Charmingly Modern

Castles and Factories

“Oh wow, look! A castle!”

It wasn’t actually a castle. It was a huge industrial plant that we were driving past, but Ezra’s little toddler eyes saw something else.

“It sure is, bud!” I replied.

We passed a few more castles on our way to our destination – each met with just as much enthusiasm from my passenger in the backseat – and that little voice in my head came up. If you’re a parent, you know the voice I’m talking about. It’s the one that tells you all the things you’re doing wrong.

“You should have corrected him,” it said. “You shouldn’t let him think a factory is a castle. You should have told him it’s a place where people build things.”

I generally try to ignore that voice when it comes up. No good comes from it – usually – and anyway, most of the time, I think I’m a pretty laid back mama and I let things roll off my back.

For some reason, though, this particular little moment in time stuck with me throughout the day and that voice would not let up. That night, as I laid in bed, I thought about castles and factories, perceptions and realities. I thought about simplicity and complexity, childhood and adulthood.

I do some of my best thinking at night, because usually it takes me a good long while to fall asleep.

And as I was pondering all of these things, I came to realize that, right now, it’s my job to protect and nurture the simplicity of childhood. There will be a time when we’ll drive down that road and my backseat passenger will be a little bigger, and he’ll know we’re driving through our city’s industrial quarter and there are no castles there.

The reality will be that the magic has gone, and he’s moved on to other things. And while growing up isn’t a bad thing – it’s my little boy’s job right now, after all – it is a thing that doesn’t have to happen quite so fast.

In the meantime, I want him to find the castles. And maybe even imagine there are knights fighting dragons within those walls. I love his exclamations when we drive past big rigs, construction sites and train tracks – things I’ve long since become used to seeing as I make my way around our city, things that have lost their magic to me.

So I’ll quiet that voice and save the should-haves for another time and, for now, keep it simple and keep it sweet.

Posted in Home, Motherhood No comments

Book reviews, more planners, thai food & emergency vets – Looking Back, Looking Ahead #9

I’m caught up on Looking Back, Looking Ahead! This installment brings us to what happened last week, woo hoo.

So, what did happen last week?

Looking Back…

On Monday, I got a book in the mail.

move on book

I signed up to be a part of a blogger reviewing service for books, which means – as you can probably guess – they send me books and I get to review them. I’m pretty excited about this because I figure it’s a good way to get myself into regularly reading. The only requirements are that I have to post the book reviews on Amazon or another similar bookseller website, and also post the review on my blog. I guess these are sort of like sponsored posts, but I get to pick the book I review so I like that aspect of it. And all I’m getting is a free copy of a book.

Anyway, I chose Move On: When Mercy Meets Your Mess (this link goes to, which supports charitable causes each time you purchase) because it had not yet been chosen for review by a blogger, and I thought the title sounded interesting. As it turns out, the book is exactly what I needed to read after my very emotional week I had last week. I’m just about halfway through so expect a review by mid- to late-September.

diy planner

Remember when I mentioned a couple weeks ago about how I gave another Moleskine transformation a go and I wasn’t very happy with the results? Well, I tried again but this time with a random notebook that I found in my stash (yes, I have a notebook stash). It’s graph paper like the Moleskine, but has more pages that are divided into sections by color (four sections total). I worked on the cover and coverpage with some washi tape I had picked up at Staples, and then started working on a monthly and weekly view. So far, I am liking this, but it’s still not quite right.

The Emily Ley planners will be released in a couple weeks and darn it if I am still eying those! I also checked out Plum Paper Designs to see what was new with them. The planners are a little over $20 less than Emily Ley and I already know I like them.

Stop giving me that look! I’m addicted to planners and I can’t help it!


It was rainy and/or overcast and/or humid most of the week this past week, so Ezra and I were kinda limited in what we could do outside. On Thursday, we broke out our paint supplies and painted a little on the porch. When he was napping, I picked my Custom Fit sweater back up since it is technically supposed to be fall soon. I also put on a new Jamberry manicure.

Friday during the day, we had a visit from the in-laws so that was very nice. They brought over pizza and hung out for the afternoon.

Friday evening Ezra had a sleepover at my parents’ house, which meant Alex and I had all of Friday evening and Saturday morning/afternoon to ourselves. It was like a throwback to pre-baby days, and it made me realize just how little we did with our time on the weekends before we had Ezra. Kids seriously do just pack on the activities that you squeeze in.

We had Thai food for dinner Friday night because we have both been craving it. We hit up a place that I hadn’t been to in years (and Alex had never tried) and it was good but the service was pretty awful. Our food was given to the table beside us and it took the waitress almost an hour before the mix-up was even addressed. At least they gave us a free appetizer of crab rangoons?

After dinner, we walked around and discovered a new-to-us cafe that had a really good frappe, and we hiked up to an overlook to check out the view. Kentucky will always have my heart, but Cincinnati can be really beautiful.

(Get ready for another collage….)

Saturday morning something wonderful happened – I slept in. After weeks of not sleeping much at all, I really needed that rest. We visited a tea room for brunch and had some delicious food + a bubble tea (yum!!!!). My mom brought Ezra home after his nap but, unfortunately, I wasn’t there to greet him – only Alex was – because I had to take Aslan to the emergency vet. On Wednesday night, I gave him a new kind of heartworm/flea/tick medication that didn’t sit very well with him and made him sick. He spent Thursday intermittently vomiting and on Friday I was set to call the vet except he seemed much better and back in good spirits. Fast-forward to Saturday afternoon when he suddenly started having diarrhea and was shaking, plus refusing to eat or drink anything, I decided we needed to run up to the emergency vet and see what was going on. They diagnosed him as dehydrated and gave him an under-the-skin injection of fluid plus an anti-nausea medication and told me to put him on a diet of plain boiled chicken and steamed rice.

Yesterday, he was feeling much better and today (Monday) he is 100% back to normal which was such a relief. He is so small that when anything like this happens, I really worry about him.

Looking Ahead…

This upcoming week is looking like it will be pretty good. Last week, I signed a second social media marketing client and this Wednesday I have a meeting to naildown the details for a third, so positive thoughts and prayers are appreciated for that! All of this is pretty interesting in light of my decision to totally change the direction of my Etsy shop. Now, I’m not really sure where to go with all of that.

Here are a few links that caught my eye -

(I was cleaning out the archives of my “saved” selections in Feedly so all of these links are going to be really old.)

From 2012 – ‘To my 15 year old self: Things I wish I had known,’ via CNN

“Believe in your dreams and ideals and pursue them with determination and motivation. Always find the time to do something for other people. Indeed, there is nothing more rewarding than making someone else happy.” – Fabiola Gianotti

Five great podcasts to do the dishes by – via The Happiest Home

Now, great podcasts keep me entertained from the time I drizzle olive oil in the pan until the last pot is dried and put away. In fact, I sometimes find myself slowing down the nighttime routine just so I can listen to the end of a great episode.

Sweater Makeover – Flower Embroidered Shoulders, via One Sheepish Girl

This is seriously so cute and I’m glad I was digging through my old saved stuff so this tutorial is back on my radar, just in time for fall.

All the money I’ve earned (and spent) in my lifetime, via Budgets are Sexy

Really fascinating!

This is serious. If you don’t handle your money with care, count every dollar that passes through your hands with a budget, and invest early and often, you may end up realizing you have WASTED half a million dollars…

Alright, there ya go, folks. Hope you had a great week, too, and that you have a promising week ahead. Thanks for reading :)

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Sleepless nights, Jamberry, old shoes & the zoo – Looking Back, Looking Ahead #8

(I’m still catching up on Looking Back, Looking Ahead so here’s another back-dated post for you.)

I’ve gotta say, Monday (the 11th) was a hard day for me, for reasons I’m not entirely prepared to go into here on the blog, but I will share eventually when the time is right. I read something that shook me to my core and I’ve been working on processing it since then. Have you ever experienced something that felt like a definitive line in the sand for you? Something where you knew you couldn’t go back to how life was before? That’s how Monday was for me. I can’t un-know what I now know, and I can’t erase the images from my mind, so now I move forward and try to sort through what it means.

So the entire week was colored by that experience, which left me feeling a bit sad. I didn’t sleep very much and most nights I sat on our porch after everyone was asleep, until 2 or 3am, just writing and thinking. During the day, we went about our lives as normal but I had this nagging in the background, where it felt like every.single.thing I was doing was completely worthless. As I’m writing this, two weeks have passed and that feeling has faded (as I knew it would) but, still. There’s that nagging.

I don’t want this post to be a downer and, anyway, as I said I’m not totally ready to share my thoughts on this thing that happened. So, instead, I’ll share what we did the second week of August because a bit of normalcy helps when you’re working through something.

jamberry manicure

One of my friends started selling Jamberry so I have been trying them out and they’re a lot more fun than I thought they would be. They’re also fairly affordable, considering they last on your nails for at least two weeks. If you’re the kind of girl that polishes her nails herself, they don’t necessarily save you money, though…but if you’re the type of girl who regularly goes to get manicures, then yes, it will save you money.

In September, I’m partnering with my friend to do a Jamberry giveaway which I am really excited about so stay tuned for more information about that!

anthropologie shoes

I’ve had these shoes from Anthropologie for at least seven years. And I’ve worn them maybe five times, which explains why they still look brand new. I went up to work on Wednesday (I’m down to one day a month at the construction company until they find a replacement for me) and decided to break these out. I’m not really a shoe girl, but I do love these shoes.

On Friday, I decided to shake myself out of my funk and Ezra and I headed out to visit the zoo. We packed a picnic lunch and had a great time. My little guy is so into animals. Farm animals – specifically, any kind of cattle – are definitely his favorites but wild animals are up on the list, too. We had to check out the elephants, the giraffes, the cheetahs, lions, tigers, bears (oh my!)…a few statues… you name it, we probably saw it. We even saw a squirrel foraging for food from the trash. It was a well-rounded experience.

The weekend was fairly low key, with the only big plan being a game night hosted by one of our neighbors. We met quite a few of their friends and brought some macaroni & cheese bites to share (these are the same ones I made for Ezra’s birthday party). We all had a great time and Ezra was pretty bummed when it was time to go home.

And that about wraps up August 11th-17th. I told you it was a light week. Just one more week to catch up on and then Looking Back, Looking Ahead will be current again – yahoo! Thanks for reading :)

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June & July Grocery Spending and Eating Out Update

We’re mid-way through August so it only makes sense for me to update you on how our grocery and eating out spending went in June and July.

Just to refresh your memory, my plan (which is in this post) for spending is –

  • Groceries – $400/month
  • Eating out – $225/month
  • Coffee – $50/month

In June, I actually upped the grocery budget to $434 because I had $34 extra in our budget.

So, how did June end up? Let’s look at groceries first –

june 2014 grocery spending

I blew our budget out of the water in June by spending $508.26. Oops. That’s the most I’ve ever gone over-budget on groceries in the history of my tracking! And I can tell you what is at fault (apart from myself, of course) – coupons. Yes, you read that correctly. Coupons! June is when I started really getting into coupons and I definitely was encouraged to buy things I wouldn’t normally buy (and in multiple quantities since a lot of the time a coupon requires you to buy two of something). I was printing coupons off, clipping them from inserts, adding them to my iPhone…I was on a coupon high!

Unfortunately, June was also rough for eating out. Our budget was $225, but we ended up spending $306.36. Again, really bad. We went over by $81.36.

While I’m used to a little overage here and there, June was really shocking to me. Clearly, something wasn’t working. So, I sat down and looked at our system and had a laugh at myself.

This has been our “system” the last few months –

    • Setup a budget at the start of the month.
    • Pay every bill for the month the first week of the month.
    • Keep the rest of the budget generally in mind.
    • Spend money.

Yeah, not a good system. Well, apart from paying every bill up front. I do like not having to worry about any bills for the whole rest of the month.

Anyway, I’ve been out of the habit of writing down every dollar we spend for awhile now, but when I was doing that regularly we were way more in check so I knew I had to start with a system that involved daily accountability.

Because let’s be honest. I’m a spender.

Of the two of us, I’m the one who shops. It’s my debit card that makes up the bulk of our monthly spending, and that’s mostly because I’m the one who is primarily home and making sure our home stays stocked with groceries and fun things for a toddler to do. But that also means it can be hard for me to be honest with myself about how I’m spending, because in my mind it’s all justifiable when I look at it week-by-week. Not to mention, I know Alex is busy, and that means I’m not getting as much accountability from him.

It can be a really bad slippery slope of misspending if you don’t stay on top of things and clearly that’s what happened when it came to eating out in June.

So, my new system involves post-its and lists. Because I love both of those things separately, so why not combine them together.

budget on post it notes

I took one post-it note and wrote “JULY EATING OUT” (and you’ll notice I was being really optimistic, thinking we would only spend $200 eating out) on the top, and on another I wrote “JULY GROCERY SPENDING” (I kept the $434 budget for groceries for July, too). On a third, I wrote “JULY BILLS”. I think these post-its are pretty self-explanatory, so I’ll just jump straight to describing how they worked for us.

Short version: They worked like a charm.

Long version: I took the three post-its and stuck them in our kitchen, above our monthly calendar so they would be very visible and we would see them multiple times a day.

On the July bills post-it, I itemized each bill for the month. Even though I take care of the bills early on, it was really handy to have a daily reminder of the basic living costs for our house. Particularly the mortgage payment. It’s a big number, so when you look at it every day it kind of motivates you to not frivolously spend because it may be taken care of for July, but there’s August to consider, and September, and so on.

I wrote the budget we’d established for the grocery and eating out categories on the post-its and treated them like general ledgers. With each restaurant and grocery visit, I wrote down where we went and how much we spent and subtracted the amount spent from the budget. As we watched our budget decrease over the days and weeks, it became less fun to spend money eating out and it became more fun to challenge myself to really work my coupons in order to save as much money as possible at the grocery store. And here’s how our spending shook out –

july grocery spending spreadsheet

July groceries: $441.34
July eating out: $218.91


Okay, so we still went over budget on groceries, but only by $7.34! And…I can’t believe it…we were under budget on eating out by $6.09! And that tells me my post-it system is a keeper so it’s sticking around for August.

If you’re wondering why there is a 0.00 spending for the week ending July 12th, it’s because that huge grocery trip ($155.14) was for about two weeks worth of groceries. I saved a ton that week, too. I added the Remke spending that’s listed on the post-it to my $120.57 spending at the end of the month. But you can also see that in July I was still kind of figuring out the couponing thing. My totals are so high throughout June and July because I’ve actually been stockpiling things like detergent, toothbrushes, toothpaste, toilet paper, etc.

Anyway, for August, I’m moving the grocery budget down slightly to $420 and the eating out budget to $210. Could be crazy talk, but these post-its are magic. We’ll see what happens. Already this month I’ve had my best savings to date so I’m excited to see how the rest of it goes. I’ll keep you posted!

Posted in In My Kitchen, Money Monday No comments

Moleskines, Coupons, Busy Bags & Goettafest – Looking Back, Looking Ahead #7

I can’t believe that August is here, which means we are officially in the Last Month of Summer. What! How did that happen?

I’m sure it will blow by, because that’s what summer does. When you’re in the middle of it, it seems like you have all the time in the world…until that morning when you wake up and you realize it’s Labor Day weekend and autumn is knocking on the door.

Anyway, here’s how we spent the first week of August –

I got it in my head that I wanted to make another Moleskine planner hack. So I headed to Staples and picked up a notebook and got to measuring and drawing. I don’t really know what made me want to do this – actually, yes I do. Back in February (I think? It might have been January…) I ordered a Day Designer. I really love the look of it, I love the planning pages… it’s a great planner. It’s in a daily format, though, which I wasn’t really sure I would use.

As it turns out, I don’t use it. I’m just not into the daily planner pages. I do love the planner itself, but for as much as it costs, and for as little as I use it, it just isn’t the planner for me. For now, anyway.

I noticed that Emily Ley is soon releasing a weekly version of the Simplified Planner but I’m not 100% in love with the layout so I thought I would just give another DIY notebook transformation another try.

As it turns out, I don’t 100% love this one. So I won’t be sharing it. And that means I am temporarily planner-less until I can figure out a better solution.

I’ll keep you posted!

Then, this happened on Tuesday.

For some couponers, this isn’t a great trip but for me? It was super because it’s the most I’ve ever saved on groceries. And by groceries, I mean more than just food. I bought paper products (toilet paper, to be exact), breakfasts, lunches and dinner for nine days, snacks and personal hygiene stuff like deodorant and toothpaste and even some vitamins (in fact, I got two packages of vitamins for free!). I got quite a few free things on this trip, actually. It was awesome!

On Tuesday I was also prepping for a get-together I was participating in on Wednesday – a toddler “busy bag” exchange.

What is a busy bag? A busy bag is a little bag of activities that’s geared toward keeping toddlers busy. I bet you couldn’t guess that based on the title. Check out the inspiration on Pinterest to see what I mean – toddler busy bag ideas.

Anyway, I got together with fourteen other moms who all brought an activity, which meant that when you left, you took home fourteen different activities (fifteen, including your own) for your toddler’s busy bag. This exchange was great!

My contribution was interlocking felt rings with alternating velcro and button closures. I put them together Tuesday night. I have a huge bag of miscellaneous buttons so it was great to use some for this project and clear out a little bit of my stash.

toddler busy bag

Ezra’s favorite activity – so far – is a little dog search & find pouch. The mama who made these took some beads and a few little dog plastic figures (not all were dogs. Some pouches were flowers, some were cats, and so on) and put them all together in a pouch that she sewed from some scrap fabric and clear plastic. The result is a little activity where the child pushes the beads around to find the hidden objects. She attached a laminated photo of the hidden objects so you remember what you’re looking for, and the objects vary in size to make it a little challenging. So clever!

toddler busy bag activity

In case you didn’t see it, I recently wrote about how I’m going to start tweaking how I do things in my shop. I brainstormed a lot this week how that would translate to the things I knit and sell. I’m working right now on building up a few packages of things new mamas might need, which brought me back to knitting soakers. I haven’t knit a soaker in a year. I know it’s been exactly one year because last July was my last large order of soakers that I fulfilled for a mom co-op (wherein I knit over 50 soakers over the course of a few weeks) and I put the needles down at the end of that and never wanted to see a soaker ever again.

Until this week when I remembered this beautiful 100% wool Araucania yarn I had sitting in my stash. It’s a super bulky weight and I’ve never knit a soaker in that weight before so I thought I would give it a go.

I love how it turned out.

knit wool soaker progression

I cast this on for a “small,” which should fit 0-3 month but I think it knit up more like a medium which is 3-6 months. I was hoping to use up the entire skein but I have a little leftover. I should have cast on a medium.

I also have decided that knitting soakers in super bulky weight is far better than worsted. It goes by SO fast. I knit this soaker over the course of two days, using just the hours at naptime, which means I finished this in about 6 hours. Not too shabby!

Our weekend was pretty good. It was quiet Friday evening and Saturday morning, but Saturday afternoon we hit up Goettafest, which is always a treat. If you aren’t familiar with goetta, you need to remedy that ASAP. It’s delicious.

What I love about Goettafest is how creative the food vendors get. There were some old favorites there (goetta melt anyone?!) but some new ones I had never tried before – like goetta mac n cheese?!?!?!?! Why had I never thought of that?

gliers goettafest food

From the top left, we have –

  • Goetta fried rice
  • Goetta mac n cheese
  • Goetta balls (which was basically like a hushpuppy with a piece of goetta in the center, topped with powdered sugar)
  • Goetta brownie – the crown jewel and the reason I go to goettafest!! This year they were a little more fudgelike than normal; traditionally they taste identical to a no bake cookie. It’s like a salty/sweet snack. So good.

The festival was so crowded this year – definitely more crowded than in the past. It was actually a little overwhelming, but I’m glad we went.

No links this time around since I’m just posting to catch up. Hope you had a great week!





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