a toddler and a newborn. TV!!!!

We moved, TV!
We renovated, TV!
Laundry, TV!
House cleaning, TV!

By now we have watched every single show that has ever aired on PBSkids or DisneyJr. We’ve watched Every. Single. Disney. Movie. For a hot minutes they were watching Power Rangers, until they started kicking each other…

Finally, in what may have actually been a desperate cry for help, Maggie threw a toy at the one fully capable TV (we have a partially capable TV in the basement) and broke the LCD screen.

I have wanted to cutout TV for a while, and with my desire for change and a need for punishment that fit the crime my opportunity had arrived! I prepared for my house to become exponentially messier, the children to be louder, and for me to never accomplish anything again. None of it happened.

The house is neater (yes I’ve cleaned and organized, but only because the kids seemed suddenly more willing to clean up after themselves). The children are quieter. Like, eerily quiet- and it’s not because they’re getting into things… at least not much! I’ve gotten more done and had less need to rest and be sedentary.

We are now on an hour of screen time -TV, computer, or tablet- per day.
They seem to fight less, so much for using the TV to break up fights?!
I am less stressed out, maybe the background noise wasn’t really ‘what I needed’ all day long…
They are falling asleep easier.
They show more interest in other things.
It seems that they have become completely different people.
They are themselves, they haven’t morphed into Mozart, Einstein, J.R.R. Tolkein or Neil deGrasse Tyson but I don’t need them to be. I just want them to always be able to be the best version of themselves.

I’m not saying you should join me and throw a maraca at your TV, I’m not saying you should feel guilty if you watch TV (because I refuse to feel guilty either, life is too short for guilt), I’m not even saying my TV broke my kids…

But it is crystal clear to me that the next phase of our families evolution is going to be epic!

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The toddler broke our beloved TV and it forced me to question everything…

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While Jack was spending time with GiGi and PaPa I was in full-court-press productivity mode.

So while sitting at the kitchen table, working on a secret project, Henry called me over to the playroom 10 feet away… “Mommy! Maggie is breaking the TV.!”

Yeah, yeah, “Okay honey, mommy’s coming… show me what…20140731-011110-4270399.jpgOh no! Oh god, no. Oh my god, what are we going to do, my TV!! My poor TV. Our one good, fully functional TV, totally not working.

I may have cried. Mourning the loss of HGTV, day-long PBSkids, and hours of free babysitting…

::pause for a moment of self reflection::

20140731-011238-4358793.jpgIt’s a TV; who has the TV addiction here, me or my sweet babies?! Not cool.

Suck it up, Emily.

What does it say about me that I’m freaking out about this? What does it mean if we don’t have a TV in the playroom. But if I can’t turn it on for them….. they’ll, what? Play?

Yeah, that would be terrible. They’ll use their imaginations, draw, pretend to be soldiers, cowboys, adventurers. What am I thinking?!

Suddenly this broken TV tragedy became an opportunity.

20140731-011259-4379966.jpgScreen free week was THE hardest week of the school year.

I was so used to needing the TV to keep the boys in place so their baby sister wouldn’t try to follow them around. But, I hate to admit it, she’s not a baby; she can follow them around.

With a room truly dedicated to play, they can build and create with reckless abandon.

20140731-011315-4395481.jpgMy place to unwind is separate. There aren’t toys down here. I took this photo standing in front of our two giant bookcases, overflowing with books. There is a whole shelf dedicated to books I haven’t had the chance, the time, the motivation? to read.

This is broken TV might just be the best thing to happen to us in a while.

20140731-070011-25211826.jpgThis morning our TV breathed it’s last breath. So we stood up, walked outside, and realized there was a whole world waiting for us.

I’m not saying we will never watch TV again, but I am saying we will watch a whole lot less. And that’s probably just what our little family needed.

Life with just 2 kids

Having just two kids during the summer is a rare thing. In our household of two parents, three children, and two cats I take every opportunity to lighten my load.

GiGi and Papa have volunteered to take Jack for half a week this week. This way: Jack gets 1:1 time with his grandparents at the beach, and I get 2:1 time which is 33% easier than 3:1 time!

Summer is a busy time on our little suburban homestead. The tomatoes a re ripe;our onions are ready; our garden needs weeding our list of projects is pretty long.

We’ve only lived in this house for 18 months. And don’t get me wrong, we’ve done a time to make this house around already, but when we bought it we have a long-term ten-year plan of how to take this house from a great little rancher into the home of our dreams. We have a very modest budget to work with so when we get the chance we try to do a little here and a little there and a little there.

Of course this means sometimes our house looks a little frenetic. But we love it anyway.

First up: Spanish infused pasta sauce canning. (My brother-in-law-in-law works with José Andrés) and I needed some wine to cook with, so this seemed apropos:20140728-144728-53248460.jpg
These tomatoes all came from our garden, except for 3 from the CSA (the farm is less than a mile from my house) and 5 grown by my next door neighbor, Tootsie (she has been canning for 50 years). All the herbs and the onions were grown right outside my back door.

I know it’s weird and slightly trendy in a Pinterest kind of way to be making my own tomato sauce from scratch like this, but for me? This is living the dream! 20140728-144843-53323485.jpg
Also, because I’m a crazy person, I decided to try making soap. It’s just a kit I ordered on Amazon, it’s not like I’m making this from scratch. Chemistry was not my best subject in high school or in college.

But for a long time my other sister-in-law has been talking about her soapmaking and I’ve always thought “Ooohhhh! I should try that!”
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This last project is more challenging than the rest, because it requires lots of power tools and someone to help with the kids. But I’m hoping when #brokebackhusband gets home from work, we can try to tackle this thrifty take on mid-century teak shelves I’ve devised. If it successful you know I’m going to update because I’m going to be super excited about it!
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I know it’s a lofty list, so wish me luck! I’m going to need it!!

What do you want from us?!

The rules of motherhood are entirely too bendy flexy wibbley wobbley to me.
-Breastfeed, but in private, not for too long, and don’t be gross about it.
-Hover. Protect your child. But do the world a favor and don’t make them codependent and whiney.
-Eat healthy food, but don’t be snobby or elitist about it.
-Don’t let your child watch too much TV or play too many video games. But in the waiting room, restaurant, store- they should be seen and not heard. (No, we don’t have crayons or paper here.)

Enough already.

Stop contradicting yourselves.

I am tired of stories of women accused/jailed/sentenced for doing something completely reasonable.

This woman didn’t even do anything wrong and judgmental a-hole onlookers were all ready to rake her over the coals.

The next time I put my cart away at a store while my kids wait safely in the car is it going to land me in jail?

What if my kids are in the house and I’m in the yard?

What if I let them play on the playground while I work in the kitchen?

What if I let my 6 year old stay in the car on a rainy fall day while I run in and pick up a prescription for him?

Enough madness! Instead of videoing a mom doing something that may (or may not) be negligent offer to help. We used to help each other, didn’t we? We used to all be in this together. And now we seem so determined to make ourselves look good that we will gladly do it at the expense of throwing someone else under the bus.

These hooligans

Time seems to be flying. They seem so grown up. In less than two months they will ALL be in school.

Honestly, I was not prepared for how complicated and contradictory my emotions would be. I cannot wait to be able to run an errand or do housework without interruption or distraction. But the idea of wandering a store alone, looking around at all the moms pushing a stroller or wearing a baby- I get a little choked up just thinking about it… Maybe I’m not ready!!

Jack will be in first grade!
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He is six and a half.
I’m pretty sure his tech skills have surpassed my own.
His favorite computer game is a simulated rocket & space ship design program- I think it was developed by NASA scientists. Luckily we live pretty close to NASA Goddard!
He’s also into Pokemon, big time!
His kindergarden teacher have him marigold seeds at the end of the year. He alone has cared for and cultivated them- and they are about to bloom. I’m so proud of his green thumb!

Henry will be on pre-K!20140714-094013-34813690.jpg
He loves to help in the kitchen (especially with baking endeavors).
His letter and number recognition is really taking off!
At 4 years and 3 months his memory is astounding! (Never promise a treat or prize- he will hold you to it FOREVER!)
He loves the outdoors and to paint- which is a good combo- because I’m not brave enough to let him paint inside!!

Maggie will be in 2 year old preschool.
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She is two years and almost 4 months.
She is addicted to her pacifier- send help!
She loves sunglasses, nightgowns, tutus.
She is fearless in the water, she loves to help make my coffee in the morning and she cuddles like a spider monkey. I treasure it. I know how fleeting it is.

Luckily, they all still cuddle me. Hopefully that lasts forever because even on the most chaotic, wild, crazy, emotionally trying days- a cuddle can get me through!

CSA delicious, nutritious, and local!

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What to do?!
Kale (chips! Maggie and I love them!)
Eggplant (eggplant parmesan- yum!!)
Peaches (cobbler? jam? What’s a girl to do?!)
Zucchini (zucchini bread & zucchini muffins from TJs gluten free flour- they love it. Even brokebackhusband has remarked on my culinary genius.)
Beets (borscht and smoothies)

How’s your menu looking? Any odd goodies from the CSA or Grocery?

MidCentury credenza gets a facelift

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I found this guy at Salvation Army and I just loved the routed out holes below the drawers on the dresser. And the drawer pulls! They’re vertical! How fab!
20140708-224504-81904775.jpgHe had a huge chip on the top front left corner. The other knock against this handsome fella, the top is a veneer.

Not cool!!Step one: fill the holes.
Step two: tape off the drawers (so they don’t get painted!)
Step three: primer
Step four: three coats of paint

Aaaaand…. voila!
20140708-224506-81906312.jpgI’m in love! It’s gonna be a great TV table, right?!