Tuesday, September 16, 2014

There's A Chill in the Air

Or maybe it's just germs.

I read online somewhere that cold and flu season lasts from May to October. By that tally, we should be nearing the end of it. 


We were fairly healthy from May until the first week of September (also known around here as the first week of school). Since then its been running noses, sore throats, coughing, aching bodies, respiratory infections, and - I shudder to even type the words - gastrointestinal distress.

These past few weeks have given me a lot of opportunity to ponder what I want around when my brood and I aren't feeling well. It can be hard to call to mind the goods when feeling chipper; so here's a list I've put together of "necessaries" in case you have a friend who's ill.

The Sick Call Goody Basket

Ibprophen (Adult or Children's)

Emergen-C's (or their poor cousin "Essence C," hehe. Click here for a free sample of the real stuff.)

Vicks VapoRub (apply to the chest or to the bottoms of the feet for young ones)

Epsom Salts (to soak that achy body)

Throat Lozenges (we like these, but they're not for the faint of heart)


Ginger Ale

Smart Water with Electrolytes (Is this a gimmick? Possibly, but some I know swear it makes a difference.)



An Easy Paper Back (bring on the fluff)

Of course, this list is not exhaustive, and it depends on the invalid (s) involved, but it's something to get you started. What would you add?

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Five Favorites: Fall Style Concepts

This week I'm pleased to be guest hosting Five Favorites!

For those of you who are new to my little corner of the web... Welcome! The About Me blurb over on the right pretty much covers the basics of what I've got going on here.

And also, Mama Knows is my sister-in-law, which is much (much) less Oedipal than it sounds.

My Five Favorite posts tend to be a bit theme-y, because I like a good theme. Today I want to talk about five style concepts that I'm really digging as the season starts to change. And by change I'm not referring to our recent foray into perdition like heat (I know, I know, hyperbole and all that, living in Buffalo has made me a heat sissy), but the as yet theoretical crisp days of fall.

Five Favorite Fall Style Concepts
tank // blue jeans // shoes // turtleneck // skinny jeans // birks // blouse // black jeans // loafers // hat // hat // hat
Blue on Blue on Navy: It's no secret that navy blue is everywhere right now. I love mixing it with other shades of blue for a monochromatic look that's a little more unexpected.

White and Black: Again, black and white = everywhere. And this is one of those combinations that never really goes away, it just takes on different permutations. During the summer months, the ratio was weighted on the side of the white. Now I'm feeling heavy on the black with just a shot of white.

And following from the previous favorite - Black Jeans. I love black skinny and straight jeans. For some reason, I've never really been able to jump on the legging train. Yet, I do like to have a slim fitting and flattering bottom option beyond regular blue jeans. And black denim can be really pulled together, edgy, or casual, depending on how it is styled.

Chunky Knits: What says fall like chunky knits? Who doesn't like to be wrapped in the warm embrace of something soft and non constricting? To balance out the big, I prefer a slimmer silhouette on the bottom. Since I'm not much for leggings, I usually go for a pair of skinnies.

Hats: So I haven't been much of a hat girl in the past, except for those winter days when they are absolutely essential, and then only a hardcore stocking cap (aka tuque). But last fall I saw Anna rocking this look, and it got me thinking. I really want to get my hands on a ball cap in black and grey, maybe something with wool and a little [most likely faux] leather.

Friday, September 5, 2014

It's Hot But I'm Still Hungry

And my garden has 100 ripe tomatoes. 

Or so it seems.

I want to share with you this super easy and quick recipe. It's my simple version of pasta caprese.

Easy Pasta Caprese


Two or Three Large Tomatoes
Generous Handful of Basil
3/4 - 1 lb. Pasta (prepared and at room temperature; I prefer the "bite size" shapes to spaghetti or fettucini, but anything works)
8 oz Mozzarella Ball
Juice of 1 Lemon
Olive Oil 
Salt and Pepper

As you can see, the ingredient list is simple, and the amounts flexible. It's really whatever your taste dictates.

Wash the basil leaves by placing them in a bowl of water and swishing around. Pull them out and if there is sediment in the water, replace the water and repeat. Do this until there is no more dirt in the water (this method is really the most thorough for anything leafy - lettuce, parsley, mint, etc, etc... nothing spoils a meal like a mouthful of grit). Place leaves on a towel to dry.

Roughly chop the tomatoes and mozzarella into bite size pieces. Throw them into a large bowl. Gently rip the basil with your fingers and throw into the same bowl. Add the lemon juice and about 1/3 cup of olive oil. Mix.

Add in the prepared pasta. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with bread for getting those tasty juices at the bottom of the bowl.

And an ice cold hard cider or a glass of chilled, dry white wine and you have the perfect dinner to beat the heat! Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014


Recently I watched a documentary called Tiny: A Story About Living Small (available on Netflix Instant View, ITunes, and Amazon). Merete Mueller (one of the individuals in the film and it's co-director) sums it up on IMDB like this:
What is home? And how do we find it? TINY follows one couple's attempt to build a Tiny House from scratch with no building experience, and profiles other families who have downsized their lives into houses smaller than the average parking space. Through homes stripped down to their essentials, the film raises questions about sustainability, good design, and the changing American Dream.
Sounds interesting, right? Well, it was. I recommend this movie to anyone who is feeling cramped in their current quarters. I can almost guarantee that you will feel like you live in a veritable mansion after 66 minutes of viewing houses 300 square feet and smaller (often much smaller). It will probably also give you the urge to purge, a desire to run madly through the house, filling a large receptacle destined for Goodwill as you go. And long after that fervor passes, it will leave you with much food for thought.

While the synopsis says "couple," the tiny house highlighted in the documentary is primarily the brainchild of Christopher Smith. Though his girlfriend, Merete, grows more and more attached to the project, her future relationship with the tiny house (and Christopher) remains ambiguous at the end of the film. So there's the first thing about tiny houses: they're tiny. So small that one wonders if that, by necessity, they are isolating. Are they big enough to hold even two lives, two wills, two egos?

Yet, despite my doubts, some do it. In addition to Christopher and Merete, the film also introduces other individuals and couples who live in tiny houses. In their interviews, some of the tiny householders focus on the amount of time and money that is saved over a traditional home. Some mention the peace that one finds in simplifying one's life, the freedom of not being forced to work constantly to buy goods that are unnecessary. Some even mention the newfound ability to focus on relationships rather than things.

As a minimalist myself, I found myself nodding along in agreement. Yes. Yes! That rat race. I want out of that rat race. I don't want my junk. I want relationship. I want intimacy. I want freedom. Freedom.

Even though each person spoke about the topic differently, it all came down to this one thing: freedom.  I do want freedom, and a freedom not just from things, but for things. Good things. But that's where I have to part ways with the movement (and yes, it is a growing movement). My good things involve a spouse, and unfortunately, he's not as much of a minimalist as I am (though I don't think it's so unfortunate when one of his "random" purchases turns out to be just what I need).

And we like children. Our first one. Our second one. Our third one. Even our fourth one. And even other ones. More ones. Future ones, so to speak. And that may not be tiny, but it sure is good.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

9-10 August

This summer has been a really cool one. The nights have often dipped into the fifties, and many days have just barely hit 80 degrees. Humidity has been low, the sun and breeze abundant. This summer has been perfect. 

I expect I might feel differently if I spent the year looking forward to long days at the beach,  Corona in hand, reading fluffy novels and relaxing. If my house had central air conditioning. If I didn't travel in a party of four dependents and a double stroller (I love my double, but after flying adult solo to almost every soccer practice and game this summer, I am so tired of loading it in and out of the van...). And I love wearing shorts with long sleeve tops sans sweat. If this is summer, it can go on forever.

But the season is beginning to change. The insects sound different, more insistent. Fallen maple leaves have scattered themselves across the driveway, summer green giving way to tinges of red and yellow. A hint of sadness is in the air, a hint that gains strength when the clouds momentarily drift between sun and earth, or when the air grows still just before dusk.

I was contemplating these things on Saturday, when we came across a bunch of children's Christmas books on sale at the local library. At 25 cents a pop, I snapped up twelve of them. The plan is to put them away until December, and then incorporate them into our Christmas preparations. 

In some strange way, finding those books gave a counterpoint to the melancholy of summer's waning. Thoughts of white twinkling lights, the subtle scent of evergreen, bright warmth against the cold, strong spicy beer, the ever new joy of Emmanuel.  And suddenly that gnaw of imminent decay had lost its bite. 

Have a great week, everyone!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Summer Legs and Keeping Up Appearances

I bet you were thinking that this was a post about leg lifts, squats, and lunges. 


It's about skin. Leg skin and feet skin, to be exact. Let me let you in on a secret: highly groomed women discomfit me. Or maybe it's more accurate to say that I discomfit me in the presence of such women. I mean, I'm sure that the objective for said women's attention to personal grooming has nothing to do with me and my comfort. But I digress. 

I'm not particularly scruffy, it's just that being well groomed is a never ending battle. My feet look awesome today - smooth, nails painted. And next week.... Ugh, chipped polish. A little rough around the heels. And let's not even talk about shaving (at least not yet). In my mind, having a good hair / outfit / makeup / smooth legs / attractive feet type of presentation is the equivalent of the man at the circus who spins all the plates at the same time. And damn, parenting toddlers and infants is already like herding cats. The complexity of these mixed metaphors is itself an accurate portrayal of the reality, I think. 

And despite the pink background on this blog, I am not a "girly girl."  I would rather drink a cocktail and read a book in the bathtub than exfoliate, depilate, or any other -ate. Unless it is just plain eating, and if that's the case, then I'll take my calories in liquid form, as per above.

I know what you're thinking, "Mary, this is not a gender issue. You are just lazy." Yes, yes, I am that, too, and I admit it. 

So I ask:

What's a busy, slightly lazy girl to do?!

Well, I've discovered a few inexpensive and relatively quick, easy ways to keep up appearances.

Skip the lotion and go straight for the body cream. Lotion and body cream are both composed of water and oil; their difference lies in the proportion of each. Body cream has a higher content of oil, and therefore is a more concentrated (read: effective and longer lasting) moisturizer.  Smooth some on your legs, arms, and feet after every shower when pores are still dilated from the warm water.

Use petroleum jelly (also known by the most common brand name Vaseline) on the roughest, driest spots. While body cream is an emollient (meaning it moisturizes and smoothes), petroleum jelly also effectively traps moisture within the skin and prevents it from evaporating.  Smooth it on elbows and knees. Spread liberally on rough feet, put on pair of socks, go to bed and awake the next day with significantly softer feet. A small tub of the stuff is around a dollar at the grocery store, so go wild.

Use a pumice stone every day for a few seconds in the shower, concentrating especially on the heels. It may take more time at first, especially if your feet are very dry and cracked, but once things are under control this is all it really takes for maintenance.  And don't spend much on a pumice stone; find them at the dollar store for a dollar (surprise!). Replace as necessary, when you start to notice decreased efficacy.

Use a scrub before shaving your legs (just rub, rinse, and then go ahead with your regular shaving cream). The salt or sugar grains exfoliate the skin and the oil in the scrub moisturizes it. The result is a closer shave and smoother, softer skin. You can easily make scrubs from in the kitchen ingredients (check out these recipes) or buy it pre-made. I recently won a scrub from this company in a giveaway (which it turns out, is owned and operated by a former college mate, small world!), and it is the best scrub I've ever tried. For real.

Keep a cocoa lotion bar handy for quick fixes. A lotion bar is a solid, concentrated, quick way to deliver moisture and protection to irritated skin. Rub the bar over the effected area and the warmth of your skin melts just the right amount of emollients onto the spot.  I think we have all had the experience of realizing at the last minute that our hands or knees or elbows or heels are super dry and/or ashy. I keep this lotion bar in my bag for just such moments.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

2-3 August


Can you believe it's August already?!

What's new for you? 

We've been spending a lot of time outside. Playing at the playground. Soccer practices and games. Scootering at the river, and running. Yes, I've started running again, or more accurately, run-walking. It's hard to keep the pace consistent when I've got a babe and three little scootering fools in tow, but its still enjoyable. I don't keep track of pace, time, or distance. I just want to enjoy the exertion of it and the pleasure of the process rather than turning it into a competition (with myself).  

I used to be hardcore and crazy when it came to exercise; I've avoided "working out" for five years because I'm so wary of getting sucked back into unhealthy attitudes. Maybe it's a blessing that the kids force me to be flexible... You can't get too competitive when you are constantly stopping to pick up acorns and other "treasures" ("Mom, look at this chapstick I found." The chapstick that was actually a used tampon. Even in the cleanest park, a mom has always got to be on her toes!)

In addition to our fitness endeavors, we've been enjoying the flavors of the season - fresh cherries, apricots, peaches and nectarines. Watching nature up close: a robin built a nest, laid her eggs, hatched her young, and raised them up to flying age all in a hanging basket on the porch. Life is truly amazing. 

Also, there have been some less fun activities, like trying to save the book collection that got too damp in the basement. Not wet, just damp. The process of removing the mildew from so many books is so overwhelming that I wept. Maybe more than once. I've realized that the collection of books that I love needs to be severely culled. There are just too many to thoroughly dry and de- mildew. Sigh.

Have a great week!

Look, me in florals. I do get out of the all black now and again. And I still look the same :)