In the Garden

If you had told me a month ago that our tomatoes would still produce flowers in mid-October, I wouldn’t have believed you. After a cool, dry summer, we were ready to pull the garden plants during the first spell of cool fall weather in early September.

Thankfully, we procrastinated. And we have been given many thanks as a result.

our garden: in october

our garden: in october

Every time I think “this is the last tomato sauce of the season” (while silently whimpering), our garden has kicked butt and proved me wrong – three times. We have carrots, tomatoes, peppers, herbs, eggplant, carrots, and potatoes. And if this warm weather holds, we should have edible spinach and kale in a week!

Of course, there are losses because of the fluctuation in temperature (from 70 degrees F, down to 40F and back to 60F in 24-hours), especially with the tomatoes. But the remaining plants are holding strong. And I’m loving the extra time – and extra food – that comes with it.

Way to go, nature!





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Making Pretty Scrapbooks on your Phone

Me: the Abridged Version is a class led by Cathy Zielske through Big Picture Classes. It’s about telling your story in a fun, creative way. I think telling your story is important – not just for you, but for the people that love you. Join me on this short series of personal photo-journalism and see the pretty things my iPhone can make.


I love this project. I know, I say that about all the projects that I write about – but it’s not true of all the projects I do. This one is different. It’s a lot of fun. And it’s SO easy to do!

The thing is – I love scrapbooking now that I’ve discovered Project Life, but I can’t commit the time necessary to edit photos on my computer, upload into Photoshop (which is what many scrapbookers these days do), pull together a layout, and hope that someday I’ll make a book. Let alone share the layouts that I made with others. I seriously admire the women that can do that on a regular basis. It’s just not practical for me.

I need things on my phone. I need it in my hand so when I’m on the train, or hanging with Max, or waiting for the school bus, or unwinding from the day, I can work on my latest project in the palm of my hand for 30 seconds or 30 minutes. At my convenience. Wherever I am.

This week I wanted to share the apps that I use regularly for photo editing, and particularly for my latest memory keeping class.

my favorite iPhone apps for photos

favorite iPhone apps


Project Life App. $2.99. The Project Life App is a beautifully designed app that lets you scrapbook photos directly from your iPhone, photo stream, and other apps – like Dropbox. It is very user-friendly and intuitive and it has made it possible for me to do memory keeping on my phone. It’s amazing. And it made it possible for me to keep up with memory keeping – like when I made a page the same day that we had Max’s birthday party. In addition to all the amazing features, it’s incredibly gratifying!

iPhone Camera. Most of the photos for my scrapbook are taken with a native iPhone 5 camera.

TimerCam. Free. The TimerCam App allows you to take photos with a timer, making selfies or group photos much easier.

PicTapGo. $1.99. The PicTapGo App is perfect for brightening up standard photos on your phone. I use this every time I need to brighten or saturate a photo – no, it’s not the same as increasing exposure. Totally worth it!

VSCOcam. Free. The VSCOcam App gives you all the flexibility in editing that you need. The filters are nice, but as soon as I discovered all of the editing features, I was hooked. Need a better endorsement? It’s used by professional photographers.

Dropbox. Free. If you’re not familiar with Dropbox, it’s a cloud-based document storage website that allows you to share folders, documents, and photos with anyone who has the link. It’s ideal for groups who work remotely or for individual documents that you want to keep access to where ever you are. Someone recently recommended that I try it for scrapbooking and I was instantly hooked. I use the web app for sharing photos that I take at group events and the Dropbox iPhone App for document and photo sharing between devices.

Here are some examples of what I’ve made using the apps I mentioned. I’ll let them speak for themselves.

Project Life App Page

Made with the Project Life App, using DSLR photos

Project Life App Page

Made with the Project Life App

Made in about 5 minutes, on his birthday

Made in about 5 minutes, on his birthday

Made same day as the event, in about 5 minutes!

Used Project Life App and Rhonna Farmer App


Next week I’ll cover my process for pulling together a scrapbook page from several sources, all in one place. It’s warrants its own post because it’s kind of complicated, but once you get it down – WOW it is so easy.




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Eat ALL the Desserts

We’re out of cupcakes, snack breads, and ice cream in our house and I’m doing my best not to panic. You’re probably thinking – maybe that’s a good thing? Shouldn’t we want to eat healthy all the time? My argument is – no way! Sweets – in moderation – are a welcome addition to most diets.

Pink cupcake

Pink cupcake

In the summer, my afternoon sweet treat is seasonal fruit – strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, watermelon. Biologically this makes sense, since these fruits pack a lot of flavor without a lot of calories, making it easier to keep cool in hotter temps and providing your body with a variety of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that you need to stay healthy, fit, and energized in its peak season. For example, watermelon, tomatoes, and red bell peppers all contain the antioxidant lycopene, which helps block UV light, preventing sunburn.

But when the weather cools down, and winter is approaching, I crave the comfort of seasonal soups, casseroles, baked quick breads, and – yes – sweets. And I know what my cravings are telling me – adding a couple extra pounds WILL make it easier to keep warm in the winter. In Maine we used to call that our “winter layer”, which was a cute way of supporting the natural fluctuations of body size in a cold climate. But even if you’re committed to staying slim and fit (snaps for you! that can be so hard!), these foods – in proper form – will offer a “warming” effect that will help you adjust to the cooler temps.

And it’s not just vegetables. Spices such as nutmeg, cinnamon, and ginger – the seasonal flavor choices of fall and winter – are known as “warming” spices, which is probably why they’re so prevalent in baked goodies like pies, dessert breads, and cookies. Examples of their benefits include reduced inflammation, improved digestion, and reduced blood glucose and total cholesterol. Hence the over-commercialized pumpkin-flavored goodies every October!

So I say, limit your portions, but indulge in the “spice” of the season. After all, it’s good for you, right?!




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Monday Inspiration: Beautiful Art and a Therapy Cat

This is one of those stories that can make your heart melt. A little girl, her Maine Coon therapy kitty and a whole bunch of beautiful works of art. Can it get any better?

Read the story here and here and on her blog and check out her shop.

Courtesy of

Courtesy of


I am completely in awe of her talents. Learning disabilities are something my family is all to familiar with. The struggles are real. They are constant. They are heart-wrenching. And each milestone, each victory, feels worthy of celebration.

I see the photographs and – on the surface – I think how WONDERFUL her life must be, but the better part of me knows that reality, simple daily tasks, can feel impossibly difficult for the child and for the care givers. Which is why she is such a worthy cause.

Purchasing from her store helps support Iris Grace’s private therapies, lessons, and supplies.




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Thoughts on #BullyMovie

This week I had a chance to watch the Independent Lens documentary Bully on PBS. It’s getting a lot of attention with parents and educators because it so brilliantly tells the story and experience of three students who are victims of harassment and bullying by their classmates.

READ: if you are a parent, or an educator, or anyone who has a young person in your life, watch this movie. If you are a former victim, or a former bully, watch this movie. If you are a conscious being who gives a shit about what the world will be like in the future, watch this movie. And especially if you think you don’t need to, please PLEASE watch this movie! In summary, everyone needs to watch this movie.

boys playing

boys playing

I’m coming at this from two perspectives: first, as a former participant in the bullied/bully cycle, and second, as a parent of a learning impaired child who – just 5 weeks into his kindergarten year – has been harassed and picked on by his classmates.

Growing up, I was bullied by other girls in my neighborhood. It wasn’t particularly violent or cruel, but the experience of being a victim of childhood harassment stuck with me. In role playing games, I was forced to play the role of the ‘family dog’ or told I could only watch, not participate in play. Sometimes I would just watch them from my yard. Occasionally I would just go home. But many times, I was forced into uncomfortable, degrading, and demeaning roles, much to the pleasure of my bully.

As with many bullies, mine had a troubled family life. But that doesn’t excuse or condone or any way make her actions acceptable. And – even then – I knew it was wrong.

Years later, this same girl would force me to turn on my friends. To swear. To degrade. To demean and harass them. And even though I didn’t want to, I did what she said.

It wasn’t until kids started bullying my younger sister – a quiet girl with physically indistinguishable mental retardation – for me to start standing up against bullies. By middle school I was physically fighting boys who threw rocks at her. Or snow balls. Or dirt.

And I never told anyone.

Cal and I at a school ice cream social

Cal and I at a school ice cream social for kids with special needs

Now, as a parent, I’m responsible for the care of her son, my nephew, who also has learning disabilities. Two weeks into the school year, I had to request that the bus driver keep him in the front row, “to watch him,” placing blame on him for the poor choices of other students on the bus. I have been in yelling matches with other parents when he was getting punched in a bouncy house and everyone just stood by and watched. I have intervened when GIRLS push him in line. I have parented my friend’s kids when they  push him, or shove him, or exclude him. I have listened to my neighbors, who would prefer that he not play with their kids.

And while we are fortunate to be in a school district that trains every student, teacher, and administrator on bullying prevention and awareness, I know that bullies will haunt his future. It is heartbreaking. It is cruel. And, at times, it is overwhelming.

But I will never give up. Not for one second.

There is no corner of my being that will silently allow this to continue. It is unacceptable. It is horrible. And it is absolutely PREVENTABLE.

In a country where we have successfully instituted training for children on stranger danger, on the risks of drugs and alcohol, and sex ed, I know that we can also successfully institute systematic awareness and education on the prevention of bullying. If we can teach our children physics and art history, we can teach them not to bully. If we can teach them calculus and Shakespeare, we can teach them not to bully. If we can teach them to throw a fast ball or to paint a portrait, we can teach them equity and inclusion and we can teach them not to bully.

If you want to stop bullying in the workplace. If you want gender equity and fairness. If you support equality and opportunity for all, then you want every child and every parent to be given the tools and strategies necessary to eliminate bullying from our culture. Eliminate it.

Talk to your kids. Talk to your friends. Talk to your colleagues. End bullying.

We can do this.




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Weather (W is for)

Me: the Abridged Version is a class led by Cathy Zielske through Big Picture Classes. It’s about telling your story in a fun, creative way. I think telling your story is important – not just for you, but for the people that love you. Join me on this short series of personal photo-journalism and see the pretty things my iPhone can make.

I’m writing this on a beautiful, unseasonably warm October afternoon. This is the first October in memory where I have comfortably worn shorts THREE times. These rare and wonderful warm fall days are a welcome excuse to visit a park, or work outside on our patio, and open the windows, because – how many other opportunities will I have?

I wish I describe the feeling I get when I’m outside during the day. It’s a mix of happy and excited and thankful and optimistic that I haven’t felt since I lived in western Maine. Opportunity is everywhere and nothing is impossible. There is not a piece of me that takes this for granted.

View from here on a warm October afternoon

View from here on a warm October afternoon


Most afternoons, after Max is home from daycare, I take the dogs (and Max) on a walk around our neighborhood. We stroll the same path each time. And I appreciate the opportunity to stretch my legs, clear my head, and breathe fresh air. We rarely see people, apart from the occasional mom or retiree in between errands.

But today was different.

Today we were greeted with pleasant conversation, introductions, and some ear scratches for cassie (our Australian Shepard). Today we met our neighbors. We talked to many of them. And we promised to ‘stop by and say hi’ again soon.

That’s the thing about unseasonably nice weather – it has a way of bringing out the nicest parts of people.

So when I shouted “it’s beautiful today!” to an old man, sweeping leaves off a side street (probably just to enjoy the day), his response was perfect:

“let’s hope it stays like this until Easter!”

For half a second, I imagined living here in New England, with all that it has to offer, and replacing cold, wet, winter days with the happy optimism of a warm October afternoon and I thought “that would be the perfect place to live”.

Unfortunately, that is not what we have in store for this winter. In fact, forecasters are predicting another miserable, cold, record-snow, logistical nightmare of a winter. And I’m completely petrified of it. Not just for the cold (that’s the least of the problems!). It’s the sick days, managing the winter gear, the length of time it takes to get all of the kids with all of their stuff out the door, the time spent indoors, the short days, and – fine – the cold.

So, for now, I’m going to imagine – for a moment – that I live in a place where October lasts until Easter. And I couldn’t be happier.

October love from one of my favorite books

October love from one of my favorite books








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Max’s Baby Album

A lot of work has gone into this, so I’m VERY excited to share that Max’s baby album is FINALLY complete! Don’t get me wrong – it was a lot of fun to make and I’m really, really happy with the outcome. But the journey from start to start again to start one more time to complete was unnecessarily long.

So when a friend recently asked me for tips on doing her baby’s album, I decided to sit down and think of the things that were really important to me.

But before I do that, here are some important links:

Here are my favorite parts of the album:

  1. Watching him grow. A lot of moms will choose the “growth” sticker (like this one or this one) method. I think that’s great. You know which month you took the photo and it’s really easy to take that picture, drop it in an album, and move on. I did not do that method. Probably because I like to make things unnecessarily complicated (which is why I wrote this post on simplifying tasks last year). The lesson is, it doesn’t have to be a daily, or weekly, or monthly photo of the baby. Just find some pictures and put them in chronological order. It could be 3 pictures. Got it? Keep it simple!
  2. The “big picture” of our life when he was born. I still remember the stories my friends have told me about where they lived when they were born. It’s kind of magical. Because your life changes SO much in those first few years. And your parents change too. Think about taking pictures of things like: the house where you live now, a picture of the baby’s room, a special item that was given to them at birth (ESPECIALLY if you don’t want to keep it!), your favorite place to walk, or maybe a place outside the home (bakery, cafe, restaurant) that you visit regularly.
  3. A bit about mom and dad. Again, life changes so much. I think it will be just as fun for Chris and I to look back on what we wrote in Max’s album as it will be for him. Things like: what we were like when we were little, top 5 favorite things (not about baby), routines, where we work, who our close friends are.
  4. Short letters to your baby. A couple of my friends do this and I was totally drawn to it. Elise Blaha Cripe has a great example of letters to her baby Ellerie. Final product she made was a photo book you can see here. If you didn’t start this when your baby was little, you can try to write from the perspective you had then, recall what it was like, or just start writing them. No one makes rules on baby books. Do what you want!
  5. Milestones, growth charts, firsts. This is so much fun! Project Life has a great example of this with their Project Life: Baby Mini Kits, sold at Michael’s stores. Firsts like first bath, first trip, first ride on the train were my favorite. If you know it, it’s an easy addition to the book.
  6. Birthdays. I left room at the end of Max’s album to save some cards, pictures, and notes from each birthday. Short and sweet. It’s one of the main advantages to a Project Life binder album – you can always add more and change it around later!

Anyway, enough of that. Here are the pictures!

Project Life Baby Edition for Him: Products Used

Products included Project Life Core Kits, Studio Calico Monthly Kits, We R Memory Keepers 12×12 album

Project Life Baby Edition for Him: First Page

First Page

Project Life Baby Edition for Him: Weekly Calendar

Weekly Calendar: this is the ONLY way I could keep track of the photos and dates for my weekly spreads

Project Life Baby Edition for Him: Background

Background: where we live, cost of living, popular TV shows, and other pop culture/news/home town facts

Project Life Baby Edition for Him: Background

More on where we live and preparing for baby; also included pictures and invitations from baby showers & special gifts received

Project Life Baby Edition for Him: Pregnancy

Weekly pregnancy progress photos

Project Life Baby Edition for Him: Pregnancy

Background on mom (also did one about dad), random facts, a personal story, and my favorite parts of pregnancy

Weekly layouts with milestones, monthly letter to Max

Weekly layouts looked like this: 2 photos, 1 card for journaling. Monthly page markers, milestones, “stats” (like height, weight, and activities), and a letter to Max and/or a favorite memory from that month.

Inserts of our family vacation, a footprint for Father's Day from daycare

Inserts of our family vacation, a footprint for Father’s Day from daycare


Hope this helps you to organize your book!




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Best Turkey Lasagna Ever

I have been searching for reliable potluck/meal train/ comfort food dinners for just about ever. And I’ve been disappointed A LOT. So imagine my surprise when I came across the BEST lasagna I’ve ever had, twice, in one month!

This week I’m sharing the Best Turkey Lasagna Ever, which I adapted from several sources, primarily the Mama Neely’s Lasagna Recipe from

Best Turkey Lasagna Ever. Photo courtesy of

Best Turkey Lasagna Ever. Photo courtesy of









Notes on this recipe:

  • Ground beef can be substituted for Turkey, if you prefer
  • Don’t cheap out on the marinara (tomato) sauce, use the “good” stuff you would put on a pasta dish, not the stuff from a can.


Best Turkey Lasagna Ever

  • 1 pound ground beef or turkey
  • 1 onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 large bag fresh spinach
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can stewed tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 jar tomato sauce
  • 1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
  • 1 box no-boil lasagna noodles
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups cottage cheese
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan
  • 2 c shredded mozzarella cheese (1 bag)
  • 2 c shredded cheddar cheese
  • 2 teaspoons fresh parsley, chopped
  • Garlic Powder
  • Seasoning Salt
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper

In dutch oven, saute chopped onion in olive oil over medium heat for 1 minute. Add minced garlic and cook until onions are translucent. Add ground turkey and cook until browned. Drain pan, then return to stove top. Add chopped stewed tomatoes, 1 c. tomato sauce, and tomato paste. Simmer for 15 minutes on medium-low heat, then remove from stove. This is the “red sauce.”

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk eggs. Add cottage cheese, 1/2 c. Parmesan, chopped fresh parsley. Season with salt and pepper. This is the “white sauce.”

In a lasagna dish, spread some of the remaining tomato sauce on the bottom of the pan. Add 1 layer of no-boil lasagna noodles, followed by 1/2 of the white sauce, 1/2 of the spinach, 1/3 of the mozzarella & cheddar cheese, and 1/2 of the red sauce. Repeat. Top with a final layer of lasagna noodles, coat with remaining canned tomato sauce and cheeses.

Cover with foil. If preferred, place an 11×13 “drip pan” underneath your lasagna pan to catch spill over (though it shouldn’t).

Bake at 375F for 30-60 minutes. Once it starts to bubble, remove foil and bake until cheese on top melts and browns.





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Breakthrough & Embrace

"breakthrough" layout

“breakthrough” layout

We’re reaching our stride with parenting, with home renovations, with life. And it’s allowed me some time and space to be reflective. To think about myself. To consider my professional aspirations. To discover new things. To put myself out there – for real – and take life to the next level.

And it’s SCARY.

So I sought out affirmations – inspirational quotes, words, and prompts that help me future-think, gain confidence, and feel like it’s all a little more POSSIBLE.

Which lead me, inevitably, to my favorite memory keepers:  Cathy Zielske and Ali Edwards. As I mentioned recently, I’m taking Cathy’s “Me: the Abridged Version” class, which is exactly what I need at exactly the right time (more on that to come).



Using Ali’s digital sentiment words and life sentiment cards, and printed pictures that didn’t make it into photobooks, I created a couple of quick, reflective scrapbook layouts – something I haven’t done in years.

Ali’s life me up words are meant to be inspirational, and using them as a prompt to reflect was a wonderful exercise – both for my morale and for my scrapbooking stash!

Of course, you can try this exercise without scrapbooking. Using the words “embrace” and “breakthrough”, what would you write/reflect on?




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M is for Me

Me: the Abridged Version is a class led by Cathy Zielske through Big Picture Classes. It’s about telling your story in a fun, creative way. I think telling your story is important – not just for you, but for the people that love you. Join me on this short series of personal photo-journalism and see the pretty things my iPhone can make.


If you’ve followed me for a while, you’ll know that I’m an avid memory keeper. Unlike scrapbooking, memory keeping (to me) is about preserving tangible memories, experiences, and everyday moments in the form of photos and words.

Roasted cauliflower is my favorite!

Example: That time that I went on a health kick and followed an eating strategy that I got off Buzzfeed (of all places). Turns out: many of those recipes are still my favorite go-to meals to this day, like this one: roasted cauliflower. SO good!

It’s like being the photojournalist of your life story.


The thing is, it’s not that easy to do. Or, perhaps I should say – it’s not how we’ve been taught to view the purpose of the camera. And once you have kids, it’s easy (and natural) for all of your memory keeping to be completely focused on the kids. This is something I’m very conscious of (see: this post and this post, for example), but lately I have had to consciously limit my social media shares so it’s not all “look at max doing this.. and this.. and this!” and none of “this is our life right now”.

Why is it important to “document life”, you ask?

Frankly, besides the fact that entire books dedicated to a toddler are a little lame (max ate peas today! WOW. thrilling.), the truth is that you are as much of a part of their story as they are and you’re a lot more interesting. You have complex thoughts, ideas, and perspective that will probably continue to change over time. Reflecting on who you are now, and who you’ve been, is just another way we can appreciate the path that brought us to right here, right now.

Which is why I am SO EXCITED to be taking Cathy Zielske’s class “Me: the Abridged Version: Document Life from A to Z” starting TODAY at

Cathy introduced that class with some tools to generate ideas on what to write about and – of course – I already have a dozen stories to tell.

I LOVE Cathy’s keep-it-simple approach to memory keeping, I love her perspective on documenting, her photograph style, and her designs, but what has resonated the most with me is her insistence that, as memory keepers, we document ourselves. Because we are a part of the story. And because our stories are interesting. And changing. And absolutely worth writing about.

Expect to see more stories, anecdotes, and posts inspired by this class here on my blog. If  you want to see more of these memory keeping projects, check out, visit my Pinterest board, or check me out on Instagram. Enrollment for “Me: the Abridged Version: Document Life from A to Z” ends on October 15th.. so sign up today!

it's time to start documenting ME

it’s time to start documenting ME




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