Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Blogiversary 5.0

Holy crap, guys. Happy Earth Day! You know what this means, right?

Earth Day just coincidentally happens to be our blogiversary! Perfect, right?


I love that there's a connection between our eco-friendly attempts and the ol' blog. Wow. Now, it really IS old. Five years is forever in the world of the web.

Today, I thought I'd just chat a bit about this place that I call home. Meg, Acting Out. Meg Acts Out. Whatever.

I haven't converted to Wordpress. I haven't linked the site up to a unique URL. I haven't actively monetized.

I haven't taken professional head shots. I haven't glammed the place up. I've thought about getting a DSLR camera, but it's just as much to get awesome pictures of my family as it would be to enhance the blog.

I've started posting a little less (I used to do MWF). I've even started to worry less about our number of hits (although I do find myself growing excited when I hit a certain modest number). I have no cares about whether we're SEO-aligned or not.

It's not that I don't want to put the effort into all these things. As a matter of fact, it's a dream of mine to focus on the blog and make it what it deserves to be.

But, instead, I've taken a small step back. I'm kind of taking after my husband, The Dorky Daddy, only posting about topics that I enjoy writing about, when I feel like doing so. We're slowly but surely converting to Wordpress (but, really, no hurry). I'm not accepting offers that simply sound like a commercial or don't align to my values.

Ultimately, y'know what I'm doing? I'm enjoying it. I'm blogging when I feel like it. I'm not beating myself up when I decide to spend my night goofing around with my little boy or watching a great movie instead of getting that fluffy blog post set for the next morning. I'm valuing my outlet and using it just as that. And. It's. Awesome.

Will I suddenly get a spark to organize the place into a more user-friendly, resource-based space? Will I start posting daily? Will I ever make a career out of sharing my ideas for living a simply fun life? I have no idea. If I don't, it's fine. If I do? Incredible!

But, in the meantime? It's just fun.

So, on this fifth (!) blogiversary, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for sticking around and stopping by. It means the world that you're reading, whether you've followed for years, just check in from time to time, or you just found my small section of the world.

Now, who wants some birthday cake? ;-) 

Monday, April 20, 2015

Summer 2015

It's equal parts being an over-planner and getting excited for some fun family activities, but every year since Hadman was old enough to have fun (in 2012, he was a newborn, so we didn't do much of anything that summer!), I've made a list of fun summer ideas. In 2013, it was as much about my goals as it was the family. In 2014, we simplified quite a bit. While this year I'm still planning to get some personal goals accomplished (at least one book is written, so I'd like to get it sent out to publishers and work on other ideas) and we're always puttering away at the house (and may be finding a new one! Eek!!), I'd ultimately like to keep it family-oriented. 

Heck, I've been so excited about summer that I dropped in with a wishlist in January! But, now that we're getting closer, I thought I'd fine tune things a bit. So, I give you some dreams for THIS summer (along with some family favorite repeats from years gone by) - 


1. Birthday Party 3.0 - Had's birthday is in July, so I always like to get my creative juices flowing so that I at least know a theme or what have you for the big day. This year, my sister will have a brand new baby (in May!) and my sister-in-law is having her first little one (due early July, so it's anyone's guess as to when!). So, it might be a smaller event this year, which is totally fine. However, given that every time I've asked him in the last several months what type of party he'd like, he's given me the exact same answer, I at least know what type of party it'll be. Even if we only have, like, 5 people there. ;-)

2. Walks - We didn't take nearly as many walks as I would've liked last year. Call it my own laziness, I suppose, but this year I'd like to take several a week. Whether it's a quick up-and-down the street or around the neighborhood, we've gotta get movin'! (And, yes, I'm already exhausted thinking about it.)

3. Zoo - This was a HUGE hit last year, so we're planning to re-up our family membership to the Utica Zoo this year. With the price that it is, we don't mind just going for the morning, eating lunch, then heading home for a nap (or staying the whole day, if we so choose). We particularly love that the animals they have on "display" are part of their focus on conservation, habitat preservation, and species survival. It's the absolutely perfectly-sized zoo for a toddler/preschooler (with a great playground area) and H talks all the time about the animals he's seen (and even some he thinks he's seen ;-)). It's definitely a big part in our raising an animal lover. Plus, there are reciprocal zoos that we could get in during any trips at a discount or free with our membership.

4. Trips! - We're planning on taking a couple of day trips (like, within 3 hours from home) plus one 2-3 day trip similar to our Massachusetts trip last year. Still working out the details. You'd be amazed at how many places you search for that are "toddler friendly" that simply babysit the kids for the parents to have alone time all day. Not our bag; we like a FAMILY vacation, not a vacation FROM our family. :-) We're also pretty loose, enjoying things like museums and hands-on play places to relaxing on the beach (not the whole time) to discovering local history and culture, so our ideas are all over the place.

5. Sandy Feet - Whether we get to a beach during our "bigger" vacation or not, I'm really hoping to get to the beach one or twice in our area. We've got some awesome state-protected lakes with family-friendly beaches in the area, and H is at a "love to run and play" age now, so it just seems perfect. Plus, I'd love to do the same. :-)

6. "Potted" Garden & CSA - Between the prospect of possibly moving and the fact that our friendly neighborhood cats have taken over our gardening space, I'm hoping to just get some small plants going this year. I've tried in years past and had crappy-to-moderate success (I think watering is my downfall, maybe?), but am determined to at least grow a tomato plant, some herbs, and maybe something else that might catch my eye. I'd love to be able to use our back deck for this purpose, but have had issues there in the past. More research ahead! 

Oh, and we've finally found a CSA that has us super excited to sign up. We're still discussing between a full share (May through October) or the summer share (May through August) due to cost and our willingness/ability to keep up with meal planning come the new school year. But, we hope to figure that out this week and get our check mailed to hold our spot quickly. I'll chat more about that once we get our first share!

7. Library - We haven't utilized our local library much at all. It's a pathetic state of affairs given that I'm a school librarian. We're not huge fans of our town's library, quite honestly (it's always surrounded by riff raff, so kind of intimidating to bring a toddler into), but we should at least give it a shot. I'm going to look into whether or not they have a story time (their website says they do, but it hasn't been updated since November). If not, I've seen that another local library has storytime and other events, so hopefully we can start getting used to *QUIET* spaces and interacting with other littles a bit.

8. Kindermusik - Here's the opposite of quiet time! We noticed awhile back that seem to have Kindermusik classes available about a half hour away. I'd like to try a month of classes (4) to see how he likes them. If he does, it'd be cool to continue; if not, it was a good learning experience. I'm also eyeing some swim classes (that we would take with him). Again, this all might add to the "crazy" of the summer and with the idea of maaaaybe finding (and selling) a house and two new family babies coming, it might be shooting for the moon.

9. Baby Help - Speaking of which, I'm hoping to offer up my help as much as possible to Dave's brother and SIL, and my sister and her family. Whether they'll take it or not is totally up to them! That said, if anyone has some yummy, healthy meals I could make for their freezers, let me know in the comments! ;-) 


So, what about you guys? What are you looking forward to the most this summer? This week is a dreary, rainy mess of a spring week (last week was gorgeous and spoiled us with borderline summer-like weather), so my mind is definitely wandering!
  

Friday, April 17, 2015

Spring Cleaning, Simplified

This year, I'm not stressing about spring cleaning. This doesn't mean that I won't be doing some high-octane cleaning; it just means that I'm not going to break a huge sweat or give up my long-awaited-for warm days.

Here are a handful of simple but super helpful ways I'll be gettin' 'er done. (Hate that phrase.)


- Do all the jobs. Wow, that DOES sound overwhelming. What I really mean is that when I do ceilings, I'll take a broom with a microfiber cloth and "sweep" all the ceilings in the whole house while I'm at it. (Spoiler alert: Already did this. While on the phone, even.) Or, when I do the fans, I'll wipe all of them down and only do the "take off every single light cover and wash/dry" if absolutely necessary. All the woodwork at one time. All the vacuuming at one time. Etc, etc, etc.

Sometimes, I try to do a room at a time (like last year) and, sometimes, it works fine. But, this year, I kind of prefer doing the jobs I feel like doing at the moment and getting them ALL done. Also, once I get out a particular cleaning product (say, the Old English for our woodwork), it'll be nice to just put it away when the job's done.

- Stretch it out. While it sounds like a buttload of work doing the above clusters of jobs, I'm not doing them all at one time. Instead, I already started the cleaning process and am doing a quick 5-10 minute job before work in the morning or at the end of the day, or a longer one on the weekends (sometimes a couple). It's a marathon, not a sprint!

- Use the least amount of products possible. I love multi-tasking cleaners. We use a Method all-purpose cleaner made with mostly-natural ingredients that does glass, wood, ceramic...frickin' everything. We also love our Dr. Bronner's castile soap, which can be used on pretty much anything and everything you can imagine. Sure, this time of year I take out the big guns (like Old English), but for the most part, it's simple. Kind of the point of this post. ;-)

- Enjoy the clean. By doing little jobs here and there, it highly reduces the amount of stress we put on ourselves. Know what else reduces it? Enjoying the clean stuff.

Throwing open the windows not only helps to freshen up your indoor environment, but also lifts your spirits. Opening the curtains after you've washed and rehung them helps the light come in and - yup - same thing, lift your spirits. Or just plopping down after you've finished a job and allowing yourself some relaxation time by way of a book or movie is totally allowed - even if you haven't finished ALL the cleaning yet.

I can't say how many times I've looked in my newly fresh (and deodorized, woohoo!) fridge just to enjoy a job well-done. Seriously.

Do you guys all spring clean? What are some of your tips and tricks for getting your spring cleaning done? We'd love to hear them in the comments! 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

A Dog Named Jasper

I'm totally reminded of that horrible Nickelodeon show from back in the day when I say this, but it's true. We totally have a cat that is part cat/part dog. Dogcat. Catdog. Weird but totally how he is.

Dave and I were dog people from the start. I had to give up a kitten as a little girl due to severe allergies (which, apparently, come out depending on the type of cat.) We both owned and adored our family dogs and always figured that we'd follow in the same footsteps. And we still may, some day.

But, then Beardslee came into our lives and it was a slippery slope from there. Winston was just begging to be our "second (in his mind ONLY) cat." Then, Jasper just showed up on our doorstep on my birthday and our trio was complete.

The cool thing about Jasper is that I had always wanted a lap cat. Someone to snuggle with, to allow the use of my lap for a nap, who wouldn't mind being picked up. He totally fit the bill, 100%. 

As time went on, though, I realized that he was so much more than just a snuggle buddy; he was the family dog.

Since it'll probably (okay, definitely) be a challenge to handle Hadley + 3 very "unique" cats + any pups, it looks like the part of canine will be played by Jasper for the foreseeable future. And we're totally fine with that. He's freaking awesome. 



He's got total dog tendencies. Here's just a few:

He chases his tail. Seriously. Catches it, then does it again. Falls down the stairs trying to catch that darn thing. (The sick joke? His tail is by far shorter than his two brethren. Winston stares at him like "That's not hard. I could do that. I just don't want to.")

- He seems to think what Ricky Gervais (and many others, I'm sure) says that dogs think: Everything humans do is WONDERFUL. His huge eyes show a constant amazement at how awesome we are. The other two? Meh. Big deal, Mom. You made dinner. Whatever. Jasper? In awe.

He lays underfoot. I'm sure other people have cats that do this, too, but Winston and Beardslee have a tendency to lay where they won't be bothered; ie not in the middle of the room. JJ, however, tends to lay on his side, comfortably watching me put dishes away and prep food. He's always nearby. Must. Know. Everything.

- Y'know that dumb stare? Totally a dog thing. The others have stares but they either mean that they're juuuuuust about to doze off or are plotting evil revenge. Jasper's stare is completely, utterly blank. Devoid of any thoughts whatsoever. Total "dumb dog." (Remember: I love dogs! Dumb can be an awesome trait. And, no, not all dogs are dumb. But Jasper is totally a dumb dog.)

He gets low grades for natural cat behavior. Jasper just isn't great at BEING a cat, the poor thing. He has mastered going to the bathroom in the right spot (um, most of the time) and TRIES to cover it up, but he really...sucks at it. Beardslee used to sit by him as he went just so that he could hop in afterwards and give it a proper cleaning. And clawing at stuff? Definitely does it wrong. Oh, and he's not skittish AT ALL. Two-year-old kid running straight at him? Doesn't flinch. Doesn't move. Just lets it happen.

Food beggar. He doesn't always do this, but when it's a food item that he adores, he's ON it. When my father-in-law comes, he always sits nearby in hopes that he'll get some table scraps. No kidding. He'll also eat pretty much anything you hand over. (That said, Winston loves Chinese. So, the one-to-two times a year we get it, he comes running.)

What about you? Do you have a pet that has some "weird" behavior? Does it make you love them all the more? Or just scratch your head?

Friday, April 10, 2015

Final Thoughts on the Real Food Challenge

Whew! No posts all week? Geez, Meg, what's up with that?! Things have been weird getting back into the post-vacation routine, plus the hubs came down with another nasty illness. So, just, craziness. I'm hoping to get back on a schedule of at least twice weekly posting next week!

Anyhoo, this is our LAST POST about the "14-Week Real Food Challenge"!!! Let's all breathe a huge sigh of relief, 'kay? 

In all honesty, our last week wasn't quite a failure...but we didn't adhere 100%. It was all about eating items with 5 ingredients or less, so half the battle came in finding a locally-produced, 5-ingredient Italian bread (which you can honestly use for just about anything). We did, admittedly, go out to eat once, and I haven't felt much like making huge meals if Dave's stomach can't handle it, so one night involved store-bought (organic) chicken soup. And crackers. None of which had less than 5 ingredients. Far from it. *sigh*

But, in general and for the most part, we actually did pretty well considering our lack of focus. I'd say that at least two meals a day were within the limit, some days more. So, yeah. Not a horrible week.

So, now that we're done, I thought I'd share some of the things I've learned as well as the things we'll definitely take away into our future eating habits. Ready?



- Without planning, you WILL spend your child's college fund in food. You just will. And I have. Gotta get back to this a bit more, but planning a general idea of what you want to eat for the entire week (breakfast and lunch included) was tremendously helpful to me (and my wallet). I always left room for adjustment - like when I had chicken down on my grocery list but natural pork tenderloin or organic ground beef was on sale, I'd switch the plan - and would sometimes shift the day we'd eat a particular meal, so we weren't sticklers. But, this is definitely a big help in not using up your savings. ;-)

- We're not whole wheat people. I made whole wheat pancakes, whole wheat muffins, whole wheat cookies, whole wheat bread...everything. But, I discovered that Dave wasn't a huge fan and, sometimes, neither was Hadley...OR me. So, while I love a good whole wheat bread (and found the perfect one! - yes, store-bought), this part of the challenge won't be coming along for the ride in the future. The fact that I cook with an organic flour helps, and I may still find a "white whole wheat" flour to try out.   

- Something that works for someone else won't always work for you and your family. Take, for example, Larabars. I. Hated. Them. Everyone involved in the challenge LOVED these. So, yeah. It is what it is.

- We're an 80/20 family. At least, I'm an 80/20 person, and I know Dave only followed along with this thing (like a trooper, I might add) to try it out. I think that I'm, in general, this type of person; I can't give something up 100%, but if you give me a bit of leeway to "cheat" or not be hard on myself, I succeed very well. So, while I'd say that we usually lean more to the 80-90% range, the 80/20 rule of "80% organic/natural/non-processed foods to 20% of less healthy foods" is okay. (When I say "less healthy" I actually mean non-organic {like the nuts we buy}, processed {like organic granola bars or traditional croutons}, and the rare-but-okay meal out at a restaurant or family's house.)    

Aaaaaand, my biggest takeaway of the whole shebang is simple but one we all can do...

- More fruits and veggies. Again, I haven't been counting my servings like in the beginning of the challenge (I should do that again, hmm), but they tend to be cheaper in organic form and definitely had me feeling healthier when I adhered to upping their intake. This is by far the one thing I hope to maintain for some time to come.

So, am I glad we did it? Definitely. Were we perfect? Nope. But, I am proud of some of the sacrifices we undertook and, as a whole, the experience was very cool.