The Orange Slate

| simpler is more |
Life

A Word for 2017.

January 6, 2017

awordfor2017

awordfor2017_simplehome3

 

Happy New Year!

January is one of my favorite months of the year – the prospect of the new year holds so much promise and hope and excitement. One tradition that I’ve kept over the past several years is that of picking a word early in the year and reflecting on it as the year moves on.

In 2013, my word was SAVOR. (There are no posts to link to about this, but here’s a somewhat related post about savoring moments.)

In 2015, my word was CREATE.

In 2016, it was FLOURISH.

awordfor2017_simplehome4 awordfor2017_simplehome2

It’s been so fun to set goals and a vision for a year around a chose theme and then to look back over the years through the lens of that particular word.

For 2017, my word is STORY.

Part of this is my exhaustion with our sound-bite, tweet-infested, 10-second availability-infused world. We are meant for deeper, richer, longer stories and I want my year to be about the long game, both in stories I consume and tell.

With littles (mostly, a toddler!) this becomes especially apparent. Sometimes the thing that buys me five minutes of peace or my toddler 2 minutes of attention isn’t what’s best for our hearts and homes over the long haul. As a mom, I want to focus on the big picture and do the hard work that writes a bigger story of contentment and peace and simplicity and togetherness rather than just jumping from distraction to distraction and immediate solution to immediate solution.

We’re in our home for the forseeable future, which is eternally longer than we’ve ever been in any home together. We’re generally settled, but I want to focus on truly building the story of our home and our family this year, building the traditions, the rituals, and the memories that will carry us far beyond 2017.

For as long as I can remember, my aspirations and education and career have pivoted on words. And social media, driven by words and images, has been a fun source of inspiration and creativity for me. But at some point last year, it began to feel a little endless, a little cyclical, and little hopeless. I felt, as Cal Newport puts is so succinctly, like I was trying to run “a one-person media operation”, the exact end-game of which was fuzzy at best. I need, I’ve realized, to be creating stories, not just sound-bites, to survive and thrive, and I need some time and space to create and build those stories, time and space that requires stepping away from the onslaught of every other story the internet has to tell.

awordfor2017_simplehome1

I especially want to dedicate time this year to telling our family stories through albums – my children’s baby books, our family albums, the memories Mark and I have of advenures before babies, and a few other projects that I haven’t prioritized – and more regular journaling.

Finally, the word STORY serves as a reminder for me to incoporate more stories and story-time into my children’s play (as opposed to just more books and isolated words and vocabulary). Stories are a crucial part of a young child’s development and intentionally incoporating it into our playtime and conversation is one of my goals for 2017.

Do you pick a word for your year? What is yours? I’d love to know!

Continue Reading

Friday Links

This and That.

December 30, 2016

  12-30-16_minimalism  12-30-16_minimalism2

 12_30_16_slowparenting3

There is nothing quite like this quiet week between Christmas and the new year, is there? This year it feels particularly sheltered, falling, as it does, over exactly one real week.

This has been a December of lots of reflecting, lots of half-finished posts, lots of good intentions, not much social media, plenty of activites with my littles that fell short of my Pinterest dreams but that hopefully carved out some real impressions and memories in their little sweet hearts, and some unusally warm weather that gave us opportunities (outdoor family pictures!) often impossible this time of year.

So often we talk about how our littles won’t remember – and that’s fair and true – , but I think it’s still so important to set an example during this season. Memories fade, but family rituals have a way of burying their way deeply into a child’s being. So we selected special ornaments to cmmemorate the year (four matching gold bells to mark our first Christmas as a family of four!), we shared cookies and cinnamon rolls with our neighbors and friends, we convinced our kiddos to join us for half of our church’s candlelight service. Miles and I made it through exactly half of a very-very-abridged-for-children Christmas story before he had a complete meltdown for absolutely no reason at all.

12-30-16_minimalism2

12_30_16_slowparenting2

Now my 8-month-old has the flu virus despite our best efforts to vaccinate and wash and disinfect and we’re quarantined for a few days and I made a barley stew (a recipe modified from this cookbook) while praying that Violet’s afternoon nap was long enough to help make up for the many hours she and I lost two nights in a row and listened to this wonderful playlist on repeat.

This post is a perfect example of how I feel right now – lots of random ramblings all sort of taking off and forgetting to land. There’s a term that counselors use called “spider-webbing” and of it I am currently the queen.  But isn’t that sort of what this week is for? Spinning our quiet webs, preparing, reflecting, waiting  – Christmas doesn’t feel like Christmas without this week of patient magic (and if you are curious about some actual liturgical basis for this, this piece provides some wonderful background).

And while you’re spinning your 2017 webs, here are a few pieces to inspire your heart, encourage your intentions, and quiet your soul.

12_30_16_slowparenting

12-30-16_cinnamonrolls

I’ve been trying to establish a consistent cleaning routine for our home so that I’m not always tackling fires and feeling behind. The schedule I used for the fall didn’t feel quite right, so I’m changing it up for the rest of winter. Here and here are some suggestions for routines if your home feels out of control.

Here’s a cozy recipe to try during slow mornings this week.

An interesting piece on balancing home-roles and a career for both men and women.

These bookshelves will make the whole world seem right.

Fika and hygge – two words to chase away the winter blues.

Continue Reading

Friday Links

Weekend Reading List // 21.

October 28, 2016

pieces on coffee, wine, creative children

Happy weekend, dears!

So, this will be the *last* weekend reading list for the blog, at least for a while. I’ll still be creating it, but I’ll only be sending out to this blog’s email list beginning next Friday, so if you are subscribed to that and get my notes in your inbox, don’t change a thing.:-) If you aren’t getting occasional notes from me, provide your email here.

Love your avacados? Grab a Kleenex. (via The Atlantic)

Here’s how to best pair your wine and herbs this holiday season.

I just overhauled my spice cupboard using these jars – I love the way they look and function now!

Yet another reason to drink coffee everyday. (via WebMD)

How to cultivate creativity in your children. (via The Atlantic)

Do you work part-time? Your children might be more empathic. (via Inc.com)

From Pinterest

Writing helps you to remember and pay attention.

I’m obsessed with this two-tone dresser.

From Instagram

This entire account is break-taking.

The power of menu-planning.

From another writer

“You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand.” 

-Woodrow Wilson

Continue Reading

Friday Links

Weekend Reading List // 20.

October 14, 2016

Weekend Reading List

It’s Saturday! Fall weekends are so different than summer weekends, aren’t they? The one calls for icy drinks, flip flops, and time outside – the other conjures up images of warm meals inside, heavy cloudy skies, and lots of cozy layers. Ready for the transition? I am! (Now if I can just convince the Indian summer heat to cooperate…)

We are unraveling from some time away this weekend. Here are some things that caught my eye this week . . .

Family life in a teensy apartment. (via Washington Post)

My mind is boggled by the concept of mise en place. (via NPR) Do you do this when you cook?

This piece made me cry.  (via NYT)

One method for chronicling your baby’s milestones.

From Pinterest

Fall colors.

Ice cream’s history!

From Instagram

Her food styling is out of this world.

From a Better Writer

“We’re not going to save the world one street style photo at a time now, are we!”

Jessie Bush, We The People

 

Continue Reading

Parenting

How We Play.

blog-title-how-we-play

Playtime 4 2016_oct_bp_playtime00007

2016_oct_bp_playtime00009

Rich playtime is something that, I think, is unfairly taken for granted with very small children. A Google search of “Playtime with [pick an age, any age]” churns out a neat and tidy list of age-and-developmentally-appropriate activities such as “Blow bubbles! Build a tunnel! Sing songs!”, instantly gratifying and frustrating me at the same time.

I have a problem with this sort of definition of playtime.

Playtime 2

2016_oct_bp_playtime00012

2016_oct_bp_playtime00011

 

First, these lists are only particularly helpful if your child is on an average developmental track. Mine rarely are (where IS that elusive average child?), which means that I spend half an hour searching the activity sheets for the month prior to and following the one dedicated to the current age of my child, at which point said child wakes up from their nap of un-average length and it’s time to play again.

Secondly, these lists are sometimes ridiculous. One suggested that my 13-month-old would enjoy a blanket fort. I once spent 15 minutes constructing a blanket fort while he watched me in amusement. I convinced him to crawl through the “tunnel” portion of it maybe twice, at which point he became utterly bored.

My instinctual need for a parenting play check-list has been somewhat abated by pieces lauding “slow parenting” and the theories of child development like that promoted by Waldorf educators that place an emphasis on self-directed play.

I am not wired to provide non-stop entertainment to my babies and I would argue that parents, stay-at-home or otherwise, aren’t contractually obligated to provide non-stop entertainment to the little humans entrusted to their care.

2016_oct_bp_playtime00010

2016_oct_bp_playtime00005

Playtime with my kids is honestly not something that always comes easily to me. I feel as if I am constantly battling the urge to SET A GOAL AND TEACH THEM SOMETHING or the lure of multi-tasking (“I’ll just check my email while we do this puzzle”). This is, I think, the symptom of a bigger problem that has more to do with my own inability to just appreciate stillness and presence.

But rich play-time (as opposed to “entertainment time”) and intentional presence is probably the single greatest gift a parent can give to their child and is certainly something that should be prioritized, if imperfectly.

Even as a stay-at-home mom, however, this is not something that just happens. There is always another errand, another chore, another play-date or activity, so intentional time together is something I have found I must purposefully make space for everyday.

In the hopes of providing you with a bit of encouragement, some practical help, and a shorter path to some hard-won lessons, here are a few steps that have helped encourage our family to have regular and rich play time.

2016_oct_bp_playtime00013

2016_oct_bp_playtime00003

a dedicated space // The number and size of toys in our house has increased exponentially since Miles was tiny and we lived in 800 square feet. This is another post in an of itself, but when we first moved into our house, the lack of a comfortable, usable play space became quickly apparent. I dedicated a corner of the living room to toys baskets, but the flow of the room meant that the toys were never naturally played with in that corner or, for that matter, in that room at all. This lent itself to a constant clutter battle.

I’ve since turned our dining room into a dedicated playroom. The center is left free for play and baskets with toys and books are along the walls, which makes playtime in that space a logical step. The room is also right next to our kitchen, which means that my little ones can spend time there and practice independent play without actually being too far away from me and Mark; important both for their comfort and our peace of mind.

This option wouldn’t be available to us if we were in a smaller house or apartment, I realize, and I’m grateful for the option. For those of you in small living quarters, I would encourage you to make children’s bedrooms or another logical space as play-friendly as possible. (Often, this means leaving a space free of furniture so that the children can actually have space to, you know, play and so that the adults have space to sit.)

limited toys // Limiting the visible toys helps in two ways: it limits distracting options during a child’s playtime and minimizes the toy clutter (read: keeps parents sane and the space attractive). I cycle toys between Miles’ bedroom closet and the playroom. This will work itself out differently for different families and is a constant process, but the key here is that toys should be visible and reachable.

If toys or books are piled up and require untangling and sorting constantly, there are probably too many in a given space. A clean, visually open space makes it more appealing for parents and children and makes it more tempting to settle into the space for some quality time. Bonus: It’s easier for children to learn to clean up after themselves if toys, even small ones, have an obvious home.

toys that encourage creativity // When choosing toys for a play-space, focus on toys that are sturdy, don’t require a lot of adult supervision or assistance, and that can be used in many different ways by different age groups. These might include small wheeled vehicles, blocks, animal figurines, beads, textured items, and musical instruments. Some of our family favorites are these:

* Small colored wooden blocks.

* A basic train set.

* A basic large wooden bead lacing set.

Vehicles. So many vehicles (these aren’t wooden, I know, but they are SO LOVED).

* Random items with unusual textures, like these rubber potholders.

* This multi-use pound-and-tap musical bench.

routine // An example of this is: “After we get dressed in the morning, we sing these three favorite songs, and then we read two stories and then we play with blocks and then we take a walk.” Circle Time models may not be your gig (although studying examples like this one and this one have been vastly useful as I’ve worked to structure our circle time), but having some kind of routine that signals to your child that playtime and intentional quality time has commenced and that he can count on some focused time with his parent will help both of you maximize this time. I normally try to leave my phone or other devices in a separate room during our playtime routine since I am more prone to be distracted than my little ones.  Your routine may change weekly or monthly and will certainly change and shift, but having a routine of some kind will ground your playtime.

Our ideal playtime normally begins with a few (familiar!) songs, followed by some fingerplay activities, followed by a few books, followed by free play with toys. Remember, kids LOVE repetition. They will thrive as they recognize the same songs and fingerplays day after day, so don’t pressure yourself to constantly interject new material into their playtime.

A quick note – I am continually working towards letting my child lead the play-time rather than trying to force Miles (and now Violet) into a structure that isn’t working. So if they are just not into storytime or singing that day, we move on. If they just really need to get outside and we need to scrap the indoor reading, we do. Don’t stress. Rich playtime is about quality time with your little ones and about them learning about their world, not checking off boxes so you can give yourself a gold “parent of the week” sticker.

light // We are so blessed with tons of natural light in our home and I’m realizing what an enormous difference this makes on my mood and our family’s interactions with each other. When we lived in a small apartment with limited windows (three, to be exact), I tried to maximize the light by opening the blinds (and sometimes the door) and using lots of mirrors and lamps to enhance the light. Most of us are drawn more towards spaces that are well-lit, so if your play area is the best lit area in the home, your children and you will naturally want to spend more time there!

I would love to hear about your playtime routines and tips for encouraging healthy playtime! Comment below or send me an email!

2016_oct_bp_playtime00006

Continue Reading

Photography

Simple Album Title Pages: A Tutorial

September 11, 2016

Simple Album Title Pages

One of my favorite aspects of this year’s family story album is the title pages I created for each month. I just love the way these capture our month’s activities at a quick glance.

 

In fact, I’m almost tempted to make an album using just these sheets. If you are searching for a way to quickly and efficiently capture your family’s year, 12 of these would definitely do the trick. Another option is to make sheets that capture each individual family member’s month of the year and then combine them for a low-stress large family year album.

I’ve been creating these album title pages using Canva, the VSCO app, and Becky Higgins’ Project Life app.

First, to maximize the time I spend on our albums, I created a style guide to use while I work. I pick a few fonts and a general layout pattern and stick to this almost entirely throughout the album.

For our 2016 album title pages, I’m using Pinyon Script and Aileron Regular. (Right now, I’m satisfied with the fonts offered through Canva, but there is an option to upload you’re own if that’s how you roll.)


First, I created the title blocks.

I created a new design in Canva by clicking “Use Custom Dimensions” and designing a 3 inch x 3 inch template.

I created two new text boxes – one for the name of the month and one for the year – and arranged them within the new design.

Here are a couple of other ideas for creating a month/year tile:

Once you’re happy with your template, download it from Canva (as a .png). I normally make all 12 at once to save time – to do this, just change the name of the month and continue saving until you’ve created and stored all 12.


Next, I selected 15 photos from the month. First, I scrolled through the folder of my Instagram photos for the highlights. If I found 15 that I liked, then I was done with this step. If I need a few more, I then open the month’s photo folder and select additional photos. (You can see a little peek of my filing process for my photo files below, if you look carefully.)

I don’t spend a ton of time agonizing over this process. Because it’s a title page, I focus more on unique shots or photos that capture emotions or special moments and memories rather than pictures that are perfectly composed. I also pay attention to white space to prevent the sheet from appearing too busy.


Next is the editing. I normally leave any photos pulled from my Instagram file alone, since these are usually already edited.

If you are cool and professional and use a desktop editing program, this next step will be quick for you. Simply edit the photos and save.

If you’re like me and you depend largely on your phone apps for quick post-processing, this will take a bit more time. Here are my editing steps:

  1. Email or Airdrop the unprocessed photos to your phone.
  2. I like to use VSCO, so I upload all of them at once.
  3. I try to use the same filter for the majority of the pictures and, for this group, I minimize how much I play with the photos. A quick touch-up or filter and I’m done. (I normally use the filter B5 for any black and white and the filter A5 turned down a few notches for color.)
  4. Save the photos to your phone and then email or Airdrop them back to the computer.

Create a new template in Canva using the custom dimensions of 5000 px. x 5000 px. Upload the 15 selected photos and the month’s title tile. At this point, I normally rely on the 4 x 4 layout grid in Canva. It allows me to simply drag and drop each photo into a square slot.

(Note: you can edit the exact placement of your photo within the layout square by double-clicking on the photo once you have dropped it into the layout, shifting the photo, and then clicking the checkmark.)

Again, I play around with the exact layout of my grid to maximize the overall look without sacrificing too much time or thought on it. I always reserve one of the most central four spaces for the month’s title tile, although I change its exact location.

Once I’m satisfied, I save the file (Note: always save the highest resolution .png version possible to your computer).

At this point, you can upload the file to your favorite printing source. I normally send it to the Project Life app because I order a printed batch of 12 x 12 sheets at once and I include these title pages with  other pages I’ve created within the app.

Once I’ve ordered the physical pages, I cover them with page protectors like these and snap them into an album.

Easy, right? Do some story-telling about this year in just a few minutes, then include a link to a quick Instagram post of your project in the comments below to share!


Products used:


Simple Album Title Pages

Continue Reading

Friday Links

Weekend Links // 19.

September 4, 2016

Labor Day weekend – officially the end of summer. I can’t even believe it. It’s still quite hot here, so I’m not really ready to think about hot drinks and cold days (although we did have soup for dinner a few evenings ago) and the thought of a sweater makes me want to shriek. But I AM looking forward to cooler days and evenings that will make spending time outside more pleasant.

I have a little patio garden planted for the late summer/fall months and it has been so cooperative, as has this piece about harvesting basil and this article on cilantro. (via Food Renegade & Gardening Know-How)

50 of America’s most famous homes. (via Country Living Magazine)

An interesting piece on co-sleeping. Miles shared our room until he was about 6 months old and Violet sleeps (mostly?) in her crib in our room now. Sleeping arrangements for babies are so baby/parent/schedule/personality dependent and can be such a tricky topic to discuss, yes? But I love reading about what other families choose to do and the reasoning behind it. (via NYT)

This is a blog you will love for so many reasons, but her piece on her cleaning rhythm is especially so lovely.

From Pinterest

Planning a fall wedding? Check out these DIY wedding invitations.

Have you ever tried to capture a silhouette shot?

From Instagram

My bar cabinet. Just kidding! We don’t have a bar cabinet. BUT IF WE DID. (via @organized_simplicity)

I wonder if I could get away with only feeding Mark and Miles Greek yogurt, watermelon, and grapefruit juice? (via @sluser)

From a Better Writer

“Better than any argument is to rise at dawn and pick dew-wet red berries in a cup.” 

-Wendell Berry

Continue Reading

Friday Links

Weekend Links // 18.

August 27, 2016

Weekend Reading List

It’s the weekend! Labor Day weekend, my birthday, Mark’s birthday – the official last few weeks of summer always hold fun celebrations for us and I’m excited! What are your weekend plans? If you need a final bit of pool scrolling and reading, check out the links below.

Have you posted one of these shots on Instagram this weekend? Congratulations. You’re wildly unoriginal.

Mark and I LOVED this documentary on the development of babies. The end gets a little political for my taste, but the cute shots of babies interacting with their parents and the discussion about the importance of play and parental interactions in babies’ lives made the two hours immensely worthwhile. (via The Atlantic).

How to throw an epic beer-tasting party.(via The Glitter Guide)

Did you know that you can snag popular magazines like Conde Nast Traveler from Amazon for as low as $5 for a year? I just discovered this secret and may have subscribed to a number of new titles with mildly excessive eagerness.

From Pinterest

A list of emotions you (up until now) have never had words to describe.

Delicious (and supposedly less terrible for you!) cocktail recipes for these hot last days of summer.

I’m obsessed with using vertical space to organize messy work-stations.

From Instagram

An Instagram feed that is not wildly unoriginal.

And another.

From a better writer:

“You don’t overcome challenges by making them small, but by making yourself bigger.”

– John Maxwell

Continue Reading

Friday Links

Weekend Links // 17.

August 12, 2016

After two glorious weeks in Michigan, we are back home and soaking up the last few weeks of these hot summer months.

We went blueberry and cherry picking while we were up North. If you’re faced with the troubling ordeal of TOO MANY BLUEBERRIES (is that possible?), this easy not-too-sweet pie recipe is for you. If you are further south and peaches are ripe, this bourbon slush provides a solution to both the excess peaches and the heat.

I love that some parents are turning dining rooms into a playrooms.

This idea for displaying special photos is great, especially since there’s no hanging required. (via Paper & Stitch)

These backyards have me swooning. I especially love the vertical planters for a small backyard space. (via Clean and Scentsible)

This piece by a mom has the grad student in me thinking about why we all feel the need to write about our kids in the first place. (via NYT)

Today, I pulled all of the shelves and drawers out of my fridge and scrubbed the entire thing. This = happiness in my world. Someday though I’d like it to look this good. (via The Intentional Minimalist)

Finally, a few Olympic events that you may not even know exist. (via LifeHacker)

Continue Reading

Friday Links | Uncategorized

Weekend Links // 16.

August 7, 2016

1

Happy Sunday! Here’s hoping yours has been restful and rejuvenating. While you’re keeping cool, here are some fun pieces to browse.

For a good laugh, this list of guys. (via The New Yorker)

The perfect dinner party playlist. (via Style Me Pretty)

If you (like me) are trying to improve your photography but don’t understand aperture, here’s a guide that might help. (via Expert Photography)

My favorite part of this list for visiting a new mom is the suggestion about bringing coffee. But there are lots of other gems in there as well. (via Mom.me)

I’m exploring ideas for sprucing up our backyard and love these vertical garden boxes.

If you’re working on the inside of your house instead, here some great suggestions for small spaces. (via The Kitchn)

Working on doing this more.

Continue Reading