Are You a Hipster?

January 12, 2015

Hipster Sign
While reading an article last week in the Huffington Post called “The 22 Most Hipster Foods On the Planet,” I found myself kind of annoyed — and then a little confused. On the list is stuff like kombucha, healthy vegetables, fermented and artisanal food products, using mason jars, and more.

I’ve been drinking kombucha before it ever hit grocery store shelves, because my Dad used to brew it years ago. I’ve used mason jars, like, forever, for a whole bunch of things. And kale, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts? Everyone’s supposed to be eating those! And while I don’t like beer and tend to stay away from donuts, what’s wrong with pickles, food trucks, and kimchi?

Pretty much everything on that list screamed my name, yet I’ve never even remotely considered myself a hipster. (Besides, I’m too old to be a hipster, aren’t I?)

But what is a hipster, anyway? Maybe I’m woefully ignorant on the matter. I’ve always associated the term with people under 35 who live in Brooklyn, wear beards and skinny jeans, and listen to the latest undiscovered indie band. Maybe they drink coffee or brew their own beer, a process they document with their vintage camera. That was about it. So I decided to do a little sleuthing…

Wikipedia says that the word hipster is “often used as a pejorative to describe someone who is pretentious, overly trendy or effete.” The Urban Dictionary would seem to agree: “someone who is smart enough to talk about philosophy, music, politics, art, etc. with you all day long, but not smart enough to see how big of a tool s/he is.”

Wikihow is more polite: “Hipsters are people who enjoy clothing, music, food and activities outside of the social mainstream.”

Seems like there’s a little wiggle room when it comes to the definition of a hipster — but I’m still not going to call myself one. I’m curious what you think of the label: When you hear “hipster,” what do you think?

Image via Pinterest from Buzzfeed


Friday Inspiration

January 9, 2015

So, I’m thinking of changing up my Friday Inspiration posts a bit and alternating quotes with videos some weeks. I can’t promise every video will be inspiring per se, as sometimes I see videos I’d like to share with you that are more informative or practical or just plain fun — but all that can still be inspiring, too, in my book.

The video above (produced by Fisher-Price) looked at what parents around the world wished for their newborn babies. I found it so interesting how parental love is universal, but different cultures often wish different things for their children based on cultural and family values.

In many developing countries, the greatest wish parents have for their kids is to be educated and successful in a profession. (I encounter this among Ethiopians a lot.) It makes sense: In poor countries, education makes the difference between dire poverty and having basic needs met (and then some). And certain professions — doctors, nurses, lawyers, teachers, etc. — are associated with respect, prestige, and financial success; therefore, they are very desirable.

In developed nations, however, the wish for children is often for things like “happiness” and “following your dreams,” since education is a given, and having their basic needs met is taken for granted.

It can all vary from family to family and parent to parent, of course, but I found it fascinating to reflect on what we prize most as parents. If you had a brand-new baby right now, what would you wish him or her?

Have a lovely weekend, and see you back here next week!

{ 1 comment }

Near Death Experiences

January 8, 2015

Tunnel at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Center / Llanelli, Wales I’ll never forget the story a 40-something widower told me 20 years ago. I had flown to the midwest for a job interview, and he was my host for the three days I was there, so I spent a lot of time in his car. We hit it off and talked about all kinds of things; I don’t remember what triggered it, but he ended up telling me about something that had completely changed his life: a near-death experience.

He had been married less than a year when he and his new bride were in a terrible car accident. He described how they were suddenly outside of their bodies and outside of the car looking back at it all. Everything around them was the same, but different. They could communicate but weren’t using their voices. He then saw some of his wife’s deceased loved ones, and a figure who was mostly disguised in a large amount of light, though he couldn’t see the face. He identified the figure as Jesus. His wife walked ahead of him; she was being escorted towards the light; but he was told he had to go back. He was disappointed and didn’t want to return. His wife looked radiant as she moved further and further away from him. She said something like, “It’s not your time yet. You have to go back.” He protested. She looked back and repeated it. And the next thing he knew, he was waking up in a hospital bed. He recalled that, when he came to, no one would say anything about his wife, so he finally blurted out: “Don’t worry, I already know my wife is dead! I saw her. She’s happy. She’s with Jesus and her loved ones. I wanted to go, too!” They probably thought he was crazy.

He said the experience totally changed his life and the way he grieved his wife. He told me he was no longer afraid of death, and that any doubts related to his faith were eradicated. He said he greatly missed his wife, but his sadness was trumped by the happiness he felt for her because he had seen her joy and had experienced it himself. He believed there were still things he had to do here.

From everything I could tell, this guy was level-headed, no-nonsense, and smart — not the type you’d expect to make up stories. Whatever it was that happened to him, he was completely convinced it was real, and at least up to that point — almost three years later — he was still a changed man. Needless to say, his story and the sincerity with which he told it really affected me.

This recent Salon article about near death experiences (NDEs) brought this memory back. (The part in the article about the woman who was essentially “made dead” on the operating table, and then bought back to life? Holy standstill, Batman!)

While so many people seem to describe similar things — being outside their bodies, tunnels, light, encountering loved ones, an overwhelming sense of love and peace — I’ve also heard stories of people who had very frightening near-death experiences and were glad to wake up.

What to make of it all? I suppose it depends on your beliefs about the meaning of life and what comes afterwards, but at the very least it appears that more and more neuroscientists agree that NDEs are more than simply a matter of neurons firing in the dying brain.

Have you ever had, or know anyone who’s had, a near-death experience? Is this topic as fascinating to you as it is to me?

Image via Pinterest


Snowy owl by Carrie Ann Grippo-Pike Yesterday, I mentioned some big changes that will affect our new year, but those aren’t exactly “resolutions.” In fact, I didn’t actually make any resolutions at all this time — which goes to show you just how little room there is in my brain these days, since I always set some goals for the new year. I’m still planning to do it sometime this month, but while I’m going to make a short list of to-do’s, I’m planning to focus more on some qualities or dispositions I want to work on (or attain more of) this year.

For example, I’d like to be more cheerful in 2015. I’m not a dreary or negative person, but I find that busyness and tiredness quickly leads to grumpiness, which can lead to more complaining and a lack of gratitude. Cheerfulness is not just faking a happy face, but letting inner joy and peace radiate outward. I’d like to give myself and my loved ones a little more of that.

While 2014 was a tiring one for me, I know a number of people whose years were much more difficult: They lost loved ones or experienced particularly hard trials.  How do you approach a new year coming out of something like that?

This article, “Beyond Carb-Cutting: Resolution After a Trauma: Eat, Play, Love,” speaks well to the question. A new widow shares how, in the past, her resolutions centered on things like losing weight, but now — trying to move on after the death of her husband — they’re about how she wants to be, instead of a list of things to do. That makes a lot of sense, as moving on after trauma requires a focus on what is healing to mind, body, and soul, as well as trying to find a new way to be in your life.

Did you make any kind of resolutions this year? How did you go about the process — anything different this time?

P.S. — Have you noticed the comments are now fixed? Hallelujah! Thanks to Matt Cheuvront and his team at Proof Branding for their help! I highly recommend them out if you ever need branding, logo, media, or web development.

Image: Carrie Ann Grippo-Pike via Fine Art America




Hello 2015!

January 5, 2015

Yunnan, China
Are you excited for the new year? I am — although it’s gotten off to a wobbly start with a sick husband and two daughters fighting a virus and me just hanging on. I always have such big plans for Christmas vacation time — finishing house projects, getting ahead on other projects, baking, catching up with friends, entering the new year with a sense of readiness — and then, well, life happens. You, too?

There’s a lot of transition happening right now in our house, and it’s one of the reasons I’m looking forward to 2015. B and I are making some changes that we hope will bring us closer to the lifestyle we want for our family.

As you may recall, I started taking on more paid work in November. That was in anticipation of another big decision: B will be leaving his full-time job in a month. This interim period has been a little brutal for me: On top of working 30-35 hours a week, I’ve still been homeschooling, making meals, running the house, etc. (Not a slow mama at all these days, I’m afraid.) But soon, B and I will be partners again, sharing the paid work and the homeschooling and domestic tasks, and while it won’t be without its own challenges, we’re looking forward to it.

As contractors, we’ll be able to work remotely at times, allowing us to travel. Most of our trips this year will be geared toward seeing family: S and H still haven’t been to Nova Scotia and haven’t met most of their aunts, uncles, and cousins. They’ve also never been to B’s mother’s home in northern Kentucky. I’m looking forward to what our new situation will allow us to do and to be as a family in 2015 and beyond.

Change can be scary, but the older I get, the less I want to sit and spin my wheels. I’ve been inspired by the people I’ve interviewed here for my “Parenting Against the Grain” series who’ve chosen less-conventional ways to live as a family. If they can do it, why can’t we? I’m not sure where it will lead — I don’t see us picking up and traveling the world anytime soon — but I look forward to documenting things here as we go along, and I suspect these changes will inspire some new and creative projects, which may or may not involve this blog. Stay tuned!

What’s on your docket for the new year: Any changes brewing? Resolutions? Exciting plans?

Image: Where Is This?


The Best of SlowMama 2014

December 31, 2014

Tomorrow we ring in the new year! I can’t say I’m entirely sorry to say goodbye to 2014, though it has had its high points — one of them being this little spot in cyberspace. I still love blogging and getting to chat with all of you!

I’m always a little proud when I look back each year and see the kind of content we’ve produced. Here are some of my favorite posts from 2014. I know the list is long, but it was hard to cut anything more out! If I’ve missed any posts you remember most, or you’d love to read about certain topics here in the new year, let me know!

Making Bread from a Starter Food and Drink

Family Family and Parenting

Wreath1 Crafts and Projects

Map of Introvert's Heart Odds and Ends

Westfalia Interior And maybe my favorite posts of all, my “Parenting Against the Grain” series:

Farewell, 2014! Looking forward to seeing all of you in the new year…

Lead image via Pinterest


Merry Christmas!

December 25, 2014


Saint Pauls at Park 2
Since this is the only half-decent shot taken of our family over the past few months, I’m hoping the bunny and kitten ears will distract you from how pooped B and I look. It’s been that kind of year — a good one, but a tiring one!

A heartfelt Merry Christmas to all of you celebrating over the next few days (and hopefully for at least 12 days)! I also hope my Jewish readers had a very beautiful Hanukkah (which ended last night at sundown). If you’re traveling, may it be uneventful, and if the holidays are a sad time for you, I hope you will experience the joy and peace of this season in some way.

We’re rolling with the punches here, since illness and canceled flights led to some change in plans with relatives, but everything today should fall right into place. My mother-in-law is finally here, my brother’s household is on the mend, and my girls seem to enjoy Christmas more each year, which makes it tons of fun.

It will be quiet here for the next few days as we celebrate the holiday as a family, but I’ll be back next week. Have a safe and joyful Christmas holiday, friends! xoxo

Image: JWR


{ 1 comment }

Internet Menagerie

December 23, 2014

Homemade granola
It’s a busy week — and I’m very far behind on Christmas preparations — so I thought it was a good time for a trip around the web! Here are some of my favorite recent finds; let me know any of yours in the comments. (I can still read your comments, even though they’re not showing up yet for everybody else!)

  • The reason I need a new waffle maker. (Smitten Kitchen)
  • Video: Why co-sleeping is no sleeping. (This cracked me up: I can relate, even though mine are six and a half.)

  • Video: Three-year-old drummer leads adult orchestra in can-can. This is crazy!

  • Video: The worst/best Christmas gifts ever. This was too adorable not to share.

Image: Zoe Saint-Paul


Friday Inspiration

December 19, 2014

Not to be a Debbie Downer when all is supposed to be merry and bright, but this quote jumped out at me this week because a friend of mine just passed away. He wasn’t young, but he wasn’t old, either; it seems much too soon for him to leave the life and people he loved.

His sudden departure got me thinking about how I walk around as though I have all the time in the world. I think most of us do that to some extent. One thing I’ve realized about myself, having plenty of years and decisions to look back on now, is that I have a tendency to take too long to act — particularly when it comes to big decisions. I can see this pattern throughout my life, but now that I’m aware of it, I’m trying to step out and take bigger risks and jump on things sooner than I might have otherwise.

The death of my friend — an amazing guy and a kindred spirit — is another reminder that you just never know when your time is up. He certainly didn’t know it six weeks ago, when we had our last conversation. In fact, we talked about death and suffering and life and faith, and neither of us could have imagined it would be our last time to talk of such things.

If we were granted a hundred years, it still wouldn’t be enough time. Rather than make us feel rushed, though, I think it can make us more determined to spend the time we have on what matters most in life, and to savor the moment. To my mind, it’s a good resolution to take into the Christmas holidays and a new year.

Billy C., rest in peace — and may perpetual light shine upon you.

Image unknown


by Margaret Cabaniss

Holiday baking seems like one of those things that people simultaneously love and dread about the season: It’s just not Christmas without gingerbread, but it can be so. much. work. — particularly during a time when your to-do list is already a mile long. Last night capped off a day wherein I made twelve dozen cookies, so I feel like I’ve had a bit of crash course in big-batch holiday baking this week. If a tower of Christmas cookies looms in your future, consider a few tricks to help save your sanity:

Keep it simple. No less true for being obvious! Stick to one or two (maybe three) recipes that you know well and that are worth the effort — something where it just wouldn’t feel like Christmas without them. Streamlining the process keeps you from overbuying ingredients and overcommitting yourself to elaborate treats that take more time or input than they’re ultimately worth. If you just have to have the variety, consider a cookie swap with your friends: Everyone bakes a big batch of one item to share, so each guest can take home a sample of everything.

Another way to keep it simple? Do your holiday baking the week after Christmas, when there are no more gifts to buy, cards to write, or suitcases to pack. Most people are home from school or taking extended vacations that week anyway, so there’s much more time to relax and enjoy the process. Christmas lasts 12 days, after all — why not spread out the cheer?

Freeze your dough. 
This was the single handiest trick I used all week. It’s a lifesaver when your office holiday party is in the middle of the week, but you know you won’t have time to start from scratch the night before. Instead, I mixed up a big batch of dough when I had extra time over the weekend, froze individual portions, and then was able to quickly bake off exactly the number of cookies I needed later in the week, right when I needed them, even when I was low on time. Yes, some cookies freeze fine after baking, but I never find them to be quite as good after defrosting — certainly not compared to the freshly baked variety. If you’re going to go through the trouble of freezing anyway, make it on the front end.

The Kitchn recently posted this handy list of doughs that freeze well, and those that don’t (basically, lots of butter: good). Gingerbread and sugar cookie dough freeze great flattened into disks and wrapped in saran wrap and foil (or a ziploc bag); I froze individual balls of peanut blossom dough on a tray before dropping them in a ziploc bag, so they’d be easy to portion out later. My biscotti dough did fine in the fridge overnight, too — and Deb’s recent recipe for gingerbread biscotti is killer.

Break up the process
. Even when you do have the time to mix, roll out, bake, and decorate your cookies all in one sitting, I generally don’t enjoy spending hours baking and decorating and still having a mess to clean up in the kitchen afterward. Breaking up the process into manageable chunks means you can do the messy work one day, and the fun baking/decorating part with the kids later. Bonus: You can be doing two things at once this way (baking while you cook dinner, for instance), and your kitchen doesn’t have to remain a wreck through the whole process. For these peanut blossoms, I made the dough one afternoon, rolled the balls that night after dinner, then baked the cookies a few days later. Sometimes just getting to walk away and do something else for a bit breaks up the monotony and makes it all more enjoyable.

What are your tips and tricks for keeping holiday baking manageable this time of year? Any classic recipes you make every year?

Images: Margaret Cabaniss