Taking a break from playing catch-up with you fine folks, last weekend was oppressively hot and humid here in the Mitten. Even with our A/C on, it was uncomfortable; but Miss L and I were busy. She was going to her first summer sleepaway camp and there was a lot to do.

I never went to sleepaway camp when I was a kid – I was a fairly anxious child (and teenager…and adult, come to think of it) and the thought of a forced separation from home and family, even to ride horses and swim in a lake, would NOT have been fun for me. It would have been traumatic and I have no doubt that I would have ended up in the infirmary begging to go home. My daughter, though, I am happy to say, is cut from a different cloth, and for days her excitement over the adventure absorbed her every waking thought. She picked out all of her own clothes to pack and stacked them into neat piles, labelled. We scoured Amazon for a battery operated clip fan for her bunk, and a plastic mess kit for her chow. There were flashlights to compare and consider, extra batteries to pack, new goggles and a new swimsuit and cover-up, the purchase of travel size toiletries for her shower bag, and pink shower shoes. No tablets or electronics allowed; once she got over her bogglement over that, she bought two new books and put them into her tote so she wouldn’t be tempted to read them before she left. We went back to add playing cards, a sketchpad, notebook, pencils, and a tiny reading light.


emmett oversaw the organizing and packing process with his usual attention to detail.

I dropped her off on Sunday; perhaps the hottest day.  That morning, I’d written five letters to be delivered to her every day of her camp, secreted away in my bag to drop off at the trading post before I left her; I also made sure she had spending money on account. The camp boiled under a blanket of oppressive heat and battering flat sunshine. The cabins were stifling; I was more anxious than she was, wanting her to get a good bunk, to be near her friends. But the air under the pine trees was cooler and smelled like summer; cicadas droned, and down the hill green with foliage, the lake broke into a million tiny glimmers of light and dragonflies.

Being divorced, my daughter isn’t at my house for a fair portion of her time; I thought the separation of camp would feel like dropping her off at her dad’s house. It has not.  I feel a strong sense of waiting, of life suspended until she gets back to me, a feeling that I know will recur in waves throughout her growth to adulthood and independence, through every flight she takes from my nest until at last she flies alone, strong and not looking back.

I know this is an important part of my job as her mother, to prepare her to fly strongly, to meet the challenges of her life with the knowledge that she is capable, she is fine, just fine; I just never anticipated that this process would break my heart a little bit each time, no matter how glad I am to see that beautiful swallow’s flight.

The heat broke with a thunderstorm on Monday night, as I sat on my overgrown patio in my pajamas, grilling corn and a turkey burger, reading “Flat Broke with Two Goats”. I thought about Miss L and whether she would be excited to hear the thunder and feel the first fresh drops laying down the dust in the path between cabins. I check the camp Facebook page and find photographs of her, at the opening night bonfire, in the mess hall, her dimple showing as she pats her horse.

There are a few tomatoes to pick and my basil has gone crazy, so I bought a ball of fresh mozzarella and can eat myself sick on caprese salad. Summer is good and I am proud that my girl is confident and fearless enough to go into the world without one of us holding her hand. But I am counting the hours and stalking Facebook until I can rocket north to pick her up tomorrow night.

xo friends.



check in part 2 – home care


emmett LOVES clean sheets.

My house has never been what I would call immaculate (I’m a full-time working mom with 2 cats, yo) but when I was getting my paralegal cert, housekeeping took a decided back-back-backseat. For years my cleaning routine has been to haul out a plastic bucket that originally was purchased holding 20lbs of kitty litter (clean of course) – it  was full of old rags, plastic cups, rubber gloves, and a welter of half-used chemical cleaning supplies. I would also push a Kenmore around that weighed as much as I did, but which I hated to use because it was very heavy and bulky, so vacuuming was never as frequent as it should have been.

Recently, though, I discovered an Instagram account called Clean Mama and was inspired to try her protocol for a month. I encourage you to check out her blog and Insta – I won’t reinvent the wheel by explaining it ALL in detail, but essentially she suggests breaking up cleaning tasks by doing a handful of certain quick things every day – decluttering, wiping down counters, making beds, etc. – and a larger task every weekday.

I invested in several new purchases to facilitate this process, and have some recommendations from my “cleaning makeover”!

Monday is wiping down all bathrooms. I recycled the old kitty litter bucket and replaced it with this caddy. I also chucked my toilet brushes once I’d used up the last of my cleaner and now use the disposable Clorox system in all of my bathrooms. I use old wash cloths that have become too ratty for personal care use as rags – I have many of them, so can use one clean one for wiping down toilets, one for sinks, one for countertops, etc in each bathroom – they wash up in hot water on the Sanitize setting. I’m still using up some old spray disinfectant, but in a happy coincidence, Grove Collaborative advertised on a podcast I listen to (Thinking Sideways) and I got a free kit of Mrs. Meyer’s cleaning supplies with a $20 purchase. (HUGE BONUS – Mrs. Meyer’s is also cruelty free!!) Grove also threw in some free gifts with my order and I’ve been super thrilled with everything. I plan on transitioning fully to these more environmentally friendly options as I use up my old supplies!

Tuesday is dusting day. Luckily my daughter enjoys dusting so she was happy to help me out with this – especially when I showed her this new Full Circle microfiber and bamboo duster (the microfiber is removable, washable, and replaceable!). I also invested in a set of microfiber cloths from Amazon.

Wednesday is vacuuming and although the Kenmore was not cheap, and works great, I bought myself a Shark on the recommendation of many people in my life. Not to be melodramatic – but it has CHANGED MY LIFE (lol). It is lightweight, super suction, quick, maneuverable, with a dust cup that I can empty and rinsable filters and I LOVE IT.

Thursday is the day for washing floors which I can tell you apart from using a wet pad Swiffer, rarely occurred at my house before this protocol. Not anymore. I invested in both an O-Cedar EasyWring mop and bucket AND a O-Cedar refillable spray mop – with the O-Cedar I can use my own solution and I don’t have to buy their chemicals (ahem Swiffer). For mopping I use the solution of hot water and white vinegar that Clean Mama recommends, with drops of essential oils – lately I love a mojito-esque combo of lime and spearmint. I plan on doing a full mop with the O-Cedar at least once a month or as needed, and using the wet jet for other weeks or when I’m short on time.

Friday is a catch-all day on the schedule; Saturday is for washing sheets and towels – which I tend to do throughout the week with the rest of my laundry – Sunday is an “off” day to relax so I end up with three days without chores except for larger tasks or things I didn’t get to throughout the week. Leaving me free to do my outside yardwork, go for a run, or just lay on the couch and watch Netflix!

Although I’m usually tired when I get home from work, I’ve been pretty successful at following this. For years I felt resentful that I had to spend hours of my precious 2 days off a week cleaning. Especially after I got divorced, when I also had to take on all the outside yard and garden work too! Dividing the chores this way – and doing a few bigger chores monthly, like washing rugs & quilts, cleaning filters and appliances, etc – has been  efficient & manageable for a working person. Most tasks (except maybe mopping) take under a half-hour to finish. My house is definitely cleaner and feels / smells / looks better. Clean Mama also has printable checklists and schedules – I print out the monthly schedule and put it on my fridge and add other things that I need to do (such as clean the litterboxes) – and I check them off as I do them so it’s easy for me to keep track of what’s been done, how often, and if something hasn’t been done, I can get to it on one of the “off” days. I also feel pleased that I have new tools that are easier on me and on the environment – so it’s a win-win-win! I look forward to continuing to transition my cleaning supplies over to more gentle alternatives.

Next time – part 3 – I’ll look at some of the fun things I’m absorbing this summer – books, podcasts, shows, etc. Hope you’ll be back! If you have any other great cleaning tips or environmentally friendly supplies and / or sources, feel free to comment or message me!

xo friends!


|| this post is not sponsored – it’s just stuff i like! but may contain a few affiliate links.||

check in part 1.2 – what i’m buying (cruelty-free personal care edition cont.)

Greetings friends and loved ones – I hope your July is unspooling in a series of golden green days full of sunshine, good food and better memories.

As promised, here is Part 1.2 of my cruelty-free personal care rundown. If you missed Part 1.1, you might want to backtrack to catch up on the whys and wherefores.

First, obligatory photograph – this time of the little baby visitor I have sleeping in the welter of untrimmed shrubbery in my backyard. I’m not mad. ❤


Whilst several personal care items were relatively easy to swap for cruelty-free brands, some are still a work in progress. Top on the list:

DeodorantTom’s of Maine lavender is what I’ve been using. Look, it does the job, the price point is good, it glides on and doesn’t leave white marks. The problem is that after years of using deodorant and becoming accustomed to my underarms smelling strongly of tropical orchid or some other intense fragrance, to suddenly find myself smelling NOT perfumey is jarring. I don’t smell bad – it works – but I can smell myself more often, if that makes sense, and I’m not used to that. I don’t want to be sitting in a meeting and smell my own personhood – I want to smell tropical orchid. So this has been a work in progress. I also have a stick of Schmidt’s Ylang-Ylang and Calendula waiting to be tried as I’ve read good things about it although it’s more expensive.

Toothpaste – See above. After years of becoming accustomed to overpowering mint pastes and mouthwashes, the product I went with first has taken some getting used to. Desert Essence Tea Tree & Neem doesn’t taste sweet – in fact I found the flavor kind of gross until I got used to it. And it doesn’t leave my breath super minty either. But I have found that the product works much better relative to plaque and tartar than any drugstore brand – my teeth feel cleaner and smoother after every use. I also plan on trying other flavors of this and maybe also a Tom’s of Maine to compare and contrast.

My next update, Part 2 in the series, will address some of the cleaning products and processes I’m trying out for July. Stay well friends – xo.


check in part 1.1 – what i’m buying (cruelty-free personal care edition)

My summer has thus far been delightful in some very typical summer ways – a trip up north, running, doing yardwork – and I thought I’d check in to put to print some of the things I’ve been thinking and doing. This will be a multi-part series – the first two, what I’m buying parts 1.1 and 1.2 (personal care) and 2 (home products), will review some of my major purchases this year to support some of the initiatives I’ve undertaken. The third, what I’m absorbing, will go over what I’ve been reading, watching, and listening to – books, shows, magazines, and podcasts. And the last, what I’m doing, will lend some accountability to some activities that I’ve prioritized this summer.

First, obligatory cat pictures – Sarge at his floofiest, beating the recent heatwave and trying to survive fireworks season.


Earlier this year, I made the decision to move away from cosmetic and personal care products sold by companies that test on animals. This was a personal decision that reflects my values and my need to make small, beneficial changes for the long term sustainability of my community and world. I feel that animal testing on cosmetics is completely unnecessary and unethical and that the United States is woefully behind many other countries (including Japan and those in Europe) in moving away from animal testing. I won’t go into a lot of detail, but there’s an absolutely wonderful site called Cruelty Free Kitty that provides great information on why this is important, what we as consumers and animal advocates can do, and, awesomely, a WONDERFUL list of products and brands that offer cruelty free beauty options. I’m almost off my soapbox and into the products I’m trying, but one last thought – if we can buy such great products that DON’T test on animals, why buy drugstore brands that DO? There’s no reason for it.

My switch has been slow and I’m still in heavy experimentation mode – my goal was to use up what I’d already bought from drugstores first, so as not to waste anything.  So this isn’t an exhaustive list of what I will eventually be purchasing – more updates to come.

Eyeliner, shampoo and hairspray, and hair color were my first purchases and super easy:

Eyeliner – I’d been a Revlon or Loreal girl but found a great alternative with Pacificathis eye pencil. I use the brown – it has a nice color and consistency. It might not last as long as some of the drugstore brands, but I end up reapplying after my lunchtime workout, anyway, so works a charm. Available on Amazon and budget-friendly.

Shampoo – I am a shampoo-every-day kind of girl despite many stylists trying to convince me that this is unnecessary and damaging to my hair. Sorry not sorry.  Even with dry shampoo I end up looking like a greaseball. I loved Dove for its price point and clean scent, but have moved to Acure. This was easy – I already knew and trusted the brand as I use it for facial scrub and other skin care and it’s available at Target. More expensive than drugstore brands but less, I think, than Paul Mitchell or Nexxus or other top-shelf store brands.

Hairspray – This was a tough one for me. Again, I was a Dove girl as I liked the clean scent…I’m trying two replacement options (one in my gym bag and one at home) and am not super thrilled with either for different reasons.  – Giovanni L.A. Hold and Aveda‘s Control Force. Both of these WAAY more than I normally would pay for hairspray and I don’t love either. Need to do more work to find a product I’m all-around content with the way I was with Dove.

Hair Color – I’ve been really pleased with Madison Reed. I’ve used salon color (too expensive and time consuming), box color (poor quality) and another mail order coloring service and Madison Reed is by far the best. High quality, long lasting, cruelty free and it doesn’t have the same ammonia reek that other box kits do – leaves my hair really soft.

Next time I’ll review some of the products that I’ve had a more difficult time replacing – deodorant and toothpaste high on the list. Until then, enjoy your summer – xo friends.



book fair week

03.2018_book fair

Book Fair week was an exercise in misery. My bronchial issue morphed into a full blown illness on Monday; my face swelled up and I began sneezing and hacking as though possessed. There was little sympathy to be had, and no one seemed concerned when I asked in vain for replacements for my Book Fair shifts; “Those little things are germ factories, don’t worry about it,” one woman assured me when I said dubiously that it didn’t seem right for me to be working around kids whilst ill. I refrained from saying that I did NOT want to be doing ANYTHING or going ANYWHERE while sick. Frankly nobody seemed to care what I did or did not want. Perhaps if I suddenly burst out with bright red chupacabra gills and began spraying mucus and venom at the assembled children, alien-style, someone would have noticed, but then again, maybe not.

I was exhausted on Monday evening after Day 1 Book Fair and my darling Miss L did the dishes and bustled around industriously to put me to bed with tea and lock up the house. Unbeknownst to me, she efficiently made sure the inside doors were all deadbolted and the knobs locked, and in addition, locked all the outside storm door handles. Including the door that I usually use between the garage and the den. The funny thing about this particular door is that if the knob is locked, from the inside it will still turn and allow you to exit; you don’t know the knob has been locked until you try to get back IN. Put a pin in that, okay?
On Tuesday morning I awoke feeling marginally better but still rough. I decided to take a few hours off for illness, and prepared to take Miss L to school. I wore a hooded sweatshirt, combed my hair, but, willing to take a big gamble that I would not have to exit my vehicle if I dropped her off in the school car line, I kept my voluminous buffalo-plaid flannel pajama bottoms on and threw on a pair of Converse. I looked a fright. I left my cellphone in the house, grabbed my wallet, and Miss L and I were off.
After a successful quick dropoff, I pulled into the garage, hopped out, and tried the door to the house. (Pull that pin out.)

The knob was locked. My heart sank. I tried all the keys on my ring, and realized that I did not have a key to that knob. Okay. I was only feeling a little worried. I ran to the front door, trying to be quick so I wouldn’t be spotted in my bright red pajama pants. Tried the front door. THE STORM DOOR KNOB WAS LOCKED TOO. I scrambled through all my keys and NOT ONE FIT THE LOCK. Dear God!!!
The wind was freezing and buffalo plaid flannel pajama pants are not a match for it. I hacked once and scampered around the side of the house. Please don’t let her have hit the back door too…YEP. All storm door knobs locked. All storm door knobs and inside door locks keyed differently and NOT ONE OF THE STORM DOOR KEYS WAS ON MY RING.
Emmett’s face appeared at the window, watching me dubiously. “Get Sarge,” I yelled at him through the glass. Sarge can open doors and in my weakened state, I thought….don’t be ridiculous. My hands were getting numb as I tried all of the downstairs windows – all locked. I could see my cellphone sitting on my table inside, and I thought, DEAR GOD, I’m going to have to go to the neighbor’s house in my PAJAMA PANTS and ask to call a locksmith…with my nose running down my face and my bright red alien gills squirting phlegm and mucus.
Crowbar the door open? Climb up onto the roof and see if a second-floor window was unlatched? The thought of having my neighbors see me crawling around on the roof in my pajamas made me sneeze with angst.
Just then I spotted the small kitchen window, higher up in the wall – the one over my sink. In a blaze of insight I remembered unlatching that window that very morning to throw a toast crust out to the birds and I was almost certain I hadn’t relatched it. I stood on a wobbling lawn chair, my pajama pants flapping gaily in the wind, and to my exquisite relief, the window slid open, sending all of my potted succulents crashing into the sink. Emmett immediately exploded into a furry puffer fish and dashed away into the bowels of the house, but good riddance, he was no help anyway. Could I fit in the window?? It was small. I ran around to the garage, got the stepladder, and brought it back. Up I went. Head in…shoulders in…gosh it was nice and warm inside the house! My nose immediately began to stream. Bracing myself on the counter, I tried to ease my lower half in – and got stuck. Buffalo plaid pajama pants and Converse tennis shoes sticking out of my kitchen window, breath being cut off from the windowsill digging into my tummy….I could almost hear the neighbor looking out her window and dropping her coffee cup. Then, blissfully, I slid all the way in, and landed on my kitchen floor in a welter of icy cold flannel, mucus and crumpled succulents.
The rest of the week was blessedly less eventful, which was good because I haven’t been this sick in a long time. My days shrank to working, driving, catching a quick nap at home before heading up to the school to work until 9ish every night. But the other volunteers were lovely and it was a great feeling to be able to watch teachers shop for books with profits from the prior fairs. Book Fair is like Christmas, and I love being at L’s school. I often wish I had nothing but time on my hands, and money to burn; I would be there all the time, volunteering every day.

On a final beautiful note, B came to town for a quick weekend visit and despite my illness, we were able to fit in sushi, a lot of companionable reading time together, The Darkest Hour, and brunch with his parents at Cafe Zola (Turkish eggs YUM). It went too fast but any time with him is happy.

I don’t plan on doing anything extravagant for the next several weeks. I am faint with relief that I get to go back to my daily routine – no side hustling, period. I hope that your week has gone well and that you never have to test the security of your ground floor establishment clad in buffalo plaid pajama pants. xoxo


book fair week humor 😉

getting out of my own way


pizza at pagliai’s; hamm’s beer and cheeseburgers at george’s; the haunted bookshop; and street art

B & I had a great visit in northside Iowa City. In my estimation, he picked the perfect neighborhood to live in, and we spent our two days together enjoying it. The sun was shining and the weather was milder than Michigan; we ran down around the University of Iowa campus, ate cheeseburgers at George’s (dive bar extraordinaire) and browsed at the Haunted Bookshop where I finally spotted the other resident cat (I had to go both days).


We finally watched one of the Oscar-nominated films (I don’t think either of us had seen any of them yet) – Three Billboards. Although the casting was wonderful, the movie itself perplexed and annoyed both of us. Spoiler Alert –> Couldn’t they have just focused on the ensemble cast and the themes of grief and vengeance and foregone the Molotov cocktails and the throwing of people out of windows?

It was a short visit (made shorter by Daylight Savings) and all too soon I was back in my car for the six hour journey home. I picked an Audible unabridged version of Ann Rule’s “The Stranger Beside Me” (about her relationship with notorious serial killer Ted Bundy). Unfortunately, this book is leaving me perplexed and annoyed as well, and not just because Ted Bundy was an evil maniac. It’s making me feel as though maybe I’m just an overly critical consumer of entertainment. I’m not quite done with it yet, so I will refrain from sharing my feelings about it until I am.

Back home; I am plunged into preparations for Book Fair and fighting a sore throat and rampant ennui. I feel woefully inadequate for the tasks ahead of me in the next week and a half and I am trying to focus on a passage I read in the Crosswick Journals by Madeline L’Engle (a battered three-volume set that I picked up for a song at the aforementioned Haunted Bookshop, and which is filled with more wonderful quotes and musings than I can possibly begin to digest – and while I’m at it allow me to confess one additional thing that may prove my point about being overly critical – I am deeply suspicious of the new movie version of “A Wrinkle In Time” – deeply – and not just because it is packed with Oprah and “big names” – although that might be part of it):

“A winter ago I was asked by the Children’s Book Council to write a story, and agreed to do so. I was telling Tallis about it, and said, “I’m really very nervous about this.” He looked at me contemptuously: “You don’t think you’re going to have anything to do with it, do you?” “No,” I retorted, “but I could get in the way.”

Here’s to getting out of our own way. xo

2018 reading challenge update

Every year I set a reading challenge (number of books, book genres) – this year it’s 52 books with at least 10 being non-fiction / historical / biographical. Despite having a lot of mandated reading while I was taking my course, I also (somehow) found time to do a fair bit of reading in January and February. This list isn’t comprehensive; just a few picks that I’ve enjoyed so far in 2018.

Windigo Moon: A Novel of Native America, Robert Downes – I picked this up at the Cottage Book Shop in Glen Arbor over Christmas as they always have a table of suggested books (and they have a great assortment of Michigan history, local authors, etc). It caught my interest because it told the story of an Ojibwe clan and many of the locales were in northern Michigan – places that I know and love. If you like history, and stories of Native Americans, or are specifically a northern Michigan buff, this is a nice read.
Manhattan Beach, Jennifer Egan – I heard a Slate Audio Book Club podcast about this and although they tended to like her prior work better, they had enough kind things to say about her writing in general that I reserved it at the library. I enjoyed it as an eccentric historical novel, about a young woman’s desire to be a diver in New York during World War II; her missing father, disabled sister, and a local gangster play large roles. Her writing is spectacular and  I loved the main character’s sense of independence and determination.
Dance Dance Dance, Haruki Murakami – I think I am destined to love everything by Murakami and want to read his entire catalogue. This is actually #4 in a series but as I haven’t read the previous 3 I think I can attest that it works just fine as a stand-alone. His writing is lyrical and simple and yet deep-diving and I find myself laughing out loud at some of his turns of phrase. The main character describes his work as freelance magazine writer as “shoveling snow” – “You do it because somebody’s got to, not because it’s fun.” “Shoveling snow, huh?” she mused. “Well, you know, cultural snow,” I said.” Since I read this passage, everything that I do that I have to do has become “shoveling snow” and in some cases this applies to actually shoveling real snow. 🙂
Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder, Caroline Fraser – This was my first non-fiction pick for the year. If you’re a fan of Little House, but you want the real story – and to view it in the context of the country as a whole at that particular time in history, this book is for you. Exhaustively researched, this sets forth the true chronology of Laura Ingalls’ childhood travels across the West and paints her family as real people, with human failings. Their travels were considerably more complicated than her famous books depict, more traumatic and at times desperate. The concept of Manifest Destiny loomed large over the Ingalls family, but even in that era where whites were free to take and take, they were unable to gain a foothold. At least one of their moves was so Pa could outrun a debt. Almanzo didn’t have good judgement with money either. Laura was set to work, young, to help provide for her family, working in hotels and as a seamstress in less than ideal conditions. Rose Wilder Lane likely suffered from undiagnosed bipolar disorder and her relationship with her parents was fraught with codependence and control issues. I found this book entirely fascinating and satisfying.