I really thought moving would give me a lot more to talk about on this little blog. And, well, it probably has. But I’ve also found that I’ve become so busy with getting settled (on top of my already packed schedule of mom-ing, pioneering, working, et al., I rarely have time to sit and work my thoughts into something coherent.
But this morning, Vivi woke up extra early (yayyyyy…) so I was able to knock out breakfast, a workout, and cleaning the kitchen to settle in for our daily viewing of Zootopia and work on a post from my phone. I’m also waiting for a box spring to be delivered, so it’s not like I can run any errands anyway.
Captive blogger syndrome! Great for creativity! Who knew?!
I realized I had been I intentionally cagey about our recent move when a few people remarked to me that they were so curious where we had ended up.
So today, I’m throwing back the curtain: We’re officially Virginia residents. We live in a small town about an hour and a half outside D.C.
And when I say “small,” I mean it.
I’ve lived in smaller cities before. I’ve even lived in small suburbs outside smaller cities. But this is the smallest town I’ve ever lived in.
For the record, I love it almost all the time. I was mentally prepared and oh-so-ready to leave the big city and relax in a slower-paced lifestyle. But that doesn’t mean small town living doesn’t come with its share of challenges.
Con #1: They’re serious about that slower pace thing.
In NYC, you could decide you wanted to redecorate your bathroom and have a contractor over within 24 hours and your new towels shipping from Jet.com that afternoon. Here, I’ve spent three weeks trying to find a handyman willing to make the 20-minute trip to come paint my staircase. And if he wakes up the morning of our appointment not feeling 100 percent? He’s not coming after all. Sorry not sorry.
Pro #1: But people are so. nice.
The checkout ladies chit chat, the town hall clerk calls me “hon,” and the guy delivering my dining table compliments our floors about four times. In short, people move a little slower, it they also use that time to treat you like an actual person.
Con #2: Not everything is quite so convenient.
We’re currently in the market for a second car because very little is walkable around here. My friend lives less than a mile away, and the only way to walk to her is to skirt a major road without any sidewalks. If I want to go to Target, Lowes, or a major grocery chain, I’m looking at a 20- to 30-minute car ride. I can still get most of what I can’t drive to delivered, but I have noticed it typically takes about a day longer than it used to. To switch our water bill into our name, I had to GO to the town water building in person and I couldn’t pay the deposit with a debit card. So I had to walk a block to a nearby bank, but the only ATM was outside in the drive-through. So I had to wait in line with a car, in the 90-degree heat, and then walk back to the town building to get my hand-written receipt. So, yeah.
Pro #2: Convenience is relative.
Life in NY is “convenient.” Meanings, yes, a million things are geographically nearby, but getting to them (let alone enjoying them) is a never-ending struggle. I couldn’t do laundry without strapping a baby on my back and lugging my dirty clothes a block away in a cart. I couldn’t get my hair done without a 30-minute train ride and walking half a mile. If we drove anywhere, we had to factor in up to an hour of time to find parking. Here, I may have to go farther, but there’s rarely traffic and there’s always parking.
Pro #3: More SPACE.
We’re renting the sweetest little townhouse, and I’m totally in love with it. Besides the natural light and extra bedroom for guests, we also have three bathrooms, a basement for storage, and a laundry closet. Basically I feel like a princess. Oh, and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention our two glorious parking spots right outside.
Con #3: …actually, I’m tapped out.
Okay, okay, I know it’s not actually perfect here. But I was so burnt out on city life, it’s hard not to get a little *heart eyes* when I look around the gorgeous landscape I live in now. Because, yeah, there’s actually a landscape here. And it’s pretty stunning.
Will I tire of small town living? I really don’t know. For now, though, I’m soaking up the smallness.
It is amazing to me how much Vivi’s approval means when it comes to my cooking.
Let’s be clear: I don’t let Vivi dictate what we eat in any way. I don’t think toddlers have developed enough palates to know what is “good,” and I think we all know that, if they had their way from the first stages of solid foods, they would just eat bananas and buttered pasta for the rest of their days.
In short: I’m the boss of dinner, and Vivi either eats what I make or doesn’t eat.
Which, of course, means sometimes she doesn’t each much, especially when we’re introducing new foods. The French have a philosophy that if your kid is a picky eater, it reflects more on their character — and your parenting — than any other behavior. I don’t know if I would go that far, but I definitely feel a sense of failure when Vivi refuses a meal or throws some food on the ground (which, in our house, is grounds for ending the meal completely).
It’s my fault her palate isn’t developed enough.
I should have served in more distinct courses.
I shouldn’t have let her have that bite of (insert random snack) an hour ago, it totally squashed her appetite.
I should have cooked it differently.
I’m totally screwing this whole thing up.
Basically, I’m insane.
But just when I’m convinced I’ve blown it and she’s only going to eat meatballs for the rest of her childhood, we have a meal that goes perfectly. She eats every bite of shrimp and rice and broccoli without any fuss and asks for more broccoli (this seriously happened!), and suddenly we’re all going to be just fine.
Im always on the lookout for veggie-packed recipes to make sure Viv gets as many servings as possible. I posted on Instagram about some veggie muffins I make for Vivi, and a few people asked for the recipe, so I’m sharing it here. Enjoy!
Zucchini + Carrot+ Apple Muffins
2 zucchini, shredded with excess moisture removed
3 carrots, shredded with excess moisture removed
1 apple, pitted and shredded with excess moisture remove
(For all of the above, I run them through my juicer and use the dry pulp. Just be sure to remove all apple seeds before juicing.)
1/2 cup apple sauce (no sugar added)
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups almond flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Combine the wet ingredients in a medium bowl, then add dry ingredients and mix until well combined.
Scoop into ungreased muffin tin (I use papers). Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until tops are golden and inserted knife removes cleanly.
The muffins are very soft from all the veggies, so I suggest freezing what you don’t eat right away and thawing when you want to eat them so they don’t spoil. They are much more savory than sweet, so add a dollop of honey butter if you need a bit more sweetness.
Adapted from The Lean Green Bean.
Most people who know me know that I love organizing. I even tried to start an organizing business a few years ago. It didn’t end up taking off, but I still “freelance” organize for friends and family from time to time. (Not letting the dream die!)
Yes, what I’m saying is that I organize for fun. And, like the sicko that I am, I really, really do enjoy it.
Which leads a lot of people to think that my home must be super organized all the time. And it is with great shame that I must admit…it’s not. ALWAYS. I do my best, I really do. Joey will tell you that I’m quick to toss any errant object and my favorite question is, “Do you still need this?”
But I live with two other people (and a Bogey), which means I can only do so much when it comes to paring down our belongings.
Recently, I’ve gotten on a tear about our closets. Some of you may remember from my moving-in post, but our apartment is a weird labyrinth of winding hallways and strangely shaped rooms. It also has nine closets.
This is unheard of in New York City living. And while it’s great for storing stuff out of sight (yay!), it also means it’s wayyyy too easy to hoard things we don’t really need.
“Hmm, what to do with all these extra bits and bobs from IKEA? Let’s just put them in this drawer in case we need them later.”
“Dang, these kitchen items don’t fit in the drawers…let’s tuck them in here for now.”
“I mean, I might need eleven tote bags at some point, so I’ll just put them in this closet until that day arrives.”
You see how this can become a problem.
For a long time, I’ve intended to clean out one of our back closets that I lovingly refer to as The Junk Closet (TJC). TJC has become the home of everything from old paintbrushes to baby-proofing items to Joey’s hockey equipment, and it’s safe to say I got stressed out just thinking about looking for anything in there. I also had a sneaking suspicion that the seven or so things I have “lost” in the last year were probably buried somewhere in its depths.
Finally (fortunately), Joey had a few days off this week, so he was able to watch Vivi while I attacked the closet. And, I’m pleased to tell you, it has been brought into order and is actually super functional now. It actually thrills me to open the door and look inside.
I ended up throwing out two full trash bags of junk and did find those missing items. I also learned a few lessons along the way:
1. Waste not…unless it means creating more useful space.
Listen, I get it. You don’t want to just throw out something that, at some point, you paid good money for or that technically someone else could probably use. (Just not you.) I think the hardest part about cleaning out a closet for most people is that feeling on, “But it’s not broken…” So you tell yourself that you could use it someday. Or sell it. Or find someone who could use it. And you put it back in the closet and it sits for another couple of years until you pull it out and have the same internal struggle yet again.
You need to change the way you are thinking about this. That useless thing is actually bringing down your life. It’s taking up space that could be used by something useful to your actual life. Throw. It. Away.
2. But if you really can’t just toss it…
Okay, okay. Let’s pretend you have a really good reason for not just ridding your life of this space-sucking object. Put it in the sell or donate pile and set a deadline for yourself. That means you have exactly one week to sell or donate said item. If that deadline passes, it goes in the garbage. Ain’t nobody got room to store an item they are actively trying to get rid of for more than a week. I currently have three items for sale in my Poshmark closet that are on rapidly dwindling deadlines — and then they will immediately join their pals in the “donate” pile.
3. And if you MUST save it…
Set a space limit for yourself. I’m not a total sadist — I understand that sometimes you really will use something in the future, even if you can’t use it now. You just shouldn’t dedicate an entire closet (or, *shudder*, room) to these items. I let myself have one bin of items that could potentially serve a purpose in a different apartment or house. But you have to really mean it. In my bin, I have a pair of white curtains, a few wall hooks for keys and coats, and a ceramic deer head. Like I said, limits.
4. When you’re done, label everything.
Now that you are purged of junk and neatly organized, you want to keep everything that way. I am the biggest fan of chalkboard labels because they allow for the possibility that one day you will no longer need a bin of baby-proofing items but will instead need a bin of lightbulbs (or something). And since chalkboard labels can get a little pricey when you need a million (because you will want to label everything once you get started), I love this chalkboard tape. It works just like masking tape and can be cut to fit any size bin or drawer.
What are your tips for conquering TJCs in your life?
I’ve realized I am a much more creative cook in the fall and winter. It could be that the summer months are usually too hot in NYC to even think about cooking. (Turn on my oven on a 90-degree day? Are you insane?) But I also think I’m just a lot more inspired by fall produce.
One thing I’m especially fond of is squash. Pumpkin, butternut, spaghetti — I dig ’em all.
My mom tends to cook acorn squash a lot, so for a recent visit of hers, I decided to create a stuffed version made with ground turkey (one of Vivi’s favorite foods) and quinoa. It turned out pretty tasty, if I do say so myself, so I thought I’d share the recipe with you fine folks. Enjoy!
Turkey and Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash
2 acorn squash
3 T olive oil, separated
1 c quinoa
2 c water
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 small red onions, finely chopped
1 lb ground turkey
1/2 T garlic powder
1/2 T onion powder
1/2 T rosemary
1/2 T thyme
1 t nutmeg
1/4 c pecans, roughly chopped
1/4 cup dried cranberries
salt and pepper, to taste
Greek yogurt (optional)
It’s funny how life teaches you things. Sometimes, they are profound things. Sometimes, not so much.
A few months ago, I started having doubts about our living room arrangement. When we first moved into our tiny two-bedroom, we struggled with a few things.
For one, this apartment is really weirdly shaped. Ignoring the labyrinth hallways leading back to the baby’s nursery, even our “open” spaces are strangely laid out with a variety of weird pockets and wall extensions that leave us with very few open expanses of wall.
Our initial idea was to use our couch to create a bit of separation between the kitchen and the living room. We also weren’t sure where to put the TV, and the one big open wall seemed like the best option.
That’s an old picture (we didn’t even have the rug down yet), but you get the idea.
But as time went on and Vivi became more and more mobile, the couch breaking up the room seemed like less and less of a good idea. For one, if I tried to do a few dishes in the middle of the day, it was hard to keep an eye on Vivi if she was sitting on the carpet. And if she wanted to get to me, it meant getting her tiny body around our 7-foot couch.
So I started making plans to move the couch to where the TV had been and the TV to the wall with the window. It’s still not perfect, but the end result is much more open.
But this isn’t a style post or even a DIY post. This is a story post. Because, let me tell you, rearranging your furniture is a regular excavation for stories.
Here are a few things we learned whilst shoving our stuff around:
If you ever think you’re not important enough to have a long-term impact, try breaking a glass in your apartment. You will find shards of glass for the next calendar year.
A few months ago, I broke a jar of salsa. I had just bought it and was putting away groceries when it slipped from my clutches and smashed onto our tile floors. (Side note: Those are the moments in life when you honestly think about just getting in your car, stepping on the gas, and never looking back. Where do you even BEGIN?) Because I have a dog and a baby, I’m especially conscientious about trying to keep, you know, hazards from lurking around on the floor. So I cleaned up the salsa, swept, vacuumed, and then got down on my hands and knees with a wet paper towel to try to scoop up and remaining splinters of glass. I did this for the better part of an hour.
I STILL find pieces of that dang glass jar from time to time.
And when we moved our couch last week? GLASS CITY. I don’t even know how pieces of glass got where they were without having actual legs to walk there. We may never know.
The point is, broken glass. It’s there, you just have to find it.
You really should measure everything before you try to move it. And then measure again. And did I mention you should measure?
I wish I could tell you it only took us moving one thing (and then having to move it back) for us to learn this lesson. But it took about three things.
If you ever want to feel real dumb, make the same mistake three times in the span of about an hour. And be SHOCKED every time you get the same result.
But after moving our file cabinet and then having to move it back and then moving our pantry and having to move it back and moving pictures and having to move them back, we finally got it. Life lessons, folks.
Babies make even the simplest tasks harder.
I know, you’re STUNNED by this revelation. But, seriously. I think most people expect that having a baby will make going out to dinner harder or saving money harder. But if you think you’re going to move your couch from one side of the room to the other in one fell swoop, you’ve got another thing coming.
Vivi was in some kind of mood when we were trying to move things and wanted to be held every second or she would scream her fool head off like she was being murdered. We would have to move something for a few minutes (while she wailed), then hold her for three minutes (while she sulked), and then put her down and repeat the process about a dozen times until everything was in place.
At one point, I was like, “Should I just strap her to my back while I move this 200-pound couch?” And then I realized that was insane and put her down again.
Sometimes they gotta cry, folks. That’s the life of a baby.
But these difficult lessons aside, we got the room rearranged. And it’s one of those changes that makes you smack your forehead and wonder why you didn’t just do this in the first place. Because now we can open our bathroom door all the way (we moved the bar that had been slightly blocking it next to the couch), use our gateleg table more easily (it can also double as extra counter space in it’s new location), and fit more people around the coffee table for dinner (there is SO much more open floor space).
You live and you learn, right?
I know Memorial Day is not actually the start of summer, but it certainly feels like it. It might just be the humidity, but especially in the city, things just start to feel a bit more festive.
Of course, there is a downside to summer sneaking up on you: You may have officially missed the boat on spring cleaning. (I know. I’ll give you a minute to stop weeping and pull yourself together.)
But just in case you didn’t get around to deep cleaning the curtains and finally organizing that back closet you’re afraid to open (what, just me?), I have a solution. Recently, I discovered three areas of one’s home that can be cleaned and/or organized in about 15 minutes (TOTAL), meaning you can invest a little and feel smugly superior in less time than ever before.
Let’s. Get. Clean.
#1 Your magazine stash: 2 minutes
Maybe it’s a rack, a basket, or just a big pile that doubles as a side table, but odds are that you’ve got a pile of old magazines lying around somewhere. You’ve probably been telling yourself for a year or so that you just can’t toss those old issues because one of them has that recipe you’ve been meaning to try/haircut you want to show your stylist/workout you’re going to do in your living room/etc. But, let’s be real. It’s 2016. We have Pinterest. It’s time to cut ties and set those pages free. In about two minutes, you can whittle down that pile to a handful of favorite issues or even dump the whole thing. Just remember: Magazines can usually be recycled, so do the earth a favor and do that.
#2 Your makeup bag or under your bathroom sink: 3 minutes
Did you know it can actually be dangerous to use cosmetic products after they’ve hit a certain age? Unless you like slathering bacteria all over your face, it’s a good idea to toss makeup after a certain point. (Here’s a guide for how long to keep each item.) Today, spend three minutes checking every item in your makeup bag and throwing out anything past it’s expiration date. Don’t have a makeup bag? Settle for clearing out the area under your bathroom sink (you know you’ve got a million-year-old bottle of shampoo or something under there).
#3 The fridge: 10 minutes
Is there anything worse than getting a whiff of something foul every time you open your fridge? Today, spend ten minutes tossing all the old food and organizing what you want to keep. (Hint: Store all leftovers at eye level or on the top shelf so you’re more likely to notice them and actually eat them before they go bad.) In ten minutes, you’ll probably even have time to wash any newly emptied Tupperware, too.
Look at you! Fifteen minutes later, and you’re surrounded with evidence that you’re a responsible, neat adult. Well done.
What are your favorite quick cleaning chores?