what I learned about simplicity in an apartment with one spatula

Jeanne here.

We spent most of February in a small furnished apartment in Vancouver, Canada, visiting our dear Cowboy while he works on a movie for Paramount Pictures.

And what became more evident than ever during our time there is: we have too much stuff.

Not in Vancouver. But at home.

We spent three weeks and each little had one small box of toys (both boxes fit between their carseats for the road trip and they packed the boxes themselves), five books, a shopping bag of craft supplies (markers, paper, scissors, tape, paper bags), one notebook each with a special pen included, and enough clothes to last 5 days. And while they missed a few of their favorite toys (like the dollhouse and barn), neither ever asked for more or whined about not having enough. There were very few fights. We stayed busy and entertained, and the only TV they watched was the local PBS station while I made dinner.

It was awesome.

So of course I came home and removed SEVEN FULL BOXES OF TOYS from their school/play room.

simple toys

(I haven’t yet brought the boxes to our local Good Will, but if we can make it a month without them asking for these toys, they’ll make their way to a new home.)

But the lesson goes beyond reducing the clutter for the kids.

Because I made breakfast, lunch, snacks and dinner nearly every day we were there … in a small kitchen equipped with one spatula, a whisk, one frying pan, a sauce pan, a medium sized pot, one baking dish, a set of three nesting mixing bowls, one really good knife (which the Cowboy brought with him) and a Vitamix.

Baked chicken. Meatballs. Soups. Salads. Smoothies. Pasta. Poached eggs. Pancakes. Bacon. Fried eggs. Burgers. Soaked oatmeal. Steak. Sautéed veggies. Rice.

The meals were simple (we had a very limited supply of spices and herbs to choose from), but there wasn’t one that didn’t satisfy. And I did it all with one spatula!


Not only was cooking everything that we needed possible, but clean-up was a BREEZE. I cleaned while I cooked. I used fewer prep dishes. Fewer prep dishes means fewer dishes to wash. Fewer dishes to clean means a happier mama as doing dishes is one of my LEAST favorite chores. And fewer dishes also translated into cleaner kitchen.

Lesson learned.

My first step was to realize that we don’t need FIVE whisks. Seriously. That’s how many whisks we’ve got in our utensil canister. And FOUR spatulas. And too many wooden spoons to count. See?

not simple utensils

So I’ve removed more than half of the utensils. And two thirds of our pots and pans.

simple utensils

Like the toys, I put them in boxes and set them aside. They are there if I need ’em.

But if I make it a few months without reaching for the boxes, we might be having a garage sale. Anyone want some wooden kitchen toys?


A cure for Spring Fever: The Home Depot

We’ve been spoiled with warmish Montana weather these last few weeks, and it has us itching to be outside every chance we get.

The fresh air has got us creating our lawn and garden honey-do lists (maybe we should call them the “Mama-do” lists?).

Abby’s list is scattered in her head, on her phone and on random papers, but Jeanne managed to get some of it into her notebook.

April To-Do 2013

So when Home Depot asked if we wanted to spruce up our lawn and gardens as a part of their Garden Center DIY Spring campaign, we thought about it for an entire four seconds and then squealed “YES” like a pair of stay-at-home mamas with way too many projects to tackle!

Then we made the only logical decision two overly enthusiastic moms would: we decided to take the littles to The Home Depot Garden Center and start dreaming.  (Okay, so maybe  it wasn’t actually “logical” to take four preschoolers on a dream-tour of the Garden Center … We we’re quickly reminded the only thing you do with four kids at any store is wrangle.)

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Luckily though, our favorite local park is just a mile or two from The Home Depot.  So we knew where we were going next to let the kids run wild and give us mamas get a chance to talk.

We both agree that the best part about this is we actually go to The Home Depot.  A lot!  In fact, this week Abby took two trips there to get 17 big bags of organic potting mix for her greenhouse and Jeanne was there for more seed starting fiber pots because her rosemary, basil and watermelon are desperate for transplanting.

But back to our trip with all the kids…

Not only are these two littles super cute, they’re showing off the only flowers currently being sold at our local Home Depot.
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It’s barely April.  We still have two full months of potential snowy weather… so you can’t blame the Garden Center for being a little modest in the plant department.

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But what’s lacking in plants, is made up for in spades with seeds and tools and supplies to get our Zone 4 yards and gardens ready to be planted.  (Did you notice that Jeanne needs to make a few more raised beds?  And Abby didn’t tell you this yet, but she’s got a compost bin on her list.)

Plus, it’s so nice to have online resources like the Home Depot’s Garden Club to help us start planning and tackling some projects.

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Did you know that becoming a member of the Garden Club gets you a first look on their new products, regional garden ideas, access to garden experts (we could all use a little help, right?) and over $300 in exclusive email savings each year?

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Joining the online Garden Club takes about 20 seconds and gives you access to how-to videos from experts, monthly to-do lists based on your region and a $5 coupon towards your next $50 purchase.

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The Nitty Gritty:

It’s home improvement time, and The Home Depot has everything you need for spring. No matter what projects you want to tackle, The Home Depot has you covered and can help you #DigIn to Spring.

Spring is the perfect time for all your outdoor home renovations. Shop The Home Depot for terrific values on new patio furniture, landscape supplies such as fertilizer and potting soil and outdoor grills. Keep your lawn and garden looking great, too, with the huge selection of lawn mowers, edgers and trimmers, and garden tools.

Visit The Home Depot Garden Club for product ideas from kick-starting your Spring with seed starter kits to building a window birdfeeder.

What’s on YOUR to do list for April?

This is a sponsored post written by us on behalf of The Home Depot.

nourishing cupboard update

Jeanne here.

With a status report.

Back in November, I showed you this picture and shared a few ways one could start building a more nourishing cupboard:

cupbard-2 The goal, of course, is to cut out processed, refined, extruded, synthesized food.  To feed our family whole, real, simple food that my grandmother would recognize as food… food that’s not fortified or enriched or genetically enhanced because it still has its nutrients in tact.

That’s the goal.

See all those boxes of cereal?

Two boxes of Sunbelt granola.  EnviroKidz Organic Amazon Corn Flakes.  Some Cascadian Farms cereal.  And some other random box of cereal that I can’t remember.

And do you see that big bag of organic sugar on the top shelf?

And the cereal bars?

And the plastic containers and bags?


I know.

I should have been a little anxious about sharing it.

But, you know, it’s a process.  Building a nourishing cupboard doesn’t happen overnight.

But the cereal … I know store-bought cereal isn’t nutritious.

I know it’s not really food.

I know that even the “good for you” cereal is highly processed and not-so nutrient-dense.

I know that the process they use to create those puffs and flakes and granolas uses high heat and extrusion and strips out most of the nutrients that exist in the wheat and corn in its natural state.  I know that the synthetic nutrients they add back in are less accessible in our bodies.  (Click here if you want more info about the dangers of store-bought cereal.)

No, that doesn’t mean I don’t still love a late-night snack of granola with yogurt and honey.  Old habits … But again, it’s a process … and I’m happy to say that we are down to one box of cereal (and I save it for that rare 3 am when nothing else will satisfy the craving).

Check it out.  This is our cupboard today:


I’m happy to see that the sugar bag hasn’t really moved.  And it looks like we haven’t really used much (if any) since the last post.

I’m psyched to see that we’ve graduated to more glass storage containers.  (No more BPAs in the cupboard!)

I’m proud of the lack of plastic bags from the bulk aisle (we now bring the jars with us as they empty).

I’m surprised to see we have no more popcorn … and know now that I have to take a trip to the Co-Op later today.

And I’m happy to know we’ve got a few Larabars left.  (We don’t often have store-bought Larabars in the house because I make a sour-cherry-date-almond-chia “raw cookie” that is pretty tasty … but it’s nice, once in a while, to have the option of a short-cut 🙂

But most of all … I see that one little box of cereal on the bottom shelf …

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…And I think to myself …

Whooop!  Whooop!


Anyway … there’s still some work to be done.  But I’m really enjoying the process.

How’s your cupboard?

DIY desk … part 3 … FINALLY!

‘Twas the night before Saturday.

And all through the shop, not a creature was stirring, not even the mop.

But Mama was home planning.  The Cowboy was there, too

Resting up for a Saturday that proved to be true.

The pieces were laid on a sawhorse with care.

In the hopes that a babysitter would soon be avail.

(Okay … that’s all I can muster … what with it not being Christmas and all.)

But maybe you’re guessing by my really bad ode that I finally had time on Saturday to get to Suzy’s shop and work on this dang desk I’ve been putting together for … EVER.

All the pieces were cut.

Routed (by Suzy).

Planed (by Suzy).



Lacquered (by Suzy).

And ready to assemble.

All I needed was five hours (okay, six).


And help watching the littles.


And, okay, I’ll say it … a little help from the Cowboy.


…because he wanted me to attach the desk-top with hinges rather than just screw it together so that it would be easier to transport.


And more help from Suzy… IMG_6232 …because I had trouble with the shelves … They were complicated (on an angle, and when I put them in it changed the angle of the legs) … and kind of got screwed up.

But she fixed ’em!

And now it’s DONE! IMG_6234 The little guy tested the legs for sturdiness.

We packed the pieces in the truck.

And all of a sudden I have pressure to get more done because now I can’t use the excuse that I don’t have my own space.

IMG_6357 (Maybe I can use the excuse that I might need a new chair?)

What excuses do you use? (Not that you make excuses.)



Don’t forget to register for our Valentine’s Day GIVEAWAY! … Four more chances to win!

a DIY desk – part 2

Jeanne here …

You may recall that I’m in the process of building my own desk and setting up a home office.

I had very high hopes to be showing off a completed desk by this post.

IMG_5706 I’d be lying if I didn’t think I’d be typing this post from my new “home office.” 🙂


But I’m happy to report …


… all the components are done.




Here’s Suzy “Vanna White-ing” the shelf as it will appear on the final desk.

And awaiting assembly.

So …

Next time …

My personally-hand-crafted desk in my new home-office.