30 November 2011

Challenge Wednesday #10: Thinking Cap Edition

So, I decided that December is challenging enough without creating more work with our weekly challenge series.  So, instead, we are moving in a different direction for a little while.  Last week I posed this question to Jen at A Drop in the Bucket:

What is the #1 priority for you to succeed in living an intentional life and why?

Read on for her answer:


Hey friends!  So, with the busyness of the holidays upon us, Tracey and I decided to take it "easy" on the challenges.  So, instead...we are going to use the next several Wednesday's to interview each other.  We jumped right into challenges, but thought it would be great for you all to learn more about us.  And not just the easy stuff, like our hair color {although that might be a hard question for me to answer} and favorite colors, but questions that will hopefully help you to really get to know us. 

Tracey got to start.  So, here we go... {and who knew this could even be MORE of a challenge than some of our other ones?}

Jen, what is the #1 priority for you to succeed in living an intentional life and why? 

Wowza.  Well, I really feel like I could cop out on this one and say "my kids".  I want them to have a good example, I want to really enjoy this time with them and I want to be a good mother.  

And then I can include this photo of my little munchkin.  Ooops. I just did!  ;-)

But, if I really dig down deep {and that's the point of these questions, right?}, I think my #1 priority in succeeding to live an intentional life would be "no regrets". 

I've spent a lot of time over the last ten years or so wishing I would have finished this project or lost that weight or made that other change.   

Even though I don't have a lot of regrets when it comes to the "big" things, its the little things...the everyday things...that bug me.  

And the best thing about this?  By creating my blog, and more specifically, putting my bucket list items on "paper" and holding myself accountable for them...for one of the first times in my life, I have started finishing things.  I am truly being intentional with my life.  

Intending to live in the moment.  To enjoy it.  To live it.  Not to just think about it.  

I have written a book {even though it needs A LOT of work}.  I have participated in an organized sporting event {and with that completed the couch to 5K program}.  I have spent 31 days becoming a better mama.  

So I can only imagine that as I continue on this journey to truly living an intentional life that these accomplishments are going to continue.  And I won't find myself looking back with sadness at the weight I didn't lose, the activity I didn't take part in or the project I didn't finish.  

Because all those things will be done... or at least they should be.  

~ ~ ~ 

So there you have it.  Now, Tracey,  a question for you:  What is the one thing about entering this blog world that has surprised you the most?  

29 November 2011

Pin it. Do it. Week 4.

Pretties for your Hair

I'm a hair accessory snob.  Not because I'm snobby about how it looks; rather, I'm all about the function.  I cannot tell you how much money and time I've wasted looking for and finding an accessory I like, only to find out it doesn't stay put.

I need my pins, barrettes, and hair bands to do their jobs, people.

So I use a lot of my tried and true favorites:  the humble bobby pin.  But, seriously, bobby pins aren't very exciting.  When I wanted to spice it up a little, I ordered a beautiful chrysanthemum pin from Etsy, which I love.  But it slips, so I end up putting another pin across it to make it stay.  I figured I would have to choose between form and function, and let me tell you, I always choose function.

But lo and behold, I can have it both ways!  And with materials I have oodles of at home.  

I found this tutorial on pinterest and thought

Duh.  Why haven't I done this before?

So I did.

You should read the original tutorial, but basically it goes like this:

1. Find a cool button.

2. Thread it to the end of a bobby pin.

3. Put a dab of glue so it doesn't slip.


I've decided that this pinterest thing makes me seem way more creative than I actually am.  But  more than that, no more wasting time and money looking for hair accessories.  I'm repurposing buttons without a home (and who doesn't love cool vintage buttons???) and the hundreds of bobby pins I've got lying around, and my effort is only a few minutes.  Doesn't get much more frugal than this.  Pinterest wins again!

26 November 2011

Funday Monday - Bright Ideas

Community Compost

The trash service in the Netherlands goes like this:  trash is picked up every other week.  As in, like twice a month.  Three times if we're lucky.

We also have paper pickup once a month, plastic pickup once a month, and deposit refunds on certain glass containers at the local grocery.

We recycle metal but it takes a longer drive to find a place to deposit it.  But here's the thing that I'm taken with:  on the off weeks, between the weeks when trash is picked up, we leave out a special bin loosely translated "plant waste."  Anything except meat and dairy can go into this bin.  

Essentially, compost.

In exchange, we have access to this compost at at the local dump.  Community compost.  Done for us.  We, unfortunately, don't have much of a use for it, because we have no grass, no place to plant anything.  I enrich our container garden with coffee grounds, etc, but the rest gets donated to this community compost pile.  In the fall, leaves are collected at large wire bins scattered throughout the village, shredded, and added to the compost heap.

This is yet another example of the tight community in which we live.  It took a little getting used to, with our American anonymity mindset and coming from the closely guarded privacy of Japan (everyone riding the trains has plain covers over their books so you can't see what they are reading).  But how amazing is it that we can share things like plant waste and turn it into compost for the whole village?  Or donate 5euros   to plant some flowers behind the church and get to have fresh cut flowers in my house every Saturday for 2 months?  Reminds me of stone soup.

This is the closest I've come to an intentional community, and I have to say I'm digging it.  Do other  communities around the world function this way, so intertwined and yet independent?  Or are we still anonymous to our neighbors, living private lives with private needs?

I'm very interested in this topic, but I still have much to learn.  I guess I have something more to add to my Bucket List.

25 November 2011

Five Minute Friday: Grateful

    Just another Friday for me here in NL, but I'm sure most of you are still recovering from your Thanksgiving celebrations.  What better way to continue the party by linking up with 
    Here are the rules:

    1. Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking.
    2. Link back here and invite others to join in.
    3. Most importantly: leave a comment for the person who linked up before you – encouraging them in their writing!
Today's topic?  Grateful, of course.


For the sleepless nights that I couldn't wait to end but now I realize it was a chance for uninterrupted cuddles.

For the days spent wishing you would come home but now I realize it was an opportunity for reunions.

For the unexplained kisses and hugs and I Love You, mama.

For the holidays that come and go because it's just another day here but now I realize we won't always be able to live abroad.

For the work that finds me wherever I go because now I realize God put me in a career field that is always needed, everywhere, before I knew I would live all over the world.

For precious babies that were lost back when we thought we were ready for children but now I realize God was preparing us for something better.

For the church ohana that we magically find no matter where we live but now I realize it was never magic at all.

For the way we seem to be on the same page more and more every day, but now I realize it's because we committed our lives to each other forever that we make the effort to see each other's view.

For all of this and immeasurably more, I am forever and always [grateful].


Won't you join in with us and write down your gratefulness?  And then share it with us so we too can be inspired?  

23 November 2011

Simply Put

I'm not gonna lie.  This post is going to ramble.  I just have these ideas swimming, and I need to get them out.  Does it totally fit with my simple, sustainable theme?  Maaaayyybbee.  You be the judge.

A few year ago I took up running.  At the time, I couldn't run a single mile without nearly collapsing.  I chose running for a few reasons:

  • its simplicity
  • its portability
  • its roots in nature
Even though the first few times were rough, I stuck with it.  I soon got hooked, but not just because of the health benefits.  I've found I need the time to think, clear my head, and absorb the world around me.  I run in all kinds of weather, and I feel very connected to nature.  When I return home I am usually ready to face whatever obstacle is lying in front of me.

We all agree it's important to get exercise.  But we don't agree on how to do it.  For me, a gym is the least desirable location to get exercise, equipment takes a lot of space, it's expensive, and its hours and location are not versatile.  That said, I do go to a gym during winter months, because the climate I live in is not conducive to running.  However, my passion is an evening run with brilliant sunset colors illuminating my path.  Running leaves me energized, focused, and happy.  All requirements for the amount of time and energy I pour into my family, my home, and our commitment to real food.

If you want to live a simple and healthy lifestyle, regular exercise is vital.  But don't just exercise for physical health.  Anyone can become a gym rat.  Instead, choose a medium that agrees with your lifestyle.

Fitness Friday Blog Hop

Challenge Wednesday #9

I've swapped blogs with A Drop in the Bucket today.  Hop over to see my post, and read on for the lovely Mrs. Jen:

This week, Tracey and I are sharing why we feel it is important to be grateful with each other and our friends {that's you!}.  Why?  Cause in the U.S. {and around the world wherever there might be Americans} tomorrow will be Thanksgiving.  What started out as a day to celebrate our independence as a country, has quickly become so much more than that.

It's a day to celebrate all that we are grateful for, and people have been living it up this year!  Around the blog universe, all over Facebook, and likely Twitter {I gotta remember to get on there more} people are sharing what they are grateful for.  And I'll be joining that bandwagon tomorrow {wink}.

But first, here is why I choose to be grateful.  Not just on Thanksgiving, but EVERY day.

Gratuitous photos of my children?  Perhaps.

But, truthfully, here is why I choose to be grateful everyday {for them}:

1. I want to be "low-stress".  So I'm grateful, and appreciate today instead of worrying about tomorrow.

2. I want to be fun.  So I'm grateful, and thankful for the opportunities we have as a family to have fun.

3. I want to be healthy.  So I'm grateful for the time I have to run and the healthy food that is available to me {even if I don't always take quite as much advantage of it as I should}.

4. I want to be a good friend.  So I'm grateful for the friends I have who allow me to do so.

5. I want to be a good daughter, sister and aunt.  So I'm grateful that I have family that I can be that for.

6. I want to be a good wife.  So I'm grateful that J#1 continues to put up with me.  {wink}

7.  I want to be happy {so they are happy}.  So I'm grateful.

Source: pinterest.com via Jenny on Pinterest

My guess is that your list of "why its important to be grateful" might be pretty similar, huh?

In honor of our 'Challenge Wednesdays' I challenge everyone to continue the gratefulness after Thanksgiving.

See that 1000 gifts tab that both Tracey and I have on our tabs up at the top of our blogs?  That is an on-going list of what we are thankful for.  The things that help us appreciate living in the moment and enjoying our life RIGHT NOW, every day.

21 November 2011

Pin it. Do it. Week 3.

Sewing Fool

My next pinterest project was born of necessity.  I had two brand new pairs of jeans which I desperately needed, but they were both too long.  

Whenever possible, I try to mend or alter our own clothes.  I feel like it is not financially or environmentally sound to toss a pair of pants because of one small hole.  Of course, I also have two boys, and most of their clothes are already used when we get them, so I sometimes have to deal with some pretty big holes.  My worst cast scenario is they get turned into rags (we are always in need of rags because we don't use paper towels or tissues).  

But in this case, I had actually bought new jeans, and nice ones.  I have very few clothes in my closet, and I practically live in jeans.  I was down to one pair that wasn't ripped, and they aren't the dressiest in the world.  So, even though I had these new jeans I was avoiding them because I wasn't sure how I was going to hem them and keep them looking nice.

And then, I read this tutorial making its way around pinterest.  It is so easy.  For reals.  I feel like I say that a lot, but despite my fascination with homemade, I likely will not try something unless it is simple enough for common (wo)man to accomplish.

The instructions are courtesy of Sew Much Ado.  She did such a good job with the tutorial that I am just going to paste it below:

1. Try on your jeans and fold the hem up (right sides together) to the length that you'd like your finished hem. Remember to wear a pair of shoes that you would normally wear with the jeans. If you wear flats most often, throw on a pair. If you like to wear wedges, go with those.

2. Take off your jeans and measure from the bottom fold to the bottom of the original hem.

 3. Divide the measurement from step 2 by 2. Example: I folded my jeans up 2 inches in step 1, and divided that 2 inch measurement by 2 to get 1 inch. Using the new measurement, fold the hem up again and pin in place (remember to ignore the original hem when measuring).

4. Continue pinning each pant leg as in step 3, until both hems are completely pinned.

5. Using a zipper foot, stitch around each jean leg, through both layers of jean, as close to original hem as possible. Note: Do not stitch ON original hem, but immediately adjacent to it.

6. Turn folded edges to inside of jean legs and try your jeans on to make sure you're happy with the new length!

7. Press the folded edges upward toward the inside of each jean leg. You can also sew a couple of hand stitches at each side seam on the inside of each leg to tack the folded edges in place if you'd like. Note: If you had to hem a large amount from your jeans (I'd say greater than 2 inches or so), you may prefer to trim the folded edge and serge or zig zag the edges to reduce bulk.Make sure to press each jean leg from the outside as well to give a nice clean hemline.

Photos are mine, but thanks to Sew Much Ado for the amazingly clear and easy tutorial.

A few notes about the process:
The dividing of the length of fold is crucial, because once you sew the new hem, you turn it back on itself, so it automatically doubles the amount taken up.

You might have noticed above that I did not use a zipper foot, because, frankly, I forgot.  Although mine turned out fine, it might be a little easier to keep the stitch just adjacent to the original hem.

I have sewing skills, but they usually involve straight lines like pillow covers.  I don't even know all the terminology used in sewing, although I do use my machine on a regular basis.  This whole project took me about 15 minutes from start to finish, including trying on the jeans and ironing.

Funday Monday - The Dye Job

I've had this duvet cover for several years.  It is from Ikea, it was on clearance for $7, and it was meant to be temporary.

I just don't know how I want to replace it, so it's stuck around.  For a looooong time.

But it's getting ratty.  And, the furniture and built-ins are white also.  I needed something to break up the monotony of it all.

So, I spent 8euro to make a change while I continue my search.

I dyed it dark gray.  In the washer.

Yes, it's true.  It's dye made for a washer.  You dump it into the drum with some salt, put the fabric inside, and turn it on.  Then you run it again with soap, and then you run it empty.  It uses a lot of water, but so would dyeing it by hand.

And if you follow these directions, you won't end up with a bunch of dyed clothes.  I promise.  I dyed halloween costumes black, and the leftover dye rinsed away beautifully.

Here are the finished results.  Again, this is a temporary solution, but it makes a HUGE difference.

Do you like how I left the before picture all messy and I made the after picture neat and tidy?  More impact, that way.  But really, photos aside, it does make a big difference, and I am happy with the results. Some day I'll find exactly what I am looking for - as soon as I figure it out myself.

Oh, and bonus:  I threw in a technical base layer shirt that I love, but the original ivory color had gotten stained.  The result?  a brand new heather gray.

20 November 2011

Busy Bee

Guess what?  I'm finally getting the hang of this blog thing.  First I make a button (grab it from the sidebar), and now I've made a ControltheChaos Facebook page.

Do me a huge favor and like me.  You can click on the link above, or on the sidebar that says "Don't Forget to LIKE ME".

Thanks, friends.

19 November 2011

Testing, Testing

Just wanted to apologize if you subscribers have gotten a couple odd posts from me the last couple days.  I've been trying to make a blog button, and I had a few misfires.  But I'm happy to report I fixed the issue, so if you want this cutie for yourself, it's on the top of the right sidebar of my page.  Feel free to Grab It and put it on your own blog.

Thank you for your patience.

18 November 2011

Five Minute Friday - How Does YOUR Garden Grow?

Time to get my writing on.  Courtesy of The Gypsy Mama:

For only five short, bold, beautiful minutes. Unscripted and unedited. We just writewithout worrying if it’s just right or not.

Ok.  Today's topic?  Grow.

Do you ever wonder why I ask you not to grow up?  Do you?  

Do you ever sense the fear in me as you go away on a trip for a few days?  Do you?

Do you ever see my hesitation as I try to picture my life without chaotic days, but with quiet instead?

I'm going to put a book on your head, I tell you.  No more growing, no more learning.  
I hate it when you travel, I tell you.  Your place is here, with us.

Thank God I'm wrong.  Thank God He sees the good, He makes it so.  

For without this life, this place, right here and now, I cannot grow.  Every new day brings it.  Every stage of child development, ever goodbye and every single homecoming.  Every single one.  

Do I seem anxious?  Maybe.  But would I change it?  Most.  Definitely. Not.  

This is my life, and this is my opportunity to grow.  I've come a long way since I joined the ranks of motherhood, and an even longer way since I vowed to stick together in good times and bad.  How much would I miss if I took away all of this?  

Thank you for [these opportunities to grow].


Ok, now it's your turn!  Hop over to

for a little inspiration, and then give it a try.  It's amazing what you can learn in these precious five minutes.

16 November 2011

Challenge Wednesday #8

Welcome back to another Challenge Wednesday.  This week is a double challenge, so check out my post on A Drop in the Bucket.

Last week I challenged Jen to create 3-5 daily to-do items in order to accomplish a week's worth of items in a manageable way.  Read on for her report:

Well, I thought this challenge would be a piece of cake.  I am the queen of lists, generally considered pretty organized--its usually one of the top points on my job reviews.  So, writing a daily to do list each of 3-5 items in order to accomplish a week's worth of tasks?  Seemed like it should be pretty easy.

But it wasn't.

See, first thing I did was take it a bit to the extreme.  I wrote my daily to do list.  I did.

For every day between the day I got the challenge through next Tuesday, when we leave for a trip {that was almost two weeks worth of lists}.  I thought it would help the days go by quickly.

Here is the issue.  Life.

"Life?" you ask.  Yup.  The weekend comes around, plans come up, and things don't get done.  Then I feel guilty.

I learned that life with two littles means that the to-do lists should be planned each day {maybe the night before}, but just one day at a time.  So to remedy this, I made a list of items that needs to happen daily {won't go on the list, because they are just a given, things like keeping the kitchen clean}, weekly and monthly.

This list is now up on the dry erase board in my newly organized utility room (click here to see it!).

And each night before bed, I am going to check that list for my daily items to do.  That way, I can plan accordingly.

So I have to thank you Tracey {once again, wink}.  This was a true challenge, and it was the inspiration for me to get my utility room organized so that I could get the dry erase board into action.

Now, for this upcoming week...Tracey, your challenge is going to be simple, but important.  Especially in light of our upcoming American Holiday of Thanksgiving.

Take the week off from challenges.  But lets trade blogs next week, and tell each other {and all of our friends} why we find it is so important to be grateful.

15 November 2011

Pin it. Do it. Week 2

Grain Free Banana Bread

Welcome to week 2 of my pinterest experiment.  Up this week:  grain free banana bread.  

I have been experimenting with alternative "grains" in my cooking and baking.  We don't have any food allergies in our family, but I've been reading a lot about how different modern wheat is from what our ancestors ate, and how wheat allergies have proportionately risen as ancient grains have fallen by the wayside.  Some experts think that wheat products in general are hard on our digestive systems, and it's so easy to overload on grains that we're just making what could be bad worse.  Our family has made the decision to slowly add some meats back into our diet, and decrease the amount of modern grain we eat.  

As a result, I've been using alternative grains, such as spelt and buckwheat, which as you probably know, isn't really a grain at all but a fruit seed.  I've been meaning to make this bread for quite some time, especially because I have a plethora of bananas in my freezer just waiting to be turned into yummy goodness.

And so, on a day when I had the oven warmed up for some other delicious treats (more about that on Challenge Wednesday), I figured I'd give it a go.

First off, this recipe falls nicely into my criteria:  easy, simple, and fast.  Literally, you mash all the ingredients together and bake it.  Can't get much simpler than that.

Here's the recipe, courtesy of Grain Free Living:


300 to 400g (11 to 14 oz) of mashed bananas.  The riper the better.  This is roughly anything from 2 to 4 banana's.
2 eggs
120g (4 oz) maple syrup.
120g (4 oz) mild tasting oil (whatever you can tolerate, I used canola).
1 tsp cream or tarter
1/2 tsp bicarb (sodium bicarconate)
150g (5 oz) buckwheat flour
50g (2 oz or a couple of heaped tablespoons) skim milk powder (any kind of powdered milk would do, you could probably leave this out if you dont have any)

Options for those who don't need to be failsafe:

Add in 1 tsp of cinnamon
You can use honey instead of maple syrup
You can gently fold in a cup of frozen berries (eg: raspberries, blueberries) at the end
You can use 50g of vanilla protein powder instead of the skim miilk powder (check ingredients first)
Macadamia Nut Oil or Grapeseed Oil are both good in this recipe


Prehet oven to 170°C/330°F (moderate oven).  Grease and line with baking paper a loaf tin or any medium sized tin you like ( a loaf tin is if you want the bread shape).
Here is the really fun part about this recipe:
Throw all ingredients into a food processor/blender/mixing bowl
Blast it until really well mixed, say about a minute.  How easy it that!!!
If making by hand, sift the cream of tarter and bicarb and buckwheat flour before adding to rest of ingredients in bowl and then mix really well.
Pour into your prepared tin and bake for 40-45 minutes or until is well browned and a skewer comes out clean.  You will need to cover with a sheet of baking a paper at about 20 minutes to stop from overbrowning.
Cool in tin for 5 - 10 minutes before turning out onto rack to cool.
Can serve plain or toasted.  Keeps its lovely texture for days, although I'd be shocked if it lasted that long.

I kind of messed mine up a little by taking it out of the oven too early.  That's what happens when you are a temporary single parent and trying to do like 8 things at a time.  I forgot to test it for doneness, and just took it out after 40 minutes.  

But it still tastes great, especially when we "cooked" it a little longer by toasting it.  The kiddos went bananas (!) over it.  Score one for mama.

Real Food Wednesdays
Green Resource
Simple Lives Thursday