Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Out of the frying pan...

A full-length selfie, just for you.
Well, I did it! I made it all through the entire month of September without wearing jeans even once. In fact, I only wore shorts twice and a pair of dress pants once, so it was almost a month of no pants! We've had a couple of colder days lately, though, so I'm ready to not have cold legs! A few summarizing thoughts:

  • I have worn skirts and dresses and leggings so much lately, that I'm not even sure I really like how pants feel on my body anymore. They're just sort of clingy! No wonder the Victorians were in an uproar about women and their pantaloons. 
  • The best part about this whole undertaking has been discovering all of the many options I actually have in my closet - beyond jeans and a top. Skirts, dresses, leggings, tunics, pants that aren't jeans. All kinds of stuff! 
  • I used to consider myself a good dresser, but motherhood has kind of caused me to put myself at the bottom of the list, and so clothes and how I look just haven't seemed as important. Maybe especially considering the changes my body has seen since growing two perfect little people. But this past month has shown me that I think I'm ready to stop hiding, and be myself on the outside again, if that makes any sense at all.
  • Leggings are my new best friend. Not only are they comfy (so comfy!) and allow me to wear about three dresses (languishing in my closet) I had decided were a little bit too short, they've also opened up a whole new direction of clothing that I hadn't even considered before. Shirt and sweater dresses, here I come! I want to try this one from Target and this one from Kohl's, for starters. (Although, can you really wear plaid now if you also wore it in the '90s?) Also, I can run errands, mop floors and wrestle kids in them without having to think too much about whether I'm still decent or not. 
  • This is kind of an odd one, but I think people are nicer to you when you are well-dressed. Cashiers are friendlier, strangers compliment your outfit and friends tell you how nice you look. I mean, I'd much rather people were nice to each other all the time regardless of how we look (isn't it when we look our worst that we could use a kind word the most?), but it is undeniably nice to have someone appreciate it your efforts when you up your game, even if it is a fellow Target shopper. 
  • A couple of friends have told me that they have felt inspired to "channel Tamsin" and put on a skirt instead of their regular jeans on a plain old weekday, and that just makes me glow. Especially because I know how much better I've been feeling about myself this last month, and if anyone else feels a little of that in their own life, well, what more could I ask for?
And now to make friends with pants again. 

Friday, September 26, 2014

At the beach

Before we get too deeply into fall, I wanted to show you a bit more about our trip to Norway this summer. Goodness, time really does fly, doesn't it? It's hard to believe that it's almost three months since we arrived in Norway, jet lagged and happy. 

Norway had the hottest July on record in decades while we were there, and while we desert dwellers can handle the heat, the humidity was especially hard to bear. So as soon as Espen (who has the hardest time with jet lag) stopped falling asleep all over the place, we packed up and headed down to the beach to cool off. 

Building sandcastles.

Now, when you think of Norway, you likely think of fjords and coastline and whatnot. Well, I grew up roughly as far from the coast as you can get in Norway. But we do have lakes and rivers, and on a hot summer's day, if you can swim in it, it will have Norwegians in it. My little hometown of Løten has a couple of small lakes, and so we took the kids to the very same little beach where my parents took us when we were kids.

Gwen is not without a healthy portion of Norwegian skepticism. 

Gwen, whose swimming experiences were at that point limited to hot tubs and inflatable pools, was understandably a little skeptical of this whole lake scenario. But eventually she decided to give it a try with Granny - as long as her sandals stayed on.

Braving the water with Granny.

Espen, on the other hand, has been a water baby all his life, and couldn't get in that lake fast enough! He was in such a hurry that he was in water up to his waist before he even realized he still had his hat on, so he was a very dapper little bather.


One of the best things about this lake is that it is quite shallow, and there is a sandbar that basically goes all the way to the shore and naturally makes a sandy, safer place for smaller kids to play. Of course you still have to keep an eye on them, but it's nice to know that they'd have to get pretty far out for the water to go above their waist.

Those little yellow flecks behind him are waterlilies, which he naturally had to pick. 
I just love this little face.

Once the kids were busy playing in the water with Nick, my mum and I settled on a blanket on the grass, surrounded by lots of other Løten people relaxing and trying to cool off. Aren't beaches the place to people watch? I realized how long it has been since I was on a beach, especially a Norwegian one when I looked around at the people around me. My kids, in their shorts, hats and rash guards were by far the most covered up kids around. We live in a hot sunny place where you just have to protect yourself from the sun, or run the risk of severe sun burn and possibly skin cancer. Plus Gwen is really fair skinned and has a cut on her that we're trying to reduce the scarring of, so we've been prett diligent about keeping the sun off her face. But all the little Norwegian kids were running around in little swim suits and swim diapers and sometimes nothing at all. Their parents were still slathering them with sun screen for the most part, but the concern about sun damage was clearly not as prevalent as it is here. Which in some ways in funny, because when we were in England a few years ago, I felt like a shabby parent for letting Espen play on the beach in just a diaper while most of the kids were wearing wet suits and those hats with flappy things that cover your neck. You know, this kind of thing? Also, 90% of the kids were super blonde, which I suppose I had also forgotten about.

Gotta stay hydrated! ... and get cookie smoosh all over Granny's water bottle.

One thing I loved seeing was that everyone put on their swimsuits and enjoyed themselves, regardless of age or size or whatever. You know that meme about "how to get a bikini body? Put a bikini on your body"? Well, it was kind of like that. And I have missed that about Norwegian women. I mean, they/we have the same body hangups as the rest of the world, but that's no reason to stay off the beach and out of the sunshine. I liked the reminder that my body is a way to get around and do the things I want to do long before it is something that is meant to be pretty enough for other people to admire. So thank you, ladies of Løten! I needed that.

Bathing beauty with cookies.

As the hot days wore on, we ended up spending several days down at the lake. It was lovely just relaxing and spending time together as a family, and it was a really special thing for me to be able to introduce my kids to a place that I loved so much during my own childhood.

But the kids weren't the only ones having fun at the lake! One night after they were in bed, we were so hot and so sweaty and gross that Nick and I left Granny in charge of the kids and drove down to the lake to cool off. We hopped in the lake and swam out to a platform that is moored a little way from the shore, then swam back and watched the sunset from the beach. More evenings like that, please!

The best of times.

We took one last trip down to the lake the day before we went home. The kids played with their dad, and I took one last swim, absorbing every last drop of being at home as I possibly could before heading back to my other home (It's a bit complicated, this whole being from three different countries business that we deal with in our family).  I felt completely heartbroken to be leaving, and yet so completely and utterly content and whole in that moment as I watched my family by the shore as I swam, and felt my country all around me. And then, I joined my family on the shore, knowing that I'm most at home of all whenever I'm with them.

Now go find a lake.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Down the Rabbit Hole

My great grand mother, Zillah Matilda, and her mother Esther Matilda. (I think?!?)

If you've noticed that I haven't been blogging quite so much recently (I was on a pretty good streak there for a little while!), it's because I have been spending a lot of time with my dearly departed lately. If that sounds like I'm getting a little too much into the Halloween spirit, let me assure you that it's all perfectly legit and above board as I am doing family history!

My dad got into family history in the 1970's (when most other people were getting into hair bands), and by the time he passed away, he had followed his paternal line back to the 13th century. Genealogy was a true passion for my dad, and something that was a huge part of his life. So on the morning of the day he died, I sat by the side of his bed, held his hand in mine and promised him that his work would not go to waste.

It took me over a year to get to a point where I could look at it and not get overwhelmed. It was unfamiliar and tricky and there are just so many of these ancestors! But I found somewhere to start, got familiar with the tools and my disposal (mostly familysearch.org and ancestry.com) and very gingerly jumped in. And down the rabbit hole I went!

There was about a week or so where I couldn't put it down. I was late picking Espen up from school because I was so engrossed in my family in Victorian London that I lost track of time and place. As soon as the kids were in bed at night, I'd pull out the laptop and find myself trying to decipher immigration papers from the 1930s, or shouting at a mis-transcribed census from the 1880s ("Homsby? It clearly says HoRNsby!")

A great side effect of doing family history is the way it has brought me closer to my own family. When I was first starting on my dad's mother's line, I contacted my dad's cousins in England to ask if any of them had done any family history, and they put me in touch with a relative who emailed me copies of what he had. I also have hundreds of old photos that my dad has scanned that I have no clue who the people are, or where the pictures were taken or anything. But fortunately, that side of the family has a Facebook group where I have been posting those photos for my relatives to see. They've enjoyed seeing photos that have been more or less out of circulation for decades, and have been really great about telling who the people are. I've heard a lot of new stories about my family, and discovered things I really didn't know. And only today I was chatting with my mum, who is visiting her sister in England, and she ended up being able to just produce the names and dates for about six people that I needed!

The surprising this has been discovering that I actually love these people. Although I was born long after most of them had died, there is that unmistakable bond that comes from being family. I feel strangely attached to my great-great grandfather, and loved learning that he was an architect, so I was delighted to find him in a census as a young, single man, training as an architect. It broke my heart a little to see him listed on his brother's death certificate as being present when he died. That must have been hard. And my heart broke for my great-great grandmother, Esther Matilda, when I discovered that her husband had died, leaving her with six children to raise.

I've always known that my dad's family were from Valdres in Norway, and my mum's family were from Cornwall in England. They are both places I have spent a lot of time, and feel closely connected to. But now, from working on my grandmothers' lines, I am beginning to feel like I have a little bit of a home in the greater London area (Lambeth!) and in Lancashire in the north of England. I want to go to places like Blackpool and Manchester and Liverpool and see if they feel like they're part of me. Because they are! People who share my DNA have wandered around the streets of those cities for centuries before the 20th century hit and we all contracted wanderlust somehow. (Did I tell you that I'm the 3rd generation in my family to marry someone from a different country?)

Anyway, I have almost finished the first stage of my family history project, which is to go four generations back from myself with complete names and dates for my parents, grandparents, great grandparents and great great grandparents. After that, I want to go back and add all of their children. After that, I think I am about halfway to adding a fifth generation. After that, I want to go anywhere I can go. And after that I'll be old and grey and ready to hand my records over to the next generation!

What do you think about family history? Have you tried it? Are you interested in where your family comes from at all, or is it all dusty old names and dates to you?

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!