City Life: Save money buying Bulk Herbs and Spices


So much in the City is so expensive – mostly rent! But if you live in or around NYC stock up on bulk herbs and spices at the local city grocery stores. The herbs and spices are soooo much cheaper than the typical suburban grocery store chain. Trade Fair is my favorite NYC grocery store with Associated coming in second. 
If you don’t live in the NYC area there are still options other than paying $8 for a tiny jar of cloves at your local supermarket. I have actually found reasonable prices on bulk spices on Amazon. So check there. My favorite online stores for bulk herbs are Mountain Rose Herbs and Bulk Herb Store. And be sure to check your local Walmart. They have some basic spices in the $1 category. So save some money and add some spice to your life!

(Note: None of these are affiliate links.)

My Plants: The Silent Storytellers

Impatiens - on of my grandmother's favorite flowers.

Impatiens – one of my grandmother’s favorite flowers.

It’s New York City. I don’t have a sprawling farm along the Missouri countryside like Maggie did. Or even a small farm in Texas like my parents do. I have a 3rd floor apartment in NYC with no outdoor space. In our new apartment, I can’t even put in window boxes. Thankfully I have some windows that get good light so my plants are actually doing fairly well. But it’s been a challenge when I’ve gotten new plants or when I’ve needed to re-pot anything because I have nowhere outdoors to do that kind of thing.

So, creativity ensues. I pull out a large, flat sheet and all my potting supplies and turn my living room into a gardening work space. It’s messy work, no doubt. There’s always bits of potting soil that scatters. And the kids like to help so there are 30 dirty little fingernails to clean afterwards, but it’s lots of fun to see the new things we’ve worked on grow bigger.

I remember my grandmother teaching me how she cared for her plants. I would help her water them and re-pot them. At one time she had two large shelving units filled with violets. And she always had a planter outside her front steps filled with impatiens. She would always take her Christmas cactus to the back room where it was cool and dark in the fall and it would always be full of bright fuschia blooms in the winter. And she had a fern that belonged to Maggie. It was over 100 years old. She had it in the back bedroom of her house when was in the hospital before she died. None of us knew that it was back there to water it and so it died. We were all so sad to discover that it had been neglected when we cleaning out her house after she died. We would have all loved to have a cutting from it. I can’t say that I always take as good of care of my plants as my Nanny did. Some days I do well just to keep the kids alive. But, I’m thankful for those times with her and that she taught me what she knew. She gave me a love for violets that will last my whole life through. No matter where I’ve been in life, I’ve always had a violet.

I like the memories that I have associated with my plants. Who gave me the plant. Where I got it from. It’s good to remember those things when I look at them throughout the day. All my plants have a story.  My five philodendron plants came from one sprout that I got from my grandmother. Her angel wing begonia that she gave me the year before she died went through a difficult beginning with me, but now has turned into several more plants. My larger begonia was given to me by an old friend in Colorado and my umbrella plant by other dear Colorado friends upon my grandmother’s death.

Today we just made a new plant memory. Today we saved a plant that was going to be thrown out from the building down the street. We divided it up between several friends. When we see it we’ll think of our friends, and the times we’ve spent with them. We also potted some new little succulents that we got at the local street fair on Memorial Day. Each child has one that they picked out. We can look at them and remember that day and what we did and ate and the fun things that we did. Before we went to bed tonight, the 2-year-old went to say goodnight to all the “baby plants.” Even though it’s just beginning, she knows the stories of these little plants we potted today. My plants hold the stories of the good times and the difficult ones. And I like that they are part of life. They are a tie that helps me remember the threads of my past. It’s good to think on where you’ve been. Sometimes it gives you perspective and helps make where you are seem better.

Maybe you don’t have such strong memories associated with your plants. Just because I do, you don’t have to. But, I enjoy mine and what they help me remember. They are the silent storytellers in my house. But, I’m going to tell my children these stories. They need to know them. It’s part of my life and so it’s also part of theirs. Find a plant you like and bring it home. With time, you may end up with something good to remember by it.

Our new aloe.

Our new aloe.

 

Our new little succulents that we bought at the street fair.

Our new little succulents that we bought at the street fair.

 

My Nanny's angel wing begonia.

My Nanny’s angel wing begonia.

 

Nanny's philodendron in my Granddaddy's old enamel pot that I found on his farm.

Nanny’s philodendron in my Granddaddy’s old enamel pot that I found on his farm.

 

More sprouts of the philodendron and angel wing begonia

More sprouts of the philodendron and angel wing begonia.

 

More from the original philodendron plant.

More from the original philodendron plant.

 

My only violet at the moment. I wish some of my Nanny's violets. Most of them were lost in a move. :(

My only violet at the moment. I wish some of my Nanny’s violets. Most of them were lost in a move. 😦 I saved this one from little leaf, rooted it and look at it now! It sprouted all these little babies which made me so excited!

 

A Christmas cactus given me by a friend. I wish I had my grandmother's cactus.

A Christmas cactus given me by a friend. I wish I had my grandmother’s cactus.

 

A money tree given me by the family of one of my husband's students.

A money tree given me by the family of one of my husband’s students.

 

Umbrella tree given me when my grandmother died.

Umbrella tree given me when my grandmother died.

 

Impatiens will always make me think of my grandmother.

I always think of my grandmother when I see impatiens.

 

 

 

 

Babywearing Bag Actions Shots – scroll to the bottom

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A reader requested action shots of my babywearing bag that I posted about
a couple of weeks ago. Scroll down to see me wearing the bag with the baby.

To see the original post  with directions for transforming your bag click here.

 

Action Shots:

Not the best shot I know, but not bad when taken by your 5-year-old daughter. ;)

Not the best shot I know, but not bad when
taken by your 5-year-old daughter. 😉

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Hip carry with a sarong. Bag is over left shoulder
(same side as baby).

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Looking from the side.

Back carry. Bag in front.

Back carry. Bag in front.

Better shot taken by my husband.

Better shot taken by my husband.

Transform your bag into a babywearing bag

7.21.13 017I’ve been lamenting not having a babywearing bag lately. I’ve been doing more back carries which means that I can’t carry our regular go-to backpack since the baby is already back there. And most of my shoulder bags or tote bags are too little to use as a diaper bag. But, this last week I found a solution! You only need two supplies – a medium to large bag out of your closet and a scarf. Let me tell you what I did. It’s so comfortable to wear, even when jammed full of stuff.

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I pulled out this bag which only has a tiny shoulder strap. I never used it because it would constantly slip off my shoulder. But, I was desperate the other day and realized that if I tied a scarf on to the rings that it would be a comfy cross-body babywearing bag. It holds the weight well, and the scarf spreads nicely across your shoulder like a wrap would. I can wear it with any type of carry front, hip or back because I just put it opposite the baby. If she’s on the front I wear the bag on the back, if she’s on my hip I wear it on my other hip and if she’s on my back I wear the back on the front. And it’s adjustable. I can make the strap longer or shorter just by re-tying the knot. It’s wonderful.

If you don’t have a bag with rings you could get some of these metal book rings to clip around the strap or loops of your bag and tie your scarf to. The scarf that I used is like these Slub Scarves. They are woven, spread nicely and I think hold the weight well. They’re pretty too.

Action Shots:

Not the best shot I know, but not bad when taken by your 5-year-old daughter. ;)

Not the best shot I know, but not bad when
taken by your 5-year-old daughter. 😉

130729_0001

Hip carry with a sarong. Bag is over left shoulder
(same side as baby).

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Looking from the side.

Back carry. Bag in front.

Back carry. Bag in front.

Better shot taken by my husband.

Better shot taken by my husband.

Summer Babywearing

7.21.13 006It’s been HOT in New York City this past week with the heat index reaching well past 100 degrees. How do you keep you and your baby cool? The answer that you don’t want to hear is that you can’t really. I always carry sun hats for me and baby, a water bottle, cloth wipes (or little baby washcloths to wipe little sweaty faces) and my favorite sandalwood fan with me to help keep us cool but the reality is that in that kind of heat you are both going to get hot and sweaty no matter what. However, the last couple of weeks I have really been enjoying wearing my youngest in an “unofficial” baby carrier. I raided my closet and pulled out my sarongs. These are typically used in America as swimsuit cover ups, but I’ve found that they work very well as a cool and supportive short baby carrier (otherwise known as a “shorty”). Most sarongs are made of rayon which is a thin, cool non-stretchy fabric. They are good for sling style carries (front, hip or back) with a knot at one shoulder. Sarongs aren’t very long. Most measure approximately 66×44 inches. If you are above a size 12 or 14 you might need to look for a sarong that is 70″ in length or get a plus size sarong which is usually about 90″ long. You can usually find saraongs online with prices ranging from $7.99 (on clearance) to $24.99 for fancy or plus size ones.

one-shouldered front carry  with a 25 lb. one year old

one-shouldered front carry
with a 25 lb. one year old

hip carry

hip carry

back carry

back carry

Homeschooling: When to call it a day, push through or switch gears.

If only cuteness made homeschooling easy.

If only cuteness made homeschooling easy.

Every mom whether you homeschool or not has had one of those days where things just don’t go well. One of those Murphy’s Law kind of days. Welcome to my day today.

When you homeschool however, you know what it feels like to have the added stress of “But I’ve got to get school done.” Sometimes you manage to get things done anyway and sometimes it’s just not going to happen.

Here are my thoughts on how to tell when you should call it quits for the day, push on through or reboot your day with something new.

Let me start by giving you a summary of my day up to this point (this day was back in June). It actually began as a fairly regular day with the exception of morning instructions from mom about everyone trying not to burst into tears and melting into a puddle on the floor whenever something didn’t go their way (hint: can you guess what the previous day was like?). So, on we went. And somehow it ended up being 1:30 in the afternoon and the only thing that we had done that looked remotely like school was my son reading a book to himself on the couch. We did regular things today – breakfast, baths, getting dressed. Then, somewhere in the middle of the morning I realized that if I didn’t get the father’s day cards in the mailbox that morning that they wouldn’t get to the grandpas in time. So, we signed, addressed, stamped and drew lots of cute little pictures. Now comes the challenging part. It was raining. We live in NYC. We don’t have a mailbox on the street like suburban houses. Ours is a slot in our front door. And I couldn’t leave them in the slot because they would get wet. There is a mailbox on the corner, but I had already missed that pickup. So, that meant walking to the Post Office 3 blocks away which normally isn’t that big of a deal. But, it’s raining. So, here we go with shoes, caps, rain coats, umbrellas, etc. We never did find the baby’s hat and finally gave up. And then we were finally all downstairs, with our cards in hand walking out the front door, and the bottom drops out. It starts pouring. The kids start to walk out and stop. We turn around, go upstairs, and take everything off that we just spent half an hour putting on.

So, I sit down on the couch to nurse the baby while I try to decide what to do next. Then I realize that the baby is falling asleep. It’s too early for her nap. If she falls asleep now she’ll only take a cap nap and then either want to nap at dinner time or melt down the rest of the day. So, I start to try to wake her up. The only thing that gets her attention is going “bye-bye.” She toddles over and brings me her shoes with excitement on her face. And so here we go again. The rain has stopped by now and I can only get the big kids out the door with the promise of french fries from our corner diner on the way home. So, we put everything back on again and  head out. We grab an item from the grocery store, drop our letters at the Post Office and pick up our fries. Now, we’re headed back. We turn the corner to walk down our street and what do we see? The mailman. Right in front of our house. Oh the irony is not lost on me. But, I’m not so far removed from the situation that it causes me amusement yet either. Maybe that will come in a week or two.

So, now the question – what to do with the rest of our day? It’s already past lunchtime. Do I try to salvage it or give up?

Here are the options that I see before me:

1. Push on through and try to get school done in the afternoon.
2. Give up, call it a day and try again tomorrow.
3. Or be creative and come up with an “plan B” for the rest of day.

Here’s how to decide.

1. Examine everyone’s state of mind. Are you in a frame of mind to teach and are they in a frame of mind to listen and learn? If the answer is no, then go on to step two.

2. Find an activity that can reboot everyone. Naps, something special, a favorite story, playing a game. Think of something that will reset everyone’s mood.

3. Realisticly examine the amount of time that you have in the day to get something done. 1 hour, 2 hours, 3 hours, 4 hours?

4. Decide if you can fit the things that you had planned for that day into the time you have left.

5. If not, choose the most important (core subjects) or the ones that would be the hardest to catch up on if you get behind.

6. And if your reboot doesn’t work, or you can see that everyone is still too far gone to make a go of what you had scheduled for that day, then scrap your orginal plan and redeem your day with a “plan B.” Use your intuition here. Pick something short and simple that you feel like each child can accomplish given everyone’s mood and state of mind. Things such as making popcorn as an afternoon snack while you read from a chapter book, letting them draw pictures while listening to a book on tape, playing an educational game, etc. Something that has a low frustration level for everyone is in order here. You could also focus the rest of your day on skills that need extra practice. Review those phonics flash cards or math facts. Quiz each other on the states or have the kid that needs extra reading practice read a story with you. Or let them be the teachers. Give them three or four things that they can do independently with the older ones teaching the little ones. Maybe you can get a break and they can get some school done on their own.

7. And last but not least, if no one is up for the plan B, then call it good and make some cookies instead. Get a good night’s rest and start again tomorrow. Remember that no day is lost. There is learning in every day even if you can’t see it now. Some days are definitely harder than others, but there is always something learned in the struggle.

So, how did our day end up you ask?

Well, given that our morning was not stress free and we (mostly me) were all a on edge.  So, I opted for naps for our family reboot. I laid down with the baby, and the big kids went to their beds for quiet time. Soon the kids were all sleeping and I felt better after resting a bit (and writing this blog post). And now we are going to go with the plan B. I think I’m going to go with a combination a fun snack to wake everyone up from naptime, reading a couple of chapters in our latest book, and finishing off the afternoon with the kids being the teachers. Hopefully our day will end better than it started. If not, we’ll try snuggling in on the couch after dinner for a family movie night – probably with popcorn. 🙂

Field Trips: How to get into almost any NYC museum for free.

120811_0006Museum admission can get expensive. But did you know that most NYC musuems have either days or hours each month where admission is free!? This site has a good list of museums listed by whether they are always free (pay what you wish), have monthly free hours, or weekly days or hours that are free. So, whether you live here or are coming for a visit, enjoy your Field Trips in the City. It’s less expensive than you might think.

Cloth diaper wash routine and storage for city dwellers…

3.25.13 051Cloth diapering requires dedication – especially if you live in a small apartment with no laundry. Here are some creative solutions that I’ve found that work for us for a good wash routine for shared, low water machines and apartment storage. Happy diapering!