February 2013

Winter-Weary Skin Care

February 28, 2013

by Margaret Cabaniss

Peppermint Bath Scrub

Recently, Zoe shared her tricks for using essential oils to fight winter illnesses; this week, I thought I’d share how I use them to fight winter.

I have gone on record (many, many times) as not being a big fan of this time of year. As a general rule, I don’t deal well with the unremitting cold and gray, with not even the tiniest holiday on the horizon to break up the monotony. My skin doesn’t deal all that well, either: All the cold, dry air just sucks the life right out of it, leaving me in a constant battle against dry hands and chapped lips. A little present from winter, just for me. Yay.

I’ve found my own ways to deal with the season, though: lots of warm drinks, piles of blankets, and homemade peppermint bath scrubs.

I’ve shared a recipe for homemade bath scrubs before, but the coconut-lime version I made two summers ago just feels wrong somehow in the dead of winter. Instead, the peppermint has a bright, wake-you-up scent that brings some much-needed life — and moisture — back into the proceedings.

Peppermint Bath Scrub

You can use the peppermint essential oil a few different ways: Start with 10 drops of oil mixed with one cup of epsom salts, then sprinkle a few tablespoons of the mixture into warm water for a soothing foot soak. Or, if you prefer scrubbing to soaking, add a third of a cup of coconut oil to the mix (you’ll probably have to melt it first before you can stir it up), readjust with a few more drops of the peppermint oil, then use it in the shower to help soften your poor frozen feets. (Conversely, if you like the peppermint but not the scrub, try mixing it with just the coconut oil and a little vinegar for a peppermint foot rub.)

You can even make a lip scrub variation, substituting raw sugar for the salt: A tablespoon of sugar, a teaspoon of coconut oil, and a drop or two of peppermint oil makes a nice, tingly lip scrub (and it doesn’t taste half-bad, either).

Peppermint Lip Scrub

You can add more or less peppermint oil to any of these basic amounts to get the scent that you prefer, but take it slowly at first and test as you go: This stuff is pretty strong, and after a few minutes of inhaling it, you won’t be able to smell anything else. (In a nice, pepperminty way, of course.) It’s also not a good idea to use the undiluted oil on your skin, as it can be an irritant without a carrier of some sort (like the coconut oil, salt, etc.). And since it will be coming in contact with your skin, be sure to get a high-quality essential oil: I got mine at Whole Foods, but there are probably better version to be had from places like Mountain Rose Herbs or Eden Botanicals (I’ve shopped both places before and recommend them).

And, as always, these make great gifts, too: I gave Ann a little jar of the bath scrub as a pick-me-up for those last uncomfortable days of pregnancy (along with a few truffles, just to sweeten the deal). It’s a small thing, but it helps make these dreary days a little more bearable.

Any tips or tricks for keeping your skin happy during the winter months?

Images: Margaret Cabaniss

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Internet Menagerie

February 27, 2013

Colorful Crochet Trim

It’s time again to share some of the interesting, thought-provoking, fun stuff I’ve seen around the web over the past few weeks. Hopefully there’s a little something for everyone here!

  • Stacy Keibler wore my favorite dress at the Oscars. Did you have a favorite?
  • I might have to pack a copy of this book with me for all future travels…
  • VIDEO: Richard, the homeless-by-choice London piano tuner.
  • A lot of our EVOO is fake? Damn.
  • Picky eaters on your hands? Try a few of these food rules.

If you’ve spotted something you’d like to share with SlowMama readers, please paste a link in the comments!

Image found at karinaandehaak.blogspot.com

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by Abby Scharbach

GAPS Soup

Soup, anyone?

In my house last week, we ate a lot of soup and broth. For every meal. For every snack. In fact, we were only allowed to eat soups that had meats, five “allowable” vegetables, and lots of homemade stock and broths. It was all part of a diet my family started called GAPS (the Gut And Psychology Syndrome diet).

After going gluten- and dairy-free for six months, we finally decided to take the plunge and follow the complete GAPS healing protocol for a healthy gut (we began with the Intro diet). Pioneered by a neurologist in the UK who claims to have cured her own child of autism with the diet, the basic idea of Dr. Natasha Campbell-MacBride’s program is that, by eating specific healing foods, you can cure yourself of a variety ills.

The testimonials I’ve read are nothing short of miraculous, but the diet itself is intense. After the Intro period, you can expect to be on the full GAPS diet for two years or more. You can’t have any starch (no grains, no potatoes) and no refined sugars or processed foods, which can be hard for kids (and their parents!).

Any diet change can be difficult to stick to — particularly where there are children involved (mine range in age from one to fifteen) — so I thought I’d share a few tips we’ve learned for making it through an intense diet change as a family:

1. Take time to ease into the full diet so that your kids can get excited about the benefits. Convince, persuade, encourage — but don’t force. We used our gluten- and dairy-free period to come up with new favorite recipes and new ways of thinking about food, and to read parts of Dr. Campbell-MacBride’s book together.

Also, choose carefully when picking a time to start the diet. For us, it was Lent — a time when our family usually fasts from sweets and other treats and we’re ready for some self-denial and discipline. We had the biggest Fat Tuesday ever this year, as we literally cleared our pantry of all the things that aren’t GAPS legal: pancakes, pasta, ice cream, cookies, rice, quinoa, coffee, etc. Our last hurrah was a lot of fun!

2. Once you begin an intense diet, take some time off from your other responsibilities and activities. When starting the Intro part of the diet, I knew life was going to change for a while, but I didn’t realize how hard it would be. That first week, I had a bunch of lifeless, miserable kids. You’d think that eating the most wholesome foods on the planet would produce kids with lots of energy! Well, it will eventually…but as it turns out, my kids are used to eating a lot of carbs, and their bodies have had a difficult (but typical) transition to a new energy source: protein and fat.

Also, as with all detox diets and cleanses, we’ve experienced some standard “die-off” symptoms, like nausea and fatigue. So we took the week very slowly, taking a trip to the library for extra books and making plans for a family movie night (which we watched while eating dinner, instead of our usual popcorn and sweet treats). We didn’t do a lot of schoolwork, and we cut back on some of our extracurricular activities and chores for the week. Their little bodies were healing; they needed all of their energy for that work. And I needed a lot of time for the kitchen!

3. When your kids get upset (and they will), encourage and empathize, but don’t give in. Of course you need to monitor your children’s health carefully and track their reactions to your diet change, but that doesn’t necessarily mean throwing in the towel just because the going gets tough. You have to be the coach and the cheerleader, so resist the temptation to jump in the stands and “boo” with them. Each of my children has struggled with the diet in characteristic ways, but in just seven short days, I’ve already seen the beginning of good changes in all of us — and I can’t wait to write my own victory post when we cross the finish line.

4. Take some time with your spouse to regroup. My husband and I took a welcome reprieve from the intensity of that first week with an early-morning trip to a farmers’ market together. He keeps me on the straight and narrow, and I help him to relax, so we’re good team. All coaches need to take some time to strategize, plan, and assess; our quiet car ride together gave us an opportunity to do that.

Homemade Pickles

5. Bring your kids into the process. Now that they’re beginning to feel better, my kids are ready and eager to help in the kitchen and look up recipes for future GAPS-legal treats on Pinterest. This past weekend, some of my kids made pickles (we’ll get to eat them next week in Stage 3); one child is writing a calendar showing when we get to add new things into our diet, and another helped pound our own homemade sauerkraut. They’ve all been helping to puree soups and chop vegetables, too. By participating, they can own the results, and they’re doing a great job. Week two, here we come!

What have you done to help your kids ease into new habits, or to embrace something difficult? Any tips to share?

Images: Abby Scharbach. Abby is a homeschooling mama of seven based in Baltimore, MD.

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Playing With Instruments

As it is for a lot of families, music is a big deal in our house. B is a huge music lover and believes it’s important for children to hear great music from a young age — though how exactly to introduce them to music in an engaging way can sometimes be a more complex question.

Recently, I learned one simple (and ingenious) approach to this problem when I was invited to the home of a neighborhood mom for a casual, one-hour music concert for children (and their parents/caregivers). Stephanie Woo — a Montessori trained teacher and mom to twin two-year-old girls — noticed how her girls were fascinated by musicians in the subway (they were living in New York City at the time) and thought it would be fun if they could experience music like that in a more structured way — and so she began hosting regular live children’s concerts in her own home.

Stephanie tracked down musicians willing to come into her home and play for 45-60 minutes to an audience of little ones and their parents. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves, so she kept the concerts going, bringing the idea here to Baltimore when she moved.

Stephanie and Daughter

To compensate the musicians, Stephanie charges a small fee per child — usually $5 — so she doesn’t have to eat all the cost herself. And she invites parents and caregivers to bring snacks and drinks for their kids.

Kids' Concert

My girls and I have been to three concerts: A violinist came one afternoon, a French horn player the next time, and a guitarist most recently. Each musician played a few children’s songs — like Twinkle Twinkle Little StarThis Old Man, and The Itsy Bitsy Spider — but they also played selections from their own musical repertoires: classical, bluegrass, celtic music, even (in the case of the guitarist) a little rock and some contemporary selections. Each musician introduced the instrument at the beginning, allowed the children to touch and examine it, and encouraged singing and dancing to the songs.

This is not a quiet, attentive audience — something impossible when you have babies, toddlers, and preschoolers doing their thing. It helps that Stephanie’s home is set up Montessori-style, so it’s an inviting place for children. But this is probably best described as a play-date with live music, rather than a concert; the point is not to force children to sit and appreciate music like adults but to expose them to the sights and sounds of live instruments, make music fun, and have them hear a variety of musical selections.

S Enjoying Concert

Sadly for those of us who’ve enjoyed these events, Stephanie and her family are packing up for Oregon next week. I’m hoping someone else in the neighborhood will pick up the baton; it’s certainly something I’d consider in the future, once we have more space… But I’m grateful to Stephanie for introducing me (and the girls!) to such a great idea. It’s a simple, creative way to help children learn to love good music — no matter how old they are.

Are you a music-lover? How have you brought music into your family life?

Images: Zoe Saint-Paul. The cutie in the hat and glasses is S enjoying a concert; our host, Stephanie, and one of her daughters is pictured above.

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Pull Up a Chair

February 22, 2013

Blue balloons

I’ve got happy news to end the week: Our very own SlowMama contributor Ann had her baby boy yesterday! Mama and baby are doing well, and I’m sure Ann will share details on how things went when she gets home and rested. Of course, this calls for a particularly celebratory drink today; I’m thinking something bubbly!

But before I get to that, inquiring minds wanted to know: How do I like our new VitaMix? I love it — and all I’ve done is make smoothies in it so far. This thing makes soups, ice cream, sauces, dips, dressings, and purees; it even grinds nuts, herbs, grains, and coconuts (although you need a separate blade and container for a couple of those items).

While the machine is nothing fancy, it’s the incredible motor you’re paying for: This thing can cut grass, shave a Sasquatch, and chop firewood all at the same time. It’s loud, too, which four-year-olds trying to watch Dora the Explorer in another room really enjoy. Heh.

I’m now scouring the web for the best smoothie recipes, and I’m doing some of my own experimenting. My goal is one shake a day for me and the girls. I was hoping to make the same one for all of us, but while it seems like a no-brainer that kids will always slurp up yummy smoothies, it’s sadly not the case here. One of my girls takes a few sips and then loses interest. Every time. Even when I put chocolate in there (which she loves), and only fruits she likes. Sigh. Maybe if I turn it into ice cream?

Anyway, I will not give up; I am woman, hear my VitaMix roar. I suppose the good news is that S, my pickier eater, enjoys the smoothies far more than her sister; I’m grateful it’s not the other way around. I’ll keep trying and will hold back the tears that I can’t give them any of my favorite green superfood concoctions — yet.

But back to that drink: In honor of Ann’s hard work and a brand spankin’ new baby boy in the world, I’m offering a Moonwalk, which I spotted at Saveur. Made with grapefruit juice, Grand Marnier, and rosewater, then topped with champagne, it’s definitely fit for a toast. It’s also enough to make even me forget about green smoothies.

So with glass raised high, here’s my high and low of the week:

Low: No one thing jumping out at me this week, but maybe the fact that I felt defeated at various times…from one girl deciding she doesn’t like smoothies (my last, best idea for getting fruits and veggies into them) to trying some new activities at home and observing that certain random things trigger what I call “adoption behaviors.” I think I get used to everything seeming pretty normal, and then something happens and I’m reminded that these little ones still have a lot churning inside.

High: A visit from one of my closest friends and her little boy, whom my girls love and constantly want to treat like one of their dolls. Lisa and I both married later in life and became moms in our 40s, and though our visits now mostly comprise changing diapers, feeding little mouths, running to the potty, and attending to every “mommy, mommy!” it’s still great to have a little bit of girlfriend time.

Bonus question: Where do you fall in the pecking order of your family of origin: oldest? youngest? middle? Or maybe an only child, like my husband? Do you fit the typical traits of your birth order? As you may know, I’m the oldest of ten, and in many ways I’m a typical oldest: I tend to take charge, feel responsible, try to make sure everyone is taken care of. I’m independent, a worrier, and give a lot of advice (even when it’s not always asked for — oops). I like to think I’m a good big sister, though, and I learn a lot from my siblings, who are all amazing people.

Your turn! Please help yourself to a drink, join me in a toast to Ann, and spill away about your week. Then have yourself a slow weekend, and I’ll catch you back here on Monday!

Image: Meghan

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by Margaret Cabaniss

Charlotte Russe
When Zoe asked the other week if we had ever wanted to go by a different name, I said no — but as it turns out, I actually wasn’t supposed to be a Margaret. My parents named me after my great-aunt Monnie (whose given name was Margaret), and they fully intended for me to go by Monnie, too — but, in spite of my grandmother’s valiant efforts to keep the name going, it just never stuck.

Monnie Albritton was the youngest of my grandmother’s ten brothers and sisters, each of whom was more of a character than the last. Most of them settled on the same street (which is still called Albritton Road, since they pretty much overran the place) in the same tiny town in Alabama where they grew up. I have a few memories of visiting my grandmother’s family there when I was a little girl, but many of those aunts and uncles I heard so much about died before I was born, or when I was still too young to remember them.

Monnie
Sadly, Monnie was one of those: She was the first of my grandmother’s siblings to pass away, a year or two before I was born, so I never got the chance to meet her — but my parents always talked about what a vivacious personality she was. (I love this picture of her: Those glasses, that bemused smirk over an unidentifiable drink…you can tell this lady is awesome.) My mom would always tell one story in particular about helping Monnie make her signature dessert, a charlotte russe: The recipe called for “whiskey, to taste,” which Monnie interpreted as adding a little whiskey to the mix, then having a little taste herself, then adding a little more to the mix…and so on, until the two of them (and the charlotte) had “tasted” significantly more whiskey than the recipe ever had in mind.

Obviously, I was destined to be this woman’s namesake.

I’ve always loved that story, and recently I decided that, in Monnie’s honor, it was high time I figure out how to recreate her charlotte russe — and, along with it, a tangible part of my family history. Never mind the fact that I had no idea what charlotte russe was… Unfortunately, the recipe that Monnie gave my mom all those years ago wasn’t all that enlightening, with the kind of vague instructions that only make sense if you’ve been making the thing your whole life.

Thank heavens for the internet: With a little investigation, I discovered that charlotte russe is essentially just a chilled Bavarian cream set in a mold lined with ladyfinger cookies. It’s an old dessert (the creation of a 19th-century French chef, named in honor of two of his former employers), though if it sounds vaguely familiar, it might be because it recently made a cameo on an episode of Downton Abbey — and I can confirm that, yes, it would be a shame to miss such a good pudding.

With the “what” cleared up, I just had to figure out the “how” — another challenge, since most charlotte recipes I found online were made with fruit, which is decidedly not whiskey. Finally, I stumbled across the website of a woman whose own great-grandmother made charlotte russe the way Monnie did, whiskey and all. (Apparently it’s a Southern thing, in addition to being a Dowager Countess thing.) Fortunately, her great-grandmother took better notes on the process, so I was able to piece the dessert together with an assist from my parents, who were in town visiting for the weekend.

Charlotte Russe After whipping up some ladyfingers for the base (these were seriously easy, and tasty; give them a try!), I turned my attention to the charlotte itself. The process is pretty straightforward: You beat some egg whites in one bowl, whipping cream in another, egg yolks and sugar in a third, add some gelatin and whiskey (remembering to taste…), and then begin the painstaking process of gently, gently folding everything together.

Eventually I was left with a velvety, custard-like concoction, which you’re supposed to spoon into a trifle dish lined with the ladyfingers and then put in the fridge to set up overnight. In deference to Monnie, who apparently didn’t use them herself, I left the ladyfingers out, but I made a smaller version in a teacup lined with the cookies, just to see which I liked better. The resulting dessert is hard to describe: smooth, airy, cool, and delicious — kind of like eggnog in mousse form. (With apologies to Monnie, I think I liked it even better with the ladyfingers.)

Charlotte Russe The best part may have been seeing the delight on my parents’ faces as they tried a bite and remembered the last time they tasted Monnie’s original, almost 40 years ago. We ate charlotte russe and reminisced about Monnie, at the end of which my mom paid me the supreme compliment of telling me it was every bit as good as my great-aunt’s. For never having met the woman, it was the closest I’d ever felt to her.

I will definitely be making this again; it seems like the ideal thing to serve at a holiday party, or a proper ladies’ luncheon, if that’s how you roll. One day I hope to teach the recipe to my niece Mara, another Margaret namesake — who will, of course, learn the importance of adding whiskey to taste.

Any ancient recipes for mysterious dishes passed down through the generations in your family? Do tell!

Images: Margaret Cabaniss

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Feeling Like a Mom

February 20, 2013

Playing donkey

I was home with the girls for about a month when a friend asked, “So, do you feel like their mom yet?” It was an interesting question, and up until that point, I hadn’t thought about it; I was just living in the moment, trying to survive as a new mom of two traumatized four-year-olds who couldn’t speak English. Becoming a mom — feeling like one — can take time no matter what, but especially when you’ve adopted a child who isn’t a baby.

I’ve read a lot of adoption stories, and the experiences run the gamut: Some women start feeling attached the moment they see their child’s face in the referral photo; for others, it takes many months (or even years) after the child has come home. One mom I know who adopted a four-year-old told me she and her husband felt like babysitters for about six months after their son came home — and this was a family who had a very smooth transition.

Becoming a parent by adoption simply doesn’t afford the same bonding experiences. When you’re pregnant, your child’s life could not be more intertwined with your own — and you’ve got the physical changes and cravings to prove it. You’re nurturing that child from the get-go, providing him or her all the necessities. While it doesn’t happen for every woman, bonding usually starts long before giving birth. And if things go well, when that little one enters the world, you stare into each others’ eyes and the attachment dance begins, with hundreds of little reciprocal gestures every day. (Let me say again that I know this is not a given when you give birth, and I personally know women who struggled to attach to their babies.)

When you’re pregnant on paper only, there’s no way to attach, because there’s no one to attach to. Then, one day, you get a phone call and see a poor-quality photo, and shortly thereafter you may be meeting your child (or children) face to face. If he’s not a newborn (which, in an international adoption, they never are), you’re often looking at a little person who already has a history, memories, and a personality. The child probably doesn’t look like you, doesn’t smell like you, and may not share your culture. Yet here you are, a family — on paper, anyway.

I will never forget the moment I met my girls. It was powerful — but I didn’t feel like their mom. I just felt a strong compassion and a desire to care for them and take away their fear and pain. Our girls were very receptive to our love and attention from the moment we met (which isn’t always the case), and this has made it easier to attach to them. Even so — and even as a maternal woman who grew up the oldest of a big clan — attachment has been a process. But I can say that, after four-plus months home, I do feel like S’s & H’s mom, and not just a babysitter. And I know this will continue to grow and deepen. Hard not to, when one of them throws her arms around my neck and exclaims with gusto, “This is my mommy!!” Heart melt.

If you’re a parent — whether by birth or adoption — did attaching to your child come easy for you? When did you feel like a mom (or dad)?

Image: B snapped this of me, after a looonnng day, while playing “donkey” with S.   

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The Fourth Trimester

February 19, 2013

by Ann Waterman

38.5 Weeks

I’m not quite sure where the time went with this pregnancy, but here I am, days away from the birth of my third child. A lot of people assume I must be eager to get this baby out, but I’m actually quite content to let him come into this world in his own sweet time. I’m sure I’d feel differently if I had difficult pregnancies, but I don’t — and I know I’m very lucky. With the exception of a few funky weeks in the first trimester (maybe I claimed to be on death’s door on a few occasions), my energy levels have been great, and I’ve been sleeping like a log with minimal heartburn and late-night trips to the potty.

What I struggle with is what I like to call the fourth trimester: the first three months after birth. Those months are amazing in many ways, but they’re also hard — the sleep deprivation, adjusting to a new personality and his own distinctive quirks and schedule, and trying to find a new normal for family life.

The fourth trimester also involves a lot of letting go — letting go of schedules, letting go of a tidy house, letting go of any and all expectations — which is particularly hard for someone like me who finds comfort and security in a very structured and predictable life. Just yesterday, I was patting myself on the back for having things under control on the home front — meals planned in advance, a clean house by Friday so I can enjoy the weekend with my family, and an empty inbox. It’s taken me years to get to this point, and in a couple of weeks, all of it will be gone… I’ll admit it makes me a little sad to think about.

But having been through this twice before, I’ve also learned that letting go opens the door to a lot of personal growth and unexpected joy that I might not experience otherwise. I find it very humbling to accept help and acknowledge my limitations, but I’ve come to realize how important it is to allow people to help you — for both your sake and for theirs. Acts of charity and kindness are what make us human. As the recipient of generous offers and good deeds, I’ve learned that it’s OK to say I need help — and by doing this, I allow myself to experience human goodness and become closer to the giver in a very real way (not to mention that I develop the desire to pay it forward to someone else later).

The other thing I’ve learned from the chaos of the fourth trimester is that life does eventually get back to normal, though it’s a new and different normal from what I knew before. Things aren’t always as bad as I expect, because I’ve gained experience over the years and additional help — like a husband who steps up to the plate even more than before, or an older child who’s become very conscientious and thoughtful. I’ve also gained perspective: Some things just don’t matter as much as I thought, and I while I’ll enjoy hitting the snooze button for the next few days, I’ll also cherish snuggling with my newborn, even if the house is a little messier than usual.

What’s do you find difficult about pregnancy or those newborn days?

Image: Ann Waterman. I took this photo just before the baby sprinkle my friends threw when I was just shy of 39 weeks. I was touched by everyone’s thoughtfulness; it was yet another reminder of all the wonderful people I have in my life.

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Candy Bars

I hate to vent at the end of a long and happy weekend — and on a Monday, no less — but something’s on my mind, and I figured you might have some input…

Wherever I take the girls, some well-meaning store clerk, receptionist, or shopkeeper is handing them candy. I’m amazed that so many people will give candy to my children without even asking me. (I did have one grocery clerk ask me, right before she put something into the girls’ hands, but the damage was already done: The girls’ eyes were fixed on those giant lollipops, and I felt I’d have been a big mean mom saying no.) If it didn’t always happen so fast, I might be able to say something before the girls were ripping off the wrappers, but it’s often while my back is turned, and then it’s too late.

Take this Saturday, for example: We were getting some takeout from a restaurant whose owner has, on many occasions, given me long (though friendly) lectures about what an unhealthy society we live in, how we all need to eat better, and so on. And yet, as we were leaving, I caught him out of the corner of my eye handing two gigantic candy bars to my girls — the super-sized kind. The girls eyes bugged out — and, since they were hungry (we hadn’t eaten dinner yet, of course), they were determined to eat those chocolate bars right then and there. It was either going to be a public meltdown or a compromise; we chose the latter, letting them split one bar while we stuck the other in a pocket, promising it later (but hoping they’d forget).

It’s not that candy every so often is a big deal. But I’m particular about what kinds I give my girls and how often they have it, and I work hard to keep bad sugars and chemicals out of their diet. Every time someone hands them candy in public, I’m faced with a dilemma: Do I snatch it from their hands, causing a public meltdown (or whining spell), and make the perpetrator — who I know only has the best intentions — feel bad? Or do I just grin and bear it, while feeling like my hard-won efforts are being undermined?

I think I now have to start telling people to please ask me before handing out candy in the future. Which means I’ll have to put up with more handouts before this works. And maybe it won’t work; they may not remember me the next time I walk in. Then again, I’ll be the uptight mom who’s gone a bit overboard, so maybe they will.

I’m not sure what else to do. If it were only once every blue moon, it would be different, but this has been happening at least once or twice a week, and it’s driving me bonkers. If you’ve got any other advice, I’m all ears!

Any fun plans for President’s Day? I’m going to enjoy my time today with B and the girls — without any candy.

Image: Getty Images, found here 

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Pull Up a Chair

February 15, 2013

Machu Picchu moss and rocks

Yay, it’s Friday! I’m smiling today because my husband has Monday off. Three-day weekends are my friend. In fact, I’m going to go out on limb here and take a stand for a four-day work week all year long — not because I like to promote laziness or deny workaholics their fix, but because I’m convinced that most people in most jobs can be just as productive in four days as in five. And three days off leaves more time for family, friends, sleep, and exercise — which makes employees happier and more productive.

I realize this isn’t the kind of proposal that wins me any points in this great country — nor is it realistic for some workplaces or jobs. But I don’t think it’s all that crazy an idea…

So how was your (five-day) week, friends? Mine kicked my butt. I need a drink. But, as I mentioned on Wednesday, I give up alcohol every Lent. You know what’s great about a virtual happy hour, though? You can still indulge and not be breaking any rules. Yay!

That said, I figured this first week of Lent I’d go a bit easy and choose something a little more in keeping with the season — a drink that won’t leave me tipsy but satisfies my need for something special after an extra-tiring week. So let’s all share a pitcher of red apple sangria, a delicious-looking creation I spotted on Martha Stewart the other day. Hope it makes you happy, too.

And now, here’s my high and low of the week:

Low: The kicking-of-the-butt thing I mentioned above. I’m just pooped! The girls were up much earlier than usual all week long; they were whinier than usual; one of them wouldn’t eat most of what I put in front of her (all stuff she’s eaten and liked in the past), and the other nicked her cheek and kept ripping off the band-aids we’d put on, only to start crying for another. Plus, I still just can’t seem to get enough sleep and now feel another cold rearing its ugly head.

High: The arrival of my VitaMix! A generous friend recently decided she wanted to give our family one as a sort of “congratulations” gift. She figured it might help me get more fruit and veggies into the girls — and keep myself a little healthier in the process. Ever since our blender broke over a year ago, I’ve been fantasizing about a VitaMix, so I was pretty excited when it showed up on Tuesday. Not exactly a “slow” kitchen gadget, but all the local fruits and veggies I’m going to blend in there will surely make up for it.

Two bonus questions this week: I’ve got fruit on my mind right now, so I’m curious: What one fruit could you not live without? (Tomatoes not included.) For me, it’s a toss-up between apples and oranges. I know, boring, but I never tire of either of them, so it would have to be one or the other. Probably apples. Also, what do you think about my four-day work week idea above? 

Okay, how about you? High and low of the week? Have a slow weekend, and see you back here on Monday!

Image: Near Machu Picchu, Peru, by Lisa Malveaux

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