Friday, September 12, 2014

Pants pants pants!


(I haven't taken any outfit selfies yet (so awkward!), so this gigantoid pic I took on Sunday will have to do).

I thought I'd give you a quick update on my jeans-less living. I'm 12 days in, and so far so good. So far I've just been wearing skirts, which is nice in that it makes me feel a bit more put together, and it's forcing me to look a little harder at my closet. I've worn a couple of skirts and dresses I haven't pulled out of the closet in at least a year. I've also had to weed out a few thing that appear to have shrunk in the closet when I haven't been looking. Ahem.

On the upside, I've discovered the joys of leggings, which allow me to wear some of the dresses I decided at some point were too short, and still be comfortable, which is actually really awesome. And they're comfy, which definitely matters when you're trying to clean a bathroom or chase an almost 2 year-old around the playground.

Because some of the skirts and dresses I've been wearing are knee length-ish, I've been having to make time to shave my legs a lot more regularly, which my husband would tell you is all good news, but it is one more thing I have to take into account and make time for when I'm getting ready in the morning.

The weather has still been pretty warm, so bare legs still works fine for now, but I am seeing some tights and non-jeans pants in my future before the month is up, I think. Speaking of which, I want to ask your opinion: How are we feeling about Pixie pants, i.e, pants that are cropped at the ankle? I quite like these ones from Old Navy, but am a little concerned that on a long-legged curvy girl like me, it might just look like I've outgrown my pants. Y'know? These black flare khakis seem like they'd be much more in my comfort zone, without actually being a pair of blue jeans. Looks like there might be a shopping trip in my future! You should come.

There's a chance I might be veering from my own rules this weekend as we're going to spending the night in Park City, and then taking Espen on the Alpine Slide. It looks like lots of fun, but maybe not a job for a skirt. I'll plan on shorts, but if it's going to be colder up there in the mountains, I'll be packing a pair of jeans. I feel so naughty!

Well, it's time to pick Espen up from school, and I think it is also high time for this post to be over. See ya!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Weekly Menu Saves The Day!

What we're eating this week. 

About six months ago or so, I decided that we needed to do something about dinner. Five o'clock would roll around, and all of a sudden hungry little faces would start requesting food (every day they'd want it!), and I'd start opening cupboard doors in a panic to find something to put in them. Sometimes I would have a plan. Sometimes I would text Nick and ask him to pick something up on his way home from work. Always I would feel stressed out and guilty about dinner. Friends, it was not a good scene.

Then one day a friend posted a picture of her weekly menu magnet board on Facebook, and I had a lightbulb moment. I needed one of those! We had done weekly menus before, so I knew they worked pretty well for us, but it seemed like having an actual tangible board stuck to the fridge could really be a game changer for us. I know it sounds a bit simplistic, but I'm a really visual person, so having our menu posted where I knew would see it multiple times a day made it seem like we would actually use it. Plus I have real, genuine issues with incomplete lists and forms not being filled out, so I knew I couldn't bear to leave it blank for long.

Well, we're six months into using our weekly menu, and I have to say it is really working for us! We all like knowing what's for dinner ahead of time (whether we're the one eating or cooking), and it almost completely takes the stress out of feeding everyone. And it has cut down the amount of eating out we do pretty dramatically, which means that we are eating more healthily too. The food still has to be prepared, but it's so much easier when you know what to make and have the ingredients on hand, don't you think?

Of course, it does take a little time to sit down and plan it all out, but we have a some "rules" and tricks that make that job a little easier:

  • Ideally, I have the menu ready to go on Saturday so I can do all of the shopping for the week when Nick can either come with me and help wrangle kids, or stay home with them while I go and do the grocery shopping on my own. Or Gwen and I go and do the grocery shopping on Monday morning while Espen is at school. 
  • We eat the meals that need the freshest produce early in the week, and save the foods that last longer for later in the week. So, salad on Monday or Tuesday, and pasta on Thursday or Friday. 
  • I ask everyone to suggest something they would like to eat for dinner during the upcoming week. Three heads come up with better suggestions than one, and it guarantees that everyone gets something they like at least once during the week. 
  • Before going shopping, I usually snap a photo of the menu with my phone. It works as well as a shopping list for me because each meal "title" reminds me of what items we need to buy to make it. If it's something more complicated, or a recipe that I don't make very often, I'll take a photo of the recipe itself. 
  • Plan your meals to suit the day. For example, this week we had ciabatta sandwiches on Monday because we needed something fairly quick that everyone likes so we would have time for family home evening (we have family night on Mondays) after dinner. And then dinner on Wednesday needs to be something quick that Nick can cook when he gets home from work while me and the kids are at soccer. Then we only have half an hour to eat before Nick leaves for scouts. Fridays are often something a bit more fun because it is FINALLY the weekend, and Sunday dinners are often a bit more elaborate because we have time to cook, and can do it together as a family. 
  • Every week I try to shoot for at least two of the following: salad, fish, soup or meatless. Sometimes it might be fish soup, and sometimes it might be a vegetarian salad. Doing it this way just helps to keep our meals a little healthier, and to switch things up a bit so we don't get stuck in too much of a rut. 
  • If we find we are missing ingredients for a meal, I'll add a star next to it so we remember to pick up whatever we need before we make it. Which means that I need to get to the grocery store before dinnertime on Thursday!
Admittedly, there are still days where I call Nick and ask him through gritted teeth to stop by the drive through on his way home, or I get out a frozen pizza for dinner, and that is totally fine! The important thing is that as a general rule, we are cooking and eating at home, and feeling a lot happier about it. 

So, tell me: do you do this at home? Something similar? If you do, what brilliant tips and ideas have I missed? And if you don't, do you think you should? Or is it all too type A and organized for you? What are you doing that works for you instead? 

Friday, September 5, 2014

Something for the Weekend

Don't you sit in a bucket when you use the iPad?

It's Friday! And thank goodness for a short week, because I am so completely ready for the weekend. Gwen has been a bit under the weather this week, so we've stayed home as much as possible when we weren't busy with work, school, soccer, scouts and whatever else life threw our way this week. There has been a lot of holding and snuggling, not really enough getting stuff done around the house, and some mad dashing around trying to be where we need to be at the right time. Exhausting!

But now it's Friday, and we're going out to dinner so I don't have to cook (hurrah!), and Gwen is on the mend, and I get to sleep in (on Sunday, but I'll take it), and Nick is not going to work until Monday and the world is feeling like an entirely pleasant place to be. Or at least it will be after 5:30 this afternoon, and as long as I try not to dwell on the fact that Espen's soccer team photos have been scheduled for two hours after his game, which means a lot of schlepping back and forth and possibly (please, no!) an extra load of laundry in-between.

Some bits and pieces from the week:

  • I'm itching to get a little crafty, and these lightbulbs wrapped in twine (what?) are calling my name. Nice to know that those incandescent lightbulbs might still have a use after all. 
  • We just found out that we'll be hosting Thanksgiving Dinner again this year (yay!), and so I'm starting to gather a few ideas already. These quote cards are nice, and the mini ones might make good place cards for dinner. Or just print them all in different sizes and do a little cloud display on the wall?
  • This video of Kerry Washington performing Sojourner Truth's "Ain't I a Woman?" speech. So good, and still so true. I sort of had to pinch myself that this speech was first delivered in 1851!
  • Another video I liked this week was this one about Mrs. Flexer, a teacher about to retire after 41 years at the same school. Man, if only all teachers could get a little love and recognition like this. 
  • I have five nectarines sitting a little forlornly in my fruit bowl that I really need to use up, so I'm thinking a nectarine upside-down cake. I'm thinking maybe this one?
  • Nick was out late at meetings twice this week, so Espen and I curled up and watched Fabulous Frogs with David Attenborough. Who knew that frogs were so completely fascinating? Well, clearly Espen knew, which is why we were watching it in the first place (he's been a huge frog fan for the past year or so), but now I'm in the know too. Frogs! They're amazing!
  • Oh, and there's no link for this one, but I thought I'd mention that I've signed myself up for a photography class starting later this month. Just thinking about it gives me butterflies! The class is taught by Bryan Niven, which is pretty cool, and I'm looking forward to moving past the most basic of basic settings on my camera. 
Have a lovely weekend!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Labor Day Weekend and a new project!

Enjoying our last little bit of summer. 

Monday was Labor Day, which meant an extra day off work and school for our family, which meant an excellent opportunity to pile into the car, head south and soak up a little extra summer with Grandma and Grandpa in southern Utah. And can I tell you, it was exactly what the doctor ordered (had there been a doctor involved, and he told us to have a lovely weekend). Nick's parents really spoiled us with delicious meals, letting us use their pool, lots of playing with the kids so we could relax (and nap!) and even babysitting so we could go on a little lunch date to get some Thai food and loiter our way through the bookstore. Glorious, I tell you what!

Playing under the waterfall.  
Today is back to the grindstone, though. Gwen burst into tears when Nick left for work this morning, and with a houseful of neglected chores to catch up on, I sort of wanted to join her! But even I have to admit that it feels nice to be back into our routine - and with a clean bathroom!

How was your weekend?

With it being the beginning of September and a new season and all that goodness, I'm feeling like it's time for a project. And it's kind of a silly one, but here goes:

Jeans-free September!

I have decided that I'm not going to wear jeans for the entire month of September. Why would I arrive at an odd conclusion like that, you say? Well, here's the deal: most days, I basically live in jeans and a top. I'm a stay-at-home mother, and I don't get a ton of time to myself to get ready in the morning, and so I have fallen into the habit of grabbing the quickest, easiest outfit on hand, and that is a pair of jeans and a top. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with jeans, I'm just feeling a bit bored and like I need to break out of this rut, so I am banning jeans from my person until October 1st.

A great side effect of this ban, is that it is going to force me to look a little harder into my closet every day when I get dressed, and get me to actually wear some of the piles of clothes I have in there that just aren't making it out of there very often. I will definitely be wearing more skirts and dresses, as well as the pair of pants I bought last year, and then never wore. It'll be good to shake things up and pay a little more attention to how I present myself to the world.

I'm not sure exactly how I'm going to proceed in sharing this project with you. I could take a "daily outfit" selfie and post them all at the end of each week, but the thought kind of makes me a little unwell. That's a lot of me to feel self-conscious about! I'll be sure to check in each week and let you know how I'm doing, anyway.

And if I make it, I'm going to reward myself with a pair of new jeans - ha!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

100,000 and Project Project's Top Ten Posts

Project Project reached another milestone recently when we hit 100,000 page views! I know some blogs hit two or three times that in a day, but for a rink-dinky blog like mine that was a big deal, and felt like a bit of an accomplishment! An accomplishment that you made possible, so may I suggest you treat yo'self to something tasty?

I asked my friends on Facebook how I should mark the occasion, and the suggestions ranged from a signed glamour shot giveaway, to a tub of ice cream to reposting my most popular blog posts. As much as I wish I could share some Ben and Jerry's with all of you, and as much as I am sure you would have treasured a signed glamour shot of me, I'm going to start out by sharing:

 Project Project's top 10 most popular posts



1. First Birthday Party. A post about Espen's Very Hungry Caterpillar Party. With over 20,000 page views, this is far and away the most popular post on the blog, with the overwhelming majority of interest coming from Pinterest (that's kind of fun to say!). I think people like it because it is a fairly simple approach to a themed party, where none of the projects are so ambitious that you couldn't see yourself doing them. And it's a classic children's book that lots of people love, which helps too. It's not my favorite post, but it is one that I am quite proud of. 



2. Painted Easter Egg Tutorial. I wrote a post about how to paint decorative easter eggs the way I learned to do it growing up in Norway. It's such a common thing to do in Scandinavia that it seemed like it might be a bit silly to write about it, but this post has been really well received! In fact, as well as living its own life on Pinterest, this post has also been featured by Parenting.com and their affiliate MSN Living, as well as on Family Storytelling. It was my first attempt at a tutorial, and I am quite pleased with how it turned out. 

3. Project Baby and Guest Blogger Week: Carina. I didn't even write the third most popular post on my blog myself! Somehow I conned the lovely Carina from The Jet Set into doing a guest post for me, and her legions of readers are still finding it! I asked her to write a guest post for me when I was pregnant and expecting Espen, and she came up with this bittersweet little essay about mothering boys. Carina also writes for Today's Mama



4. Project Baby: The Loveliest Baby Shower. This post deserves to be in the Top Ten, because it is all about the beautiful baby shower our sweet friend Stepper threw us before Espen was born. Such a lovely shower with so many wonderful ideas and attention to details. And check out Stepper's own post about the shower here, because she wasn't inexplicably posting tiny photos like I was back then. 



5. Espen's train party: the set up. This is a post about Espen's second birthday party, which was train-themed, seeing as that was his big passion at the moment. It's another Pinterest favorite, and was featured in an article at SheKnows.com Again, I think this is a popular post because it features some simple, straightforward ideas that don't cost the earth and are fairly easily executed. And so many little kids love trains, which makes it a popular and much searched for party theme. I was quite pleased with how it all turned out, and the pictures still make me smile. 



6. Train birthday invitation. I split the different elements of Espen's train party up into three separate posts, so it actually shows up three times on the Top Ten list. This post is about the cute invitation that we had made for the party, and talks a bit about how I like to use the invitation as a jumping off point for the rest of the party. 

7. Step 5: Get Some Exercise! This seems like kind of a random post to have in my Top Ten list, but I think it got a lot of hits on Google because of the title. Aren't we all trying to get some exercise? Back in early 2012 I was trying to get a bit more healthy, so I introduced a Small Steps program on my blog, where I and some of you readers took on a new health challenge every week. We did really great, kept it up for a couple of months, and saw some good results... until I suddenly started feeling really sick and really tired all the time - and discovered I was pregnant! Which was really the ultimate good result.  I'm feeling like I might want to bring this blog series back - who's with me? 



8. Train birthday cake. The third and final Top Ten post about Espen's train party is all about the cake we made.I seem to remember we were up until the wee hours of the morning putting this bad boy together!  Having little to no experience in fancy cake making, we were quite happy with our results, and even felt bold enough to offer some advice from an inexperienced baker. 



9. Summer pasta salad.  This post features a recipe I dreamed up while pregnant for a quick and easy dinner salad. We make it when we don't really feel like cooking (it only calls for boiling pasta, or want something that feels a little lighter, but is still filling enough to qualify as dinner. It's very easy to vary and personalize depending on your preferences and what you have on hand, which is nice. This one also shows up on Pinterest a bit, but might need a better photo to really bring in the crowds. 




10. About Amsterdam from Brussels (finished in Spanish Fork).  This post is about a day out in Amsterdam, spent with Nick's sister Tess and her boyfriend, Jasper. We had a great day in a great place, and got a few good photos along the way. But I have to say that I'm honestly a little mystified as to why this post made it into the last Top Ten spot, unless it's because I used three place names in the title, which might have made it more searchable. Or maybe people are finding it via image searches? Anyway, I like it personally as a little trip down memory lane, and a testament to the fact that we are managing to be a family that travels. Maybe you might like it as a little travel guide to Amsterdam? I feel certain that you would enjoy the flower markets. 

And so we have it: The Top Ten Most Popular Posts on Project Project, according to Blogger stats! Was it pretty representative of what you remember from reading along, or did they miss one of your favorite posts? Do you even have a favorite post? If post A left point B traveling at a speed of 65 mph, and post C left point D 45 minutes earlier.... 

Signed glamour shot, anyone?

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Back to School Traditions

This is only our second year of having a school boy, but we are discovering that back-to-school season is a busy season! There's back to school shopping (which we have mostly escaped with a preschooler), parent's nights, open houses, the start of soccer season (that is an entirely different blogpost!) and just settling into our new routine as a family. Parenthood keeps you busy!

In the midst of all the hoopla, we've decided that we want to make room for a few simple Back to School traditions of our own.

Flags on your food = instant party!

First, we have our First Day of School feast. Last year we had a special dinner the night before school started with some of Espen's favorite foods. I think we had German Pancakes and pink milk. This year we were pressed for time because soccer practice fell on the night before school, so I got up a little early and cooked a back to school breakfast. Espen loves breakfast foods above all others, so all I did was fry up some bacon and eggs and everyone was happy. And I baked some blueberry muffins, let's be honest, mostly so I could put them on a tiered plate and stick flags in them.

I found the flags here last year, along with a cute banner, which I did myself the lovely favor of saving for a year, so I didn't have to hunt down and assemble a new one for this year. We hang our banners in the hardest place to photograph imaginable, so I please accept this truly awful photo, and trust me when I tell you that it does look cute, and that Espen's little face lit up like a Christmas tree when he realized this little celebration was for him.

Awful photo, but cute banner, right?
The whole idea behind the First Day of School feast is to show Espen that school is something to be happy and excited about, and for him to feel that he has the love and support of his family as he goes off into the world. While we eat we just talk about school and what to expect, what he might be nervous about, what he's feeling excited about, etc. There are no presents, no family goal setting, no motto for the school year (not that those aren't lovely things - for someone else's family.) It's really just a nice moment to stop and reflect together as a family before the world goes hurtling on again. 

Our other Back to School Tradition is the one we share with people, and that is the First Day of School Photo. As we head out the door on our way to school, we plop Espen down outside the front door with a little poster telling what year it is, who his teacher is, and what year of school he is in. You can find the one we used here.  It will be fun to compare all of these a few years down the road, and I feel like I can already see such a difference between the two photos we already have. You can see his photos from last year here

He's in preschool!

So, that's what we do. Nothing too big or crazy, but just enough to make each year of school feel a little extra special and exciting. Do you have any Back to School traditions in your family?

Friday, August 22, 2014

Something for the weekend

First day of preschool!

It's Friday again! How was your week? Busy? Ours certainly was: Espen started preschool and soccer this week, I hosted book club and Nick and I celebrated our ninth wedding anniversary. Now the weekend is finally here, but there is no rest for the wicked as Nick is away on a photography retreat, and Espen has his first soccer game of the season tomorrow morning (I'm a soccer mom!), plus all of the usual weekend errands that me and the kids will be running solo before Nick gets back tomorrow night. That was a very long sentence.

Pavlova!


A few bits and pieces from the week:

  • Let's start with this video made by Pampers in Japan. It's about celebrating first time moms and all they accomplish in the first year of motherhood. I admit I am a sucker for this kind of thing, but maybe keep a tissue handy just in case. Plus, now I feel like I need a Japanese baby. The kids in this video are so cute!
  • I'm loving this adorable jump suit that Cherry Darling made from a thrifted mechanic's suit! I find it completely inspiring that she took one of the least flattering items of clothing known to man, lopped off the arms and legs, added a belt and came up with something so completely cute! It makes you wonder what other potential you're missing in just about everything around you. 
  • I've been watching some TED talks lately (handy for when I'm folding laundry or mindless stuff like that), and enjoyed this one by Australian singer Megan Washington about her life and career as a stutterer. I stuttered a bit myself as a kid, so recognized a lot of what she was talking about, although I somehow was lucky enough to (mostly) outgrow it along the way. Even if stuttering doesn't mean much to you, she's just a brave, funny, charming and talented lady. 
  • This Pavlova recipe, which is what I made for book club last night. So pretty and tasty! I followed the alterations suggested by Lemonlush in the comment section. Mine is pictured above. 
  • This article about unsupervised play, which is definitely meant to be a bit opinionated and inflammatory. I'm a bit on the fence about the whole thing, so would love to hear your thoughts. I think it's interesting that crime statistics are lower now than they were when "we" were kids, but parents are far and away more cautious with their children now. Is the world we live in really that different than it was 20 years ago? Discuss!
  • I haven't knitted anything for ages, but this blanket and this sweater are making me want to get my needles and yarn out again. 
  • Our bedroom is in need of some color and style, and this duvet cover keeps catching my eye in the new IKEA catalog. So summery! Plus it reminds me of Carl Linnaeus and binomial nomenclature in the best possible way. 
Oops, time to get Gwen up from her nap and pick Espen up from school. Have a good weekend!