It’s the spring 2018 edition! But first, just a quick recap of what I’ve been up to during my absence from the blog. From my lack of posting, you may think I haven’t been up to much writing, but I have been slogging through posts (about our house, toddler life, and motivational tips) in stolen minutes here and there. Mostly, I have just been enjoying the spring without the same sense of franticness I had in the winter. It does mean that I haven’t been that motivated to get anything finished and posted. I’m going to work on that. 😉
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Just the general concept of it… Ha! We try to go to the park or spend some time in nature a couple times a week. I appreciate the green spaces around Modesto so much now that I have a small child. We explored the biggest park in town a few weekends ago and Rory had so much fun running down all the little hills. I don’t remember loving hikes or nature walks when I was a kid, but I find myself loving them more now.
We are half way through November! I wanted to check in with how I’m doing on the fall I designed. Have you tried this out yet? I’ve written about it multiple times (here and here), but it’s a subject that I still really love. It’s a tip I learned from the Happier podcast with Gretchen Rubin. I get such satisfaction from making a plan and sticking to it.
1. Enjoy the season by going to an apple farm or pumpkin patch with my family.
We took Rory to a small apple farm in one of the next towns over. It was quiet and had a little playground, and was a quick and easy outing. We could have stopped there, but we upped our game and went to Apple Hill in Placerville, CA this weekend!
It is something I grew up doing and I LOVE IT. It allows me to go wild and buy tons of apples and apple products.
I’ve slowed down to almost a stop on blogging. Not because I had some plan to, but I suppose I’m just living the fall I designed. I’ve been busy with a toddler and a home that’s in a constant state of flux.
We traveled for Nick’s work last week, and that wore me out. When we got home from the trip Nick thought it would be a good time to drill holes in the wall to run the A/V cables properly. The house feels like a danger zone.
I’m looking through my files and I realized I’ve participated since 2007 off and on. I think I missed 2014 and 2016. I was pregnant in 2014 and in 2016 we had our house on the market and were in the process of moving. I somehow managed to “win” during years I was buying my first house and moving, changing jobs, and facing health crises. I also participated but didn’t “win” for many years.
There’s no real trick to writing and completing a novel in thirty days. It’s simply a matter of math—knowing how much time you have to write and getting your words done—but there is magic. I always feel a kind of electricity when I’m writing, the flow of words to screen or pen to paper. Now that my life is fuller than ever I have gotten better about channeling that energy and turning it off and on. I used to spend so much time during Nano just spinning my wheels, not knowing what I wanted to say, and typing words simply to get to 1,667 per day. Some years I just stopped because I couldn’t get the words to come out at all or I wasn’t willing or able to find the time.
I feel like this year will be different. I have better tools at my disposal—ten years of novel writing experience, knowing how to work in fits and starts, a voice that’s ready to be heard, and the confidence that I can follow through and finish a project. November 1st is when I’ll start this new story, but November 30th won’t be the last day I touch it, and that’s a commitment I finally feel ready to make to myself.
Best wishes if you are participating! Come find me, I’m inventedcharm there too.
I’m back with my fall bucket list! I really love this concept I heard on the Happier podcast (episode 67), and I had success with it this summer so I thought I’d do it again for fall. Having been born and raised in California, I’m not sure I’ve experienced a true autumn, but I love the concept of warm drinks, crunching leaves, and cozy nights.
I never thought it would be time to say goodbye. Summers here are often long and crop up in place of spring and extend well through fall. But this year we seem to be having defined seasons. I wrote about spring in my spring capsule wardrobe post—it was mild and rainy, sunny and never hot. And then a switch was flipped and we had so many days of 100+ degree weather in a row. When I look at the forecast I don’t see anymore 90 degree days on the horizon. I feel like I need to mourn the season a bit, because I finally got used to summer.
I’ve been at a loss about what to write lately. There’s a lot going on with me, with friends, with family. It’s hard to process everything, and maybe that’s the problem—I can only process it bit by bit.
I was listening to the new Lana Del Rey album and working on a project when I suddenly realized the song I most wanted to hear was When You Say Nothing At All by Alison Krauss. The music couldn’t be more different, but it’s a good analogy to talk about knowing what you want and knowing how to get it. For me it was as simple as acknowledging my feeling and switching a song on iTunes, but for everyone it will likely be a different process.
I developed this really awesome editorial calendar for myself and I managed to stick to it for two whole weeks. Then yesterday I had a post about DIY foaming hand soap almost ready to go and life just sort of got in the way, as it so often does with me. I forgave myself as my head hit the pillow at 11:24 PM and swore I’d get up in the morning and finish it up and hit publish.
But my mornings this week have been unusual, and I can only partially blame my toddler The electrician, county inspector, and HVAC people have been so prompt (I’m talking 7:30 when they say 8), but it’s definitely made the mornings feel less than normal. We’re still pretty much in the thick of the moving in process. Stuff isn’t where it’s supposed to be. It’s hard to develop routines or get back to business as usual when nothing my house doesn’t feel like my home yet.
The chocolate stash hasn’t made its way to the pantry, and that led Rory to discover a See’s Easter chocolate bunny and bring it to bed to share with us at 7 AM. Up until a few days ago I couldn’t find measuring cups or spoons, which is why I’ve avoided cooking and we’ve eaten mostly sandwiches and breakfast. The curtains that did get hung up are two inches too long so I can’t run the Roomba without them getting chewed up, hence my very dusty floor.
Gone are the days where I could plop Rory in the pack n play for a bit with toys. He’s officially learned how to climb out of the damn thing. So I’ve been relying on Sesame Street and the iPad to entertain him and keep him safely distracted. I always feel like I’m on a slippery slope with media though, because when he gets too much of it he’s crabby, distracted, and can’t seem to stay engaged with anything. And when Sesame Street is on a loop I can’t help but hear the words to all those catchy songs and internalize them. I find myself inwardly singing What Makes U Useful or Are you cool dot cool? And that’s when I realize I AM LOSING MY COOL DOT COOL.
Stay at home parenting is a lonely pursuit. You don’t have coworkers you can bitch to about the (little) people you’re serving. The pay is shit. Literally. It’s not always easy to find or build community. Often, you don’t know if you’re talking to someone who can (or wants to) relate about being in the trenches until you’ve already spilled your guts and they look at you like you’re ungrateful for the privilege of being a stay at home parent or they step up with support and match your war story with one of their own.
I don’t regret the choice I made to move 350 miles, or my choice to leave my job, or my choice to have a family in my thirties. But I do regret that I haven’t found my niche yet, my squad (ugh), my tribe (feels like appropriation, sorry), my friend circle that I can call or text whenever I need a moment to blow off steam. Sometimes I just need to vent. The DIY soap piece can wait.
I don’t know how well I’ve done with my goal of being present in the daily monotony of living. This week hasn’t been the sort of regular monotony I deal with, where the week stretches on and yet nothing seems to happen. Rather than being preoccupied with productivity and relaxation, I have been consumed with our house hunt. There’s nothing like a problem to distract you from monotony, eh?
It feels like a waiting game. Will today be the day we find our house? Will they accept our offer? Have I made a huge mistake? Will this really make me happy? I don’t know the answer to any of these questions, I just have to wait and see. House hunting is yet another venture into the unknown and a constant reminder that I am not in control. I am intimately acquainted with both concepts, and yet I find myself stressed out and on the verge of tears.
I have checked my Apple watch every two seconds today. The phantom sensation of an alert is distressing, and yet I dare not let it go unchecked. What if there’s an update? What if there’s news? I’ll be happy or I’ll be sad, but either way, I’ll still have more waiting to do. Everything is a waiting game. Sign this, notarize that, fill this one out, check this box, initial here, make a copy of this, file it all away. And wait.
How do you find peace in a storm of anxiety? No, really, I’m asking. I’m all ears. I can tell you what I’m doing, but I can also tell you it’s not working. I wake up and I hug my little guy. We have breakfast. He plays and I read the news. Horrifying. We go for walks. I shower. He naps. We have lunch. He plays and I watch him and help him up when he takes a tumble. We go for another walk. He naps. I sit here and try to write or read or create. I fail. We have dinner. Dad gives Rory a bath and I do the dishes. Then it’s bedtime for the baby. Then we sit with two iPads and search for our home. “Is it this one?” No. “What about this one?” Nope, that one’s already sold. “How about this one?” Maybe. Could be. We make a call. We wait. We see houses. We wait.
In thirty minutes or less we’ll know if we found our house. Or we will have to just keep waiting.
I’ve arrived! In Northern California, that is. My husband and I sold our condo and we are living temporarily with my parents. Escrow was very iffy for a while there, so ultimately it was a great decision that we didn’t sign a lease or try to put in an offer on a house. Packing and moving was an eye opening experience, so I thought I’d share what I learned before those lessons are too far in my rear view mirror.
I’m in the season of life where I have the best intentions but things very rarely go to plan. I got home from an appointment this morning feeling like a total queen. I got up earlier than my husband and my kid, and showered! I had time to do my makeup and eat breakfast before heading out the door. On time! I did some much needed self-care (dermatology appointment I’d been putting off for ages), and ran two quick errands. I arrive home ten minutes before my promised time.
Rory seemed hungry and a little whiny, so I told him to hop in the high chair for a snack. Homemade banana walnut mini muffins. You heard me, I baked them myself. From scratch. I even used half whole wheat flour (fine, it was one-third). I filled up Rory’s water cup half way so he could practice sipping from it like a big boy, strapped on his bib with the plastic catch-all thingamabob, and let him independently snack away. I had pep in my step, everything was great at ten o’clock.
I asked Nick if he wanted a cup of tea. I thought I had enough time to make us some and I’d drink it leisurely while my kid snacked on a wholesome treat. I filled up the electric kettle and went to back to the table to stare fondly at my kiddo. When I got to the table it was just in time to see him stuff the entire mini muffin into his mouth. He said, “Mama,” and gesticulated wildly. We are still working on the signs for “more” and “all done.” I’m pretty sure he was demanding more muffin. So much for getting to sit and drink my tea and have a muffin with him.
I got up and poured water over the bags to steep and grabbed the bowl of grapes from the fridge and started doling them out two at a time in the hopes of getting the hungry little hippo before me to slow down. No such luck. He signed “more” repeatedly until he had stashes of grapes in the hollows of his cheeks. I fixed the tea and brought a mug to Nick who was working at his desk just a foot away from the snacking monster. I went to grab mine next, but in the moment I had my back turned Rory poured the contents of his water cup on his tray and was splashing away like it was bath time.
I’ve personally deforested an entire rain forest with my paper towel usage yesterday during The Great Cat Vomit Explosion, so I selected a kitchen towel and sopped up the mess. I thought Rory was done so I took off his bib, only to have him flail about and threaten to topple the high chair. More, he signed. So I gave him ten more grapes. I signed, all done, to which he replied, “Mama,” and threw up his hands.
I took the sticky little toddler to get dressed at 10:25, where a war ensued over his comb (he wouldn’t let it go to undress or get dressed), his toothbrush (he thinks he know how to brush his teeth, but the mess between them says otherwise), and his itchy eczema (he wants to scratch until he bleeds and I want to put topical ointment on it). Finally, I wrestled him down for a nap.
At 10:45 I found my tea right where I had left it. It was lukewarm. I updated my Instagram with a post I wrote over the weekend. I cleared off a spot to work at my desk. I typed as quickly as the story would come out. It’s 11:10 now and my tea is cold and I still have not eaten my muffin.
Mini banana walnut muffins with a crunchy nut top.
Author: Christina at Invented Charm
Recipe type: Snack
3 medium ripe bananas, mashed
¾ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup milk
2 TBSP melted butter
2 TBSP canola oil
1 cup unbleached flour
½ cup whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
½ cup chopped walnuts (or walnut pieces for baking) plus more for topping
turbinado sugar, for topping
Heat oven to 425ºF. Line 24 mini-size muffin cups with a muffin liner. Spray the liners with cooking spray or brush on oil with a pastry or silicone baking brush.
In large bowl, mix bananas, sugar, milk, butter, oil and egg with a spatula or wooden spoon. Gently mix in flour, baking powder, salt and vanilla just until flour is moistened. Fold nuts into batter. Do not over mix.
Divide batter evenly among 24 muffin cups. I used about a cookie scoop of batter for each. Top with additional nuts and raw sugar.
Bake 5 minutes at 425ºF then reduce heat to 375ºF for an additional 5 minutes. Check for doneness with a toothpick. Changing the temperature mid-way helped keep the dome shape to these muffins.
Let cool in the pan for a minute or two and then transfer to a wire baking rack.
I had enough batter left over for four regular sized muffins, but you could probably get about six to eight more mini muffins from this recipe.