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::finding joy {2}

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Tea with a dear friend to just catch up on life. Candles burning, Christmas music playing, tree lights blazing. A chance to bring out and enjoy the Christmas tea set. Bliss.

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meal plan monday

17 stirfry

When I sat down with the calendar on Sunday to create a meal plan for the week, I realized that this is a very busy week: soccer, music, play rehearsals and performances. Still, we need to get dinner on the table every night, busy or not. Here is what I came up with for the week, which is built around a single theme: EASY

Monday: Rotisserie chicken (Costco), roasted vegetables (peppers, onions, mushrooms, sweet potatoes), Harvest Grain Blend (Trader Joe’s)

Tuesday: Crockpot chicken tacos, rice, beans, corn

Wednesday: Tri tip, baked potatoes, green beans

Thursday: Chicken Tortilla Soup (from the leftover taco chicken) , quesadillas

Friday: Stirfry (flank steak, veggies, and rice)

I love that crockpot chicken taco recipe–mostly because it makes absolutely delicious chicken tortilla soup later in the week. Total win in my book. I also bought the rotisserie chicken on Sunday and will just reheat it on Monday.

I also spent a bit of time in the kitchen on Sunday and made up a batch of chai concentrate, hard boiled eggs, and chocolate chip cookies. That should give us a good headstart on the week. I’d like to experiment with a big Meal Prep Sunday, but so far I’m a bit intimidated. I just discovered a YouTube channel called Mind Over Munch, and she does a big meal prep. I need to do a little more research.

What are you cooking this week?

Linking up with I’m an Organizing Junkie.

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7 ways to enjoy autumn even if the weather isn’t cooperating

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The rest of the country seems to be well into autumn, but those of us in southern California seem to be stuck in an eternal summer. I can only dream about layering clothes, wearing sweaters and boots, and cozying up by the fire in the evening. But I adore fall (in theory), so I’ve been thinking about some ways to embrace the season, even if the weather isn’t cooperating.

  1. Change up the decor. I’ve pulled out my fall tablerunners. That might be all the fall decor I have. OK, maybe there are a few Halloween decorations, but I change up the table runners on the kitchen table for every season.
  2. Light up the candles. I don’t usually light candles in the heat and bright lights of summer. Since it feels like summer, I hadn’t thought to start lighting candles yet. But this blog post inspired me to buy a new candle and we are all enjoying the pumpkin spice scent.
  3. Change the flower arrangements. Out with the sunflowers and in with the mums! For $6 at Trader Joe’s I can instantly bring a fall feel to the kitchen table.
  4. Cook like it’s fall. We are still eating main dish salads every week, so that I don’t have to turn the oven on, but a few fall favorites are starting to work their way into the menu rotation. Soup and sandwiches, chili, and roasted vegetables, just to name a few.
  5. Break out the mixer and start baking. Nothing makes it seem like autumn more than pumpkin muffins. I’ve already made them twice and some banana bread will make an appearance this week. Coffee and muffins feel pretty cozy to me.
  6. Bring fall colors into my wardrobe. I have not yet had the opportunity to actually wear long sleeves or a jacket yet, but I have been putting aside the pastels and other spring and summer colors of clothing and reaching for the deeper tones of fall clothes. I’m more likely to reach for orange, brown, and burgundy tops these days instead of the white and pink t-shirts of summer. I can’t wait to wear a scarf and boots!
  7. Take a walk. Even if it’s 90 degrees outside, the leaves on the ground tell the true tale. So I get outside and enjoy that the seasons are going to change no matter what.

What autumn traditions are you enjoying?

echo plumes machine quilting

family service hour

sewing area before
sewing corner before
sewing area after
sewing area after
fabric storage
nicely sorted fabrics

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I’ve got that fall decluttering bug. It seems to hit me in the fall rather than the spring. I think it’s that fall seems like a new beginning to me–in a way that spring just doesn’t. We have mild winters here in southern California, so the transition to spring is subtle. But the fall! Back to school, sports, theatre–a complete routine change. (I wish there was a complete weather change too, sigh.)

I just don’t have the time and energy to tear apart the house top to bottom for a KonMari style decluttering.Not that it doesn’t need it. Weekends are full of soccer, fencing, band performances, and chores, not to mention a cute little dog that needs some attention However, I have trouble with small steps. I’m a recovering an all-or-nothing kind of girl. Intellectually I know that small steps  can add up to big change, but I’m a bit impatient with it in real life. But small steps are all I’ve got for now. So, I started with some things that were bothering me: the refrigerator, a couple of shelves by my desk, the filing drawer of my desk that I could not squeeze another paper into, and my sewing area (aka dining room).

I tackled these one at a time, over a couple of weekends, and those areas make me smile every time I walk by them. It’s given me the momentum to keep it up, a little every weekend. And it’s adding up to spaces that make me smile instead shake my head in frustration.

This inspiration to create freshly-cleaned, curated environment has led to my next Big Idea. Actually, I have to give credit to the Husband for this one. Each Sunday we are going to start Family Service Hour. A few months ago we got the entire family to pitch in to wash all the windows in the house–something that usually takes a huge amount of time for me to do. As a family, we knocked that project out in about an hour. Clean windows inside and out. It was like a little miracle. Why not apply this to other areas of the house and yard? An hour is not a lot of time to give up, but with five of us, adds up to some serious manpower. It teaches the kids some good deep cleaning skills and an attitude of service (hopefully).

So, first up, the kitchen. Clean out every shelf and cabinet, getting rid of anything we wouldn’t take with us if we were moving. We’re not moving, but it’s a little game I like to play when I declutter. Would I pack this if I had to pay to move it across the country?

I’m going to try to get Family Service Hour going next weekend. I’ll take some pictures and let you know how it goes.

 

 

 

 

echo plumes machine quilting

yarn along

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I’ve been doing more sewing than knitting lately, but I did knit up a whole pile of dishcloths that will replace the ones that are falling apart in my kitchen drawer. I find dishcloths to be the perfect summer knit. Small, quick, portable, and they don’t sit in your lap and make you hot.

My book club is reading Longbourn by Jo Baker, this month, and truthfully I just got it out of the library and will dive in this evening. It is described as a “downstairs” version of Pride and Prejudice. So, it basically sounds perfect to me.

Joining in with Ginny over at Small Things.

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all of a sudden he’s thirteen

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Well, it’s official. My baby is a teenager. We celebrated at home with an early (and I mean early) soccer game, a stop for donuts on the way home, and gifts a little later in the morning. His one request was a unicycle. It frankly was the obvious progression from Rubik’s cubes to juggling to–unicycles of course! And eventually juggling while riding the unicycle and possibility solving a Rubik’s cube simultaneously. It turns out that riding a unicycle is a hard skill to master (who knew?). Let’s just say that there was a bruised tailbone the first day, and I was very relieved that it wasn’t fractured.

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This boy of mine is all about soccer, video games (obviously–he’s 13!),and being a great student. He’s got a solid group of friends, for which I am very thankful. Personality-wise, he’s a lot like me–an ESFJ for you Myers-Briggs nerds (like me), so we get along great.

Though I’m sad that this growing up thing is going so fast (please note the name of this blog), I couldn’t be more pleased about how this guy is turning out.

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landmark year

IMG_7172This is kind of a landmark year for us. The Girl is a senior. Yep. How did this happen so fast? I know it’s such a cliche, but seriously, I cannot deal with how quickly this has all gone. But instead of lamenting and denying the fact (I’ve tried both to no avail), I’m just trying to soak it all in. This whole year. And I think she is too.

We have developed a new routine on Mondays and Wednesdays–I load up the computer and some books, drop the youngest off at soccer practice and head to a coffee house. She as been coming with me and we share a table, laptops back-to-back, and we Get Stuff Done. She was amazed the first time she came with me at how productive this atmosphere is. She is cranking out her college application essays (sigh), some creative writing, and now, homework. We don’t even have to say much, just hanging out together is enough. In addition to a extremely heavy academic load, she is loving being a part of not just one, but two musical theater classes. I am absolutely looking forward to watching those productions this year.

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Boy #1 is in tenth grade, knee-deep in the music program at school: jazz band, orchestra, and marching band. It’s absolutely awesome to watch him dig into music like this. He’s got quite an academic load too, so this transition from summer to school has been especially cruel.

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Boy #2 is still digging club soccer in addition to Jazz band and seventh grade. He has an awesome group of friends that we carpool with and I had the honor of driving them the first day of school and forcing them to pose for pictures. Actually, they had to do it twice because the I took the entire first round of First Day of School pictures with no memory card in the camera. So we had a bit of a massive redo.

I am nothing if not a creature of routine, so though the schedule is a bit intense, I thrive it in. Everyone is still finding their feet with this new school year, but I suspect it is going to be a memorable one.

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a whole food kickstart

Whole Food Kitchen

 

I am enjoying Heather’s Whole Food Kitchen again this year. I’ve participated in many of her workshops over the years, and many of her recipes have been added to my personal repertoire. Almond milk, granola, wheatberry salad, and chai lattes, just to name a few.

I cook everyday, but it is so easy to fall into a rut with our meals, especially in this busy season with two teenagers and a preteen. So, I find that doing these self-paced workshops get the inspiration flowing again. I whipped up a batch of almond milk yesterday, and definitely been putting together some more plant-based meals for the family.

Now, to clean up my recipes (again) to make some room for the new ones coming my way in the next couple of weeks.

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chai lattes in the morning

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I have been absolutely addicted to Heather’s chai lattes lately. I’ve been simmering up a batch of concentrate at the beginning of the week and enjoying them almost every day, as a midmorning break. I love to make it with black tea, but the wonderful thing is that you can use herbal tea too. I think I might try that this week.

Some of those spices, especially cardamom, can be pretty pricey at the supermarket. I just placed an order at Mountain Rose Herbs, where the prices are much more reasonable. I added some Jasmine Green Tea to the order too.

It doesn’t take long to whip up a batch of the chai concentrate, give it a try!

echo plumes machine quilting

{this moment}

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{this moment} ~ A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. Linking up with Soulemama.