Life, Parenthood

Minimalism

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.

xoxo

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Life

Thirty

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.

“No.”

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.

xoxo

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Life, Menu Planning

Saturday Shopping List + Update

Yes.  Saturday Shopping Lists have been mostly the only posts going up on Keeping Willow lately.  Trust me, it was not my intention to turn this blog into a shopping service when I started this series, but as a supplement to already occuring material.  Such is life sometimes. I promise there will be more variety in the future, but for now here is a little update on life at present.

Here in Toronto, education starts early.  Willow started going to preschool about 3 weeks ago, 2 days a week, from 9-3.  She is doing remarkably well.  I promised myself I wouldn’t get all upset when she started.  I broke my promise.

I have been in a constant state of adjustment.  Although I’ve been at a new job for the past 3 months, I am still trying to find new ways to fit my old routines into a my new schedule. When can I fit in a workout, make a new batch of kombucha, write a blog post? It’s been a challenge  Maybe a future blog post?

Jazz just started a new year of grad school as well as a new job.  His increasing interest in the coffee industry has lead him to a job at the best coffee shop in Toronto.  I can’t wait to reap the benefits of this change.

Update over.  Here is your shopping list.

Let me know how your week is going or what recipes you really like 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.  Obviously, some 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 including other food): $95

Shopping List (download)

M E N U //

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Who doesn’t love ramen?  Add coconut milk and green curry?  Hallelujah!  RECIPE

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Naturally Ella is increasingly becoming my favorite food blog.  Creamy polenta, roasted veg, chick peas, feta and a rustic curry flavor.  Ok! RECIPE

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I love this recipe by My Darling Lemon Thyme.  The ginger and squash combination is genius.  I added tempeh to the mix for a little extra protein (an option I put on the shopping list).  RECIPE

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A Keeping Willow original.  This creamy curry recipe is comforting and packed with flavor.  RECIPE

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A perfect warming soup for a cold fall day by 101 Cookbooks.  Added bonus, packed with everything healthy to give you the extra vitamins you need now that the hours of sunshine is diminishing.  RECIPE

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We make this recipe by Pinch of Yum all the time.  It’s one of Jazz’s favorites.  Skip Chipotle!  This bowl will give you your burrito bowl fix.  RECIPE

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I’m excited to try this creamy vegan bisque by one of my favorite blogs, The First Mess.  Ok, fall isn’t all that bad.  RECIPE

I hope your week is full of good surprises as well as pleasant predictability.  Happy Saturday!

xoxo

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Dating Jazz

Compromise

Jazz and I have been in the midst of an all out “all-purpose cleaner” war. You know, all-purpose cleaner. The stuff you spray down your counters with when you clean. We have been having a slight disagreement about what product we should be using in our home. You see, I am a little bit of a skeptic. Also a little bit of a hippie. I am terrified that the chemicals inside those bottles of all-purpose cleaner (or any type of cleaner that uses chemicals) are going to kill us, or give us dementia and cancer. And let’s not even mention what they do to the earth. In my opinion, it is not necessary to use chemicals for everyday cleaning. I mean, on occasion, for a tough clean or to keep all the white clothing I wear bright, I can permit a little chemical action (I am no purest). But for everyday cleaning I had been making my own all-purpose cleaner out of white vinegar, a couple drops of dish soap and some essential oil (to cover up the vinegar smell –because Jazz HATES the smell of vinegar). And I was feeling pretty proud of myself. We were saving money, saving the earth, effectively cleaning the house, and not dying.

Until one day…
We were doing one of our “oh my god, friends are coming over and our house is trashed” kind of cleaning binges when Jazz just disappeared. Twenty minutes later, he walks in the door. I was not particularly paying attention because my head was in the closet putting away piles of laundry. I walk into the kitchen when the smell overwhelms me.

Is that bleach?
Yes.
What are you doing?
Cleaning the kitchen.
With bleach?
Yep. That other crap you were using doesn’t clean and it stinks.
What?!! It cleans perfectly well and smells better than BLEACH!!!!! (Stacy walks away with steam spewing from her ears)

It’s fine. He just wants to get the house really clean at the moment. It’s not for everyday. I’ll just make some more vinegar cleaner. It’s fine.

The next morning, Willow is sitting at the table, waiting to be fed, while our new bleach cleaner is being misted all over the table in front of her.

NOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!

What are you doing?
Cleaning the kitchen.
With bleach?
Yep.
In front of our daughter?
Yes.
You are going to kill us!!!!!

I got so mad, I hid the bleach cleaner in a conspicuous location after Jazz left the house. But, when I went to go make a new batch of my healthy, non-toxic, vinegar based, all-purpose cleaner, I found that Jazz had thrown out the spray bottle I used to make it.

It would be so nice if the person you are in a relationship with was exactly like you. That they shared all the same values and had the same style and liked the same food. It would be convenient if you each loved what the other person loved and just wanted to spend your time doing and learning about the things that the other person loves to do. And in some cases, this can be partly true but in most cases it is not.

There is an unhealthy and misplaced idea in our culture that in order to have a successful relationship you need to be similar people. And if one individual changes, the relationship is in danger (hence the term, “you’ve changed” in any romantic drama). But this idea disrespects the humanity of the person you love. Every human is different and a healthy relationship is seeing all there is about a person (even the things you don’t like or agree with) and respecting them enough to let them be the way they are without feeling you need to change them (or change who you are to be like them). Besides, if that idea was true, we [Jazz and I] are in some serious trouble, because you can tell by just looking at us that we are our own individuals. Jazz dresses straight out of an episode off “the Fresh Prince of Bellaire” (if you’re too young to understand, that means he wears bright, vibrant colors and patterns and picks his hair) while I am a bit of a minimalist and literally own nothing but black and white.

Yesterday evening I came home from work. The house was spotless, the laundry was done and Jazz and had been busting his ass all day to get some important work done. I felt immeasurably grateful for all he had done so that our weekend might be spent with more hours of time together (and let’s be honest– watching some Netflix) rather than cleaning the house. Then he said he bought something for me, and he handed me a bottle of all-purpose cleaner.

What is this?
It’s Green Works. It’s a “green” all-purpose cleaner.
Ok?
Because you don’t like using the bleach cleaner.
Yeah, but I really want to use my vinegar cleaner.
I thought this would be a good middle ground.

Honestly, I was still a little frustrated, ( the same people who Green Works make the bleach cleaner after all!) but given a moment to think about it, I felt adored. Jazz was acting out of love and respect. He wanted the house “clean” but he also wanted me to feel safe and heard. By accepting this gift of Green Works I was showing love and respect to Jazz, understanding that using vinegar to clean our counters made him uncomfortable. It is things like the bottle of Green Works that is the key to successful relationships. Not that one person changes for what the other person wants or that both people try to be the same but rather that there is constant movement toward one another. A gravitational pull of love that can only result in generosity. An outpouring of grace upon grace upon grace. That both individuals compromise some of their desires in order to serve the other. That’s love. That is mutual respect.

I think it’s time to stock up on some Green Works.

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Life

New Things

Oh hey!  I guess the summer is almost over so it’s about time that I implode into writing, cooking, living and telling you all about it.  This summer has been fantastic, with the hiccup of a job change in the middle and looming paper deadlines for Jazz, but overall, superb.  I’ve spent most of the summer doing things that allowed me to neglect cooking in my own kitchen and be outside as much as possible.  Normally, the sound of autumn is a welcome chorus in the distance, coming to rescue me from the humid heat of the midwest that is starting to become clingy and outdated.  But this summer, I am not ready.  It was not hot here in Toronto for the entire month of June.  I love hot weather.  And I need a full summer of it.  Especially since the winters here are Canadian and everything.  So, fall, take your bloody time.  But the one thing I am excited about  fall for is diving back into this blog and spending some QT with y’all.  I have a couple projects I am working on that I’m really excited to share.  One of them I am sharing today (lucky you).

Last fall I wrote a series about frugal food and now that it’s almost been a year of watching every dollar, the weekly rituals of our meal preparation has become less about living frugally and more about living well.  When we realized that we waste so little, eat very healthy, enjoy our meals, and have less junk food in our house, the habits we formed have stuck, even in the light of a deeper pocket.  But when Saturday morning rolls around, and it’s time to make a grocery list, it takes a lot of thought and energy to plan the meals for every day.  Maybe enough that it may justify the dependence many of us have on processed foods and eating out (which is great, but much better in moderation).  So I thought, maybe it’s time I share all of the hard work I put into planning every week.  Because I kind of wish someone was doing it for me.

I don’t mean to brag but I am kind of pro when it comes to meal planning.  No really.  The past 5 years I have been paid to plan meals for people.  So technically, that makes me a professional.  And I’m kind of good at it (dusts shoulder off).  I am going to try (fingers crossed) to share what meals I’m planning each week, recipes for each, a general grocery list, and an estimated cost.  It may evolve over time, but I hope that this is a resource that people, maybe like me, could really use.

Each week I will plan meals, some from reputable bloggers, some of my own creation, that  are:

Seasonal
Healthy
Vegetarian (with some suggestions for you vegans and GF folks)
Affordable
Crazy delicious
and
Simple

Keep an eye out.  I will be starting these posts in the coming week.  I will always be open to suggestions, recipe ideas, and other requests and you can contact me by clicking the email link at the top of my blog.  As always, if you find yourself itching to share what you make to the masses, use the hashtag #keepingwillow.

I’m ecstatic to get back into hibernate mode and spam your feeds with news about new posts and pictures of my dinner…and Willow I guess.  Until next week!

xoxo

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