Sunday, November 30, 2014

Holiday Photos

I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving. Ours was nice, but did not go according to plan at all. Madeleine got a high fever the whole weekend. I cracked a tooth and Matt got sick and ended up pulling an all nighter at work. So it wasn't really relaxing but we did get a few things done that I had been putting off.

One thing that I was determine to do was take family photos on campus while all the students were still on break. Since everyone is sick, we took photos for about 30 minutes before calling it a day. Thankfully we got a few good ones. Setting up a tripod is not fun.

Madeleine was so miserable. Thankfully I had taken a few of just her a few weeks ago when we were on a family walk before church.

This year I think went way better than last year's photos. I'm trying to save enough money up so that we can have a professional photographer take family photos for us. I like doing them myself, but it takes so much longer and I can't be as picky about the what's in the photo. But some of the candids are hilarious.

Matt and I had a long discussion that about if family photos are worth taking. They are great after the fact but sometimes it's the last thing everyone wants to be doing.  Thankfully, I have low expectations for these family photos, so I don't find them that stressful.

Do you think family photos are worth it? How often do you do them?

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Winter is coming

It's cold and dark outside for the most part now, so we're mostly indoors. I brought out the paint today and the little people had fun. Madeleine honestly liked the bath afterwards more though.

In other news, I was asked to guest post on a blog and it was published today.
It's a bit more touchy-feely than most of my writing but you can read it here.

What do you do on cold gloomy days? I am always looking for more ideas.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Added Sugar

That's how much added sugar we eat in a week.

I calculated it by taking out all the healthy (fruits and veggies) and homemade foods from this blog post.

The total amount of sugar is 936 grams (4.16 cups), which is 53.5 grams of sugar a day. The recommended amount is 35 grams. Clearly we are a little high.

This is the next area in our lives we are going to work on. We are planning to take on healthy eating next year for our New Year's resolution.

I can't wait!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Spruced up bathroom

A few weeks ago, I read on Holly's blog about how she fixes up her home even if she is in a rental. 

"I’m also not one to wait until I own my home before I properly decorate it. Never have been. I remember gut renovating my first apartment when I was 22 years old living on my own in Boston. "

I'm not as brave as her. I usually keep my apartments in pretty much the shape they were in when I got there, but this apartment is a bit different. For one, they are tearing it down in the next year. I'm 99.9% sure we'll be the last ones to ever live in it, so Princeton doesn't really care what we do to it. The other thing is we are getting to the point that our home is actually pretty clean most of the time. By pretty clean, I mean minus the dishes it takes under an hour to clean the whole house. Lately, it's been closer to 45 minutes. 

It's weird how having a clean house gives my brain room to think about my home in a different way. Suddenly, I have time to think about functions of a space and how I feel when I'm in the room. One of the rooms that I really hated in our home is the bathroom. It always feels dirty, smelly, and damp. There is no window in the bathroom, and it's tiny. I think it's 5'x 6.5' totaling just under 33 sq ft. 

So this week my goal was to make it a more functional space.

My objectives
- organize closet
- get rid of both towel racks so our towels wouldn't be bundled up on top of them
- get the bathroom door to open all the way 
- try to make it prettier

First thing I did was go through the closet in the bathroom. There is a picture of it when we first moved in, in this blog post. I got rid of any unopened lotion, perfume, and shampoo and had it donated to a women's shelter. The other things that I used once or twice I put up on freecycle. A cute teenage girl picked it up.

 After that I took down both towel racks earlier this week and replaced them with hooks. This helped so much with the dampness of the bathroom. The towels dry so much faster now.

Then all I had left was to put up "art".

It should have been pretty easy, but everything went wrong. One of the frames, we bought broke, so we had to get super glue. Then we ran out of dry wall anchors, and then we ran out of spackling. Then finally when we thought everything was hung, the door kept hitting the shadow box! We were finally able to call the project done yesterday morning.

It's been almost a week since I put the hooks up, and I am going to do that in each apartment we live in for now on. It looks better, smells better, and it's so much easier to keep clean. I haven't had to run and check on the bathroom every time someone comes over.

It's really nice change. I know it's not at all like the designer blogs, but it's way better than it was before. Hopefully it will stay clean, so I can avoid explaining to five year olds why women wear bras in the future. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Udvar-Hazy Center

After the farmer's market, we packed up and hung out with Matt's grandparents and parents for a while before heading over to the Udvar-Hazy Center. 
We were so excited for this. Space and airplanes are things that everyone in our family geeks out about, so we were in heaven the second we walked in.

We had fun talking and chatting with family as all of us ran different places to look at as much as we could. I really looking at the place where they do the restorations. 

The highlight by far was watching planes take off from the airport on the observatory. Madeleine was in heaven. Each plane she would scream and clap for, and we were there for at least 30 planes. People started coming up to me and telling me that they had never seen a kid that happy. 

At the end, we all split up and I had some time to myself to climb up to the top observation deck. It was kind of sad and relieving to realize that there will probably never be another war, where manned aircraft will be so important and dangerous. And how after the war, life just continued for the survivors. The airplane below is one of the few left from Tuskegee airman (an African American fleet). After the war, it became a crop duster for years before someone realized that it should probably be in a museum.  

It was an incredible day. Matt and I drove home exhausted and happy. I love last minute trips. I was talking to a few people at church on Sunday and they kept saying how I did crazy stuff like this. It was weird, because to me it's not that crazy. It's just part of life.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Eastern Market

I think we have finally caught up on sleep so let me tell you all about our awesome weekend. This Saturday we took an unexpected trip to DC. I woke up for some reason at 3:30 in the morning and started browsing online looking for a farmer's market that sold pepperoncini. I didn't find one, but I did find an awesome farmer's market in Washingon D.C, which is where Matt's parents were currently visiting. The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to drive 3 hours to DC, but I was pretty sure that Matt would be hard to wake up and convince.

Lucky for me, he woke up around 4 and didn't completely hate the idea! (He has become so much better about doing things like this since we got married three years ago.) So at 4:30, he kissed me goodbye so he could work for an hour while I got everything together for the trip.

We left around 6:30 and got to the farmer's market at 9:30. Matt was a bit relieved to find out that it was located in an expensive hipster neighborhood.  I immediately fell in love with the neighborhood. It was just so cozy and cute.

The market is called Eastern market and it is both indoor and outdoor market. The inside was beautiful.  I didn't take any of my own photos since Madeleine was a bit excited, but this is what it looks like. It's just a long row of food. It was a bit more crowd when we went, and it was hard getting through the crowds since it seemed like everyone stopped to greet everyone. I was a bit worried about keeping an eye on Madeleine, but people were so nice to her. I was even surprised to see other small toddlers running around looking at food too. That is something I'm not use to seeing.

 Madeleine loved the fish market. I don't know if she realized they were dead, but she knew they were "fishies." She also found more brussel sprouts, which lead to another meltdown.

Outside there were actual crafters (NJ craft shows don't actually sell crafts at the ones I've been to) and some more food. We actually bought a piece of art there.

Matt and I both were taken by this man's art, and Matt really wanted one. He picked one out for his Christmas present, although we already hung in our hall.

After that we headed over to Matt's grandparents' house where we hung out with family and went on another adventure that I'll write about next time. I think this post is long enough. :) 

Matt and I loved going to the farmer's market, and it's something I hope we can start doing more on vacations. The produce, prices, and of course, art was different than it is here in New Jersey, and we only traveled three hours. It would be wonderful to visit farmer's markets all over the US. 

So my friends, what random things do you do on a whim?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Checking up on our diet

Three blog post ago, I talked about Madeleine's toys (click here for that blog post). In that post, I mentioned all the different photo ideas that I wanted to copy with our own family. One of these ideas is about what a family eats in a week. This is by the same photographer that photographed Material World.

In this book, he takes photos of what a week's worth of groceries look like around the world.

The author, Faith D'Aluisio, actually gives a lot more information then just the photos. She included recipes, nutrition facts, and a breakdown of food groups and costs. I found it completely fascinating, and of course wanted to copy it. So for the last week we have been carefully tracking what we eat. 

We put a piece of paper on the fridge and we were pretty careful not to cheat. (As you can see, there is plenty of not healthy food on there.) We're planning on doing it for a few more weeks to get more accurate average before we take a photo. But tonight, I entered everything into my fitness to see how healthy our week of food was. Here is the summary

 Calories  - 41,014 (2,343 a day per person)
Carbs - 3,765 (215)
Fat - 2,050 (117)
Protein - 1,589 (91)
Sodium -45,293(2,588)
Sugar -1,262 (73)
I found the nutrition facts really interesting. We are on average (divide everything by 2.5 people and 7 days) getting 2,343 calories a day, which I think is pretty good! We are a little low on carbs and a little over on sugar and fat to have a completely balanced lifestyle. To be honest, I'm pleasantly surprised by that. I would have thought we were more unhealthy than that, since I don't track food as well as I think I should. Matt gets a lot of junk food at work (pizza and chinese food), and we eat out as a family once a week. It's nice to know that those luxuries aren't making our lives too unhealthy.

There, of course, are some errors with these numbers. One of the more difficult things to account for is that I wrote down what I used when I was cooking from scratch. The thing is, while I did carefully write down the recipes, some of those meals are still uneaten in the fridge. So we still have the food count for this week, even though half of it is sitting in the fridge. Another is how much of a person does Madeleine count for. Toddlers are supposed to average 1,000 calories a day. I think she eats more than that but her eating habits like most toddlers is sporadic at best. And the last thing is I didn't use all the same brands that we actually eat. I tried, but I failed in a few instances.

To many of you, this might seem pretty strange project, but I like being able to check to see where I am on my goals. This little project helps me to see if we are getting closer to eating a balanced diet. I can also see where our money is going, and if we are getting closer to eating mostly whole foods. (I think as we are making more money the less whole foods we are eating. Hmm.) I also noticed that we are eating more protein now that the weather is getting colder. In the summer, we eat a lot less meat, especially red meat.

Would you ever do a project like this? How do you track how healthy your family is eating?

(By the way, here is a link if you want to know everything we ate.)

Sunday, November 9, 2014

A Pirate dress and a skateboard

Last night I got to experience one of the benefits of having less stuff. Thanks to her routine, Madeleine went to bed without a fuss. Matt was at still at work, and the house was clean!! I found myself with time alone that I could do whatever I wanted.  On the rare occasions that I get time like this, I usually work on my current on-going project. The project I've been working on for the last three or so months has been making Madeleine a quilt, but I was not feeling motivated.  Instead I started looking through my patterns and decided to make Madeleine a dress. 

(This is pretty amazing to me, because I don't think I was ever organized enough to find the pattern I wanted, let alone re-use it. I never was able to keep all the pieces together.)

By the time, Matt was home, I had finished it, and watch half the season two of Futurama. 

So presenting the pirate dress. 

This is the only good picture I could get of the dress. Madeleine was very excited about it this morning, but by the time I got my memory card, she was too busy with life to pose. She had found Matt's skateboard and wanted him to skateboard with her.

Here is the back of the dress. I only had a green zipper, but I think it adds a bit of personality.
 Matt and I both love how confident she is. She knows what she is capable of, and we usually can just sit back and watch her. It's amazing some of the things she can do. Today she was able to stand on the skateboard for a spit second.

I still have a closet or two to clean, but we've been making so much progress. My wardrobe is good to go, and we haven't had as many problems with laundry. The kitchen needs touch ups and the bathroom, but right now I love that we have time just to have fun.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

John W. Flemer Preserve

Baby X and Madeleine were both sick this week (oddly with different things) and Baby X got his first two teeth in with two more on the way. Poor little guy roughed through it for the most part but Thursday both kids were so cranky.  I knew they needed naps, so I threw them in the car and we explored the neighborhoods of Princeton. It was perfect for all of us. I got the nice pretty views of pretty homes with the backdrop of Fall, while they got an hour nap. But also while I was exploring, I found some new parks! I was pretty thrilled about it, so this morning we bundled up for the 39 degree weather and went on a short hike.

The park I picked is called John W. Flemer Preserve. It is off our normal biking trail but north instead of south like we usually go to get the grocery store or church. We didn't read the plaques so I don't know much about it, but it had two trails. One is four miles long, and the other was just running around the trees. We basically just walk and stood around the trees for most of the time while Madeleine collected stuff. 


 These were the two trail heads from the parking lot. We took the one on the right. We didn't go very far. Madeleine stopped every foot or two to pick up rocks, leaves, or sticks.

Eventually we made it onto a small loop trail. It was so calm and pretty. Madeleine kept point to the birds saying "Burr, Burr." (To be honest, I didn't think she knew what a bird was. We tend to point out airplanes most of the time.)

After 45 minutes of walking around, we headed out to the car, so Matt could go to work and I could thaw my toes. (I found out today that thin socks and converse aren't to great in cold weather. Who knew right?) But before we could leave, we had to check out this digger thing that as next to our car. 

It was a great way to start our day. I have been wanting to go hiking more this fall. We usually bike, but it's been raining the last few weekends. Today's weather was beautiful once we were all bundled up. Hopefully next week we can go again.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

All of Madeleine's Toys

I'm currently obsessed with photography collections that highlight how people's homes work.

Here's my list of what I have found so far so you can get a better sense of what I'm talking about.

And my very favorite the book Material World that takes photos of family's possessions from around the world.

I'm hoping to have my own versions of some of these projects down the road, but today I made up my own and took a picture of all the toys that Madeleine currently has in her toy rotation.

Since we do have a toy rotation, a lot of people that come over offer to give us toys, because her room looks empty. In realty though, Madeleine has plenty to play with. She plays with all the toys about every 3-4 days. The stuffed animals, dolls, blocks, and the legos are always out. The rest I rotate out in the afternoon after nap time.

List of Madeleine's toys
1. Sophie
3. Two small target dolls
5. Itty bitty baby
6. Bigger Corolle doll 
7. Some of our old stuffed animals
8. Baby Dino
9. Crocheted Noah's arch toys
12. Chile doll
14. Red car
16. Three hotwheel cars
17. Rubix cube
18. Lots of duplos
19. Rody
22. Freaky monkey (she loves this thing)
25. Felt Nativity set
28. Rubber penguin
33. Spiky ball
34. Tennis ball
36. Musical instruments
38. Puzzles
41. Bangles
42. Princeton bracelet

Not shown is her play kitchen and doll house. Everything else is here. 

So with the toy rotation the way I have it set up, everything gets played with. Her favorites of course are her dolls. She usually has two or three close to her at all times. I actually am pretty happy with the number of toys we have at the moment, so we aren't planning on buying her any for her birthday or Christmas. We got her some activities to do with us instead. We are really excited.

Another bonus of doing this was I got to check to make sure that everything had it's pieces, and they did! I'm thrilled. I love her room has things that has only things she loves in it.

This is what it looks like normally.

I'm hoping the rest of the house is like that soon. We really love her room.

Monday, November 3, 2014

How to figure out where to give things away

One of the things about minimizing is finding a home for the things that you don't need. I really don't believe in throwing things out. It's wasteful and it's a lot harder for me to part with things. So right from the start I had to look into different ways to get rid of things so that I would be willing to part with them.

First thing I do is sort through the things that I am willing to get rid of. I make a pile for things that are trash, recyclable, normal thrift store, and "nice enough to keep."

Trash and recyclable I think is pretty obvious where they go.

But thrift is a bit hard, because I actually really hate giving things to the thrift store here.
So here is my system.

Left over craft supplies - schools, 4H, or freecycle
Large furniture - freecycle
Random odds and ends - freecycle or free table
Clothes - free table here a Butler or cloth donation box at Wegman's
Small appliances - Free table or free cycle
Books and magazines - Princeton library or free table

Random odds and ends are that truely random. I once got rid of extra unused hair ties. Yesterday, I gave away a bag of ribbons. People are creative and different organizations need different things, like I gave old frames and cards to a nursing home worker. Daycares and preschools are always looking for good toys. I have found for the most part that people are willing to take most things if they are free.

Freecycle is by far my favorite thing to use. People are usually really nice and the stuff disappears quickly. I have even made some friends this way.

Yesterday for example, I got this email from a lady that picked up my quilting scraps.


I am the grateful and very excited recipient of your fabric. I'm over the moon with it!! I've just begun quilting 6 months ago and jumped into it with both feet. I've made 10 so far! I'm currently making lap quilts for my friends and I also joined a group which makes quilts for leukemia patients. 

Your fabrics are so appreciated and will be put to good use. I'm even going to use some of them to make a quilt for my wonderful friend who picked the fabric up for me.

The assortment is spectacular - a little of this and a little of that. I'm having so much fun looking at it all and sorting it. I try to keep my quilting costs low so I shop at yard sales and thrift stores. I do a lot with sheets. The addition of all your wonderful fabrics will really give my stash a huge boost. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing this with me."

If you are friends with me on facebook, you probably saw the post about the sweet lady who gave me a blanket after I gave her a blender.

Here's what I put on facebook,

"The other week I gave a lady on freecycle our blender. It was a really bad mom day. The house was a mess and both Baby X and Madeleine were screaming as I was frantically trying to put them down for naps, when she showed up at the door. I basically threw the blender at her and shut the door in her face. Today, she showed up at the door with a blanket she made and a note of encouragement about being a mom. She gave me "a bit of sunshine" blanket for those days that are just hard. I don't think I have ever felt so touched and loved by a stranger before."

I have really met some great people through freecycle. One lady that picked up my heater, sends me emails whenever she thinks she's getting rid of something I might need.

So there is my plug for freecycle. :)

For the things that are "nice enough to keep."

We either sell or give to friends.
We sell things on ebay, craigslist, and facebook. Friends are wonderful to give things too. In my neighborhood, clothes are seriously passed down from kid to kid to kid. Bikes and outdoor toys too. It's been a lifesaver for our budget.

I hope this helps if you are considering getting rid of stuff or don't know where to start. There are so many resources, but they are a bit hard to find.

Sunday, November 2, 2014


I seriously love Halloween. We had a really fun day, so here are a few photos from it.

I usually make cupcakes for Halloween, but with the small people being, well, normal small people, I thought that was a bit too ambitious. Instead, we got a dozen of donuts and picked out some costumes for them at Party City. Their eyes were just little white m&ms with black frosting. Madeleine loved picking out the different costumes. My favorite were the funny glasses. We then walked up to campus in costumes to drop them off to Matt's lab. 

Fast forward to after nap time, all the kids in the neighborhood got dressed up and played outside. It was so cute watching King Author take on Spider man and a tiny jedi fairy. My friend Rachel and I took photos of Madeleine and her little best friend. They are so silly.

They kept making each other giggle (and us) so we could not get too many photos with them looking the right way. Half way through they started playing peek-a-boo. It was just too much cuteness.

Beatrice was a cute little butterfly, and Madeleine just got a "new" princess dress from Gamma. Madeleine didn't really care about it, but Beatrice loved it. :) It was Mollie's fairy princess dress that my mom made when Mollie was a little younger than Madeleine. 

After that we went trick-or-treating around the neighborhood with some friends from church. It was wonderful and Madeleine quickly caught on to the whole thing. She would walk up all by herself and knock on the door. At the beginning she would give the candy right back to me, but eventually she started keeping it for herself. Our neighborhood is seriously the perfect place to trick-or-treat and we had so much fun with the other students. The best thing Madeleine got was a llama cookie cutter.

We switched back to the dragon cape when she got cold. Then we went home and got some spicy wings before curling up in bed and watching Merlin. (We aren't sure if we like it.)

Anyway, Happy Halloween!