The “Polar Vortex” continues in northern Michigan and honestly, we are loving it. As Chris likes to exclaim, “now THIS is a REAL winter!” I just shoveled last night and we got another six (or more) inches last night. It’s beautiful, isn’t it? The cold has kept the snow light and fluffy and although it’s been windy today, the snow is still piled high on all the birdfeeders, branches and any other horizontal surface it can find. We’ve been trying to get out and enjoy it as much as we can: XC skiing, sledding, downhill skiing, kicking out the wheel wells, shoveling. Shoveling. Even driving is an adventure with the snow piled so high that it makes it hard to see at the intersections. Luckily everyone is inching out and taking it easy so we’re all in the same boat, err, sled.



This guy loves this snow and cold. Winter is one shared love we’ve always had. I know many people who prefer to hibernate and while we like to do some of that, we prefer to be out in it. There’s nothing like skiing out in the woods, sweating and feeling your heart beat out of your chest from the exertion. And while it’s 7 degrees out, you’re sweating. It makes me feel ALIVE.

Speaking of hibernation, we’re doing quite a bit of that this weekend too. Simmering ribs and making macarons. Friends are coming over tonight! There will be wine and laughter and a feeling of “we’re all in this polar vortex together,” so let’s enjoy each other. We’re thankful to have great food, friends and warmth.


And chocolate macarons. Yes, we are feeling ALIVE! Indeed. Cheers!




school picture day

Today was school picture day, when your child is dressed in a super cute outfit, but the picture only shows the upper quarter. Of course, it’s the smile that counts anyway. I can’t wait to see Wren’s real school picture because she showed me what smile she was going to use… anyway, here are a few shots of the other three quarters. Thanks to Salon Shook who did Wren’s braids this morning as I have almost zero hair skills. My poor beautiful daughters got stuck with a Mom with almost zero fashion sense and hair skills. But they seem to be pulling off their own personal style just fine! Drama helps.

Happy Labor Day!

Labor Day has me thinking about all the different jobs I’ve had, businesses I’ve run, opportunities had… so here goes:

  • letterpress printer
  • graphic designer, several different jobs
  • high school art and english teacher
  • dorm parent
  • burger flipper
  • art history slide filer
  • pizza joint waitress
  • banquet hall waitress
  • camp health officer
  • camp counselor
  • retail associate – several places: Old Navy, Pier One, Cherry Republic
  • order processing manager
  • Body Shop independent sales rep
  • coffee barista
  • ice cream scooper, twice
  • ice cream/coffee shop owner
  • consignment shop owner
  • freelance writer | designer | marketing specialist
  • online communications specialist/project manager
  • green consultant
  • summer activities coordinator, summer school
  • babysitter
  • gift wrapper for Dad and brother
  • Mama

I’m probably forgetting several too! My favorite so far? Mama.

the diet

Most people begin a diet at the beginning of the year, but this year I decided that the best time would be after Fat Tuesday (or Paczki Day or Mardi Gras) ON Ash Wednesday, which is tomorrow! OK, it’s not really named after me, but still, don’t you think that seems just right? So today I fattened up with a paczki of the Traverse City variety, which is not nearly as delicious as the real Hamtramck variety, but I digress. Did I just say that I fattened up? Well, I was already too fat before I even bit into the paczki. I could say it was “baby weight,” but really I shed the true “baby weight,” and now I’m left with the I-ate-too-much-when-I-was-pregnant-and-didn’t-exercise-enough weight. Oof. After Wren was born, I shed the weight pretty easily because I was walking and then running a lot. A beautiful summer and fall stretched out ahead of me and it was really easy to get out with just a baby and really easy to eat healthy, fresh food. Now given how difficult I find it to grocery shop with the two, getting out to exercise has been difficult. And eating really healthy during November and December involved a lot more will power than I was willing to muster so I said, sure pass me another Christmas cookie… So here I am in February and I just feel chubby and yucky. It could be that I’m still struggling with how to shower every day too… ahem. So, here I am.

I didn’t need to share this with you, but I thought that it would help me to stick with my plan if I shared my struggles and successes along the way. First I wanted to make a list of all the diets I’ve tried in the past 20+ years. That’s right, I think I’ve tried one diet or another since I was an early teenager. Maybe earlier actually. Here goes the list, but I think there are more, but I can’t remember them right now. One thing I am sure of, you can find out today the equipment I have used to achieve the perfect body that most women desire.

  • Weight Watchers (three or four times?)
  • Jenny Craig (twice?)
  • Nutrisystem
  • medical weight loss treatment
  • South Beach Diet (three times?)
  • train for a marathon approach to losing weight (twice)
  • Ayurvedic approach
  • Eat nothing white
  • vegan and vegetarian eating for weight loss
  • Body for Life
  • Skinny Bitch
  • French Women Don’t Get Fat
  • Body Sculpting Bible diet
  • low carb
  • eat NO junk food ever again approach
  • Jillian Michaels
  • Spark
  • counting calories
  • counting fat
  • low fat
  • Biggest Loser diet
  • paleolithic
  • the I’ll diet tomorrow approach (almost every day)

And I’m sure there are more, oh my. And almost all the approaches worked and I lost a bit of weight, but I would get bored (or hungry!) and stop. I feel a bit queasy and distraught when I think about all the time I’ve wasted thinking about my weight and body image over the years. If I had put that energy and thought into something else, I bet I could have found the cure to some disease or come up with a million dollar idea. Best not to regret they say, but I do.

I never have been into fashion or make-up or caring too much about how I looked when I left the house, but recently I realized it was because nothing ever really looked good on me since I was short and stout. Skinny jeans, are you kidding me?! More on this topic in a future post…

Speaking of short and stout, most of the time I don’t realize that I’m only 5’1″ tall. Seriously, I just don’t think about it and it has never really bothered me to be short. But when I picked up The Petite Advantage Diet: Achieve That Long, Lean Look. The Specialized Plan for Women 5’4″ and Under, it was like being hit on the head. Duh! You can’t eat like your husband who is A FOOT taller than you and expect to lose weight, or expect to not gain weight. Or eat like most of the people I eat with because I’m usually the smallest one. Duh! again. Why had the reality of this never really occurred to me?! I suppose it was hidden in many of the approaches to slimming down that I tried, but it was never out there, loud-and-proud.

The diet isn’t brain surgery, lovelies; it involves eating small portions of protein-rich, satisfying whole foods with lots of veggies and fruit. I hate “diet” foods so I’m thankful that the diet really only calls for consuming actual foods and not strange, man-made concoctions with lots of ingredients I can’t pronounce. The books lays out a three week meal plan to follow, which is nice because I don’t have to do any calorie-counting or overthink what to eat (should I eat a salad with poached chicken or should I have a vegan burrito with some kind of healthy “cheese?” Hell, I’ll just have a few cookies and another cup of coffee…) It also involves caloric cycling with some days a bit higher in calories than others. As far as exercise, it calls for a simple gravity band routine that I can do at home, or really anywhere there is a door. This was also appealing to me because I’m not going to commit to finding (and paying for) childcare on a regular basis so I can drive to a gym and workout.

The one aspect of the book I can’t really get entirely behind is that the author, Jim Karas, seems to be anti-cardio exercise. Cardio just makes me feel so much better and this emotional boost goes a long way to making healthy choices and having a good attitude toward life. I’m not going to give it up, but since it’s only playing a very small part in my life right now, it’s not much to worry about anyway. There’s really not time to overdo it since I sometimes can’t find time to take a shower or clean yesterday’s dishes…

I also contacted the author to find out if I needed to adjust the calories since I was nursing. He said I could safely add about 200 calories, which I decided could be a couple extra pieces of fruit or something more satisfying like a small handful or almonds or some low-fat, natural cheese.

Are you still reading this post? Man, I realize this is probably getting boring and somewhat embarrassing for me , but I just wanted to get it all out there. Tomorrow I will post one of those awful “before” photos and some numbers (yikes!) so wish me luck! Please and thank you.

Now for you, lovelies. Any tips or tricks you’d like to share? PLEASE send them my way. Pleeeeeaaaase! xo

p.s. Happy Fat Tuesday! Any amazing indulgences you’d like to share? Giving up anything for Lent? Good luck to YOU!

mouths of birdies

My Mom reminded me that I should be writing all the funny things Wren says down in a notebook. Notebook?! Well, I don’t have a notebook for said (written?) purpose, but did I mention that I have a blog? So I will keep this post updated with a running list of funny things from the mouths of my birdies. Here goes…

During lunch on Tuesday, Wren sits down and says, “well, what should we talk about today?” Can I just interrupt this original train of thought by sharing that she really says that and I just think it’s the cat’s meow? OK. So I say, “let’s talk about what you did in school this morning.” Wren says, “no, let’s talk about baby Jesus.” Me: “um, OK.” So we start to talk about how baby Jesus grew up into a little boy and then a young man and he did lots of wonderful things and was REALLY good at sharing. I tried to keep it simple and describe things in a way she could relate to. So fast forward to dinner that night and I tell Chris about our interaction during lunch. So he asks Wren, “what do you know about baby Jesus?” She says, “baby Jesus turned into a beautiful man.” Chris: “what made him beautiful?” Wren, without missing a beat, “glitter.”

“Mama, when I grow up, I’m NOT going to be a hedgehog, I’m going to be a squirrel that lives up in the trees with rabbits.” And then she laughs, “just joking, Mama. I’m going to be a Cheeto when I grow up.”

Wakes up in the morning and FIRST thing she says is, “I was thinking that we could go get some gelato.”

“When I grow up, Phoebe can nurse on my boobies.”

Wren at the gym after running around non-stop for an hour. Feels chest/pumping heart… “wow, my heart is really pumping my blood around today!”

“Wren, please go upstairs and get some new dry pants on.” Wren: “penis? What?! You said penis. Why did you say penis?”

Santa: “What would you like for Christmas this year?” Wren: “frozen pig.”

Around Christmas… me: “Wren, come and wash your hands NOW!” Wren: “I can’t, I’m going to Bethlehem, Mama!”

Also around Christmas… “Wren what do you want to give Phoebe for Christmas?” So serious, “Cheetos.”


I really cherish this time of year, the week of relative quiet and calm between the busy holiday bookends. Well, as much quiet and calm as can be achieved with two small children in our midst. We get to have Chris home for most of the week, play with new puzzles and games, eat lots of Christmas cookies and drink from our newly-replenished tea and coffee supply, and share some lazy time with friends and family.

This time of year is also obviously filled with reflection on the past year’s highlights/failures and a renewed sense of hope that a new, blank calendar brings. 2012 already? How did THAT happen?! So I’ve been thinking about resolutions for the coming year. I do love to make a list of goals and it helps to share them; a sort of accountability that only comes when you reveal your wishes with others. Not that I really want people to say, “so Ash, how’s that weight loss coming along for ya now that it’s been a few months since you had Phoebe and you’re still lounging around in those maternity jeans?!” Yeah…

So onward to 2012 and my personal wishes:

  • create my own art (again)
  • consume more whole, clean foods (bye bye, Christmas cookies)
  • get rid of my credit card debt (inspired by And Then She Saved)
  • create a regular yoga practice (why hello there, yoga mat, it’s been a while)
  • take on a few more small-business clients
  • read more, surf less (like a real book with pages)
  • walk more, drive less
  • laugh more often
  • be a better friend (like pick up the phone and actually speak to a live person)
  • savor this fleeting caterpillar-time with my little birdies
  • plan more date nights with Chris
  • sweat (inspired by the Lululemon manifesto. I love this!)
  • unclutter

How ’bout you, lovelies? What’s in store for you in the coming year? Do you like to create resolutions every year? Feel free to leave a link here to yours…

Happy New Year! XO

on weeding

A miraculous thing happened last night. Lots of late summer sunsets and parties caught up with the little birdie and she went to sleep at 6 p.m.! Lovelies, this has NEVER happened before. I’ve heard of children going to sleep at a reasonably earlyish time and sleeping for twelve hours, but Wren is not one of those. I was cursing myself for putting her down so early because I knew she would wake up at 7:30 or 8 and then be up for a few more hours, arrggh. But she was so crabby and we just couldn’t take anymore of each other. Usually when Wren naps in the afternoon, I rush around and try to cram in as many things as I possibly can because I never know when she’ll wake up and require my attention. Could be in 45 minutes or the very rare, three hours.

So what was I to do with this gifted time? Read a book? Take a bath? While those sounded appealing, I just couldn’t ignore the garden anymore so I went on a long-overdue, no-holds-barred weeding rampage. I know, right?! I have some extra time and what do I do with it? Weed. Because I over-planted last year’s garden, it didn’t have any weeds. But this year, well, a completely different story. One ripe with clover. Sigh.

The thing about weeding is that there’s just no space for the kind of feverish activity that I usually cram into any extra time that lands in my lap. I was forced to slow down, be methodical and eventually let my mind wander. After about an hour or so of bending over, my preggers heartburn kicked in and I had to take a break. I went inside, drank a glass of water, consumed a couple Tums, aka “Mama’s medsin,” listened for the little birdie and hearing nothing, headed back outside. It took about another solid hour of bending and pulling, oof.

Miracle: the birdie didn’t wake up AND the weeding is done. For now anyway. And it actually looks like a garden again with pleasingly distinct rows of strawberry plants, asparagus ferns, fingerling potatoes, beets, carrots, tomatoes, nasturtium, basil, dill, tomatillos and peppers. Where the parsley is hiding I still have no idea, but I’m still holding out hope that it will emerge. Slow to germinate, right?!

The same simple geometry cannot be found further south in the squash and melon patch. I came across an absolute deluge of volunteer plants likely from last year’s compost and my rule became: if it looks even remotely edible, it stays. A few tomato plants here, what looks like tomatillo or maybe a couple sunflowers there, and a pumpkin or two? So let’s just say it’s even more organic down there…

Once I settled into the weeding routine, it reminded me a lot of my yoga practice. The way my mind wanders and my body protests at first, then my mind slows and focuses and my body finds its flow. I’ve been really missing my ashtanga yoga practice during this pregnancy so maybe that’s why I found the weeding so gratifying, almost meditative. The sun crept lower, the traffic quieted, I stopped hearing lawn mowers, edgers, radios.

“They know, they just know where to grow, how to dupe you, and how to camouflage themselves among the perfectly respectable plants, they just know, and therefore, I’ve concluded weeds must have brains.”  ~Dianne Benson, Dirt

The weeds will certainly be back and I’ve got to admire their resiliency. Albeit completely terrorizing!

What are your thoughts on weeding, lovelies? Do you also have a love/hate relationship with them in your garden?

a squirrely game

Have you seen this squirrely game? Too cute, right?! For ages 3-5 and runs about $20. I know a few wee (and big) ones who just might really like this… do you like to play games in your nest? Does this look like too many small parts to keep track of to you? Feels like we’re just coming out of the game-playing season and into the running through the sprinkler season, but perfect for next Christmas! Bookmarked.


Yup, we’re still wearing winter hats here in da frozen north country, but mostly only in the mornings. Only a few big snow piles in the northern shadowy reaches remain. The squirrels have been eating the crocus as soon as they begin to get real showy. Arrghh. What’s it like in your neighborhood, lovelies?

We spent almost all of yesterday’s play time outside, which included a long meandering walk through the neighborhood going wherever the little birdie wanted to go. Do you ever do this with your kids? Just let go and let them lead YOU on a walk? We end up discovering fun places like drainage ditches, “bowls,” as Wren calls them, with patches of sprightly green moss. One of yesterday’s new words! Moss.

We even grilled out AND ate dinner outside at the picnic table. I think the little birdie even had a little pink in her complexion this morning. So it only hit 50 yesterday, but we’ve got some major spring fever around here, can you tell? No flip flops yet, but I’m not wearing any socks today. Just in case.

Waking up to the smell of skunk was even a bit thrilling. Spring really has sprung!