Friday, August 15, 2014

Summer Park Photos

When Penny was old enough to sit up, I started taking her out to the park or the backyard to get a few photos with my nice camera. I'm definitely not a skilled photographer, and I kind of let that get in my way and stopped getting the nice camera out as often. We also didn't have access to sprawling green space in Chicago (another excuse!). But I love the pictures I took of Penny as a baby and toddler! I am totally kicking myself for never doing this in France. So when we were heading to this gorgeous local park this week and I managed to get the girls in sweet coordinating outfits, I decided to stop making excuses and bring along my camera. I have a long way to go with photography skills, and it is so much harder to photograph two kids than one, but here are a few favorites.




This Olive sister expression is priceless! 














Friday, August 8, 2014

14 Weeks



Weeks pregnant: 14
Baby size: lemon
Total weight gain: +7 lb
Total waist gain: +5"

Physical stuff: I'd say I'm 90% back to normal in terms of nausea stuff. Still the occasionally icky evening, but really nothing to complain about. I have had a few headaches the last couple of weeks–always in the same spot on the back left side of my head, just above my neck. It's pretty typical for me to get second trimester headaches, but deep pressure right in the painful spot helps, as does chiropractic care. As far as the bump goes, I'm in that awkward in-between phase where there's enough of a baby bump to not quite fit in my clothes right but not quite enough bump to be obviously pregnant. I always feel kind of awkward wearing maternity stuff at this point, but it's just too uncomfortable not to. The belly band is not doing it for me–I can't stand how it moves around and is so itchy. I picked up a pair of shorts and some capris/skinnies on consignment to get me through the end of summer and into fall, and I officially put away all my non-maternity-friendly summer stuff. I'm kind of lucky that I've had the exact same season timeline for maternity with all three babies, but I've still picked up items here and there each time (almost always secondhand for second and third babies). I don't feel too bad when I'm buying used, and I know I can pass it on when I'm finished. I also feel like some of the stuff I bought when I was pregnant with Penny is just kind of old and tired.

Emotional stuff: It's been fun talking about the baby with Penny. I've been telling her little things here and there to get her ready and help her understand how the baby will fit into our family. This morning we talked about bedtime and how Daddy will probably have to put both her and Olive to bed when the baby comes because the baby will need mommy milk at bedtime, and I'm the only one who can give that. We've also talked a lot about nursing–the Dr. Sears children's books are great conversation starters and have helped her understand a lot of this stuff. I think she will do beautifully–she's such a sensitive and caring sister, and I'm excited to see her experience a new baby again now that she is a bit older.

Food: I've been struggling to find good snacks. Mid-morning and mid-afternoon, I feel like I need to eat something, but the things that sound good are not things I generally have on hand–like granola bars, muffins, breads–carbs basically. I like to make that kind of stuff from scratch, and it just hasn't happened too much lately. I need to make some time for this kind of thing, especially because the girls love to put on their aprons and help me in the kitchen. Otherwise, I've been eating normally for the most part.

Baby prep: My 20-week ultrasound is scheduled for September 15th, so we will find out then what we're having. I'm so excited to find out! All the fall consignment sales are starting up now here since school starts in a week or two. Unfortunately, I think they will be about over by the time we find out what we're having, so I won't be able to take advantage of that chance to get some newborn stuff. If we have a girl, we have tons of clothes, but I have now figured out exactly what I like to dress a baby in for all of the infant phases, so I might still have an excuse to trade out some baby clothes for different items. And if we have a boy, of course I will have to get some clothes. But I will just have to visit the resale shops and mom-to-mom resale networks instead of the sales.

Birth prep: I had my second prenatal appointment this week. It was pretty quick and easy. My midwife found baby on the doppler right away and heard a strong 160 heartbeat. We also went over my 3-day food diary that she requires. She gave me an A+ rating on my diet. Heh.

Gender stuff: I've been wavering a bit this week. Part of me feels like God might give us a boy to mix things up a little. I've heard parents of 2 girls or 2 boys say that they were hoping to just have another of the same because they didn't have the energy to change course at that point. I don't really feel that way–I still feel energized about babies and would enjoy having a new challenge. Plus, Penny is really hoping for a boy, so I don't want her to be disappointed. But I don't know. I don't really have a strong feeling one way or another, but I do think the first instinct is probably the most powerful one. And I still very much feel like it is a total win either way.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

12 Weeks



Weeks pregnant: 12
Baby size: plum
Total weight gain: +4 lb
Total waist gain: ? Slacker. Still haven't measured this.

Physical stuff: I have slowly been feeling better this month. I still feel sick late in the day, but it's been pushing back later and later for the most part. Still some good days and some not-so-good days. I've been tired of course–sometimes I will close my eyes for a bit when the girls nap. I've slowly gotten back into yoga in the last couple weeks. I didn't find a yoga class in France, and it took me awhile to join a gym here, but I finally did and have taken a couple yoga classes there. I felt really worn out after this morning's class and have felt kind of crummy since, so I need to be careful not to push it too much.

Emotional stuff: We filled Penny in on the new baby news, and she is super excited. She has been asking for another baby for awhile. I am excited for her to be a little older and more aware of what is going on this time. She brought the ultrasound picture in for show and tell at school this week.

Food: I'm starting to get back to normal with food, or at least pregnancy normal for me. I really try to listen to my body and give it what it needs. I am eating more meat than usual, but most really good pastured meat. And lots of whole grains, fruits, and veggies. I am drinking a cup of coffee once or twice a week. I didn't drink caffeine with my other two pregnancies, but it's happening this time. I couldn't stomach it for most of the first trimester, and that is when apparently it slightly increases your risk of miscarriage. At this point, I think it's pretty much deemed safe, and I've got two kids to keep up with.

Baby prep: The main baby prep thing on my mind for the moment is room/sleeping arrangements. We have 3 bedrooms on the second floor and one in the attic. Penny has the attic room now. On the second floor, we have the master and then two other bedrooms which adjoin with a Jack & Jill bathroom. Olive is in one of those, and the other is our guest room. We really don't want to lose the guest room because our family all lives far away and likes to visit/stay with us. Especially when new baby comes, we will have lots of visitors come to help and stay here. The baby will be in our room for awhile, but I'm already thinking about how/when to switch up the other sleeping arrangements. Penny is in a full size bed, and Olive is in a crib. I'm thinking we'll move Olive up to Penny's room where they will share, but I'm not sure whether Olive will be ready for that at barely 2. I also don't want to cut it too close to when new baby needs his/her own room because I don't want Olive to feel like she's being kicked out for the baby. I'm also trying to decide whether the big girls will share the full size bed or if it's better to get a twin bed for Olive to add to that room. No decision made–just thinking about options at this point. Would love input on how this kind of thing worked for other families.

Birth prep: I haven't had another prenatal appt yet, but I did have my first trimester screening yesterday. I didn't do the first trimester screen with Olive, but for some reason I wanted to do it this time. I can't even really say why. Official results will come back next week, but it sounds like things looked good so far. It was fun to see the baby on ultrasound, but there's not much to say about it really.

Gender stuff: I am still feeling girl, and Josh still thinks boy. There is this "angle of the dangle" theory out there claiming to be able to tell the gender at the 12-week ultrasound. What do you guys think? I'm not even sure I know what I'm looking at here...

Friday, July 4, 2014

4th of July Dessert Recaps

 We have a family tradition of making a flag-themed dessert every year for the 4th of July. It started the first year Josh and I were together, and we carried on from there. I have a little red and white starred photo album where I keep the photos. I took a few phone shots of the past photos (sorry for the awful photo quality) so I could share.

2004: at my in-laws' in Missouri. We were 21. Standard yellow cake with flag design.

2005 MO again. Another standard flag cake.

2006 at our first apartment in Virginia. I made a fruit tart completely from scratch, including the crust. Josh had to take the picture. Recently engaged.

2007 MO again. Another plain 'ole flag cake. I think the stripes look really good in this one.

2008: Newlyweds at our first house in VA. Slice of leftover wedding cake that we doctored up.

2009 Cooperstown, NY. We took a first anniversary trip to the Fingerlakes. Made a flag out of our fruit and yogurt breakfast.

2010 at our house in VA. Pregnant with Penny. Made a strawberry pie with flag design crust.

2011 in-laws' MO. Cupcakes.

2012 at our second house, which was in Omaha. Pregnant with Olive. Ice cream cake layered with brownies. I think this was my favorite dessert so far.

2013 at Josh's brother's house in OH (we lived in Chicago at the time). Olive's first 4th. My niece joined in the photo too. It was an angel food cake with raspberry filling to make the stripes.
This year, we are at our third house, which is also in Omaha. Penny helped me make a chocolate chip cookie cake (this recipe), which we decorated with whipped cream and fruit. I am participating in Plastic-Free July again this year. I managed to make the cake plastic-free by buying from the bulk bins or in glass/paper. I used sucanat brown sugar for the first time–it was available in bulk, and I thought I'd try it. It doesn't clump like most brown sugar, and I loved it. The berries did come in plastic but from Costco where at least the berry-to-packaging ratio is decent.



Monday, June 30, 2014

9 Weeks



Guess what? We're having another baby! I am due February 1st, just under a month after Penny turns 4 and Olive turns 2. I guess we are on the two-year plan. We are planning for this to be the last baby and are so excited for our family to be complete!

Weeks pregnant: 9
Baby size: green olive
Total weight gain: +1 lb. I started out about 5-7 pounds over where I started with the other two, so that is the little gut you see in this photo–it's not baby!
Total waist gain: ?

Physical stuff: Oh my gosh, you guys. I have been miserable these last few weeks. I was feeling great until the day week 6 hit, and then it ran me over like a freight train. I've been super nauseated, vomiting, and dry-heaving like never before. With the first two, I was definitely nauseated, but I never actually threw up, and I don't remember any heaving. Most days I can get through the morning okay, but by mid-late afternoon, I am a drooling mess on the couch. Thank goodness the girls are pretty good about playing together and entertaining themselves. Josh has had to completely take care of dinner and bedtime for both of them. It's not been fun for any of us really. The last couple of days have been a bit better, so I am hoping maybe the worst is over. It is usually worst for me up to 9 weeks, and then completely better by 12 or 13.

Emotional stuff: We were surprised to find out that I was pregnant, but only surprised in that it happened so quickly (as with Olive). Once we found a house in Omaha, we decided to become open to a third baby. A few weeks later, we found out we were expecting. It was actually the day we moved in–I was unpacking a bathroom box and found some pregnancy tests. I thought "hmm, maybe I should take one of these." Then, "Hey, Josh, this is interesting." I wasn't charting this time because  my thermometer was in storage. We are super excited. I love that the kids will be close in age. I think a 4-year span from youngest to oldest will be great for us. I also suddenly felt this huge sense of closure/peace/decisiveness about this being the last one. I didn't know before how many kids I wanted–I knew I wanted at least two, but I just wasn't sure exactly. I was afraid I wouldn't ever feel confidently "done", but I definitely do, and I'm so relieved to feel that way and be able to go through this pregnancy, birth, etc. with that feeling of closure. I feel like I can really savor it that way. But I am also excited to move on as a family, to purge baby stuff, to eventually have my body back to myself, to have kids close enough in age that they can relate to each other and do similar-kinds of activities. All of that is good, and I'm completely at peace with it. I think three will be a little jumbly, a little chaotic, a little more than we can comfortably handle, but not complete chaos.

Food: I have completely been letting my gut take over all food-related decisions. I am not worrying about what I am eating right now–just trying to get through the first trimester. It's been lots of carby-things. I have to have a bagel with cream cheese and jam for breakfast every morning. I have also been eating tons of noodle soup. You know that kind that comes in the little red box? It's not quite that bad, but I make a homemade version with egg noodles, jarred stock concentrate (that "Better-than-Boullion" stuff), and frozen veggies. At least there are some veggies in it, right? Saltine crackers, pretzels, lemon popsicles, ice chips, turkey sandwiches with lots of mayo–I've been buying the roasted turkey breast from Whole Foods that they actually roast there. It is ridiculously expensive, but no nitrates or processed junk, and I don't have to worry about listeria. I can handle chicken usually, cheeseburgers, pizza, tortilla chips, bread, strong peppermints... Some of it comes up anyway, which is why I have only gained 1 pound. I cannot stomach anything sweet (except fruit and tart popsicles). Any kind of dessert/sweet/chocolate is completely off the table. Water makes me pukey unless I drink it in small amounts with food, especially lemon water (ugh!). Even the smell of coffee makes me gag. Eggs, no. Anything spicy or particularly flavorful, no. Cheese, no (except cheddar on a cheeseburger). Also no to vegetables, especially raw, and pork or fish. I pretty much just want to gorge on cheeseburgers and chicken pesto pizza all day.

Nursing/boobs: Olive weaned a few weeks ago (maybe 2 or 3?). She was down to twice/day, just before nap and before bed. Once we moved into our house, Josh started putting her down at night, so she stopped nursing then. Then over a weekend, he put her down for naps too. After a whole weekend of not nursing, I was able to put her down for a nap without nursing, and then she was weaned. I think she was ready, and I was definitely ready. I had been feeling ready for awhile, but I didn't want to wean her during so many transitions and travels earlier this year. I also definitely didn't want to drag it on to the point where I started to really dislike it like I did with Penny. So this worked well. I also cannot imagine nursing when I feel so crummy. No soreness since weaning, although the "girls" do look a little deflated.

Baby prep: There were two things I right away knew I wanted to get for the baby, and I have managed to get them both already! I wanted to replace my Rock N Play sleeper/bassinet that I had used with Olive and then loaned to my SIL. We moved and she was still using it, so I just let her keep it. I found another one on CL last week for a good price in really good shape, so I got that. I also got a stash of Lil Joeys newborn diapers! Those worked the best with tiny Olive and were the favorite choice of myself and Josh. Someone local was selling a whole bunch of them, so I went for it. They are all yellow and so super tiny–I forget so quickly how tiny babies are. I really wanted to get a genuine newborn stash this time because I resorted to disposables (begrudgingly) for a short time with both of my other kids because they were just too small to fit into most of what I had, even other newborn diapers! With Penny, I just didn't know enough to have newborn diapers. And then with Olive, I sought professional advice and still couldn't make it work for the first week. I had newborn prefolds with x-small covers, which were ridiculously huge on her. I also had a couple BG newborn diapers, which were also too big until her cord fell off (no cord cutout, BG? Why not?). I scrambled on my local swap and grabbed a few lil joeys and a few Grovia NB a few days after Olive was born. They both worked, but the Lil Joeys were a better fit with no leaks. So now I am prepared–hopefully! I think I have about 25-30 newborn AIOs, mostly lil joeys.

Birth prep: Since we lived in Omaha when I found out I was pregnant with Olive and for half of that pregnancy, I had already done a lot of research on birth options here two years ago. Home birth is not an option for me in Nebraska– CNMs are not legally allowed to attend births at home here (one of only two states), and I'm not comfortable giving birth without a CNM. But there is a beautiful and fantastic birth center here that will be a great place for me to deliver. The only downside is that it's about 20 minutes away. Hopefully that won't be an issue since I tend to deliver quickly. If I had the choice to deliver at home or at the birth center, I'm not sure what I would decide. There are some perks to a birth center–no prep/birth supplies and the big built-in tubs are much nicer and easier to contend with than the inflatable ones you rent at home. But the downsides are having to get there and having to then get home shortly after the birth with a teeny baby in winter.

Gender stuff: I am guessing girl this time. Josh thinks boy. So far I'm one for two, and Josh is two for two. I should find out at the end of September.

Anything I am missing or you are dying to know?

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Safety Razor

In my journey towards plastic-free/waste-free, I bought an "old-fashioned" safety razor last fall. The one I bought was new and made by a German company called Merkur. I was a little skeptical, because, I mean, there must be a reason these went out of style, right? If they were better than the cartridge razors everyone uses now, why would people have stopped using them? Well, I'm pretty sure the answer is marketing and herd-mentality, because the "old-fashioned" razor is, in my opinion, hands-down a better option in so many ways. I really can't think of a single benefit cartridge or disposable razors have over the original. Let's take a look at what I'm talking about, since many readers might never have seen a safety razor. Here is what it looks like assembled.


And here is an image that shows the components to this razor and how it comes apart. There are two separate razors in this image. The one I bought is like the one on the right. The razor blade is placed between the top two pieces, and then the handle screws to the top piece to hold everything together.

The other neat thing about mine is that you can disassemble it, flip over the middle piece, and then screw it all back together–this way the blade is actually not exposed at all, so it's nice to store it that way for safety or travel. Just be sure to handle the blade by the short ends so that you don't cut yourself.

All the pieces are stainless steel. There is a nice weight to the razor. It is super easy to clean–gone are the days of blades clogged with hair/soap. It works just as well as the models with 16 blades, or whatever ridiculous number they are coming out with now. It is simple, works well, saves money, and makes less waste. I also feel just a tiny bit like a badass when using it.

I bought one for Josh too, and he tells me all the time how much he loves it. In fact, there are many online forums for people who appreciate a good shave, and it is pretty common knowledge in these circles that the safety razor is a superior product. I bought Josh the long-handled version, and I think if I could go back, I would have bought that one for myself too. It was a few dollars more, but if you have big hands, I think it is worth it.

My razor came packaged in a cardboard box and will probably outlast me. It is very high-quality steel and solidly made. The blades come in a tiny box the size of a match box. Each blade has a paper sleeve, and the old blades can slide back into the back of the razor box. Once the blades are all used, you can safely dispose of the whole box at once. There is still some waste, of course, as I will dispose of the box of old blades once it is full, but the waste is very little, especially when compared to all that is thrown away with cartridge razors.

What do you think? Would you try a safety razor? Here is an affiliate link through Amazon if you want to check it out. Just to be clear, I purchased one myself (two actually) and am just a happy customer. If you buy one through my Amazon link, a small percentage of the sale will support my blog, but this is not why I'm recommending this type of razor. You can also find antique used ones on ebay, and there are instructions online for how to sanitize them.


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Plastic-free groceries in France

Every time we move, it is an adventure to navigate the new landscape. Of course, there are many levels to that landscape–medical care, schools, activities, friends, "crunchy" mamas, farm food, any number of local resources, and of course plastic-free shopping. Food is usually the most pressing and most difficult. When we moved to France, I was really interested to see what grocery shopping would be like and whether it would it be easier to be plastic-free.

At first, we found the major supermarkets, and there really wasn't much difference between those and the ones in the US regarding plastic packaging. One big difference of course is plastic bags. In France, you are generally expected to bring your own bags (or pay for bags), whereas in the US, I think most people still use free bags provided by the stores. So that is one big difference, although it's something I haven't even thought about in years, since I always bring my own bags. One other difference is in regards to the produce section. In the grocery stores in France, each produce section has a digital scale where you weigh your own produce. You put your produce on the scale, push a button that corresponds to the item, and the machine prints out a sticker with the price. I loved these machines! I never use produce bags–I think they are totally unnecessary, and I think people only use them because they are there. I am not worried about my produce getting dirty because I wash it before I eat it. Plus, it is grown in the dirt/outside. Anyway, I loved that I could print off these little stickers, and then, either stick them directly to the produce or stick all the produce in a grocery bag and stick the stickers to the outside of the bag. Beautiful and easy.

A couple of weeks into our stay, I found a health food store in our neighborhood. In France, they call it a "bio" (organic) store. From then on, that is where I primarily shopped. I snapped a few photos so I could share them with you. They had a nice little bulk bin section with the same type of scale I mentioned when talking about produce above. They provided plastic or paper bags, or they were happy to let you use your own cloth bags.


There was a great produce section with loose nuts, fruits, and veggies (not pictured–the veggie section was behind the fruits on the other side of the aisle).


This was my favorite part. There was a brand of yogurt that came in returnable glass jars. Oh my, it was heaven. This yogurt was incredibly rich and delicious and came in lots of flavors. There was a bottle deposit, so you returned the glass jars when you were finished, and they collect them for reuse. Love, love love. I so wish we had this here. The only yogurt I have personally seen in the US in returnable glass is from Traderspoint Creamery in Indiana, and they will only accept the bottles back at stores within a certain distance. They sell that yogurt here in Omaha, but they will not take back the bottles, and it is super pricey. I know you can make yogurt, but the yogurt I have made is nowhere near as good as this stuff in France.


In France, the outdoor markets were also generally pretty packaging-free-friendly if you took the initiative. Meat, cheese, and produce vendors were usually happy to have you use your own bags/containers. Even if you didn't bring your own container, plain butcher paper was usually their default. The bakeries were also great with this. The bread and pastries are all loose in cases or baskets, and the shopkeepers wrap things up on demand (in paper typically). It was no big deal to have them just hand me the bread naked or put it in my own cloth bags. There seemed to be a great emphasis on things being fresh and prepared to order. Cheese and meats were often in cases and cut to order. Whereas, in the US, it is much harder to find unwrapped cheese that is cut to order–even at the gourmet cheese counter at Whole Foods, most cheeses are already cut and wrapped in plastic.

The cons.
Most grocery items in the stores were prepackaged, just as in the US. There were only bulk bins at the health food store, not in the regular grocery stores. Even worse, the packages were generally much smaller than in the US, so really the packaging per quantity of food was even worse. There was no Costco equivalent or anywhere to buy prepackaged food in large containers to bring down the ratio of packaging to food.

Composting was nowhere to be found. There was no curbside compost or community compost bins. I know this is only available in limited places in the US, but I expected Europe to be ahead of us on this front. I expected to at least be able to bring our compost to a drop site, but I never found anything like that.

As much as I expected Europe to be far ahead of us on the environmental front, I didn't really find that, at least not in France. I believe Germany does have composting programs, and they definitely have extensive bottle deposit/collection for refill, and recycling programs. In France, we had recycling at our apartment for cardboard/paper, and plastic bottles. There were also bins on the street for recycling glass. But everything else went into the trash bins. Even aluminum cans, which seem like a perfectly easy thing to recycle. So I suppose each country is very different in terms of these values, but I was disappointed that the environment didn't really seem like a priority in France. I saw almost as many wasteful practices there as I see here, and I got the feeling that people just didn't really care or notice about environmental issues. This is a global problem.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Conversations with Penny Spring 2014

3/6/14
P (as the pilot announced our touch down in the UK): We're in London now, so we don't have to speak French!

3/6/14
P (as we arrived at our hotel for a weekend stay in London): Mommy, are we at our new house?

3/11/14
P: I played hide and seek with the monsters, but they're not very good at that game, so we played learning blocks instead.

3/13/14
J: If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?
P: College!

4/16/14
E: Penny, can you take your dishes into the kitchen?
P: Yes, I can. I just don't want to.

5/9/14
E: Penny, what kind of milk do you want (i.e. almond, cow, etc)?
P: Sparkling.

5/9/14
P: I wasn't really hungry. Just, it was yummy, so I ate it all.

5/14/14
P: I'm gonna take lessons at that school.
E: What kind of lessons?
P: Love lessons.

5/16/14
P: I asked God to help me take a little nap, and he said ok but only a little one.

5/22/14
P: When we go camping, if I see a unicorn, can I ride on it?
E: Of course!

5/26/14
P: Hugs and kisses just make my heart really happy.

6/5/14
P: I'm gonna teach my sister a game about sharing. (Sings) Give my sister half, and I keep the bigger half.

6/6/14
E: Do you want to help me make kale chips?
P: What are kale chips?
E: They're like potato chips but green.
P: Do they taste better than chia pudding? (which we had the day before, and she did not like, although I found it to be delicious, thankyouverymuch).

Friday, June 6, 2014

New normal

Ahh, home sweet home. We moved into our new house two weeks ago, and we are all basking in the comforts of home. We have our things out of storage, are mostly unpacked, and settling into our new normal. Penny started her new preschool, which is 4 mornings/week–a big change from no preschool for several months, and just two half days before that. She is also doing t-ball and swim lessons this summer. Age three really seems to open up a lot more activity options for kids, but I am trying not to go crazy with activities because it is nice to have down time. Both girls are enamored with having a backyard (complete with playset left by the previous owners!) and having so many toys back. I still haven't turned on my sewing machine, but I am looking forward to the day when I have a chance to do that. I am very, very happy to have my bed back! We have a latex mattress from here that was the best purchase. OMG heaven and totally natural/organic. We also bought a (very used) piano, which has been lots of fun to tinker with. I am kind of teaching myself to play and hoping the girls will take lessons when they're a bit older. The house was mostly move-in ready with just a very light kitchen mini-renovation (counters, appliances, some slight reconfiguration, and backsplash) in the works. It has so many gorgeous turn-of-the-century touches and old charm. I never want to leave!

After living out of suitcases and living with less for the last few months, I was able to do another big purge as we moved in. Anything we didn't miss or haven't used lately–gone! I brings me so much peace and joy to purge things. I plan to have a big garage sale soon where most things will be free or fill-a-bag-for $5! I was very inspired by this book and am working on implementing many of Bea Johnson's ideas in our home. I already see and feel a big difference. I especially love her holiday ideas–she finds the perfect balance between minimizing waste while not being a scrooge. Food packaging waste seems to be the biggest challenge for me. We do have a few bulk bin options in Omaha, but it is still a challenge to find everything I need. Every bit helps though, and we DID find a composting company here. There is a local guy with worm bins who collects our compost. I thought I would have to do a backyard compost, and I wasn't really looking forward to it. I am much happier to support this small business and hire them to take care of composting our food scraps!

I am slowly navigating my bulk-bin and refillable-container shopping options in Omaha. There are actually more choices than I thought. Whole Foods here is very cloth bag-friendly and has a great bulk food section. Hy-Vee sells milk and cream in returnable glass bottles and has quite a bulk bin selection with a scale that prints a label out for you–love that! At Whole Foods, I carry a watercolor crayon that I write the plu # on and wash off afterwards, which works too. I bought my single crayon loose at an art supply store. Penny helped with the color choice–turquoise. We have a French bakery down the street with amazingly authentic baguettes and croissants that they will put in my own bags for me. It is so nice to have this little bit of France here (the best bit probably!). I stocked up on Lush solid shampoo/conditioner/toothpaste before we left Chicago, but I know I will be missing having a local Lush once my supply runs out. I have already contacted Lush requesting that they open a store here. I'm sure they will get right on that.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Back in the USA

I see that my last blog entry was a month ago. What a difference a month makes! I am writing today from Omaha, NE. When we left for France, we weren't sure whether we'd be going for 3 months or 6 months, so it was a challenge for me to just go with the flow. We found out in mid-March that it would just be 3 months, but we didn't get official word that our next stop would be Omaha until THREE DAYS before we were due to leave France. Talk about a lesson in letting go of control. Not my strongest suit, but I guess the practice of it is good for me.

We flew to Chicago on April 13th (9 hour daytime flight was as horrendous as it sounds!), spent a few days in IL getting back to Central Time and catching up with friends, and then drove to Omaha on the 16th. We moved into a temporary furnished apartment in Omaha and started house-hunting. We got really lucky and found something perfect just a couple of days ago, and we can't wait to move into our new casa at the end of May. Fingers crossed that everything goes through quickly. It is actually a really hot real estate market right now, and good properties are selling fast! This one is not a fixer-upper. I know it is fun to see house project photos, and my husband loves to renovate, but I am so relieved to have a move-in ready house. It's been an exhausting and trying couple of weeks, so I can't wait to get in a groove, find our new normal, get our stuff out of storage, and get settled into a space that is ours!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Paris

Did you know that March 20th was the International Day of Happiness? I didn't either, but apparently we chose a great day to go to the happiest place on earth. I'm not really a huge Disney person. Penny has no idea who most of the Disney characters are. She identifies Woody as "the cowboy," and all Disney princesses are "a princess". But we thought it would be a treat to spend a day at Disneyland Paris since we are so close. I am so glad we did it because it was one of my favorite days in Europe. We took the TGV (high speed rail) from Strasbourg to Disneyland, which took about 2 hours and had spectacular views of the French countryside. We spent the whole day outside and had this perfect gorgeous sunny day. It was easy, relaxed, and just fun. Plus, it was really refreshing to spend a whole day somewhere that was catered just to families and children.






Disneyland Paris was very "old school". You can tell it was built in the early 90s, and they haven't updated it at all. It felt a little like walking back in time. Plus, something about the French signage and French language in all these old school fairytale buildings was really special.

From Disneyland, we took the city train into Paris and spent 3 nights there. We went to the top of the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe, visited some playgrounds and parks, saw Notre Dame and the Louvre (from the outside only), ate lots of French delicacies, rode the metro, strolled the Champs Elysées, and had just enough down time.










I am kind of amazed by how much we've seen and done in 3 months, but I think we are all ready to head home in April. We will leave Strasbourg in mid-April and will be settling back in Omaha.