April 2013

John’s Birth Story

April 30, 2013

by Ann Waterman

John 1

Since I’ve shared details of my pregnancy with John here on SlowMama from the very start, there could be no doubt I’d share his birth story with you, too. Each birth is unique in its own way, and this one was no exception — with a few unexpected twists and turns, but resulting in the same happy ending: a sweet bundle of joy to love and hold.

I spent the last few weeks of this pregnancy wondering two things: Would I go into labor on my own, and if I did, how would I know? Since I was induced with my first two babies — who were both more than a week late — with no real hints of labor beforehand, I didn’t know what to expect. In many ways, I felt like a first-time mom all over again.

So when I started to feel what seemed like more than just Braxton Hicks contractions several days before my due date, I knew something might be up — something…birthy. The contractions were accompanied by bloody show — another new-to-me phenomena — which my seasoned mama friends swore was a sign of imminent labor. When I told my doula, Tara, she texted back that she was packing her car in preparation. I didn’t want to get my hopes up, but deep down, I really wanted everyone to be right.

Figuring the best way to bring on labor was to pretend like it wasn’t going to happen, I carried on my life as usual, doing what might be considered imprudent activities for a very pregnant lady: I took long walks by myself far, far from home; scheduled lunch dates dangerously close to my due date; and even made a solo trip into the city by Metro to get my brows waxed (because even if I’m a disheveled mess in those post-delivery pics, at least I have perfectly arched brows. It’s the small things, my friends).

Ann and Tara

On my due date, those more-than-just-Braxton Hicks contractions started again, but this time, I felt them in the morning rather than the evening (when they usually made their appearance). They were very intermittent and far apart, but I was excited: For the first time, I thought I might really be in the early stages of labor. I texted Tara to let her know what was going on.

Still operating under the mindset that a watched pot never boils, I made a run to Trader Joe’s and Costco to pick up some last-minute things, pausing every so often in the aisles to lean on the shopping cart and breathe through a contraction. When I got home, I used my son’s nap time to rest rather than get work done like I normally do, and my contractions subsided for a bit — starting up again when my husband arrived home. They were more regular now and about 20 minutes apart. We ate dinner and I headed directly up to our bedroom. All I wanted was to curl up in a dimly lit, comfortable place. I’ve heard it said that a woman’s animal instincts take over during labor, and for me, it certainly seemed to be true — I felt like a mama bear retreating to her den.

I texted Tara at 9 p.m. to tell her I was having regular contractions every 10 minutes or so, lasting 30 to 60 seconds. At first I was able to breathe through them while lying down, using Bradley relaxation techniques, but in a couple of hours, the intensity increased and I needed to work through them by bouncing on my exercise ball (temporarily dubbed the “birthing” ball for the occasion). They remained about 10 minutes apart, though, which gave me a good amount of time to rest in between. Tara said to check in with her when they got to be 6-7 minutes apart, or my water broke. In another two hours, I texted her again to let her know the contractions were more intense and closer together, and she suggested taking a shower to help me relax. The shower did just that, providing wonderful pain relief (even if it was short-lived, thanks to a small hot-water tank).

In another hour, my contractions were 3-4 minutes apart, and Tara said it was time to head to the hospital. We called a friend who was on standby to look after the kids, and I ate a small energy bar to keep up my strength before heading out to the hospital in the wee hours of the morning.

John Douglas fingers in mouth

When we arrived at 4 a.m., the nurse at the labor and delivery desk seemed surprised to see me and spent several minutes looking me up in the system. Having always been scheduled for an induction in the past, it never occurred to me to call beforehand and let them know I was on my way. (Oops.) Thankfully, it was a slow night, and a room was quickly prepared for me. Good thing I brought a gift basket for the nursing staff to help smooth things over!

The on-call doctor arrived and, after a cervical check, told me I was at (drumroll)…9 cm! I was prepared to hear that I was only 4 or 5 cm, but 9? I could hardly believe it, especially since the contractions were so manageable compared to the pitocin-induced contractions I endured with my son Peter, which were extremely hard and very close together.

The doctor wanted to break my water immediately, insisting the baby would come flying out, but I wanted to wait until Tara arrived before making any decisions. Tara was part of my team, and I wanted to discuss the matter with her first, particularly since breaking my water when I was laboring with Peter only resulted in unbearable contractions and no baby. The doctor didn’t seem to understand my desire to wait and it made for a little bit of tension in the delivery room, but I stuck to my guns.

Tara soon arrived and, after talking for a bit, I decided to go ahead with breaking my water: I was so far along, and it seemed like this baby was ready to come. As expected, my contractions increased dramatically in intensity and pain, but after two hours of laboring, no baby. It was now past 6 a.m. I was exhausted both physically and mentally, and another cervical check revealed that I hadn’t made any progress. It was frustrating being so close, but I desperately needed a break, so I asked the nurse to ring up the anesthesiologist for an epidural.

With the epidural working its magic and a new upbeat doctor who arrived with a shift change, I got just the lift I needed. I slept for two hours, woke up, and then waited. There must have been several ladies ahead of me in the birthing queue, because no one came by for a long time. I passed the time chatting with Tara and my husband, and I finally caught the nurse assigned to me to see what was going on; apparently, they were just letting my body get good and ready for delivery. Around 11 a.m., they checked me again and I was still at 9 cm. The doctor suggested we augment my contractions with a little pitocin, just to help me make it that last centimeter. That did the trick, and by noon, I was ready to push — only 9 hours after I had been assured the baby would come flying out!

I requested a mirror to help me see what has going on down there and got to work pushing. With help and encouragement from my team, John Douglas Waterman was born at 12:55 p.m., turning sunny-side up at the last moment to greet the world. He was perfect and I was in love.

John and Mom 2

Were there things I wish were different about John’s delivery? Sure. I admit to having a love-hate relationship with epidurals. It was frustrating to go so far on my own and then tap out for one, but I was thankful for the relief it provided me when I was totally spent. In the end, I was just thrilled that I went into labor on my own and delivered without a C-section, so I’m not going to lose sleep over what was otherwise a very smooth delivery. Besides, I can always make changes for round #4!

Images: Ann Waterman

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Internet Menagerie

April 29, 2013

Flower Petal Confetti

Happy Monday! Did you have a good weekend? Mine was full of lots of fun family time and perfect spring weather.

I’m kicking off the week with a trip around the web — a potpourri of stuff from the past few weeks that I found thought-provoking, informative, or inspiring. If you’ve read anything interesting recently, please share in the comments…

  • How our family stories bind us — and why it’s important for kids to hear them. (New York Times)
  • fashionABLE: Another place to buy beautiful scarves and make a difference.
  • Speaking of scarves, I just tried this way of wearing one.
  • We’ll be doing a lot of picnicing this year, and I can’t help but drool over this carrier.

Image: Zoe Saint-Paul

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Pull Up a Chair

April 26, 2013

Florida Sky

It’s time for a little housekeeping news…

SlowMama is growing! Slowly, but surely (which seems like the best way for a site like ours, don’t you think?). It was always my intention to make this site an integral component of my work if I ended up loving it, which I do — and that means finding ways to monetize the site so I can keep giving a lot of my time to it. Making money from a lifestyle blog is tough, but it can be done if you’re putting out good content, being consistent, and open to the right opportunities.

It’s essential to me that I never compromise my integrity to make a buck, so there are certain ground rules I’ve set when it comes to taking ads and working with sponsors and partners. I won’t work with a company I’d never buy from. That doesn’t mean every company I accept an ad from perfectly espouses the values of this site; it just means I’m not going to promote companies that are blatantly antithetical to those values. I’ll always prefer to work with smaller companies, organizations making a difference, and creative enterprises, but I won’t say no to bigger companies and entities whose missions don’t explicitly oppose mine.

That said, you may have noticed a new ad on the side bar (to your right) for Tom’s shoes. I’m thrilled to have Tom’s here because I not only love their shoes, I love what they’re about: Tom’s gives a free pair of shoes or eyeglasses to someone in need for every pair sold. Please do support SlowMama’s sponsors and partners if they resonate with you!

In another piece of news, SlowMama monthly contributor Alissa Lively will soon be taking an extended maternity leave from blogging; May will be her last month for a while. I’ll miss her voice on the site and hope she’ll be back soon. Lucky for us, the talented Abby Scharbach — who has guest posted here a number of times — will be filling in for the rest of the year. Abby is a wealth of wisdom, creativity, and great ideas, so I’m thrilled she’ll be here.

That’s all for now, but I’ll be sure to keep you updated on what’s happening at SlowMama. Our growth is certainly something to celebrate, so I’m thinking this classic sazerac, a cognac-based cocktail, is perfect for a toast and some laid-back conversation about our week. Here’s my high and low:

Low: Nothing stands out — which, I guess, is good. Maybe having to send back yet another mail order of clothes? Such a non-problem, but I do find it irritating that I have such poor luck ordering clothes online.

High: I’ve got a few: We have a new nephew! Born in Nova Scotia to my brother Alex and sister-in-law Jen, little Aaron James is as cute as a button. This new generation of our family is heavy on boys — but that’s good, because I can get my fill of little-boy wonderfulness whenever I visit siblings. Also, we finally sold our bed and set up our new king mattress. It’s family bed all the way here now, but we’re digging all the bonding time — and we’re sleeping much, much better. Yay!

Bonus question: Mac or PC?

Late did I love thee, oh Macintosh. B and I became converts about three years ago and can’t believe we waited so long. It makes my computer experience so much easier and a million times more fun. I dread the day my little MacBook croaks because I’m ridiculously attached to it, and Apple isn’t making this version anymore. I didn’t like the white plastic body initially, but now I love how it looks and feels and don’t want to go back to metal. (I’ll get over it when the time comes, I’m sure.)

Okay, friends, grab a glass and tell me about your week. Then have a slow weekend, and I’ll see you back here on Monday!

Image: Clara E.

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Meet the Masters

April 25, 2013

by Margaret Cabaniss

Christine Ferber © Maurice Rougemont

It’s hard to think of anything that sounds more idyllic than life as a jam-maker in the Alsace region of France — but if this New York Times profile of Christine Ferber, known as “the Jam Fairy” to her fans, is anything to go by, I am nowhere near tough enough for the job:

Six days a week — seven before major holidays, when demand increases — she wakes up between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m., drives the short distance from her house to the shop, and gets to the kitchen by 5:30 a.m. at the latest. “The two essentials that I need to create beautiful things are time and patience,” she says. Every day is a long day; she is never in bed before 10 p.m. . . .

For the griotte jam . . . she insists that the stems must be on the cherries when they arrive. “If the stalk is pulled off, the hole it leaves allows the fruit to oxidate, diminishing its quality,” she says. Ms. Ferber rolls each cherry between two fingers to squeeze the stone out gently, noting that an automated pitter would puncture the fruit and diminish the preservation of the finished jam. . . .

Last year, the company made 118,000 pots of jam, and she filled each one by hand. “People don’t believe it’s possible,” she says.

One hundred and eighteen thousand pots. I think I made…what, 12 jars of jam one day last summer before calling it quits? Yeah. I’m officially a giant wimp.

People like Ferber fascinate me. It’s clear that she has a boundless passion for what she does — I mean, you must have, to be able to work six days a week from the time you turn 18 and still say you love your job. “Good work ethic” doesn’t begin to cover that kind of commitment; there has to be a deep love and respect for the thing itself that would entice you, for instance, to pit thousands of cherries by hand…or to say, as Ferber does, “I’m on a constant learning curve” — this from a woman 30 years into her career, and whose product is in demand all over the world.

The article actually reminded me quite a bit of the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi, a profile of the man widely hailed as the world’s best sushi chef. Like Ferber, Jiro Ono started his career at a young age and has rarely taken a day off in all the years since; like Ferber, he could open a larger, more elaborate operation anywhere in the world, and people would flock to it — but he chooses instead to stay in his unassuming 10-stool sushi bar in a Tokyo subway station.

Most of all, he shares the same passion for his work. By all accounts, Ferber and Jiro turn simple food — fruit jam, a piece of fish and rice — into a transcendent experience. They’re constantly refining and improving their craft — beyond what almost anyone else would consider “perfection” — and yet they are completely humble in the face of their success, believing there is always more to be learned. Then again, maybe that’s their secret.

If you haven’t seen the documentary already, seriously: Do it now. It’s gorgeous and a little mind-blowing and will make you think about real craftsmanship in a new way. I’m curious: If you could master any one skill, what would it be? I have neither the natural talent nor the discipline of a Ferber or Jiro, but if we’re talking fairy-godmother type skill acquisition here, I’d want to be able to play the mandolin like Bill Monroe. (And maybe make Ferber-quality jam on the side.) How about you?

Image: Christine Ferber © Maurice Rougemont

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‘Am I Pretty?’

April 24, 2013

Definitely Pretty Girls

My girls didn’t know English when they landed on U.S. soil, but somehow they knew the word “pretty.” Not only were they attracted to frills and bows and everything girly, they would turn to us all the time and ask, “Me, pretty?” Of course, we were always quick and effusive with our yeses, but as the months pass, I’ve become concerned with this over-identification with being pretty (or not pretty), and how to counteract it.

I want my girls to take pride in their appearance and to feel pretty, of course — especially since they’re being raised in a society that favors lighter-skinned, straighter-haired women. But I don’t want their physical appearance to be their primary source of self-worth, so I’m searching for ways to help start them on the right path now. (And I must admit that sometimes it feels like I’m stabbing in the dark, but I guess you learn as you go with this parenting thing.)

When the girls ask for affirmation, I’ve begun substituting the word “beautiful” for “pretty” — objects may be pretty (dresses, flowers, hair bands, etc.), but people are beautiful. It’s probably all the same to the girls at this point, but the word “beautiful” encapsulates qualities beyond the mere physical; it’s a word of greater breadth and depth. I’m also trying to decrease the number of times I use either word. (This is much harder for their father, who’s always so blown away by how adorable they are that he has a hard time not saying so out loud.)

I’ve also started little conversations with the girls: When they ask if they’re pretty, I say, “Yes, you are, but do you know what’s better than being pretty?” And they’re slowly catching on to the answer: “Being kind, good, loving, generous…” I don’t kid myself that they’re absorbing the message yet, or that they care. In fact, I’m sure they don’t. And I know what they see is more powerful than what they hear. The future is not bright when it comes to learning that looks aren’t everything — and already, when we’re out, people constantly comment on how pretty/adorable/cute they are, even saying, “You’re so pretty!” All very nice, but I can’t help but think this isn’t helpful.

Twin Sisters

I want to teach S and H that physical beauty is primarily about being as healthy as you can be, and about confidence, personal style, and grace. As they get older, I’ll certainly share little tips of my own: never wear heels you can’t walk in; wear clothes that compliment your body and encourage people to treat you with respect; maintain good posture; take care of your skin, hair, and teeth –things like that. I know that what I model — and what their father and I praise — will speak volumes.

My girls got stuck with a mom who spends relatively little time on herself and isn’t insecure about her appearance (except in photos). But even I care about looking good. I think the main thing is not to pretend that looks don’t matter — we’re all drawn to physical beauty — but to put it in context with attributes that are more essential to personal contentment and success. I want my daughters to own their talents, intelligence, and natural abilities, and to value effort, learning, and pursuing their dreams. If we put more emphasis on all this other stuff, it will help relegate the desire to be “pretty” to a minor place — at least, that’s what I’m hoping!

Got any tips about helping young girls develop their self-esteem?

Image: Zoe Saint-Paul

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Coffee Making

I am not a coffee drinker and never have been. The sleep deprivation of motherhood hasn’t changed this, much to some peoples’ surprise. Even during my university years, I guzzled water to pull all-nighters (it really seemed to work!).

The weird thing is, though, I love the taste and smell of coffee. As a child, my favorite ice cream flavor was coffee. No other kid I knew chose coffee ice cream over chocolate or strawberry. Any chance I got, I chose coffee-flavored stuff. By any estimation, you’d think I would have turned into a big coffee drinker as an adult.

My big problem has always been the caffeine; it just doesn’t agree with me. It makes my already-fast ticker race out of my chest and gives me digestive problems. The caffeine in tea has a much milder effect, and I don’t notice anything when I eat chocolate. But coffee…it’s not a mutual love affair, unfortunately. (Decaf has never appealed to me because the process of making it usually involves chemicals.)

All that said, I’m suddenly tolerating coffee a little better in my old age, and over the past couple of months, I’ve been treating myself to a small cup or two on weekend mornings. I take it with cream and no sugar — but I like to drink it with something sweet in hand, like a pastry or even pancakes. I’m married to a big coffee drinker who’s experimented with more coffee makers and beans than anyone has a right to; his brews keep my house filled with a lovely coffee aroma, which also delights our daughters (who, true to their Ethiopian roots, love everything about coffee).

If you didn’t already know, Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee. It’s the country’s pride and joy, as well as its biggest export. According to a fascinating (and gorgeously shot) travel piece in one of my favorite magazines, AFAR, Ethiopia has a greater variety of beans than anywhere in the world. By some estimates, 99% of the world’s arabica coffee can be traced to Ethiopia. When we were there, B and I drank coffee at various coffee ceremonies, which are an integral part of the culture there. He loved it — whereas I took small sips and then kept my eyes out for the bathroom.

Coffee Time

I’d really like to try more Ethiopian beans, and luckily they aren’t hard to find (though the best stuff remains in Ethiopia). I tend to like medium, nutty, full-bodied roasts, and because it’s such a treat when I do sit down to a cup, I want the best. My favorite brand is Counter Culture, followed by a local cafe’s Mexican coffee, and the beans from another local roaster — Zeke’s. Organic, fair trade, shade-grown coffee is important to me, since beans can be heavily sprayed (which diminishes their health benefits and doesn’t help local farmers as much).

I am completely fascinated with this BulletProof coffee recipe ever since a good friend raved about it. Have you heard of it? Crazy stuff like this always calls my name. Likewise, this past weekend, I made a java quinoa smoothie. Coffee and quinoa? I know — but it was tasty. Since I still don’t know how to brew a good cup of coffee, mine was too weak, diminishing the coffee flavor in the smoothie, and I added too much quinoa. Nevertheless, it was a pretty yummy — and nutritious — alternative to a hot cup of Joe.

Are you a coffee drinker? An aficionado or just a grab-and-go person? Got any favorite coffee rituals to share?

Images: Zoe Saint-Paul

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My Green Report Card

April 22, 2013

Tree Fish

It’s Earth Day today (though most celebrations took place over the weekend), and it got me thinking about what I’m doing well — and not so well — when it comes to being a good steward of the Earth and her resources in my everyday life. Here’s a written report card of sorts, beginning with my good grades:

  • I shop and eat locally as much as possible.
  • I repurpose glass jars and containers. I recycle. I reuse wrapping paper, regular paper, and ribbon.
  • I donate to and buy from thrift stores and consignment shops. I also use CraigsList and sell and buy stuff on local listservs.
  • I use recycled and cloth grocery bags.
  • Most of our cleaning products are environmentally friendly, as are most of our personal body products like soap, shampoo, etc.
  • We buy some of our power from “green” sources.
  • I usually remember to unplug small appliances when they’re not in use.
  • Three quarters of our household appliances are now “Energy Star” models.
  • I pay much more attention to where our purchases come from: clothing, furniture, household items.
  • I write my representatives about issues that affect the environment, like cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay, preserving farmland and forests, etc.

Here’s a list of where I’m failing (or haven’t even tried):

  • I don’t compost. Just can’t figure out a way to make it work in our tiny kitchen and nonexistent backyard.
  • I go through a lot of paper towels. (Imagine a never-ending Bounty commercial.) When I try to use cloth, I end up with a heaping pile of dirty laundry, permanently stained cloths, and an empty drawer — so I go back to paper towels.
  • My girls insist that the lights always be on, even in the middle of the day — probably because our downstairs is so dim and they’re used to lots of sun. So I’m blaming them for the fact that I’m not great at making sure lights are only on when necessary.
  • I haven’t made many of my own natural cleaners yet, even though I’ve been meaning to. Not sure why…
  • I’ve still never tried a Diva Cup, which means I still use disposable pads and tampons.
  • I don’t use a clothesline. I’m tempted to hang one on our deck this summer, but I’m afraid I’ll get complaints from neighbors: We live in tight quarters here, and I fear they’ll think we’re contributing to the look of tenement living.
  • We don’t have solar panels on our house. We could probably install them, but I don’t know where to begin and somehow doubt we could afford it right now.
  • Although I pay many bills online, I have not yet taken the time to opt out of pre-screened credit card offers, so we still get too much junk mail.
  • We desperately need to replace our entire HVAC system to make our house more energy efficient. We also need to replace some doors and windows.
  • We haven’t changed most of our lightbulbs — which by law we have to do soon. I’m not keen about using bulbs that are actually toxic if broken and must be disposed of like chemicals. Some green-friendly solutions really don’t seem like solutions at all.

This list is far from complete, but I think I’d give myself a solid C: I’m doing some things well, while other things need major improvement or attention. I have to accept that some things are just not going to happen in our current house.

How about you? How are you doing when it comes to living a more sustainable, natural life?

Image: Zoe Saint-Paul 

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Pull Up a Chair

April 19, 2013

Spring Blossoms

Like so many, I’ve been thinking a lot about the bombings in Boston this week — the loss of life, the massive injuries, and the fright of it all. It’s always hard to wrap your head around such tragedies. While there are terrible things happening around the world, it feels different when they happen close to home. At times like this I’m extra glad we don’t have a television, so that the girls aren’t exposed to images they can’t easily process. How do you explain these things to children when it’s hard enough to comprehend them as adults?

One of the best things I’ve heard about tragedies like this comes from the late Fred Rogers (more familiar to most of us as Mr. Rogers), who once said, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'”

So true. In the midst of carnage and tragedy, there are always people running to help — in all kinds of ways — and we saw it this week. Of course, we need to address suffering, hate, fear, and violence with children as they seek answers. But perhaps more importantly, we need to help them see that the world is still a safe place for them, and that goodness always has the victory; light always overcomes darkness.

While it doesn’t feel like a week to whoop it up, I think it’s important to celebrate the helpers, the mercies and blessings amidst tragedy, and the people working hard to assist the injured and grieving. In their honor, I’m offering a twist on a classic today — a drink I spotted at Bon Appetit called a New York Sour. Here’s my low and high of the week:

Low: Well, definitely what I just wrote about. I have family who live in the Boston area, good friends from there, and B’s boss’s son — a university student in Boston — was 50 feet from the blast. My heart and prayers go out to all those affected. On 9/11, I was working in downtown Washington, D.C., and I know that being in close proximity to something like this really affects you, even if you and your loved ones are not directly touched by it.

High: I was wearing my stool-sample-collector hat again this past week (fun times) and finally completed my task with the help of two very cooperative daughters. Also, after postponing my court dates three times, I finally made it and managed to get out of two $102 parking tickets. They were unjust, in my opinion, so I fought the Man — and won! Traffic court is always such an interesting place — especially in a city like Baltimore.

Bonus question: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received when it comes to dealing with hardship?

Many words of wisdom have helped me over the years; one phrase that often comes to mind is something my mother once wrote me, from Percy Bysshe Shelley: If winter comes, can spring be far behind?

So, your turn: What kind of week did you have? Any plans for the weekend? Hope it’s a slow one, and I’ll see you back here on Monday.

Image: Zoe Saint-Paul

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Everyday Luxuries

April 18, 2013

by Margaret Cabaniss

Everyday Luxuries

One of the things I love about visiting my sister Jen — aside from the excessive cuteness of her baby — is how welcoming her home is. Jen makes it a point to go above and beyond for her guests (even if they’re family), and it shows in the little touches around her home. She and I got to talking about what a difference those things can make in your mood, and in turning a house from “that place where I eat and sleep” to a comforting and inviting home.

Some of those items can feel like inessentials or luxuries, but we wouldn’t hesitate to go that extra mile for our guests — so why not for ourselves, who live in the space every day? I’m not talking about lavish home renovations or constant self-pampering — just making a note of the things that make our everyday lives a little more pleasant, and not being afraid to invest in them from time to time.

Here’s a list of “everyday luxuries” I came up with, in no particular order:

Everyday Luxuries

Nice hand soap. One of my favorite things in Jen’s lovely home? The amazing hand soap she keeps in the bathrooms. (I told you this wouldn’t be complicated. And yes, my life is a laugh-a-minute thrill ride.) It’s so light and clean and makes me happy every time I wash my hands; it takes a mundane, routine thing and makes it luxurious — definitely worth the difference of a few pennies. Even just putting regular grocery-store soap in a pretty glass bottle can make you feel a little more civilized. (Oh, and the best part about Jen’s fancy hand soap? She confided that she scored it on sale at a discount home goods store; it only smelled expensive.)

Everyday Luxuries

High-quality linens. People generally understand that high-quality mattresses are worth the investment, given that we spend one-third of our lives in bed — so why not the sheets on top of them? Slipping into a freshly made bed with impossibly soft linens is one of life’s little pleasures (and since parents get so little time each night to enjoy them, best to make every minute count). The same goes for a cushy bath towel: A threadbare hand-me-down will get the job done, but why not make the job a little more pleasant?

There’s another bonus here, too: High-quality linens are oftentimes better made, which means they’ll last longer. I’ve bought cheap knock-offs in the past that fell apart not long after, and I’ve spent more money over the years replacing them than I would have if I had just invested in the right set from the beginning. Just think of the money saved and hassle averted when you wrap up in your fluffy spa towel…

Everyday Luxuries

Fresh flowers. I often talk myself out of buying flowers because “they’re just going to die in a few days”…as if anything I buy at the grocery store lasts longer than a few days. And anyway, man does not live by bread alone (or so I’ve heard). Meanwhile, it makes a huge difference in my mood to see a bouquet of flowers on the kitchen table or in a small vase by the bed. It doesn’t require a huge investment, either: You can strip down inexpensive grocery-store bouquets to their component parts and make your own (far superior) arrangements out of them. Or just raid the backyard: A handful of blooms or a flowering branch will be just as lovely.

Everyday Luxuries

Good coffee. I could have put “good chocolate,” or “good booze,” or any of a number of things here — but really, anything you enjoy and build a little daily ritual around (hello, morning Joe) is worth investing in to make the experience that much more worth savoring.

Your turn: What everyday luxuries of your own will you splurge on every now and then?

Images: 1, A Well Traveled Woman / 2, Sweet Paul Magazine / 3, Paul Massey Photography / 4, Design*Sponge / 5, KatieAnn Owens

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Christmas All Year Round

April 17, 2013

Hanging Christmas Lights

I remember one Christmas when the small white lights I hung on the exposed brick wall in our living room stayed up longer than usual because I was too lazy to take them down. When I finally went to put them away, I couldn’t bring myself to do it: They made the room so much prettier that I just had to leave them up. Eventually, one shorted out, which brought the whole strand down, but it made me wonder why we don’t hang lights all year round.

White lights are my favorite, but in recent years I’ve become a big fan of colored lights. They’re so festive and fun and always remind me of childhood. If I were going to throw a Cinco de Mayo party (which I’m not, because my curfew is currently still 8 pm), I would totally use strands of colored lights. Wouldn’t they work well to set the ambiance for some delicious margaritas and pico de gallo?

Parties and lights go hand in hand — and while you can get beautiful globe lights and lanterns at specialty stores, the least expensive way to light up a party is just to use strands of Christmas lights. They’re much less expensive, and you only have to buy the one set, since they can serve double-duty for parties and the holidays.

Globe Lights

B keeps telling me he wants to put up some vintage white lights in our living room. They would definitely suit our old home, but with summer approaching, I’m thinking more about decorating outside our house. I think they’d look great lining our small upstairs deck…

I’m also getting excited about the various events I might plan this summer in our courtyard. Besides stringing lights in the smaller trees and bushes back there, we have a couple of big trees, and I’ve always loved the look of wrapping small lights around thick tree trunks. How about these Halloween-themed colored lights twisted around a tree? So fun!

Halloween Themed Lights

Have you ever decorated with Christmas lights other times of the year? Got any fun tips or ideas you’ve tried, indoors or out? Do share!

Images: 1 and 2 from Karla Swoveland at ItsTheLittleThings; 3 by Joel ZimmerThis post was written in partnership with ChristmasLightsEtc.com. All opinions expressed are my own. 

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