We celebrate just about everything, making winter a very busy yet special time. When one holiday wraps up another one is just days away. We get through this without stress because we keep it as low key as possible. No big mounds of presents to create toddler breakdowns and no shuffling from house to house either.
I'm a firm believer in "less is more" whe it comes to children and holidays. My son's favorite gift so far this year was a tiny candycane that I tucked into the pocket of a stuffed elf I sewed last year. His "big" present from us was a homemade bean bag toss game. He was delighted and completely satisfied when his present for the night was just a small cookie...and this makes me want to give him the world.
One of our solstice crafts was this bird feeder squirrel feeder and I think we'll make one every year. Our orange tree is ripe so we've been eating plenty of oranges. Tonight we'll have dinner on a blanket on the floor in front of the fireplace.
My son laughed and laughed watching the squirrel hang upside down. We're calling him our "Solstice Squirrel" and we've talked about him all day. Perhaps Solstice Squirrel will bring us some candied orange slices after dinner...
After a morning of playing in the rain...
there is nothing better than an afternoon of baking...
followed by an evening of cooking in the fire:
Sigh. I love this time of year.
(I think this post would be even more romantic if it were snow instead of rain but the rainy season is winter here in sunny California. This is all we get. No need to feel bad for me, I'm from Wisconsin originally so I've already had my lifetime quota of snow.)
There are three things I do that have made my life easier. And two involve socks. For all the grand changes I've wanted (or attempted) to make, these single three things make me think, "Damn, this was a good idea" every time I deal with them.
First up is socks. I hate sock laundry! Half of them wind up lost and it takes forever to sort out the "looks the same but actually very slightly different" pairs of socks we used to have. A couple years ago I decided I had had enough and I donated every single pair. In their place we bought several pairs of the exact same mens trouser socks and I'm wearing a pair in the above photo. My husband wears them too. No more sorting...ever! The amount we spent to buy all new pairs has made itself back tenfold in the amount of time I've saved.
Second up is more socks. The toddler & baby surely can't wear our socks. Colorful, tiny baby socks are so precious and fleeting that making a switch to all boring white or something wasn't gonna happen. We all know that washing machines eat socks, right? Well, washing machines prefer tiny baby socks. You put those yummy baby sock morsels in there, forget about 'em! After every load a few more will be gobbled up and gone forever. Finally, I got one of those garment washing mesh bags and now put all the wee socks on it. No more missing socks.
Speaking of wee feet, isn't clipping little baby nails nerve wracking at first? I hated doing it the first few times. The only time it is really possible before they can cooperate is when they are nursing and falling asleep. Trouble is, I'd remember to do this when he was already nursing and the nail clippers would be in the closet. Finally, I had the brilliant idea (really, this one was all mine, the other two tips I've heard elsewhere) to stick the clippers in the Boppy nursing pillow, just inside the zipper. So I sit down to nurse and baby falls asleep and my clippers are right there already.
What are your top three simplifying tips?
So my mom bought me a set of embroidered days of the week tea towels. They were hand embroidered by a 70 year old woman and they set me off on a whole new way of thinking about my role in our home.
For years I've been saying I need a schedule, a rhythm to my days. As a stay at home/work at home mama, creating a sense of rhythm to our weeks is something I really struggled with. Add a second child to the mix and I found myself drowning. The laundry piled up. We started eating fast food. There was never enough milk in the house. And never enough time.
Okay, I suck at this "stay at home mom/homemaker" thing, I really do. And when I'm terrible at something I have to do (and actually love in many ways) I feel horrible. Unmotivated. So I need a rhythm. A schedule. Something! Then the towels came.
Back in my grandmothers day, these days of the week towels pretty much outlined what a typical housewife's workweek really looked like. Really! I asked her. And my grandmother still does her weekly shopping on Thursdays. So three weeks ago I decided I was going to use the classic schedule as a modern jumping off point for my own weeks.
Monday is wash day. I'm keeping this one as is. I do all our loads of laundry on Mondays now. The best part is that once the last sock is put away I know I don't have to do laundry for a whole week! This is loads (no pun intended) better than doing it here and there which felt endless. Okay, this once a week doesn't include diaper laundry. But that doesn't count.
Tuesday is ironing day. Okay, who irons anymore? For us, Tuesday is TV day. Yep, TV. I also clean out the fridge. It is TV day because until now I watched zero TV for the last 15 years. On Tuesdays my husband teaches a night class so it is me and the wee ones all day and all night. So after dinner we watch an hour of TV. This way I stay sane. Now when I say "TV" I don't mean actual TV, I mean whatever we rent from Netflix. Come on, you don't think after 15 years I'd open that can of worms, do you?
Wednesday is sewing day. I'd love to dedicate a day to sewing but this isn't realistic. Instead, our Wednesday is work on a project day which could mean anything from sorting out a closet to purging the toys to sewing new curtains.
Thursday is shopping day. This I'm also keeping the same. Every Thursday I write a grocery list and then go shopping for the entire week. Only once a week shopping! So much easier than the nightly "what should we do for dinner" dance we used to do which involved multiple trips per week to the market. Huge time saver.
Friday is cleaning day. Also keeping this one. I hate to clean with a passion but my mood is better on Fridays so I can face the broom. I'm motivated to get the yucky stuff done so I don't have to worry about tackling a tower of dirty dishes over the weekend.
Saturday is baking day & Sunday is rest day. For us, Saturday & Sunday are family days which include baking sometimes and rest hopefully. Every weekend will be different so we're leaving this open. It will often include gardening or hiking or cooking something yummy. But the common thread is that it is all of us together so we'll just call them family days.
So it is a start. I'm keeping it really simple so I have a good chance of following it. Do you have set days that you do certain things? What are they?
Are you sick of my "look what came from our yard!" posts yet? Too bad cause there is one more. This is what you get when you stick a country farm mouse in the city for ten years and then suddenly give her a plot of land to call her own.
My son gets credit for this one actually. We were in the yard and he did his usual "pick a random leaf and have me smell it" thing, which stems from our city walks discovering lavender and rosemary along the sidewalks. I half ignored him at first. When I finally paid attention I realized he was holding mint! Where did you find that?
Turns out we have mint growing as a border along one side of our property. I had no idea. Do you know how exciting it is to discover such a thing? I love mint. Love. There was wild mint growing in the riverbeds near my childhood home so the very smell of it makes me happy.
Fresh mint means mint tea! We are big tea drinkers in winter, even the wee one has a cup with us on chilly nights. Mint plus a teaspoon of honey = pure bliss.
This officially ends my "from my yard" posts for a while because, well, unless the wee one makes another discovery, it has all been covered. At least for a bit.
(actually a banana tree would be cool, huh) But, oranges! I've never had an orange tree. Or any tree that produces anything. It is a bit overwhelming to suddenly have hundreds of ripe oranges waiting for you in your yard. Inspiring too. Yet another fruit tree got planted this same afternoon. We're adding to our edible collection slowly but surely.
Our orange tree is bursting with orange balls of juicy goodness. It grows next to our lemon tree and they must have cross pollinated because our oranges taste like oranges crossed with sweet but tart lemons. Delicious.
The whole family went to work, filling up a canvas bag in no time. The wee one was excited to go inside and learn how to "make" orange juice.
It takes quite a few oranges to make a proper pitcher of juice. My arm got tired. We all took turns.
It was the best orange juice any of us had ever tasted. And I'm not just saying that because my arm is still sore.
The next day, the wee one asked for some juice. We didn't have any in the fridge. He simply said, "We can make some from the tree! I know how!" Hard to resist that request. You bet we'll stomp out to our tree all hours of the day for him to have a glass. The oranges won't last forever (phew) but his memories of eating off our own land will. Totally worth it, sore arms and all.