title button 8-31-13

 

...the DIY life planner that is...

A few weeks ago I started this post but didn't finish it.  In the spirit of commitment, I've finally finished it, with an update at the end.

Aug 7, 2013
This week has been one heck of a roller coaster.  We are on the cusp of H's trip overseas and the recent events in the news had left me feeling more anxious than I've been in, well, ever.  I've never had that big of a problem when H had to go and do his thing in a third world state where likely danger was at every turn and I'd go days without hearing from him.  Heck, it meant not feeling obligated to do much of anything in the way of domestic duties.  The girls and I would watch Gilmore Girls every night and eat mini dinners that don't require any cooking.  We'd lounge around and let the house slide a little.  Hey when the cat's away the mice will play right?

This time, however, I've been really struggling.  I've been experiencing a level of fear I haven't felt before and catastrophizing (thanks C for that handy dandy piece of vocabulary).  I've been overwhelmed with thoughts surrounding the worst outcome.  And it's a dreadful feeling.

The worst part is I know internally that I'm being ridiculous.  The monologue inside my head goes something like this:  What if {enter horrifying catastrophic earth shattering scenario here} happens?  What would I do?  How would I cope?  Is there enough life insurance?  Should I keep the condo or sell it?  And then I plan (because I'm nothing else if not a planner):  I'll keep the condo as a rental and live off the income.  I'll move back to North Carolina or Colorado to be close to friends so the boys and I have a support system.  Or maybe I should go to Indiana or Chicago?  And then I start kicking myself:  What is wrong with you?!  Everything is going to be FINE!  Stop being so ridiculous!  Get over yourself already!  Followed by rationalization:  Well, I may be ridiculous, but at least I'm not oblivious.  It's always good to be prepared.

Then, finally, I remind myself of our family mantra:  Everything Happens for a Reason!  

Now, I'm sure a lot of you out there are saying, "Hey, there's a diagnosis for that!  It's called Anxiety!"  I agree, I probably would be able to check all the little boxes on the anxiety questionnaire at the doc's office- but remember I'm a DIY-er!  I'm a BIG proponent of sorting through your fears and learning about yourself in the process.  I firmly believe it's the process that matters most- and without that process you cannot evolve as a person.  Nevertheless, I did ask my doc at my checkup a week ago and she said the defining factor is if your fear is seriously interfering with your day to day activities.  While I can admit to having some lack of focus (who wouldn't in our situation?), I cannot say I'm incapable of performing every day tasks.  A close friend of mine, whose battled with this from time to time, said that I would know if I hit that wall- because I literally won't be able to get out of bed to start the day.  I'm definitely not there and have no intentions of getting there!  I figure that I'm self analytical enough to prevent that from happening.  I'm also extremely self aware- and that is a huge difference between me and someone more oblivious.  She also said- knowing me quite well- to make sure I wasn't trying to control the anxiety.  The more I tried to control and rationalize it, the worse it would get- which totally explained the repeating spiraling snowballing effect that had taken place all week.

So here's what I'm doing:

1-  I'm going to stop trying to control the fear.  Instead I'm going to take ownership of it and acknowledge that it's a natural thing to be feeling in our situation.

2- I'm going to practice yoga breathing and meditation more.  My days fly by so fast sometimes I can't even tell you what happened on what day of the week.  Which leads me to the next point:

3- I'm going to {try} to live more in the moment.  I'm sure there's some good scripture somewhere for this.  Maybe Abby can help me out with this one!  If I truly practice our mantra then at some point I need to stop worrying so much about 2 months, 2 years, 2 decades down the road, and I need to focus more on the here and now- so that I can perform at my best in the here and now.  I think this is a huge character trait/flaw that us planner types battle with.  If I don't live more in the moment, then the here and now is going to fly by and I'm going to miss it!

4- I'm going to be more accepting of the here and now.  We've had our eyes on getting out of Nova at the earliest opportunity and we finally have it.  If all goes well, we will be leaving next June.  (There are some exciting things to come- just can't chat about it yet- but hopefully Practical Happyness will be going on all sorts of new adventures!)  Obviously, I'm over the moon excited to move next year- and I want it to happen yesterday, and if I'm not careful, it's very easy to get so cranky and bitter at the fact that I'm not getting my way right now, that the next year could be quite miserable for everyone around me.  It's one thing to live in the moment, it's an entirely other accomplishment to see the good in the moment even when you are not in the place you want to be.   Also, nothing is ever set in stone, and I need to keep that in mind, because if things fall through and we are sent on a different path, then it will be for a reason!

5- I'm going to take at least ten minutes every evening for myself- to enjoy a glass of wine or tea, sit in the quiet and reflect on the day.  I'm not going to blog surf or window shop on line until I'm too tired to think straight and then go to bed dreaming of DIY projects and that Eddie Bauer sweater I saw!  I think this will simply be good for the soul.

Still- I'm feeling unnerved about H's trip- but at least I have some tools to cope, and this post to read and re-read to remind myself of my goals.

What do you do to ease your fears?

Love and Happyness to All!

~M

Update: 

So after all this, H's trip got postponed at the last minute- and he is still home for now!  So- Everything does happen for a reason!  And maybe my fear and anxiety wasn't all for naught- maybe my gut was telling me something.

2

PicMonkey Collage

Let me start by saying that I just discovered PicMonkey.  And. It. Is. The. Most. Awesome. Thing. Ever!  So I apologize in advance for the overflow of PicMonkey photos in this post- its was just too fun playing with it!  Okay- onward with my post:

This evening was one of those evenings where we didn't get dinner until almost nine!  Sigh.  Sometimes that just happens. (The fact that I got the grocery shopping done early and before the weekend has just a little to do with it!)

What was funny though is how at 8:30 I got struck with some dessert inspiration.  I also blame the grocery trip.  Wegman's had shortcakes on sale up at the front- I was so done for.  Then I got home and realized that I had strawberries, but no whipped cream.  Everyone knows you can't have strawberry shortcake with no whipped cream...

So here I sit (or stand really) at 10:00 on a Friday night putting together dessert improv because I don't feel like going out for whipped cream- nor do I feel like making my own because the whipping cream in the fridge is for pasta sauce later this week.

So that is the prologue to my Shortcake Sundae recipe.  I guess it's really a tutorial, not much of anything you have to really make.   

And as you all know when it comes to most of my food posts- everything in the recipe is adjustable, optional, and attunable to your own sweet tooth happyness of the moment- usually based on whatever is in my pantry....in fact as I made this it changed several times over from my original inspiration to my final product!  So please get imaginative and create!  (Then let me know how it went!)

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Here's what I had around!

Ingredients:

1 Package Shortcake cups (6)- pre-made or home-made (whatever you have the time for!)
1 cup Strawberries chopped
1 cup bananas chopped  (About 2 whole bananas-I slice them in half lengthwise and then in cubes)
1 tbsp butter
1/4 cup sugar
2 tbsp butterscotch schnapps (totally optional)
Ice Cream of your choice
Nuts (or not, whatever floats your Happyness boat- I had almonds on hand so that's what we used 🙂 )
Chocolate Syrup
Caramel
Any other toppings your little heart desires!

I sliced and sugared the strawberries and bananas and let them soak for a few minutes.  I would have glazed them with honey but I had taken the honey to work for my tea, so alas, no honey in the house.  Then, at the last second (and after a large glass of wine) I decided it would be just awesome to saute them so they were "candied."

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Saute time!

And then as soon as they hit the pan with the butter and the sugar I immediately thought the addition of butterscotch schnapps in my cabinet would be incredible- can probably also credit the glass of wine for this idea.  (Friends of ours gave me the schnapps because they knew I baked and they would never use it- I was over-the-moon-giddy-with-Happyness that it popped in to my head at this moment because to date I had not used it yet!)

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Ummm....strike of genius here I think!

Saute for 7 or 8 minutes over med-high heat- until things start to glaze but before they turn to complete mush.  Strain excess sauces (and set aside for a topping!).

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Gooey deliciousness!

Arrange your shortcake(s) on a pretty plate or platter (because that just enhances the Happyness that is dessert).  Fill the cup with the strawberry/banana mixture.

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Almost done!

Top with a scoop of ice cream.  We used butter pecan (perfect with the schnapps!) and a chocolate peanut butter my husband would like (I swear the flavor actually did work together!)  Drizzle with chocolate, caramel and almonds.  The only thing missing was whipped cream!

Bask in the glory of your dessert awesomeness!

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Grab a spoon and enjoy!

I completely envision these in so many ways- tasteful individual desserts for a gathering of friends or a fun activity for a picnic or kids birthday!  How would you craft your sundae?

Thanks so much for visiting!

Love and Happyness to All!

~M

I happily share at these parties!

Okay- One more pic- because I officially Loooooove PicMonkey:

 

photo (8) banner

5

I was perusing the news this evening and stumbled across an op piece about how the US is raising a nation of savages... (click here for the full piece).  In the bit, Todd Starnes discusses how devoid of morality this great nation of ours has become.  Just this last week we've had news of 3 teens killing a jogger for sport, a teen hunting kittens because he was bored, teenagers shooting an infant in the face because they want money.  Arriving in my Facebook news feed was a link about a group of young men in Tennessee who, in 2007, brutally tortured and murdered a couple because they felt like it.  (Glenn Beck discusses that here).  As I let these things sink in I reflected on how I agreed or disagreed with Starnes and how, as a young parent, I would try to raise my sons differently.  I, too, fear the things that Starnes and Beck fear.  Love them or hate them, here are my thoughts:

1- I agree that parents have failed to raise their children with the morals and values necessary in order for them to be productive in our society.  I do not, however, agree that this void is due to a lack of church.  We are a Christian household, and while our principles and morals are largely cemented in the Good Book, I do not for one second think that this is necessary in order to instill basic humanity and morality in our children.

2- Parents have lost touch with their child rearing instincts.  I have watched parents around me succumb to whatever someone else tells them with regards to raising their children.  I've watched them give in to mainstream experts.  I've watched them stare over the neighbors fence to see what everyone else is doing so they can keep up appearances with everyone else.  I've watched mothers "stay at home" to do their nails, instruct their maids and complain about how hard it is raising their children- while their children are raised by the television or the advertising in shopping malls.  I've watched those same fathers appear in and out of their lives as apparitions because they work too much, only to overspend on Christmas, Birthdays, and vacations in an attempt to assuage their own guilt for never being around.  I've watched the children and teenagers of these parents learn hard and fast how to play both sides to get what they think they want out of life.  Everyone from our preacher to our doctor to our teachers to our television are telling us how to raise our children, while continuously making us feel inadequate and incompetent as parents.  I had a daycare director tell me that R's reflux was akin to my son having "special medical needs," that something was seriously wrong and if we didn't fix it then he would be developmentally challenged as he got older--- all from his reflux.  The funny thing is that she has never had a child herself, nor actually been a day care provider- she was a manager of people, a business person, pushing her own agenda.

I've also watched single moms work two jobs and make it to the school musical production to support their child, dads take time off just to have lunch at school with their kid, whole families venturing out together just for the sake of doing something together.

3-  I agree that the large scale production of violence via television and video games is influencing our children in ways we never thought imaginable.  However, I think the influence of these things is also a failure of parenting.  H and I have already had the luxury of raising teenagers in our house and here is what I can tell you about video games:  We didn't allow them!  Not a single one in our home.  There is no Playstation or Xbox- not even an old fashioned Atari.  And we won't budge on this with our own boys either.  The way we see it is they will get enough of this stuff at their friends houses- why do we need to have these distractions in our house?  We want them to get outside and explore the world- it's better to just keep the temptation away.  And when they complain?  TOO BAD!  We are the parents!  We make the rules!

3- Which leads me to my next point:  Parents need to grow up.  Women need to realize that once you have a child, your priorities should change drastically.  And if they don't, then you are simply doing it wrong.  That doesn't mean you are supposed to exchange your soul for raising children.  It just means that maybe you should play with your kids instead of dragging them to the salon with you.  I think if a man still feels the need to have his video games as a married adult, then maybe he needs to re-think whether he should be procreating.  I understand that will likely offend a lot of people- but that's just how I see it- especially when I've heard so many complaints from women about their boyfriends and their video games.

4- Parents should take care of themselves, and their marriage, first.  When you have kids your priorities completely re-allign.  But you cannot sacrifice your marriage or yourselves for your children.  You have to remember who you are.   Keep up the yoga, the running, the girls night out, the poker night (when you can- because we all know in the first couple years it just ain't happening!).  If you lose who you are, then you have nothing to serve as an example for your children.  Is that what we want?  For our kids to look up to thug musicians and reality TV stars because we've so lost ourselves in being taxis for our kids that we can't even have a dinner with our spouse?  I want my boys to see that our marriage is the foundation of our family- that H and I take care of each other and adore each other- and that sometimes that means they are going to shock! come second.  Family should be the priority- and a healthy loving relationship with your partner is the foundation of a healthy family!

I really feel like what's happened in our country is that everyone has become completely polarized.  Parenting comes in two styles:  overbearing, overindulging, overopulent  or the complete opposite- so absent that the parent child relationship no longer exists.  And I'm finding more and more that some families start off as overbearing and overindulging, only to cross over to the absenteeism when their children become adolescents.  It is as if parents think that once they hit high school, they must compete for popularity with their kids friends, or with other parents.  And this shift takes place at precisely the time when children need more structure, discipline, and guidance.  It really is very sad.

However, I do feel like there is a subtle resurgence of couples who want to raise their children to appreciate the amenities of the modern world, but to live by the old school values that are long missing today.  Almost all of our friends with young children see such horrific things on the news perpetrated by idle teenagers and we are all appalled, as anyone with a soul would be.  What's interesting to me though is that we are all discussing these issues and how to raise our children to prevent these things.

I've also recently been reading Kevin Hartnett's blog, Growing Sideways.  I can't remember exactly when or where I stumbled upon his work, but it has truly been a source of wisdom for myself as a parent.  He writes about friction and cohesiveness in parenting, and how he and his wife strive to embrace the friction and maintain cohesiveness in their family.  H and I feel largely the same way.  Our priority is family, but not some notion of family sprung upon us by generations before or by mainstream media.  Our definition of family is largely one of balance and fit for each family out there.  Our generation of parents are highly analytical and we strive for methods that will instill confidence, pride, and accountability in ourselves and our children.  We are a DIY generation that believes we can approach parenting from multiple angles, using the many tools available to us as we see fit.  We use positivity to guide, watch PBS Kids, play barbies on the floor, jump in the rain, lose our tempers, love our partners, enjoy good wine, and have junk food nights.  We have messy houses and messy histories.  We continuously learn.  We admit mistakes.  We are intuitive.  Regardless of race, creed or sexual orientation, we believe the foundation of good parenting is a desire to raise children to be responsible, polite, driven adults.  We believe it can be done, this blending of methodologies and philosophies to shape the next generation in a way that will maintain morality and create better cohesiveness in our families.  This is why I still have faith in our Nation.

Love and Happyness to you all!

~M

Road to Happyness Title

...no matter how hard you try.  Sometimes the thing that is supposed to support your road to Happyness is the very thing that can hinder it here and there.  Practical Happyness is supposed to be my outlet and my stress reliever.  It is, or is supposed to be- a gathering of my thoughts on marriage, parenting, motherhood and womanhood, with a hefty dash of humor and sarcasm, a sprinkle of DIY projects and crafting.

And then there's that damn stats bar graph to my upper left hand corner.  I had a momentous and proud moment this past week- my blog hit over 1,000 site views.  It means that someone out there has felt compelled to click on my link shares on parties and blog hops that I've participated in.  It means that at least a handful of people have been interested in what I have to say on my little blog!  I was riding on cloud nine until my little Happyness bubble burst when I saw that some of the blogs I avidly follow have upwards of 30,000 posts a month, one of the 90,000!  Instantly my mind went in to research mode-  What can I do to get more hits?  I need to post more often.  I need to revamp my design.  I need to buy my domain name and become a {dot}com.  I need to be a part of more networks.  I need to take better pictures.  I need to post more projects.  Suddenly my blog to do list became as long as my house to do list that is plastered on a wall in the kitchen.  Such is the life of an introverted type-A perfectionist like myself.  CG would agree wholeheartedly I think.

My crazy home to do list...
My crazy home to do list...

And of course when this happens, I get a good case of don't-know-what-to-write-about followed by an epidemic of crazy-long-exhausting-kids-work-family-week.  I have 15 draft posts that I've titled because I come up with ideas and create the draft with the title so I can come back to them later.  So far I only have done ONE of those because most of them are related to ongoing projects in the house.  The other night I was sitting at the kitchen table trying to cram in a post after agonizingly trying to master the new theme {I hope you all like it!} I selected and figure out social media buttons- all with a cranky teething reflux-y baby fussing in his swing and a toddler running around ordering me to "go sit in the chair NOW!"

HALT RIGHT THERE!  It was in this moment that I realized I had gone down the road I said I wouldn't....I had been sucked up in to the frenzied world of mom blogging.   I have fallen head first in to the mom blog rabbit hole.  My online journal of love had turned in to another job.  And I already have three jobs- wife, mother and my real world full time gig that helps put food on the table.  My priorities had gone out of alignment again.  They needed a chiropractic adjustment.  Little P was yelling at me to sit in the chair in the corner of his room.  He does this when he just wants company.  He doesn't want us to play with him, he just wants us to sit and watch.  I sometimes grab a glass of wine and use it as my time to decompress.  I'll sit Little R in his bouncer next to the chair, enjoy my wine and drink in the wonderment of my eldest son's imagination.  I was trying to remember the last time I did that...and couldn't.

Thank you, Lord.  I needed that pan-over-the-head reminder of what's important in life.  

I see this as a teaching moment in Happyness.  I AM good enough.  I can't be perfect and I can't work four jobs.  A once-a-week post will have to do for now.  And I'll share it when I can.  Link parties are not as important as a dance party in my son's room.   Impeccably documented DIY projects are not as important as doing an art project with my boys.   Mastering widgets is not as important as consoling Little R when he's having a rough evening.  {Before anyone jumps to conclusions- he wasn't screaming or anything, he was just not a very happy camper at the moment}  Reorganizing my linen closet or kitchen for the blog is not as important-or as FUN- as getting outside with my family!

I'm vowing to remind myself that this blogging thing should be FUN and INSPIRATIONAL.  I don't have to live up to anyone else's stats.  Through Practical Happyness I want to be an example of how a mom can balance work, marriage, motherhood and hobbies and maintain her Happyness.  Which means making sure I take care of the family, my work, and myself.

So there you have it- my little lesson in Happyness for the week!

How do you like the new design?  And how do you stellar mom bloggers balance your blogging time with all your other duties?

Thanks so much for visiting!  Love and Happyness to All!

~M

Just to prove I do indeed have happy little ones!
Just to prove I do indeed have happy little ones!

I happily share at these parties!

5

Evidently I've been making pancakes wrong for the past 20 years.  After graduating from Bisquick, and becoming slightly crazy about eating more natural and less processed foods, I've been experimenting with several different recipes over the past year.  Today, I hit the pancake gold mine... I have created the fluffiest, airiest, most magical pancakes that have ever come out of my kitchen.  And I've discovered that the secret is all in the TECHNIQUE.  With the help of bare-bones recipe located here and some tips to cooking amazing pancakes located here, I've have put breakfast nirvana on the table today!  It's pure Happyness on a plate!

Served up hot with some sauteed country ham (like the real deal super salty kind- not that sweet garbage that calls itself country ham that you get at the grocery store!)  Told you we do breakfast right in the Freeland house!
Served up hot with some sauteed country ham (like the real deal super salty kind- not that sweet garbage that calls itself country ham that you get at the grocery store!) Told you we do breakfast right in the Freeland house!

You have to understand that for me this is like landing on the moon or discovering a new species.  We are breakfast fanatics in this house.  We sometimes have it for dinner- and by sometimes I mean at least once every couple of weeks, or more frequent in the winter months.  We looove it all- eggs, bacon, waffles, sausage, quiche, cereal, oatmeal, grits.  Breakfast is its own food group, and if it is categorized as breakfast, then we love it.  And pancakes are, by far, our favorite.  My sister (B) and I fantasize about opening a pancake house one day- with everything from bacon loaded pancakes to pancake flavored cupcakes.  We've even thought about how to pair them with wine and beer.  I hear these things work well in Vegas.

My adapted recipe- for a family of 4-6 who will eat the heck out of some pancakes- is as follows:

1 1/2 cups milk
4 tablespoons vinegar (white or apple cider depending on what you end goal is)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar (I used raw organic sugar today, because my sister brought a bunch home from school- not sure if this made a difference but heck why not?!)
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
2 tablespoons melted butter, or vegetable oil
1 tablespoon of honey (warm if needed)
1 teaspoon of vanilla
Optional:  1 half pint of blueberries (or fruit, nuts, add-ons of your choice)
cooking spray (yes, use spray and not butter because it burns)

Sacred Rule Number 1:  Proper Heat.  Preheat griddle or pan to medium heat.  How do you get the right heat setting?  According to the article you heat it until a drop of water skips and slides across the surface.  I had a hard time wrapping my head around that, but basically it means if the water hits and sizzles off right away then the pan is too hot.  This is something I've had issues with because for a long time my first pancake would be perfect, and the rest would be scorched on the outside but not done on the inside.  If you have this problem it means the heat is too high.  Eureka moment here:  higher heat does not equal faster cook time- it just equals burned food.  Since our stove has a center griddle that sits right on the gas, I had to set it to just below medium to get the right temperature.

Combine the milk and vinegar in medium bowl, swirl around and let sit for 10 minutes.  Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl and stir to remove clumps with a fork.  Whisk together eggs and melted butter in a small bowl.  Add the honey and vanilla and whisk egg mixture into soured milk.

Sacred Rule Number 2:  DO NOT OVER MIX!  Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients, mixing ONLY to get all the dry ingredients wet.  DO NOT OVER MIX!  I found that I've been over mixing for years.  The batter should be very lumpy.  And I wouldn't mix it all until your griddle is ready to go, because the longer the batter sits, the less lumpy it gets.

Lumpy, lumpy, lumpy!
Lumpy, lumpy, lumpy!

Add any fruit last, and immediately begin to cook.  Give the griddle a light coat with the cooking spray.  I also do a very light spray between each set.  I used a 1/3 cup to scoop out and pour on the griddle.  I use a ladle if I want bigger pancakes, but the 1/3 cup makes good average size pancakes about 5 or 6 inches across.

Yummy!
Yummy!

Let the batter get nice and dry around the edges and bubbly all over on top.  Then flip.  The key to flipping is a proper pancake spatula, so invest in one!

Sacred Rule Number 3:  DO NOT PRESS ON THE FLIPPED PANCAKE!  This is something I'm very guilty of.  In an effort to speed along the process, it's almost impossible to control your pancake pressing instincts!  I also think it is a gut reaction when you are worried that they won't cook all the way through.   The fact is, if the temperature is right, you just let them brown on the other side and serve up.

NO PRESSING ALLOWED!!
NO PRESSING ALLOWED!!

Sacred Rule Number 4:  Do not stack them!  I'm also notorious for this.  I stack them all rough shod on a baking sheet and throw them in the oven at 200 to keep them hot.  This is because I'm so adamant about sitting down for weekend breakfast as a family.  I also think there are few things that are more gorgeous and tantalizing then an over-flowing mound of beautiful golden pancakes!  Except apparently when you do this, their heat has a steaming effect and they lose their fluffiness.  I had no idea this even happened.  But I took the articles advice and laid them out flat a large baking sheet so they would stay as crisp on the outside as possible.  They were right- they keep hot so much better this way.

Sacred Rule Number 5:  Enjoy!  Preferably with family or friends, or that person you are trying to win over!

Um- couldn't resist a second shot of the final product!  It was simply breakfast heaven in our house today!
Um- couldn't resist a second shot of the final product! It was simply breakfast heaven in our house today!

I love to make all sorts of additions to my pancakes recipes.  In the fall I love to add a blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and allspice and a cup of pecans.  It just seems to fit the changing leaves and crisp air.  In the spring I use various berries and serve with honey instead of maple syrup.  Sometimes I use cornmeal and do a corncake version.  And of course, you can never go wrong with the kiddos with chocolate chips!

How do you spice up your pancakes?

Love and Happyness to all!

~M

I sometimes share at these amazing parties!