Christmas Party Poem for Mamas

I wrote this too early in the morning two Christmases ago, and it should not be missed any longer.  

Twas The Night Before Spin Class

Twas the Night Before Spin Class and I was in bed,
my down comforter snuggled all the way up to my head.
My dreams were disturbed far too early I fear,
as I knew the time for an exercise class was near.

From my cozy warm bed I arose with a clatter;
some horrible sound and tinny talk patter!
I rubbed sleep from my eyes and stretched my stiff back
looking groggily at my clock alarm from Radio Shack

The lights were all on and the announcer was prattling
when I realized the alarm was going off, my sleepiness shattering
I spied the pile of gym clothes folded and neat
and I realized last night I'd attempted a feat

Attend the Mothers and More Holiday Party
with other Mamas so pretty
never got my chocolotini by the way, kind of...uncool.
We were all gussied up and made up in our best
our children by sitters and fathers and family put to rest
so we could enjoy being more than mothers and WOW were we HOT!

So my foolish feat of this day became clear
I was meant to go to spin class, Oh. My. Dear.
Five a.m. was quite early in the best circumstances but
thoughts of rich food and cocktails through my head...
that craziness prances!

My terrible friend Lindsay and my wretched pal Liz
both agreed we could make the class just as we is.

But we didn't.  NO WAY!




Bah HUMBUG! (& Merry Christmas)

Mama Goes Back to Work. A Little Bit.

Sometimes God sticks me in the most interesting of places.  A perfect job came up for me last week: a friend I admire and volunteer with at church was leaving her position and asked if I was interested in it.  I said yes, BUT I'd be interested in about two more years when both girls were in school full time.  That is my timing.  'Ol Padnah's timing, well it is a bit different.  So conversations were had and meetings happened and everything aligned so that I could accept a part time Interim position at my church for three months.  I went from afraid to thrilled, tentative to delirious with joy.  I believe when a person gives themselves over to seek God's will amazing things can happen.  



I will be the Interim Director of Connections at First United Methodist Church.  My job is First Impressions which means connecting people to each other and to God...can you IMAGINE?  Could I be better suited to any other job?  All of my faith and church experiences have honed me for this job.  My work life of fixing troubled teams and properties for The Sterling Group has prepared me for this job.  Learning to lead a ministry with Modern Moms has prepared me for this job.  Growing closer to God over the past eleven years has stretched me towards this job.  I feel prepared by God for this job the same way I was prepared for my husband John.  I can, in retrospect, see how all the pieces fit together to make me uniquely qualified to serve the FUMC congregation well.  

But.

There are weaknesses in me too.  There is vanity and frivolity and overzealous passion for what I think is right.  These worry me.  A schedule, deadlines, and responsibilities deeper than folding socks scare me.  I need your help.  Will you pray for me?  Will you think of me as you may any mama heading back to work after a period of raising their babies?  Pray I am guarded from b.s (yes, that CAN be a healthy prayer) Pray that I am wise and never forget I am working FOR the people, not myself...that I am ultimately always working for God.  'ol Padnah.  Abba. Phil. (Ask Anne Lamott!) And please pray for my husband John, he will be a little busier with me working more.

I want above all things to honor God with my life by encouraging others.  I fail so often at this, and so I am a constant work in progress...and I covet your prayers.  

I will continue to do speaking engagements, lead Modern Moms and write the Live Your Love Out Loud blog. I will be working mostly when Portia is in school and Libby is in preschool.  The day Libby comes to work with me she gets to bring her lunch and she is over the moon about that.  I would love for this to become a long term job for me as it uses my gifts, pays well and has flexible hours that allow me to truly be present for my family.  We shall see how the next three months go, and what God will do next. I cannot wait!

p.s.  If you are local, even if you do not go to church or if you attend your own church I would love to get your candid feedback if you can VISIT our First United Methodist Church at 103 Franklin Street, Valparaiso, Indiana.  I'll be responsible for the volunteer teams that greet and usher and for the atmosphere for new guests so I would be fascinated to hear your take on things if you can spare an hour on Sunday.  8am, 9:15am and 11am Services.  

p.p.s. We have donuts.

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Tiny Red Kitchen: Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day That I Talk About More Than Jesus

OK Fine, here is how to make my fabulousy cheap easy healthy Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day whole wheat bread.  Since I talk about this bread more than Jesus, I figured I should make CERTAIN there was an easy to find post on it.  Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day.

I blame Jen Jones from my Valparaiso Mothers and More moms group for setting me on this path.  A few years ago in playgroup she innocently said, “I made bread last night and we ate it all...”.

Thems my kinda words.  I’m a sugar whore first, but I am also a bread girl.  I bake bread.  I EAT bread.  So I asked her,

“What kind of bread did you make?”

BIG MISTAKE.


Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day.  Four ingredients.  You stir them together and have dough that keeps for two weeks in the fridge...so you can have fresh hot steamy bread anytime.  Cheap healthy simple bread.  No chemicals, preservatives, just fresh whole food.  I have also posted about turning it into pizza dough.  And Indian naan.  Shaping it into an Epi Loaf. And cheddar pepperoni bread. STOP. IT.

(NO, I WON”T!)  Whole clove garlic bread.  Kalamata Olive Bread. Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day. All.from.the.same.dough.you.don’t.knead.  Buy the books, there are several in the Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day series.  I make mine with whole wheat flour even thought they have a slightly different recipe and process for whole wheat using wheat gluten something.  I tried it after making it my way and still prefer my simple bread. I have shared this Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day recipe with many friends who have gone one to make it themselves with delicious results so even if you are NOT a baker...try it.


Make it your veryownself:

Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day starts with these four ingredients: 

6.5 c flour
3 c warm water
1.5 Tbl yeast 
1.5 Tbl salt 

Stir all of the above together in a large lidded bowl.  Leave partially covered two hours.  Makes four one pound loaves.  Use it anytime over a two week period.

TO USE:
Flour your hands, sprinkle flour over part of the dough, whateveh....pull 1/4 of it out of bowl, and shape it into a loaf, round, long whatever.  

Sprinkle cornmeal or nonstick spray a cookie sheet, baking stone, whatever (start to see the ease here?) and set loaf on it.  Let rest /rise 20-30 minutes.  

Sprinkle flour on top of Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day loaf and cut 3-4 1/2 inch deep slashes across top with a serrated knife. Make a pretty pattern if you want.


Oven preheated to 450 and set another cookie sheet/ metal pan with HOT water in it (about one cup?) under the rack your bread will go on.  Put bread into oven for 30 minutes.  

Remove from oven let cool a bit to set crust. If you can stand it.  I cannot.  I eat it RIGHT AWAY. Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day is HEAVENLY.


Eat some and let me know whatchathink!


NPR WVPE Michiana Chronicle: Cargo Bike Obsessed

You can find this on WVPE website and listen to the audio by clicking HERE.

They say less is more, but I’m a girl for whom more is more.  I like things a lot.  I am zealous and easily obsessed or excitable.  I live my life well most days, but my obsessions can make me a little crazy.  I guess I am a binger.   I’m a little bingey.  I bingeth.  I am a women bingeonified.  Of course that was a word before I used it.

One of my latest obsessions has been cargo bikes.  I’ve been biking more for daily errands and thus carrying more of whatever else I might be obsessed with upon my bicycle.  My little girls are squished together in the trailer on trips to school drop off.  My front basket gets loaded down with whatever we find at the farmer’s market to eat.  I want to do even more with my bicycle. I want to pretend I am brave enough to sell our second car and do without.  A cargo bike could make that more realistic.  I have eaten, slept and dreamed about cargo bikes the past six months.  A longtail?  A box bike?  Madsen? Yuba? Xtracycle?  I’ve pinned them on Pinterest.  I’ve liked them on Facebook. I’ve test ridden them, borrowed them, drooled over them at Buck's Bike Shop.
 
Buck's Bike Shop gave me a passenger bike seat!


Alongside my new cargo bike obsession I am getting an education on bicycling in general. I’ve devoured two books by Elly Blue;  Bikenomics and Everyday Bicycling. I bought an extra copy so if you want to borrow it, let me know!  I’m getting more active as a voice of the mama who wants to bicycle more (and more safely) with her kids.  I’m joining local and national bicycling groups online like League of American Cyclists to learn more about bike advocacy and bike safety.

Yuba's Boda Boda I COVET.
One of the surprises I’ve discovered in my everyday riding is the valuable bicycle conversations with strangers.  They like the music I play from the handlebars--compliments of a cell phone mount and Pandora.  I often listen to Squirrel Nut Zippers or Squeeze just for sass.   I’ve had friends ask, “Do you really ride your bike to Target?”  Yes I do, I tell them.  I get to encourage them to ride more, to ride farther.  Like me, they realize it is only a mindset that they can only drive the car ‘there’.  
My Bike Pal and Expert Joshua, TOWING my hubs bike with  his Yuba

There is some planning involved to bike as transportation.  When I first biked to a place I’d only driven before, it was an adventure.  As a stay at home mama I don’t get a lot of adventure outside of scraped knees and mystery food in our refrigerator.  Embarking on my bike to the grocery store was exciting.  It was a little scary.  What if I got a flat tire?  What if I got hit by a car?  But then again, riding in the car is risky too. I also believe I am a better driver on a bicycle than in a car.  I do not take my safety for granted .  I am observant and vigilant and I pray a lot.

Who doesn't bike to the dry cleaner's?
My worries are shallower too:  What if I bought too much and couldn’t get it home on the bicycle?  This alone keeps me from shopping like I might do otherwise.  I discovered I buy less because I am biking more.  I am also saving money to buy a better, bigger bike.  A cargo bike? Or at least a Bobike child’s seat for my older daughter.  She’s 5years old now and the Bobike Junior is for kids up to ten yearsold!  It will be a safer alternative to Portia riding on my rear rack, which we call our fake cargo bike.  We had an accident with her precious foot and the spokes and I saw the value of  spending money to ride safer.  I’m remorseful and embarrassed we needed a scary accident to get me ready to spend money on quality equipment. We continue to bike and are not scared off from biking despite our mishaps.


Our Fake Cargo Bike
And then this week I drove to the gym at four-thirty a.m. because I was afraid I would not have the energy after class to bike home again.   There was an NPR piece on global warming and how birds are in danger of becoming extinct.  I felt the weight of my own responsibility to our environment.  I felt embarrassed and foolish to be so blessed that I could drive to the gym to get exercise.  I can do something to reduce global warming by biking instead of driving even once a week.  I vowed to bike to the gym next time, even at four-thirty a.m.  It is only three miles from home and I like birds a lot. Almost as much as I like…love…biking.

How to Throw a "Sing for your Supper" Olde Fashioned Dinner Party

I want to hang out with some adults and have a conversation not punctuated with "No more TV!" or "WAITAMINUTE....What are those markers, tape and stapler for?!?"   Charades and Card Games are a SNOOZE.  I'm not quite ready for Bingo Hall yet.  I have little kids, so how exactly could I throw an elegant dinner party?  (Oh yeah, and on a budget!) AND Without much effort.  I did it as a single woman, and I did it as a married mama to two little crazy monkeys: Invite your friends to a a "Sing for Your Supper" dinner party!


Back before TV and the Interweb there was such thing as conversation.  It was practically an art form.  Evenings were also filled with someone playing a piano and others joining in.  A guest may tell a colorful story or perform if they had some unique skill.  I doubt this happens in most homes today and it rarely happens in mine.  We do use cloth napkins and I probably light some candles once or twice a week but that is it.  We are missing something, friends!


Back before TV and the Interweb there was such a 
thing as conversation.

On the Daily Connoisseur blog Jennifer Stevens talks about the French way of preparing a big dinner with several leisurely courses, conversation and connectedness.  Most every night.  They listened to classical music.  Candles were lit.  Feeding wasn't a paper wrapped and styrofoam box event...it was elegant.  I think our souls could use more of this.  Unless your soul is cringing.  If your soul cringes, simply stop reading this and go do something that makes you feel awesome, I won't be offended, I promise.  

Run along.  Go ahead, it is ok.  

OK.  For the rest of you. Use evite or email or just pick up the phone.  The more elegant and fancy you make it the more work you have to do, so whatever works for you.  Maybe you prepare the whole meal, maybe you invite folks to bring potluck.  I've done both.  Invite people to dressed own or up, although I must say the latter is usually more festive.  The key to a Sing for Your Supper dinner is you invite your guests to prepare something to present.  It can be a poem they read or recite from memory.  It can be a song sung or played. It can be a joke or series of jokes.  I had a few poetry and joke books available so if someone wasn't prepared but wanted to be involved once the fun started they could easily step into the fray.  


Usually the performances came at the end of dinner 
and before dessert...
There is a fun game for anyone who doesn't perform: "How Many Marshmallows Can You Stuff Into Your Mouth?"  Hilarious audience participation too, as we needed to count for each contender.  Keep napkins handy.


Usually the performances come at the end of dinner and before dessert, but again it is YOUR party.  Do exactly what pleases you. Candlelight and classical music cast the spell of a bygone era and I highly recommend them.  (Even if dinner, served on china plates, mais bien sur, came from paper or styrofoam containers!) And I would love to hear about your party afterwards.  Especially if you have video or photos,  Bonne Appetite!  




One Step to Increase Your Pinterest Blog Traffic TODAY

I may have mentioned before that I am not super tech savvy.  Every step I take to make my blog look more professional is scary to me, and all the info out there can be overwhelming.  I cannot afford a professional graphic designer so I just muddle along making changes when I can.  I'll bet I am not the only one in this situation, and as I Pin things to my Pinterest board I see  a lot of professional and established bloggers who still have just simple pictures as pins for their various blog posts.
I wanted to address these fellow bloggers with my hard won advice:  STOP IT.



Stop pinning simple, albeit gorgeous pictures.  From my marketing background I know a sign with an edge or frame around it is read faster and more often than one without.  I know the pictures I like to look at on Pinterest, the ones I still struggle to emulate.  These two factors made me decide it is time to share the ONE THING I think increased my Pinterest Blog Traffic to bring six times more traffic than from my direct dedicated existing readership:  PIC MONKEY.



Pic Monkey is FREE, although I now do pay $33 per YEAR for the extras I now want.  I use Pic Monkey on my strongest blog posts to have an attractive, "pinnable" Pinterest worthy picture specifically for Pinterest boards.  I've used Pic Monkey for about a year now and I only just started playing with their labels, overlays etc.  I even made a pretty sign for our church bathroom to alert the hairspray thief I am on to her, and offer her free gift instead of having her steal the hairspray I put there to bless other women every. stinking. week.  

Here is their tutorial to add text to a photo.




I just LOVE IT.  The one flaw is even as a paid user I do not see how to save a project IN PROCESS on Pic Monkey. Can someone clue me in?  


 This is from a series I did on ...wait for it...30 Days of Less is More.
 I was experimenting here and the basic picture is fuzzy but with the Pic Monkey tools it was very useable.

One of my favorites.  My pictures are just average from my smart phone, so the 
Pic Monkey help...HELPS!


As I learn more about the Pic Monkey tools, I see how much more I could do with this one!

 This one got lots of attention and repins on Pinterest
 Again, even with fuzzy pictures, using Pic Monkey's Collage option....great stuff.


I kind of crack myself up.

It would be SO EASY for you to use Pic Monkey better than I do.  I think if you come up with your own theme and use similar visual clues for every pinterest post it would be better.  I am still learning how to do things...in fact I redid my banner to get rid of the silly "LYLOL 2012" tag I had on there from when I first did a header on Clover Lane.  back when I was first trying to look like a 'real blogger' and not just a stay at home mama.  

I would love to hear your tips and tools for being (or at least looking like ) a professional blogger.

15 Tips to Celebrate Your Birthday Month Like a Bombshell

I wrote this last year for my BIRTHDAY MONTH, and enjoyed reading it to remind me for this year. Thought some of you would enjoy a re read in honor of November, my BIRTHDAY MONTH!
Happy Birthday!


Celebrating my birthday is a BIG deal to me. I love celebrating anything and everything so birthdays (yours, mine, unbirthdays) are great.  I like my birthday, even now when there have been enough of them that I say I am "thirty plus twelve something".  (My hubby wants to know why I've decided to lie, since I am usually honest to a fault and without filter. Well, turning 40 was ok, but the rest of these years?  No thank you.  I FEEL old and I am not ready to embrace that yet.) Thirtysomething.  Smile and nod, ok Darlings?

As a mama with little kids it is hard to focus solely on yourself for a moment let alone a month.  With help from my hubby, my Dad and gal pals I do get good ME TIME and I guard it ferociously.   November is my birthday month, and I enjoy celebrating myself all month long.  Even with  small children at home.  My Dad mentioned his pal Gary  was appalled a the idea of a birthday week.  I used to celebrate a birthday week, but I am older now and there is more of me to celebrate so I stretch it out.  I asked Dad to correct and thus further alarm his friend.

Now that I am old enough to buy gifts for myself, and in fact do not really need gifts any more (but still enjoy them!) I prize other things more.  Like using the bathroom alone.  Eating a cupcake alone.  Having a full conversation with another adult (any adult) that isn't peppered with terets-like interruptions of "Stop it!"  "Please don't interrupt Mama, I'm talking!" and "Polibby...I mean Li-Portia...whichever one you are: STOP IT NOW."           
As a Bombshell I've always dreamed of being the 1940's Starlet in marabou kitten heels...imagine my delight that I have at last marabou on the toes of my slippers!  Thank you to Candies  for understanding some Bombshells need warmth and comfort with their glamour.  

I got these last year at Kohl's for myself during my birthday month. 

As I have ramped up birthday celebrations this month I realized not everyone is as vain and childlike as I might be around my birthday.  Some of you may need some help stretching out your birthday entitlement to fill a whole month.  Here is a list to get you started, PLEASE add your  own ideas  in the comments.

How to Celebrate a Birthday Month Like a Bombshell:
  1. Tell everyone "It's my BIRTHDAY MONTH!" with infectious glee.  All month.  Maybe even a week before YOUR month starts.
  2. Take extra care and finesse with your hair, makeup and wardrobe.  Or do nothing at all but wear your pjs and red lipstick...it is after all YOUR Birthday Month! Whatever makes YOU feel AWESOME.
  3. Get or give yourself a full mani pedi at least once.  Especially if the closest you usually get to 'nails done' is "by a four year old"  and "In Marker" .
  4.  Be indulgent with your food.  Especially if you usually pretend to diet.
  5. Make phone calls.  Remember those?  Call and have idle chats with your people and enjoy not texting or Facebooking.
  6. Buy yourself a little something at the beginning of the month.  Especially something you can wear all month to remind yourself of your month long Bombshell Birthday.
  7. Put a practice birthday candle in something.  Anything.  Get creative.
  8. Write a list or a letter to yourself about what you like about yourself.  Speak as if you are your own best friend, which you should be, anyway.
  9. Wear perfume.  Take this birthday month to select a signature scent for yourself...Sephora is AWESOME at giving you samples you can use for several days to really live in your fragrance.  If you hate perfume or are sensitive, try essential oils in a base oil and rollerball.  Something lovely to enjoy just for you.
  10. Speaking of Sephora, go and get a makeover there.  They do not make commission and are so gracious with dopes like me.  I wear the same stuff and go in there and learn all kinds of things.  Even if you do not buy, you will learn.  AND if you are a Beauty Insider  (free) they give you a GREAT birthday gift.  Seriously.
  11. If your budget allows, join Birchbox.  For $10 per month you get a little gift box of nice sized samples.  Always a surprise it is guaranteed to increase your knowledge of all that is beauty.  I am pretty clueless but really enjoy it.  For the cost of two Starbucks coffees or one lipstick mistake you get the fun every month.  I LOVE IT.
  12. Send someone a card (perhaps an UN Birthday?)with the wonderful/awful confetti in it. Add a lipsticked kiss mark on the back.  We need more lipstick marks around, don't we?
  13. Wear something useless around the house.   May I recommend a tiara? Glittering body powder? For me it is a gorgeous retro bathrobe dressing gown (Thanks to Jennifer Scott of The Daily Conoisseur Blog) with large sleeves.  I simply cannot wash dishes or anything practical in it.  I bravely make the coffee, sleeves catching on everything and then simply must sit down to sip my coffee.  Like a Bombshell.
  14. Read things that are delightful.  For me this week it was Let's Bring Back by Lesley M. M Blume rereading The Bombshell Manual of Style  by Lauren Stover and surprisingly enough this magazine. 
  15. Tell everyone it is your birthday, long before it actually IS your actually BIRTH DAY.  Explain when One celebrates a birthday MONTH, the actual DAY is almost irrelevant!
May I be the first to tell you, HAPPY BIRTHDAY MONTH to you, Bombshell!  You will totally rock it, whenever it is.





Small Front Porch and Stairs House Remodel on the Cheap: Before and After Pictures

We have the cutest little front porch, but it was TINY.  I wrote about my love for it for NPR and you can hear it here on WVPE or read it by clicking here.  I had too much furniture on our tiny porch, we spent lot s of meals on it, we read played and rested on it.  When the front steps started getting rickety we knew we had to have them repaired but it never occurred to us to have them widened too.  We thought about adding a wrap around front porch but the cost was prohibitive.  

I really just needed a few extra feet so the front door wouldn't swing open into "Betty" my awesome refinished metal glider swing.  I only needed a few feet.  So we we started talking to contractors and found a guy my friends had used named Jeff Brown.  He was the most affordable for us and did really nice work.  

Here are the before and after pictures of the job.    











Just widening the steps gave us room to fit two adult chairs on either side of them on the porch.  I didn't realize how much space the railing took up.  Frankly just the steps would have been enough of an improvement on the space...the porch deck extension was just cherries on top.  I do not see renovations or decorating in my head very well, so I was thrilled & stunned at the visual and logistical impact of the wider stairs.



I would have preferred the new addition's railing to come directly off of the house and main pillar instead of be framed next to it. For the price and the overall workmanship, it was just great as it happened. Several more expensive bids included removing the entire original porch floor to rebuild it all but we wanted to be more thoughtful and environmental than that.  Plus it was cheaper to use the original wood.  Once painted it all blends fine.


Framing the porch floor.  Jeff basically made a solid deck with four corner posts next to our original porch.  




Jeff Brown FINALLY removing the original porch railing...probably my favorite step in the process.


First meal actually at a table on our front porch.  Divine.  I was obviously quite excited.
The little girls and their animals liked the porch extension quite a bit.
After the addition, my porch swing glider "Betty" didn't knock into the wall or door!  We added a bistro table for our front porch meals.  FINALLY enough room for all the chairs I've been squeezing onto the porch for four years!




We had to leave the wood alone for awhile to let it cure and season and dry out before painting.  It took us several months before we were ready to paint. We hemmed and hawed about paying Jeff Brown to paint or just doing it ourselves.  After a few more house expenses cropping up we decided to paint it ourselves.


Painting the porch (ALL THOSE SPINDLES!) and fence, gate, trellis took a long time.  Probably five days total.  For normal people, maybe three days...we have little kids who like to help. 



If we didn't let them help they were pesky so either way that detracted from dedicated work time. We gave them a shallow dish of paint and foam brushes to hide any mistakes creativity on their part. 


They actually did a GREAT job.  I considered their job a decent first coat.  Even as only three and five year olds, they felt so important and helpful painting I was glad we let them 'try' to help.

I JUST finished painting a second coat of porch and deck paint on the floor yesterday morning.  I also painted the porch ceiling and trim since the new white fence and railing made the old paint look pretty shabby. I really decorate the porch when it is warm, so I am excited already for SPRING!



Tonight we will move Betty back to where she belongs, and probably put the table back...what, maybe with a pumpkin ion it?  Unless it snows.  That is right, here in NW Indiana we are expecting snow today.  This porch project was finished in the NICK OF TIME.