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December 2010
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February 2011

Project Life: keep it real



Since the start of the year I’ve been enjoying popping over to the Big Picture Classes message boards and checking out all the ideas on the Project Life board. I am normally not a “chatroom” person but something about this community is inspiring to me.

Welcome new readers who’ve checked in from BPC, I’ll be posting regular Project 365 updates, ideas and links I love. I hope you’ll visit again.

A reminder: unless you’re like no one I’ve ever met, odds are you don’t smile every minute of every day, and neither do your kids. Keep it real …

This week’s idea is to bring your online life into your album by printing out weekly (or monthly) lists of your Status updates, Tweets and what you’ve Googled. Those tell their own stories, don’t they?

p.s. It’s not too late to join us!


Friday Favorites & This week on Google

Favorite snack: apple slices and almond butter

{a funny thing is happening, things I used to dislike for not being “sweet enough” I’m now acquiring a taste for. Almond butter compared to “normal” sugary peanut butter was like grainy cardboard to me until I cut back on sugar. We had a surplus of apple slices that didn’t fit onto the drying trays and were out of peanut butter … and bread – so I made almond apple sandwiches. Sam, Jake and I had seconds, thirds … and bought  more apple butter today}.

Favorite scrapbooking tool: my stapler + colored staples

{born of laziness, perhaps but now I love it. Example below. }


Favorite kitchen tool: my Pampered Chef chopper

{A friend of mine has the Pampered Chef hookup, so let me know if you’d like one, too}

Favorite kid: just kidding whichever one slept through the night

Website of the week:

{Don’t miss out on this if your baby isn’t new or if you aren’t down with homemade bay food, there are awesome snack idea and easy meal ideas on here.}

This week on Google:

How to get poop out of carpet

Can you compost eggshells?

Easy salmon recipes

Can you compost apples?

Can you compost What to compost

National Room of One’s Own Day


April Henry

Oregon Beach vacations

United States of Americana

Kurt B. Reighley

*It occurs to me that this is a lot like posting a picture of me gazing at my navel. But I even like reading random grocery lists people dropped at Winco so I’m weird like that.

**For Project Lifers, this could make a cool journaling idea.

{What’s working: synergy & free stuff!}


Jake stairs

While there is plenty that isn’t working, my immune system for example, there is so much that IS. I love the idea of sharing what is working and hope you’ll join me in focusing on the positive and sharing your ideas.

Every.Single.Day I learn something from people that they mention in passing, a tip, an idea or a new way of looking at something. It’s why Parent Hacks is one of my favorite websites, parents simply post something simple that works for them even if it seems too obvious to be helpful. I always have their link on the right side of my page under “Rad Parent Stuff.”

So, focusing on “what’s working” is working!

Also what’s working is the synergy that happens when you set your intentions, share them with people who are supportive and then work steadily toward your dreams. This is happening too many ways to share here but one example is yesterday, during dinner, Matt asked me how my class proposal is going. I was glad he asked because I wasn’t sure just how supportive he was of the whole idea, I told him I was really close but didn’t want to put it out there until I hit that “YES!” moment where it all came together. I also was struggling to come up with the right name. After awhile he suggested: “I got it! Heart in a Jar.”

Yes! (When I tell you more about the class, it’ll make sense.) I sent a quick mental memo to God to help me figure out if that’s really the right title for the class.

After we got the boys to sleep, I got on the computer and Matt clicked on OPB and suddenly out of the speakers came these words: “heart in a jar.”

We were quiet for a minute and then Matt said: “I’d take that as a sign.”

So, this next week I’ll be working on dialing in the journaling class I’m going to teach: Heart in a Jar.


Another thing that’s working for me is winging it. As a OCDish planner I used to think if I didn’t already know how to do something I had to have a plan in place before moving forward. False. My children have taught me that the ability to go with the flow is as important to staying sane as maintaining my sense of humor.

I’ve expanded ways I’m willing to wing it and am pleasantly surprised that the Planning Police haven’t issued a single citation, nor did the world as I know it end. In fact, life is getting even more fun.

One of my sayings, the kind that I suppose my kids will think of long after I’m gone is: “It’s free to ask.”

I’ve been wanting a photo editing program since Sam was a newborn. I finally “winged it” and searched online to find a free trial copy of Adobe Photoshop Essentials and starting teaching myself a few minutes at a time-  two weeks of 15 minute sessions later I learned how to do something that will save me nearly $70 by the end of the year – turns out that’ll cover the cost of the program!

(If you’re wondering, what I wanted to learn, it was how to splice two pictures into one 4x6 print to upload for my Project 365 book, above is proof that I got it figured out. I also learned how to add text to photos a few minutes at a time).

Along the same lines, for years I coveted a writing program that would be a solution to my organization issues – all my notes, research, drafts, character information, scene details all in one place! At the Northwest Author Series last week April Henry shared that the program “Scrivener” works for her. Instead of waiting to know all about it, I did a quick study of it and decided to get a beta trial version before committing to buying it – already I love it and have started writing my novel again. So, so stoked!

Anyway, that’s what’s working around here – how about you?

Spinning leftovers into souffles … or something like that



This is what leftovers can look like. Trust me, I wouldn’t know that if we weren’t doing this budget thing. Tonight I had $11 to buy whole milk for the baby, regular milk for Matt and Sam and soymilk for me, and coffee. (Cheap coffee and non-organic milk if you’re wondering).

Leftover spaghetti noodles, leftover chicken, peanut butter, onion, ginger, garlic … see recipe below.

What to make for dinner when you can’t just run out and grab something? I had a package of smoked salmon and eggs. We had scrambled eggs too recently. So I hit up Google: “easy recipes for salmon.” I must’ve clicked too many times because I web-wandered into a soufflé recipe. “Yeah, I’ll try that one!” I had the basic ingredients, what’s the problem? The problem, it turns out, is that with dinner hour being our Insanity Hour where everyone gets their crazy on I have no business cooking anything that requires “constant stirring.” But I was committed, I already separated the eggs.

It was more quiche than soufflé, but all four of us liked it so there you go .. .

Linguine with Chicken and peanut sauce

– original recipe from Heather Franklin

8 oz. dried linguine (cook as directed on package) {or leftover already cooked noodles}

14 oz. can chicken broth

2 Tbsp. water or orange juice

2 Tbsp soy sauce

1 Tbsp corn starch

1/4 tsp ground red pepper

a few shakes of curry powder

1/2 cup peanut butter

1 Tbsp cooking oil

2 cloves garlic {or 6}

2 chicken breasts, slice or chunk {or whatever leftover meat/tofu you have}

1 medium onion sliced thin

2 tsp ginger

1 green bell pepper {or not}

In saucepan stir together chicken broth, water/OJ, soy sauce, cornstarch, curry, red pepper. Stir in peanut butter until smooth. Keep warm.

In wok – heat oil, onion, garlic, ginger until onion is tender. Remove onion mixture and cook chicken in wok. add pepper if using one, cook until crisp. Stir sauce, chicken, onion mixture until thick and bubbly. Spoon mixture over pasta.

Salmon Soufflé – click link for recipe. I did a lot different from the original recipe, which explains the unsouffleness, but I’ll try this again another  day year.

Nerdy or not, be yourself!


AASPN_OpportunityKnocks_7- Ali Edwards

I have no idea why I’ve been getting hourly spammy email notifications of comments on a blog post I wrote nearly a year ago, but after my initial confusion and subsequent irritation, I am grateful. Truth is, I’ve been busy keeping up my personal blog and neglecting my website because I didn’t love the stock style and didn’t know how to navigate the site.

This year I’m taking things on even if they intimidate me, things like re-designing this site into a more authentic reflection of me and my work. This may not be the most professional looking writerly blog but it is 100 percent me. And those real-deal authors are the ones I prefer to meet anyway. Speaking of which … I was incredibly inspired at yesterday’s Northwest Author Series event featuring April Henry.

I do this thing, though, when I’m excited about meeting a real-life published author I admire and end up talking too much, too fast and use the word “ummmmm” to describe a writing project I can normally spend hours discussing.

When I finally got my chance to meet Anne Lamott, I mostly just tried not to vomit from excitement. True story.

So, today, while I didn’t puke on anyone, I did geek out on author April Henry. First of all I took 12 pages of notes in my journal full of her ideas, quotes and jumping off points for my own writing projects inspired by her talk.

I also for some reason felt compelled to show her the pages of notes I took. It’s not at all that I wanted some gold star for being a good pupil, my notes are hardly legible so it’d be a B+ at best, but I wanted her to see how inspiring she was to me, how much I thought she had to say worthy of remembering. I also thought that if I were in her shoes, which I intend to someday be, it would be wonderful to see that what I said mattered so much to someone. I remember once another favorite author of mine, Christina Katz, posted a picture a reader sent in of her book marked up with sticky tabs. I thought it was so cool that it still mattered to her that her words encouraged someone else.

After all, nerdy or not, it’s kind of the point, right?

In addition to spending the afternoon surrounded by creative people with goals like mine, I loved that this lovely, smart, creative person in pursuit of her own passion looked me in the eye and said she believed I would be published. My heart soared. When I got home I saw she’d written this in my new copy of her book: Circles of Confusion -

“Nathalie – I hope next time I see you you sign a book for me!”

For anyone who lives their dream in real life, these words carry a lot of weight … it doesn’t hurt my feelings that she’s a New York Times best selling author either.

‘Round here



Jake is loving eating what we’re eating. I’m still adjusting to the fact that he can. I didn’t factor him in when I cooked curried rice and chicken. I gave him a tiny bite at first and ended up realizing I am officially feeding three hungry guys. Wow.

Jake continues to adore his older brother, but is also annoyed by him at times as illustrated in the following:



Sam is turning into quite the little personal trainer. He does my “30 day Shred” videos with me and pays close attention, really close.

He forced his dad off the couch last night to “teach" him “Mama and Sam’s exercises.” It reminded me of my dad who used to make us do morning calisthenics, sometimes on snowy balconies if we were in Bend with the Bakos’ and Benkos. So wish I had a picture of that to share with you. I think there were moonboots involved.

Anyway, Sam’s leading his dad through the routine, pretty close to accurately and suddenly says: “And now we pull our pants up and down, up and down.” He said this as he’s tugging at his waist band. Matt gave me the “What the??” look.

“I have no idea.” I shrugged. But then it dawned on me … my workout pants are getting too big and I have to keep pulling them up.

I don’t have any new blog links to share today because I’ve been working on my book report! I haven’t done a formal book review in forever, which I consider a condensed book review. The geek in me is thrilled to have this homework reviewing:

United States of Americana by Kurt B. Reighley

I’ve wanted a book-reviewing gig for a long time but have found them hard to land, so I was delighted to get an email from an editor asking if I wanted to take a shot at it.

Cooking with Sam … Dora, Diego and the Naked Chef



Cooking with Dora, Diego and my own little Naked Chef. At first glance this might seem rather, uh, unsanitary but we’re on our 3rd round of potty-training and this is what’s working so I’m cool with it.

This week Sam picked this “Silly Face Salad” to make for Jake’s birthday dinner.



1/4 cup orange juice

1 green onion, sliced (white portion only)

1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice

2 tsp Dijon mustard

2 Tablespoons olive oil

2 carrots, peeled

2 cups shredded lettuce or whole lettuce leaves

1/2 cup grape tomatoes, halved or thin wedges of tomato

1/4 cup green or black olives, halved

Fresh herb sprigs such as dill, parsley or basil

1. For dressing combine in a blender: orange juice, green onion, lemon juice and mustard. Blend until onion is minced. With blender running on low speed, slowly add olive oil. Transfer to a small container; set aside until ready to serve.

2. Cut carrots into small bite-size slices and/or use a peeler to create thin carrot ribbons. On 4 salad plates, place lettuce leaves and use carrots and other vegetables and herbs to make silly faces.

3. When ready to serve, drizzle with dressing.

Makes 4 servings.

{What’s working: bagged baked goods}




I saw this idea on a favorite blog of mine, Erin Goodman’s “exhale. return to center.” and wrote for permission to copy it to use here.She cheerfully said “yes” and told me that there’s a whole blog carnival thing on this site: We are THAT family about “Works for me Wednesdays.” Love it.

I love reading tips and tricks about how people handle the most ordinary of things, so I figured I’d share some of mine in hopes that you join in with sharing some of yours.

I’ve been making our own bread since I figured out how to use my machine. My friend Booker was over while I was carefully measuring and re-measuring my ingredients. He said his old roommate used to make bread every day but didn’t remember him being so careful with the measurements. Well, when you’ve made enough weapon loafs you learn to stick with what works. Later he told me that he remembered his roommate used to keep the dry ingredients pre-measured in baggies and that’s why it looked like he just dumped them in and pressed a few buttons.

Genius. I wrote all I need to do on the bags and am good to go. With my little helpers it’s nice to cut any corner I can so we can still cook together without all the extra clean up time.

Works great for scone mixes too. I’ve been pre-measuring the base ingredients and just adding whatever sweet thing to them and they are the bomb. Even with whole wheat flour.

{Wellness Journey – Week One}


Week One page

My goal is … Wellness.

Even though it’s not intended to be a self-paced course that’s how I’m approaching my Wellness Journey class. I figure this is a life long goal anyhow but this class is putting some creativity and purpose behind my goals and I’m grateful for that.

Here is my page from week one, it was fun to learn something new as this is my first all digital scrapbook page. The teacher, Lisa Cohen, created the template so really all I did was drop my picture and text in there – you wouldn’t believe how long it took me to figure that out though!

I can’t believe it’s already been three weeks – of course, I can’t weigh myself to know if I’ve made progress other than to tell you that I’m feeling much better – which I suppose is the whole point!

Sam working out with me

{These are Sam’s weights, he has since graduated to two LEGOS in each hand}.

So there’s that. I’m also incorporating more exercise into my days and hate it far less than I thought I would. I’m not exactly “gargling my heart” per Jillian Michaels but am “Shredding” along none the less.

I decided to focus more on the active wellness part class and making sustainable changes rather than losing myself in the sedentary portions of the class like participating in the chat board and staying current on the scrapbook part of the class – I treat those as rewards for time spent working out! Better than food – who knew?

Originally I’d set a goal to lose 35 pounds by my 35th birthday. That’s not going to happen. So instead I plan to embrace, and continue, the journey and focus on the Wellness aspect and keeping living toward the healthiest version of myself I can create.

Speaking of my birthday – how’s this for a cool gift: Grocery Outlet is slated for opening on my birthday!

Why I shine my sink


Jake's sink bath (2)

When I lived with my parents, my mom was a super neat, tidy and organized person. I was not. I meant well, but I really just didn’t care. Or, that’s what I thought. My mom and I would spend hours cleaning my room after which I’d go to bed in my clean room, with fresh sheets, and my mom would say: “Now, doesn’t that feel better?” I always answered with a shrug, “No, not really.”

But it did. I think my mom knew about feng shui before it was a thing here in the States, she knew that creating a comfortable home mattered and one of the ways she showed her love was by making sure we lived in a clean, well-ran household. We never worried about what was going to be for dinner, it just appeared, delicious and nutritious. We never worried about running out of toilet paper, soap, or milk – they just appeared near the  toilet, in the shower and in the fridge.

I kind of assumed that when I “grew up” I would manage my household the way she did. I suppose I thought I’d just naturally absorb her way of making homemaking look easy.

Except I didn’t. Until I found this little thing online to literally help me learn how to do what she did so naturally.

Since I discovered FLYlady, I’ve been all born-again Christian about it. (I don’t mean that in an offensive way but to say that I’m enthusiastic and want to tell anyone who’ll listen – but I’ve hesitated to do it on my blog because so much of it is so corny and for many it’s like: WHAT is the big deal? It’s just cleaning and keeping house.

But it’s been my least favorite part of this stay-at-home mom gig because I kind of stink(ed) at it. Mostly I hated feeling like everything was always a mess – not just a little clean up after the kids go to bed mess, but the kind of mess where if someone came over I always stepped out onto the front porch instead of inviting them in.

Life is too short to worry about fingerprints on windows. At least, I think so. However, I’ve found a way to not worry about it but still enjoy living in a less chaotic, comfortable and cozy home. And it’s because of this lady Marla Cilley aka FLYlady.

I have to warn you – a lot of the stuff is so, so corny. So corny. But I don’t care because the improvement in my life, and my family’s, is so significant I can’t mock it anymore. Well, I can but the joke was kind of on me.

I always felt like I had to do “everything” everyday which resulted in me getting very little done. Which meant I entertained on the front porch or with a frenzied cleaning spree shortly before company arrived. So not fun. So not relaxing.

What appeals to me about this system is:

- well, for one thing that it’s a system – you know I love lists

- creating and maintaining consistent routines.

- not making a big deal out of things – simply do what needs to be done on the day you planned to do it, leave room for life to happen and keep going

- make your bed every day

- And, finally – simply shine your sink. I know. You’d have to read more about it but her basic premise is that it’s the center of things – if your goal is to keep your sink clean – the rest of the house follows. It’s like the Kale chips I wrote about, you have to try it to believe it. It really works. In order for me to keep my sink shiny, I empty the dishwasher first thing in the morning so I can fill it through out the day. In order to do that, I run the dishwasher every night after dinner. If there’s anything leftover, it gets hand-washed and put away. Sometimes this means I stay up a little longer than I’d like, seriously 15 minutes – but it makes all the difference in my day to start with a clean slate. When Sam was a baby, I used to have to clean the high chair tray from last night’s dinner almost every morning and I felt like I was perpetually behind. I hated it.

This shiny sink thing has become such a habit now, it’s truly easy to stay ahead of things. I hope this doesn’t come across as braggy in anyway because there is plenty about my house that is NOT shiny and clean. I’m just enjoying the progress so far and if something like this can bring someone else peace of mind as well, I’ll share it.

A bonus of keeping up on the sink thing was being able to bathe Kuby in it for as long as he could fit!

There’s plenty more to say about it, but I’ll finish with this:

I’ve been a FLYlady flunkie several times before it “took” which is to say before I stopped arguing with her in my head about why her ideas wouldn’t work for me and my life … I also kept taking on too much before realizing that the first step really is spending 7-15 minutes a day decluttering each “zone” so that you’re not just cleaning on top of clutter.

Speaking of clutter, I’ll also warn you that her website does seem “cluttered,” ironic I know – but it’s worth a peek if you’ve ever wondered to yourself why something that is so easy for many is hard for you.