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?


after the fire

One night a few weeks ago I unintentionally left a pot of bone broth on the stove and forgot to turn the burner off before we went out for four and a half fun-filled hours of dinner and dessert at Abby’s.



The worst.

We came home to a house filled with smoke, and a burned out stainless steel stock pot (my favorite) and the first few licks of flame reaching toward the cupboards.

The timing was so lucky.

I was able to remove the pot from the stove (without getting burned).  Turn off the burner.  Open every window and door.  Quickly grab some clothes, our toothbrushes, my computer, two toy horses and the dogs.  Within about 5 minutes, we were back in the car and headed to a nearby hotel for respite from the fire.  (NOTE:  The Cowboy wasn’t home yet from his job in Los Angeles … it was just me and the kiddos.)

Let me first say, I could have turned around and taken the kids and dogs back to Abby’s.  Or I could have called my sister-in-law and stayed with her.  Or our niece Samantha.  I could have called her, too.  There are plenty of people I could have (and probably should have) called.  But it was 10 p.m. on a Sunday and all I could think about was getting the kids and dogs to safety and to bed quickly and easily.  And I assumed it would be less drama to have the kids in a hotel room for 10 hours than to call and wake folks up and make arrangements, et al.

Our night in the hotel was its own adventure.  I’m not really ready to relive it (maybe one day I’ll be able to share it … but I will say that if it were ever to happen again, I might leave the 65 pound small-bladdered dog in the backyard rather than bring him to a hotel room.  I think I maybe forgot that he wakes up two or three times a night for potty-breaks … and potty-breaks from a hotel room on a main street with two sleeping toddlers … not what I would describe as fun).

henry pic

Okay … so that brings me to the next day.

Even with the windows wide open.

And the doors.

And a strong breeze blowing (it was one of the coldest night’s we’ve had this fall with temps dropping to the low 20s and a wind that had it feeling more like temperature in the teens).

The house (and every piece of clothing and every unfinished wood surface and every linen and every pillow and every drape) smelled like a campfire.

And I love campfires.

When they are at camp.


But not so much in our intimate 1940s cottage.

So we borrowed ionizers from Abby and my sister-in-law.

And the kids and I cleaned.

I washed every piece of clothing in our closets.  The sheets.  The pillows.

I scrubbed every surface with a combination of Hydrogen Peroxide and Water with a few drops of Lemon Essential Oil.  And when that didn’t work, I used the non-toxic cleaner Angel Scrub from the Elf Natural line that was developed by my sister-in-law’s friend Janine Elf.  (Not a paid endorsement … just beaming enthusiasm because this stuff is amazing.  I’m not sure it’s designed for use on wood, but it just about saved our cabinet fronts and ceiling above the stove.)


But all the scrubbing in the world didn’t take the smell out of the house.

Enter my beautiful and super-smart sister-in-law Kelly with a genius idea …

j and k

She did all sorts of research (I don’t know anyone who researches better than she does) and came up with this miracle fix for when your house smells like a campfire.

CLOSE ALL THE WINDOWS.  Yes.  Close the windows.  I swear, this is the answer.

TURN UP THE HEAT to 80 degrees.  Yep.  I said 80 degrees … it’s only for a short time … and it’s imperative.

COMBINE 1 part white vinegar, 2 parts water and 15-30 drops of Essential Oil.  We used Young Living Purification (affiliate link) and bring to a boil.

When the mixture boils down, TURN OFF THE STOVE (!!!!), lower the heat and open the windows.

Let the house air out for a few hours and REPEAT.

Let the house air out again and REPEAT.


THEN … take a piece of cheese cloth and pour a few drops of the Essential oil on it.  Put the cloth against the air intake of the ionizer and let it run.  Reapply as necessary.


The “incident” happened on Sunday.  We scrubbed on Monday and Tuesday and had ionizers running non-stop.  Finally got the vinegar-essential oil remedy going on Wednesday.  And by Thursday the smoke was gone!!!

In fact, we even had a guy from a restoration company come out to check on the house and he said that our method had worked just as effectively (if not a little more ghetto) than the method he uses.  He explained that turning up the heat and boiling the water-vinegar-essential oil concoction “opens the pores” of the wood and fabric in the house allowing the smoke to be “pushed out” by the cleaning solution.

And as far as the idea for the cheese cloth and ionizer … HIS idea is to take a Bounce dryer sheet and use that on the air intake for the ionizer.  So I was basically doing the same thing … only without the poisonous chemicals in the dryer sheet!  Yay, me!

I hope I never have to do this again.

I hope you never have to go through this.

But glad that we now know how it’s done.

a good cause (and a GREAT giveaway)

We’re not the only ones with a great giveaway this week. (CLICK HERE to check out the O’Mamas giveaway).

You see, Kate and her husband are in the process of adopting their second child. But adoption, you may know, is an expensive proposition. And there are a lot of good people in the world, with big hearts and room in their lives and their love to care for littles whose birth mothers can’t care for them. But some of those incredible adoptive parents don’t have deep pockets. And we believe Kate and Kuby fall into that category. Big hearts, less-big pocketbooks.


So as much as we hope you sign up for our giveaway (and really … we hope you sign up for our giveaway), we hope you’ll join Kate and Kuby’s giveaway and fundraiser (which ends tonight) and help in their fundraising effort to pay for the adoptive process.

Friday night seems like a good night to do a good deed, don’t you think?

Jeanne & Abby

ginger bug bummer

Remember how I told you I was making a ginger bug because we wanted to find a way to make some natural “soda” for a summer treat?



The bug worked.

It was fizzy.

And flavorful.

And “alive.”

For a little while, at least.

But then my first attempt at soda was (mango) …

Ummm …

I think the only way to describe it is …


So gross.

So then I tried again.

With watermelon.


But not as gross as the mango.

And then we went away for a week and I didn’t feed the ginger bug and didn’t ask our house-sitter to feed the ginger bug.

So it died.

dead ginger bug

And then today I saw this on Holistic Squid …


Dang Holistic Squid (I love her … and she doesn’t know I exist!) …

And we’re going strawberry picking on Saturday at Rocky Creek Farm (which we’ve done for a few years now and it’s so much fun to watch the kiddos scampering through fields of strawberries scavenging for fruit, learning to love the land, and appreciate the gift of nature.

But I’m back to square one …

… hoping I can get this bug going again before the strawberries arrive!

last year’s haul … and I’m hearing this year is a bumper crop!

Wish me luck!



Where do you go for pick-it-yourself?  Include a link in your comment and let’s give a shout-out to the farmers who are giving us this amazing experience!!


celebrating mamas …

Yesterday was Mother’s Day.

And I gotta tell you:  this thing … this Mother’s Day thing … is intense.

Firstly, this is the second Mother’s Day that I’ve had to experience since my beloved grandmother died.  And I don’t know a woman who rivals my grandmother in kindness, open-heartedness, and boundless love.  She was the first person told when I realized I was in love with a Cowboy.  And it was with her insight that helped me find the courage to give in to that love.


I miss her every day.

Secondly, the Cowboy’s beautiful mother died a week ago.


I said a week ago.

As in … seven days …

This incredible woman … who brought the love of my life into the world, whose life’s journey took her all around the globe, introduced her to dignitaries and world leaders, and whose dedication and love for her husband taught her son to love deeply and with all his heart … has left this world and been reunited with all her loved ones who passed before her.

I will miss her everyday.

And then, of course, my own mother… who (like Abby) I speak to every day …whose selflessness and love had her in the car for 10 hours for a three hour burial before turning around …

… just to make sure that we were okay and that the kids didn’t need a sitter.

And I miss her every day, but I’m so thankful that she’s still in my life and answers my way too many calls.

So these are three … but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Because if you had a mother, know a mother, love a mother, want to be a mother, want someone else to be a mother … you know that there is a love and light in this world stronger and more powerful than all the darkness and despair.

And that’s what I celebrated yesterday.

I celebrated that love and that light and that hope and selflessness and generosity … not just in my life, but in the world.

And I thank you and honor you … all of you … all the light … all the love … all the goodness and all the hope that is you.

Happy Belated Mother’s Day.



Something you won’t find on Pinterest.

I humbly give myself a C- in the kid’s craft department.  This will not be the first time I’ve shown you a lame craft that makes some of you think MAKE IT STOP.

But there’s bound to be a few more mom’s out there who continually fail in this department.

So while Elijah thought this project was SO COOL (direct quote), I doubt I’ll impress any of you. (Except Grammy… hi Mom!)




This is further proof that we need warm weather.  Gotta get my boys in some dirt, stat.


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 1

First off …don’t forget to register for our COLD/FLU SURVIVAL KIT GIVEAWAY!

Remember I mentioned that I had plans to make a desk?

Well I’m finally out of the planning stage and into the making, with the help of my super-pal Suzy B, woodworker-extraordinaire!

Today, I picked the knotty blue pine panels (2 @ $7 each) for the desk top.

I’m using two 1X8x10s of knotty blue pine for the desk top, so I was looking for pieces that “matched” but weren’t too “matchy” … you know?

Cut them down to size.

two 1x8x10 boards cut in half make 3 boards that will be used for the top, one gets cut again to be fitted for shelves.

A note about taking blog photos while using power tools … NOT A GOOD IDEA … so this is what the wood looked like after I used the chop saw to cut it. (I used a chop saw … what a weird sentence to read … wow … but I did it.  And I still have all my fingers.  So I’m entirely psyched!)

Then I took two 2x6x8 boards (2 for $12.99 … plus the $14 for the knotty pine boards, brings me to $27 on materials thus far) and cut them to use as the legs.

These are the legs after they’ve been cut, planed, “rounded,” cut again and sanded. The only mistake I made today was cutting one of the legs on the wrong angle. UGH … but luckily, Suzy had an extra 2×4 that she quickly re-cut for me to sand. (What took me 45 minutes, took Suzy 5 … )

Then we glued the top pieces together (after they were planed and sent thru the rounder table with a jointer attachment).

A cool thing about doing this DIY desk with someone who makes furniture for a living? She has an amazing array of power tools, including a “biscuit joiner” which makes gluing a desk top together way more sturdy. She also has these cool braces to hold the top together. Table saws (which she didn’t let me use … probably a smart decision on her part as we didn’t have time in the schedule for a trip to the emergency room :), Planers, sanders, measuring tapes, ear plugs, gloves … I see why she likes her job.

And then, after the glue was dried on the desk top and on the shelves, Suzy sanded the desk top, and it was pretty much time for me to get back to mommy hood …

this is it … the top of my desk … ready to have a clear coat applied and assembled with the legs and shelves.

… (a GREAT BIG thank you ABBY for taking care of our girl today …

I was happy to see the kiddos were so helpful … and I was equally stressed that I’m not ready to start growing my seed starts yet!

… and thank you COWBOY for watching the little guy).

Now all I’ve got to do is find time to assemble the parts, paint it with a clear coat, and transport it home … woohoo!  I’ll be excited to show you the finished product when all is said and done.

a road trip with a boy who hates the car

We’ve got some pretty big goals for the upcoming year.  Over Christmas we’re each dreaming big and writing down what we would like to see happen on our little slice of the world wide web.  The only thing I can guarantee is Jeanne’s notes will be much more organized in a much cooler notebook.

In the meantime, I’m still on vacation.  Friday night we headed down to south so my little guys could spend some good ole family time with their 2 cousins.  We are here, and honestly, it’s always hard to leave.  The cousins only see each other twice a year, and all us parents agree that this has got to change!

But, in order to get here, we had to drive.  We barely take road trips as a family.  In fact, the only time we do road trips is this 4 hour trip down south every year at Christmas.  Put me on a plane cross country with my kids… no sweat. But a 4 hour road trip… terrifying.

For starters, my kids hate the car for any extended amount of time.  Well, actually Elijah is 3 1/2 now, and enjoys the car.  But once when he was 18 months he screamed the entire 4 hours of the trip.  That was fun.  So now David is 15 months and he is the prime age for hating the car.

We’ve tried traveling at night at the kids bedtime, and even though it isn’t perfect… it seems the easiest.  And by easiest, I don’t mean easy at all.  Just easier than day-time travel.

But then there’s people like Jeanne whose kids clearly like driving in the car.  She can drive cross country alone with her 2 littles with a smile on her face.  She might have had a few hiccups, but obviously it wasn’t too bad since they loaded up the car a few weeks after they got home and headed cross country again.

So we left at 8 PM.  David had only napped once that day so I foolishly thought he would just clonk out and we’d wake him up when we got there.  Ohh, and we’ve done this trip a ton of times, but somehow I got turned around and got lost and we wen’t about an hour out of the way.  Woo hoo!

So about an hour and a half into our trip both kids fell asleep.


Bliss!  John and I could actually have a conversation.  I drank some kombucha and caught a few minutes of sleep.

Then a short 60 minutes later the littlest guy woke up and it was downhill from there.  We stopped for just a sec thinking I could just nurse him for a few minutes and he’s be right back to sleep… after all, it was 11PM!  But he wasn’t interested in what I had to offer, and preferred to just take his turn in the drivers seat.

He was wide awake.  I knew when I put him in his seat he’d be angry, but we weren’t about to sit at the gas station for an hour.  Ohh, and since I knew my kids we going to sleep the whole time, the only snacks I packed were a couple of apples.

And the David proceeded to cry and scream and whimper and then cry again for the next 2 hours till we arrived.  No amount of Old McDonald was going to calm that boy.  And as far as I’m concerned… there’s no such thing as reasoning with a 15 month old in the middle of the night.


After we spend a few days here… we get to load back up and head back to Dallas!  So please… anyone… someone… help a sister out.  What are we doing wrong?! I’ll gladly take any advice!