Books

Books: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

As someone who enjoys organizing, minimalizing, and similar activities, it’s only natural that I would eventually read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. Here’s my take: For the most part, this woman is crazy. However, in some ways I related to her in a very big way, so does that make me the crazy one? Don’t answer that.

Kondo teaches some good theories on how keeping an organized home and living with less can give us a free and peaceful feeling. She also encourages us to dry our dishes on the veranda instead of in a dish drain and to tell our shoes “thank you for your hard work today” when we get home from the office. Clearly, not all of her tactics are reasonable, but a few are.

I related to her writing about the strong desire to get rid of some of her family’s excess belongings. My husband still accuses me of throwing away his favorite hunting knife a couple of years ago. I didn’t, but he knows my committment to living with less is pretty strong.

What Kondo says about our culture of excessive gift-giving also resonated with me. She writes: “We need to show consideration for others by helping them avoid the burden of owning more than they need or can enjoy.”

I’m not saying Kondo reads A HOUSE WITH CHARACTER and copies my ideas, but the portion of the book on storing seasonal clothes is similar to a blog post I wrote a year or so ago. She advocates for storing everything where it can be used, not hauling winter clothes up from the basement when the weather cools off and keeping totes of clothes in storage during the off-season. I’m a fan of this theory.

I’m not a fan of talking to my belongings and only keeping things that bring me a profound sense of joy. Yes, if a sweater makes my arms itch every time I wear it even though it’s pretty, it should go. If I haven’t worn a pair of boots in over a year because they pinch my toes, buh-bye. However, I don’t need to see fireworks every time I look at my toothbrush holder for it to get to stay in my home.

All in all, I really liked some of the ideas Kondo shares, but I also couldn’t help but think she must live kind of a sad and boring life. Still, after finishing the book, I immediately donated a box of clothes to charity. I think we can all benefit from exercising a little minimalism in our lives. And if you hear me talking to my tea kettle, thanking it for heating my water, please intervene.

IMG_2971

Advertisements
In My House

Pantone 2019 Color of the Year: Living Coral

Pantone’s 2019 Color of the Year is Living Coral. I’m liking this bright shade during this very long winter, especially today when yet more snow is forecasted. Here are a few fun items in this cheerful color.

coral

1. The ruffle detail on this shirt adds a fun touch. (Anthropologie) 2. I’m absolutely in love with these flats. I haven’t ordered them yet, but they’re haunting my dreams. (Modcloth) 3. This dress makes me think of a beach vacation even though it’s February and freezing today. (H&M) 4. Every year Ulta comes out with a nail polish in the Pantone Color of the Year. I’m loving this one for a pedi. (Ulta) 5. I love Primary for beautiful basics in rich hues. This coral shade is actually called Azalea. (Primary) 6. This Pantone swatch mug would be a perfect gift for the graphic designer in your life. (Redbubble)

Books

Books: When You Read This

When You Read This by Mary Adkins is an epistolary novel told through E-mails and blog posts. I was worried this would make it difficult to “get to know” the characters, but Adkins does such a great job developing them through their writing. The novel centers around Iris, a young woman who has since passed away, and her former boss, and her sister. Iris leaves behind some dreams she wanted to fulfill, and those left in her life pursue them.

Despite being relatively positive under devastating circumstances, the book also is a reminder of how harsh the blogging world can be. The protagonist would often write a very deep and vulnerable blog post and the comments posted would be cruel or, worse, completely ambivalent to the writer’s pain.

I really liked this book. I cared about the characters, despite their flaws, and couldn’t wait to read what happened next. Adkins takes depressing subject matter and reminds us of the beauty of love, hope, and moving forward.

552541

(Image from amazon.com)

 

Adventures

Because Someday She’ll Leave for College

I took this picture of my youngest daughter the day after she was born. It was one of those lulls in visitors at the hospital and my husband had stepped out to spend some time with our oldest daughter. I just sat there with her by myself looking at this perfect new baby, foggy from the post-Cesarean pain meds, but so happy and in love. I just wanted to soak in every moment, already so aware of how fleeting these moments are.

She is now almost two years old and my oldest will start kindergarten this year. I’m constantly looking for ways to be more present and enjoy every moment. If you have been following A HOUSE WITH CHARACTER, you’ll notice I don’t post as much as I used to. I have started really limiting my time spent on social media. I love connecting in those ways and I’ll keep blogging at least a few times a month, but right now the connections I have with my girls are most important to me.

I often struggle as I strive to be a more present and mindful parent. I don’t want to be distracted by my phone, the endless laundry, or whatever work stress is on my mind, but those issues inevitably arise. I don’t want to be the mom who loses her cool when her toddler spills cereal on the floor for the umpteenth time that day, or my four-year-old is whining because I won’t give her candy.

image

I am still a big proponent of parents making time for kid-free experiences like travel, date nights, and outings with friends, but I try to schedule that time thoughtfully. Our travel plans include our kids more often than before and we are loving that. (Ask me again when we are half-way through our flight to Alaska in July with a two-year-old and a four-year-old.)

I have also found that if I make a little more time for self-care, whether I’m stopping at the gym to run a couple of miles before I pick the girls up from daycare, or making some time to read during that small window of time when they are asleep and I am not yet, I an actually a more present, less stressed version of myself.

The quality moments with my two daughters are definitely not extravagant. Some of my most enriching moments with them involve reading a book together or playing “Baby,” a silly game we made up where I sit on the floor and hold out a blanket and the girls run to me. I wrap them in the blanket and they shout “Baby!” Don’t tell the people at Parker Brothers or they’ll surely steal that million-dollar idea.

At the end of the day what I remind myself when I feel like I can’t do it all is that they won’t always need me this much. Someday there will be no cereal on the floor, no diapers to change, no 5:30 a.m. wake-up calls on Saturdays, and no sleepless nights. Someday they’ll go off to college and I’ll be so grateful for every single moment of parenting small children through the good, the bad, and the sticky.

Books, In My House

Books: Looking for Lovely

I write about most of the books I read, and that means writing about the ones I didn’t love. I didn’t love Looking for Lovely by Annie F. Downs, but I really liked certain parts, which was a enough to keep me going. Downs is a public speaker and author of several inspirational books. This is the first of her books that I have read.

In some chapters I was irritated by this woman, but not to the extent that Rachel Hollis drove me nuts in Girl, Wash Your Face. Downs does annoying things like name-dropping country music band Lady Antebellum, but then she throws the reader a real-life gem of wisdom on finding ways to find beauty and joy in the simple parts of life. Her honesty about her battle with food addiction and depression is inspiring and brings meaning to the message of the book.

Downs does a good job of balancing hardship and humor. For instance, she is not afraid to poke fun at herself, writing about things like the earrings she wore in middle school that featured a pig’s face as the front and the pig’s behind as the back. I had those exact earrings!

Looking for Lovely is a quick read that provides the reader some nuggets of genuine, applicable ideas for being joyful and positive. It is worth weeding through a few lackluster chapters to grab onto them. The overall message of finding happiness in simplicity resonated with me, even if it wasn’t my favorite book of all time.

9

(Image from amazon.com)

Food

Norman is 10: A Cupcake Recipe for Dogs and People

Norman turns 10 today so it was only natural that his sisters and I made cupcakes for our celebration. This banana and peanut butter cupcake recipe is delicious and safe for dogs, and, well, OK, for us humans, too. The main thing is that the birthday boy enjoyed his.

B1E4B1F6-CC71-439D-B2AE-BCCEF8D0470A

This recipe was adapted from a few different ones I found online. I like that it makes just 5 regular-size cupcakes. They’re definitely a little bland for us humans, but Norm gobbled them right up. The girls actually devoured theirs, too. I think that was due to the cream cheese frosting on top.

D459CA6B-A1B8-41DB-AFE6-60701F41B229

I used canned cream cheese frosting for these cupcakes, but scraped almost all of Norm’s frosting off before serving it to him. There are a lot of decent pet-friendly frosting recipes online, too. Happy birthday, dear boy. You really, really need a haircut, but we love you so much anyway.

8FC3F1F3-D332-479A-9BA1-6F9BBD9B2E4A

57FDE1E4-B090-4C5B-8994-D2CF7609755F

Recipe:

  • 1/2 cup plain white flour ounces of cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 1 medium banana, mashed
  • 2 tablespoons of water

 

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Sift together flour and baking soda and set aside.
  • In a medium bowl, stir together the peanut butter, mashed banana, egg, and water until combined.
  • Stir in the flour mixture and mix until smooth.
  • Spoon into a muffin pan lined with cupcake papers.
  • Bake for 15 minutes.
  • Allow to cool before topping with frosting of your choice, or leave plain for your pooch.
Books

Books: Before We Were Yours

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate gave me an intense need to hug my children. Parents with little ones: Do not, I repeat, do not, choose this book to read on a vacation away from your kids. I wasn’t on vacation while I read this, and I was thankful for that. Trust me when I say, you’ll want them close while you’re reading it.

That being said, I really liked this novel. It is a fictional account of real events involving Georgia Tann, Director of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society, arranging for the abduction of poor children who were then sold to wealthy families. Wingate tells the story of siblings separated by this injustice, and flashes forward to one of their descendants, an attorney attempting to solve a mystery when she has an unusual encounter with an elderly woman at a nursing home.

Though this is a fictional account, these arrangements truly took place. They went on from the 1920s all the way until as late as 1950. Georgia Tann died before she could be arrested or tried for the pain and suffering she caused.

Wingate’s character development was really effective to me, despite the bouncing between decades. That approach to the story was done in an organized way, which made the story flow well. Heart-wrenching in many ways, the book does offer hope, and is a beautiful depiction of the bond between siblings.

123

(Image from amazon.com)