February 2014

Pull Up a Chair

February 28, 2014

Instagram Challenge
You may remember that, back at the start of the month, I launched a SlowMama Instagram Challenge, admittedly for selfish reasons: I’d been wanting to try it and thought it would be much more fun if I talked some of you into doing it with me. And yay, some of you joined in! I’ve been enjoying your photos and captions ever since. Though I managed to post at least one photo a day most of the month, I did kind of drop the ball the past week or so and missed a few days here and there.

Here’s what I’ve learned after Instagraming for a whole month, though: I’m digging it! I wasn’t sure I would, and I can’t see myself posting all the time (like some people I follow do) — but for sheer enjoyment, I think it’s my favorite social media platform. I felt like it fostered a greater sense of connection among those of us participating in the challenge, which I really liked. And the challenge to get creative with the photos was a good exercise: I came up with a few neat shots and was impressed with so many of yours.

If you participated in the SlowMama Instagram Challenge, did you enjoy it? Are you now a full-fledged Instagramer? I may just do another challenge down the road, so stay tuned! Meanwhile, if you feel like testing the waters, you can follow me on Instagram here — and check out everyone else’s photos from the month with the hashtag #slowmamachallenge.

How was your week, by the way? Here’s something a little different for our Friday happy-hour chat today: a ginger switcher I spotted at The Kitchn. Please grab one! Here’s my high and low this week:

Low: Not much of a low, but I finished my book, Cutting for Stone. About 10 different people told me I should read it and, thanks to a friend who loaned me her copy, I finally did. It’s a fictional story about twins who grow up in Ethiopia, and the author sure knows how to spin a tale. I’ve been staying up way too late for weeks, mini-flashlight in hand, devouring the story. Whenever I finish a good book, I really miss it and feel a void until I find that next great read.

High: It was a pretty good week on the homeschooling front. One day the girls even took the initiative, pulling out stuff from their binders and working on their own. We read some terrific books and did some fun science experiments, music lessons, art projects, and memory work.

Bonus question: If you could live in another state for a year, where would you choose? Hmmm….Colorado? South Carolina? Somewhere on the west coast? Alaska? Hawaii? I can’t even answer my own question because there are too many.

Hope the weekend ahead is a great one, friends!

Images: Zoe Saint-Paul

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by Margaret Cabaniss

What I Learned Flying with Kids
When my sister invited me to come along on a trip with her family to Southern California last week, I pretty much had my bags packed before she could get the words out. (Trading in negative wind chills for 70 degrees and sun? Gee. I just don’t know.)

It was a pretty nice arrangement for us both, really: I got a trip to sunny California, and Jen and her husband got help wrangling all of their luggage and their two kids — 18 months and 6 weeks — on a four-hour cross-continental flight. It was definitely a long trek, but the kids actually did really well: Baby Madeleine slept when she wasn’t eating, and even though Dominic started getting antsy around hour three of the flight, there were no major meltdowns or kiddie disasters — and most surprising of all (to me, anyway), we weren’t treated like lepers by (most of) our fellow passengers.

Which, honestly, I had kind of been bracing for. I’d heard enough horror stories about flying with kids that I just assumed everyone would recoil in disgust at the sight of us lumbering through the terminal, while the children did their best impression of possessed demon-spawn for the entirety of the flight. For someone whose preferred operating mode in large crowds is to remain invisible — never asking for help, and certainly never causing a scene — it was definitely a lesson in humility to be fairly screaming “NOTICE ME!” by our very presence everywhere we went.

What I Learned Flying with Kids
Relaxing in the business lounge. Who wouldn’t want to sit next to this hot mess?

Oddly enough, it was the fact that we often did need help, or inevitably drew attention from the people around us, that I ended up having some of the nicest encounters I’ve ever had while flying. There were the three 20-something women in the security line behind Jen and me, who insisted on helping us gather our things as we juggled strollers and babies and shoes and belts; the heavily tattooed guy across the aisle who took every bump and interruption from Dominic as an opportunity to smile and engage him; the newly minted grandmother in the seat next to me who fairly jumped any time I needed anything while I was holding a sleeping baby. Jen and Phillip have occasionally gotten free drinks from sympathetic flight attendants, and once there was even a tour of the cockpit…

That’s not to say that everyone was perfectly lovely: There was also the guy sitting behind us who complained loudly on the phone before takeoff about the “screaming children” onboard (and the lack of in-flight movies, and something about the end of civilization as we know it), while the kids sat content and quiet; and I definitely felt the cool stares of some of the patrons in the business lounge when we traipsed through…but almost without fail, someone would be nice to us immediately after and would more or less make up for the whole thing.

Those people definitely restored my faith in humanity — and I wouldn’t have had a reason to interact with them in the first place if I hadn’t been in a position where I needed their help. Sometimes that’s the very thing that opens us up to connections with other people, and I was pleasantly surprised by what happened when I did. Not that I would necessarily recommend air travel with children as a way to regularly encounter humanity at its best, but still: A day when you come away from it thinking that people on the whole are essentially decent and kind is never a bad one. (And as for those other folk: According to Jen, at least, after a while, you stop caring quite so much what they think.)

I know, this is all well and good when I’ve flown a grand total of two times with two kids — so I want to hear your stories. Have you found people to be mostly friendly and helpful when you travel? Or is it more of a dark-side-of-humanity type experience for you? Any particularly uplifting or horrifying tales to share? Do tell!

Images: Margaret Cabaniss

You might also like: When Your Parenting Is Criticized, Taking a Slow Vacationand Prepping for Holiday Air Travel. And be sure to follow SlowMama on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest

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Internet Menagerie

February 26, 2014

Baltimore Robot Mural Time for our monthly trip around the web!  Here are some of the interesting, informative, and inspiring things I’ve spotted around the web over the past few weeks. I’d love to hear your own finds in the comments…

  • Good news (for a change) about obesity: Rates among young American children are way down. (New York Times)
  • Ira Glass’ video clip The Gap is worth a moment.

Image: Zoe Saint-Paul

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How to Make a Meal Plan

February 25, 2014

by Ann Waterman

Meal Plan This time last year, with baby #3 on the way and the realization that life was only going to get a whole lot crazier, I knew I had to get serious about meal planning. Sure, I’d been planning 3-4 meals a week, but that still left me scrambling, because (surprise!) kids need to eat 7 days a week, and if dinner’s not on the table, they let you know it. My lack of planning also made for additional trips to the grocery store for last-minute meals — something I knew I didn’t want to do with a newborn and kids in tow — and eating out as a family of five was a luxury we couldn’t afford.

But I’m happy to report that, a year later, even though my house is louder and messier and laundry threatens to engulf us, food gets on the table every. single. night. When we eat out, it’s not because I haven’t cooked anything, but because I’ve planned ahead to have a night off from cooking. Our eating is more intentional, makes better use of my time, and nourishes my family. Here’s how I made it happen:

Gather Your Recipes

Set aside a couple of hours on a weekend where you’ll be undisturbed and pull out all your recipe resources — cookbooks, magazine clippings, your tablet (to review online recipe favorites). The key to making menu planning work is having a list of recipes that you know and love at your fingertips, so they don’t get lost and forgotten and you don’t have to go searching for them. I group recipes depending on my needs: quick and easy, sides, batch cooking, family favorites, company worthy.

If there are some recipes that you’ve been meaning to make but haven’t gotten around to it, put them on a “try” list — you’ll be more likely to actually make them. Just be careful about trying too many new recipes in a week, since they invariably take more time and you’re not always sure what the result will be!

Master-meal-list Organize

You can work from the master list of the recipes you’ve created, or you can take it to the next level and move your recipes to a single binder — with plastic sleeves, so you can easily wipe away those cooking spills that will inevitably happen — divided by category so you’ve got them all in one place. Better yet, go the electronic route and organize your recipes digitally, like Mags discussed a while back. I’ve been using Pepperplate for my recipe needs and will never go back.

Plan

Now that you have a working list of recipes, weekly menu planning will be much easier. Dedicate some time each week to sit down with your list of recipes and your weekly calendar so you can plan accordingly. Date night on Friday? No need to cook. Soccer practice on Monday? Pick a meal from your quick and easy list. Saturday is wide open? Double up a batch of lasagna and freeze the rest.

Don’t forget to include sides with your meals to make them complete. I shoot for one protein, one starch, and one vegetable.

Meal-plan-dinner

Cook Smart

Say you’re serving rice as a side on Tuesday and making shrimp fried rice Friday. Why not double the amount of rice you make Tuesday and save the rest for Friday’s meal? You could do this with pasta, noodles, and beans, too.

Try planning meals together that share an ingredient. Whenever I make brown sugar and mustard–glazed pork with sweet potatoes and braised cabbage, I automatically drop in pulled-pork sandwiches with coleslaw later in the week, since a whole head of cabbage is too much to use in one meal.

If your family loves a particular dish and you don’t mind eating it every week, make it a recurring event — like Saturday pizza night. It’s one less day you have to plan for.

Meal-plan-baby Embrace Your Freezer

Your freezer is your friend. If you can, try to do batch cooking at least once a month and double or triple recipes. It’s so nice to have a fallback if a meal doesn’t turn out, or if you have an especially busy day that doesn’t allow for cooking. I even keep a few store-bought prepared meals in the freezer for dire emergencies: Depending on what you choose, it’s still cheaper and better for you than the drive-thru!

Make a Shopping List

After creating my weekly meal plan, I review the recipes to make sure I have everything on hand. This usually requires checking my freezer, fridge, and pantry — and while I’m doing that, I’ll make note of things that need to be used up or are coming up on their expiration date and keep them in mind for the next menu plan.

Once I’ve figured out what I’ll need, I create a shopping list, listing items in the order I’ll find them in the store. It sounds tedious, but when you’re shopping with kids, you want to be in and out of the store as quickly as possible, and there’s nothing worse than marching back to the produce section — and past the dreaded candy aisle — with a cartful of tired, howling kids because you forgot to pick up the broccoli while you were there earlier.

Meal-plan-fridge Print and Post Menus

My kids love it when I print and post menus on the fridge: They can see when they’re getting their favorite meals or gird themselves for their least favorites (and begin negotiations about portion size). It also allows me to see what I need to prepare for the next day, whether it’s prepping some dough or pulling out meat to thaw overnight.

Do you have anything to add to this list? What are your meal-planning tips?

P.S. — How to Cook Better, How to Roast a Chicken, Introducing Babies to the Pleasures of the Table, and Kids and Table Manners

Images: Ann Waterman

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I Take My Coffee Bulletproof®

February 24, 2014

Bulletproof Coffee
I drink Bulletproof® coffee a few mornings a week. Ever heard of it? The recipe (as well as reviews about it) have been making the rounds in the blogosphere for a while — particular among natural foodie blogs — but a lot of people in my life still hadn’t heard of it, so I thought I’d share.

“Bulletproof” here refers to a copyrighted term popularized by a tech entrepreneur named Dave Asprey, who claims to have shed 100 pounds by eating a high-fat, low-carb diet. He explains on his website that he was inspired to create his coffee drink after experiencing yak butter tea in Tibet.

Making Bulletproof® coffee is simple: a cup of high quality brewed coffee (Asprey believes all beans are not created equal); a little unsalted, grass-fed butter; and some coconut oil (he uses a special kind). You stick it all in a blender until it’s frothy, and that’s it! (Read here for the exact recipe.)

While our culture tends to be gun-shy about fats, it’s common in other parts of the world to add them to hot drinks. Ethiopians often add spiced butter to coffee; many mountainous countries (like Tibet) add fats to teas. Doing so keeps hunger at bay by helping you metabolize the drink more slowly, and you don’t get the rush and crash often associated with caffeine.

I can attest to all of this. I’ve always loved the taste and smell of coffee, but it has never liked me: It left me feeling jittery and upset my stomach — even stuff brewed from the best of beans. When a friend told me about Bulletproof® coffee, I knew I had to try it. I can’t say I notice any extra energy (like so many others claim), but I can go the whole morning without feeling hungry, I don’t get anxious or a racing heart, and my digestion is unaffected. Since I’m not convinced caffeine is the greatest thing — at least for me — I don’t drink it every morning, but it’s the only way I like coffee now.

If you’re curious about how this compares to a regular cup of coffee, it turns out very creamy — much like a latte. You’re not supposed to add sugar, but I find the fats kind of make up for that. I suppose you could always add a small amount of sweetener (like honey or stevia) if you had to, but it’s meant to be taken as is for all the supposed benefits.

Have you tried Bulletproof® coffee? If you decide to try it, let me know what you think!

Image: Zoe Saint-Paul

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Pull Up a Chair

February 21, 2014

Zoe on Snowy Street How’s this for style: I pulled on a pair of long johns back in early January and haven’t taken them off since. (Except for the odd shower. And I guess I washed them a few times…) All I can think about when I emerge from the covers in the morning is getting warm again as soon as possible — which means that getting dressed is a quick chore and a lot of layers are involved.

When I’m cold, fashion goes straight out the window. But I’ve learned a couple of secrets to help look a little more pulled together: One of them is that I make sure my layers — particularly my outer ones — are nice. Then, even when I’m simply dressing for warmth, I actually look decent.

Here’s a recent selfie in which I’m wearing velvet leggings (over the aforementioned long johns); a tank under a long-sleeve shirt under a cashmere turtleneck under a cashmere and wool cardigan. (You can’t see my Smart Wool socks.) While it’s a very casual look, when I pull on a pair of tall boots and throw on a scarf, I feel like I can hold my own when I’m out on errands or running to homeschool co-op.

Zoe in Winter Layers

Do you pay attention to fashion when you’re dressing for winter temps? (If you’re in a warm climate, feel free to share what you’re wearing these days, but I think I’ll need to plug my ears!)

I’m in the mood for a classic Manhattan today — please join me! Here’s my high and low this week:

Low: This wannabe slow mama was way too busy this week. Most weeks are extremely full, but this one felt like I was running non-stop. I had a number of big deadlines, work-related meetings every evening, and a million things on my to-do list (many of which are still there). I’m hosting a friend’s milestone birthday celebration this weekend, and another out-of town friend is joining us for dinner tonight. Breathe, Zoe, breathe.

High: My biggest highs of the week usually happen on the weekends. B had Monday off for President’s Day, and that made for a three-day family weekend. One of the highlights was spending part of a day at the Baltimore Museum of Art where we helped S and H make red mobiles inspired by an art installment called Three Red Dots.

Do tell me about your week! What was your high? Your low? Have a very happy, slow weekend, and I’ll see you back here on Monday.

Images: Zoe Saint-Paul

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Easiest Chicken Stock Ever

February 20, 2014

by Margaret Cabaniss

Easiest Chicken Stock Ever
I don’t throw that phrase around lightly, but I’m serious: This is the easiest chicken stock I’ve ever made. Easier even than the pretty-darn-simple vegetable stock recipe I posted a while back. If you’ve ever dreaded the stock-making process, I promise this method will make a believer out of you.

It all started last fall, when Ann introduced me to Michael Ruhlman’s recipe for overnight turkey stock in the oven. It’s an ingenious solution to the Thanksgiving Conundrum: The giant turkey carcass is just begging to be turned into buckets of delicious stock, but absolutely no one has the energy to start another project after that day-long cooking and cleaning extravaganza (and wrestling the greasy, dripping carcass into the fridge with all the rest of your leftovers just seems like overkill).

Ruhlman’s trick spares you the hassle: Just put the carcass in a stock pot, cover with water, and set it in your oven on the lowest temp (180, if you’ve got it) — then leave it overnight. The next morning, throw in some carrots, celery, onions, and herbs, then put it back in the oven for another hour. It works on a pretty simple premise: The longer meat bones soak, the more flavor they give up, so letting them simmer overnight is a good thing; vegetables, on the other hand, give up their flavor within an hour, so they can be added at the tail-end of the proceedings with no problem. Meanwhile, you get to literally make stock in your sleep.

Easiest Chicken Stock Ever
I made this batch of stock with the leftovers of a store-bought rotisserie chicken, and it worked like a charm. The whole thing was so last-minute, in fact, that I hardly have any pictures of the process… Fortunately, the instructions are pretty simple — and the recipe itself is pretty forgiving: I didn’t have any celery or parsley on hand, but my stock turned out great anyway.

My only advice: Be sure to break the carcass down a bit before tossing it in the pot. You want it to be completely submerged under water, and if the carcass is too large, it’ll take too much water to cover it (thereby weakening your stock). Also, be careful salting the water, as the chicken itself was likely already seasoned when you cooked it.

Easiest Chicken Stock Ever
Once your stock is finished, just strain and freeze as usual! It’s a shortcut recipe that actually lives up to its name. Anyone else have tips for making easy chicken stock even easier?

Images: Margaret Cabaniss

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Clara in Winter Gear Imagine bundling up your five year old every day and sending her out to the woods for kindergarten. They do it in Denmark, and I was fascinated when I read about these “forest kindergartens” a few months ago. When I learned that blogger Ania Krasniewska Shahidi (The New Diplomat’s Wife) moved to Copenhagen recently and enrolled her daughter in a forest school program, I thought her perspective on it as an American mom would be interesting. I’m so glad she agreed to speak with us about it!

Zoe Saint-Paul: How did you learn about forest kindergarten, and what inspired you to send your daughter Clara there when you moved to Copenhagen?  

Ania and Clara Ania Krasniewska Shahidi: I actually remember first reading about the Forest Schools in a description packet that the embassy sent on potential schools. The description was short and described it as “very Danish,” stating that you really had to be up for an adventure to try it. At first consideration, it sounded very “hippie” to me and I laughed it off. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that small children spending the majority of their time outside wasn’t so crazy after all. Why should it be “very Danish”? Isn’t it also very natural?

ZSP: Since such programs are rare to non-existent here in North America, could you describe forest kindergarten briefly and what a typical day is like for your daughter? 

AKS: The curriculum is a lot like what it sounds: The children spend most of their time outside. Every school is a little different in its set up, but in ours, there’s a central small school with a big yard where they meet. They play outside and, at about 9:00 a.m., they get ready for their forest outing of the day. They use a combination of public bus and public train — and sometimes hired coach — to go out to various points of forests in the surrounding area where they have daily activities. Then they return back to the school about 3:00 p.m., where they remain in the outdoor yard until parents pick them up.

There is a major activity or two each day — picking mushrooms, making apple juice, buying eggs on a farm,  catching frogs — but there is no collection of traditional curriculum activities. The teachers build in small lessons such as counting or plant identification, but overall, the children have a lot of freedom to explore.

ZSP: As an American parent, were you anxious about sending your child to “hang out in the forest” for kindergarten?

AKS: Absolutely. The funny thing is, I really considered myself a laid back parent: I’m not militant about routines, I always let my daughter help in the kitchen, and things like that. But in Denmark, I think I appear the skittish American mom that always wants to know everything. This really is a whole different level of freedom for kids – and it’s just not strange here, even in more traditional schools. But for an American or Anglo parent, it can be somewhat stressful in the beginning… The kids are frequently building bonfires, running around with sticks, you name it. It just doesn’t seem to stress anyone out here. On my first day, I saw a little boy eat a handful of grass and no one seemed to mind. So you’ll see things you didn’t expect, that’s for sure, and you have to figure out how to get zen with it.

At the end of the day, like all things parenting, you have to trust your gut. The experience really forced me to ask myself whether I was uncomfortable because I thought something was truly dangerous or because I had become used to intervening whenever something bad could happen.

Clara at Forest School ZSPWhat about all the pre-academic skills many parents want their kids to be learning at that age? 

AKS: I was raised with a lot of tutors and lessons and a strong belief in the value of education, so I surprised myself a bit when we ended up choosing this school. But I also realized that I can help her with the “stuff” — the reading, the math, etc.

One of the biggest things I realized I could do for my daughter is show her how to have faith in her independence — and when I realized this, choosing the forest school was a done deal for me. I wanted her to grow up with a taste of exploration and an appreciation for the natural world around her, and I think when you’re given that space to value the outdoors, and your ability to navigate it, those are lifetime skills. I’d like to believe that that self-reliance will make kids better at figuring out the more traditional academic stuff, since they will start out with the expectation that they can, and should, be able to do things for themselves to be successful.

Ania and Clara ZSP: I have to admit, as someone who hates being cold and is mom to two kindergartners who were born in Ethiopia, I have a hard time imagining we’d be happy campers being outside all day in the winter. Are we just wimps?

AKS: Ha! I don’t know, but I grew up in North Dakota, and with age I’ve gotten a bit wimpy myself. You will definitely hear the adage here — a lot — that there is no bad weather, just poorly chosen clothes. That’s true (somewhat), but Danes do have a lot of gear for layers, and warmth and dressing appropriately is key.

The kids are also moving all day: They’re walking nearly the entire time, so if they keep busy, their body temperatures stay up. The school picks activities that are weather appropriate — for example, on the cold days, they build fires and learn how to make soup, and they’re out for shorter bouts of time. They also do activities in the city from time to time, like a museum or an exhibit visit. And when it’s really bad, they do have their main building where they can do the odd art project or two — but it has to be really bad out! I’m sure if you came from Ethiopia into the Danish winter, the transition would be hard. But the summers are gorgeous here, and the changes in seasons are gradual, so you can build up a tolerance.

Nanny Dressing Clara ZSP: Could you envision the U.S. and other countries adopting forest schools? What do you think it would take? What cultural barriers and assumptions we would need to overcome? 

AKS: I’d love to see more of it — and I think there are already places in Seattle and Portland doing it. (Funny, I think the climate and the culture there are very similar to here.) I do think there would be some big questions to resolve from a liability perspective, since generally I think there’s a greater expectation in the U.S. for a school to be “responsible.”

Culturally, one of the things that makes the forest kindergarten work well is that, while the kids are given a lot of time and space to explore individually, they also have a strong bond as a group: They walk at a pace that the group can follow, the stronger kids are paired with the newer or smaller children to help them along in tricky parts of the forest, and overall, I think the group getting there together is more important than a single individual getting there. I wonder to what degree this might hold true in the U.S. — we love teamwork, but we also love celebrating individual accomplishment.

ZSP: Do you think this concept could work in non-forested places — for example, beach kindergarten? Field kindergarten? Maybe that sounds silly, but I’m wondering if the idea is translatable to other kinds of outdoor arenas.

AKS: Absolutely. They do the forest because that’s what they have here — but we also have beaches in Denmark, and I’d say about once every 7-10 days they do a beach activity, too — even in the wintertime.  I think this could easily work at the beach, in the savannah or prairie, whatever it is you have (with some safety parameters in place, of course). There are probably places in the world where there may not be the right conditions. For many schools, however, it may not so much be a question of being outside all day, every day, but just creating more opportunities to be outside with more time to explore.

ZSP: You’re launching a site about forest kindergarten. Please tell us more about it!

AKS: Almost there! I am indeed launching a site called A Toddler in the Trees to help chronicle our experience, since so many friends and readers are interested. I wanted to keep that journey separate from my regular blog. The site is just getting wrapped up, but in the meantime, please check out the corresponding Facebook page for updates and news!

*************

Ania, thank you! I really appreciate your insights about your experiences navigating Danish culture as an American parent. Looking forward to keeping up with you on both of your blogs!

Based on Ania’s description, I love the values that forest schools aim to instill in young children — confidence, independence, exploration, love of nature, teamwork. I think I’d be tempted to send my daughters to this kind of program if it were available to us. What about you: Would you send your young child to a forest school? What do you think of this approach to kindergarten?

Images: Ania Krasniewska Shahidi

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Being a Principled Shopper

February 18, 2014

Apologies for the site being down yesterday! Apparently, my hosting company had a major server crash that took all day to fix. Here’s hoping we don’t experience such a long interruption again. Now back to our regularly scheduled programing…

Banana Farmers in Kenya When you shop, do you consider who and what you’re supporting? Do you select or avoid certain brands when buying groceries, for example, or have you ever boycotted a company?

I think most of us want to be principled shoppers, but it can get a little crazy trying to figure out what to buy and what to avoid. It’s much easier to ignore it all and keep trucking. Besides, does my little purchase on a given day really matter one way or another?

Well, the way I see it, yes and no. Even though my little $5 or $10 may not matter much, I feel like I have a responsibility to use my money well. And if I’m spending that money once or twice a week on the same product, it adds up. Plus, it seems to me that, if each of us acted like our independent choices did matter, it might collectively make a difference.

At the same time, if I were to boycott every store and company I don’t like or whose practices I question, life would become very complicated very quickly. I’d spend even more time that I already do researching, fretting, driving all over town, and doing without conveniences that help our family life run more smoothly.

While some people might choose a corporation or two they refuse to buy products from, I’ve handled it so far by focusing on one big area: food. I’m very mindful about what I buy and eat (for health, taste, economic, and ethical reasons). What this means, however, is that I can’t simply go to one grocery store and call it a day: Our food ends up coming from five or six different places.

When it comes to other areas of my life, though, I’m not so diligent. I still buy clothes from regular retailers because I can’t sew, can’t find everything I need at consignment shops, and can’t afford to buy all my clothes from independent designers. And I make compromises on other items we need: Since becoming a mom, I’ve actually set foot in a Walmart more times than I care to admit, because it’s five minutes from our house and there are no comparable stores near by. I could make the longer trek to get the same items from a Target, but is it really that much better?

I’m curious how you handle this. Do you research the brands and companies you’re supporting? How do you make your decisions? Or is this something you find so overwhelming or confusing that you don’t pay it too much attention?

Image via Agra Africa

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Pull Up a Chair

February 14, 2014

Felt Heart Garlands Happy Valentines’s Day, friends! Doing anything special?

I’ve never been a big fan of Valentine’s Day, and B and I have always been pretty pathetic when it comes to celebrating it. I don’t know why; you’d think I’d be all over a day that celebrates love and romance and lots of flowers and chocolate. As a parent, I really like the idea of making it a kids’ day, though — fun crafts and valentines, little parties, treats. And I think we’ll be doing a lot of that today, because we’re snowed in!

The Valentine’s Day party the girls and I were invited to yesterday was cancelled because of snow and ice. Today is more of the same: Our homeschool co-op was cancelled, B is working from home, and the fireplace is going non-stop. In the end, though, this may be a lovely Valentine’s Day for everyone, since there’s not much to do except stay cozy and bake up some good things to eat!

With all the unusual winter weather here, I continue to be in the mood for anything that heats me up from the inside out — so today I’m trying these chai tea lattes from Elana’s Pantry. They not only look healthy; they look yummy — please grab one! Here’s my high and low of the week:

Low: Nothing big stands out, but lots of little things: the cold (I wore a hat to bed the other night!); fighting a virus the past couple of days; realizing I need some new parenting strategies to address some issues with my daughters; and canceled plans — I was kind of looking forward to our children’s first Valentine’s party!

High: Being homebound has its bonuses — like extra family time. And I made an award-winning batch of chili this week (at least B pronounced a winner, and that guy could be a professional food critic).

Bonus question: Are you a fan of Valentine’s Day, or a bit of a humbug about it?

I hope you’re keeping safe and warm wherever you are. Have a lovely weekend, and I’ll see you back here on Monday!

P.S. — If you’ve joined us for the SlowMama Instagram challenge, how’s it going so far? I’ve actually managed to post one photo a day! (Granted, once or twice it’s been after midnight, but I’m still counting it.) If you want to join all the cool kids, it’s not too late! Follow along with the hashtag #slowmamachallenge.

Image: lovefromchloe etsy shop (check out her reclaimed felt heart garlands – so sweet!)

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