Thursday, September 29, 2011

Fall! A List of Intentions

Image courtesy of treasureagain

Believe it or not, I can tell that fall has descended upon Houston. Of course it still feels hot, but it's not an oppressive, inferno kind of heat.

The summer came and went, and I don't really feel like I had a chance to "seize the season." I was inspired by Amanda's list, but I couldn't seem to make time for own delicious list making.

So now fall is here, and I want to set some intentions. How can I best take advantage of the fall for myself and for our little family?

Let's see:
  • Go to a pumpkin patch! Yes and yes! It would be so fun to take Henry to his first pumpkin patch.
  • Make homemade Halloween costumes for Henry and me.
  • Bake pumpkin seeds.
  • Make caramel apples.
  • Knit something.
  • Make and send Thanksgiving cards to friends and family.
  • Decorate our house for the holidays.
  • Use my crock pot frequently.
  • Use my bread machine frequently.
  • Get my hands on this book to give me more ideas about taking full advantage of each season.

I don't want to make the list too long. It's meant to be a source of inspiration, not stress. But if I'm excited by another idea, I'll surely add it to the list, so please do share your own intentions!

Happy Fall to you and yours!

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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Saving for College: 529s

I've had it on my to-do list since Henry was born to start a tax-free 529 savings plan to begin squirreling away money for his college tuition (and to allow the magic of compounding interest to help us out). We're opting for a 529 rather than pre-paying in-state tuition because we have no idea where Henry will end up (we really don't even know if he'll go to college).

But here we are, seven months later, and we haven't done it yet. I really don't know how to compare all the plans (every state has a different one, and you can invest in any state's plan). Matt's dad is recommending that we invest in the Indiana plan, since they could receive a tax break for investing in Henry's plan. There's also a plan available through Matt's work. I'm tempted just to go with Vanguard, since we already have retirement savings there.

Here are some of the things I've learned to ask about during the research process:
  • What is the expense ratio?
  • What is the minimum initial investment?
  • What is the total contribution limit?
  • Are there any enrollment, transfer, or commission fees?
  • Are there any account maintenance fees?

Although I like budgeting and mortgages and stuff, I don't really like doing research about this kind of stuff. I just want someone (not a salesperson) to say, "I've done all the research; here's the plan you should invest in." Anyone in that boat?

Also, I really hope that we can convince family members to donate to his college fund instead of getting him crazy amounts of presents for his first Christmas and birthday. I imagine the kid will just be happy with boxes and paper!

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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

DIY Business Cards

In preparation to attend a Teach For America leadership summit, I decided that I needed business cards. I was in a quandary because I didn't yet have the logo for Montessori For All. However, I needed something to pass out in case I connected with anyone.

So I decided to pull together some easy-peasy business cards, using materials I already have on hand.

First, I did a little internet research to get inspired. I searched Pinterest for ideas, but ultimately, I was most inspired by Jordan's ideas over at Oh Happy Day.

First, she had this simple idea for dipping the edge of each card in dye.

Then she had this idea for doing a bit of water color painting on each card.

Plus, she designed these super-simple cards for Maggie. I love the idea! They just contain Maggie's name in the center, so she can write as much or as little info as she wants, depending on the situation.

In the end, I didn't want to buy any dye, so I started experimenting with stamps. Whenever I'm trying to do any sort of graphic design, I usually start playing around until I accidentally do something that looks decent. That's how I happened upon the idea for a tree gradient.

I was trying to clean the stamp, and I like the way it looked when I diluted the color in succession. So I simply created a table in Microsoft Word. Each cell was 3-inches wide and 2-inches tall. I used a light gray border, so I could cut along the faint lines without having them show in the final product.

I decide to only include my name, phone number, and e-mail address, since I'll get professional cards designed once I have a real logo for my non-profit.

Then I printed a full sheet on cardstock and used our paper cutter to cut them out.

Finally, I used a tree stamp that Matt gave me for Christmas. I pressed it on the ink pad once and then just pressed it on the paper three or four times.

I'm happy with the way my free and easy business cards turned out!

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Monday, September 26, 2011

Meal Planning Club

As I talked about last week in my post about reducing stress, we've been eating out nearly every night in an attempt to keep our house cleaner and to reduce the stress associated with change and transition. Honestly, I think it's introducing more stress into our lives. We're eating food that's not as healthy, we are bringing a baby to a restaurant every night, and we're growing weary of our go-to restaurants.

So I've been trying to figure out how to get back into cooking most nights without introducing a lot of stress into our lives. Meal planning immediately came to mind.

Typically, I plan meals by the week. But then I remembered a post by Amy or Meg about planning meals by the month. That way, you eat something different every night but can reuse the plan for a couple months in a row and then change it with the season.

And then I had an idea. What if twelve of us got together and had a little Meal Planning Club? Each of us could take a month, plan out approximately 20 meals (4-5 per week), include a corresponding grocery list, and link to all the recipes? That way, we could have a year's worth of meals in exchange for the time and effort it takes to plan one month. How fun would that be?

At this point, some of you are rolling your eyes and some of you are raising your hands To those of you who are excited about this idea, here's what I'm thinking:

  1. We will each select 20 recipes from the internet with corresponding links.
  2. All the recipes will be vegetarian.
  3. All the recipes will be relatively healthy.
  4. The recipes will be relatively quick and simple (approximately 30-45 minutes or less).
  5. Each recipe will require a reasonable number of ingredients.
  6. The ingredients will be relatively easy to find at a regular grocery store.
  7. Whenever possible, the recipes will try to reuse ingredients later in the week in order to save money (such as cilantro).
  8. Whenever possible, we will try to use recipes that are seasonally appropriate.

How does that sound? Are 11 of you interested?

I am so, so excited about this little experiment. It would be so fun to collaborate with you.

If you're interested, please fill out the form below. If we can get 12 people together, then we'll move forward with this idea.

Crossing my fingers!

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Thursday, September 22, 2011

Attachment and Separation

I've been thinking a lot about the relationship between healthy attachment and healthy separation. It started on my daily walks with my neighbor. Her three year-old daughter just started school at our local public Montessori school. They've been doing Montessori in the home for about a year and a half with their daughter and have been actively trying to help her cultivate her independence.

Her daughter hasn't had any difficulty transitioning into a school environment. No tears, no clinging, no resistance whatsoever. My neighbor and I joked that it can kind of hurt your feelings when your child separates so easily.

But it does sting a little when your child doesn't seem to want or need you! For example, we took advantage of our babysitting co-op to go on a date night. I booked inexpensive massages through Group On (note to self: You get what you pay for! Matt's masseuse was completely sketchy--saying things like, "I'm going to make you purr!" and "This massage is either going to make you want to go home and sleep or want to mess around." and "Can you handle the pain? Does it make you want to scream like a little girl?").

We brought Henry to a house he had never been to. As soon as he was finished nursing, he was already trying to climb out of my arms and down to the ground to start playing. When I set him down, he crawled straight to the toys and his new friend. I tried to say goodbye to him and he was too busy chomping on something to acknowledge me.

It's embarrassing to admit, but my feelings were honestly a little hurt. I pour my life into that little boy, and he doesn't even have a little lip quiver when I leave?

After my immediate emotional response, I came to my more rational senses. I reminded myself that I should be celebrating his independence because it's a sign of healthy attachment. I need to be proud of everything we've done to foster attachment, as well as everything we've done to foster independence.

The deeper I get into parenting (which is only six months deep!), the more I realize that the point of healthy attachment with our children is healthy separation. I want Henry's attachment with Matt and me to be a springboard into the world and the place he can come back to as necessary. I don't want it to be his shackles. I don't want to foster attachment and then rely on that attachment to make me feel wanted or needed as an individual. I honestly believe the best thing I can do for Henry is let him know I love him but then let him go as he tries to venture off into the world.

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A Homemade Life

Ooh! This book looks really good! Have any of you read it?

Here's the description:

One day Woginrich, a Web designer, threw her hands in the air and vowed to change her life. She was going to be more self-sufficient: produce her own food, make her own clothing, live a simpler and more fulfilling life. Easier said than done, she soon learned. This amiable memoir charts her course to self-sufficiency, documenting her successes and disappointments, exploring what it means to make the shift from consumer to producer. It’s almost two books in one: each chapter (for example, the one in which she tells us about her early misadventures in chicken raising) is accompanied by a brief guide to its subject (in this case, she talks about the importance of selecting a breed, choosing the right food, and providing a proper, poultry-friendly environment). The book, therefore, is simultaneously a lighthearted fish-out-of-water, city-girl-turns-homesteader memoir and a more serious primer on making a lifestyle change. Perfect for environmentally conscious, do-it-yourself readers.

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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Reducing Stress

Gosh, even writing yesterday's post about all my stress made me more stressed.

The thing is, my life isn't going to get any less stressful than it is now. Sure, some of my stresses are unique to my current situation. Balancing work and Henry is difficult and so is adjusting to my new identity and life post-baby.

But starting a school from scratch is going to be even more difficult. In all honesty, it will be like giving birth to a second child. I'm choosing to bring that kind of stress into my life because I'm passionate about dedicating myself to a worthwhile endeavor. But if I don't learn how to filter the stress in a healthy way, then I won't be living a joyful life.

It seems to me that I need both proactive and reactive strategies for coping with the inevitable stress in life.

Let me revisit a post I wrote awhile ago about de-stressing (at the time, I was preparing for conception and wanted to be as healthy as possible).

Here's an excerpt:
  1. Find a natural, whole foods cookbook (maybe this one?)
  2. Set aside time to relax every night before bed
  3. Practice breathing all the way into my belly
  4. Stop complaining
  5. Do yoga (for crying out loud!)
  6. Start taking walks after dinner
  7. Take 25 deep breaths as I fall asleep
In short, ... "Breathe more deeply, eat more simply, and move more frequently."

As for the good nutrition: Matt and I have been eating out every single night, since our house is on the market and we are trying to keep everything clean, clean, clean. I'm not sure if it actually alleviates stress (since we don't have to do much shopping, food preparation, or cleaning) or if it makes it more stressful because we are eating unhealthier things. Maybe next week we should try to pick meals from our easiest cookbook (I know Matt is supposed to be planning our meals--which he did for two weeks before we started eating out--but I kind of want the control back). Or maybe I should spend half of Sunday making meals that I can pull out of the freezer all week long?

As for setting aside time each night before bed: I've been terrible about this since Henry came along, but the idea is very appealing. I would like to pick up the house, do some quick yoga stretches, study Spanish, and read (for pleasure).

As for the other things on the list: Yes, yes, yes! I need to recommit to doing them as well.

Plus, I think I need to get a massage once a month. We have a massage school that offers inexpensive massages. Perhaps I could do that. And I need a date night with Matt at least once a month!

I think putting these kind of routines into place will help me proactively stay more grounded.

In terms of reactive strategies, I think the deep breathing will help. I also think I need to cultivate more duck feathers and let silly things roll off (like terrible Houston drivers). I also tend to have an over-analytical mind and I like to critique things. I really think focusing more on the positive would help me reduce stress.

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Monday, September 19, 2011

Homemade Baby Food!

Henry (right) and his best friend Ellie Cate (left)

Our baby food making party was a huge success! I have to confess that I was a little stressed about how it would turn out at various points during the process.

First, I had the opportunity to attend a day and a half of professional development related to charter schools, which meant that I enrolled Henry in day care during that time. Since I hate pumping and have committed to feeding Henry directly for approximately a year, it meant that I had to leave the training every three hours to go feed him. Of course the stress that comes from leaving a training, going down three flights of stairs, trekking across the scorching parking lot, getting into a blazing car, driving a mile, parking, trekking across another scorching parking lot (in high heels), signing into the day care, feeding Henry, trekking back across the parking lot, driving back to the training, checking in with the security guard, parking, trekking across the parking lot, signing in with the administrative assistant, and taking the elevator back up three flights--does not compare to the kinds of stress that people might experience at lower levels of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. But it was still stressful for me.

And then on the second day I had to drag Matt into the stress because the tollway (which is supposed to be faster and non-traffic-y!) was PACKED and I was about to be late for the second day in a row. So Matt had to meet me at the training and we had to move Henry from my car to his.


So when all that was done on Friday afternoon, I finally had time to think about preparations for the baby food making party. Fortunately, my friend Sarah (Ellie Cate's mom) had done a ton of work already. She had picked out all the recipes, multiplied them by the right amount, and generated a list of everything we needed to get. She totally saved my butt! My original plan was for us to do it together while we drove to the grocery store, but that never would have worked.

Thank you, Sarah!

The other stress came as we completely loaded up a giant cart with ORGANIC produce. I was so worried that we were generating an astronomical bill and that we would have to say to our other five friends, "Please write a check with three digits!"

But the bill only came to approximately $234, which is not bad for 20 different recipes (approximately 10 ounces of each).

The other stress came on Saturday. Matt and I had to go to a baby shower that we thought was in our neighborhood. Once we got in the car (late) and I double-checked the address, I realized it was in Katy, Texas, which is about 40 minutes away. Eep!

So we went to the baby shower, then drove to Whole Foods to get a few last-minute items for the baby food making party, fed Henry in the car while Matt went in (which required taking off my enter dress in the backseat of Matt's Prius), returned home to load up the car, and arrived at the party 15 minutes late.

But once I was there, it was fun. Really, really fun. We snacked, cooked, chatted, laughed, asked each other for advice, and got caught up. Fortunately, a member of our group had a large and fancy kitchen with two(!) ovens and five burners (plus every kitchen gadget, bowl, and pan imaginable). The space was absolutely perfect.

Each of us cooked three recipes. Since baby food freezes for 2-3 months, we picked recipes for babies 6-8 months old. Once we had a big bowl of pureed food, we would work with a partner to ladle the food into quart-sized storage bags labeled with the ingredients and age recommendation. Then we loaded those bags into a larger plastic grocery bag so we could take everything home.

From start to finish, the process took five hours. It was stressful not knowing how long it was going to take. All the dads were watching the babies, so it was difficult not being able to tell them when we would be done.

Once I got home, I started transferring the food from the plastic ziplock storage bags into ice-cube trays. I simply snipped a corner off the bag and poured the food into the tray. I strategically used foods that had very different colors, so there wasn't any confusion. Then I covered the trays with tin foil and put them in the freezer. While they were freezing, I labeled new ziplock bags with the ingredients, age recommendation, and expiration date.

A few hours later, I used a butterknife (very carefully, Carla!) to pop out each cube of food. I squeezed out the excess air, and now I can store them in the freezer for up to three months.

Since I have an amazing variety and quantity of food for Henry in my freezer right now, my plan is to simply make one new thing for him each week and add it to the stash. That way, he gets a good variety of healthy food, and I don't have to put too much work into it.

I definitely recommend this idea to others!

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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Dwelling in Possibility: A Request

Could you help a girl out by "liking" the Facebook page for the non-profit organization I'm starting that will open and manage public Montessori charter schools?

Pretty please?

With sugar (or a healthier sweetener of your choice) on top?

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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Batch Food Party

The babysitting co-op is going well, and I'm excited about the baby food making party this Saturday. Next up:

A Batch Cooking Group

I love this idea (via Sew Liberated).

But perhaps the group should have eight people, so we would each have two meals a week already prepared and ready to go?

Regardless, I've had to table this idea for now (pun intended?). I am not doing much of anything this month except trying to sell our house and keep my blogs running and take care of Henry who only wants to spend his awake time pulling up on me. I've added it to my Life Binder as an important but not-urgent task for the future.

Oh, future friends in Austin: I hope you exist!

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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A Pocket Neighborhood in Austin

Image courtesy of Pocket Neighborhoods

Our house is officially on the market, we're thinking more and more about what the next step in our journey holds for us. Of course, in the short term, we're going to rent a home. But as soon as we can, we want to take giant strides toward creating an intentional neighborhood.

I've always been drawn to community. Maybe because I was an only child for 15 years? I loved slumber parties, and living in a single room in a college dorm was my absolute ideal. I lived next to one of my good friends when I did Teach For America. After that, however, community was harder and harder to come by. I lived in a cookie-cutter apartment complex when I worked at KIPP and I always marveled at the irony of living so physically close to other people and yet being so far apart from them emotionally (kind of like riding on the New York subway).

When I lived in an old house that had been converted into five apartments, I was able to foster community by coordinating potlucks and birthday treats, but we didn't choose to live together. We certainly enjoyed spending time together, but our community was accidental, not intentional.

While I was on my self-subsidized sabbatical, I spent three weeks living on a commune (which is officially called an "intentional community"). Although I enjoyed my time very much, I couldn't see myself separating from society to such a significant degree (almost all the residents work full-time in the community doing manual labor).

Co-housing actually seems like the perfect option for me. In a co-housing community, people live in private residences and yet they intentionally choose to live more communally (e.g., shared spaces, some communal meals, etc.).

There is one co-housing community developing in Austin right now, but they are only building town houses and apartments. As trivial and embarrassing as it is to say this, I really don't want my "forever home" to have entire walls without any windows (I'm that addicted to natural light). I also want more autonomy over how our house is designed and built.

That's when I started thinking about trying to create my own little neighborhood of just six or so houses. We would each have our own space, while sharing communal space and resources (like a pool, garden, chickens, tools, etc.).

Then Amy mentioned a book called Pocket Neighborhoods, and I realized the idea already existed! (It's kind of like when I thought I had come up with a new method for moral reasoning and then realized that Kant had come up with it first.)

I typed up a little information, in case people are interested in learning more. If you know someone in Austin who might be interested, please send them to this link!

What is a Pocket Neighborhood?

A pocket neighborhood is a small group of 5-12 homes clustered together around a central, shared space. Everyone lives in their own, private homes with private yards, and yet they choose to share communal areas--like a pool, garden, courtyard--to live in a more sustainable way and foster more connections and friendships. The concept balances independence with interdependence.

What will the Austin Pocket Neighborhood be like?

The vision for our pocket neighborhood will evolve as people join the group, but the core idea is that we will be a small group of homes (around 6-10), sharing approximately two to three acres of land. We will adhere to the pocket neighborhood principles of facilitating community by keeping the cars behind our homes and circling our homes around a shared courtyard that includes a communal building, organic garden, composting, swimming pool, play area, tool library, etc. We will most likely form an LLC to purchase the land together and then set up an ownership structure that allows us to individually own our homes and yet share ownership of communal spaces. We will decide on the annual fee necessary to develop and maintain our communal areas. We will have optional events, such as weekly dinners, movie nights, yoga classes, etc., as well as a monthly mandatory meeting to make decisions and discuss issues affecting our community.

Where are you hoping to create the Austin Pocket Neighborhood?

Preliminary land searches show that East Austin has the largest and least expensive (and also beautiful) plots of land available. I am also hoping to start a public Montessori charter school in East Austin. I am biased toward living there, so I can keep my commute short and truly immerse myself in the community.

Why would I want to live in a pocket neighborhood?

A pocket neighborhood blends the benefits of individual home ownership with the benefits of being connected to your neighbors. For example, if you're in the middle of making dinner and you realize you need to borrow an egg, you could go to any of your neighbors. A pocket neighborhood also provides a safe place for children. You can give them the freedom to play outside without the danger of being hit by a car or interacting with strangers. As a community, we can jointly own and maintain things that would be too expensive or too wasteful to own individually (such as a swimming pool or a high-quality treadmill).

Living in a pocket neighborhood does not mean you are stuck hanging out with the same people all the time. You are not obligated to attend social events, nor are you obligated to invite the entire community to social events that you host. The only required commitment is a monthly meeting to make decisions and discuss issues affecting our community.

Who is invited to join the Austin Pocket Neighborhood?

The group is open to anyone who values community, interdependence, health and wellness, and caring for ourselves, others, and the environment. Members will also need the financial independence to get a mortgage to contribute to the purchase of the land (approximately $33,000) and to pay for a home to be built (approximately $125-$150 per square foot). We are currently discussing the idea with ma modular, but we are open to other builders as well.

What is the timeline for this project?
We hope to get a group of interested folks together from November 2011 through April 2012. Then we hope to purchase the land and begin building, with a move-in date of November 2012.

I'm interested! What do I do?

Complete this form, and we will be in touch. We look forward to it!

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Monday, September 12, 2011

Update: Family Mission Statement

Before Henry was born, I put some thought into how we should display our Family Mission Statement. I wanted it to be aesthetically pleasing, in a location that we visit frequently, and something that we could revise very easily throughout the years.

I wanted to report that--so far--the IKEA frame hung above our toilet is working perfectly. The original family photo I used featured Henry in utero, so I wanted to update it to something more current. I quickly and easily cropped one of our vacation photos into a 5 x 7 and changed it to black and white using Picasa. Then I uploaded it to Snapfish and ordered it. When it arrived at our house, I used a butter knife to remove the back of the picture frame (I was too lazy to get out the screwdriver). I simply inserted the new picture (and kept the old one in there so I can reminisce every time I have to open it.

I'll need to keep the message "Wherever we are together that is home" close to my heart as we try to sell our house, pack everything up, find a rental house in Austin, and move to a brand new-to-us city.

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Thursday, September 8, 2011

Interview with Kelly of 100 Scarves

I feel so fortunate to be able to share today's interview with you. I "met" Kelly a few months ago during one of my attempts to start building connections with people in Austin before we move there. Her project--one hundred scarves--resonates with me so deeply. It's ambitious, it's creative, it's an authentic extension of who she is, it makes the world better in multiple ways. I feel so fortunate to be able to support her project by introducing her to all of you. So, without further ado, here's Kelly:

Kelly: Hi Sara, I'm so happy to get to talk to you about my project because you helped inspire it!
Sara: Hooray! How so?

Kelly: Well, I was inspired by your blog to dream big and try something outside of my comfort zone. I also took your Purposeful Conception course this summer and was reminded to reduce stress, cultivate myself beyond conception, and focus on the things that are within my control.
Sara: I'm so pleased I could inspire you! How did it all come together?

Kelly: It all started last year when my beloved job as a school librarian ended due to shrinking enrollment and the school's inability to support the position. Since then I've been teaching yoga and doing part-time administrative work as my husband and I tried to start a family. I lost a son to stillbirth many years ago and finally felt ready to try again. Unfortunately, I had a miscarriage in March. My biggest challenge this year has been working through the feelings of failure and disappointment, especially as I needed to muster up some hope to try to conceive again.

Sara: I am in awe of the way you talk so openly about your losses. The rates of miscarriage are higher than most people realize, and yet so few people talk about their loss, which can leave people feeling really isolated and alone.

Kelly: Thank you! It's not always easy to be open, but I do think it's important. I'm so grateful that others (like you!) share their experiences online, so I want to do the same in the hopes that I can help someone else. We also found out through this whole process that because of my losses I would need extra supervision by a specialist in future pregnancies, which would double the cost of maternity care. So here I am, needing money, needing to stay relaxed and stress-free, and needing to do something aside from conception, something I could be successful at.

I had been making scarves for family and friends for a while and had already planned to open up business to Etsy this fall, just as a side project. But committing to making one hundred felt audacious and grand and enough of a challenge to keep me really focused.

Is that how it's helping you cultivate yourself beyond conception?

Yes, exactly! Aside from the actual weaving, which lets me flex my creative muscles, there's so much to learn and do to sell the scarves. I spend as much or more time taking photographs, calculating shipping and taxes, writing descriptions, and all the little business things as I do designing and weaving. The challenge of learning something new makes it interesting and keeps me feeling like I'm moving forward.

That sounds like a lot of fun! So now that you're a few weeks in, have you found that this project has helped you?

Definitely. It requires so much time and attention that I would have spent feeling bereft of a child. Most of my family and friends have babies and young children and it's easy to feel left behind. Over the past few years I kept setting little hopeful deadlines for myself like, "If I can just be pregnant by the time so-and-so has her second baby. . ." But of course I have no control over that. So while making one hundred scarves is a challenge, it's a challenge I know I can complete. It's not dependent on my body or my luck and I do really enjoy it.

What has challenged you the most about this project?

Managing financial expectations. I can't really set a profit goal because there are so many factors I can't control. I made it my goal to make and market one hundred scarves and try to remind myself that I'm still a success even if I don't sell them all. But I do have a financial need, so it's challenging to rein in my expectations and hopes.

I've also committed to donating 5% of the profits to Share, an organization that helps people coping with pregnancy and infant loss. They do a great job helping people and their families, and I feel really good about using my experience to help others.

Are you hoping people will want to buy more knowing some of their purchase will go to help others?

If they are motivated by that, that's wonderful, but I'm truly hoping people will buy my scarves because they're great scarves! I've been a knitter for twenty years but when I discovered the drape and lightness possible with woven scarves I fell in love. They're really sturdy and I take extra care to make them really soft. When I'm making them I love thinking about someone using them to spice up a simple wardrobe or keep warm on a winter day. I share the story of each scarf on my blog, so buyers can see what it looked like and what I was thinking about while I made it.

Sara: Thank you so much for sharing your story, your project, and your self with us, Kelly! I really hope your project catches on. And I know a lot of planners read this blog, so maybe you'll start getting some orders for holiday gifts (hint, hint?).

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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Pizza Recipe!

Image courtesy Steadfast Finances

Ever since I had the privilege of eating roasted vegetable pizza at kindred spirit Meghan's house when we were traveling through New Mexico, I've been obsessed with trying out different recipes.

Here's my favorite so far:

  • a basket of cherry tomatoes (the variety baskets our perfect!)
  • pesto sauce
  • pizza crust (we buy ours in the dough form from Whole Foods, although pizza crust is very easy to make)
  • a mozzarella log
  • balsamic vinegar
  • olive oil
  • sugar
  • two garlic cloves, minced
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • dried rosemary

  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees
  2. Arrange the tomatoes on a cookie sheet, cut sides up, as much as possible
  3. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar
  4. Sprinkle the garlic, a bit of sugar, a bit of salt, and some pepper over the tomatoes
  5. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes, until shriveled and tasty!
  6. Set aside in a bowl
  7. Prepare the pizza dough, brush with olive oil and sprinkle on dried rosemary
  8. Bake at 350 until the crust is golden
  9. Add the pesto sauce, tomatoes, and slices of soft mozzarella
  10. Bake for a few minutes until the cheese is melted


It's so good I put it in our meal rotation two weeks in a row. Matt said, "Again?" in a sufficiently whiny and ungrateful tone, so I have officially turned meal planning over to him. I figure a few weeks of selecting recipes and making a detailed grocery list (and making emergency trips to the store for all the things he forgot to put on the list) will help him be sufficiently grateful for how much work goes into meal planning every week!

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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

September: Reflection & Rejuvenation

Wow. I can't believe Fall is almost here. Of course it doesn't physically feel like Fall in Houston, but it definitely does psychologically. Let's see how I did in August:
  • Be the best mother and teacher I can be for my son, Henry. I have to remember that all the time and energy I put into parenting now is an investment in our future together. Specifically, I want to help Henry learn how to take naps on his bed. I also want to help him learn how to sleep through the night. I also want to take him on daily outings. He's starting to get very bored at home. Yes! We're doing great with all of these things (well, we're still working on the sleeping-through-the-night without waking up thing, but it's definitely getting better!).
  • Recruit participants for the next Purposeful Conception: Preparing Your Mind, Body, and Life for Pregnancy: Yes! I'm so excited for the next course the run.
  • Send printed photos to the grandparents, like I promised to do every month for their Christmas presents last year: Yes! But I will have to think long and hard before ever giving a present again that requires work every single month!
  • Study Spanish for 20 minutes every weekday: No. I am failing miserably at this, since Henry is such a fast breast feeder now.
  • Work on my 2000 Dollar Wedding book: I've been waiting for my editor to get back to me with feedback, so I have an excuse.
  • Work on the book that I am co-authoring about Montessori: Yes!
  • Get our house ready to go on the market at the beginning of September: Yes!
  • Find a rental house in Austin: Well, we can't really do this until we find a buyer.
  • Update the look of this blog: Yes! Thanks to Sebrina!
  • Sew a dress: I started a Sewing Club, bought the pattern, ordered the fabric, and washed the fabric. I even scheduled a craft date with a friend to start working on it. But I have not finished it.
  • Travel to Austin to observe the charter school application interviews: Yes!
  • Plan something fun with friends (maybe a potluck at the drive-in?): I kind of cheated on this one. Our friends planned something and invited us. I'll count that...

As for my intentions for this month, I feel like I need to take it easy on myself. We are going to put our house on the market ourselves, so we will be very involved with that endeavor.
  • Sell our house! We will host open houses every Sunday (with homemade cookies and mint hibiscus tea!). We'll have to vacate the house every time someone wants to see it. I will not be my most productive!
  • Find a rental house in Austin. Oy vey.
  • Be the best mother and teacher I can be for my son, Henry. I have to remember that all the time and energy I put into parenting now is an investment in our future together.
  • Actively participate in my online course, Purposeful Conception: Preparing Your Mind, Body, and Life for Pregnancy.
  • Finish losing all my baby weight by consistently implementing my lifestyle changes and holding myself accountable within the Health & Wellness Club.
  • Attend the Teach For America Houston Leadership Summit.
  • Work with a graphic designer to get the logo designed for the non-profit organization that will apply for a charter to open a public Montessori charter school in Austin.
  • Keep my two blogs going.
  • Plan a going-away party [insert sad face]

What are your intentions for the month? For those of you who write your own blog posts like this (Jennie and Kelsey, I'm talking to you!), please share the links!

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Monday, September 5, 2011

Six Months: Happy Birthday, Henry!

Oh, Henry, you are pure joy! You seriously bring immense gladness into our hearts.

You changed so much from 5-6 months. You are essentially crawling! I say "essentially" because it's more of an army crawl, but you can get anywhere you want to go, and quickly! You love to crawl all around your room (and over obstacles like pillows), and you even crawled from your room, down the hallway, through the dining room, and to the very back of the kitchen.

You've also started pulling up into a standing position completely independently. Although you can sit for short periods of time by yourself, you really have no use for it. You would rather crawl around and explore the house. When I asked the pediatrician what percent of babies are able to move like you at your age, he said only five percent. I honestly think it's all the Montessori we do at home.

You also sprouted two teeth! First, your right bottom one broke through, and your left bottom one followed very close behind. You've eaten rice cereal, avocado, sweet potato, and banana. You love it all! You love holding the spoon by yourself and drinking out of a real glass.

Hoss still continues to be pretty much your favorite thing. You want to watch him and crawl to him all the time.

It's fun to make you laugh. It's fun to blow raspberries on your abdomen. It's fun to play peek-a-boo. It's fun to watch you smile at yourself in the mirror.

You are getting so independent with your Montessori floor bed! When you wake up from naps, you crawl to the toys on your low shelf and start playing. If you wake up in the night and start crawling around, you sometimes crawl back onto your bed and fall asleep!

We are so thankful to have you in our lives, and we work really hard to be the kind of parents you deserve.

All our love,

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Friday, September 2, 2011

Sponsor Introduction & Celebration

Photo courtesy of Ben Becker

I'm really excited to share some of my favorite independent businesses with you all!

First, there's Sebrina of Mismikado Creations. She designed my new and improved header for this blog, so I know from first-hand experience that she is super-fun and easy to work with, very accommodating, positive, responsive, and creative--just what you want in a graphic designer.

Then there's Carrie and Shane of Beginning Montessori. They are a husband and wife team that hand makes Montessori materials to support the development of infants and toddlers. How sweet is that? All their products are recommended by the AMI (Association Montessori Internationale), which is the most prestigious certifying body for Montessori teachers worldwide. All materials are as natural as possible to give children real knowledge about their world and to limit exposure to toxins. For example, check out their Newborn Pack of toys. Henry has the bell cylinder and the ball cylinder to encourage his crawling. They are beautiful toys that even I love looking at and touching (and I certainly don't mind setting them out on our shelves in the living room).

Next we have MontessoriHouse who offers curriculum binders for various ages about how to do Montessori in the home. They created the albums based on what they learned during their Montessori trainings. The infants and young toddlers binder includes 90 pages of teaching projects and instructions. I just wish I would have known about this shop before Henry was born. They have albums through kindergarten. For those of you who are interested in learning more about how to implement Montessori ideas in the home, you might have realized that it's very difficult to find accurate, concise, relevant information. These binders are very user-friendly and easy to read!

I'm also super-excited to introduce my internet friend, Kelly, who is working on an amazing project over at One Hundred Scarves. She says, "My One Hundred Scarves Project is part dare, part charity, part therapy, part financial goal, and part creative experiment. After my job as a school librarian was downsized and I suffered a miscarriage, I decided to create a big, audacious goal for myself: to make one hundred scarves." And, to top it off, 5% of the profits from every sale will be donated to an organization that help people coping with loss. I have to confess that I spend entirely too long eying each scarf, trying to decide which is my favorite. You can subscribe to her blog to read the back-story on each scarf (also very addictive) and see when new scarves get added to the shop.

And then there's April of goosedesigns. She offers Montessori materials for newborns and toddlers. I went straight to her shop when I needed a Gobbi mobile for Henry. I had tried to make my own but quickly gave up after realizing just how difficult the process truly was. Check out her shop if you want a gift pack for a teething baby or want to promote reaching and grasping. Her gift packs are beautiful packaged and would make awesome baby shower gifts. She also sells interlocking discs, which are great for developing opposing wrist rotation, eye-hand coordination and fine motor skills--all of which indirectly prepare children to hold pencils and write!

And last, but certainly not least, there's At Home with Montessori. Meg's shop has things that I just haven't been able to find in the States, such as several of these Montessori Infant Mobiles. She also sells Materials for Hand Development, Materials for Cognitive Development, items for Your Child's Sleeping Environment, and Materials for Weaning. The site also includes an amazing blog full of very useful information about how to implement Montessori in the home. For example, she just did a series about five things to do in the home for each month of your child's first nine months. She also gives away great tutorials and downloadables.

If you run a business that you think would be a good fit for Feeding the Soil, please contact me for ad rates! I will also consider bartering. Happy Weekend!

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Thursday, September 1, 2011

Baby Food Party

These days, I'm trying to find as many ways possible to leverage the power of community to save money. Our babysitting co-op has been great for that. I'm able to get free babysitting for Henry by babysitting my friends' babies.

I recently had the idea that I could save time and money (and have fun!) by coordinating a baby food making party. I sent out a message to the gals from my prenatal yoga class and six of them expressed interest.

We're going to get together on a Saturday afternoon (sans babies) and make a whole bunch of homemade, organic baby food. Since baby food can be frozen for up to two months, we can make huge batches, freeze it in ice-cube trays, transfer the cubes to freezer bags, and take out one or two cubes at a time to defrost.

So far, the two books that have been most helpful to me are:

We're just going to use our food processors and blenders to whip up loads of different recipes from the books. I can't wait!

And to all my soon-to-be-Austin friends: I hope you'll be game for a baby food making party once I get settled!

REMINDER: Only one day left to register for the next Purposeful Conception Course: Preparing Your Mind, Body, and Life for Pregnancy, which starts on September 4. Register today!

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