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My Week in Review, June 24

Some of the following include Amazon affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links and make a purchase, I’ll receive a percentage of that sale at no cost to you. All thoughts and opinions are my own. For a full disclosure statement see my About page.

Another hectic week has flown by. Are there any other kind? Since my last week in review, there have been some big changes and a lot of firsts. I toured 20 houses for sale; bought the first swimsuit I picked up off the rack at Macy’s so I could go swimming with Rory for the first time in his little life; wore a swimsuit for the first time since childbirth, and swam for the first time since 2009; celebrated Father’s Day with my family for the first time since 2003. FYI, I can’t find the suit online at Macy’s but here it is at Amazon if you are curious. Sad face because it’s cheaper there than what I paid in the store.

I have to say, despite the stress of house hunting and having to wear a bathing suit in front of people, it was an awesome time. I actually really like the swimsuit and refused to feel bad about myself in any way when I was in the dressing room, and I kept any negative self-talk at bay while I was poolside. The important thing is that I got to spend time with my family and experience swimming with Rory. It was nothing short of special. I have finally learned to be gentle with myself…it only took 35 years.

succulents from moorten botanical garden in palm springs
Succulents from Moorten Botanical Garden. Follow me on Instagram @inventedcharm

This weekend we’re headed out of town again for a family birthday party, but on Sunday I’m hopeful to get down to the nursery to pick up some more plants. We have a bunny population that apparently loves succulents!? Two of my succulents in my planter look eaten, and my lavender plant is all wilted and dry even though I’ve been watering it. Last fall we went to Moorten Botanical Garden in Palm Springs and it gave me grand dreams of having a beautiful patio full of planties. I really need to up my game if we’re going to put our condo on the market.

For your reading pleasure:

  • Summer treats you can enjoy on a budget from Invented Charm: A quick plug for myself. Can I just ask if blogging ever feels like it gets easier? Don’t get me wrong, I’m really enjoying it. I just wonder because I plan posts and think they will take a certain amount of time to execute, and I’m nearly always wrong by a lot. Case in point, I finally managed to publish this piece late last night only after channeling Tiffany Han’s advice on letting go of perfection…
  • How to Give Back When You’re Trying to Save from The Everygirl: I haven’t put much thought into creating a budget for charitable giving, but I do let my heart speak to me. A friend was seeking contributions for her Relay for Life campaign and shared her personal connection to the cause and it touched me. It was easy to hit the donate button and select an amount that I could make work with my means. If you’re waiting to get rich before giving, don’t. Give, give, give–what you can, when you can. You will never regret sharing.
  • Salted Butter vs Unsalted Butter in Baking from Sally’s Baking Addiction: If you want to improve your baking skills, I definitely recommend the whole baking basics series of posts from Sally’s Baking Addiction. I am a self-taught baker, and by that I mean I just started baking one day without knowing or trying to learn any of the science. I’ve had mostly success, but then I’ve never been particularly adventurous. I learned a lot from reading the Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook by Christina Tosi, and her recipes were the only ones where I really struggled to get things right.

Entertainment

I hope you have a great weekend!

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Summer Treats on a Budget

I love summer and all the delicious treats associated with the season, but I don’t have unlimited funds to satisfy my cravings. If you’re like me and trying to be more conscious about your spending this summer, here are some budget friendly ideas for treats you can enjoy at home.

ten summer treats when you're on a budget that you can enjoy at home

Some of the following include Amazon affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links and make a purchase, I’ll receive a percentage of that sale at no cost to you. All thoughts and opinions are my own. For a full disclosure statement see my About page.

Summer treats when you’re on a budget:

Drinks

1. Iced Tea

If you like to order enormous cups of iced tea from Starbucks, try brewing it at home for a fraction of the cost. A box of the Passion Tazo tea is less than $7 for 20 bags. Herbal tea is a great choice for the whole family since it’s naturally caffeine free and can be sweetened to taste or even mixed with lemonade a la Starbucks. If you prefer something a little more potent, try Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf’s Tropical Passion, also ~$7 for 20 bags. It’s a blend of black tea with passion fruit, guava, and tropical flowers. I brew my tea hot in my Takeya pitcher and then chill it in the fridge. You can make iced tea at home several times over for the cost of buying it when you’re out.

2. Cold Brew Coffee

Making traditional iced coffee at home is pretty inexpensive, but it’s also not that tasty. Watering down hot coffee with ice cubes is not my idea of a treat. I used to let batches of “iced coffee” go to waste because it tasted bitter and I would end up going out for coffee anyway and spending more money. So this summer I’ve been searching for the perfect recipe for cold brew coffee, which steeps grounds very slowly at room temperature and creates a smooth and less acidic coffee.

summer treats you can enjoy from home on a budget. try making cold brew coffee instead of going out.

The gist is this: ground coffee, water, wait 12-24 hours, strain, serve cold/over ice, enjoy with milk/cream and sweetener of your choice. Here are a few recipes to get you started:

My one piece of advice not in any of the above links is to take note of your grinder if you’re using whole beans, as grinders are not created equally. My grinder has multiple settings for fine, medium, or coarse, and I have had much better luck with cold brew coffee in my French press when I set my grinder to medium rather than coarse.

3. Flavored Seltzer

It’s important to stay hydrated, and even more so when you’re in the heat. I try to drink a lot of water, but sometimes I just want a mid-afternoon treat. I’d much rather grab a can of no cal or low cal seltzer water over a Diet Coke (an addiction I’ve worked hard to break). Lately I’ve been turning to La Croix flavored seltzer (coconut is my favorite! $10.50 for 12 cans via Amazon), and this week I bought Watermelon flavored Spindrift at Trader Joe’s ($3.99 for 4 cans). Sure, seltzer is not free like tap water, but it’s still incredibly budget friendly, and health conscious. If you want to know the history behind the rising trend of seltzer water, here you go.

4. Beer, Wine & Cocktails

I used to love grabbing drinks with friends after work or on a lazy Saturday, but summer is the perfect time to host happy hour at home. Even an apartment or condo dweller like myself has access to outdoor space. Enjoy the sunset with your favorite brew, a chilled wine, or even a hand crafted cocktail. If you order two drinks at a bar or restaurant you can easily spend $20. Why not buy a six pack of a local IPA for $9.99 and a bottle of Rosé for $10? Looking for something a little more exciting? Try making jello shots like they do on A Beautiful Mess.

summer treats on a budget you can enjoy at home. host happy hour at your home.
Look at these gorgeous Pink Lemonade jello shots from A Beautiful Mess.

Snacks

5. Popcorn

Going to the movies to beat the heat is an absolute must, but this can seriously add up over the summer especially if you’re shelling out $10 or more for movie theater popcorn every time. (I would know! My first job in high school was working at a movie theater.) Try going to free movies in the park or at local community centers and packing your home popped corn. Even better, find something on Netflix or Amazon Prime and experiment on your stovetop making kettle corn or buttered popcorn in a DIY microwave bag. You’ll spend way less than what you would if you go out to the movie theater.

6. Nachos

Ballgames, amusement parks, festivals, and fairs all boast one thing in common. Nachos. These nachos are usually made with a cheesy, gooey sludge and topped with pickled jalapeños–they are something unto themselves. But this summer I’m going to limit our trips to fairs and festivals, and forget about ball games and amusement parks, we are strictly staycationing. Instead, I’m going to make these Corn and Black Bean Nachos.

summer treats you can enjoy from home on a budget. nachos are a staple at ball games, festivals, and amusement parks. make your own gourmet version at home.
I want to eat these all summer long. Check out Smitten Kitchen’s Black Bean and Corn Nachos.

Desserts

7. Floats

On the road trip home from my parents’ place up north, we stopped at A&W for dinner. It was perfectly greasy and reminded me of my childhood. To top off the meal, I ordered a large root beer float to share with my husband on the drive. It was $5 and I got full about half way through and we ended up tossing the rest after the soft serve ice cream melted. I can easily create my own floats at home–several in fact–for the price of just one purchased at the restaurant. Buy a six pack or a liter bottle of root beer, vanilla ice cream, and serve in a tall glass. This would be a really fun and low- stress dessert to serve at your next barbecue.

8. Ice Cream Sandwiches

I bet you’ve seen all the amazing food blogs where people make ice cream sandwiches from scratch–homemade ice cream, fresh baked cookies, sprinkles and chocolate chips to decorate. Maybe you’re like me and look longingly and know you’re never going to find the time to make ice cream sandwiches from scratch. Maybe you’re already working on filling in a frequent buyer’s card for those gourmet ice cream sandwiches they sell at the fancy ice cream shop (no, that’s just me?). How about making semi-homemade ice cream sandwiches? I set aside a dozen balls of dough for the freezer whenever I make cookies. I could pick up a gallon of ice cream at the store and seriously impress my friends the next time I host them for dinner. And if you don’t like to bake at all, you can get a dozen cookies at the grocery store for less than what an ice cream sandwich will cost you at my favorite spot where they go for $6.95 a pop.

budget summer treats you can make at home. try ice cream sandwiches that are semi-homemade.
Look at this beauty. At nearly 7 bucks, this is a special occasion treat only!

9. Fruit Pies, Cobblers, & Crisps

I long to learn how to make pastry, but alas that just hasn’t happened for me yet. But store bought crust is seriously cheap, and I can make a filling with beautiful summer berries or stone fruit (or even bags of frozen fruit), all for way less than what I pay when I go out for pie at my local diner.

fresh market fruit makes an inexpensive summer treat. you can make homemade or semi-homemade pies, cobblers, and crisps.

If you’re like me and making crust intimidates you, try making a cobbler or a crisp instead. My mom is famous for apple crisp with an oat and brown sugar crumble, and if you have a box of Bisquick you’ve got the makings of a quick cobbler. Sure, a beautiful pie from scratch would be ideal, but semi-homemade is a way more economical choice over dining out or buying something from the bakery. Here are some recipes to try:

10. S’mores

What could be more fun than roasting marshmallows over an open flame and sandwiching them between chocolate and graham crackers? Literally nothing. But if you’re not building a campfire anytime soon and making microwaved s’mores doesn’t interest you, how about S’mores Brownie Pie from Sally’s Baking Addiction? You bake it right in your oven, no camping trip required! It’s definitely on my baking list for the summer.

What are your go-to summer drinks, snacks, and desserts?

Photo Credits // drinks (featured in graphic): Ed Gregory via Ultra HD Wallpapers / coffee: Dominik Martin via StockSnap / jello shots: Laura Gummerman from A Beautiful Mess / nachos:  Deb Perleman from Smitten Kitchen / ice cream sandwich: Christina Toy from Invented Charm / berries: Eric Danley via Ultra HD Wallpapers

 

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My Week in Review, June 17

This has been an exhausting week! I can’t believe it’s finally Friday. We decided to take a semi-spur of the moment trip up to my hometown to visit family and friends, and also because we are considering a move! So we’ve been checking out houses and seeing if this will be a good fit for us. I gave up on trying to post three times this week. There was just no way I could manage it with packing for a trip, a very long drive on Wednesday night with a toddler, and touring houses all day today. Here is what I did do this week…

What I Ate:

  • Turkey Bolognese with pasta adapted from Life is But a Dish and Penney Lane: I made this last Friday and we feasted on the leftovers for several days. I even hosted an impromptu dinner with a friend on Tuesday night! It’s quick and easy and doesn’t call for anything too complicated. It paired nicely with a Pinot Noir and a Rosé, FYI. Added bonus: my kid loves homemade bolognese and ate it all up.
turkey bolognese quick and simple with pantry staples
follow me on Instagram @inventedcharm

Entertainment:

For your reading pleasure:

  • 5 Reasons You Should Take a Break from Watching TV from A Beautiful Mess: I read this and said YES aloud and then told my friend Maggie. She had already read this post and we made a pact to cut TV (and then I think we both kind of failed, oops). But we are definitely down for cutting TV this summer. I’m thinking of limiting my TV to just the shows I actually look forward to each week and cutting the ones that I just let play in the background while I mess around on my iPad. I could use that time more effectively elsewhere.
  • Want to Change the World? Be a Writer. from Helene In Between: I was struck by these lines, “As bloggers, we have a platform, even if it sometimes seems like a small one. Our articles do have an impact. We actually can make a difference.” That’s how I felt in my previous job in higher education. I think that’s all I’ve ever wanted out of my life–to make a difference–and it’s exciting to think that I don’t have to give that up even though I’m a full-time mom and part-time blogger.
  • Cherry Blackout Brownies from Mouth Half Full: Cassie asked for help on a name via Twitter and I obliged. I am super curious about brownies with black beans! I’ve made chocolate chip cookies with chickpeas before, so I’m totally game for this dessert/legume combo!

On the tube:

  • Angie Tribeca on TBS: “Why does a baby need a music class? What, is he going to start a band?” #tooreal #mykidtakesbabymusicclasses

Miscellany:

  • Tegan & Sara and the Scott Brothers team up for a video: I love Tegan & Sara, and I watch all things Property Brothers. Therefore, I think this is a match made in heaven.

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Six Essential Beauty Products for Summer

I’ve really pared down my daily beauty regimen, but there are a few things I’m really loving and using consistently right now. Here are my essential beauty products for summer.

essential beauty products for summer skin care makeup bath and body

Some of the following include Amazon affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links and make a purchase, I’ll receive a percentage of that sale at no cost to you. All thoughts and opinions are my own. For a full disclosure statement see my About page.

Mineral Sunscreen: I’m really digging COOLA mineral sunscreen matte tint SPF 30. I use this on days when I know I’m going to be more active outside and really need sun protection and a good base for my makeup. It’s available through Amazon and other retailers in Cucumber scented and unscented for $30-36 for 1.7 fl oz. It’s not like other matte products that can leave skin feeling tight and dry, and unlike conventional chemical sunscreens that can leave skin feeling tacky or greasy, COOLA mineral sunscreen goes on very smooth and leaves a silky texture behind (similar to Smashbox Photo Finish Foundation Primer). I have used COOLA mineral sunscreen on bare skin before and also for added protection over my daily moisturizer with SPF. My foundation applies easily over COOLA mineral sunscreen, I haven’t had any issues with streaking, and it keeps me shine-free. I can see myself using this on hot summer days when I don’t have time for makeup touchups. I’m definitely going to buy this again when it runs out.

What is mineral sunscreen anyway? Mineral sunscreen is a physical blocker that sits on top of the skin and deflects UV rays, whereas traditional chemical based sunscreens sink into the skin so that the chemical can absorb the UV rays. Practically speaking, there is a difference in texture and application for the user. You can read more about it here.

Tinted Moisturizer: I bought Laura Mercier tinted moisture oil free SPF 20 ($44 for 1.7 fl oz at Amazon) last year on a whim. I wanted an easy to wear product with light coverage. I wear this over my daily moisturizer with SPF. It has a creamy texture and applies easily with my fingertips. It does feel a bit tacky on the skin, but you can leave it as is for a dewey effect, or you can just wait a minute to let the product sink in before applying a translucent powder for a matte finish. Tinted moisturizer is perfect when you need minimal coverage for a low maintenance look. Other popular brands like StilaThe Balm, and Physicians Formula offer tinted moisturizers in a range of prices and colors, too.

Hydrating Mist: My friend gifted me Chanel Hydra Beauty Essence Mist ($90 for 1.7 fl oz, available wherever Chanel skincare is sold), and it feels truly decadent. I love to spritz this on after my makeup, especially when I’m already feeling hot and I haven’t even left the house yet. It has a cooling effect and smells great. I think this would be a great product to take on vacation and use after a long day in the sun before heading out to dinner. It feels refreshing with zero effort. You don’t have to spend a lot either–First Aid Beauty Vitamin Hydrating Mist is available through Amazon for just $16, and if you’re at all crafty, Fashionista compiled 5 DIY Face Mists.

Lip Balm: In the summer you need an ultra hydrating lip balm. Right now my favorite is Dr. Lipp Miracle Balm ($16.50 for 0.5 fl oz at Amazon). Its texture is thick and very moisturizing for my lips, which is perfect when I’m not wearing lipstick or a tinted lip product with SPF. Dr. Lipp Miracle Balm is made of lanolin, which is different than another favorite of mine, Kiehl’s Lip Balm #1 (price matched at Nordstrom for $6.30 for 0.5 fl oz), made of petroleum. While I find petroleum based products to be a thinner consistency and wear off quicker than lanolin based products, Kiehl’s Lip Balm #1 with SPF 4 is better for daytime use because of the sun protection. If you want to learn more about what makes Dr. Lipp Miracle Balm so great and other less pricey alternatives check out this fabulous review on YouTube.

Deodorant Antiperspirant: I’ve been using Fresh SUGAR roll-on deodorant antiperspirant ($19 for 2.3 oz at Sephora) for a couple of years. I can’t believe I spend so much for this, but I have yet to find another product that works so well for me. Traditional solid deodorant antiperspirants always cause discoloration and irritation on me, and that’s no fun in the summer months when you want your skin to look great. The Fresh SUGAR roll-on smells sweet, citrusy and refreshing. It just takes a few minutes to absorb, and I find I’m willing to wait since it’s the only product that hasn’t led my sensitive skin to an allergic reaction. I’ve also read great things about Kiehl’s Superbly Efficient Anti-Perspirant & Deodorant Cream (price matched at Nordstrom for $14.40-17.55 for 1.7-2.5 oz), and plan to check it out next time I’m at the store. It’s another product suitable for sensitive skin types.

Heel Balm: My mom and I bought Body Whip Flip Flop Heel Balm ($12 for 2.6 oz at bodywhip.net) at a street fair in Palm Springs back in November. It’s the best moisturizing product for my feet that I’ve ever used, and absolutely essential during sandal season. The packaging is great, a solid made primarily of bee’s wax and shea butter in a deodorant-style dispenser, which means there’s no mess. Just slough off dead skin using a pumice stone in the shower first, then follow up with Flip Flop Heel Balm after drying off, or apply it just before bed and wear overnight with socks. I love the mango papaya scent. Another alternative I’m interested in is The Naked Bee Restoration Foot Balm (~$10 for 2 oz at Amazon), which has similar ingredients and some great reviews.

Note: I received samples sizes of COOLA mineral sunscreen and Dr. Lipp balm through my Birchbox subscription. If you’re interested in joining, here is my referral link! I’ll earn $5 in points if anyone signs up.

What is Birchbox? Birchbox is a subscription service for beauty products tailored to your preferences. It is $10 monthly for five samples. Shipping is included in the cost of the subscription and each monthly delivery comes beautifully packaged in a box with a card full of details about the products. I got a three month subscription as a Christmas gift and really enjoyed it. I got to try a lot of stuff I wouldn’t have known about otherwise.

I’d love to hear about your go-to beauty essentials for the summer!

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My Week in Review, June 10

I hope everyone had a great week! I felt like I got a lot done and even managed to be social. I’ve become one of those people who juggles play dates. Like multiple ones. Who am I?

It’s graduation weekend here, and it has me feeling really nostalgic and missing my job and former students. *tear* I’m raising a glass to you all! Cheers and congratulations to the class of 2016!

What I drank: We finally broke out one of these beauties. Been saving it for a while!

au bon climat wine pinot noir
follow me on Instagram @inventedcharm

What I Ate:

Entertainment:

  • Last Week Tonight: John Oliver forgives 14 million bucks in medical debt! Take that, Oprah. Watch on HBO or here’s the whole clip via YouTube.

  • UnReal: Quinn and Rachel are back. Watch it on Lifetime.
  • The Americans: OMG the finale. This was a really interesting season! Keri Russell is amazing, truly, and I don’t know why she’s never been nominated for anything. Actually, this show is really better than most of the shows getting nominated for stuff. Take that. It’s on FX, but the season just ended so find it on Amazon Prime.
  • The History Chicks: Thanks to Mouth Half Full’s Cassie for the podcast rec last week. I’ve already listened to Madam C.J. Walker, Dorothy Parker Pt 1 & Pt 2, and Josephine Baker Pt 1.

From the Internet: [Note that before the last two links there is a trigger warning.]

[Trigger Warning: the following are links to material about rape, rape culture, sexual assault, sexual violence]

 

 

 

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Quick and Easy Bacon Orzo

I’m in love with orzo. It’s so versatile–I’ve made up a lot of orzo dishes by just throwing stuff in a bowl, and I’ve followed recipes I found online, and so far I’ve loved everything. Last week I came up with BTOPS Orzo, that’s Bacon Tomato Onion Parmesan Spinach Orzo.

bacon tomato onion spinach parmesan orzo plated

I had a carton of ripe cherry tomatoes on my countertop and a package of fresh spinach ready to go. I checked out my nearly empty fridge and pulled out some bacon, green onions, and Parmesan, and knew I was going to have a winner on my hands. I especially love that while the bacon is cooking and water is coming to a boil I can prep all the other ingredients. It’s my favorite way to cook on busy evenings–I absolutely hate waiting around in the kitchen!

Bacon Tomato Spinach and Parmesan Orzo
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Quick and easy orzo dish
Author:
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: American
Serves: 6-8 servings
Ingredients
  • 2 cups uncooked orzo
  • 6 pieces of bacon
  • 1 container cherry tomatoes (or similar)
  • 1 container or bag baby spinach
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 3 stalks of green onion, chopped
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • red pepper flakes (optional)
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil and lay out six strips (or more) of bacon. Bake for 20 minutes (more or less depending on thickness of bacon).
  2. While bacon is cooking, bring water to a boil in a large sauce pan and chop green onions, wash tomatoes and spinach, and shred Parmesan cheese.
  3. Remove bacon from oven, let cool for 5 minutes on a plate lined with a paper towel, then chop into bite sized pieces.
  4. Add orzo and a pinch of salt to the boiling water. Cook for 9 minutes. Strain and set aside cooked orzo in a serving bowl.
  5. Using the same sauce pan as the orzo, sauté tomatoes and spinach in olive oil until spinach is wilted and tomatoes have softened.
  6. Season orzo with garlic powder, onion powder, salt & pepper.
  7. Mix in bacon, tomatoes, spinach, and green onions. Sprinkle in the cheese and mix again. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.
  8. Serve in bowls and garnish with red pepper flakes and more Parmesan cheese if desired.

Notes: I like to bake my bacon in the oven. It gets really crispy after you let it sit for a few minutes. You can microwave or pan cook your bacon if you prefer.

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Five Things I Learned During My First Month as a Blogger Plus One Surprising Outcome

I wanted to take the opportunity to reflect on my first month back at blogging. I decided to plunge back into writing without much thought–I used to blog off and on, I love writing, and I missed it. I needed an outlet for my creativity and the thoughts swirling around in my head. To be totally honest, I wasn’t even sure what kind of blog this would be when I started it. I chose my blog name based on my Instagram and Twitter handle, and I thought it had a nice ring to it for a lifestyle blog. I idealized that this would be a place for me to write about travel, food, and fashion with humor. What this has actually become is a place for me to spew out thoughts on life, post amateur food pics, and my cobbled together attempts in the kitchen. I do hope that it will continue to evolve and I’ll find my voice and aesthetic. But for now, this blog is still searching for an identity.

Five Things I LearnedDuring My First Month as a BloggerPlus OneSurprising Outcome

Here five things I’ve learned during my first month as a blogger:

Let go of fear

It’s scary to put yourself out there for people to read and judge. I’ve always had this fear of being discovered as some sort of fake, which is why I try my hardest to be real. I don’t take myself too seriously, and I’m the first person to point out my shortcomings. I don’t want to misrepresent myself in any way, but I also don’t know how I want to portray myself on the internet. It’s tricky. I’m intensely private, but I so love the feeling of being open and expressing myself without fear.

Move past the overwhelm

There’s so much to learn and figure out when you’re launching a blog. Some things work, and others don’t. I try not to put too much pressure on myself to know everything right away. Graphics and photo editing have always been a stumper for me. I’m working on it, and with time I’ll hopefully improve. Actually, I know I will. There’s very little I’ve tried in life that I couldn’t master to some extent. But I have to be careful and limit myself. There’s got to be a balance so that I can still write, spend time with my kiddo, and learn the business and marketing side of blogging.

Don’t get annoyed

I don’t have this app on my phone, I don’t have that plugin on my laptop, I’m not signed in here. Ugh. It’s annoying to try and keep up with everything, and even worse when you make a mistake, or a lot of them as is my case. I’m really terrible at remembering hashtags, and all I can do is shake my head after I hit post and notice after the fact. But everything is a lesson if you’re receptive to learning and growing.

Celebrate small achievements

It’s so satisfying to set small goals for myself and meet them. I wrote a little bit about the daily goals I have and the apps and tools I use to remind myself to do them. I set a goal for myself last week to post three times and I did it. I did it on my first try! Woohoo!

Keep the momentum going

I have so much I want to write, and I can’t write fast enough to keep up with the ideas. What’s more, I feel like blogging has given me energy and confidence in other aspects of my life, too. I feel like there’s momentum to my creativity and productivity and it makes me feel excited for the future.

Plus one surprising outcome:

Writing uncovers who you really are

When I became a mom and after I left my job, I felt like I lost my sense of self. I didn’t know what my identity was anymore. I felt like I didn’t have anything interesting to contribute or feel worthy of happiness. I was in a dark place and I felt alone. This happens to a lot of people at many different stages in life, usually during some transition where everything that is familiar and comfortable changes or disappears altogether.

Starting a blog got me to think in a radically different way. Writing demands interaction with the world instead of experiencing it passively. I make time to read blogs rather than just clicking on a link when it floats by. I make the effort to talk to people, even though it scares me. Not much on the surface has changed, but even small steps have made a huge impact on my life. I have something to add to the conversation now, and my days are just a little bit more interesting than they were before.

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My Week in Review, June 3

Happy one month blogiversary to me! Time really does fly…

I’m going to try and post links and lists and such on Fridays. Enjoy! Holler at me in comments if you want to recommend something for me to check out.

What I read this week:

What I watched this week:

  • Love It or List It, Too: Streaming it on Netflix. Not as profesh as the original, imho. Nowhere near as good as the UK’s Kirstie & Phil’s Love It or List It (my fave).
  • Silicon Valley: OMG. A luau at Alcatraz, that’s all I’m going to say.
  • Inside Amy Schumer: My favorite segment was It’s Better for the Baby. “My doula’s a sherpa.” Hilarious.
  • The Americans: Come on, this is a spoiler-free zone.

What I made this week:

cooking with fresh herbs making chimichurri
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I’ve made this chimichurri recipe once before and now there’s no other way I want to eat lamb. This time around I forgot to add the rosemary, but I figured it wasn’t a big deal since the lamb was seasoned with it before grilling.

On the first night we ate this, I paired dinner with Chateau Mourgues du Grès 2012 Costièere de Nimes Galet Rouges. It was Ah-mazing, and a super reasonably priced pick from our wine club at The Winehound. When we ate this for leftovers, my husband picked a 2012 Saracina Anderson Valley Pinot Noir. It really stood up to all the flavors and even tasted great after my son fed me strawberries!

Happy weekend!

 

 

 

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Chunky Pears

A few weeks ago I became totally distraught when my kid protested against any smooth textured baby foods. I had just made an enormous batch of pureed butternut squash, sweet potato, broccoli, apple, and pear sauce. They were sitting in my freezer in their cute silicone ice cube molds, but Rory wouldn’t touch them.

chunky pear sauce recipe

I started giving him more foods cut up for his little baby teeth, but some foods were still too hard for him to chew. After a near choking incident, I decided to try cooking pears down like I did for the sauce. OMG. I am jealous of my son because these pears are incredible. They’re syrupy sweet without any added sugar, perfect for a grown-up dessert or snack, and great for a toddler.

chunky pear recipe no sugar added all natural

Chunky Pears
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Beautiful sweet and spicy pears
Author:
Recipe type: Baby Food
Serves: 24 one oz servings
Ingredients
  • 6 ripe pears, any variety
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  • 3 strips of lemon peel
  • ½ cup water
Instructions
  1. Wash, peel, and cut pears into baby bite-sized chunks.
  2. In a large sauce pan over medium heat, add pears, spices, lemon peel, and water. Using a spoon, mix thoroughly to coat pears in spices.
  3. Bring to a boil, then place the lid on top and lower the heat to simmer for approximately 20 minutes. Check for doneness by piercing with a fork. Cook until tender.
  4. Let cool and enjoy.
  5. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

This recipe is adapted from Smitten Kitchen’s First Applesauce. If you’re looking for a pear sauce recipe, you can follow these instructions (you can leave the pears in larger chunks), and toss the cooked mixture into the food processor for a few good pulses until it’s a smooth puree.

In case you’re wondering, I was able to use the already pureed veggies with ground turkey and tomato sauce for what I call baby bolognese.  But that’s a recipe for another day…

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Five Tips for a Cleaner and Happier Home

I am a sucker for blog posts with enticing titles offering tips and trick to keep my house clean. I recently saw a post about twenty things people do on a daily basis to keep a tidy house, and I just about went bananas. TWENTY THINGS. Without clicking, I conjured up a list in my head and stopped at ten because twenty things seem impossible for the average person.

This year I reimagined what kind of home I want to keep, and it’s inspired new routines and the way I look at my space and interact with my things. My house is a reflection of how I see life–a work in progress. I’m not done organizing or decorating, and I’m totally okay with that. My house is far from what some would consider clean, but on most days, my house is clean enough for me.

tips for a happier and cleaner home

Five tips for having a cleaner and happier home:

Some of the following include Amazon affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links and make a purchase, I’ll receive a percentage of that sale at no cost to you. All thoughts and opinions are my own. For a full disclosure statement see my About page.

Your home should be a judgement free zone

Have you ever gone over to a friend’s and she profusely apologies for the state of her house? Do you insist that her house is fine, and that it’s not a mess at all. You say, “Oh please, you should see my place!” My guess is you’re very familiar with this type of exchange. If you don’t judge your friend for the state of her home, why are you judging yourself so harshly? Your home should be a judgement free zone. 

Little messes exist wherever we dwell because that’s where we live. Let’s work on being proud of our homes, no matter the state they’re in at any given moment.

How you judge someone else’s home says nothing about them and everything about you

If you find yourself inwardly cringing at your friend’s house and thinking, “Ugh, get it together, sister. Your house is a dump,” I implore you to take a good look at yourself in the mirror. Judging someone else because their home is not to your standard is a reflection of your own internal struggle to feel good enough. Being critical is the result of insecurity, and while mocking and judging may create a sense of superiority, it also seriously undercuts any potential for true friendship.

It’s human nature to compare ourselves to others, but let’s minimize this kind of negative thinking and focus on positivity instead. An attitude adjustment can go a long way in making a home happier.

Figure out what works for you and don’t get fatalistic

I’m a messy person, but I’m trying to reform. I haven’t perfected a system for keeping my home truly neat, but I haven’t given up yet. One area I really struggle with is my son’s toy collection.

decluttering toys
My house post-Christmas.

After Christmas my husband and I read the now infamous The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Marie Kondo helped us confront our issues with purging items that had been gifted to us. We were able to effectively sort this massive toy pile into bags we dropped off for donation and organized what we kept in our underutilized storage cubes and baskets.

It takes me only minutes to put away toys now that they all have a home.

Keep going until you figure out which method of cleaning and organizing works best for you, because dear reader, I don’t want your loved ones to have you removed from your home via crane when you’re old and senile and have forgotten the way to your front door.Was it over the tupperware collection and through the plastic bags or was it under the freebie water bottles and over the Time magazines?

It’s okay to take cleaning shortcuts 

I run our robot vacuum every day. You heard me, I have a Roomba, and I love it. I was not always so on board with a robot vacuum (they’re not cheap!), but I’ve become so dependent on my Roomba over the past ten years that I’ll definitely shell out more money to replace it immediately when this one dies. My Roomba vacuums my house EVERY DAY, so I’m still way ahead of the game even if the Roomba doesn’t get corners so well and occasionally eats a sock.

Swiffer mops and dusters, Clorox wipes, and other convenience cleaning items can be worth a little extra expense. I don’t have access to laundry facilities or a a utility area directly in my condo, so it’s unrealistic for me to keep a hoard of wet, dirty cleaning rags or a dirty mop hanging around. I know I can save money by cutting out these convenient indulgences, but realistically I know I won’t clean regularly if it’s more difficult.

Decide what is clean enough for you

I would love to have a spotless kitchen, but I’ll settle for doing the dishes every night. I make the bed and run the Roomba every day without fail. My husband takes out the trash, cat litter, and diaper pail every night. Anything else we accomplish on top of that is gravy.

Maybe your list of what must get done on a daily basis is very long or maybe it’s very short like mine. Whatever you decide works for you is clean enough, and you should be so proud of yourself.

Are there any cleaning tips or tricks that really work for you? Have your perspectives on housekeeping changed over time?

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