In My House

Why I Love Apartment Therapy’s January Cure

For the past couple weeks I have been participating in Apartment Therapy’s January Cure. It’s a free 20-day program featuring simple daily tasks to simplify and organize areas of the home. So far the most rewarding part has been a post-holiday purge of old toys.

The challenge doesn’t focus only on apartments, but on quick and easy daily tasks that can help bring organization and order to any space. Of course it’s fun that one part of the program is buying yourself fresh flowers on Fridays. Though the 20-day program is well underway, you can view the calendar and participate in the cure any time you want.

I really like how forgiving the program is. The tasks truly are something I can accomplish even with a busy work schedule and two little ones at home. The writers of the program remind us to give ourselves a lot of grace if we don’t feel up to a task or don’t complete absolutely ever item on the calendar. If you want to take some small steps toward simplicity and organization, I highly recommend the January Cure, even if you do it in February. Happy organizing!

Books

Books: The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music

I read a lot of memoirs and biographies and my favorites are those that leave me feeling as if a friend just told me a story about their lives. Reading The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music by Foo Fighters founder and frontman Dave Grohl was much this way, despite the fact that I’m not really friends with any famous touring musicians. Grohl is funny and the book is even more endearing by the fact that he wrote it himself without the help of a ghostwriter.

Grohl documents his humble beginnings learning to play the drums and guitar in humble suburban Virginia. He finds himself “in the right place at the right time” throughout his journey from Washington, D.C.-area band Scream to drumming for Nirvana to eventually founding and fronting Foo Fighters. The Storyteller does not fixate on Nirvana or the death of Kurt Cobain, but Grohl does describe his relationship with Cobain and the fear he felt when he realized his bandmate and roommate was suffering from addiction. The only thing Grohl was addicted to was coffee.

(Image from amazon.com)

As a parent of young daughters myself I perhaps most related to Grohl’s stories about raising his three girls. Having grown up with a mostly absent father, Grohl prioritizes being there for his daughters. One story documents his experience with food poisoning while flying home from Australia while on tour to attend the Daddy/Daughter Dance.

Despite his own success and fame, Grohl still is awe-struck by his idols and continues to be amazed and inspired by any opportunity to meet or jam with them. He also describes his love and appreciation for his mother. The Storyteller is a humble ode to music and its impact on all of us, and, overall, is just a really entertaining tale as told by someone who seems like an old friend.

In My House

The Happy Category

There is something so refreshing about sweeping, mopping, and dusting after putting away the Christmas decorations. I know I have said this before and I probably sound like the ultimate Scrooge, but it is such a good feeling to transition from the excess of December to the simplicity of January. January brings a sense of renewal and the opportunity to press the reset button. Further, we are actually encouraged to take care of ourselves!

I’m not talking about setting unrealistic or unattainable New Year’s resolutions, but instead seizing the opportunity to make time for own well-being. January can be a difficult time of year for me if I let it. I don’t enjoy the extreme cold, and several of my saddest memories (loss of grandparents, etc.) have been in January.

As I look back on 2021, I have to say there was much for which to be thankful. Although the world was not back to normal and working in healthcare continued to provide plenty of challenges, it was a good year. Our daughters are healthy and happy. We traveled a bit and spent a lot of time outdoors. I spent some quality time with my nearest, dearest friends. I read, ran, and usually got enough sleep. I bought concert tickets (fingers crossed) for this coming May.

So as we begin January, I have to be mindful to not let myself slip into a rut. So this year I’m going to keep it simple and try my best to stay in the happy category. I’m also setting some modest, attainable goals for 2022 that remind me to keep doing what I love: Run 365 miles, read 20 books, and post on A HOUSE WITH CHARACTER twice a month. Of course I will also try to weave in some travel, live music (again, fingers crossed), spoiling Norman, hanging out with the kids, and going on dates with my husband.

I hope you, too, are finding ways to stay in the happy category in 2022. Whatever curveballs the world throws us, there is usually something to laugh about. Even if a Chihuahua is biting your ankles. Cheers.

Books

One Book South Dakota: The Children’s Blizzard

I read David Laskin’s true account, The Children’s Blizzard, some time ago, so I was interested when Melanie Benjamin’s novel by the same name was announced as the 2021 One Book South Dakota. Benjamin takes the true story and tells it through fictional characters, two sisters who are schoolteachers. When the blizzard hits and the main characters, like many actual school teachers during that storm, have to choose between trying to flee their one-room schoolhouses and get their students to safety, or hunker down with what little food and firewood they had. Each sister reacts differently, resulting in very different outcomes.

More than 200 people died in the blizzard, which ravaged Dakota Territory on January 12, 1888. These were seasoned homesteaders who were quite used to harsh Midwest winters, but what took everyone off guard was the sunny weather that morning and the extreme speed of that particular storm. It hit mid-day as well so students had already made the long trek on foot or horseback to their primitive school houses.

(Image from amazon.com)

Both books also remind us of the extreme hardships of early homesteaders in the Midwest, especially during a natural disaster. Schools had very few supplies, such as enough firewood, and teachers were usually very young and inexperienced. Mothers who had already lost babies and young children during childbirth or to disease found themselves mourning yet again.

I definitely recommend reading both books. Laskin’s book is a fascinating account of how homesteaders arrived in Dakota Territory from Europe and the many struggles they faced. He also writes about the meteorological aspect of the blizzard and why it caught so many people off-guard. Benjamin’s book brings that story to life through interesting characters who are very human in what drives their decisions, both good and bad, when faced with hardship.

Books

Books: Talking to the Ground

Talking to the Ground was another book I grabbed on a whim off our local library’s shelves when I was there with my daughters. In the early 1990s, Douglas Preston, his fiancée, and her nine-year-old daughter embarked on a 400-mile horseback journey through the Navajo desert. They wanted to get closer with nature and with one another.

During the trip they were completely reliant on each other, their own strength, their horses, and the kindness of strangers they encountered along the way. They packed everything they needed on two pack horses, each rode one of their own, and were accompanied by an energetic dog. They searched for water, endured dust storms, and slept under the stars.

I will admit at first I thought the author was out of his mind. He had been on similar journeys before by himself, but now bringing along a child with limited riding experience? There are steep cliffs. Water is scarce. There are scorpions!

The book came out in the late 1990s. I related to nine-year-old Selene (I was nine in 1992, too) who brought a Gameboy and copy of “Matilda” on the trip. It would be interesting to get her account of the trip now as a 38-year-old woman looking back.

Talking to the Ground is rich with Navajo history, and real, boots-on-the-ground journalism. It also is an honest account of a family with a changing dynamic. Selene and her future stepfather become closer during the journey. Overall, it is a touching account of a new family learning about one another through extreme conditions.

In My House

Seven!

We celebrated our oldest daughter’s seventh birthday last weekend with an ice-cream-themed party at a park in our little town.

My mom has made all seven of my daughter’s birthday cakes and continues to do an awesome job.

Our girl is a kind and sweet soul. She is determined, enthusiastic, and funny.

She is blessed with a great group of friends who came to celebrate the day with her.

We gave away ice cream dishes and frozen treat-themed erasers.

The weather was great and the kids had a blast.

Happy birthday to our dear seven-year-old. I hope the next year is filled with fun adventures for you!

Food

Georgia Peach Muffins

It has been a long time since I have posted a recipe, but these peach muffins were too delicious not to share. My parents’ friend sent them fresh peaches from Georgia and they were kind enough to share some with us. They are juicy and delectable on their own, but even more scrumptious in these muffins.

Here is an obligatory messy kitchen photo. If your counter doesn’t look at least this messy when you’re baking you’re better than me. This is even without the kids being involved in the process. They were at the park with my husband.

I adapted this recipe from an apple muffin recipe found in a small-town compilation cookbook. Aren’t those the best? The sweet peaches made them tangy and delicious.

The recipe makes a dozen peach muffins. My family devoured most of them within 24 hours. Of course the Georgia peaches made them extra delicious, but I think any grocery store peaches this time of year would do the trick if you let them ripen a bit before baking.

Recipe:

Topping:

1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons butter

In a small bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, and cinnamon. With a fork, work in the butter until crumbly and refrigerate while preparing the muffins.

Muffins:

3 peaches, diced
1/2 cup milk
1 large egg
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 tablespoons butter, melted
2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners.

Whisk in the sour cream, milk, vanilla, and melted butter.

In a medium bowl, whisk the egg.

Stir in the diced peaches.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Pour in the sour cream/peach mixture all at once and stir, just to moisten. The batter should be lumpy.

Spoon into muffin cups.

Quickly crumble the topping over the muffins.

Bake at 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown.

Let cool in the pan for a few minutes, then transfer to a baking rack.

Adventures

All 50 by 40: Michigan (Mission Accomplished)

I finally did it. I visited Michigan, which means I have officially visited all 50 states, almost two full years ahead of schedule. My husband, daughters, and I rented a condo on Lake Michigan for a few days over the Fourth of July.

We enjoyed swimming, playing games, miniature golfing, a butterfly museum, and lots of ice cream. I grew quite used to strolling along the beach at sunset every evening after dinner. We were in Michigan during the National Cherry Festival which meant pie, delicious roadside cherries, and a carnival.

A highlight for us was hiking Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. The sand was so soft the kids could roll around in it. Hiking through it gave us a good leg workout, which I needed because it is no secret I enjoy eating on vacation.

So now what? I have no intentions of starting over and visiting all 50 a second time around, but I do want to revisit a few favorites. We are also looking forward to some international travel in the next couple of years. Also, we want to spend more time enjoying the beautiful area we call home.

Thank you for joining me on this journey!

Books

Books: Dear Child

I took a significant hiatus from blogging over the past few months. I did a lot of reading during that time. One book I recently finished was the thriller Dear Child by Romy Hausmann. A young woman is kidnapped and found years later, but is it really her?

The book has tones of both Gone Girl and Room. In fact, the cover bears that praise written by another author. Having read and liked both of those, I will still say Dear Child is even better than those books. It has richly developed characters, many twists and turns, and delves into the psychology behind the various characters.

(Image from amazon.com)

Some pieces of a father’s love for his child and what it would be like to have that child go missing are absolutely heart-wrenching. Hausmann’s writing offers the perfect amount of description of a creepy cabin in the woods, a child’s naïve observations, and the strategic thought process of a captive woman hell-bent on escape. Read this one!

In My House

Four!

We welcomed our youngest daughter’s fourth birthday with not one, but two celebrations. It felt like the right thing to do given all the cancelled plans, sadness, and disappointment 2020 brought for so many of us. So while we were celebrating our spunky four-year-old, we were also celebrating the fact that we were celebrating something. Does that make sense?

First we had a small party with a few friends and family members at my parents’ house. Of course the theme was pandas, and my mother did not disappoint with the super adorable panda cake. My daughter insisted on eating a piece of cake entirely covered in black frosting, and I wasn’t even about to say no.

Then we were off to Washington, D.C. for some history lessons, a chance to see real pandas, and, of course the American Girl Store. I have been an American Girl fan since the 1980s and having never been to one of the actual stores, I was in heaven. The panda viewing didn’t pan (pun intended) out due to the National Zoo still being closed until mid-May, but we still had a great trip.

If there was ever any doubt that I married the most patient guy in the world, my husband endured almost three hours in the ever-so-pink two-level store and bistro without so much as batting an eye. It was over-the-top girly gloriousness. That’s the only way to describe it.

We ate lunch followed by a dessert of pink and white birthday cake. The girls’ dolls had their hair styled and nails painted. Then we shopped. If you think American Girl dolls don’t have cat litter box complete with fake kitty litter, a scooper, and plastic cat poop, you’re wrong. Of course that’s one of the items the birthday girl chose.

Happy birthday to this sweet, stubborn, funny, panda-loving girl. She makes our family complete. We can’t wait to see what the next year brings.