Hey there! I hope the new year is going great for all of you so far. I know mine has been jam packed with to-dos. We are officially moving next week and we still have so much to do!
I wanted to start the new year off right with a fresh slate aka A New Handbag. I don’t know about you, but my handbag starts feeling like a million pounds whenever I’m on the go a lot. Throughout the holiday season I noticed how everything always felt crammed in there. It was a daily struggle to find my keys or get a tissue quickly when I needed it. I started browsing online for a new bag, but then I started looking at the prices and thinking about all my upcoming bills and I just couldn’t do it.
I have written about how my capsule wardrobe has changed how I think and shop, but the desire to go out and buy something when I’m unhappy hasn’t quite gone away. I’m working on it. I want to be more intentional about how I spend my money, so I thought that instead of immediately going out and buying something new, I’d evaluate if there is a way to pack my purse so everything fits better. I also want to implement what I learned from Marie Kondo’s books, because I’ve had a lot of success with keeping my house tidier last year. Maybe it’s not my purse that is too small, maybe I just have too much stuff.
Three Things to Consider Before You Buy a New Handbag
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.
I don’t fancy myself a comedian, but I know that sometimes I can elicit a laugh, a chuckle, a torrent of laughter. On Friday I met up with a dear old friend for lunch, an early birthday celebration of sorts. It was nice to just chat and watch Dessi crack up at my quips that fall flat most days on my toddler’s ears.
We’re both moms now, she further ahead than I, but both of us are very much still stumbling through it. We texted about a week ahead to set up the date after so many other failed plans. I had to ask my friend Teri to babysit Rory. (My mother in-law, who has been gracious enough to spend time with my kid for a couple of hours a week has been unable to for a while now due to a broken leg.) It’s possible that getting a babysitter for a mere hour long lunch date is lost on many people—I can hear you asking, “Why not just take your kid with you?” Because, I wanted to actually enjoy and eat my lunch, not spend the whole time cutting up Rory’s food only so he can lob it at me or the floor when he decides five minutes after the meal arrives that he’s done eating.
I am not Oprah, but here are a few of my favorite things. I have purchased many of these things for myself, received them as gifts, or plan to gift them this year. Everything on here is under $40, and I think I did a pretty good job of curating a guide to fit just about anyone on your list!
Thanksgiving is upon us, followed closely by Christmas and then the New Year. It’s the season where we’re thinking deeply about gratitude and self-reflection, but it’s also be a time where material things take center stage, and the comparison game gets all too easy to play at holiday gatherings. There’s a push and a pull to every thought and emotion I have—I want to create memories with my family, but they may not be Pinterest or Instagram worthy; I want to give thoughtful gifts, but I have severe budget and time constraints; I want to be a great hostess and do everything from scratch, but I want to have the time to enjoy myself at my own party; I want to answer questions about what I do all day with pride, but I struggle with feeling like I’m enough.
I got an email today from my friend Megan asking me what’s up with the sale of my home. She’d gotten one of those cool little updates from a real estate app alerting her that there’d been a status change on our place. So, I guess it might be helpful for me to let you know what’s going on here in my world.
We are in escrow! Finally. After being on the market for a little over two months, we got an offer. I think the funniest thing is that we got an offer from the very first person who saw our house, and the very last. On the very first day we hit the market, we got an offer. While the offer ended up not working out, it put us on a great path knowing that there was interest in our home. Many potential buyers came multiple times to see the house, and we had open houses every weekend but one.
It was an incredibly busy time for us—I would clean for every showing and stage our home every time, and it took about two hours from start to finish. I sometimes questioned why I was so adamant about how my place looked—my mother in-law (a real estate agent) would tell me that most of the homes on the market do little to look presentable. But I’d look around at Rory’s toys on the floor, the pack n play and stroller that take up a ton of space, my ottoman covered in cat hair, and my dirty dishes and knew that I could not let my house be seen in this state. I typically pick up the house whenever I have friends over, so why would I invite strangers into my home without making it clean first?
After a little over 60 days on the market, interest seemed to wane, but lo and behold the very last person who requested a showing ended up making us a solid offer. YAY! Fingers crossed that all goes well and we close escrow as expected on January 11. We have a bunch of hurdles to get through, but so far we are on track.
What does this mean for the blog? Well, you may have noticed that I haven’t posted in over two weeks. A lot is going on right now, and I had to redirect my energy elsewhere, temporarily. I hope I’m back for good now and will try to resume posting weekly. I may need to take a break again during the actual move, but I’ll keep you updated as that firms up.
Upcoming blog posts: I want to continue with my house tour before we leave this place! I hope to share my thoughts later this week on “living intentionally.” I want to do some gift guides for the holidays. I’d like to share my plans for a minimal Christmas. I want to do a roundup of my favorite podcasts. I’d love to finish up all the drafts of posts I’ve got sitting in my inbox.
There’s so much to come from Invented Charm. Drop me a line if you have an idea for a post you’d like to see me cover. Thanks so much for your love and support!
I’ve really missed cooking these last several weeks while our house has been on the market. I still keep up my weekly meal planning, but the cooking we do is very simple, requires no recipes, and is often done in batches to reduce the amount of cleaning we have to do. The kind of cooking I miss is cooking from recipes with specific ingredients and measurements, but also the kind of cooking that is completely improvisational. I miss cooking on the fly—looking in my refrigerator and coming up with something that may or may not work out. I did both kinds of cooking a lot before my son was born.
Meal time back then could be a risk, an adventure of sorts, because the stakes were low. If something didn’t work out or I didn’t love a new recipe, oh well. Sometimes we didn’t even finish our leftovers. (Shh, don’t tell!) But now meal time is serious business. I want to get in and out of the kitchen quickly, I want a high yield, but I also want to not get so sick of leftovers that I feel the need to order a pizza. That’s asking a lot of myself as a cook, if I’m being really honest.
But I’ve been in a rut lately. We’ve subsisted on leftovers plus a rotisserie chicken all week. Yesterday I just felt tired and unmotivated. I had a pack of ground turkey and no ideas about how I could cook it that would make me excited to eat it. The menu plan called for turkey chili, but I also leaned towards turkey burgers since I had a handful of frozen buns. My mind kept wandering to a craving for meatballs, porcupine meatballs made with Rice-a-Roni, to be exact. I told myself all the reasons this was a bad idea: it’s not a quick meal to cook, I didn’t even have Rice-a-Roni, and the recipe makes a mess (or rather I do when I cook it).
I decided to go for it anyway and just make it up as I went along.
A couple weeks ago I hinted that I’d be posting a home tour, so here we are, part one: the kitchen!
Our home is a 1958 Spanish revival/Mid-Century modern condo. The roofs are all red Spanish tile and the stucco is white, plus there are cool Mid-Century details like the metal awnings, and huge windows that flood the space with natural light.
I’ve been struggling again and I worry that I rely too much on Sesame Street to entertain my kid while I make food or put on makeup. I shared previously some tips on how to manage stress when you feel like you don’t have any free time, so I thought I’d write a follow-up post about how recover after a stressful season and how to keep living life even when everything is in limbo.
I feel like so many things were put on pause while we got ready to put our home on the market. Though we have no real timeline for the move, we know it’s imminent. In the first few weeks our place was listed, we had multiple showings and open houses and I was just trying to survive, but now things have quieted down into a slower pace and I feel ready to be part of the world again.
One of the key things I advocated in my post was simplifying during times of stress or particularly busy seasons and figuring out what commitments you can forgo while you’re under pressure. But what happens when your schedule isn’t so tight anymore and you feel like you have room to breathe again? Do you just revert back to the way things were before? Or maybe you’re living a new normal and you have to figure out what you want your life to look like now.
We don’t really have a true fall here in California, particularly here in southern California by the beach. We totally need Pumpkin Spice to mark the transition from summer to autumn. So this capsule really reflects my actual fall weather, and not the idealized fall capsule I started out with (which included a lot of flannel).