We Almost Cut Down the Mulberry Tree

14 March 2017

When we bought this house two years ago, the bushes and trees had all but consumed it. No one had touched them for years and they'd freely developed their green kingdoms for feral cats and precocious rats. One bush had been about the size of a dump truck and sprawled across half the front lawn.
My dad came to town and bought my husband a chainsaw. We began clearing. We would cut down one sapling and quickly expose another leggy monstrosity. Years without sufficient light and competing for resources had left the bushes and trees ugly and misshapen.

We didn't want to cut down everything, but for every tree we cut down it was like we were taking the skirts off the rest of the trees and exposing a forest of gimpy legs. Many had grown at strange angles that made sense when they'd been avoiding a gluttonous bush, but now they jutted out with no purpose, Vs and Ps, like letters fallen out of their words, memories of the old lawn, incomprehensible pieces of a forgotten story.

So we kept cutting, and in one weekend the front yard became a forest of spikes and we met all of our neighbors. The men would slap Jacob on the back. We were liberating the street.

We left three small trees at the northwest corner of the house, and they stood there through the winter awaiting the second reaping. But come March we saw the mulberries. Like some offering of gratitude. Laden with the berries in their natural ombre of green to pink to black, the branches bowed to the ground .

The squirrels and the birds mostly had their way with the ripe berries before we could, but we heeded the tree's gesture.

And we didn't cut it down.
We went out last weekend to pick berries. They fall from the tree and hide like jewels in the St. Augustine, so we hunt for them.

We only met one neighbor. She told us to watch for cedar waxwings. They love mulberries, she said.

We love them too.

Because you want to meet our only pet

11 March 2017

Caddy the Caterpillar

We got fennel from our farm share last week and one of the bulbs was rotting - I was really peeved until a little caterpillar climbed out of the bag. I've been wanting to raise some caterpillars with the kids for ages. So we adopted it and gave her all the fennel she could stuff herself with.

This morning she tucked herself in like this:
And six hours later she looks like this:

My expectations are hopelessly high for this science project. I'm sure I'm more excited than the kids.

Doers Make Mistakes

Jacob said this to me the other day. We were having an argument about something really trivial - like the disappearing lids of our kitchen storage containers. Yes. That was precisely it. Maturity be ours.

While we were arguing Jacob said: "Doers make mistakes."

I'm much more of a planner than a doer. I'm super critical - of myself more than anyone - and it's something I've really tried to work on recently.  Whenever I find myself being too hard on myself, I whip this one out: Doers make mistakes.

Baking
I'm baking bread every week.

I haven't ruined a loaf yet, and my starter still seems happy and bubbly - which is good - because of the whole fear of failure thing. I've been waiting on this book from the library for weeks. I decided all this baking has earned me some proofing baskets, so I bought some this morning. Aren't they lovely? - I wish I could just take a nap in one.

Reading 
I started reading The Awakening of Miss Prim - which has been on my list for ages...and it's not really grabbing me yet. I'll keep you posted.

I'm still putting myself to sleep with Gilead. It's still delightful.

Bullet Journaling
I started bullet journaling a few months ago. I was super late to this trend on purpose. It seemed a little self-indulgent. It's very much my style: doodling, paper products, felt tip pens, planning planning planning.

But I finally just indulged, and I love it. I love being able to tailor the planner into whatever I need. I love having a centralized spot for any and all scribblings. My favorite pages:

Sentence a Day Journal

I've been meaning to do this for awhile, and I never managed until I started bullet journaling. I tend to write a few sentences, choppy little things cataloging the days' noteworthy events.
I've been doing it for two months - which is probably the longest that I've maintained a daily journal since I was in sixth grade.

Lowering the bar. That's how you get it done.

Habit Tracker

I also keep a habit tracker page in the bullet journal. It's mostly just humbling to track how I'm doing with new habits, but it's also been really helpful to identify "linchpin habits" - the things that I do that have a trickle down effect.

Like waking up early. If I wake up early I get in my ab exercises, I spend time praying and writing, and I make time for a run before Jacob leaves. Sometimes those things still happen when I don't wake up early, but they almost always happen if I do.

Or the reverse of that.

Drinking. If I have any alcohol I will also end up eating late at night, watching TV, not getting enough sleep, not washing my face, etc.

So that's me. Just like the little girl who had a little curl right in the middle of her forehead. Except my hair is hopelessly flat.

Question For You
When you start some new project do you buy nice tools from the get go?

I'm definitely the type that feels like I need to earn the good tools. To prove that I deserve them. But good tools are bound to help at the beginning. So it's a bit of a Catch 22. 

Quick Takes: Katie Talks Life Essentials or something

25 February 2017

I posted a picture of a cup of this tea on my instagram, but I can't stop talking about it so here we go again.

When I reached out for tea recs a few weeks ago, multiple people recommended this and I was so skeptical. I've tried so many kinds of turmeric tea and really disliked them. Nor am I a big ginger fan: I like it in savory cooking but really dislike it in sweets. Ginger and I also have a difficult relationship because of how much it's supposed to ease morning sickness symptoms and it helps me none with my five months of all day sickness. But I do really like Ginger Rogers, and as a seven year old I pretty much scoffed at anyone else who tried to dance with Fred.
As compatible as Ginger and Turmeric.

I didn't love my first sip of the tea, but I knew we could warm up to each other. And twenty cups in I'm in love. It has this all around mouth feel that gets deeper the longer it brews and it doesn't get bitter.

I let Jacob taste it and he said blankly: "Vata tea." Like it was something everyone in the world grew up drinking. But, Mr. Rhodes, not everyone was raised by a hippy.

Let's see if I can think of anything else to say about this tea. Yes! I can! But I won't! So you're welcome.

And thank you to Jordan and Kate who first recommended this tea! I wouldn't be who I am today without it.

~~~

I've been baking sourdough recently. I got inspired by this new friend and she gave me some of her starter and sent me to this sourdough blog, and I was up and running, and I've had so much more baking success than I ever expected to have! I've seriously wanted this to be part of my routine since forever ago.
My crust is really tough and my shaping efforts are pretty laughable and I'm still learning how to gauge when the dough is fully proofed. But I'm loving it. This beginner loaf has been consistently good - I also made some OK pizza dough and a decent sandwich loaf.

Yesterday I took some fresh bread to my neighbor who just had a baby. I put it in a brown paper bag and walked it over hand in hand with Lucy June who was hankering for a peek at some newborn toes. The late afternoon light was stunning, and I thought: *this* is life.

~~~

I finished Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird this morning. I've been familiar with it for so long and read excerpts of it before, but I'd never read the whole thing. I can't recommend it enough if you like reading about writing. Which is one of my favorite things to read about so it's totally my cup of ginger turmeric tea.

~~~

How many books do you read at a time?

I read like five books at a time. I wonder if I would finish more books if I stuck to one, but I find myself craving different types of books at different times of day. Morning reading needs to be thoughtful. Naptime reading needs to be effortless. Evening reading needs to be gripping. In bed reading needs to be beautiful.

Currently, my bedtime book is Gilead. It's amazing. I read a couple pages and steep in the richness of it until I'm drowsy. I never want it to end.

~~~

Jacob and I went on a date last week (this restaurant for you Htown peeps) to use a Christmas gift card. It was amazing. Like entire pigs hanging in the meat locker kind of cool...so maybe that's not your thing...but I loved it.

Afterwards we went tipsy shopping at the Goodwill in the ritzy part of town. Tipsy thrifting on date night: highly recommend. I scored a couple Anthro dresses and barely used brand name shoes for the kids. I also giggled a ton because thrift stores can be so hilarious if you're two drinks in with somebody fun.

~~~

Ok. More secondhand clothes, because this is a fashion blog.
Last summer I used a two year old gift card and bought myself these shorts from Madewell. Full price! Because I am an adult. And I had a gift card.

Here they are on me!
Madewell models roll them up. I roll them down. Because enough white thigh is enough. It was everything I could do not to crop out my forehead wrinkles for this pic because #petty. But I didn't because #authenticity and they're a gift from my dad and I'm turning 32 next week so #embrace.

They have been such great shorts: they run laps around my Target shorts, which is good because I spent $75 on them. On shorts. Despite loving them, I wasn't sure I could throw down like that again.

Yesterday I remembered that I had a ThredUp credit from some clothes I sent in two years ago and voila! $90 Madewell denim shorts in my size for $26! Now I'm basking in the glow of buying (heavily discounted) quality.

Moral of the story: I have commendable shopping habits and you should try ThredUp. Just like everyone else already told you.

~~~

Jacob and I have a standing argument about how to feed a baby. His mess tolerance is very low and prefers to sit down, play the spoon game, and scrape the mouth and chin with every bite.

I'm the opposite. I'd much rather eat my food with my own hands and let baby do the same and then deal with the fallout.

My way:
 Jacob's way:
[NOT PICTURED]

[Because TEDIOUS AND BORING]

Visit Kelly for more takes and Happy Mardi Gras!

Quick Takes: Afternoon Off and Hidden Doors

03 February 2017

On Wednesday Jacob finished all his work by noon and told me to take the afternoon off. I said I just wanted to hole up in our bedroom with a hot cup of something and my laptop, but he said the offer was only on the table if I left the house.

He was right of course. Our bedroom - though progressing - is still a construction project. And our children - though not my immediate responsibility - will always bang on the door if I'm on the other side. I was under orders not to do anything productive. I wasn't allowed to work on anything. So I went to a bookstore and I browsed. I picked up books and meandered. I told multiple sales people that I didn't need any help. Because I didn't. And nobody needed help from me.

Usually I take "me time" to work on administrative stuff for Jacob's business or to go on a stroller-less run or to just get stuff done. I can't remember the last time I wandered in a bookstore. It was glorious. I thought I would feel like I'd wasted that time, but instead I felt like a new person. Or maybe I just felt like my old person?

>><<

I've been trying to embrace smaller chunks of time.

For the past month I've been running and doing yoga almost every day. I've always been a consistent jogger, but since baby number three came I was only managing one run a week, if that. So a couple months back, I just decided to go on twenty minute runs. It's worked like a charm. At this point in my life, it's so much easier to find 20 minutes 6 times a week than 40 minutes 3 times a week. I think this is pretty mental: it's a lot easier to commit to a 20 minute workout.

Recently I've been applying the idea to yoga. Whenever I saw a 20 minute window, I just click on over to this website, set my filters to 0-20 or 20-40 minute workouts, and off we go.

>><<

While wondering through the bookstore, I broke down and bought some books for the kids. I almost never buy kids' books because the library is so easy and so free. But that day I had some cash and I wanted to do something splurgey. I bought Jake this classic which he loves. I wanted to buy Lucy June Ladybug Girl because it's much more my style of girl book, but she's in a big time unicorn phase and so I gave in and bought one called Uni the Unicorn. The flower illustrations got me. Especially this page with all the dandelions.

>><<

I'm on the hunt for a hot beverage that is caffeine-free and doesn't need milk or sugar to make it palatable. I'm trying to teach myself to like herbal tea, but so far so bad. I'd love any tea recommendations or tips if you got'em!

>><<

This is exactly what Jacob and I look like when we watch TV:
Please admire all my well placed wall art... 
>><<
Remodeling progress. Here's where we are with the master bedroom. (steps out the window are handy but temporary ;) Floors go in on the 13th. 

Tile is done in the bathroom. It's the first time we've tiled all the way up a wall and I really like it.
Jacob is almost done building the vanity and I can't wait to show it to you!

>><<

Then finally there's this cuteness. We'll be taking out this wall soon to make this room three feet wider, so last week Jacob cut a hole in it last week to make spot for the kids:


 Jake scurries in there every morning to look at books before the other kids wake up.

Go see Kelly and Happy Weekend. We're off to hide from the Super Bowl festivities which are happening up the road!



7QT - Little Things and BIG Thing

27 January 2017

Throwing up a post this Friday morning! It's chilly here in Houston which puts me in SUCH a good mood. And my little sister is visiting this weekend (Right, Lil??) and my little brother who's been out of town all month is finally back and we're all having a pizza night tomorrow. So many good things big and little!

>><<

I read most of Gary Taube's new book The Case Against Sugar this week, and I'm sufficiently terrified of sucrose, fructose, and all the other -ose's. The book was actually pretty dry - and I LOVE reading about health and wellness books and food histories - but it's a pretty compelling look at the story of sugar consumption and the rise in chronic disease. Whenever I feel my healthful eating resolve starting to teeter, I check out a book like this.

When Jacob saw me reading the book, he sat next to me with a bowl of ice cream.

>><<

The kids and I went to the park yesterday morning. It was 55 degrees and when we were getting back in the car Jake asked if he had frost on his face.

>><<

The remodel is still trucking along. I'll try to get a post up about it next week. I'm no longer sleeping in a total construction site...it feels more like...a garage.

The kids are troopers about it all:
The suckers were from before I read the Taubes book.

>><<

Jake really likes to shorten words. Yesterday he called his Uncle Michael "Mikes." He thinks it's extra cool. Often he'll shorten words and we won't even know what he means. Like the other day when he asked for these:
bloobs

>><<

Jacob and I have been scrambling for a new show for both of us to watch. He has his kinds of shows (dry British or Australian humor) and I have mine (overdramatic period pieces), and we'll often find shows to watch together (Stranger Things, Poldark, The OA.) But we've been floundering for awhile to find a new one, so we picked up The Man in the High Castle. I didn't like the first half of season one but I'm really liking the second half.

>><<

I'm reading the Laura Ingalls Wilder's books with the kids. I love them all so much. Right now we're reading Farmer Boy. My favorite part is how much this nine year old boy thinks about food. At one point he was reflecting on how pretty his mother was and that she was never prettier than when she was carrying a ham to the kitchen table. #parentinggoals

A couple months ago we made butter tinted with carrot juice just like Ma Ingalls. I'm thinking next week we'll make Almanzo's favorite food: fried apples and onions.

(Disclaimer: I realize replicating Little House recipes sounds industrious. Let it be known that the only thing I'm really doing well is making it to the couch every night with a bowl of popcorn.)
>><<

The other day I was asking Jacob how one even begins the process of finding a good therapist...and then literally two days later we got an e-mail from a good friend of ours from college who has written an ebook about how to find a great therapist. You should definitely check it out or at least visit his website which has tons of information about therapy (cost, kinds, frequency, what to expect). This guy is basically the coolest, and I'm so excited for this initiative!

>><<

And now the BIG THING - which is NOT another baby. 
We're gearing up to move to my hometown in rural Texas this summer. I. can't. wait.

We'll rent my parents' house while they relocate to my grandmother's old house, and then we'll start the slow process of buying ten acres from them and building a house on it. It feels like a dream, and I'm so excited about it. (But Jake told me he likes being a city kid because he gets to drive on highways -_-)

We'll buy ten acres of unimproved land except that it has an acre of high fencing around a vineyard of Black Spanish grapes. 
It has a creek!
 And carpenter anthills the size of basketball courts!
It's basically a deer habitat and is totally overrun by wild mustang grapevines ten inches thick at the base, and we're totally in love.
We're thinking this for the backyard:
Then I'll be able to go seriously Ma Ingalls on everything. It's such an enormous dream come true to move home and read Wendell Berry and work the land and watch sunsets.

Visit Kelly for more quick takes! Happy Weekending!

What I'm Reading (and Quick Remodel Update)

18 January 2017

**chock full of affiliate links in case the almighty Google asks and threatens my $6/mo**
Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave

Story about several young people in London as they figure out their way through the first years of WWII. Think star-crossed lovers and coming of age. It had an Amor Towles feel. It honestly fell a little flat for me. My expectations were probably too high because I was hoping for another All the Light We Cannot See and this novel didn't quite hit that level of heart-wrenching. It's the only Chris Cleave I've read, and I'd be interested to hear other people's experiences with him.

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

I loved this book and highly recommend it. I first encountered Kalanithi when I read his piece in the New York Times a couple of years ago, and like most of the internet, I was struck by his story: a neurologist finishing residency diagnosed with an aggressive and rare lung cancer. When Breath Becomes Air is his memoir about dying, so it's heavy, but his writing is so good and so poignant.

168 Hours by Laura Vanderkam

This is a book about how people spend their time/should spend their time. I liked it. She's got great statistics on how people spend their time today vs fifty years ago. After reading it, I decided to do some time tracking. This is pretty tricky for me because I'm someone who needs a lot of external motivation to maintain this type of practice. But in this instance, a disbelieving eyebrow raise from Jacob has been all the motivation I've needed to follow through, and I'm going on my second week of observing my time in 15 minute intervals.

I've LOVED time-tracking.  I haven't analyzed my charts yet, but the time tracking itself has helped me spend my time so much more consciously.

Designing your Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans

Ah. More self help! This book is about applying design concepts to "What should I do with my life" questions. It's very interactive and has you doing lots of exercises, some of which got me thinking creatively about some of the parts of my life that I want to change. It's one of the reasons I've been blogging more! It had been hard for me to justify spending time blogging, but this book helped me look at my emotional experiences without judgment. And turns out I LIKE blogging, and maybe I don't need another justification to do it.

Before We Visit the Goddess by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

A story about three generations of Indian women that spans decades and continents. I really liked this book: I liked the writing and the jumping around in time and the steady description of Indian food. But it also made me a little miserable...it seemed like every relationship was fueled by deception or resentment. I finished it one night late and crawled into bed with Jacob. I hugged him and was all "Ah love! Let us be true to one another!" and he was like "I was asleep."

>><<
Also: this is what my bedroom looks like today. 
We demo-ed (How do Chip and Joanna spell that, I wonder?) the old exterior wall the day before yesterday and now the room is twice as big and half as habitable. Never fear, the drywallers come tomorrow if we pass our final framing inspection today. #knockonwallstuds

Also the "we" here always means Jacob doing/managing everything and me in the background asking "Is that supposed to be that way??"

Some Things that have been Working for Me

12 January 2017

So...seems like I've been seeing a lot of people blogging about items/practices/hacks that are making a difference in their lives. I always read these types of posts. (I just typed "poasts.") Mostly because I'm a sucker for a good hack. Or at least reading about a good hack - I don't know how often I put new things into practice. But, know, that if you've got a title like: "5 Things That are Saving My Life Right Now", this lady will be clicking in a flash.

Despite how much I like to read posts like these, I don't tend to blog about them, but today that changes.

Here we go!

Rosewater and glycerin
I'm gonna lead with my strong suit here, because the rest of these aren't very original and it has an affiliate link. So you're welcome. (And thank you.)

I first bought rosewater and glycerin (this one) when I was trying to DIY some kind of face wash. I never made the face wash, but I use this as a quick moisturizer all the time. I spritz it on my face a lot, especially in the winter. Before make-up, after make-up, mixed with some emu oil if I'm extra dry. I spray it all over the kids after baths. And it literally smells like roses.

The sound machine app on my phone
Baby is really good at sleeping through noise because he has lived in a construction project his whole life, but when they're literally reroofing over his little sleeping head, a sound machine app saves the day. We don't have any actual sound machines because I'm allergic to stuff. (I know it's annoying when people are all "I'm a helpless minimalist," but trust me, my aversion to buying new things annoys me more than you, and my husband more than both of us.)

Here's the real reason this is on the list: This method necessarily decommissions my phone during nap time. I've found that pressing my phone into lullaby service has been really good for me and any hopes I have to do something meaningful during naps. I use the Relax Melodies app by Ipnos. (A trio of river, rain, and wind, if you must know.)

One on one outings with the kiddos
In the past, if Jacob was home and I needed to run an errand, I ran and didn't look back. That blessed freedom from car seat buckles!! Carefree meandering through the grocery store! Picking up hold books at the library without ending up with some twaddle involving ninja pigs!! Bringing a kid along, when I could be all by myself would have sounded crazy. I don't think it even occurred to me for years.

So if you're still there, I get you. Cheers!

But recently in that situation, I've taken to bringing one of the big kids with me. It's delightful. At three and five they're both still pretty much excited to come no matter what we're doing. We chat. They pick the music in the car. I don't have to deal with the anxiety of having multiple children in public. I feel less like a ruthless cattle herder and more...like a mom holding a kid's hand.
Tea time and other things I like
At the end of naps the kids and I have tea. Usually some kind of chai with honey and milk. They put a blanket down in their room, and I bring the tea in on a tray with some little cookies. Always the tray. Mutiny without the tray. It's a really sweet time.

This one started as part of a new year's resolution to do things with the kids that I like doing. Instead of waiting for the kids to ask me to do something I don't want to do, I ask them to do something with me that I do want to do. Little House on the Prairie before I get stuck under the weight of Mr. Scarry's pickle car. Uno before Chutes and Ladders. Etc.

And in the kitchen...
Boiled potatoes
I try to keep boiled potatoes in our fridge most of the time. I chop them up for a quick starch for the kids - who eat them with ketchup. Or I'll grate them and throw them in a pan with some brussels sprouts for me to eat with a soft boiled egg. Eh? Eh?
 
Roasted cauliflower
We eat a lot of vegetables here because we're enslaved to our weekly farm share till the summer (THIS ONE if you're in the Houston area.) And the kids are pretty good sports about the mountains of okra and chard. But one veggie that never fails us is cauliflower. I've mashed it, riced it, tried it as a pizza crust replacement, and all the trends, but we always end up back here:

Chopped up and tossed in some lemon juice, garlic, olive oil, and salt and roasted on 400 until the edges begin to caramelize.

I make it as an appetizer 2-3 nights a week and throw it at the hangry children when dinner's not quite ready, and they eat it like popcorn.

So there you go. Maybe one of these will save your life! Or probably not, but I'm touched that you're still here and that counts for something.

As I was writing this post, I kept thinking about all the things (like this?) that "would probably be saving my life, if I had them" so I'll be debuting those sometime before my birthday next month.

Ciao!
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