How We Keep Our House Clean

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Ok, so our house isn’t always “clean,” but I was told once that your house should never be more than 15 minutes away from being able to host company. I like this tip because it allows for a little bit of manageable clutter.

Have a designated play area. We have a long, skinny living room, and I knew the moment we bought the house that I would be breaking up the room into 3 distinct sections, with the intent of having a chic place for my kids to play without having a full-on play room. This is the section where our teepee is and a few, select toys. Some times toys end up in the kitchen or on the couch, but the majority of them stay in the play area, which makes clean up a lot quicker and easier. Also, the way we have positions our couches to create distinctive “areas” helps to hide the appearance of all the kids’ toys if they do happen to be left out by the time guests arrive.

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Toy rotation. There is simply no reason your child needs every single toy they’ve ever been given at their disposal. This is why I hate play rooms. Too many toys are overwhelming, difficult to contain, and impossible to clean up. Every few months I break up the kids’ toys into 4 categories: toys that we keep downstairs, toys that belong in our room, toys that will go into the basement for awhile, and toys we no long play with. Anything that is loud or extra stimulating we keep downstairs, that way if one kid is napping while the other is awake, the toys won’t disturb the other’s sleep. The quieter toys go upstairs for quiet time or bed time snuggles. It is important to me that we only have the same amount of toys as we do storage space. Granted, our toy cart appears to be overflowing some times, but I don’t want their to be multiples piles of stuff cluttering the space. During each season, we sort through the toys that don’t get played with and donate them. Whatever is left gets put in the basement until the next season, where we will switch out the basement toys with whatever toys are upstairs. This keeps their toys in better shape longer (since they aren’t being played with EVERY day), prevents clutter, and keeps old toys feeling fresh, new, and nostalgic.

Keep adult clutter in check. We pretty much have to do this anyway if J and I don’t want our own stuff being handled by tots. Plus, Cora is notorious for putting everything in her mouth (surprisingly not a problem we ever had with Sophie). Not only is it a matter of safety for us to keep our own clutter in check, but it also helps with appearances. There are some things I just don’t want in my bedroom: stationary, extra phone charger, meditation books, etc. I have my own chic little box to put things in that I keep downstairs, so that these things are still easily accessible without being a hazard. I got J a vintage looking chest to keep his coupons and stationary in too. They look decorative while also being functional, and containing clutter.

Another tip I think is helpful… I like having neutral colored containers, even for the kids’ toys. As you know, children’s toys are typically brightly colored eye-sores, so having neutral bins to put them in helps the space to feel more soothing and like a shared place for all members of the family, rather than a daycare center. We have purple and turquoise bins in the babies rooms, but downstairs I prefer a more consistent look when it comes to storage.

What do you do to contain daily messes and keep your house looking sharp?

Fall Time

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Fall is in full swing, here in the Ohio Valley. Being the week of Halloween, there have been many fun activities that are fall themed. It’s part of the reason I was M.I.A last week, as far as updating the blog went… We went trick-or-treating at the mall, attended a fall festival at the university for the families of staff members, and we baked pumpkin spice cookies.

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Sophie has been increasingly affectionate toward me lately, which is nice since she is either being her introverted self, or she awaits daddy’s arrival from work to unleash her softer side. Perhaps it is the cool, fall cuddle weather? Either way, I’m not complaining.

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Growing up in California, I never got to experience fall. The seasons hardly change, few trees even lost their leaves, and palm trees of course, are perpetually the same. Fall still seems new and exciting to me despite having lived here for almost a decade now. Fall reminds me of the season in which I met J, and our romance blossomed.

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I love being able to share this gorgeous season with our children. There is so much excitement as we head into the holiday season!

Annual Pumpkin Patch Trip!

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One of the benefits of living in Ohio is that there are many farms within a 30 minute drive. This gives us access to animals, fresh produce, and other products like milk and cheese. There are also many fun, seasonal activities. Apple picking, and going to pumpkin patches!

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We made our annual trip to Hozack Farm with the girls and it was a blast. Sophie is much more mobile and interested this year than she was last year. Cora loves all things sensory, so she enjoyed herself despite only being able to crawl.

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We came home with a pumpkin Sophie carefully painted, a huge bag of kettle corn [which I have to admit, I ate all the way home] , and a cute ghost with marquee lights.

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The trip was definitely a success. There was free parking and hayrides, so it was an affordable event for us to go to. Though, Sophie was nervous to get on the tractor for the hayride because she was still traumatized by our last trip to Amish country where the hayride was bombarded by hungry cows.

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It was the perfect fall day, warm and sunny with a light cool breeze. As fun as it was, I couldn’t help but feel a little sad that fall is barreling toward us so quickly. Soon we will be hosting Thanksgiving, taking a trip to California, and preparing for a harsh winter. There are a lot of changed happening within myself as well, that may have effected my mood that day. Overall though, it was nice to live in the moment and enjoy time with family.

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Will you take your kids to the pumpkin patch this weekend?

Strawberry Pancakes (gluten free!)

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All last week Sophie begged me for strawberry pancakes. This was prompted by a popular Daniel Tiger episode, where HE eats strawberry pancakes for breakfast after going to the community garden to pick perfect, fresh strawberries. “Land of make believe,” INDEED.

I opened the cabinet over the stove to find bugs — yes, BUGS — in our bisquick. I discovered this only after I had announced to Sophie that today would be the day I would finally make her the strawberry pancakes. Luckily for her, I still had this gluten free recipe in my repertoire of cooking knowledge.

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  • 1-1/3 cups Gluten Free All Purpose Baking Flour
  • 1 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1/2 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1/2 tsp Sea Salt
  • 2 Eggs beaten
  • 1/2 cup Milk or dairy alternative
  • 2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 cup fresh strawberries, washed and chopped
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 Tbsp agave syrup

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Whisk together all of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Heat a skillet and spray with coconut oil [or any oil of choice, to prevent sticking]. Pour 1 pancake in the pan at a time, and flip when the batter begins to bubble. Top with whipped cream and more strawberries!

I let Sophie help mix the batter, as she always eats more at meals when she is involved in the preparation.

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Getting Your Kids to Eat Spinach

So I’m blaming this recipe hunt on my kids, when in reality I should have titled this post “Getting YOURSELF to Eat Spinach.” If you’re like me, you buy baby spinach in bulk with good intentions of starting a healthy lifestyle, and then when morning comes and you’re faced with making a healthy smoothie or eating cookies with your cup of coffee you always,  ALWAYS pick cookies.

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This week I went to the store and got, you guessed it… SPINACH. After a trip to the doctor [and their scale] I decided I really do need to commit to eating more vegetables. So, how to make them appealing? Chocolate, of course! I have had success tricking both myself and Sophie with spinach hidden in chocolate this week and now I am passing the success on to you, my readers.

Recipe #1 : Predominantly Paleo’s Chocolate Spinach Cake. 
I wanted to barf the first time I read the title of that recipe. It was close to my reaction for “Black Bean Brownies” WHY?! But, I had all the ingredients on hand, so I decided to give it a shot. Wow, I totally underestimated the power of cocoa. This cake was moist, chocolaty, and contained 2 full cups of spinach. I served it up with strawberries and a tablespoon of whipped cream. Sophie, my husband and I all loved it. I wouldn’t recommend making it for Thanksgiving or any other event where you really want to impress people with dessert, but if you have a sweet tooth like me, and simply MUST eat dessert every night, then this is a recipe for you! It cures your sweet tooth while still giving you an antioxidant punch.

Recipe #2: Chocolate Spinach Protein Shake
We invested in a Nutribullet a few years back and I love it. I filled the smaller sized cup with a handful of spinach, ice, and chocolate walnut milk. You could use chocolate almond milk as well, that is just what I had on hand. Blend it up, pour it in a cute cup with characters on it, and your kid will love it.

What does everyone love besides chocolate? Cheese! Martha Steward has a really delicious, home made Mac N Cheese recipe, but you can add spinach to any boxed version as well. Just make sure you chop it up finely, so you aren’t getting an entire soggy leaf on your fork when you dig in.

Our Finished Dining Room

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I can with 100% certainty say that our dining room is FINISHED! Ah… it feels so good to say. It feels even better to know there is an entire room in our new house that is completely styled to our satisfaction. I liked the warmth of the farmhouse, but also wanted to incorporate the cool industrial look into our space since we live in the Steel Valley! In fact, our town is quite the juxtaposition being equal distance from cozy, family farms and steel mills. Speaking of contrast, I just can’t get over the before & after pictures of this space:

I like the actual place I’m living in to contain elements from what the area is notorious for. In San Diego it was pretty obvious: beach. My room had walls coated in a sand-like texture with the smallest flecks of gold, and I usually kept seashells on my dresser. This is starkly different from my usual beachy vibes, but this style feels earned. I really had to embrace not just Ohio, but this particular valley, and now I display it like a badge of honor in my home.

 

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The chairs are definitely what tied this whole room together for me. Despite them being a cold metal, which is some thing J was concerned about, they are actually quite comfortable and easy to clean. Even my curvy self sits comfortably in these chairs!

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These awesome chairs can be found here and are fairly affordable. The nice people at Anji Modern Furniture offered me a discount for reviewing these beauties on Amazon for them, as well as offering a little shoutout here, up on my blog. The truth is though, that I had already made up my mind that these were the chairs for us before we officially purchased them.

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Columbus Overview

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Last week when we went to Columbus the weather was absolutely horrible, so it was really convenient that my mother-in-law and I decided to go shopping at the gorgeous, indoor, Polaris mall. Our husbands on the other hand, we trapped at the Ohio State football game where the weather was so bad there was a game delay, leading them to eventually come back to the hotel and watch the game on TV.

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 The Columbus Zoo play area at Polaris Fashion Place is one of the many experience-shopping options available for families at the Columbus mall. Courtesy of Glimcher Realty Trust

While they still had a great time, I feel that my MIL and I got the better portion. The Polaris mall has an amazing variety of stores that we don’t get here on the East side of the Ohio Valley. Not to mention, they had a huge play area for the kids that Sophie totally loved. The most annoying part though, as is the pet peeve of every place place, is there there were bigger kids, totally disregarding the height limit for the play place, bullying the small kids. Like a good helicopter mom, I followed Sophie around and made sure no punks pushed her out of the way or yelled at her.

Later that evening , J and I were able to sneak in a spontaneous date night, as the rest of our crew wanted to dine in and order take out. We went to the Bonefish grille for the first time and it was delicious. We both got fish tacos, giving us a feel like  we were on vacation. It was a fun weekend, and I am glad we went even though it is always tough to travel with young kids.

Wild

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A few weeks ago, while my parents were here, we went to a wild animal park out in Amish country. Sophie wasn’t crazy about the animals coming right up to our wagon, but Cora surprisingly loved it! We watched as her eyes followed each animal. Sophie clung in desperation on to my mother, then eventually fell asleep. 14231177_10207479815419061_6952406218945733448_o

Cora eventually passed out too, but the rest of us enjoyed the trip. Afterward we went out for some authentic Amish cooking!

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It was a good opportunity to practice some photography too, though I didn’t take many pictures myself because I was strapped down by Cora. However, my dad and brother snapped many shots both with digital cameras and an old Nikon N70 film camera of mine. It was my first camera, given to me by my dad, and I was happy to see both he and my little brother take interest in it.

 

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{The grainy pictures in this post, such as the one above, are the film photos}

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The farm we went to was at Walnut Creek and it truly was a great experience. A little gem, right in the middle of Ohio!

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Last week was a blur of trying to get caught up with housework. We all have weeks like that. The one good thing was that I was able to get together with some local moms, and have them over in our new house for some coffee and donuts.
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I had been having a tough week with Cora, the house was a wreck, and I had a friend hurt my feelings. I was a hormonal, emotional wreck. The local community of moms had no idea how I was feeling and yet just their presence, lighthearted conversation and fellowship completely cheered me up. As much as I struggle living outside of the Golden State, those are the moments that remind me why I decided to settle here in the first place.

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In other news, Cora is basically crawling. She can army crawl like a banshee, and can crawl short distances on her knees. Physically, she is so far ahead of where Sophie was at this age. She impresses us every day! Who knows what God has in store for a girl with her determination…

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One of the cons of such determination is that it makes her a fighter against every thing. We have had to resort to “crying it out” with her at nap and bed time. Sophie was easily soothed by my voice or my touch; Cora screams whether she is being held or left in a crib. Crying it out allows her to work through her tantrum and gives me the permission to separate myself from her fits. It helps me to calm down and not take her screaming rage personally. In fact, I would even go so far as to say the CIO method has made me more patient and loving toward her. We let her cry in 10 minute increments before going in to pat her on the back for a few minutes.  We repeat the cycle until she falls asleep. The longest she has cried is 50 minutes, but it has gotten to be less and less time the more we have practiced letting her cry it out.
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When she is awake she is such a happy, charismatic kid! There are many families in our little community who have kids around her and Sophie’s age, so I can’t wait to strengthen some of my own relationships with other moms, which will hopefully lead to solid friendships for my kids.

How do you expand your network of local parents?

The Day I Did Dishes in the Kiddie Pool

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Before you ask, Yes, I have been taking my meds… and this is a story of how I turned a bad mom moment into a good mom moment.

It all started while Sophie was playing with chalk — well, it actually started early that morning when I woke up already feeling irritable and overwhelmed. Flash forward to Sophie coloring with chalk, one of the messiest summer activities. Cora was crying, we had a sink [and several counters] covered in dishes from a dinner party, and I knew Sophie was going to get brightly colored chalk all over the house if I didn’t clean her soon.

 

I set Cora in her crib, She was a bit fussy, but I knew she was sleepy and prayed that she would just fall asleep while I tackled the other problems around the house. I wanted to bathe Sophie in the sink, which I already said was filled with dishes. How can I wash both at the same time? I brought the dishes out and put them in Sophie’s kiddie pool as it filled with water, then I grabbed some soap, Sophie, and a sponge.

It took me 15 minutes to scrub all the dishes, and when I went back into the house, Cora had fallen asleep. So I went back outside and let Sophie play in the dirty water for as long as she wanted.

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Once Sophie was finished and asking to go inside, we emptied the pool, then went in and loaded the dishwasher with our pool dishes. A beautiful butterfly kept us company the entire time. So, in a moment when I was feeling overwhelmed, stressed, and ready to shout… I did some thing that my toddler thought was awesome, while still managing to get the baby to sleep and the dishes done. And that is the story of when I did my dishes in the kiddie pool.

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