Five free ways to treat the little ones

1. Request a book they would like from the library instead of just grabbing one that is available. Mine are enjoying the Boxcar Children (wanting them in order), and anything by Kelly DiPucchio.

2. Put a bouquet of flowers on their nightstand while they are sleeping. They also seem to like arrangements of pinecones, rocks, and sticks.

3. Arrange a scene at their breakfast table with their stuffed animals and dolls. Maybe they are having breakfast together or just coloring.

4. Take down a photo album or scrapbook with pictures of them and look at it together.

5. Do a read aloud story time with them in addition to their bedtime story. I pick a book that I actually enjoy, and read a chapter at a time.

Work Harder, Want Less

Whenever I send my kids up to their room to play quietly there is a lot of whining and complaining. “I don’t want to do quiet time!” “Let me stay down here!” “But I need a snack!”.


But when I send them up to clean their room or get dressed, and I go to check on their progress, they are playing quietly without complaint. They are happy to be doing something that is just one level more fun that what they are supposed to be doing.


When I have been working hard at home, dedicating my day to truly working and not just wandering around waiting for the time to pass, I am so happy when I have a break to listen to the radio and have a cup of tea.

But if I have been home all day doing nothing, just listening to the radio and drinking tea, I am bored by the afternoon. I want to go out to dinner or go shopping. Just to do something.

When I was in college and I spent my days shopping and going out to lunch, when evening rolled around, I was looking for that next level of entertainment, which meant going out to bars or parties.


I wonder if that is the problem with so many celebrities. They already have “the next level”. They have don’t have to do any manual labor, they are constantly going out and being entertained, they have money and fame. So all that is left for them at the next level is affairs, drug use, and other addictions.

How many problems could be solved by doing hard and time consuming work. Not because it keeps you busy and makes you tired (although that is good too!), but because the “next level” that you are searching for is simply to relax and read, or occasionally go out to eat. I, along with the children, tend to be very whiny and complainy on days I have sat around doing nothing, even though doing nothing should theoretically make me happy.


So I am making the effort to put the children to work.  Not because I need the help or because it is good for them, even though it is. But because making them work more makes them happy to just be reading, or playing quietly with puzzles and dolls, or sent outside to dig in the dirt. Doing everything myself and letting them just do what they want means they follow me around, bored, asking for tv shows and being pesky.  Making up activities for them occupies them for a few minutes and then they are on to wanting to do something else.  Enough.


And I am trying to see the value in my work as a form of entertainment. There is more than just clean and folded laundry and a clean and organized mudroom at the end of every Monday. (Okay maybe not every Monday.) There is a day spent in productivity that helps to keep my greed for ever-more entertainment in check. This reminds me of my parents telling me to go outside in the cold when I complained about it being cold in the house. All of the sudden it will seem very warm inside!


(Back Before the History, a beautiful and original song.)

Getting what you want will never make you happy.  It will never make me happy at least, because then I am on to wanting the next thing.  So I am just trying to find a way to keep wanting what I have.  Which is more than enough.


Happy Easter!

Betty Crocker’s Kitchen Gardens

This winter has been long, with hardly any snow, lots of cold rain, and never ending wind.

But this weekend, the garden began! Twenty eight blackberry and raspberry plants got planted on Saturday, and this week 150 onion plants and a 20 foot row of potatoes, a few broccoli and cilantro plants and the first planting of peas. Tomorrow some lettuce seedlings go out, and sweet peas and dill will be seeded. This is exciting.

And so is the arrival of this:



I have wanted this book for a long, long time. I finally ordered it as a gift for my sister in law.  I decided to keep it.  I suppose that is terrible of me.

There are chapters on planning the garden, preparing the garden area, and harvesting.  Then, as most gardening books do, it delves into individual plants.   First a second on herbs (quite a bit of space is devoted to this, much more than most modern gardening books), and then vegetables.  The vegetables are divided into “favorites”, ones that anyone can grow, even in containers, and then “elbowroom vegetables”, for people with larger plots. There is a section for kids gardening, including sample plans, and finally a chapter on  using your harvest, with ideas for herb mixes, vinegars, and teas.


I must be approaching old age because all of my favorite housewifey books are out of print. (The Mothers Almanac, How to Live on Almost Nothing and Have Plenty, Taste of Home Best Loved Recipes). Some of them I’ve gotten from the library, decided I had to own, and ordered used copies of. This book reminds me of them. It is practical and beautiful. I love sketched illustrations in gardening and homemaking books. You can imagine the scene belongs to you, in a way a photograph would never let you.


I love how someone has circled the name of some of the herbs. I just imagine some now-grandmother, then-young woman, going through this very copy. She was not interested in lovage, salad burnet, or watercress. (Is anyone?) She starred the line about corn being an attractive ornamental in the back of the garden, and that really is true. It just looks right, and very American .

There is a faint round mark from a mug of coffee or tea, and I am drifting into maudlin territory here, imagining her setting down her cup to attend to a little child. It’s just a book.  And funnily enough, a book only ends up on the secondhand market because someone doesn’t want it!  So I am being ridiculous.

If you are interested in gardening and like Tasha Tudor, I know you won’t be disappointed if you are able to find a used copy.


Laundry/ Mudroom Spring Cleaning

This will be extremely boring.

I have shared my riveting laundry room saga before, and how my washer and dryer got banished to the mudroom while our house was being built. I like the idea in theory (dirty clothes being dropped right in), but my particular laundry room/ mudroom is just sort of awkward at the moment.

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I have toyed with a few ideas to make things neater:

1. Moving the washer and dryer to the basement, where I would have more room. I don’t mean room for things like sorting and ironing clothes, because I don’t do any of that. But it would give me more mudroom space. I could line the wall with a row of shaker pegs, and a crate for soccer stuff. I think this is probably insane, and I would be making my like more difficult in order to make room for a bunch of junk.

2. Getting a stackable washer and dryer. I would still need some sort of narrow shelf for laundry supplies, but I would have room for more hooks. Unfortunately, my old units continue to live, making horrible noises and requiring two spin cycles for clothes to not come out soaking wet. So that is not in the cards right now. We will be together until the bitter end. Also I question my ability to reach the dryer controls in a stacked set up.

Which leaves me with small, very inexpensive tweaks. Thankfully spring weather is right around the corner so snow gear has been taken out of the coat closet. (Ex-pantry. With shelves and everything.).

However, I am also dealing with this:

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Why have I added these to the craziest room in the house? Good question. I guess because I need them relatively near a sink and I can clip the grow light on the wire shelf. But next year I will find a better way.


(No the kitchen sink is not a better spot.)

So. My one possible move is to declutter and organize. I do wish I could do something about the wire shelf because I find it really hard to reach. I am definitely over wanting styled shelves, and think cabinets would be perfect. Much less busy, and much more storage.

But, there are some things to be done with a budget of zero dollars…

I can at least tidy this area. Love those polar bear baby shoes.


And do something about this…. situation.



I actually like the shelves for the coat closet.  The children are more likely to put the coat on a shelf than a hanger, and they don’t wrinkle easily.  The drinks on the floor need a new home.

A sticky hook on the door for the ballet bag is one less thing on the bench.

(It helps that the big girls are at school and so their jackets and backpacks are with them!)

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Ugly shelf organized. (Excessive stash of Mrs. Meyers cleaning products revealed.)  Seedlings moved to basement.  I’ll just keep a few gallons of water down there.  I thought about putting them in our bathtub but i don’t think Matt could mentally handle it.


Now I am feeling very grateful for this little hardworking room, giant bottle of bug spray and all!  It just needed a good clean, and a little change of attitude.


(I assume any house with little kids has rocks on every windowsill?)

I wonder if there will be enough room in here when swimsuits and beach towels re-enter our lives.  Would you ever move your laundry to the basement for more room on the main floor?

Housekeeping advice from Ricky the dishwasher

When I was in college, I worked at a locally famous barbecue restaurant. We had huge lunch rushes and then a lot time sitting around. They employed some real characters in the kitchen, including a dishwasher who quite literally lived in the broom closet. He was a hard worker despite his problems, and was promoted to assistant cook. Soon he was everyone’s favorite cook to work with because he got food out quickly and never seemed overwhelmed and angry.

Here was his advice to me when I asked him how he was so quick:

“You just do what you can, where you are.”

He didn’t mean this in a philosophical t-shirt slogan way. He meant to do what needs doing in your present physical location. If you were in the freezer getting fries, well then go ahead and get the onion rings. If you were outside sweeping, better wipe down the outside tables too. If you need to restock your napkins, straighten up the shelf that they are on so you find things easily next time you go in there. And then when tons of food orders started pouring in during the lunch rush, he was ready. There was no running out of onion rings and wasting time running to the freezer while he was supposed to be cooking. No frantically searching for a needed to go container in the messy supply room when an order came in. All of that was already done.

Here are some little ways that I have been doing what I can, where I am.

-organizing the kids bathroom cabinet while they take a bath

-doing one deep cleaning kitchen task while getting a snack or cup of tea

-collecting glasses out of whatever bedroom I go in

-cleaning one shower wall every time I take a shower (keep a dish wand filled with soap and vinegar in the shower)

-bringing in a piece of two of firewood every time I go outside

-bringing up something from the deep freezer when I come up from working out in the basement

-cleaning out the snack cabinet when restocking from the grocery store

-throwing trash out of the car while getting gas (I guess everyone already does this!)

-weeding a small area while watching the kids play outside

-straightening a bookshelf after taking out a book

-dumping my water glass in a houseplant as I walk by

-always bringing a basket with me outside so I can collect eggs, gather kindling, or bring in things from the garden

It helps! The to do list is shorter because so much is happening naturally.

Happy Spring!