basil balsamic salad dressing


Friday, September 7, 2018

This is a staple in my home. It’s wonderful with some beets, avocado and arugula. Or for the kids, we do it with carrots, cucumbers, and romaine....

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar 

1 cup olive oil
a big handful of fresh basil roughly chopped
2 cloves of garlic
1/2 lemon squeezed  
1 heaping tablespoon honey
1/2 tablespoon of mustard (any kind works... I’ve been using yellow because my boys think Dijon is too spicy)
Salt and pepper to taste

Put all the ingredients into a wide mouth Ball Jar. Now, here is the key... take your immersion blender and blend for 2 minutes or until light brown and creamy. 

*a blender will work if you don’t have an immersion blender

photo: Madie McKay

Tequila & Booch


Friday, August 31, 2018

 This has been my favorite drinks of the summer and as Labor Day approaches and we put away our white jeans (is that still a thing?) I thought I would share.

1 big ice cube

 1 (or 2) shots of Tequila

 1 cup-ish of Trilogy Kombucha

 2 squeezed lime wedges

 2 sprigs of mint

new chapter


Friday, July 20, 2018

While interior design will always be my passion, there was a time I thought I would never take on another client. I wasn’t feeling fulfilled by my work; there had to be other ways to use my passions to serve others. These feelings spurred a search and propelled me into a time of reflection. I spent time with my boys, I painted, I worked on our home, I volunteered, I hung laundry on the line, I grew veggies, I taught... My saying for the season was “be still.”

Three years ago a page turned over coffee with a sweet friend. She told me details about her year-long house renovation with no end in site. In fact, while we were together, there was a bobcat inside her home digging 10 feet deep holes! I sensed her broken heart knowing she was overwhelmed and wanted so desperately to feel settled with her husband and two young boys. After leaving our time together, her story was on a constant loop in my head. Without thinking too long or hard, I called and said “I will help you with your home.” It just felt like the right thing to do. Her gratitude was more than I imagined; I could not believe how much my offer impacted my friend. She confessed that she wanted me to design her house for years, but respected my leave-of-absence from the design business. I found myself fulfilled in such a wonderful way, like being reunited with an old friend. My thoughts were consumed by the details of her project, dreaming of all the ways that I could make her home cozy and lovely for her family.

Although I had years of experience, my sabbatical made me feel like an imposter. I remember meeting the contractor for the first time, praying he did not notice my lack of confidence and rising anxiety. The creative part of design is like riding a bike, but the terminology and things I used to know so well were rusty.

I worked on my girlfriend’s home for a year. It was my greatest joy to see her love the completed project. Watching her cook food for her family in the kitchen, set the table in her new dining room, watching her boys read in the library and create battle scenes on the giant chalkboard, watching her husband enjoy the space he worked so hard for filled my heart to the brim. This project reminded me that interior design is fulfilling because it is a call to serve others. I now recognize that I can take my passion and talent to bless others.

Since I said “yes” to my girlfriends home 3 years ago I am back in business! Ross and I converted our basement into offices, I have an amazing, growing group of women working with me, and I feel so grateful for the opportunity to be a part of transforming people’s lives.

Until now, I have kept my happenings very private. I intend to keep my clients private in the most respectful way while posting and sharing the things that make my heart sing. I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, but I am grateful to be on this ride and can’t wait to see what this next chapter holds.

Cover photo: Jennie Corti Photography
Photos: Madie McKay Photography

Peggi Kroll workshop


Thursday, May 16, 2013


Last week I took a hiatus and painted for 3 days with Peggi Kroll in Orange County. I have admired Peggi for years, in fact, my third post ever was about her.

When Ross and I were dating and just married we would go on adventures that consisted of me painting while Ross surfed or climbed. Then we were blessed with our two boys and because of the toxic nature of oil painting I haven't been comfortable painting since there seems to always be a baby close by. Now with our youngest getting bigger, I am anxious to bring painting back into my life.

I hope that you find this series of pictures as inspirational as I do. I tried to photograph every stage of Peggi's method as she did a demonstration for us. I loved this painting so much I took it home with me. enjoy.











Mother's Day Fave Fives


Tuesday, May 7, 2013


In the spirit of loving on our mommy's follow me over {or send your hubby over} to The Post Social for some goodies that would make any mom happy.

Lo Lo Cakes {gluten & dairy free}


Friday, April 26, 2013


Inspired by Lo Lo... these pancakes are super delish.

2 cups rolled oats {not sure if all rolled oats are "quick cook" but I know the "Rolled Oats" at TJ's are... Quaker might work as well but I know that these are considered gluten free... maybe just because of shared equipment??}

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp baking powder

1 small ripe banana

2 tbsp chia seeds

2 eggs

1 tbsp vanilla

1/4 cup honey

1 1/4 cup almond milk {you might need a dash more almond milk... they tend to get kind of thick towards the end of the batch}

little pinch of stevia

grape seed oil

Put all the ingredients in the blender. Blend away {long enough for all your children to look at you with their hands over their ears, yelling "mommy turn it off!"} Heat up your pan with a liberal pour of grape seed oil {I like my cakes to be a little crispy on the edges}. Pour. Cook. Enjoy.

boiled chicken + broth {part 1}


Friday, April 19, 2013


Please excuse me for photographing and posting a photo of raw chicken. Poultry is so gross to me, so much so that I haven't prepared it for a year, until recently when I read An Everlasting Meal, a book that inspired me to get brave and start playing with the chipper chicken again. This way of preparing chicken and broth has been adapted by Tamar Adler's thoughts on food in An Everlasting Meal.


organic chicken in pieces {I have been getting one at TJ's that is around $12 it is 2-3 breasts and 4 legs}

1 jalapeƱo

1 three inch piece of ginger, cut in half

1 lemon, cut in half

1 8qt stock pot filled with water a little more then half full

Salt {I like Morton's Kosher salt... I have some special salts that I love for an avocado, a poached egg or a juicy heirloom tomato but I have found that I love this salt for everyday cooking}


I find that this works best started the night before, but you could also do it the morning of if you forget. Lay your chicken out on a roasting pan and salt both sides liberally {this really is the secret}. Cover your chicken with plastic and stick in the fridge.

The next day I usually start the broth and chicken at nap time for dinner that night, but you can also start it an hour before dinner and then just let your broth cook down for the rest of the night {during dinner, dessert and a movie}. Let it cool, store it away and then go night night.

Okay back to the chicken. Whenever you want to start the process, give yourself 4 hours, start to finish {this is not labor intensive at all, pick a day that you are home and can let the stove cook away}, put all the ingredients in your pot of water. If there are large chunks of salt that haven't been absorbed I brush those off. Turn on your burner and get your pot to a good bubbling simmer.

The chicken will take about 40 minutes to cook. Remove the chicken once it is cooked and let it cool. Remove the lemon and let the pot continue to simmer. Once the chicken is cooled {basically cool enough that you don't burn your fingers} remove the skin and bones and throw them back in the pot. This chicken is wonderful alone and makes a lot for a couple meals. Try it with some salsa and rice, or in tacos, or in a green salad... the list goes on. All three of my boys love this chicken so much. As for the broth just let it cook down for a while.

At this point the broth probably has an hour or so. When it is time to turn it off, I let it cool and then strain it with a small rice strainer into a jar. It usually make about 2 cups of broth.*

The end.

*beware: the broth is different than what we are used to buying at the store. It is very gelatinous which is where the health benefits are {I learned this from another life changing book called Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon}.

phone vs. your heart


Wednesday, April 17, 2013


A few nights ago Ross and I went out sans kiddos. Bellied up to the bar across from us was a couple who I noted because of their overly indulgent use of their iPhones. No joke they were on their phones the entire time we had 2 beers and a burger. I overheard the women tell the bartender that they were on their honeymoon. At this point I couldn't help but continue to stare and in a self-reflective-freak-out I decided that the iPhone needs a bit of a "TIME OUT." I am guilty of this. Why do I need to look at my phone 40 times in 20 minutes? Why am I texting or Instagraming on the sofa while I'm watching a movie with my husband? Why do my boys wait for me to sit down at the table while I am finding the perfect filter. I am horrified to admit to these things but it is the truth.

And then this morning I read this, Your Phone Vs. Your Heart, written by Barbara Fredrickson in the New York Times.

CAN you remember the last time you were in a public space in America and didn’t notice that half the people around you were bent over a digital screen, thumbing a connection to somewhere else? Most of us are well aware of the convenience that instant electronic access provides. Less has been said about the costs. Research that my colleagues and I have just completed, to be published in a forthcoming issue of Psychological Science, suggests that one measurable toll may be on our biological capacity to connect with other people. Our ingrained habits change us. Neurons that fire together, wire together, neuroscientists like to say, reflecting the increasing evidence that experiences leave imprints on our neural pathways, a phenomenon called neuroplasticity. Any habit molds the very structure of your brain in ways that strengthen your proclivity for that habit. Plasticity, the propensity to be shaped by experience, isn’t limited to the brain. You already know that when you lead a sedentary life, your muscles atrophy to diminish your physical strength. What you may not know is that your habits of social connection also leave their own physical imprint on you. How much time do you typically spend with others? And when you do, how connected and attuned to them do you feel? Your answers to these simple questions may well reveal your biological capacity to connect. My research team and I conducted a longitudinal field experiment on the effects of learning skills for cultivating warmer interpersonal connections in daily life. Half the participants, chosen at random, attended a six-week workshop on an ancient mind-training practice known as metta, or “lovingkindness,” that teaches participants to develop more warmth and tenderness toward themselves and others. We discovered that the meditators not only felt more upbeat and socially connected; but they also altered a key part of their cardiovascular system called vagal tone. Scientists used to think vagal tone was largely stable, like your height in adulthood. Our data show that this part of you is plastic, too, and altered by your social habits. To appreciate why this matters, here’s a quick anatomy lesson. Your brain is tied to your heart by your vagus nerve. Subtle variations in your heart rate reveal the strength of this brain-heart connection, and as such, heart-rate variability provides an index of your vagal tone. By and large, the higher your vagal tone the better. It means your body is better able to regulate the internal systems that keep you healthy, like your cardiovascular, glucose and immune responses. Beyond these health effects, the behavioral neuroscientist Stephen Porges has shown that vagal tone is central to things like facial expressivity and the ability to tune in to the frequency of the human voice. By increasing people’s vagal tone, we increase their capacity for connection, friendship and empathy. In short, the more attuned to others you become, the healthier you become, and vice versa. This mutual influence also explains how a lack of positive social contact diminishes people. Your heart’s capacity for friendship also obeys the biological law of “use it or lose it.” If you don’t regularly exercise your ability to connect face to face, you’ll eventually find yourself lacking some of the basic biological capacity to do so. The human body — and thereby our human potential — is far more plastic or amenable to change than most of us realize. The new field of social genomics, made possible by the sequencing of the human genome, tells us that the ways our and our children’s genes are expressed at the cellular level is plastic, too, responsive to habitual experiences and actions. Work in social genomics reveals that our personal histories of social connection or loneliness, for instance, alter how our genes are expressed within the cells of our immune system. New parents may need to worry less about genetic testing and more about how their own actions — like texting while breast-feeding or otherwise paying more attention to their phone than their child — leave life-limiting fingerprints on their and their children’s gene expression. When you share a smile or laugh with someone face to face, a discernible synchrony emerges between you, as your gestures and biochemistries, even your respective neural firings, come to mirror each other. It’s micro-moments like these, in which a wave of good feeling rolls through two brains and bodies at once, that build your capacity to empathize as well as to improve your health. If you don’t regularly exercise this capacity, it withers. Lucky for us, connecting with others does good and feels good, and opportunities to do so abound. So the next time you see a friend, or a child, spending too much of their day facing a screen, extend a hand and invite him back to the world of real social encounters. You’ll not only build up his health and empathic skills, but yours as well. Friends don’t let friends lose their capacity for humanity.

Wowzers, right?

My first comment to Ross when I found out that the couple at the bar had been married for only a few days was "thank goodness we didn't have iPhones on our honeymoon." But wait, do older couples say that about the stage we are in?, "thank goodness we didn't have iPhones when our babies were young"?

orange, blueberry, mint refresher.


Thursday, April 11, 2013


to make one refresher:

1 handful of fresh blueberries

3 springs of mint leaves {no stems}

1 tablespoon of simple syrup*

1/2 cup soda water

1/2 cup fresh squeezed OJ

Muddle the blueberries, mint and simple syrup. Add the soda water and OJ. Stir and enjoy. If it's past 4:30 {wink} add some vodka for something extra fresh.

*simple syrup is just one cup water to one cup sugar boiled down to a divine little elixir. Cooled and stored in your fridge for a morning espresso, cocktails or spritzers.



Thursday, March 28, 2013


Not sure what it is about jars - Ball, baby food jars, La Parfait, Weck, Ikea Fido Jars - I'm in love. Maybe it is the endless possibilities of what can go inside. I have everything from beans, to laundry detergent, to vintage stamps filling jars. In our kitchen I've been using the Ikea Jars to store all of our pantry items and I have started slowly collecting some La Parfait {side note: how dreamy are the jelly jars they make}. So that my Ikea jars didn't feel left out of the orange-gasket-greatness I bought a 12 pack of gaskets and there you go, happiness. It's the little things.

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rice salad


Friday, March 22, 2013


This has been on heavy rotation around here. I have been making a big batch which is perfect for lunches or a beach day.

salad ingredients:

3 cups cooked brown rice, cooled {love using the cooked, frozen brown rice medley at TJ's if I'm in a rush}

1 cup artichoke hearts, chopped

10 cherry tomatos, chopped

1/2 medium red onion, finely chopped

1/2 red bell pepper, chopped {I like jarred roasted red peppers too}

1/2 cup kalamata olives, chopped

1/2 cup english peas

1/2 cup basil, chopped

1/2 cup parsley,chopped

1/2 cup roasted and chopped almonds

dressing ingredients:

1/4 cup grape seed oil

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1 minced garlic clove

lemon juice from 1 lemon

1 tsp dijon mustard

1 tbs honey

salt & pepper

Mix together all the salad ingredients in a big bowl. I like putting all the dressing ingredients in a Mason Jar and then giving it a good shake with the lid on. Once the dressing is mixed up add it to the salad & enjoy.

yountville + some Life thoughts


Friday, March 15, 2013

kimphoto.jpg oakville.jpg frenchblue.jpg bouchonfloor.jpg market.jpg

Just some thoughts that have been keeping my mind occupied. On the tails of a wildly creative, hilarious, life changing weekend {more on that in a sec}. I walked with a dear friend who shared some insight that is rocking my world. She told me that at my age, I am at the apex of my creativity. When she was younger she was overflowing with creative ideas, desires and energy. Now at 67 those thoughts are not as abundant. She has been a mentor of mine {a guiding light} since I was 10. She is a brilliant artist with a bright spirit. Wrapping my head around her creative juices "slowing down" has given me a new perspective on seizing. the. moment.

With that thought in mind I feel so incredibly thankful that I was able to have three days in Yountville to talk about everything from favorite recipes, creating art, favorite poets, growing children, growing herbs and plenty of things totally inappropriate for the world wide web. I have been given a gift of four women whose paths have crossed mine through a cyber web of happenstance. Estelle, Kim, Mel and Jeanne filled my cup in so many ways it would be hard to write them all down. In my "apex of creativity" I am grateful.


savory oats


Thursday, March 14, 2013


The best place to start is a good breakfast.

I prefer my oats savory. This was inspired by a close friend who shares my aversion to sweets first thing in the morning.

This is how I do it... I adore the Quick Cook Steel Cut Oats at Trader Joes they are done in just 8 minutes. But if you don't have a TJ's close by you can always make a big batch and heat it up throughout the week. Once the oats are cooked I add chopped cherry tomatoes, fresh parsley, chia seeds, roasted almond slivers, olive oil and Bragg's. Mix & enjoy.

thank you.


Tuesday, May 15, 2012


Thank you so much for all of your participation in this past weeks conversation on Simplicity Parenting. I learned so much from all of the co-hosts, comments and emails I have received. One of the things that is so interesting is our united desire to simplify. Is that the trend? or did we all just seek each other out because of our common ideals? Either way I am encouraged and inspired by you all. Thank you.

And what is our real job as parents, if not first to nurture the beings entrusted to our care, to have faith in their inchoate processes of growing and becoming, and then to show up, again and again, for as long as we are able, to bear grateful witness to their unfolding destinies?
Katrina Kenison

chapter six - "Filtering out the adult world"


Monday, May 14, 2012


Today is our last chapter, Filtering out the Adult World and Jora from Domestic Reflections is my co-host. Jora actually suggested this book when I posted about Choice a few months ago. So thank you Jora... your recomendation has been life changing for Ross, Henry, Conrad and myself. I am very grateful. Enjoy her beautiful post... there is a lot of greatness here...

All of the topics we have discussed here from Simplicity Parenting have been so helpful and enlightening. For me though, and for my particular family's needs, the chapter on "Filtering Out the Adult World" felt particularly eye-opening. As I read the chapter, I was struck by how easy it would be to have the best intentions with one's children and still be doing something that wasn't helping, or maybe even them. It is probably safe to say none of us here would intentionally show our small children violent movies or discuss scary things with them. In that sense we are all doing a great job of "filtering." (High fives all around!) But I know I can slip into that world of "helicopter parenting" that Payne talks about. I can talk too much to my kids...pulling them out of their play worlds -- those worlds where they do all their work of being kids and leaning about life and growing into the people they are to become. I can monitor them too much and warn about dangers too much or offer too complicated of explanations to their questions.

As Payne says, this type of parenting may "stem from an overbearing love," but it doesn't "fully respect (or sometimes acknowledge) a child's independence. Yet out of love we can also choose to back off from over involvement...We can learn to allow our children their own tasks, decisions, conflicts, relationships, and emotional lives. We can provide the kind of stability and security that they will internalize, as base camp that doesn't move."

My son's teacher from a couple of years ago first told me about Kim John Payne....she continues to be a huge resource for our parenting. She was the one that first taught me (in Payne style) to just say less. This is so hard for someone like me, and it also went against what I thought a mom was supposed to do: explain the world to my kids and teach them everything I know. My son's teacher taught me the magic of this answer when a child starts with the "why why whys": simply try "Hmmmm...I wonder." Now, you might be thinking what I first thought when I heard her say this (yeah, right, that will never work with MY kid), but it is amazing! You should really try it. Kids (at least when they are 3, 4, or 5-ish) usually just want to practice engaging in conversation. They really don't want or need a big explanation. That's the reason the "why" is followed by an answer, which is followed by another "why," which starts the whole cycle over. Overly-intellectualized answers pulls them out of that dreamy child state...which is the state where they grow into the people they are to become.

I also like Payne's suggestion that parents should avoid talking to their kids nine or younger directly about their feelings. Again, this is something that wasn't intuitive to me. I thought asking, "Are you angry at your sister because she hurt your feelings?" and that sort of thing helped. It turns out, younger children mostly have feelings that are unconscious. By pushing them toward an awareness they don't already have, "we transpose our own emotions...and overwhelm them." Instead, giving a child more leeway and privacy with their feelings will allow them to develop their own emotions and awareness of them. According to Payne, when kids are young, they work out their feelings by doing. I had my daughter Juliet very much in mind when I read that. She is prone to tantrums, and she will sometimes, when we leave her alone, grab paints and paper and go hide somewhere and paint (while crying and screaming of course!)....but a little while later, those emotions seem to have moved onto the paper and out of her.

Another point I really appreciated in this chapter is the importance of protecting children from the heavy and scary and bad in the world while they are young. My own parents did not do this very well (although their intentions were good), so I can say first hand that hearing about global warming and child molesters and this sort of thing is scary for a child and doesn't help in the way parents might think they are. A child needs to know the world is a friendly place first and foremost and grow within that secure environment. They can learn about the uglier truths when they are in a more evolved, stable place...and because they have had a chance to develop without all that heaviness, they will be better able to cope and hopefully address the problems in our world. As Payne says, "Too much information does not 'prepare' a child for a complicated world; it paralyzes them."

Finally, I just loved the last couple of paragraphs of the chapter (and book). Payne recommends this simple exercise: Before falling asleep, instead of reviewing what you or the kids did wrong and what needs improvement, remember the ordinary moments of the the moments that mean something to you and that remind you of who your children are. He calls the exercise a "spiritual corrective lens." I'm totally trying that tonight.

YES!! Don't you love it when parenting advise is actually the easier route? This chapter was that for me. Henry asks me a lot of questions {like most children}. Some days we even have "question breaks" and during those breaks I usually reflect on the answers that I give and think, "what was I thinking!!!, I hope he doesn't remember that." I don't think well on my feet and most the time an hour later I think of a better answer. Saying "Hmmmm I wonder" gives Henry time to dream and me time to think of a good answer if it seems appropriate to revisit his question.

I also really identified with the part about feelings. When talking about tantrums my pediatrician has told me too just leave the room or if I can't leave pick up a book and pretend to read... basically just ignore. This has worked for us. It has allowed Henry to get through it on his own and move forward. I imagine that "feelings" are the same. It is almost like having big "feelings" is a more mature tantrum.

Okay one last thought. And I know that this is a hard one... TV/ Screen time. Have any of you tried to completely eliminate TV? I feel like I am a bit hypocritical on this one. We have a 24" TV without cable and my wish is to "kill" the TV but in a bind or in the need of a "break" I turn in on. After reading I realize that the times I turn it on are perfect opportunities for Henry to be "bored" or "pause." I think I just need to be brave. I have a friend who "broke" all of her TV's and she reports that life is actually much easier.

Thank you ALL so much for your contributions to this discussion over the last week. I would not have spent this time if I didn't really think this book was important. I feel like the more people who read it the more acceptable CHILDHOOD will be. In a time where women carry around business cards that say "MOM" I want to take a step back and make sure I am doing the right thing for my family. This book has been amazing. Thank you Kim John Payne and all of you who have contributed to a great discussion.

chapter five - "schedules"


Friday, May 11, 2012


Here we are, day five, Schedules, and my cohost is Erin of Such Small Steps.

Growing up, my sister and I had very few planned activities that we participated sports teams until high school, no gymnastics, no swim team. We did play piano, and occasionally we did ballet or theater or art, but our weekends were spent at home, curled up with books, at the library, at the park where we climbed trees and rollerskated, or in the backyard where we hunted for bugs and lizards or played hide and seek with neighborhood friends. In hindsight, I'm guessing this was a side effect of having divorced parents who both worked full-time- weekends were our only time together as a family to rest and relax. Although I'm sure we often whined "I'm bored," I know that we spent hours making our own entertainment, both at home and at our grandparents' homes where we spent weeks each summer.

Some time around middle school, my dad instituted Sunday as "family day": no plans with friends, no activities, no classes, just church in the morning, brunch or lunch after, and long afternoons and evenings spent at home hanging out, playing board games and talking. I hated it. I truly felt that I was being punished for something, that if I wasn't able to meet up with my girlfriends I would "miss everything." It's only now, as I raise my own little ones, that I understand the wisdom of this forced day of rest.

Consciously or unsconsciously, my husband and I have made the choice not to enroll our kids in many activities. We both work long hours during the week, and what we love most about the weekends is the sweet unpredictability found in a day with no plans. We can decide over a cup of coffee where our day may take us: to the zoo? Maybe on a little road trip? Or just something simple like a bike ride at the park followed by lunch. I am not opposed to nurturning my kids' interests, but I am resistant to losing that all of that time spent together, even if it is sometimes "ordinary or boring," to harried shuttling from place to place to place. Some of my favorite childhood memories stemmed from finding a creative way to deal with long, dull summer days, time spent putting on little plays or listening to my grandparents' old records, or setting up tents in our backyard. If every week of our summers had been filled up with tennis drills and language classes and ballet lessons, I am not sure that would have been the case. As with much of life, it's all about finding balance. As the book says, if we "sow the seeds of balanced childhoods what will develop, over time, are strong and whole, resilient, balanced individuals."

I love this chapter there are so many great nuggets. Erin I love the idea of "family day" I love how Payne gives the sentiment that your kids desire it and we should honor this time. Cherish it. This is so true but not common. Could you imagine if your boss said at 4:45 "you better pack up your family is waiting for you"?

Here are a few things from the book that really stuck with me...

The idea of organized sports. The desire to find a book like this began as I signed my 3 1/2 year old up for soccer. {what was I thinking... I did it... I filled out the paperwork... no one had a gun at my head... yet this is exactly opposite of how I thought I would raise my kids}. Any way I love what Payne says on the subject. He thinks organized sports are great when done at the oppropriate age. He talks about how kids are starting so young now that they get burnt out and are missing the best time to actually participate in them. " are quitting as they approach adolescence, just when the structure and rigors of organized sports and martial arts have so much to offer them in their quest for individuality, independence and maturity." I think one of the biggest struggles about this is the kids who have been playing club sports that dominate all the other kids. This is hard, you don't want to throw your kid on a team and watch him fail. What do you all think about this?

The GIFT of anticipation. I love this concept. "When you back off the treadmill loop of planned activities, you make room for pauses, you make time for anticipation and reflection."

I also love the importance Payne puts on boredom and how this time can allow your child to be totally engrossed in something. "It is something you can make space for and honor, but you can't control it." All we can do as parents is facilitate downtime for this to happen. This kind of goes into Mondays talk but I feel like it is so easy to insert TV into this downtime. There is nothing to do well, sure you can watch one show.

And one more thought, this pretty much sums it up...

"Balance is what we're after in simplifying our family's schedules. And once we cross our kids' names off the "Race of Childhood" sing-up form, time opens right up. Time for rest and creativity to balance activity; time for contemplation and stimulation, moments of calm in busy days, energies conserved and expended; time for free, unscheduled play, for ordinary days, for interests that deepen over time; time for boredom; and time for the joy and infinite passion of anticipation."

Erin thank you so much for co-hosting with me and for all your thoughtful words. ox!

*The sweet photo above are Erin's little boy and girl in their garden.

chapter four - "rhythm"


Thursday, May 10, 2012

Kids in Garden.jpg

Day four, Rhythm. Today I feel so lucky to have Haydee of Happenstance share her thoughts. She has nailed it with her personal stories and excerpts from the book. Sit back, absorb and comment away... I hope you are all enjoying this as much as I am.

At first I wasn’t quite sure how I would quantitate “rhythm” with child rearing. But after reading this chapter, not only was I enlightened by the idea and effects of “rhythm,” but I recognized many of Dr. Payne’s points about “rhythm” from my own childhood. When I was younger we often had the same dishes for dinner which always seemed boring, but now I get why. My friends always wanted to come to my house when we were teenagers. I never understood it, but now I know why. You would never find sugar cereals in our pantry. It was kind of a bummer, but now I embrace why. Most of all, I realize that I have adapted these same “rhythms” as a kid, into my own home, with my own kids. I understand now that with consistency and repetition, the vibrations of the rhythms of life have a powerful ability to carry on. Below are some soundbites I noted from each section of the “Rhythm” chapter that I thought you’d be interested in reviewing. Some I have commented on. I would love to hear your thoughts too!

“Meaning hides in repetition … what stands out is not the splashy, blow-out trip to Disneyland but the common threads that run throughout and repeat: family dinners, walks, reading together at bedtime, Saturday morning pancakes.”

“A form of predictability can also simply be in the form of politeness.” –– Hooray! The monotony of reminding them to say “please” and “thank you” pays off!

“After school time is also a great opportunity for free unscheduled time. What a delight it is for a school-age child to set their own agenda; what a blessing, even, to be bored.” –– This will forever make me see “boredom” so differently. It’s so valuable and easy!

“Simplicity establishes a connection with our children that is ‘bankable.’ By that I mean we have ‘relational credits.’ In difficult times we can count on, and draw from, this connection.”
“Relational credits, the emphasis you’ve put on being there for them, and with them, can make things easier for you both, during their adolescence and other difficult times.” –– I plan to rack up these “relational credits!” Who knows what those dreaded teenage years have in store for us!

“The dinner table is one of a child’s most consistent laboratories for learning social skills (and impulse control); it’s democracy in action.”

“Food is meant to nourish, not entertain or excite.” –– You hear that chocolate-dipped, deep fried Oreo’s!

“How can a carrot compete with Hot Wings and Blue Cheese Doritos? “Big hit flavors” (like Doritos––usually additives, and stimulants) set up an addictive cycle. Such foods are the enemy of rhythm. You can’t flow through speed-crash-and-burn.” –– I have a “big hits flavor” (or lack thereof) story of when Penelope was four. We reluctantly attended a birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese and when it came time for lunch the only drink provided was soda. Surprisingly (because I thought I’d have to deal with a “why can’t I?” scenario) Penelope matter of factly asked for milk. It’s true what Dr. Payne says about “what happens at home” naturally evolves. At that time and to this day Penelope has never tasted soda.

“There are 17,000 “new food products” introduced to shoppers in this country every year.” –– This usually means that there is little to no nutritional value in these new foods. Especially if it didn’t exist 50 years ago.

“Is it [food] unnecessarily complex with ingredients you can’t identify or pronounce?” –– This reminded me of Jamie Oliver’s simple suggestion. If you can’t pronounce the ingredients, don’t buy it. I never realized what a great rule of thumb this was until I started realizing how easy the ingredients were to decipher on my Trader Joe’s items.

“Everything your child does and who they will be are affected by their sleep or lack of it. Too little sleep is the first thing I look for.” –– This blew me away. I can honestly say that we have never had sleep issues with either kid. Now five and three, both were trained to sleep in their own bed without a night light at two months thanks to the suggestion of our amazing pediatrician, Dr. Levy. He made a great point about babies being used to darkness and natural outside noises while in the womb. So creating a similar environment for them at home would only make them more comfortable. Every night they go to sleep between 8-8:30 pm without any resistance. In fact, our three y/o has been known to just say he’s going to bed on his own. Again, all a testament to Dr. Levy and his amazing guidance.

“Stories are wonderful pressure valves. Children recognize themselves in the characters; they sense their own worth as they feel the heroine’s fears, experience her bravery, compassion, and hope.” –– I had never really thought of any benefits past word recognition and playtime reenactments. This was great to know.

“Most of the answers a young child is looking for can be found through story. This is a good example of the difference between our worlds as children and adults.” –– This, too, is so great to realize.

Thank you so much Haydee!

P.S. Levy really is awesome. I feel like I could write a post just about the things he has taught me about parenting.

*Above is a photo of Haydee's little ones "being bored" too sweet. Especially with their crowns on. Love it.

chapter three - "environment"


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Today we are going to be talking about our child's environment with Jennifer of The Humble Buttery. Jen and I actually met at Del Mar Heights Elementary and met again through our blogs many years later. Thank you Jen for co-hosting with me...

"I was given the gift of boredom as a child." Don't you love that line? The gift of boredom. I don't remember having very many toys and books growing up, though we could have. I remember my mom telling me that my brother and I might want more things but we didn't need them. Some of the most fun I had as a kid was spending hours outside playing in the backyard and making quills out of the smaller pieces of bamboo broked off from the front yard and making daisy chains with little yellow flowers with stalks that tasted like lemons if you chewed on them.

I loved that the "Environment" chapter not only explained that limiting choice and the loud single-experience toys was the right thing to do but even explained how to sort through your toys and how much to remove. At first, when I read to go through and take away 1/2 of the lot and then 1/2 again, I was a little worried.

What if my son begs for a particular toy that he used to love playing with or what if he becomes bored?

So far, we've done the first round of halves and we haven't missed a thing or gotten bored yet.

I confess that I'm struggling with purging the books, too. I'm having a hard time with that part. Yes, I will try to only have about a dozen out for my 5 year old to choose from. But I'm not ready to remove the rest, they'll be living in our living room library with the rest of our books. I think I remember reading that that was OK. I hope so. I want to provide as much calm and peace for my children as I had.

I took to purging to the kitchen, too. We spend a lot of time there. My kids are 5 and 2. I have put away plastic plates, cups and flatware from IKEA that I had really stocked up on. They might come out for an outdoor party. But for everyday, I have brought out my white ceramic salad plates for them to use (they are also IKEA -- I wouldn't do this with any of my heirloom china) if they want to get themselves a snack. There are clear plastic cups if they want to get themselves water and we serve drinks for meals in glass cups.

Just last week, right after the tabletop swap out, my daughter, who just turned 2, wanted to get raisins for a snack. I watched quietly as she took her time to climb up on a stool, get herself a plate and bring it to the kitchen table. She got out the raisins and poured herself a portion. She took the raisins back to the cabinet, climbed up on her booster chair and ate her raisins. This was all completely unprompted! I was stunned.

Our kids are capable of so much if we just let them.

Jen, I love the way you interpreted your children's environment even to the dishes they use at the dinner table. This is brilliant. I really would have never thought of that. Out of survival I just use plastic kidwares but if I want Henry to eat like a big boy he needs to be given the chance to have a big boy plate. I think this must have been the way our grandparents did things {which always seems to be best :)}.

In this chapter I did a lot of underlining and notes in the margin so I thought I would type out some of my favorites and use them as a jumping off point for discussion.

Regarding toys {and more specifically 'clones' multiples of the same thing... ie. my son and his collection of Lighting McQueens}. "Our best intentions to increase the circle of love surrounding our child can have the opposite effect. By overwhelming a true connection with too many superfluous ones, we can send the message that relationships are disposable." WOW.

"The frustration of having "nothing to do" is usually the start of something wonderful. We rob children of opportunities to test their own creative mettle when we step onto every breach and answer every sigh with another toy or offer of entertainment."

and finally...

"To a child, a mountain of toys is more then something to trip over. It's a topographical map of their emerging worldview. The mountain, casting a large symbolic shadow, means "I can choose this toy, or that, or this one way down here, or that: They are all mine! But there are so many that none of them have value. I must want something else!" WOW. WOW.

I hope this discussion helps with your thoughts on removing the "stuff" I feel like if husbands, mother in laws, uncles read this they would understand that we are not trying to be a wet blanket, all we want is to raise good little humans. And "stuff" does not help.

I please share your thoughts...

*Above is a photo of Jen and her dad at Torrey Pines State beach {a little slice of heaven}.

chapter two - "soul fever"


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

raspberry picking.jpg

I hope I haven't lost any of you... there was a pretty good discussion yesterday on "stuff" and although this is a huge part of simplifying {and we will talk more about it tomorrow} it is only one part of the book. Today we are going to talk about Soul Fevers. My cohost today is Torrie with A Place to Share...

“Something is not right; they’re upset, overwhelmed, at odds with the world. And most of all, at odds with their truest selves.” This is what the author refers to as a “soul fever” and it describes my 8-yr. old daughter’s current condition- to a ‘T’. It’s been building up for a while now. And in full disclosure, I have noticed it, made a few small changes here and there, and quieted things down as necessary- until the fever has waned to a manageable level. But with the next wave of school projects, or influx of social commitments (aka- play dates, family gatherings, birthday parties), or any other small or large crisis that arrives when least expected (especially these past few months), her fever returns… in stronger form. In the form of mood swings, short tempers, pushiness, constant discontentment, boredom, sluggishness, and major sass. I hate to admit it, but my little ‘ray of sunshine’ has not been beaming so bright as of late. But then again, neither have I. This past Saturday morning, minutes after her brother left for a 2-day camping trip, she presented us with a “What I want to do today” list. Let’s just say, that I was worn out after merely reading the list. Is it even possible to play on the slip n’ slide, set up and conduct a lemonade stand, prepare snow cones, blow up the playhouse, learn to type, do a craft, watch a movie, play the Wii, have a tea party- all in one day?? I could wax poetic about how she {we} got here, and give countless examples of how we believe wholeheartedly in the concept of “simplicity parenting.” Details (and excuses) aside, we’ve always been huge believers of keeping it simple. We live fairly quiet lives, have our kids involved in as few extra-curricular activities as possible, spend our summers camping, and our weekends puttering in the garden. Disneyland to us is hitting up a new farmer’s market- or better yet- a restaurant supply store. But as the kids have gotten a little older, as their span of influence has increased, as we’ve each added more to our plate- we’ve lost our way a bit. And this is exactly why we are reading this book. It’s time to set the quick fixes aside, turn the computer [video games, cell phones, TV…] off, de-clutter our home (& schedules), and get back on track.

Torrie thank you for being so authentic and honest. I think it is so wonderful to hear other moms be vulnerable. There is soooo much to be vulnerable about in parenthood, no?!

I loved this chapter. Actually out of all the chapters this one really spoke to me. I don't think that there is any child in the world who hasn't had one. Kim John Payne's theory is that children have physical fevers and soul fevers. When a child has a physical fever what do we do? We clear our calendars, we make sure they are comfortable, we cuddle, we read, we are in the moment with our child. This is exactly the same thing with a soul fever. I always know when they are coming on. Maybe after the third birthday party of the weekend and after his second restless night of sleep. I know that there will be pay back time on Monday. Before reading this book I just thought that is how it is. We get through the rough patch and move on. Of course this will happen but what this book really helped me see is that you can anticipate it and you can avoid it. Your child doesn't need to do everything. You don't need to sign up or attend every event that comes your way. I feel like the message is that we must discern what is important and then make a choice.

The hardest part about this is that a child with a soul fever is not always the most pleasant person to be around. This is the Henry that usually gets under my skin and brings the worst out of me. But I feel like if I can identify with what is going on I am much more understanding and ready to care for his "fever."

What did you all get out of this?

Have you noticed when a "fever" is coming on?

What have you seen as a surefire way to get a "soul fever"?

I feel like I get "soul fevers" too, when you just feel out of sorts, when all you want to do is clear your calendar and decompress.

Let's discuss....

*Above is a sweet photo of Torrie and her little girl picking raspberries. Thank you again Torrie. Looking forward to meeting you one day soon!

Chapter one - "why simplify?"


Monday, May 7, 2012

F+F Simplicity Parenting.jpg

Welcome to my little virtual book club. Thank you so much for playing along. Everyday we will focus on a chapter, please comment away {I will be responding to all comments and would encourage you all to respond to each other as well}. Each day I will have a cohost who will give their thoughts on the chapter and then below I will ask some questions that we can discuss {comment on}. Well here is goes...

Today Melissa with Reverie Daydream is my cohost as we discuss Chapter one, "Why Simplify?"

Before we had our one and only crumb, our lives were very minimalistic. We lived in a home of contemporary design with a color palette of creams, greys and natural wood finishes. Soothing, clean, fresh and simple would be how I would best describe our pre-child existence. Then she came along and added her vibrant love for color, toys, and the general stuff that comes along with these little people. We were always up front with our families and friends in regards to the overload of gifts, and at first, they listened, but then something crazy happened, the influx of ‘junk’ from well-meaning grandparents and such became out of control. Even with pleas of “save your money and buy a plane ticket to come and spend time with her” didn’t work. When they visit, they take her to toy stores and let her choose whatever she wants. The stuff comes home and is played with maybe once and then forgotten. I’ve always been a purger. Every few months, the house gets a good cleanse of things to bring us all back into check and keep our surroundings as clear and peaceful as possible. Now that our crumb is four, she has noticed when certain toys are no longer around and a drama of sorts unfolds. This is not how I want my child to be raised, for our objective is for her to appreciate the few toys and play things that encourage imagination, music, and learning. Over the past few weeks, we have kindly let our families know where we stand {again}, and we are not falling in the trap of buying our crumb something new just because she asks for it. She has gradually stopped asking for things when we go to the store, and she has helped me choose her favorite toys/stuffed animals that she would like to keep. It is all down to a manageable quantity, and I already notice a lengthening of her attention span for play and learning. We do not have a television, so she is not tempted by the latest and greatest must-haves seen on commercials, nor is she over-stimulated by the fast-paced shows and cartoons that jam the channels. For the most part, our lives are very clean and simple. We spend a great deal of time outdoors where we set up her teepee, read books, build forts using leaves, sticks, rocks and petals for the ladybugs, gather flowers along our walks to add to her field journal, and make bi-weekly {or more} trips to the library to rotate titles in our constant book tower along with working in the garden, painting alongside her papa, and cooking with me in the kitchen, these are the things that make her happiest. It’s become evident that excess is truly a cluttering of the mind. No matter the age, one cannot think clearly when our spaces are “maxed out”.

The author, Kim John Payne, M.Ed., says that when he starts working with any family he always asks "How did you dream your family would look?" He says that this is usually not inline with the way you live today and can be a great starting point for where you want to go. So for you all reading "What did you dream your family would look like?"

When thinking of this question, I think about being pregnant with my first baby and a friend said that I would be the type of mother who would carry our child around in a basket. I don't know why this has stuck with me for so many years but it reminds me that I do want things to be simple. I have always been so turned off by all of the "stuff" that babies/ children "need." When there was a day that babies were carried around in baskets and slept in dresser drawers.

One last thought that totally blew me away in this first chapter is the idea that every child is quirky. If children have stress in their life {and not "normal life" stress like a broken bone but real caotic stress} this quirkyness turns into a disorder. WOW. It took me a bit to digest this but I can totally see this with Henry. When life is unpredictable and hectic with no downtime, I have been observing Henry go from quirky to OCD. Henry has always loved to have things in order, he likes things to go a certain way but when he is stressed every little thing can make him crazy. A tag in his PJ's can throw him over the edge, a fallen block tower can cause tears for 15 minutes and the normal hibitual tasks of the day seem to be torture.

How does your quirky child change under stress? And have you seen this behavior change as you have implimented Simplicity Parenting into your life?

Thank you Melissa. I am always so inspired by the way that you parent. I have even teased that in my next life I want to come back as your daughter. Thank you for co-hosting and thank you for the adorable photo of Sophia. Much love & light.

*the beautiful photo above is of Melissa and her little Crumb, Gaia... taken by their McDreamy.

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