Life With Cora : 7 Years

Cora is 7 years old! So much has happened since her last birthday. Cora wrapped up her Kindergarten year, we spent a lot of time at the pool over the summer, Cora learned to swim, we traveled to our favorite place, Cora started first grade at a new school, she started playing soccer, she lost 3 more teeth, and we enjoyed so many play dates with friends and family. I was looking back at last year's post and was just reminded how consistently awesome Cora is. She is always loving, creative, driven, silly, helpful, strong, intelligent, beautiful, and so much more. She has grown so much over the years, but she is also always so much herself and I love that about her. 
I love that Cora is always so fashionable. She has an opinion on everything she wears and is pretty particular about her hair, outfits, and accessories. Cora picks some wild outfits and rocks them! She draws lots of pictures and her characters always have the most creative and awesome outfits.

I love that Cora is so thoughtful. She is always helping her sister out, taking great care of the dog, and is always the first to offer to help me with whatever I'm working on. I love watching her with her little sister. They have such a great bond and they are always off playing games, coloring, watching tv, and playing dress up and having fashion shows. 

Happy Birthday sweet Cora - you bring so much light to our lives. This birthday is hard because we do not get to do our regular birthday things like going to the zoo or throwing a birthday party, but you roll with the punches and enjoy each and every little thing to celebrate. We are so grateful that you joined our family 7 years ago. I am the luckiest mommy in the world. May this birthday be the best one yet. xxoo!


Devou Park: The Ludlow Icinerator

Last year when Jazz visited over Easter weekend, the weather was kind of yucky so we kept the adventuring to the minimum. She always does a great job finding off-the-beaten-path things to do and this adventure was no exception. 
She requested we go to the Ludlow incinerator. We drove around the park a bit and stopped by the Mr Red bench (Ida was not a fan) then searched for the incinerator. 
We weren't super clear about where the incinerator was, so it took us a bit to find the right trail. It was drizzling and we weren't sure how far down the path we'd have to go (the incinerator trail is 1.2 miles) so we decided we'd suck it up, make it an adventure, and see how far we could make it before one of my kids has a meltdown. The girls were busy squishing around in the mud and doing a bit of whining, so Jazz went ahead of us and found that the incinerator wasn't too far.

We took our time making it up there so she would be able to get pictures without us in it. The girls liked walking around and finding our favorite little graffiti spots.


Compost 101

I started to compost about a year ago and I've learned so much since I started. Every time I share about compost I get messages asking me how they should start, so I thought I'd share a couple basics to get people started and some resources if you want to dig deeper.
WHERE DO I GET STARTED? Composting can be as simple or as complex as you want to make it. I always tell me friends to grab a small bin for your kitchen and identify an outdoor spot that you'll dump the food waste.

WHAT CAN I COMPOST? This is where it can get complex if you really want to get into it and different sources say different things. There are many different ratios of Green vs Brown compost, but if there are too many 'browns' then it will decompose at a much slower rate, and if there is too many 'greens' the compost will be too acidic.

I am on the more simple composting end of the spectrum. I looked at a list of green and brown materials and made sure I'm adding things from both sides and hope the ratio works itself out in the end. Right now, we only compost veggie scraps (green), eggshells (green), grass clippings (green), paper (brown), and leaves (brown).

DOES IT SMELL OR ATTRACT CRITTERS? Mostly no. Sometimes the bin in our kitchen will smell when I open it if I haven't emptied it enough... if that happens, I empty, clean it out and it is back to normal. Sidenote: I have seen people put their compost in a ziploc in their freezer if they can't empty it often enough or if they use a composting service.

The outdoor bin never smells. If you don't already have critters, this will not attract them... If you do already have critters, then you should build a more enclosed outdoor bin.

WHAT PRODUCTS DO I NEED? The great thing about compost is you can start with what you already have! We use an old butter tub in the kitchen for scraps and started out just making a pile in our backyard. I currently have a wire compost bin that I fill up for a couple months then move it over to let the pile really decompose. I've also been keeping my eye out for good deals on a tumbling composter or a cuter countertop compost bin, but I 100% encourage trying out compost with no upfront costs to really figure out if it's something you'll be able to keep with.

I'll continue to add to the post as I learn more information, but really my biggest tip is just get started where you are and build on your knowledge and setup from there.


What I've Been Reading... 2019 Edition

A couple years ago, I realized I had only read one book for the entire year... ONE BOOK! I was always a bookworm growing up so only reading one book in an entire year is kind of sad for me. So the following year my goal was to read at least one book each month. I barely squeezed in 12 books that year, but it reminded me how much I loved to read. This year, my goal was to read more than 12 books in the year. I barely squeaked by with 13 books, but found that reading before bedtime was a great way to wind down my day... and I'm well on my way to doubling my books read this coming year. I love to see what people are reading (and recently obsessed with Goodreads), but I thought I'd share what I've been reading throughout the year and what I loved.
I'm Judging You by Luvvie Ajayi - I have been following Luvvie on Instagram for years. Her book is described perfectly as " humorous essays that dissect our cultural obsessions and calls out bad behavior in our increasingly digital, connected lives". This was a quick read and had me laughing out loud frequently.

The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines - I'm no Fixer Upper super fan, but I've watched the show and I'm familiar with Chip and Jo. This was another quick read and fun to see some background of how they got to where they are.
Becoming by Michelle Obama - Great read!  I loved learning more about Michelle Obama and her upbringing. As a working mom, it was interesting to read how she balanced that and the different struggles she went through.

Educated by Tara Westover - Ohhh myyy gosshh! This is a MUST READ! This is a memoir about how Tara grew up basically in isolation. Her parents didn't believe in the government, schools, or modern day medicine. Every single chapter had something that would make me say "what the heck?!" out loud. 
My Notorious Life by Kate Manning - Another book that blew me away! Quote a few twists and turns happened in Axie's young life and she ends up living with a doctor and becoming an apprentice. Eventually, she becomes a midwife and is willing to take care of issues many other midwives aren't.

Fin & Lady by Cathleen Schine - A young boy loses both his parents and moves in with his half sister that is really not prepared to be a parent. The book follows their first couple years together and how they learn to take care of each other. 
A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman - Another good one! A cranky old man slowly melts his icy exterior and builds relationships with his neighbors. Ove was equally frustrating and relatable throughout the book and it was hard to put down.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone the Illustrated Edition by JK Rowling - I've always loved reading Harry Potter and the illustrated version makes it easier to read with the girls (mostly Cora).
Real American a Memoir by Julie Lythcott-Haims - A memoir about growing up mixed race in America. I loved the style this was written in with some shorter one page snippets and longer couple page chapters. This was sent to me through Foxed Box (a personalized subscription service) and it was a perfect fit. 

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett - A swanky birthday party turns into a hostage situation and the book follows along as relationships between complete strangers develop despite many language barriers. When I first read the description, I wasn't really sure if I'd like this, but it was hard to put down.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas - The main character, Starr, is the passenger and only witness when her friend is murdered by a cop. The book follows along as the aftermath of this unfolds. This book was very emotional, but also hard to put down at the same time. 

So... this year I learned I love memoirs and basically anything that is super popular right now. I have a stack of books to read, but knowing what kind of books I like to read now is leading me in the right direction.


DIY Embroidered Christmas Tree Skirt

A couple years ago, I saw a picture of a tree skirt that had painted hand prints in a bunch of different colors. I thought it'd be kind of cool in black and white, but then I thought about embroidering the handprints instead. I always get so busy with DIY stuff in December, so I waited to work on this in January. I had some plain white fabric that I dyed with avocado pits to make the pale pink. I kind of winged it on the sewing portion of this. It's not perfect, but it does the job.

I traced the girls handprints on paper and played around with placement before drawing the outline.  Each handprint took me about 30-45 minutes to embroider and it was so easy to work on here and there while watching tv or downtime throughout the day. 

I finished embroidering towards the end of January and put it away in storage. It was such a joy to unpack and put the skirt out this year. I love picturing how the handprints will multiply through the years and will bring a smile to my face every time I pull it out.


Christmas 2019

The Christmas season was a whirlwind.  We started Christmas early with Cincinnati Zoo's Festival of Lights opening night. We put our tree up in mid-November and slowly decorated it slowly over the following month... so slowly that we actually never finished hanging up all our ornaments this year. Over the years, I've learned that starting things early allows us to enjoy all of our favorite things about this season without becoming too exhausted and cranky. Ben and I both work full time and with both the girls in school, we already have a lot of things going on even before adding in the crazy holiday activities.

One of my favorite things about the holiday season is the opportunity to DIY easy things and creating a handmade holiday in our home. A couple years ago, I purchased a bunch of clear plastic ornaments from Michaels and we decorate a couple each year to gift and hang on our tree. We start by painting them, followed by drawing designs with paint pen, and finish off with a clear coat. It is fun to watch the girls' styles evolve over the years. Cora used to end up finger painting her ornaments and now that is something Ida does. I also love making sculpey handprint Santas each year and I can't wait until my tree is full of them.

Every couple years, I like to add some handmade gifts to our list. When Cora was 3, she painted a nutcracker for my dad... so this year it was Ida's turn. She had so much fun having painting time with mommy and was so focused on covering every single spot of that nutcracker. I don't think I took any after pictures (oops), but here is the step-by-step of how I did this with Cora.
Ida's school has a Breakfast with Santa fundraiser every year. Cora had plans to see Frozen 2 with my Aunt and Uncle, so Ida and I had a little date. We ran into Cora's friends (that Ida loves) so we ended up spending the whole time with them getting face painted, crafting, and snacking. Ida surprisingly liked seeing Santa and ran straight up to give him a hug. It was nice to get extra time with just Ida and I know Cora loved getting spoiled hanging with our extended family.
Over the last couple years, we have made it a tradition to decorate gingerbread houses as a family. It is nice to get together, have a little project, and snack on candy. 
Every year, our extended family makes potato sausage together. Cora was really interested in the process this year and loved diving in to help during each stage.
Christmas Eve and Christmas were both full with lots of family time. Our extended family celebrates on Christmas Eve with church, dinner, and exchanging presents. The girls were wound up on all the together time and treats and loved running around with cousins. We didn't make it home until close to midnight. Cora ran in the house to set up cookies and milk for Santa and went to bed so fast so she wouldn't be awake when Santa arrived.

On Christmas Day, both girls slept in until around 9:30, so we had a lazy morning opening presents and hanging out. My parents stopped by for a bit and then we went over to visit my Aunt and Uncle. We spent the afternoon being lazy, making Indian food, watching tv, and napping. In the evening, my extended family got back together and enjoyed food and games and hanging out. 

I had the week between Christmas and New Years off of work. I had a to-do list of projects and outings I wanted to do, but we totally ignored the list and spent most of the week in our jammies hanging around the house. Cora insisted that we make a trip to the Cincinnati Art Museum, so we stopped by for a little bit one weekend morning. Overall it was a really great/relaxing holiday. We enjoyed all the extra time we got to spend as a family and activities we got to attend... but boy were we excited to get back into our regular routines.

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