Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Thankful for our decision to take this journey

I'm late again with Meatless Monday and as I started to post about meatless snacks - something else came to mind first....

This week has found me without my stay-at-home daddy and amazing husband, and I really really miss him. While I have help from family and friends it just isn't the same. We had been happily enjoying this new life of having him at home with the baby, our older in pre-k but able to chill at home when school became more of a burden and less of an experience. Yep, money is different - but not really when you have time to do so much yourself . It has just been so great to start to do all of the things as a family we hoped we would get to do.

Then, he was off. He is gone for just one week, we are not even half way through his leave, and now I see just what our lives would be like if we were both working or traveling or even single parents. OH MY! I won't be second guessing our decision to cut our income in half any time soon... It has been rough, even with help many things are going undone. I find the TV on more than I would like and our choices for not just activities but healthy eating to be much tougher. A cold snuck up on me (probably stress) and I have little time or patience to cope with it. Ukkkk

But then there are bright spots. The swinging, laundry line-drying, walk to the park and secret scones orspecial treats we are "sneaking" because it is just us girls. Cookies from scratch even though dishes still need to be done and bed-time awaits. Special books that came in from the library hold list just when I needed a bonus to get us through the day. Yes, it feels busy - crazy actually, but it also just reassures me that we made the right decision as a family to sacrifice things like early retirement, the freedom to spend, travel, and more (like safety nets and free health care which are huge). I'm so thankful right now that this week is temporary and that our new family journey is really making an impact I never imagined it would.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Building Confidence

Have you ever had to have someone tell you “you can do this”? Tell yourself… “it’ll be a learning experience”? Some might call it psyching yourself up... right now I call it confidence building. Often – confidence is something we are trying to teach our kids – not necessarily something we would recognize we need more off in ourselves. But lately, I’ve realized that I need to work on my own confidence levels. Confidence in what you might ask?

- Confidence that I am in fact a good mom, even though I miss a lot of the day’s events while at work
- Confidence that I know what I’m doing at work and am a valuable part of my firm
- Confidence that we will find a way to survive as a family of three while my husband is away caring for his parents
- Confidence that I am not guilty of anything just because I have to ask for help
- Confidence that I can make time for myself because if I don’t, who will
- Confident that the little things I do add up to a lot
- Confidence in my own ability to adapt, be creative, and grow

Yep, I’m giving myself a little pep talk today! It is something I find I need more of when things are as crazy as they have been and probably will be for me in the coming weeks. So today…Less negative focus… More confidence building. Come on, join me :)

Monday, June 21, 2010

Missing Something?

This weekend I was looking around my kitchen and feeling proud of all of the things I use every day and choose NOT to replace even though they are missing something:
- The best knives I have had for years and years and won't replace - even though I'm missing one
- The mix and match napkins, plates, and silverware - many more than one piece missing but still enough to have dinner with many friends
- The glass pot that I broke the lid on but can't bare to let go
- The fridge missing a few pieces - but we had it painted black anyway rather than replace it when we remodeled the kitchen some years back

I'm just not one to discard good things or replace them just because they have a little something missing. I suppose eventually I will try to find a lid that works with that pot, or see about ordering a replacement knife....but honestly I don't mind having a few worn and well used (well loved) things around my house. I guess that old cliche' about it giving your home character is true.

Meatless Monday

Maybe a month back my daughter got in the car from a day at school to tell me how excited she was that they ate a panini at school that day. She had never had one and was so proud she tried one. Now they are one of her favorite additions to her school lunch menu and well, the good food at her school is one of the things I love!

I ran across this recipe the other day: Grilled Eggplant & Portobello Sandwich and I immediately flashed back to our panini conversation and was inspired.Time to try a panini at home. Tonight's Meatless Monday at home was our rather traditional now -  tofu, broccoli in black bean sauce (with a little left over eggplant from our curry a few nights ago - also meatless)... but I think if the sun ever comes back and we can grill again I will be excited to try this new recipe out. Unfortunately, due to lack of sun, I think my own eggplant starts won't make it - so the odds are against the eggplant coming from my garden - but I could use some yummy homemade bread.

Friday, June 18, 2010

It's Simple!

A friend of mine and fellow mommy of 2 stared her own blog this week. She is blogging on keeping it simple every day and I'm excited to see what she has to share. Check her out at SimplifySimplify.

Have something more to say about doing less, about what brings you more joy with less cost....but don't want a whole blog. I would love more bloggers to join me here at More or Less - just let me know.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Is a CSA right for you?

I came across this post today:

Healthy Living for as Little as $20 a Week

Even though it is a year old, I thought it had a great list of questions to help you determine if a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) food box is right for you. I posted earlier about this being something I did a few years back and it got me on the gardening band wagon, but, it certainly was something that I had to work at once I got the food. I do think that sharing with a friend or a neighbor is the absolute BEST way to dip your toes in the water as you can either both share in the learning process or each take a bigger share of what the other doesn't like or want that week. I also think if you do more research on freezing, preserving, and using what you have you can really make the best use of your CSA box.

Don't stop here though. If the CSA sounds like too much for you try these other options: Regular trips to the farmers market for specific items, local produce at your neighborhood grocery or food co-op like this one; home delivery of organic produce from a larger food mile area than just one farm like Organics-To-You (check out their baby food box) ; or even specific groceries delivered to your door step from folks like Spud Organic Grocery Delivery. There are plenty of buyers clubs out there - we get our meat from Abundant Life Farms or there is dairy and meat from Norris Dairy. My guess is there are many many more options around your neighborhood that I know nothing about. Please let me know what they are - I still need to figure out what my family wants to do next too :)

Monday, June 14, 2010

Meatless Monday

In my quest to come up with some summer Meatless Monday recipies I found this Tandoori Tofu recipie. You grill the tofu and add a nice yogurt sauce with it. Some grilled eggplant or summer squash would probably also go nicely!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

How I grew to love gardening

If you would have told me in my teens I would be a gardener with 2 kids living in Portland, OR I would have thought you were nuts. Yet here I am. Why did I have kids? My husband was born to be a dad and well, I adapted to being a mom. What it really did though was made me want to be more educated about the effects of the world around us….and our effects on it.

I was a SUPER picky eater as a kid, and I grew up in a microwave generation that was all about making life easier. Somewhere along the way domestic became a bad word and I had big dreams of climbing a corporate ladder so what did I need to cook for – after all, I had a microwave. But slowly, after having kids (and some before), I started to recognize that convenience wasn’t good, diet food didn’t help you lose weight, real food did in fact actually taste better when cooked correctly or eaten in season. I realized that as two working parents we needed some real traditions around eating and that it couldn’t always be in restaurants.

So the first year I got a CSA box and split it with some friends. What was Kale? How did you use fennel? How much salad could two people eat? It was overwhelming but it made me crack the books and join discussion groups and learn how to cook (well, honestly my husband is still much better at this). Year two, we started a garden. I had never gardened in my life and in fact couldn’t even keep house plants alive. But I was amazed at how much MORE you could get from well for....less. Year 3 I gardened pregnant and expanded our beds and here we are in year 4 of changing our diets and eating habits and yes BUDGET, and the garden was started last weekend.

It won’t be enough to live on for the winter or anything but it is good wholesome food that our kids will see grow, be picked, and eat (ok at least try). I’m here to tell you that you can do this too! There are a million resources out there to get you started but the farmer’s almanac online is a great place to start to see what to plant when in your area. Then a local seed company can help you with what variety grows well and what is harder to care for than others. Even when we both worked it was pretty easy to tend and maybe we could have done better but we certainly got a lot to eat and have had several summer bbq’s with nothing but the food we have grown and bread we have baked, etc. I had no idea how rewarding this would feel, how important this would be for my family, and how much it would change my life.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Weekend fun

There are some weekends that are just perfect. This last weekend was close to it. We had one nice sunny day that included a bike ride to the library to check out new books. This included a hilarious look at me remembering how to ride a bike and work the bike lock (picture me outside the library yelling at a lock and key while my kid waits patiently for new books). Then ended with some garden weeding and spreading yards of bark that my husband picked up for an area around the swing set - all while baby wearing. Ok, so I could have done it a little better and faster without the baby but it was fun to have us all hanging out in the back yard together. We then played on the swings and went to dinner - starving after a long day in the sun.

Unfortunately the next day - not so sunny. But we still had a great play date with a friend in the basement playroom, covered a pinecone that we hauled back from my parents place in CA (the biggest we had ever seen) with peanut butter and bird seeds to hang in the tree... eventually (when the rain stops) and then headed to the pool for some afternoon swim time. My older dd and I love going to the pool and try to do it quite often but a few months back I had actually won a facebook contest to be one of the first people to "fan" wander the gator - the Portland Parks and Rec pool mascot. This got me two free passes into the pool and thus a cheap date with my daughter. I'm slowly learning that there are a lot of free $$ out there on the social media sites if you are willing to share your information. After finally convincing her to go down the water slide with me (ask me about my bloody nose injury from this some day) I could barely haul her away from the place to go home and get dinner.

Perfection! Nothing short of great memories for very little money!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Meatless Monday

Strawberries... That is all I'm saying for Meatless Monday. I mean, couldn't you eat a whole meal of strawberries :)

So, they ARE here... dispite the days and days of rain. I saw several nearly red berries in my yard this weekend and if the sun stays out today something tells me we will be eating one or two when we get home tonight!

I would love to go picking next weekend if the weather holds up and we have time. If anyone knows of good places to go - especially to the East - I wouldn't mind trying something new. In the past we have picked at Suavie Island and I like to follow farmer Don's blog from Kruger's Farm to see what is ripe (and yes, Strawberries are ripe).

My mom is also making a visit soon to help out with the kids while my husband is away and we are talking about trying our hand at canning - so look out, you just might see a post about canning at some point (all tips or blog posts about canning welcome).

PS - My Meatless Monday's are getting stale - could use some blogging partners. If anyone wants to blog about Meatless Monday's or anything More or Less related please let me know!

Friday, June 4, 2010


Ok, we are not without TV. But a serious look at list of big ticket bills to reduce or eliminate to allow us to lose an income and the cable bill certainly was top on the charts. We had cable, HD, DVR, internet and we were topping $100 a month (and no premium channels either). This didn’t include Netflix, etc… What? We weren’t even getting 2-3 hours of sleep in a row – let alone watching enough TV to get $100 worth of value from it. It had to go. But… yes, I like to tube out… I like to control what my child watches with a DVR…. I like to turn the TV off but know I can watch something later. I want it all and I don’t want to pay for it. Yes, I’m not ALL crunchy – I don’t mind a bit of TV in our lives as long as we aren’t total coach potatoes on a sunny day!

So a few months before my husband left work I gave him a job. Find a way that we can have what we need and maybe even a little of what we want. We could have gone cold turkey to just the antenna and if you are looking to cut the entire bill this is the way to go – over the air free channels are more than enough. PBS rocks – need I say more.

We ended up opting to spend a little money up for with an antenna and Tivo. There are actually cheaper options if you are very tech savy but this was pretty simple. Bunny ears are on the roof already and they give us like 20 channels. Tivo allows us to record them and play them back and also gives us the option to purchase shows on Amazon On-Demand or even Netflix should we ever want to subscribe again. A simple option that I love and don’t miss the cable bill or any channels one iota (I can even get my top chef on-demand for just $1.99 a show – much less than my full cable bill). It is a great compromise option and if you need to ditch your cable but are afraid of withdrawals I would highly recommend this option.

Even with these solutions though I should add that getting rid of cable was also the motivation I needed to have that “family talk” about how there would just be less TV. It just isn’t necessary everyday – we all know it but frankly I think I still watch more than my 4 year old so this has also been an experiment in letting go for all of us. We have some routines and veg-time but more and more we try to just leave the TV off. It’s a work in progress :)

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Working Wo-Man

One of my favorite Rush songs is Working Man – the line “seems to me I could live my life a lot better than I think I am – that’s why they call me the working man” seems to epitomize how we all feel about work at times. And in all honesty certain career choices like promotions (or not taking promotions), going into management, changing fields, or even quitting jobs do come with some tough more or less choices. We have certainly been facing these decisions as a family this year in deciding to take the step for my husband to stay at home with our little one. Still, as a grown adult and parent I really don’t connect with the song now as much as I thought I would… I mean, I think I am living my life a lot better than I thought I would… at least it feels that way sometimes. :)

Before I had my first child I was a career woman... who am I kidding - I still am sort of. But having kids has certainly mellowed my need to climb the ladder at this very instant. I'm enjoying the relaxed nature of a specialized job that is both challenging and simplistic at the same time. But I also knew I wouldn't fair well at home and eventually found peace with being a working mom.

Then along came baby number two and the insanity of two working parents really sunk in hard. The economy was (ok still is) bad and we were both just happy to have jobs, but money was still a stressor even with us both working. Money was an issue no matter which way we went – loose half an income or pay for help. It wasn’t like one was better than the other, it was just an option we hadn’t really considered before… well, I really hadn’t considered because I knew I wouldn’t last at home.

My husband on the other hand – is amazing at it. He gets an amazing amount of work done and food on the table and house organized… he certainly makes it look easy. Yes, I can now say after a few months of worrying about the “money” it is no longer of any concern to me at all whatsoever. This is now a simple less for more choice for me. Yes we make way less money and some days this is tough to remember, but the quality of our life is just so much richer. It is nice and I thank him for that!

I still struggle with being the working parent and strange backwards roles at times. I feel guilty for getting a daily break from parenthood or getting to eat my lunch in peace. But I try to feel good about setting an example for my daughters and still make our family time quality. I’m not sure what future choices we will both be making about our careers but for right now this seems like a great new routine. Well worth the big hit to the income and I’m now just so grateful we made the decision to try this path.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Meatless Monday... on Tuesday

Still recovering from vacation but here is a nice article from today's Huffington Post on the Meatless Monday Movement:

Meatless Monday's by Kathy Freston