Keep on Keeping on

When you have a toddler, life goes on. Even on those days you don’t feel like doing a single thing, you get up, run a straight iron through your tangled hair, pull on your Converse and do what you gotta do.

Halloween is my favorite holiday – I say that a lot. I want to make the holiday fun and magical for my son, so this year I went a little crazy and lined up what seems like a million fun activities to do. Saturday was definitely worth it. Our local MetroPark, Oakwoods, holds  Evening Lantern Tours for people 10 and up every year, where they “haunt” the woods in the nature center. We haven’t been to that in a while, but after attending the little kids version with our little dude, we are putting it on the list for next year as a date night. We took W. to the Kids, Candy and Costumes event which was awesome. By far the cheapest activity we have been to (just $5~), it was also one of the most fun.

This is a definite redo next year. I thought it was very well done and the kids loved tromping through the woods in their costumes.

The following day we were at the cider mill, to meet up with cousins and kids. It was memories, as when my cousins and I were children, we all went to this particular cider mill together, a and would carve pumpkins and each chili afterwards. Now we are all grown up, with our own kids, so it was cool to be able to continue the tradition. It was hot as midsummer that day too – I even got a sunburn. However the weather the rest of this week has been dreary- but fall!

 

Grieving

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Last week my grandmother passed away, in the wee early hours of the morning. She was an amazing lady, who was a tiny little force to be reckoned with, wrapped up in a five foot tall package. She was independent, fierce, with a sly, quick wit. She was generous, and kind, and never let you leave her house without at least something to take with you, from a cookie to a magazine to who knows what. You were not allowed to leave empty-handed. Creative and artistic, she painted, made things with stained glass, drew, knitted hats for children who had no warm clothes, knitted hats for my own child. She was a spitfire, who probably taught me how to swear, and she never backed down from a fight. She could cook up a storm, and made the best rice pudding. I remember winters, sitting in her kitchen, steam heating the room and fogging the windows, and being served creamy delicious rice pudding that she had made. It is one of those flavors that take you back in time, like Proust’s Madelines. She loved lemon meringue, and lemon flavored desserts, just like me, and my brother, and my son. We like things tart, I guess.

Her name was Marion, and she was my last remaining grandparent. I should feel blessed that I am the age I am now, just now losing my last grandparent. And I do. But you are never ready. And my grandma had a sense of invincibility about her.

It is the first time I have had to grieve, while caring for a child. I got the news on Friday, and then was alone all day with my son. It’s hard to be heartbroken and care for a child. In reverse though, it’s hard to be heartbroken and care for a child. Does that make sense? It was hard, but at the same time, being around my son made it a little easier, with his sunny smile. He is only 2, and won’t remember her, like I remember my great-grandma and great-grandpa. That will be up to me. And my brother and my father and my mother and stepmother, my cousin and aunt, to share our stories. And goodness knows, there are enough of them. She had a lot of living in her life, and many stories to share. I will miss her terribly.

Rainy Day Weekend

Lately, I haven’t written much here. I sit down to write, but first I usually scan Facebook. Then honestly, I get too depressed to say anything. My stuff just seems so trivial, so little in the scope of what is happening around the world and United States – devastating fires, hurricanes, earthquakes. Shootings. Where does my little post about what we all did over the weekend, or what I read, or what we ate fit. And then I thought, it is like everything else. We grieve. We try to make things better where we can. And we live our lives. That’s all we can do. So, I have gotten back to being me, being us. Celebrating life, this world and its wonders. Because amazing things happen amongst the sad – like that woman who biked her way out of the California fires, with her 70 pound dog in her duffel bag. That was some serious grit and determination, and love. All love for that dog. She wasn’t a big woman by any means, but she and her dog got to safety – on a bicycle. Like I said, just dang amazing.

Our family spent the weekend celebrating the Halloween season. It’s my favorite time of the year, and now with a two year old, I am even more excited about it. We started off the weekend festivities Saturday night, when we went to the Detroit Zoo Boo. It was rainy but not too terrible, and it did not stop us from having a good time. My son was all smiles in his adorable skunk costume, loving every minute of the night. I was soaking wet, but I didn’t care. (He wanted to be carried by his father so, dad got the umbrella with the baby. I really need to add another umbrella to my shopping list so we have more than one!) They had some fun entertainers at the end of the trail, people performing with flaming batons and magicians and bands and music – it was a good time. Plus, I got to eat some candy. Lol.

The next day we were off and running again, this time to the apple orchard, a time honored Michigan fall tradition. This is a Midwest thing I found out, or at least it is not a widespread United States thing, which makes sense. Going to the cider mill in the fall is one of my favorite things we do all year – and we had awesome autumn weather. Blustery, gray, windy, rainy – at one point my son and I were sitting on the wide front porch of the shop, eating donuts, when a crazy strong gust of wind practically blew us off of the porch. We just laughed in the face of that wind!

Before we had the boy, we searched for a cider mill without the gimmicks, and found our perfect one – Bennett’s Orchard. Simple, great prices, great products. There are no bounce houses, bands, or booths of vend, which is fine if that is what you like. For us though, it is all about the locally grown and made products. Pumpkins, jam, doughnuts, honey, popcorn, and .. for parents .. hard cider, made on site. By law they can only serve three tastings per person, so my husband and I got different flavors and tried each others, splitting them. We have different palettes apparently – he really liked the crisp apple that had strong cinnamon flavor to it, while I liked the more tart ciders. We both agreed though, that the elderberry shine was so good that we had to buy a howler to come home with us. Perfect for around the bonfire.

We had a great rainy day weekend, spent outdoors. Remembering what is important about life. Family, experiences, making moments and memories.

First day of Fall!

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Happy fall, y’all! It is officially the first day of autumn, although here in Michigan it still feels like summer! I am so ready for these hot days to go away, and for the cooler, crisper weather to start. I want to wear snuggly sweaters, hoodies, scarves, jeans, boots; I want to drink cider around a bonfire in the slightly chilly evenings. I want my pumpkin spice latte to not seem out of season! It looks like I am going to have to wait though, as the next week is supposed to be in the 80s still.

This is my most favorite, most wonderful time of the year! I may not have the weather (yet!) but Halloween is coming, and that means spooky movies, chilling reads, and fun activities! My calendar is literally filling up! We have family trips to the apple orchard, which I learned last year is a regional thing; various Halloween costume activities at the zoo, at our local metropark, and at Haunted Nights at Greenfield Village. I have Wyatt’s costume bought and ready to go, and I feel ahead of that game. We made his Viking costume last year, complete with a Viking ship made from a wagon, which was pretty amazing. This year I went a little easier, and bought his costume from the Land of Nod. It is adorable – I will share it with you when we get closer!

My plans are not just where we can go – but what we can do. Simpler things. Things like a nature walk through the woods, crunching leaves underfoot, collecting chestnuts and acorns. I want to bake bread, and go to a football game, make a few (easy) fall craft crafts. Make soup. I can’t wait to make soup. I know I can make soup at anytime, but it’s not that fun to eat when it is 90 outside. At least to me, someone who lives in the Midwest. Soup with crunch bread sounds amazing. With goat cheese to spread on the bread – yum!

 

I’ve got so much goodness planned – I can’t wait! What about all of you? Any traditions? Anything you look forward to in the fall? What is your favorite holiday?

Happy Mail

I love getting mail. I practically race to the mailbox when I see our mailman deposit things into it. Usually, it is a pretty huge letdown. Surprise, surprise! Bills, circulars, flyers, credit card offers – not anything to get excited about or look forward to. So this year I decided to treat myself to something I so creatively call Happy Mail. I give myself a budget of ten dollars a month, and every month, I choose something different to be mailed to me, something fun, something I wouldn’t normally buy for myself. A treat, if you will. It is cheating to just go on Amazon and buy something. I need to find a subscription box, or magazine even. I have had a blast with it and have gotten some good stuff, and not so good stuff.

I started the year with Ipsy, for $10 a month, free cancellation at any time. Their bright pink mailers, cute little bags filled to the brim with different beauty products – definitely not stuff I would ever go to the store and buy, honestly. It’s all part of the fun, like a present to myself. Ipsy gives you the option to peek at your bag before you get it, but I never did. I wanted it to be a surprise. And sometimes I liked the stuff, other times I didn’t. I kept the stuff I liked, and gave away the stuff I didn’t. I wish I had taken photos of my bags that I received, but I didn’t think of it! Which is totally out of character for me, I take pictures of everything, everywhere.

I did Ipsy for about three months, then decided it was time to switch it up! I decided to try Birchbox, which is like Ipsy but instead of a bag it comes in a box. I paid $10.00 a month for this one too, and I could cancel at anytime, per my own rules. It is described as:

Birchbox is a monthly beauty subscription of five samples tailored to your skin, hair and style. Each month, your personalized beauty box subscription will include five product samples. You’ll get to try all types of products (from haircare to skincare to makeup), and we’ll include information on why they’re great and how to use them.

And they are absolutely right on. You answer questions as to your preferences and personal style, hair, skin, etc, and they try to tailor your box around your answers. You also have the option to peek at what is coming!

I did take pictures of my Birchbox.

 

 

I actually liked getting the stuff in a box more than a bag. I guess I have more use for small boxes! I used this one to store pens in, in my desk drawer. It looks so cute in there! As for the products themselves, I kept every one of these and used them all. I really liked the Arrow Boost color enhancing lip balm, and the Beauty Protector, to protect and detangle, leave in conditioner. I have crazy wild feral hair, and it did a nice job of keeping it soft and less frizzball.  Despite loving the Birchbox, I only did it one more month, as I wanted to totally different mail – I was done with makeup for now. I actually rarely wear makeup so it was fun but after awhile, I was ready for a switch.

Next up, I tried a book subscription box, called Bookishly.  I had such high hopes! Coffee, a book, both full of goodness. This is the description:

A surprise vintage paperback and delicious ground coffee through the post each month. You’ll receive a different 75g bag (4-5 cups) of freshly roasted medium ground coffee each month, along with a vintage book from our library. There’s no stationery in this version of the subscription.

And from the UK! How fun!

However, I was a bit disappointed.

 

I think I paid around $15.00 for this subscription, when all was said and done. The coffee was actually tasty, but not enough to keep me more than my one month. The book was just pointless, I guess. The one in the ad is of Howards End – I guess I expected something more like that, than something so pulp and that actually seemed physically dirty. It just wasn’t the subscription for me.

Moving on, I took a break from subscription boxes and instead, subscribed to HGTV magazine. I just got my first issue and love it! Now though, I need to start searching around for my next bit of Happy Mail!

Anyone have a subscription box? Which ones do you like? It doesn’t need to be within my price point, I am just curious what ones other people like – or don’t!

The State of Me

trees

After a fabulous meal and some laughs with friends last night, we got in the car and I just started bawling.  Hands over my face, crying. Traffic was terrible leaving the city, with a Kid Rock concert and a Tigers game, I had stumbled on gravel in an alleyway so my knee was killing me, and I was anxious to get home. None of this warranted tears, and wouldn’t have under other frames of mind. I think despite having a fantastic time out, or maybe because, I just fell apart. Perhaps I finally relaxed enough to let emotion out that I had been keeping hard at bay.

Life can be stressful, for all of us, everyday. Our responsibilities weigh on us, our families depend on us. The house needs to be cleaned, you don’t clean it well enough. Countless trips to the store and the doctors. Phone calls. Loved ones battling serious illnesses. The country ideologically at war with each other, everyone so ready to fight with someone else. Sometimes it is hard to make the time for our mental health and physical health, and I haven’t been doing a good job of either lately. My resolution this year was to do just that, and last night was a warning why.

I need to find some balance – I need to become unbusy. I have been slowly working my way through our home, discarding things that are no longer needed, wanted, or useful, taking a minimalistic approach to things. We are buying new things carefully and thoughtfully. I think I need to clean out my schedule too, and slow things down. We are always on the run, squeezing things in, people in. I don’t want to squeeze people in. I want to be able to luxuriate in their presence! I want to spend quality time with my family and friends and have real conversations, not just hear a list of what they have been doing. I want to hear how they are, really. What they have been thinking, rather than doing. I want to taste my food instead of eating quickly so I can move on. I want to enjoy that cup of coffee, that glass of wine. I want moments to count, and just be counted off.

So what do I do from here? I guess I start letting stuff go, saying no. Working smarter not harder. To me, fall is renewal, of the cycle of life, the balance our world needs. I am going to take my cue from it, and find my own balance and renewal.

 

The Importance of Ice Cream

I scream, you scream, we all scream, for ice cream!

Lately, this family has gone crazy over ice cream.

Vanilla, chocolate, coffee, peanut butter. In a cone. In a cup. In a cup with a cone on top. With coffee, with wine ~ sometimes even with a little whiskey poured over the top with a dash of pepper.  (the adults only versions, of course)

I have to admit, prior to this summer, I was never a huge fan, preferring slushes instead. But my skinny malinky long legs boy loves ice cream. And since he needs to gain weight, he gets it. And since we are there, so do we.

All this ice cream has turned us into ice cream connoisseurs, of a sort. We have a few locally made ice cream parlors around us, and we alternate between them on ice cream nights, every time debating the various merits. This one is creamier; that one is more flavorful. This one has a cuter shop; that one is a local tradition.

We can never come to a definitive decision for a winner.

Ice cream is one of those foods, like Proust’s madelines. I feel it is transportive, can connect you with a place or a memory or a feeling with just a bite. All those celebrations, vacations, lazy summer days.

Ice cream makes me think of my grandfather, who was always this strong, quiet presence in my life. He was a man of few words, but I remember so many nights where we load up into his car, always one of those large, plush interior cars, and I would feel so small but safe and cozy in the backseat next to my little brother and mom. He always went to the same place, Calder’s Dairy, with its white chairs that line the glass wall, and in those days, there was always a line out the door. He would  get butter pecan without fail, and I would get chocolate or superman, and then we would all eat in the parking lot, standing about in the glow from the setting sun. Everyone ate their ice cream so fast, except me. They would be finished while I was furiously trying to finish mine to keep up. As night drew on, on those endless summer nights of childhood, my grandpa always took us on a drive before heading home. Occasionally he would point out places he had worked, or the homes of friends from his younger days, but mostly he was silent, and so was I, as we navigated though neighborhoods unfamiliar to me, the empty cup in my hands, the taste of the rich chocolate becoming a memory, one that I would remember now, a married woman with my own child to make ice cream memories with.