Happy Labor Day!

Fireworks!

Fireworks!

A friend posted this weekend: “when did Labor Day include fireworks???”

I don’t know the answer to that, but I do like the new tradition (and so do the kids)!

 

Happy Labor Day, everyone!

XOXO,

Julie

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The right answer to ‘how is the baby?’ and why we have kids in the first place

The right answer to ‘how is the baby?’ and why we have kids in the first place was just re-shared on the archived Offbeat Families website. And, yes, I’m still bummed the website is no longer active. I love the conversations in the Offbeat community. They’re so.. honest. down to earth. real. offbeat.

Photo credit: Chelle of Mello Rose Photography

Photo credit: Chelle of Mello Rose Photography

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#100 Happy Days

#100HappyDays is a free photo documentation project designed to inspire people to start noticing what makes them happy every day, be happier, be thankful, be optimistic, and all sorts of good stuff. If there is one thing that all this life documentation has taught me, it’s that the small, everyday moments – routines, habits, meals – are the things that make up who you are. When we acknowledge and celebrate those small moments, we’re celebrating ourselves. You can learn more about the project by visiting the 100happydays.com website and sign up for free!

 

This is the eighth installment of #100HappyDays and I love this project.

100 Happy Days #8

100 Happy Days #8

Seeing these photos, I see a lot of smiles and happy memories. On a whim of last-minute change of plans, I took the boys to Vermont – a 4 hr drive – by myself to meet up with another mom and her two boys. And not just any boys – THESE BOYS. These crazy little monkeys that want to run, and climb, and jump, and catch, and push their limits at any and all possible moments.

They caught frogs in the pond. Ate ice cream and played on swings. Explored abandoned train tracks. Noticed sculptures. Smiled. Laughed. Ran. Splashed. Got muddy. And dirty. And somewhere in between, we ate great food and had time for a glass of wine. And it was awesome.

Around the house, we started making – and baking – taking advantage of this amazingly cool summer weather. We made roasted red pepper hummus. We baked zucchini muffins, morning glory muffins, and banana bread to conquer the excesses of our garden (recipes to come). And I got to see a good friend do stand up story-telling at a nearby bar. It’s no wonder I was so tired! (hence the resting picture with pepper)

 

In the busyness of everyday life, I love that we have photo documentation to show where we’ve been, who we’ve seen, and what we’ve done. It helps me appreciate what we have, how much we have, and how lucky we are to have and know and see the people in our lives. As someone commented on a recent post: we’re living life. And I love that.

 

XOXO,

Julie

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Oh, the places we go!

We’re in the thick of the part of the summer I never wanted to happen. My nephew (Cal) is out of summer school, Max is his usual self (a handful), we have appointments and deadlines, and – on top of it all – Chris is traveling for work all of next week.

OH my.

Thankfully, I have learned a few tricks in recent months about managing these two wild boys, and I apply them to what I really want to do:

TRAVEL!

I love traveling (who doesn’t?!), but with two kids that can get into trouble the second they think they’re not being watched, it takes a solid travel strategy to keep us all happy.

Many parents, friends, and families will tell you that it’s a lot to go on excursions with kids. Even a day trip can be a major headache. But with a learning impaired 6-yr-old and the behavioral and physical limitations that comes with, coupled with a wildly energetic 2-yr-old, doing anything can take a lot of convincing.

And if it’s not done right, it will be THE WORST.

So we spent months working on our day trip strategy to find something that works for each and all of us to get us out of the house, having wonderful experiences, and happy smiles each and every day:

It’s about boundaries.

Let me tell you about our boundaries: we do not go into toy stores, gift shops, grocery stores, art museums or anywhere where there are things that cannot be touched, that could be broken, or where they could get too excited and get into trouble. We do not go places where kids are discouraged. We do not go places that are not stroller accessible. We do not go places where kids under age 4 won’t get it. We don’t go places where we need to sit still for more than 0.002 seconds. We do not walk long distances. We avoid large crowds. We avoid long periods in the sun. We avoid deep water. We avoid sharp edges and busy streets. We do not go places where there is a “no running” policy. We do not go places where kids could fall from a tall height (which includes some play grounds). We do not spend a lot of money.

That’s a lot of “no”.

Here is a sample of our YES:

Museum of Science Boston

Museum of Science Boston

Southwick Zoo

Southwick Zoo, Mendon, Massachusetts

Mass Audubon Farm Santuary, Lincoln

Mass Audubon Farm Sanctuary, Lincoln

Swan Boats, Boston Public Garden

Swan Boats, Boston Public Garden

Fitchburg Line Commuter Rail

Fitchburg Line – MBTA Commuter Rail

Boston Harbor

Boston Harbor

Greenway Park, Boston

Splash Pad, Greenway Park, Boston

Blueberry Picking, Monadnock PYO Blueberry Farm, Troy, NH

Blueberry Picking, Monadnock PYO Blueberry Farm, Troy, NH

George's Island Fort, Boston

George’s Island Fort, Boston

Goat Petting, Westminster Town Fair

Goat Petting, Westminster Town Fair

Boston Harbor Islands Ferry

Boston Harbor Islands Ferry

And while it can be a lot of work, and it can be tiring, looking back on the pictures of the places we have been fills my heart with SO MUCH JOY. I can’t help but smile.

In the latest and greatest series here #travelma (a double entendre meaning “mom that travels” and “traveling around Massachusetts”), I’ll share photos of our experiences traveling on accessible day trips in and around Massachusetts. The beauty of this series is that if you live in Massachusetts, or plan to travel here, you have a lot of EASY ways to see this part of the country in a whole different way. And if you don’t live here, these same experiences and types of travel can be found anywhere, if you know what you’re looking for.

Happy Tuesday!

 

XOXO,

Julie

 

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Reuse Economy in Action: Awesome Curb Finds

Anyone who lives in or around a college town knows move-in day. In Boston, with so many major colleges and universities in and around the city, we are all aware of what day/weekend the 250,000 students that attend Harvard, MIT, Tufts, Northeastern, Boston University, and 100 other colleges move in. And on that weekend, we go on vacation. We exit the city. We wait for the dust to settle. We avoid the restaurants where undergrads will bring their parents after their dorm rooms are set up. We stay away from tourist traps where they will opportunistically visit as part of the celebration of their child making it to a prestigious university in a historic part of the country.

And we avoid driving altogether.

But what you may not know about is the lesser celebrated, but equally exiting event which takes place in the weeks leading up to move-in day. Before the thousands of new temporary residents can migrate to Boston, thousands must move out. That means FREE STUFF, lightly used, on every street corner and sidewalk in the region from the transient population of students, post-grads, and university staff who likely just figured out how to get from one end of the city to the other without using a map (Boston is annoyingly complicated to navigate, see below).

exactly.

Exactly. (Original source unknown, it’s been filtered all over the internet by half the people I know)

Every year for the first few years that I lived in the city, I would watch the sidewalks in June and August, looking for great items to furnish our apartment. And when my sister got her first apartment in college, we did the exact same thing.

It’s a wonderful example of the reuse economy at it’s finest. And everyone wins. Because, I don’t know about you, but my move out of college was less than 24 hours before I flew out on a 6-week trip to East Africa. My crap just needed to be moved, dumped, and abandoned until I returned. And I know that was not a unique situation.

Curb treasures are the best!

I used this knowledge after our first yard sale back in June. As I mentioned in my previous post, we made a modest amount of money for the time invested and I felt really good that I was able to get rid of so much stuff and that others were able to benefit from the things we didn’t need (DVDs 3 for a $1, yes, please! Used jogging stroller for $20, heck, yes!).

 

Sell it all at a yard sale!

If it doesn’t sell, come back later for curbside goodies!

Despite our surprising success at our yard sale, however, we still had a lot of stuff left over at the end. As I mentioned before, I hate waste. HATE it. And I also understand the resale value of things that are well kept and in great condition. I separated the remaining items into four piles:

1. Things that could go with items people bought. This was easy because we knew several people that bought things. I collected the items that went with those things and delivered them.

2. Books. There are a ton of used book stores in our area. This was easy to part with.

3. High quality goods. This is a little tricky, depending on where you live. But in our small town we actually have several resale shops that sell high quality goods. People love them. So it was easy to take the items priced “too high” for a yard sale downtown.

4. Leftovers to donate. Tricky distinction between #3, but basically things that didn’t fit the products sold at the resale shops downtown, but would be beneficial for an organization like Goodwill to sell. These items also give you a tax return.

5. The rest. Everything else went to the curb and was literally picked up less than 3 hours after the sale finished.

If you are going to try the methods of resale I mentioned above, I would recommend choosing a similar order. One of the bonuses to bringing your goods to a resale shop is that you support local businesses and your neighbors. It’s an endeavor worth the effort if you can find the time. Besides, whatever they can’t take can be donated or left curbside until trash day.

Happy curb hunting!

 

PS. If you find any curbside treasures please link in the comments.

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#100 Happy Days

#100HappyDays is a free photo documentation project designed to inspire people to start noticing what makes them happy every day, be happier, be thankful, be optimistic, and all sorts of good stuff. If there is one thing that all this life documentation has taught me, it’s that the small, everyday moments – routines, habits, meals – are the things that make up who you are. When we acknowledge and celebrate those small moments, we’re celebrating ourselves. You can learn more about the project by visiting the 100happydays.com website and sign up for free!

 

This is the seventh installment of #100HappyDays and I love this project.

100 Happy Days #7

100 Happy Days #7

This is our trip to Bar Harbor, Maine. Days spent hiking my favorite national park – Acadia – and evenings spent eating sea food on decks overlooking the ocean. Max has fallen in love with boats, so every activity seemed to involve BOATS! and most afternoons went something like: “mommy? MOMMY!” “yes, Max?” “BOATS!” (points to boats) “yes, I see them. do you love boats?” “ya” (and repeat.. for hours).

Bar Harbor is a great coastal community. They have the tourism gig figured out: lots of hand-crafted, one-of-a-kind local artist memorabilia at reasonable prices, great food, and a proper selection of ice cream and coffee shops.

I would move there in a heartbeat.

Seaside dining in Bar Harbor, Maine

Seaside dining in Bar Harbor, Maine

At dinner one night, our usual table distractions were proving ineffective. Days of car travel, disrupted routines, and stroller rides left this little man in need of some play time. As Chris walked him around Geddy’s restaurant, pointing out all of the different driftwood signs and license plates that hung on the walls and ceiling, the chef called him over to “pet” the lobster. He LOVED it. And we loved it even more. Thank you, dear chef, for saving our meal! Max talked about it all night. And still, weeks later, every time we pass the lobsters at the grocery store, he calls them out and says “awww!” as if they’re little bunnies that just want to be snuggled. Kids are so weird.

Petting a lobster at Geddy's in Bar Harbor, Maine

Petting a lobster at Geddy’s in Bar Harbor, Maine

Acadia National Park is spectacular. It has an impressive mix of easy to moderate hikes, some rock climbing, and enough parking at key viewing points that it is accessible to everyone (particularly parents with napping children who want to see more of the park… ). It’s the kind of place you can take your family year after year, and still have different experiences every time.

If you go, you absolutely have to see the sun rise – at least once – at the top of Cadillac Mountain. You can drive right to the top. It’s an early rise in the summer (you want to get there around 5am, depending on the month you visit). But it’s absolutely worth it. My picture below doesn’t do it justice. Take a look at this google image search of sunrise in Acadia, Maine.

Sunrise from Cadillac Mountain, Acadaia NP, Maine

Sunrise from Cadillac Mountain, Acadaia NP, Maine.

Notice the islands in the bottom left corner of the photo, underneath the cloud line? As the sun rises, it burns off the fog, and what you’re left with is a gorgeous mountain top view of the harbor. Every second is literally different from the next: the sunrise happens that fast.

It’s further support for the Maine state slogan: “Maine: the way life should be”.

And, for those of you who think you need to travel halfway across the globe to “see the world”, I would like to submit that the U.S. has a lot to offer even the most experienced travelers.. right in our backyard. And it’s just as important and valuable to see.

 

XOXO,

Julie

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Inspiration Monday: Be Kind

A friend just shared this and it touched on something I was thinking about the other day.

Be Kind (source unknown)

Be Kind (source unknown)

Just recently, I was driving through the city – which is always an exercise in patience – and with construction delays, ripped up roads, construction vehicles slowing and blocking traffic, and a maze of detours, my patience was wearing thin.

Then, Max fell asleep.

For those of you who don’t have kids, nap time is a sacred thing that savvy parents don’t mess with. Why? Because we learned it the hard way. Several times. If I were to wake him up and do my errand – which is a choice that I make on occasion – Max would not nap for the rest of the day. Which means that I would spend the rest of the day dealing with a cranky, fuzzy, inconsolable little tyrant. After a couple hours, you just start to feel – and look – like a crazy person (hair standing on end, look of buttoned up frustration, bulgy eyes.. you get the picture).

So, after all of that effort, I drove home. Sans groceries.

On my way home, I encountered MORE construction. More delays. More vehicles. More near-accidents. More police directing traffic. More paranoia about – did I re-register the car yet? Crap.

As I pull off of the highway, I am filled with a sense of relief (WE MADE IT!). Quietly, I grumble in disappointment at the change in my plans. Try to figure out the rest of the day. Try not to misdirect my frustration on anyone.

And then there are these two dudes standing in the middle of the road. And I had this moment where I knew I could get away with not stopping to let them cross (started listing excuses in my mind – bad day, sleeping kid, etc..). And I saw their hard hats and I thought – for half a second – about how THEY are the ones that screwed my afternoon, grumble, grumble.

And then I stopped and let them cross.

And I felt better.

Because for all the frustration and inconvenience that comes with road construction, we also get a nice, well-paved, pothole-free roadway to drive on. And people are employed. And the city runs better. And traffic is reduced. And it’s easier to get around. And that stuff actually makes people happy. Which could make your day better. Which could be exactly what you need at exactly the right time.

Being kind is good for everyone.
XOXO,

Julie

 

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Wedding Anniversary

Chris + Julie Wedding Day: August 6, 2012

Chris + Julie Wedding Day: August 6, 2012

Has it only been three years?!

Chris + Julie 2014

Chris + Julie 2014

This was the conversation Chris and I had on our anniversary Wednesday night. It’s amazing how some years pass without notice – days, weeks, months follow their seasonal routines – and yet other years have so much LIFE to them.

We have done a lot of living in three years. After our wedding, I turned 30, mastered headstands in 30 days of hot yoga, and – somewhere in between – became pregnant with Max.

climbing mt. monadnock at 7 months pregnant

climbing mt. monadnock at 7 months pregnant

We had a baby.

Max, One Week Old

Max, One Week Old

We bought a house. And we’re renovating it.

The moment we opened the door to our first house

The moment we opened the door to our first house

We built stuff.

Chris and Max building the doors

Chris and Max building the garden shed doors

We started our new garden.

Garden is done, seeds are in!

Garden is done, seeds are in!

We started jobs, left jobs. We contemplated career, family, home, and balance. And we made (and lost) a lot of friends in between.

That’s life.

And so now we’re here. And it’s quieter here. Things are settling. We are settling. We’re pacing ourselves. We’re being mindful of our needs. In between the busy-ness of our day-to-day, we’re living in the present. And we like it just as it is.

Group photo after a family jog

Group photo after a family jog

 

I posted this today because love is in the air this year. Guys, my sister is getting married today. And we are SO. UNBELIEVABLY. EXCITED! She’s all Etsy-this, DIY-that, and completely adorable. I can’t wait to share pictures. I also can’t wait to officially have Paul as my brother-in-law. Love is awesome.

Happy Saturday!

 

XOXO,

 

Julie

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What i learned about my relationship with stuff (aka. the lies I tell myself about stuff)

If you’re going to be honest with anyone, be honest with yourself.

 

Be honest with yourself

Be honest with yourself

I am not always honest with myself, especially when it comes to my hoarder tendencies, which is why I’m writing this series on stuff. If you missed my previous posts, you can catch up here and here and here.

For years I have been storing my possessions in a series of boxes in apartments and my mom’s basement. And with each apartment move, I would bring my boxes of “things I might need someday” to that apartment’s storage area. Living this way helps things accumulate over time. Add to it that while I was apartment living, my father passed, and I held on to many of his things as well. Then, we helped my mom sell and move her house, and all the things from the basement came to our house. Then, we bought a house, purged a great deal of stuff, and still manage to purge more things almost weekly this entire spring. Then, my inlaws sold their house and another influx of stuff came home. And the cycle continues!

Going through the process of unpacking, organizing, and decluttering our storage space (aka. the boxes that are still unpacked, a year later) has helped me to recognize the relationship I have with the things that I keep and the stories that I tell myself (and my husband) to preserve them.

And I’m particularly excited to share this with you because it’s a bag of nonsense and it has to stop or SO HELP ME..

 

Lots of stuff!

Lots of stuff!

But I also want to share it because I think a lot of us tell similar stories of stuff-keeping obligation, even if we’re not living like hoarders. And when we run out of space, we get a storage unit. We say that it’s temporary. We say that it’s necessary.

It’s not.

 

These are the stories I told myself and how I counter them (daily) as I sort through the things we no longer need and simply live in the space that we have.

1. I don’t want to waste it.

I will keep things that I don’t like for years if it means that it “won’t go to waste”. Which, in actuality, is exactly what is happening when I keep it in a box for years.

2. It might have economic or replacement value.

Yes, sometimes items like lamps and used electronics do hold a small amount of economic value to someone else.

That’s exactly why you should SELL IT ALREADY.

There are so many different avenues for resale these days – more or less depending on where you live. Craigslist, resale shops, donation centers, and yard sales are just a few. And with most things, it’s better to get rid of it while it’s still relevant.

Remember: the economic value of an item is limited to how much someone will pay for it, which is usually much less than what you paid for it.

3. I might need it someday.

This is true: sometimes you do use the things that you store. In fact, a lot of what I kept was held until we arrived at this point in our lives: the day we we cashed our last renters check and started paying a mortgage. Even stable renting scenarios can be upended on short notice. Fine. These conditions do exist.

But 95% of it is crap. And you won’t need it. And you should just get rid of it already.

4. But it was a gift!

I have instituted an item-specific hold time on the gifts  that were thoughtful, but that I never wanted or had any use for. To be fair, I don’t get them very often. People in my life seem to know that I would rather have wine than pretty much anything else. And if they know my husband at all, they know better than to gift frivolously (because he’ll just put it on the curb).

But occasionally an item passes through our house and I feel compelled to keep it. I like to place those items in a pretty hat box where I keep other things I’ve been given that I keep because they’re special (like grandmother’s jewelry or my middle school mood ring). These items are stored in a cute box, which is as much decorative as it is functional. And I open this box so infrequently that when I do (it also serves as a place to store jewelry I don’t wear often) and see the gift I don’t want, it’s usually time to give it away. And good riddance!

5. It has sentimental value.

You know those things you cherished growing up, that you keep just because? Don’t. I did and it was such a pain. Instead, I take a picture of the item on a neutral background (even better if you can put it in front of the place, or a picture of the place, where it used to be) and either throw it away or donate it.

If you want to cherish it more, take the time to make an album with the picture. Write a story about it. Remember it. But don’t leave it in a box in your basement where it gets eaten by mold. Mold gets people sick. You don’t want your grandmother’s heirloom teddy bear getting your kids sick. Move on, Julie. Enough already. (can you tell I’ve been through this before?)

 

I hope this post has helped you think about the stories you tell yourself about the stuff that you keep. Now go to your storage unit and empty it already!

Next week I transition to talking about reuse: how to get rid of things and how to acquire things for cheap (or free!).

 

XOXO,

 

Julie

 

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Banana Oat Breakfast Smoothie

After a late night of wine and Thai take-out to celebrate our 3-year wedding anniversary, I needed a boost this morning and was not in the mood to cook. Enter: breakfast smoothie.

This satisfying, not-to-sweet smoothie is a great way to start the day. And there are infinite variations you can make from it by adding your favorite frozen fruit (in fact, I’ll probably share a few soon..!).

Banana Oat Breakfast Smoothie

Banana Oat Breakfast Smoothie

Banana Oat Breakfast Smoothie

  • 1/4 c. rolled oats, dry
  • 1/2 c. plain greek yogurt (if you use vanilla or sweetened yogurt, omit honey)
  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1/2 c. almond milk
  • 2 t. honey
  • 1/4 t. ground cinnamon

Place all ingredients in blender. Blend to desired texture.

 

Enjoy!

 

XOXO,

Julie

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