Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Sweet Treats

I am doing my best to kick a severe sugar addiction but when I just have to have something sweet I turn to these little round cuties. They feel guiltless and are the perfect snack with an afternoon cup of tea. (READ: I eat them with my morning coffee because the addiction is that bad.) They are a great snack for the minis too. I tell my kids they are "cookie dough". They are low in sugar, high in protein, and require no cooking at all. Yup, little chocolate nut balls. I swear they taste so much better than they look...








Chocolate Nut Truffles:
1 cup oats
3/4 cup walnuts
1/2 cup cashews
1/4 cup shredded coconut
3 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons all-natural peanut butter
1/2 cup semi-sweet chips


Combine all the ingredients together in the food processor. Blend for 2-3 minutes, remove top, and use a spatula to scrape ingredients down sides. Blend again until batter becomes a thick paste. Roll batter into bite-sized balls. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour and enjoy!



** I keep mine in the fridge in a sealed container. Truffles last up to 1 week when refrigerated.


Monday, April 29, 2013

They say the darndest things...

Today my children tested me. It's starting to feel like a regular occurrence. I assume they plotted against me last night. I can imagine how it went down. Emma said, "Hey Soph, let's whine all day tomorrow. And at mealtime be sure to goof around a lot so she inevitably cracks and feeds us both. It's so much more fun and time consuming that feeding ourselves. Even if we are almost 3 and almost 5 years old. It's fun. One more thing - when mom says "Time to go!" just make sure you ignore her and continue doing whatever it is you are doing. Especially if it is playing with other kids when she is rushing to try and get us to gymnastics on time. If we work hard I know we can break her." Sophie's reply, "Ok Emma."

They haven't broken me yet but I feel it coming like the oddly cool winds that whip up right before a massive summer thunder storm. Oh it's rolling in alright... I am outnumbered and it won't be pretty when I can no longer threaten taking dessert away. Now they care about ice cream. Some day they will not.


The problem with kids is that after their most rebellious and maddening moments - right when you think they can't make you any more frustrated - they will do something insanely cute and you are right back where you started from. In love and willing to do anything for them. By 7:22pm this evening I was spent. Book reading had been taken away after a handful of empty threats and we were in bed "settling down". This is the conversation that unfolded as I lay in Emma's bed with her. She had literally been talking non-stop since waking up at 6:45am earlier that day. She never ever runs out of things to say. I have no clue where she gets it from?!?


Emma: "Mommy, I have an idea."

Lindley: "Emma be quiet. It's time to settle down."
Emma: "Just one more thing Mom."
Lindley: "I mean it Em. I am going to leave the room."
Emma: "No! Don't go. I promise this is the last thing."
Lindley: "Fine. Just say it."
Emma: "You know that Barbie Pop Star party I have this weekend? Well could you get me a twig for it? That way I won't have to die my hair purple. I could just wear the twig."
(I usually ignore her in silence at this point, praying she will get tired of listening to her own voice and fall asleep. Tonight I couldn't resist replying.)
Lindley: "You mean a wig?" 
Emma: "Yes. You can just order it on the intervet."
Lindley: "Ok Em. I will."

This kid is more than I can handle. So cute. So small. And yet she leaves such a big footprint on my heart. She owns me.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

In Full Bloom

Signs of spring are everywhere! 









These tulips were clipped from our garden over the weekend. The red is insane! Their appearance makes up for every drop of rain that fell last month. 




The only thing I like getting from the garden more than fresh flowers are fresh vegetables. Over the last few years I have been planting a vegetable garden in the back yard. Being honest it has become a bit of an obsession. I LOVE watching things grow. It must be my inner pioneer - I just know I could have survived and fed my entire family if I had grown up in that little house on the prairie... This is part of last year's crop.



We picked a batch this big every 3 days last August!

I started with tomatoes and cucumbers my first year and have since added green beans, eggplants, hot peppers, bell peppers, carrots, arugula, and cucumbers. The best part is watching my little minis pick veggies right from the garden and eat them still warm from the sunshine. 

Em Planting Herbs, Age 2

We've been learning as we go and three years later I consider myself to still be a beginner. I go the easy route and usually buy plants instead of seeds. I dig a hole, sprinkle in some potting soil, and bury the small plants right up until where the leaves or branches start to come off the main stalk. I use wire tents on each tomato, cucumber, and pepper plant. That way they don't topple over once they are full grown. Once 2-3 plants are in the ground you have a veggie garden! Last year I did try a few seeds. I dropped green bean and carrot seeds into shallow wells, covered them with soil, and a few weeks later they started to grow! I was amazed since I had never technically sprouted anything before. The whole thing makes me kind of giddy. I know. I'm a nerd.

I am thrilled to help new gardeners so come on over in the weeks to come and we will discuss. For the rest of you - here is an in depth look at how to get your garden growing. Karen Oh is a Certified Master Gardener and the mother of three daughters. She has graciously been working at the girls' school for the last few years and has created a fabulous program for the First Presbyterian Nursery School community. I love that our school cares about helping our children to learn the value of respecting our land and what it can do for us. Here's what she has to say about getting your hands dirty in the soil.

Q&A with Karen Oh, Master Gardener

What is your theory on gardening as a family?  
Fostering our children's curiosity in nature is great fun and SO important. I've been teaching gardening lessons to pre-schoolers for years and now have done a few things with adults and middle schoolers. With most things recreational - do what you like! If your kids want to - let them dig and pick and water - even if the garden looks a mess. Kids really learn by doing in the garden. And it really is true that when a kid grows something themselves - they will try it.



When do you start planting your vegetable and herb gardens? 
In our area - you can start spinach and some greens as early as end of March. I've got peas and lettuces in the ground now. If you start from seed, warm weather veggies like tomatoes and peppers need to be planted in indoor pots in January or February. Once the weather warms up and they have sprouted in pots you can transfer them outside. Each seed packet explains the days to germination - you count backwards from the day you'd like to put the seedling in the ground.

What are the foolproof veggies that are hard to mess up and fun to grow with kids? 
Peas, beans, lettuces, swiss chard, potatoes and carrots are all easy early season plants that you can sow directly into soil as soon as the hard frosts are over. Potatos need a deeper bed but every other seed can be put in a small garden plot or even a grow box with self-watering. If you want an easy kid-friendly project - just get an Earth Box and pick two seeds to plant.  


Even if you go away for a week's vacation - the water retention system make this almost foolproof. If you like pole beans - something to climb on is a must. You can plant by a fence you already have or you can build a trellis from old bamboo or even fallen twigs from your yard.

One of Karen's Bamboo Trellis Systems

Easy crops for summer that you can plant as small seedlings are: cucumber, tomato, eggplant, peppers, squash and all sorts of fun herbs - try lemon verbena - it grows quickly from woody stalks and smells divine and makes a great tea from the dried leaves. One of my favorite tomato varieties is "sun gold" a small pop in your mouth treat that even my picky veggie-averse 10 year old will eat.

Karen's Herbs

What needs a lot of sun? And what grows better in shady spots? 
ALL vegetable need full sun where we live in Connecticut. If you don't have a sunny plot with at least 6 to 8 hours of unobstructed sun think about ferns or a moss and rock garden.  

Is there anything you add to the soil before planting to help things grow faster and healthier? 
You can plant directly into the soil if you know its "clean" soil but you'd most likely want to add compost and some organic matter to fortify the soil and be sure there are no major tree roots or large rocks.  I recommend raised beds - since they are easy to assemble and move if necessary and then you control your soil.  I like the natural cedar beds from Natural Yards but many prefer fiberboard since it will not rot.  Never use treated lumber to build a bed - those nasty chemicals can leak right into your soil. I started my beds with a mix of top soil and Coast of Maine Penobscot blend in a 50/50 mix.  Bags are 40 lb. each and cost about $10 per bag where we live in CT.  Then each fall I plant cover crops to fortify the soil and in early spring put more compost on top.  

How often does a vegetable garden need to be watered? 
Watering is an art -  too much or too little water is the number one problem after pests.  The soil should feel damp to a finger pressed an inch below the surface and when watering the puddles on the top should "soak in" within 5 seconds.  Certain plants demand more water than others and tomatoes and cucumbers can sometimes need watering twice a day in the heat of August.


Any tricks for getting rid of bunnies, squirrels, chipmunks, etc. that nibble away at gardens?
Companion planting is a good way to keep pests at bay.  Marigolds and certain herbs like coriander and dill can help but nothing keeps critters out like a fence.  If you want to protect your veggies a mesh metal fence which begins under the ground at least 1 ft. and faces out will keep the digging rabbits, groundhogs and gophers away.  I have not found any humane option that keeps a persistent chipmunk away!

Good reads about growing veggies:
Starter Vegetable Gardens - Barbara Pleasant
Square Foot Gardens - Mel Bartholomew

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Good Night

Let me begin by saying I am NOT a doctor. I may think I'm a doctor, and talk like I am a doctor, but I am NOT a doctor. That means when I talk about ailments and their cures it is just my personal opinion of what works in the healing department. That being said I am a self diagnosed insomniac. (I adore self diagnosis!) Sleeplessness is an issue for me. A big issue. One that I talk about often. Right sweetie? My poor husband has learned to disrobe in the hall having left his shoes outside the house beforehand. He tiptoes up the creaky stairs and sneaks into bed - not daring to use the upstairs bathroom - lest I hear him and wake up with the fury of 10 elephants to scream at him for having woken me. It's not my fault that I am a VERY light sleeper and am VERY angry when I get woken. If you couldn't fall back asleep after being woken post 10pm you might act like a lunatic too!

Little bedtime "issues" become catastrophes when you are a restless sleeper. A few weeks ago I bought new bedding. The sheets were supposedly a very high thread-count and had a somewhat "sateen" finish to them that made them very luxurious. Going forward "sateen" should be read as "slippery" and this is where things took a turn for the worse. As I made the bed with the new sheets for the first time I started to worry. There was something just a little to "smooth" about the sheets. My hubby and I climbed in later that night and even John sensed something was off. "Do these feel a little different than our old sheets?" he said as his torso inched over to my side of the bed involuntarily. "Hmmmm." I said. "They are a little slippery aren't they." We fell asleep. Thank you sleep aid. Needless to say I woke up many times that night. The best way I can describe what unfolded that night is by telling you that I felt like I was sleeping with a baby seal that had been rubbed down with baby oil. John tossed, John turned, and the covers completely slipped off the bed! It was unreal. We both woke up groggy and confused. Me because I had barely slept and John because he couldn't figure out how he had slid off the bed and onto the floor. Next time I am buying cheap cotton sheets at Target... 

So what to do when you can't sleep? Here's what has helped me. Qi Gong meditation - more on that later when I post about traditional chinese medicine and its many wonders. I tried Ambien and I must say it induces some very strange stuff. Sleep walking, sleep talking, and morning nausea. I don't really enjoy any of those side effects so I only take Ambien when I am desperate. The other "pill" I actually really do like is an herbal remedy called Knock-Out. 



It has B6, Magnesium, Calcium, Melatonin, and a little bit of Valerian Root. Fun fact from Wikipedia: Valerian has been used as a medicinal herb since at least the time of ancient Greece and Rome. Hippocrates described its properties, and Galen later prescribed it as a remedy for insomnia. Knock-Out is sold at Greenwich Healthmart at the top of Greenwich Avenue on the right hand side. Tell Herb I sent you. He has been working there for years and I must admit that sometimes I make up reasons to go to the health food store just so I can see Herb. "No I really do need a third box of Emergen-C in the closet... Just in case." A hug alone from Herb can almost cure insomnia. Seriously. I have never met someone more optomistic in my life. He works at a health food store and is completely zen. Coindicence? I think not.


And now for your enjoying pleasure I present you with "Sleeping Baby on the Move" as I like to call it. These pictures cracked me up. Can you imagine sleeping so soundly? Me neither. The little Buddha? More than I can handle.











Images: Adele Enerson

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Gifted

Do you give good gift? I know I myself feel that my gifts always seem a little lame and limp when settled next to a nice big pile of well-wrapped gifts at a birthday party, anniversary celebration, or baby shower. I'm just not that good at picking, wrapping, or ribboning gifts for others. It is something I am working on - check out the little gift I brought my friend in Mexico hand-wrapped by ME! In the meantime I think some things are better left to the pros...

Jenny Heffer creates great gifts. She is incredibly thoughtful and has really good taste - a winning combination. Jenny and I were new friends when I had Sophie almost three years ago. The week she was born Jenny gifted me with a basket filled with special items from a local farmer's market. The basket itself was beautiful and now holds toys in our TV room - but the goodies inside were the best part. There was fresh baked bread, homemade pesto sauce, pasta, whipped chive butter, fresh mozzarella, lemon curd, cookies, and a precious little box of hand-picked berries. They were all the ingredients to make a special meal. Not just one meal actually - but many! It was divine.

Now that I have you salivating... Read on for more information about the gifts that Jenny can create. Keep in mind that Mother's Day (spoil us husbands!), Father's Day, and Graduations are just around the corner. I know where I will be shopping for teacher gifts this year!

Q&A with Jenny Heffer, The Jonas Collection
(http://www.thejonascollection.com/)

What is the Jonas Collection?

I have always loved giving gifts and selecting the perfect present has always given me great pleasure. I think we all want to give meaningful presents, but too often our intent gets lost in our busy lives. I create custom gifts for all occasions and for any need. I have some already-assembled seasonal gifts and I also create custom gifts to suite your individual wishes and price point. 



How do you come up with ideas for your gift sets/baskets?
My gift ideas come from my customers' individual needs or I draw inspiration from vintage items. One particular need that has come up repeatedly is a hostess gift. This is the perfect opportunity to bring something a little different and special. I have a collection of many beautiful dishes that can be paired with jams, honeys, nuts, olives, soaps or creams -- the selection is endless. One customer wanted a small gift to let a friend know she was thinking of her. I choose three different sweets and displayed them on a vintage blush colored dish. What I love about both of these presents is that long after the perishable part of the gift is enjoyed there is still a component that lasts. Each time it is used the recipient will think about the person who gifted it to them.



Who is the ideal buyer?
My ideal customer is anyone who wants to give thoughtful gifts but who may not have the time to seek out vintage items or to put together a custom gift. My customers and I work together, they have as much input as they would like. This can range from as little as telling me about the person and occasion to having significantly more input. It is a very personalized service that's intended to provide each customer with exactly what he or she needs.

What makes a customized gift so special? 
It shows people that you are thinking about them. It also makes them feel special to have someone really think about what they would enjoy. Giving a gift does not have to be an item checked off of your to do list. It should be an opportunity to celebrate someone in your life. I also think that many gifts, especially childrens', have become somewhat disposable. One of the first gifts I made contains everything a family needs to celebrate the Night Before Christmas year after year. I love the idea of promoting family traditions and allowing objects to develop their own history and stories.



What is the process for getting an "a la carte" gift basket made?
I speak with my customers in person, by phone or via e-mail. All I need to know is who you need a gift for and when you need it. We can speak about what I currently have available or create something entirely new.

Who generates basket gift/ideas- you or the customer?
Both. I have a collection of many vintage items and endless ideas of how to put them together. These range from hostess gifts to larger specialized items. Customers can come to me when they need one particular gift or we can sit down and discuss all of their needs for the upcoming months. Sometimes my customers have very specific ideas of what they want, but often they need guidance. Together we come up with a gift that will be meaningful to the recipient.

I have a friend who LOVES reading. What would be the perfect "gift basket for her?
When I think of reading a book I think of it being such a luxury. I would put together a gift based on creating the perfect reading setting. A beautiful blanket, a collection of your favorite books, your favorite magazines and a gift certificate to a local book store. I could make the gift even more elaborate by including a vintage tea pot, mug, hand cream, and slippers. Lots of different items to make sure your friend is completely pampered before she sits down to start her story. So much better than just a plain old gift certificate to Barnes & Noble! I think this is a wonderful gift for children as well. 

Any holidays coming up that people should be shopping for?
Yes!! Now that Spring is here there are many opportunities to celebrate some very important people including Mothers, Fathers and Teachers. These, in addition to Birthdays and Anniversaries, are wonderful opportunities to give custom gifts to the important people in your life. I have a selection of seasonal gifts available for purchase as well as a gallery of custom gifts that I have created in the past. They are all available to view on my web site. Any item can be re-created or re-invented to suite your particular needs. It may be slightly different from a previous one but that is the beauty of a custom gift, it is truly one of a kind!







Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Look Love Buy

LOOK
I adore this look below on model Lily Adridge. She seems ready for anything. Lunch with a friend, dinner on a spring night, an afternoon meeting with her agent... It's simple but sexy. I am a big fan of the loose-fitting tee with the form-fitting waxed jean leggings. The pop of red in the form of mile-high stilettos gives it just the right amount of eddgyness. She nailed it. 


LOVE
I am in love with the CĂ©line Leather Shopper. It has been on the top of my "covet" list for months. It's buttery soft and so very simple. It totally works day-to-night because the polished black leather makes it fancy while the relaxed "shopper" shape makes it a bit more casual too. Good luck finding it ladies - it seems to be sold out everywhere...


BUY
This super soft Velvet tee is ideal for layering. It would look great under a fitted blazer but also holds its own with a pair of simple jeans. I'd splurge and buy it in both black and white. The sleeve length is slightly longer than most tees and the double seam is a unique touch. For a more casual look I'd roll up the sleeves and throw on some layered bracelets. 


* Her antique crystal necklace is also a great addition. For a fun designer imposter check out this little lovely from Topshop.

images: Refinery29

Sunday, April 21, 2013

True Beauty

Hello friends. I've missed you. Sorry for the absence. We went away. My little foursome shut things down, lounged on the beach, and lazily lingered in each others company for a whole week. It was blissful and the break from technology allowed me to really think about the fingerprints I create on this blog every week. The tech-free silence inspired me. I am back now and I have more to say. More about love. More about compassion. And more about the beautiful things I see every day.




Do you believe me? It's true. There is something beautiful within each of us. Do you see it? Look harder. What do you notice first when you look in the mirror? Do you believe people when they tell you you look beautiful? I must admit - I don't.

Recently I have started to notice the fine lines on my face. I roll my eyes at the lumps and bumps that speckle my back side and thighs. The small scars on my neck, chin and leg bother me and I am tempted to conceal them with make-up when I go out. Too often I consciously shuffle myself to the left side of a group being photographed so that the picture captures my "better side". I suck in and smile smaller so the wrinkles aren't so deep. I don't like that a rather loud voice inside my head often says "Ugh, you look older, more tired, and you need make-up today for sure." Why doesn't that voice say something kind? Why is it so hard for her to see the good stuff? The inner beauty.





Dove is a brand that focuses on beauty. They have brilliantly launched a new ad campaign that illustrates the difference in how we see ourselves and how others see us. The images in this video speak for themselves. They identify the murky lens many of us look through when looking at ourselves. The message within the campaign reminds us that on the opposite side of every image shadowed in darkness is the brightly lit other side of the same object that is illuminated and truly glows. We need to walk through the shadows of self-doubt to see what is on the other side.



If the video doesn't work, click on this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XpaOjMXyJGk

You are more beautiful than you think. Remember that. And let's make sure the children of our world grow up knowing how to identify their own beauty. Don't let them get confused by what real beauty is. It is a not a number on a scale or a crystal clear complexion. It is a way of being. 




When children look into your eyes let them see a reflection that says, "You are beautiful." I know I don't want to leave my two daughters a legacy that includes insecurity and self-doubt. I want them to truly know the beauty within themselves. I want them to notice the sparkle from the inside because that is what matters.



Look in the mirror today - smile - and see the beauty. Others see it. You should too.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Five Friday Favorites from Target

I have a love/hate thing going on with Target (it's mostly love). For me it's a dangerous place. I can go in for one small item and I have almost never walked out without spending $150. I need ONLY sunscreen and I leave with a t-shirt, shampoo, 3 different sized light bulbs, and a box of graham crackers all valued at roughly $150 dollars. I need ONLY a big container of Tide and oddly enough I head home with a few swimsuits for the girls, a sports bra for me, some organic whole milk, the Tide I went in for in the first place, and a lip balm that looked really yummy. Again I have spent $150. I have finally learned (READ am still trying to learn) it is all about editing what is in the cart. Below are some of my absolute favorite things that I bought last time I was there. The combined value is well below $150. Phew!

Noosa Yogurt $2.39
This yogurt is named after an oasis located in Australia's Sunshine Coast but oddly enough it is produced in Colorado. Come to think of it - on their site they say they are inspired by Greek yogurt too. How very worldly of them. Truth be told I don't care where it is made - I just care that it is fabulous. It's Rich. It's creamy. And it's made with really pure ingredients. It tastes like dessert sans the guilt. 

I think by not it is pretty apparent that I am into hair. I'm almost never without a hair-tie around my wrist. The selection at Target blows CVS out of the water. CVS, I love that discount card more than chocolate but Target beats you on the Goody front. 

Have you ever? The colors, the studs, the fact that they cost $12.99. Buy one. Buy two. Buy three. Just be careful and remember what I said about 150 dollars.

I tried these bars a few weeks back and have now become fully addicted. Each bar is roughly 200 calories and the ingredients are so pure that the list usually consists of between 4 and 9 ingredients. I am uhb-sessed with nuts so this is what I always grab when I am running out the door and eating on the go. It's light enough you can exercise right after eating it but heavy enough that it will hold you over until your next meal. 

And lastly the lounge pant. God how I love to lounge... This picture doesn't do them justice but I swear these simple sweatpants are buttery soft and the perfect weight for this weird in between winter and spring thing going on. The fold-over waist band makes them less "college early 1990s" and much more "West Coast bohemian 2000s". Either way men will hate them and women will overwear them...