Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Spring Break Planning

As I've mentioned, I'm a huge fan of the podcast Matrimoney. It's all about how Kelsey and Chris (and their two young boys) structure their lives so that they can attain their lofty financial goals. I like it so much because I money is very interesting to me. I think it's easy to be unintentional with your money and to spend your entire paycheck every month. I also think it's possible to take that same paycheck and be intentional with it, such that you are able to set aside some of it for something bigger. And over time, a little bit each month can add up to a lot. 

Kelsey and Chris are busy saving up to pay off their mortgage in about five years, so that Kelsey can have more flexibility with her career. More flexibility will give her more time to pursue her interesting projects and give her more time to travel to Austin to be near her family. 

It's such a fascinating case study about what each of us should do to find the life that feels right to us. For Matt and me, we are fine keeping two full-time jobs, but we want to save up to travel frequently during the year. Since we started this plan, we've gone to San Diego, San Francisco, Lake Tahoe, and Portland and Seattle. It's so fun to think about the school year being punctuated by a Fall Break, Winter Break, Spring Break, and Summer Break. 

So it's time to plan Spring Break. The thing about traveling so much is it takes pressure off from feeling like we need to pick the perfect place. We just need to pick an interesting place. We were originally going to rent an RV and travel to Big Bend, but our three-hour drive from Seattle to Portland reiterated that we didn't want something with a super-long car ride. We thought about Steamboat, CO, but I didn't want something with just snow. 

So Flagstaff, Arizona, it is! Here are some of the things I hope we'll do in and around the area:
  • Lowell Observatory
  • Museum of Northern Arizona
  • Lava River Cave
  • Northern Arizona University
  • Railroad District
  • Grand Canyon
  • Pioneer Museum
  • Hall of Flame Museum of Firefighting
  • Musical Instrument Museum
Because I love planning, vacations are double the fun. I get to have a ton of fun planning the trip in the months leading up to it, and then I actually get to go on it!

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Monday, November 23, 2015

Henry's Christmas Gift

The magic of Christmas is upon us. The excitement is palpable around these parts. Even little Tate can explain, "After Thanksgiving, we are going to get our Christmas tree!" 

We've pulled out our seasonal fall and Thanksgiving books (I forgot to take out the Halloween books this year!), and I'm eager to start our holiday countdown experiences this year. 

My hope for our family is that the entire month of December will feel magical, not just Christmas morning. That's part of why we don't go crazy on Christmas morning with presents. 

This year we are getting Henry one big present: a subscription to a Kiwi Crate. A box will arrive each month filled with science and art activities.  

He may be underwhelmed by opening the first box (alongside all the flashier gifts from other family members) but he will love that it arrives in the mail (address to him, no less!) every single month. He loves mail, and he loves doing new things. 

I'm excited to watch him open them every month!

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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Big Adventures

Matt was out of town this past weekend, and I decided that the boys and I needed to have a big adventure in order to make the time pass quickly. On a whim, I texted one of my friends in Dallas to see if we could come for a visit. She was game! So Saturday morning, we made bread for our school's potluck, hung out at the school for a little over an hour, and then hit the road for Dallas. We arrived around 4pm. 

Matt and I tend to be homebodies, so trekking to a distant city to stay with friends isn't something we normally do. But it was so much fun. We didn't even do anything adventurous! On Saturday afternoon and evening, we watched the children play together (they have a 2nd grader) and we ate a delicious homecooked meal. Sunday morning, we ate Swedish pancakes and walked to the park. The boys and I left around lunch time. 

As I type out the details, I realize how mundane it all sounds, but it was magical. The boys had a grand time. And it was so fun to reconnect with old friends in the comfort of their home. I need to do this kind of thing more often!

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Monday, November 16, 2015

Delicious Bread Recipe

I remember reading an article one time that was written by a mother who was committed to teaching her teenage son how to cook and do laundry before he went off to college. While I wholeheartedly agree that young adults should be prepared to take care of themselves, I believe that teaching independence, self care, and care of others should start much, much younger. In the Montessori tradition, these "Practice Life" activities start around 18 months of age. 

Children learn so much from engaging in Practical Life activities. They build their focus and concentration, strengthen their fine- and gross-motor skills, learn how to hold multi-step directions in their heads, and--most importantly--build a deep, internal sense of confidence that is attached to their own sense of competence.

Henry was so proud of making a loaf of bread from scratch. And it was delicious! We used Kylie's recipe from the book we co-authored called Kids in the Kitchen: Simple Recipes That Build Independence and Confidence the Montessori Way. What a brilliant recipe, Kylie! It was so easy and delicious. Henry is learning how to follow the recipes by looking at the pictures. 

  • 1.5 c of warm water
  • 1.5 T dried yeast
  • 4 c whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 c olive oil
  • 1/4 c honey
  • 1.5 t salt
  • Add yeast and honey to warm water
  • Mix to dissolve and set aside
  • Measure and add flour to bowl
  • Add salt to bowl
  • Mix
  • Make a well in the center of the bowl
  • Add oil
  • Add warm water, honey, and yeast mixture to bowl
  • Mix well until the dough forms a ball
  • Flour the counter (or work surface)
  • Place dough on floured surface and knead for approximately five minutes
  • Add dough to bowl
  • Cover bowl with a warm towel and leave in a warm place
  • Set timer for 20 minutes and check dough until it has doubled in size
  • Remove risen dough from bowl and briefly knead the dough
  • Shape the dough into a loaf
  • Place the dough on a baking tray
  • Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees
  • Allow to cool and serve

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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

How to Self-Publish a Book

I am a sucker for dreaming big and dwelling in possibility. Our lives are so short! I have pushed myself to dream big (and be plenty scared and insecure) many times while taking a year-long sabbatical to travel by myself, planning a $2,000 wedding when everyone thought it was tacky, publishing a book about our tacky wedding, self-publishing another book with some awesome gals, building a house, starting a school.   

So when I got an e-mail from one of my internet friends with an opportunity to interview another woman who dreams big, I jumped at the chance. 

Everyone, meet Gena! Gena had the audacity to publish her own children's book, and I invited her here to share her story with us. Enjoy!

1. Gena, what was your inspiration when creating The Rainbow’s Journey?
  • I’ve been obsessed with rainbows since a very young age, so creating a rainbow themed book felt like a really natural concept to me. One of my earliest memories is being awoken from a preschool nap so that I could get up and see a rainbow outside. My parents printed my birth announcement on rainbow stationery, and don’t get me started on Rainbow Brite! 

2. When did you begin to assemble the images and poetry that make up the book? 
  • A few years ago I took a break from my job as an art teacher. My husband (then boyfriend), Brad, and I traveled throughout Asia for a year. About half-way through the trip we were on an ayurvedic retreat in India. I was sitting down sifting through my photographs when I realized they were almost all monochromatic. Seen as a collection, the images were a rainbow. We spent the rest of that day organizing images by color and Brad began writing the poetry to accompany them immediately. It’s been a lifelong dream to create a children’s book, but we definitely didn’t set out to do that while we were in Asia. Making this book wasn’t a conscious decision; it had momentum of its own. Inspiration hit and in under two weeks the rough draft was done! 
3. It’s quite a journey to leave your secure job and then create a children’s book. What inspired you? 
  • I decided to leave the stability of my job and my life in the Bay Area because I was craving challenge and the personal growth that comes from that. We had just lost a close family member at a very young age and we suddenly knew we needed to embrace our lives and live them to the fullest. Traveling in Asia definitely felt like a daring opportunity, and anyone who has traveled there for a year will tell you it’s not a vacation! There was food poisoning and language barriers and a lot of missing home. Facing the obstacles of getting the book published felt like a natural continuation of the journey we embarked on in Asia. Some people thought it was crazy to leave stable jobs to travel for a year, and the same people thought it was crazy to try to publish a book. Most people would say I’m a pretty normal person, but every once and awhile, I like to do crazy!

4. What were the most challenging aspects of completing The Rainbow’s Journey
  • The most challenging part of the creative process began when we returned to the U.S. and realized how difficult it is to get a children’s book published! Especially one that strays so far from the typical layout and content of most children’s books. Our story relies on photography, not illustration. The accompanying poems are complex and rich in detail and often incorporate the many languages we encountered on our trip. We talk about colors like chartreuse and saffron, and rhyme with words like the Indonesian “batik.” A book agent I spoke with told me “If Barnes and Noble doesn’t immediately know what shelf to stock it on, they won’t buy it.” Essentially the book was too niche to appeal to large publishers and no one would touch it. I considered taking the advice of many “experts” and re-working the entire layout and format to make it more marketable, but in the end, we decided to stay true to our vision and find a more authentic way to share it with the world. 

5. How did you publish the book? 
  • Ultimately, we chose to self-publish and raised the money through a crowd-funding campaign. Kickstarter had just established itself as a successful crowd-funding platform and it was serendipitous timing. The ability to self-publish The Rainbow’s Journey with this amazing resource was a game-changer. I am so grateful to all our friends and family who supported us through the process. 

6. What new skills did you learn completing this project? 
  • One important skill was learning to let go of some creative control to collaborate with other trusted artists. I had initially planned to do all the graphic design and typography on my own. I also had to figure out how to take this finished product and get it out in the world. 

7. What advice do you have for others with audacious goals?
  • If you don’t believe in your goal wholeheartedly, there will probably come a time when it’s not worth the effort and energy to continue trying to accomplish it. Find the people in your life who are bold risk-takers and lean on them. Embrace the discomfort of trying something new. At the time, publishing this book was the most bold and intimidating thing I’d ever done (second now to having a child). The strength and determination I cultivated to succeed in that effort have propelled me into many more adventures since!

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Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Another Easy DIY Baby Quilt

I made another easy DIY baby quilt. I love breaking quilting rules in ways that make a project much quicker and easier.

For this project, I:
  • Decided on the ultimate size of the quilt (36" x 36").
  • I cut strips of fabric at various widths using a mat and a rotary cutter.
  • I ironed the strips.
  • I sewed the strips together (ironing down the seams between each addition).
  • Once the quilt top was ready, I placed it right side to right side with the fleece bottom and sewed it almost completely shut.
  • At the end I flipped it inside out and sewed the last bit closed. 
These quilts are so quick and satisfying!

Here's one I made for a friend and Tate.

And the one I made for baby Henry (when he was in utero and we were calling him "Coconut".

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Monday, November 9, 2015

Cheap Massages


I've been going to regular physical therapy appointments to overcome my lower back pain, and my physical therapist recommended that everyone get massages at least once a month. Love it! 

But then I remembered that we are tightening our belts and sticking to our budget so that we can continue to save money. 

So I did some searching on Yelp and found a massage school that offers $35 hour-long massages (and you are prohibited from tipping, so it really is only $35). 

I booked an appointment right away. 

I have to say that you kind of get what you pay for. It was good, but not great. And I hate the unpredictability of not knowing who it's going to be every month and whether or not it's going to be good. 

I might try out Massage Envy next month. Massages are $59.99, so I could pay about $70 with tip. That would be an extra $420 per year (more than the massage school). If I could see the same massage therapist every time, that might be worth it. 

Or there's an independent massage therapist who offers three massages for $201 ($67/each), which would be about $540 more than the cheap massage school per year. Reading the reviews is pretty compelling. 

Choices, choices!

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