Life, Parenthood


I am a minimalist. Well, actually I wish I were a minimalist. I don’t know if I can give myself that title just yet. I am at least an aspiring one and have been for the past 3 years. Friends and family who have lived with me, you are right to laugh because you understand that I am not your typical, type A, neat freak. Piles of dishes in the sink, clothes all over the floor, and my stuff randomly scattered throughout the house would be a good description of the scene in a typical day in the life of Stacy. I wish I was naturally inclined to be tidy, but I’m not. I have to work at it like one might work at running a marathon. I used to feel bound to a world of clutter. Overwhelmed really. And then one day I started working for a family who lived differently than me.

Let’s just first say, that these folks were really all-around-cool.  But what stood out to me was their home. All of their decor was in neutral colors, house and home all consisted of clean lines, and there was art everywhere (like real art that they purchased from an artist). The places where you might expect there to be hidden junk/clutter/skeletons, say in the basement or in the closet, there wasn’t. They had 4 or 5 neatly organized, clear tubs in the basement and that was it. The spare closet only had a vacuum cleaner.  The house was open and airy. It was stress free. And let’s not even mention their collection of antique mid-century modern furniture (maybe off topic, but needs to be mentioned).

It wasn’t just that their house was tidy.  It was that it was — well, minimal.  The décor and style was simple and planned. The things they did have had a purpose and a place. Décor was limited to a well curated art collection, interesting yet simple furniture, a sprinkling of plants and a coffee table book here or there.  And yet the effect of the style was conspicuous.

This was my first introduction to minimalism (as well as mid century modern design) and it changed me. I couldn’t believe how free I felt in their home. First of all, I felt like I was in an art gallery with its almost white, grey walls, fresh and modern furniture and impeccable natural lighting. But mostly I felt like I could breathe for the first time in a long time. They had created a space that felt like being alone in the great outdoors with only you and your breath to accompany you. And I was a better person in that atmosphere.

In early adulthood I was diagnosed with ADHD. Those of you who know me may be shocked because I am the most awkward and often times quiet of introverts. Not your typical stereotype for this particular learning disorder. I have what was called then (and may be now — I don’t stay on top of the DSM), an inattentive type of ADD that doesn’t result in super hyper activity but still manifests signs of the classical disease such as distraction, difficulty taking tests, and being a slob. A description of a typical child with inattentive ADD is described as a shy and quiet (usually) girl who daydreams a lot.  That pretty much describes my entire childhood.  Although I had the disease my entire life, it was never noticed unitl later in life because I didn’t fit the stereotype. As a result, I had learned to cope my with symptoms rather than depend on medication (not that I’m against medication, just what happened to me). Ever since I realized I had a learning disability, I found many new ways to cope. And ever since I became a mother, minimalism has become a major one.

Listen, before you have kids we westerners seem to believe that children need all this stuff. And not just stuff — big, ugly plastic stuff. It felt very intruding to design your living room with a simple, clean aesthetic in mind and then plop a huge purple, plastic exersaucer in the middle of the room.  And then just walk around the house scattering loud, abnoxious toys that light up. And for a time, that’s what we did. Until I realized that children don’t need much. Other than warm clean clothing (and if I’m buying it, it probably fits into the neutral side of the rainbow) some good books, a handful of developmentally appropriate toys and a boob, children do not need much more than you.   So, how do you live as a minimalist and have a child you may ask?

The answer to that question is ever evolving.  I find minimizing Willow’s things difficult because she is given so many wonderful things by family and friends.  Our solution, for the time being is that we just don’t buy her anything. I would say 98% of all of Willow’s toys we did not buy. If there’s something she needs, we put it on her gift lists for birthdays and holidays.   Once she outgrows or stops using a toy, it goes into storage (in case of the chance of a sibling in the future) or is donated.  In keeping things simple, tidying up becomes less of an overwhelming chore for both us (Jazz and I) and for Willow.

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In the end, we have many a moment of clutter and junk in our home.  Like I said, we are aspiring minimalists.  But something about being intensional about the space you spend time in and aware of the things you have relieves stress.  At least it does for me.  Yes, minimalism may be trendy right now, but it seems to me to be the kind of trend that is beneficial (like bike commuting or kale smoothies) rather than gratuitous (like ripped jeans and ombrés).  So for right now, less is more.

Here are 6 simple rules we have to live as aspiring minimalists: 
1. Toys that have been hiding for the past 6 months or are kind of junky get donated or into storage.
2. Any clothing you haven’t worn in a year and/or you don’t love to wear anymore, go. We thrift most of our clothing which makes giving it away or selling it seem like much less of a loss. It helps to simplify your wardrobe to a few quality building blocks that can be worn with everything (think netural colors or chambray. Do you need 10 pairs of jeans? Start by cutting everything in half)
3. When decorating, less is more. Bright white walls with a few pieces of art and some green plants help keep a home from feeling too cluttered.
4.  Be mindful — constantly evaluate what you need and what you don’t, recognizing when you are holding onto stuff (or neglecting to deal with it) for emotional reasons rather than necessity.
5. Avoid piling.  Sometimes, when we’re in a hurry to tidy, things end up in piles.  Try to take some time every week to file papers and put things in their places.  If it doesn’t have a place, either make on or let it go.
6. Books — actually, this is our week spot.  We are book hoarders.  Does anyone have any suggestions?

May you find yourself living at peace with less.


7 Recipes to Make this week // Keeping Willow
Menu Planning

Shopping List

Merry Christmas!  Happy New Year!  All of those things.  We took the holidays to just REST.  It was so good.  I missed you.

So, I’ve been working hard to get life back on track.  Cooking, cleaning, planning, drinking coffee.  All the things you do when it’s cold and rainy (and almost snowy — which, by the way, unlike last year I am actually excited for).  So here is what I am making for dinner this week. Seven simple, healthy, and delicious vegetarian dinners that I can’t wait to try.

All our shopping is done.  I spent about $100 for all our groceries for the week.  I can’t wait to dig into these amazing recipes. Have a great week!



This soup is vegan and gluten free while also remaining creamy and satisfying.  The yellow hue is from turmeric, an all-purpose body pick-me-up.  I love the sweetness of fennel and cant wait to devour this soup.


chickpea salad

I love chickpea salad.  But this one is curried and uses avocado instead of mayo. And BASIL!  Heck yes.  Gluten free folks, use your favorite GF bread or serve over a bed of your favorite greens with some veggies.



Give me all the Indian food.  Whole mushrooms and a little fenugreek.  If you can’t find fenugreek, just use a tablespoon of curry powder.  It’s a common ingredient.  Gluten free and vegan.



This recipe look beautiful, but I can’t wait to try this pistachio based dressing.  OMG.  And roasted chickpeas.  Gluten free and vegan.  Want something hardier?  Toss in your favorite grain like farro.

POTATO SOUP  Alexandra Cooks

potato soup

Simple and creamy with some almost caramelized sweet onions.  Vegans, use unsweetened cashew or almond milk.  Gluten free folks.  Rather than making the roux, warm the milk and add a slurry of corn starch and water (2 Tbsp starch to 1 Tbsp water).  When the milk is pretty warm but not boiling, stir in the slurry.  Allow to come back up to temperature.  Then add to potato mixture.



A spin on a classic greek dish.  Packed with beans and veggies.  Vegans, try topping with some grated daiya cheese or experiment with some vegan yogurt and parm.  Already gluten free.  (P.S. an aubergine is an eggplant)



Anything hearty and healthy is a win in my book.  Gluten free.  Vegans, use cashew cream in place of the half & half or just skip it.


There you go.  A full week of meal ideas from some pretty stellar blogs.  Happy eating!


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Menu Planning

Mini Shopping List

Ok, I’ll admit it.  I bit off more than I can chew with the Saturday Shopping List posts I’ve been doing the past few weeks.  I put a lot of intentionality and attention to detail into each list, which is good, but time and energy are key factors needed to keep such a boat a float.  So, I have decided to do a weekly “mini” shopping list (well, not a list really.  Just a bunch of recipes you should make for the week) with a more detailed list once a month.  I have received some wonderful feedback from some of you about these lists.  First, I am immeasurably grateful for you taking the time to share your thoughts.  So helpful and encouraging. Second, I’m glad to know that this has become a really helpful resource for people (which is also very motivating to me).

I will still be updating my Saturday Shopping List board on Pinterest each week.  If you almost always use Pinterest when cooking like I do, this is an easy way to get all your weeks recipes in one place.

I have found some amazing recipes that I think will get you motivated to get into the kitchen a little more.  Without further ado, I give you my “mini” list.



This salad is really delicious.  I used baby spinach.  Vegans, skip the feta.


November 2015, Thanksgiving

I recently made this recipe but added roasted butternut squash (OMG!) and tossed it with some arugula and fresh basil.  Vegans, skip the parm.  Use coconut oil for the butter.



Haven’t made this yet.  Making it on Thursday.  Can’t wait.  It has roasted carrots, baked lentil falafel, roasted cauliflower, pistachios and a bunch of healthy goods.



Use the other half of your butternut squash to make these sexy babies.  Gluten free folks, just be normal and use corn tortillas.  Vegans, skip the yogurt.



This is salad is delicious.  But… it’s even better is you roast the potatoes and add some goat cheese.  Just throwing that out there.



Apples and leeks and sqaush?  Oh my!  You really can’t go wrong with that combination.  I can hear my body thanking me now.  Gluten free folk, skip the crouts.



I picked this recipe for Jazz.  He is my midwest comfort food loving vegetarian husband.








It’s only a number, right? Being 30 is really no different than being 29. I mean, it shouldn’t be. You don’t pass through a magical threshold on your 30th birthday and suddenly everything is different. Or do you? I don’t know, maybe it’s just me, but being 30 is weird.

When I was in my 20’s, it was totally fine to be aimless, careerless, and to carpe a lot of diem. I felt pressure to have fun, ride my bike, and shop at Urban Outfitters. All of my peers just seemed to be trying to figure things out, and that was perfectly acceptable.

On my 30th birthday, my friends took me tubing down the Saginaw river with a cooler full of beer. I am one of the first of my friend group to turn thirty so I felt as if I were leading the way. At the end of our trip down the river, the tubing company picked us, and whoever else was sharing the river with us (poor souls), up to take us back to our cars. I made a declaration while we waited in the 13 passenger van, “30 is going to be even better than 20! I just know it.” In the back seat sat a man and his young son. The man was in his lower 40’s. One of my friends turned around and asked the man, “how about you? Was 30 better than 20?”. The man shortly answered.


That was not what I needed to hear.

Since I’ve turned 30 (which has been almost a year and a half), I feel constantly reminded of my age and what expectations there are of me.
First, there is the surprise and/or denial of how age is taking a toll on my body. I heard a business professional sitting on the street car talking to her friend. She didn’t look old, but she dressed old. I mean, she looked so much older than ME. Her conversation changed directions and the fact that her age was 34 came up. “You are only three years older than me?!!” This happens to me all the time. I see someone and think, oh yeah, they have to be WAY older than me. And then I find out they are within a couple years of me. I then realize (other than the fact that I am a shallow person for constantly comparing my age to other people), I probably look just as old as they do, I just think I look like I’m still twenty.

Second, there is an unspoken expectation that by the time you’re 30 you have achieved certain life goals and if you’re not there yet, out pour the feelings of inadequacy. The ideal thirty-year-old is most definitely in their career, owns a home, probably newly married, and has or will be having a child in the next year or two. They have unsubscribed from the Urban Outfitter’s mailing list and wear age appropriate clothing (I’m not even sure what that is, J Crew maybe?). Their car is less than 6 years old. Obviously, I’m being a little facetious (I like things at J. Crew, it’s just a joke), but if you do not fit into that ideal shaped hole you most definitely start to feel a little like a square peg. Suddenly it is just more complicated to relate to people (which is exactly what a socially awkward introvert like me needs).

Third, the anti-aging wars begin. Eye cream? What is that? Why? Serums? What is that for? Wait, how much does that cost? Do you notice all of these grey hairs? Is that a jowel? These products, thoughts, and feelings that have never caught my attention before are suddenly, now that I’m 30, being marketed and pointed out to me as if the necessity to deal with them are so dire that I may just wither up into an old lady by the time I’m forty if I don’t start doing something about them now. I always thought I’d just embrace my aging body as it came. Well, it’s happening faster than I thought and I don’t know if I’m ready.
Lastly, there is the weird Millennial/Gen X divide. I am 31. Technically, I am a millennial. Most of my friends are younger than me (I was one of those 6th year seniors in University) so that has influenced my millennialness even more. But technically, although I understand it is a blurry line, people who are four years older than me, or even less, fit into Generation X. You might say, “yeah, so what?” But if I asked many a Gen Xer if I could follow them on Instagram, there is a good chance they would say that they don’t have Instagram or if they do they don’t use it that often. And let’s not even mention Snapchat (my new fave, but really not new to anyone under 22). This is not necessarily an issue about social media. There is a significant difference between the mentality of a Millennial and a Gen Xer. Our values are different. I mean, it’s not that we can’t coexist or something. I am friends with and have dated many a Gen Xer (ok by many I mean 2). But Millennials want different things. For instance, millennials caer less about money and more about contributing to society and doing what they love than someone from Generation X. It’s just different. Even as a parent. I would rather find a “family friendly” pub (one that doesn’t care that children are meandering around and serves them glasses of watered down cranberry juice) and chat with friends over moscow mules than go to a “family friendly” anything else. This may also just be a personal problem, I understand. But really, being some of the first millennials to turn thirty feels like walking into a party being the only one who is dressed in a costume. So weird.

In the end, 30 is just a number. A bigger more awesome number. Yeah maybe it’s confusing, exposing, mortalizing and awkward, but that’s just part of the charm, right? I know more things now, about the world and about myself. I have developed rich relationships with friends and family. I have a deep sense of hope and optimism that living a full life is what you do with it and how you love, not what happens to you. My capacity for grace and compassion is deeper and my openness to other people has grown. How are these things not a recipe for a good decade?I don’t care what the man in the back of the 13 seater says, 30, we’re going to do big things and leave 20 behind in the dust.


Keeping Willow
Dinner, Menu Planning

Saturday Shopping List // Halloween Detox

Happy Saturday Sunday!  Yesterday we had a day full of Halloween shenanigans and a little girl who didn’t nap, so the shopping list was put on the back burner.  Sorry about that.

This week I picked a slew of crazy healthy recipes to help you detox from your Halloween weekend.  Yesterday, after eating 4-5 pieces of candy (which I normally never eat) I started feeling grouchy and depressed.  It was convincing to me that all the negative hubbub about sugar lately is legit.  I hope this menu helps you to come down from your sugar buzz. And then on Friday, to celebrate a healthy week, some hearty, creamy pasta (with some earthy, roasted beets in there to continue the healthy vibe).

There’s a creamy squash soup, hearty autumn salad, and eggplant meatballs. So in other words, a healthy menu with no compromise of deliciousness and comfort.

Keep me updated on how your week is going or what recipes you enjoy by tagging your photos on Instagram with #keepingwillow. Leave me a comment below telling me what you didn’t like, how much your groceries cost or what your kids really liked.

You can download your shopping list below.  Many of the things on the list you will already have.  Just check off the the things you need.  There is space below each category to add any other things you need to buy for the week.

You can find all of the recipes for this week in one place by following my “Saturday Shopping List” board on Pinterest here.

Total cost (for all groceries I bought for the week, including other food): $110

Shopping List (download)

M E N U //

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This is a dreamy, green-less salad by Pinch of Yum is screaming everything autumn.  Add a can of chickpeas to add some heartiness.  (GF + V) RECIPE

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Roasted brussel sprouts are one of my favorites.  This recipe by Naturally Ella is going to fulfill my brussel sprout dreams.  If you’re looking for a creamier polenta, add 4 oz of goat cheese. (GF + sub vegan butter alternative) RECIPE

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It’s all the decadence of risotto and yet it’s not.  This creative recipe from Sanisbury Magazine is loaded with tender greens and mushrooms galore.  (GF + sub butter for coconut oil + vegan parm or nutritional yeast for parmesan, if vegan) RECIPE

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By spicy, it means full of spices not necessary “hot” per se.  Cookie + Kate makes this “Chorizo” inspired soup from the cookbook “The Year of Cozy” by Adrianna Adarme. Super simple and squash has so much nutritional value.  (GF + V) RECIPE

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I literally cannot wait until Wednesday so that I can eat these amazing “meat”balls by The First Mess.  Satiable and hearty but seriously healthy. Can you say kale pesto? (sub GF bread if GF + V) RECIPE

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I am obsessed with tahini dressings.  They make salad so creamy and earthy.  I can’t wait to try Minimalist Baker’s version with Kale and some butter beans. (Use GF croutons if GF + already V) RECIPE

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The thing about Half Baked Harvest recipes, is that they are extremely creative and interesting.  Yes, this is a pasta dish on a detox menu.  Cut yourself some slack.  And come on, there are beets in here. (if you’re GF use GF pasta or maybe stir the ingredients into a risotto. If vegan, skip the manchengo or substitute with vegan parm.  Use 1/2 cup cashew cream mixed with salt, pepper, and 2 Tbsp of nutritional yeast to substitute the brie) RECIPE


Happy Saturday…er…Sunday!!