confessions

CHICKEN COOPSomething has gotten into us this year.

I want to say this spring.

It’s been so sunshiney this year in Cali. I’ve been wearing tshirts and having daily guilt trips when I listen to national weather reports. Maybe that’s what’s gotten into us.

Or maybe it’s that we have many many talented friends and family who are amazing at growing and raising and preparing and preserving their own food (like my friend & running buddy, who is my hero and has butchered and cleaned a chicken. What a woman.)

Whatever it is, we’ve got the bug.

Brent especially has the bug.

It started last summer, when we decided to give up on our dog-house–turned chicken coop and Brent built our new coop (from these online plans).
CHICKEN COOP 2And now Brent is always looking out for the flock, and showing up with more birds to add to the party every now and then. And it’s only escalated from there.

FARM BOOKThis is his new favorite book. It’s kinda fun, take a look.
GARDEN BOOKThe book has some very cool pointers. And some pretty thought-provoking arguments. And while we are not yet digging our own outdoor latrines yet—yes, you can find pointers for that in the book—we’re kind of getting excited about taking some new steps towards self sufficiency.

We’ve got the coop, and this winter Brent planted a whole orchard.

Thanks to a friend who knows all about that. Since we don’t.

Not bad for a former townhouse couple.

And the kids are now chicken chasing pros.

I’m liking where this is going.

And I am gathering up courage to expand my garden a bit (more on that tomorrow). I am trying to decide if I can pull that off with a new baby this summer. And new chocolate recipes to tweak for the shop. But even more of a concern is whether I can pull it off with my totally black thumb.

And I would really like to get better at composting. Any tips?

In fact, any self-sufficiency tips in general, or favorite sites? I’d love to hear a few. This is so not my area of talent, but I don’t know, I’m kinda getting excited.

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mom business advice2

Before I ever started this blog or my chocolate shop, I would have afternoons when I would put my two kids down for quiet time, then walk back out to a house that was all mine for an hour and a half. And I would think this

“hmm. I really wish I had some professional outlet to work on right now.”

I’d given up freelance copy editing two or three years before but was craving something work-ish again.

(As I am having this flashback, I cannot remember what my house looked like while I’d be thinking these thoughts. There was probably a dishwasher to empty and laundry to start and things to dust and wipe and organize!)

Then there are days like yesterday. My two big kids are in school, it is just me and my little man Reid all day–and a baby on the way. At the end of a day of laundry folding and birthday gift shopping and helping on homework and cleaning up accidents and all the usual, I am thinking something more like

“ha! I so don’t have this mom thing down, how is it that I run a business again?”

Every day I am always evaluating and reevaluating my priorities. As a mom, I’ve learned that different stages can mean big changes in how much I can manage. I was very fortunate to have a mom + businesswoman friend to go to when I was thinking of starting my chocolate shop. We were literally a day away from putting down money on our custom chocolate molds, and I called her and said, “Should we do this!?”

It was amazing to have seasoned advice, and I was thinking how I would love get the same insight from every mom-blogger or mom–businesswoman out there.

Sometime if you’re interested, I will have to give you the play by play of how a day usually goes around here. But in the meantime, I thought I’d share my big lessons learned, and what is often going through my head as I decide what to take on. Here goes.

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Starting a Business While Being a Mom
/// th
e WORST of it ///

1. A business isn’t precious.
Sometimes when my business to-do starts to get a little big and hairy, I look at it and think, you won’t be leaving home in eight years, you won’t be making me drawings of the two of us holding hands. Truthfully, there are some ways in which a business just doesn’t measure up.
2. It is a trick taking phone calls while trying to clean rice crispies stuck to the floor and remind your children not to climb on the furniture.
When I was an editor I would handle calls all day like nobody’s business. I have to admit that now I get a little nervous picking up and saying hello, not so much because I’m worried about kid noise in the background, but I think my brain is just in mom mode. (I have a friend watch my little Reid one day a week and those days I am in more shop-owner phone-call-taker mode.) And yes, I am guilty of acting all pro on a phone call while cleaning up rice crispies.
3. There is a bigger chance of big priorities colliding.
There are often times when I have to let one thing go a little bit to catch up with another. I am fine with that! But the truth is that a family has big priorities, and a business has big priorities. Most of the time I can schedule these so they work out, but sometimes, it is a week or a month of full emergency mode!
4. Your business is often your me-time.
I’ve never felt like everyone should only accept a job they love and adore, but for a mom who has an option of starting her own business, I think differently. It should be something you truly enjoy or you’d better be making some decent bucks. Just my opinion. For me, I am just getting to the point where I can just take a week and read a book while still occasionally getting some sleep and making some family dinners. I’ve missed that!
5. It takes a while before you learn to balance, and you can’t have that time back.
I am finally in a place where I have some solid non-negotiables in my life. Favorite gym class on Tuesday, sitting down to listen to my kids practice music before school, taking calls from family and going to stop by friends’ houses, etc. I really felt like there was a learning curve for me, to know what to let slip and what to commit to. During that time, I was more rushed, more frantic with everything. That is a time you don’t get back—with the kids or the husband or your sisters or your friends or your parents. I think it is just good to make sure the timing is right before any big, not-absolutely-necessary commitment.

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Starting a Business While Being a Mom
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 BEST of it ///

6. You get the best ideas while folding laundry.
I feel like, as a mom, I deal less with creative-block or wondering what I’ll do for my next project. I have a good ratio of thinking time to doing time—I find plenty of time while folding laundry and bussing kids for the ideas to bubble up when they’re ready.
7. You don’t have the opportunity to get aloof.
I always think that as a business owner, I don’t have to guess what an average mom who has a budget to maintain and a life to run is thinking. Because I am one. And as a mom I do like having my toe in a business world that is growing and changing every day.
8. If something is going wrong with your business, it’s not that hard to put it in perspective.
We had plenty of moments when starting my chocolate shop when we thought a certain new detail might be the ruin of our business plan. After initial panic, I was always able to think, hey, I’ll always have my job as mom, and I like that one.
9. You meet the raddest people.
Seriously. A blog or business is a great excuse for meeting more cool people. The only trick is making sure you still have time for all your rad family and friends.
10. You’re already a master at going with the flow.
I am convinced that I am completely amazing at rolling with punches all thanks to my experience as a mother. When I really need to relinquish control or change a game plan, I rock at it.
11. You’re kids see you modeling making something happen.
Overall, I’ve had fewer chances to have my kids pitch in on small parts of my work and be a part of errands of my business than I thought I might. Maybe that will come still. But they are all about starting their own mini-recess shops or diving into a big project.
12. Doing housework is a treat once you’ve worked too long, doing work is a treat once you’ve done housework too long.
Who knew how much I could look forward to a whole day set aside just to cook and clean?

I know everyone’s experience is different, and I would absolutely love, love, LOVE to hear what you’ve experienced in work-life balance, kids or no kids. It is always a trick, and I think we can learn lot from each other.

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blogging break

02.09.12

I have been unconnected the last couple weeks and have been letting myself be nice and busy with cooking, faithfully attending group strength training at my gym (thank you), and potty training my littlest (success!)

I also cleaned out my closet on a whim and tossed several things into the donate pile. It felt amazing to slide over one hanger after another and love everything. (And just to make sure we’re clear, I am no fashion maven. On no, I rely completely on fashionable friends and consider blogs like this, this, and this required reading.) But I felt like everything left was truly me. I love editing things. I love the result. I love a well-edited kitchen utensil drawer or a well edited room design.

It got me thinking about this blog. I have been thinking since the holidays that I need a little time to rethink this blog, but haven’t quite figured out what to do about it.

I’ve been thinking that, because I love being in the kitchen and I have a chocolate shop, it would be professional of me to blog more about the kitchen. But I also get excited about mothering and organizing and good books and happy mail (as you know) and on and on. And I start wondering if it would be good or exhausting or unprofessional to blog about all of this.

I edited down my posts over the last year (in case you are a blogger and want the stats—I went from 5 posts per week to 1 or 2 without losing traffic, if anything my traffic climbed a bit, crazy and unexpected). And I have truly enjoyed the focus.

But lately I’ve been thinking I need to pull in more things that are truly me. I thought with enough experience, a more honest version of me would surface in every post, but on occasion I feel my posts starting to feel forced.

Up until now, I have had this desire to try new things, to swim in unfamiliar waters. But lately I’ve been feeling like I want to get down to what I do best. I think maybe it’s a natural part of growing up, of wanting to give back. I want to focus on the places where I am sure footed, and enjoying myself, and contributing. Do you know what those areas are for you?

They say that editing your wardrobe leaves you with more to wear, not less. I’d like to make that happen here.

And I’m thinking a new approach might help me trim down the sheer time that a good post takes, which is always a concern when it comes to putting first things first.

So I think I’ll take a little time away and rethink things. I may stop by and share if I send any happy mail, because sharing that is my very favorite.

Until then, thanks for listening. And here’s to pursuing the things you do best. Here’s to finding wardrobe and blogging s-w-a-g-g-a.

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Happy 4th

07.04.11

We had a little fun last week playing in the puddles after an unlikely June rain. And while I was watching my kiddos splosh to their hearts’ content, I had a few thoughts.

I don’t know, maybe I’m getting sentimental. Or maybe now that I have three kids and the schedule to go with it I’m just worn out. But lately, and especially this time of year, I’ve been thinking how good it is to just be still and soak in what’s around me.

It is one of my greatest joys to raise children in comfort, safety, and security. And lately I’ve had this feeling that I owe it to the people who have sacrificed for this security, this freedom, to live out those good, simple, moments.  Of course I also want to be a good citizen, I want to contribute and find ways to help keep this security and opportunity, to help more people be able to take advantage of it. But sometimes I also just want to enjoy this incredible thing I’ve been handed. So for this summer, every simple moment

every bike ride around the neighborhood

every piggy back ride around the family room

every church potluck

every afternoon spent catching frogs and really doing nothing else

is my little tribute to these men and women, who I really think had these moments in mind as they made and still make the sacrifices it took to get us here.

(p.s. watching this documentary and doing our yearly ritual of watching John Adams—an absolute favorite—has me feeling especially all stirred up.)

We are off to enjoy a day of carnival rides and funnel cakes, and at twilight, we’ll be spreading a big blanket on the grass among hundreads of other big blankets and getting all set to ooh and ahh at the firework show. I love the 4th. Hope your 4th is pretty spectacular too.

 

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Iglesia by robzand

One of my favorite jobs ever was when I was just finishing college, editing for an academic journal.

…if you’re wondering what this has to do with el 5 de Mayo…I’m getting there…

this is me back then, looking very high minded and contemplative

Besides meeting lots of amazing academics, I got to hang with a very cool staff. We had detailed, heated discussions over misplaced modifiers and amazing conversations about actual life too. And occasional hallway chair races.

A friend of mine was the designer, Robert. I’d occasionally wander back to the design office and gawk at Robert’s design library, and ask him a barrage of questions, which he would answer with the patience of a monk.

Robert was one of the coolest guys ever and also one of the whitest guys ever, which I bring up because I was totally shocked to find out he played mariachi, in a band, an actual real mariachi band. We went to hear his band and it was awesome, he took his music as seriously as his design.

A few years ago I emailed Robert for a good, authentic, Cinco de Mayo playlist. And I got it. So incase you want the real deal, here it is. Mariachi autentico for your 5 de Mayo.

Volver Volver, Mariachi Sol de Mexico
Sergio El Bailador, Bronco
El Cascabel, Conjunto Tlalixcoyan
En Mi Viejo San Juan, Daniel Santos
Solamente una Vez, La Sonora Santanera
Bonito Tecalitlan, Mariachi Aguila Real
El Mariachi Loco, Mariachi Arriba Juarez
La Negra, Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlan
Flor Silvestre, Trio Calaveras
Las Tres Huastecas, Trio Calaveras
Guadalajara, Paco de Lucia
El Relampago, Lila Downs
Flor Sin Retono, Oscar Chavez

Notes from Robert: “There is a lot of great Mariachi music and I like the songs for different reasons. Sometimes it is the story they are telling in the song and sometimes it is the melody of the music. A lot of mariachi music is played quite poorly but the groups I mentioned above have excellent musicians and so you will find good recordings of their songs.”

 

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The weather this spring turned from storms and downpours one week to bright warm sunshine the next. All at once there were people outside everywhere, neighbors talking, kids biking, highschoolers walking. It was glorious.

Do you make a summer list? What’s on it? With all the sunshine we decided we could not help ourselves from making plans, so we pulled out a big piece of poster board and a box of crayola markers and had a meeting on the family room carpet. We made our must-do list, whatever style. Everyone had suggestions. And if you can read the list, you will see that my kids and I are major nerds : ) But summer free time is my favorite and I’m even thinking of allowing no lessons at all this summer. Just one big break. Okay maybe swim lessons. And music maybe too. But that is it.

Once we had our list down, it didn’t seem right to roll it up and hide it away until June. And summer is never, ever long enough for me anyway. So we’re calling it our extended summer list, and starting on it now. Today.

It’s spring break here, so yesterday we hit the road with a picnic of cinnamon rolls and strawberries and a playlist full of good books (free great stories here, we just finished Alice in Wonderland) and we are going to see about knocking a thing or two off our list.

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down time

04.11.11

Hello there. How was your weekend? I hope it was lovely.

I managed to find some down time over the week and weekend. Oh how I love down time. And oh how I needed it.

Some of my downtime I spent trekking to the little creek at the back of our property line with my kids, and having picnics of chips and salsa and playing for hours. It was perfect. (Ever since reading this I have been trying diligently to be good about getting in pics with my kids. I’m getting better, it’s not easy. Btw, do you like my boots? I’ve been loving them since I first took a sharpie to them. )
The rest of my down time I spent diving into Jane Eyre. I am just shy of half way through, and getting to know Mr. Rochester. I am in a big rush to read it before I see the movie (have you seen it, what did you think?), but am really not wanting it to be over too soon. Good books always kill me that way.

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This is one of my favorite pictures with my little girl, when she was a little girl.
This is her now. She is officially eight-years-old. I can hardly believe it.
This Saturday, we are bringing in grandmas and grandpas and cousins and friends from all around, and she will be getting baptized. I’ve been busy prepping details for the day (including a brunch menu for after, these glazed lemon scones are sounding pretty good.)

I stenciled her silhouette on a kraft moleskine to use as a guest book, with plenty of blank pages for special messages, and we splurged on this crew cuts dress. It is a little summery for right now but I couldn’t help myself, I love it. She and I are long overdue for a girls shoe shopping trip, but ran out of time, so we improvised with a pair of basic flats with a set of hair pins clipped on. We’re both very satisfied.

I will probably be out for a couple days, because following the big baptism to-do, we’ll be throwing a girly birthday bash for her a few days later. But I’ll be back next week with the scoop. See you then, and have a lovely weekend!

 

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i always feel like i discover something when a certain to-do item suddenly feels right for a certain time of day. i just look forward to it more. do you ever feel that way? here are a few to-dos and times of day that i think make good matches.

the early morn. write and think and plan. i can’t stay up past 10 p.m. most nights, which becomes very inconvenient for dinner parties. but i love to wake up early with a clear head, while the whole world is quiet, and work and problem solve. do you do mornings?

sun up. busy myself around the house, making it ready for the day. it just feels right. i like a few minutes before i wake my kids to just survey everything. my favorite is summer mornings, when everything is bright and welcoming before my kids even open their eyes.

late morning. email.

late afternoon. art projects and table talk. usually afternoons are all about homework, but every now and then i surprise my kids with a table full of art supplies and my full attention. we have the best conversations while twisting pipe cleaners and sculpting mix-medium zoo animals.

supper prep. music practice time for my children. i tell them i can’t cook without accompaniment. p.s. i do not make formal dinners every night. i think that’s a post of its own.

supper time. sitting down to eat. for once. in the day. ahhh.

twilight. my favorite time for having guests over. roasting marshmallows if possible. also a very good time to go out for an ice cream cone.

kid bedtime. talk over the day with my kids. we have a little practice i kept up from chats with a college roommate. we each name our high and low for the day. its nice for when we pray, we know what everyone’s worried about.

grown up time. i have a new favorite. collapse on the couch and text. i love getting in a quick chat with both my brothers at once or a favorite aunt. or, on Mondays, I watch this guy show with my man. and sometimes roll my eyes, which kind of goes with watching any good guy show.

what about you, any favorites?

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Hello 2011

01.10.11

I love resolutions. And in case you can’t tell, I like to take my time making them. It’s like looking at model homes just above my price range before settling into the comfortable, nice home I’ll live in. I like to dream before I commit. But I think I’m finally ready for you, 2011. And here are my plans, big and little.

Make extras. I’ve always admired a person who can handle last minute house or dinner guests. Some people just know how to make things stretch. I want to do that with my time. I want to have enough fat in my schedule that it is easier to drop everything to help a friend or go on a last minute road trip. I have to find new places to simplify, but I think it will be worth it.

Get my hands dirty. It’s been way too long since I forgot myself to just spend an entire day with my kids, to read a book the size of a brick, to try a really involved recipe, or to just be there for someone else. With my baby growing up this year, I think some of these may be possible, even if I only fit them in on rare occasions.

Organize all my photos and video. I fantasize about having all my photos tagged.

Get my ears pierced for the third time and keep them that way. I’m a woman and should dress like one, right? I am seriously the worst at making time to be hot. I picked up this set of earrings already this year. Do you like them? Now I just need to be able to wear them.

Get better at getting stains out my kids clothes. This is definitely a weak spot. Tips, anyone?

Do my best work. Even as I am trying to keep things super simple for my first goal, occasionally I need a project where I can do my best work. I’d like that to happen on this blog. I think it’s going to get a little overhaul. I have some new ideas that make me grin every time I think of them. This year, my posts may not all follow one theme. And you will probably hear from me less often, maybe once or twice a week instead of daily. But when you do hear from me it will be a little closer to the best this girl has to offer.

Listen & read more, talk less. Simple enough.

Do what works. Do you have certain things in your life that you have to do or you just aren’t you? Things that regenerate you? What are yours? I’ve been surprised to discover what mine are. But I really think I need to make time at least once a week to journal, organize, read, and do something wild and fun with my kids or husband. More picnics, more family dance parties, more one-afternoon adventures.

I also want to do the things I know are rewarding and worth the investment for my family. Taking time to let kids help with chores, bedtime, family nights. We may not get to them every week or every night, but I’m okay with that.

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Finding Balance

01.03.11

I think it was the day I became a mother that I also became completely obsessed with finding balance. (Not that being obsessed with anything is very balanced, right?) I’m not sure why it started then. I was a busy woman before that day too. But maybe balance became so important because I suddenly had this little person who was going to grow up so fast, and I wanted to hold on to every moment. But I didn’t want to lose myself. Maybe that is what started my endless fascination with “finding balance.”

The only problem with the words “finding balance” is that they make balance sound like a lost set of keys. Something you uncover once and then you’re set. But from everything I’ve heard and lived, I’m pretty certain that is not how it works.

So today, as I mull over my dreams for the new year, I’m going to share with you the 4 favorite things anyone has ever taught me about balance. If you have any pieces of wisdom to add, I would absolutely love to hear.

1. Life is tricky when you’re a capable person.

A very wise friend taught me this one. (This friend, by the way, is a super capable mother of six.) The problem is, when you’re competent, you know how well you could play every part in your life. Your pantry could be organized, your dinners could be delicious and interesting, you could show up with warm chicken noodle soup at the door step of anyone who needs it, then go home and have a meaningful phone call with a friend. But as you are picturing all this, you neglect to notice that all those things take not only competence, but hours. Lots and lots of hours. So unless you want to make an organized pantry your life’s work (and let me just say I think that is a worthy goal), it’s okay to let your standards drop a little. It’s okay have a partly organized pantry.

2. “You can have it all, just not at the same time.”

This lesson comes from Tina Seelig, Stanford Business Professor and author of What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20. After saying the above, she goes on to quote two other very wise women:

“[There is no such thing as a balanced life, or perfection.] I’m adamantly opposed to a balanced life, because that’s back to perfection and I’ve already told you there is none. Then you are perfect so therefore you can’t possibly stay in this state. That’s not possible. There’s always going to be something that happens. You’ve got a big project at work, your kid’s sick, you’ve got to go home to your parents. I don’t know what it is, but something’s going to happen. What I’m saying is, learn first of all to consider balance over a longer period of time, and secondly, just catch it before it hits the floor. That’s all you really have to do. You know, if you haven’t been home for a while, go home, and don’t think about work when you’re there. If you didn’t study for one subject, get on it.” –Carol Barts.

“You’re work life is really long, and your kids are little for really only a short time” –Sandra de OConnor.

3. There is satisfaction in simplicity.

This comes from a talk from someone in my church, Dieter F. Uchtdorf, that really captured my attention: “It’s rather easy to be busy…. [When some people] unnecessarily complicate their lives, they often feel increased frustration, diminished joy, and too little sense of meaning in their lives….Leonardo Divinci is quoted as saying, ‘Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.’”

4. “Spend the most time on things that are important,
even if they are not urgent
.”

This one comes from the immortal Steven Covey in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People:“Remember your own priorities rather than imposing unrealistic social scripts on yourself…I see many parents, particularly mothers with small children often frustrated in their desire to accomplish a lot because all they seem to do is meet the needs of little children all day. Remember, frustration is a function of our expectations, and our expectations are often a reflection of the social mirror rather than our own values and priorities.”

So

It has been almost 8 years now that I’ve been pursuing balance. And I do feel like I have tasted it on some days. But the problem is, balance arrives unexpectedly, and then it leaves just as suddenly and unexpectedly as it came.

So I’ve come to a point in this new year where I think I will continue to work on balance in the back of my mind. But in the front and center I am going to work on something different. I feel like it’s time to leave the frantic feeling behind and get serious about living life for the moment. And I have a hunch that maybe, while I am so busy worrying less about balance, I will find balance more often. Do you think it will work?

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I have definite opinions on this subject. You don’t mind if I share, do you?

How to Accept a Gift, in five easy steps

1. Open your gift, in front of the giver when possible.

2. If you like the gift, smile and act pleased. If you do not like the gift, smile and act pleased. You have no responsibility to give hints by acting disappointed. Isn’t that nice to know? (You can, however, work on dropping hints later.) If you need to picture something you adore, a new car or a trip to Paris or fuzzy kittens, do that.

3. Thank the giver, either for their gift, or for their thoughtfulness, or for both. Mention something about the gift you particularly like or mention how you’ll use it. Just like a verbal thank you card.

4. Follow up with the appropriate thank you note or email or phone call.

5. Do with the gift whatever suits you best. This part is important. If the gift doesn’t particularly work for you, you have no obligation to, say, display the it on your mantle for the next five years. In fact, I firmly believe it’s easier to appreciate a giver and a gift if you’re not feeling obligated to use the gift from the moment you tear open the paper. If you are the giver, mind your manners and don’t ask about a gift after you’ve given it (unless there is some doubt it was ever received.)

p.s.
A friend told me about this article from Family Fun that suggests practicing this whole process with your kids. Hand your kiddos each a gift bag and have them run and sneak something into it, any random object. Then have everyone come back and exchange bags. Each gift receiver has to act pleased and find something nice to say about the gift. I think it is a brilliant idea.

Love the cute wrapped gifts pictured, found here.

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You already know that I have a family of Mario fans. These are our Halloween costumes from last year. Do you like? I’m the one doing the cheekie pose in the mushroom, I mean, the Toad hat.

Which brings me to my confession. Last year I stayed up late into the night, actually a couple nights, getting three of these costumes sewn. Staying up way too late sewing has become my Halloween tradition.

And one of those nights, when I was stumbling into bed at an unearthly hour, Brent said this: “Next year, I’ll be in charge of costumes.”

I said okay.

And so this year, he took the kids to Walmart one day and they came home with costumes. Period.

And you know, I’m feeling okay about it.

Sometimes, to raise your standards in one part of your life, I think you have to lower them in another part. Sometimes letting one thing go lets the rest of your life stay in balance. And with kids in two schools and lots of other projects going on, I’m telling myself it’s okay to take a year off.

But I think I’m still going to sew the baby’s costume. I can’t quit cold turkey.

Lowering your standards is so H-A-R-D sometimes. When you know you want to sew the cutest costumes or throw the cutest party. It’s hard just not to. You know? But the reason we appreciate an adorable party or craft or costume is because of all the time and love that went into it. Right? So I will be appreciating lots of other costumes this year.

Speaking of that, what is your family doing for Halloween?

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Good manners is all about reciprocation. Right? So I thought that after sharing the recipe I used to make for friends and boys, including the boy I eventually married, I should really tell you about the recipe Brent used to make for me.

Most of the time when Brent and I were dating, his apartments were not pretty places to be, especially not the kitchens. In fact, they were often a threat to our health. How bad could they have been, you ask? Let me tell you. In one of them, somebody left their birthday cake sitting soggily at the bottom of the sink for three weeks. And that was the first month in the semester. I’m sure it got worse but we didn’t hang around enough to find out.

There were also redeeming moments in Brent’s apartment kitchens. Brent was lucky and smart enough to room with his best friend, who taught us Indian cooking. (Men can TOTALLY have signature recipes). And then there were Brent’s two dinners he would make to impress me. Dinner one: Awesome quesadillas with queso fresco and Tapatio hot sauce. Dinner two: grilled cheese. (Hmm, lots of cheese, it’s no wonder I fell for this guy.)

He made every sandwich in his one beloved kitchen appliance, his Snack Master.

(This is me in one of my rad apartment kitchens.  If you look closely on the very right, you can see the revered Snack Master on the counter.)

Yes, Brent was all about the Snack Master. And you know, we got pretty good at experimenting with ingredients that we found in the fridge and still had confidence in as edible entities.

Here are a few sandwiches that have become favorites over the years. This entire menu wasn’t full fledged in college, but I thought I’d give you the benefit of a few extra years of making and eating.

Simple Grilled Cheese Favorites
1. Brie, caramelized red onions, and fresh spinach, tossed in vinaigrette and thrown in after grilling (my favorite)
2. Chicken, provolone, and broccoli rabe
3. Ham and gouda
4. Jack, cheddar, and spinach
5. Gruyere and grilled red onions
6. The Reuban (sauerkraut, pastrami or corned beef, and swiss)
7. Tuna and provolone (add artichoke on really special occasions)
8. Chicken, pesto, and provolone

Awesome panini photo from here.

p.s. Brent is also a big mustard fan. Pairing mustards with grilled cheese is a delicate and worthy art. That just might have to be a post all its own some time.

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