Decluttering and inviting in a clean slate. This time of year, as we open our doors to the chilly air, I always find myself inspired to declutter. The air feels fresh and clean and I want our home to feel that way too.
I'm also loving our backyard movie setup. We're using the same projector/screen set up that we've had for a few years. We hang the screen on our backyard wall and hook up a computer to the projector to play a movie. Now that it's dark earlier we can start a movie by 6 p.m. and the whole family can watch. Well, Maeve can watch for about 30 minutes before bedtime but she loves being part of the movie night which she expresses through enthusiastic "oooooo!" sounds and calling any animal a cat. So far we've watched and all really enjoyed Matilda, Harriet the Spy (which inspired Dash to start journaling!), and the new Netflix movie A Boy Called Christmas.
A new washing machine. Our 15-year-old washer broke and would have cost over $500 to repair. Appliance shopping is stressful! But it all worked out and we took the advice of Consumer Reports and bought an LG top-loader model. (We have free access to Consumer Reports through our library FYI in case yours offers the same perk.) So far I love our new washer! I especially love how much it can wash at once, the delay start feature, and how thoroughly it spins water out from laundry.
Dinner continues to feel challenging due to our selective eater boys. I really feel like we put into practice every recommendation that I've heard for encouraging kids to eat a greater variety of foods. Or at this point whatever it is we're not doing ideally I cannot even see. Making dinner work better is going to be one of my goals in 2022. I want to find ways that I can enjoy dinner and to serve my boys food they like without creating a lot of extra work for ourselves (like cooking an entirely separate meal).
But one dinner/meal planning improvement is that Chris sweetly offered to take over grocery shopping and meal planning. I've realized I still want to have a role in choosing meals and cooking so we're figuring out how to collaborate on this area of home management.
A few ta-das! from this month...
I ordered most of our Christmas gifts and made several purchases through local and/or small business. I also had something printed and bound which had been lingering my to-do list. It turned out easier and much cheaper than expected, love that. Also Christmas related, I ordered our Christmas cards, ordered stamps (I love the Snowy Day stamps), and printed address labels.
My reading pace slowed in November, a reflection of needing to tend to my book queue and not finding as many books that I wanted to read. But I still finished seven books:
The People You Meet on Vacation was light and pretty enjoyable but it did not live up to all the hype in my opinion.
The Sentence is Death was enjoyable and I've enjoyed previous Anthony Horowitz mysteries. It's so funny the way he writes himself into the mysteries. I had to google him afterwards to discern where his fictional character ends and the real Anthony Horowitz begins!
Just Last Night was great! I really liked the audiobook. The book was an enjoyable love story and had plot elements with more depth than I was expecting. I would recommend it.
Caste was excellent and important. The book details the author's thesis that the United States as a caste system as ingrained as those in India and as was created by Hitler in Nazi Germany with Black Americans in the lowest caste. Although the topic is heavy I'm really glad I read the book and would highly recommend it.
I'm feeling drawn to books about rest, decluttering, and intentional living (I'd love to hear your favorites) which is what drew me to Wintering. The author shares her own experience and gentle recommendations for living intentionally through winter, both the seasonal winters and "winters" that are hard seasons of life.
A Spindle Splintered is a short, modern-day retelling of the Sleepy Beauty story and I enjoyed it.
And finally, I'm currently listening to We Were Never Here which is suspenseful and not a great holiday read (sexual assault and violence) but is intriguing. I'm still reading State of Terror which I'm enjoying although that's on hold so that I can read my family book club pick The Music of Bees.
My goals for 2022. I love this phase of brainstorming and considering goals when a new year is complete potential. For the new year I'm intent on giving myself goals that feel manageable and exciting. I don't feel drawn to push myself with my goals as I often have in the past. I want to focus on what I'm already doing that I enjoy and want more of or how I can make life easier for myself. I want to let go of things, both commitments and physical things, that take my attention from what brings me the most fulfillment.
I've also been thinking about how hard the summers can be here and what I can do to make them easier on myself. As I listened to Wintering I tried to imagine what the summer corollary would be for each recommendation. It's food for thought for sure. Next summer should be really different than this past summer for many reasons so perhaps it will be much easier without a lot of effort on my part. For now I just want to enjoy our wonderful weather but I'll be thinking about a summer plan in the back of my mind.
Cooking + eating + drinking...
In November the holiday fare was abundant at Trader Joe's and I let myself partake in it more than I usually do. When I see seasonal items at the store I usually think to myself, "Those are for the actual holiday which isn't for another few weeks." Sometimes I stick to my routines to a fault and I'm trying to be more aware of that while pushing myself to go a bit easier. I especially enjoyed the cranberry ginger sparkling drinks, the pumpkin samosas, and Perfect Bars in the seasonal chocolate toffee flavor.
For Thanksgiving I made my chocolate cream pie which is always a favorite. I also made the same winning dressing from Melissa Clark (minus the fennel) that I've been making since I tore the recipe out of the New York Times a few years ago. I made a homemade apple pie for, I think, the first time ever and it was amazing if I do say so myself. Here's the thing about apple pie: it's not my favorite pie but I wouldn't mind having a slice on my Thanksgiving dessert plate. However, I cannot abide a store-bought apple pie. I've never had one that I thought was good. What's a gal to do? Make your own of course. What I learned this Thanksgiving is that a homemade apple pie, made with a mixture of apples that have been diced to bite-size perfection and with a crumb topping baked bravely in a paper bag (the house did not burn down!), is a a delicious and worthwhile endeavor. Also, I enjoyed the pie leftovers with coffee for three mornings without battling anyone for leftovers. Now that is a winning pie.
Also for Thanksgiving Chris and I made the traditional Wharton challah bread. Chris's mom has been making challah for Thanksgiving for years and this year asked to pass on the bread-making torch. We did a trial run in mid-November and made two beautiful braided loaves for Thanksgiving. It was really fun to bake bread with Chris and I'd love to try some other recipes.
The arrival of my niece, Quinn Kelsey, born to my sister on November 17. I am very honored to have a namesake niece and I can't wait to meet her in January. A fun and sweet fact is that Maeve's middle name is Elizabeth after my sister so each of our daughters have our sister's name.
I'm also so grateful for a long weekend trip to Portland to visit my dear friend Allyson. We've been long distance friends since 2002 and have never spent a weekend together which I can't believe. When I booked the trip in the summer I really needed something to look forward to so this trip brought me joy for months before it even happened. The weekend was as relaxing and enjoyable as I knew it would be. We went on long walks to local shops and restaurants through Allyson's beautiful neighborhood. We went to an Orange Theory class together and saw the movie The French Dispatch. I woke up early every morning, made coffee, and wrote as the sun slowly made its appearance. The trees were in full fall glory and I spent a lovely, rainy day in Allyson's cozy reading room where I wrote next to a window while sipping hot tea.
I'm also grateful for three things that I wanted to manifest in my life and they all came true in November! I had hoped to switch one of Maeve's daycare days to Monday. I wanted to have the house professionally deep cleaned and set up monthly house cleaning. And finally I wanted to get Maeve used to a non-family babysitter so that Chris and I can plan on day dates more often. All of these came true within a one-week span! Each brings me significant joy and a measure of ease into my life. Considering that none of these things felt possible a year ago makes me especially appreciative.
What the boys are into...
I want to shout this exciting parenting milestone from the rooftops: both boys are reading real chapter books! Dash has really found his enjoyment of reading this year and Cedric has impressed us at how quickly he's taken up chapter books with few pictures. I've also been enjoying reading chapter books to the boys before bed. When we were especially exhausted during Maeve's first year we had outsourced bedtime reading to audiobooks. It was a great practice for then but had begun to turn into one more thing to complicate bedtime. So we changed our routine and are back to ready aloud. I'm enjoying it so much and love how intently the boys listen. did away with bedtime audiobooks and are back to reading a chapter or two aloud to the boys each nice. I love that we can all enjoy beautifully written books with more depth. Recently we read Flora and Ulysses and are currently reading The Christmas Pig which we are enjoying.
The boys also finished their fall sports a few weeks ago. Cedric finished his first-ever season of basketball and I loved watching him play (and watching Chris coach!). Cedric can dribble with both hands, has great ball control, passes to his teammates, sets picks, and hits many of the shots he takes. It was a joy to watch him play a sport that he loves and has been wanting to play since pre-school.
Dash finished his soccer season and I am so proud of him. He was a bit discouraged about some team dynamics at the beginning of the season but he showed real maturity in how he handled the situation and ended up enjoying himself. I'm also so proud of him for running around for an hour every Saturday when it was often sunny and hot.
With the great weather the boys are outside nearly every day playing with friends. At nearly 7 and 8-and-a-half we feel comfortable letting the boys be out on our street playing without supervision and also let them go to a nearby park on their own. The day before Thanksgiving a crew of eight kids organized a little impromptu party and the pumpkin pie I had picked up on a whim that morning was gobbled up. I really love the neighborhood experience they are having and feel so lucky to have so many great families on our street and in our neighborhood.
Oh! Also the boys are fully vaccinated for COVID. I'm so thankful!
What Maeve is doing...
Maeve is being a delightful toddler and generally being adorable. I've noticed her attention span for books start to stretch and often I can read a whole page before she enthusiastically turns it. It used to be that I could only get in a word or two before we were moving on. Maeve loves to see kid neighbor friends on our street and especially loves seeing the big girls. Our across-the-street neighbor is in 6th grade and when she sees her house she starts to excitedly say her name. She still loves music and dancing although we can listen to more than just Baby Shark on repeat so her tastes are expanding. Sometimes Maeve is using two syllables when saying a word and occasionally putting two words together. One word our little pandemic baby knows: "meeting" because she's been with Chris on so many of them!
Maeve loves to do mixing, pouring, and stirring at her Learning Tower. She also asks, 'Hans?" meaning, "hands?" and wants to play in the water at the sink. I remember the boys doing the same thing like it was last week. She has been doing so great at daycare and rarely cries at drop off. She moved up to a room with more two year olds and gets excited when we tell her it's a school day for her. I am so so thankful for our daycare situation: Maeve loves it, it's great for her, and it's great for me to have some child-free hours every week.
Maeve is still nursing but only once in the morning and once at night. She would nurse more if I allowed it but I was ready to nurse less. I'm in between being ready to be done with nursing and not wanting to close that chapter of Maeve's life and my life. I'm thinking about how I want to honor breastfeeding Maeve (and the boys) and then pick a date to be done. Perhaps January 1? We'll see.
Looking forward to...
Enjoying all things Christmasy, cozy, and celebratory. I love our home at Christmastime with evergreen and twinkling lights abundant in our great room. I love this time of year when everything from my morning coffee to the books we read to food and music feel special. I'm looking forward to planning a fun and relaxing day for myself for my birthday. I'm looking forward to Christmas cookie baking with the Whartons. I'm looking forward to spending more time thinking about my 2022 goals and taking intentional rest before we start a new year.